Tag Archives: Leelanau

She Sells Sea Shells by the…Cherry Orchard?

July 22, 2020 – Leelanau County, Michigan

Written by Jim

One of the more interesting discoveries on our property in Leelanau County has been what lies just below the surface. Our land sits perched on a hill about a mile west of Grand Traverse Bay and four miles east of Lake Michigan. We are 150 feet above those bodies of water. Our soil is well drained, with a mix of topsoil, sand and lots of gravel. That gravel…and our hill…is courtesy of the Laurentide Ice Sheet that plowed its way southward from Canada 10,000 years ago. As it moved, it pushed whatever soil and stone it could dislodge in front of it. Much of that rock was sedimentary, having been laid down at the bottom of an ancient sea that once covered the central portion of North America. In our case, that sea was well to our north. Some of the gravel and stone is pink granite, which is found along the Canadian Shield on the north shore of Lake Superior…again, well to our north. In any case, sticking a shovel in the ground around here will bring up a multitude of surprises!

Mid June brought a project that required a bit of digging. We needed to run an electric line from our barn to our new RV sites, a distance of 100 feet. Rather than fight the rocky soil, we rented this beauty:

Four hours with this trencher goes for about $250, so we also cut a trench to the future cabin and put 2″ conduit in. That saved having to rent this again next year.

The trench to the RV sites was fairly easy, as the top portion was fill that the excavator brought in.

Not so on the other trench. This was all glacial till. Note how it is not a straight line, as the Ditch Witch was bouncing off of every boulder it encountered! Let’s just say that we were glad it finished the project in one piece. This particular slice required quite a bit of hand digging, as the machine couldn’t go deep enough because of the rock.

So what did we find?

This is an example of a Charlevoix stone, a cousin to the Petoskey stone. Both are some 350 million years old and are forms of coral from that ancient seabed I spoke of earlier.

Here is a Petoskey stone, which can be distinguished by its geometric shaped coral.

On occasion, I would toss a seemingly mundane gray rock onto the pile, only to have it split in two.

This one split and left not only the imprint of a shell on the right half, but the actual shell on the left half. Once again, that shell is millions of years old.

And check out this one. There is a lot going on in this beauty! This is not anything that would’ve lived on the bottom of freshwater Lake Michigan, but rather the shallow saltwater sea that was to our north and west. This was dredged up by the glaciers and transported here during the last ice age…high up on our hill.

Finding treasures like those makes doing work like this a lot more fun!

The rest of our project is coming along right on schedule.

We’ve been busy putting up fascia and soffit…

…and siding! We are just a few days from being done with that project. The back of the barn is built into the hill; that’s why the red portion looks so short. We should be able to get our final inspections within the next couple of weeks. Look for photos of the finished product in our next post.

The other excitement around here was when we discovered that a few of our large maples were hollow inside and were in danger of falling on our barn and future cabin. Had we noticed them before we built the barn, we could’ve cut them down ourselves. We chose to have a tree service come in and take them down for us.

That was a job better left to the professionals!

That’s about it from northern Michigan and our little slice of paradise. Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

A Snowball in Florida?

February 1, 2020 – Melbourne Beach, Florida

Written by Jim

The metaphor of a tiny snowball rolling down a hill and gaining size was a thought that kept going through my head in early January. With the fact that we were on the coast in Florida…at an elevation of 10 feet above sea level and with us in shorts…it was just that; a metaphor. That thought was rooted in my attempted recovery from the most recent bout of whatever crud was going around. It turns out that it had snowballed into a full-blown case of bronchitis. I ended up coughing so hard that I pulled muscles in my back and aggravated my sciatic issues on my left side. I could barely walk, once I mustered the energy to get out of my chair. I was a mess, to put it mildly. On more than one occasion, I thanked God that I had decided against working for UPS this year.

First order of business was to get over the bronchitis. A trip to Surfside Urgent Care netted me several prescriptions, including an inhaler to stop the out-of-control coughing. If you owned stock in Walgreens over that period of time, you are welcome for the upswing in your portfolio. 🙂 The concoction of drugs, coupled with some great nursing from my lovely caregiver Diana, did the trick. By mid month, the snowball had stopped rolling.

