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 This has been replaced by the massive Michigan International Speedway.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!

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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!

Closer

Yesterday was my last day of work so today I focused on getting ready for my trip. I drove to the storage place and ran the generator while throughly cleaning Ecovision. I was able to accomplish more than I planned getting all the windows sparkling on the inside plus cleaning the dining area, bathroom and kitchen. I put some of the bedding inside and put the quilted aluminum panels from the windows under my couch/bed. I opened all the curtains and will leave them up–except at night when I close them for privacy–until I return in a couple of weeks.

Back home this afternoon and evening I’ve been going through every single item that I want to put back in Ecovision. I had this all done in the Spring and now have to do all over again. I’m washing, discarding, reorganizing and repacking items into large containers for transport. Much of this is in the trunk and back seat of my car to put in Ecovision tomorrow morning. Then I will drive to Camping World for a noon appointment to get ready to travel around the big lake. Fingers crossed nothing is found that will delay my weekend departure.

Below is my new neighbor at the storage lot, a gianormous Winnebago, giving clear evidence of Ecovision’s modest size. With Ecovision getting 13-15 mpg, I wonder what this monstrosity gets. I have a hard time swallowing the mileage I get especially when compared to my Honda Civic hybrid that has averaged 40 mpg over the ten years I have owned it. I remember one FMCA member discussing the mileage he got in his large motorhome in terms of tenths of a mile per gallon. If I remember correctly, he said he got 6.8 mpg with his diesel pusher. Interesting.

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New battery and up-to-date GPS

Yesterday morning my son and daughter-in-law replaced my van battery while my grandchildren helped me do a little cleaning and put a few things into Ecovision. The engine is superb so it was a pleasure to hear it roar as soon as I turned the ignition key after the new battery was installed! So grateful to have such a wonderful family who been exceptionally supportive of my circling the lakes.

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My battery-replacement team and cleaning/loading team :)

Today I have been doing miscellaneous things to get ready including updating my Garmin GPS. I added memory so that I can have a full set of maps that include Canada. I keep this GPS in my car then move it to my motorhome as needed. Works great. Of course I still have way too many maps and atlases in my RV. I swear I am going to get down to one atlas for this trip. Each time I load up less stuff and continue to cull my travel belongings.

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I also got out and put on my bed the four plastic containers that hold my clothes in the RV. So far I have filled the “tops” container with long-sleeved tshirts and will add a few short-sleeved ones. The other containers are “bottoms,” “extremes” (long underwear, wool hat, etc) and “underwear, socks & nighties.” I stack these on top of one another in the one closet. The “extremes” container goes in first then I stack on (in this order) “bottoms, “tops” and “underwear etc.” In this way the heaviest and least-used items are on the bottom and the lightest and most used are on top. Works great. I’ll post a photograph when I have them in place.

Meanwhile later today I’m going to tackle laundry, fill up the other clothes containers and wash all the pots and pans, utensils and plates. Traveling in a RV is hard work requiring lots of planning, money and labor, but the rewards are immense. Henry Boy would definitely agree with that!

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…

Kitchen Lite

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My motorhome is very very small. In fact when I walk down the aisle Henry has to back up because we cannot pass each other. I’m always trying to pare down to the bare essentials including in the kitchen. Today I enjoyed reading Clothilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini‘s post on her minimalist kit for the traveling cook. Chocolate and Zucchini was the first blog I ever followed as I ventured into food and fell in love with Paris. Clothilde is such an interesting person and over the years I’ve even bought two of her cookbooks. I found it interesting that my essentials pretty much mirrors hers such as a paring knife, vegetable peeler and good olive oil. Traveling in a motorhome is pretty much glorified camping so nothing really good or precious–especially my favorite Shun knife–ends up in its kitchen drawers. Instead I’ve moved old, worn, still-functional items to the motorhome. For some reason using a 30-year old dishcloth or my mother’s hand-me-down pan is like getting a much-needed hug on the road.