Day #134 – Checking out northern Michigan

LOCATION:  Mackinaw City, Michigan
WEATHER:  Cloudy and cooler.  Still nice.  High 69

We putzed around the campground and trailer this morning.  I took a long walk around this huge park.  There are more than 600 camping sites and 65 cabins.  Along one side is the primo section – right on Lake Huron with views of the Mackinaw Bridge and the Grand Hotel over on Mackinaw Island.  Even though I booked this place 6 months ago, those primo sites were already taken.

We get really good wifi here.  George can get it from our trailer; I walk up to the store to pick it up.  Now that we know that we can go to Canada, I have been busy making reservations for August, before we  head up that way.  In late August, we plan to go to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to visit our back-door neighbors from our winter home in Texas.  Then, back to the USA to go to the Airstream factory in Ohio to get Joy’s leak looked at.  From there, we will zip back up north and east to Nova Scotia.  We had hoped to reschedule the Airstream appointment so we could travel from Ontario to Nova Scotia through Canada, but there were no other appointments available…..until January!

Once our “chores” were completed for the day, we hopped in the truck for a spin.  First up was the town of Cheboygan (not to be confused with Sheboygan, Wi).  It is a cute little town.  We stopped at their excellent brewery…..are you not surprised?

The staff and customers there were super friendly.  They don’t sell food, but offer free popcorn.  The brewery goes back many years.

They were brewing today, and the aroma was in the air…

A lovely river runs through the town, making it quite scenic. We stopped at a marina for lunch.  We had beautiful views and yummy food.  Again, the staff were terrific.

We made a big loop to see what else this area had to offer.  We stopped several times at the many lakes so George could try fishing.   His record still holds…..not a single nibble!  Our GPS steered us down some roads that turned to dirt/gravel, but we managed ok.  We stumbled upon a vegetable stand.  The owner’s garden behind is really healthy-looking. 

We bought some of her corn, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes as well as some Traverse City cherries. 

DINNER:  Home-made ramen with chicken and vegetables.  Ramen gets a bit of a bad reputation due to the cheap, packaged stuff.  We ate it a lot when we lived in Japan, and still enjoy it.  It is a great way to use up leftover vegetables. For tonight, I added some of the rotiserrie chicken that I had frozen a few days ago.

2 T peanut butter or tahini
1 T rice vinegar
2 T soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fish sauce
3 cups broth (I used miso/ginger broth)

Meanwhile, saute this mix up in some vegetable and sesame oil, and add to the broth:
1 cup diced, coooked chicken
1/2 cup diced green onions
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
More minced garlic
More grated ginger
Handful of frozen stir-fry packaged vegetables, thawed

Boil the ramen per the package instructions, drain, and mix in with the chicken/veg broth.  You could easily make this vegan by substituting tofu for the chicken.

Day #133 — Beautiful Mackinaw Island

LOCATION:  Mackinaw City, Michigan
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Sunny.  High 78

Mackinaw Island, Mackinac Island – no matter how you spell it, it delivers!  Wow!  We had a super good day there today.

Only downside – PEOPLE everywhere resulting in long lines.  Our campground has a free shuttle to the ferry dock.  We stood in line starting at 10:00 for the 10:30 shuttle.  It finally came at 11:00.  The line for the ferry was very long, winding its way around the parking lot.  Two ferries came and went that we couldn’t get on.  We finally got on the 3rd one at 12:45. 

A pirate ship took a bunch of children and their parents to the island.  The kids were so excited, most wearing pirate hats.

The ride itself was nice – about 20 minutes.  We enjoyed the view of the bridge from the boat.

Here we are, approaching the island…

The streets are just packed with tourists – shopping, buying fudge, and waiting in lines in front of restaurants.  We got off the beaten track a bit and found a nice place for a quiet lunch.  (The Gatehouse – owned by the Grand Hotel, but not on their property)

What hit me most about the island is the flowers – they are at their perfection and are everywhere!  There are a lot of old Victorian homes that are now B&Bs, all with their pretty gardens

Some of the homes look like they are still private residences.

And, then there is the Grand Hotel.  It really is grand!

There are many smaller, quaint hotels, too.  All posted “no vacancy” signs.

Cars are not allowed on the island, so the modes of transportation are by horse, horse and wagon, or  bicycle. 

There are bicyclists and bikes parked everywhere!

We watched a horse-drawn cart deliver cases of beer and beer kegs to this restaurant.

And, this guy was getting ready to pedal his delivery bike, loaded down with luggage, to a hotel.

