Thursday, July 28, 2011

On the Shores of Gitche Gumee

For us, it was Christmas in July as we moved to the Kewadin Casino in Christmas, MI were they have 50 amp electricity at a few spots in the parking lot that are FREE. That made losing a few dollars easier to take. We are here to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a park that stretches 40 miles along the southern shore of Lake Superior at its widest point. The best way to see the sandstone rock formations, beaches and waterfalls is from a boat. There where a couple of people on the boat who had hiked the length of the park and they said the view was much better from the lake.

Miners Castle, one of the few formations that is easy to get to by driving.
It was a beautiful day on the water with its color changing from blue to aqua and green. It was so clear you could see deep into the lake. There is another boat tour that goes out to see old ship wrecks on the bottom. Most of the erosion from waves comes with the winter storms that travel across 160 miles of open water.

This arch is called Lovers Leap. The water under the arch is only a couple of feet deep.

Look carefully at this rock and you can see the profile of an Indian.

The tree on Chapel Rock is unique. It has survived more than 50 years after the connecting arch collapsed because its roots, now hanging in the air, are still attached to the shore.

Only one trip a day goes as far as Spray Falls. Is is worth taking that trip to see this beautiful falls. Much of the coast east of this point consists of beaches and sand dunes.

Some of the many colorful cliffs with there different colors which are caused from various minerals that the water seeps through.

This is a Sandhill Crane. Its unusual color is the result of the birds drinking the tannin colored water from the area streams and lakes.

We drove to the Beaver Lake (lower right) area and did a day hike of the few miles through the forest to Lake Superior (top left). The forest was beautiful but we were attacked by evil flies on the portion that went along Superior.

Left is Alger Falls and right is Munising Falls.

There are several lighthouses in the area to guide ships around the shoals and sandbars like this one at the entrance to Munising Harbor. Right is the 150 year old Grand Island Light. The two on the left are different than any lights we have seen. They work as a pair and when a ship had them lined up it was in a safe channel to enter the harbor. For navigation the lights have been replaced by buoys and of course GPS.

One of the beautiful sunsets we saw on Lake Superior. We really enjoyed this part of the UP, remote little towns nestled in the forest or along the lake. A new food I had here was a pastie. It is a sandwich like thing with meat and root vegetables, including rutabaga, that is wrapped in pot pie dough. It was served with gravy and was very good. We also purchased some smoked whitefish which was excellent.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Year Four Summary

THE LIST...................................... YEAR 2........YEAR 3........YEAR 4
Motorhome Miles.............................8,481..........9,070............9,576
Average Miles Per Day..........................23.23..........24.85............26.2
Average Trip........................................160..............162................184
Gallons of Diesel Fuel........................1083.27........1173.05.........1179.93
Average Cost Per Gallon.........................2.79.............3.11...............3.46
CRV Miles.......................................12,834.........11,949.............11,517
Bicycle Miles..........................................91..............149.................119
Camp Sites.............................................53...............56...................52
Average Nights in Each..........................6.9..............6.5..................7.0
Number of Frosty Nights...................too many........fewer.......too many
Number of Windy, Stormy Days.........20++.........fewer.....way too many
Number of States(Provinces)...............19(0)...........17 (5)..............27(3)
National Parks & Monuments.............23+..............11....................34
Blog Posts..............................................77.............100...................62
Days of Exercise (Jim).......................195..............173..................173
Days of Exercise (Nanc).....................261.............234.................240
Number of haircuts (Jim)......................0................0..............still 0
Old & New Friends & Family.......Priceless.........Priceless.........Priceless

This marks four years of fulltiming and it continues to be a wonderful experience. It gives us time for extended stays in places we visit and the opportunity to enjoy extended time with family and friends. We started year four in Canada and stayed in the Eastern half of the US for most of the year. We stayed in 52 places and the cost per night averaged $17.53. We had stays of a month or more in four places and weekly stays nine times. While traveling we only had one night stops 12 times and 10 of those were Wally World or other free places which helped keep our average down. We also have to thank friends who provided us with power a number of time which sure helps keeping costs down. Of course, higher fuel prices are an issue that does affect expenses, but we have not let it change our plans too much. We purchased about the same amount of fuel as last year, but it cost just oer $400 more which, at about $33.00 a month, is not too bad. We traveled in three Canadian provinces, including Quebec, for the first time. We traveled in 27 states while adding Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin to our map of places we have spent at least one night. We have stayed in 45 states and 6 provinces during our four years of travel. Several times during the year we encountered bad weather starting with a nor'easter on the Outer Banks and we were under tornado, severe thunderstorm and high wind watches on several occasions. While we escaped all these events unscathed, it is not fun riding out a storm in a house on wheels that does not have a basement. A really, really big change for us this year was getting Dish Network satellite service. This, for a couple who never owned a TV during all the years we had a house. I still have former students ask if I have a TV yet and the answer for the first time is yes. It has been great getting to watch the Steelers, Pitt, the Pens and now even the Pirates who are having the best season in 20 years.

