Day 41: Looking for a campground in the rain near St. Paul.
This morning we are finally leaving the Minnesota Airstream Park. We had five great nights here and all of the people we met couldn’t have been friendlier. If we lived in Minnesota, we would be very tempted to buy a lot of our own.
After talking to a few of the owners here, I am getting a little clearer picture of how things work here. Each lot is owned by a shareholder and they are sold based on what the lot comes with. The prices range anywhere from $4,000 to nearly $20,000 for lots without Airstreams. For example, a gazebo costs about $9,000 in materials and labor to build and that is a big price difference depending on if one is included. The park opens each year in April and closes at the end of October. Every Airstream must vacate the park and cannot return until the following April. That gives each owner about a 7-month long season each year.
Aside from the cost of buying your lot, there is also an annual maintenance fee that each shareholder must pay. It runs just under $1,200 a year and it covers the maintenance of all of the community equipment and facilities. Every owner must also pay for their own utilities on their site which varies based on how much is used. When a site is empty, it can be rented to visitors but it is assigned by the park’s management staff per each reservation. The park and owner split is 60/40 favoring the park. At $25 a night, the owner only gets about $10 per each night rented. To just cover the cost of the annual maintenance fees, you would need to have your site rented for at least 15 nights a month for the 7 months that it is open.
So the bottom line of what I learned with ownership of the Airstream Park is that you will need to spend at least 2 months a year here to make purchasing it worth your while. Otherwise, just come here and rent a space as you’d like. At $25 a night for a full hook up site, it is a great deal. You get to use all of the facilities like the heated swimming pool, fishing ponds, clubhouse and best of all, unlimited golf! That’s right, you don’t have to pay per round when you are staying here. You can simply just walk on the course with your clubs and swing away to your heart’s delight. Too bad for me, Marlene ex nay the idea of me bringing my clubs on this trip. I wasn’t going to be able to use it enough to justify carrying it all across the country.
As we exited out of gates, we turned east and headed towards the Twin Cities for a campground closer to our friends Chris and Jen’s in St. Paul.
The drive is about 70 miles and we are headed to the east end of the cities. It started to rain today which made our trip a little slower but we didn’t mind. We are still in the ‘taking it easy’ mode and the rain is hopefully helping to wash off some of the bugs we have been collecting on the grill and bumper of the van.
We have been doing some research about where to stay and the closest park we found that looked nice was a county park just 8 miles east of Chris and Jen’s called Lake Elmo Park and Reserve. It has a beach right at the lake and even though there are no water and sewer hookups, it does have 30-amp electricity.
After a slow drive through rain and traffic of the Twin Cities we made it to Lake Elmo.
The park is actually quite beautiful. We were really looking forward to exploring the area for the next few days… until we park and walk into the park office to ask for a site. The first thing they ask you is if you have any pets or firewood. This is always a tricky question because clearly they are asking for a reason. This is our second time traveling across the country with our cat Yoda and not once has she ever left the Airstream. So in practical terms, our cat is indoors and any policies related to pets at campgrounds have no practical applications. A number of times in the past, we have just told the campground management exactly that and that she will never leave the Airstream. On very few occasions, we will conveniently leave that information out if the campground seems like they are not very tolerant.
Generally speaking, public parks like this one are not really strict when it comes to pets. After all, many people choose traveling in an RV because they can do it with their pets. Well, not so at Lake Elmo. For the first time ever, we were turned away at the gate because we decided to be honest about our cat. It is a Wednesday, two weeks after labor day and the park was deserted. None of that mattered to the park staff. We have a cat and they have a pet policy. That means our only option was to turn around in the rain and look for another campground.
A few days ago when I was researching campground options, I had narrowed our choices down to Lake Elmo and Lebanon Hills. Lake Elmo was our first choice for the only reason that it is closer to St. Paul. Lebanon Hills is about twice as far but I actually thought it had a nicer campground.
We drove the 25 miles from Lake Elmo and easily got a site here and they were glad to accommodate us and our cat. As a matter of fact, there were two dogs in the registration office hanging out with the park staff.
For $30 bucks a night you can get a full hook up site here or for $5 less, you can just get an electric only one. We chose an electric only one at the outer loop that was practically empty so we can pretty much have the whole place to ourselves.
I am pretty excited to be camping near the Twin Cities because it is one of the few cities with Sprint’s WiMax 4G service (That they are actually starting to phase out in favor of the faster LTE standard). Since we left Denver, I have been slowly piecing together a new 3G/4G Internet setup. I ordered a new USB stick from Millenicom that is also compatible with 4G. I also had a package from 3GStore.com come in when we visited St. Paul a few days ago that has my new antenna, cables and the Pepwave Surf On-the-Go router. As compared to my old Cradlepoint, this one also works as as WiFi bridge and it worked fantastically at the Minnesota Airstream Park these last few days. Here at Lebanon Hills, I was able to set up the antenna on top of my 12 ft. extendable painter’s pole and got some 4G to come into the park. So far it is working great. I will do a more thorough report of the new system in another post.
We quickly set up camp and the girls got busy working on some projects while I caught up on some more work that has been chasing me via my phone on our day here.
Luka was busy pushing that first tooth out his through his gums. If you look closely, you can see a little faint white line just under Marlene’s left index finger.
This is probably going to be our last stop in Minnesota. After our 4 night stay here, we will continue to head east into Wisconsin. The plans for the next month or so is starting to solidify. We are hoping to make our way around Lake Michigan to make as many waterfront stops as we can squeeze in. Once we get around to the eastern shore, we will dash across Michigan and start our way south.
In about 6 weeks, we should find ourselves in Louisville, Kentucky getting ready for trick or treating with the kids. At least that is the plan for now.
over and out,
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