Thursday, August 25, 2011

Winding down our time here. . .

Another month and our Indiana time will be history. Seems like I start out the time here with a lot of energy and plenty of plans. I seem to run out of steam at some point and wish I could have been more productive. Such is the life of a retiree!

Last week we had a special visit here at the campground. Our good friends, Tab and Deanna, came up from St. Paris, Ohio, and spent the weekend with us. Their fifth-wheel was parked next to us. It was a great weekend weather wise. We had some rain, but we managed to have a campfire both Friday and Saturday nights. We brought the fire ring over and burned a lot of the scrap wood Terry has been collecting for the past few years. In fact, we are going to continue to have campfires until we burn it up. We had offered it to a neighbor, but he hasn't taken it and we want to get it out of the garage.

Saturday we took our friends over to Pet Fest which is an activity of our local Humane Society for the benefit of the animals. We saw lots of cute dogs and spent a little time going through the Red Barn resale shop. I got to visit with my cousin, Becky, who is a volunteer there at the shelter. She promised that she and maybe her brother Bob would come out to see us at the campground before we leave for the winter. We are looking forward to that.

After we left Pet Fest, we went into Elkhart and visited the RV show held in the downtown area. They had a variety of RV's, but very few motorhomes. We enjoyed looking at the newer models they have now and particularly what they have done with the smaller trailers.

We left Elkhart and drove to Middlebury to the Das Dutchman Essenhaus. That is one of Tab and Deanna's favorite places to eat and we had a really good meal there. They were quite busy and while we were there it started to rain. We did some shopping in the bakery there before we left.

Terry took the backroads over to Shipshewana and stopped at some of the Amish shops that are scattered around the countryside. We didn't buy much, but we did have a good time and enjoyed being with our friends. When we got back to camp the rain had stopped and we were able to have another campfire. This time, however, the mosquitos started coming out when it got dark, so we moved into the motorhome and continued solving the world's problems.

Sunday morning we went out to Callahan's for breakfast. We had a good breakfast and were all stuffed when we left. We hated to say goodbye to Tab and Deanna, but it was time for them to start their long drive back to Ohio, so we bid them safe travels.

Tuesday Nita and I drove with Mom and Dad to Ft. Wayne so Dad could see a specialist. His family doctor had taken an x-ray and thought his abdominal aortic aneurysm had gotten larger and thought it might be time to do something about it. It was a false alarm as an x-ray is not the way to tell that and the sonogram showed there was nothing to worry about. Mom and Dad were relieved there was nothing that needs to be done and we came back home on a high note. They are making plans to head to Texas for the winter.

Yesterday we had the brakes checked on the motorhome. We had new front brakes put on in Red Bay in June and we have been having a lot of screeching and noise when we back up. The technician drove it, inspected them and determined them to be in perfect working order and just needing a longer break in period. Since the drums weren't changed and the material of the brakes a bit different than the original, they just need time and miles to get broken in. That was good news.

Terry is making good progress on the new valances and blinds for the motorhome. I will be sure to post some before/after pictures when he is done. They are going to be beautiful. The valances will all be oak and I will have two roller shades in each window. . . one for day and one for night. I can't wait to get them up!

Till next time. . .


Monday, August 15, 2011

The Bridge and Wind!

We planned to head down out of the U.P. last week on Wednesday, but the forecast was for strong winds. If you've ever been on the Mighty Mac, you know what wind and a high-profile vehicle means. . . . white knuckle, nail biting crossings. Actually we would be allowed to cross in the 30 m.p.h. winds, but only at 20 m.p.h. which would make the 5 miles seem more like 10. So we chose not to cross. . . hey, we're retired, don't punch a time clock, so we stayed in St. Ignace for the night. The casino there has 50 amp hookups for FREE! Yes, FREE! At least for now. It's a parking lot, but who's complaining? Not I!

