Monday, July 30, 2012

Motown and Friends

We moved on to Southern Michigan between Detroit and Ann Arbor to spend a few days with friends, Richard and Valerie Frayer.  We had a fun time exploring the area and getting caught up with what has been going on the their lives.
The first day we went to the Ann Arbor Arts Fair.  This is by far the largest such event we have ever attended.  There were hundreds of artisan and vendor booths covering several blocks with many unique and interesting works of art. It was crowded even though it was a Friday afternoon.  I can't imagine what it was like on the weekend. Here are Nanc, Richard and Valerie in the crowd.
On Saturday morning we drove to the Eastern Market in Detroit.  Here you could buy all the food you want direct from the farmers.  There were also very large selections of plants and fresh cut flowers.   
This young man grows his own food and will deliver it on his bicycle.  Talk about sound environmental practices.  The Eastern Market is a great stop if you are in the area on Saturday during the summer. 
Next it was on to the Motown Museum on Grand Avenue (Barry Gordy Blvd).  The museum is a collection of houses where Gordy started his recording and entertainment empire.  Before moving the whole operation to Hollywood so he could make movies, he was making $20,000,000 a year out of these houses.  Studio 1, where many Motown hits were recorded, was built in the garage of the Hitsville house.  During the tour, the guides would have the whole group singing old hits and everyone knew the lyrics like they had just heard them that morning on the radio.  Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed so you missed seeing me perform as one of the Temptations (lucky you).  The Motown tour is a real step back in time and a worthwhile stop.  
We also visited the Henry Ford Museum that has a great collection of the nation's history and industrial might.
Here are Richard, Valerie and Nanc with their boarding passes for the Titanic exhibit.  Each person was given a pass with the name of a passenger and at the end you could check to see their fate.  Richard knew immediately he did not survive because they recognized him as an engineer and gave him the card of the ship's builder.  Nanc was the only one who survived.  The display included a large frozen iceberg and many artifacts brought up from the wreck.  After seeing so many shows about the Titanic, including the movie, it was very interesting seeing so many of the original items, how well they held up and also the stories behind many of the items.  No pictures were allowed. 
Locomotive 1601, a Allegheny class engine, was the largest steam engine ever built.  It was built in 1941 to haul mile and a quarter coal trains across the Allegheny Mountains for the C & O railroad.  It was only used for 15 years because diesel engines where more efficient to operate.
Other trains, included a snowplow that was used in Canada, an old steam engine and the DeWitt Clinton (right) the first steam locomotive in New York.  The cars of the DeWitt were just stage coaches with railway steel wheels.
Just a few of the many very large industrial machines on display.  Top is a generator and an old steam powered machine.  Bottom is a light bulb maker used by Corning to manufacture billions of  bulbs.
The display of early flight included a Wright Flyer and a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis.  We are pictured in a display that showed the size of the passenger seating in old planes.  We are on a Ford Trimotor.  It was really narrow, but not much different from today's big planes with many more seats.
This is the only Dymaxion House in the world.   This all aluminum round house was designed by Buckminster Fuller. He never raised enough money for the project to be a commercial success and only two were ever built.  This one was built using materials from those two.  For those of us who live in less than 400 square feet this 1100 square foot home is very spacious.
A few items from the Driving America exhibit.  I'm sure many will recognize these old signs and the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.
Here we are ready to take off on a road trip.
Here are an old Ford, Vette, Studebaker, Nash and Model A.
There was a big exhibit of race cars, including the 2011 Daytona 500 winner.
Here are two Presidential Limousines.  Left is the car that President Kennedy was in when he was assassinated in Dallas. It was refitted with a hard top.  Right is the limo used by President Reagan.  I believe this is the car he was in when I saw him in DC.

