Friday, September 30, 2011

2011-28 U.P. Mich to Wisconsin to Iowa




Campground:  Wausau, Marathon County Park.  $18,  30 amp elect.  No water or sewer at the sites.  Large gorgeous Pine trees, next to this multi use county park.   First half dozen sites suitable for large rigs.

Campground:  Sky High Campground:  $17.50 Passport America price, full hookup.  Rates vary drastically throughout the year.  High end campground with heated swimming pool, gulf course, mini gulf and lots more.

Campground:  Coralville Lake Army Corp of Eng. $9 Electric. (half off the regular price with my Senior Card).  This is the first time I’ve had a chance to use the senior card, Yippee!  Great views of Coral Lake.  Some sites have full hookups and reserve able sites.

I had a great visit with my Sister Ann and then it was time to move on.

I left the Copper County through the small mining towns Painesdale, Toivola and  Donken heading towards the Wisconsin boarder.  The Fall foliage of brilliant reds, tangerines and oranges, yellows and burgundies  became more vivid with each passing mile.  A pair of deer watched as I drove by, as if to say, “we’re sad to see you go”.  The colors and the final goodbye greetings of the deer left me speechless and in awe of natures display.  How is it possible to have such beauty on display.  Needless to say, it will stay with me for some time to come.

Some of the reds were so brilliant that it almost hurt my eyes to look at them.  All seen through a morning of clouds, clear skies, later fog right to the ground and finally rain before I reached my next destination in Wausau Wisconsin.  The Goodyear folks had determined that one of my tires was indeed damaged due to belt separation and will replace it free of charge.  Wausau being the closest town that had one in stock.

Rain, rain, rain, rain, and more rain.  I’m caught in that huge low pressure swirl that’s sitting directly over  Wisconsin and Michigan.  It’s been raining now for 7 days straight.  I may have to put pontoons on the camper soon.  

So what does one do on a rainy day.  I did a bit of updating on my Blog site.  Adding a new link to Army Corp of Engineer Campgrounds.  I know all you campers will find this a great asset to finding great campsites on the water.  And I know I’ll use it a lot.

As a full time Rv’er, I use three or four resources regularly to find the best priced campgrounds in an area.  Rv Park Reviews, Passport America, Free Camping and Casino Camping.  I have links to all of these web sites on this Blog on the right side bar.  If I’m interested in camping at a Forest or State Park, I’ll check those sites as well.  To find Marathon County Park, I used the RV Park Review site.  It’s especially good for providing reviews of the campsites as well as price for camping.

What’s Wausau like you ask.  Well it’s a city of around 38,000.  The downtown area is filled with new construction and an entire city block of older buildings was torn down and replaced with a large open park for festivals and musical events.  A compact Mall anchored by Penny’s, Sears and Yonkers  faces the newer city center of shops and businesses and compliments but doesn’t take away from the shops the downtown area.  Overall the area seems to be a thriving small city.

Unemployment is low in this area, the summer temps average around 84 and winter around 20 degrees.  There’s even a good ski hill within a few miles of the downtown area.  Two colleges and a number of satellite college/university campuses are in the area.

I’m not planning on exploring that much of Wisc, and will save it for another time down the road.  From what I can tell so far, people in Wisc. Really like to camp during the summer months and there are just a ton of campgrounds of every type throughout the state.  The northern portion of the state is called the North country with lots of forests, lakes and great spots for camping.  The middle portions having more farms mixed in with forest and the southern area gets into the prairie lands with huge farms over wonderful rolling landscapes.

I’m passing through and staying only one night in Baraboo which is close to the Wisconsin Dells, a truly family oriented vacation get-a-way.  With all the tacky mystery shows, water parks et-all.  I took a backcountry tour through the farming country, road a free ferry across the Wisconsin Lake, had lunch at a lake side eatery and traveled along the lake side before heading back to the Sky High campground.

I’m heading into Iowa to visit with my Desert Trails friends, Randy and Kathy.  They summer in Iowa to be near family and grandkids of course.  I headed out early Thursday morning, as I had noted that there were going to be high winds, 35-45 mph, by noon.  It helps to be aware of the weather before heading out.  I was able to get to Coralville IO before the heavy winds started and glad I did, as the winds picked up quickly and would have made for dangerous traveling conditions.

What a joy to meet up with friends I’ve met along the way.  Kathy and Randy have two campers, one large 5th wheel camper that they live in most of the time, and a small travel trailer for doing short excursions around the area.  If you talk to any full timer, you’ll find that most of us would love to own a second camper for those more adventurous trips that aren’t necessarily practical with a larger camper.