This is the view of main street as we got ready to return.  I think we were the only tourists not carrying shopping bags of goodies – mostly fudge and sweatshirts.  🙂 

We didn’t have to wait in line long on the return.  Right across the street from the ferry terminal is a brewpub.  We checked it out, and then hopped on the shuttle back to the campground.  A very nice day!

DINNER:  A meatless dinner tonight…..Grilled portabello sandwiches.  George grilled the mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion on the campfire.  I sliced the bell pepper and onion for the sandwiches, on toasted ciabatta rolls.  I will save the rest of the pepper and onion for future dishes. 

Day #132 – Good-bye to the U.P.!

LOCATION:  Mackinaw City, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Mill Creek Campground and RV.  Huge – 600 sites!  On Lake Huron.  Some sites have views of the lake and/or the bridge.  We have electricity only, but some sites are full hook-ups.  Nice store.  Free shuttle service to Mackinac Island Ferry.  Swimming pool, playground, basketball court, swimming beach. Pretty good showers/bathroom.  Not so great fire pit.  Picnic table. Wifi.   $31/night during the week; $44/weekends.  3 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Cooler and still mostly sunny.  High 71

This morning we left the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where we have been for a month and headed south to the mainland.  If anyone is interested in a summary of our campground stops, let me know.  We had a variety of settings – 1 Harvest Host site (a ski resort),  two municipal parks, a national forest service campground, and lots of state parks.  Here is our route:

We had to drive over the Mackinac  Bridge to get here.  I refused to drive.  George did just fine, while I mostly hid my head.

We didn’t know what to expect with this huge campground.  It is super busy with kids everywhere.  However, we lucked out with a site that is away from the crowd.  We are surrounded on 3 sides by trees, and our neighbor is a distance-away cabin.  We are near the showers, and have good wifi.  We will be here for 4 nights.

The town of Mackinaw City is centered around tourism.  We passed motel after motel, all with “Vacancy” signs up.  The restaurants and parking lots were packed.  We had planned to go to a brewpub, but the parking lot was full.  We found this bar which was a lot of fun.

DINNER:  I tried a new recipe from a ladies’ magazine — gnocchi in a tomato sauce and kale.  Pretty good. 

BOOK:  “A Week in Winter” by Maeve Binchy.  I thought I had read all of her books, but found this one I had missed at a campground swap library.  As with all of her books, she creates lovely images of Irish people and scenery.  5 stars out of 5

Day #131 – Finishing up the U.P.

LOCATION:  Brimly, Michigan in NE Upper Peninsula
CAMPGROUND:  Brimly State Park
WEATHER:  Another beauty!  High 78 and sunny

Today is our last full day in the Upper Peninsula.  We have spent the last month traveling from west to east U.P and zig-zagged north and south.  It has been absolutely lovely.  People warned us about mosquitoes and biting flies, but they were nowhere to be found.  We couldn’t have asked for better weather.  Almost every day’s high has been in the 70s, with cool overnights great for campfires and sleeping. 

We hit the road this morning to explore the far eastern part of the U.P.  We drove through a lot of farm country with farmers working in the hayfields.  We passed several Amish in their horse and buggies.  When we got to the end of the road – De Tour Village, we admired the Lake Huron coast.  On a whim, we hopped on the ferry to Drummond Island. 

It is amazing how they cram the vehicles on this 40-vehicle boat.  A big semi was next to us.

The island is not very developed, and I think the islanders like it that way.  It is popular for birding and for ATV-riding; snowmobiling in the winter.  We found a nice “northwoodsy” restaurant for a whitefish sandwich lunch.

We asked about winter ferries.  They do travel throughout the year, and have some kind of ice-breaker on the helm to cut through the ice. 

After a few hours on the island, the ferry returned us back to DeTour Village, which is really cute

We made a big loop to head back to our park..  One of our friends in Retama Village had recommended a fish shop near our campgroun so  we went to buy some fish for dinner.  They sell out early, and we were lucky to get the last of the morning’s catch. 

The owner told us some interesting history….Her grandfather had been ticketed for fishing illegally a long time ago on Lake Superior.   He fought the case, all the way to the Supreme Court, and the result is today’s legislation about tribal fishing rights throughout the USA.  He is kind of famous. 

On our way back, we spotted this cute-looking bar/restaurant on the lake. 

We sat out on the deck enjoying the lakefront view

This Bloody Mary was huge! 

While we were on the deck, we suddenly got cell service; our phones haven’t worked for about 2 weeks.  We caught up with phone messages, and read notes from Canada friends informing us that the border will open in August.  So, YAY – we are going to Canada!!!!  Let the planning ensue!

