Port Oneida Fair

In the mid 19th century, northern Europeons began settling into the area between what is now known as Pyramid Point and Glen Arbor, along the shores of Sleeping Bear Bay. Thomas Kelderhouse, the owner of several cargo ships on Lake Michigan, realized the potential of the area’s timber during a stopover on South Manitou Island. He made a deal with a local landowner on the mainland, Carsten Burfiend, where Kelderhouse would build a dock if Burfiend would donate the property adjacent to it. The resulting port was named after the one of the first ships to arrive, the S.S. Oneida.

Over time, the land was cleared of it’s timber and farmed.  The sandy soil wasn’t the best for crops, but the longer growing season along Lake Michigan helped sustain the community for a time.  Eventually, most of the buildings were abandoned.  When the National Park Service first acquired Port Oneida in the 1970’s, the policy was to remove the buildings and let nature retake the land. Fortunately, the funds weren’t available at that time to remove the structures.  Eventually that policy was changed, after the public realized that the county roads were going to be removed also….thereby eliminating access to the area beaches.  As a result of it’s time in limbo, Port Oneida is one of the largest examples of a pre-modern rural community in the United States.  The buildings are now being preserved, as is the history of those early settlers.

Each August, the National Park Service partners with the nonprofit Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear for the Port Oneida Fair.  The event showcases rural life as it would have been in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. This year’s fair was held over two days, up from the usual one day event.  Admission is free, although a park pass is required to be on the grounds.

Spread over five seperate farms, there were many different demonstrations as to how things were done in the past.  Above, a man rides in a horse drawn buggy across a field at the Dechow farm.

Oxen in their yolks, ready to do some work in the fields!

A young boy using a shaving horse and a spoke shave to shape a piece of wood.

This woman was demonstrating the art of spinning wool.  She was really good at it.  :)

This display from the Empire Area Museum had two hand-cranked phonographs; the one on the right was an Edison.  A far cry from listening to music on your iPhone. 😀

There were several bicycles on display.  This one was actually a predecessor to the high wheeler.

We found this oil-burning headlight to be interesting.  Note the red lens on the left side.  The right side is green, just like a boat would have.

This little McCormick-Deering gasoline engine was chugging along.  It was connected to a water pump.  They had several examples of old engines, one of which was powering a Maytag washing machine.

A pair of beautiful draft horses.  The front one is a Belgian and the one behind is a Percheron.

Just across M-22 from the Dechow farm is the Olsen farm.

This home is the showcase of Port Oneida.  It doubles as an information center for the historic district.

This gentleman was playing a hammer dulcimer.  To me, they are one of the prettiest sounding musical instruments ever made.

This man was explaining the uses of the flax plant.  In his hand was a by-product of the processing of flax, called tow fibers.  This was timely for us, as Diana had just mentioned earlier this week that she wondered where the term ‘tow head’ came from for blondes.  Well, he explained that the term came from the similarity of the color of the fibers to blonde hair.  He also told us that the fibers were used to make rope, hence the term ‘tow rope’….and towing your car, and so on.  Pretty cool.  :)

The woman with him was spinning tow.  Both of them were wearing clothes made from tow.  Sorry about the angle of the photo: that’s a fiber spindle, not a flute.  :)

From the Olsen farm, we continued down the road to the Burfiend Barn.

Outside the barn, children and adult volunteers were making wooden barn pegs. They drove the wood through cylindrical tubes with wooden mallets.  Each new peg drove the last one out of the tube.

Inside the barn, the string band Carter Creek was putting on a show.  We really enjoyed listening to them, especially when they played an old favorite of ours…John Prine’s ‘Paradise’.

We really enjoyed our day at the Port Oneida Fair.  If you are ever visiting Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore the second Saturday in August, be sure to save the afternoon for this event.

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Alligator Hill 

A year ago on August 2, a powerful storm packing winds in excess of 100 miles-an-hour rolled off of Lake Michigan and took dead aim at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Fortunately, no one was killed and very few people were injured. While there were dozens of homes and businesses damaged, the majority of the devistation was to the canopy of trees in the area.  A prime example of that is Alligator Hill.

Named for its resemblance to a resting alligator, this rise of thickly-forested land lies within the boundaries of the national lakeshore.  A series of hiking and cross-country skiing trails, totaling over 7 miles, traverse the length of the hill.  The winds from the storm raked along the ridge, funneling into the ravines on either side and laying 150 year old trees into piles exceeding 10 feet in height.  The trail system was closed following the storm and was only recently reopened to hiking.  After our friends Lane and Patti hiked it, we decided to go check it out on our anniversary this last Saturday, August 6th.

As the map at the trailhead suggested, we snapped a photo to take the map with us.  It’s nice that these signs are clear enough to be able to read on a smartphone.  The NPS really does a good job at Sleeping Bear, and we appreciate it.  Our route for the day would take us to Islands Lookout and Big Glen Lookout.  Including a side trip to view additional storm damage, we totaled 4.7 miles.