Thursday morning we started out early and drove across the bridge. We were able to run 45 m.p.h. like the rest of the traffic and there was NO wind, which made it a very nice, comfortable ride. We drove down Michigan 23 on the east side of the state along Lake Huron. What a beautiful ride! It was enjoyable. Our plans were to stop in Oscoda to visit Dave and Tammy, friends from our stix and brix days. Dave was the pastor at the church in Mooreland and their one son and our son are best friends. Their church and parsonage are next to one another right on the highway, so it was easy to find. We pulled into the drive and headed around back and parked in the large parking lot behind the church. It was a very nice spot and Dave was outside to greet us. Tammy arrived shortly after and we sat and talked and got updated on everyone's kids and grandkids. What a great time!

We then piled into the car and Dave took us out to the Lumbermen's Monument, a tribute to the men and the industry which plays an important part in the history of the great state of Michigan. The monument and park tower above the Oscoda River which is a great river for canoeing and kayaking. The water is crystal clear and very inviting. We stopped at a couple dams along the way back and looked at the pristine waters and the quiet parks where people can enjoy the solitude. When we got back, Tammy and I grabbed magazines and sunhats and headed for the beach. We sat close to the water of Lake Huron at the city park and visited for an hour or so. Eventually we made our way back to the house. Tammy had prepared supper for us and we enjoyed dinner with our friends.

We spent the night in the motorhome in the church lot and in the morning we went to breakfast with our friends, spending a little more time talking before heading back to the house and the rig. We were all ready to head out, so after saying goodbye, we hit the road. What a great time we had with great friends. It was a special time for us to reconnect with them and we will probably plan another visit when we are in the area.

We drove on to Birch Run and camped at the Pineridge RV Resort. This is a really nice park just a few miles from Frankenmuth. We have been in this area before and stayed at the Jellystone which we hated. It has really tight sites and normally there is not enough room to put out your awning. We were there for a rally and said we would never go back. Pineridge is expensive, but almost half the price of the Jellystone and convenient to Frankenmuth and the Birch Run outlet stores. The sites are much, much larger and long enough for the coach and the toad. This was a great place to camp. Once we got set up, we headed toward Frankenmuth. If you have ever been here to this German community, you know that the big draw is the Bronner's Christmas shop. It is like stepping into a magical world. It is huge and has everything in the way of ornaments and decorations for the Christmas holidays. It is Christmas here 365 days a year. They play holiday music and you truly get into the Christmas spirit shopping in this giant store. I bought a few things. I found two Scotties ornaments, one a black Scottie, and one white. I will find a place for them in the motorhome where I can see them all the time.

Once we finished there, we drove on into Frankenmuth. We hadn't planned to walk the main street, but that is what we did. We started at the one winery (!) and I sampled two that I really liked. I like sweet wines and these were semi-sweet, but they were very good. We didn't buy too much in town, but we had a lot of fun visiting the many shops. One pet shop had a cat who loves people and a boxer who was the official greeter.

We still had daylight left once we returned to the motorhome and ate supper, so we went over to the factory shops and spent some time shopping there. Didn't buy much (are you noticing a theme here), but we certainly got some exercise and had fun at the same time. When we broke camp the next morning, we drove over to the factory shops and parked in the RV parking lot and finished our shopping.

Back on the road, we drove on to Dundee, Michigan, and stopped at Cabela's. That is a favorite of ours and I found a couple pairs of shoes and then we drove on. There was a storm moving toward us and we had some really bad wind around Jackson, but it was short-lived. We had a couple campgrounds scouted out, but decided to drive on in to Shipshewana, Indiana. This is our yearly trek to this little Amish community and we love coming here. We spent today shopping at the bulk food store, the meat market and all the shops in town. Tomorrow we will go to the flea market. We are parked in the RV park right at the flea market, so we can do it in stages and come back to the motorhome and relax a bit before continuing.

The weather is really beautiful. After a rainy Sunday, we are enjoying sunny skies and 80 degrees. Just perfect weather.

Till next time. . .


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

More ships!!!!!!!!!

Some "old-timers" here in the park have been very interesting. They come up here for three months and park on the waterfront sites and ship watch all summer. A couple of them know all kinds of information about the ships, the type, how much they weigh, where they go, where they come from, etc. One even knows the captain of one of the ships and he received a "captain's salute" when he was standing out by the water. That consists of 1 long and 2 short "toots" on the horn from the ship. Pretty cool.

