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!

Winter wonderland

When I grew up in Detroit we had long snow-filled winters.  Weekends and holidays were filled with building snow forts, throwing snowballs and ice skating on the frozen pond in nearby Palmer Park.  This winter brought back these memories because snow, ice and frigid temperatures were this year’s story of the lakes.  Nearly 90 percent of the lakes froze solid and satellite images and updates of the percentages filled the news.

For me the best part were the photographs of the ice caves in the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior.  I so wish I could have done the walk to the ice caves across a frozen Lake Superior!  I saw and photographed the caves from the boat tour I took in 2012 like the one below.

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But what a thrill to see the images captured by those who walked the mile across Lake Superior to experience the ice caves and photograph them.  I enjoyed so many images and found a nice collection of 18 by photographers Eric Miller and Paul Johnson in Alan Taylor’s photography blog in the Atlantic.  Starting with the journey over the big lake to the caves, below are a few of my favorites from Miller and Johnson (hover over the images with your mouse for the name of photographer and click for a larger view).  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!  And, of course, I trust  you will respect the copyright protections of these photographs as well as my own.

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Back in the saddle

I am finally settled in my new city and working on my Great Lakes islands book and more clear about future projects.  Been a very, very long process that continues.

For now I am sharing an island image from my circling of Lake Superior on the U.S. side with my dog Henry in a small motorhome.  This is an island in Minnesota near Grand Portage and within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation.  Lake Superior was unusually calm as you can see.  I took this the morning right before I headed south to return home to southeastern Michigan.  So it was bittersweet.

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Two bicyclists finish their 500-mile “Trans Superior Tour”

Molly and Rich Hoeg (source http://www.crazyguyonabike.com)

Just learned from the Lake Superior Binational Forum about the recent nine-day, 500-mile Trans Superior Tour by Molly and Rich Hoeg on bicycle in part to “highlight the importance of Lake Superior to their lives” (Forum).  Thought I’d share their information while I continue to process my own photos and narrative from the rest of my own Lake Superior trip.

Click here for the website devoted to their Trans Superior Tour, and click here for their blog that includes this Tour.  Note that as I indicate, these two photos are from their Tour website.

I was just a couple days ahead of them and would have loved to meet them on the road!  Here is the route they took:

Route that Molly and Rich bicycled August 2012 (source: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com)

Minnesota’s North Shore Part 1

As promised, with this post I’m sharing images and narrative from my trip north from Duluth (after Dean replaced my freshwater tank) to Grand Portage way up near the Canadian border.

The image above is very typical of the drive along the north shore of Lake Superior.  Truly lovely, and as you can see I continued to have amazing weather.  I’m actually writing this while staying at Straits State Park in St. Ignace, Michigan.  I’ve been driving way too many hours each day then poking around the communities and lake area where ever I land to post to this blog.  On top of that, WordPress and.or my Mifi have been incredibly SSLLLOOOWWW.

I had a fairly long drive (for driving a motorhome) and had planned to stay in Grand Marais.  One of the first things that caught my eye on the drive was this log structure that is Norwegian in type:

I’ve been fascinated with these structures for decades after I saw one on Washington Island.  I even corresponded for years with the person who had a small business importing complete cabins directly from Norway that were built there, disassembled, and then put in shipping crates to the United States.  This particular structure is actually a business, not a home:

Here are more details of this log structure (except for the teddy bear that is a bonus):

In the parking lot was a station wagon with alot of nice things to say:

I stopped at Grand Marais with the intention of getting settled into my reserved space in the campground.  As I posted previously, in the few moments I opened my door to check things out at the extremely small, tight space that I was assigned (and the last one available), I had black-fly issues.  One black fly flew into Ecovision right onto my front window while another flew straight to my neck.  I was able to squish both before they grabbed a chunk of skin off any part of me.  Unfortunately, I strongly attract and strongly react to black-fly bites.  I get red lumps the size of a quarter that hurt and persist for over a month.  I had about a dozen of these in May while on photo safari in Tobermory, Ontario, so I knew I had to get out of there and did.

