Deborahmclaren's Weblog

Sustianable Tourism, Buy Local, Rural-Urban Connections

Archive for February, 2011

Quirky places to stay in Minnesota

Posted by deborahmclaren on February 12, 2011

I’ve been around the world and stayed in a lot of funky places – tree houses in Thailand, a palace in India, a boat hotel in Amsterdam – so I decided to seek out the unusual in Minnesota and the upper Midwest. Here’s some things I’ve found so far (although I haven’t stayed at all of them).

Northern Rail Train Car

There are several train inns. The Northern Rail Train Car Suites is in Two Harbors, on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It’s set on 60 forested acres just off Highway 61 (near Betty’s Pies). The rooms are housed in actual train boxcars and connected by a charming enclosed platform. The depot-style main building includes check-in, lending library and the continental breakfast area. You can rent a partial car (Porter room) or a full car. Rates vary with the seasons but are between $100 and $200 per night.

Main Lodge at MapleLag Resort

My all-time favorite place to stay in Minnesota is MapleLag Resort on the White Earth Indian Reservation (western Minnesota). It’s in the middle of a great forest and is very Scandinavian-Minnesota-like. There are lots of cabins, including some 100 year old log cabins that were relocated there and several train cars that have been renovated into cute little guest houses. Rates include skiing, equipment, a giant hot tub (seriously-it can easily accommodate 20!), and great food. There’s a huge lodge with several fire places, libraries, seating areas, beautiful stained glass windows collected from around the world, and their homemade cookies are always available.

The Switch Yard at MapleLag Resort

The Whistle Stop

Out on the west central prairie you can find The Whistle Stop in New York Mills that offers authentic train cars built at the turn of the century: dining and railroad executive cars. Cars rent from about $125 to $200 a night. There’s a cottage, Victorian Inn and tea room as well. New York Mills has an amazing little Regional Cultural Center and is home of the quirky “Great American Think-Off.

The Dreamcatcher at Ludlow's Resort - like a bird's nest!

Amphibacar at Ludlow's Resort

At Ludlow’s Resort on Lake Vermilion, the entire resort is on a Northwoods island. And they don’t have cookie-cutter cabins. Their cottages have been hand-crafted and continually improved over seven decades — and three generations of the Ludlow family. There are 20 cabins tucked away beneath the birch and pine and all are different. The Dreamcatcher, designed by SALA Architects, is unlike anything else in Minnesota. This fantastic four-story treehouse provides views of the lake and makes you feel like an Eagle in the top of the trees. They also have an Amphibacar (Northwoods 007?)! Ludlow’s is rated one of Minnesota’s top resorts. They charge by the week – starting at about $2500 and up in the summer peak season. In the spring and fall you can rent a cabin for about $250 per night (no week-long rental is required in the off season).

The "Grotto" room at the Park Street In

The Park Street Inn in Park Rapids gets a mention for their “Grotto,” which they describe as garden-level (basement) room that boasts a huge water-jet tub, a king-size bed, air conditioning, and a private bath with a waterfall sink. The grotto is completed with plants and a large stone waterfall. I have stayed there in the middle of the winter and didn’t get to see the upstairs. It truly reminded me of a place where the Flintstone’s might vacation. Rates vary from $95 to $135 for the rooms and include breakfast.

Tree House Retreat, Long Prairie, MN

Tree House Retreat

The LaVoie Tree House in Long Prairie is a hexagon shaped cabin in a tree! Set among 16 acres of wooded land owned by the LaVoie family, they built this unique guesthouse themselves. I have no idea how much it costs. I know about it through Nancy Leasman who owns the nearby Leatherwood Vinegary. By the way, if you like wineries you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that vinegar can also be as variable and tasty as wines. Leatherwood is one of the only locally-owned vinegaries in the US. You can stop in for a tasting.

Thayer's Historic and Haunted Inn!

Okay, let’s get really quirkly! Thayer’s Historic Bed n’ Breakfast in Annandale is haunted! The owner, Sharon Gammells has been an internationally known psychic for over 45 years. Sharon claims that “yes, we have ghosts, yes they visit, but, remember I live here so, NO the ghosts aren’t mean, and they are not scary, and they are not stuck, and they are not creepy.” Apparently a “Miss Lily” spirit from room 306 actually helps out during some of their paranormal classes. There are also ghost kitties.

A 2 Night Paranormal Package is $387 and includes breakfast and a one hour Psychic Reading. Most rooms are about $100 a night and if you participate in one of their scheduled Murder Mystery Dinners add another $50 per person.