I’m sure I’ll have lots to report on during my travels in Iowa, before heading to St Louis to visit with my niece and her family.   So stay tuned for more adventures….

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2011-27 Houghton Michigan, Family hometown visit


Houghton Mich.
Bete Grise

How much is that doggie in the window, (arf, arf)
  The one with the waggley tail (arf, arf)
How much is that doggie in the window,
  I do hope that doggie is for sale

The song was coming over the sound system at a nice restaurant (Joey’s)  in downtown Houghton where I was having lunch.  I believe it was being sung by the Patty Page.  A song I remember from my childhood growing up here in the U.P.  We might have even had it on a 45 record, which I’m sure we played and sang too often…. Driving our Mom a bit nutty. Talk about instant memories of growing up here in the U.P.

Even though I had lived in the this area for 20 years, there is always something to explore, so after checking out a few maps I decided to concentrate on the east side of the Keweenaw Peninsula.  And though Jacobsville, my first stop along the way is only about 17 miles from Hancock, it took over an hour to drive around Rice Lake and Torch Lake to get to Jacobsville.

It was one of those drives through a very remote area of the U.P,. Jacobsville having no stores or gas stations just the end of the road and a light house at the entrance to the Portage Canal, a few homes making up the community and a small Swedish Lutheran Church now acts as a community center.

National Park Ranger, Ron
The small town of Gay has a tavern (with of course the expected tacky T-shirts with gay references), Fire Department and the remains of a once large stamp mill.  The old school is being renovated into a museum as the area has some wealthy patrons who have homes along the lake shore.   A small campground with cabins is being built along Lake Superior.  The campground appears to have been in place for some time now.  What a remote area to spend a few days along the shores of Lake Superior.  Ron and I enjoyed taking pictures at the old Mohawk Stamp Mill.  Seeing the tall smoke stack, concrete walls with many unusual shaped doorways and a concrete slew going to the lake along with the black stamp sand along the shoreline.

Lake Superior Shoreline

Bete Grise has the most beautiful protected harbor with a lively community around the bay, a lighthouse tucked away behind a thicket of pine trees.  Along the Lake Superior shore line, seeing steep red sandstone cliffs, rocky shorelines and a white capped lake, with many areas to for blueberry picking in the fall months.  A number of trees are starting to turn color with a few splashy reds, yellow and oranges scattered amongst the thick green forests.

This whole area is often overlooked by the casual tourist who would normally drive up US 41 to Copper Harbor, Brockway Mt Drive, Eagle Harbor and Eagle River.  A superb drive worth taking, but I sure enjoyed getting off the beaten path and seeing a side of the Keweenaw Peninsula I’d never experienced.

Of course I’ve been visiting with my Sister Ann and Jim, having them over for dinner one evening a playing a few games of Mexican Train (dominos).  And I hate to say it but Jim was the winner of all of the games.  Talk about luck!  I’ll get him next time….

I was telling one of my stories from a visit to a restaurant on the eastern end of the U.P.  The waitress was talking to some customers, of course her voice carrying across the room so everyone could hear.  She was telling them how all the roads in the U.P. are posted at no more than 55 mph except one small stretch that was designated at 65mph.  Now she was saying, “I know this sounds dumb, but I just had to drive over to that stretch of highway and drive up and down it, going 65, just to experience going that fast.”  Everyone got a chuckle out of her slightly eccentric behavior, but it was also a statement about how frustrating it can be for the locals traveling at only 55 mph across vast stretches of lonely highway up here.  Especially if they have to follow us tourists who are following the speed limit and enjoying the drive.

Ann and Jim

and a visit with the Palosaari cousins

and of course more pictures on PICASA.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

2011-26 Yooper Country, U.P., Northern Michgan, Da U.P.


Campground:  Cadillac Woods Campground.  Passport America half price, $14.50.  30 amp elect/water.  Hilly campsites, lots of trees, close to main road traffic noise.  Could be a bit touchy to get into some sites with larger rigs.

Campground:  Kewadin Casino.  Free:  $0.00  30 amp parking lot sites.  Kind of tight, so try and get the outside or last site in the row.  In Christmas Mich., outside of Munising N Mich.

Campground:  Ojibwa Casino (Marquette).  Free $0.00  50 amp.  Nice wooded large back in sites w/large picnic table.  Tall pine trees.  Casino gives you $5.00 a day real money for playing the slots or whatever and a coupon for one free drink.

