Finishing My Last 26 Counties in Minnesota and Sneaking Into North Dakota

With everything going on, I have limited amounts of time for travel. Victoria and I have agreed I can travel every 5-6 weeks for a weekend. I try to maximize my time away the best I can.

I typically won't travel west in the winter. The Plains States are notorious for blizzards and roads drifting in. To stay on a tight schedule, it would be too much of a risk. With that being said, summer is optimal to go there. The days are long, and there's a ton of open road. I can cover a lot of ground with 14-15 hours of daylight.

I really wanted to complete Minnesota. I had 26 counties left and figured I could knock it out in a weekend. I put an itinerary together and started packing. This time, I wanted to try out a MOLLE backpack I had ordered a while back.

I attached my MOLLE pouches to the MOLLE webbing, and this was the bag I built out for this trip.

I also saw an ad a while back for DampRid. When you sleep in your car, humidity becomes a concern. I have experimented with a small dehumidifier and Jackery, but that was a bit of a pain. A non-electrical solution would be great if it worked (more on that later).

On Friday, I got ready to go and then picked up Austin from daycare. Victoria picked up Taco John's on her way home from work. I got some mango shrimp street tacos, and we had a family dinner.

After eating, I got in the car and got everything situated.

Google Maps had to be stupid and would try to get me to avoid taking the Interstate most of the way and go on a slower route.

I did take US-12 and then got on I90/94.

The sun started setting when I reached the I90/94 split. I'd be then taking I90.

I hit Minnesota, and there was still a little bit of light.

I drove until a little after midnight to a rest stop about 30 miles from my first county. The rest stop was nice and new.

Some other people had the same idea of sleeping in their vehicles. I bet those vans were a lot more comfortable than my Focus.

I got a compact blanket I ordered and then set up my fan.

I hung the DampRid up in the passenger seat. The scent was a little overwhelming, but I got used to it fast.

It was now time to get a few hours of sleep.

I set the alarm for 4:30 AM. It was raining a bit when I woke up.

I hit the road and drove in the dark.

I stopped at Kwik Trip for gas and breakfast before getting to the courthouse.

I then drove downtown. Obviously, it was pretty dead that time of the morning.

I had reached my first courthouse, Nobles County.

I then drove through some more rain to Rock County.

It was a little foggy on the way to Pipestone County.

It got foggier on the way to Murray County.

I'm glad the road wasn't closed on the way to Lyon County. I know this can happen in the middle of winter.

I saw some windmills in the fog when I went to Lincoln County.

There were a few dirt roads along the way to Yellow Medicine County.

The forests got a little thicker on route to Lac Qui Parle County.

It was a bit hazy when I drove to Chippewa County.

There was plenty of corn growing by Swift County.

I got to see some lakes Minnesota is famous for on the way to Pope County.

It was cool looking down the hill as I started off to Stevens County.

I stopped at a Casey's and got some pizza for lunch while I drove to Big Stone County.

Google Struck again. I had a weak signal, and it couldn't calculate the route. Luckily there was WIFI at the Big Stone County Courthouse. After connecting, I was able to get my route to Traverse County.

Grant County came into view well before I made it to the courthouse.

I then hit the interstate on the way to Douglas County.

One of the things you may have noticed during a few past trips is that I'd come back on Saturday. This was because I wanted to make it to church on Sunday. Victoria said I could go the whole weekend, so I planned to go to church along the way.

We normally attend People's United Methodist Church in Oregon, Wisconsin. Victoria is Methodist, and I joined as an associate member since I am Catholic. The interesting thing is that catholic with a small c means universal. Courthouses are universal in every county. You can almost universally find a Catholic Church there, also.

I know most Saturday masses range from 4 PM to 8 PM. I found that Alexandria, Minnesota had several Catholic Churches there. Given the timing, I stopped at a rest stop outside of Alexandria and started to figure out where I could go.

I saw most masses wouldn't be for an hour and a half. I hadn't been to Confession in a while, so I wanted to go to that if I could. I found if I was quick, I could make it to St. Mary's and go to Confession. I got there and parked outside the church.

