Category Archives: Michigan

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….

Lyle Gun 4

…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.

Laundry 2

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….

Tessa selfie

…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!

 

 

 

March Wrap-up and Spring Plans

The month of March has ended up being extremely busy for us, as we finished up our ‘to-do‘ list, socialized, and planned our spring and summer travels.  We started out the month with a day trip to Lakeland to watch our friend’s (Jim and Sue) son play baseball.

1q

Jake pitches for Fontbonne University, and their team was playing at the Central Florida Invitational Tournament. I played catch with him back in 2012 when he was only about 12 years old. Catching his fastball gave me a swollen and numb index finger on my left hand for a long time afterwards. My mitt would crack when the ball hit it; unfortunately, my finger probably cracked also. 🙂 As a college freshman, his pitching arm has only improved since that time.

We also were invited by our new friends Nick and Betty to join in on their weekly lunch get-togethers with other folks in the park.

IMG_8809
From right: Jerry, Linda, Betty, Nick, Ron, Nancy, Diana and me.

 

Here we are at our favorite pizza joint, Oceanside Pizza.  Over the course of time, we got to know several people in the park, which has been really fun!  During one of the meals, I discovered that Nick used to work for the same company in Louisville as our friend and fellow fulltime RVer Bill Murray  Small world.

Our ‘to do’ list is whittled down to a few small items, but not before a couple of things were tacked onto it.  Edsel 2, our new Escape, had an issue to where the clutches in the rear wheels weren’t releasing when we cornered, so our local dealer (Kelly Ford) took care of that.  They found that there was a technical service bulletin issued by Ford for the problem.  We can’t say enough about how great our experience was with Derek, our service adviser.  We also had our RV air conditioner quit on us the other morning, so we have a mobile tech coming tomorrow to replace that.  The general consensus in the park is that we did well by getting 11 years out of our current unit, especially since we exposed it to salt air the past three winters.

IMG_8833

We also were able to attend this years St. Patrick’s Day potluck in our park.  You may recall that we skipped it last year, as I had found out our good friend and my long time colleague Richie had passed the night before.  I wrote a post about it called Reflections in the Rear View Mirror.  Although we miss Richie, we were able to enjoy this year’s party.  After everyone ate, someone broke out their karaoke machine and we all ended up making a day of it!

IMG_E8834

Here’s Bonnie and Ted taking their turn.  A few drinks later, I even joined in!  🙂

Our time this year in Melbourne Beach is quickly coming to a close.

IMG_8831 (2)

It will be just a few more sunrises and sunsets before we head out on our next adventure. Where will that take us?  Our plans are to head up the East Coast to arrive in Maine by the beginning of June, and then back over to Michigan for a bit.  The trip from here to Michigan is spread over a four month period, so we have a lot planned along the way.  Be sure to stay tuned for that, as well as our new work camping position in Michigan for the months of August and September.  Our plans are to come back to Florida next winter.  As always, we would love to meet up with you, should our paths converge. Feel free to contact us privately at explorvistas@gmail.com, if you would like to try for a get together. Until next time, safe travels!

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!

———-

Click here to search our exploRVistas Amazon link!
———-

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!

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!

———-

Click here to search our exploRVistas Amazon link for just about anything imaginable!
———-

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!

———-

Click here to listen to Michigan and Again by The Accidentals, free with your Amazon Prime membership.  Find anything else imaginable through our exploRVistas Amazon link by searching from that same page!
———-

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!

Reflections in the Rear View Mirror

If there is one constant in a fulltime RVer’s life, it has to be the D on the transmission indicator on our dashboards as we head out in the morning. The only time we put it in R to back up seems to be when we are parking our rigs at the end of the day. A scene from the movie Gumball Rally pops into my head where an Italian race car driver named Franco looks at the guy in the passenger seat and says “First rule of Italian driving…” as he reaches up and snaps off the rear view mirror and tosses it out of the car “…what’s behind you isn’t important”.  

