Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

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Heading Home

October 10, 2018

With heavy rains predicted for the next three days, we decided to head back home, cutting the trip just a day short. There has been a lot of rain on this trip, and it has been difficult to keep humidity to a reasonable level inside the trailer. We bought a small dehumidifier and several dehumidifier tubs. Using propane heat generates water: Combustion.jpgThe heat pump does a better job of drying the inside, but not great. Some come with a dehumidify mode, but ours doesn’t. We had similar problems when we were in Olympic National Park, which is a rain forest. It is not good when mold begins to grow. With temperatures hovering around 48 degrees, the Yoopers (also known as Fudgies) said this was unusual weather.

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Site 163 in Taqwuamenon Falls State Park

With all the rain, we have actually been very lucky to be able to see and do things. Most of the rains, especially the heavy rains) have come at night. Though the days have been cloudy, we could hike or get out and explore. Now with six inches of rain predicted over the next three days, there is little chance of that. 

We headed south on 123, across the 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge and south on I75, which is very pretty and pleasant in the northern section. Then on to 23 south to Ann Arbor, Toledo and Columbus, where we stayed at Alum Creek State Park. It was still cloudy and rained during the night. Waking up early, we opted to go tough it out and go through Columbus in rush hour. Ohio is famous for its orange barrels and road construction. There was plenty in Delaware, now a bedroom community of Columbus, and plenty on the south end of 71. By the time we got back on 23, things calmed down. 23 and 35 are very pretty roads without a lot of traffic, and you can go 65mph. Martha offered to drive for an hour for the first time pulling the Airstream!! We picked up I64 north of Charleston, WV along with now tropical storm Michael, following both all the way home. I’m always amazed how people continue to drive top speeds in pouring rain, and we saw several accidents. 

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To entertain ourselves on the drive, we talked about what our favorite things were for this trip.

Favorite campground: There was no real standout, but we liked every state park we stayed in. Michigan and Ohio have excellent state parks with modern, clean facilities.

Favorite lunch: Colin’s Cafe in Harbor Springs and Brown’s Fish House in Paradise.

Favorite things about the trip: The towns – Petoskey and Harbor Springs; fall colors.

People: The “mayor” of Petoskey, Gary at Whitefish Point, the couple on Mackinac Island who told us all the places to go

Favorite place: Mackinac Island

When we got to Charlottesville, it was pouring down rain and traffic was heavy. Our tire monitor sounded an alert that the front left tire was losing air, so I got off at the next exit looking for a place to change a tire in this weather. At a stoplight, the monitor reset to everything being OK, so we continued slowly toward home, thankful it was a false alarm. I should change a truck tire just so I know where everything is. I keep the jack in the far back of the truck box, so I would have gotten everything soaking wet getting to it. By the time we got home, we were spent, but we were safe, and thank God for that!

Tahquamenon Falls

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

We explored the lower and upper falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and they are beautiful – like a little Niagara with colors like Pictured Rocks. It rained hard again last night, so the river was rocking. This is a beautiful area you could explore for a long time. There are lots of trails and lots of clear streams to float, but we don’t have a lot of time, and it is supposed to rain hard for the next three days.

Our treat of the day was to go to Brown’s Fish House, famous for freshly caught whitefish. Looking at the small menu, I was torn between yellow perch, walleye or whitefish. The nice waitress said whitefish is fresh and what people come from miles away to get. Whitefish and chips it was, and it was good. With three good-size pieces of fish, it was all I could eat. 

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We drove out to Whitefish Point to see the beach, the lighthouse and bird sanctuary. Walking out on the beach, we came up on a young man with a scope and a computer, drinking his coffee next to a tiny hut. It was a chilly, windy day, but he was there to count birds for the Michigan Audubon Society. Martha walked right up and asked what he was doing. His name was Gary, and for 30 minutes he told us about all the birds that come through here. Birds are his passion, and he knows his stuff. The puddle ducks are all gone now, flying south for the winter. That’s why we didn’t see anything at Seney Wildlife Area. Now the diving ducks were just starting to come in. The plovers have all migrated, and so have the hawks. He said thousands of hawks migrate through here. It is such an important spot because birds will stop here after crossing Lake Superior or resting before crossing when coming back north. It’s a relatively narrow part of the lake, so it’s a good place to cross. Unlike so many places, this point has gained about 150 yards of beach, including a good-sized pond. We thanked Gary for his tremendous enthusiasm and sharing his knowledge with us.

