Sunday, July 27, 2014

Moving Day to Muskegon State Park and an angry Lake Michigan

Location: Muskegon State Park; Muskegon, Michigan
(Click pics to enlarge)

I made it to Lake Michigan and she was angry. When I first saw her around 1:00 pm, she was still fogged over. It looked strange, spooky-like. I couldn't take a picture that showed anything, the
Road to the campground. The sand if very
fined grained. We would call it "sugar sand".
With the sand on the road it reminded me
of roads on the Bolivar Peninsula going to
fog, clouds and water all looked the same. It was like taking a picture inside a cloud. The fog was only over the water, not over the land at all. I figured it may burn off while I was getting set up in my new campsite. The campsite is a little short and Freedom is cramped for parking but it will

Home for a couple of days


work out. I was able to back Liberty straight in because the campsite is lined up with a street. It worked good and the site is level side to side. The campground is along a channel of water that leads to Lake Michigan. The lake is about 1/2 miles away. I chose Muskegon because there is something that I've been wanting to see here. Once I got set up, I drove into town and found it but decided to wait until tomorrow.

When I was coming back to the campground, a storm was brewing over the lake and heading towards the campground. I stopped at the beach area and got some pictures of it as several of the beach-goings were packing it in. My mother would have said "a cloud is coming up". Of all the places I have lived, I have never heard anyone else say it that way. I'm wondering if it was just her or if that was a common statement for the East Texas area where she was raised. If anyone reading this knows, please put it in the comments.

heading back to the campground

A cloud coming up
You can see the rain coming from miles away

The clearer sky is to the north

Cars waiting

The reason I haven't traveled farther north is that I'm signed up to attend a FROG rally. FROG stands for Forest River Owners Group and Forest River is the parent company that manufactured Liberty. There will be several seminars about RV's and RV'ing with tours of the Rockwood factory. There are over 400 RV's signed up. The rally is in Goshen, Indiana at the fairgrounds. It will be a week long event between Aug 3rd and Aug 9th. Once that is over, I will high-tail it to north Michigan.

Ya'll take care of each other. Cya down the road.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Moving Day to Ionia Recreation Area

Location: Ionia Recreation Area; Ionia, Michigan
(click pics to enlarge)

I pulled out of Lakeport State Park around 10:00 with a 160 mile tow ahead of me. Before leaving the park I had to empty my tanks at the dump station in the park. This is the first dump station I have used where the sewer hoses are provided. It works well and saves time by not have to use your own hoses. One of my November projects will be to build an extra hose storage area beneath Liberty's bumper. Currently, I have about 25 feet of hose in her bumper with two, 15 foot sections in the basement. It is one of the things you want to make sure you have enough of, cause when it comes time to use them, you don't want to be short of hoses. So far in all of the campgrounds I've been at, the longest section I have had to use has been 40 feet which gave me 15 feet to spare. I don't know if I've mentioned it or not but one of the tricks I've been using is to wash up the last of the dishes on the morning of hitching up. I use extra Dawn to make the water really sudsy. This water goes into the galley holding tanks and are the last tanks I empty so the last thing through the hose is Dawn suds. It is just one of the things that help keep the hoses clean and smelling wonderful, fresh, good, not to bad.

The trip was good except for about 30 miles of bad road. They even put up a message board saying "rough road ahead". It didn't appear to be a worn out road but instead looked like a construction project that had gone bad. At 65 mph, the road set up a harmonic frequency, (a rhythmic bumping) with Freedom and Liberty. I had to slow down to 50 mph to break the cycle. I was thinking, "good beat, easy to dance to" (ya'll guess the tv show). I'm not sure what would have happened if I had maintained the 65 mph, but I didn't want to find out. 