And while Diana and I like to examine the history of the locations we visit, there is still that forward movement of wondering what’s over the next hill or around the next bend. Shift to D, turn on the radio and step on the gas. It’s right about that time when life taps you on the shoulder and reminds you that Franco’s statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

Part of our preparations to leave Florida and head west have been to take care of authenticating our mortality, so to speak.  In other words, preparing wills and similar paperwork.  Our home base is the Sunshine State, so this is the place to take care of that business.  Traipsing our caravan across the country in two separate vehicles places a greater need for such documentation, especially when one of us has 14,000 pounds following in close proximity.  Snapping that rear view mirror off would be ill-advised!  So we plowed through the perpetual paperwork (pardon the pun), moving forward with our feet on the gas…just wanting to get it completed.  On St. Patrick’s Day, we had a noon appointment to sign our wills and have them witnessed and notarized, so we went about our morning routine in preparation for the meeting.  That’s when I sat down in my recliner and checked my phone.  There was a text from my former coworker Barb that read, quite simply “Hey. Just wanted to make sure you heard about Richie.”  Well, considering Richie was one of the two people I kept in somewhat regular touch with from work (Kenny being the other) and it wasn’t him telling me what happened to himself, I knew this wasn’t going to be good. So I casually replied “No, what’s up?”, hoping to hear he won the lottery or something.  It was not to be.  A flurry of texts came in from Jeff, Stephen and Barb to tell me he had passed. From what has been told to me since, he had kissed his beloved wife Connie goodnight, took a few steps towards the bedroom and collapsed from a massive heart attack.  62 years old, planning on retiring and looking forward to having more time for golf.  Now don’t get me wrong…Dickey-boy had a lot of fun in his life.  In addition to golf, he loved NFL football and his Detroit Lions, along with classic rock music.  He knew several people in the music industry, played a little guitar, and was close friends with the members of Foghat.

Our VP, Joel, took this tongue-in-cheek photo of us, poking a little fun of the long-standing brothership we shared.  I proudly own that, as we worked side by side for 30 years and had each other’s backs.  He thought the world of Diana, and we indeed are both going to miss him.  The irony of finding out as we were about to sign our wills wasn’t lost on us, nor was the fact that the beach bar we toasted him at was playing classic rock instead of the usual trop-rock.

It dawned on me later that one of the songs playing was The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps.  Nice song selection, Richie…looks like you just picked up a DJ gig upstairs. 😉

Suddenly, I noticed I had eased off the gas and had slipped the shifter to N.   Instead of thinking about our upcoming trip, I found myself pondering the past.  We were fortunate enough to meet up for dinner with Bob and Pat from Michigan Traveler, and Bonnie and Fred from HappiLEE RVing this last weekend.  Bob and I both grew up in Allen Park, Michigan, and we spent a week together at Wild Cherry, so we have a lot of past in common.  Fred and Bonnie and us met at the RV-Dreams Rally and we’ve seen each a couple times other since, so we have a fair amount of history. Bob and Fred are both retired military, and the couples spend a fair amount of time at the US military FamCamps, so we thought it would be fun for them to meet.

It was good to pause and reflect a bit and catch up on everybody’s lives.  🙂

Just after that, we had some business we needed to take care of up in Green Cove Springs.  We saw that Linda and Steven, our friends we met at Amazon, were very close by.  We contacted them, and they invited us to join in on a lunch date in Jacksonville they had with Howard and Linda, founders of RV-Dreams.  It was those two who’s seminars at a Grand Rapids RV show in January of 2014 provided the final nudge to get us on the road.  With no firm plans to leave our jobs at that point, their presentations caused us to go home and crunch some numbers.  By March 21 of that year, I was retired, and Diana was done at work by July 1.

Our lunch turned into a wonderful two hour conversation on what this journey we are on means to all of us.  Not only was the future discussed, but the past was reflected upon.  I detected a few misty eyes on a couple of heartfelt points that were made.  We were so engrossed in what everyone was saying, we didn’t notice that the servers had turned up all the chairs at the surrounding tables and the restaurant had closed over a half hour earlier.  Yeah, it was that good.  What finally caught our attention was the silence during a pause in the dialogue. The music had stopped playing.  Oops…time to head down the road!

We spent the night in St Augustine and toured there with Steven and Linda the next day.  

They had not been there before, and they wanted to see Castillo de San Marcos, among other things.  

It was fun to experience St Augustine with them and look forward to all the plans we have for the future!

I called Kenny last night.  We reminisced and had some laughs, along with sharing what we are currently doing in our lives.  It was really good to hear his voice again. So while everyone I’ve interacted with over the past week are ready to shift into D to see what’s around the next bend in their lives, life itself provided us with a bit of a lesson that we ought not forget the images in the rear view mirror. 

Even though there is sadness mixed into the joy in our memories, we need to listen to the music of our youth and laugh at the silly pictures in our minds. As George Harrison sang “I look at the world and I notice it’s turning. Still my guitar gently weeps…”

Rock on, Richie…Rock on.

————–

Search and shop exploRVistas Amazon link here.
————–

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!

