The Empty Space Opportunity, October 2016

I know, I am way behind again but I am working on it.  These posts sort of have to be done in order.

Our coach has lots of room for storing things but there is always one more thing that would be nice to have, one thing that doesn’t quite fit in the available space without displacing something else. So…

On the passenger’s side towards the back behind the rear wheels there is a side bay door behind which are the engine batteries.  There is a matching door on the driver’s side behind which there is nothing.


Nothing means empty space.  You can see the transmission in there. And empty space calls out for something.

When we were last in Nacogdoches, TX the folks at Xtreme Paint and Graphics were telling me they were installing a box in there for more storage.  When I found out they wanted more than $2,000 for it I decided I could do it myself.  So I measured several times and then measured again and again, did lots of thinking and sketching and then off I went to see my local sheet metal guy with some drawings for a box and some support arms.  A week later they were done.


The welded aluminum box fit perfectly. I installed the steel support brackets to support the box.


And then fit the aluminum box into place with lots of sealant and bolts.


It is very a solid and waterproof 6.75 cubic feet of new storage space. The interior of the box is finished with an exterior carpet material and was promptly filled with stuff. Most of this is seldom used but nice to have tools, spare parts and other gadgets that are sometimes needed.  This frees up other space for the things we use more often.


A small compressor, a spare heating system pump, safety stands for working under the coach, a 50 foot, 50 amp extension cable and more.  All nice to have if and when they are needed.  And this entire project cost me about $275 and took about three hours to install and finish. DIY pays off.

This was my last project before winterizing the coach and putting it in the barn for a couple of months before we head south to warmer weather.

More later, I promise,

Susan and Roger

Lake Superior North Shore, October 2016. Temperance River State Park.

We are great fans of the North Shore of Lake Superior. Only two weeks after our epic South Shore Expedition we are off to the North Shore for a week at one of our favorite State Parks, Temperance River.  We have been here several times in the past.  It must be almost everyone else’s favorite park too because for this time of the year it is booked solid almost a year in advance.


We go around the campground loop the wrong way so we can pull in looking at the lake. We are on a rise looking out on Lake Superior.


There are two campgrounds here, one on each side of the river.  The south campground is at lake level, the north one is on the rise.


The Temperance River flows down from an inland lake and as it gets closer to the lake it has cut a deep narrow cascade through the ancient rock through a series of waterfalls. It is quite dramatic.

We spent quite a bit of time hiking. We got our bikes out and rode down to Schroeder … but no swimming.  Schroeder has a tasty bakery and a nice county historical museum.  They had a display about Taconite Harbor which was a major loading point for early taconite production.  There was a dedicated railroad that went from the loading docks to the mines and taconite plant at Hoyt Lakes, about 50 miles away.  When the mines were running out of iron ore and the cost of moving the taconite was going up and the size of the lake ships was making the harbor too small the whole thing shut down somewhere around 1980.

The loading docks and the power plant are still there, unused.


We went to The Sugarloaf Cove Nature Preserve near Temperance River that was once part of a huge logging operation.  From 1943 to 1971, Consolidated Papers, Inc. used this site to store pulpwood logs during the winter. During the spring and summer months, tug boats rafted the logs across Lake Superior to Ashland, Wisconsin. Remnants of the log chutes, the log storage areas, the old buildings and anchors for the log booms.  The cove was big enough to float logs to an area of about 40 acres. All of these logs were surrounded by a steel cable and log boom.  There were floating platforms where the ends of the boom cables came together and then a very long cable to a steam-powered tow boat.


During the summer they would tow several log rafts across the lake at just over 1 mile per hour.  It has taken more than 25 years to restore this site.  It now has trails and interpretive sites for visitors to imagine what it might have been like before the logging operation.

The Temperance River area is a great place for a lake side experience.  There are many  places where you can get right down to the lake where it seems that you may have been the only one to be there for years. There is great hiking, nice bike trails, interesting sites nearby and plenty  of time to just slow down for a while and enjoy the time away, the time to explore and the time to be quiet.

