Saturday, July 28, 2018

Our Fulltimer 3rd Anniversary

t's July 27th and we are celebrating our 3rd anniversary. 3 years on the road today!!

Guess it's time for the obligatory blast from the past blog!

We made 4 great decisions when we retired.
  1. Buying the Rexhall RV
  2. Going fulltiming in it
  3. Joining Escapees RV Club
  4. Joining the Elks.
And here we are in the Rexhall, at an Elks Lodge in Sault Saint Marie Michigan with fulltimers and Escapees around us.

For us some of the highlights have been
Meeting new friends
Seeing new places
Meeting old friends
Going back to places we've been before

My anxiety disorder
Vehicle breaking down
Flooded out in Austin TX
Tornado warnings in FL, TX,

Favorite places
Santa Fe NM
San Antonio TX
Holiday Travel Leesburg FL
Memphis, TN Charlie Vergos BBQ.
Breweries and Brew Pubs
Door County WI
Flying Saucer Taproom

Favorite Campgrounds
Sundance 1 Casa Grande AZ
Bayfield CO
Tavanier Elks Lodge Key Largo FL
TT Gloucester VA
TT Orlando FL
Graceland Memphis TN.

Favorite Areas to be in.
New England
Canadian Maritimes

Our favorite Elks Lodges
Rapid City SD
Tavernier FL
Franklin TN
Ellsworth ME
Grand Junction CO

Our favorite RV Rallies
Shanty Shakers Winterblast Rally
Sungators Rallies
Lobster Fest Bangor ME

Our Big adventures/scary moments.
Hurricane Irma
Tornado warnings on the weather channel right at the gate of the park we were in!

Milestones from the past 3 years

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The U.P.

We had thought of taking a ferry across Lake Michigan and doing a counter-clockwise tour but we're going to go clockwise and avoid the ferry.

Michigan, another State to add to our list of those we've visited.

The campground in Sturgeon Bay, Countryside Motel and RV Park grew on us! We ended up staying 2 weeks and got to know the owners David and Liz. They have plans for improving the place including adding a dump station which would be really good I believe, as that's the one thing that's inconvenient and relatively expensive in the area at $15 to dump in both the local Jellystone RV Park and State Park. Both involve driving about 10 miles.

Countryside is the best deal in the peninsular too if you use Passport America to get the $17.50 discounted rate. The State park for instance is $38 a night water and electric only BUT you have to buy a $38 annual access pass on top of that whether you stay one night or a month. The Jellystone park which is also water and electric only has a 2 night minimum which in peak periods is $138!! So bravo David and Liz.
Along the shores of Lake Superior
Eventually it was time to move on, our route took us clockwise around the edge of Lake Michigan on the “Lake Michigan Circle Route”. Rt 35 was terrific North of Marrinette with views of the lake and across to the Door peninsular. We wandered along happily, stopping for lunch at a boat launch ramp that was big enough for the rig to turn around in. 

We ended the day way up in the corner of Michigan in Ishpeming at the Elks Lodge where we were heartily welcomed and soon deep in conversation about where we should go and our travels over the last couple of years.
Copper Harbor
Somehow I have never regarded of Michigan as a mining area but here you are constantly reminded of the iron ore mines with a museum some really ornate mineshaft machinery and iron ore loading piers for the Lakers dotted along the shoreline of Lake Superior.

A "Laker" probably carrying iron ore to Duluth.

Disused iron ore loading pier in Marquette MI
Further North, in fact as far North as you can get in Michigan is the area where copper was mined, hence the name of our next stop – Copper Harbor. At the very tip of the Keneewa peninsular jutting out into Lake Michigan, this picturesque village has everything and nothing at the same time!
Self explanatory!
Everything? Scenery, camping, restaurants, a light house, twisting roads, a brew pub.
Nothing? No TV signal, no ATT signal, no sewer hookup, no vacancies!! Luckily we called ahead after we were warned by some nice people in the Ishpeming Elks Lodge that it tended to fill up here due to the limited amount of spaces.
The camp fishing pier on Lake Fanny Hooe in Copper Harbor
We happened to be in the brewpub (No! I hear you gasp) and I got talking to a gentleman who spends his summers touring in a motorhome and his winters on a boat in Florida. He works remotely as a real estate appraiser, does an appraisal, sends it in digitally and moves on to the next one! Pretty sweet deal. Another young couple were dreaming of traveling, They enjoy off road bicycling and micro brews, she is an author and has been approached to write a book based on riding trails in the area and sampling local brews along the way. That sounded even better! Drink beer and get paid for it!
Nice dark porter to take home.
For a change we went underground in a copper mine in Delaware MI, interesting to read all the history and walk in the ruins of the abandoned mine, of which there are LOTS around here. It was the purest copper deposit in the world until it was mined out in the early 1900's. Now it's all tourist attractions.
Inside the Delaware copper mine.
Mining drew experienced workers from around the world. Some came from Cornwall England and they brought a Cornish dish with them - Pasties. For the uninitiated, pasties are a mixture of potatoes, ground seasoned beef, onion, carrots and a few other ingredients wrapped in a pastry crust. We used to love them in UK as kids, where we could get several different flavors. My favorite was cheese and onion but here they have a traditional local recipe and seem to pretty much stick to it. Apparently the Elks Lodge in Ishpeming raise money for charity by making and selling pasties!
Looking down on Copper Harbor
The trip to the copper mine had us driving miles down a gravel road in the Miata. I could almost hear it crying. It lead a privileged life before I bought it, it had very low mileage, was garaged all the time, serviced and waxed religiously. Now it's out in the weather, getting dragged behind the motorhome and this latest insult driven on gravel roads! It's been nice to us up until now, taking us to nice brew pubs along the way. I think we upset it though because after the mine trip it took us to a brew pub in Calumet that had no draft beer! That'll teach us!
A laker actually loading ore from the ore pier. Trains bring ore to the top of the structure then gravity feeds it down shutes to the ship
Some nice lighthouses dot the coast and there are many waterfalls. We explored Fort Wilkins and we were actually camped on Lake Fanny Hooe just a short walk from Copper Harbor. We were recommended to try the Harbor Haus restaurant which has several German dishes on the menu and a selection of real German beer. If you go make reservation for upstairs, the view is just great. The food was good too.