DINNER:  George grilled the whitefish fillets directly on the grate over the campfire..  He seasoned them with butter, salt, and pepper.  Nothing else was needed.  I made a side salad that was very tasty….


Just combine all of this together….

2/3 cup vinaigrette salad dressing (make your own with red wine vinegar, or use store-bought)
1 T minced shallot
2 cans chickpeas (drained, rinsed, and patted dry)
2 cups Persian cucumbers chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Chopped basil (I substituted a teaspoon of pesto)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Oregano, salt, and pepper

Day #130 – Lake Superior beauty

LOCATION:  Brimley, MI – near Sault Ste. Marie in the eastern Upper Peninsula
CAMPGROUND:  Brimley State Park.  This is a large (180-site) state park that is absolutely crammed with people, tents, and RVs.  Big sites but not many trees.  Electricity at site.  Central water and dump station.  Dated and not well-maintained showers/bathrooms.  We almost have a view of Lake Superior.  Site is grassy.  If it rains, we will be in the mud.  Standard Michigan state park fire pit and picnic table.  $33/night.  3 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Another winner.  Sunny.  High 78
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  30 minutes

We wanted to enjoy Bay View as long as we could, since we are only here one night.  This shows how private our site is (and what a good job George did backing into it yesterday!) 

We are lucky that George is such a good mechanic/fixer.  Yesterday we noticed a warning that a trailer turn signal wasn’t working.  He was able to find the issue and fix it.  Yay!

He wanted to check out Lake Superior and so he jumped in for a very refreshing experience! 

Then, he rinsed off at the campground’s water pump. (There aren’t showers here).

We took the Whitefish Bay Scenic Highway to Brimley with occasional glimpses of Lake Superior along the way.  We checked in at the campground and set up.  It is a bit scary driving around these campgrounds as children run and bike everywhere.  One of us drives and one of us watches for kids in the road.  This place has armies of kids everywhere. 

We went in to the city of Sault Ste. Marie.  Downtown, along the lake are huge cargo ships with tourists watching them leave and arrive.  We were looking for a brewery with wifi, but none were open on a Sunday afternoon. However, we did find one open in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, just across the bridge.  George wondered if we could cross as “essential travel” since he was desparate for a brewery.  Would the immigration people buy that?  Probably not, so we found a pub with wifi.

We hit up the grocery store and stocked up for another 10 days or so.  Always an ordeal!

DINNER:  BBQ-d rotisserie chicken, sauteed cabbage, and a baked potato with sour cream.  Nothing too unusual, but a nice staple. 

Day #129 – Where are the moose?

LOCATION:  Near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan in northeast part  of the Upper Peninsula
CAMPGROUND:  Bay View National Forest Service.  Very woodsy with only 25 sites.   Right on Lake Superior.  Great beach access. Clean vault toilets.  Some sites have lake view.  Ours does not.  l.  A bit of road noise during the day.  Most sites are a bit tricky to back into.  Ours is long and narrow.  $9/night.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Picture perfect.  Sunny.   High inland 82; high on the lake 74

We have enjoyed our 3 nights at Muskallonge Lake State Park.  We said goodbye to our pretty lake view this morning, and were off again, mostly east. 

We drove through an area called “Moose Country of Michigan”, but this is all we saw…

We did spot this sandhill crane…

We arrived in this park in the early afternoon.  It had been highly recommended.  We were a bit disappointed as our particular site does not have a lake view as some of the others do.  Even though I booked this last February, our site was the only one available.  We found a foot path to the beach and enjoyed watching the swimmers and waves.   We are on Whitefish Bay.   Across the bay to our left is Whitefish Point and Paradise, where we visited yesterday; in front of us lies Ontario. 

DINNER:  The pantry, refrigerator, freezer, and wine cellar are all almost empty.  Time to go shopping.  So, tonight was slim pickins’ — leftover beans and rice jazzed up with onions and leftover frozen turkey thighs.  I sprinkled on tortilla chip crumbs for crunch. Frozen green beans on the side. 

Sunset near our campsite…

Day #128 – Let’s go to Paradise!

LOCATION:  Near Grand Marais, Michigan in northeast part of Upper Peninsula
CAMPGROUND:  Muskallonge Lake State Park
WEATHER:  Another winner!  Sunny.  High 76

A busy day exploring this part of the U.P…….We headed to Tahquamenon Falls, one of the largest west of Niagara.  There is an easy, short walkway to the viewpoint, and then down (later up) 151 steps to see them more closely.  These are the Upper Falls and the hike…

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is the only state park in the country that has its own brewery.  So, of course, we had to check it out and revive ourselves after the hike.  🙂 

We learned that at one point, the logging family that owned 200 acres encompassing Tahquamenon Falls donated all but 2 acres of the land to the state.  The remaining 2 acres remain private, so the owners built a brewery there.  How fun!