He told us about the "rock cut" which is an area about 15 miles south of here where the ships go through a man-made channel. You are close enough to the ships to talk to the crew and you can see more of the decks than you can from our current vantage point. The instructions to get there went something like this. . . go down this road and take the right of the Y just past the flashing light. . . go to the stop sign by the post office and turn left. Go down a ways to another stop sign where a restaurant is visible. . . then turn right and go till you see a stone house out by the road. There will be a second house and a "pig path" just past it where you have to turn. Hahaha.

Another lady and I were listening to these instructions, and we both ran back to the rigs to get paper and a pen and when we returned he drew me a map. Thank you. It has been raining off and on all morning and early afternoon and I didn't think Terry was too interested in going.

But later he suggested that we run down there, so off we went. Wow. It is impressive. It looks like it was dug and then lined with huge rocks cut right there. They line the two sides of the channel. You could indeed almost reach out and touch ships as they pass by. Unfortunately, we waited over an hour and didn't see one. Now remember, we had ships passing by all morning and at one point they were qued up to go through the locks, but when we wanted to see some in the channel, there were none. Disappointed, we left and returned. On the way back, we were treated to seeing Sandhill Cranes in someone's yard. It looked like two adults, probably parents, and a younger bird. They are really huge and beautiful.

Just as we got back to camp, the skies let loose and we had a torrential downpour. You could not see Canada across the channel. We had a lot of water in the campground which obviously doesn't drain well, so we had to wait a bit before getting out of the car and running into the motorhome.

Afterwards, by suppertime, the skies had cleared and we had beautiful blue sky. It didn't last long and it has clouded up again, but no rain so far. We are leaving here tomorrow and headed to Alpena, then Oscodo to see some friends we haven't seen for years.

Till next time. . .


Ships, ships, and more ships!

The rain came early this morning, but that didn't stop the ships from hauling their cargo on the Great Lakes!We have seen all these ships pass and it is just noon!

More to come. . .

Till next time. . .


Monday, August 08, 2011

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

We left the park at Brimley, Michigan, this morning and drove a few miles, like under 30, to Sault Saint Marie. We had reservations to stay at the Aune Osborn Municipal park and campground. This is a neat place because you can camp right on the St. Mary's River, which is actually part of the canal system on which the big ships sail into and out of the Soo Locks. Sitting here we can see ships out our window.

We set up and sat outside a bit and saw some ships pass. It hasn't been a really busy afternoon, but we saw four large ships go by. They actually turn right at the end of the campground and follow the St. Mary's River around the corner. It is quite fascinating.

Till next time. . .


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Whitefish Point and the Shipwreck Museum

Just north of where we are camped in Brimley, Michigan, is the Iriquois Light. We toured this last year when we were here and drove past it this morning.

Today we drove north up to Whitefish Point on Lake Superior. Whitefish Point is known as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” There have been more shipwrecks in this area of Lake Superior than in any other. The reasons for this include the narrowing of the lake on the east end as ships enter the “funnel” and ships going to and from the lake must pass. Also, weather is unpredictable in this area with fog, snow, and other visibility problems. Lastly, the lake has 200 miles of water in which storms can develop and the shoals off Whitefish Point leave little room for error. In the 1800's there were over 3,000 commercial vessels on the lake and most shipwrecks were caused by collisions. Now there are fewer than 200 vessels.

The museum here is quite small and features a few of the most famous wrecks including, of course, the Edmund Fitzgerald. The “Fitz” as it was known is the largest ship to have wrecked and it was lost in November of 1975. There was a terrible storm and the Anderson which was running a few miles behind the Fitz reported two large 30 foot waves which nearly took the Anderson down, but it survived. They knew the waves were heading toward the Fitz and speculation is that those waves are what put the Fitz over and down into her watery grave.