Once on the trail, we were greeted by the cool canopy of trees that made up the majority of the path, prior to last August.  Having not hiked here before, we aren’t sure if the two-track appearance of the trail existed before the storm.  A lot of equipment had to come through this area to reopen the upper portions of the route.

Before long, we started to see some of the downed trees.  There was no doubt that this was the result of straight-line winds, as these giants were all dropped in an easterly direction.

After a short stretch of blown out forest, we returned to the canopy  of trees.  It was there that we came upon one of the best views we’ve ever seen at Sleeping Bear…the Islands Lookout.

Look at that water.  One of the hikers at the overlook commented that it reminded him of the Carribean. We never get tired of looking at these waters, and this particular viewpoint really puts it all in perspective.  Off in the distance is South Manitou Island to the left and North Manitou Island to the right.

Continuing around to the right, you are able to see just how wide the vista is here.  Looking with the naked eye, I spotted something on the horizon between the islands.  I zoomed my camera in as best I could, but I still couldn’t tell what I was seeing until I got home.

It was a fairly large Great Lakes freighter steaming north towards the Straits of Mackinac!

Leaving the viewpoint, we headed towards Big Glen Lookout.

This is the ‘spine of the alligator’, so to speak.  This area was hit hard, as you are able to see.  Still, it was interesting to see how other plant life was coming up from the forest floor.

Common Mullein were sprouting up everywhere!  

Again, we entered an area of forested canopy before we arrived at our next viewpoint. 

Big Glen Lookout overlooks what is considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, Big Glen Lake.  Almost perfectly round and surrounded by high hills, the lake doesn’t have a lot of big waves, making it a boater’s paradise.

Heading back towards the trailhead, we took the path that runs below the ridge on the south side.  This is the area that the storm hit first.

It looked like a war zone.  The National Park Service is contemplating what to do with the timber.  One school of thought is to leave it natural while the other is to remove it to lessen the extreme fire danger.  Either way, it was an amazing thing to see!

These trees were shattered.  It was interesting to see how the core of the tree seperated from the rest.  We saw several examples of this.

We can’t imagine what it would have been like to have been on the trail that day, as there was nowhere to hide.  It’s humbling to think of the power the storm was packing.

It wasn’t too long before we were back at the trailhead and our vehicle.  What would have normally been a nice hike to a couple of great viewpoints has become a lesson in the tremendous forces that nature unleashes from time to time.  We are really glad we did this hike and we recommend it to anyone visiting Sleeping Bear.

Concert at the Dune Climb

If there is one iconic image of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, it would probably have to be the Dune Climb.  For those who have not been to Sleeping Bear, the Dune Climb is the place where visitors are allowed to crawl up the sand dune and run or tumble back down.  Viewers of the sitcom ‘Home Improvement’ may remember the episode when Tim the Toolman Taylor and his family came running down the dune on a family vacation.  It’s great fun, especially for children.  :)

Once every summer for the past 18 years, the National Park Service and the Glen Arbor Art Association turn the sand hill and park below it into a concert venue, as part of the association’s Manitou Music Festival.  This year’s free concert featured an eclectic folk-Americana group out of Chicago, of all places, called the Way Down Wanderers.  While they were true to traditional bluegrass with their choice of instruments, their style was much more diverse…ranging from Merle Haggard to their own pop/folk-infused songs.  They had a lot of energy and put on a spirited show.  We were their with several friends, and with a delicious spread of food and drink, we settled in for an evening of entertainment, people watching and conversation.  I pulled out the Nikon and turned the lens loose on the crowd for a plethora of candid photos.  Enjoy!

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Partway through the show, Diana checked her Facebook account, as one of our college friends was in the area and she wanted to see if he was at the event.  He wasn’t, but she did notice that our friend Camilla had posted that she was there.  She had ridden her bike from D.H. Day campground, where she was spending the weekend.  

I spotted her high up on the dune…without any wine.  Diana dispatched me with a Solo cup of Pinot Grigio.  Remember, I said children like climbing the dune..hoo-boy, tough climb!  I did an end-around, came up behind her and said “it sucks when you forget your wine.” After a hug, she headed down the hill with me and joined us!

She took one of her famous selfies before the end of the show.  :)

It was another great evening in Leelanau with friends and the folks who are spending their summer up here in the northwest lower peninsula of Michigan.  Stay tuned for more fun!

The Blue Angels from a Different Perspective

As stated in our last post, the Blue Angels were in Traverse City to kick off the National Cherry Festival.  This was their first appearance since they lost one of their pilots in a crash back in April.  We’ve been catching occasional glimpses of them over the campground recently. Earlier in the week, they screamed up behind us while we were biking the Leelanau Trail with Diana’s cousin Nancy and her husband David, causing me to duck out of instinct!

Parallel to all of this, our friends Rod and Mary were in the process of settling into their new-to-them Ericson 30 plus sailing sloop.  After navigating it from its previous home port of Boyne City and getting a feel for what-went-where, they invited us out for a day of sailing, along with our mutual friends Lane and Patti.  Our plan was to journey from their slip in Suttons Bay to the south end of the West Arm of Grand Traverse Bay to view the Blue Angels air show.  Diana’s and my actual sailing experience at the helm has consisted of piloting a Sunfish around Fife Lake, so we knew the concept of tacking and jibing.  I’ve helped raise the sails on large schooners before in Maine, but that’s about it with a multi-sail vessel.  No doubt, this was going to be a treat!