Always in our hearts

Leelanau….a peninsula, a county, a state of mind.  It is a place we’ve written about extensively over the past couple of years. Not only has it been our landing for the past two summers, it has been a place we’ve known well for most of our lives.  A place of indescribable beauty, this finger of land has woven its way into our souls like no other could ever hope to.  We have traveled most of the United States and Canada as a couple and are confident in making that statement.  The friends we’ve made there share that sentiment and our love for the region.  It’s a place where people don’t lock their doors, as the only things stolen are the iconic M-22 highway signs…as visitors want to take a piece of the region home with them.  

With that being said, our goal has always been to return to the places we’ve traveled to and experience them more fully in our retirement.  We must move on for an extended period and begin our journey through North America. The difficulty in doing so is immeasurable, but comfort lives in the understanding that we’ve already found our eventual summer roost, and that we will most definitely be back in the future.

The past few weeks have been a flurry of activity for us.  Following the Harvest Stompede, our fellow RV-Dreams family members Bob and Kathrun stopped in at Wild Cherry for a few days on their journey westward from Nova Scotia. We met them at the rally we attended in Goshen, Indiana in September, 2014.  You may recall that we toured San Antonio with them earlier this year.

We pretty much ran the wheels off the Escape during the time they were here.  It’s always great seeing them!

We also made a quick trip to Kalamazoo to see our college friends and go to a Western Michigan University’s football game.  Our friends’ son, Billy, made the team as a walk-on this year, and while he has yet to see playing time, he has gained a wealth of life experiences being on the team. We are so proud of him for working so hard to reach his goal.

Western won over Georgia Southern 49-31 and extended their record to 4-0, having beat two Big 10 schools along the way.  They are now 5-0, having just beat their arch rival Central Michigan 49-10. Go Broncos!

After Kalamazoo, we stopped at my sister and brother-in-laws home on Long Lake near Harrison, Michigan.  

It’s always good seeing Judy and Dale!

Dale took Diana and I out with their ATV on the land they just bought near them. It was fun checking out the many two-tracks that run through the property.

When we got back to Leelanau, we had a house warming at Lane and Patti’s new home that they are building.

Our friends Camilla, Rod and Mary were there also.  The house is still under construction, but some of us are leaving…so the party couldn’t wait.

Patti and Lane had to open their gifts before the sun set, as the electrician still needed to hook up the lights!

On Wednesday, fellow RV-Dreamers Cori and Greg stopped by to meet us.  They were traveling through Michigan, so we invited them to the Wild Cherry potluck that was happening that evening.

We have been following Cori’s blog, The Restless Youngs…but this is the first time we had met them.  They are super people, and we enjoyed getting to know them!

On Friday, we hooked up and said our goodbyes to our friends at Wild Cherry.  

Paul and JoAnn gave us a thoughtful going away present, which was very sweet of them.  We want to extend a sincere thank you to Wild Cherry’s owners, Jim and Sandy, for their friendship and hospitality the past two years.  They are a sweet couple and we wish them well with the resort. We definitely plan on taking them up on their offer to return in the future!

So what’s next for us?  Well, we are stopping in Grand Rapids for a week to take care of health and hair appointments.  We are also dropping off a few things at the storage room.  We made a quick run to Indiana on Saturday to see my Aunt Marge and Uncle Ed, as it is going to be awhile before we get back this way. From Grand Rapids, we are headed to Campbellsville, Kentucky to work the peak season at Amazon.  We are looking forward to the challange!  From there, we are planning to return to Melbourne Beach for the winter, then it is a ‘jello plan’ to head west.  More about that as we get closer to that time period.  We are excited to see what the future brings, so we hope you stay tuned!

——————————–

Search and shop our Amazon link here.
——————————–

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 doesn’t add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!

Harvest Stompede

It began with a limerick:

A Gerwurstraminer from Shady Lane

Can be enjoyed in the sun or the rain

It sure beats a beer 

that is brewed south of here

And the view from their deck is insane!



Last October, the Leelanau Peninsula Vintner’s Association held a poem contest on Facebook and I won with that entry.  Of course, I was the only entrant.  😉  The cool thing was that I won two free tickets to any event that the LPVA was hosting over the course of the next year.  With one event left before the year was up, we decided it was time to get on the wine trail!  The two day event was called Harvest Stompede, which kicked off with a series of foot races through one of the local vineyards on Saturday morning.  After the races, the wine trail opened with 22 vineyards featuring one of their wines along with a food pairing.  All of them offered additional tastings of between three to five pours.

Our friends Patti and Lane also had tickets. Since we all had commitments on Saturday, we decided to visit the trail on Sunday.  Lane was gracious enough to drive, which we really appreciated!

