Revisiting the Indiana dunes

Okay, we’re back home and I have much catching up to do. To start I thought I’d go back to the wonderful beginning of my circle tour in the Indiana dunes. Makes me smile just to remember how special it was.

The blue dot was my location in Indiana Dunes State Park. Wonderful short walk through restored wetlands to long sandy beach with distant view of Chicago skyscrapers. Really lovely Art Deco structure on the beach. More images to follow.

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Henry Boy was so happy I brought his outdoor rug that he immediately took a snooze.

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The vulnerability of being off-line

In everyday life I’m never long away from being online and able to communicate via mobile phone, email, Facebook, text messages, Twitter, blogs and so on. It’s so much a part of my life that I give these connections little thought. So finding myself last Thursday night without good connections stopped me in my tracks.

First of all I stepped back in time by staying at an inland RV campground called Plymouth Rock. I mean, Plymouth Rock?! I’ve been to Plymouth Rock and it wasn’t in Wisconsin. But this Plymouth Rock certainly is.

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I ended up at Plymouth Rock because of a very late start from the unpleasantness of Illinois Beach State Park. I didn’t want  to get to a campground I had never been to after dark and I wanted one with a decent shower house.

I guess I misread or misunderstood Plymouth Rock on the All Stays app I frequently use and really like. It wasn’t until I was on the road for awhile that I realized that the campground was very far away from my circle tour. It was already about 3 so half-heartedly I laid to rest plans to drive and stop at various lakeside locations and resorted to the fastest route my GPS could get me to Plymouth Rock.

I was tired when I got there at 5 minutes to 5. The woman who I had talked to on the phone and who greeted me was so nice. This late in the season I had my choice of many sites with electric. It did feel a little strange because they were laid out around the circumference of a circle of trees and you parked on grass. I found the site she had arbitrarily given me to be just fine so took 503 I think it was. Not much to it, but an easy hookup of my power cord to an aged but working system.

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It certainly felt like a step back in time. The picnic table was made of concrete, which I found odd and too cold to want to use. The campground was dated with dozens of seasonal park homes with decks and screen porches. There was a corral for golf carts and several outdoor pools with one and a whirlpool still open. It was chilly so no takers. I took care of Henry then checked out the shower house with plans to use in the morning. It seemed small and in need of updating, but clean. I met and had really nice conversation with a couple who have no permanent  home base but travel in many parts of the world doing various things. At Plymouth Rock they had been selling zone memberships for RVers. Next they were heading to Ohio to sell See’s Candy then to on to Spain where they have rented a house for six months.

Henry and I had a relaxing evening. In fact I stayed up quite late and Henry Boy patiently waited laying his head down on my journal that I had put on the bed. His sweet adorableness inspired me to just crawl into bed. Could you resist him?

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As with all good plans, in the morning they changed. I had prepaid reservations for three nights at Peninsula State Park and called to confirm. I had only been able to reserve a site without any utilities and for three nights that felt like a stretch this time of year. However, the staff person mentioned that if I got there at 10 am if one with electric was available I might be able to get it. So my plans for a leisurely morning with shower were abandoned and I was on the road and actually got to the park office just a few minutes after 10.

When I got there she marked me down as second on the list. Nice! But everyone had showed up so not even one of the 130 sites with electric were available. Darn. But I could try again the next morning, Saturday, as long as I arrived again at 10 am.  Geez, I thought, not being able to get out and about until after 10 would reduce my time exploring the Door Peninsula. And it did.

With this inauspicious beginning, the next few days on this important Great Lakes peninsula were both marvelous and seriously disconnected. Hence no posts here until tonight because I’m back to reliable Internet and at a campground! More on my journey in the next posting.

 

At the big lake

Lovely lovely day and drive from Onsted, Michigan, to Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Indiana. I took my time and stopped in several little towns like Jonesville. US 12 starts out as Michigan Avenue then becomes Chicago Road. Unfortunately all family restaurants in small towns along US 12 appear to be closed on Mondays so I wasn’t able to get a nice homemade lunch like I had hoped.

The first part of the drive out of Onsted is through the Irish Hills area of Michigan. The area still has small lakes with small cottages, but the former entertainment-type businesses are all closed down. Things like mystery hill are empty gray tombstones to the past. This has been replaced by the massive Michigan International Speedway. I still love to drive through that area though. The hills are tree-lined dotted with farm fields and very small towns.

When I got to Indiana I was greeted by this!

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I got my first peak of Lake Michigan at New Buffalo, Michigan, near the Indiana border. I was on US 12 the entire way. I was pleasantly surprised by the gorgeousness of Indiana State Dunes State Park. Has a feeling of spaciousness and peacefulness and I have a really nice site.

