This weekend was full of adventure as I made my husband get up at the crack of dawn to drive over three hours away to Shady Hollow Flea Market near Lake Melissa. This market is a few hops from Detroit Lakes, and about 45 minutes away from the North Dakota border near the college town of Moorhead, Minnesota. I found this hidden lake flea market from another blogger at https://www.thecrazytourist.com/15-best-flea-markets-minnesota/.
My love of travel writing and sharing a little bit about the places I visit returned. This summer you might see more of that kind of writing, and those who don’t live here will get a better idea about the surrounding towns of Minnesota.
Back to my adventures on the road. Gas prices didn’t stop me because like many other Americans, I share the same love for stories on the open road to places that I’ve never been before. The drive on highway 94 started out like many times I drove up to Fargo, North Dakota or St. Cloud for work. The scenery is the same but after the past 2 years, things have changed and you never know how many things will be closed because of our changed history.
My adventure would have started out better if I had slept better the night before but that didn’t stop me either. We were on the road a little at 6 am in the morning. Our first stop was only a few miles away for a McDonald’s breakfast and caffeine. If I want my husband happy in the morning, I know to get him coffee. Before we bought our new car, he avoided road trips. I was so excited that he agreed to one of my “ideas” that I packed everything right away.
I guess our large number of sales from our first outdoor event helped convince him that visiting other local flea markets where we can sell our handmade and 3D printed creations were also a motivator. Since many people head to the lakes during the weekends, I thought I would check out some of the blogged about markets with a purpose of becoming a vendor in mind.
At the start our turn North on highway 94, we pass the Albertville Outlet Mall and I was tempted stop but luckily for my husband it was too early and the stores were closed. We kept driving past other small towns, including the McDonalds I usually stopped at in Monticello. Having travelled this direction several times before, I know to make a pit stop to stretch my legs about every 2 hours. There are other small towns along the way but the long stretches between towns that require a longer drive off the main highway had me pin a stop in Alexandria every time I’m heading North this way.
If you were to read my pin on google maps, it would say that Alexandria, Minnesota is a stop close to the highway with several gas stations, fast food places, and a few sit down restaurants. You can refuel your ride and belly all in the same place. This city that gets visited by many travelers is also a place I refer to as a weather vortex pin point. This is the line where the weather fronts that sweep across North America diverge. Above this town you can have snow, and below this line a longitude you have clear skies and sun. I can’t tell you the numbers of times I’ve driven in Blizzard out of North Dakota only to find sunny and clear skies just past this town. The changing weather patterns are worthy of a sci-fi novel.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found Dr. Who living in Alexandria with his Tardis but the road trip drove on past other college towns. The wheels didn’t stop as we passed the larger city of St. Cloud, and where one of my friends lives. I thought of all the things I could be doing this weekend, like building more inventory but when you have a business you have to do a little of both at the same time.
Here’s some advice to those who go onto the open roads in the midwest. Take advantage of the rest stops in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. They’ve improved over the years and most are clean and have flush toilets. Some have drink and snack machines. The ones right before you cross a state border are usually the nicest. Making a stop every few hours keep your legs from getting cramped and keep everyone from getting the too many hours on the road cranky.
One stop was all we needed on the way there before we turned off of highway 94 to highway 59 where the roads opened up to wider lanes and lots of trees. We went through several small towns around other lakes that I’ve never been to before. Our turn took us through the hills of Pelican Rapids and a small turkey processing plant where I proceeded to see flashing lights in my rear view mirror. Maybe I was looking out the window a little too much.
Yes, I got pulled over on my first road trip with the new car. Luckily the officer was let me off with a warning, probably because I wasn’t from there and didn’t know where I was going. I let out a big sigh of relief as we drove onward and turned on MN-34E, I have no idea why the highways are named this way but my excite grew because we were closer to the market and it was only around 10:30 am.
We turned off the main highway at the corner of Lake Melissa and my excitement grew. There were several very nice looking cabins and houses as we drove down the lakefront road. Of course, I passed the flea market on my right and had to turn around but we found a golf course on the other corner of the lake. Now wonder there were several expensive looking houses around the lake. They probably spent their time at the small club house we passed as we turned around to the flea market.
