Voss Park Campground
Intense research last night and this morning as to my camping options to avoid the brunt of the current heat wave produced the affordable option of Voss Park, a large city park in the tiny town of Butterfield, Minnesota.
An aside: The town of Butterfield exists today only because of a poultry processing plant in town, Butterfield Foods. It suffered controversy earlier this year after a mole from the Humane Society working at the plant produced a hidden camera video that purports to show that some of the hens are scalded to remove feathers while still alive. Lawsuits are pending. The fishy part of this Chicken Flicker Scandal, according to the company, is that the employee/videographer’s actual job was to stand on the line and make sure that every chicken was deceased. Instead, she left her post to capture video and then claimed that there was “no employee on line” to make sure that no live chickens got through. So basically, she set up the scene to record evidence of suffering resulting from her own negligence. Although I must say that I find animal suffering to be completely unacceptable, the video itself is very carefully crafted as a depressing propaganda piece along the lines of “using animals for food is murder”, which I feel takes the Humane Society well past its original goal of preventing suffering. With the exception of fish and bottom-feeding sea varmints, I myself don’t eat much red meat any more. That’s not for ideological reasons, but for the practical ones of not owning a grill, as well as cleanup issues, water usage, and dealing with the additional waste.
On the happier side, Butterfield will in August host their 51st Threshing Bee, otherwise called the Steam & Gas Engine Show. These things are typically a lot wider in scope than that, including all elements of early rural life. I covered one of these types of events years ago for the McHenry County Vintage Car Gazette, and that event included a couple dozen early steam tractors parading around. Those are basically road-going locomotives, so their immense scale tends to get your attention. The engines themselves are remarkably quiet, with the main sound tending to be an occasional clank from steering chains or something else that’s loose as a goose. They only go at a walking pace, so play in the control systems is hardly a dire concern.
At any rate, Minnesota has no shortage of very nice campgrounds. The trick is to find one that maximizes amenities and minimizes cost. Voss Park has a small lake with a walking path at its border, and is packed with well-spaced, mature trees. The “bathhouse” is just two years old, consisting of three sinks with adequate flat rim space, and two very nice showers each. With the exception of my RV park’s facilities in Wellton AZ, they are the nicest of any campground I’ve stayed at so far, public or private. Admittedly, I haven’t been to too many campgrounds on my travels, but this is a winner.
The sites are all shaded at least partially, and as I knew I’d be here for two weeks at least, I opted for the monthly rate that cuts the per-day cost to just under $9/day. I can afford that, since another look at weather predictions further west makes me want to hang here and give the heat wave a chance to blow over. Even so, it’s expected to be in the high 80s the majority of the time, which is what draws my preferences toward finding a camp with a better shower than is usual. You know, the typical shower that is in bad/disgusting enough shape to make you hesitant to use it.
The monthly rate includes electricity and water hookups. It will be an easy matter to periodically cart the greywater tank to the dump station at the east end of the park – that’s part of what the bike and trailer are for, after all. If the manager was authorized to, I might have been able to work out an even cheaper monthly rate with no hookups, but then I’d be battling the shaded solar system for a month, which is never good. On a whim, I handed over an additional $10 to cover WiFi for a month, and while its speed is merely comparable to a really solid cellular connection, it’s more consistent and responds more quickly.
At this price, the place is pretty well packed out on the end that has hookups. Groups of RVers come and go in waves, and the Threshing Bee in mid-August jams the place solid. My rolling in to announce that I intended to stay for a month produced just three available spots. Two of those spots were along the border of hookup sites, so they have the aura of space instead of that wedged-in, “hi, neighbor” look. The only PITA of the camp is that you’re expected to borrow their lawnmower and weed whacker to maintain your slot, but shade tends to make that a minor issue.
As for supplies, the sizable town of St. James is 9 miles to the east – about 10 minutes using warp drive on a divided four-lane. Since St. James was onroute to getting here, I scoped it out before even I arrived to check out the park. A decent supermarket and a very decent $2 laundromat are almost next to each other. Getting to them is a convoluted affair however, since all of the major streets along with many minor ones are under reconstruction. The main drags are dug down three or four feet to replace the sewers, and I hate to think of the suffering imposed on all of the businesses during this long event. The rip-up even makes crossing streets as a pedestrian unworkable. Barring a mental fade, I have the precise route needed to access what I require, which is good because the 3D turn-by-turn guidance of the iPhone becomes useless once you’re in town. The “real” GPS, when left in overhead map view, serves only to let you know where you are in relation to your end goal.
All in all, this looks like a very workable place to hang out, being much better than my research indicated that it would be. I may not produce the most fascinating blog posts while I’m here, and it will still be a sweaty, lethargic affair, but I’m willing to sacrifice quality in order to avoid a serious triple-digit bake!
[If you’re curious about the Ice Castle trailers, go here. Unfortunately, the website assumes that you already know all about what’s needed in order to go out and fish for days on lake ice, so explanatory info is in short supply. Then again, it’s heartening to see a stark absence of marketing BS and selective truths. These trailers sell themselves, apparently.]