The next thing on the agenda was to address the sciatic issue. My leg pain had subsided, but it was replaced with numbness. I contacted my nephew Dr. Dan, who is a physical therapist in Michigan, asking advice on what direction to go in seeking health care. My primary care doctor is in Michigan, and I really wanted to get a jump on this. Dan provided me with a ton of information (Thank you!) and a recommendation to seek out a good physical therapist down here. Florida has a law that allows a person to get 30 days of PT without a physicians referral, so I connected with one that was highly rated and accepted by our insurance. I’m happy to say that after a week and a half, I am making great progress! The snowball is indeed melting.

In Space Coast news, we’ve had three launches so far this year. January 6 saw the launch of Starlink 2, the second operational flight of SpaceX’s constellation of internet-providing satellites. With it being an evening launch that was flying northeast, we knew our best views would be further north of our winter home. We headed up to Patrick Air Force Base, which sits just south of Cape Canaveral.

What a show! What you are seeing in this photo (left to right) is the trail from the main engines, followed by MECO (main engine cut off). The next dot is the second-stage engine start (SES), followed by that portion of the rocket fading off into orbit. At that point, the rocket is outside of the atmosphere, so the flame disappears. Farther to the right, the first re-entry burn from the first stage can be seen, as it slows down to land on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, located several hundred miles out to sea. The final burn wasn’t visible, as it was over the horizon. I guess Earth isn’t flat, after all. :). For a full list of SpaceX acronyms…some of them hilarious… click HERE. BFR is one of my favorites, as is FTBA. 🙂

The next launch was the much anticipated IFA test. IFA stands for In-Flight Abort. NASA will be launching astronauts on SpaceX rockets, and this test was performed to see if the capsule could escape from an exploding rocket. We decided that Patrick AFB was the best spot to view it from, so away we went!

The weather had other plans, as the rocket disappeared into the clouds. We did hear a tremendous BOOM though (that’s not an acronym), as the rocket experienced RSD (rapid scheduled disassembly). Here’s what it looked like on Doppler radar:

The smaller green dot to the right of the explosion is the capsule flying away from the exploding rocket. The flight was a success and we should expect to see astronauts headed to the space station this spring.

The last launch for January was another SpaceX Starlink launch. Having a PT commitment later that morning, we chose to view it from our park:

It never gets old. 🙂

The other entertainment around here is Bingo and the weekly meat shoot at the local Moose lodge. This version involves a deck of cards instead of guns, but the prizes are still sizable cuts of meat. I won some delicious pork chops and Diana scored the 50/50 a few weeks back. It’s always a good time, as a large group of us from the park shows up. The caller refers to us as the Big Table.

We also had lunch with our friends Rod and Mary, we went to Merritt Island with our friend Paul and his Aunt Joan, and we did a Costco run with our full-time RV friend Kathy. This is the fifth state we’ve connected with her in.

And we’ve gained some ground on our garage project. We have all of our subcontractors lined up now and we’ve secured our land use permit. Once we have the building permit in hand, we can begin!

Actually, there is a fair amount of white stuff up on our hill, so we will wait until it melts before we head up there. We don’t want my snowball metaphor to become a reality. 🙂

Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

Following the Autumn Leaves

October 6 – November 1, 2019 – Michigan to Florida

Written by Jim

In our last post, I mentioned relearning how to drive in the U.S. after spending a month in the U.K. and Ireland. Our delayed flight got us back after dark, so we had to navigate the aggressive freeways of Chicago in an unfamiliar rental car. Talk about wanting to get back on the plane! Once past Gary and into Michigan, the traffic eased and we were able to relax. Jet lag caught up to us soon after, so we grabbed a comfy room at the Hampton Inn in South Haven. After a delicious breakfast at the Phoenix Street Cafe the next morning, we headed back to Grand Rapids to get our vehicles. A huge thank you to Terry and Diane for allowing us to store them at their home!

