Winter is a beach – Myrtle Beach

Our winter trip was a change of plans trip.  We originally were planning to do a SW loop taking in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico etc returning around the end of April.  Then our daughter announced in October that a baby was on the way for March 1st!!!  Happy news indeed but definitely put the ca-bosh on going on an extended SW trip.  We also ended up being at the mercy of some medical procedures that Hubby needed.  We ended up squeezing in six weeks in between treatments and chose to go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

We left our home in East Tawas on December 19.  We spent the first night at our friends Karen and Chuck’s driveway in Lapeer (132 miles) then on to Alton RV Park near Columbus, Ohio (252 miles $38.70.)  Fort Chiswel RV in Virginia (300 miles $37.50) Lumberton KOA in Virginia a whopping $57.55!, 235 miles and then on to Myrtle Beach State Park ( 82 miles and $234.08 for 9 nights.) 

All of our one night stops were plain but clean, fairly unmemorable, mostly gravel pull through’s designed for easy in, easy out.  I don’t think we unhooked.  We pulled in and settled quickly, eating a nice dinner from our stash of frozen made ahead meals.  Still fairly cold so we didn’t venture outside much.  As you saw we didn’t drive real far each day, left about 9 or even 10 each morning and comfortably parked by three-ish. We passed through a of lot rolling mountains with pretty farms scattered between.  We pulled off the road each day and enjoyed a roadside picnic lunch.  Sometimes it was warm enough to sit outside at a rest stop picnic table.

Myrtle Beach State Park has the prettiest entrance.  A long winding drive overhung with flowering shrubs and trees surrounded by woods.  The drive leads you to the day use area and then the campground that is heavily treed and nestled next to the dunes along the Atlantic Shoreline.  The beach is undeveloped, wide and inviting.  There is an airport nearby so planes come in low and slow over your head.  A beach trail ride on rental horses was very popular, but we did not partake.  We enjoyed many long beach walks along the undeveloped shoreline.  Enough shells to keep you looking.  There is a landmark pier but it was closed due to Hurricane Michael damage.

On Christmas Day we met some fun people that celebrate each year by dressing up as Mr and Mrs Claus and they throw a beach party with family and friends attending – some of them were wearing reindeer costumes.  We also enjoyed following the easy hiking trails that wander through the woods and end at one of the many beach access points.

The city of Myrtle Beach was only a short 5-10 miles up the coastal road.  We explored the boardwalk and treated ourselves to a ride on the Sky Wheel.  We enjoyed browsing the  shops, savored a fancy coffee and had a nice restaurant meal.  The daytime temps were mostly in the low to mid 60’s.  Not swimsuit weather but very pleasant for being outside.

We enjoyed our stay so much that we reserved five more nights at Huntington Beach State Park at Murrels Inlet, which was only about 20 miles down the coast.  Here we enjoyed more of the beautiful undeveloped ocean front beach.  We had trails to follow in the woods and boardwalks that reached in the tide water marshes.  Our campsite was large with lots of shade.  There were many lovely sites, some more open but it would be hard to get a bad site here.

Huntington Beach Park also has Atalaya Castle to explore.  Atayala Castle was the winter home of Archer and Anna Huntington.  Mrs Huntington created large sculptors of animals i.e. stallions, bears ect.  Their Moorish style home, built in the early 1930’s is called a castle although to me it resembled a fort.  The outer walls form a square with one side facing the ocean.  The 30 some rooms that consisted of studios, servants quarters and the family rooms form the perimeter walls. A square watch tower/water tower and walkway bisects the center into two large inner court yards.  Live animals were housed at the home and let loose in the courtyard so that Anna could study and sculpt them in motion.  The home was heated by a massive amount of fireplaces (17?) and at least half of the space was servants quarters. I read somewhere that they kept 30 or more servants on staff to fill the fireplaces, care for the animals and of course tend to Anna and Arthur.  Interesting too, the home had no accommodations for guests, no ballrooms or entertainment areas. The owners apparently enjoyed taking in the healthy sea air in solitude ( sans servants) as they enjoyed the mild winters along the Atlantic Coast.  I must say I was quite intrigued and could have happily lived there myself.

I rate the beaches at both State Parks a 10 plus.  I hope we can return again some time, especially during actual swim season. 

On January 6 we packed up, it was time to meander west and north.  I mapped out stops in South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama before we were to head a hard north.  We stayed at Sesquicentennial State Park, SC ($47.04- 2 nights) R. Shaefer Heard ACOE in West Point GA ( $28- 2 nights) and Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham Alabama ( 3 nights = $58.93) They were all beautiful and chosen for the highly rated walking trails and scenic features but unfortunately our weather turned to mostly wet and cold.  Originally I thought we would spend three or more nights at each but we ended moving along after two nights each as we didn’t wish to linger just to enjoy the cold, rain and limited cell/internet connections.  We did enjoy some great meals, a few antique malls and some scenic vistas despite the rain. I collected a big bag full of giant pine cones at Sesquicentennial that I am enjoying seeing in our home.   I would return or recommend all three, especially Oak Mountain. 

