Great February In Florida

Great February In Florida

NOTE: We are currently back at Livingston, TX for a couple weeks while we volunteer at the annual CARE Center Health Fair at the Escapee’s RV Park.  We’ll be leaving here Mar 31st and heading back to Ohio (for a bit).

WOW!  It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything.  Now that we’ve got good wifi for the next couple of weeks, maybe I can get caught up a little, eh?

We were Workamping at the Escapees “Rainbow’s End” RV Park in Livingston, TX from mid-October to mid-January and then we took off to Florida for the month of February.  A little vacation for us with no “work” like we’ve been doing since hitting the road fall of ’16.

What a great time we had …

Our reason for going to Florida was not only to get a little better (warmer) weather than what we’d had for the last 3 months in Texas, but even more so to be able to visit family and long-time friends.  Some of these folks now live in Florida full-time while others are either regular “sno-birds” or maybe are just on a short vacation from the frigid north-land to warmer climates.

In any event, thanks to Facebook, RVillage, and GMail we were able to actually meet up with and spend time with 15 different couples as we enjoyed our Florida getaway.  You can click on any of the pictures to see the caption of who it is we visited and where.

While traveling and workamping have their rewards (being able to see the sights and helping to pay the way), by far the best part of this full-time RV lifestyle is the opportunity to hook up with old friends and meet so many new ones along the way.

We are blessed to have this opportunity to travel.

Our plans for the near future include; heading back to Ohio in April to visit family, then up to our Workamping gig in Michigan for the summer at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Resort, while fall of 2018 will take us to Albuquerque, NM where we’ll be working at the annual International Balloon Fiesta, then on to our leased lot at Rover’s Roost RV Park in Casa Grande, AZ for the winter with an excursion in mid-January to Quartzite, AZ to work at the “Big Tent” RV Show.

We haven’t planned spring and summer of 2019 yet, it’s a little too early to start nailing anything down, but we hope to be somewhere in the northwest U.S.

 We hope you’ll ride along!  Oh, and by the way, feel free to comment down below – it’s great to hear from you TOO!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

WOW! What a Blast – Friends We’ve Seen Along The Way

The reason (or so we thought) that we embarked on our full-time RV lifestyle on Labor Day of 2016 was to fulfill our desire to travel and see as much of this beautiful country of ours that we could.

We’ve seen a lot of sites since then, but there’s still so much more to go and we could spend a lot more time in any specific area to allow us to explore more deeply, so it’s very likely we’ll be going back again to many places in future years to do so.

A HIDDEN BENEFIT

But what has really turned out to be a wonderful benefit of traveling and not being on a “vacation” type schedule (running from place to place) is that we’ve been able to meet up with and spend time with family and “old” friends (not to say they are OLD by any means!).

This blog post features some pictures of those we’ve met up with along the way. Some are “NEW” friends and some are our “OLD” friends.

Unfortunately, although I had every intention of taking a “selfie” of us altogether at every meetup, we occasionally parted company without remembering to shoot a pix, so I’m listing those folks as well.  If I’ve missed you in this post, I apologize.  If you’re reading this and you can send me a picture of yourself, I’d really appreciate it.  My email address is herbsells@gmail.com

I know many of you won’t know any of these folks, but I also know it’ll be fun for those that are in the pictures to see some of the others and remember times past along with the brief time we spent together in the last year or so.

I’m going to post the pictures into a collage, you will be able to click on any individual photo to enlarge that particular picture to see a “zoomed in” view.  The zoomed-in view will also let you see a brief description of who they are and our relationship.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Foretravel Coach Plant Tour – Nacogdoches, TX

Winnebago, Avion, Jayco, Fleetwood, Airstream, Coachman, Thor, and so many other RV names were familiar to us.  Many have been around for years and years and enjoy a long history of making quality recreational vehicles.

I recently wrote a post on our Airstream factory tour in Jackson Center, Ohio when we were on our way from our Michigan summer workamping gig to our Texas winter workamping gig.

I only recently (within the last year or so) became familiar with the coach building company known as FORETRAVEL.  I realized we were going to be right past the home of Foretravel at Nacogdoches, Texas.  “So let’s go take their factory tour too, eh?”

Like the Airstream factory, Foretravel also offers low cost ($5/nite) camping for it’s customers and visitors.  We pulled in to the parking area in the afternoon and found that the plant tour would be at 10 am the next morning.  We took the opportunity that afternoon to talk to one of their in-house sales reps so we could look at their used inventory and then we also drove up the street a mile or so and met with Brad at Motorhomes of Texas to see what they had in their Foretravel inventory.