Twenty years later in 1995, a combined effort of the Canadians and the Americans engaged to raise the bell of the Fitz. Using mini-submarines and a “Newtsuit” (a special suit designed for deep water dives) they were able to retrieve the bell from the deck of the mighty ship. In its place, a bell with all the names of those lost was set back onto the deck of the ship in the place where the original bell had set.

Also on the grounds of the Whitefish Point Station, which is a Coast Guard Station, is the lighthouse which has signaled sailors for years along with a fog station which blows horns to warn sailors of the dangerous shoals. There is also a boathouse similar to others we have seen which had rescue boats poised on rails ready to be pushed out or pulled by horses or mules to the water's edge to rescue those whose ships were lost.

We enjoyed the trip up to the museum and exploring the area where so much history abounds. While the museum was small, it was worth the time and we enjoyed the trip up and back. On our way up, we saw this little guy walking across the road. We don't know what his story was, but he looked extremely thin and emaciated. Terry thought he must be sick, which is possible. He certainly hadn't eaten in awhile.

Till next time. . .


Friday, August 05, 2011

Playing Tourist

Yesterday after arriving in Traverse City, Michigan, we drove up the east arm of the Grand Traverse Bay and parked in the RV park at the Leelanau Casino. The RV park is really just a parking lot, but we do have 50 Amp and it is only $7 a night. Hard to beat that. However, it was hard to win at the casino, so we didn't linger there.

After setting up, we drove down to the town of Suttons Bay and walked along the main street through some of the shops. Most of the shops have the same tourist stuff in them and we are very limited to what we can add, so we just mostly look.

When we left there, we drove across the point to the western side to the town of Leland and did a lot of looking at scenery. We did find an old fishing village which was an actual village where the fisherman would return with the day's catch. They built smokehouses and ice houses and prepared the fish for the market. One of the smokehouses remains and the buildings have been rebuilt or restored and now house shops with various trinkets and souvenirs. There were two old boats which were built to fish with gill nets and have recently been brought in to add a little history to the village.

We continued our trek to the northern point and to the lighthouse there at the tip of the peninsula. It is no longer in service, but has been maintained as a museum. It was closed while we were there, but we were able to walk around and get a picture or two.

From there we made our way back down the point on the east side and back to our camp. It was a busy day and we covered a lot of ground, but we saw a lot of beautiful lake views. The water here is beautiful shades of blue and extremely clear. I would love to take a swim.

This morning we drove back across the point again only this time when we got to the western side, we drove south. We arrived at a little fishing community of Glen Haven which is being restored. There is another of the ships which used gill nets here. This boat is out of the water and is an outdoor exhibit. The village consists of several buildings and will eventually give a picture of what life was life during that time. Just a short distance away is a Coast Guard Station which was in service years ago. It has a boathouse similar to one we saw last year which has doors opening to the lake and rails running out the front on which rescue boats would be pushed into the lake allowing the rescuers to get their equipment launched quickly and race to the area where sailors needed assistance.

From there we continued on down south to Sleeping Bear Dunes. This area of dunes is different from the Silver Lake area. These dunes are mostly covered in vegetation and driving or other recreation on them is not allowed. There are a few access areas, but the activity is greatly controlled. Legend has it that a momma bear was swimming in the lake followed by her two cubs but they perished in the waters. She lay down facing the lake where her cubs drowned. The Great Spirit caused two islands to rise from the water where the cubs drowned (North and South Manitou Islands) and a solitary dune formed to represent the sleeping mother bear, thus the Sleeping Bear Dunes. The area is quite lovely and still in an unspoiled state. There is a drive you can state through the area with several pull offs where you can see the dunes and the islands. There is also the "cliff dune" which you can take down to the water, but be advised, that is not recommended. The cliff dune is 450 feet tall and probably rises from the water at a 60 degree angle. We saw people going down to the water. The problem is that you must then come up. It has to be very difficult for anyone even in top physical condition. We saw one man who was literally crawling back up. He has a red shirt on in this picture.
He stopped about half way up and never did go any further while we were there. There are warnings that you will be required to pay for emergency rescue if you choose to go down. I'm sure the only rescue you will get is by water and that would be expensive. Look closely and you can see people standing up on the left side of the picture.