At Oak Mountain we ticked off our “every trip has one” mechanical glitch.  We were hooked up and ready to pull out and the trailer brakes locked up and would not release.  A failure of the emergency brake cable caused it to activate and do exactly what its supposed to and our wheels were locked.  Our friendly camp host recommended a mobile repair tech but the tech had no interest in coming out in the pouring rain.  He was very kind though and told John that he could readily buy a replacement cable and gave how-to instructions on the installation.  So off to the RV parts store we went – 30 minutes away in pouring rain, part was purchased and we returned to camp.  John installed while I held an umbrella over our heads.  Once again I felt so blessed that John is “Mr Fix It” The new cable had us rolling safely again and off we went.  The rain let up a bit too! 

We pretty much headed straight north stopping in Tennessee and Kentucky for one night each.  It steady got colder and we landed at Lake Haven Retreat near Indianapolis.  We have stopped here before because our son and his family live nearby.  Its another mostly gravel commuter style park, but its clean, gated and convenient to our son’s home.  I had mapped a stay at Brown County Park in Southern Indiana that is supposed to be very Appalachian style scenic, but the weather had changed from cold to bitter cold with a pending snow storm so Lake Haven it was.  Hopefully we can experience Brown County another time.  We spent a few days enjoying our grand children , Patrick and George along with their parents, Jim and Jessica.

We scooted on home just ahead of a snow storm on Jan 22. We settled into our Michigan Winter Wonderland, spent over two weeks dealing with a miserable respiratory virus and awaited the arrival of our newest grandchild.  We recovered in time to welcome Teagan Taylor Metzmaker on February 27

.  We were thankful we were able to spend some time with her and family in Lansing before we needed to return home to begin our Stay Home – Stay Safe Covid-19 lock-in.   We had planned and reserved a trip to Virginia Beach, leaving here in mid April then up to New York to follow the Adirondack Mountains down to Ohio to a family camp over Memorial Day weekend.  Of course Covid -19 has cancelled all of that.  At this time we are still following the stay home preventive life.  When and where we can hit the road again is unclear. We have reservations for a week in September enjoying lake side parks in Northern Michigan with our friends, Karen and Chuck.  Hopefully the virus will allow us to go.   In the meantime we wish you all good health and safe living.  Take care.   Kathleen

 

Summer Shorts 2019

Summer of 2019 was filled with short trips around the state and Indiana.  It was also brought us more grandchildren and a new to us fifth wheel.

May:  We kicked off the season Mothers Day weekend at Lake Port State Park on Lake Huron in SE Michigan.  We camped with our son, Patrick and his family.  This weekend was all about the playground and bike riding for the little’s.  DIL, Stephan chose a couple nice sites with good playground access and view. The beach was way too cold for water play but yielded nice rocks for rock painting time with Grandpa.

We set up our CLAM screen house, attached the sides and ran our Mr Buddy heater inside to make a cozy warm spot for dining and hanging out. Family time, Lake Huron’s beautiful waterfront and a nice easy drive for Pat and Stephan’s motor home made this a pleasant enjoyable Mothers Day.

Memorial Day weekend we joined Pat and Stephan again.  This time at Sauder Village in Ohio.  The campground is adjacent to a historic “living history” village.  We spent an enjoyable day in the village visiting the old shops, riding the train, milking a goat, admiring the carriage horses and talking with the costumed guides.

The RV park had flat paved roadways that were perfect for more bike riding.  There is a big Inn with an indoor pool that campers can use, but my favorite was the splash park.  Grands could happily play in the fountains and cascading waters while Grandma sat dry and comfortable in a nearby chair.  We enjoyed our visit so much that we have reservations to return in 2020 with hopes that the rest of our non RV family will join us by staying at the Inn.

June: From Sauder Village John and I proceeded on to Goshen Indiana to attend a Passport America RV rally.  The rally did not deliver all that was promised but we had a good time none the less.  The food was very good and there was live entertainment in the evenings.  The second night our comedian’s act was cut short due to tornado warnings.  We all had to hustle to the basement for cover.  It wasn’t too bad for a basement as it was a clean meeting room with chairs and tables.  I counted about 22 dogs and 1 kitty taking shelter.  The storm moved on and we all returned to our RVs with no damages that I am aware of.

John and I skipped the offered tour of Amish Country because we thought it was too pricey.  We did our own tour, visiting the huge Shipshewana Flea Market and shops in the historic district.  We enjoyed the food stands, live music and visiting the many vendor stalls.  We saw lots of Amish farms with the their laundry hanging out to dry, horse drawn buggies and the Amish children playing outside in the farm yards.  I enjoyed shopping at the Amish hardware and department stores. There were lots of sensible shoes, sturdy clothing and simple but useful housewares.

We especially enjoyed forming a new friendship with our rally neighbors, Nancy and Bill.  Bill had a very big, super deluxe, immaculate motor home.  We were definitely the shabby cousins parked next door.  They were super nice folks though.  Hopefully we will meet up with them again.

We did have trouble with a bad smell that we thought was coming from a stinky black tank.  You would have thought the intermittent beeping from our carbon monoxide detector would have clued us in, but NO!  We returned from an outing to a nasty stench that could no longer be ignored.  Investigation found our RV battery was smoking and boiling over!  Very close to a major disaster!