As I write this we are in Bowling Green, OHIO.  Last summer when we went for a horseback ride in North Dakota, the stable owner told us her vet was Dr. Tidball.  I googled Tidball and, in addition to the vet, I found a Blues bar named Tidball's in Bowling Green and have been planning to stop there since then.  We arrived Tuesday and when I began doing a bit more research I discovered Tidball's is in Bowling Green, KENTUCKY.  Duh!!!!!   Oh well, we have a stop to look forward to. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Year Five Summary

THE LIST..............................YEAR 3.......YEAR 4.......Year 5
Motorhome Miles.....................9,070............9,576......11,209
Average Miles Per Day..................24.85...........26.2..........30.6
Average Trip................................162...............184..........180
Gallons of Diesel Fuel...............1173.05........1179.93...1467.75
Average Cost Per Gallon.................3.11..............3.46.........3.86
CRV Miles..............................11,949..........11,517........8776
Bicycle Miles...............................149..............119...........180
Camp Sites.....................................56................52.............62
Average Nights in Each...................6.5...............7.0............5.9
Number of Frosty Nights..............few.......too many......very few
Number of Windy, Stormy Days...few.....way too many...very few
Number of States(Provinces).........17 (5)...........27(3).......17(4).
National Parks & Monuments.......11.................34............25
Blog Posts....................................100................62.............79
Days of Exercise (Jim).................173.............173............161
Days of Exercise (Nanc)..............234.............240............223
Number of haircuts (Jim).................0................ 0...............0
Old & New Friends & Family..Priceless...Priceless....Priceless

I remember when we first started this adventure that has become our way of life. We would be in awe when we meet someone who had been on the road for five years. Well, be in awe because that is now us. It is really hard to grasp the many places we have visited, the experiences we have had and, of course, the great times spent with family and friends. In many ways our life has become a routine of daily activities that is not much different from everyone elses. We sleep in the same bed, eat at the same table and are very comfortable with our little house. The big difference is what we see when we look out the window changes regularly. One morning we may see a moose or an elk, another we may see a soaring mountain or a Great Lake and, once in a while, it may just be a few early morning Walmart shoppers. Regardless of where we are or what we are doing, it continues to be more fantastic than we ever imagined.

We started year five in Wisconsin and, appropriately, it ended in Michigan with Richard and Valerie whom we met at our first Escapade in 2007. Most of the year was spent west of the Mississippi while traveling in 17 states and four provinces. We put 11,209 miles on Opus, which is the most we have travelled in any year. We stayed in 62 places at an average daily cost of $15.97. While we spent more for fuel than in any year, this is the least we have spent on RV parks. We were forced to stay in motels for five days while our rig was being repaired. We had our longest stay in five years, three months in Mesa, and were at Betty's for more than two months. Ten times we had stays of six to fourteen days. And nineteen times we only spent one night, with ten of those being freebies. We added North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Hawaii, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario to the states and provinces we have visited since hitting the road. That means we have been to 49 states (49th awaits) and 10 of 13 provinces. We visited 26 national parks and monuments in both the US and Canada. The parks are still at the top of the list when anyone asks what do you like best. That said, our vacation to Hawaii was the high point of year five. Understand, just because your house is on wheels does not mean our life is one long vacation. We still have to do the usual dusting, scrubbing and cleaning inside. And the unusual, like using the stinky slinky to empty the sewer tanks, washing the roof and waxing our house on the outside. Besides Hawaii, some of this year's more memorable stops included Taliesin, the Black Hills, Yellowstone, getting to fly in an hot air balloon for the first time, Betty's induction as a Living Legend, the JFK assassination site, Ojo Calienta Spa, Taos PuebloSanta FeCharles Russell Museum, Banff, Jasper and traveling some of our '82 bike trip route. There are also always those interesting roadside oddities like the World's Largest Buffalo, the Enchanted Highway, Wall Drug, Four Corners, Big Island coral graffiti, the Desert Bar, the Pink Store, Carhenge and the World's Tallest Tepee. Not every place is, or deserves to be, a national monument. Surely one of the strangest things that happened this year was finding the name of a former student in the Bumsteers edition of Texas Monthly magazine. Seems she skipped bail in Texas so she could take a job with the courts in WashPA. Sometimes truth is weirder than fiction. The guilty shall remain unnamed.