The campground is kind of isolated from any grocery stores, so I stopped at a Walmart in Lansing which is about 25 miles before the
Walmart at Lansing. I'm not the only one
campground. It is really convenient to use Walmart because the parking lots are large enough for RV's to park while shopping and most are easy to access from the main roads. I got some food and bottled water and was able to put it right in the Liberty's refrigerator. I also picked up lunch and had a little picnic in Freedom. One of
Picnic Lunch in Walmart Parking lot.
Notice the notes on the side, I still
don't trust the GPS 100%.
the habits I have is to do a walk-around Freedom and Liberty whenever I'm away from them. I look at the tires, landing gear, stabilizing jacks, hitch pin, light connection, door, etc. You never know when somebody is going to mess around with some of the buttons. This time it was me, not somebody. I have to partially open one of my slide-outs to get to the refrigerator. After putting the food up, I locked the door and got back in Freedom to eat my lunch. Freedom and Liberty weren't in a straight line so I couldn't see the slide from my side mirror but something told me I forgot to do the walk-around. I got out and sure enough, I had forgotten to put the slide in. I'm sure I would have seen it once I straightened out, but not sure what damage may have happened by moving, even a few hundred feet, with the slide out. I know it is just a matter of time before something happens, because every full-timer always has a story of dropping their RV on the truck, pulling out with the electric cord still connected, etc. So far, I've avoided anything major, but it is coming, someday.

Like I said, this campground is pretty isolated and I chose it for that reason. There isn't anything I want to explore in this area but it is a nice stop-over point as I cross-over to the western part of the state. Yesterday, I did some house-cleaning inside of Liberty. By the way, I really like those Swiffer Duster things. I also picked up a lot of information from the Michigan welcome center and went through it to do some preliminary planning of where I'll be going in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. So you see, this full-timing lifestyle isn't all exploring and sight-seeing; sometimes it is cleaning and planning.

Road to Campground? I was hoping it
didn't dead end somewhere.

The road finally opens to this lake
Ionia Recreation Area Campsite
One of the few times I've used my awning.

Trip planning.
That's Allstays program on the laptop
Ignore the mess on the couch.
It started raining on and off early this morning. I have to go to Ionia to fuel up and to do laundry. Google says there is a nice looking laundry in Ionia, but we will see. 

I pull out tomorrow for a campground on Lake Michigan. I have seen the lake before from my time spent in Navy "A" school at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center but I think I'll look at it using different eyes this time. Back then, it was the eyes of a 17 year old just beginning to see that things were a lot bigger than he thought. By moving around the country while growing up I already had a sense of size and that there were many things outside of a hometown. Lots of people grow up within 100 miles of where they were born. They go to school there, marry there, work there and raise their kids there. Except for yearly vacations somewhere, they only know their 100 mile hometown area. I enlisted at age 17 and had to have my mother and father sign off on it. Back then if you enlisted at 17, you were referred to as a Kiddie Cruiser. It wasn't an insult, just a name. Tomorrow I'll see Lake Michigan again, but this time with the eyes and life experience of a 58 year old man. Maybe that kid and I will re-hash a few things while looking at the lake. Get a few things resolved, so to speak. It will be interesting.

Ya'll take care of each other. Cya down the road.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Goodbye Lake Huron

Location: Lakeport State Park; Port Huron, Michigan
(click pics to enlarge)

I woke up early on this chilly morning so I'll post a goodbye to Lake Huron while drinking my morning coffee. The coffee is now Folgers Black Silk since I ran out of Community Club about a week ago. I guess the 3 cases didn't last as long as I thought they would, but this Folgers is pretty good. The temperature got down to the upper 50's the last two nights, which makes sleeping good. Yesterdays high was lower to mid 60's with a chilly wind blowing but the day before was a very hot and humid 88 degrees. The lake looked like the ocean with waves rolling in from the wind. It was an angry looking lake that had changed color. A couple brave kids were out in it trying to ride a wave. Lake Huron has shown me both sides of her; the quiet, calm bright blue and the wavy, angry darker side.
Angry Huron
Kids braving the cold

A man and his thoughts

There is also a pile of painted rocks as you head down to the lake. The story is that kids and adults pick up a rock at the end of the camping year and paint it over the winter. The first time they come back to the campground/lake in the spring, they put it in the pile everyone to see. The picture is the beginning of this years pile. Everyone stops on their way to the lake to see what has been added. Some of them have names but most don't. When I got here there were only a few of them and now there must be a few dozen and it increases daily. It is a way to connect from year to year with this place. The locals use this campground more than travelers like me. I think it is neat.for 

I must be a hug pile by the end of summer

Neat Tree on one of the paths to the Lake

Lakeport State Park, Port Huron, MI
I'll be hitching up and heading west to a place called Ionia Recreation Area. I'll be there through Sunday. It is an easy tow of about 160 miles with most along the interstate with a couple rest areas along the way. The campground is kind of isolated so I'll be stopping at a Walmart in Lansing on the way to get some food. I can put it right in the refrigerator while parked in the parking lot.