The rally may not have lived up to its advertising ( many people who regularly attend rallies, told us not to judge all rallies by this one)  but we still had a great time and loved meeting new people and hearing their RV stories.

We sandwiched Sauder Village and the rally with a few days stay on each end at Sportsman Campground in Oxford Michigan.  Sadly, John’s mother passed away in May, so we stayed at Sportsman campground close to her home and John’s brother while arrangements were made.  We held a family Celebration of Life Party at the bowling alley where she had participated in league bowling for many years.  She had stated she did not wish to have a traditional funeral.  We all felt she would have approved of the family bowling party in her honor.

Sportsman Campground near Oxford only recently opened to the public.  It was always for Detroit Sportsman Club members only.  In fact John camped there under tents and tarps as a young boy with his parents and their friends as his Dad was a member. It has changed a lot since then!  We hope we can continue to pop in there when we are traveling as it is close to our son’s house in Oxford and makes a good stop for us as we travel through.

July: Our next road trip was to travel down to Indiana to await and welcome Baby George!  Baby George arrived July 17th.  His big brother, Patrick (2) didn’t know quite what to make of this new intruder and surely didn’t expect him to move into his house!  We had a great time being Grandma and Grandpa and watching Patrick while Mom and Dad were at the hospital.  Jessica’s parents came in from Detroit as well.  It was good to see them and share the joy together.

Adding to the joy our daughter, Theresa and hubby, Howard made two announcements.                 1) They were FINALLY licensed  to be foster parents of a sibling group.                                    2) They were expecting! Baby is  due March 1 2020.                                                         Two foster children were placed in their home July 30th.  Brother 3, sister 10 months.  The joy of grand children just keeps on coming!

Our trip to Indiana was our maiden voyage with our new to us fifth wheel.  In early July we bought a  2013 Cedar Creek Silverback 29RL that was for sale in Tawas.  The Silverback is longer at 34 feet, tip to end but it fills so many “wants” that our 25 foot Wildcat could not.  Bigger bedroom with a REAL CLOSET, much bigger kitchen, bigger fridge, bigger and separate bathroom, two recliners, taller ceiling with ceiling fan, bigger holding tanks allowing us to park longer without dumping.  (we camp a lot with out full or sewer hookup) and loads more basement storage.  All in all, a bigger RV all over.  John reports it tows smoother than the Wildcat.  Perhaps because of the longer chassis and bigger wheels.  Since we already have a 2500 diesel truck, we do not have any issues with the increased weight of this larger fifth wheel.   We sold the Wildcat fairly easily to a local family who loved her spacious living room and shorter length just as we did.

 

When we are visiting Jim and family we stay at Lake Haven RV resort that is south of Indianapolis and about 15 minutes to their house.  Lake Haven is pretty much parking lot style camping with lots of apparent long term tenants.  However is is clean, gated, full hookups and has pleasant staff.  It works just fine for us.  We spend most of our time at Jim’s house and not the RV park anyway.

September:  August flew by with beach days, grand daughters spending a week and trips to Lansing to help out with the new children, plus I go see my father downstate.  He will be 97 in January.

For Labor Day we planned a family camp out at Chuck and Karen’s our friends in Lapeer.  Karen and Chuck have a magnificent country setting. You enter via a long driveway, drive past a big fishing pond and their home sits behind a circle in the drive that surrounds a big fire pit and trees.  They even have outdoor plugins for the RV electrics!  On the side of the house is a very nice swimming pool with decking and gazebo alongside.  Plus the paved driveway is great for the little’s to ride their bikes.

We headed down on Thursday with plans that Pat and Stephan with children Alice and Olive would be coming to camp with their motor home.  Karen’s daughter, her hubby Reed and their two daughters would be coming with their pop-up camper and we would all camp together at ” Camp Karen’s.”  We have since renamed it “Camp Everyone Goes to the Hospital!.”  Because:

1) Chuck fell at a store on Thursday and was taken to the ER for his bumped head.

2) I arrived on Thursday with a mildish cold that turned VERY bad through the night.  Ended up being admitted to the hospital on Friday with pneumonia and spent the entire camp weekend there!

3) Karen’s grand daughter fell off the swing set and broke her arm on Sunday.

4) Our grand daughter, Alice survived the weekend unscathed but promptly fell out of her kitchen chair (while coloring dangerously)  soon after returning home on Monday and had to get stitches in her chin!

So yeah…. that could have gone better.  On Tuesday Karen and Chuck left for our planned fall camping week up north.  I was discharged from the hospital, rested another day and then we followed.

1st stop:  Mitchell State Park near Cadillac.  We got there in time for dinner and were scheduled to leave the next day so we didn’t do much exploring.  The campground is situated between two lakes with a canal joining the lakes.  There are some unique sites on the canal where campers can tie up their boats.  The best part was being out of the hospital and recuperating happily in our RV.  I had told the Drs. I would get more rest camping then I would returning to my house.

