Friday, June 29, 2018

Apostle Islands 3 Hour Boat Tour

Location: Northland Camping and RV Park; Superior, Wisconsin (el. 680 ft)

Route to date

I was told about the Apostle Islands a few years ago by someone I used to work with who was from Wisconsin. His name was Casey Allen. Following his advice, I was headed towards them when my son Brandon had his first stroke. (BY THE WAY, he was just placed on the active waiting list for a Kidney/Pancreas transplant.) I received the news about the stroke when I was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota three years ago this month. I headed back to Louisiana instead of the Apostle Islands. Well, I completed the circle yesterday with a day trip to Bayfield, Wisconsin to catch a boat tour of the islands. The round trip drive was about 150 miles and was a nice trip although only partially scenic. Wisconsin called the road very scenic, but they way over-exaggerated that adjective.

The road trip to Bayfield had a couple of turn outs where you could see Lake Superior. Every one I pulled into, Freedom was immediately swarmed with horseflies. I was lucky in that I had just rolled up the windows before pulling over. Had the windows been down, the cab of Freedom would have been full of horseflies. I wouldn't have been able to escape by leaving Freedom since they would have gotten me outside. My only choice would have been to drive with the windows down in hopes of blowing them out the windows. By swarming, I mean in the hundreds, all at once, landing on all parts of Freedom. I don't know what attracted them, but I'm glad I wasn't bitten. I hate them things. 

Most of the road was smooth riding with the trees along the side. They didn't seem to create the tunnel effect as bad as usual. Highway 13 does not have much traffic. The weather was great with a temperature in the low to mid 60's.

This was one of the pull-offs along the way. Horseflies were everywhere. I'm surprised the lake is even visible due to the shear number of horseflies. 

Another pull-over

This pull-over had a picnic table (bench?). If the horse flies had not been swarming, I would have gotten a better view from the table.
I passed a brand new Indian casino just north of Bayfield. It seems out of place since the nearest big city would be Duluth. Oh well, I'm sure they know what they are doing. Bayfield is a smallish tourist trap town. They have the typical shops that sell all the stuff I don't need. However, I did look for a cheese shop since I'm out of that good cheese I got a few days ago. Sadly, I didn't find one. I thought Wisconsin would have cheese stores on every corner of every town. I guess not. The main attraction in town seems to be the Apostle Island boat tours.
A view of the bay from residential Bayfield

A lot of sailboats. There wasn't as many when we returned from the tour.

I couldn't find an official meaning for the sculpture on the left. It was interesting and right in the middle of the harbor.

The boat of the left is our sister boat. Notice the "sun-bathers" up top. 

Two boats, both full of people, left the docks at the same time for a three hour tour of the islands. I was one of the early boarders so I had a choice of topside, in the sun, or the main deck, inside. The day was mostly sunny and the temperature was due to top out in the low 70's. This was not my first boat tour so I immediately found a seat on the main deck, inside, next to an open window. I knew that the boat captains on tours like this always make 360 degree turns at all of the important points of interest so it wasn't a matter of being on the wrong side of the boat. After about an hour of the people up top sitting in the direct sun, some came down looking for seats, but none were available. They sure looked hot. Quite of few of those probably bought a sunburn with their ticket. My seating location was comfortable and cool. 

All of the islands have trees growing on them and are protected from any industry. It was not like that a hundred years ago. Back then, most of the timber was harvested as well as some of the rock quarried. The National Forest Service is controlling the action now so, that means mostly just watching the trees grow. There is a lot about the islands from brochures and the talk by the captain during the tour, but I think it will be easier to do some of that explaining in the captions of the pictures.
From a distance, almost all of the islands looked like this one. The do vary in size.

Just a simple picture of the lake as I was looking out my window

Notice the square blocks of stone towards the right hand side of the picture. They are what is left over from when this island was quarried for its stone. Prior to the quarry opening, it was clear cut of its trees. 