And plants that just grow out of the rocks.img_6955

We will be back here again.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Lake Superior South Shore, 2016, Part 22 Gooseberry Falls State Park

We took a short drive up the North Shore from Duluth to visit Gooseberry Falls State Park. this is one of Susan and my favorite State Parks.  There is a nice campground (with no hookups), great hiking trails, access to Lake Superior, a nice visitor’s center with a gift shop and of course the falls.


The Visitor’s Center is a welcoming place, open all year.  On the other side trails lead down towards the Falls, the Bridge over Highway 61 and to the handiwork of the many CCC workers who worked here for many years.



The Upper Falls are inland from the bridge.



Rudy and Carolyn..


Here we are. A very familiar place for us.

The Middle Falls of the Gooseberry River spills out onto a flat rocky area that is a favorite place for kids to run around on. The river then goes over the Lower Falls and the river winds through a wide valley towards Lake Superior.



The mouth of the river is just beyond the rock outcrop. Beaches on the North Shore are gravel to rocks.


The slope across the water is from ancient lava flows that make up most of the North Shore. The CCC built stone columns along the edge.  These were about four feet square and four feet high. They strung ship’s anchor chain between them as a fence.  Out on the flat sloping lava flow they built picnic tables. Susan and I have been up here when storms drive giant waves crashing most of the way up the rock shelf.

The campground is down by the lake as are several picnic areas.  Some have CCC built shelters.

b-shelter3I came up here in the early 1970’s in the middle of the winter with several young Boy Scouts in tow.  It was minus 30 degrees or so, really, and we figured we could stay in the stone buildings, start a fire and be nice and toasty.  Well there wasn’t much wood around for a big never-ending fire and after a day we abandoned the building for tents. It was colder in the building than it was outside.  We survived!

On our way back to Duluth we stopped at the Rustic Inn for a nice lunch.


That brings us to the end of this epic exploration of the South Shore (and a sneak up the North Shore).  We had a very nice time travelling with Rudy and Carolyn and Amanda and Douglas. It was a new experience for all of us to travel in a group. I think it worked pretty well.

Susan and I and Rudy and Carolyn left the Lakehead Basin Marina and RV Park on Friday.  We had a four-hour drive. Rudy and Carolyn had a few days to get to Houston. It actually took them almost two weeks with a stop in Nacogdoches for some service work and a delay waiting for parts. Rudy reports all is running perfectly now.

Douglas and Amanda have been going to several local weekend and week-long festivals where there sell the handmade jewelery that Amanda makes.  So they are very busy.

We will be home for a couple of weeks and then back up to the Temperance River on the North Shore in October.

More later,

Roger and Susan




Lake Superior South Shore, 2016, Part 21 Duluth, MN Duluth Ship Channel

Duluth’s Canal Park leads out to the Lift Bridge over the Duluth Ship Channel. Over the Lift Bridge and you are on Park Point, a long sand bar that is between Lake Superior and the Duluth-Superior Harbor.  The Harbor is really the mouth of the St Louis River that flows down to the lake. In the 1800’s Park Point was connected to Duluth and ran out along the side of the harbor for about five miles. The only way into the harbor was at the Superior end so the Duluth folks banded together to dig through Park Point and make a new channel into the harbor.  Of course that meant they needed a bridge as well.


The first bridge had a suspended trolley contraption that went across the channel. The trolley bit was removed and more structure was built around the old structure to make the lift bridge.

img_6174If you look closely you can see the old vertical parts inside the newer ones.  The entire center section is lifted with the help of counterweights to allow the big lake boats to come into the harbor.


Or just a sailboat to get out.  The Presque Isle was on its way in so we walked down to see it come in.


These boats are very large and move surprisingly fast, faster than a brisk walk. The Presque Isle is a unique lake boat.  It is over 1,000 ft long but unlike any other lake boat it is made up of two parts.  The cargo part is more like a giant barge with a notch in the back-end for the power part, sort of like a tow boat to push in and get secured.

img_5991Hardly any wake.

img_5983And with the lift bridge all the way up, just enough room.   I found this picture of the power end of the pair.


It is a boat all on its own, kind of oddly shaped but very powerful.