I headed further north about 40 miles to the Grand Portage Reservation.  The Reservation is very large at over 73,000 square miles.  It is 12 miles from the first Reservation sign to the town of Grand Portage.  The “town” is mostly a casino complex and the marina and RV park where I stayed.  When I arrived several anglers were cleaning their fish:

After I picked my site and paid, I got back into Ecovision and headed further north.  I wanted to see where one catches the ferry and half-day tour boat to Isle Royale.  It was closed at that time of early evening and I’ve found it difficult to communicate with the company other than through their website where they take (and prefer) on-line reservations.  I did see one of their boats at the dock, the Sea Hunter III:

The Sea Hunter III

It might of have still been possible for me to get on the next day’s 8:30 a.m. trip to Isle Royale, but I just cannot leave Henry alone for the seven hours I would have to be gone.  Next year I’ll have to figure something else out.

On the way back to the campsite I stopped to take a photo of what I believe are wild-rice fields:

I continued south of MN-61 the mile or so back to the campground.  I had plenty of freshwater in my new tank so I just plugged in electric for the one-night stay.  No black flies or even mosquitoes so Henry and I had a nice long walk before cozying up for the night.

To finish this posting, this is a photo of the peek-a-boo view of Lake Superior’s Grand Portage Bay that Henry and I enjoyed the next morning while eating our breakfast outside:

Next I’ll post Part 2 that will include images of the Grand Portage National Monument, a second and much better visit to Grand Marais, and the iconic Split Rock Lighthouse.

Enjoyed Grand Portage Reservation and National Monument

Grand Portage reservation in taupe and monument in green

Henry and I had a quiet, restful night staying at the campground on the Grand Portage Reservation.  It is very close to the Canadian border and we were surrounded by many Canadian RVs.  From the time you see the sign for the Grand Portage settlement you drive 12 miles in this large reservation.  On the map, the campground, marina, and casino are on Grand Portage Bay.

I bought a small ceramic heater at the Grand Portage and had it going all night to help dry the carpeting.  No more new water so the new freshwater tank did the trick.  But the carpeting throughout and pad underneath will take some time to dry.

Slept so well and was glad I pushed to get this far.  I let my soul have its way and decided to head back south and not do the Canadian portion of the Lake Superior Circle Tour.  The delay and expense of a new freshwater tank meant I would have to rush and just not have the experience I want.  So after feelings of sadness, I came to deep acceptance and then happily moved on.

Stops today included views of islands, Grand Marais, huge Cleveland Cliffs facility in Silver Bay, and Split Rock Lighthouse.  I thought I might go all the way to Duluth, but I’m at Gooseberry Falls State Park in their visitor center charging my iPhone and Macbook Air.  I took a chance because I really wanted to stay here, but they didn’t have any reservable sites.  So we got here around 5 and they had one site left!  I’ll take it!  I used the $25 Minnesota State Parks gift certificate from my son and daughter-in-law, which was the exact cost.  So all good.  No hook-ups though, which is fine because I have water in my brand-new tank, plenty of food to eat (way too much, as a matter of fact), and I can bundle up under covers to stay warm.  So this is a brief posting before Henry and I get settled in for the night.

This is the view of Grand Portage Island that I enjoyed this morning before heading south. Pretty nice, eh?  I’ll post more about yesterday and today hopefully tomorrow.

Up the North Shore to Grand Portage

New tank tested fine so I unhooked and disengaged and headed out before 10 am. Returned unneeded items to Menards, got gas, and headed north on M-61.

I pretty much kept going, passed on Grand Marais after black/fly attack upon just opening my door, and kept going to Grand Portage where we are now.

Henry likes it here, and more and more he is enjoying our vagabond life on wheels. He makes new friends wherever we go and gets lots of pets.

I’ll try to post this. My Mifi is working just fine, but connection must be very weak. I’m on the Grand Portage reservation right near Canadian border.

I’ll decide tonight which way to head. I suspect backwards again.

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