For perspective, our trip was going to take us from Suttons Bay (denoted with the green bubble), around Stony Point and south to Traverse City (red bubble) and back.  Round trip distance was around 40 miles.

Mary pulled the bow line, jumped on board and we were off!

Rod motored us out of the harbor and out across Suttons Bay.  A former career captain for a major airline, he has the calm demeanor needed to handle a larger craft like this.  He has had other smaller sailboats in his youth, but this is new territory for him.  Lane and I crewed for him, with both of us being newbies.  Rod provided clear instruction to his mates and we learned quickly.  The only casualty of the day came early on, as a wind gust caught the bill of the captain’s favorite Gulfstream hat and sent it over the stern.  Davey Jones is sporting a new cap.  :(

There wasn’t much wind to be found in Suttons Bay, so we motored out around Stony Point.  Rod commented that his two cylinder 16 horsepower diesel sounded like the African Queen.  It definitely chugged right along!

Here’s Lane scanning the shoreline behind us after tending to the forward sail, known as a jib.

Before too long, we had wind in the sails and we were cruising south.

Diana, being the Girl Scout she is, came prepared with an additional hat.  Rod gladly made use of it.

Patti and Lane were drinking in the view also.  :)   We started out with a fickle wind, but the breeze picked up as the day progressed.

As we passed Bowers Harbor, we saw several planes and jets doing acrobatics over Traverse City.  Following that, the Blue Angels’ C-130 transport nicknamed Fat Albert took to the stage.

This giant plane made several tight turns and climbs, passing just above the water in several cases.  On its last pass southward across the water, it made a steep climb over Traverse City and the five Blue Angels jets came screaming northward underneath it.  One had to temporarily drop out of formation with an unknown issue, but the other four continued on.  They looped off to the west and headed up to the top of Grand Traverse Bay, then blazed southward past us!

They were really moving!

Here’s what a 20 mile long smoke trail looks like at water level.  :)

It’s amazing to see them fly so close together!

Before long, the fifth plane rejoined them and they were really putting on a show!

This is one of my favorites.  Nothing like a supersonic game of chicken.  :)

As the show wound down, a wave of watercraft headed northward past us, kicking up an unpredictable chop.  Patti had headed below deck to retrieve a bottle of dry reisling to toast the day and christen the vessel. She stood in the hatchway with an open bottle as we came about and didn’t spill a drop…a testament to her sea legs and the craft’s stability!

On our way back north, we passed the topsail schooner Manitou, which was also under full sail.  The wind had swung around to the north, so we had to tack and jibe all the way back.  Fortunately, the bay is wide and over 300 feet deep, so we were able to complete the trip with just a couple of manuvers. 

We pulled back into Suttons Bay just before sunset, all of us a bit tuckered out.  :)

We helped Rod and Mary stow the main sail, then headed back to the campground to let their dog out for them.  We all had a marvelous time and really learned a lot!  Thank you for the wonderful day, Rod and Mary!

It’s Festival Season!

The weather has warmed in Northwest Michigan, the tourists are rolling in and the cherry trees are taking on a definite red hue.  That can only mean one thing: festival season is upon us!  With the relatively short season at the 45th parallel, the next few months are going to be jammed full of activities.

On Saturday, Diana and I went to the Traverse City Wine and Art Festival with our friends Patti and Lane.  Earlier this month, on the day I was having our frame welded, Diana worked at the Leelanau Vintners Association to help them get ready for the event.  Our friend Camilla works there and needed assistance on decorations.  Diana also was able to enlist Patti and Lane to help. In exchange, we received tickets for the festival!

Here is the trio with a sampling of their handiwork.  It took them a fair amount of time to wrap each bottle in twine. They did a really nice job!

Each ticket got us a stemless wine glass, eight tasting tokens and a food ticket.  Additional tasting tokens and food tickets were available for purchase.

Here Patti is showing off her food choice.  Looks yummy!  

Each winery from the Leelanau Vintner’s Association had their own booth set up on the perimeter of the grounds.  There were also several local artists, along with a stage featuring four music acts.  We tasted several different wines, skipping some of the wineries that are close to our campground, as we get to them often enough.  After that, we took a special Chardonnay tour.  This was led by Jay Briggs, winemaker at 45 North Winery.

Jay took us to several different booths to sample different Chardonnay offerings.  Along the way, each winemaker explained their process, the types of barrels used to age the wine and so on.  It’s amazing the work that goes into making wine, and no two batches are ever the same.  While Leelanau is prime real estate for growing grapes…that’s why there are 26 wineries here…the dynamic weather on the peninsula can make or break a crop.