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Walking up the beach, several people were collecting smooth, round rocks that line the shore. I took a couple of pictures of the lighthouse that protects shoals that have wrecked many ships, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. Gordon Lightfoot describes it well in his song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. 

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Lyrics

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they called ‘gitche gumee’

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead

When the skies of November turn gloomy

With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more

Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty

That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed

When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side

Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin

As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most

With a crew and good captain well seasoned

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms

When they left fully loaded for Cleveland

And later that night when the ship’s bell rang

Could it be the north wind they’d been feelin’?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound

And a wave broke over the railing

And every man knew, as the captain did too,

T’was the witch of November come stealin’

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait

When the gales of November came slashin’

When afternoon came it was freezin’ rain

In the face of a hurricane west wind

When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin’

Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya

At seven pm a main hatchway caved in, he said

Fellas, it’s been good t’know ya

The captain wired in he had water comin’ in

And the good ship and crew was in peril

And later that night when his lights went outta sight

Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Does any one know where the love of God goes

When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay

If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her

They might have split up or they might have capsized

They may have broke deep and took water

And all that remains is the faces and the names

Of the wives and the sons and the daughters

Lake Huron rolls, superior sings

In the rooms of her ice-water mansion

Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams

The islands and bays are for sportsmen

And farther below Lake Ontario

Takes in what Lake Erie can send her

And the iron boats go as the mariners all know

With the gales of November remembered

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,

In the maritime sailors’ cathedral

The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times

For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down

Of the big lake they call ‘gitche gumee’

Superior, they said, never gives up her dead

When the gales of November come early

Songwriters: Gordon Lightfoot

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Sunday, October 7, 2018

It was 48 degrees with a 12mph breeze, but we bundled up and went on the Pictured Rocks Cruise. It is usually a 2 1/2 hour cruise, but they said if it gets rough, they would turn around. I had been on this cruise maybe 10 years ago on an absolutely perfect fall day. This time it was cloudy, breezy and chilly sitting on the top, open deck so I could get pictures. I was surprised to see Martha come up top and more surprised that she stayed there the whole time. 

John, a retired National Parks ranger, who now works the cruise, sat down to look at my new Nikon 200-500 lens. He grew up in Wisconsin, but traveled all over with the parks, living in Harrisonburg while working for the Shenandoah National Park. He had visited Charlottesville many times. 

The captain come on the speakers suggesting if you get seasick, you might want to get off. I get seasick, but I was guessing it wouldn’t get too bad. He introduced Grand Island on our left that helped protect Munising from the weather. The small town is at the top of Munising Bay, named by the Indians meaning near the Island. Grand Island is 49 square miles, larger than Manhattan, population 47. 

As we cruised out with two Cummings diesel engines at 15mph, the captain told us about the park, which is 40 miles long. Water seeping through the rock cliffs makes different colors and designs on the cliffs. Iron, copper, manganese and limestone play their part. Water, ice and time carve cliffs to look like an Indian chief, a battleship or a castle. The fall colors were gorgeous, even though the sun wasn’t lighting them up. As we rounded a corner, the waves got bigger and the captain said we were heading back. We went along Grand Island on the way back. Some executives bought the island years ago and stocked it with game as their hunting preserve. There was just one problem. When winter came, the whole bay froze, and the deer, caribou and moose walked off the island. As we entered the harbor, the captain invited us to come to live in Munising. We should like snow sports as they get 272 inches of snow a year, and the bay freezes over. However there are hundreds of miles of snowmobile and cross-country ski trails. He said the bay is filled with ice fishing shacks in winter.

After warming up in the Airstream and some lunch, we went to see several of the 11 nearby waterfalls. We stopped in Open Wings Art and Fine Crafts for a look. It’s a very nice store featuring arts and crafts by local artisans. Wooden bowls and vases, knitted gloves, paintings of wildlife and Pictured Rocks, ceramics, photography and many other things were neatly arranged. We walked out with a bag full of things. Then back home for some split pea soup Martha made in the slow cooker – perfect for a chilly day. 

Tunnel of Trees

Friday, October 5, 2018

We spent the morning driving the Tunnel of Trees that runs between Cross Village to Harbor Springs, just north of Petoskey along M119. It follows a bluff over Lake Michigan. Cabins, cottages and houses dot both sides of the road, and add to the scenery. We stopped in the shops of Good Hart. There are so many cabins and cottages in this land of lakes, it is fun to go in some of the cabin stores. Michigan is bordered by four of the Great Lakes and there are lots of interior lakes, all of which are dotted with cabins.