We moved to our base for the next week, Woodchip Campground. Our spot was just a few sites east of where we spent the winter of 2014-15. This go around, we spent the week taking care of annual physicals, dentist appointments, haircuts and such. We even bopped over to Detroit for one appointment at Henry Ford Hospital. That gave us the opportunity to drop in on Diana’s cousin Debbie on our way home. It was great to see her again. We finished up the week with our annual trip to Kalamazoo for WMU homecoming.

It’s always good to to be with our crew! After watching the Broncos beat Miami of Ohio, we headed back to our old dorm, French Hall, to check it out.

Here’s Diana knocking on the door of her old room. No one was there, unfortunately.

From Kalamazoo, we headed back up to our property in Leelanau County. We wanted to get some measurements and talk to the county building personnel while we were there. Knowing our land is loaded with maples, we were hoping our trees were colorful.

Needless to say, we were not disappointed!

It was very exciting to be able to experience our first autumn on our little slice of heaven! A note of interest: one month after this photo was taken, three feet of snow fell here. The scene is far different, indeed. With the temperatures plummeting, we made the decision to head south.

After stopping to see Diana’s sister and family in New Baltimore, Michigan, we headed towards Wapakoneta, Ohio. This tiny town is home to Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon.

It is also home to the Armstrong Air and Space Museum, which is situated just a few yards from Interstate 75. We’ve driven by this unusually-shaped building many times since it opened in 1972 but have never stopped in. Fifty years and three months to the day of Neil taking that otherworldly step, we finally walked through these doors.

We were amazed at the amount of artifacts in this small museum, which included this space-flown shuttle tire that you could touch. It was far thicker than any tire I had ever handled. The exhibits also detailed the 25 astronauts that are native to Ohio. Some of the most famous are John Glenn (first American to orbit Earth) and Jim Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13.

Ohio is also the birthplace of Judith Resnik, a member of the crew of the ill-fated shuttle, Challenger. The small U.S. and Ohio flags to the right were in her personal bag that was recovered from the Atlantic Ocean floor. She was America’s second woman in space, having flown on the space shuttle Discovery in 1984. Not only was she an astronaut, she had a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, was a biomedical engineer, and an accomplished concert pianist.

And does anyone remember these? I drank many a glass of milk out of one of these as a kid. Libby Glass and Marathon Oil, both Ohio companies, manufactured and distributed these glasses during the Apollo missions. They have them for sale at the museum.

As we made our way through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, we were surprised that we hadn’t gotten ahead of the autumn leaves changing color. The drive south was much prettier than we anticipated. Our goal was to stop and see Diana’s brother who recently moved to Franklin, NC.

After setting up camp, we took a drive to see Dry Falls. This beautiful set of falls is located along US-62, one of the most twisty and narrow U.S. highways we had ever been on.

They were named for the fact that a person can remain relatively dry when walking behind them.

The next day, we spent the day with Dan, driving into Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Our destination that day was Clingman’s Dome, one of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi River.

Dan had been here in the past, having hiked this portion of the Appalachian Trail with a friend of his.

The colors from the top were outstanding. These mountains were where we drove out of the autumn display, as green leaves and palm trees soon took over as we headed further south.

Before too long, we made our way to Melbourne Beach and our little slice of Florida paradise.

We look forward to a winter filled with friends and rocket launches, so stay tuned for that. Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

The Pull of Leelanau

There is definitely something magical about Leelanau.  Standing upon the hills that are the remains of long ago glaciers, we get a sense of calm that we have yet to find elsewhere.  Miles of orchards, vineyards, shorelines, trees, and meadows continue to pull us in.  In reading that, one would think that the question at the end of our last post would be answered…will we be back next year?  It turns out that we indeed will be, and it will definitely be different than it has been in years past.  More on that in a minute.

I’m happy to announce that the rope project is complete!

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This is the last piece they asked me to do; a rudimentary barrier across a set of concrete stairs outside the Cannery.  Out of 200 feet of rope, I ended the project with a foot to spare.

