Category Archives: Friends

Sleeping Bear 2018

July 29 – August 14, 2018

We are happy to be back in Leelanau County, Michigan for the months of August and September.  We will be volunteering for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.   As we did for Oregon State Parks, we will be working as Interpretive Volunteers throughout the park.  Our duties include working in the two maritime locations, the visitor center, and as narrators on bus tours of Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.

Campsite

As compensation, we are given a campsite at D.H. Day Campground.

We came in a few days early and camped at Leelanau Sands Casino, just north of Suttons Bay.  In order to stay there, we had to sign up for a Players Club card.  First time cardholders are given $10 in free slot play.

Leelanau Sands

I had a pretty lucky night.  The machine I was playing started going wild!  The guy next to me was laughing, as he thought I was doing pretty good for a 30 cent bet.  When I informed him I was playing on the casino’s money, his jaw hit the floor.  By the time we walked out, I was over $180 in winnings.  Not bad for someone who doesn’t frequent casinos!

Before we headed to Sleeping Bear, our friends Linda and Steven came and stayed next to us at Leelanau Sands.

Linda and Steven

We all went to Patti and Lane’s house for dinner, along with Rod and Mary.  We also went out to eat a few times and checked out Peterson Park.

Peterson Park

We love the view from up there, as it’s possible to see four islands on a clear day.

We also went kayaking on Little Traverse Lake with Lane and Patti.  Here they are heading back out after we had to get ready to go back to our camp.

Patti and Lane

Pretty soon, it was our first day on the job….which also happened to be out 36th anniversary!

First day Sleeping Bear

Here we are in the Cannery, which is a fruit processing plant turned boat museum.

Cannery

The boat I am sitting in front of is identical to the one from the movie, The Finest Hours.  It is self-righting, self-bailing, practically unsinkable and the diesel engine will run upside down.

The other maritime location is the 1902 lifesaving station.  The boathouse is said to be the most completely equipped station in the United States.

Boathouse

Here I am letting one our visitors feel how heavy the Lyle gun projectile is.  That particular gun would shoot a line over a disabled ship in order to establish a lifesaving zipline, then called a breeches buoy.  The Lyle gun was the only cannon ever developed to save lives, instead of taking them.

Surfboat

We also have two open surfboats on display.

Heroes

And every afternoon, the park puts on a program called Heroes of the Storm, a reenactment of how a Lyle gun rescue works.  Seven children are pulled out of the crowd to serve as surfmen.  The sailors they save from the ‘ship’ are Raggedy Ann and Andy.  It’s really fun.  🙂

And on Thursdays, the park fires off a real Lyle gun.  It is a sight to see!

Lyle Gun 1

The initial blast…

Lyle Gun 2

…pushing out the flame and the projectile.

Lyle Gun 3

As the projectile gets dragged by the shot line coming out of the blue box, it turns around and heads out over the water….

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…eventually landing 200 yards out, dragging the shot line behind it.  The surfmen back in the day could launch the projectile up to 600 yards.

We also worked at the Port Oneida Fair, which is a celebration of the early 20th Century rural culture. Living history activities were held at several of the historic farms, as well as the school house, that are a part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

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Diana worked at the washtub station, teaching children how to do laundry.

Laundry

When the local TV station started filming, we  decided to watch the news that night.  Not only was she on there…

Corn Sheller

…so was I, teaching kids how to run a corn sheller.  🙂

Dulcimer

One gentleman was even teaching youngsters how to play a hammer dulcimer.

Blacksmith Shop

And who is that in the Blacksmith shop?  Well that is Diana, providing lunch relief for the blacksmith and keeping the fire going, while explaining the role of the blacksmith in the town of Glen Haven.  🙂

Northport

We also were visited by our friends Jodee and Bill!  Here we are at Music in the Park in Northport.

Gravels and Belisles

We also checked out Sleeping Bear and the Old Mission Peninsula with them….

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…and their sweet fluffy dog Tessa.  🙂

Our last night with them, we managed to get tickets for The Accidentals.  We have been following this trio for several years now.  Their latest album Odyssey has been played in our CD players from Oregon to Florida to Maine and back to Michigan.

The Accidentals

Diana and I have seen them perform twice in the past at outside venues, but it was great to see and hear them inside an auditorium.   The four of us were blown away, hooting and hollering throughout the show.  If you ever have the opportunity to see them, don’t miss it.

Well, that gives you an idea of what we’ve been up to the past few weeks.  Stay tuned for our next post as we continue to find new adventures to share with you.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

Photographs and Memories

July 6 – 28, 2018

“Photographs and memories
Christmas cards you sent to me
All that I have are these
To remember you”

Jim Croce

Sometimes our lives move so fast, we forget to look back and see where we’ve been.  And while our 4 month rambling trip from Florida to Michigan was anything but quick, we had a tendency to focus on the road ahead to our next destination.  That all changed when we left Cooperstown, NY.  It was about then that our plans completely turned to Jello.  We knew we had several people we wanted to visit in Michigan and Indiana, but nothing spoke to us as what route to take or what order to do it in.  We had several options to choose from.  Day by day, the next stopping point was chosen, but the overall route continued to elude us.  What we didn’t realize was that a single event was going to end up choosing our path for us.  And once we were here, it turned out that each location held a period of reflection for us, filled with boxes of photographs and memories.

Our first stop beyond Cooperstown was Seneca Lake, NY.

Rig at White Springs Winery

We had wanted to spend some time at one of the several Harvest Hosts locations that our friends Linda and Steven (The Chouters) had stayed at last year.  We chose this dandy spot at White Springs Winery, just south of Geneva.

Jim at White Springs Winery

It was a great place to not only share a bottle of Pinot Grigio, but to enjoy a fabulous view!  Our original plans had us staying at two separate wineries, but we opted to move further down the road after a two night stay.