We then drove a few miles to the Lower Tahquamenon Falls.  Again, pretty views.  There is a group of Amish tourists that must have our same route.  We saw them at Pictured Rocks, then again here.  Since they cannot drive, they have hired a bus to take them around. 

Some crazy people were wading near the falls.  They could easily be swept away.

Here is what the falls look like in the winter…

From there, we headed to the town of Paradise.  It is right on Lake Superior.  There are a few guest houses there, but not much else.  They are busier in the winter, with the snowmobile crowd.  We found a cute place for lunch and wifi.

Next stop was Whitefish Point, at the end of the road on a tiny peninsula.  We toured the Shipwreck Museum.  This part of the coast is called the Graveyard of the Great Lakes. 

There is a quaint light house here, and we also toured the light house tender’s home.

From Whitefish Point, we gazed across the water to Ontario.  Canada, so close, but so far away!  We still have our fingers crossed for a trip there later this summer.

Back at the campground, we relaxed with a campfire.  Our evening entertainment was to watchh the newbies arrive, trying to get parked (with the wife and husband yelling and cursing at each other) and getting the screen tent set up.  Lots of people have left and new ones have replaced them today. 

DINNER:  Sort of a Middle East theme….Appetizers were rice-stuffed grape leaves (thanks to Trader Joe’s).  Dinner was previously grilled chicken thighs that I spiced up with a chili paste.  Sides were cumin-flavored chickpeas, green beans, and flatbread pieces. 

BOOK:  Another rather silly book I picked up at a campground swap “library”.  “Honeymoon With My Brother” by Franz Wisner.  It is a travelogue written by a guy whose bride jilted him at the altar.  Rather than lose the honeymoon trip tickets, he and his brother make the trip,  and then traveled around the world.  2 stars out of 5

Day #127 — Day trip to Grand Marais….MI, not MN, that is.

LOCATION:  Near Grand Marais, MI in northeast part of Upper Peninsula
CAMPGROUND:  Muskallonge Lake State Park
WEATHER:  Rain in the AM clearing to a sunny, nice PM.  High 69

It rained almost all last night, but YAY – our tarp worked and we did not get any leaks.  The fog was thick over the lake.  Then, it cleared and we were off.

Today’s destination was Grand Marais.  Our choice was to drive 20 miles along the Lake Superior shore, with 12 of those miles being gravel/dirt, or 80 miles down and around on a paved road.  We decided to take the shorter route, since we weren’t pulling Joy.  Indeed, it was pretty bumpy, but we made it fine.  The views of Lake Superior were beautiful.  It is so deserted in this area that all you see is the beach and the water.  It looks like the Atlantic or Pacific.

Grand Marais is a small town.  Tourism seems to be its #1 business  – water activities during the summer, and ice-fishing, hunting, and dog-sledding in the winter.  There is a nice, protected harbor.

There are a lot of cute B&Bs.  We found the Grand Marais Tavern for lunch and a beer.  Surprisingly good. 

Then, we explored the beach and lighthouse.

We returned to the state park on the bumpy road, and then  took a hike to Lake Superior, just across the highway.

The beach is full of small rocks and a favorite past-time is looking for agates. 

It is a bit addictive – trying to find the “perfect” rock.  I collected a bunch, but I don’t know if I will keep them or not….They weren’t nearly as pretty once I laid them out on the picnic table. 

The campground is filled again tonight.  Every night, the campgrounds post the “campground full” sign.  It seems like there are a lot of families meeting up, from different parts of Michigan.  Lots of people stop by our site to chat, curious that we came here all the way from Texas.

DINNER:  Not too exciting….lefltover eggbake.  I jazzed it up with some SPAM (yes, we do like SPAM), green onions, garlic, and pepperjack cheese. 

Day #126 – GPS let us down…..again!

LOCATION:  Near Grand Marais, Michigan – in northeast part of Upper Peninsula
CAMPGROUND:  Lake Muskallonge State Park.  The park is on the lake and across the highway from Lake Superior.  Electricity.  Central water and dump station.  Brand new, clean bathrooms.  Fire pit and picnic table.  Nice, gravel and level site.  Some (including ours) sites have a lake view.  Sites fairly separated.  $27/night.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Nice.  Interesting changes from AM to PM.  High (here) 72

After a quiet morning, including a nice walk and some reading, we took off from Indian Lakes State Park – near Manistique on northern shore of Lake Michigan.  It was about 75 degrees when we left and headed north and east.