It was lunch time when we got to Harbor Springs, a darling little town on Little Traverse Bay. Seeing several local ladies going into Colin’s Cafe, we parked and went in. It is a cute, little shop that makes great sandwiches, scones and cakes, coffees and teas. 

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We walked the downtown shops a bit and bought a few little things, including scones and pastries, before heading out. Now I can’t decide where I want to live – Petoskey or Harbor Springs. We drove back to camp and took a short hike around a lake in Wilderness State Park, then made a fire, having a steak meat pie for dinner from the farmer’s market in Holland. I was surprised by a phone call from Traverse City. It was Joe from Nature & Me RV, wanting to know if everything was working all right. Are you kidding me?! “Do you call everyone?” I asked. “Yes we just want to know if you are having any trouble”. Geez!

Rain! Petoskey, Michigan

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We woke up to HEAVY rains, thunder and lightning. Like a small hurricane, the winds blew hard. I was worried a tree or big limb would fall on the Airstream. It was predicted to last all day, so we read most of the morning. By noon it let up, so we drove into Petosky and went to the library. Certainly one of the nicest libraries I have been in, the nice lady at the desk told us it is more quiet on the second floor. With comfortable tables, chairs and lounge chairs, we picked a good spot to catch up on the blog. 45 minutes later I was done. We headed across the street to an old church that now served as Crooked Tree Arts Center and checked out all the work, most of which was for sale. 

By then the sun had come out and it was warming up, so we decided to go to Bear River Valley Recreation Area, where the river had been turned into a 1.5 mile white water section. You’d better know what you are doing to run this one. Of course it was rocking from that torrential rain last night. By the time we had walked up the trail for a while, we started peeling layers off. From the 49 degree start of the day, it got up to 75 and sunny.

On our way back to Petoskey State Park, we stopped to look at the incredibly pretty houses overlooking the bay. I hadn’t walked very far when a gentleman, out for his walk, asked me how I was doing. The next thing you know we were walking together, talking about Petoskey. He said he has been coming here for 76 years, his parents bringing the family from the time he was born. He went on to jobs bringing distressed companies back to life, living in many places including Florida and 8 years in Hawaii. He said this is the best place he has very been, and I believe it as it is gorgeous. He told me we should buy a cottage here. Then he gave me recommendations of where to eat and places to go, among them Pictured Rocks and Harbor Springs. We said goodbye. A couple he knew came up the other side of the street, and he went over to talk to them. He must be the mayor of Petoskey. 

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I resumed taking pictures of the lovely homes, but didn’t make it down to Bay Street where the biggest houses are. Martha had made it down and around two blocks before we met again. We decided to go to Petoskey Brewing Company for dinner. A good burger and fries complemented the porters we ordered. A group of 10 guys were seated next to us. I couldn’t help but listen in as one guy told the story of deer hunting when a wolf killed a deer right in front of his deer stand. After all that rain, it turned out to be a pretty good day. 

Nature & Me RV

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October 2, 2018

Our appointment at Nature & Men RV was at 3:00. We went to the grocery store and got a few things, one being a new lighter for the gas stove. I was looking through a whole display of them, mainly looking for one that was refillable. Martha walked up and said, “Why wouldn’t you get the Ohio State one?” I couldn’t believe here in Michigan was an Ohio State lighter. I had settled on a Michigan State one as a souvenir for our trip, but since we had been at Ohio State for five years, it was an easy choice. 

Then off to Backcountry North on Rt 31. Martha wanted to trade her gloves that she bought downtown. It’s a dangerous store. With kayaking, hiking and camping gear and a very nice and helpful staff, I enjoyed cruising around while Martha found gloves and a sweater. I bought some kayak gloves and a light neoprene shirt for kayaking in this weather…..if I get to do it. I should have bought pants, but had already spent too much.

We had lunch, checked out of the campground and went to Nature & Me RV, arriving about 1:30 for our 3:00 appt. I checked in with Joe, telling him we didn’t expect to be seen until 3:00 and would just hang out. Maybe I could catch up on the blog on their WIFI. After cruising the parts and accessory section and looking at all the Vespa scooters, I went out to the truck to get my computer. I was surprised to see Alan already working on the hitch. I asked if he minded my watching. He didn’t. I always like to watch, so I can learn what is done in case it happens again. He was very nice explaining things, and it was obvious he had done a lot of these things. I told him I was glad He was doing the job, as I could see it was going to be very secure as he tightened the bolts with his air wrench. He replaced both bolts on the affected side and the other side for good measure. 