Campground:  Hancock City Park. $22.00 50 amp. & water and cable TV.  Not all sites have water.  Short walk through the woods to the city beach which is really a pretty country park like setting.

Before I could get back on the road, I needed to have my alignment on the camper checked out and balance the tires.  As it turned out, the alignment was fine, but one tire had developed a bald spot due to being completely out of balance.  Will need to see if the tire manufacturer will replace it.  Likely it began the day I purchased the camper, as I had been noticing that the camper had excessive vibration.  With light bulbs, bolts and screws coming loose every time I headed on down the road.

With that all taken care, of thank you very much and why didn’t I get the tires balanced when I first purchased the camper, I was ready to head out.  

As always I was eager to get back on the road as you know I love traveling.  Crossing the Mackinaw Bridge, all 5 miles of it, was smooth sailing on a very clear day.  Needless to say, I could look down at the water below through the two inch square open metal grid road bed, or drive on the right hand side which is paved and look over what seems like a very low guard rail, out at the water way way below as the bridge arches high into the sky before coming back down on the other side.

The U.P. (Upper Peninsula) has a primitive wild atmosphere in some places, especially when driving through inland sand dunes, past boggy wetland areas with stunted spruce trees that would look right at home in the frigid north tundra area of Canada and Alaska.  Did you know the highest point in Michigan is the U.P.?  It’s Mount Arvon at 1979 feet between Marquette and L’Anse.

Towns are few and far between.  I was so mesmerized by the scenery that I almost forgot to fill up with diesel.

My first stop in the U.P. is at the Kewadin Casino in Christmas Mich.  Free camping and close to Munising.  After setting up, went inside to get a light dinner and was given a coupon for a free hotdog and drink.  Life is good on the cheap.  Some of the trees are just staring to turn color and I can’t wait to see them in their full fall regalia.

I checked out the possibility of seeing a moose up in these parts.  Both the National Park Ranger who had only seen two in all her years up here and a shop owner also had seen two, but over in the Newberry area.  They say there are about 600 in all of the U.P. A moose did walk into Munising last year and police had to stop all traffic while the moose wandered around town, then headed back into the woods never to be seen again.  After checking some online resources I drove west of Marquette where they’ve transplanted moose from Canada.  The moose herd has grown, but I wasn’t able to see any along the narrow poorly maintained paved road as it followed a meandering stream through dense woods, marshy land and dirt roads leading to private camps.

in search of a moose, at least the scenery was great

My next stop is at Ojibwa Casino, I not only get my very nice campsite for free, but they give me a $5 bill each day and a coupon for a free drink.  Imagine, $5 a day that they give me and I get to stay in their campsite for free.  And last night I won $11.00.  Of course this spoils me especially when I go to pay for the next campsite on down the road.
The Copperama (no longer in existence) is where I had my first job at 12 yrs old.

A two hour drive and I arrive in Houghton, my home town.  If you’ve been following my Blog your already know a bit about the area known as the Copper Country and home to Finlandia University and Michigan Technological University.  I went to both along with a slew of other colleges when I moved to Florida.

I’ll be visiting with my sister mainly while up here.  If I can find something interesting to write about I’ll add another report, but otherwise I’ll take a two week break before continuing my reports.

The lift bridge to the Keweenaw Peninsula

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2011-25 Indiana to Michigan


Montana Keystone Rv Tour

Whitehall Revisited

Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary

Campground:  Blue Lake, Muskegon County campground.  $24.  50amp elect/water.  Small county park on Blue lake.  Country living and only 18 minutes to Whitehall.

My last day in the Elkhart/Goshen area where all the Rv’s are made was a full day of touring.  I drove down to Goshen where the Keystone RV manufacturer has it’s headquarters and a huge campus of  warehouse buildings.  Each dedicated to building a different camper line.

If you own an RV or are thinking of buying one, you must come to this area and take a tour of at least a couple of the manufacturers.  As I told someone when asked why I was in the area, I said I had to bring my Montana Mountaineer back to it’s birthplace for a visit. And of course I was interested in finding out exactly how they built the camper.

Now they didn’t have my Mountaineer on the factory line, but they were building some JY-normous Montana’s.  The poor tour guide hardly had time to explain how they were made as the 10 people on the tour, including myself had a ton of questions about each aspect of the camper, as we all owned one, including a couple who was there to see there’s being built.  They were three days early, as there had been a delay in the schedule.  Our tour guide told us that the workers start at 4:30 in the morning and get out by 2pm.  They lost about 8 days of manufacturing due to the summer heat in July as the buildings are not air-conditioned.  Hence the early morning work schedule.