Rudy and Carolyn are from Houston and see ships all the time but these are much bigger. Carolyn  was showing us the size of the one she saw.


The Blue Heron is a University of Minnesota research boat that does lake studies of all sorts.


And the U.S. Coast Guard was well represented as well.  This is a buoy tender.

Just across the bridge is a Corps of Engineers Maritime Museum. It has a lot of interesting displays inside like a Fresnel Lens


and outside a harbor tug boat.


It was a beautiful afternoon, the sun was out, boats going by.  A nice day by the Canal.



But some days are a bit more challenging.

More later,

Roger and Susan






Lake Superior South Shore, 2016, Part 20 Duluth, MN Wm A Irvin

After the Railroad Museum Rudy and I needed something bigger to look at.  Just across the road closer to the harbor is the Wm A Irvin.  It is a 1938 vintage iron ore boat, the flagship of the US Steel Great Lakes fleet now permanently moored in a slip next to the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC).  This lake boat hauled iron ore from 1938 until it was decommissioned in 1978. By then it was too slow, too small and too expensive to operate. It was 610 ft long and had a capacity of 13,000 tons.  Today’s bulk carriers are 1,000 ft long and can carry 60,000 tons. She could move at just over 11 knots while the newer bulk carriers move at 14-17 knots.  Most of the newer boats are self unloaders.  The Irvin was not and so it was limited to destinations where compatible unloading systems were available. The Irvin sat (floated) unused for 10 years until the DECC bought it and made it into a tourist attraction, gift shop and tour destination.  The tours last about an hour and cover the entire boat.  In the fall they convert a couple of the holds into a haunted house sort-of-thing.  Our tour leader said that the Haunted Ship event is the second biggest funding source for the DECC behind parking.

img_6838This old style lake carrier had the controls at the front and the engines and crew quarters in the rear. The ship is getting a new paint job.


The Irvin was named for the William A. Irvin who was the President of US Steel from 1932 to 1938. It is sort of amazing that they would be building a ship like this in the middle of the depression.

On 27 August 1940, the Wm A Irvin set a record by unloading 13,856 tons of ore in 2 hours 55 minutes using Hulett unloaders. This record still stands today and is unlikely to be broken, because all ships today use automatic self unloaders in the bottom of their cargo holds.


The Irvin had a traveling crane to open each one of the hatch covers except for the two at the front of the boat which were opened using a small hoist. the travelling crane wasn’t able to get up that far.

The Irvin burned 1.2 tons of coal an hour to make steam.  The locomotive we saw earlier burned 12 tons per hour.


There were two steam turbines which turned a single shaft and propeller. Rudy is down there somewhere looking at gauges.  Lots of brass to keep polished.  There were also steam and gasoline powered generators.  The crew’s quarters, the main galley and crew dining room were all at this end.  To get from this end of the ship to the other meant a trip outside.  Everything on this ship was first class. As the flagship of the fleet it was the showcase for US Steel.  There were frequent visitors and passengers from one port to another.  They stayed in the front end.


There was a very elegant oak paneled dining room including custom silverware and china. (The table was bolted to the floor.)   There were four nice state rooms, each with its own bathroom.


They all had fire places as well.


There was a complete galley and staff just for the passengers. At the very top level on the front end of the ship was the state of the art control center.


Radar wasn’t added until the late 1940’s.  There were two steering wheels, one for in port and one for on the lake. The in-port steering was much quicker for maneuverability when the boat was moving slowly. There were typical of the day engine controls and signals, very old-fashioned looking phones and a radio that looked like it was from the 50’s, it probably was.  There were also eleven voice tubes where someone on the bridge could yell into the tube and be heard somewhere else.

The Captain’s office and quarters were just behind the bridge.  Very Spartan by today’s measure. Absolute luxury compared to the rest of the crew’s quarters.


Susan and I have been on the Irvin Tour before.  It is only $5 on Tuesdays and well worth the time. Rudy and I liked it.

Next up the Duluth Ship Channel and the Lift Bridge.  The Marina where we are staying is only a couple blocks away.  The 1000′ Presque Isle is inbound.