The front of the main Foretravel plant and corporate offices at Nacogdoches
Our parking spot for the night at the factory “campground”
The back of the main building showing the service and delivery prep bays

(The following is taken from “The History of Foretravel” on the corporate web site.)

“The business of building motorhomes came about not due to planning by the Fores, but by the traveling they did in their self-built motorhome.

From that modest beginning in 1967 with the 29’ “Speedy Marie” motorhome produced in the backyard of C.M. & Marie Fore, Foretravel continued to set the standard. Weathering the oil embargos of the early 1970’s Foretravel introduced the first diesel-powered motorhome in 1974.

In addition to the numerous conveniences of a Foretravel, i.e., VCR’s, central vacuum cleaners, icemakers, trash compactors, Foretravel was among the first to use fiberglass instead of aluminum, real hardwood, and a full air bag suspension.”

Foretravel continues to be a top-notch motorhome manufacturer.  At present, they make 2 Class “A” coaches – The model IH-45, selling for about $1,000,000 and the “entry level” coach labeled the “Realm” that sells somewhere in the $800,000 range.

Unlike Airstream that makes about 100 units per month and has about 1200 employees, Foretravel has only about 160 employees and manufactures about only 25 units PER YEAR!  Their paint process alone requires about 2000 man hours to complete.

Also unlike Airstream, the Foretravel factory tour allowed us to take pictures!

The “power” end of the new IH-45 coach
One of the “basement” compartments showing electronic wiring.
Two frame assemblies with basement compartments side by side
Aluminum box frame side wall assemblies ready to be mounted on basement frame box
Front end of the coach frame shows (green) Onan diesel 12kw generator
One of the side slide assemblies that will be placed into a sidewall
An entire drivers side sidewall (front end at right end of image)
Now the wall has been lifted into place on the coach basement frame ready to be attached
Basement pass through storage compartments
Aluminum box frame (front end of coach)
The power end of the coach showing one of the slides extended
Workers installing the one piece windshield
Installing one of the large slide units

Some of the features that the Foretravel coaches have that really appeal to me are;

  1. 8 (or 10 if there’s a tag axle) “outboard” air bags.  They place their air bags at the extreme outboard end of where the axle meets the frame just inside the side wall.  Most coach chassis makers have the air bags inside the wheels so the airbags might be 4 or 5 feet apart whereas with the Foretravel coaches the airbags are more like 8 feet apart.  This gives the coach much better stability and far less side-to-side rocking when driving into or out of a driveway.
  2. No slide gaskets or seals that are exposed to the exterior.  No slide trim panels that overlap the sidewall.  Foretravel uses the HWH expanding bladder to seal the slide to the outside wall.  When the slide is retracted or extended, there is a vacuum placed on the bladder.  Once the wall is completely in or out, then the bladder is pressurized to provide an airtight weatherproof seal.  This system not only provides an airtight seal, but when the slides are closed (retracted), the face of the slide is perfectly and completely flush with the sidewall.
  3. Pass-through basement storage drawers (full height from side to side)
  4. Aqua-Hot heating system uses hot water circulated through heat exchangers in the cabin for warm, quiet heat.  This is diesel powered and also provides hot water to the bath and kitchen.
  5. CAT (on older models) and Cummins 450hp and up engines along with Allison Electronic Transmissions (3000 series on older coaches, 4000 series on newer) along with driver-controlled 4-position transmission retarder.  This style retarder gives the operator far superior speed control during steep downhill grades … better than an exhaust retarder or engine brake.
Here’s a cross-section of the HWH slide bladder seal that pressurizes to seal

These next few photos show Kathy getting just a little TOO comfortable inside the new Foretravel REALM that just rolled off the factory floor.  It’s a darn shame it was already sold … aw shucks.

Here’s that REALM on the outside.  I gotta admit – I do like the paint scheme

Oh, take a look at the steps.  These are not your typical RV steps.  Most motorhomes today use electric RV steps known as Kwikee Steps made by Lippert Industries.  These high-end steps are known as “Executive” brand steps made by Braund Industries.

I was really impressed with these steps when we were at the factory.  Our coach steps are well worn and rattle a lot as we’re going down the road.   So I thought, “boy I’d like to get a set of those steps for our coach”  I did some research online when I got home.  Those steps would cost us about $5000 !!!!     Not Happnin’ !

Here’s a few pix of older Foretravel coaches that we looked at in the $125k-$175k range.  We like to look, but we’ll keep our Airstream for now.

