Ontonagon, MI, and Home to Hastings, Summer 2018

The Township Park and Campground in Ontonagon MI is another gem along the south shore of Lake Superior. These smaller city and county campgrounds are really nice. This is another one we have been to several times.

About half the sites right on Lake Superior.

Just a couple nights, the first day was into Ontonagon to check out the Nonesuch Shop and lunch. A wonderful shop full of mostly hand made items including spectacular quilts made by the lady who runs the store. She has a sewing machine right next to the cash register an is always making something. Her quilts are going to the International Quilt Study Center and Museum at the University of Nebraska where they can be preserved, stored and displayed. She is always fun to talk with.

Here is a link to an earlier post from the Ontonagon area.


The next day was pretty much an all day rain. I made an effort to get caught up on emails. We were watching weather reports. The next day looked like no rain, the three days after that looked like rain so we decided to push for home the next day, a 7-1/2 hour day.

A couple odd things…

Our refrigerator just shut down, no cooling. The lights were on but it was not running and getting warmer. So I called Samsung, they had me go through a couple troubleshooting steps that didn’t identify anything in particular so they had me unplug the refrigerator for two minutes and then plug it back in and set it to power cooling and power freeze. Nothing happened. About 15 minutes later it started up, got cold and life was good again. Somehow it got confused and shut down. We had to reboot it!

And then about an hour away from home our coach engine started to feel like it was missing. Almost every thing that is a problem for diesel engines is fuel related. We had just been talking to Amanda and Douglas about this very thing two nights before. So we pulled off into a Cenex truck stop. The engine has primary and secondary fuel filters and a prefilter screen. The prefilter screen looked pretty clogged up so I removed it and cleaned it as best I could (I have two new ones at home of course) and replaced that and changed the primary fuel filter (I had two with me and two more at home). I did not have a secondary filter with us so I just had to hope for good luck.

Diesel fuel is about 20% biodiesel and under certain conditions algae will grow in it. We must have picked up some less than wonderful fuel somewhere along the way and its the algae that clogs up the filters.

The prefilter screen and primary filter are easy to get at, the secondary is more difficult. All of that took 45 minutes. The engine has an air purge system for the fuel lines and filter with an electric fuel pump to pressurize the fuel system. So I pushed the button to start the air purge and turned the key to start the engine. It started right away. The instructions say to run it on high idle for three minutes. It has three idle speeds. I checked for fuel leaks, there were none. So off we went, all was well. We stopped a couple miles down the road to check for fuel leaks, none. So we just finished up the drive home.

There is a lot to learn about these coaches. You could be just stuck on the side of the road or make the effort to know how to fix what you can fix and be prepared for what you might not expect but might just happen anyway.

Be prepared, the old Boy Scout Motto applies to so many things. The right parts and tools, the right knowledge and the willingness to just get it done. I got a pat on the back from Susan and a lot of help too. We are in this together.

Where to next? Texas, Arizona and New Mexico this winter sounds good. We have to get used to being at home again first.

More later, Much Love

Roger and Susan

Munising, MI, Summer 2018

A couple hours west of Sault Ste. Marie to Munising. There is a nice city campground there that we have been to twice before. About 1/3 of the sites are right on Lake Superior.

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is just to the east. Part of the National Lakeshore includes Grand Island, a great place to go biking.

Munising has two great hardware stores, perfect when you need something which is usually the case.

And what we really came here for is Sand Point, a very nice beach on the east side of the bay facing west. Perfect for an afternoon sitting on the beach doing some of life’s really important tasks, nothing.

We were here for three days, first day was a trip to the hardware store, actually both, looking for a picture hanger. We drove out to Sand Point but found the road closed. We checked out the city park where there was going to be a concert the next evening. We went out for lunch, it took three tries to find a place we actually wanted to eat. The last was pretty good.

The next day it was black clouds, lots of wind from the north, big waves coming right on to the beach at the campground, white caps, some rain. A perfect day to stay inside. It calmed down in the afternoon enough to get out for 20 laps around the campground on our bikes.

Our friends Douglas and Amanda showed up late in the afternoon. They were at the Howell Melon Festival down in Michigan’s mitten and heading for Iowa. So, look at a map, Munising is right on the way right? No matter, we were happy to see them again. We had supper together. The last of the home made pasties.

The next day we made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. Can you believe Amanda had never had blueberry pancakes before? Well she has now and she liked them. Our five pounds of blueberries from South Haven were down to the last pint after that.

