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

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