Integration



So interesting to find the world organized toward narrow and exclusive categories. As I integrate my life and interests, I’m struggling to express this integration through social media, blogs and websites. 

  • I am a writer and photographer, but Facebook forces choice of only one. And that’s just the beginning. 
  • I do travel, landscape and abstract photography sprinkled with images of food and the everyday beauty of life. 
  • I write essays and nonfiction with a little poetry and the beginnings of a memoir centered on my love of the lakes and islands. 
  • I blog here with three or four other blogs in various stages of development or abandonment. 
  • I Tweet @aboutthelakes, @abouttheislands and @circlethelakes plus have a few others on hold. 

So stay tuned to see which blog and social media stream holds promise for pulling the expression of my life and art and loves into a beautifully braided stream. 



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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.

 

Illinois Beach State Park disappoints

I thought with a wonderful setting right on Lake Michigan that this state park would be a lovely place to camp. Not so much. Gorgeous sky and clouds greeted me Wednesday, but from there it was all downhill.

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The day-use parking lot was empty and there were hardly any campers. I had my pick of hundreds and hundreds of sites. All but two handicap sites were gravel and very few seemed level. Felt kind of sad here despite the lovely weather.

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I picked one backing up to the lake relatively near the shower house. I think there are only two shower houses and they are spread way apart. In this photo it looks like there are more campers than there actually were because we’re all down by one of the shower houses.

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They have been planting young conifers to improve the sites.

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I was beat by the time we settled in so I just made dinner, walked Henry, checked email, read and turned off the light early.

Thursday morning I got a late start as I struggled with my Verizon MiFi. It again was asking me to sign in and pay more money. I called technical support and a nice customer-service agent who not only explained what happened and ways to avoid it, but gave me back all those 3 GB! I learned I had used up 3 GB just since Saturday and a likely culprit was Facebook automatically playing videos. I can do Facebook just fine on my iPhone so I’m not even going to check it on my computer. Plus I turned off that feature in my iPhone settings.

At that point it was time for lunch so Henry and I ate. I was still dragging, but I thought I better get a shower before leaving. That was a big mistake. While the shower house looks old-fashioned, but okay it was not pleasant inside.

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Clean, yes (I think), but there was not one hook and you had to be a midget to feel comfortable in the shower stalls. Worst of all you have to reach in to push a button to get the water going and it sprays all over everything that you have in the “dry” part of the stall. My Birkenstocks, even though outside the shower well, got soaked. I ended up using both of the shower stalls, one to keep my clothes dry and the other to shower in. At least the temperature was good and I did get clean.

The take-away message is that the State of Illinois has a huge missed opportunity at Illinois Beach State Park. This park is on one of the most beautiful lakes on Earth with an expansive shoreline, but it needs a huge renovation to bring it up to 21st-Century standards. Indiana Dunes State Park was gorgeous and packed while this one was drab and empty. So Illinois get with the program!

Heading north along west coast of Lake Michigan

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Despite this glorious morning and how lovely the Lake Michigan shoreline is here in Indiana Dunes, Henry and I are packing up the RV to head north. Friend Karen suggested I start on I-90, which should get me to my preferred way of taking the Skyway to Chicago then driving north on Lakeshore Drive. I don’t mind paying tolls because this is a much better way to see and move to and through Chicago.

One of my jobs involved going to Chicago once a month for over year. Plus all of my Great Lakes jobs have involved frequent travel to Chicago because the Great Lakes National Program Office of the EPA is located on Jackson Avenue. The people in this office do such a great job of overseeing the complexities of protecting, restoring and conserving these irreplaceable, valuable, magnificent Lakes. Quiet heroes and heroines.

Over the decades I’ve come to know Chicago as one of our nation’s best cities and I get excited just thinking about the Chicago Institute of Arts, the hustle and bustle, the architectural and shoreline boat tours, all the top-notch restaurants, skyscrapers (invented here) and the magnificent lake it sits on.

This will be my first time navigating Chicago with my motorhome so I’ll just take my time and enjoy it as much as possible. Not even sure where we’ll camp tonight, but I’ll fill you in later with activities and photos from yesterday and today.

Baby Steps


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In our punch-drunk culture where only huge steps count or are even worth taking on, I’m learning to take baby steps.

First I have to get a new battery for my motorhome. That should happen this weekend with the help of my son and daughter-in-law.

Then I have to drive it to Camping World to be prepared for the journey. The first appointment I could get was September 20th at noon. Ugh, but I scheduled the appointment.