More later,

Roger and Susan



Lake Superior South Shore, 2016. Part 19 Duluth, MN Railroad Museum

Rudy and I went to the Railroad Museum at the far end of Canal Park.


It is Duluth’s old railroad depot. There is a rich railroad history up here with the iron ore mines to the north and east. Millions of tons of iron ore was hauled from the mines to loading docks at Duluth and Two Harbors for decades. Today the iron ore is processed into a concentrated form called taconite which is about 95% pure iron and then hauled to the loading docks. A common bulk carrier today hauls 60,000 tons of taconite which is many, many trains full. A ship can be fully loaded in the automated loading docks in as little as five hours. The storage yards of taconite ready to ship hold as much as 5 millions of tons of taconite ready to load.


The Wm Crooks was the first steam locomotive in Minnesota.  It originally burned wood and was later converted to coal.  The William Crooks was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Perhaps the best thing in the museum is the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Number 227, a 2-8-8-4 “Yellowstone” locomotive which was among the largest steam engines to ever operate.  the 2-8-8-4 configuration had two sets of eight drive wheels led by a two wheels and followed by four. These engines were so long that the entire front drive wheel assembly was articulated.  While it was going around curves this set of drive wheels would actually turn towards one side while sliding under the boiler.  The four 32″ x 26″ powered the sixteen 63″ drive wheels to put 6,250 HP to work providing 141,000 pounds of drawbar force.


These are extraordinarily huge. The railroads transporting iron ore to the loading docks during World War II  operated several of these.  There is another on display in Two Harbors MN and another in Proctor, MN.  Eighteen of the Yellowstone Class locomotive were built for the DM&IR.  During the winter months when production in the mines was slower some of these were leased to other railroads notably the Denver and Rio Grande Western to help get trains over the Tennessee Pass in Colorado. The D&RGW destroyed one of the these locomotives after an air-brake failure caused number 224 to wreck on the Fireclay Loop.

img_6056The coal and water tender rode on seven axles and carried 28 tons of coal and 25,000 gallons of water. There was an automated feed system to supply coal to the huge firebox under the boiler.  These locomotives consume 10 to 12 tons of coal an hour and evaporate water into steam at the astounding rate of 12,000 gallons per hour. The “amount of coal used in one hour would be enough to heat a home for two winters.”  a local report stated. And Minnesota winters at that, one supposes.

Yes, the cab was open and Rudy scampered up like a four-year old.


Pretty much looks like he belongs there. You can see the open doors into the boiler grating where the coal was burned.  No computers on these big boys just an experienced operator and a close eye.


“Quick, turn down the valve with the red handle”. “Not that one, the one with nine spokes!”  Yikes!   You should have seen the batteries in these things.


After Rudy was done Choo Choo-ing we wandered on. This really is an amazing indoor railroad museum.  And out doors too.

An exact replica of Abraham Lincoln’s Funeral Car is here as well.From the Display … Lincoln’s legacy; that “all men are created equal”, was carried with him to his final resting place in Springfield, Illinois where the 16th President of the United States was laid to rest following his assassination 151 years ago. The pallbearer for this solemn procession was a railroad coach called the ‘United States’ that has become known as ‘The Lincoln Funeral Car’. Built as the first ‘Air Force One’, but never used by the President while he was alive, the car ended its own life in a funeral pyre of sorts on a hot afternoon in July of 1911 in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, a Twin Cities Suburb. An out of control wildfire burned the car to the metal and half of Columbia Heights to the ground.

Using photographs, written descriptions, pieces of charred metal, and a single wood frame window removed from the car before the blaze, an exact, full-sized replica of ‘The Lincoln Funeral Car’ was constructed. This colossal effort took over five years and was completed in time for the 2015 Sesquicentennial of the original train ride from Washington to Springfield.


We managed to get through many other cars as well from Post Office Railway cars where mail was sorted to fancy dining cars to a wide variety of working cars for logging, rail maintenance and giant crane cars for returning cars to the rails after a mishap.

