Charlevoix, MI. Summer 2018

Charlevoix is a much smaller city than Petoskey. They both have harbors and most likely similar historical backgrounds … lumber, agriculture, fishing and manufacturing.

It is named after a French explorer, Pierre Fran├žois Xavier de Charlevoix who was in this area in the early 1800s. The early settlers around 1850 were fishermen. Cheap land after the Civil War brought many new settlers to this area. It became the county seat in 1869. The Pine River Channel to Lake Michigan from Round Lake which is connected to Lake Charlevoix, was dug in 1869 to create a protected harbor. With navigation established Charlevoix was one of the busiest ports on the Great Lakes in the late 1870’s. The Charlevoix Lumber Company shipped as much as 40 million board feet of lumber each year in the late 1800’s before most of the northern Michigan peninsula was stripped of trees.

All of this happened after the City of Nininger, MN was established, thrived and disappeared after the railroad went through Hastings instead. Our home today is very near the center of historic Nininger.

Like almost everywhere Charlevoix has an interesting history. It has been a favorite summer place for the Chicago elite, a hideaway for Chicago gangsters, it hosts summer events like Petunia planting, the Venetian Festival and the fall Apple Fest. Today the activity and economy are firmly rooted in the visitor and hospitality industry.

The main street through town crosses the boat channel on a lift bridge.

It goes up and down every half hour.

Flower baskets hang from nearly every lamp post on the main street.

Big fancy boats go by.

And some more realistic ones.

In an all day parade, lots of fun to watch while taking a walk out to the lighthouse.

The water along side of the jetty was amazingly clear.

We went down through one of the very elegant old “Chicago Club” neighborhoods past enormous homes in park-like settings to a small park.

The old train station that received the Chicago elite to the summer “cottages” is still here. There was a Frank Lloyd Wright designed pavillion here until it burned in 1924. Now there is one provided by the Lions Club for everyone to use.

And just next to this was the Charlevoix Sailing School for anyone who wanted to learn how to sail. It was lots of fun watching kids take off in fairly small boats and sail around bigger sailboats and fishing boats.

There were formal gardens behind the Train Station.

Back in town we drove through another neighborhood from the 1920s that featured the “Mushroom Houses” They were the idea of an architect for an “organic” housing style. Many of them are still here.

These reminded me of the Hobbits homes in the Shire, no round doors though.

Charlevoix is a nice smaller town. Plenty of normal services like a hardware store or grocery, lots of visitor oriented stores for memorabilia, food and drinks. Many art shops and clothing (t-shirts to fancy duds) stores. A nice marina and park, access to Lake Michigan. All of what you might want without being a big massively busy place. The kind of place we like to have access to while staying in a smaller quieter place like East Jordan.

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Petoskey, MI, Summer 2018

Petoskey is a bigger city on the northwest side of the lower Michigan peninsula. It is on Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. When we drove through the first time it seemed big and busy. When we visited again we came in from a different direction and got a bit lost looking for the Post Office. We ended up driving through the historic downtown area and through some of the older neighborhoods. Lots of nice, older, bigger homes leading down towards the harbor on Little Traverse Bay.

It is a pretty large bay to be called Little.

We found a place to park near the Marina by a ball field where young women were playing fast pitch softball.

We sat and watched for a while, a beautiful sunny day, temps in the mid 70s, low humidity – very nice. One game came to a close, the play seemed pretty good. Another started. It was a different level of play.

As we walked around the outfield fence we met a group of teenagers in uniforms, something Dawgs. I asked if they played next and they said yes. It was a big Northern Michigan softball tournament with teams from all over in age groups from 14 to 25, Thursday to Sunday, games at every ball field in town. They were friendly and chatty. Sometimes we meet some young folks and it seems like talking to old folks is the worst thing they have ever had to do.

We had a picnic lunch along and sat on a bench in the marina park to eat.

A nicely done park with lots of trees and a clock/bell tower which rang on the hour and half hour.

The walkway led to a stairway up to the downtown area.

The marina was protected by a jetty with a small light house. Some people were out there. All the while we were there more and more gathered. It appeared to be some sort of event. People were jumping off the jetty into the water while the rest cheered them on.

Sailboats were coming in and out.

And power boats all set up for fishing too.

A walk into the Marina got us up close to huge fancy powerboats that looked like they belonged on the Mediterranean Riviera.

This one was more appealing to me.

Or this one.