From that point, we had to decide whether to route through Canada or the United States.  We chose the latter, as we were thinking we would want to visit my aunt and uncle in Indiana first.  We spent a few nights at Westfield, NY on the southern shore of Lake Erie.

Barcelona Lighthouse

This charming little community is home to the Barcelona Lighthouse, which was built in 1829.  It has the distinction as being the first lighthouse to be lit using natural gas.  A concrete dome was built over a spring a half mile away to trap escaping gases, and a pipe was laid between the two structures.  Pretty fancy technology for the early 1800’s.  We also discovered that the area is a major grape-growing region, and was home to Welch’s near the end of the 19th century.

It was at this location that our route became clearer.  Diana received a call that her aunt wasn’t doing well.  We’ve always been close to Aunt Marion and Uncle Bob, so we made tracks for Flint, Michigan without haste.  We stopped at Cabela’s in Dundee, Michigan for the night, close to 300 miles from our starting point that morning.

Cabelas Dundee display

If there is one thing that Cabela’s does well, it’s how they showcase the mounts in each store.  The displays in this 225,000 square foot location are spectacular.  Instead of one musk ox, they show an entire herd of them facing off against a pack of wolves.

By the time we reached Flint the next day, Aunt Marion had passed.  We were fortunate to get a camping spot at the Flushing Moose Lodge just a few miles from Bob and Marion’s home, which ended up working very well for us.  We spent the next days with family, sorting through photographs and remembering happier times.

Bob and Marion

Here is a photo of Bob and Marion, looking their usual dapper selves.  🙂  They were quite a duo.  Marion was Diana’s mother’s sister.

During our stay, we took the opportunity to drive by Diana’s childhood home and to visit the cemetery where her parents are buried.  On the way back to Flushing, we drove by the house where Diana’s mother grew up in Goodrich.  This also was the spot where Uncle Bob met Aunt Marion over 70 years ago.  The current owners were outside, so Diana mentioned to them that her grandparents used to live there.  They graciously invited us in!

Diana at Grandma's house

Needless to say, Diana was overjoyed to be able to show me the home.  Many memories were shared, and several of the owners questions were answered as to how the house used to be. The woodwork on the stairs to the basement survived several remodels.

After the funeral, we headed north to visit my sister Judy and brother-in-law Dale in Harrison, Michigan.  We attended a benefit concert for the local library and visited the local veteran’s museum that Dale helps out with.

Grandpa Belisle

One of the displays was of Judy’s and my paternal grandfather, a veteran of World War I.  He was a Canadian citizen at the time, fighting as a U.S. Army soldier.

Jim paddleboarding

While we were there, I even had the opportunity to try out Judy and Dale’s paddle board.  I never fell off, but I sure felt it the next day!  🙂  Judy and I also pulled out a box of family photos, as I was looking for a particular photograph.  I never found it, but I did come upon this gem:

GG Schmitt

This is my Great Grandpa and Great Grandma Schmitt.  He’s the one who built Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, among other things.  This photograph is probably from the 1870’s.  We are only three generations apart, despite the many years.  Do you think we look a bit like each other?

From Harrison, we headed south towards Indiana.  We stopped along the way at the Moose Lodge in Otsego, just north of Kalamazoo.  We used that as a base to travel down to see my aunt and uncle.  We also went to dinner with our friends Mike and Cindy, and then the next night with Paul and Sheryl.

Vennix's and us

We completely forgot to get a photo with Paul and Sheryl, but here we are with Mike and Cindy.  There was lots of catching up on what we’ve all been doing.  Two great evenings with two sets of wonderful friends.  🙂

And in Indiana, we were able to catch up with Uncle Ed and Aunt Marge, two of my mom’s siblings.  Uncle Ed wasn’t feeling the best, so we didn’t pester him with a photo.  While we were at Aunt Marge’s, we took a look through her photos to see if I could find the family photo I was looking for.  No luck again, but I did find these beauties:

Grandpa and me

Here I am with my maternal grandfather in 1976.  He was 92 and I was 18 at the time.  For the record, I loved Detroit back then and I still do today.

Grandma and Grandpa K

And here are my maternal grandparents, just before World War II.  Grandma is the daughter of the Schmitts in the earlier photo.

Mom and siblings

And here is my mom with my aunt and uncles.  Uncle Ed is in front, with (left to right) John, Mom, Marge and Fritz behind him.  All three boys would soon be in the war and Aunt Marge in the convent.

Aunt Marge and me

And that is where she is today, as sharp as ever at 94 years young.  It was great to be able to spend time with her and Uncle Ed.  🙂

We’ve spent the past few days taking care of doctor and dentist visits, and the general things we like to take care of around Grand Rapids.  We visited my parents’ graves and even found my buddy Richie’s crypt in a mausoleum in the same cemetery.  That kind of knocked the stuffing out of us for a bit.  You might recall him from our post, Reflections in the Rear View Mirror.

So after a bit of a pause while sorting through old photographs and memories, we are ready to move forward and make some new ones.  This week we head north to Leelanau to start a new adventure for us.  Be sure to stay tuned for our next post, as we describe what that entails.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

Serendipity Along the Grand Strand

Have you ever been put somewhere by what seems like sheer luck?  Maybe it’s that, or maybe it’s meant to be.  We had that situation last May when we were put in a campsite next to a guy who I had a Facebook friend request into for ages, as we had 11 friends in common.  Turns out our now great friend Rick wasn’t big on checking his Facebook account.  🙂  Neither of us had any connectivity at the campground we were at on the Oregon coast, and our mutual friend Tracy (who figured out we were both there) was frantically trying to get in touch with us.  By the time she did, Rick had met us…even though we hadn’t made the mutual friends connection yet.  Thinking back, it was as if we were supposed to be there.