This is an old fish camp that is not operating anymore but the National Forest Service is still maintaining it for historical reasons. There is a woman who stays here during the summer. She volunteers to mow the grass and keeps things cleaned up and working. She volunteers at this place because she likes the solitude of being alone most of the time. Sometimes she waves at the tour boats, but didn't on this day. 

The little detached place is called "lookout point". It used to be connected to the main island by an stone arch that collapsed many years ago. When the British controlled this area, they stationed military people on this island and posted sentries on this "lookout point" due to its viewpoint. 

There are some lighthouses scattered around on some of the islands. They are all automated now. Again, volunteers are staying on the island to do maintenance, mowing and painting. 

These are some of the lake caves on one of the islands.
This wasn't the best tour I've been on but was a little above average. The other tour on Lake Superior that I did a few years ago was the Pictured Rocks Tour out of Munising, Michigan. It is by far the better of these two tours.  

Today was a lazy, rest up day, but tomorrow is another exploring day. I have a few choices of places to go but I'm not sure which ones yet. 

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Arrival,,, Duluth, Minnesota

Location: Northland Camping and RV Park; Superior, Wisconsin (el. 680 ft)

Yeah, yeah I know, the title says Duluth and the location says Superior. The campground is in a small town east of Duluth by about 5 or 6 miles. In fact, it's still not right, since the campground is actually in a smaller town but I'm too lazy to look it up, so I'll just stick with Duluth and Superior. 

The trip was a very short tow of only 85 miles which is good since it set into raining about 4 am on travel day and didn't let up until around 11:00. Checkout time was 12 so I was OK with just sitting and listening to the rain play music on Freedom's roof. That is until it came close to 11:00 and I walked outside and saw standing water about 3 inches deep on the left side of Freedom. Of course that is the side with the storage door where the chocks, blocks and electrical cord are stored. I put on some old shoes and went to work. 
The Geese didn't mind the rain
After getting hooked up, I pulled into the large parking lot to sort everything out and put on dry socks and shoes. Yep, I thought ahead on that one. After getting sorted out, I checked the weather and knew I would be trailing the storm system right up the interstate so I would have to go slow or stop along the way to give it time to move on. Even doing so, I had to drive in some rain but nothing heavy. I don't know what happened on this trip to get me in dutch with the rain people, but I've had to deal with more rain on this trip than any other. Oh well, no harm that I know of, so all is OK.
Typical views on the way to Duluth. It is like the "Tree Tunnels" down south.

A stop at a Rest Area to let the storms get farther ahead. 

51 degrees!! The closer to Duluth the lower the temp.

After all of my checking on Duluth, I didn't realize the town and edge of lake was at the bottom of a short but steep hill. It is like an escarpment surrounding the whole town. It was a shock as I pulled off I-35 into a rest area right as it breaks over and starts the downgrade. All of Duluth and Lake Superior just pops out at you. It was one of those "wow" moments I've had before and which was overdue. Not that I typed that, I'm concerned that I may have spoiled a "wow" moment for someone who hasn't see it before and comes to visit. I think it will be OK because that is one of those good things about a true "wow" moment is that it is always a "wow" even if you know it is coming. So, if you come this way, have fun with it. 

This is the "wow" of seeing the town and the lake after miles of the Tree Tunnel.

Some wildflowers and a view

The campground is an older one but I chose it because it is close to both Duluth, Minnesota and Bayfield, Wisconsin. In fact, of all the campgrounds I've stayed at, this is the first one with concrete runners at the campsites. It's full hook-ups and I got a surprise when I tried the TV. The antennae is working again and the pictures are clearer than ever. I don't know what happened to make it start working again but I'm guessing the antennae got embarrassed by the cable TV at the last campground. My plan was to stay here for 5 days but this morning I extended another 4 days to get me at least to the Fourth of July. I was struggling with where to hole up for the 4th, since lots of campgrounds are full and crazy on the holidays. Extending here took care of that problem and I got a free night since I stayed at least seven nights. Win, win, win.

