ExploRVistas – Our First Year

Well, we have our first year in the books…and what an exciting year it has been!  On September 26th, we had just gotten back from the RV-Dreams Fall Rally in Goshen, Indiana and we headed out the door of our house for the last time.

  
We knew that this was what we wanted to do, but we were unsure how the immediate future was going to play out, as we were (and still are) responsible for Diana’s mom’s care.  We moved the fifth wheel a few miles down the road to Woodchip Campground, as Diana was having to visit her mom often.

  
In early October, we decided to make a quick run to Florida, so we could deliver Diana’s dad’s tools to her brother.  We left our golden retriever Jenny with my sister. While we were gone, Jenny stopped eating.  She had been losing weight for some time, and a visit to our vet upon our return revealed that she had cancer of the blood vessels, of all things.

  
With great sadness, we had her put down on November 12.  To say we miss her is an understatement. With that said, we made the choice to be ‘dogless’ for awhile, as we have had dogs every year since 1991.

The day after Jenny left us, the snow arrived in Grand Rapids.

  
We were well prepared for the cold.  We skirted the entire underside of the trailer with 3/4″ foam board, and we placed an electric heater underneath.  Our biggest challenge was keeping the moisture at bay inside the RV.  We ended up purchasing a couple of small dehumidifiers to help with that issue. Heating costs were high for an RV, but not much different than we were paying to heat our house. In February, when the outside temperature dipped to 25 degrees below zero, I was making daily trips to the propane refilling station.  We kept a good attitude and actually did quite well.  🙂

We kept ourselves entertained throughout the winter.  We went in with the attitude ‘if we have to live here during the cold months, then we may as well embrace it’.  As many of our long time readers know, we did a good job of it.  A few of you even mentioned that our posts were making you cold!  🙂

  
We made several trips to Lake Michigan, which at times resembled the Arctic Ocean.  Only thing missing were the polar bears!

  
We also visited the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex.  No, we didn’t try the luge.  

In March, we volunteered for Gilda’s Laughfest.

  
We worked a couple of shows as ushers, which ended up being a lot of fun.

In early April, a bad case of ‘hitch itch’ overcame me, so we tore off the skirting, hooked up the RV and headed to Florida!

   
We spent some time with Diana’s brother and our niece and her family near Leesburg, and then we spent the rest of our time in Naples.  It was good to get away after a long winter.  :). We got back to Grand Rapids in mid April.

On April 30, we headed north to begin our work camping job in Lake Leelanau at Wild Cherry Resort.

  

 
No leaves on the trees yet, but what a view!  It would only get better as the summer wore on.  🙂

In early June, we hiked a newly opened portion of the North Country Trail near Fife Lake.

  
It was part of a celebration that designated the village as a ‘trail town’.  Part of the trail we walked on was a section that we used to snowmobile and cross-country ski on.  It was great to see it now under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of the Interior.  🙂 

Also in June, we drove our Escape down to Alton, Illinois to get together with some of our friends from college.

 

Never a dull moment with this bunch!  We had a fabulous time. 🙂
It was about then that the festivals began around Traverse City.

  

The first one was the Traverse City Wine and Art Festival.  Lots of food, music, art and wine! 

The crew at Wild Cherry also completed their first ‘paver’ site.

 
We had a deadline of July 2 (as it was rented), and we made it with a day to spare.

Our next adventure was Paddle for Pints, a pub crawl in Traverse City, involving kayaks.

  
Diana’s cousins organized our contingent, and we had a marvelous time!

Throughout the summer, the wineries would host music events on their patios.

  
Here we are with Camilla at Aurora Cellars listening to Drew Hale.

  
And here we are with Patti & Lane, Grace & George, and Mary & Rod at Shady Lane Cellars.

In August, we hooked up the rig and took a week’s vacation to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Our destination was the Porcupine Mountains.

  
We did several hikes and toured a lot of areas we hadn’t seen in quite awhile.  A few, like Summit Peak, were new to us.  🙂

Labor Day weekend came and we were visited by our friends Mike and Cindy.

  
They are also friends we met in college.  They weren’t able to meet up with the rest of us in Alton, so it was really good to see them!  Here we are at Pyramid Point, over 400 feet above Lake Michigan.

In mid-September, we received word that Diana’s mom was taken to the hospital with pneumonia.  We made a quick trip to Grand Rapids and determined that we were going to need to relocate back to be by her for a bit.  There is a good possibility that we will still be able to get back to Wild Cherry for October, as Mom is doing quite well…but we will see what the next week brings.

 So, one year later, we are one site over from where we spent the winter.
  

Alaine is crusing by with the kiddie train and everybody is having fun.  🙂

All in all, it has been a great year!  Thanks for riding along with us!

Our Favorite Places on the Leelanau Peninsula

  

  
With the RV-Dreams Fall Rally happening just down the road from us in October, we thought we would publish a list of some of our favorite places on the Leelanau Peninsula.  Note that these are our favorites, and if a place isn’t listed, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth visiting. We have yet to find any place we would recommend avoiding.  Anyone else traveling up this way in the future may want to bookmark this list also.  Enjoy!

Wineries

We have two favorites in this category:  Black Star Farms and Shady Lane Cellars.  Both are outstanding.  Black Star also boasts a beautiful inn.  If you can get in and can afford it, it’s pretty darn nice.  We’ve stayed there several times.  Shady Lane has a beautiful setting and an awesome patio.  As far as the wineries on the peninsula, they are all good.  If you possibly can, try to to get to these two.  A complete list of the area wineries can be found at the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail website.

