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Sunday, September 24, 2017

VACATION - Looping Around Lake Superior - Day 13 - Soldier lake, Portage Bay and Little Bay de Noc

This is day 13 of our trip. We are now back in the United States, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (my home stomping grounds)   Having grown up all of my formative teenage years in the UP, we know a lot of the campgrounds and tourist sights and things to do.  Our goal now is to unwind, relax, pick up some pasties and slowly make our way home.  Stopping at a few favorite campgrounds on the way, and perhaps meeting up with some friends later today.

Here is our route that today's blog is about.  Leaving Soldier Lake 19, stopping at post office in Manistique 20,checking out Portage Bay State Forest 21, and then down to Little Bay de Noc in the Hiawatha National Forest 22.

Waking up in the woods, peaceful and quiet in the remote sites on Soldier Lake was soooo comfortable and refreshing. It had rained overnight and we were happy to see the sun shining in the morning. It was somewhat hazy, because it was going to be a hot hot humid muggy record breaking day! 

The campsite we chose was wayyy down in the last loop, and appeared to be a newer loop that had been added since the last time we were there. All of the new sites are very long, very level and spaced far apart in the woods. You can not see or hear your neighbor (if there were any, because we were the ONLY ones there in that loop!)  The campground also has five new outhouse facilities and water spigots with solar powered pumps.  I guess the old metal hand pumps are a thing of the past in the Hiawatha National Forest now! 

We set out chairs, 
perked our coffee

We enjoyed our peaceful morning overlooking the lake across from our site


We had picked up some HUGE apple fritters in Canada the day before,
at a little bakery stop on our way down...

(I saved the 2 tiny "last bites" for the dogs, as my Mom would want me to) 

Steve noticed that some little bug or caterpillar 
was crawling around on the hood of the Tracker overnight! 
You can see it's trail faintly in the dew covered metal

We walked down the by water's edge with the dogs. Everything was smooth as glass in the early morning. Since it was going to be a hot muggy day, I thought I would let the dogs take a little dip.  Thinking the waves at the big Lake Superior shore were too scary, this smooth lake might entice them to come in?




It didn't take long for their little wet feet to dry off. They were NOT interested in any way shape or form to think about swimming in that big bathtub.  LOL ... What a couple of prima donnas, I tell ya.  

My other shelties Akasha, Max and Duke all LOVED the water, as well as both of the collies, Mustang and Ducky.  We used to take them swimming all of the time. Duke and Ducky would even put their heads underwater to fetch things on the bottom when you threw them in.  Here are three old pics of them:

Duke n Ducky

Silly Duke looking for a rock we threw in,
he would even blow bubbles out his nose while underwater! 

They would jump in and ask for more more more! 

It was time to pack up and move on....

As we drove through Munising, MI I located the post office and had to mail out a package for a customer from my online Etsy store.  When walking in, it was like walking into the post office in Chilton!  (almost)  because it had also been made by the CCC Civilian Conservation Corp back in the day. It was a government program to put out of work people into jobs that could earn some money for their families back home.  Many little towns had post offices built like this with the same entry way, same woodwork, same gilt lettering ... and the artistic piece of a mural painted on the wall overhead.  This one was of loggers (how appropriate for the U.P.) and the one in Chilton WI is of farmers baling grains and haystacks. 


We drove further west on US 2, along the shore of Lake Michigan this time.   Goodbye Superior, now it's back to our own Great Lake... which we will follow all along back down to our area of Chilton in the eastern/middle part of the state.  What a happy motorhoming man, cruising along with the windows open and fresh air coming in for the morning.  By noon we had to turn on the dash AC to stay cool as we drove.   If it gets REALLY hot we can run the generator and turn on both roof air conditioners as well. 

We unhooked the Tracker at Garden, MI and left the motorhome at a park n ride across from Foxy's convience store and station. John Fox said he would keep an eye on it, and we purchased some goodies from his store.  Gabbed a bit about Bears and Packers, and how our rig looked like we are Lions fans (we are NOT!) 

