Wild Fires and Fireflies

Trip Start Mar 28, 2013
Trip End Jul 31, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Minnesota
Saturday, July 20, 2013

We somehow crossed the border into Minnesota without seeing a sign announcing the new state! We decided to have a delayed border party anyway! The Stewart family had given us some flash cards about each state and a magnetic map of the U.S.A. that we keep in the truck. Every time we enter a new state the kids take turns putting the new state magnet on the map. As well, in the trailer we have a large map that we've been tracing a route with a marker so they can physically see each city we have stopped in and where we are going next. Both have been a great way for the kids to follow along where we are in the states. Each time we put a new state magnet on, we count the number of states we've visited and Minnesota makes number 26! To look at the map and see where we have been just seems so crazy! Obviously we knew how large the United States is but when you follow that little line from Kingston to where we are now it really puts in perspective how far we have come and what we have accomplished! 3 kids, a trailer, 26 states in almost 4 months and the fact we're all still going is so huge! The flash cards have been a great way to learn each state capital and some interesting facts as well!

Myre-Big Island State Park in Albert Lea was our next stop. We had a really nice site next to the lake with beautiful views. It was great to be back in a state park again! It is definitely harder to get a site at state parks now that it is summer. They tend to book up quickly but some do have first come, first serve sites so if you arrive early enough you may be able to get one.That's what we ended up doing with Myre-Big Island and we're really glad it worked out! Our usual routine of biking around the campground happened next and it was nice to have a break from sightseeing and enjoy some down time relaxing. We sat by the lake and read (and blogged!) and watched the fireflies. There was tons of them and none of us had ever seen so many in one place before. It was lots of fun trying to catch them!
Albert Lea has a paved bike path from the state park right into the center of town. We hopped on our bikes in the morning hoping to beat the heat and took the trail into town. There was a few breaks as it was already pretty hot but the trail was great. Parts of it had a little shade and most of the hills weren't too big. The kids thought that it was cool when the trail went under the highway. We ended up biking a total of 21 Km's there and back. We stopped to help a turtle off the road on the way there and saw some huge carp in the river we biked over. There was a controlled fire along the way from which you could see the smoke for miles. The city was burning all their brush and the fire department was there watching it.  It was quite a large fire and the kids were a little concerned even with the fire trucks close by.  
We went for lunch at the local pizza joint and it was funny to watch people as they came in because it seemed everyone knew each other! We also biked past the Albert Lea Aquatic Center which had a big water slide and sprinkler pool. After finishing our pizza we encouraged the kids on our bike back telling them we would drive back into the aquatic center later that afternoon!  It is amazing how much we have all improved when it comes to hiking and biking since we left. We have always done these things at home as a family but never the distances we do now. It is great how many opportunities we have had to do these kinds of bikes and hikes.
The aquatic center was outside and a really fun place! It was very family and community friendly and had great music playing around the pools.  Cohen and Clare couldn't resist grooving a bit! They had 2 large pools, one with diving boards and then another one for swimming. The waterslide let out into another pool that was connected to the sprinkler area where the water was about 2 feet deep. Clare had a blast in this area and it was just the perfect depth for her. Kids weren't allowed to wear floaties or life jackets so she had lots of fun practicing swimming in a comfortable environment. 
The boys ran back and forth from the diving boards to the waterslide, which was surprisingly fast, all afternoon. They would come and hang out with Clare every once in awhile in the sprinkler pool but it was great the way the pools were set up so you could see the whole area from wherever you were standing. They had lots of lifeguards on duty who had microphones that went over the speakers if they needed to talk to a child. They had a canteen that was run by the skating club and the snacks were very cheap. Maybe we've just gotten use to "tourist trap prices"! We also liked that they had rest breaks every hour and a half where they made everyone get out of the pool. When we asked the lifeguard about it she said some kids would stay in the pool all day without eating or drinking. This made sure that didn't happen and also gave the lifeguards a break and to "check the pool for floaters" when everyone was out. Nice thought! We stayed until they closed at six that night. It was a great find and everyone had a really fun afternoon.
Clare was exhausted and fell right to sleep after dinner while the boys went biking with some boys they met and then caught fireflies together. It's been interesting to watch them become a little more outgoing as the trip has gone on. Before we left it would have been hard for Caleb to walk up to a group of kids he didn't know and ask if he could play baseball too. He doesn't hesitate to do that now but at the same time they will both be really glad to get home to see their friends.
This was another great state park! It was very quiet and being able to sit by the lake in the morning and evening was especially nice. This is the only stop we are making in Minnesota and tomorrow we are moving on to Wisconsin!
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