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.
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.
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.
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.