Port Huron has been a good stop. Except for the winters, it would be a nice place to live.

Ya'll take care of each other. Cya down the road.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Boat Ride around the Area

Location: Lakeport State Park; Port Huron, Michigan
(click pics to enlarge)

Ok, first things first. Remember from the last post about me being pulled over for "allegedly" turning right on red and the policeman said there was a sign. I went back through that intersection today and took a picture. I looked and looked and couldn't see a sign, so I'm pretty sure I was completely and totally innocent of any moving violation (thanks again to the police officer for letting me off with a warning).
Absolutely no evidence of a "no right on red" sign

Today was an easy day of just sitting and letting someone else do the driving. The driver today was a captain of a tour boat. The tour is on the Huron Lady II. I didn't ask what happened to number "I", just in case it was some kind of, you know, collision and sinking. Those kind of things are just not talked about before shoving off from shore. Of course this tour was never more than a couple thousand feet from shore so I think I could have swam, paddled, floated that far.

The tour boat is docked on the Black River about 500 feet from the St. Clair River. The Black River
beginning point of tour

is what was used to float most of the timber products from the "thumb" part of Michigan to the markets in the mid-west and east. They could be floated down the river in rafts then placed on boats that distributed them throughout the Great Lakes Region. Most of that area is now
Junction of the Black River and the
St. Clair River. Notice the difference in color
farmland and the dense forests are long gone. As the tour boat enters the St. Clair river, which drains Lake Huron, you can clearly see the differences in the color of the two rivers. The bright blue of Lake Huron and the St. Clair is still striking and surprising. The first part of the trip is downriver for a little bit so you can see the industry on the Canadian side and the residential area on the U.S. side. The Canadian side is a major point for oil distribution in Canada. The first commercial oil well in North America was drilled about 20 miles into Canada back in 1858. That preceded the first commercial well in the U.S. (western Pennsylvania) by one year. Of course, like most things, it was called an oil "discovery" although the Indians were aware of it and had been using the surface seeps for waterproofing canoes for generations.

On the way back upstream, you pass several houses along the St. Clair River. I took several
St. Clair River
pictures but posted the one I liked the best. It would be interesting to see this same view of the house, but in the deepest, darkest part of winter
My favorite house along the river
 with snow everywhere. I'm sure it would be very pretty, but I won't be around here then. You continue upstream until you get to the Blue Water Bridges that connect the U.S. to Canada. They are impressive and well traveled.
Passing under the Blue Water Bridges
After you clear the bridges you enter Lake Huron itself. On the left is the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse. It is the oldest operating lighthouse on the Great
Fort Gratiot Lighthouse and Lake Huron

Lakes and was first established in 1825 but rebuilt several times over the years. The light was extremely important in the 1800's when there was a steamship or sailing ship passing the
Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
lighthouse on average every 4 minutes, night and day. There is still a lot of commericial traffic at this junction. The tour guide said there was more commercial tonnage passing through this point than what passed through the Panama and Suez canals combined. The Great 
Looking out to Lake Huron
Lakes played a large role in the making of our country. Just looking at a map you can see how many large cities sprang up along the lakes.
Looking back towards the Blue Water Bridges
and the Fort Gratiot
Canada on the left, U.S. on the right

I was able to get pictures from the water perspective of the places I went to yesterday.
The Maritime Center
The Lightship "Huron"
and the pretty Park to the left
The tour lasted about 1 1/2 hours and was an above average water tour. I did met another crazy full-time solo RV'er on the tour. She started out in California a little while ago and is heading east. So, there are at least two of us out here. LOL.

I still don't have reliable cell or texting ability due to Canadian cell towers trying to tempt me into roaming with them. But, tomorrow is moving day and I'll be heading west. I will send out a text saying "OK" once I'm in the clear.

