Revisiting the Indiana dunes

Okay, we’re back home and I have much catching up to do. To start I thought I’d go back to the wonderful beginning of my circle tour in the Indiana dunes. Makes me smile just to remember how special it was.

The blue dot was my location in Indiana Dunes State Park. Wonderful short walk through restored wetlands to long sandy beach with distant view of Chicago skyscrapers. Really lovely Art Deco structure on the beach. More images to follow.

IMG_1836.PNG
Henry Boy was so happy I brought his outdoor rug that he immediately took a snooze.

IMG_1823.JPG

Advertisements

A little Henry David Thoreau while I catch up

walden pond sophias-house-drawing2

Drawing of Thoreau’s original cabin on Walden Pond

Seems like life has gone non-stop since my last posting. I apologize and will catch up soon starting with my time on the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin. But for now a shift in direction (although related).

I’ve been fascinated with and studying the design, building and living in small cabins and homes for perhaps 30 years. I’ve only had substitutes: a 30-foot travel trailer I used as writer’s cabin for two summers and now Ecovision, my 22-foot motorhome. So I thought I’d post a series of videos and information on small homes starting with the first and best: Henry David Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond.

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.

untitled-1859

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.

untitled-1860

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?

untitled-1862

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.

IMG_1842.JPG
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.

IMG_1847.JPG
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.

IMG_1848.JPG
They have been planting young conifers to improve the sites.

IMG_1851.JPG
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.

IMG_1856.JPG
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

IMG_1830.JPG

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.

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!

IMG_1808.JPG

IMG_1797.JPG

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.

IMG_1817.JPG

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!

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!