Showing posts from July, 2010

Lollygagging to Three Lakes

Yesterday, Friday, we made the trek from Gladstone to Three Lakes. Since we knew it was going to be an easy 140 mile drive we dawdled and lallygagged our way down US-2 as it weaved from Michigan into Wisconsin and then back to Michigan again... from Eastern Time to Central and then back to Eastern again. We threaded our way through the towns of Bark River, Norway, Spread Eagle, Florence, and Crystal Falls. We stopped for supplies in Iron Mountain, enjoyed a picnic lunch at a Michigan roadside park, and checked in with the owners of Stumps Bar in Three Lakes where we've traditionally stopped and un-coupled the toad from the bus-house before snaking down to the camp. As I've mentioned before, Camp Soldner belongs to Dar's brother and sister-in-law, Dennis and Laura. They graciously allow us to camp here and soak up the solitude, the sights and smells of a lake tucked into a heavy U.P. forest, and to enjoy getting out on the water with their flotilla of kayaks, canoes, a sai

Glad to be in Gladstone

Boy, did I ever sleep good last night; didn't stir once until a little after 5am and then fell asleep again until almost 8am. Low dew points, cool overnight temperatures, no RV park security lights shining in through the open window next to my head, no mechanical drone of a fan or air conditioner -- it all came together and I was apparently ready for it. By the time I finally got up for good Dar had the bus-house ready for travel. Today is moving day, and today we start our westward trek across the country on US Highway 2. The ultimate goal of this leg of our journey is a couple of grandkids that we can't wait to see... way out there in Washington State. But there's a lot of ground to cover and a lot of new areas to explore between here and there. We're also going to pause for a couple weeks at Camp Soldner, a little further down the road here in the UP of Michigan. We left Straits State Park about 10:30am this morning and pulled into Gladstone Bay Campground in the

Mackinac Island

Today, Wednesday, is our planned resting and get-caught-up day before we leave St. Ignace tomorrow. I've been lazing around this morning -- even made a hot breakfast for my cute long-haired fellow explorer. But now it's time to get this journal post done and published. We spent yesterday on Mackinac Island. Neither of us had ever been there before and regular questions and comments over the years from fellow explorers finally pushed us to do our part to help out the local tourism-driven economy of the straits area... to finally buy those ferry tickets and get over there. No longer will we have to reply negatively to the query "of course you've been to Mackinac Island, haven't you?" We caught the 9:05am ferry ($20 each after coupon discount and $8 for each bike) from the Star Line railroad dock just down the road in St. Ignace. After talking with some locals the past couple days we made the decision to take our bikes over with us in lieu of spending as much

A Day in the Life...

I was going to call this post "a detour on the road to De Tour" but I changed my mind. I don't know why. I've had a tough day, electronic hardware-wise, and I'm reeling from all that... so who knows what goes on in a preoccupied mind? So what's the problem with the hardware? First, Dar's computer has presented us with the "blue screen of death". It's not good. It may be terminal. I've got a few leads on some solutions but any attempt at revival will have to wait until Wednesday when we plan to take a break from exploring. Oh, and just wait... there's more. Today, during our little jaunt to Sault Ste. Marie my trusty GPS decided that life wasn't worth living anymore. Completely out of character, the dang thing didn't say a word... didn't say "That's it, You've taken the wrong turn one too many times... I can't take this anymore... I'm ending it here and now... bang!"... no, it didn't say a

Straight over the Straits

Sunday was an excellent day for travel. We continued our survey of Michigan's Lake Huron Lakeshore starting from our Walmart camp in Tawas City and traveled through places like Au Sable, Alcona, Alpena, Rogers City, and Cheboygan. The shoreline is generally sandy but mostly private -- precious few places to pull over, pull out a chair, and dabble your toes in the lake. About 2pm the bus-house pulled onto I-75 at Mackinaw City and started over the Mackinac Bridge -- it's third time over in three years. The first time was almost exactly three years ago when I reported on the locally correct pronunciations of the words Mackinac and Mackinaw . Just on the other side is Straits State Park which research indicated was probably the best of limited camping options in the area. We didn't have reservations opting instead to just "show up" and hope for the best -- a strategy that worked this time. Because the campground is old and really not designed for things like the bu

Another Walmart Overnight

Just a short update on our progress today: The rain stopped in Charlotte about 11am and we were on the road before noon. The skies remained cloudy for most of the drive but I didn't have to use the wipers until just before we got to Tawas City about 4:30pm --  and that was only a brief light shower and the sun was back out again. Tawas City is right on the Lake Huron shore, about an hour north of the Bay City/Saginaw area. We stopped at the Walmart for provisions and, since they had a big level parking lot, we decided to save a couple bucks and spend the night. It's right along US-23, the shoreline drive, and we have a great view of the Lake from our impromptu campsite to boot. Tomorrow we'll continue the drive northward and toward the big bridge over the Mackinac Straits. After crossing we'll be looking for a camp in the St. Ignace area where we think we'll spend a couple days exploring.