The first thing I did was hook up Ecovision to electric and start to pull out a few things. But I realized it wasn’t quite level so I moved Ecovision forward, put one yellow block behind each wheel and then backed up and onto the levels. Voila! Level! For those of you who don’t own an RV, the refrigerators in an RV are different than a house refrigerator and require being as close to level as possible to operate properly.

Here’s Ecovision and her campsite.

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All this niceness was marred by Henry getting painful burrs stuck in his paws when we took a walk! Ouch. He stopped and couldn’t walk. But he let me lift each paw in turn to take out burrs. Then I got some in my fingers while taking his out until I figured out I could hide my fingers under my sleeve to get his burrs out.

When we got back to Ecovision I put him on top of the picnic table, got out his grooming equipment and removed all the burrs. In the process I thinned his hair all over and cut the hair around his feet very short. He looks very cute and feels much better.

My good friend Karen, who lives nearby, came over with a bottle of wine (plus homemade banana bread for me to enjoy for breakfast) and we had a wonderful visit. She’s a Great Lakes expert like I am with the same love and devotion to the lakes. We have collaborated on several major projects over the years and hopefully will continue to in the future. She’s taking time off of work tomorrow so we can walk to beach and be near the beloved Lake Michigan. Can hardly wait!

Rocky start and hunkering down

Saturday September 20
There was no traveling until my son came over to slide the house batteries back into Ecovision. An essential part of a motorhome are the house batteries. These are the ones that power everything inside the motorhome. Unless they are sealed, you have to check the level of distilled water. I did the right thing by checking these levels and did need to add distilled water. The batteries are new and taller and narrower than the ones they replaced making it difficult to pull the drawer out that holds them. Well I got the drawer out, but then could not get it back in.

I tried many things then called AAA. I have AAA Plus for RV coverage. After long discussion and the agent wishing he were closer so he could personally help, I learned they would not be sending a repair truck. Why? Because it wasn’t broken down. I couldn’t drive it like that, but it wasn’t broken down. That’s when I contacted my son who, as always, came through. He figured it out and with his usual persistent patience got the battery drawer to slide back in. Thanks Matthew!

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Finished packing up food, clothes and way too many electronics and off we went. It was quite windy, but we headed southwest on Michigan Avenue (M-12) right into the wind so driving was manageable. It started raining about five miles away from Hayes State Park where we were going to stay for the night. Oops, the rubber blades on my windshield washers were awful! Useless, actually. Amazingly there was a gas station right across the street from the turn into Hayes State Park. Nevertheless I was filled with dread because unlike the gas stations of the 50s and 60s when actual mechanics ran them and could always help fix things, I knew chances of my getting help were slim to none. And that’s what I found. The two woman were helpful but knew little. The gas station was filled with row after row of snacks and drinks. Fortunately they did have the 18″ blades and two were only $6.13 for the pair! Then a nice young man filling his truck with gas came right over and put them on for me. I told him was an angel and I so appreciated his help.

So we drove around the state park until we found a couple of campsites I liked then secured one at the office. Here we are settled in with Ecovision plugged in and ready to give us a cozy place to spend the night.

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Later quite severe storms blew in with thunder and lightening and gusty winds. I do carry a weather radio (and put fresh batteries in and tested before I left), but not quite bad enough to turn on. So we toughed it out. I should say I toughed it out, because Henry is oblivious to even the loudest of thunderstorms. He’s always the happy camper.

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I reheated some turkey meatloaf with carrots and onions courtesy of Chef Elrod of the People’s Food Cooperative. Yum.

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Henry was content to check things out around us and wag his tail at the two kids at a nearby campsite. He also growled at any dogs that passed by. Unfortunately, Henry has never forgotten having had his neck ripped open by a pit bull when he was a puppy that took two surgeries to get him back to normal.

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I spent some time getting my iPhone and Macbook connected to my “old” (2 years old) Samsung Mifi. Even though I had gone to a Verizon store, paid $40 for 4 GB of service and they got me set up, now that I was on the road I couldn’t connect. So I had to call Verizon only to be told I had been given the wrong information in the store. Helpless on the road, I had to fork over another $20 for 1 GB less capacity. So $60 for 3 GB. Grrr, but I do now have a portable wireless hotspot for the next 30 days or 3GB, whichever comes first.

I read for awhile, but I was pretty exhausted from an over-busy week followed by getting Ecovision ready for the road. I started nodding off and by 9 p.m. turned off the light.

Henry makes reading in my couch-bed very interesting and cozy. Fortunately he doesn't stay up there all night.

Henry makes reading in my couch-bed very interesting and cozy. Fortunately he doesn’t stay up there all night while I’m sleeping.

Sunday September 21
In the morning it was pretty wet outside.

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I woke at 7 and made a typical simple breakfast I enjoy while camping.