Our plan was do a quick drive through down on the Garden Peninsula to our favorite campsite at Portage Bay State Forest.  We had been there multiple times with our 33 ft Sierra Travel Trailer and our 28 ft Coachman motorhome, but not yet with the Safari (which is 38 ft)   We heard the gravel road had been widened the last 6 miles into the campground, but we wanted to be sure.  

Well, it is 20 miles down the Garden Peninsula to get there, the last 6 miles consists of rough gravel road. With VERY tight turns and twists. By rough I mean BIG chunks of gravel, like river rip rap rock!  Not smaller gravel like most roads.  It had been recently graded, and widened, yes, but was WAY too rough to travel on, even with our Tracker we were getting bounced around a lot.  We would not mind crawling in slowly if it were a bit smoother, but we think we would have been rattled to pieces in 6 miles of this rugged road, complete with a lot of pot holes, even after grading.  We had hoped to spend a couple days here, but it was not meant to be.

We took some pics from our favorite campsite, and sadly hopped back in the Tracker to return up to the motorhome. It saved the motorhome an extra 20 miles down and 20 miles back to just take the Tracker. Smart move. 

We got back to the motorhome, hitched it up and headed further west.  We knew we wanted to be near water because it was forcast to be in the 90s and so humid to break records.  We knew of a park along the western shore of Little Bay de Noc, just east of Gladstone and Escanaba.  It's down about 6 miles from highway 2, and all paved roads.  The park is very quiet, with only 4 or 5 other campers in the 40 odd sites.   $19 a night to the concessionaire contracted by the Hiawatha National Forest to run the park.  They are doing a great job on the park, but the host is a bit "controlling" ... oh well, it closes on Oct. 10. Perhaps she is experiencing some end of the season burn out.  We have seen her policing the other sites and lecturing when she can. We can ignore her and enjoy our stay in spite of it. 

Most of the sites were heavily wooded....  we drove around with the Tracker after leaving the mtorhome at the information kiosk up at the entrance.  That is our best way to find sites in the national forest campgrounds, because sometimes we end up in rustic situations we can not get out of.  Too tight turns or loops that are made for 20 ft campers and not 40 foot ones.  Many of these parks were laid out 50 years ago or more.  So unhooking and traveling around in the Tracker first to find a site is what works best for us. I stuck my business card on the post to hold a site, and we went back to get the envelope and motrohome at the entrance. It took 5 minutes. THAT is what ticked off the host. There were only 4 or 5 campsites even occupied and nobody else driving around looking for a site. Just us. We found one site that was really open along the lakeshore of the bay... so our solar could charge up each day. We thought about staying here for a few days and enjoying the end of our vacation.   (but now we might move on later today to join friends at another favorite park) 

I took out my antique sockknitting machine and relaxed and made some new socks.... it's 100 years old and very persnickety, but fun.  Yes, this is how I relax! 

What a sockknitting machine looks like:

I know my fiber readers are going to ask.... The yarn is from Lion Brand called Amazing. It comes in a lot of different colorways. I sometimes grab a bunch when it's on sale at Joanns with a coupon deal. It's 53% wool and 47% acrylic.  They are washable and last longer than 100% wool if taken care of. They get fuzzier and softer when worn.  I had a lot of leftovers from full skeins, so I joined them up to make a new colorway.

While I crank, Steveio relaxes too.  Enjoying some of his LaBatts beer from Canada, he is making the most out of our last week of vacation.  The temps were picking up inland, but the shoreline where we were was 10-15 degrees cooler than other parts of the state.  We had a nice breeze and it was quite comfortable.

For supper, Steve whipped up some burgers on the grill,
so we didn't have to heat up the rig cooking inside. 
(our kids got him that Tshirt) 

We put a campfire in our pellet Flame Genie firepit and relaxed until way into the night. The bugs were very minimal. I sat out with the laptop and finished yesterday's blog while we were sipping our beverages and enjoying the quiet evening.