Such was the case on April 16th at Myrtle Beach State Park in South Carolina.  We really didn’t have any plans for what we were going to do once we got there, only that we wanted to see what the place known as the Grand Strand looked like.  We pulled in and got ourselves set up and prepared to settle in for the evening.  As I kicked back in my recliner, I could see a Bighorn fifth wheel passing by.  A few minutes later, I saw the back of it peeking out from behind the motorhome next door.  The woman that was helping direct the rig back looked really familiar to me.  I thought ‘Hmmmm….that looks like Sharon’, a fellow RV-Dreamer who we had yet to meet.  Before I could totally grasp that thought, her husband David popped into view.  Neither of us had any idea the other was going to be coming to Myrtle Beach. Here were two people that we had long wanted to get to know, placed just two campsites away from us.  We had been following their blog Two Lanes of Freedom for years, as they had with ours.  Dumb luck?  We choose to think it was more than that.  We were out of the rig and headed over to meet them in a flash!

They recognized us right away.  🙂  We talked for a bit and then called it a night, as we were all tuckered out from traveling. The next day, they invited us to go to Brookgreen Gardens with them, as they were meeting longtime RV-Dreamers, Bill and Nancy there.  Oh my goodness…two more people we had wanted to meet!

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Here we are gettin’ cozy on a park bench.  We slowly wound our way through Brookgreen’s trails, admiring the sculptures, landscaping, and animals.  All the while, we were learning more about each other.  🙂

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Here’s David admiring the gardens from the shade of a huge Live Oak tree.  Nancy and Sharon are in the background.

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This red fox had other plans for the lazy afternoon.

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Diana, Nancy, and Sharon are headed towards a sculpture of…

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Diana of the Chase.  This amazing work was created by Anna Hyatt Huntington in 1922.  She and her husband, Archer Huntington, founded Brookgreen in 1931 on four former rice plantations.  Close to 1500 works are displayed throughout the gardens.

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Their former winter home, Atalaya Castle, is located across US-17 in what is now known as Huntington Beach State Park.  Anna had an indoor and outdoor studio in the home.  She kept live animals in the courtyard, so she could study their muscle structure as they moved about.  What an amazing day with Bill, Nancy, David, and Sharon!

The next day was a beach day for Diana and I.  The temperature climbed above 80, which was perfect for putting our toes in the sand….except when the wind would shift and the cooler ocean air would roll in. David and Sharon stopped over for a bit, and we made plans for a campfire that evening.

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They were wondering who the couple was all bundled up on the beach, when they realized it was US!  Hey, our Michigan blood has thinned to a Florida viscosity.  🙂  That night we enjoyed a nice campfire and some excellent company, complete with several songs from David and his guitar.

The next morning was our travel day, but not before a sunrise meetup on the beach.

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I spotted them taking photos, so I took a few of my own.  We all headed back to camp, and Diana and I packed to leave. As we stopped by to say our farewells, David greeted us with his guitar.

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He sang us one of his ballads to see us on our way.  What a fitting and perfect ending to our time together.  Travel safely friends, we will see you down the road!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rockets and Red Cars

This season is shaping up to be the winter of rockets and red cars for us.  Living on the Space Coast of Florida, we’ve been fortunate to see several launches this winter, as SpaceX and United Launch Alliance have been very busy.  As you probably have seen by now, the biggest rocket contained a red Tesla roadster.  While that was beyond cool, it wasn’t the only red vehicle launch for us.  More on that in a bit…

On January 29th, our friends Phyllis and Bernie came up from Fort Pierce for a visit.

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Diana and Phyllis worked together back in West Michigan.  They checked out our park and then we went to Sebastian Beach Inn for a late lunch.  It was great to see them again!

On January 31, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket with a communications satellite.

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The mission required a full thrust to a high orbit, so the booster wasn’t able to return to the Cape.  I was fortunate to get our Nikon focused enough to get this shot as the spacecraft flew by us.  This is zoomed all the way, plus cropped to make it even bigger.

A mere 7 days later, SpaceX launched their Falcon Heavy rocket for the very first time.  Luckily, this coincided with a visit by my sister Judy and her hubby Dale!

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It was a perfect day for a show!

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There were a lot of people watching up and down the beach.

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And it’s liftoff, as viewed from Melbourne Beach!  The Cape is just far enough away that it’s over the horizon.

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This is my best photo of it.  We were viewing it from the side, so it’s hard to see the side boosters.  There is a Tesla in that nose cone!  We did see the boosters separate, then fire side-by-side to begin their return to the Cape.  A minute or so later, they relit and landed in almost perfect unison.

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My cousin Mary was much closer up at Cocoa Beach and posted this photo on Facebook of the boosters coming in. Beyond cool!

After the launch, the four of us went to dinner at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.

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What a fun day!

So what else have we been doing?  Well, between substitute teaching assignments, Diana and I decided to go for a drive in Edsel the Escape yesterday up to Jacksonville.

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Before Edsel knew what happened, his license plate was off and Diana was shaking hands with William the car salesman.  Meet Edsel 2 on the left, our new 2018 Ford Escape!  Now all we need to do is to make sure Elon Musk doesn’t launch it into space. 🙂

We’ve also been planning our summer trip, which we will talk about in a future post.  It’s also maintenance season for our rig and vehicles….uhhhh, well one vehicle.  We sort of took care of any maintenance that needed to be done on the Escape!

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The biggest job of all is waxing the fifth wheel.  It takes me a few weeks to complete the job, as I only tackle a section each morning.  That strategy to be much easier on my body than trying to knock it out in a couple of days.  And that leaves the afternoons free for the beach and the next rocket launch!

Mid-winter Road Trip

With the arrival of our halfway point in Florida, we decided to give the fifth wheel a mid-winter spin this past week.  As fulltime RVer’s, it’s a good thing to move down the road on occasion, if nothing more that to remember how it’s done.  After all, we are getting older.

