September 23, 2021

The M&M Trip - Minnesota and Michigan

This is the first post in a series documenting a two week trip to the states of Minnesota and Michigan back in the summer of 2015.  Alan had already escaped the workforce, but I was still working full time, so we had to be content with an expedition that would fit within my two weeks of vacation.  Our son Ryan was working full time and had aged out of traveling with us on a regular basis.  Our daughter, Kyra, was 16 and out of school on summer vacation, so she joined us on a whirlwind tour of these two states.

How do you pick a vacation destination?  Do you follow a tradition that has been in your family for generations and go to a beloved cabin in the mountains or cottage by the sea?  Do you have a prioritized list of future vacation spots and just go down the list in order?  Do you base vacations on the location of family members or friends you wish to visit across the country or around the globe?  Do you tape a map to the wall and throw a dart at it?

Sunrise on the Ohio Turnpike

Most of the time, we choose destinations from our bucket list which isn’t so much a formal and prioritized plan of action as it is a fluid collection of ideas.  For us, flexibility is the key to fitting in bucket list items according to available time, their distance from home and my inclinations.  I say “my" inclinations because Alan tends to leave the travel planning entirely to me.  He’s usually quite content to review the ideas I present and we work together to decide upon our final destination.  He says we’ve never had a bad time on a vacation, so why mess with perfection?  I say, oh boy, where else do I want to go?!

No, my answer is usually not Chicago.

Most often I think long and hard about our list of possible travel destinations and gently nudge an item from our bucket list into our schedule.  But every once in a while an idea worms its way into the back of my head, grabs on to a few brain cells and just won’t let go.  And that’s how we ended up traveling to Minnesota and Michigan.

Appreciating the advances in electronic tolling.

The thought of standing at the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River was, for some reason, an adventure I just felt I needed to experience.  It was around that one single destination that this trip was built.  If we were going to Lake Itasca in Minnesota to see the headwaters, what else would we like to see in the Land of 10,000 Lakes?  Is there another stop along the way we should make or would this be a straight out and back?  Hmm, seems like a waste of time and resources not to tour more of the country on our way.  And so, a plan was born.  We would head out directly to Minnesota, include a visit to Voyageurs National Park, then cut through northern Wisconsin to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to visit Pictured Rocks National Seashore.  After that, we’d cross the famous bridge over the Straits of Mackinac and head down the west coast of Michigan, catching Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore along the way.  We’re not just huge fans of our country’s National Parks; we enjoy visiting all kinds of public lands under the administration and protection of the National Park Service, and National Lakeshores are some of our absolute favorites.

Thank you for having us!

With an itinerary in place, we identified two weeks in July of 2015 to tackle our M&M expedition.  Keeping in mind that we were traveling with our teenage daughter, I trust that you’ll understand why our first stop was the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Heaven or hell?

Truth be told, I was intrigued by what was at the time our country’s largest mall.  (I’m not a shopper at heart, so I don’t know if any others have since knocked the Mall of America off of its pedestal.)  Actually, it sounded rather unbelievable to me with its indoor amusement park and floor after floor of retail space.  But, what do I know about consumer spending habits other than my own.  Which, by the way, involve staying as far away from malls as possible.  The Mall of America was so gigantic I think it must have needed its own zip code.

I should have hit Caribou Coffee before trying to tackle this mall!

I’ll confess that I actually enjoyed exploring the Mall of America.  Aside from purchasing some Minnesota-themed souvenirs I didn’t do any actual shopping, but Kyra did and had a blast.  The three of us ate at one of the 47,253 restaurants (well, it seemed like there were that many!), had tons of fun watching the goings-on in the amusement park and played a round of miniature golf before we called it a day.  I believe that the mini-golf course is no longer there, but now they have an Escape Room that didn’t exist at the time of our visit.  Let’s just say that the opportunities for shopping and entertainment seem endless at the Mall of America - and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or bad.

Yup, there's an amusement park inside the mall.  Boggles the mind, doesn't it?

If you'd like to learn more about the Mall of America, hop, skip and jump over to this big attraction's website (link HERE).  On second thought, take it slowly - you'll need all the energy you can muster.  In the next post in this series, I’ll cover our additional activities in Minneapolis-St. Paul and share with you a gem of a campground that proved to be an excellent base camp for exploring the Twin Cities area.  Plus, you’ll get to see how I celebrated my birthday on the road!



  1. Mary,
    You're a good mom! I don't think that even a teen-age daughter would get me to a mall that large. Glad the experience turned out well. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip through M&M and I'm looking forward to reading more about yours. Have a great week! Joe

    1. Truth be told, Joe, we all had a really good time. Alan was fine with it since I promised him we wouldn't be doing any actual shopping. Ironically, we ended up at the Mall of America again during another trip two years later. We had a breakdown just east of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and spent nine hours at the Mall waiting for our travel trailer to be repaired. It was either that or a very long nine hours in the truckers' lounge at the Flying J!


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