Rain Delay

This morning we're still in Charlotte, taking advantage of the free 50amp hookup at Camp Spartan. The weather front that's been draped over the area for the past week or so is supposed to be finally heading south today, taking the heat and humidity with it. We're watching one last blob of rain on the radar and will wait for it to clear before heading out a little later this morning. Spartan finished with our service work yesterday, although they had to work later than normal after their 44 point safety inspection found a couple problems that we hadn't known about. The one I'm really glad they found was a leaking seal on the front right wheel bearing that if it continued would have dripped bearing oil onto the brakes causing a much larger expense for a brake job. Let me tell you, a brake job on a big diesel pusher bus-house ain't a $69.95 deal. While the bus-house was in for service, Dar and I made a quick trip up to Lansing to visit the Michigan State Capito

And now, Camp Spartan

It's been a few days... I owe you dear readers an update. Devon, the Newmar technician assigned to the bus-house arrived early, before much brightness, on Wednesday morning. It was 6:00am. In order to be prepared I was up at 5:00am and scrambled around getting everything stowed, coffee made, my briefcase loaded, slides in, jacks up... you get the idea. As Devon and the bus-house disappeared from sight at 6:02am (!!!), leaving me alone in a cloud of limestone dust, hungry, still tired, I remember being thankful that this situation doesn't happen often. Fast forward to 1pm. The bus-house is done. Some adjustments here and there, a couple new proximity switches, and a few hundred bucks later I'm hopeful that the problems are solved. Won't really know until the weather turns cooler later in the year, as it seems there was an inverse relationship between the slide-locks functioning and the temperature. If nothing else I gathered some knowledge about how the slide system wo

Camp Newmar

This morning Dar and I had breakfast out with Cher and Jack at Theo & Stacy's, a small Kalamazoo restaurant with some very reasonable prices. A western omelet (my benchmark item) and all the usual accompaniments for $5.50 is a real find. I've seen it elsewhere for $7 or $8 bucks lately. I won't pay that for breakfast ("how much for two eggs, toast, and coffee??") And quality was good too even though breakfast is the easiest meal to get right, in my humble opinion. After breakfast I said my good-byes to Cher and Jack since I may not see them again until next year. We have a service appointment for the bus-house at the Newmar factory in Nappanee IN. for tomorrow, Wednesday, and I had to get the bus-house moved down to Camp Newmar today. Dar decided to stay behind in K-zoo with her sister to hopefully make a little of the promised progress on reducing the volume of stuff in Cher's basement. Depending on how long the Newmar visit will take Dar will catch u

South Haven on the Lake

On Friday the four of us, Jack, Cher, Dar, and old what's-his-name, headed over to South Haven on Lake Michigan. It's a quiet and quaint little harbor town about 40 miles west of Kalamazoo -- well, at least it used to be. For the last few years it's been discovered by the good people of the Chicago Metroplex and, well, that's the end of quaint and quiet. For many, Friday is part of the weekend during summer, and that's the way it felt in South Haven. Restaurants were busy and lots of people around. We enjoy visiting with our K-zoo family and our visits here give Dar a chance to visit all the stuff she has in storage in Cher's basement. Part of the plan this year was for Dar to go through some of it with the goal of reducing the volume a little. After three years surely there's some that has lost it's importance to us and can be donated or sold or tossed into the landfill. I'm hopeful, but so far visiting and looking through old photos is taking pre

3 Years -- Part 4 -- The Future

At the end of June this year we started our 4th year as fulltime RV explorers. I thought this might be a good time to reflect on our decision to start this lifestyle, to write a little about what we've learned, and see what the future may hold. This is the final post in this series: Part 4 -- The Future. ------------ So, what does the future hold? Beats me! In some ways wouldn't we all like a glimpse into our future ... if only that were possible? But in most ways, I think we're probably best off not knowing and just living our lives, as best we can, from day to day... from year to year. As little bundles of protoplasm with finite lives, not knowing details about the future allow us to focus more intently on today... the now. But to the extent we can mold elements of our future as a result of our experience and feelings about how things have gone these past 3 years, this is what we'd ideally like to happen:   1) We don't foresee ending our version of this l