Another thing that is evident is how these folks all work together.  They share their ideas and are all friends with each other.  There aren’t many industries who can boast that sort of business model.🙂

Another thing they do is the saberage ceremony, led again this year by Lee Lutes, winemaker from Black Star Farms.  He opens a bottle of Champagne with a saber, striking it on the neck of the bottle.

I was lucky enough to photograph the top of the bottle as it came off the end of the saber.  :)

After that, Camilla gathered us all for a selfie.  :)

The day was a lot of fun, and darned if we didn’t close the place down!

As an added bonus, our tickets included free tastings for the next week at the wineries.  That’s quite a bonus!  So on Tuesday afternoon, we went with Patti and Lane to three wineries near us.

First up was French Valley.  They are located on Suttons Bay, which is on the eastern side of the Leelanau Peninsula.  We sampled five of their wines and decided that we would be back to enjoy a bottle along with one of their wood-fired pizzas.

They have an outstanding view from their lawn.

Next up was Leelanau Cellars.

Their tasting room is a few miles north on Omena Bay.  Again, we sampled five wines and ended up buying a bottle from them.

They are in the same building as one of our favorite restaurants called Knot Just a Bar.  We’ve often commented that Omena Bay looks like it could be along the coast of Maine…but this is part of the Great Lakes, so no salt and no sharks.🙂

Our last stop was farther north in the middle of the peninsula at Green Bird Organic Cellars and Farm.

Patti took this photo of their vineyard.  One of the owners explained to us how they purchased the 67 acre organic farm from the previous owner, Good Neighbor Organic.  He and his business partner changed the name and are raising their families on the land with their wives.  There is also a distillery on the property, owned by another friend.  Quite a bit is happening with these ambitious folks.

Here we are with one of the owners Ben, on the right and Bill, the owner of the distillery.  These people are passionate about what they are doing.  We sampled several of their products, including some of Bill’s rum.  We purchased a bottle of Green Bird’s pear cider.  That visit capped off a really great afternoon with our friends Patti and Lane!

Our tasting tickets are good through this coming weekend, so we hope to get back out and sample a few more of the peninsula’s offerings.  This weekend starts the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, so things will be extremely busy.

The Blue Angels are in town, putting on their first show since they lost one of their pilots in a crash earlier this year.  One of the planes was practicing over the campground yesterday doing barrel rolls and inside loops.  We are anticipating seeing more of them today.

It’s been a great start to a busy festival season in Leelanau, and we are really looking forward to the next few months.  If you are in the area, stop in and join the fun!

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A Solid Foundation

When Diana and I were fifth wheel shopping in 2011, we decided on a used mid-range unit that was affordable and fairly well built.  We felt that we could move to a bigger rig and truck at a later date, but we really liked the layout of the Colorado.  We had toured it at an RV show back in 2007 and immediately felt at home in it.

Our rig came with a 10″ I-beam frame and a Morryde shear spring equalizer between our 5400 pound rated leaf springs and axles.  We purposely travel light, as we know the trailer’s limits.  But RVs being subject to the constant pounding of the road, things are bound to give out now and then.  The key is to notice the warning signs before they become a disaster.  Lucky for us, Diana has a keen eye.  I was showing her something on the slide room  mechanism and she said “What is that rust on the frame from?”  We have a powder coated frame that is pretty much free of rust.  Yet there it was…a thin horizontal line of rust about one inch up from the spring mount.  I scratched at it with my fingernail and revealed this:

Well, by golly…THAT’S not good.  It turns out that we had three spots cracked in that fashion, and all were directly under the point where the cross beams were welded to the inside of the I-beam. I went into research mode and discovered that Lippert (the frame manufacturer) is well aware of this problem and has a recommended fix.  When a trailer with dual axles makes a turn, one axle is forced to one side of the trailer and the second axle is forced to the opposite side.  Those forces are transmitted upward into the frame through the springs and spring mounts.  The first thing to prevent that flexing motion are the bottoms of the crossbeams, and that’s where the cracks occurred.  A boxed frame eliminates that flexing, as there are two pieces of vertical steel instead of one.  Those frames are found on much more expensive trailers; something we prefer not to invest in at this time.

I discussed Lippert’s suggested repair with Terry at Ace Welding in Traverse City, and he agreed that it would indeed take care of the issue.  After removing the protective underbelly from the rig, Diana and I took it in to have the work done. 

The recommended solution addresses the problem from both sides of the frame.  On the outside, an angled piece of steel is welded over the frame, as seen below.

That piece re-establishes the integrity of the I-beam.  Note that Ace skip-welded, so as to not compromise the original beam with a continuous weld.  Lippert called for one long weld, and most welders will tell you that’s not a good idea.

The other part of the fix is what prevents it from happening again:

Ace ran three 2″ square tubes across the trailer, one between each leaf spring mount.  They also put in triangular gussets extending up onto the I-beam frame and down onto each spring mount as far as possible.  Kudos to Pat at Ace for the excellent welding job.  To boot, he had us in and out in one day!  :)

While we were there, Pat showed me a travel trailer he was working on.  Instead of a true I-beam like we have on our Colorado, it had a 6″ assembled I-beam, made by welding three pieces of metal together in the shape of an “I”.  There were very few cross supports, and there were NONE near the wheels.  The frame had twisted to a point that the axles weren’t in alignment anymore.  He was doing the same sort of repair as he was doing on ours, so I knew from the start that he knew his stuff.  