2003 Model U-320 38′ w/ tag axle & 2 Slides
2003 Model U-320 36′ w/ 2 slides
2000 Model U-295 40′ w/ 1 Slide

NOTE: We’re doing some interior remodeling and some performance and suspension upgrades to our present Airstream coach and we’ll be publishing posts on those projects soon, once we have all the projects completed.

Oh, I almost forgot …. when we were in Nacogdoches we asked where we should have dinner that night and were referred to the Fredonia Hotel downtown.  We weren’t disappointed.  Kathy had shrimp and I had salmon.  The food was excellent, the presentation beautiful and the service outstanding.  Hats off to our server Brett.  Here’s a few pix of our delectable delights.

The dining room at the Fredonia overlooking the patio and pool
My Atlantic Salmon dinner
Kathy’s Shrimp Dinner w/ Broccoli Cole Slaw
We were good …. we didn’t take anything off the desert tray
Yes, the lounge chairs are IN the pool
The Front Lobby and Registration Desk

 

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Our Visit to Hot Springs Bath House Row (Scary)

We really had no idea what to expect.  We were headed from Ohio to east Texas (1449 mile trip) where our winter workamping job would be and looked for places to stay along the way.

We had just been to the Branson, MO area where we stayed at the Escapees RV Club Turkey Creek RV Park.  We spent a couple nights there enjoyed a great pizza dinner at “Mr. G’s” and then of course (since you’re in Branson) took in one of the shows on the strip.

Kathy’s personal deep dish Chicago Style pizza (Chicken, spinach, garlic alfredo sauce)
Smaller family pizza and sub joint in downtown Branson, MO

So we looked at the map and decided that Hot Springs, Arkansas is where we should be heading.  I read the reviews online and found that the Lake Catherine State Park was reviewed as being a nicer campground than the National Park, so off went went.  We were not disappointed!

Our site backed up to the lake

Lake Catherine was beautiful.  The day we got there, it was super hot and humid so once we got things hooked up, we changed into our suits and jumped into the lake to cool off … how refreshing!  Later that evening we could sit out and watch the ducks and geese along the edge of the lake along with hearing the screams of joy from the children jumping into the water from the adjacent dock.  We’ll definitely be stopping back at Lake Catherine State Park next time we find ourselves in the Little Rock / Hot Springs area.

We stayed at Lake Catherine SP for two nights because we wanted to spend time in Hot Springs.  We really had no idea what to expect.  I looked online (again) and found the National Park site told us that (depending on how much time we had) what we could see in; an hour or so, a half day, or a whole day.  We headed to downtown Hot Springs to hit the Visitor Center and pick up a map.

“Bathhouse Row” is where you’ll find 8 of the early hot spring bath houses built between 1892 and 1923 still standing and two of them actually still in operation.  The ones that are not still operating have become museums, gift shops, etc.

drawing, map of Bathhouse Row today with park land shown in green, private property in the city as tan, parking lots as yellow, streets as white, bathhouse buildings leased in dark purple and the Maurice Bathhouse which is not yet leased as light purple. It shows hot spring water fountains as red dots.
Map of Bathhouse Row
Lamar Bathhouse, now a gift shop operated by the Parks Department
The Ozark Bathhouse is now an art museum
This is the Arlington Hotel where Al Capone and other famous folks stayed when they visited the bathouses
The Hot Springs NPS Administration Building
Hot Spring water (at 143 degrees) bubbles over at many locations along the streets and promenade of bathouse row
The former Army-Navy Hospital (the 2nd one to be built on this site) which is now the Arkansas Career Training Institute

The spring water comes out of the ground at 143 degrees, (over 700,000 gallons a week!) and is collected at the base of the mountain just above Bathhouse Row into spring collection boxes.  You can see these boxes along side the Promenade that runs just along behind the bathhouses.

At the top of this picture is the Promenade level and if you look closely, you can see the steam rising from the water as it comes to the surface. It then cascades down to a pool, where it looks inviting, but still too hot to submerge your hand
The hot water pool at the bottom of the small waterfall
The Promenade runs the full length behind the bathhouses. The spring collection boxes are to the left (above) and the right (below) the Promenade
Here’s just a few of the many spring water collection boxes

The Fordyce Bathhouse was built between 1914-1916 and is now a museum that provides free guided tours.  Park Ranger Kevin was our tour guide and he showed us all the rooms used along with a lot of the equipment used for treatment of the aches and pains of the patients.  Although some of the standard hot water bathing could be taken in by anyone, there were other treatment regimes that had to be prescribed by a medical doctor.  The Fordyce doctor was on the 3rd floor and patients could see him for an exam and interview after which the doctor could prescribe a treatment program for that patients ailment(s).