We continue to enjoy the experience of new places and things that we have documented on the blog but seeing friends and family is always the high point of our adventures. We started year four on Prince Edward Island as we were returning from Newfoundland. We spent a week at Jean Paul's and Celine's in Saint Omer, Quebec before heading back to the US. We explored a bit of New England where we stopped to see Bob & Gini who we met at the Rose Parade and then hooked up with 07 mates Dave & Kathy and Linda & Ron in PA. Next we went to the Yanni/Tenenbaum wedding in Cleveland where we had a great weekend celebrating with John & Patrice, Dave & Jackie, Bill & Kim, all the Yanni family and several others. This was followed with a few days of fishing at Pymatuning with Mike and Sherri. It was then back to WashPA for a month with a run to Goshen in the middle for the Escapade. Both stops were all about seeing friends. In PA many old pals and in IN our many RV mates. We then headed south with the first stop in DC for a week where we played tourist and got to see Nanc's sister, Michelle, and her husband, Keith. Next, was five weeks of fun, sun and fishing on the Outer Banks. While there we had a visit from Mike & Sherri and were able to spend a lot of time with Tom & Georgie and their dog Murphy who spent a week at the Outer Banks Motel. On the way to Central Florida we spent a weekend with Brian & Lori and their kids, visited Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and St. Augustine where we had a short visit with Richard & Valerie. Next was a month in Apopka so we could enjoy Thanksgiving with Nanc's sister, Judy, and her husband, Bill. We also went to a couple of SKP luncheons while there to see some RV friends. For Christmas and New Years we were in Jupiter with Jack and Marylou. The first move of 2011 was to the Keys where we got to spend some time with Joe & Marcia. During our week in Fort Myers we went to a Steelers Bar to watch them win the AFC Championship with former co-worker, Janet Murry, who now lives on Sanibel. On our way out of Florida we did two weeks at the SKP park in Sumter Oaks cleaning the rig and seeing friends Wanda & Wallace, Charlie & Sherri and Joe & Marcia again. Next was a great seven weeks at Betty's RV Park for Mardi Gras, fun and more friends than I can list here. During the month of Mardi Gras activities there were 25 people who stayed the whole time so we got to know them all very well. As always, there are also many, many old friends at Betty's and new people who we met at those great happy hours. While there, Tom & Georgie came down for a week for a course in Cajun culture and we got together several times with Richard & Valerie. We loved our time with Betty and all the people we have gotten to know there. On the way north we stopped in Murfreesboro, AR; Oklahoma City & Bartlesville, OK; Kansas City & St. Louis, MO and Springfield, IL. We went to Spartan for annual service and then back to PA for six weeks of more family, friends, food and GREAT fishing. While in PA we saw many, many old friends and even had a couple of visits with RV mates, Dan & Merlene and Richard & Valerie, who stopped while passing through. We were especially happy to once again have a euchre tournament with Mike & Sherri; Tom & Georgie; and Tim and Diane. It is definitely something we miss. We were also very glad be able to spend some time with my brother, Rick and his wife, Denise. It's so nice to have time to just hang out and catch up with everyone. After PA we had some maintenance and repairs done at Newmar and then it was back to Spartan to complete the job they started in May. On our way to the UP of Michigan we spent a couple of days with Tony and MaryBeth who we met at Betty's. We had a great time in the UP and are ending year four in Wisconsin where we visited George & CeCe who we also met at Betty's.

As with life, not everything was wonderful as we did have several maintenance and repair issues to deal with this year. This is an expense that has generally been higher then we expected. We had a recall for the fridge, a bad circuit board in the washer, a leaking water line, and then ball joints and tie rods at Spartan. At Newmar we had new slide covers, new heavy duty springs for the jacks and new running lights installed. They repaired the water heater and the entry step and checked the slides and LP lines. We also had the dining room chairs reupholstered in Nappanee. Even with all that, it is really not that different from owning a stix and brix that also requires continual maintenance.