Also, we had a nice surprise when a couple walked into the Cannery and asked “Are you exploRVistas?”

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It was long time blog followers Kathy and John, who came all the way from Delaware to visit Sleeping Bear Dunes!  It was fun to visit with them for a bit and we wish them well in their travels.

So, back to the future.  Over the past several years, I’ve had a habit of browsing on Zillow, the real estate website.  Those sessions always ended with a ‘maybe someday’.  Well, someday has arrived.  We found some land with a view, a hill, a driveway, a building site, deer tracks, trillium, and bunch of maple trees.  Seeing that it is a glacial moraine composed of sand and gravel, it passed the perc test with flying colors.  We mulled it over, sorted out the initial details, and closed on it this past week.  Will this take us off the road as fulltime RVers?  Not for several years, as we are going to build in phases.  We intend this to be a summer home, as we plan to continue to winter in Florida, sprinkling spring and fall travel into the mix.  We will change our status at the national lakeshore to community volunteers, once we complete our upcoming project.

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Here is our building site, looking south.  We have room for a small home, a large garage, and an RV or two.  A few of the trees will come out to open up a long view of the surrounding area.

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This view is looking north.  There are lots of possibilities as to what we will do with the space.  We will be doing most of the work ourselves, so plan on us taking a few years until our heads hit the pillows in our new home.

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One of the first things we wanted was a shed to store a few things in.  We’ll attempt to get that built in the time we have before we head to the UK.

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If it doesn’t get totally done, we will finish it when we get back.

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Diana is making sure the site doesn’t get reclaimed by the forest.

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She is making quick work mowing the ground cover the previous owner put in. Our new to us string trimmer is perfect for the job.

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A few of the leaves have started to turn color, so we should be in for quite a show when we get back from our trip.  Our trees are about 90-plus percent maples.

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Be sure to stay tuned over the next several years as we turn our little slice of heaven into a place to call home.  This next week will be a busy one, so look for our next post to come from somewhere in London.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

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!

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Concert at the Dune Climb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fieldstones

Leelanau County, Michigan was shaped during the last ice age by the continental ice sheet that covered the area.  While that geology is a subject I intend to write about at a later date, my focus in this post is the town of Suttons Bay.  This little hamlet has become one of our ‘go-to’ place for services, as it sports a laundromat and grocery store.  It is also home to many unique shops and restaurants, along with a Saturday farmer’s market.  While driving on the back streets of town, we began to notice something very different about the village: the heavy concentration of fieldstone homes.  As many of you know, the glacial ice sheet that covered the northern United States deposited a layer of rounded stones in all shapes and sizes.  The soil in the Leelanau region of Michigan is full of them.  As a result, the local architecture reflects the presence of the stones, as they provided a cheap and abundant building material.

  
This is a charming home that uses natural fieldstone for all of its exterior walls.

  
Many of the homes use the stone for the foundation only.

  
This beauty took that a step further to include a fieldstone chimney.

  
This one appeared to have concrete below the decorative fieldstone. 

  
There was a builder’s trailer parked in the driveway of this home.  It appeared to be in the process of being renovated.

  
One of my favorites was this bungalow.  Take a close look at the detail in the railing of the porch.  The insets in the center of the railing employs the use of smaller diameter stones.  The gargoyles are the ‘piece de resistance’, as this structure really stands out among the others.

  
The stones are also used to construct retaining walls and borders throughout the town.  Wild Cherry Resort has also used fieldstone in this manner.

  
The use of the stones is not limited to older structures.  This is actually a modern home that sports a layer of the rounded rocks.

The crown jewel of the town is Union School on St. Mary’s Street.
 
This charming structure was built in 1907.  It was recently converted to four condominiums.  Looking at it, I couldn’t help but imagine the children who took this building for granted, only to realize as adults how fortunate they were to attend classes in such a beautiful school.

If you find yourself in Suttons Bay, get off the main road and check these structures out.  It is worth the few minutes it takes to drive through the town.

What sorts of indigineous stone have you noticed being used in the buildings in your area?