Windows open all night and fresh air and sound of the waves on the bay right behind our rig.  That is what we call heaven!  ahhhhhhh

This morning the solar panels are charging up already at 8 am, even with the hazy sky.  It's gonna be another hot one again, according to the weather reports.  We will either stay here another day or head on down to Kleinke park just south of Escanaba.  Gotta stop first at Dobbers Pasties in Escanaba and stock up the freezer to take home!

History Of The Pasty (Pas-Tee)

Why “Dobber’s”?
Dobber’s Pasties has been in the family since it originally opened in Escanaba, Michigan in 1975, under the name of “The Red Onion Pasty Shop”.
In 1988, Doug and Bonnie Mantela decided to trademark their business, so they had to come up with a new name and logo. Doug’s nickname was “Dobber” so the business was trademarked under the name Dobber’s Pasties.
A Little Pasty History
For those unfamiliar with this delicious treat, it is pronounced “pass-tee”. The traditional pasty had beef, potatoes, onion, rutabaga, and turnip, baked inside a golden crust. The Cornish miners, known as “Cousin Jacks” and their wives as “Cousin Jennys”, are properly given the credit for bringing the pasty to the Upper Peninsula in the early 1850’s when both the copper and iron mines were first being opened. The version that arrived here in the 1850’s was a hearty and hot, hand-held “no dish” meal for miners who had no time to come above ground for lunch. Some miners reheated their pasties underground; others kept them at least body warm in a chest pocket. Others set their pasties on a mining shovel and held them over head-lamp candles until warmed.

Steve is cooking breakfast 
while I am working on the blog.... 

This is nice.


139 miles traveled today
1339 so far

Saturday, September 23, 2017

VACATION - Looping Around Lake Superior - Day 12 - BACK IN THE USA

Waking up at Pancake Bay, we knew it was gonna be a "HOT ONE" for the upcoming weather.  We found a Canadian analog news station (very fuzzy old reception) with local reports for the Sault Ste Marie area.  We had to make a decision if we wanted to stay there another day with electrical hookups for the air conditioning, or head out south and cross the border.

So this blog is about leaving number 17 
and getting to number 19

Starting out the day 12, when walking in the park, we noticed these great old telephone booths, still in use (cell signals are few and far between)   We were told that is why Superman never saves anyone anymore in the United States.... because we don't have  telephone booths left for him to change his clothes in! 

After our breakfast, I took a ride over to the tourist trap down the road to post my blog and check the weather into the UP of Michigan.  Hmmmmm  some evening thunderstorms were gonna come through the area we were camping in, but south of us it looked pretty good for the afternoon.  Just hot and muggy and humid. ick!

We decided to try to head out about 2 pm and hit the border around 3ish after dumping our tanks and  taking on fresh water before leaving the park. Here was our plan for the day:  leave at 17 and go to 19.

So before lunch, we took a ride around the area in the Tracker. We drove over to Batchawana Bay and checked out the day use picnic grounds there.  It was nice to see the wide shallow bay, but with the fog it was still hard to decipher the far out waters of Lake Superior on the horizon.

On the back to the campground, we stopped again at the tourist trap called Agawa Indian Gifts.  We looked around and saw nothing we needed. We had hoped to find something cute for the grandkids, but nothing really appealed to us.  It's a shame, but most of the so called "Indian Items" for sale were made in India, China, Mexico and the like.

Even a table full of woven rag rugs like I make myself, were tagged as if they were from Canada with big letters of Missassauga, like the Native Indian tribe---- but in smaller print was "made in India" .. the same with the blankets and other assorted crafty items.  Sigh.   I guess India and Indian mean the same in Canada?

But we were very fortunate to finally find a MOOSE! 