Upon entry, patients were assigned an attendant who would be with them throughout their visit.  This was for the safety of the patient to make sure they weren’t “overdoing it” and to make sure all the proper procedures were followed and laws and regulations controlling hot springs baths were (are) followed.

Fordyce Attendant

Kevin told us that the attendants, although paid a very small wage, were often tipped very well by their patients.  If an attendant was good at their job, it was very often the case that the patient would request that attendant by name when they set their appointment.  It was also very common to find that there were families of attendants, generation after generation.  For local folks, although the work was hard (on your feet all day in sweltering heat and humidity), the tips were good and the work was steady.

Some of the equipment was pretty scary looking (electro-therapy, needle showers, heat-lamp boxes, ice block boxes, spring water enema table, etc.)  Yet, people in need flocked to the bathhouses seeking relief from their pain.  Remember, there were not the pharmaceuticals that are out there now and medical technology was still in the dark ages.

The Fordyce Bathhouse front lobby (notice all the marble) where patients came for their appointment
The ladies “first room” after leaving the Dressing Room. This is where the “needle shower”, the hot tubs, the sun-ray box and the ice box are located
The ladies “cooling room” after initial treatment (bath, shower, heat, ice) where they come to relax and cool down
The “Needle” shower. Hundreds of very fine sprays of hot water pummel your skin and joints
This is the SCARY room. From left to right … tub for electro therapy, water enema table, ICE BLOCK box, Sun-Ray Heat Lamp Box, water cannons
The Sun-Ray box on the right gets close to 200 degrees, after that then right into sitting on top of a block of ice in the ICE BOX
The mens private bath rooms (see the needle shower behind Ranger Kevin?). This is quite a bit more ornate than the ladies side of the building (statue in the center)
Stained glass skylight too!
One of the doctors therapy rooms (Run!)
The lounge on the 2nd floor adjacent to the ladies dressing rooms
Rows and rows of dressing rooms. One side of the 2nd floor for men, the other side of the 2nd floor for the ladies.

 

We also took a drive up “Mountain Road” where we were able to take an elevator up to the top of the lookout tower where you could see all over town and for miles beyond.

View from atop the Lookout Tower

We had a great time, learned a lot and would definitely go back again to both the state park campground and the downtown area of Hot Springs.

 

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Airstream Factory Tour

Our next workamping gig is at the Livingston, TX headquarters of the Escapees RV Club.

We left Ohio this morning after spending about 10 days visiting family and many of our good friends (we didn’t have time to see everybody), checking in with our doctors, doing a little banking and helping our daughter and son-in-law with some tasks that needed done at their new home, (our former home that they purchased from us a couple months ago.)

We’re taking a leisurely drive to Texas, I mapped it out asking Google Maps to “avoid highways” so that we will stay on the state and county roads and not the interstate.  It’s not that I dislike driving the interstate, but since we have the time (2 weeks to get there), we thought it might prove to be a little more interesting going through some small towns and rural areas along the way.

Our first stop was in Jackson Center, Ohio where the Airstream travel trailers are made.  We have a particular interest in Airstream since our Class A diesel motor home was made by Airstream back in 2002.  Unfortunately they quit making the full size Class A coaches in 2006 when the bottom dropped out of the country’s economy.

Map to Jackson Center, OH

The tour started at 2 p.m. in the front lobby and our tour guide (Don) shared a lot of knowledge with us as he had worked at the factory “forever” as he put it and retired 28 years ago but is still employed as one of the tour guides.  He knows the shop, the folks on the shop floor, and everyone knows him.

The group standing in the lobby listening to the introduction
Kathy in the gift shop – Go figure, eh?
A really cool desk made from the back end of an Airstream trailer
There’s a color TV in the back of that trailer mock-up
The main lobby at the factory and service/parts center

Sadly, they wouldn’t allow any pictures of the production floor, so I was only able to get a few outside pix and one of the service garage.

Wally Byam started building Airstream trailers in 1931 out in California and in 1952 the company was moved to it’s present location at Jackson Center, OH.  Don shared with us that they build about 100 units a week, currently with a backlog of about 2500 trailers.  The folks on the floor work a 40 hour week, 4 nine hour days and a short 4 hour day on Friday.  They’re paid starting at $18/ hour and the plant is clean and bright (but noisy!)  We were all given ear plugs and safety glasses.

They continue to introduce new models, but their most popular units are the 16′ Bambi and the 23′ Classic.  Their newer models include the very popular BaseCamp and the Nest.  Although we saw some new, not yet released models, our tour guide could not talk about them and whisked us along on the tour.