There was a mega power boat at the end of one one of the docks at the fuel pumps. It was longer than the slips on either side of the dock combined plus the dock itself. I chatted with the owner who was filling it up. 2600 gallon capacity, he had added 1600 gallons and figured he could get another 600 gallons in before it was topped off. The pump was 16 gallons per minute, more than 2 hours to fill it up. Diesel fuel at the end of the dock was about $4/gallon. Almost $9,000 for a ( 3 hour?) cruise to somewhere. He told me he started working at a gas station when he was 14, eventually bought it and then many more. He said he was 79 years old and still pumping gas.

We did see another form of transportation, a pair of clever fold up electric bikes.

Petoskey was nice. There was a waterfront municipal campground at the other end of town. Traffic was still busy. And it seemed bigger to us than where we really like to spend time but we enjoyed our visit.

More later with Much Love,

Roger and Susan

East Jordan, MI, Summer 2018.

We crossed the Mighty Mac Bridge fully expecting gale force winds threatening to hurl us off the roadway to the water more than 150 feet below. But no, the entire length was under construction (painting) so we crept across at about 25 miles per hour on the inside lane. At that it took almost 15 minutes to get across. It is a metal grate roadway, lots of noise and side to side wiggling. Pretty weird. We didn’t take any pictures but will turn on the dash cam on the trip north.

I 75 going south was under construction (not painting) so we followed the lake shore around to Petoskey and down to Charlevoix. Petoskey is a pretty big city with lots of big houses, big boats in the big harbor and lots of traffic. There was a bike trail along the highway that started before Petoskey and went almost all the way to Charlevoix.

Charlevoix is a much smaller town right on the shore of Lake Michigan on one side and Lake Charlevoix on the other side. There is a navigation channel from the smaller lake to the big lake. A lift bridge spans the channel and opens on the hour and half hour. There is a moderate boat marina, a busy main street with lots of tourist stuff. It looked pretty nice. When we first went through the traffic was slow but steady.

Just past Charlevoix we turned mostly south along Lake Charlevoix to Ironton where the South Arm of Lake Charlevoix branches off. The South Arm is mostly a big wide section of the Jordan River. Plenty big enough for sailing and lots of power boats. It reminded us of Lake Pepin, a big wide part of the Mississippi River about 60 miles downstream from us.

Ironton is at the narrowest part of the South Arm. There is a ferry that crosses to the central peninsula.

When we crossed one day we didn’t have to wait more then a few minutes. Four cars at a time, maybe 200 ft across. Back and forth. The ferry acquired nationwide fame in 1936, when Ripley’s Believe it or Not! listed it’s captain for traveling 15,000 miles while never being more than 1,000 feet from his home.

This day there was quite a wait.

The Tourist Park is run by the city of East Jordan and has about 80 RV sites with full hookups. Nothing fancy but right on the South Arm, a boat launch, boat slips, a swimming beach, ball fields, basket ball courts, tennis courts. And across the street Marty’s Dairy Grill. Kind of like a Dairy Queen but they had great burgers and KFC like chicken as well. The place is a walk up – eat out place, always busy.

Here we are ready for the day.

There were swans swimming.

And Flamingos floating.

And whirling things to ride on.

There were interesting skies every day.

And a friendly well stocked Farmers Market. We got great local peaches, potatoes, beans, some squash and zucchini and more. All local and fresh.

Our last day at East Jordan coincided with the annual Portside Arts Fair at Elm Pointe Park. This has been an annual event for more than 50 years.

There were several dozen local vendors showing and selling a wide variety of artwork and craft items. We always enjoy these shows just to see what people create. The Elm Pointe Park was the Munroe estate which was donated to the city of East Jordan by the Westgate family in 1972.

The original home is still used for special events. One of the out buildings is now the local history museum.

It must have been quite a grand place on the South Arm with trees and shade and lawns and beach.

Tomorrow we head further south to South Haven where it is time for the Annual Blueberry Festival.

While we were in East Jordan we also visited Petoskey and Charlevoix, two cities on Lake Michigan but otherwise quite different. I will post some on each of those coming up.

Last year I read a book by Pat Conroy which included many of his blog posts. It was very clear that the people in his life that made up the essence of many of his stories were among the key ingredients of who he was and what he believed. He ended each blog post with “Much Love”. It is what I feel sharing these adventures with all of you who are key parts of our lives. So …

More later with Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Straits State Park, St Ignace, MI Summer 2018.