View from the top floor of the Harbor Haus restaurant
Marquette Light

Eagle Harbor Light

Sand Hills Light

Eagle River Light
Our last stop was Munising where we boarded a boat fr the 2 1/2 hr tour of the "Pictured Rocks". These cliffs run 35 miles along the lake and are stained many colors by the minerals which leach out of the stratified rocks and run down the cliff face to the lake. Lots of Kayaker's to watch too.
See the face?

Beautiful arches

Kayaker's everywhere

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Door peninsular

We will have to see how it looks after we go thru the joys of going off site to dump before we post our own review.

Lots of nice water views on the Door Peninsular
Several people from Wisconsin have told us “You have to visit Door County” other people have told us “It'll be crowded, there are too many tourists”. Well we're here to tell you that YES we're so glad we came to Door County it's beautiful and unspoiled, and NO it isn't crowded with tourists even though we are here for the July 4th Holiday.
4th of July in Bailey's Harbor
We took a whole day to drive around the Door Peninsular and we both agree that this is a super place. We visited a lighthouse by a wagon that was pulled thru the surf, strolled the streets of Baileys Harbor and Egg Harbor, took in Sturgeon Bay and a local brewpub (of course) then on the 4th decided to get to the firework show early to get a good seat!
Loved this sign, and their frozen custard.
We certainly got a good seat but after a couple of hours the sky turned dark and thunder started rumbling. There was supposed to be a band and food vendors but the band weren't going to set up in the rain and the food vendors weren't eager to serve as the rain got heavier and heavier. We took shelter in a pavilion with lots of other people until the rain went away, but we could see a bunch more heading our way. Finally we left and headed back towards the campground.

Door County Maritime Museum Sturgeon Bay
It occurred to us that there were a couple of bars near the campground. We'd been in the “Biker” one so we took a chance on “The little brown jug” being open on this national holiday. It was and soon we were laughing and chatting with the locals, drinking “Spotted Cow” beer and eating from their excellent food choices. The owners of the campground David and Liz, were there too and we decided to stay another week. We're enjoying Door County!
Wagon ride out to the island

Cana Island Lighthouse
Our next day out was right to the very tip of the peninsular where we took the ferry to Washington Island. This serene little place is even nicer! We visited lavender fields and Norwegian Stave churches, a pebble beach. A lovely place. The weather was perfect and we drove back with the top down. The ferry passes “Deaths Door” which is an area with strong currents and frequent storms. So many shipwrecks happened here that it earned the name “Deaths Door”.
Ferry to Washington Island
We had reservations in Ephraim at the The Old Post Office Restaurant for a traditional Door County Fish Boil. Fresh locally caught white fish, potatoes, onions and salted water boiled over an open fire.

The fish boil

The Over Boil
The grand finale is the “Over Boil”. Kerosene is thrown on the fire and the blast of heat instantly brings the water surging over the rim of the cauldron which cleans any fish oil off the surface of the water and also cleans off any ash that might have got into the water from the fire. Served with cole slaw and buckets of melted butter it's delicious.
Glorious day on Green Bay
Every day brings more smiles and there is a lot to do. The Door County Maritime Museum was good with an excellent exhibition of paintings done in local shipyards and around the harbor. Exhibits showed the local boat and shipbuilding industries and another showed the many shipwrecks in the area.
The lavender fields on Washington Island
There are a lot of lighthouses around the peninsular, I can see some paintings being done of them this winter. One in Algoma caught my eye and I walked way out on the breakwater to get some different views of it.

Sherwood Point Lighthouse

Algoma Lighthouse
Algoma is another beautiful town with some great murals as well as several good brew pubs and an excellent winery (where we naturally stopped for tour and some tasting). We spent the whole day wandering round.

