A CABIN IN THE WOODS, MINNESOTA – We’ll be living in a hut in the woods for the next week.
We’re in Minnesota, deep in the backcountry, next to a pond.
Our cabin is 100 years old, made of toffee-colored wood, and it sits on about 10 acres of woods. It used to be a camp for fishermen. Now a friend of ours from California owns it.
He said we could use it as long as we like. So we’re taking a break from the road, and we’re going to recharge our batteries out here in the woods for a bit…
We left quarantine eight weeks ago with a car, a tent, a camping stove and some sleeping bags to explore America.
We’ve driven about 4,000 miles so far and been to 11 states, mostly in the Midwest and Deep South…
We’ve been sleeping anywhere we can – including driveways, backyards, campgrounds, Walmart parking lots, and even in a barn.
And we’ve been talking to anyone we can, trying to understand what’s going on with America.
Along the way, we’ve been showing our kids rural America and homeschooling them about farming, wild animals, fishing, hunting, and boating…
When I last wrote to you, we were in Cumberland, Wisconsin, on the shores of Beaver Dam Lake.
Dusty and Miles at Beaver Dam Lake
Since then we’ve driven about 300 miles west. We’re now in Minnesota, near the state line with North Dakota.
It’s beautiful here.
We’re surrounded by corn and potato fields for hundreds of miles.
The air is clean, and the sun seems to shine with the extra brilliance that I associate with America’s “West.” When we do come across towns, they’re very small.
Surrounded by fields for miles
Here at the cabin, things are pretty good too…
We’re comfortable and we have lots of outdoor activities to keep us busy, like…
…driving through the woods on the quad bike…
…fishing off the dock…
…taking the rowboat out…
…or watching the wildlife. (We saw a bald eagle today, in its nest at the top of a tree. We also saw an osprey catch a fish. And we saw a deer leap over a fence.)
Penny on the dock
Our cabin in the woods
I’ll send you lots more notes from our cabin in the woods over the next week. I’ll try to do more videos too…
Here’s the video we made in Cumberland…
Our hosts in Cumberland run a small family-owned manufacturing business in the Midwest. They’ve been in business for more than 50 years.
At first, they manufactured their products locally. But in the ’90s, Mark, the company president, visited China and realized they had a choice: move their factories to China or go out of business.
So they moved their factories to China.
It was a difficult transition. Their designs got stolen, and their products got knocked off almost instantly.
Once, they even had an entire factory stolen from them, after their signatures were forged. Trump’s import tariffs are the latest obstacle they’re having to deal with.
But they persevere and make it work.
“Manufacturing will never come back to America,” Mark says. “Despite what the president says. It’s not a level playing field. In fact, it’s a vertical playing field.
“If it’s not China, it’ll be Vietnam or some other low-cost manufacturer. But it’ll never be America. Unless they want massive inflation, of course.”
– Tom Dyson
Reader question: I read your analysis on the tanker stocks (thank you, by the way). I wondered why you said it was important to buy all four. Is it to mitigate risk? Any further information would be helpful on this. That part struck me, and I seem to be stuck there.
Tom’s response: Yes, exactly. Tankers are very volatile businesses and unexpected things go wrong all the time. The best way to speculate on shipping is always to own a basket.
While another shares some important wisdom for “all gold hiders”…
Reader comment: The second comment about gold in the June 24th Postcard rang home for me. In the 1980s my gold buff father hid (as he recalled) 2-3 rolls of British Gold Sovereigns in my parents’ old travel trailer. He recalled hiding them inside some heater vents fastened to string that he secured hidden beneath the vents. He then proceeded to begin his journey into Alzheimer’s and sold the trailer while he was still functional enough to do so.
My mother knew nothing of this. A year or so after selling it, he had a lucid moment and could not remember if he had recovered the gold or not. He had other gold stashes and I will never know how much, if any, was lost.
Note to all gold hiders: Let at least two people know where you hide it and detail it in writing in your will or the notes to your executor.
PS: If your travels bring you to central California (near Lodi), I have a good place to spend a day or few.
Finally, others weigh in on the Dyson family’s new travel videos… as well as their camper choices…
Reader comment: I have to admit I’m hooked on following your daily postcards. You certainly set out on a difficult and challenging adventure. You obviously have one tough and resilient family. Love watching Penny raising her hand every time she wanted to speak in your video. Good luck, enjoy the adventure, and stay safe.
Reader comment: I love seeing the kids, and especially Penny and how enthusiastic she is to talk. Great idea adding videos to your Postcards! And the Postcards are a good length to read now as well. I like this new mix!
Reader comment: Hey all! Follow your newsletters and musings from Moscow, Russia, where I have been hunkered down some 30 years. Lake Superior is impressive, as you note, but let’s not overlook Lake Baikal in Siberia, which is the undisputed king of freshwater lakes. Its depth, overall size, and crystal clear water are awe inspiring.
Nevertheless, watching and reading about your ventures reminds me of when my parents drove us kids across the US in a refurbished PG&E maintenance van – we hit 44 states. I was five at the time, but the trip left an indelible mark on me. Especially the mosquitoes. Being in the north, you should be experiencing much of the same joy.
Reader comment: I have been following your travels for some time now and have really enjoyed you sharing your experiences with us. My question is this…
As someone who obviously has a seven-figure net worth (based on information you have freely shared in your posts)… why did you decide to buy an old pop-up camper for this trip?
You clearly could have sprung for a nice, enclosed camper with way more comfortable living conditions for your family… all for about $25k. You don’t own a home and have minimal living expenses… spending $25k for significantly more comfortable living conditions would effectively have had nearly a net zero impact on your long-term financial position.
Why did you decide to place your family in a less comfortable living situation… when it clearly wasn’t necessary?
Tom’s response: Four reasons: 1) I’m pathologically cheap. 2) We didn’t know if we’d like camping, so we wanted to try it out first without investing too much money. 3) We wanted to keep as mobile as possible. And 4) We’re minimalists!
Please keep your questions and comments coming! I read them to Kate and the kids every day. (I’ve started doing this on camera… We’ll post the videos each day, including the one above.)
I’ll never reveal your identity or any identifiable details when I republish your message. As always, write us at [email protected].