Looking to year five the big picture plans are to fill in the rest of the states. As we are heading west to the Black Hills and the Escapade in Gillette we will complete our map of the lower 48 with stays in Minnesota and North & South Dakota. After the Escapade we have reservations in Cody, Wyoming and Yellowstone. A week after Yellowstone we are going to the Balloon Fest in Albuquerque with the SKP Boomers. We have made a reservation in Mesa, Arizona for the remainder of 2011 which will be longer than we have ever stayed in one spot since hitting the road. We will see how that works out. To start 2012 we will be at Quartzite for the Class of 07 reunion. We are hoping to add Hawaii to the map with a vacation there in early 2012 and then next summer we want to travel to Alaska to complete the 50 states. As always, these plans are not written in stone and whatever we end up doing will be a fun new adventure.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Whitefish Point

We did a day trip from the Soo to Whitefish Point to visit the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. We chose to take the scenic route to the museum and much of the drive was through the Hiawatha National Forest with occasional spectacular views of the bay.

Along the way we stopped at the Point Iroquois Light Station that, along with the Gros Cap Reefs Light on the Canadian side, guides ships through the Whitefish Bay to the St. Marys River and the Soo Locks. We climbed the tower and could see the reef light in the distance. The house has been restored to the way it looked in the 1950's and the visitors center has a good display of the tools of the keepers.
Part of the shipwreck museum is the restored USCG Lifeboat Station. The equipment is the same as that used by the stations on the Outer Banks. The boat was towed to the waters edge to be rowed out to rescue survivors. The wagon has a cannon that fired a line to ships that had run aground so people could be rescued using a breaches buoy to pull them ashore. The famous quote of the lifesavers was, "boys the manual says we have to go out, it does not say we have to return." I am sure these rescues in the icy waters of Lake Superior were very dangerous.

The museum had a display of Fresnel lights including a second order one that was several feet high. There were exhibits on the way diving equipment has changed over the years. The yellow divers suit was used in 1995 to dive 550 feet to the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

This is the ship's bell from the Fitz that was recovered on that dive. A new bell with the names of the 29 sailors who were lost in the 1975 wreck was placed aboard the ship. Family members were invited to ring the bell while the names of there departed loved ones were read before the bell was lowered to the ship. The site is now off limits to divers since it is a grave site.

The Whitefish Point Light Station. The tower is different than any we have been in so we paid extra for the chance to climb the narrow cylinder to the top. The spiral staircase is very tight.

This is Whitefish Point from the top of the lighthouse. They told us we could see the spot where the Fitzgerald went down 17 miles from the point. On the horizon is a Great Lakes freighter that we had seen on the St Marys River earlier in the day.

Here we are at the top with Lake Superior in the background. We have now been to all five Great Lakes on our travels. The museum has exhibits on several wrecks that happened near here over the years. Many of them were the result of ships running into each other during foggy conditions. A large portion of the wrecks, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, took place in November when Lake Superior has many storms with hurricane force winds.

The keeper's house at the station has been very well restored to show the life of the keepers and their families. All the furniture is original to the house.

Near Whitefish Point is Tahquamenon Falls that is second in size to only Niagara for falls east of the Mississippi. The falls are 200 feet across and 50 feet high. The beautiful unique color comes from the tannin that Cedar, Spruce and Hemlock trees put in the water. For years the river was used to transport logs from the forest to the lake where they were put on ships to be sent to the mills. Since it was a sunny warm day we were happy to find the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery offering several varieties of craft beer at a pub in the park. I don't think they use the river water for the beer.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It's All Happening at the Soo

We moved on to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and stayed at the Elks Lodge on the St. Marys River in Sault Ste. Marie. It is a great place to watch the boats and ships traveling between Lake Superior and Lake Huron prepare to enter and exit the Soo Locks. We visited a couple of local museums with exhibits about shipping on the Great Lakes. We discovered a new brewery, Soo Brewing Company, that has only been open since March. This brewery was different from others we have stopped at because they have tables and pews for patrons but they do not serve food. They have menus from several local restaurants so we chose Chinese take out to go with "our" (yes even Nanc had a beer) brews. It is also a place where the locals come to relax and have a cold brew which was quite obvious by the growlers they were returning for refills. They even have a great variety of games to pass the time. If you are in the Soo stop by and support the local brewer.