After about an hour, we stopped at a national wildlife reserve.  Interesting change in temperature – inland, away from the lakes.  It was about 88.  We had a picnic lunch inside Joy with this nice lily pond in front of us.

We took the 7-mile loop around the reserve.  It is narrow, winding, and one-way.

The wildlife is mostly birds.  There were beautiful swans and monarch butterflies. 

BUT – there were also hordes of biting flies trying to get to us.  We had to keep the windows up to avoid getting eaten up.  It was a nice drive, but I was glad to get back to civilization/pavement.

That pavement did not last too long.  Suddenly our highway posted the dreaded “Pavement Ends” sign.  There was nowhere to turn around.  GPS had taken us astray.  I could see on the map where we should be, but we were on a “shortcut”.  After a few miles of washboard-y dusty gravel, the road changed to dirt/sand.  Oh, no!  This is even worse.  We had about 20 miles on this disastrous road.  We both kept looking at the map on the phone to see how many miles were left.  If it started raining, the road would turn to mud and we would be toast.    The only other vehicle we encountered was an ATV..  The road is better suited for them! 

At last, we got back to the paved road we should have been on in the first place.  GPS let us down again…. We missed the turn into the park and so had to do a U-turn in the middle of the highway with a steep drop down to the lake.  George was driving.  I had to close my eyes. 

We made it and have a nice campsite.  The temperature difference is remarkable.  It is about 68 here.  This is our view….

Rain was predicted; the sky was turning grey; and thunder rumbled from across the lake.  So, we put up the tarp….just in case.  Without a ladder, this is a tedious and difficult chore.  We made it…..still divorce-free.  🙂 

DINNER:  This dish turned out surprisingly good.  I wanted to use up some smoked salmon that we had eaten for breakfast and some asparagus left from a previous meal.  So,  using a bunch of this and that…things I had on hand, I invented…..Shrimp/Smoked Salmon with Asparagus in a Light Cream Sauce…

I sauteed some shrimp, white asparagus, green onions, garlic, and mushrooms.  Meanwhile I boiled up some bowtie pasta.  When the shrimp mix was cooked, I added capers, a bit of cream cheese, and white wine .  I mixed the drained pasta into the shrimp mix.  To serve, I topped the dish with sliced smoked salmon and green onions.  Side was a salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes. 

We are at another location without any kind of TV or cell service.  So, it was back to Rick Steves tonight….with him in Germany, 

Day #125 – A cool ghost town

LOCATION:  Manistique, Michigan in south central part of the Upper Peninsula
CAMPGROUND:  Last night at Indian Lake State Park
WEATHER:  A bit cloudy, but super nice.  High 76

Today, we were off to Fayette State Park where the remains of an old iron processing town have been preserved.  About 20 buildings are left from Fayette, a town of about 500 people who lived and worked here in the 1870s and 1880s.  When the company folded, everyone left.  The town sat empty until the state bought the land to keep it as a historic landmark. 

We walked along its pretty harbor on a bay of Lake Michigan.  Traveling by water (or ice) was the main mode of transportation

This is the superintendent’s house and the doctor’s office/house – considered to be the upper class part of town.  Today a nice boat dock is an overnight home for some beautiful sailboats. 

This is where the iron processing took place.

These buildings were the town hall, barber shop, meat market, and hotel.

These are the remains of the company store.  The iron company owned everything.  The company deducted rent and company store purchases from the workers’ paychecks. 

We whizzed back to Manisitique for lunch in a bar/restaurant that we knew had good wifi (much-needed).  Then, on to the laundromat for afternoon fun  😦 

Back at the campground, George worked on bellows that he uses to stoke up the campfire.  These are probably at least 100 years old.  His grandmother used them and gave them to George

We don’t normally do “matchy-matchy clothes”, but today we happened to both put on the same t-shirts – ones from the Cajun RV Rally in Louisiana.

DINNER:  Flatbread pizza.  The other day at a campground, I picked up a brand-new pizza pan from a “Free” table. So tonight, I wanted to see how it does.    I used naan flat bread.  For the base, I combined some cream cheese and pesto.  Toppings were salami, tomatoes, oregano, mushrooms, green onions, and mozarella.  Molto bono! 

Another evening of Rick Steves’ travel DVDs.  Tonight we were on the Dalmation Coast. 

We walked down to the lake to watch the beautiful sunset.  We have enjoyed our stay here.  Tomorrow we are off again, northeast  to Lake Superior. 

Ducks in the foreground; kayakers in the distance
Only the kayakers are left….