I was able to find the confessional and waited my turn. I can tell you this was the most amazing Confession experience I've ever had. Normally, you'd just confess and get your penance. That happened, but this was the first time the priest, and I joked around a bit and had a laugh. I also got some really positive words of encouragement.

I realized I still had over half an hour before mass started. The Douglas County Courthouse was near the church, so I got that knocked out.

I then went back to church and attended mass. After it was over, I hit the road for Todd County.

My next county was Wadena County.

I was enticed to check out Nimrod, Minnesota, but I kept going to Cass County.

In many ways, some of my last trips seemed like I was in a gas station desert. Northern Minnesota was the opposite. They had many good gas stations. I was impressed with Orton's. It reminded me of the Quik Trip (QT's) you see in Texas.

I got some supper to eat while I drove to Hubbard County.

The interesting thing is that everything seemed to fall into place for me. I knew I'd spent over 2 hours in Alexandria, which would cut down on the courthouses I wanted to get to. When I planned my trip, Mapquest said it would take 2 hours to go from Hubbard County to Beltrami County.

When I first started in the morning, I wanted to do this 2-hour drive and get it out of the way on the first day. As you can see, I made Hubbard County before it got dark. I then found it was only an hour to Beltrami County, not 2 hours.

Things really fell into place as I drove there.

Finding a place to sleep was another thing that fell into place with no effort. I knew there were some lakes around the area. There should be some good boat launches to sleep at. My directions were set for the courthouse. When I got about a mile or so from the courthouse, I knew I needed to find a boat launch to sleep at.

I pulled off to a side road so I could find new directions. As I pulled to the side of the road, I noticed a sign that said to turn right for the boat launch. I turned right, and it was there near the wastewater treatment plant.

I got ready for bed and then hung up the DampRid. With the cooler temperatures, it seems like it didn't really work. There was a lot of condensation in the morning.

Compared to the last day, I slept in a bit. I was up at 4:50 AM. Sadly, with the orientation of the lake, the sunrise was behind me and not on the lake.

It did look nice on my short and desolate drive to the Beltrami County Courthouse.

The temps got even colder on the way to Clearwater County. Because it was warmer in Wisconsin, I didn't bring my jacket. It would be interesting going outside to take pictures.

The cold didn't deter me. This county road was cool with the fog, so I got out and took a picture while driving to Mahnomen County.

I also made a pit stop at this nice gas station along the way and got some breakfast.

It didn't take long, and I was at the Mahnomen County Courthouse.

It became more prairie-like on the way to Becker County.

On the way to Otter Tail County, there was a scenic wayside with an old-school pit toilet.

It was open roads to my last county in Minnesota, Wilkin County.

I saw some road signs for North Dakota highways and knew I was close to the border. I didn't realize how close I was to the next courthouse. It was only 4 minutes away!

You barely would have known that you had crossed into North Dakota. I did not see a welcome sign. I only saw a seatbelt sign in the shape of North Dakota.

I was soon at my bonus courthouse, Richland County, North Dakota.

Before I crossed back into Minnesota, I noticed gas was cheaper in North Dakota. The sign for the gas station looked cool, but the gas station itself looked older. I assumed it could be a bit sketchy inside.

The inside was nice, and I was impressed. I got some mini corndogs and a beef stick.

Now it was time for the long drive home. Luckily, it was a straight shot down I94.

I honestly hate I94 compared to I90. Because I94 goes through the Twin Cities, it is underbuilt for the traffic volume on it. This means traffic jams, even 30+ miles away.

The traffic jams weren't fun. I was happy when I hit the Wisconsin border.

I stopped at a Speedway for gas and some food. This would be the last stop I would need to make before getting home.

I got some pretty impressive gas mileage on the last leg of the journey!

I finally made it home. I was proud of completing all the counties in Minnesota!

I'm happy with the ground I covered on this trip. It was great that I was able to maximize my time. I know I was pretty exhausted when I got home. That'll happen when you only sleep 3-4 hours each night. My next trip will be to Thunder Bay. I look forward to visiting Canada again. Maybe I'll sneak in some local road trips in the meantime. Stay tuned to find out!

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