Campsite #22. Notice the runners.
After getting set up the first day, I drove into Duluth with plans to get something to eat. Instead, I drove up to Enger Park. With the park located off of Skyline Parkway, it had to be good, uh? Well it was. The view overlooking the city was incredible but very cold. The temperature was in the low 50's with a strong wind blowing in off the lake. I'm guessing the windchill was in the 30's. Surprisingly, once you got away for the rock outcropping, the trees provided enough wind break to make it very comfortable. The Enger Tower is 80 feet high and has five stories. You can climb to the top by walking a zillion steps but the view from the top is worth it. Once I came down from the tower I started to leave but heard a deep sounding bell. I thought at first it must be from the harbor down below, but then noticed it on the other side of the park. It is a Japanese Peace Bell given to Duluth by their Japanese Sister City, Isumi-Ohara. Of course, I rang it a couple of times. It sounded great and gave off good vibs. I could feel the good Karma coming to me from the bell. I think I may be getting a few things mixed up, but psychologically, I'm fine. 

This is the best view of the City and Lake. It is from the outcropping at Enger Park. Cold as a ______ (fill in the blank, there are a couple of options)

A panorama view, with bench. :)

Looking up at the Enger Tower from the parking lot. This picture was taken about 200 feet from the outcropping, but 20 degrees warmer since the wind was blocked. 

Japanese Peace Garden, with bench, on the way up to the tower.

View from the tower. Not as great as the outcropping, but just as cold. It was still worth climbing all the stairs. 

The Japanese Peace Bell that gave out so really great vibs. 

Looking back at the tower

I headed on back to the campground and took it easy for the rest of the evening. The temperature dropped enough last night that I had to run one of my ceramic heaters to take the chill off. That is saying something for me to run it because I like sleeping with the temperature in the lower 60's. 

Today I went to the Corps of Engineers Maritime Museum at canal park in Duluth. It was a typical maritime museum and was generally OK. I was surprised at the number of people out and about on a weekday. I planned to watch one of the big lake freighter leave port, but gave up waiting after they kept pushing the time back. It was good people watching weather so after the museum, I sat and just people watched for an hour of so. I think I learned something about Yankee women Northern Ladies today.
I saw this huge structure from the road and pulled in to figure out what it was. I found a cop and another man in the parking lot so I asked them. Both were very knowledgeable. Very large ships would pull in alongside this structure and the chutes would fill the ship up with iron ore or taconite. I asked how it got out there to be emptied into the ship. Well, they told me the train trestle that was attached to this end had been removed long ago. Then it made sense. The train would back ore cars onto this structure which would empty directly into the ship. They said back in the day, this structure and the things associated with it, Railroad, etc, employed neartly 5000 men. Today, the newer ones are all automated conveyors and employ only a 100 or so. The times we live in.  

People watching at Canal Park. This is just outside of the Maritime Museum. The canal is where the ship enter the harbor. 

The lift bridge over the canal. It is one of the largest vertical lift bridges in the world. 
I plan to head to Bayfield, Wisconsin tomorrow to take a boat tour of the Apostle Islands. It looks like it will be the only good weather day for a while. I hope it isn't too crowded. 

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

Monday, June 25, 2018

Two Campgrounds; One Blog Post

1st Location: Crystal Springs RV Resort; Ellendale, Minnesota (el 1,210 ft)
current Location: Grand Casino RV Park; Hinckley, Minnesota (el  1,000 ft)

This post and will be used to catch up over the last two campgrounds. I left the Des Moines area heading north on I-35. I had decided to do two short runs with a two day stay in two campgrounds. Mainly, I was trying to let the storms that were hanging around to pass on through the area. I also wanted to schedule my arrival at the campground near Duluth on a weekday. The two campgrounds I chose were nothing special in terms of exploring but were very nice in terms of amenities. But as it seems to be with all things, something always comes up to make things interesting.
Crossing over I-35 looking north. The next campground is "that a way".

The sky looks good after all the rain.