When we returned to the campground, I nosed around beneath several different rigs to see if I saw the same issues.  The ones I looked at were different brands than ours, and Lippert had welded an additional piece on an angle to the I-beam at the spring mount.  Here is a photo of a 2005 Montana fifth wheel in our storage area:

There are several other brands of fifth wheels near us with the same setup.  While this piece of steel protects the I-beam from flexing, it really doesn’t protect the spring mount itself from twisting.  The square tube and triangular gussets that are now on our Colorado will take care of that.  If you are looking at your own trailer for signs of cracking, make sure the spring mounts are in good shape.  We also have an additional piece of “C” channel welded into each of our spring mounts (compare the last two photos) which offers some additional support at that point. I also noticed the heavy amount of rust on this unit. It appears it wasn’t powder-coated, or it spent time near salt water. 

Also, while I had the underbelly removed, I noticed that the manufacturer had run the trailer wiring loosely through the crossbeams:


That orange cable is our main power cable, and it had been rubbing on the top edge of a piece of angle iron.  It had not worn through, but it could have eventually.  I taped it and then bundled wires together with zip ties.  I also cut pieces of foam pipe insulation to fit over the angle iron.

When we returned home from Ace, I painted the steel with a Rustoleum primer, followed by a Rustoleum automotive grade paint.  I then reinstalled the underbelly.  The piece between the wheels hadn’t come out intact, so I purchased some plastic wall panels from the local home center to fashion new panels for that area.

I caulked and bolted those in, and I used expandable foam around the larger gaps near the spring mounts.  Total cost of the project, with welding, panels, foam and caulk:  less than $800.  Hopefully, we should be good to go for several more years.

As I stated earlier, we made a conscious decision to get a mid level fifth wheel as our first fulltiming unit. We still are confident that we made a good choice for us, as we have a decent rig for a fraction of the cost of an upper end RV.  Who knows what direction we will move in the future, but for now…we are happy campers!

Rolling Forward Through the Past

Sometimes a wonderful resource is born from misfortune.

In 1901, the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad  completed a spur from Traverse City to Northport, Michigan under the name Traverse City, Leelanau and Manistique Rail Road.  As part of the line, they also established a rail car ferry from Northport to Manistique in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Prior to that in 1874, they completed a rail spur from Traverse City back to their main north-south line (Cincinnati, Ohio to Mackinaw City, Michigan) at the tiny village of Walton, Michigan, later renamed Walton Junction.  That 1874 line began the immigration boom that Traverse City still sees to this day.  Diana and I had passed through Walton Junction for years on our way to her parent’s cottage on Fife Lake, never realizing that the name was derived from the meeting of theses two rail lines.

Competing with the already-established Ann Arbor Railroad for freight across the lake, it was quickly discovered that the ferry service wasn’t going to be profitable, so it was discontinued in 1908.  Freight and passenger service continued on through several different companies until 1975.  In 1989, the Leelanau Scenic Railway was established on the line, running to Suttons Bay until 1995, at which time the right-of-way was abandoned and the tracks were torn up.  All that was left of the railroad was the graded land, several bridges, and a handful of depot buildings.

The depot in Suttons Bay as it appeared in 1920…

…and repurposed as a law office today.

Meanwhile in Traverse City, the Traverse Area Recreational Trail had been built along an east/west rail corridor that ran through town.  With the success of that route, the Leelanau Trails Association purchased the 17 mile Leelanau Scenic Railway corridor from Traverse City to Suttons Bay….and work began on what was to become the Leelanau Trail. Asphalt paving was completed in 2013, and the pathway was designated as part of U.S. Bicycle Route 35.

Where trains struggled to get through the snow in winter…

…cross country ski trail groomers now run in the cold weather.

Where the passenger cars used to make their way northward…

…we now find ourselves riding along their former route, 115 years after the railroad was built.

Pedaling the Leelanau Trail (seen above in red) has become one of our favorite pastimes.  We started riding it in earnest last fall when we purchased our TerraTrikes.  Several wineries are located a short distance from the trail, so there isn’t a shortage of places to visit.  :)    The scenery along the route is amazing.

During the spring, the cherry blossoms carpet the hillsides.

Here is Diana photographing a bank full of Forget-Me-Nots.

These little beauties were the theme we chose for her mom’s funeral guest book; as a result, seeing these made this day pretty darn special.  :)

We enjoy seeing this draft horse and donkey along the way…

…as well as this huge cow that keeps them company.  :)

While many of the railroads of northern Michigan were not able to sustain their businesses, the efforts of the railroad workers are being reused through the development of these trails.  We consider ourselves fortunate to be located so close to the Leelanau Trail this srummer, and we look forward to many more rides along this historical pathway before we leave this fall.