Leaving the front lobby, walking past the 24 bay service garage toward one of the plant buildings
Finishing up the plant tour, walking past a new unit that Don couldn’t talk to us about, not yet introduced
The back side of the service garage with an old Argosy motor home in the distance
Inside the service garage (24 bays). Notice how clean and bright it is. The inside of the plant is likewise bright and clean
That’s Kathy with her bag of goodies from the gift shop (go figure)
Our spot for the night at the Airstream “Terraport” along with about 20 other units. They have two circles for campers.

The tours run Monday through Thursday at 2 p.m. and run about 1-1/2 hours.  I’m sorry I couldn’t share photos from the production floor, but that’s company policy.

Whether or not you own an Airstream (or dream of owning one), this plant tour is interesting and enjoyable.  If you find yourself in Ohio on a weekday, take a drive over.  I think you’ll enjoy seeing how their quality products are made and the pride the employees put into their work.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Our Trip Home – The Long Way …

So as our 4 month workamping gig in Baldwin, Michigan wrapped up, our plan was to come back “home” to visit the kids and grand kids for a week or so and then head toward Livingston, Texas where we will start our fall/winter workamping assignment on October 15th.

Ordinarily, we would just make the 6 hour drive direct from Baldwin, MI to Mt. Gilead, OH but … since we had time on our hands and a desire to see more of Michigan, we decided to head north instead.

Our goal was to get back up into the U.P. and this time head further north and further west.  We headed out and spent our first night at the casino in Manistique (free camping w/ electric), visited the lighthouse on the jetty at the mouth of the Manistique River, and the next morning headed out US-2 where we had a great breakfast in a wonderful little family diner at Big Bay De Noc.  After breakfast we headed on up US-41 through Marquette, Negaunee, and Ishpiming where Chuck said we just had to stop at “Da Yoopers Tourist Trap”.

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Here’s a short video of our walk out on the Jetty at the mouth of the Manistique River where it meets Lake Michigan.

We continued on US-41 from Ishpiming (and we didn’t buy a thing at “Da Yooper Trap”), on up and THROUGH Alberta where we passed the Ford Forestry Center of Michigan.  We didn’t have time to stop and check it out, it was getting late in the day and we had found out at about noon that there were only about 6 spots left at the state park at Copper Harbor, so we had to keep “movin’ on down the road”.  Hopefully next year when we are back up at Baldwin, we can take a few days to go up into the U.P. again and check out this historic site.

As we drove through L’Anse and around L’Anse Bay staying on US-41 we were now finally just inside the Keweenaw Peninsula and heading further north to Copper Harbor.

L’Anse, MI and the Keweenaw Bay

Staying on 41, we drove through the college town of Houghton, MI – home to Michigan Technological University.  So many “kids” walking the streets to and from class.  They all look so young ….

Crossing the Portage River over the lift bridge and on into the sister city of Hancock, MI.  You can get a really great “live” view of the lift bridge by following this link where we stayed on 41 and stopped to visit the Upper Peninsula Firefighters Memorial in Calumet.

Great museum of firefighting apparatus and memorabilia in Calumet, MI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We finally made it to our destination for the night, Fort Wilkins Historic State Park at Copper Harbor at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. 

The State Park was really nice and there was lots to see not only at the park (the historic fort) but also in the Copper Harbor area so we decided that we would stay at least two nights here.

Kathy had heard about “The Jam Pot” so we headed south on M-26 where we bought a muffin and some of their spiced peach jam.  Had that for lunch and it was yummy.

We went to the top of Brockway Mountain to the lookout where we could see down to all of Copper Harbor, Fort Wilkins, and Lake Fannie Hooe.  We continued on down M-26 through Eagle Harbor and Eagle River where we saw lots of waterfalls.

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When our stay at Copper Harbor was over, we headed back down US-41 and across MI-28 through Ironwood and on into Wisconsin where we spent a night at a really nice campground-type RV park and we were lucky enough to get a spot looking out onto Indian Lake with full hook-up for only $30/nite!

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Leaving Woodruff, Wisconsin we continued south and stayed at Hickory Hollow RV Park in Utica, Illinois the next night then down to Blue Lake Campground in Cherubusco, IN the following night before heading out to the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana.

Located just off I-80 at Elkhart, IN

Admission to the RV/MH Hall of Fame is $12 for adults, $10 for those over 60 years of age.  It’s a walk-through self guided museum that resembles (somewhat) a campground.  Many of the units welcome walk-throughs but some were roped off so you could only look through the doors and windows.  If you were to stop and read every placard at every RV, the tour would very likely last nearly all day.