2nd stop: Orchard Beach State Park in NE Michigan. Ironically there is no beach.  The campground sits on a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.  High water levels have hammered the coast very badly.  The bluff face is almost hanging over the lake and there is a risk that it’s lovely historic stone pavilion may someday be tumbling down into the lake as the water and waves have relentlessly pounded away at the bluff face during the last few years.  The guys chauffeured Karen and I around to a couple wineries and we stopped to see the salmon climbing the weirs to spawn  They were pretty amazing to see and there were lots of fisherman trying to catch them too.IMG_5254

3rd stop: Ludington State Park:  Karen and Chuck left us to return home from Orchard Beach.  Chuck was suffering swallowing issues caused by the tight neck brace they put on him after his fall.  They made a Dr appointment to get that checked out.  John and I went on to Ludington.  Ludington is one of the most popular state parks so I was eager to experience it.  Pouring rain stopped just in time for us to squeeze into our almost too small campsite. ( Reservations were made while we still had the smaller Wildcat fifth wheel.)  Once we were set up we struck out to find the beach.  Following sign post arrow  “to Lighthouse” we hiked along a sandy trail.  A 1/4 mile or less later my pneumonia lungs pooped out and we turned back.  Good job too, later I found out it was two miles to the lighthouse!  We did climb the dune immediately behind our site and we could see Lake Michigan a good distance away beyond more rolling sand dunes.IMG_2348

The next day we drove back to the park entrance and found the big beach area and concession building but the cool, rainy, windy weather was not conducive to explorations.  Driving into town from the park we spotted several pull offs along the road with access paths going to the water.  I imagine they fill fast in the summer.

We filled the few days we there with exploring downtown Ludington, checking out an art gallery and visiting the port of The Badger.  The Badger ferries automobiles, trucks and campers across  Lake Michigan to Wisconsin.  John has memories of his family taking The Badger when he was a young boy.  We did enjoy one afternoon of sitting on the city beach in Ludington.  A wee chilly but good sunshine and no wind.  There is a break-wall walkway out to a light house but it would have been too much for my still recuperating self, so we did not do that. We also explored the park.  It is pretty big with three camping loops, a river, a dam and loads of nice bike paths and walkways.  We left for home on the forth day.  I will say I don’t quite understand Ludington’s HUGE popularity.  Its nice with access to the lake but most other state parks on the Great Lakes have nice access beaches as well.

We brought the fifth wheel home and switched it over to its other life as John’s hunting cabin.  John has always been an avid bow hunter and he spends a lot of time creating deer heaven with food plots and habitat improvements on our property.  The last few years or more it’s really more about offering others the excitement of getting their first deer and experiencing days out doors in the woods, than putting meat in our freezer.  In October and November,  John hunts (or not) and spends many hunting season nights enjoying the season in the fifth wheel.

That about wraps up our RV tales for summer of 2019.  I feel so blessed to have my sweetheart traveling buddy who makes it all possible by being the driving man on our adventures.  I confess I am remiss in not taking the wheel.  My towing times have been few and always on easy roads.  Hopefully I will take the wheel regular in 2020.

This was the summer of LOTS of grand children! When new baby arrives we will be at seven!  So many blessings!  Sorry I can’t share pics of the foster babies, there are rules about social media.  Rest assured they are adorable too.  Thanks for following.  Will post our winter excursion next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakaway to Florida January 2019

One of the perks of being retired is having your good friends suggest you join them in Florida on Monday and on Friday you are on the road headed south!

Leaving Michigan’s cold, snowy face behind we beat it south with just our truck (no RV) to join our friends at a Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral condo.  With a winter snowstorm forecast chasing us, we drove 10 hours, 600 miles to Corbin Kentucky. We stopped for the night, awoke to their first snow of the winter and with more to come we high tailed south 12 hours and 790 miles (taking note of the temps going up, and up – John calling out “I’m going 70 and its 70 degrees!) arriving at our friend’s nice beachfront condo rental Saturday evening.

The condo had a great view of the ocean from it second floor end unit balcony.  Very lovely with views of cruise ships coming in and out from the Cape Canaveral Port just a few miles north.  The ocean air smelled wonderful and felt so healthy to breath in, and the sounds of the surf filled our ears.

 

On Sunday we were welcomed with warm temps, a beautiful long, long sandy beach, big waves and waters warmer than our icy Lake Huron in summer. We had a spectacular beach day, we swam and rode a boogie board on the waves. No better way to say “Hello Florida sunshine!!!” Jim’s sister, Diane and her friend Nancy drove over from the west side of Florida to join the fun.  IMG_1005.JPG

Kathi (my fellow kick ball Queen and best friend from grade 4) and her hubby Jim were on a work/holiday away from their home in Canada.  We were there as tag-a longs.  It was marvelous!  We filled the week with lots of beach walks, sunrises, ocean swims, shell finding, Amaretto coffees, hot tub soaks, pool swims, key lime pies (3), two for one Margaritas, sandy feet, Yuenglings Beer (for me), spicy take out chicken, hiding John’s rocks,  good conversations and lots of laughs.

We were treated with a visit from their friends Kathy and Darious.  Kathy and I both stood up in Kathi and Jim’s wedding 46 years ago.  John called our reunion “the three K’s.”