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A Four State Weekend

No sooner than we were all settled into our site in Leelanau, we jumped in Edsel the Escape and headed back south to Indiana. This was a planned trip, as my Aunt Marge was going to be celebrating her 70th Jubilee as a Catholic nun.  My cousins and my sister all were there, along with our spouses and my Uncle Ed (her brother and my Godfather).  Of the fifteen sisters who were in her class in 1946, five were here celebrating on this day.  Two others were celebrating 50 years, and Sister Johnilda would have celebrated her 80th Jubilee and her 100th birthday this month, but she passed in April.

The event was held at the Ancilla Domini chapel in Donaldson, Indiana, which resembles more of a cathedral than a chapel.  It’s stained glass windows and hand carved statues are all imported from Germany.  The altars were made in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  This branch of the sisters of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ immigrated from Germany in 1918.  The chapel and motherhouse was built in 1923, the year before my aunt was born in Detroit. As the pipe organ played, memories of my mom…an accomplished pipe organist…came flooding back.  I was a mess, to say the least.

Diana and I stayed at their retreat center, Lindenwood.  My uncle lives in their independent living center, which is actually in the 1923 motherhouse and is open to the public. The sisters also have a two year liberal arts college that started in 1937. They’ve recently noticed the birth rate falling in the surrounding community, so they are building dormitories to attract international students.  These ladies find ways to not only survive, but to also thrive and grow!  If you are ever in the area, be sure to stop in for a tour.  The sisters are always happy to have visitors. Ancilla Domini is listed as one of the top 15 hidden gems in Northern Indiana.

The photo above shows the existing dorm and dining hall, along with a second dorm being built. The sisters also have a complex that is their retirement and nursing home.  The nursing home is where my aunt currently lives.  Her eyesight is very poor, but with her independent spirit, she still tries her best to move around.  She recently fell and injured her neck, so her orthopedic surgeon has her in a doozy of a neck brace and wheelchair.  She isn’t very happy with the arrangement.

But don’t pity her.  She’s still talking about the things the sisters are doing and looking towards the future.  This is one amazing and spunky lady.

And this is her baby brother, my Uncle Ed.  He will be turning 90 this June.  :)

These sisters were all novices (trainees) under her at one time.  There was also a table of people she used to work with at St Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne, including the CEO.  It was my aunt’s job to see that they followed their mission as a Catholic hospital.  It’s been 20 years since she has worked there, yet here they were here this day to celebrate with her.  She was obviously respected and loved by them.

A sister (by birth) of one of her novices had recently been fighting cancer and made several of these fleece blankets while undergoing chemo treatments.  She explained that it was her way of focusing on giving to others, rather than dwelling on her own health issues.   She gave one to my aunt…

…and one to my uncle.  That was very sweet of her .  :)  We wish her good health in the future.

After we left Donaldson, we headed to Wisconsin to see Diana’s cousin and his wife.  We had a family heirloom that we wanted to take to them, and we also wanted to see the stately 1930’s home they recently purchased.  We left Indiana, scooted around Chicago and crossed into Wisconsin.  They live just across the border in Brodhead.

We really liked their place!  With my love of history, this home was right up my alley.

Lots of classic lines and period furniture, yet very comfortable.

While the home had an elegance to it that would typically make a person be afraid to touch anything, Duane and Gisela’s warmth and hospitality made it a cozy nest.  :)

With them living in Wisconsin, they were sure to take us to the local dairy.  Sorry about the wind-blown hair, guys! We all got a chuckle when I said “Say cheese!”  The creamery’s offerings were delightful. The countryside surrounding the community consisted of rolling hills and neatly manicured farms.  We decided that we need to return to the area someday and do more exploring.

From their home, we had two options to get back to Wild Cherry.  We could drive either north or south to get around Lake Michigan.  If it were later in the spring, we might have chosen north.  Instead, we decided to retrace our steps and stop in Kalamazoo, Michigan to see our college friends Mike and Cindy. I wish I had photos, but we started right in talking and catching up…and never let up.  :)  To offer a little history, we both had our houses built at the same time, and the four of us traded labor when we moved in back in February of 1999.  Amazingly, it was sunny and in the mid 40’s both weekends, which is unheard of in Michigan.  When we head back for homecoming at Western Michigan University every fall, the gang either hangs out there or at Paul and Sheryl’s house.  This particular evening, the four of us went out for pizza and then we spent the night.  They had to go to work the next morning, so they told us to just kick back and enjoy the place…which we did!  We ended up finally leaving at 10:30 AM.  :)  After running some errands in Grand Rapids and Traverse City, we pulled into Leelanau by early evening.  Rod and Mary (who we worked with last summer, then spent the winter near in Melbourne Beach) arrived while we were gone, so it was great to see them again.  Their dog Gracie was happy to be back also.  :)

That was our four state whirlwind weekend. We made a lot of memories in a short amount of time!  Thank you to our family and friends for making us feel so welcome and loved.  :)

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Ready for the Season!

