Tuesday on our UP sojourn we took advantage of some sights in our immediate area. There are two Tahquamenon Falls: the Lower Falls located a reasonable walking distance from our campground, and the Upper Falls four miles up the road. There is a beautiful trail through the woods to the boardwalk which leads to the Lower Falls viewing platform. The trail is hilly but hard packed and the worst slopes have almost natural steps formed by tree roots. Fall color is emerging nicely and it was a perfect day for a hike.
The falls are really beautiful, especially this time of year. After our viewing, I suggested we visit the visitor area where I thought there was a restaurant, several shops and an ice cream store. Turns out that is at the Upper Falls. At the Lower Falls, there is a souvenir shop but not very well stocked, and a lunch counter that was closed. The concessions at both locations are owned and maintained by the Barrett family, who donated the rest of the land for a state park. They required that any roads into the park would end 3/4 of a mile from the falls so that visitors would approach on foot and the forest would be preserved as much as possible.
In the afternoon, we drove about thirty minutes north to Whitefish Point and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The 80 mile coast from Whitefish west to Munising is called the graveyard of the Great Lakes since over 300 shipwrecks occurred in this area, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. It is impossible to spend time in the museum without having that song run through your head about 50 times. The information about the Lifesaving Service is also pretty incredible.
Today, Ken and Harriet are off to view some of the waterfalls between here and Munising. I opted to forego that much riding and do some hiking, writing, and perhaps napping. When they return, we plan to have supper at the restaurant, now that we know where it is.
Monday, we hit the road sans campers and headed south to St. Ignace where the Mackinac Bridge joins the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Lower. The bridge is amazing to me, almost five miles long. We also explored the campgrounds at Straits State park. Butch and I camped there for one night three years ago and especially enjoyed the views of the bridge lit up at night. Then we walked along the main street at St. Ignace-a fun touristy town-- and of course couldn't resist some fudge made famous at nearby Mackinac Island. We ate lunch at an old diner and then headed north again to Sault Ste. Marie to view the locks there connecting Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
Everything about the locks is amazing--the size of the ships, the statistics about the amount of shipping passing through the locks every year, the amount of water displaced and used to fill the locks. We were lucky enough to arrive when one huge ship was leaving one lock and another approaching the biggest lock. The superstructure on this one was six stories tall.
A little souvenir shopping and it was time to head back to the campground. It was a lot of driving so today we will stick closer to the park, explore the falls, and perhaps take in the shipwreck museum about a half hour north.
Saturday I wasn't sure that was going to happen. When I wrote my previous blog that morning, I was hit by the mother of all sinus attacks. The right side of my face was in a vice and I was going through Kleenex like there was no tomorrow. And I thought that might be the case. As the day wore on, my right eye drooped almost shut and I opted out of the grocery run. We discussed options such as calling my son in Illinois to come drive me and my camper home. I Googled Urgent Care facilities in the UP (there aren't many) and whined a lot. I put some chicken soup in my crockpot and about 6:00, sat down with a bowl of it. I could only eat about a third of it and threw the rest out. I borrowed some Ibprofen from Harriet, took two with a glass of milk, and finished the milk with a brownie. By 7:00 the pressure in my face was gone and I was only blowing my nose about once or twice in an hour instead of every three minutes. I watched a couple of mysteries on public TV and went to bed. Sunday morning I was a new woman. Whether it was the soup, the pills, or the brownie, something worked and I lived to see another day. Whew.
So we proceeded with our planned journey and managed to get our rigs out of the craters in our campsites and on the road. It was a beautiful day and the drive along the Green Bay shore and up through the peninsula to Tahquanemon Falls was delightful. We had lunch in a lovely rest area along the way. Our campsites here were a bit of a challenge to get into but not as bad as the last ones. Tall pines are scattered throughout the campground, enough for some shade but not blocking the sun entirely. A small campfire with an adult beverage finished the day.
Today we plan a road trip over to "Big Mac", the Mackinac Bridge, and possibly Sault Ste Marie. We also need to visit the falls. By the way, sunrise here at the western edge of the Eastern time zone isn't until 7:25 but at least I can expect to see it.
Several roads, I should say. Thursday morning we started out and made good time through northeast Iowa to Potosi, Wisconsin where we stopped for lunch at the local brewery. It was a beautiful day and my portobello panini was excellent. But after lunch, things started to go awry. Harriet had loaned me a mount for my phone and Ken had connected the bluetooth so we could communicate on the road. We only needed to go about 100 miles to our planned stop for the night. However, in true Murphy's Law fashion, as soon as the roads got more twisty turny, cell service disappeared and GPS went wacko. I think the Cheeseheads are safe from any invasion by the Canadians. Anyway, instead of arriving at Castle Rock County Park around 3:30 as planned, we got there about 5:00. We also drove about 60 miles farther than necessary. On the plus side, we were treated to some beautiful rolling vistas and emerging fall color in southern Wisconsin.