With that being said, we set out to visit relatives and friends last Sunday, and to take in the RV show in Tampa.  The latter actually involved us boondocking at the Florida State Fairgrounds for a few nights, which we will talk about in more detail below.  We left the Escape on our site in Melbourne Beach, along with our carpet and our solar yard lights.  Even with that presence, we were the talk of the park when we left.  One of the residents waited for us to pass by his rig and asked, “Are you coming back?”  People tend not to move, once they are here…and most leave their rigs onsite all year long.  We are the anomaly in the fact that we actually use the wheels that are attached to our rig.  We have to remind ourselves that, even though we are surrounded by RVers, most people in the park are not fulltiming in their rigs.  Either way, we all are having fun…and that’s all that matters.

Our first stop was at Southern Oaks RV Resort in Summerfield, Florida, between Ocala and Leesburg.  We spent one night there to see Diana’s brother and his family.  We went out for pizza at Stavros in Lady Lake, which was very tasty!

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From left.  Our niece Danielle, Diana, Danielle’s children: Sarah, Dalton, (cute but not related neighbor boy in the green jacket), and Caydon. Diana’s sister-in-law Carla, Diana’s brother Dan, and me.  It was really fun being able to see them again!

The next morning, we headed further west to the town of Beverly Hills, Florida, to see our friends Rod and Mary.  You may recall that they work camped with us for two seasons at Wild Cherry Resort in Michigan, and they also owned a home in Melbourne Beach.  They were the ones who found our park for us.  They recently bought a brand new home further inland on one acre of land, which gives them a lot more breathing room than they had on their 5700 square foot lot here by the beach.  The only other time we had been to the area was many years ago when Diana’s dad was the construction superintendent on a community college in neighboring Lecanto.  We were pleasantly surprised by the area, as it features more hills and oak trees than anywhere else we had visited in Florida.  We set up camp at Sandy Oaks Resort, which we thought was nice.  That evening, they treated us to a wonderful Filet Mignon dinner at their home. And we got to see Gracie girl, their wonderful English Shepard.

The next day, the four of us headed to the Withlacoochee State Trail, which is a 46 mile long asphalt rail trail between the towns of Dunnellon and Dade City.

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Even though it was a brisk morning, the sun warmed us up pretty quickly.  The vegetation surrounding the path reminded us of late fall on the Leelanau Trail in northern Michigan.  We rode 5 miles north from Lecanto Highway to the northern terminus and back.

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What a great morning for a ride with friends!

That afternoon, we headed a few miles over to the town of Crystal River.  Rod and Mary rented a kayak and we put Ketchup and Mustard in Florida waters for the first time ever.

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Our destination was Three Sisters Spring, as the manatees like to congregate there.

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Mary was able to capture this gentle giant coming up under their boat.  We saw several manatees along the route, which was really fun!

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When we were done kayaking, we headed to dinner at Crackers in Crystal River, then said our farewells for a bit.  We hope to see Rod and Mary again before we leave Florida in April.  We had a wonderful time with them, as we always do!

4 AM Wednesday morning came early, as we packed up the rig and headed south to Tampa for the Florida RV Supershow.  Our goal was to get their early enough to set up the rig in the parking lot without the hoards of people who come in their cars for the event.  We actually did rather well, considering it was foggy in places, and the fact there was heavy traffic along the route.  The usual traffic jam by the show had not materialized yet, so navigating the parking lot was fairly easy.   This was the first time we had attempted to bring the RV.  Our logic was that the show is so large it usually takes two days to see it.  They even ticket the event that way, giving attendees the second day free.  It cost $12 (one time) to park the RV and truck, along with $20 for each night we stayed.  No hookups are provided, so we were sure to come with a full water tank and empty grey and black tanks.  We also brought our new generator, which we looked forward to trying out.  The one thing we failed to do was to fill the one propane tank that ran out the previous night.  With the Wednesday night temperature forecast to drop to a low of 29 degrees, we knew we would need to make a propane run after the show closed on Wednesday.  Unfortunately, the U-Haul dealer we went to for a fill-up had a broken pump, and the other stations in the area either didn’t carry propane or were unwilling to sell to us at night.  We did fine that night, but I was sure to be at another U-Haul dealer in Brandon at 7 AM when they opened.  I needed to be back to the rig before the masses started pouring into the show at 9 AM.

As far as the show goes, Diana and I covered the main indoor building on Wednesday morning and started looking at rigs in the outdoor area in the afternoon.  A raw north wind rolled in after lunch, and made being in the rigs much more desirable than being outside!  We did see one layout that caught our eye, but we really aren’t ready to move in that direction just yet.  Still it was fun to see what’s out there.

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On Thursday, we checked out more of the show before lunch, then we headed back to the rig.  We made plans to have our friends Kelly and Bill from BK American Odyssey over for chili.  It was great to see them again!  Afterwards, the four of us checked out the show for a few more hours, which is always fun.  We ran into fellow RV-Dreamers Guy and Sue from Our ‘Rovin’ Journey, who attended the same Spring 2014 RV-Dreams rally that Kelly and Bill attended.  It was the first time we had met.  Hopefully we will get to see them again down the road!  Midway through the afternoon, Bill and Kelly had to head out for a dinner date, so we finished up the show on our own.  Afterwards, we both realized that we had forgotten to take photos.  At 6 PM, we headed back to our rig as the vendors were all closing up for the night, so we definitely put in a full day!

Friday morning, we packed up the rig early and exited the fairgrounds before the crowds showed up.  We chose a different route back to Melbourne Beach, taking State Route 60 all the way across to Vero Beach, then north on A-1-A to our park.  Despite some traffic lights and suburban congestion near Tampa, the route was much easier than trying to navigate Orlando on the way back.  As a bonus, the Thursday night Atlas V launch from Kennedy Space Center was delayed until Friday evening, so we were fortunate to be able to watch it streak by as it headed southeast past us over the Atlantic.