When I called for reservations at Crystal Springs RV Resort, the man said he had one site left but asked if I could back up. Well, as I always do, I had already looked at his campground from the air using Google Earth so I knew all of his campsites except 3 were back-ins. So I answered him with a non-committal, "sure, unless it is really weird". He laughed and said he would help guide me if I needed his help. That raised my curiosity and what was meant to be a simple two day layover may turn out to be interesting after all. As I was about to take the Ellendale exit off of I-35 to go to the campground, I saw a billboard that mentioned a business selling "award winning smoked meat". That sounded good. I knew I would find the place and check them out. It shouldn't be too hard to find since the population of the town was only 700.

As I pulled into the campground, a guy stopped mowing grass and came over to greet me. He was the owner of the place. (Note: Being met by the owner or manager is always a good sign of a great campground. Some owners/managers take that for granted.) Anyway, when I told him my name he said that "I was the backing up guy" and laughed a little. He said to wait for him to go get the golf cart and he would escort me to the site. He returned with the cart and told me to get in and he would drive me to the site so I could see how I wanted to "tackle" it,,, and danged if he didn't laugh again. Now I'm somewhere between being worried or wanting to laugh too. There definitely wasn't another campground in this small town, so it was either this campsite or drive on down the road in hopes of finding something else. I was noticing that all of the campsites were made up of crushed gravel with neat edges where the gravel met the grass. Well, we arrived at my campsite and it was nothing at all like I expected. There was a big tree growing in the middle of the site. They did it intentionally because there was fresh gravel all the way around the tree. At least they had cut the branches that used to hang over the site. I got out of the golf cart and the owner started laughing again. I looked at the tree and then at the owner. His loud laughing had brought the guy in the site next to mine out of his RV. He quickly sat down in a lawn chair aimed right at us. As I walked up to the tree to do some quick measurements, I hollered over at the guy, "are you the audience?" He replied in a slow speaking Yankee voice, "Yap, it's been boring lately". The distance from the base of the tree to the edge of gravel was about 9 1/2 feet. Even though they cut the overhanging limbs, I would still need to give the tree a respectable foot or so clearance. So, let's see, Liberty is 8 feet wide and I had a little more than 8 feet to maneuver. After the owner stopped laughing, I told him it shouldn't be problem as long as I eased over on the grass a little while backing in. That sparked his laughing fit again as he replied, "can't do that, we've just had 6 inches of rain over the last day or two". Ok then, let's go back and get Freedom and Liberty and give it a go. After getting lined up a couple of times and pulling forward a couple of times, I started Liberty back into the site. The owner was wisely looking up at the tree to make sure Liberty didn't kiss it while the audience man started whistling. I got a good line on the edge of the gravel and went right on in to the site. On the way in, Liberty found a soft spot on the edge of the gravel so the owner asked if I wouldn't mind moving over more towards the middle of the site. I said sure and pulled back out and started moving over. Everything went well, and after getting stopped, Liberty was perfectly level in all directions. The owner said, "see, not a problem" while the audience man said, "you should have been able to do it in one back up". Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. 
The Tree. Nothing much else to say about. There may have been a little more room than I mentioned. :)

They had a nice clean laundry that I took advantage of on the second day. A total of $6.00 and everything was clean and ready for wear. This sliding bench was a nice place to wait on the clothes until the jellowjackets liked it better than I did. 

The geese put on a nice show while waiting for clothes to dry.
After getting set up and turning on Liberty's A/C's, I went in search of that smoked meat place. There isn't much in Ellendale, so the meat place was easy to find. I didn't get a picture inside but the store, but it was pretty much right out of the 1950's or so. A nice lady saw that I was lost and asked me if I was looking for something special. I told her I was looking for something that was "heat and eat". I mentioned traveling around the country in an RV and although I had a stove and oven, I used the microwave oven the most. I was looking for something to heat in the microwave or at worse, heat in a skillet on the stove. She pointed out several items which looked good, so I bought pretty much everything she pointed at except the cheese curds. I had tried those in Wisconsin before, and didn't like them. All totaled, the purchases were a little over $20.00. As the lady was bagging my stuff up, she quietly said, almost in a whisper, "so, you're traveling around the country in an RV all by yourself, uh?" I said, "Yes, ma'am", putting as much southern accent into it as I could muster. She gave me a look that sort of said a lot more than "thank you for shopping with us" so I left with a little quicker step than I had when I arrived. 
Small town meat market. They were setting up for some kind of party.