(we didn't say it had to be living, right? )

We started to pack up the motorhome and had it ready in half an hour. Suddenly over the high mountain range, in came a storm, blustering and blowing around as we were at the dump station, taking on fresh water and dumping our holding tanks.

I was thrilled to see this great old Winnebago pull up!  It's a 1974 Winnebago Brave.  I had a 1972 Winnebago Chieftain that I adored.  I chatted with the owner while Steve as doing the dump thing.  He said he bought it on a whim, as a topic around the campfire one night. It had been stored in a barn for the last 13 years.  He got it out and got it running. Being a carpenter by trade, he gutted it and retrofitted the inside with all new amenities.

He said his son in embarrassed to ride around in such an old rig... when everyone has a nice new shiny one.  But the son is finally "catching on" that it is something unique and different and gets attention.  He wants to know what it will be worth in 20 years when he grows up and inherits it!

 Our other entertainment at the dump station was a young man with a Cruise America Rental RV.  He had on his gloves and was hollering at his wife (who was safely hiding INSIDE the RV)  and she was tossing big stretches of paper towel out the door at him, as he was trying to wipe himself off.  I didn't take pics and didn't want to. We didn't hang around to watch the conclusion as we were rushing to get out of the park and south as the storm was coming down from the north.

The temps dropped fast as the storm blew in...  down to 71 degrees as we neared Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.   It would blast from time to time, and we had to fight some swirling winds. But each time we could pull ahead of it and get to dry pavement.

This is the location of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald ... 
it happened right out here between Batchawana and Agawa Bay.

ya know the part about:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'gitche gumee'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy

We were driving in the rain, and we would have made it all the way there ahead of the fast moving storm if we hadn't run into some road construction.  We had long waits with a long line of vehicles.  Once we got closer, we could see it was to rebuild the rocks and to haul away some that had fallen earlier that day.

 So now we knew why we had a back log on the only highway around Lake Superior. 

As we got close to the border, we decided to use up the rest of our Canadian cash at the Flying J to top off our fuel tank.  I know diesel is more expensive in Canada, but we wanted to get rid of the cash and it was too late to stop at a bank for exchange.  Soooooo we put $124 canadian cash into the tank and got back on the road through Sault Ste Marie Ontario.

We went along the truck route through town and then up over this big bridge.  In the middle is the border marked with flags from both countries.  They were working on repairs on the bridge too, so we had some delay there as well.

We crossed over the flag portion of the bridge at 5 pm eastern time...

At least this border was clearly marked what vehicles needed to use what lanes to enter the US. (not like entering Canada over on the Minnesota border 2 weeks ago)   we waited in a line as a couple semi trucks and cars mixed together.  There were lanes for cars only, pickup trucks, busses and all vehicles mixed.

The guy in the booth was having computer problems.  We handed over our passports as he was trying to troubleshoot on the phone with some tech person.  He asked us "where are you from" and "what is your license plate number"  that was it. Handed back the passports and we were good to go.

We pulled ahead to another row of toll booths to pay a toll to get back in the USA.  $12 and we were HOME!

We drove on south through Sault Ste Marie Michigan (yes, the city is the same name on both sides of the border)   and headed east on MI 28. This is all old familiar territory now for us, having my growing up all of my teenage years in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Yes, that makes me a YOOPER!

We drove into the Hiawatha National Forest and decided to stop at Soldier Lake. We had been here before, and it was getting to be a long day.  We found a great site, and backed right in. Comfortable and cozy, we made up some spaghetti supper and sprawled out on the lazyboy in front of the tv.  We could now pull in US stations and watch the local news for weather and happenings. It was an early beddy by time for both of us.

83 miles travelled today
1200 miles so far

Friday, September 22, 2017

VACATION - Looping Around Lake Superior - Day 11 Agawa Bay to Pancake Bay

PS I fixed the pics from yesterday and also fixed the dog video. If you want to go back and reread the blog here is the link:

Travel today from Agawa Bay to Pancake Bay, Ontario Canada

It was raining most of the night at Agawa Bay, and we woke to foggy conditions over the water. We could not see more than 20 feet out onto the bay... and everything was humid and damp. The water was calm and would have made for great pics if we could have seen further out across the water.