Jail House Inn, Preston, MN

The Jail House Inn, originally the The Old Fillmore County Jail and Carriage House, is a National Historic Place in Preston, MN. It was built in the 1870s. The “cells” start at a very reasonable $69 and the Sheriff’s Master Bedroom and other rooms can run up to $150. It’s near the fabulous Root River – great for tubing. The Root River bike trail runs close by.

"Cell" room at the Jail House Inn

I’ll continue to find quirky little treasures and post them here. Wherever you go – snuggle in and sleep tight!

Posted in family travel, Minnesota, quite unusual, travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Bikes on Ice? Ice Biking? Tell me your story or send me a link

Posted by deborahmclaren on February 9, 2011

ice biker dude

I want to write an upcoming post on my blog about ice biking… that’s the term for people who like to ride year round, even in the snow and ice. I live in Minnesota where there are plenty of ice bikers. I use to think they were all crazy, but I’m beginning to wonder why our bicycle accident rates are going DOWN while more riders are going up. Let me know what you think, especially if you are an ice biker.

Posted in alternative transportation, climate solutions, Minnesota, sustainable travel | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Gourmet chocolate, bone jewelry, vegan clothes and other cool ideas for Valentine’s Day

Posted by deborahmclaren on February 5, 2011

According to new economic predictions, Americans will spend more on Valentine’s Day this year. Amazing amounts really – almost $2.7 million! It would probably be more if Valentine’s Day was on a weekend, this year it falls on a Monday.  Think of all the sweet things we can do for our loved ones and communities if we buy-local or take a local/stay-cation! I’ve got some great ideas, but first look at the statistics:

“Consumers will be spending 5.7 percent more than last year on romantic getaways for Valentine’s Day in 2011, significantly improving upon 2009′s flat spending results, according to industry research firm IBIS World.”

Valentine's Day Spending
“Travel is the third most popular spend category for Valentine’s Day, with $2.16 billion in projected spend for 11.6 percent of the total.” And, according to another survey by the National Retail Federation, this is the first Valentine’s Day since 2008 where couples plan to spend more on each other than the year before. This year, couples will spend an average of $68.98 on their spouse or significant other.
First let’s look at greeting cards. Hand made cards are more romantic and personal than bought ones. Creating beautiful home made Valentine’s Day cards is easy. If you’re not crafty you can use a photo or even bake a giant cookie. Love notes are treasured forever. If you’re not a poet, tuck in a “coupon” that your love can redeem now or later (massage, picnic and wine under the stars, a romantic weekend getaway, cuddly movie night, whatever makes you happy). If a home made card is not your thing, find a local artist. is a great place to find cards and other gifts that are made by real people, often in your own area. Here’s a lovely example of a hand crafted card that says I love you in 14 languages!

I Love You Card by riricreations in Richmond, VA ( has lots of other crafts, jewelry, etc. Check out this cute Little Wood Valentine Monster by Little Wood People in Buffalo, NY.

Little Wood Monster by Little Wood People, Buffalo, NY
Valentine Chocolates! With so many locally-made gourmet chocolates these days its easy to find traditional and exciting new recipes – especially organic fair-trade chocolate. I love chocolates that include spicy chilies. The Rogue Chocolatier, in Minneapolis, is the first true artisan chocolate maker to arrive in the Upper Midwest. The Sambirano bar, made with cacao from a single family-owned estate in Madagascar, was a winner of the 2010 Good Food Awards! One man bean-to-bar chocolate making!

Jewels for your valentine? Make sure to find a local artist that makes jewelry and avoid jeweler chains. Looks for artist co-ops, art fairs, and locally-owned clothing stores that sell jewelry.  Albany, NY artist, Corrina Goutos, combines her love for jewelry, sustainable living and veganism in her new line of jewelry: Vegan Bone Jewelry, part of Gilding the Lily, a nation-wide contemporary jewelry design company. She makes all the Jewelry by hand and is committed to employing recycled materials and sustainable found art into every piece she makes.