This was a first come, first served campground but with around 300 sites, so after circling all 300 and asking directions, we finally found water and then easily found sites. We parked and did a minimal setup while Ken went to replenish the gas in his truck. We each did our own (also minimal) suppers and went to bed. Friday morning, Harriet and I took a nice walk around this park located on the shore of Castle Rock Lake, we loaded up, and departed. After the cell phone/GPS debacle of the day before, Harriet and Ken gave me one of their walkie-talkies so that we could tell each other when we were lost.
However, other than one twenty mile detour, we managed to arrive at our present location, Wells State Park in Michigan on the north shore of Green Bay, by 3:30. Cyberspace doesn't know where we are, though, because when I pulled up the weather on my phone, it gave me Gibraltar, Michigan which is south of Detroit. Anyway, it was a good thing we had plenty of daylight left because the sites we had reserved had a couple of holes that could easily swallow Ken's truck. And it's a big truck. Ken maneuvered Agatha, using the holes to actually get her level, and then their fifth wheel to achieve the same result. By then it was 5:00 and also about 51 degrees so we got a nice fire going and relaxed for a bit. Finally we warmed up some leftovers brought from home and I joined them in their camper for supper. The news of RGB's death put a damper on the evening and we all soon retired.
This morning was a lovely sunrise, which I was unable to capture the true colors with my phone. We are looking forward to a day of no travel, except perhaps a trip to the grocery store. It's not that we are out of food; but when Butch and I were here three years ago, we soon learned that there isn't a supermarket on every corner in the Upper Peninsula. Maybe because there aren't many corners in the UP. Tomorrow we will head out to Tahquanemon Falls where we will spend five nights. It looks to be dry most of the week, but chilly. By the way, I solved my furnace problem. The reason it didn't work at Lake Darling was that I didn't have the thermostat set high enough to call for heat. Duh.
Our recent Glampers weekend started out with rain, rain, rain. It was much needed in Iowa but put a 'damper' on Glamper gatherings. I was the first one there on Thursday afternoon, couldn't find the host, and couldn't figure out the water spigot without help. I still had about a third of a tank and there was a spigot right across from my site so I decided to wait for more water until I could get help. I was in the middle of my leftover spaghetti when another Glamper, Carol, arrived in the site next to me. We visited a little and then retreated to our campers when the rain began in earnest.
Lake Darling, as I've mentioned before, is a black hole for Verizon, but I was able to get on a zoom meeting that night. The rest of the weekend was pretty much text only. No possibility of uploading a blog.
It rained all night but midway through Friday morning changed to an intermittent mist so Carol and I got in a nice long walk. Several others who had planned on coming either postponed their arrival or cancelled because of the forecast. After lunch, we made a shopping foray into Washington. We had a lot of fun picking out presents for Lydia's daughter Lena who would be celebrating her tenth birthday. Lena is our Glamper princess and attends and participates in most events. I'm pretty sure it has scarred her for life.
Fog moved in that evening so once again we took refuge in our own rigs. It rained most of the night but Saturday we finally caught a break. Noonish, Lydia and Lena arrived. So did Janet, who took a space with her tiny vintage trailer and wasn't a member of our group but she is now! Saturday afternoon we made another trek to Washington for a craft show in the town square. There were lots of interesting stands and Lena even found a tree to climb. Saturday evening we finally all gathered at my campsite for four kinds of soup, homemade bread, and several desserts, including Cathie's rhubarb-strawberry pie. Unfortunately, flies, bees, and some kind of little brown bug also gathered in droves. Lena enjoyed her gifts--especially the rainbow Slinky, a candy shish kabob, and a paint set. We had a little campfire and enjoyed the sunset before the rain came back for one last gasp.
Home again for a busy few days. Ken and Harriet are letting me tag along for a two week trip to Wisconsin and the Michigan UP starting Thursday. Besides planning food and clothes, Agatha needs some attention. The furnace did not come on Friday night when I tried it and I may need that in the UP. There is a water leak inside that I need to locate. And tomorrow she will go in for an oil change and general checkup. Meanwhile, I did get another set of rope lights up on my deck and these work!