To get to the UP we had to cross the the Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in North America. At 200 feet above the water it is the highest bridge we have crossed. It has to be this high to allow ships to pass from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. I think the view from the middle is great, but I did not get to see much as both eyes were on the road.
A must see are the Soo Locks that allow ships to navigate through the 21 foot drop in water level between the lakes. The first lock that was built on the Canadian side in 1812 was destroyed during the War of 1814. The first American lock was built in 1855. The four locks (above left) that are used today range in length from 800 to 1350 feet. The two longest, built in 1914 and 1919 by the "War" Department, are the oldest and need to be rebuilt because they are too narrow for the newer larger ships.

The 730 foot long, 76 foot wide Mapleglen entering the 800 foot long, 80 foot wide MacArthur Lock. There are no tugs and no bumpers to prevent this giant ship from hitting the wall of the lock. The amount of freight carried by the 11,000 ships that pass through the locks each year exceeds that carried through the Suez and Panama Canals combined.

Another look at how tight it is for these big ships. The biggest ship today, the Paul R. Tregurtha, is 1013' 6" long and 105" wide. The Poe lock that was constructed in 1968 is the only one large enough to handle the 1000-footers.

The Mapleglen sails out of the lock 21 feet lower than it was a half hour earlier to continue its journey to Montreal. Ships carrying ore, coal, grain and general freight to places around the world pass through these locks.

It is not just big ships that use the locks. Here is the tall ship, Pride of Baltimore, that we have seen docked in that city's Inner Harbor. There is a lock cruise that we opted not to take as we have been through other locks a few times.

Some of the ships we saw out the front window of the rig while parked at the Elks. There were local sailboats, ocean going freighters, Canadian Coast Guard ships, work barges and 1000-footers. Boat spotting is a fun activity. There are books you can buy to identify all the ships.

The Museum Ship, Valley Camp. It is 550 feet and could carry 11,500 tons compared to today's 1000-footers that can carry over 78,000 tons. The Valley Camp's cargo often went to the steel mills of Western Pennsylvania.

Looking down the length of the ship. The displays in the cargo holds offer a history of Great Lakes shipping. The floor was very uneven from years of having coal and ore dumped on to it. Bottom is a crew cabin and the officer's mess. You can also get into the engine room of this old coal burner and see what it was like to work aboard a freighter.

Of course, sadly the most famous Great Lakes freighter is the Edmund Fitzgerald that sank in November, 1975 with all 29 crew members lost and memorialized in the song by Gordan Lightfoot. Part of the Valley Camp display is a movie about the Fitz and these two life boats that were some of the few items recovered. This museum is very well done and worth a visit.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Aves des Amis a Paris

After getting the work done at Spartan we are back on the road. Our friends from Betty's, Tony and MaryBeth Linn, are spending the summer in Paris so we decided to stop to see them and take in the sights of the City of Lights. Imagine our surprise when we discovered they were in Paris, Michigan. Oh well, we had a great visit and really enjoyed the area. They took us to a couple of great local restaurants we never would have found on our own and showed us around beautiful Central Michigan. When you see Tony ask him what you are supposed to do when there is a red octagon sign at an intersection. The officer was very nice and since Tony has a South Dakota driver's license, even though he lived here most of his life, he got off with a smile.

MaryBeth, Tony, Jim and Nanc enjoying the great weather on the deck at Moe-Z-In where the fish basket was wonderful. Once again, meeting up with friends on the road is the best thing about our fulltiming RV lifestyle.
I told Nanc when we went on the road that I would show her the world. Here we are at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We took advantage of the rails to trails bike path that ran past the campground and had a Tour de France experience to enhance the feeling of being in Paris.

Another stop we would have missed had we not been with Tony and MaryBeth is the Shrine of the Pines in Baldwin. The shrine is a museum of rustic furniture built by Raymond Overholzer in the 1930's and 40's for the hunting and fishing lodge he operated. Everything is built of wood he salvaged after the forest had been clear cut to rebuild Chicago after the fire. He used no nails or screws putting it all together with dowels and glue. Above is a gun rack that holds twelve guns and rotates on hand made wooden ball bearings. Our guide, Virginia, was fantastic. She grew up here and knew Raymond and his wife so she offered a personal insight into his life and his work.

Above top is the main chandelier, a picture window with a one piece root frame and a day bed.

Bottom is Tony on the only chair we were allowed to try. It was very comfortable even with its twisted legs. Next is another chandelier and a small window frame.

Here is Nanc at the liquor cabinet that hid the booze around the corner in a stump. There was a slot to stack shot glasses. The background is the three hundred pound front door that swang open on pine pegs.