The afternoon was spent at the beach doing important stuff. And then Foggy’s in Christmas, MI for dinner. It was only about three miles away and the food was good. By the time we were eating people were standing in line waiting for a table.

And then they came over for a visit, some ice cream and a couple card games. We had a nice framed picture of a sailboat going under the lift bridge at Charlevoix for them. A reminder of their new boat they sail on the south arm of the lake. That is what the hangers were for. They were surprised and pleased. It will make a colorful addition to their coach.

We played Quidler, Amanda won. And a round of Uno. I think (cut throat) Douglas won. We managed to chat until almost midnight pretty early with them.

In the morning we were leaving for Ontonagon, 2-1/2 hrs west. We had to go see where they hung the picture, exactly where we thought it would look nice without any coaching from us. Very nice. Hugs and goodbyes and we were off. They are getting pretty good at Minnesota Goodbyes so it really took a bit longer, quite a bit longer actually.

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Sault Ste. Marie, MI, Summer 2018

Ted and Karen headed off toward Oregon. Amanda and Douglas were off to the Howell Melon Festival. We were heading north to Sault Ste. Marie where Lake Superior connects to Lake Michigan and Lake Huron via the St. Mary’s River and the Soo Locks.

Orchard Beach State Park

We stopped about half way at Orchard Brach State Park. It is on a bluff above Lake Michigan. The long stairway to the lake was closed for repairs.

It was the only way down.

We had a nice site, plenty of room. It is a small park and pretty much full. We walked up to the bluff in the evening to see the sun set.

Not too much to see as smoke from Canada forest fires was in the air.

Except for a nice looking hawk on a fence post.

Manistee is a small town on Lake Michigan just south of Orchard Beach. There were two very nice beaches, pier and a lighthouse. A dredging barge too.

Next day, north towards the Mighty Mac. Our second passage didn’t seem quite as harrowing.

Here is a short dash cam video as we approach the very center of the bridge. We were more than 200 feet above the lake at that point. No audio, the tires made a horrible whining on the metal grate roadway. Susan did not. And then another hour and twenty minutes to Sault Ste. Marie.

Aune-Osborn Campground

We have been here before. Site 91. A great spot to watch the world go by, at least big ocean ships, the usually bigger lake freighters called Lakers and the thirteen giant 1000 ft long lake boats nicknamed Footers. These carry taconite from Duluth and Two Harbors down to the steel mills in Indiana and other places. If you are here long enough you will see the same ship going both ways. In just five days we saw seven of the Footers.

Not many trees here, the old ones are dying and the new ones are pretty small. We managed to get one of the few.

There was a sailboat regatta (a race) on the Canadian side of the river our first evening there.

It was interesting watching the boats go back and forth towards the start line trying to arrive at the sound of the start horn. Then they were off up river into a headwind tacking back and forth. Finally they were out of sight only to come back downstream, come about (turn around) and head back upstream again.

All the while dodging a 1000 ft laker, the Edgar B Speer, a boat we have seen many times, heading down river. The Speer is the most powerful of the lake boats with more than 19,000 horsepower. These boats go by all night long, most are pretty quiet and you don’t even hear them.

The morning sun comes up right over the St Mary’s River.

And with coffee, another boat, the CSL Whitefish Bay, heads upstream.

Just down stream is the Sugar Island Ferry.

It carries about 15 cars or trucks or RVs across the ship channel about 300 ft to Sugar Island and back, all day long. One day we saw a Foretravel coming across! Rare to see another one anywhere. Susan spotted it across the river getting ready to drive on to the ferry.

The ferry was large but dwarfed by a lake boat going by first. It waited.

The Foretravel was from Kansas and had no other markings at all. He got off the ferry and was gone. It looked like a 1996 to me.

And next to the mainland ferry terminal was Clyde’s, a real old fashioned drive-in where they come out and take your order. You can go inside and order and eat at picnic tables too. We had a couple great fish sandwiches there.

And at the other end of town the much smaller West Pier Drive-In, also with car hops!

We had spectacular (huge) hamburgers, a butterscotch malt and an order of onion rings (big enough for four!). Way more than we could eat. My Uncle Jimmy would always say he would eat all this food and burst and splatter all over the walls. Funny what we remember from 60 years ago.

One day a cruise ship went by. It was on a ten day Great Lakes Cruise.And other ships from all over the world.