Attractions

The best attraction, by far, is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  Within the park boundaries, don’t miss the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.  When on the drive, make sure to stop at the Lake Michigan Overlook.  Special note this year:  the drive will be closed for repaving from September 29 through October 5, and the weather could push that back.  Go to http://www.nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit for updates.

To the north of the scenic drive, if you are up to it, climb the Dune Climb.  Just make sure you bring plenty of water, if you decide to go all the way to Lake Michigan…a two to four hour trip!

Another attraction is the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, on the northern tip of the peninsula.  It is within the boundaries of a Michigan State Park, so there is a daily entrance fee for visitors, on top of the lighthouse admission.  If you like lighthouses, this one is very nice.

Kilcherman Orchards is a special treat, if they happen to be open.  It is located just off of County Road 640 on Kilcherman Road.  They have multiple varieties of antique apples….the kind your grandma used to have. And the grower also has an amazing  pop bottle collection.  We are talking thousands of bottles, all in alphabetical order.  He will ask you your name and, in most cases, will show you a bottle with it on it.  🙂

Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor sort of falls into the shopping/ winery/restaurant categories, but it is an attraction in itself.  It is hard to describe and delightfully good.  

Shopping

There are four towns we would recommend for shopping:  Suttons Bay, Leland, Northport and Glen Arbor.  All have unique shops.  For groceries, we like Hansen Foods in Suttons Bay the best.  There is also NJ’s Grocery in Lake Leelanau, and the Leland Mercantile in Leland.  The IGA in Glen Arbor is a ways away from where we are at, so we’ve never been in it.  

Laundry

This one is a clear cut winner:  Suttons Bay Laundromat.  Clean as a whistle, and reasonably priced.  I challenge you to find a cleaner restroom in a laundromat.  🙂  Located in the same plaza as Hansen Foods, on the south end of Suttons Bay.

Driving Range

Well, I have to throw this one in here:  Wild Cherry RV Resort.  I know the rally is being held at Lake Leelanau RV Park, but we have a driving range at our place that is perched way up on a hill.  The view is fantastic.  Stop by anytime.  A bucket of balls is $5.  And check out our RV park for future reference.  It is very nice!

Restaurants

For a burger, we recommend either Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor, or Dick’s Pour House in Lake Leelanau.  Both have good menus, with Art’s being a little more extensive. For something a step up from that, we recommend Hearth and Vine at Black Star Farms. It is Mario Batali’s favorite restaurant when he summers on the peninsula. It is outstanding. Even a little more upscale, Martha’s Leelanau Table in Suttons Bay is very nice.  In the town of Omena, Knot Just a Bar has delicious lake perch and an outstanding view of Grand Traverse Bay. With that being said, the other restaurants in the area are all very good.  People up here take their food seriously.

Bicycling

There are two bike trails on the peninsula.  The Leelanau Trail runs south out of Suttons Bay and connects up to the TART trail, once it gets to Traverse City.  The other trail on the peninsula is the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.  Parts of this trail are still under construction, but the section between the Dune Climb and Glen Arbor is of special interest this year.  The area suffered tremendous straight line winds on August 2, and we understand that section of the trail really shows off just how much timber came down.  We have yet to ride it, but we are told that it is amazing.

Hiking

The best bang for your buck is the Pyramid Point trail.  The hike to the overlook and back is 1.2 miles of moderate hiking on a gravel trail.  There is a tremendous view of the Manitou Passage from the overlook.

Beach

The beach on the north end of Bohemian Road is really nice.  There is a dog friendly beach at the north end of Good Harbor Road also.  Both of these beaches are within the National Park boundaries.  The waters of northern Lake Michigan are crystal clear, and some of the beaches are perfect for rock hunting.  A good listing of all the area beaches can be found here.

Kayaking

If you like river paddling, we recommend the Lower Platte River.  Riverside Canoe Trips will set you up, if you don’t have your own equipment.  They rent kayaks, canoes, tubes, rafts and stand-up paddle boards. For a nice secluded lake paddle, we recommend School Lake. It is within the National Park boundaries, so you will need a park pass.  You also will have the western shore of Lake Leelanau (the calm side) right at Lake Leelanau RV Park.

Hospital

Munson Medical Center in Traverse City is a nationally ranked facility.  They will take excellent care of you in an emergency.  There is also Leelanau Urgent Care in Suttons Bay.

Major Services

Most national chains are located in Traverse City.  With that being said, the town is extremely busy.  We try to avoid going there unless we absolutely have to, as it is not what we consider ‘relaxing’.  But there are times that we need to venture into town, and they always seem to have everything we need. Traverse City also has unique shops downtown, along with several craft breweries.

A note about the weather

Early October weather on the Leelanau Peninsula is quite often different than what is found inland.  This is due to the moderating effects of Lake Michigan.  Frosts and freezes tend to come later here. As a result, the trees change color a little later than they do inland.  That being said, come prepared for crisp, cool nights.  Layering is recommended, as is rain gear….not so much for the rain, but for the wind.  More often than not, there is a fresh breeze blowing up here.

  

 

We hope this list is helpful to those of you coming to this area for your first visit. Once you are north of Traverse City, slow your pace down and take it all in. Above all, have a wonderful time. The fall colors should be tremendous! In our opinion, Leelanau is a pretty great place to be.  🙂