A rose is a rose! NOT. VeriFlora® is America’s first comprehensive sustainability certification program for the floral and potted plant industries. The VeriFlora® “Certified Sustainably Grown” label is your guarantee that flowers and potted plants have been produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner and meet the highest standards for freshness and quality. When you choose a VeriFlora® product, you are contributing to a global movement to encourage companies to become sustainable. Already, this has resulted in significant and positive change for farmers, farm workers, and the environment. Organic Bouquet, the largest online provider of eco-friendly and organic floral gifts in the US. They also provide gift baskets, fruit baskets, nut baskets, gourmet chocolates, gourmet cookies, plants, wreaths, organic cotton apparel, organic towels, and organic linens. All of these products are certified eco-friendly and/or provide for environmental benefits through participation in Carbon Offset programs.

Local food co-ops and health food stores often carry organic, locally-grown flowers these days. Hard to find in the northern climates but High Tunnel Greenhouse and Hoop House Greenhouses are changing that. With these new techniques, growing flowers year round without the need for artificial heat is possible.

If you and your love truly love good, healthy food take him/her to a slow foods dinner in your area! Slow Food is an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. Good food is the language of love so delicious slow food is about the sexiest thing you can give! Slow Food promotes the celebration of food as a cornerstone of pleasure, culture and community. Find a local chapter near you by visiting the Slow Food USA website.

Many chefs and restaurants support and promote slow food, organic and locally-grown from farms, gardens and wineries near you. Look for them in your area. California isn’t the only place that produces quality wine these days. Many regions, even cold climates are successfully growing varietals appropriate for their regions. In fact, there are numerous wineries in Minnesota now!

Considering sexy new lingerie or other clothes for your sweetie? Eco-friendly bamboo is the most sustainable of natural fibers. It grows fast, requires little water, needs no pesticides, and can reach a height of 75 feet in two months. Fair Indigo and Maggies Organics are pioneers in the field of sustainable, pesticide-free clothing. Fair Indigo is a company wholly committed to making a difference in the fashion industry by creating eco-friendly and organic clothing that is made in keeping with fair trade principles. After researching cotton and learning that it is grown on 3-5% of the world’s cultivated land, and yet uses nearly 10% of the world’s pesticides and 25% of the world’s insecticides, Maggie’s Organics committed themselves to utilizing organic cotton to tell the real story behind conventional cotton clothing. Your best option is to find locally-owned clothing stores that sell these items or products designed by local artists. Check out Peta’s Shopping Guide to Compassionate Clothing for a list of dozens of cruelty-free, vegan companies.

Red Floral Bamboo Tee from Fair Indigo

A romantic Stay-Cation is a vacation that is spent at one’s home enjoying all that home and one’s home environs have to offer. It’s an alternative to pricey, stressful vacations and is more ecologically friendly as less energy is needed to travel locally. Star-gazing and a walk in the woods are romantic and can be done very close to home. Without going far you can find locally-owned accommodations – inns, B&Bs, home exchanges, etc. Wisconsin leads the nation in production of artisan and farmstead cheeses, thanks to the work of master cheesemakers around the state. On the WI B&B website you can carve out a culinary tour based around these small-batch cheese delights. The Minnesota B&B Association offers chocolate tours along the St. Croix River Valley. If you are an Eskimo you might want to stay cozy at one of Inns North which include 21 hotels, 19 in Nunavut and 2 in the NWT, owned by the aboriginal people of Northern Canada.

Do some research – there are lots of other organizations and indie businesses that offer staycation specials. The Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis offers stay-cation programs that promote 2 for 1 concerts – you can give your sweetie a whole season of beautiful music!

Here’s wishing you a beautiful Valentine’s Day! – Travel Momma

Posted in art, Buy-local, Fair Trade, food and wine, Slow Foods, travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

75 songs to rock you around the world!

Posted by deborahmclaren on February 1, 2011

There are songs etched permanently in my mind that conjur up images of places I’ve been. For example, listening to Sham the Sham and the Pharoah’s singing “Wooly Bully” while sitting in the back of a pickup truck driving through rice paddies on Bali. It’s not a song about traveling, but it is a travel song to me.

Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs

There are other songs that create visuals of places I’ve never seen like Roxy Music’s “and your destination, you don’t know it… Avalon.” So just for fun, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite songs – trying to keep with the “travel” theme! These are in no particular order and I got most of the links from YouTube. Some were contributed by friends. I hope you enjoy the list! – Travel Momma

1 Roam – The B52s
Roam if you want to, roam around the world.

2. Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver
And drivin down that road I get a feelin that I should have been home yesterday, yesterday!

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole

3 Take Me Home, Country Road (take 2: Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole
Country Road take me home to the place I belong, West Makaha, Mount Makaha, country road take me home.