I went in to pay the modest bill and enjoyed talking with Joe, who grew up here. He asked where we hiked. He likes to float the Boardman. In the same way I complain about my home, Charlottesville’s growth, he said he and his friends walked or biked everywhere, never feeling threatened. Traverse City has steady growth, with steadily increasing traffic. “You should see it in the summertime”, he said. I could be friends with Joe. He loves his town and all the great outdoor things to do and likes his job. He is going to visit the Airstream factory in Jackson City for the first time soon. I told him he would really enjoy that. He was still apologetic about not being able to see us yesterday. “Hey, we never would have taken that great hike at Brown Bridge”, I said. I thanked him very much. Lucky us!

 

We were on our way at 3:00, heading up 31, east around the bay, then north. On the map it looked like you would see water on both sides, but we rarely got a glimpse. Still, it is very pretty land, farms and little towns. We drove through the cute, little town of Petosky to Petosky State Park. We found a spot near the beach and set up, then built a fire in the Solo Stove. I really like this thing. You can snuggle right up to it to stay warm without the smoke driving you away, and it burns hot. Martha cooked some Brats, acorn squash and veggies over the fire. Then we walked over to the beach to watch the sun set. We put everything away except the Solo Stove as the rains were supposed to come in the night.

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Hike Brown Bridge Quiet Area

Monday, October 1, 2018

After being on the road for 7 days, it was time to do laundry, so we went to Eastfield Laundry on 8th Street. With good machines, a nice attendant and WIFI, it made our job easy. We had a Reese hitch bolt come out and needed to get that fixed as well. Having replaced it twice myself, I was ready to drill through the box frame and put a bolt in one side, a lock washer and nut on the other, but Martha wanted to take to an Airstream place we saw driving in. I called Airstream of Northern Michigan. A salesman named Greg put me through to Joe, the service manager. Thinking I just needed the right bolt or slightly bigger bolt, he said to come at 2:00. 

We finished up with the laundry, put it away, had some lunch, hooked up and checked out. The Airstream place is called Nature & Me R.V. Greg directed me to service where I met Joe Hooch. We went out to check out the problem, and he called Alan to take a look. These are tapped screws that go in one side of the boxed frame, and Alan said it didn’t work too well. Now they put a brass rivet nut into the hole, acting like a rivet when you tighten the bolt. He noted that the second bolt on that bracket was also stripping, which I knew. Really you should remove both brackets and put in rivet nuts and new bolts. They were busy with winterizing, other jobs and a couple of other travelers like us, so we agreed to come back tomorrow. Joe was very apologetic, but I fully understood. I could see they were very busy. 

We checked back into Traverse City State Park where the staff was really into decorating for Halloween. Arms, hands and legs hung on signs and tried to come out of the ground. Ghosts hung from a fence, and a huge spider scared me in the bathroom. Martha found a hike called Brown Bridge Quiet Area along the Boardman River. It was good to get out and get some exercise. We parked at area #1 and read the sign. Must be getting old, but we couldn’t read the tiny symbols on the little signs. Oh well, you couldn’t get lost in a place like this. Following a ridge line, we headed east toward #2 through the woods. We could barely see the river winding below us. It is an old lakebed that has been drained. Our plan was to walk to a loop to the river at the far end of the lake, turn around and come back for 4.2mi, getting back for cocktail hour

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Those little blue triangles have numbers in them

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When we finally reached the river, I was so happy to see this beautiful river and take some pictures, we took a wrong turn and crossed the river over a bridge. There were side trails in a lot of places, especially along the river where people fish or just walk along it. Then that little sign was so small and hard to read. We didn’t realize what we had done until we got to marker #6. Finally I took a picture of the map with my phone and expanded it so we could see the tiny numbers. Well it wouldn’t be that much further, and it was much prettier following the river. It would be a great float through here although a bit chilly today. I wondered at the map whether there was another bridge at the other end of the old lake. By the time we had walked 8 miles and crossed the dam, we arrived at the bridgeless Boardman. I certainly wasn’t walking back, but Martha was hesitant to walk across. It was supposed to start raining any time and the sky looked like it. The river is shallow at that point, 2-3ft, and not running too hard, but it was a cool, cloudy 50 degrees, and I had on blue jeans, cotton socks and hiking shoes. We held hands and walked across, up the hill to the road and back to the truck. We shed the wet shoes and socks. Martha’s hiking pants dried quickly, but jeans won’t dry for a very long time. Fortunately it was only a 20-minute drive back to the campground. A hot shower felt good.