We have returned to Wild Cherry RV Resort on Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula for another season….and it is good to be back.  We arrived Friday afternoon, set up our rig and locked onto one of the best satellite signals we’ve ever pulled in on our DirecTV.  Life is definitely good.  :)   We were greeted by Patti and Lane, and also JoAnn and Paul.  It was great to see them all again.  While I was setting up, Rex drove up in his pickup to say hello.  He and Jim (the resort owner) spent the morning getting the riding mower ready to go, as Rex will be starting to mow on Monday. He had set up his 5th wheel earlier in the week and was having a little issue getting his Dish Network signal locked on, so he asked if I would help him with that. Diana and I jumped on the golf cart and headed down to his and Nellie’s rig.  To remind everyone, Rex will be 92 years young this summer, and his charming wife Nellie will be 90.  They proceeded to pour us a drink, as we all know that aiming a satellite is easier with a vodka and tonic.  :)  Rex and I headed outside to move the dish, while Diana and Nellie stayed in to watch the signal meter on the screen, calling the numbers to us through the open window.  Factor into this that Rex and I are both somewhat hard of hearing…and you basically have  the makings of an ‘I Love Lucy’ skit.   Even with my Dishpointer app on my phone, we were only able to get the meter to about 50%…which I was sure wouldn’t be enough.  I called Dish.  After telling the tech that “the neighbor moved it” …with me being ‘the neighbor’, he worked a little magic on his end and suddenly Rex and Nellie had great reception!  They insisted on taking us out to dinner to thank us, so we headed into town for a bite to eat.  Just getting to spend time with these two is a treat for us.  Let’s change that earlier statement to life is definitely better than good!  :)

Saturday morning came early, as Diana and I had agreed to dive right in and work.  JoAnn and Paul had been covering the place since May 1, so they headed downstate to their daughter’s place for Mother’s Day weekend.  Rod and Mary will be here this coming Friday.  Paul and Jim had set up most of the picnic tables already, so I finished that project.  I also helped Jim with a new drain tile along the entrance road.  He handled most of that with his John Deere front end loader, something he is a master at.  Diana started in on the paperwork in the office.

And once again, the woods surrounding the resort are filled with trillium!  The trees are starting to leaf out and soon our wooded tent sites will be filled with campers.

The flowering trees are beginning to bloom, and the apple and cherry blossoms will soon be covering the hillsides throughout Leelanau County.

On Saturday, I picked up where Paul left off on edging the patios.  As you can see, our lakefront sites are wide open right now, so it’s a perfect time to come up and spend a few days.  The only thing you will hear is birds, frogs, crickets and…during the day…Rex mowing those hills.  :)  Shoulder seasons in Northern Michigan are magical.

Mosquitoes are rarely a problem here.  It’s also very dark at night, so if the sky is clear, the stars are insane!

The wineries, shops, and restaurants in the surrounding villages are all open for business. People are taking to the woods in their annual hunt for morel mushrooms.  We hope to get our trikes on the trails soon, as the weather has been warming up into the 60’s in the afternoons. And this is a fabulous time to explore Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the Leelanau Conservancy preserves.

Leelanau was calling us, and we are really glad we got up here as quickly as we could!

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Wild Cherry RV Resort
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Northward!

After our visit to Austin, Texas, we turned our wagon train northward towards Michigan for the summer.  We are returning to Leelanau for at least one more go-around, as we really enjoyed working at Wild Cherry. We met so many great people while we were there, and we want to spend more time with them!  We would also like to do some more exploring in the area. Our trip was a little bit faster than we planned, as my aunt hasn’t been doing well.  She fell and injured her neck, so we pushed a little harder to get back than we normally would have.  She is stable and in good hands, but we just really wanted to see for ourselves that she was ok.

On our way through Arkansas, we spent the night just south of Little Rock. We parked the rig, not even setting up, so we could get downtown to see the William Clinton Presidential Library before it closed for the day.  I’m going to borrow a thought from our friends Bob and Pat at Michigan Traveler and state that Diana and I like to visit Presidential museums, libraries and homes.  Doesn’t matter the party to us; if they were President of the United States, they’ve earned a place in history and our visit to their museum.  So please hold the political comments.  :). I’ll report on the nuts and bolts of the places.  Everybody has a different viewpoint on how they interpret the presentation of history, so I’m not even going to try to tell how I felt in this or any presidential museum…because you may feel differently.

The building itself was interesting in the fact that the upper floors were supported by this one set of columns on one end.  There’s the fire exit intertwined in it, unless you want to do a high dive into the Arkansas River.  :)

Just inside the main door is one of the limousines used during his presidency.  Made in Michigan, as are most all of them.  This one is a Cadillac, but most have been Fords.🙂

The Oval Office is an exact replica of how it was during Clinton’s term in office.

We have seen a few of these re-creations now, and this was the best…simply because they let you actually sit at the desk.  Of course they take photos of you and try to sell them to you for way too much money, but to sit at that desk and look around that room…well, that’s pretty neat.  Actually, that’s very neat!   I had to let that moment soak in for a minute.  :)

They also had a replica of theWhite House Cabinet Room, which we found to be impressive.