Here Virgina is showing a buffet that was made from a rotten log. Raymond (pictured) carved out drawers and and the top from a pine root that he carved slots into for the shelves. The pine roots look like drift wood but they have never been in the water. They were left behind when the forest was cut and when farmers moved into the area they dug them up and stood them up around their fields to make fences.

Here is a poker table. A unique feature of all the furniture is that it does not have a varnish or painted finish. Raymond rubbed maple ash into the wood to bring out the grain and produce the shining finish.

The fireplace was constructed of native stone. The chair was carved from one log and the bench was another old root. You are supposed to be able to see every letter of the alphabet in the root embedded in the chimney.

The dining room table was made from a 700 pound root. The center was rotten so Raymond carved a puzzle of seventy pieces to make the inlaid top. Like most of his pieces, Raymond caved hidden little nooks into the legs and under the table. The Shrine of the Pines is a very interesting stop that should not be missed if you are traveling near Baldwin.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Back Home in Indiana

It is not us but our motorhome, Opus, that is back home in Indiana. We are at its birthplace, Newmar in Nappanee, to have a few things fixed on our seven year old rig. We had new covers put on the slides, heavy duty springs on the jacks and new running lights installed. They also adjusted the slides and repaired the hot water heater and entry step. I guess driving on bumpy roads really takes its toll on our home. We had our two dining room chairs (our most used furniture) reupholstered. All the work was completed by Wednesday but we decided to stay here through the July 4th weekend since we are only travelling a short distance to Spartan to have the work started in May completed. Holiday weekends are often an issue for travelling fulltimers as the parks fill up and the cost of staying here is what we paid for the work we had done. We did a bit of exploring around Nappanee and rode our bikes for the first time in quite a while. We also took a tour of the Newmar plant. It is always fascinating seeing how they put the rigs together. Business is way down from the first time we visited in 2006. Back then they were making 12 to 15 rigs a day and now they are only building three. They are down to 400 employees from a high of over a 1000. The whole RV industry is in big trouble with many manufacturers going out of business. We are happy that Newmar is still around as this is really the best place to get repairs done.

Here is a before and after of the chairs and one of the two pillows we had done at Mast Upholstering. Nanc had called them a couple of weeks ago and they were very accommodating in getting the work done in only three days as we had originally planned to leave last Thursday. We had already purchased fabric but they have quite a selection to choose from if you have more time to wait to have the work completed. I sure hope I am not the first person to spill something on the new chairs. Mast did a great job so if you are in the area and need any work done give them a call.
One afternoon we drove to Elkhart to the RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum & Library. They have a great collection of old and modern RVs. The display above shows how RVs have changed over the years. The Hall of Fame is photos of people in the industry most of whom we did not know. We did recognize the owner of Newmar and Joe & Kay Peterson the founders of Escapees. According to the local paper, the museum like the rest of the RV industry is not doing very well because corporate contributions are way down.

The road leads you down a memory lane of old restored RVs.

How about this early rig with a bathtub and a pot that is literally a pot. We like our more modern facilities much better.

Many of the oldest rigs and even some smaller new ones have outdoor kitchens, an idea that goes back to the old chuck wagons.

This Shasta really brought back memories for Nanc and me. My Uncle Chuck and Aunt Sis had one like this and we spent many weekends camping with them. We usually slept in our tent but one rainy weekend we slept inside with Chuck, Sis, Randy, Greg and their dog Skippy. Looking at it now it is hard to believe we got seven bodies in there for the night, but it was great fun.

Nanc loved the Tennessee Traveler and thinks we should look into what we can get on a trade. The RV Museum is a real walk down memory lane but if finances don't improve it may not be open much longer.

We enjoyed riding the bikes and driving along the country roads with all the beautifully kept Amish and English farms. One way to tell a Amish farm is they usually still have small bales of hay and not the big rolled ones. The work here requires a lot of laborers. We try to collect some small memento that will remind us of a place we have visited and we were lucky enough to find a very unique one here in Nappanee. We found a horseshoe which we hope will provide us with continued good luck in our travels. It will also be a reminder of the slower pace of Nappanee and the pace we continue to strive to keep as fulltimers.

I guess it is OK to use an outboard motor as long as the boat is pulled to the water by a horse. We did discover we can bike faster then the buggies travel, as we passed several on our rides. The greatest obstacle while bike riding the roads here are the IPDs, Improvised Poop Devises.

Look very carefully in the tall corn and you will find a farmer, his son and a team of draft horses. The countryside around Nappanee is well worth a visit. As the welcome sign says "Embrace the Pace."