4 Born to Be Wild – Steppenwolf
Get your motor runnin’… Head out on the highway… looking for adventure, or whatever comes my way!

5 Leaving on a Jet Plane – Peter Paul & Mary (or other artists)
I’m leaving on a jet-plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.

6 Singapore – Tom Waits
We sail tonight for Singapore, we’re all as mad as hatters here…
(animated you tube video – cool)

7 I’ve Been Everywhere- Johnny Cash
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere.

8 Magic Carpet Ride- Steppenwolf
Why don’t you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride?

9 Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.

The Return of Roger Miller

10 King of the Road – Roger Miller
I’m a man of means by no means: King of the road.

11 You Aint Going No Where – Bob Dylan (need a link!)
Pick up your money
And pack up your tent
You ain’t goin’ nowhere.

The Beatles

12 Back in the USSR – Beatles
(Awesomely starts with airplane noise)
Flew in from Miami Beach, BOAC —
Didn’t get to bed last night.
On the way the paper bag was on my knee
Man, I had a dreadful flight!

13 Proud Mary – Ike and Tina Turner
I cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis.
And I pumped a lot of tane down in New Orleans.
Rolling down the river…

Tracy Chapman - Fast Car

14 Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
You got a fast car,
But is it fast enough so you can fly away?

Runnin Down A Dream

15 Runnin’ Down a Dream- Tom Petty
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads,
Runnin’ down a dre

16 Life Is a Highway- Rascal Flatts (and that other dude)
Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long.

17 Riding With the King – B.B. King & Eric Clapton
He’s on a mission of mercy to the new frontier,
He’s gonna check us all on out of here.
Up to that mansion on a hill
Where you can get your prescription filled.

Route 66

18 Route 66 (I like Asleep at the Wheel‘s version)
If you ever plan to motor west,
travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.

19 Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash
Well come on and let me know
Should I Stay or should I go?

20 Come Away with me – Norah Jones
Come away with me and we’ll kiss, On a mountaintop.

21 The Long and Winding Road – The Beatles
And still they lead me back,
To the long, winding road.

Greatest Hits Vol 2

22 When I Paint My Masterpiece -Bob Dylan, The Band (where’s the links Bob?)
Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble.
Ancient footprints are everywhere.
You can almost think that you’re seein’ double
On a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs.

23 Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan (need link)
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Talking Heads

24 Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads
Well we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been.

25 Highway to Hell- AC/DC
I’m on the highway to hell
No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody’s gonna slow me down!

26 We Gotta Get Out Of This Place – The Animals (this has to be one of the first music videos!)
We gotta get out of this place
If its the last thing we ever do.

Woody Guthrie

27 Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad – Woody Guthrie
I’m a-blowin’ down this old dusty road, Lord, Lord,
An’ I ain’t a-gonna be treated this a-way.

28 Another Traveling Song – Bright Eyes
Well I’m changing all my strings.
I’m gonna write another traveling song.

Holiday in Spain - Counting Crows

29 Holiday in Spain – Counting Crows
I may take a holiday in Spain
Leave my wings behind me.

30 Every Day is a Winding Road – Sheryl Crow
Jump in, let’s go, Lay back, enjoy the show
Everybody gets high, everybody gets low,
These are the days when anything goes.

31 Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen
Oh oh come take my hand
Riding out tonight to case the promised land.

John Hiatt

32 Drive South – John Hiatt
Come on baby, drive south with the one you love.

33 On the Road Again – Willie Nelson
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway.

34 City of New Orleans – Steve Goodman
Good night, America, how are you?
Don’t you know me I’m your native son.

Crosby, Still & Nash

35 Southern Cross – CS&N (Jimmy Buffet did it too)
When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way.

36 Where the Streets Have No Name – U2
And when I go there, I’ll go there with you…

37 The Travel Song – Pilate
When I come home, please say that you’ll be there.

Crosby, Stills and Nash

38 Marrakesh Express – Crosby and Nash
Wouldn’t you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express,
they’re taking me to Marrakesh.
All on board the train!

Paul Simon

39 Graceland – Paul Simon
Maybe I’ve a reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland.

40 Fly Away – Lenny Kravitz
Let’s go and see the stars,
The Milky Way or even Mars.

41 Learning to Fly – Tom Petty
I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got no wings,
Coming down is the hardest thing.

Up From Below

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

42 Home – Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeroes
Home is wherever I’m with you!

43 Beautiful – India.Arie
I wanna go to a place where I am suspended in ecstasy!

44 Wild World – Cat Stevens
Oh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world,
It’s hard to get by just upon a smile.

