Showing posts from July, 2007

Two More at Sleepy Bear

Monday, July 30, 2007 -- Still at Sleepy Bear I made contact this morning with a local mechanic in nearby Traverse City that I found on the internet. The fact that a mechanic has a web site at all is something. But I liked the website... very simple and to the point, with some business philosophy I liked, and photos of himself, his wife, and an employee mechanic. It sounded genuine to me so I called him. I talked with the owner himself and he sounded real too. He had a full day today, but agreed to look at the toad tomorrow morning. I may be wrong, but I'm thinking (and hoping) the toad issue will be resolved tomorrow. So, our stay here at Sleepy Bear needed to be extended, and our arrival at Mill Creek in Mackinaw City delayed. Both campgrounds were accommodating. We added two nights here and cut two nights off the Mill Creek visit. If all goes well with the toad tomorrow, we'll leave for Mackinaw City on Wednesday. . . Tuesday, July 31, 2007 -- Sleepy Bear and Traverse City T

Humming Toad

Sunday, July 29, 2007 -- supposed to be our last full day at Sleepy Bear Campground near Empire, MI After towing the toad almost 110 miles on the way to Sleepy Bear, we began noticing, while driving it normally on our excursions around here, a drive-line hum or gear noise that wasn't there before. I tapped a good resource through our son, JT, and found that this could be a pinion bearing that's in the process of self-destruction. We're advised to not tow the vehicle until it's rectified. Don't know yet if this is in some way caused by towing, or just exacerbated by it -- remember, the toad has 127,000 miles on it. It's like a 56 year old human... a few aches and pains and, occasionally, something goes wrong that needs to be fixed. But we're not ones to give up on a car just because it's got a little age or a few miles on it. Tomorrow, Monday, we're planning to drive it into Traverse City and see what can be diagnosed and/or fixed. Our move to Mackina

The Moving Dunes

Thursday, July 26, 2007 -- Last full day at Silver Lake State Park, MI It looked like rain all morning so we stayed close to home. I did yesterdays blog post and we made reservations to stay a couple different places during the next two weeks. This time of the year, reservations aren't really needed during the week... it's possible to get a place almost anywhere. Weekends are a different story. Without a reservation there's a serious chance we'd be staying in a strip mall parking lot -- at least around here. By mid-August vacationers will be wrapping it up as the kids head back to school and the pressure on camping sites will start to ease. Around noon we finally got going and headed for the dunes, specifically, the pedestrian access point near the north end of Silver Lake. Here, the dune is advancing into the forest, and doing so with drama. The picture below shows the sand advancing from some distance away. The next two photos show some detail, at the margin, where th


Wednesday, July 25, 2007 -- Silver Lake State Park, MI Occasionally, as thunderstorms pass over dune country, lightning strikes the dune itself. The result is something called a "fulgurite" -- a long, slender, glassy tube produced when lightning travels through the sand seeking solid ground, melting the particles into glass as it travels. Thousands of these fulgurites have been found over the years. Also referred to as petrified lightning or thunder tubes, most range from a few inches to a foot or two in length. One of the largest ever found, which we saw on display, is over 9 feet long. They're very fragile and almost always break into smaller pieces as they're retrieved. Around here, if you're not hanging out at the beach or running fat-tired vehicles all over the dunes, you might be walking through the dunes searching for fulgurites. Wednesday was a full day for us. First on the agenda was a ride through the dunes. Since the old Blazer isn't dune-ready (tal

Pulling the Toad

I wrote this post for those readers interested in more details on what's involved with towing our car behind our camper. This business of towing a car with all four of it's wheels on the ground can be complicated and requires some preparation and planning. Readers of this blog know that we started our endeavor with Dar driving the car separately, following the camper wherever it went. This is not an ideal situation. Not only because this requires fueling two running engines, but it's just not as much fun traveling separately. When you turn the corner and get that sudden view of the mountains or Lake Michigan or whatever, there's an added sense of enjoyment when it's experienced together. So pulling the car, after an initial period of familiarization with driving the camper, was always part of the plan. The "together but separate" phase ended a week or so ago when all the hardware for towing was installed on the camper and the car. I thought I'd use thi

Moving Day

Monday, July 23, 2007 -- Silver Lake, MI Wanting to spend more time along the shore of Lake Michigan, we moved a little over 100 miles today and ended up at a small campground only a couple miles from the beach. We're at Hideaway Campground in Silver Lake, MI for the next 4 nights. It's very quiet as there are a lot of seasonal campers that keep their campers here all summer. But during the week many, if not most, are gone... probably to home and jobs. The campground takes on a ghost-town-like character with all this hardware scattered about, but no people. We're enjoying the quiet. The problem we had with the last place was the lack of trees. This place is in a forest... trees all around. Much more to our liking. This part of Michigan is all about the dunes... sand dunes. It seems everyone has a dune-buggy, or dune-truck, or dune-jeep or dune 4-wheeler of some kind, each with a little red flag flying from a tall mast attached to the front bumper of the vehicle. Big under-i