We stayed at Straits State Park in Michigan. One of three Michigan state parks on this trip so we bought an annual Park Passport as they call it here. It helps support the park system and we are glad to do it.

The park is nice, lots of trees and shade and in the middle of the week not full. It is right near the north end of the Mackinac Bridge so we expected that there might be a lot of road noise but not much.

There were trails for hiking, none very long that led to some overlooks.

And past some rocky places with trees growing in surprising places.

Further along on the trail we got to the lower campground which is close to the lake. A small beach provided a swimming spot and another bridge view.

The suspension part of the bridge is more than 1000 ft longer than the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I watched a video about when the bridge was built in the 1950s. They worked right through the winters except for the very worst days. Wind, fog, ice, snow … Brrrr.

We sat in the warm sun for a while and watched kids playing in the water and a set of parents working very hard to deflate inflatable float toys long after the kids had left.

We drove into St Ignace one afternoon and wandered around. It probably has other things going on but in the summer it is 99% tourist stuff. There are a half dozen ferry boat docks for hauling people back and forth to Mackinaw Island and at least that many fudge shops for those who didn’t get enough over on the Island. And several t-shirt shops. We sat in a small park near the marina and watched boats go back and forth. There was a small beach, not sand but gravel more like we would see on Lake Superior’s North Shore. There is a nice Ojibwa cultural museum, worth a visit.

On the way into St Ignace we drove by a place called Suzy’s Pasties. Pasties are a common meat pie sort of thing in northern Michigan and northern Minnesota whose idea was brought here by miners from Cornwall. Not all pasties are the same, certainly not all equally as good. And in this area there are dozens of pastie shops.

We thought if we went to Suzy’s Pasties with Susan name we might get a deal. Well Susan forgot to say she was Susan and pasties are pretty much the same price everywhere. We got two and ate them for dinner. They were pretty big and really OK for store bought pasties. The ones Susan makes from her Mom’s recipe (no carrots, not ground meat but chunks) are always better but these were probably the best we have had up here not home made.

Next up a drive across the bridge into territories unknown.

More later,

Roger and Susan

East towards Lake Michigan. August, 2018.

We had a pretty normal departure from home. We headed east and south on I94 and then east towards Chippewa Falls and then to Wausau on WI 29 and further east to Shawano and a bit north to the Menominee Casino for an inexpensive overnight. There is a nice park on the lake by Shawano but it was full and has a two night minimum. The Casino was just a parking lot with electric hookups, quiet. Nice restaurant in the casino with a massive Friday night seafood buffet. Way too much food for us. An appropriately sized dinner for the two of us was $17.

Next morning we had about the same distance to go to get to St Ignace but it would take at least two hours longer. Lots of slower speed limits and almost all two lane roads. At Marinette we got to Lake Michigan across Green Bay from Door County. US 35/2 follows along the lake to Escanaba and further along to Manistique. Just past there we stopped for a break and some lunch along the North Shore of Lake Michigan. It is nothing like the North Shore of Lake Superior.

Beach! A sandy beach!

A very nice spot to stop.

And wonderful weather.

Straits State Park, St Ignace, MI.

We are going to be at Straits State Parks for three nights. It is right at the north end of the Mackinac Bridge.

We followed a trail through the woods to this point. And a bit further along to another vantage point.

We stopped for a break at a small beach on the lake. Kids were swimming but reported that the water was cold. They have never been to Lake Superior.

We’re off to explore St Ignace this afternoon. We probably will not go to Mackinac Island, we have been there three times before. But there are plenty of Fudge Shops in town. I might look for another kite.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Away again. July 2018.

So we are heading for Michigan for a while to see what the lower part is like. Many we know have raved about it so we are going for a sampler. We have been to the Upper Peninsula many times now and this trip will be no different. Through the UP on the way over and back.

That means once each way across the Mighty Mac, the Mackinac Bridge. More than 25,000 feet long and 155 feet above the water, it ranks as the 5th longest suspension bridge in the world. For Susan’s sake we will drive in the lane furthest from the edge.

We will spend some time in St Ignace near Mackinaw Island, a few days near East Jordan on Lake Charlevoix, then a week or so down near South Haven at Van Buren State Park on Lake Michigan during the Blueberry Festival and then up to Orchard Beach State Park. Over the bridge to Sault St Marie for a ship watching time, Munising for some beach time and Ontonagon near the Porcupine Mountains for some quiet time on the South Shore of Lake Superior.

All present and correct.