First stop was Black Star Farms.  The netting on the vineyard in the photo above is used this time of the year to keep the birds from eating the ripe grapes.  This has been one of Diana’s and my favorite wineries on the peninsula for years.  We’ve stayed at their inn as our mid-winter getaway several times during our careers, including one magical night between Christmas and New Years Day when we had the entire inn to ourselves. 

For the Stompede, Black Star was featuring tomato braised beef meatballs with a creamy parmesan polenta paired with their Red House Red.  Unfortunately,  I had to pass on most of the offerings for the day, due to my gluten allergy.

Next up, we stopped at Ciccone Vineyards.

This winery is owned by Silvio (Tony) and Joan Ciccone…known to many as the singer Madonna’s dad and stepmom…but around here as pretty darn good winemakers and a sweet couple.  Tony has been making wine since he was a kid in Pennsylvania.

One of the things I have always enjoyed about this location is walking into the kitchen area for the food pairings.  Joan usually has some Italian dish going that smells like so many of my childhood friends’ homes back in Detroit.

This time around, she made her famous Oriental salad paired with their Gerwurtztraminer.  I really missed the smell of marinara, but it never hurts to change things up.  😀

Patti wanted us to see the amazing view from Ciccone’s barn, so we walked up the hill to check it out.  Our friend, Mary, has done the flowers for weddings here and has told us how great of a venue it is.

This cavernous building plays host to wedding receptions and other events.

This is the view looking east out of one of the windows.  That’s the west arm of Grand Traverse Bay with the Old Mission Peninsula beyond it.

This vista looking west from a tent they had set up outside the barn.  They are definitely on the top of the hill.

As we were walking around, we saw Tony talking to some people who were also checking out the view.  It was a nice opportunity to speak to him one on one about his vineyard.

Here’s Lane and Tony discussing the different varieties that he grows on the property.  

This particular type of grape is used to make Gerwurtztraminer, which is one of my favorites.

Tony also told us we were welcome to come pick grapes with him in a few weeks. Hmmmm….might have to consider that one.  

He says he puts complete strangers at one end of each side of a row and that they know each other’s life stories by the time they get to the other end.

We enjoyed getting the chance to speak with him in his little slice of heaven.  😀

Next up…or should I say down the hill…was Chateau de Leelanau. 

Their tasting room is in a barn with several other businesses right alongside M-22.  I do have to say that the atmosphere is not what you would expect from a winery, but they definitely have their winemaking down pat.  

For the Stompede, they were pairing a smoked beef brisket and cheddar slider with a choice of one of their Tractor Pull hard ciders.  I thought the cider was very tasty.  The slider looked yummy!  We sampled some of their other wines and thought they were very good.  I’m glad Lane put them on our tour.   😀

From there we dropped down the peninsula to Shady Lane Cellars.


This was the subject of my limerick! Their patio is a great place to spend a summer evening, especially when they have a musician performing. 



Their offering was a BBQ chicken flatbread paired with their 2014 Pinot Noir Rose.  We sampled a few of their other wines, including their outstanding 2013 Blue Franc. They have what we feel are the best reds on the peninsula, and their whites are also excellent.

Our next stop was Brengman Brothers Winery.

This is a beautiful location and a premier wedding venue.  As a matter of fact while we were here, we ran into our friend Julie and her daughter Maren, who is having her wedding reception here next year. 😀

The tasting room is just gorgeous!

They were serving chips and spinach dip paired with a choice of their Runaway Hen White or Brengman Brothers Vignoles.  
After Brengman Brothers, we headed over to Longview Winery.

Winemaker and owner Alan Eaker has an outstanding cherry wine and also a very interesting cherry mead.  We ended up buying a bottle of each.

Here he is serving up his son’s roasted salmon chowder which was paired with his Dry Riesling.  Lane said the chowder was simply outstanding.

From there we drove up to Bel Lago Vineyards and Winery.  

Bel Lago means ‘beautiful lake’ in Italian, as this winery sits high on a hill above Lake Leelanau.  Their winemaker, Charlie Edson, is well respected in the area for his skills in producing quality wine.

For the event, they served a smoked cherry barbecue pulled pork with cherry tortilla chips paired with Bouquetti.  Lane pointed out that someone was watching the number of people coming in the door and bringing out just enough fresh servings of food as they entered.  Very nice.

Diana and Patti were definitely having fun!

After that, we zoomed up to Laurentide Winery. Named for the continental ice sheet that shaped this region 10,000 years ago, this winery pays tribute to the earth the vines grow in.