The second and third floors were an open atrium with exhibits on both sides.  Those columns contain a portion of the hard copies of the library’s archives.

Bill and Hillary in their younger days.  I got a kick out of this photo, purely from the standpoint that we have college photos that could rival that.  :)

Down the center of the atruim were these eight panels that discussed the timeline of each year of his presidency.  While we were viewing the displays on the back side of these panels, a small entourage walked through.  A woman was giving a tour to a well-dressed gentleman, and a few others were tagging along.  Then I noticed a man in a suit next to me, nonchalantly looking at a display.  He was wearing an earpiece…as were several others around the room!  Secret Service types everywhere. None of them were looking directly at us, but you bet we were being watched!  Not sure who the gentleman being given the tour was, but he had to have some major level of importance to be given that sort of protection.  Don’t make a false move, kids….

We enjoyed the Clinton Library, just as we do all presidential museums.  It was a very well thought-out design, and it was full of memorabilia and a plethora of information.

After we left Little Rock, we headed towards Indiana to see my aunt.  Earlier in the trip, I noticed I wasn’t able to get my expandable wheel chocks between the wheels on the passenger side of the trailer.  I thought maybe it was because I was on an unlevel surface…except it kept happening campsite after campsite.  Hmmmm….. Prior to our stopover at Effingham, Illinois, we noticed the right side of the trailer drooping. I thought one of our MORryde suspension springs was going bad, so I called ahead to MORryde headquarters in Elkhart, Indiana to schedule service.  Upon reaching Effingham,  I crawled further under the rig and noticed this:

Oops.  One of our sets of shackles had broken and the leaf spring was resting on the underside of the frame.  I called a local RV mobile tech who came out and installed new shackles on that one spring.  From there, we headed straight to Elkhart.

MORryde has six slots with 20/30/50 amp electric for people waiting for service to park in.  Even if you are scheduled to have service, it can take a few days to get in.  They are busy, and business is good.  So we camped there for two nights, listening to freight trains and the construction project next door.  Having read more than once about the scheduling and the trains on Howard and Linda’s RV-Dreams Journal, we rolled with it.  When we knew the first day that we weren’t getting in, we headed back an hour southwest with the Escape to see my 91-year old Aunt Marge. While the brace she was in seemed very uncomfortable for her, she seemed to be in fairly good spirits.  She definitely was getting good care.  If you recall our post from September 2014 called Paradise in a Corn Field, my aunt is a Roman Catholic nun.  She took her vows in 1946, after leaving home for the convent in the early 1940’s.  This will be her 70th year as a nun, and the Sisters are having a Jubilee in mid May.  We will be heading back down for that, as will the rest of the family.  Her baby brother, my Uncle Ed…who will be a very young 90 years old this year…also lives on the property.  The Sisters have a retirement community for the general public, and he hangs his hat there.  He’s my Godfather, and being with him is like being with my late mom again (before she had dementia)…funnier than all get out and sharp as a tack.  Those two were peas in a pod, and he chokes up at the mention of her.  No visit to see Aunt Marge is complete without seeing Uncle Ed.  He is doing fantastic.  :)

Back at MORryde, we were able to get in the next day.  Sergio, our mechanic, came running out to tell us that they had a cancellation and that he was ready for us. Just like that, Clara was behind closed doors and Henry was all alone in the lot.

Ketchup and Mustard kept a lid on the situation.  :)  About 5 hours later, we were good to go.  Sergio installed a heavier version of their MORryde vulcanized rubber shear springs than we previously had, much heavier duty shackles than before, new greaseable bolts (the original ones couldn’t be greased), checked the brakes and repacked the wheel bearings. I also had them readjust our pin box, as our trailer had been riding nose high.  Sergio had Keith bring the nose down two inches.  We still have plenty of clearance between the truck rails and the underside of the fifth wheel, and the lower front end will help us level easier in situations where we don’t unhook the truck and trailer for the night.  With us having the Escape to drive at our destinations, we don’t need to unhook…as long as the campsites are long enough.

 It is here I want to say something about the standard equipment suspension on most trailers.  Even though Colorado put on MORryde equalizers, they failed to put on greaseable bolts or heavy duty shackles.  Our friends Tracy and Lee at Camper Chronicles just had the same issue with their shackles on their Open Range fifth wheel.  They did as we did and opted for the heavier duty shackles and greaseable bolts.  They are headed to Alaska this summer and thank goodness that didn’t happen to them in the middle of the Yukon.  The heavy duty parts don’t cost much more, and I believe that they should be standard equipment on all trailers that still use leaf springs.

From MORryde, we drove 20 miles east to Shipshewana for a few nights.  We needed a break!  Nothing like planting yourself in the middle of Amish country to slow down your heart rate.  :). We enjoyed our time there, then headed back up to Grand Rapids.  I must say, the trailer felt like it was riding on a cloud. We needed to be in Grand Rapids to take care of a few things, in regards to Diana’s mom.  Once we are done here, we will be heading up to Leelanau!  If any of you are going to be up that way this summer, please let us know.  We would love to see you!
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