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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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!

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!

RVing Women

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I actually joined RVing Women (RVW) before I bought my motorhome, Ecovision, in 2009. I had been to a women-only Elderhostel (now called Road Scholar) in Oregon called something like “Writing, Walking, Yoga”. The week was awesome–think breaching whales, beach walks, bald eagles, great people, sunsets, tide pools, seafood, yoga, writing and learning. The organizing group was Coastal Journeys and Carol and her husband were fantastic.

While there I got to know a retired professor who arrived in her motorhome and was heading to the Baja with RVing Women. Just what I was looking for!  So I joined online right there, contacted the Great Lakers chapter and starting going to meetings when I got home.  Then in October 2009 I bought Ecovision and the rest is history :-) I even kept a blog for several years that now kinda languishes with move to Ann Arbor, writing, photography, working part time and circling the lakes getting hold of me.

Anyway, RVW is wonderful and I just renewed for another year.