 

All in all, it was a great week with friends and family, and a great little getaway!  Tune in next time to see what we’ve been up to.  As always, thanks for following along with exploRVistas!

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PASSPORT AMERICA NEWS!!!

If you join Passport America between now and January 31 and use us as a referral, you receive 6 months free.  That’s 18 months of half price camping for just $44.  We’ve been members for several years and have saved way more than the membership fee.

If you would, go to https://passportamerica.com/joins/signup and enter the following number in the member referral section near the top of the page:

C-643950

We certainly appreciate using us as a referral!

 

 

UPS Wrap-up and a Visit from Rick

Friday dawned like so many other days had the past few months….completing my morning routine, followed by packing a lunch, gathering my scanner and cellphone and getting ready to head out to my pod to deliver more packages.  After a post Christmas lull, volume this past week had actually increased to a point where I delivered  100 packages to 76 homes on Thursday.  The word coming from the office was that all pods were going to be pulled at the end of the workday on January 12.  As I prepared to step out the door, I heard a ‘DINNNNG’  come from my phone.  A group text had just come in stating that all pods were being pulled and that we were all done for the year.  Seeing that the temperature was only going to be in the 40’s and I was going to be zipping around on a golf cart without a windshield that day, I was pretty darned happy to read that little piece of information.  🙂

So, as promised, here is a quick wrap-up of my time as a UPS Seasonal Helper.  I worked a total of 7 weeks, plus the time they paid me for to train and fill out paperwork.  Four of those weeks included Saturdays, which were time-and-a-half for the complete shift.  The entire time logged came in at 198 hours, so most of the workdays were fairly short.  Even with the overtime, the job grossed just a little over $2100.  Was that worth it?  Well, given that I was able to accomplish a few things in the morning before I headed in and after I got home, I’d say yes.  The job more than covered our camping cost over the time I worked, and that’s at Florida beachfront rates.  Diana took care of most everything at home, so there was no pressure to do any of that when I got back from work.  I never felt rushed while on my route; with that being said, it is in my nature to hustle, so UPS definitely got their money’s worth.  Including time for sorting and just plain waiting for my truck to arrive (a couple of times over 2 hours, but most times my packages were there when I got there), I averaged around 20 parcels delivered an hour. So, as Amazon would say, I delivered 4000 smiles. 🙂  Every single customer I came in contact with was happy to see me, except one: the gentleman that received a case of wine.  Even though he was my second stop that particular run, he was very upset that his wine case had been subject to Florida sunlight in my open-topped trailer.  He accepted delivery and signed for it, but boy did he whine about his wine.  As I drove away, I pondered the fact that the winery shipped its product in a jet-black box, so they must not be too worried about heat affecting their product.  Even if he had purchased his wine at a local store, what conditions might that case have been subjected to, prior to him receiving it?  I smiled and continued on my way, knowing full well that I’m not going to be able to complete this gig with 100% satisfied customers.  🙂

Some of you may be wondering if this job was physically demanding.  From a lifting standpoint, I would probably answer that with “at times”.  I’m a fairly big guy, so at no time did I require assistance from another driver…which is an option, should something be too heavy.  The largest and heaviest item was the huge box containing a Schwinn Airdyne mentioned in an earlier post that I slid and tipped into and out of my trailer.  In most cases where a big parcel was involved, I was able to drive the cart and trailer right up the driveway to the house.  The thing that probably tired me out the most was getting on and off a golf cart in the vicinity of 80 times a shift.  The body part that hurt the most ended up not being my back, but my hands.  I had a tendency to carry smaller boxes in a similar fashion as palming a basketball.  Once I realized that I was doing it…and it hurt…I adjusted the way I held the packages.  It may sound silly, but I also had a sore ‘texting’ thumb from all of the work I had to do on the phone/scanner.  With all this being said, I rarely felt totally spent at the end on my shift…either physically or mentally.

The other thing that I should mention is the weather conditions.  Being halfway down the Atlantic coast of Florida, most days were perfect.  I did have one day that was a torrential downpour, two days that were steady rain, and one day that was just wet enough to require me to tarp the load.  I never had lightning to contend with, but my friend Rod did the year before, so I knew it was a possibility.  There were several days that were downright cold.  But, we have a saying in our family, courtesy of my cousin Sue’s husband John:  “There is no such thing as bad weather…only poor gear choices.”  John, except for the time my rain pants failed (which I replaced with a great pair from REI), I was in the proper gear and came through the job dry and warm.  I even found a use for my fleece texting gloves!

So to summarize the job, I’d have to say I really enjoyed it.  I plan on doing it again next year, so that says a lot in itself.  I was fortunate to have a good route, although I would like one a little closer to our park.  Like anything, if you come in knowing that there could be pitfalls to the job, it makes it easier to roll with it when things don’t go well.  For the most part, they did go well, so I plan on being behind the wheel again next November!

In other news, our friend Rick (On the Road with Maxine and Me) paid us a visit on the Saturday before New Years Day!

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He had come down from his work camping gig at Hamburg State Park in Georgia to visit us and his friend Patty, who lives south of us in Sebastian.  We drove him up to show him our park, grabbed some lunch on the deck at Sebastian Beach Inn, and checked out the Barrier Island Turtle Sanctuary.

Afterwards, Patty had made arrangements for the four of us to go on an airboat ride in Fellsmere, just west of Vero Beach.  She chose Capt. Bob’s Airboat Adventure Tours, which was a great choice.  Our pilot, Captain John, gave a very professional and fun-filled tour.  The headsets allowed everyone to communicate with each other, which really enhanced the experience.