Ottawa Beach Memoirs

Friday and Saturday, July 20 and 21, 2007 Consistent westerly winds over thousands of years created the massive sand dunes that run along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. The water is churned and waves driven toward shore, grinding rock into smaller and smaller bits which eventually become grains of fine sand. This sand is washed ashore and driven by the wind into snowdrift-like piles that grow into bigger piles and eventually into 150 foot high sand dunes that line the eastern shore of the big lake. Michigan ends up with most of the lake's sand, while Wisconsin is left with a lot of rock. Over the years various proposals have been floated to move some of the sand back to Wisconsin -- mostly by property owners along the Wisconsin side of the lake who'd like all state residents to pay for their new beaches. But reason prevailed and the sand is still in Michigan. On Friday, we visited the Lake Michigan beach at Holland State Park and walked barefoot for miles along the waters


Thursday, July 19, 2007 -- Hopkins, MI A short post today as we stayed close to home yesterday. A cold-front came through and the high dew points experienced on Tuesday and Wednesday dropped into the 50's by Thursday night resulting in much more comfortable sleeping conditions. During the day I activated our Sirius satellite radio so we'll be able to get consistent radio broadcasts wherever we go. But we're still holding off on the satellite TV -- just haven't felt the need yet. I dug out the Canon DSLR camera and took some pictures around Hidden Ridge. A few of them made it to the online photo collection. Friday we're heading up to Holland and Grand Haven after Dar's hair-do appointment in the morning. Thought we'd take the bikes along as there are supposed to be some great trails in that area. Saturday will be a work-day, at least part of the day. We're exchanging a little landscaping work at Dar's sister's place for dinner. That's it for

Michigan Wine Tour

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 -- Hopkins, MI We finally got going this morning about 9am and headed down to Kalamazoo to pick up Cher, Dar's sister, who took the day off to be our guide. An hour or so later, we're in one of the two Michigan grape and wine producing areas. This one is in the extreme southwestern corner of the state, near the town of Baroda. There are 8 or 10 wineries here that are working hard to produce respectable wines and eek out a living. Wine can be produced anywhere -- even your basement. But decent wine grapes can only be grown in areas with the right growing conditions: latitude around 40 degrees, extremes of climate moderated by a large body of water, good-draining sandy soils, etc. This area, which is within about 5 miles of Lake Michigan, fits the bill. Areas like this that both produce the grapes and make the wine from those grapes are referred to as an appellation. This area is the "Lake Michigan Shore" appellation. A bottle of wine that has &

A Day at Home

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 -- Hopkins, MI This morning I got up early, made coffee, and headed for the bathroom... WAIT JUST A DOGGONE MINUTE! NOT THAT MUCH DETAIL! You said you're not going to get so detailed -- no one wants to read that kind of detail. Please start again. OK. Clear head. Take a deep breath. Here we go... We woke this morning to a light rain. And a cool breeze wafting in from the open windows in the bedroom. The hypnotizing sound of the rain tapping on the roof puts one back to sleep... over and over again... no where to go... nothing to get up for... it's ok to roll over, punch the pillow, and drop into light unconsciousness... again and again... the cool quiet air... pull the covers up a little more. Thus was the start of the day for Dar. There was nowhere to go today, no schedule. Just an off day. We wanted to do some cleaning, a ton of laundry, and get caught up with the "admin" things that have been put off. We did pick up a few groceries and ma

Blog Direction

I don't know why I've been so dis-interested in updating this blog in the last few weeks. But I'm feeling the need to write again. Part of my problem was deciding what to do with this blog now that we're actually underway and officially fulltiming. The options I considered were, first, to write only occasional witty insightful interpretations of what we're doing or seeing -- for instance, maybe an essay on "how small towns along the Michigan shoreline acquired their names" or maybe "a comparison of American Indian burial sites throughout the upper Midwest". Everyone would want to read things like that. It'd be great stuff. Why these essays could even be collected published after my death and become classic works. Except for the death part, that sounds really good. My other option was to write a simple daily journal of our activities. But it'd be hard to get these published. It'd probably be hard to get anyone to read them at all. Mos

The Toad

Monday, July 16 Hopkins, MI We now have a "toad", which is RV-language for a vehicle that's towed (get it?) behind the camper. Up to this point, I've been driving the camper and Dar's been driving the car -- our old 1999 Chevrolet Blazer with 127,000 miles on it. This arrangement isn't so bad on short trips. But on longer drives, like we've done this past week, it's boring as heck for Dar. Imagine following a bus going 55 or 60 mph -- for 250 miles. Probably too much to ask. But today, Monday the 16th, we had a bunch of hardware put on the Chev and a little more on the camper, and we're now capable of towing the "toad" wherever we want. We can now ride together and talk conversationally, instead of over a little hand-held two-way radio. We towed the car about 20 miles home from the shop and Dar had a smile from ear to ear all the way. I'll like the company too. The people who installed it all, Paul and Jack from Cummins Bridgeway in