Peanut butter on Ed's sourdough bread with grapefruit juice and organic green grapes

Peanut butter on Ed’s sourdough bread with grapefruit juice and organic green grapes

I read some more enjoying this view from the couch-bed. The view is nicer than the photos suggests.

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In the back of Ecovision are lovely dappled, wooded wetlands. Very private. Hard to tell, but there is a steep drop down to the water.

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Had a little frog-friend take shelter from the rain alongside Ecovision’s window. Friend Karen thinks it’s a tree frog. Sure was tiny, size of my fingernail.

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The wind continued and by 10 a.m. I decided I had to stay put another night. Winds were 15-16 mph with gusts of 28, which means RVers stay put. At least this one does. Henry and I walked to the office and paid $25 for a second night. I don’t mind supporting Michigan’s wonderful state parks for another night, and the staffer loved and cuddled Henry so a bonus. Then I called Indiana Dunes State Park and for no fee they moved my reservation from coming Sunday to coming Monday! Another bonus!

So that’s about it thus far. It’s not quite three and chilly and windy with some rain. Going to go back to reading “The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean” written by Pulitzer-prize winning Philip Caputo. This is a memoir about traveling the longest possible road with his wife and two hunting dogs pulling an Airstream. Perfect book to read on my own travels with Henry. More adventures tomorrow!

Whew

What a day. I did a few things here in the morning and filled up my car with another load. I drove to the storage facility and pulled out Ecovision and put my Honda in her place. I unloaded my car, but didn’t put anything away. Then it was a quick half-hour drive to Camping World in Belleville. Before I left I turned on my 3-way refrigerator (on DC) so it would start to cool down for my trip.

Things went really smoothly and (amazingly) inexpensively at Camping World. The mechanic assigned to my dewinterization was ready and even waiting when I got there and he handled everything easily. He made sure my tire pressure was correct (65 pounds in front tires, 80 in rear tires–if you don’t know why the differential then you need to get your motorhome weighed!) and that the propane was on. Last time I had Ecovision serviced I had the suggested propane drop test done so I know it’s good to go.

I drove back to the storage facility switching around the vehicles. I put everything away and made my bed. Sure is feeling cozy and welcoming in there. I switched the refrigerator onto “gas” (propane) so it will continue to get cold. Hopefully by morning I can load in my food with no worries.

As I was driving home I saw a Verizon store. I needed to get my 4G Samsung mifi going for a just one month via prepaid at Verizon so I stopped in. That took some time because it’s so “old” (2 years, 1 month!) and they didn’t know how much to charge. After two phone calls it turns out it’s only $40 for 4GB. Should take care of all my wireless needs for the two to three weeks I’ll be on the road. Sweet. Then I stop service and put the mifi away until next year.

It is a glorious day. Just finished walking Henry and didn’t even want to come home. Hopefully most of our days circling will be nice although frankly a rainy day forces me to read, write and maybe play a little solitaire. This evening I’ll finish the laundry and packing. I also plan to cook and freeze some pork chops in a red currant sauce so they are ready to load tomorrow. Henry’s all packed. He will be so excited when he see Ecovision. Henry Boy loves to RV!

Is it August yet?

Starting to plan my August circling of Lake Michigan. With sweet Henry Boy, of course. He’s (kinda) patiently waiting. Well he’s waiting.

I need to get Ecovision dewinterized and checked over soon. I plan to head west to the lake around August 1st and to be circling about 2 weeks. Happiness :)

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Memorial Day Gratitudes

It has been a blur since I got back from North Carolina and Virginia. I think my first trip with Ecovision is going to be mid-June and not more than 20 miles from here. A new friend (thanks to Kathe for introducing us) who is considering solo RVing has invited Henry and me to camp on her property for the weekend. She has power I can hook up to and I understand she has glorious gardens. She can check out my RV and learn what it takes to manage one on your own, and I can enjoy a few days in Ecovision with my sweet Henry Boy in tow. We’re both very excited. I hope she likes Scrabble or gin rummy, which I find good on the road with new and old friends.

Meantime I’m teaching “Understanding the Great Lakes” followed by “Islands of the Great Lakes”. They each meet once a week for four weeks and the students who take these classes love the lakes and islands as much as I do so it’s deeply meaningful all the way around.

I’m also going to take an advanced class in digital landscape photography starting this Wednesday night. It’s six Wednesday evenings plus 2 all-day Saturday field trips. This is my final class in the series I put together with Bryce Denison of Midwest Photography Workshops. I created my own certificate program and it’s been a wonderful and challenging experience.

I’m always taking a class or learning something new, and now I’m teaching in LifeLong Education with people with a love of learning just like me. It is marvelous.

Henry’s just glad to have me back home with a knee to rest his head on each evening. Life is good.

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