That’s co-owner Susan Braymer holding a bottle of the day’s featured wine, Sauvignon Blanc.  Her and her husband Bill have worked very hard to perfect their wines and it shows.

Susan’s food pairing was her creamy cucumber soup, which was served chilled.  When I asked her if it was gluten free, she replied that it definitely was. Woohoo! My first gluten free pairing of the day!  Thank you, Susan…it was delicious!

At that point the clock was ticking towards the trail’s 5 pm ending, so we made one last stop at Boathouse Vineyards on the way back to Wild Cherry Resort.

This is one of Diana’s and my favorites.  Their 2014 Pinot Grigio (sold out) was my all-time favorite, and their 2015 is extremely close!  Their lawn extends down to The Narrows, which is the channel between North and South Lake Leelanau.

Their pairing for the day was a blackberry brie tartlet served with their 2013 Pinot Noir.

When we were done, we plopped into their Adirondack chairs and called it a day.

Even the clouds seemed to smile and wink at us, as if to say “great job!”

If you ever get a chance to experience a Leelanau Peninsula wine tour, by all means, do so. If driving is a concern, half price tickets are available for designated drivers (food only), or you can book a limo or van through one of the local tour services. More information on the events being held throughout the year are available at lpwines.com.

A Very Busy Summer

If it seems like our posts have been a little spread apart this summer, you are correct in that observation.  Our plans for our time in Michigan this year included a few renovations with our rig and finishing up Diana’s mom’s business.  We also hoped to spend more time just enjoying Leelanau and sharing our discoveries here on exploRVistas. We did accomplish what we had planned, but there were a few obstacles thrown in to make life interesting.  Top that off with an extremely full resort and…well…there wasn’t much time for writing!  Things are settling down though, so here’s a summary of our past few months.

After spending the last half of April and the first week of May in Grand Rapids (doctor visits and working through Mom’s business), we headed north to Wild Cherry Resort near Lake Leelanau.  We knew that we had two renovations we wanted to get to this summer…new carpeting and a new kitchen countertop and sink.  Before I could get to either of those, Diana and I were looking at our entry steps, as there was a loose piece that needed some attention.  As we were inspecting them,  Diana noticed several cracks in our frame.  That lead to having quite a bit of welding done to our rig, something I covered in detail on our post, A Solid Foundation.  When I was finishing up that job, I noticed that one of our leaf springs was completely worn out.

That’s the new spring on top of the old one.  I purchased four new springs and, with the help of my neighbor Tom, we installed them in an afternoon.  It sure was nice having his help, along with the use of the resort’s tools!  Just about the time that job was completed, we were hit with a doozey of a hailstorm.

A solid 10 minutes of marble to golf ball sized hail.  Both of our vehicles sustained damage, along with all three of our slide room toppers.  Several people in the park lost all of their roof vents, but those of us with MaxxAir covers did just fine.  Unfortunately, my tonneau cover on the truck looked like someone had taken a ball peen hammer to it.  

Thank goodness our insurance covered it all. In the midst of getting the vehicles fixed, I decided that I’d better get going on the countertop, if I had any hope of getting it done this summer.  I used to make them for a living in a factory setting; this was going to require field work.  Fortunately the resort has a table saw in the barn.  Jim let me build the top there and I had it installed in short order.  

We are happy with the way it turned out!
As soon as that project was complete, we called a local flooring installer and started the process of having our carpeting replaced.  I had been worried about a soft spot in our floor that I wanted to fix, so I told him I would remove the old carpeting.  Upon doing so, I noticed that the RV manufacturer had cut a hole in a perfectly good, one-piece subfloor.

Not sure why they did that, but they evidently thought that putting a hundred staples around the edge would hold it in place.  The portion over the heat duct had nothing supporting it.  I removed the board and built a support structure below it with square aluminum tubing.  After re-mounting the board, the repair was as solid as the rest of the floor.  Problem solved.

The carpet installation process took a week, as the installer had to subcontract the binding on the edges that hang off the slide rooms.  That meant cramming our vehicles full of the stuff that normally was in our rig.  We kept the Escape driveable, but the truck was completely packed. Jim let us store our loveseat and dinette on a utility trailer in the barn, which was a huge help.

Again, we were really pleased with the results!  Nothing like soft carpeting between your toes!  😀

So while it’s been a busy time, it’s been a great summer in Leelanau.  Autumn is fast approaching, and there are several things we would like to do before we leave.  Stay tuned to see what’s next!

———————————

Search and shop our Amazon link here!
———————————

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 doesn’t add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!