We have pretty much decided that we are going up to the “Upper Peninsular” of Michigan next (Known simply as the U-P to locals, who call themselves “Yoopers”). They had a terrible flood up their last month and a lot of roads and bridges were washed out. We had thought of taking a ferry across Lake Michigan and doing a counter-clockwise tour but we're going to go clockwise and avoid the ferry.

Monday, July 2, 2018

More Wisconsin

One last night at the Elks with Sheri (where we hilariously won a local knowledge quiz even though we've never been here before!) and off we go again.

Oshkosh is HQ to the Experimental Aircraft association.
Oshkosh to the airplane nut (Like me) is almost hallowed ground. The headquarters of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is here. EAA is the organization for people who build and fly their own airplanes, often in their basement or garage, For 2 weeks a year when they have their national convention here the little airport that serves Oshkosh becomes the busiest airport in the world! Then afterwards it is just a sleepy little airport again.
This unique homebuilt airplane is called "Pushy Galore" because the propeller pushes instead of pulls

Experimental aircraft come in all shapes and sizes from gliders and biplanes to warplanes and jets. We are a month too early for the big event but it's a nice quiet time to see the museum.

On display was a large collection of WW2 original "Nose Art"
The last time I came here was for a quick visit between arriving in Milwaukee and visiting a ship there, I barely had time to run around the museum. This time we spent most of the day in the museum and across the other side of the runway in Pioneer Airport where they display aircraft built back in the 20's and 30's. Our grand kids would love this place, they and their Dad are airplane nuts like Grand Dad.

All sizes of pilot catered for here!
There was a tremendous farmers market downtown on Saturday that stretched for about ½ mile. Lots to see and sample, Barbara bought some vegetables and I got some Cheese Curds, a must try if you're in Wisconsin. By coincidence we also explored several brew pubs and the Elks Lodge where we were invited to come and camp in their parking lot after we leave the present campground.

There is a large collection of vintage aircraft mostly in flying condition.
We saw in one of the brochures an Art Gallery/Garden called the Paine Mansion. They had an exhibition of Tiffany glass and lamps. Unfortunately they didn't allow pictures but I did take some in the gardens.

The Paine mansion grounds
The downside of this was the campground Circle R. It was expensive at $45 a night but they had 1 full hookup site left so we took it. No discounts as it was an “Event Weekend”, the Country USA concert was not too far away. The park wasn't full by any means. It seemed to be mainly seasonal campers and some spaces were well run down.

Formal garderns
Granted it's rained pretty hard the last couple of weeks but the roads were very muddy and the sites rutted. They were also very narrow.

Some paintings from here I think

When I came to hook up I noticed the sewer connection in the ground was cracked and there was water standing in the pipe. I put it down to the rain and didn't open the tank valves. Next day the lady next door came running over and yelled “You sewer is spilling everywhere”. Well no it wasn't my sewer tanks. The sewer line was backed up and sewage was coming up out of the drain, luckily for us (Not for her) it flowed away from us but puddled in her space! (YUK). I went to see the office and they were NOT helpful. “We're not calling anyone today they charge extra for Sunday” and “I started fixing it but my generator broke so there's nothing I can do”. 
We were leaving Monday anyway so there was nothing we could do except dump on the way out, just avoid Circle R if you are in Oshkosh.

Maybe not Mobey Dick but we had fun together
One pleasant surprise was going fishing again for the first time in over a year. I like the calming feel I get from standing on the side of a river casting a lure and hoping to feel the tingle of a fish nibbling at the bait. 

It's very relaxing and Barbara gets me out of her hair for a couple of hour too! Unfortunately being a full timer means that wherever we are I have to buy a non resident fishing license which in many states is extortionately expensive. What a nice surprise to find that in Wisconsin they have a program for first time fishing license buyer, resident or non resident that makes buying a 1 year license cheaper than a 15 day one! Well done Wisconsin! I dug out my fishing gear and tried my luck on Lake Winnebago. I even caught a fish. Not big enough t keep though so I sent it back to grow some more.

We had a quick overnight at the Cabellas store in Green Bay, WI. They allow overnighting at the right rear of the store. No hookups but they have a dump station where you either pay at the station with a credit card, or if you make a purchase at the store you get a free dump! Worked for us, and thanks Cabellas.

Huge street market in downtown Oshkosh
We actually had reservations at our next stop! Sturgeon Bay WI or to be more accurate Little Sturgeon Bay which is about 5 miles outside the city itself.

It's the July 4th holiday, always a busy time at campgrounds and essential to make reservations for. 

Just to be on the safe side we have reserved 9 nights at the Countryside Motel and RV park. This is one of those places where if you look it up on has a glowing review. But only 1 review which makes me suspicious. They did have availability though which several other campgrounds didn't. They didn't have sewer hookups and there were no laundry facilities onsite either. 

In fact it looked quite overgrown in places with weeds popping up on the gravel roads. The owners were very friendly and welcoming which is always nice and we spent some time talking about the joys and challenges of full timing. We will have to see how it looks after we go thru the joys of going offsite to dump before we post our own review.