I tried the chicken and ate one and threw the rest away. They were too "rubbery". The pepper jack sticks were tasty but looked funny. I read the ingredients and they had milk in them which gave it a funny look. I ate one and threw the rest away. The ham links were good but the Colby cheese was the best of the bunch. I haven't opened the brats yet.
After taking it easy around the campground for the two days and getting to know the "audience man" a little more, I hitched up and moved farther north. The next campground was part of a very large Indian Casino. After setting up camp, I went to the casino and got a players card. This time it came with $10.00 in play money which I played in the slots until I won $8.00 in real money. I cashed out a winner and went in search of supper. It's a big campground with over 100 campsites but it is generally well maintained and quiet. The campsites are close together though. The temperature last night got down to 50 degrees. I had my ceramic heater ready to go but didn't need it since it stayed in the lower 60's inside of Liberty. Excellent sleeping weather. Someone told me about a small cafe in the old part of downtown Hinckley (population 1,800). They were suppose to have a great Reuben Sandwich. I found that hard to believe in such a small Minnesota town. But since it was so unusual to even hear of such a thing in a place like this, I had to give it a try. The small Whistle Stop Cafe was easy to find so I went inside. I got there about 12:45 just as most of the people were finishing up. The waitress was younger than I had expected and probably in her late 40's. I told her what I had heard about their sandwich and she said it was true. Well, it wasn't all the way true. From 1 to 10 with 10 being the best, the sandwich was about a 7. But it was better than any Reuben I had lately. On my way back to the campground, I noticed a really nice golf course with hardly anyone playing. Uhmmm,,, I would have to remember that if I come back this way again.
Campsite at the casino. A little crowded but full hookups and Cable TV. It's the first TV I've looked at since hitting the road. 

A little bit of an overall view of the campground. You can't see Liberty in this shot but you can see the Casino in the far background on the right. 

Whistle Stop Cafe.
Maybe I should have ordered breakfast.

The Reuben Sandwich.
The coffee was super great. 

Tomorrow is moving day and I finally reach my destination point of Lake Superior. I found a nice little campground just outside of the Duluth city limits. In fact, it may actually be in Wisconsin. I'll be there for 5 nights with exploration plans scheduled around the area. It should be a nice time if the weather cooperates. I need to pull out my long pants and windbreaker. 

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Storms in Des Moines and RV Work

Location: Saylorville Lake Campground (COE); near Des Moines, Iowa (elev 950 ft)

Note: all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon cell phone

First, I need to apologize to two people who tried to leave comments on the last post. I don't know who you are because your comments flashed up for just a second, then *poof* they were gone. I may have imagined them, but I wanted to make sure someone didn't think their comment was being ignored. I bet they were two world changing comments too and they just disappeared. Wow.

I pulled out of the Kansas City area early and since no one else was leaving the campground, I took my time at the dump station. While emptying and flushing the tanks, I checked out the weather. I had been a little worried because there has been a low front hanging around north of KC with the possibility of thunderstorms. Sure enough, there were storms heading northeast on a parallel track to I-35 which was my planned route. Doing some quick math, I thought I might be able to get to the Iowa Welcome Center before the two lines crossed. If I made it, I was leaving early enough so I would have time to park and wait for the storms to pass. But, of course, "the best laid plans of mice and men". The first storm hit me about 45 minutes from the welcome center, it was a short but vicious storm that left me driving blind for a short while. It passed quickly, then stopped raining entirely. My gas stop was about 30 miles before the welcome center so I made it in a drizzling rain. The clouds were banking up again and the last blinding storm was still fresh in my memory. I decided to go for it since the welcome center would be a better place to hole up than this gas station. So off I went, one hand on the steering wheel and the other calling up Accuweather radar. It was a close one, but I pulled into the welcome center and shut it down for about an hour while the strong storms passed over. A short nap later, and I was now north of the front and the storms were passing to the east and south. It was an easy drive onto the next campground.
I knew the storms path and my path were going to cross sooner or later. You can see the downpour ahead. Luckily it was just thunderstorms with moderate winds. No tornadoes.