Gogol Bordello

45 Wonderlust King – Gogol Bordello
I traveled the world
Looking for lovers of the ultimate beauty.

Old Crow Medicine Show

46 Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
Rock me, mama, like the wind and the rain
Rock me, mama, like a south-bound train
Hey, mama rock me.

47 Will.I.Am – The Traveling Song
See I been travelin, been travelin forever,
But now that I found a home it feels like I’m in heaven.

48 Lonesome Road – Frank Sinatra
Look down – look down
That lonesome road
Before you travel on.


49 Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics
Travel the world and the seven seas,
Everybody’s looking for something.

50 Many Rivers – Jimmy Cliff
Many rivers to cross
But I can`t seem to find my way over.
Wandering I am lost as I travel along.

51 One Road to Freedom – Ben Harper (need link)
With so many roads to travel
There’s just one can set you free.

52 Rollin’ – Luscious Jackson (link?)
i travel light, i travel low
because i got no place to go.

53 Harem Holiday – Elvis Presley
Gonna travel, gonna travel wild and free.
I’m gonna pack my bags because this great big world is calling me.

54 The Wanderer – Dion
Oh yeah, I’m the type of guy that likes to roam around
I’m never in one place, I roam from town to town.

55 Airplane – Indigo Girls
Up in the airplane, nearer my God to thee
I start making a deal, inspired by gravity.

The Streets

56 The Escapist – The Streets
I’m not full of fear cause I’m not really here.

57 I Travel – Simple Minds
I travel round, decadence and pleasure towns.

58 Radar Love – Golden Earring
I’ve been driving all night, my hands wet on the wheel!

58 The Happy Wanderer (an old scouting song)
Oh May I go a wanderin’
until the day I die.

Flight of the Conchords

59 Bowie – Flight of the Conchords
What’s a rock musician doing out in space man?
(The Bus Driver Song by FOTC was also suggested but there’s no good video of it)

JJ Cale - Call Me the Breeze

60 They Call Me the Breeze – JJ Cale
They call me the breeze, I keep blowing down the road.

Leon Russell and the Shelter People

61 Stranger in a Strange Land – Leon Russell
Stop racing toward oblivion.

61 Flying Song – Colin Hay
Spread your wings across the sky.

62 Flying – The Beatles
No words – part of the Magical Mystery Tour album.

and speaking of…
63 The Magical Mystery Tour – Beatles
Roll up, and that’s an invitation!

64 The Walking Song – Rufus Wainwright (a song by his late mother Kate McGarrigle)
Wouldn’t it be nice to walk together
Baring our souls while wearing out the leather
We could talk shop, harmonize a song
Wouldn’t it be nice to walk along

65 Around the World – Daft Punk
Not a lot of lyrics here

66 Drive – R.E.M.
What if I ride, what if you walk?
What if you rock around the clock?

67 All Down the Line – Rolling Stones
I need a shot of salvation baby, once in a while.
Hear that whistle blowing, hear it for a thousand miles.

Vashti Bunyan

68 Train Song – Vashti Bunyan (Fiest also covers this song)
Traveling north to find you… don’t even know what I’ll say when I find you.

69 Train Song – Tom Waits
I’ve come 10,000 miles away, and I ain’t got nothing to show.

Martin Sexton

70 Freedom of the Road – Martin Sexton
Now I’ve had enough of this freedom of the road.

71 Sweet Baby James – James Taylor
…with 10 miles behind me and 10,000 more to go…

72 Highway Song – James Taylor
If you love me when I’m here, you can miss me when I’m gone.

73 Travelin Man – Ricky Nelson
I’m a traveling man, and I’ve made a lot of stops…

74 Carefree Highway – Gordon Lightfoot
Carefree highway, got to see you my old friend.

75 Outer Limits – The Iguanas (Iggy Pop on drums)
There are no words…

Compiled by Deborah McLaren. Thanks to Rob Ramer, Andy Fisher, Katie Stearns, Winona LaDuke, Kent Scheer, Kimberly Nightengale, Debra Lach, Diane Hammons, Mark Sherman, Kelly Ramer, Georgia Duncan, Barbara McGrath, Gaye Brown, WanderWoman, Maximillian G. Olmsted and Matthew Chrastek for their suggestions. Of course – thanks to all the musicans – writers, singers & players – who make this list so fun! Happy Trails!

Posted in music, music, travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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