We parked in the designated grass lot right across from the lake and I saw several rows of vendor tents and tiny houses for vendors in the distance. The crowd was small but after talking to some of the locals, we learned that it was Detroit Lake Days in town. I guess I picked the right day because I didn’t have to fight for space in the parking lot and as I walked down the rows of tables.
As the hours passed, we found all kinds of vendors selling clothing, lots of Minnesota themed shirts, lawn ornaments, antiques, tools, everything that can be found at a garage sale, and few artists and jewelry makers. They had live music, mini donuts, corn dogs, and a main food area. One of the larger vendors sold handmade wood furniture pieces, and there was one shop that sold the most adorable metal smith lawn ornaments that I’ve ever seen. Get ready to pay a pretty penny for some of the lawn ornaments, handmade furniture, and some of the boutique clothing. You can bargain at the other tables or stalls selling 2nd hand items but artisan and boutique means higher prices.
They did have an ATM in the food area and some of the vendors had card readers but many just took cash. After a few hours of walking around, we made a few small purchases but we didn’t splurge on the metal cactus that I kept eyeing, or the handmade wood signs in one shop. We did buy a pint of maple syrup for our French toast mornings, and a few resin book marks from a fellow artist but that wasn’t the point of our visit. We were checking out the spaces, prices, and the kinds of clientele.
I learned that many of the vendors had campers because they stayed the weekend and the space pricing was only about $20 a day for a tent wide space. Did we see a lot of people buying? Well, there were several buying the lawn ornaments but I didn’t see many transaction taking place. There were people looking but the crowd was smaller due to other events. Artists didn’t have a lot of competition but it looked like you needed a wide price range of items if you’re going to be there. Like many events you’re going to have people looking for craft sale prices which are on the low end, and the mid to higher prices for those who buy art pieces. Check local events if you’re a vendor because they may mean smaller crowds.
I don’t know if the long drive up here is worth if for me unless we camped or had a place to stay for the whole weekend. Having a Biffy, or port-a-potty, and no shower may not be the most pleasant unless your more outdoorsy than myself. Can I see myself sitting by the lake and blogging for a weekend? That’s a definite yes. I could blog and sit at a vendor table at the same time but the point doing that is to be so busy selling handmade creations that I don’t have time to blog.
You’ll hear about my experiences at new markets as we move through the summer. There’s just one last highlight from my weekend road trip that I need to share. Off the exit in Clearwater, Minnesota, we stopped at the off the highway travel plaza because my butt was going numb from our refill in Alexandria. Again, stop there because there’s long stretches between gas stations off the road once you pass through. I don’t want to find you stranded on the side of the road because you’re out of gas.
At this travel plaza, we found one stop that had everything from gas, a small shop, some crane games, a restaurant, and a bakery. When we stopped in front of the bakery display we saw why everyone had bags full of food as they were leaving. They had donuts that were bigger than an adult size fist. I tried to take a photo but it just didn’t do the giant size pastries justice. Cinnamon and caramel rolls were enough for 2-3 adults. I saw a family leave with boxes and bags filled with giant size donuts like they were never returning again.
A trip to the roadside bakery might worth the hour long drive on a Saturday when we don’t have anything else to do. We had to save our giant pecan caramel roll until the next day and it was still good. I thought it would go dry but it was still fluffy and tasted like fresh baked gooeyness. If you love sweets, then this might be worth a pin on your maps.
That’s the end of my roadtrip until we venture out again in search of a new market. I have a list of 15 to check out from The Crazy Tourist at https://www.thecrazytourist.com/15-best-flea-markets-minnesota/. Remember, when you need inspiration, or are in a slump, take your pen on a road trip. New experiences can mean new writing.
Instead of the usual prompts this summer, we’re going to fill our journals with mini-vacations even if you’re only going to the backyard to save on gas money. Share your experiences and let me know if you’re a fellow blogger by commenting.
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