Here are two ocean going ships from the same shipping line from the Netherlands. One heading for Duluth, the other to Belgium.

On the morning of our last day the Edgar B Speer was heading upstream towards the locks and the CSL Whitefish Bay, an 800 footer, was headed down. Both boats we had seen just four days earlier going the other way.

We took pictures of just about every boat and ship that went by. Way too many to post here. This is already a long blog.

We are heading for Munising a couple hours west, still in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, home of the Yoopers.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

National Blueberry Festival, South Haven MI, Summer 2018, Part 3

Blueberries. They are everywhere around here. Giant fields with rows and rows of high bush blueberry shrubs. Most have some you-pick rows. It looked like there were many fields with farmhands picking berries. We saw a couple with some sort of machine. And roadside blueberry stands where you could buy already picked. And somehow “washed” seemed to be a distinction at many of these.

The bushes are about 4-5 ft high and loaded with berries. It wouldn’t take long to fill a bucket here.

The National Blueberry Festival in South Haven is a bit spread out. We were expecting more organization, a more central focus. There is a big pavilion near the city hall where the Farmer’s market was earlier in the week. They had a pancake breakfast there on Saturday morning and a blueberry market the rest of the day and again on Sunday. You could buy blueberries in any size package you wanted. There were blueberry pies, blueberry muffins, blueberry scones, blueberry jams and anything else you could imaging that had blueberries in it. We bought a five pound box of blueberries. I have never seen that many in one place. It was about 8 pints as you would find them in the grocery store. In a 5 pound box they were about $1.50 a pint. Very inexpensive. Very sweet.

The pancake breakfast was held at the airport on Sunday. We thought about going to the pancake breakfast one day but curiously neither mentioned blueberry pancakes. If not for those why would you go. So on Sunday morning we made blueberry pancakes for ourselves. My idea of blueberry pancakes is blueberries surrounded by the minimum possible batter to make a pancake. More blueberries than pancake. We make enough for us and usually have 3 or 4 left. They get frozen. Frozen blueberry pancakes with a bit of butter and maple syrup on top, reheated just to hot in the microwave are almost as good as when we made them.

The only place to get a T-shirt or anything else that said Blueberry festival was at a tent near the river that flowed through South Haven into Lake Michigan. There was a marina spread out along both sides of the river, lots of boats of all sizes only a 1/4 mile or so to Lake Michigan. We went there on Sunday morning. Some small and med T-shirts of a few of the styles left. No hats, no bags if they ever had them. Not much to choose from, we were surprised. So no souvenirs.

Across the river over a narrow drawbridge was a park full of craft and stuff vendors. It was the biggest part of the entire festival and nothing there had anything to do with blueberries. You could get food from lots of food trucks, I bought a raffle ticket for two nice kayaks that I am sure I will win and if you can imagine what you might find at one of these craft shows there was likely at least two places selling them.

Douglas and Amanda’s booth was right next to the central flower garden.

It was attracting lots of lookers and quite a few buyers. I waited to take this picture. They reported the Saturday was a very good day. Amanda makes all of the jewelry with help from Douglas. They do about 25-30 shows a year and sell on their website.

Magnets Really Work

If you order something from them and use “Home 2” as a promotion code you can get 20% off! It is really nice.

We stopped at Captain Lou’s for lunch. It was after 1PM and it was still very busy. I had Cajun Perch tacos and Susan had a salmon wrap. Both were just the right size and very good.

The Michigan Maritime Museum was next door so we went in and looked at that, pretty small and not much to see for the entrance fee. There was a Coast Guard exhibit and a boat workshop that were probably more interesting.

You could buy tickets to go sailing on a fairly big old sailboat or a harbor ride in a Captains Barge.

What really caught my eye was a wooden ChrisCraft boat from the 1930s. Big V6 inboard, originally had a straight six.

Pretty much all else original. Just as I think I remember from On Golden Pond

These folks were on a one hour boat ride that went out into Lake Michigan. Lots of fun for them.

South Haven is known for its beach, it is not all that much of a beach but it is the first big beach on this side of Lake Michigan going north. So it is a popular place for folks from Chicago and Indiana. Lots of homes in town are nothing more than vacation rental places with owners from somewhere else. The population is only 4,200. It is actually busier in the winter with snowmobile activity than it is in the summer. Here, summer is the off season. Go figure.