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Although the drive from west central Michigan (Ludington area) to the Keweenaw Peninsula was a long one, it was worth it.  We saw a smattering of what the area has to offer, and hopefully next year when we’re back up at the RV park, we can take a few days to make the trip north again to discover more.

In the meantime, we’re currently back in Ohio for a few days until we head out to our next workamping gig in Livingston, TX.  More on that to come later.

For now, it’s rollin’ on down the road for us.

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Waterfalls in Michigan – Really?

Kathy and I were both born and spent our early years in Michigan on the west side of Detroit and then spent our school years in Redford Township where we met in high school, got married shortly after we graduated and started a family of our own.  I’ll tell you about those early years some other time.

Our vacation travels as a young family consisted of driving on up to the Kalkaska area of Michigan’s lower peninsula where my folks had moved after Dad’s retirement from Ford Motor Company in Dearborn.  It would always be a “low budget” trip.  We would be able to stay close to home (about 4 hours away), the kids would have some time with Papa and Nana, and Kathy and I might even be able to sneak away for a couple hours alone while we got free baby sitting from my folks.  All in all, it was a “win-win” for all of us.  We had fun back then.

And although we spent a lot of time up in this neck of the woods, we had no idea there were so many waterfalls in Michigan.  Workamping here at Pere Marquette Oaks RV Resort gives us every other week (7 days straight) off so we can do what we want.  Kathy thought it would be fun to go on up to the U.P. (Upper Peninsula).  As we researched our potential trip, we found that Michigan boasts being home to nearly 200 waterfalls and all but 2 are located in the UP!  We had been up to Tahquamenon Falls years ago, but we thought that was it.  Boy were we wrong!

We loosely planned our road trip to take up 3 days time.  We decided to not take the coach and stay in motels 2 nights so we had more mobility and easier entry to some of the sites where the falls might be located.  It was a good thing we decided this as many of the sites had small access roads and/or parking areas with not much turnaround room.

We invited our new friends Chuck and Joanne to come along with

The Fantastic Foursome

us and we all had a great time.  They’ve retired from the Grand Rapids area and as a family they’ve done lots of camping over the years and they had some ideas on where we could go and what we could see.

Although we wanted to see LOTS of falls, we knew that time, money, and our “rear ends” in the car would tell us that 3 days out would be about all we could handle.

Here’s a map showing our 3 day route up and back.  If you want to see an interactive map where you can zoom and pan for yourself, click here.

Besides the numerous falls we saw, and the pasties and smoked fish we ate, there was something we learned that I had no idea existed.  I knew that folks who lived in the Upper Peninsula were known as “Yoopers”, but I had no idea that those of us who were born in or lived in the Lower Peninsula were known as “Trolls”.

I couldn’t imagine why I would be called a “Troll”, until a Yooper shared with me it’s because we live “below the bridge”!  Now it all makes perfect sense.

“UP” Road Trip Map

Here’s a slide show of some of the high points of our trip.  I’m including a few short videos too.

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Here’s the video montage of our UP Falls Tour to go along with some of the pictures in the slide show above.

All in all, we had a great time seeing beautiful sites with great friends and looking forward to our next adventure.  So long for now from your friends “The Trolls”.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Riding A “Cable” Ferry at Lake Charlevoix

Our road trip a few weeks ago took us up M-22 and M-119 through Charlevoix and Petoskey and on up to the Mackinac Bridge and across to St. Ignace.  On our way back down into the Lower Peninsula, we needed to head to Kalkaska on M-66 to visit my parents grave.

This return trip took us to a delightful little Village of Ironton where there is a ferry that crosses the “narrows” of Lake Charlevoix giving riders a shortcut from Boyne City to Charlevoix.

As we had already spent a thoroughly enjoyable time in Charlevoix the previous night, we instead crossed on the ferry and headed south on M-66 to Kalkaska.

To get a better look at the area and be able to zoom in or out, click on this interactive map link

 I thought the ferry was so cool.  A ferry boat has been crossing this narrows since 1883, with this present vessel being placed into service in 1925.  On most boats, ferry or otherwise, the captain (or pilot) not only controls the engine speed and direction, but also steers the boat by use of a rudder and/or bow thruster engines/props.

With this ferry however, the craft is “driven” by propellers on each end (from one small diesel motor that runs in both directions) but the direction that the boat travels is guided along by a 3/4″ diameter steel cable that is secured at the ferry dock at each end.  There is no steering and there is no rudder.