We finished our tour of the dunes and then headed back to Traverse City. We decided to take the road out on the peninsula that divides Grand Traverse Bay into the east and west bays. The peninsula runs 18 miles out into the bay and offers vistas off the top of the ridge in both directions. It is quite beautiful and there are a lot of wineries out there. We stopped at a few, but didn't care for anything we sampled, so we didn't buy any wine. We did make it out to the tip of the point to the Old Mission Light which is another lighthouse signaling sailors to the rocky shore beneath it. We were here years ago with the kids and it was much the same as I remembered it.

Upon our return to the city, there was a sidewalk sale going on so we found a place to park and walked down the city streets in search of bargains. We had a good time, but it had been a long day and we finally made our way back to our car and headed home. We will be leaving here tomorrow and heading on up toward the U.P. We have decided we will try and go to the shipwreck museum at Whitefish Point. We were in the area last year, but had our little Scottie Neal with us. He was having a lot of problems and we couldn't leave him long enough to go to this site. So we are back to try again.

Check back again as I will be posting pictures. It was a long day today and I am tired!

Till next time. . .


Thursday, August 04, 2011

In search of warmer climes. . .

We really had some thunderstorms last evening and overnight (Tuesday). We were in South Haven, Michigan. We are “on vacation” for a week or so and started north to find cooler temps. It was hot yesterday and stifling if we stopped and got out of the coach. We made a stop at New Buffalo at the casino and should have just kept rolling. We didn't lose much, but it was fast and we probably won't go back. If I cannot at least be entertained for an hour or so, I am done with them. And I'm not going to add insult to injury and pay the big bucks for their buffet, so we walked back to the motorhome and fixed some lunch. Then we took off.

We drove to South Haven, Michigan to new campground and we were very comfortable in our back in site. The owners were very accommodating and we enjoyed our stay. It started thundering and lightning around 8 or 8:30 last night and then the wind started. It was hitting us broadside which was pretty rocky for awhile. Thank goodness that eventually subsided and then we had lots of rain. The camp drained very well and this morning we were able to move around the coach without any problems.

We really weren't sure where we were going to go, but Terry wanted to do some sightseeing around Ludington, so we headed up that way. It is hard to find campgrounds in Michigan for a reasonable price and we checked several. The state parks have high fees and then charge a “per vehicle” fee which is $8 a piece, I think. So that automatically tacks on another $16 for us which puts them out of our range, especially when they are charging a lot for less than full hookup sites.

We ended up driving a short distance for us and stopped in Hart, Michigan, at the John Gurney City Park. The couple workcamping here are the greatest and the nicest camp hosts we have met in a long time. We got settled in and then went out to explore.

We drove up to Pentwater which is supposedly a very small, rich community, but it didn't look like either. On the way there, we drove around Bass Lake and through the area of the Consumer Energy Project. It is officially known as Ludington Pumped Storage. A large man-made lake was made high atop a man-made hill. They pump water up to it, then when it comes down, it generates electricity. It is hard to understand, but if you go here you can read all about it.

We saw Lake Michigan today and walked out on the beach. The water was actually quite warm and the air was also. There was wind, so it was very pleasant on the water. The rain from the previous night has cooled everything off which is a welcome respite from the heat.

We drove back to Silver Lake. We had camped here years ago with the kids. Brandon and Jocelyn, do you remember? We could walk a couple hundred feet out into the water because the sands from the dunes blow into the inland side of the lake, gradually filling it up. They say in 100 years it will be full and that some houses on the one end have already been covered. Don't know if he was lying or not. We also took the Mac Dunes ride again. Kids do you remember that? I can't remember what year it was, but we all went on the ride. It was great fun and was a neat experience. We also drove out to a lighthouse near Silver Lake, but on Lake Michigan.

We are getting ready to leave Thursday morning and head up toward Traverse City. We hope to get a hookup at one of the casinos along the way so we can go out and explore.

Till next time. . .