Visiting with family and seeing old and meeting new friends continues to be a highlight of traveling. My brother and sister-in-law, Rick and Denise, along with friends, Mike and Sherri, stayed with us for extended visits. We had that chance encounter with friends, John, Patrice, Ron and Becky, for two minutes in Montana. We got to spend a day with Michelle and Keith, Nanc's sister and brother-in-law, in Sedona, had lunch with friends, Dave and Sarah, in Minnesota and and with Larry and Amy in Albuquerque. During our visits with friends, Linda and Mike and Sharon and Alan in Arizona, Jim and Bobbie in Colorado, Leland and Cathy in Montana, Gary and Anita in Winnipeg, Tony and MaryBeth and Richard and Valerie in Michigan, we got to know them better while they served as personal tour guides showing us around their neck of the woods. What better way to get the inside story than from a local. How about crossing paths with friends, Mark and Renita, in North Dakota, Wyoming, Arizona, Texas and Montana after not seeing them for two years. We made many new friends during our three months in Mesa (Keith and Loraine, Rene and Suzanne, Dick and Lyn, whom we look forward to seeing again in '13 in Mesa) and really enjoyed the hospitality of the ballooning Liberti family. And there were the big events like the Escapade, Balloon Fiesta, Class of 07 Reunion, and extended stays in Mesa and at Betty's where we gathered with more friends, old and new, than we can list here.

This year was not without its disappointments and not getting to go to Alaska tops the list.  That said, some of the items on the list of highlights that would not be there had we gone north. The other BIG $$$$$ issue was our on-going struggle with the RV repairs. I'm convinced that Cummins in Houston just took the easy way out, charging us to repair the first thing that popped up on the computer and not looking for the root of the problem. Of course, I have no proof but I do believe it was an electrical problem all along and the turbo did not really need replacing. I also added to my stupid list when I got Opus stuck in a dry wash at Quartsite. Thankfully, I was rescued by several VERY helpful follow RVers who all pitched in and got us out. The other stupid list items in five years were backing into a tree in California and driving through ocean water on the Outer Banks after a storm. Hopefully, I am getting smarter and these will be the only events on that list.

Looking ahead we already have reservations for more than a quarter of year six. We are heading to WashPA for a couple of months of family, friends, doctors, dentists, family and friends. We have reservations on the Outer Banks in October and then are heading to Florida where we will be spending the holidays with friends and family before going to the Keys for January. Then it is back to our second home at Betty's for another extended stay. Next spring we want to drive the Great River Road up the Mississippi with a stop in New Orleans for the music festival before heading back to WashPA for a summer visit. As we prove almost weekly, if not daily, all these plans are written in sand so the tide may wash them away. Always remember, Life is Good, so Laizzez les Bon Temps Rouler.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Petoskey to Paris