Traffic control gives the clear to launch and we are off.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Texas to Minnesota, April 2018. The road home.

Sooner or later it is time to head back to the barn. We delayed almost a week in Fredericksburg because Minnesota was getting slammed with a snow storm. 16 inches at the airport! 14 inches or so at Hastings. So we enjoyed our last few days in Fredericksburg with a final lunch at Nury’s right next to the RV Park.

Mike and Jackie. Dave, John and Stacey, Norm and Shirl joined us. What a wonderful bunch of folks we got to share our time with while we were there.

Our first stop on the way home was a free city park in Haskell, TX. We drove all day into a headwind through Abilene and then sort of northeast and still didn’t get out of Texas. Haskell is a small town past its prime but they had an adequate overnight stop with electric hookups. The small city park next to the campground had a first class ball park and what seemed like a semipro ball team. They were out practicing soon after we arrived and set out on a walk. Pretty scruffy place, no pictures.

Then next day we set off for Oklahoma. Very windy. North to Wichita Falls and into Oklahoma. Then on to Oklahoma City and further on to Tulsa and just a bit further to Claremore and the Hawthorn Bluff COE Campground an Lake Oologah. This was a long day.

An hour or two after we left Haskell the wind was very strong and our patio awning came loose. We pulled off to the side of the road and did our best to get it wound back up. A nice young fellow stopped and gave us a hand. With his help we got it rolled back up. We tied it up so it could not come loose again. Two parts are broken and new parts have been ordered.

We went this way partly to see what it would be like to go this way in the winter on the way to Arizona compared to going south from Minnesota to east Texas and then west. The east Texas route gets us to moderate weather quicker but it is longer. Going the Oklahoma route has more two lane roads but can get us down to Georgetown or Fredericksburg. Lots of trade offs. Maybe we should just leave right after Thanksgiving.

The weather for the next couple days looked like rain and nothing but rain. More than an inch was in the forecast. Driving in the rain is OK but it is more tiring. Lots more things that need your attention. So we stayed for two nights.

There was quite a few people here. It rained almost all day, we got out for a couple short walks in between the downpours. The coach was nice and warm which makes sitting still in the rain easier. Our site was not very level but the coach levels itself by adjusting the airbags. Works well.

Some people have to make do with things at hand.

Oklahoma has tolls on all of the interstates we drove on. Five or six toll booths took about $40 for the privilege of driving on OK roads. One might have expected them to be perfect for that amount but they were not, not even close. It makes us wonder if it is worth it.

The next day we had a more normal driving day to the Crow’s Creek Campground at Clay County Park on Smithville Lake just north of Kansas City. It is a big campground with 415 sites. Another county campground also on the lake had 365 sites. This is one of the biggest county park campgrounds we have seen.

It was a damp day until just south of KC. Not enough to have the wipers on all the time. Just enough to arrive virtually bug free and pretty clean. Most days when we stop for the day one of the first tasks is to debug the front end of the coach. Once those splattered bugs have a chance to petrify they are harder to get off.

Nice level camp sites. This one had electric, some also had water and some had a sewer connection. The campsites were mostly on small peninsulas in the dammed up lake.

There was a 7 mile long great bike path the circled the entire campground. We got in a bunch of riding in before dinner. No leaves on the trees here!

The next day we drove to Cherry Glen COE Campground on Saylorville Lake just north of Des Moines. We have been to this park before, quite nice. Last time it was out in the country, today it seems like the housing development is right up to the edge of the park.

A great spot to stop to make the last day towards home a fairly short one.

It was very clear as we headed north that we were way ahead of spring.

The next morning we left for Hastings. About 200 miles. We were stopped to unhook the Jeep by 3. Backed the coach into the driveway and stopped to unload. There were piles of snow still on the side of the driveway.

By 5:30 we had most everything out of the coach that we had to get out. There was still some more to do but it could wait. The thermostats were set up to the mid 60’s. The water heater was back on. There were piles of mail on the dining room table.

Like most times after being gone we were back where there was lots to do, lots to catch up on. Things seem to be moving faster.

It is OK. Nice to be back with some elbow room. It takes a couple days to feel warm in this larger space, to remember where all the stuff in the kitchen is, to quit reaching for the water pump switch when you turn on the water and to find each other when we are in different rooms.

And to start talking about not where we are going next, or the time after that but three or four adventures out. We are lucky to be able to share this together.

And thanks for coming along with us,

More later,

Roger and Susan