The Post Office Railway car reminded me of an old friend, Paul Schoberg (Chief Many Moons), who spent much of his working life riding back and forth between Minneapolis and Fargo sorting mail. I knew Paul from my Boy Scout days. By then he was retired and was a dedicated teacher of all things outdoors to hundreds of young folks along the way. He was an accomplished classical guitar player and did his best to teach me. That abruptly ended when I cut off the tip of my finger with an axe.  When I think of Paul, I remember a quiet, patient and gentle man, someone who gave much to many.  You won’t find him on Google or Facebook but in the hearts of his many followers.

Next we go to see an even bigger machine, the Wm A Irvin, the 1938 Flagship of the US Steel Great Lakes Fleet.  Right here in Duluth.

More later,

Roger and Susan

Lake Superior South Shore, 2016. Part 18 Duluth, MN Lakehead Boat Basin and RV Park

Our next and last stop on the Lake Superior South Shore Expedition is the great city of Duluth, MN.  This is where Susan was born and raised as a youngster. We manage to get up to Duluth and the North Shore at least once a year.  Three times in 2016.

We stayed at the Lakehead Boat Basin Marina and RV Park.

Really, it is a marina. Where they store boats over the winter gets used for RV parking during the rest of the year. Full hookups with 50 amp service. Reasonable sized sites but it is still just a parking lot.

The best part of this place is the location. It is straight through Canal Park, over the Lift Bridge and out on Park Point about four or five blocks.  So it is an easy walk back to the Lift Bridge, to the ship channel from Lake Superior into the harbor, to the Maritime Museum and all of the other attractions, shops, eateries and people watching in Canal Park.

The first time I drove over the lift bridge with the coach I was a bit nervous. It is very old and narrow with an open metal mesh deck. The speed limit is 15 mph.  After a few times and especially after watching full-sized semis driving over it, no problem.



The fellow to our right had a brand new custom-built Prevost. He was up this way from Florida.  They had some pretty snazzy electric bikes for getting around.  he was telling me about all of the things on his coach. It was his fifth Prevost and he thought he finally got it figured out.  He basically stayed away from all the fancy computerized stuff. If he wanted to turn a light on or off he had a switch for that, things like that. It was a really nice coach but for the $$$ he had in it he could have bought a dozen coaches like ours.



This is the fellow from Florida. Rudy is very good at finding something to talk about with just about anyone.


Rudy and Carolyn were two sites down from us. Every morning we informally planned our day – or at least the next ten minutes or so.

The day before we left they started hauling boats out and filling in spaces where RVs had been. These were not your average boats either.  This one was probably close to 60 ft long.  The painted lines there are 24 ft apart and 45 ft long.


That is what I have on the Lakehead Boat Basin.  It is all about location here. Best RV spot in Duluth.

More later,

Roger and Susan






Lake Superior South Shore, 2016. Part 17 Bayfield WI, Apostle Islands

Bayfield, WI is a pretty nice town on the South Shore of Lake Superior. It is the headquarters of the Apostle Island National Lake Shore.  The official population is less than 1,000 but in the summer visitors and summer residents make it seem much bigger. Bayfield has a large marina, ferry docks to Madeline Island and tour boat docks for sightseeing around the 22 Apostle Islands.  Fishing and lumber were the main industries a hundred years ago.  There is a very nice Maritime Museum and a great Bayfield County Historical Museum as well. It had a most unusual double pedestal sink in a display from one of the early barber shops..


Just across the channel from Bayfield is Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands and the only one not included in the National Lakeshore.  There is a small town there, La Pointe, some permanent residences and many summer residences as well. There is Big Bay State Park with a campground there and another large marina too.  We have taken the ferry to the island a couple of times, once with our bikes for a ride about.

Rudy and Carolyn and Susan and I signed up for the Grand Tour of the Apostle Islands on one of the tour boats.


We got out tickets, got in line and managed to get seats on the upper deck.  It was a nice sunny day, hats were a good idea.


The Grand Tour went by most of the islands and right by the lighthouses on Devils Island and Raspberry Island.  You can see where Sand Island is and right across from there is Little Sand Bay.  This channel is slowly filling in with sand (what else).  Today it is only 6-8 feet deep in most places. in the early 1900’s it was much deeper. grandtour

The Light Station at Devils Island marked the outer most point of land in this area and provided a reference point to ships passing by.