Our friends Ann and Jack from Michigan drove up from their winter condo for a visit and a windy walk on the beach at the end of the week. img_1301

Midweek we went to Merrit Island National Wildlife Preserve and drove the 13 mile loop road.  We saw loads of birds, wild boars, and a couple huge alligators.  We couldn’t go the visitor center due to the government shutdown. img_1036

Not too far from the condo there was a neighborhood with many wild peacocks free roaming throughout.  They were on the lawns, roosting in the trees and sharing their beauty all about.  Pretty cool.img_4254

After a full week of beach condo bliss we said our goodbyes on the Monday.  It helped a bit that Monday was cool and windy, not a good beach day.  Time for us to head north.

We didn’t feel the need to rush home to freezing cold Michigan too fast.  We stopped in Chattanooga Tennessee and the next morning we drove to the top of Lookout Mountain.  The shut down prevented us from going to the park with the “lookout” platform and we didn’t want to purchase tickets to Rock City, nor did we want to download the paid parking app, so we satisfied ourselves with quick snatches of views between the fancy houses that sit literally on the edge of the lookout ridge or cliff face.  Elevation 2,388 feet.  Hard to imagine living on top of a mountain like that.  There is a small touristy downtown and a school somewhere up there, but you would need to use the steep, winding, full of switchbacks mountain road to commute to work and most shopping.

Next stop was Nashville.  We spent an enjoyable afternoon visiting the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.  It features 9 acres of lush indoor gardens under large soaring atrium ceilings.  Enjoying and indoor temp of low 70’s we wandered around and over garden pathways and bridges taking us to waterfalls, water fountains, and an indoor river.  All were surrounded by fantastic landscaping with thousands of blooming tropical plants and green trees.  There is no charge to walk around and we skipped the $29 parking fee by parking at the nearby Opry Mills Mall.

The next day, Wednesday, we landed at our son Jim’s home south of Indianapolis, Indiana.  He, his wife Jessica and grandson Patrick gave us a warm welcome with Patrick hosting a dance party  with his musical toys.  Such a happy engaging little man!

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On Thursday we arrived at our daughter Theresa’s home.  She and hubby, Howard, treated us to a lovely fish and chips dinner at a charming old world English Pub and Inn/Bed and Breakfast in Eaton Rapids near Lansing, Michigan.  After dinner Theresa and I were able to tour the elegantly decorated bedroom suites upstairs.  Very beautiful.

We arrived home safe and sound on Friday afternoon.  There was a good 8″ or more of snow on the ground and bitterly cold.  Brrrrrrr.

Traveling without the RV was a completely different experience.  We definitely traveled much farther each day and at a faster clip. Our gas mileage improved tremendously without towing the RV.  Our diesel truck averaged 20-25 mpg compared to towing at 11-12 mpg.  It was certainly a real treat to be able to stop at our children’s houses and stay the night instead of parking at an RV Park somewhere.

The condo stay had the luxurious ocean view and a short walk to a lovely beach.  It would be hard to find an RV site that duplicated the view and beach access.  We searched for the best hotel prices, using the coupon books available at the interstate welcome centers. With taxes our rooms ran $75-$85 per night.  Paying hotel fees was painful and although clean enough the rooms were not luxurious.  My one complaint was the presence of small and scratchy bath towels!

Our food costs were higher without our RV kitchen but while traveling we only ate one restaurant meal a day.  I made and froze breakfast burritos on both ends of our trip. We microwaved in our room and enjoyed for breakfast.  They were a big upgrade to the high carb complimentary hotel breakfast offerings.  I packed road lunches from a stash of food that we hauled along in a cooler and large tote bag.  My RV brain felt the need for an extensive pantry to choose from.  I am sure we carried way more food stuff with us than the average road tripper.

The biggest difference by far was my feeling of being ready to “go home.”  In our RV, I don’t experience that as I feel “at home” in our RV.

We haven’t cemented our plans for our RV trip to the southwest, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Sedona etc. Could be next month or next winter.  We know we want to go, but when?  Until then, thanks for following along.

Happy New Year 2019

No new travel adventures to report.  Sadly we have have been home in our Northeast Michigan sticks n bricks with no concrete evacuation date on the calendar.  We are roughly planning to blow out of here sometime before March and head to Texas and then on to the great Southwest.  Sedona, Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon are on our list.  Will keep you posted.

In the meantime I have been sorting and shredding old papers.  I unearthed this Christmas Letter I wrote tongue in cheek back in 2002.  I posted it as a joke with the other Christmas letters at an office that I cleaned.  ( kinda back fired- lost that job soon after-oops!)

December 2002

Dear friends and family,

Another unbelievable year for us.  It started with an unexpected “addition” to our family and home when Uncle Moe’s Winnebago died in our driveway in February.  But since then we have been able to make him and his two German Shepard’s, ” Legg-off” and “Big-Pee” quite comfy with the clever use of extension cords, hoses and a few 55 gallon drum dump tanks.  We were able to provide him with free cable too- with aid from our new friend that Lumex met last summer in Marlette (more on Marlette later.)  BTW: Uncle Moe wants me to extend an invite to any single ladies that would like a tour of the Winnebago to come for a visit anytime.

George and Mother visited my sister in Vegas this year.  She is working in the “entertainment” area of the casinos.  George says he was quite impressed by the sparkly outfits that they provide her with.  He has arranged for her to come and visit us in exchange for the awesome dance moves she is going to teach me.  ( He is installing some kind of pole in our bedroom too – for some reason- I don’t know.)