Other baby steps in-between are to scrub everything down, run the generator a time or two and start loading in bedding, canned goods, electronics and maps. I strip it almost bare each fall then have to put back in the following year.

I have a detailed packing list and system developed over the five years I have owned Ecovision. I’ll get that out soon and set aside certain clothing and resource materials to circle Lake Michigan. I’ll make sure I have enough food for up to three weeks for my dog Henry as well as myself. I cook ahead and freeze as much as possible so I have healthy food on the road.

Owning and caring for a RV is a great deal of work and money even for a modest motorhome like Ecovision. Always something to fix or improve or maintain. But I love RVing so for now it is very much worth the effort. My only regret is that my current life keeps me tied to a part-time job and activities in and around Ann Arbor rather than being on the road with Henry near the lakes I love.

Lift-off date: September 21st! Hopefully…

September it is

I’m not only resigned, but quite happy that Henry and I will start to circle Lake Michigan in mid-September. The weather will be cooler, campgrounds and shorelines will be uncrowded and I’ll have the Labor Day weekend family reunion behind me. Fall colors should be starting so photographs in various campgrounds should be stunning.

Leaving after the family reunion also will give me a little extra time so I am hoping to stretch the original two weeks into three. I can’t leave before September 15 and I do have to be back by October 11 to give a public lecture on the Great Lakes at Washtenaw Community College.

I have decided to just replace the van battery. My daughter-in-law and son will help me switch the old for new when they get back from their vacation in Montana. Or I should say I’ll help them because they are handier than I am. Anne replaced her car battery in minutes while I helped watched! For now I’m going to figure out which size I need and shop around for prices over the next week or two. I’ll also share here how I budget for RV travel.

Meantime here is a slide I put together adding a favorite quote from Thoreau about lakes onto one of my images from the north shore of Lake Superior. Enjoy!

Battery and books

My August circling of Lake Michigan maybe become October. Feeling disappointed yet this may be necessary.

Battery

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I went to the storage place where I keep Ecovision to start and run her. Last year when I did this she made no noise and wouldn’t start. Even the AAA mechanic couldn’t get her started and she had to be towed to the Dodge dealer about 6 miles away. The culprit was mice had chewed the engine wiring and to repair it took my entire travel budget for a planned weekend caravaning to a Petoskey Township park with my friend Rachel.

This time my battery made some clicking noises, but wouldn’t turn over. My own fault for only starting it once or twice since last fall and we had this specially brutal winter. The AAA mechanic got it started although it took some doing and kept stalling.

The mechanic was very helpful and I asked him to stay while I drove it around the storage facility a couple of times and it purred like a kitten. The battery is only three or four years old and a very high-quality Interstate so under normal daily-driving situations would be just fine.

After the mechanic left I took Ecovision out on the street and drove about 4 or 5 miles to get the battery charged. I returned to the storage facility, parked, turned off the engine and then decided to start again just to make sure. It wouldn’t start. Darn. My mistake was I didn’t turn it off and try to start again while the mechanic was still there because if I had we would’ve seen that it was not going to start.

I had to get back home for an appointment so I left Ecovision there with a dead battery. I haven’t been back yet because I know it’s going to be a half-day adventure waiting for AAA, getting it to the dealership, having them drive me back to my car at the storage facility and then returning home. So Ecovision sits for now.

Books

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The other impediments to an August circling is my study. I hired a wonderful college student to help me sort and reorganize my nearly 2,000 books that got disheveled when I had hardwood floors put in throughout my home last year. I have not been able to face this onerous task hence I hired Brad to help me.

We’re also going through my decades of research, notes, papers and articles on key topics of interest like the Great Lakes, their islands, elite-research methods and real-estate development. With this momentum going and having Brad to help makes me very reluctant to stop for two weeks to circle the lake with this important project unfinished.

Oh and did I mention money? Chances are I may need a new battery and I’ve had significant unexpected expenses in the last month or two like repair of my refrigerator. Plus I’ve been organizing a major family reunion up north in Frankfort over Labor Day weekend and I have a cousin coming to stay with me from Norway. More impetus to get my study fully settled.

So It looks like I will just keeping going in my study, get the battery situation settled, enjoy my cousin and the family reunion and resign myself to a late September or early October start date. Darn. Cannot go in September because we are super busy that month at the People’s Food Co-op.

Promise
As I start sorting the Great Lakes and island papers I’ll start posting what I come across and learn. I do have extensive information and will be compiling it in a better way. I have at least three file drawers full of materials and with Brad’s help will make them more accessible by creating a better filing system. I will share interesting tidbits here as I go along. So again do stay tuned. I promise this will get better.