Back in the “old days” the passengers provided the power by pulling the boat along using hand-over-hand power on the cable.

“How do boats navigate the narrows” you ask?  There is enough slack in the cable so that it is only above the surface of the water at each end and at the ferry boat itself.  Otherwise the cable drops to a depth of about 25′ so that other watercraft can safely navigate.

The Ironton Ferry Boat

Looking Across The Narrows of Lake Charlevoix at Ironton
Waiting In Line to Board
The Ferry Rate Chart
The Ferry Has Departed
Placard Detailing The History of The Ferry

We are continually amazed and delighted at the opportunities that this workamping lifestyle affords us.  Although we were both born and raised in Michigan, we continue to be pleasantly surprised with all that this beautiful Water-Winter-Wonderland has to offer.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Part 2 – N’West Michigan Road Trip – Mushrooms, Tunnels, Bears, and Indians – Oh My!

Part 2 – N’West Michigan Road Trip – Mushrooms, Tunnels, Bears, and Indians – Oh My!

We left Charlevoix the next morning after a comfortable stay at the Maple Leaf Inn and continued north on M-31 toward Petoskey.  We had an opportunity to go along Lake Charlevoix on our way to Urgent Care (that’s another story altogether) when we happened along some of the famous “Mushroom Houses” we had heard about.  You can read more about these famous homes and the self-taught architect that designed and built these beautiful homes by clicking here.

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Heading out of Charlevoix on M-31 along the south edge of Little Traverse Bay, we arrived in Petoskey (famous for Petoskey Stones) and we happened across their Farmer’s Market.  Since we don’t have a lot of room for storage, nor do we have a large refrigerator, the only thing Kathy bought was a bar of hand made soap. Here’s a few pictures from the market, everything was so colorful and attractive!

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Moving on up the road out of Petoskey, some friends of ours here at the park told us about State Route 119 and the “Tunnel of Trees“.  It sounded fascinating and we wanted to stay along the lake shore, so off we went due north on SR 119.  Video below.

The Tunnel of Trees starts at about Harbor Springs and ends at a small hamlet called Cross Village where we found the famous (and out of the way) “Legs Inn” restaurant.  Unfortunately for us, the restaurant doesn’t open until noon and we got there just a little too early, but we did take the opportunity to walk the grounds and check out some of the history of the place.  There are beautiful gardens out back with patio seating and the original designer, Stanley Smolak had an eclectic flair and utilized the local Odawa Indians to help him build the Legs Inn.  See more about the Legs Inn at this link.

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Beyond Cross Village (on M-119) we worked our way east and north on up to The Headlands International Dark Sky Park, McGulpin Point Lighthouse, stopped for ice cream in Mackinaw City and then on over the bridge.  Although the day was clear and sunny in the city, the fog was heavy at the bridge and visibility was poor if not non-existent.

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We ended up the day heading on down I-75, then over to Kalkaska where my folks had lived in their retirement years and are buried at the Garfield Twp Cemetery.  Kathy and I drove around the area reminiscing how we used to come up here to see them when the kids were toddlers (they’re now 39 & 40).

All in all it was a great trip.  Seeing new sites along with revisiting some places we used to frequent and bringing back pleasant memories.  A great way to spend a few days in northern Michigan.

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Workampers Northwest Michigan Road Trip

One of the nice advantages of the workamping lifestyle is that we work (at the RV park) part time in exchange for our site and utilities.  “Part Time” is key for two reasons.  First, we’ve worked full-time for forty years or so and don’t want to do that any longer … after all, we are “retired” in that we quit working full time, started collecting our Social Security and pensions earlier than most (at a reduced rate) so that we could change our lifestyle and explore this great country of ours.

Secondly, working part time allows us a few days a week to hit the road and explore what’s around us.  If you’ve been following the blog, you’ve seen; the beach and state park at Ludington, the Pere Marquette River, the Village of Idlewild, Bitely, and more.

This week we headed out Thursday morning for a three day trip along the “baby finger” of Michigan bordering Lake Michigan where we enjoyed towns and villages like Manistee, Glen Arbor, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Cross Village, Mackinac City and finally back down through Kalkaska and Cadillac.  The map of our three day trip is below.

If you’d like an interactive link to the map so you can zoom and pan on any specific area, here’s the link.

Day 1 – Manistee to Charlevoix

Our first stop was at Manistee.  We didn’t walk the town, but we did head to the beach and on the way back through town, we stopped to admire the Ramsdell Theatre.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get inside to see, but got a couple of outside pix.  I wouldn’t have stopped there, but was curious about the large brick windowless tower poking up out the back of the building.  Once we stopped and found that it was a theater, the tower to the rear made sense.