The light station is still in use although the light is now an automated electric lamp rather than a kerosene lamp shining through a Fresnel lens which allowed the light to shine out for as much as 20 miles.


The light station is open for visitors, there is a small boat landing, and has interpretive guides there to show you around. They are mostly volunteers who live here during the summer.  There are accommodations in the Keeper’s House for overnight visitors. Reservations required.The other buildings were for the Assistant Keepers and their families and for boilers to generate steam for the fog horns. Keepers often arrived for duty before the ice was out and stayed on the Island until late November. It was a rugged life with not many amenities.  Certainly not many shopping opportunities.

One of the interesting features id Devils Island is the dramatic change in rock type from one end of the island to the other.  From the vantage point of the cruise boat it was easy to see a pretty clear line of where the rock type changed. The side of the island facing the main lake is much softer sandstone which made for some pretty amazing sea caves.


The wave action carves away the softer rock creating the caves.  This day was pretty calm but you could still hear the whooshing and booming sounds of the waves going into the caves.  Look back at the Keepers House picture.  On a rough day waves would break over the cliff face up onto the yard and cover the house with spray.  in late October and November it would be ice.


We also went by the Light Station at Raspberry Island and a restored fishing camp.  During the fishing season, men would live at these camps all summer fishing and storing the catch. Big service boats would come by every day to pick up the fish.  It kept the fishermen on the lake longer.



It was a nice day on the lake.  There was ice cream when we got back to Bayfield and then spaghetti for all for supper.


A nice place to visit.  Way more to do than we had time for.  So we will go back.

More later,

Susan and Roger

Lake Superior South Shore, 2016. Part 16 Bayfield WI, Apostle Islands

Bayfield, WI is at the heart of the Apostle Islands.  Susan and I have been here many times for camping and sailing. Susan and came up here in the mid 1970’s with Joe Supplee to look at a fishing boat that was for sale.  Joe and I had grand ideas about making a fabulous lake cruiser out of it.

Lake Superior South Shore, 2016. Part 16 Bayfield WI, Apostle Islands
It was a classic Lake Superior trawler something like this.  What were we thinking.
We stayed this time at the Legendary Waters Campground at the Buffalo Bay Casino about three miles north of Bayfield.  When we got there the campground was nearly empty. It was the beginning of Labor Day Weekend so it filled up soon enough.
Looking out the front window of the coach we could see Rudy and Carolyn, the Lake and the north end of Madeline Island.
Only in MN will you see ice fishing trailers doing double duty as a camper.
They have wheels that crank up and down.  Wheels up, the trailer sits on the ground or the ice.
Around the end of the Bayfield Peninsula is a nice campground called Little Sand Bay.  It is a county campground right next to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore docks and kayak launch point.
This is the National Park Service’s Patrol boat. Two-three hundred HP outboards. Three Park Rangers (all women) took it out. Once clear of the harbor jetty it took off in a hurry. All of these boats are set up for rescue work, lots of towing equipment.
The next access point down the lake is at Meyer’s Beach  It is also a popular trail head. We went on a hike that we tried to do a couple years ago out to the Sea Caves.  Back then it was too muddy and the trail was closed.  This time it was OK but a lot of up and down and about five miles round trip.  The Sea Caves are hollowed out areas in the softer rock faces of the bluffs facing Lake Superior.  In the winters when the Lake freezes over people sign up to go out in small groups with a Park Ranger across the ice to the sea cave about 1.5 miles each way.
The cliffs are pretty amazing although from this vantage point it is hard to get the cave view.  Waves going into the caves make a whooshing and booming noise.
The ground is soft and crumbling.  Lots of signs warning to stay back from the edges.
At one point a large crack in the bluff had opened up maybe a hundred feet back into the top.
I am always trying to get wild life in the pictures.
Tomorrow we are going on a cruise around the Apostle Islands with Rudy and Carolyn.
More later,
Roger and Susan