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We had a fantastic time!  We saw a couple of alligators and all sorts of birds.  It was really fun getting to meet Patty and being able to spend time with Rick again!

So what’s next on our agenda?  We have a few things coming up, plus we are beginning to pull our spring and summer plans together.  Be sure to stay tuned for that.  We did want to mention that we are planning on going to the Florida RV Supershow in Tampa on Wednesday and Thursday, January 17 and 18.  We are going to be bringing the rig and hanging out for a few days, so feel free to contact us if you are going to be attending the show.  We’d love to meet up and say hi!

Kentucky – Foster and Lincoln Style

When we worked at Amazon in Campbellsville Kentucky last fall, Diana and I mentioned to each other how great the area would be to visit without the work obligations.  Keeping that in mind, we set out to do just that this year.  There were several places we had yet to visit in the area, plus we had some friends we wanted to see.

We pulled into Three Springs RV Resort in nearby Columbia early on Saturday, October 21.  That was the campground we stayed at while we were working last year.  We chose to return for the resort’s peaceful setting, plus Greg and Nevis are really nice people.  We were able to catch up with them for a few minutes before heading off to visit our friends.

That’s Linda & Steven on the left and Bill & Kelly on the right.  Seeing that Diana and I are Amazon Associates through our blog…as are Kelly and Bill, all six of us are currently employed by the company.  We help generate the orders that they will be filling this Christmas season.  It was  really great to be able to spend a couple of happy hours with them, along with dinner at Brothers Restaurant. 😊

On Sunday, we set out to visit several sites we missed last year.  Our tour took us north to Bardstown, then meandered down through Hodgenville and back to Campbellsville.  The route was over Kentucky’s famous backroads, which are quite often too narrow for two passing vehicles.  However, they do feature state-of-the-art rumble strips on their three inch wide shoulders.  Closest we can figure, they are there to notify the driver that they have left the roadway and are hopelessly dropping into the ditch. 😉  But….

…the land the roads traverse is absolutely gorgeous!  Autumn certainly is a beautiful time to be in Kentucky.

Our first stop of the day was My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown.  Built in 1795 for John Rowan, a prominent judge and U.S. Congressman, the home was originally named Federal Hill.

Mr. Rowan’s cousin was composer Stephen Foster, who was a frequent visitor.  The estate was the inspiration for Foster’s ballad My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night, which was written in the mid 1800’s.  The home was passed through several generations before being purchased by the Commenwealth of Kentucky in 1923 to preserve its’ history.  The tune itself was adopted as Kentucky’s state song in 1928.

Our tour was conducted by guides dressed in period attire, with this gentleman singing his rendition of the song in a beautiful tenor voice.  No photography is allowed inside the home, so we aren’t able to show the mostly original furnishings and artwork that reside there.  With Halloween approaching, the current tour theme dealt with the 19th century death customs.  It was interesting to learn how people grieved back then, as compared to now.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to My Old Kentucky Home State Park!

Our next stops were devoted to the early life of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.  While most people associate Illinois as Lincoln’s home, it is Kentucky where Lincoln spent his first years.  The first place we toured was his boyhood home at Knob Creek.

Located along the Old Cumberland Trail (now US-31), this farm was where Lincoln lived from age two to age seven.

This cabin is actually the home of his friend Austin Gollaher.  It was moved to this location to show what the Lincoln home would have looked like.  After the Lincolns left, Gollaher used the wood from the Lincoln cabin to build a horse stable.  In the distance behind the cabin, a sign denotes the spot where Austin saved young Abe from drowning when the two boys attempted to cross the swollen creek by jumping from rock to rock. When Lincoln slipped and fell, Gollaher extended a tree branch to him and pulled him to safety.

From Knob Creek, we continued on to Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace.

We arrived to find this Beaux-Arts neo-classical stucture sitting on the approximate location of the cabin where Lincoln was born.  We ascended the fifty-six steps, with each one representing the number of years in Lincoln’s life.

The building houses this cabin, which was at one time thought to have been reconstructed from the original Lincoln logs.  It was discovered years later that this was not the case.  The literal historians in us were initially disappointed with this location, as very little remained of the original farm.  But in the end, we saw the symbolism this place was meant to portray: it is possible to be born in a log cabin and ascend to become President of the United States.

Next up, we travel to Tennessee to examine the life of country music royalty.  Be sure to stay tuned for that adventure!

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Further South in Michigan 

Who says you can’t go home?

Once we left Leelanau, we headed south and set up base camp in Byron Center to take care of our various doctors’ appointments.  When we arrived at Woodchip Campground, we experienced a bit of deja vu, as we were assigned the site next to the one where we wintered in 2014/2015.  With just one week scheduled to accomplish everything we had planned this go-around, we had our work cut out for us.  Still, we made sure we had time set aside to see friends and family and have some fun!

The first visit we made was to see my sister Judy and her husband Dale.  We failed to get a photo this year, but it was great to see them!

Here’s a photo of us from last year.  They took a cruise to Alaska in May and were fortunate enough to see Denali without clouds for almost their entire stay!  

Ok, so hang on…I’m going to my best to confuse the heck out of you on this one.  The next day we visited our friends Diane and Terry.  Diana taught with Diane, and Diane’s sister-in-law Diane.  Yes, Diane, Diane and Diana…and they were actually a team of three several years!  Anyway, Diane and Terry had a former German exchange student of theirs visiting while we were there.

We hadn’t seen Adrienne for several years, so it was definitely a nice surprise!

Later in the evening, Diane’s brother Bob and his wife Diane showed up with their triplets!

My goodness, these three are growing up!  From left to right is Allyson, Diana, Anthony, and Madelyn.  Anthony finally achieved his goal of growing taller than Diana!  So we failed to get a photo of either Diane….

…but we did get a photo of Terry giving Adrienne her first motorcycle ride!  It sure was good to see these friends!