...and other technical stuff
After my return from Red Rock, I had no further trips planned for about three weeks. Time to schedule a look at the cooktop in the camper. Earlier this summer, we were using it and flames started shooting up from a place where flames shouldn't be. I can make do with a campfire, the microwave, and my electric skillet, but obviously the stove needed to be checked. I took it in to a dealer in Davenport and they reported back that a burner needed replacing, but it would take a couple of weeks to get the part.
Meanwhile, this week I made a short trip by car to spend a couple of days with my friend Joanie at her house north of Burlington. We had a great visit but when I got ready to leave my car wouldn't start--dead battery. So we two old ladies both had to get our manuals out to even figure out how to prop up the hoods (I know, I should have known this) but we managed to get jumper cables hooked up and my buggy started. I hopped in immediately and made it home, but an hour later it wouldn't start again. I know the battery is quite old so called the Ford dealer and they promptly came and got it, put in a new battery and changed the oil. So my little kiwi colored Escape is road worthy again.
The next day I called the RV dealer to arrange to pick Agatha up that afternoon and bring her back when they had the part. My friend Letha graciously agreed to take me over and we milled around looking at gadgets while we waited for them to bring Agatha up. Finally they came back and said it wouldn't start--dead battery. Now that battery is only three months old so I went with them and discovered they had left the radio on. They finally got it jumped and once again we hit the road and made it home. It still starts this morning so I think the radio was the problem.
As if these technical problems weren't enough of a challenge this week, I had ordered new rope lights for my deck. The previous ones dated back to the building of the pergola in 2006 and had given up the ghost. The lights were here when I got home Thursday so Friday morning I went out to install them. Got out the ladder, put up the new brackets, snapped in the lights, and hooked up an extension cord that runs over the top of the pergola to an outlet on the side of the house. Plugged them in and nothing. Tried a couple of other cords but still nothing. Finally I took the lights back down and brought them in the house to plug them in. They don't work. Aaaargh.
Today I plan to do some reading and writing and hope my Kindle and my computer don't blow up.
For several years, we have been coming with a large group to Howell Station campground below the Lake Red Rock Dam near Pella at State Fair time. Several in the group had grandchildren showing animals at the fair and would drive up to Des Moines from here. Last year, this trip was the last time Butch successfully towed the trailer. He even rode his bike a short distance and participated in all of the gatherings. A month later he had started a steady decline of balance, speech, eating, and memory problems resulting from the whole brain radiation treatment he had had in the spring. But we made a lot of wonderful memories here--biking, hiking, campfires, trips to Pella and the Tassel Ridge winery.
So it has been bittersweet to return this year, but all in all, a wonderful trip. First of all, the weather has been fantastic. Chilly mornings, pleasant days with wonderful breezes, and cool nights. There is no state fair this year and we are missing some regular members of our group. But my long time friend Joanie agreed to join me and we make pretty good camping buddies. We agree politically and have similar likes and dislikes. We are both 77 but neither of us has fallen out of bed or tripped on the steps. Our group is still not sharing meals because of the virus, but so far Joanie and I have had pork chop sandwiches with coleslaw and sweet corn, brown sugar chicken and rice salad, and last night shrimp boil packets cooked over the fire. We have done a couple of hikes and of course made the requisite trip into Pella to the quilt shop and the bakery.
We have had a campfire every night beginning with a beautiful sunset. Last night we had a special treat with a concert from Ken on his guitar. I had a rough moment when Ken broke into "Working Man," Butch's favorite song with memories connected to our trip to Ireland ten years ago. But the choice was much appreciated because it seemed to make Butch a part of our campfire circle.
Today is another beautiful day. We will probably do some hiking and biking; maybe play a few games. Tonight, although we have not been sharing food, Vince and Letha will do a fish fry and we will each bring along our own sides. One of the few drawbacks to this campground is very poor internet. I am having trouble adding any more pictures, so I'd beet upload this if I can!
And we're glad it's over, although the ramifications will be around for a long time. Remember that show from the early 60s? It focused on political and social satire, and although there's still plenty of targets in those areas to provide fodder for such a program, this week Mother Nature would have to take her fair share of hits. Because, besides a heat wave in the southwest and east and wildfires, Iowa and other Midwestern states got clobbered by a derecho (inland hurricane) on Monday. Crops and homes destroyed, trees toppled, and loss of power for almost a half million people across the state--some places for days. The photo above is one of hundreds posted of damage. Those were grain bins.
