Restarting again, anew

While I have continued to work on my Great Lakes islands research and even have hired a part-time research assistant, I have not been able to cirle the lakes since I sold my motorhome a few years ago. I hope to rectify that with at a least a few targeted car trips in 2018.

In the meantime, I am conducting interviews and doing extensive research starting with Lake Superior islands. I am uncertain if I will continue posting here or on a new blog that will focus more on my book on the islands of the Great Lakes and what I am learning from these interviews and research.

So for the few of you possibly still getting these posts, thank you and stay tuned :) As always, please do contact me with ideas for people to interview, islands to study or issues of importance to the islands of the Great Lakes.

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. 



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!