Long Drive on a Hot Day

Yesterday, Wednesday, we made the 370 mile drive from Beaver Dam to Kalamazoo. Mom and Dad Hoch, and my Aunt Nancy came out to the farm about 8am to see us off. This is, for us, the gut wrenching and emotional part of being fulltime travelers... having to say goodbye to family and knowing you'll not see them again for 10 months or so. Especially after having been here for more than two months during which time there's a tendency to settle in, to put down some roots, to begin to think like residents. The weather was predicted to be sunny and warm with southerly winds -- which turned out to be spot-on. Mid-day, with the temperature in the mid 90's and the heat index near 100, the bus-house dash air conditioner was straining to keep up. Tire temps were running well into the 130s, which is the warmest I've seen since I began checking them during rest stops with a digital thermometer a year or so ago. For the most part it was a pleasant day. Getting around Chicago was an

On The Road Again

We interrupt this series of posts about completing 3 years on the road with this short post: Tomorrow, Wednesday the 14th, is moving day for our intrepid explorers. Sadly, our time here in Beaver Dam has come to an end. During the past few days we've had a few tearful "goodbyes" always with the rejoinder that, considering how fast time flies by, we'll be back in just a few months. "You'll hardly know we're gone."  For sure we'll be back here again next May for another special celebration. Beaver Dam will always be considered our hometown and will always occupy a special place in our hearts. Thanks to everyone who helped make our stay so enjoyable. Our plan Wednesday, after we depart Beaver Dam, is to head south and then east, circumnavigating as much of the Chicago Metroplex as we can (have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy big city traffic?) before heading into Indiana and Southern Michigan. Our goal is the Kalamazoo area, where Dar wants

3 Years -- Part 3 -- More Learnings

At the end of June this year we started our 4th year as fulltime RV explorers. I thought this might be a good time to reflect on our decision to start this lifestyle, to write a little about what we've learned, and see what the future may hold. This is Part 3 -- More Learnings. ---------- In the first two parts of this series of posts celebrating the completion of our 3rd year as fulltimers, we went over our decision to embark on this lifestyle [part 1] , and a few of the more important things we learned along the way [part 2] . In this post I'll briefly list a few more of the things we learned as a result of our life on the road. As always, you can click on any photo to see a larger version. We've learned that there's no single "right" way to live this lifestyle. Some, like us, have divested themselves of most of their worldly possessions, have no fixed house or real estate, and live 365 days per year in their RV. Others still have a fixed house

3 Years -- Part 2 -- Learnings

At the end of June this year we started our 4th year as fulltime RV explorers. I thought this might be a good time to reflect on our decision to start this lifestyle, to write a little about what we've learned, and see what the future may hold. This is Part 2 -- Learnings. ------------ Over the past three years of living life as modern day nomads we've learned a thing or two about this RV'ing life. Mostly observations and opinions, they're our take on this lifestyle. First off, let's talk about the concept of compromise. As part of the human condition we all live with compromise on a daily basis. It's what happens when boundless imagination and desire runs headlong into limits. We may want the mansion on the hill... but our financial resources say "no way" and we settle (compromise) for a 3 bedroom bungalow on the wrong side of town. We may want to run the Boston Marathon... but that pot-belly and those flabby muscles say "are you kiddin

3 Years -- Part 1 -- The Decision

At the end of June this year we started our 4th year as fulltime RV explorers. I thought this might be a good time to reflect on our decision to start this lifestyle, to write a little about what we've learned, and see what the future may hold. This is Part 1 -- the Decision. Thinking about our decision to become fulltimers I'm amazed now that we actually had the guts to go through with it. While we'd learned that there are probably hundreds of thousands of  fulltimers out there, it's still a lifestyle desired by a very small minority of people, and an even much smaller minority who actually go through with it. It would have been much easier to NOT do it. It would have been comfortable to remain in our steady and predictable suburban life. It would have been far less traumatic to keep the furniture and all the stuff that we accumulated over the years. We would probably be further ahead financially too, as our version of the lifestyle probably wouldn't be

Lush Early Summer

"Happy 4th of July everyone." The summer of 2010, up to this point, has been wetter than normal and a bit warmer than normal. And this means it's been an incredible growing season for the farmers and gardeners around here. There's an old adage in this part of the country that says your corn should be "knee-high by the 4th of July". Old timers tell me that even that was probably optimistic years ago and farmers would often have to stretch the top leaves of corn plants straight up in order to reach their knees. Well, this year is different. Here are a couple shots from this morning. In case you're wondering... Yes, I'm standing, and there's no photo trickery involved... Since I'm a tad over 6 feet, this corn is more like 7+ feet high. And if you look closely in the second photo, near the middle of the picture, that's a corn tassel that's emerging from the top of the plant. This crop is probably a full month ahead of sch