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.

 

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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.

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!

Planning is moving ahead

Okay, so I am getting excited. I went to REI yesterday and got mosquito repellent to spray on my clothes and a different kind for our campground rug. I also bought some thin socks with two layers to help prevent blisters. I am very prone to blisters and they sidelined me from long walks last fall for couple months. The idea is the two layers rub on each other rather then rubbing on the skin of your feet. I also bought a fancy version of a map wheel to run along an old-fashioned map to get exact mileage between points. Wanted one for decades. The final was a splurge on an REI purse that will hold my new mirror-less camera (without screaming camera case), ID, money, keys, iPad, etc. A plain dark grey, but quite functional. Really like the stiffness of the bottom that will protect my new camera.

Today I’m working on planning out the actual trip around like Michigan in my small motorhome Ecovision. This year I’m going to try to stay in as many Passport America campgrounds as possible. I’m a lifetime member and you get half off the normal campground fees. That said the discounts are often only valid Sunday through Thursdays and then possibly for only one to four nights. The other nights I hope to be in various federal and state parks, which I love. Most often at best you get only an electric hookup, but that’s fine with me.

Back to my maps, new map wheel and some of my favorite apps!

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Nowhere Near the Great Lakes

I’ve been in Duck, North Carolina, at the northern end of the Outer Banks, since last Saturday. I leave here in the morning to spend Mother’s Day weekend with my Mom and sister Wendy in northern Virginia. I traded my Florida timeshare for a week here at Ocean Pines. I’ve done this previously five or six times treating my Mom and step-dad to “a week at the beach”. This year my step-dad needed to work so I decided what the heck and went on my own. I’ve taken this week to truly rest, regroup and not do much of anything.

I lucked out by getting a 3-story unit right on Currituck Sound with decks off my bedroom and the living room above. Duck is the nicest town in all of the Outer Banks, which is mostly overbuilt, stripped of vegetation, ugly strip mall after strip mall and lots of traffic. (And last year my Mom and I got ticks while out looking for the wild ponies leading to my Mom being on antibiotics for a month and me watching for that red bullseye). But everything slows down in Duck where the speed limit dips from 45 to 25, mature trees and vegetation frame the two-lane road, charming shops out-compete the kite and t-shirt chains and terrific restaurants abound like The Blue Point and Elizabeth’s Café and Winery. I’ve seen red fox while having dinner at Aqua the same day I walked alongside the Atlantic with sandpipers and pelicans. It’s quite lovely.

But this year I stayed close to “home”. I have been staying late in bed writing in my journal, reading, watching the waves on the Sound. I never do this at home or on vacation. Most days I have done a short hop to buy cooked shrimp for dinner, look for books and pick up a huge blueberry muffin at my favorite Cottage Bookstore, have fried oysters for lunch at Awful Arthur’s or enjoy Tasting Tuesday at Tommy’s Market. In years past I’ve done the typical tourist thing going to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, various lighthouses of the Outer Banks including Hatteras way south, or to the north in Corolla the wonderful Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education and tour of the Whalehead Club ( much more interesting that I anticipated). So this year I thought I would just stick around Duck and do some beach walking. Instead I found myself staying in my timeshare reading and watching the Sound and doing research for my book. But on Thursday I decided I best get to the beach. Unfortunately, I picked the wrong day because this white-skinned Northerner was just not ready for the scorching 90-degree rays of sun. So as soon as a biting fly started in at my ankles (I’m an insect magnet), I packed up and left

The interesting thing about the beach, though, was the Atlantic left me feeling deeply homesick for the Great Lakes–any one of the lakes, all of them, just a Laurentian Great Lake. It just doesn’t feel right here even though in years past I’ve truly enjoyed the Atlantic. I want to get to Lake Michigan and start my circle as soon as possible. This means dewinterizing Ecovision and getting her spic and span for the season as soon as I get back.

Currituck Sound hasn’t had that effect, hasn’t made me feel lonely for the lakes. Below I’ve posted an early evening photo of the Sound taken from the third-story deck of the living room. It’s been so restful here and I’ve made wonderful, healthy simple meals. I’ve also done inner work and some writing and cleaning up of computer files. I downloaded a free trial version of InDesign, did a few tutorials and even created a 4×6 postcard for my boat photography business I’m starting up this year. Turned out nice, but such a huge learning curve! Geez. Not sure how deeply I want to get into InDesign.

While here I haven’t made any of the major decisions I had hoped for other than reconfirming my love of the lakes and desire to be near them and protect them. Well, that’s pretty major. But I’ve been feeling quite stuck for it seems like years with too many interests and projects while still working four days a week and teaching a few Great Lakes classes at night.

So the sun is low on the horizon, birds on the Sound are calling to one another and the deck chair is calling to me. I promise to get back to regular posting very, very soon.

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View of Currituck Sound from Ocean Pines timeshare in Duck, NC