Ya'll take care of each other. Cya down the road.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pulled over by Police; a Lightship; and a park

Location: Lakeport State Park; Port Huron, Michigan
(click pic to enlarge)

Note: Depending on where I'm at in this area, my cell phone thinks I'm in
Canada. When I'm in the campground, it apparently tries to connect to a cell tower in Canada. My cell phone, being much smarter then me, warned me about it and clicked "do not roam". If it had not done so, it would be $0.89 per minute for calls and not sure how much for texts. Texting is shut down also when the cell phone can not connect. I am able to use my Hotspot to connect to the internet for the blog and email. If anyone has tried calling me or texting me, that is the reason I haven't responded. I will be out of this area Thursday and all systems should be restored.

I stopped for gas yesterday at a combination Shell gas station and A&W Root Beer restaurant. It was close to lunch and I almost went into get a burger and a root beer but decided against it. I pulled out of the parking lot onto a side street that connected with the main highway at a slight angle. The turn lane had 2 red lights and an acceleration lane. Like the good driver I am, I came to a complete stop, checked for traffic and made the "right on red" turn. About 2 blocks down the road, a police car turned his lights on behind me. The road was a crowded 5 lane highway with no shoulders. I was thinking he wanted to get by me so I pulled off into a parking lot. Surprise, surprise, he followed me into the parking lot. The business was a bank so I logically thought, he was there to stop a bank robbery so I went to the back of the parking lot to give him room to shoot it out with the robbers. Wrong again, he pulled up behind me. I stopped, turned off the truck and put both hands on the top of the steering wheel as I had been taught. He slowly walked up along the truck, hand on his gun while glancing in the bed as he passed by. I said, "hello officer, was I speeding?" He replied, "no, you made a right on red and there is a sign prohibiting it, driver's license, registration and proof of insurance." I gave him my license first and he said, "Louisiana, uh?, what are you doing here?" Reading this, it sounds like he was mean, but he wasn't. I told him my story about wandering around the country while I looked for the latest registration/insurance card. I gave him an expired one at first, he gave it back and said never mind I'm sure you have one. He told me to "sit tight while he wrote my name down in his car". I'm sure he was running "wants and warrants" on me. I sat there glad that my jury duty wasn't due yet so there shouldn't be a bench warrant out for me if my request for an exemption was denied. After about 10 minutes he came back and said "have a nice day and handed my license back to me". I thanked him for giving me a break and he walked away. I'll go back tomorrow to see how big that "no right on red" sign is at that intersection. I can't believe I didn't see it. Is this the beginning?

The Maritime Center on the St. Clair River

After visiting with the local law enforcement, I went on to my destination. The Maritime Center at Vantage Point was where I was heading. It is a place located on the St. Clair River just downstream from the Blue Water Bridges and about 5 miles from Lake Huron. 

A freighter passing the Maritime Center

The farther you go down the river away from Lake Huron the more the water loses it bright blue color. All river traffic going between Lake Erie and Lake Huron passes in front of this place. The owner is connected with the boat traffic and announces the passing of each ship on a PA system. He mentions where they are going, their registry, what they are carrying, etc. There is also a really good deli inside. I got a Turkey/Provolone sandwich on Rye and watched the river traffic as I ate my lunch. It was nice and relaxing. I walked along the seawall for a little ways and saw several peoplefishing. I hollered for the lady to lift her stringer up so I could get a picture. Someone was going to be eating good that night. They all seemed to know each other and must be regulars there. 

A nice stringer of fish

A "thinking" bench on the St. Clair River

Pine Grove Park looking at the
Blue Water Bridges
The blue water was amazing

I drove away following the river as much as I could. I arrived at my next destination which wasthe Pine Grove Park which is also on the river. There is an old Lightship that has been turned into a museum at the park. The lightship is the old coastguard lightship, The Huron. Lightships are used where it is impractical to build a lighthouse.
Time for a boat tour

The deck of the Huron

The Lightship Huron

The lightship will anchor in an area to help either guide ships somewhere or warn them of a hazard. This lightship was commissioned in 1921 and worked on some of the other Great Lakes before being assigned duty at Port Huron in 1935. Her duty was to anchor about 6 miles north of the Blue Water Bridges, which is the junction of the St. Clair River and Lake Huron. She guided ships to the entrance of the river through a dredged sand bar. On a clear night, her light could be seen for 14 miles and her fog horns could be heard for 10. After 1940 she was the only lightship still in service on the Great Lakes and she remained in service until 1970. I toured the boat and talked with the people in charge. I was the only visitor so we talked for a while. It was a good time.
Pine Grove Park/St. Clair River