We took what was supposed to be a quick trip to the Upper and got held over for an extended stay in Marlette.  There was some confusion about the six cartons of cigarettes and ten cases of beer that Lumex loaded into the car at a grocery stop. The clerk was busy and Lumex thought to save some time he would put the stuff in the car first and then go back to pay.  The store got quite stuffy about it and Lumex ended up sharing a cell, I mean ROOM with Fingers ( his new friend that helped with the cable) for the summer.  We did meet a real nice lawyer because of all this and I only have to clean his office for three years to pay our bill.  Isn’t it wonderful how life’s challenges keep just working out?

Ella Bella is doing just fine at the alternative school.  She sure is a feisty little darling!  I don’t know where all that assertiveness comes from, but her old school says the bite marks and bruising on the other children are healing just fine.

George is hoping to start a new job soon, somewhere where his creative accounting skills will be more appreciated.

Me- I have developed many new recipes using the government cheese and beans we get each week.  I keep busy writing letters to Mother.  She stayed out near Vegas with Bronco Bill, he has a lovely 1962 VW Van that is very homey.

Cheers and best wishes to all,

The Cleaner Family

Hope you enjoyed my Christmas Letter.  Many wishes to all for a wonderful new year full of joy and adventures.  Hopefully this Bad Grandma and her beloved hubby will resume travels soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indiana and Ohio, Hocking Hills

October 18, 2018  We loaded up for a trip to visit our youngest son, Jim, his wife Jessica and our main man/grandson Patrick.  They moved to Greenwood Indiana south of Indianapolis this summer.  We were very eager to see them and Patrick, who at only fifteen months is rapidly changing from baby to toddler.

Greenwood is over 400 miles from our home, so we stopped at Pokagon State Park just off I-69 after we entered Indiana. Over 1,000 acres in size, this park is big!  We set up the Wildcat on a large treed site and took off for a walk. The park had miles of hiking trails, bike paths and a winter toboggan run.  Our campground map lead us to a nice loop trail through the woods.  So pretty with the path carpeted with golden leaves that had fallen from the trees.  The park has a lot to offer including a large inn and restaurant, large lake and beach area too.  We barely saw a tiny bit.

This actually was our second visit, the first some 40 plus years ago, camping with my co-workers way back when I worked for Cunningham Drugstore.  Pre-children – I remember only some very large and bold raccoons and there may have been copious quantities of beer.  This is a picture of our “camper’.  A work cap on the back of John’s beast of a truck.  Inside we shared a twin bed mattress (we were both a LOT thinner back then.) It was outfitted with a Coleman stove and lantern and couple milk crates for storage and seating.

1 first camper

On Friday morning we left Pokagon, headed for our reservations near Jim’s home in Greenwood.  We made a short detour to stop at Ickes RV Surplus near Fort Wayne.  We were very pleased to find tires with two almost perfect matches to the rims on our fifth wheel.  After our recent wheel debacles we had mismatched rims on the one side.

After too much traffic, we pulled into Lake Haven Retreat just south of Indianapolis, microwaved our dinner and collapsed.  The next morning we hustled off to Jim and Jessica’s for breakfast and GRAND BABY TIME!!!! Little Patrick kept us nicely entertained all of Saturday.  Sunday, Jim and Jessica picked us up and took us to the Indianapolis Zoo.  The day was a bit cool, but sunny and no wind.  Turned out to be a perfect zoo and family day.  Afterwards Jim took us on a tour of Franklin College where he teaches Economics.  The campus was quintessential American college with lots of red brick, a clock tower and sidewalks crossing grassy park like lawns.  Jim’s, aka Professor Dr James Squires, office was upstairs in an impressively stately appointed grand old building.  Jim’s love for teaching and his new work home was very evident as he led our tour.  My “happy proud mom” smile was everywhere.

We said our goodbyes back at the RV with lots of sweet kisses from little Patrick.  That will have to hold us until we see them again at Thanksgiving. 13 group Ind

Before our return home we planned a visit to Hocking Hills, Ohio.  Located in southeastern Ohio, the Hocking Hills Park and surrounding areas feature towering cliffs, miles of wooded hiking trails through gorges, and along the gorge rims, with waterfalls, caves and hollows galore.  Perfect for this girl as one of my favorite things to do is pack a lunch, put on hiking shoes, grab a trek pole and pretend I am a real hiker as we take short hikes to see natural beauty.  On the way to Hocking Hills we caught a quick glimpse of several very cool murals in Circleville Ohio.  We didn’t stop but I would like a closer look someday. (picture from the net)19 mural

Our camp site reservations at Hocking Hills State Park were surprisingly hard to get considering they were midweek and off prime season.  Turns out we were there right before the Halloween weekend festivities.  The park was chock-full of grandmas and grandpas setting up campsite decorations ahead of the arriving kiddies. The campground has a large swimming pool (closed for the season) tent and full hookup loops.  For non campers, there is another area with picturesque log cabins of all sizes.  Definitely a vacation destination campground.