The next morning, Diana had a mammogram appointment, which turned out great. We then buzzed out to Holland to get an adjustment from my long-time chiropractor.  If I could have him tag along on our travels, my back would be eternally grateful.  🙂 After that we headed to Detroit for a Tuesday appointment with my doctor at Henry Ford Health System.  This was a routine follow-up from my prostate surgery back in 2010.  On the way, we went to Flushing to see Diana’s Aunt Marion, Uncle Bob, and her cousin Debbie.  We really enjoyed visiting with them.  We then dropped south to Ortonville to visit the cemetery where Diana’s family is buried.  From there, we drove to Mt. Clemens and stayed the night at our niece Becky’s house.  Once again, we totally failed to get photos…arrrghh.  Becky and her hubby Dan were excellent hosts and made us a yummy dinner. Diana’s sister Cheryl also came over with our nephew Jared.  It was great to see everyone again!  Tuesday’s appointment went extremely well, and I’m happy to report that I’m coming up on 8 years cancer-free.  Yesssss! ☺️   We then drove back to Byron Center.

Sound like a full week?  Well, the week ain’t over yet folks….

Wednesday morning, we both had our annual physicals with our primary-care physician, then had our teeth cleaned at our dentist.  The physicals went well; the dentist, not so much.  It turns out we both needed crowns.  One of those resulted in us pushing our stay in Byron Center into the middle of the following week.  And just so we could say we had a happy hump-DAAAAY, I started my colonoscopy prep in the afternoon.  Oh joy.  After drinking a gallon of that horrible concoction, I was moved to use many bad words in my opinion of its maker. 

Thursday was my colonoscopy (my third) and all was well…except this is the second time in a row I’ve woken up halfway through.  Jeez…knock me out already, would ya?  Good part is, I’m good to go for another 5 years.

Friday was my appointment for my crown.  I was able to get a one-visit crown, which was a traumatic 3 hour long deal the last time I did it.  This time, while still 3 hours, was much better.  I asked for gas.  😉   

So by this time, you are probably thinking we are ready to drop, right?  Not.  We headed to Kalamazoo for WMU’s Homecoming!

From bottom left: Jim, Mike, Bill, Nina, Karen. Back row, from left: Billy, Cindy, Sue, Diana, Sheryl, Paul, Jim

We crashed at Mike and Cindy’s house for the weekend, even though they were going to Detroit on Saturday morning for a wedding.  Their son Brian and his girlfriend Sarah came over and took the role of surrogate hosts; oh, my…we knew the day would come that the kids would have to chaperone us!

Saturday came, and so did the rain and lightning.  It poured hard all day long, and the storms forced the postponement of the football game until Sunday.  

There was concern that the game would have to be played at a different location, as Waldo Stadium was completely flooded.  With a Herculean effort, more than a million gallons of water were pumped from the field in time to play Sunday afternoon.  Not sure how that affected folks downstream, though.  Anyway, most of us skipped the Sunday version of the game, as we needed to head out.  For us, that meant Byron Center again.

Monday we ran a bunch of errands.  One cool thing I want to highlight about that:  while we were at Camping World, I brought in a step I had purchased a while back.  One of the legs had broken on it, so I wanted to see what the warranty was.  The box didn’t say, but it did say that it was rated at 1000 pounds.

And seeing as we are Good Sam Life Members, Camping World was able to tell exactly when we bought it.  May of 2012.  Probably way out of warranty, but worth a call.  Stromberg Carlson requested a photo and a proof of purchase (which Camping World provided), so we zipped that all off to them.  Within an hour, they were sending us a new step!  That is great customer service that deserves to be mentioned.  And a big shout out to the Byron Center Camping World for their assistance!

On Tuesday, Diana went to lunch with her friend Colleen.  They grew up together in Ortonville, and she now lives in Rockford, just north of Grand Rapids.  I stayed home and caught up on a few projects and repairs.  Wednesday was Diana’s crown and we were ready to go.  We lifted our jacks Thursday morning and headed south towards warmer temperatures and more adventures.  Stay tuned to see what we come up with!

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Leelanau, 2017

There is just something about Leelanau County that keeps drawing us back.  Since we were coming back to Michigan for annual doctor appointments, we knew we would definitely want to make time for our beloved finger of land on northern Lake Michigan.

On September 24, we headed across the Mackinac Bridge, completing our quick trip across the Upper Peninsula.

It’s always a thrill to pull a 13 foot tall fifth wheel over this span…especially since the railing is only 3 feet high!  The Mackinac Bridge Authority limits loaded trucks to 20 mph for good reason, as the crosswinds can be formidable. As a result, I had a good 15 minutes to ‘enjoy’ my unobstructed view over the rail on the 5 mile crossing. 😉

We stopped by Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse to see how it was doing.  You may recall that my great-grandfather was the general contractor on the lighthouse and barn way back in 1892. I worked with Mackinac State Historic Parks for several years to get to light station reopened as a museum.  It’s great to see that the buildings are in fine shape.

The next day, we headed toward Leelenau.  When we drove through the intersection of Grandview and Division in Traverse City, we essentially completed our circle of the country we began last October 1st.  It was pretty overwhelming to reflect on the amazing experiences we’d had over that time period. It was also exciting to see what was new on the peninsula.

Our friends Rod and Mary had built a beautiful cottage just up the road from Wild Cherry Resort, so they invited us to use their RV pad.  They worked their tails off over the summer and have ended up with a dandy little slice of paradise!  We really appreciated being able to stay on their property.  We had piled up a ‘to-do’ list of items that needed attention on the rig, so I picked away at most of them.  It was there that our refrigerator door fell off, so that assumed the top item on my list.