Unlike a hurricane, this thing had no warning. I was leaving Backbone on Monday morning to come home and checked the forecast. There was mention of "thunderstorms around" in the afternoon so I decided to get going early just to avoid unloading my camper in the rain. I mean, thunderstorms in Iowa in the summer are no big deal, right? I came by Cedar Rapids about an hour before the storm hit. With sustained winds of over 100 miles an hour, I have no illusions of what would have happened if that had hit my camper broadside. The storm was moving at 70 mph and arrived at home less than an hour after I parked.
I got off easy with minor damage and we only lost power for 12 hours. But with estimates of possibly a third of Iowa's crops being lost, and reports of every street in Cedar Rapids sustaining damage--not to mention similar issues in Des Moines, Iowa City, the Quad Cities and almost every small town in between, it is going to be a long time before things are back to any semblance of normal.
So I am reverting into my practiced response to the rest of 2020's dubious gifts--the pandemic, and the loss of my husband, aunt and several good friends. I will run away. This afternoon, several of us will head to Red Rock near Pella for four days. Camping not only offers me the renewing blessings of nature, but people to talk to in a relatively safe environment.
As after each trip, I have completed a couple of repairs/improvements to Agatha. I replaced the bulb in the outside light with a correct one and reglued the strip on the step. I also washed the underside of the awning in preparation for a couple of fixes there. Brother-in-law Ken put a bike rack on the back for me. And my favorite kind of fix: the storage compartment latch that was stuck decided to start working again!
Friday with the Glampers: We spent the morning making 'stone leaves using quick-set cement. Mine was not so good but the plus side is that I now know all of the things I did wrong. So not a total loss, right?
After lunch, we went for a 'stream hike'. We donned water shoes and old clothes and drove to the lower part of the park where a trout stream wends its way to the Maquoketa River. Betty and Ann had selected a section that looped around an area with a parking lot so that we didn't have to walk back upstream to get to our cars when we were done. I was very appreciative of this bit of foresight by the end. My shoes were old sandals with rubber soles that would have been fine had they also been designed to keep the sand and rocks out. I have several nicks on my feet from small rocks that got under the straps. But it was a beautiful walk and something I would do again with better shoes.
Supper was a baked potato bar and after the walk and all those carbs, I got a good night's sleep. Saturday morning I opted out of the kayaking and decided instead to do what I thought was a short hike around the campground to the road. It was two miles. Beautiful, but it put me down at the bridge with a very challenging climb back up the hill. By that time, a two and a half hour nap was in order to be ready for an amazing potluck supper. Afterwards, of course, a campfire and the glow of Sandy's chandelier.
Daryl, one of our 'manpers', taught me something else. My outside light has not worked since the second trip. I took the bulb in to get a new one so that would get the right one, right? However, it didn't work. Daryl checked it out and I found out that there are single contact bulbs and double contact bulbs. Mine was a single and I had bought doubles. So I will remedy that. This morning a sudden rainstorm cancelled other plans. Most of our group as well as the rest of the campground began the flurry of dismantling and packing up. Shortly after noon, a real downpour decided to hurry the process. I will spend a quiet afternoon and evening with some reading, writing, and a little TV. Tomorrow, back to the real world.
The Midwest Glampers July event is being held at Backbone State Park which is celebrating it's 100th birthday this year. The area's unique geologic features makes it obvious why it was chosen as Iowa's first state park. I arrived Wednesday when the only other Glampers here were the 'Traveling Teardrop Sisters' from Des Moines, Betty and Ann. However the campground was pretty full--unusual for mid-week except for the year of the Covid. We spent a quiet evening Wednesday and opted for an early night.
Yesterday morning I did some writing and hiked the Lake Trail. The trail has a lot of ups and downs but for the most part is hard packed. For the few slopes with roots or loose gravel, I was glad I had my trusty walking stick.
During the afternoon, the other Glampers arrived. For supper I shared a crockpot of beef stroganoff with Sandy and Shelly. Sandy got an upsetting text from her daughter that her 23-year-old granddaughter, who has Covid, was being rushed to the ER with low oxygen. She was much relieved later to receive word that the granddaughter was sent back home as her symptoms had improved. Scary times.
We finished off the evening with a campfire at Jackie and Harry's site. Jackie even provide marshmallows with chocolate inside (!) for roasting. And we were treated with a shooting star. This morning Sandy will direct a craft activity making stone leaves and this afternoon we will do a 'stream walk' in one of the trout streams in the lower park. Supper will be a baked potato bar.
As I said, the campground is quite full, and I have enjoyed watching families playing games, throwing a football, and heading out with fishing poles.
Some random thoughts about writing, camping, and eating.