Our first day began with a hike to Old Mans Cave.  We hiked a section of the lower gorge trail,featuring incredible rock formations and towering trees. A pretty stream meanders through that tumbles into a hole creating “the Devils bathtub”. The moss covered stone walls and bridges reminded me of ancient castles.  Not knowing how much further it was to the cave we back tracked and followed the ridge trail to the cave.  Old Mans cave derives its name from a hermit that lived in the cave recess and gorge area with his two dogs in the 1800’s. The hiking trails can take you further to more falls and gorges, but we had walked far enough for us and we headed back to the parking area.

We drove a few miles to Conkles Hollow where we parked and walked a paved trail through the gorge back to more beautiful rock formations and a waterfalls.  We enjoyed our picnic lunch at a table near the parking area.

Our last stop was Rock House.  Rock House is a large tunnel like, corridor cave formation 150 feet up on the side of a cliff.  The rocks form cathedral like windows along the side.  In our younger days we could have easily scampered up the steep steps cut into and from the natural stone of the cliff, but today we slowly and carefully picked our way up the uneven rock path and stairs.  Of course it was completely worth it once we reached Rock House, but it is not I walk I would like in the rain or with small children.

The next day we headed east from the park to Cedar Falls and Ash Cave.  More beautiful formations, more stairs, more waterfalls, endlessly abundant jaw dropping beauty and at Ash Cave we arrived just in time for a wedding taking place with the enormous cavern of Ash Cave as the backdrop. By this time we were completely walked out and nixed stopping at Whispering Cave.  That’s OK- there will be lots to see and explore if we return in the future.  I was so glad we included Hocking Hills, Ohio with our Indiana visit, it is an amazing place.

After winterizing the RV, as it would be below freezing at night back in Michigan, we headed home, stopping at a Cracker Barrel to overnight in their parking lot.  We crossed back into Michigan around 9a.m.  Just north of Ann Arbor, John pulled off to the side of the expressway.  Why?  A blow-out!!! When we replaced the second axle we did not buy a new tire but used the spare tire. The spare had blown.  Remember those two tires we just bought from Ickes?  They were happily riding in the truck bed.  A call to AAA brought a service man to change the tire.  He was urged to get there promptly by the police officer that stopped to check on us.  The police officer waited with his lights flashing while the tire was changed and presto-chango we were back on the road in less than 45 minutes!  Can’t complain about that.

We returned home to lots of cold, rain and wind and for me a trip downstate to see my Dad and some wonderful grand daughter time with Olive and Alice.

John took the fifth wheel over to Hale, where it serves as a hunting cabin for October and November.  Will it hit the road again to escape Michigan’s winter?  We haven’t decided yet, but hopefully our home on wheels will be rolling again soon enough. Thanks for following our 2018 adventures.  Early in 2018 we wintered in Florida, so roughly 150 nights were spent in our RV in 2018.  Feeling very fortunate and blessed.

 

 

P.H. Hoeft State Park, Michigan

A week or so after we arrived home from our epic adventure we loaded up our RV again.  This time to spend a camping weekend with our son, Patrick, his wife Stephen and our two grand daughters, Alice and Olive.

Our destination P.H. Hoeft State Park on the shore of Lake Huron just north of Rogers City, about 100 miles north of our home in East Tawas.  Stephen and Patrick camp with a 30′ class A motor-home.  They drove up to our house the evening before and driveway surfed for the night.  In the morning we loaded car seats and grandchildren into our truck and Grandma and Grandpa got a jump start on our weekend, leaving Mom and Dad behind to finish their workday. ( They work remotely – if have internet- they can be at work.  How cool is that?!!!) img_3857

We gave the girls a nice long picnic lunch stop at the Harrisville State Park, conveniently midway between East Tawas and Rogers City.  At the day use area we found picnic tables and a playground with a lovely view of inviting Lake Huron’s blue waters.  A bride to be was setting up for her wedding taking place that evening in the lakeview pavilion.

We were hoping for a a nice quiet nap time ride after lunch, but both girls kept up a steady stream of chatter until we were almost within sight of our destination, where of course they went quiet and had maybe a 90 second nap!

Once at Hoeft we settled our RV into our nicely shaded and very wide site.  After the girls gave themselves a good dusting with the cold firepit ashes ( why – just why?) we walked down toward the lake looking for the playground.  There we found a nicely appointed playground area at the foot of the sand dunes that are along the Lake Huron waterfront.

A short hike over the dune rewarded us with the welcome beckoning blue waters of Lake Huron.  We were able to get a nice beach walk and wade (along with getting fairly soaked- silly Grandma though girls could save getting wet for later, when we had our swim suits on) before it was time to walk back and await Mom and Dad’s arrival in their motor-home.

The rest of the weekend was a blur of swimming, rock hunting, campfires, smores and just enjoying being with our grandchildren and their parents.  This Grandma didn’t manage to take any pictures and is thankful to my DIL for supplying pictures.  It was a sweet fun weekend at a beautiful Michigan State Park.  How blessed are we to have this time together.

 

More Michigan Camping

As soon as the Labor Day campers disperse for home and school the senior camping crowd descends on Michigan State Parks.  This time we would be camping with our friends Karen and Chuck.  Karen and Chuck camp with a pop-up camper. Karen and I go way back to sharing Sunday School lessons as young children at Paint Creek United Methodist Church in Goodison Michigan.  We have made this early fall camping trip an annual event together picking different State Parks to explore each time.