We also stopped into Wild Cherry and saw Jim the owner, Paul, JoAnn, Skip and Rex.  Later in the week, I saw Rex’s wife Nellie in the grocery store.  Rex broke his leg earlier in the summer but is back mowing at the age of 93.  I snuck up alongside of her and said “Hey, Beautiful…how are you doing?”  She said “Well, hello!  I’m fine…it’s him that’s the problem!”…pointing to Rex back by the meat department.  😊

Rod also took us out sailing on Suttons Bay.  The breeze was stiff enough to allow us to sail with only the jib.

Mary and Diana were enjoying the wild ride!

On Saturday, September 30, we went to Leelanau UnCaged with Lane, Patti, Rod and Mary.  The event was a street fair in Northport which morphed into a park party with three bottles of wine and snacks from the town grocer. 😉   The six of us previously had gotten together for dinner at our place a couple of days before and also got together later in the week when Lane and Patti had us over to their place for dinner. It’s always a great time when we are together!

Later in the week, we went over to John and Julie’s new place on the southern end of the county.  John was one of my college suite mates and a fellow Zamboni driver.  He and Julie just built a really cool place that features beams and planks from a huge pine tree that grew where the house now sits.

After we hung out there for a bit, we headed to the village of Cedar for dinner.  Man, it’s great to be able to catch up with these two!

On Tuesday, Diana and Mary headed to Grand Rapids to do some shopping and to check out Meijer Gardens and some of the Artprize entries there.  I rode along with Rod to Traverse City where he was having his boat stored for the winter.  It was neat to see the process of pulling the vessel out of the water.

First thing they did was lift the mast from the boat, secure the rigging and then store it on a trailer with a multitude of other masts.

Then they had Rod pull the cruiser into slip and over the slings.

Up she goes…

…and loaded on the cradle.  Pretty cool name, seeing that Rod is a retired commercial airline pilot who took up sailing.  😎

It sure was great to get back to Leelanau for a few weeks and see everyone!  From here we head down to Grand Rapids for our doctor’s appointments and to see more friends and family.  Stay tuned to see what we come up with during our time there!

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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!

Across the Top of Michigan  

Heading out of Duluth on Friday September 22, we made a beeline through Wisconsin to our home state of Michigan.  It had been almost an entire year since we left; the longest stretch either of us had ever been away.  Even though our point of entry was over 500 miles from the towns we grew up in, it felt like we were home. 😊

Looking at that big, blue Pure Michigan sign, I could only imagine Tim Allen describing the beauty of the Upper Peninsula in one of those iconic ads for the state.  Speaking of which…we were surprised to have seen one on TV this summer while we were in Oregon!  As we headed through Ironwood, I popped in The Accidentals latest CD Odyssey, just to complete the Michigan experience.  😎

One thing we had noticed as we headed east across the country; the campgrounds were expensive for what we were getting.  This fact was especially true in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota…with prices over $40 a night in almost every instance.  That price is fine if we are looking at a beautiful view…but more often than not, we were next to a set of train tracks in a gravel lot.  Well, when we arrived in the U.P., we found a sweet little overnight spot with a price that was tough to beat.

© 2017 Google Maps

In the bustling town of Bruce Crossing, we pulled into Stannard Township RV Park.  Twelve pull through, first come – first served sites, 50 amp electric, water, dump station, restroom and shower house for $10 a night.  Now that’s more like it!  Though it is located on US-45, the highway is lightly traveled in that area…and the railroad had been turned into a trail.  Bruce Crossing has a couple of bars, a cafe, store, gas station, and is located close to several nice waterfalls.  We were through the area back in 2015 when we visited Bond Falls on our 33rd anniversary.  

The next day, we headed northeast to the town of L’Anse (pronounced LAHHnse) to meet up with our forever friend, Debbie!

Diana and Debbie were Girl Scouts together in Ortonville when they were growing up.  They know all the songs they learned back then and will gladly sing a duet, if asked!  Debbie lives in Houghton now, halfway up the Keewenaw Peninsula.  We met for breakfast, which she insisted on picking up the tab.  Thanks, Debbie!

From there, we headed down to Canyon Falls.  This is one place we had not seen yet, so we pulled in to check it out.  It doubles as a roadside rest area, so there was plenty of room for the RV.

Along the 1/4 mile trail to the falls, we saw this interesting clump of trees growing over this boulder.

There was a little bit of fall color starting to show along the way.

The largest falls were difficult to view, as there wasn’t a trail to see them from the front…only from above.  Still, they were very pretty!

After returning to our vehicles, we made the choice to head back into L’Ance to check out a campground a little northwest of there.  Our original plan was to drive 96 miles to Munising, but the day was so unseasonably warm, we wanted to go swimming in Lake Superior.  If there is ever a time to swim in this frigid body of water, late summer or early autumn would be it!

We scored a ginormous site at Ojibwa Recreation Area.  This site had 50 amp electric, but we needed to obtain water at the dump station.  This little slice of paradise cost us $19 a night and included our own personal sandy beach on L’Anse Bay.

We both stood thigh deep in the chilly water for a loooong time before going any deeper.  We eventually ended up diving in, hoping all the while that our hearts wouldn’t stop from the shock!  Those kids behind us were in and out of the lake all afternoon and evening…the water temperature didn’t faze them a bit. 😊

On Sunday, we made the decision to head directly to Mackinaw City, a trip of about 240 miles.  That’s about the upper limit we like to drive in a day, especially considering the route was mostly two lane roads.  Just west of Munising, we pulled into a roadside turnout to stretch our legs.

This is the view from our parking spot. There were several NO CAMPING signs, for good reason!  We rolled up our shorts and waded out as deep as we could.  Boy, did that feel good!

The crystal clear water and sandy bottom were really a nice break in the middle of a long driving day. 😊

Next up:  we cross the Mighty Mackinac Bridge and head towards Leelanau for a visit with friends.  Be sure to stay tuned!

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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!