Over coffee, Steve and I took out the maps and laptop and calendar.  We have definately decided against rushing down through the Lower Peninsula of Michigan or taking the ferry across Lake Michigan that we had tentively planned. At our speed, we just aren't going to see enough stuff to justify the cost of the bridge toll, ferry fee at Ludington and extra mileage. We will save that for another trip.

Steve cooked us up a pancake breakfast with bacon and more coffee.  It sure was a nice view out of the window and some of the fog was beginning to lift.  We are getting into a nice routine of a later breakfast and that holds us over until supper.  Then we are not stopping during travelling time to make a lunch.

We hopped in the Tracker with the dogs and took a jaunt over to Frater Station. We had gone there 20 years ago to nose around and it was a very narrow rough gravel road.  Now it's a little wider, but still pretty rough.  It's about 10-15 miles away from the highway.  This train station is used for a pick up and drop off point for hikers, canoers, fourwheelers and snowmobilers in the winter.  At any point on the train tracks, they can flag down the train, it will stop and let them load up on the flat cars. Then they can ride to the next station down the line and pay a fare.  Sometimes people leave their vehicles at this defunct station to load up again, or to depart from, as the train ambles through.

About 10 years ago, Steve and I rode that very same train as passengers from the station in Sault Ste Marie Canada up to the Agawa Canyon for a day trip. That is how we know about it stopping to load up and unload the people from the wilderness. It did stop a LOT so the train was never on a scheduled time. LOL... but we did ride past the Frater Station back then too. Kinda the reason we wanted to drive back there today on the road again.  Someone has been fixing up the buildings and added a propane tank and cleaned things up a bit. So maybe they stay there sometimes or the railroad now rents it out?

We bounced along in our little Tracker.  It moves along like a little billy goat.  Pretty handy because the dogs can ride along, compared to the Honda Helix scooter we used to ride together.  Plus... the Tracker has air conditioning, which we needed on this humid damp icky morning.

We came back to the Agawa campground for a little while to walk up and down the beach in between raindrops.  I picked up some pretty rocks to do a project with... more on that later. Just a few rocks, NOT like Lucy and Ricky in the Long Long Trailer movie!

We got roadworthy and I carried over our leftover campfire wood to our neighbors. They were from Lower Michigan but knew a lot of the places in the Upper Peninsula that I knew... plus they were looping around Laker Superior in the other direction.  Steve carefully moved the motorhome forward out of our narrow campsite, and hooked up the Tracker in the main parking area.  Tested, double checked, and good to go.

Not a huge driving day, I think we are just going as far as Pancake Bay, about 35 miles down the shoreline.  It's all pretty country, but we are missing the views from the gloomy weather surrounding us.  I think if we hang out a day or two here, the weather will clear and we can enjoy a bit more before we leave Canada via Sault Ste Marie.

We got to Pancake Bay and it was still overcast and humid... the temps were rising up in the afternoon.  The office to register for a campsite was closed, with a sign saying not open until 4 pm until 7 pm for check-ins.  We saw a few park workers doing shrubbery trimming near the entrance and one young man came over to talk to us.  He said that we could self register at the pay post, but if you wanted to use a credit card, you could pick a site, occupy it, and wait till 4 pm to register it. They are no longer taking reservations at this late in the season, so you are not taking anyone's reserved site, (the park closes on Oct. 10 anyhow).