We moved from the UP to the Mitt of Michigan and spent the weekend at the Odawa Casino in Petoskey.  They provide free RV parking, but no hook ups.  It was a new casino and there was a new winner, as I hit the nickle slot for $160.00.  We are learning to love these casinos stops.  Next I fulfilled a promise and took Nanc to Paris for the second time in the 12 months.
 To get to the Mitt we had to drive across Mighty Mac which is just a bit intimidating with all the construction vehicles on one side and the oncoming traffic on the other.  At least we were in the middle lane and not driving on the edge.
 Petoskey is a neat, old money town on the shores of Lake Michigan with many beautiful summer "cottages" where the rich from Chicago and Detroit come to escape the heat.  We took advantage of a nice bike trail around the bay to see some of the homes and enjoyed the views of the lake. We toured replicas of the Nina and Pinta that stopped as part of a tour around the lakes.  It really gives you a new respect for the sailors who ventured out on the high seas in these tiny sailing ships.  Most of the crew are volunteer and they are always looking for crew members.  Nanc said NO!!
 Our stop in Paris was to see Tony and MaryBeth who served as tour guides of the area.  We drove to Grand Rapids and visited the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
There are many sculptures from a variety of artists in the park.
 The sculptures came in all sizes and shapes.
 A few more of our favorites.
The most impressive work at the park is the world's largest equestrian statue, the 24 foot, 15 ton American Horse.  The horse was originally sculpted by Leonardo da Vinci as commissioned by the Duke of Milan in 1482.  It was never built beyond the clay model after a war with France required that the bronze be used for war material.  The project was finally completed 500 years later when Fred Meijer commissioned Nina Akaum to cast two, one to be placed in Grand Rapids and the other called Il Cavallo for Milan.  This sculpture alone is worth a visit to the gardens. 
 Nanc, Jim, MaryBeth and Tony with Fred and Lena Meijer.
 A variety of water lilies at the waterfalls pond.
Just a few of the great numbers of beautiful flowers in the garden.  I don't know what most of them are but enjoyed them all.  There was a whole room of carnivorous plants that was very interesting.
 Tony and MaryBeth introduced us to Geo caching.  We were doing a hike at the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary and not finding many blooms so they suggested we look for a geocache.  These are small items that people have hidden all over the place and then leave clues on the Internet to lead you to them.  We used the GPS on Tony's phone to get close to the location and then we all searched frantically to see who would spot it first.  I'm happy to report that I found the first one and also another one the next day.  I downloaded an app and we may be hooked on the neat and different way to get into the woods.   
A final stop in Grand Rapids was the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.  This is the Ford statue at the entrance and the burial site of the President and his wife, Betty.  We did not have time to visit the museum so we have added it to our to do list when we return.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

UP, Great Lakes and Mackinac Island

We moved across Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan, staying at a couple of casinos, doing some exploring and even got the bikes out for a couple rides.  The land changed from the rolling plains to tree lined roads of the North Woods and many, many lakes; even some Great ones.
I don't write much about RV parks other than in the review on the maps.  This is our site at the Ojibwa Casino near Marquette. There is no water or sewer but they offer sites with 50 amp electricity. The sites were not only free but each day we stayed they gave each of us $5.00 cash, a free drink, and one matching coupon for table games.  We have never stayed at a place where we got paid to stay.  Nanc went one better when she won $150 the first night on their $5.00.  If you are passing through Marquette, this is a must stop.
We took advantage of the bike path that runs by the casino and rode into Marquette.  These are a couple of big ore carriers in the harbor. 
Much of the harbor today is more about pleasure boats then big freighters. 
A couple of Marquette's lighthouses and the beach.  This is Lake Superior so the water is really cold.
We headed across the UP to St. Ignace.  The last several miles were right along Lake Michigan.
We are on Lake Huron with Mighty Mac the bridge connecting the UP with the Mitt.  It is the third longest suspension bridge in the world.  We passed through here last summer heading to the Soo and did not stop.  This time we took the ferry and did a bicycle tour of Mackinac Island.
The two lighthouses in the strait between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.  The lights guide the big freighters that we saw going through the locks at the Soo.
We had vacationed here years ago and stayed at the Island Inn, the islands oldest operating hotel.  With the beautiful homes and other buildings it is like stepping back in time.
No automobiles are allowed on the island so it is either walk, ride a bike or use a horse drawn wagon.  The bikes are everywhere.
Top left is the 1817 Stuart House, center is Arch Rock, bottom left is Fort Mackinac that housed soldiers from 1780 to 1895 and right is the 1839 Michilimackinac County Courthouse.
All the buildings are from the Victorian period and today are inns, shops, restaurants and fudge stores.  This is truly a vacation destination.
Check out the bikes lining the street.  We rode about 15 miles and there is much less traffic on the other side and in the middle of the island.
Horses are used to transport people and ALL goods on the island.  We saw wagons loaded with lumber, food, hay and anything else people and animals need.  Of course with all those horses there is tons of horse s##t and many human pooper scoopers.  I will not eat the fudge because the first time we were here they told us they use it to make the candy:)
We were there the day the Grand Hotel was celebrating its 125th anniversary with a big cake, but this was as close as we got because the lady (guard) in the red hat informed us we needed to pay just to walk the grounds.  NOT!!
The hotel, even from afar, is grand with its 660 foot front porch.  We had a nice day and enjoyed the island and is very well worth a visit if you have never been there.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Friends in Two Countries

