What an encore! This was the second summer Winnebago Outdoor Adventures offered a short trip for Class B and Class C owners. The trip was perfectly matched to the adventurous nature of the owners you find driving van-based and compact motorhomes.
Sixteen rigs found their way to the Legendary Waters campground adjacent to a small casino just up the highway from Bayfield, Wisconsin. As we spent time both walking and bike riding around Bayfield, we were struck by how much it reminded us of towns along the sea in Maine — just no salt air breeze coming from Lake Superior.
Bayfield is a charming spring through fall community, with the requisite lovely shops, good restaurants and a laid-back, unpretentious vibe.
Our first evening was spent on a three hour cruise around all the Apostle Islands, complete with a locally sourced boxed sandwich dinner, lovely views, and a sparkly evening return to the town lights.
On day two the adventure index ramped up dramatically with tandem sea kayaking. Careful pre-planning by Winnebago had arranged for a top-notch kayaking company to completely train, outfit and guide us on the lake — within a short ten minute walk from the campground. Ducking under a Lake Superior cave.
Unlike river kayaks, sea kayaks have small rudders that you control with foot pedals. We were fortunate that Lake Superior was in a very calm mood for the afternoon so we didn’t have to fight bigger waves and could concentrate on not only our stroke technique, but several wrecks of old freighters just below the surface of the water.
Our trip hosts were Russ and Kathy Garfin. Russ and Kathy had scouted the area in previous trips and their insider’s knowledge really came to the forefront at dinnertime as we arrived at a well hidden, but well-known contemporary restaurant south of town called Wild Rice. Welcome to the Finnish designed Wild Rice Restaurant.
This is where our RV caravan trip really stepped up in sophistication worthy of a Travel and Leisure or Bon Appetit story. Starting with sleek northern European contemporary architecture wrapped around an interior outside courtyard and floor-to-ceiling glassed-in wine cellar, the look of the restaurant was stunning. . .as was the deft mixology of exotic cocktails and beautifully presented courses de cuisine. We were only two days into our adventure and toasts and applause heartily went out to the Garfins.
The waitstaff stands by as we’re welcomed by the restaurant’s general manager.
But there was something else that really set this and last year’s trip apart from other RV caravan tours. Beyond being our trip leader, Russ Garfin is the product manager and visionary behind Winnebago’s super-successful European inspired products. And this are why these past two trips have been very, very different and why Winnebago’s growing family of adventure RVs are the best in the industry.
You never get to have lunch with the design engineer who oversaw the development of your car or kayak with the architect who designed your home. Russ and Kathy led the trip with their own personally owned Travato and throughout the trip Russ was deeply curious about all our ownership experiences and intently listened to likes, dislikes, and improvement suggestions. It was like a four day “ultimate focus group” and, like he has in the past, Russ will take many of those ideas he heard and work them into future product versions.
Day three started with a boat ride — for all the RVs. In several waves we carefully drove our Travatos, Views, Navions, and one classic Rialta onto the ferry for a short trip across the bay to Madeline Island. When our rubber treads hit land again, we drove seven miles into the island for camping at a deeply wooded community campground that was a short walk to the southern shore of the island. This would have been very, very tricky for Class A’s getting into the small sites and, with few electric hookups available, most of us were in full boondock mode.
The rest of the day was unscheduled for biking into town and hiking along the trails and shore in the state park. Cocktails were at five at Tom’s Burned Down Cafe that, in most municipalities might be mistaken as the town dump, but this is one ingenious amalgamation of. . .well. . .a little bit of everything.
Part Key West vibe, part biker bar look (the bars are under tents and some of the bartenders smoked), Tom’s was a fun start to the evening.
After a couple of rounds it was time to walk across the road to Cafe Seiche for our choice of three chef designed selections. Once again, the service and quality of cuisine far surpassed the typical burger fare one might have expected.
Bagos on the bay! The Xite GPS has us accurately on the water traveling back to Bayfield at 10MPH. And what else is exciting in this picture? This is the new huge 9″ infotainment screen that will be available option in Winnebago’s Sprinter-based RVs (View, Navion, Era) later this fall.
Our final full day was jam packed with a return to the mainland and a scenic drive west to the old port town of Duluth. The campground destination was dockside at the harbor with electrical and water hookups. Though this was nothing more than a glorified parking lot, it was a delightfully perfect location next to the boat slips and looked up to the city built very San Francisco-like on hills above the lake.
It was also a short ten minute walk to the old restored harbor area with restaurants, shops, museums, and harbor walk. We ventured into town on our bikes and deeply appreciated the powerful assist of our new e-bikes on the big hills.
There was another fine meal to cap off our fourth evening and a walk back to the marina where one of our Travato owners produced a portable campfire ring along with an armload of wood for a final evening of wine and camaraderie.
While most of us who gravitate to smaller van and motorhomes do so with a heightened sense of self-directed exploratory curiosity, a group trip with like minded road travelers adds a very satisfying social dimension where new friendships can take root in a common experience. On our final morning, as everyone toured everyone’s coach, there were farewell hugs and the most frequently asked question was, “where the next trip?” Yeah, it was that good.