Pigs really DO Fly (at the Ramsdell Theatre sidewalk in front of the box office)
Coming attractions at the Ramsdell Theatre
Ramsdell Theater, Manistee, MI – On the National Register of Historic Places
The Ramsdell streetside .. Note the high tower at the rear where they pull up the curtains and backdrops
The public beach along Lake Michigan at Manistee, MI
Our selfie at Manistee Public Beach Park
This is a decommissioned rail car ferry. It’s hard to see, but it has train tracks inside for the cars to ride on
The stern of the ferry opens wide to allow the train cars to be rolled on to the deck
Relaxing along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Orchard Beach State Park just north of Manistee
Historical marker at Onekema on the east side of Portage Lake
The park at Onekema overlooking Portage Lake

We continued north along M-22, often catching glimpses of the mighty Lake Michigan

Selfie at Inspiration Point (Arcadia Dunes Beach at Arcadia)
The Kindness Rocks Project at Arcadia Beach

It was a beautiful drive up M-22 along the lake.  Since it was a weekday, very little traffic and almost nobody else on the beaches we stopped to check out.

We continued up M-22 out of Arcadia, through Watervale and Alberta and on into Frankfort where we were able to pull in to the public park at the marina, break out our cooler and have a light lunch of tuna salad on crackers along with some cottage cheese and washed it all down with a few gulps of ice cold lemonade while watching the boats bobbing in the water and the sea gulls dive for their lunch (in the harbor, not at our picnic table!).

Leaving Frankfort, we headed on up through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore across Glen Lake into and out of Glen Arbor and into Leland where we knew from previous visits we would find the historic “Fishtown“.  It’s mostly just a tourist trap now with lots of shops filled with collectibles and souvenirs, along with a few cafes but also is an active harbor for pleasure vessels and charter fishing operations as well.  You can easily spend a lot of money in Leland.

Years ago we had continued north on M-22 all the way to the Grand Traverse Light adjacent to the Lelanau State Park at the tip of the baby finger.  It’s a nice trip up with a wonderful little museum in the lighthouse and I’d recommend this to anyone visiting the area.

Now, I KNEW that Leland was a tourist spot, but we thought maybe we’d get a room there for the night and be able to walk the sidewalks and rub elbows with those further up the economic ladder from us.  NOT!  We found a motel online and our smartphone said that they had only one room left, so we darted up the street to get there and check in.  The nice young lady behind the desk told us the rate was $391 (per night!) and NO, that did NOT include a few rounds of golf!

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Soooooo, we headed out of Leland, through Sutton’s Bay and on to Charlevoix where we hoped to find a room for the night.

We found the Maple Leaf Motel (only 10 rooms) on the south end of town where our host Cindy welcomed us to the last room available, and as promised we found the room to be clean.  I asked Cindy where we should have dinner tonight and she recommended the new “Cantina” restaurant located in an alley off the beaten track.  She also told us about the 80th annual Venetian Festival going on in downtown this week.  We decided that all sounded like a great night so off we went …

The harbor at Charlevoix, getting ready for the band at the Venetian Festival
The Venetian Festival at Charlevoix
Dinner menu from the Cantina restaurant where we had dinner
Cantina “Street Corn” grilled, rolled in Chipotle Mayo, then rolled in cheese – Yummy!
Kathy’s Chicken and Shrimp Tacos
My beef and bean burrito
Mural on Rexall Drugs downtown Charlevoix
A man and his dog on the paddle board in the harbor
A 2 hour cruise out into Lake Michigan on a catamaran

Some shots of folks enjoying the festival food at the harbor and listening to the live band in the amphitheater

This ferry coming in from Beaver Island (watch the video below)

 

Kathy wanted to go on the Ferris Wheel.  But she also wanted ME to GO ALONG!

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that I’m “skeered of heights”.  I can’t even climb up on top of the motor home.  I can handle a six foot ladder, but that’s about all.

It might not look it, but I’m shakin’ in my shoes
A shot from atop the wheel (Skeered)
A street performer downtown Charlevoix during the Venetian Festival

The video below shows a group of kids having a ball on the hill.  It would be a really tough climb with a sled in the snow.

We got the last room in town, $85 / nite. Not a lot of fluff, but a clean room
Resting back in the room after dinner and the festival downtown

That’s it for now, the next post will be from Charlevoix through Petoskey, Cross Village and the Tunnel of Trees and then up across the bridge (and back) and then down to Kalkaska.

 

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy
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