Monday, July 29, 2013

Wisconsin/Upper and Lower Michigan/Southern Ontario/New York

our planned route to Nova Scotia
It’s not at all unusual for us to take a circuitous route to get to where we’re going so it should come as no surprise that in order to go east we first went west. However, our westward drive to Wausau was more out of necessity as we needed to avail ourselves of the fine service department at King’s Campers to address an issue we had with one of our slide outs.

overnight parking site at King's Camper, Wausau
As usual the knowledgable and speedy service crew had our RV ship shape in no time. Bonus for making the Wausau diversion: Betsy and Bill drove up from Plover and treated us to an evening meal at the local Texas Roadhouse. Imagine that - after spending four winters in Texas, we had to come to Wisconsin to experience our first Texas Roadhouse restaurant. Plus, they got to finally see the inside of our RV with all the slides out!

site at Holtwood Campground and view from our door
After an overnight at King’s Camper we made a northeasterly drive to Oconto which put us more in line with our plans to head into Upper Michigan. Bonus: We parked across from Jerry and Karen Smith at Holtwood Campground located on the Oconto River where they were spending the summer. While parked at Holtwood we discovered that the fresh water check valve in our RV wasn’t functioning. It caused fresh water to back fill into and overflow the fresh water tank. After leaving Holtwood we made an unscheduled stop at Hill Top RV in Escanaba to address the problem. They wanted to replace the pump ($$). Tom simply disabled the fresh water tank line (we hardly used it anyway) using a $1.25 plug. He’ll look into replacing the pump which he can buy online for a lot less money at a future date.

drive through Chicago or Upper Michigan? - we chose the U.P.
site at Lakeside Park Camground and view toward Mackinac Bridge
After over ten weeks in Wisconsin we finally left the Dairy State behind on July 17 as we crossed over into Upper Michigan. This route, while longer, avoided the stress of driving through Chicago. We overnighted at Lakeshore Park Campground in St. Ignace along the Lake Michgan shore before crossing the Mackinac Bridge into Lower Michigan the following morning. It’s an impressive bridge but honestly, not nearly as impressive as other bridges we’ve crossed (the bridge to South Padre Island, TX for example).

Mackinac Bridge crossing
Acting on a tip from friend Larry Darling we made a point of stopping in the coastal city of Petoskey, MI to visit the Petoskey Brewing Company. Lucky for us we arrived in Petoskey before the brewery was to open. “Lucky” because that allowed us time for a tour of Kilwin’s Chocolate Company. There are several other Kilwin stores located in the eastern U.S. but Petoskey is where it all started. Serious chocolate overload as we toured the facility. It took a great deal of restraint but we managed to limit purchases to a sea salt dark chocolate carmel apple and a small box of chocolate fruit creams.
Petoskey and the surrounding area is notable as the setting of several of the Nick Adams stories by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway spent his childhood summers on nearby Walloon Lake. Petroskey also has the dubious distinction as the location where in the 19th century, 50,000 Passenger Pigeons were killed daily. A state historical marker recalls the events including the 1878 last great nesting of this now extinct bird.

The Page's home and our site in the side yard
After lunch and sampling some of the local brews, we ventured into Leelenau County which has the highest proportion of water area in the United States (Keweenau County in Upper Michigan has the highest). The county also produces the highest combined crops of sweet and sour cherries of any other county in the U.S..  Door County eat your heart out.

Sleeping Bear Dunes NP
After seven years of full time RVing Larry and Teddy Page had settled into Leelenau County on a cherry farm formerly owned by Teddy’s parents. They renovated the main farm house and grounds which is where we parked for three days. They provided us with basic electric and water for our RV - what more could we want?

Historic Fish Town, Leland
Larry and Teddy not only wined and dined us, but drove us through the countryside to visit various highlights. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, ice cream at the MOOmers Dairy, Historic Fish Town in Leland, a stop at Sutton’s Bay (reminded us of Door County in the summer) and a first hand demo of cherry picking on the farm.

cherry picking
Cherry picking isn’t what it used to be. These days cherries are picked by machine (but still controlled by humans). One machine grabs the trunk of a cherry tree and shakes cherries into another machine that transfers the cherries via a conveyor belt to large metal containers which in turn are then transported to cherry processing plants. Ten seconds on average to shake a tree free of cherries!
We could easily see why they chose the farm as a place to settle down. Well, at least during the spring, summer and fall. Not so much in winter!