Our first stop – Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling for two nights.  Hartwick Pines has a logging museum and a nice easy hiking trail through a majestic forest of old growth pines, plus an informative visitor center.  Hubby and I had last visited Hartwick Pines as teenagers a good 48 or more years ago.  It was as beautiful and breathtaking today as it was back then.  How blessed am I to still have my sweetheart beside me all these years!

Our site had full hookups (a rare accommodation at state parks) in a newer camping loop built about 20 or years ago.  Paved roads, paved pads and roomy sites made for a comfortable stay, although our Verizon phones did not work well.

We took a short drive to a nearby State Forest Campground to enjoy a nice picnic and to sit lakeside with our feet in the water enjoying a gorgeous and serene small lake seemingly surrounded by wilderness and the last rays of warm summer sun. It doesn’t get much better- really.

We hitched up to travel to our next stop, Petoskey State Park located on Lake Michigan in Michigan’s NW Lower Peninsula.  Karen and Chuck went on ahead while John and I stopped in Gaylord to pick up fishing waders (salmon season.)  After a successful shop at Dunhams we walked back to our RV parked out on the edge of the lot.  Our unbelieving eyes were stunned to see a repeat of the the no wheel – no hub – only the end of the axle hanging out- view that we had in Montana.  The second axle’s “no grease” bearings had failed!  Dang and double dang!  Could not believe it!!!  Just as before, no bump, no swerve, no noise- just wheel and rim, GONE, disappeared.

We lifted our jaws off the pavement and called around searching for a service center that could help us.  Luckily we found a place a few miles away down a service road running parallel to the expressway, so John drove us ever so slowly on the RV’s three remaining wheels to see what they could do.

Apparently it is easier to obtain a new axle in the middle of nowhere Montana than in Mid-Michigan.  The service center said it would be Tuesday before they could have us back on the road.  This was Friday and we still had five nights reserved for our camp trip.  What to do?….. Karen and Chuck were already setting up in Petoskey with their pop-up.  Not wishing to abandon our plans just yet, he hastily grabbed our overnight essentials, some bedding and our coffeepot.  We were thinking maybe we could bunk in with Karen and Chuck or get a motel, we didn’t know.  As we were driving I called the state park and found out that they had a basic camping cabin open for one night.  Karen ran down to the office and booked it for us.  The cabin had bunk beds, a heater, mini fridge and electric plugs, so we slept comfortable enough and were able to make our morning coffee.  cabin

Karen and I put our heads together in the morning and decided to let the guys go fishing as planned and we would drive back to Gaylord and retrieve our Clam screen house along with any other items needed for us to tent camp in our Clam.  By mid afternoon the Clam was set up on our original reserved site, its sides wrapped in tarps, our RV mattress pad bed made up and our coffee pot kitchen set up inside on our portable table. Very homey! We even had our electric heater to keep us warm and cozy at night.  Our campsite was directly across the road from Karen and Chuck.  Karen and I had already planned on sharing our main meals so it was an easy transition to sharing her pop-up kitchen as well.  By happy hour we were kicked back and happily enjoying our continued vacation sans the 5th wheel, with our improvised tent. clam at petoskey

Karen and I spent the next day enjoying walking and wading along the lakefront, eyes peeled for Petoskey Stones and other interesting rocks with Lake Michigan’s clear cool waters caressing our feet. We carefully selected hiding places for a couple of John’s rocks at the day use beach area.  After a delicious meal cooked over the fire,  Lake Michigan rewarded us with a magnificent sunset to finish our day.

Our last stop was Young State Park on Lake Charlevoix near Boyne City.  Our reserved site had a fantastic view of the lakefront which was just a few steps from our Clam door sill. Karen and I set our lawn chairs up at the waters edge and enjoyed the views and the company of a duck that befriended us for the day.   The next day all piled into Chuck’s truck and visited a local winery where Karen and I enjoyed sampling a flight of wines.  Mackinaw Trail winery had a nice lunch room cafe and they brought our flight out to our table with slices of delicious sourdough bread.  So good in fact, we decided to stay and order lunch, bought more wine and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. This of course is where I should share a picture of our food (wink) but sorry no pics taken.

Somewhere in here we drove to the fish hatchery hoping to see the release of the hatchlings but there was some kind of equipment failure so that did not happen.  We did explore Fisherman’s National Forest Service Campground as well.  Beautiful rustic lakefront sites and more sites snuggled back in the woods.  All rustic though, no electric, vault toilets, “real” camping, not the “deluxe cabin on wheels and parked in the woods” I am used to.

For our last night we treated ourselves to dinner out at a restaurant in downtown Charlevoix.  Craft beer, excellent fish, fried pickles and a view of the harbor.  A very enjoyable night.

The next morning, we sorted out our camp foods that had been joined together when we lost the 5th wheel kitchen.  John and I drove to Gaylord, paid our hefty bill and picked up our 5th wheel with its  two shiny new axles (the first axle was replaced in Montana)  and headed  home.  It was a wonderful week enjoying good friendship and beautiful northern Michigan despite the wheel troubles.

waving rock

Note: An internet search has confirmed the known failure of the Lipperts sealed “never grease” bearings.  From what I read, Lippert no longer makes this type wheel assembly with the sealed bearings.