After an orientation session from the Vistabule team, we drove out of St. Paul, MN in the late afternoon of Thursday, April 27, 2017. Our shake-down trip from St. Paul, MN to metro Atlanta, GA was already undergoing major changes from the plans I had researched and mapped out while still at home.
In the last week, Mother Nature had thrown a major, tragically dangerous, springtime hissy fit. Driving from Georgia to Minnesota on Interstate highways, we saw flooded creeks, rivers and fields throughout the Central Plains States.
On the morning we arrived to pick-up Lily, there was a heavy dusting of snow in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fortunately, that snow was melted by noon and roads were clear, but unusually cold temperatures were in the forecast for several days ahead. Unfortunately, there was another round of snow expected for St. Paul and additional rain targeting the states already heavily flooded.
We also found that while some Minnesota State Parks remained open year round, they did not normally turn on water and heat for the rest room facilities until May 1st.
So, instead of heading east for a night at Frontenac State Park, we checked weather apps in order to head toward sunshine. There was a sweet spot in Albert Lea, Minnesota about an hour and a half drive southwest of St. Paul.
We tried to enter Myre-Big Island State Park, but was unable to find the sign-in forms or register by phone. So, we settled for a hotel on that first cold night with Lily. She was secured in the parking lot within sight of our hotel window and we had a good night’s sleep.
Luckily, we found an alternative campsite in the morning. The Albert Lea/Austin KOA campground was open. It was a relatively small KOA by a quiet road with a train track in the distance. About half of the park seemed to be filled with permanent RVs, there were some cabins being used and additional open campsites with gravel pull-throughs, water, electricity and sewer hookups available.
The daytime temperatures remained in the 40s. While there was about half a day of light rain, the KOA had Wifi, a camp store, and automatic heat in the restrooms which we truly appreciated. Meanwhile, we were able to practice unhitching and hitching the trailer and putting the sofa bed combination up and down. Plus, we managed to cook in the galley between raindrops, and gave our little heater a good trial run as temperatures fell to 30 degrees at night. We settled into the KOA for two nights, quite happy and comfortable.