Traveling south and across Lower Michigan into Michigan's "thumb" we settled into Finn Road Park Campground for a few nights outside of Essexville, MI very near Bay City. Here we took part of our time to plot and finalize our route as far as Nova Scotia as well as to make reservations at various RV parks along our planned route.

Finn Park Road Campground
Bay City Planetarium
Essexville and Bay City are at the base of Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron. Walking trails from the RV park pass through the Quanicassee Wildlife Area. Bay City has a river front walk along the Saginaw River boasting several shops and restaurants and seasonal festivals. We had just missed the Tall Ships Festival and the River Roar. But we did find the local Stein Haus brew pub choc full of microbrews (amazing collection of beer steins) and discovered that Bay City is THE place for antique shopping in Michigan.

Pilot Flying J overnight site
Doug, Sandy, Norma, Carol, David, Tom
Our route included venturing through lower Ontario. Unfortunately there were no viable RV park options in London, Ontario where we had planned to stop. But heeding recommendations from our Canadian pals we experienced our first ever “free” overnight park at a Pilot Flying J truck stop. Not only was the price right there was an RV only section close to the Denny’s Restaurant (free wifi). Of course no electric or water hookups but we managed with our shore batteries and water jugs. Bonus: David and Sandy and Norma and Doug, Canadian RV friends we had wintered with in Texas, live near London. They arrived at our RV for drinks before heading out to a local Chinese restaurant. What an excellent opportunity to socialize with friends who we would not otherwise be seeing in Texas this winter what with our plans to winter in Florida.

Niagara Falls State Park (U.S.)
Border crossing into and out of Canada went quickly and smoothly. Rather than cross back into the U.S. in Detroit (excessive traffic and poor roads) we opted to cross at Sarnia, Ontario. Conveniently this put us on a path through Niagara Falls which Tom had never seen. As with the Grand Canyon, Carol insisted that Tom see the falls even though he could clearly see them as we crossed the Rainbow Bridge into the U.S..
We had read that the best views of the falls were from the Canada side, however, parking and access while pulling an RV appeared to be best on the U.S. side. After crossing the border, and not without some difficulty, we managed to find suitable RV parking in Niagara Falls State Park (parking lot #2).
The park is the oldest state park in New York with lots of walking and hiking trails and easy access for falls viewing. No shortage of touristy options like taking a boat tour but since our time was limited we satisfied ourselves with a walkabout. Without a doubt there was a massive amount of water falling a good distance. The falls are the second highest in the world (second only to Victoria Falls in South Africa. Now I suppose we'll have to go to South Africa just to compare the two...

Sue, Mickey, Ray at our Southwoods RV Park site, NY
From Niagara we motored on to Byron, NY for an overnight at Southwoods RV Park. Bonus: RV neighbors from BPV in Texas, Ray and Sue, were work camping at a KOA campground an hour away and stopped by our site for a cookout and conversation along their four-legged family member Mickey. Sadly, Mickey’s brother Jerry had passed away earlier in the year but Mickey seems to have finally adjusted. We may catch up with Ray and Sue again as they also plan on wintering in Florida this year.

In addition to the fresh water pump problem, an issue with the vacuum breaker in the RV toilet reared its ugly head. Seems that this is the year for RV water issues! The problem was that with the vacuum breaker not working, water ran constantly into the toilet bowl. The temporary work around was to turn all incoming water to the RV on and off using the outside spigot. This would have to be addressed much sooner than later as we headed further east toward Vermont.

1 comment:

  1. Wow .. that is terrible about the Pigeons! I recently saw something about the last pigeon being shot. Interesting. Love the lake shots, the Falls & of course seeing those Thompsons! NIce entry!