I learned things like:

  • The linoleum floor does not cover the entire camper.  (older campers always did even under the carpeting).  Meaning it no longer acts as a protective moisture barrier for the entire floor.
  • The sewer lines coming from the three holding tanks are perfectly horizontal, which causes the gray water to sit there until you go to dump again and then you’ve got a surprise of a gallon or so of dirty water running out on the ground before you can attach the sewer hose.  An obvious design flaw which I took care of by attaching an additional shut off valve right before the end sewer cap.  
  • The remote control which recently malfunctioned on my camper (for the slides, awning, stabilizers) can be reprogrammed.  Great to know how to do that.
  • Questions on underbelly construction are to be researched and answers gotten back to us.
  • It takes approx. two days to build a Montana 5th wheel camper.  With about 10 on the line at any given time going down the track.  

So it was an interesting tour and of course I took as many pictures as I could.  Gosh, some of these campers are getting huge.  And I thought my 35 ft camper was big…. Some of the new ones have two bedrooms, two baths and two outside doors along with 5 slides.

Lower Michigan

I came up hwy 131 through Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids across onto 96 to my next destination outside of Whitehall Michigan.  This is where my sister Dorothy and her husband Dave Wilmer’s live.  It’s a lovely community a few miles from Lake Michigan, next to a harbor that separates Whitehall from Montague. Sailboats with their tall masts bobbing in the water around the marina community.

The Wilmer’s just had their family reunion here and I heard it was quit a success.  Dave is in great spirits and looking slimmer and healthy, even though he only has about 30% use of his lungs and is on oxygen, has diabetes and takes a drawer full of meds.  He and the family have had their share of scares with his health in recent years, so seeing him doing so well is wonderful.  And of course, Dave being a superb chef, I get to enjoy his home cooking.  Fresh breads, minestrone soup with mini meatballs all made from scratch.  French toast and bacon in the morning, crab cakes or homemade pizza in the evening.  I may never leave.

Dorothy and I decided to go on a days excursion to find the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary.  It’s listed on my National Geographic Map and we thought, even though it’s August (not exactly in-season for wildflowers),  we’d take the drive anyway.  Drove through lots of forested and farm land and a number of fruit farms.  Peaches, cherries, apples….

Well as I’m sure you’ve already figured out, there were no spring flowers, but since this was an adventure and picture taking opportunity, we had a chance to stop and take a few pictures of old barns, corn cribs along the way and at Loda Lake we found an array of mushrooms and toad stools.  White, orange and bright reds were all along the hiking trail.  We’d barely get a few feet on down the path before we’d stop to take some close-ups of the next mushroom, or views of the lake covered in lily pads.

Dorothy commented a couple times on how quiet is was.  What a peaceful setting and something I get to enjoy so often along my adventures on down the road or I should say, off the road.  We saw some recent evidence of a possible bear, but fortunately didn’t encounter one.  A perfect sun dappled day with temps hoovering in the 74 degree range.

Back at Blue Lake campground, Sunday morning, I was invited to join a worship service on down by the picnic area.  A local preacher and his troop of singers (quite good I might add) were preparing for the open air service.  The sermon was on soaring like the eagle, perseverance and getting tired but with His strength one could rise above and soar like the eagle.  With my niece, Heidi battling cancer my thoughts were more on her struggle, along with her husband and 7 children.  (A prayer for Heidi and her family sure would be appreciated).  Observing a number of parishioners being baptized in the lake, one dunk, two dunk…., the sun shining brightly, a breeze and blue blue sky overhead.

It’s labor day weekend and rainy.  The campground was filled to capacity by Wed. evening, with many campers just dropping of their campers for the long, now wet, weekend.  I sit inside reading a book, with plans to go out to lunch later.  Dorothy has to work today at Pamidas.  They are changing all their clothing prices to a lower price this weekend so she’ll be working after hours with the rest of the workers to do mark downs.  Michigan has just instituted a new law no longer requiring price tags on all goods which will make Dorothy’s life at work a little easier.

I drove over to Fremont Mich. the other day.  A nice size community in central lower Mich.  It’s the home of Gerber Baby Food company.  One of those ideal communities with a good industry, lake side homes and away from the crush of big city living.  There’s even a large grain elevator in town adding to the farm community feeling.

So that’s pretty much my two week stay in lower Michigan visiting family once again.  I so much enjoy receiving news from all you armchair readers, so a big thanks to everyone who has taken the time to drop me a line.  Being able to keep in contact with you makes my life so much fuller.

more pictures on PICASA.

Happy Trails till next time.