North to Traverse City

Sunday, September 30, 2018

We went up to the Visitor’s Center in Sleeping Bear Dunes. There were nice displays and a movie telling the history of the area. Sleeping Bear is a great park. We left a lot undone, but we had a great visit. There are many pleasant streams to float, a great bike trail, lots of hiking trails and miles of beaches. A through-hike in this park would be great.

Hooking up, we headed north on Rt. 22 to Traverse City.  After some trouble leveling the trailer in soft sand at Traverse City State Park Campground, we went downtown to cruise the shops and get Martha some warmer clothes. She found some gloves, hats, sweat pants, but couldn’t find the shirt she wanted. We found the world’s best Mommers hand-made ice cream at Peppercorn, a kitchen shop.

Next up was the Peninsula Drive to the light house, stopping at one of the many roadside fruit stands and bought Honey Crisp apples and plums. Beautiful farms growing grapes, fruit trees and vegetables are on both sides of the road. I have never seen apple trees trimmed to grow like grape vines. The road follows a ridge, so you see Lake Michigan on both sides. Heading back down on the west coastal side, we passed a little restaurant, the Boathouse, right on the water. After some discussion, we turned around and went back for dinner. The prices and cuisine are suited for yacht and wealthy homeowners, but it was excellent.  Driving back down the coast as the sun set, it was fun looking at the beautiful houses. With side roads going everywhere, there is much to explore here. When Ed and Diego and I were here last summer, Diego ran a marathon out this road for a beautiful run. 

Back in camp, Martha was happy to have TV reception. She watched her “Buff Boys” (NCIS LA) as I fell asleep.

Scouting Betsie and Platte Rivers

Thursday, September 27, 2018

It was a chilly, blustery morning with dark, fast-moving clouds. The Platte River is a perfect river for us to kayak, so we went to check it out. It is a beautiful, free-flowing, clear stream that travels 26 miles into Lake Michigan in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore. The trouble is the salmon are running and the river is lined with fishermen. We met a nice young couple locking their bicycles to a tree so they could ride back to their truck after kayaking. He said he grew up here and the fishermen are used to kayakers, and you just try to stay out of their way. We talked with two fishermen who had been roommates in college. Now in their late 50’s maybe, they had been here three days and were heading home. Seeing my camera, they suggested going to the weir where we would see Coho salmon jumping up the rapids and weir. 

I love to watch the salmon run, so we drove to Benzonia, took a left at the McDonalds and followed signs for the Betsie River Dam. Above and below the dam, fishermen lined the stream. Somehow hundreds of salmon ran the gauntlet, rested holes and then jumped the steps up the dam. Not always successful, they would just miss the top and get washed back down. Some jumped sideways and some backwards.

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At check-in, the ranger said it might be better to float the Betsie River, so we drove some crazy roads to check it out. It is a much longer river, and also beautiful. Put-ins and take-outs are a little more remote. Since we don’t have two cars, we were hesitant to float it. I’m sure there are people who will take you and pick you up, or even guide you. This is a beautiful river winding through varied terrains flowing with a pretty good pace (3-4mph).

Off to Michigan

Monday, September 24

We managed to get loaded before the rains came.  Driving was a bit tense all day, partly due to the rain, and we were in it all day. We finally arrived at Deer Creek State Park southwest of Columbus. It is a nice, modern park on a pretty lake. The paved campsite was so level, we didn’t have to unhook the trailer – perfect!

We took a walk around the campground in the drizzling rain to get the blood flowing a bit. We took showers in the morning and got on the road about 8:30. West on I70, north on I75 to 469 to 40 through Sturgis, and checking into Holland State Park by 4:00. 

We hiked up and around Mt. Pisgah once we got settled. There were nice views of sailboats on Lake Macatawa as the sun set. A big storm was heading across Lake Michigan with tornado warnings for Holland. Fortunately they never came, and the rains passed quickly. It did bring a cold front, so it was chilly in the morning and only got up to 60° during the day.

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Holland is a nice town on Lake Macatawa. First stop was the very nice and large farmer’s Market where we found some nice quiches and meat pies, some bread, a quash, some apples and of course a blueberry donut. We enjoyed driving through neighborhoods, then parked downtown to poke around the shops. After a few nice stores, we carried quite a few bags. In the cooking store the sales lady recommended lunch at Cranes, just up the street. We split a chicken salad sandwich and a piece of apple crisp. 

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After wandering around downtown a bit more, we heading back to the Airstream and a little relaxation before dinner. At 7:00 we went to Tunnel Park beach to watch the sun set. Winds blew off Lake Michigan making it quite chilly, but it was a good one.

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Tomorrow we will head north to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.