We were only about 100 miles from Winnipeg where our fulltiming friends Gary and Anita lived and now spend the summers.  Heading north again would give us a the chance to have personal tour guides of the city and to add Manitoba and Ontario to our travel map.  Our first order of business was to fuel up as diesel was about $4.60 in Manitoba and well over $5.00 in Ontario.  That makes the $3.75 we paid in North Dakota sound pretty good.   
Gary, Nanc, Anita and Jim after a great meal and an evening of catching up on our travel adventures since we last saw them at Betty's in the fall of 2008.  Once again meeting friends on the road is one of the high points of our traveling lifestyle.
HAPPY 1st of July!!! 
Not the 4th, they were celebrating Canada Day with all the usual fireworks and hoopla as our Independence Day.  We are so far north that it did not get dark enough for the fireworks to begin until 11PM.  Most stores, including grocery stores, were closed or had limited hours so their employees could join the festivities.  A novel idea by US standards.
We toured the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg where the have made coins for over seventy countries represented by the flags.  They even made pennies for the United States in the 1990's.  They use a new technique that lowered the cost of making a penny to less than 1/2 a cent. Since then the cost has risen to 1.5 cents so in May they minted the last penny.  They join Australia which has eliminated the penny and the nickle while the US spends six cents to make a coin that many people literally throw away.  Go Figure. 
Here we are checking out our weight in gold and the Olympic medals from the Vancouver games that were minted here.  This year is the 25th anniversary of the Canadian dollar coin that is called the loonie because of the loon pictured on it.  It was so popular that they now make a two dollar coin which everyone calls the toonie.  The whole process, from cutting blanks to stamping coins to packaging, was very interesting but no pictures were allowed.
Gary and Anita took us to The Forks where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet.  There is a walking trail and park all along the banks.  The Red flows north out of the US and has flooded many times.  They said we were lucky because last year at this time all this was under water.  The polar bear statues were part of an exhibit of painted bears the city sponsored. 
The Fork includes the historic port that is used by pleasure boats today, a marketplace and the new Humanitarian Museum a unique looking building which is still under construction.  We were surprised at how hot and humid it was.  Temps can range from highs near 40 in the summer to -40 in the winter.
Winnipeg has a very large French speaking population and the neighbourhood around Saint Boniface Cathedral is largely French.  The cathedral was built in 1905 and burned in 1968 leaving only the facade (left), the sacristy (right) and part of the walls.  Rather than rebuild in the old style, a new modern building was constructed where the sanctuary was and connected to the sacristy.  It makes for a very interesting building.  The grave stone marks the burial site of Louis Riel, the founder of Manitoba and the leader of the Metis people.  The Metis were the mix of the early French and First Nation people.  We had a great time in Winnipeg and loved having Gary and Anita as personal tour guides.  I am sure we will see them again somewhere down the road.
We moved on to Fort Frances where we slept in the Wally World parking lot so we could add Ontario to our map.  It was the Fourth of July and while we could not really see them, we could hear the celebration fireworks across the river in Minnesota.  This was another stop on our Travel Back in Time tour as we stayed here two nights on our '82 bicycle trek.  The paper mill is significant because we remembered how bad it smelled.  We were glad the wind was blowing the smell away this time.
  We had contacted Dave and Sarah before entering Canada because we knew they lived in Minnesota, but we were not sure where.  Initially, it did not look like we would cross paths but when I check my email (in Canada we had Verizon coverage near the border) we learned we would be passing through Cloquet, Minnesota at the same time.  We agreed to meet at Wally World and arrived within minutes of each other.  We had a nice lunch together, shared a few tales and were on our separate ways.  Once again it is so neat getting to see friends on the road.