If you were in Blue Earth last weekend, maybe you noticed a brand new Winnebago Chalet mini-motor home, with Alaska license plates.
I saw it on Saturday on Highway 169. Then, I saw it at McDonald’s on Sunday. And Kwik Trip. Then at Juba’s Super Valu.
Wow, I thought. These people are really getting around town.
Later, on Sunday, I noticed it was in the parking lot at Wal-Mart when lo and behold, another one identical to it pulled in next to it.
Two, I thought. Was I seeing double?
Then a third one pulled into the parking lot of Giant Park, to see the Green Giant statue.
That was too much for a news guy to take, so I had to pull in next to them and find out what was going on.
I quickly learned I wasn’t seeing double or triple. There were indeed three identical Winnebago Chalet mini-motor homes in town, all with Alaska license plates.
In fact, there were a lot more than three. Lots more.
Here is the story.
It seems there is a vacation rental place in Alaska that specializes in renting out motor homes for folks to tour around Alaska on their own.
This company purchased 151 brand new Chalet units from Winnebago Manufacturing in Forest City, Iowa.
Now, the problem was how to get 151 motor homes to Alaska. The solution? Offer them to folks to take a vacation with.
The catch, of course, was that the vacation has to start in Iowa and end up in Alaska.
They had no problem finding 151 people interested in taking them up on the offer.
It wasn’t a free trip. There are costs involved for those taking the W’bagos to our 50th state.
And, they have just 11 days to get them delivered. Unless, like, the folks I visited with, the drivers ‘purchased’ extra days.
“We bought seven extra days, so we have 18 days to get this unit to Alaska,” says Judy Elliot of Michigan. She and her husband Ken jumped at the chance to take a road trip.
Along with them was Jim and Nancy Larin from Connecticut. Ken and Nancy are brother and sister.
They have a little friendly rivalry going, with Nancy a big UConn fan, and brother Ken proudly wearing his Michigan sweatshirt.
“We like to kid each other about which college has the better teams,” Ken says.
The two couples were supporting Blue Earth businesses, as were many of the other 151 campers.
“There were 50 units that took off Friday, another 50 on Saturday and 51 today (Sunday),” Ken says. “And most were coming up Highway 169 and coming through Blue Earth.”
While here they were stopping at Wal-Mart, Kwik Trip and Juba’s Super Valu for food and other supplies for their trip north to Alaska.
Another popular spot was the Green Giant statue.
“We have to go see it,” Nancy says. “Everybody knows the Green Giant.
Her husband, Jim, has a special reason to have his picture taken in front of the statue.
“My mother taught school here in Blue Earth,” Jim says. “That was many, many, many years ago. She was married to her first husband at the time, before she married my father.”
His mother’s name, at the time she taught here, was Kathleen Kane.
“I thought it would be interesting to see Blue Earth, since my mother once lived here,” Jim says. “I have a little connection to this town.”
From Blue Earth the two couples were headed northwest. They have a laptop computer along with, and are using it to map out a route on the fly.
“We have 18 days to go wherever we want,” Ken says.
Well, relatively, anyway. The final destination is locked in.