More later, Much Love

Roger and Susan

National Blueberry Festival, South Haven MI, Summer 2018 Part 2

Part of the reason we came here was to see Amanda and Douglas. They are full timers who make jewelry to sell at craft fairs. They will be staying in one place in the northern part of lower Michigan for a month this summer and for all summer next year. Partly because they have a small sailboat and can sail where they stay and partly because there is a good selection of artisan craft fairs within a day of where they are staying that they can go to. So between sailing and the craft fairs they are busy making stuff to sell. Bracelets and necklaces made of magnetic beads and silver, crystals and gem stones that are supposed to be good for what ails you.

We all made the house show and tell rounds, every one is different. Ted and Karen have a rare 2001 36′ with no slide. Cherry interior in a U270 with other details that made us pretty sure it was a custom built coach.

We all fit! They have MCD shades on all of their windows. These are a big step up from the pleated shades. The day time shade blocks sun and adds privacy. The night time shade is very dark. And they are very easy to operate. We are thinking about these.

One afternoon Susan and I baked one of our last home made rustic apple pies from last fall’s crop. While it was baking we made pasties. Beef, pork, potatoes, rutabagas, onions, all wrapped up in a pie dough crust. We baked those when the pie was done.

Perfect, just like Mom used to make. Cut up fruit and a nice salad made a great pot luck dinner for all to share.

Amanda is the Queen of Selfies. We had our school lunch plates to keep food organized.

We went to the Farmers Market one day. Great peaches!

Susan found a hummingbird feeder that she liked so now we have another one for home. And some peach pound cake to have with the peaches.

Every one found something to like and then we went to a coffee shop for a coffee and a scone.

We went down to the State Park beach on Lake Michigan. The first time we walked over an immense dune, lots of work, and back over it on the way out. Then we discovered a no hill way. We went that way next.

Sailboats, waves and warm sun.

Until the end of the day.

Tomorrow, the Festival begins.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

National Blueberry Festival, South Haven MI, Summer 2018, Part 1.

Our southern most excursion into the lower part of Michigan brought us to the Blueberry Festival in South Haven. It has been going on for decades and they call it the “National” one just to puff it up a bit. We stayed just south of South Haven at Van Buren State Park. It is the name of the county, the township and schools too and we assumed that it must be named for Martin Van Buren and we were right but not when he was president but when he was vice president. Funny thing is that he seems to have nothing to do with Michigan.

Martin Van Buren

We had a really nice shady site. Not much for solar. The park is essentially in the sand dunes east of Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. It is fairly flat but still sand. We just backed in and stopped and were OK.

Ted and Karen (Foretravelers we met in Fredericksburg, TX last winter) were in Indiana heading for Oregon in a somewhat random sort of way and heard we were going to the Blueberry Festival. They turned right at some point and showed up in Van Buren State Park just minutes before we did.

Their site was not very level. Ted is a level headed guy and wanted perfection so back and forth here and there, some turning here some turning there and he plowed up the sand into a giant trap. And he was stuck. Good and stuck.

I tried to pull some with our Jeep. All four wheels turned and started digging holes.

The park rangers came over, yup stuck. Karen called Coach-Net, the roadside assistance for RVs. Once the issue was figured out a tow truck, a big tow truck, was dispatched and arrived in 20 min. The tow truck driver was a nice guy. He said he gets called to the park about half a dozen times each summer for the same thing, stuck in the sand.

The tow guy hooked up some big cables, lowered some big feet at the end of his truck that had almost like shovels on then to dig in and anchor the truck and then tightened up the cables and lifted his boom at the same time. Ted had his coach in reverse and just a little help was all it took and he was back on pavement.

From every direction spectators came to watch. As soon as Ted was out they were gone.

The tow guy hung around for a bit until Ted moved to another flatter (not perfect but good enough) site. Ted backed in and stopped. No wiggling for perfection this time.

All in and the tow guy was gone in a flash. Coach-Net picks up the cost for members. (we pay an annual membership fee which is way less than the cost of the tow guy coming to help). Don’t go anywhere without it.

So our friends Ted and Karen survived. It is good to be able to have the support you need, call for some help, get it taken care of and maybe laugh a bit when it is done. It was hot. We got dirty. Time for a shower.

More friends, Douglas and Amanda were on their way too. They waited until the work was done and then showed up.

They were in the site next to us, just a few sites away from Ted and Karen.

Let the party begin.

More later. Much love.

Roger and Susan

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