Pine Grove Park Bench

As I walked back to Freedom, I noticed several older people sitting in chairs under the shade trees. Most were reading books while others were just relaxing. I stopped to talk to a couple because he was wearing a Texas A&M cap. He said he got it from his daughter who went to school there. She now lives in San Antonio. After talking for a little while, they mentioned they used to be RV'ers. They used to travel about 8 months out of the year then return to Michigan for the summer. They did that for about 11 years and went to 48 states until their health made them stop. They still missed it and get the "hitch itch" every now and then but no way to scratch it. Their kids all live in the south, both Texas and Arizona. I asked if they considered moving south, their answer, "We never found a place better than right here." On nice days, they now spend most of their time at the park, reading books, having a picnic and watching river go by. I told them bye and they both sincerely told me thanks for stopping by because it brought up some good old memories of the road. The told me "Be safe on the road" and I walked on to Freedom. 
Pine Grove Park People

On the way back to the campground, I stopped at an ice cream place I noticed on my way into town. I enjoyed a double dip cone of Butter Pecan and Moose Tracks. I ate it sitting in a swing on their front porch in the shade. It was good. I thought of the older couple who had hung up their RV keys and wondered about the stories they would be telling each other that evening. Stories that may have been forgotten over the years but now would be as if they were yesterday. Stories about places they had seen, things they had done and people they had met along the road. It made me feel good knowing that I may have sparked some of those memories. 

It was a good day.

Ya'll take care each other. Cya down the road.   

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Moving Day (goodbye Ohio, hello Michigan); camped on Lake Huron

Location: Lakeport State Park; Port Huron, Michigan
(click pics to enlarge)

Lake Huron
I thought I would start the post with a picture. It is of Lake Huron and that picture was taken about 300 feet from where Liberty is camped. Huron is the third Great Lake on this trip and they truly are Great. The locals at all three treat the lakes with respect and are concerned about their well-being. Lake Huron is 206 miles long and 183 mile wide. The average depth is 195 feet and it is connected to Lake Erie by the St. Clair River which begins at Port Huron. The thing that surprised me is there are 30,000 islands in Lake Huron.

View out my door. The lake is on the other side of RV to the left
Looking up at my shade trees from my front door

 This post is sort of in reverse since I started with the picture. Anyway, yesterday when I went in to
Pizza Stop with Sauerkraut for a topping
Fayette to top off the gas tanks in Freedom, I spotted a small pizza place named Pizza Stop. I had a hankering for pizza so I went inside. It was a nice place with friendly people. One of the interesting things on the menu as far as toppings, was sauerkraut. I asked to have it only on a small part of mine, and it was very good. I wish I would have gotten it on the whole pie. On the way back to the campground I spotted a vacant farm house if
For Sale
anyone is interested in buying a piece of Ohio. I have no idea how much land goes with it but it was empty so the owners must have either passed away or moved on before the sale. Just down the road is an old two storied
Must have been a beautiful place in it's day
brick house. It must have been a site to see back in it's heyday. It is at the intersection of two county roads so people drove by in both directions. It looks to have been abandoned for some time now. There must be a great story to be told about it, but no one to tell it. Kind of sad.

Today's trip was about 210 miles. A little longer than usual but it was OK. The first 70 or so miles was on a two lane state highway that was smoother and better maintained than the high volume roads. I drove on I-69 today. It is the interstate that is planned to go from Port Huron to Mexico and will pass near Stonewall, Louisiana. The last 20 miles of it was rough as a cob and needs work soon. I had to slow down to 50 mph for that last 20 miles. There are a few things I want to see in Port Huron before I move on. I will be here to Thursday and then move to the western part of the state. This campground is crowded and my site was very hard to get into. The trees on one side are skewed to the road which kept throwing me off as I was backing in. Liberty is a little cock-eyed in here but looking around, several others are also.

Ya'll take care of each other. Cya down the road.