The first storm passed quickly and the sky looked clear. The storms came back as I approached the welcome center.
This campground is another Corp of Engineers Campground, and with my one week old, old timers pass, the cost is only $11.00 per night. The campsites only have electric and you have to fill up your water tanks either at the dump station or one of the water spigots scattered around the campground. I chose to get water at the dump station since it was empty. As I was finishing up, an older class C camper pulled in with two ladies about my age or slightly older. They were unsure what to do so I helped them fill their water tanks. Then one opened the water heater panel and a brand new anode rod was laying there. I told them what it was and then pointed to where it went. Ut oh, there wasn't one installed. I went to get my tools to put it in for them but as I was doing so, the threads wouldn't start. I looked closely and calcium scale had hardened on the threads preventing the threads from catching. I informed them about the problem and showed it to them. I told them they needed a small wire brush to clean the threads before the anode could be installed. They said they would take care of it and we went our separate ways. I guess it must have just been a strange day since while I was setting Liberty up, two older men in two Class C's pulled up to the water spigot close to my campsite. I could see they were struggling with what to do. I asked if they needed help and sure enough, they needed it. I helped them add Clorox to their water tanks and let them use by filler hose and Clorox dispenser. I'm not sure what was going on because during conversation, they said they live in Des Moines and camp here a lot. Oh well, I built up a little karma, so I was happy.
It's a nice campsite with 50 amp service and new, level concrete pads. All for $11.00 a night, loving it. 
I also went to Home Depot and Walmart today in between storms. I bought some nuts and bolts to take care of my spare tire bracket. Having the lugs on the bracket spin without loosening won't happen again like they did after the blow out. I'm posting pictures here to document the work for future reference.
These are the two culprits. I kept them so I could embarrass them by posting about them. You can see where the square part of the carriage bolt has been rounded, thus the reason it was just spinning. The flat pieces were what was suppose to keep them from spinning. 

New set up with new carriage bolt. Also a washer set up with a final lock washer and nut. This ain't going to spin and of course if it does spin in the future, I won't post about it here. lol

Spare tire mounted. More secure than that original set up. The center blot is what holds the hard tire cover. If you're wondering what that white stuff is around my electrical cord, it's cotton twine. I wrapped it around so I could soak it with ant and roach spray to prevent bugs from crawling up the electrical cord. 
Some of my karma paid off today. I passed an RV place and took a chance they may have that center dust cover that is missing on the right tire. The original one is somewhere along the Indian Nation Turnpike along with parts of my old tire. Sure enough, they had the part. Also, while I was waiting I found a furnace floor register vent that I had been looking for. It is an odd ball size (2" X 10"), but they had one. I left the place in a really good mood. Karma sure is good when it is working in your favor. :)

Storms are popping up all around my location with a Tornado Watch to the northeast of me. I have a local radio station tuned in that is giving weather updates. I guess that is something I'm missing about not having my TV working. Usually, when storms were around, I could turn on the TV and get local weather updates, especially hazardous weather. Since something happened to my roof antenna, I guess I'll look into one of those antennas that mount directly to the TV. I'm sitting in prime tornado territory and this weather front is still hanging around. The forecast calls for more storms tomorrow but with clearing on Friday which is the next moving day.
This is the view across the fields today. They are definitely "pop-corn" storms. Popping up here, there, everywhere.
The weather has put a stop to any exploring. But that may just be an excuse since I didn't see a lot to explore in this area. I was able to make reservations at the next three campgrounds and takes me through June 30th. I'll need to decide which direction I go after that. East into Wisconsin and Michigan or west through Minnesota and North Dakota. I'm leaning towards west since I've never seen North Dakota. My father was there once and he always said,,,, "North Dakota was so flat that you could turn a bucket of water upside-down, remove the bucket and the water just stand there because it didn't know which way to run." If I heard that once, I heard it a hundred times. From what I've checked, there isn't a lot to see in North Dakota, but I guess its one of those things I have to see for myself. 

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