The prices here are higher by about $5 for each type of site,  plus they have "prime sites" along the water that are even higher than the regular sites. The prices range from $42 to $51 a night (canadian $)  There are 325 sites throughout the entire long stretched out park!  We unhooked the Tracker and got permission from the worker to leave our motorhome at the entrance gate, blocking one of the three lanes. There isn't any parking areas for RV's anywhere, so we were concerned about blocking the lane. We drove around the park with our little map, marking off sites we liked. We chose to take a non-electric site by the water that was very nice. #238

We got all set up on the site and it was very nice.... we took a walk around with the dogs and visited with a few folks here and there.

Our dogs met up with a super HUGE sheltie named Fergus (actually he is a collie)...  his bark was just like our old Duchess, and we enjoyed petting a big wriggly furball who wanted his butt scratched.

The fall colors are more vibrant here, with gorgeous reds, oranges, yellows and rust.

By 4pm we went over to the gatehouse and registered and the gal inside was very nice and friendly. She mentioned rain and possible storms coming and pointed to her printout of the weather that was posted on the door.  It wasn't too current, just a week worth of weather at a time. Once we paid for the site, we buzzed over to the nearby tourist trap where there was free wifi and checked the weather again.  Rut Roh... not only possible rain in a few days, but high high heat and humidity coming tomorrow, up to high 80's and very very humid!

Hmmmmm what to do?  We drove back to the gatehouse and asked if we chose an electric site (so we could run the air conditioner) would it be a problem and could we pay the difference?  She smiled and said no problem at all!  Just chose a different site (electric  this time) and come on back with our original papers and she will take care of it, toot sweet.  We drove around and found a nice site with just as nice of a view, number #112, and drove right back to the gatehouse. And she did take care of it easily with a few strokes of the keyboard!   $6.00 more and we were good for the upcoming heatwave.  If we want it for another day, we can just go back at 4pm tomorrow and pay again.

This is SO strange weather for later September around any of the Great Lakes to have this kind of weather. EWWWWWW Heat and Humidity are not a good combination for me, after damaging my lungs and being on oxygen for so many years. I am not now, but that kind of weather does drain me down fast.

We put our tag on the post of 112 and then rushed over to pack up the rig quick and move. We only had out the lawn chairs and a few things on the counter, so it was easy to get "road worthy" and move over to the new site.  Steve drove through it and then manuvered the rig sideways, getting us the most optimum view possible from all the windows down the length of our rig.

Tonight's feast was salmon on the grill.  We are SO glad we were able to take along all our own frozen meat from home in the ample freezer inside of our motorhome. We are eating from our own home groceries and stores we are familiar with. We get these wild caught salmon planks are from the local Piggly Wiggly store near our home, and we like cooking them on a special rack over the grill. The salmon can be flipped to let the fats ooze out and then flipped back to finish cooking. No gooey white stuff on the surface of the salmon that way.

We moved our lawn chairs out onto the beach to watch the evening fall. We settled back in our chairs to watch the water and see the sun beginning to set.  The little sand gnats are pesty as well as some of the black flies (which bite!)  We set out a Thermocell between our chairs and sat in comfort without any buggy intruders.

The waves calmed down to almost a glass like surface, which again is strange for Lake Superior.  I did this cool panoramic picture with my cell phone that kinda captured the feeling of the evening.

 This little seagull, Jonathan, came to visit us!

Soon the sun was inching over to the far western horizon. I snapped a zillion pics of it as it sunk down in the sky... but here are the best ones.

 (this one is for you, Linda G.) 

We headed inside and I decided to bake some brownies (Steve's favorite) in the oven before we went to bed. That way I would not heat up the rig tomorrow during the day, and he could have his snack on hand.  While he hung out relaxing, I was working on this blog and baking the brownies.
We did tune in a single station (analog, not even digital) on the tv, hoping for more local weather or news. Nope, it was only a sub station of old reruns of Big Bang ... and even at 9 and again at 10 it was still older reruns and no local news programming.  We turned on the radio but didn't find any local weather either. In the morning I plan to run over to the tourist trap to use the wifi and check for the weather and also post this blog.

46 miles traveled today
1117 miles traveled so far