Our initial plan was to go to the Hovenweep ruins as we headed west, so we went south to a very nice campsite on the edge of the Rio Grande to catch up on chores and evaluate the tales of heat that we were hearing from the news and friends in the west. After considerable research, we decided that this was not the year to head west and that the Upper Peninsula of Michigan sounded like a better idea. So, we retraced our steps and, after another night spent outside Leadville, we headed north-east to a town campground in Brush, Colorado. Surviving this night proved our decision was wise. It was hot, over 100F, and the Blue cat was so distressed that we had to hold him under the tap and cool him off in front of his personal fan. All the while, our air-conditioning labored to bring the temperature down to 85F inside the camper. It was an unpleasant evening, and we were happy to continue heading north the next day.
Moving on into Nebraska and Iowa, we again used Harvest Hosts for some fascinating overnights. The Anchor Meadow Farm in Milford, Nebraska, raises a specialized breed of pig and chickens and we enjoyed roaming, watching the evening feeding as all the pigs rushed to the meadow fence at 5:00 PM. (Be impressed; our first attempt at embedding a video.)
Blue cat met chickens for the first time and was not impressed. Our generous hosts gave us power for the night and we enjoyed a night of air-conditioning. The meat and eggs we purchased were wonderful. While in Nebraska we stopped at the Homestead National Monument. Who knew that homesteading started with Abraham Lincoln and continued until 1969? Quite fascinating.
In Iowa, we stayed at the Wolf Creek Trail Ranch in Anthon, where it was wonderfully cool at last! We also enjoyed a highly caloric visit to Le Mars, Iowa, Ice-Cream Capital of the World, and specifically to the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor. Every Blue Bunny flavor was in view and the number of sundaes and milk shakes available quite made it difficult to choose. But we did, and sat down to enjoy it! It was well worth the visit!
On into Minnesota, we saw our first lake at the Split Rock Creek State Park in Jasper, Minnesota. Well, it is supposedly the land of 10,000 lakes and we did see many more! The state park was small and pleasant, and we enjoyed our stay. We admired the Prairie Hill, which inspired the park’s creation, and which is believed to be an authentic prairie hillside. We visited the Pipestone National Monument nearby, the source of sacred red pipestone quarried by many Indian tribes for making pipes.
We wandered the trail, admired the quarry rock face, the prairie area and visited the waterfall.
Fred marveled at the inscription left in the 1800’s.
We made a brief stop in New Ulm, Minnesota, in search of German food. We were not particularly successful, but but we visited the Hermann (Arminius – hero or villain of the Teutoburg Forest victory/massacre ) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Teutoburg_Forest) Fans of the TV series “Barbarians” will know at least one version of the story. New Ulm was a “Turner” community, founded by German socialists in the wake of the revolutions of 1848. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Ulm,_Minnesota) We visited the Carillion and the Hermann Heights monument.
Our next stop was Minneapolis so Denise could ride the river boat at Sweetwater. We ended up taking a most pleasant evening supper cruise and even found a parking lot beside the river where we could park to ride our bicycles.
We returned the following day and, as rain threatened, we rode across the new bridge into Wisconsin, took the bike trail back to the old bridge, and crossed back to Sweetwater for a pleasant outdoor lunch. We got back to the truck and loaded up just as the rain began!
Our next stop was to be Duluth but we were unable to get a camping reservation for the Saturday night, so we headed back into Wisconsin for another winery stay, this time with live music. We should have stayed here in the first place!
We continued to Duluth on Sunday to the Waterfront RV Parking at the Lakehead Boat Basin. (http://www.lakeheadboatbasin.com/rv.html) This proved to be a wonderful find, a marina with RV parking on the water. During the winter, the space is used to store boats, but in summer it was an amazingly pleasant little park.
Our stay included a great Italian meal, bike rides along the lake, and lots of ore carriers going through the raising bridge with loud horns on both the bridge and the passing ships.
A couple went through at 5 AM which was exciting. We loved it!
Duluth has lovely gardens, with a view of the harbor and a peace bell from Japan. (https://explorationvacation.net/enger-park-gardens-duluth-minnesota/)
We never pass up a railroad museum. Duluth’s museum is a bit different as it has exhibits dedicated to all of the women, wives and fiancées, who came as immigrants to join their husbands and boyfriends working in the mines. They were detained at the station until someone came to pick them up. And, of course, great trains from different ages.
We had decided to come to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (UP) seeking cooler weather. But, without camping reservations. This proved to be a bit challenging, and we found ourselves constrained by reservation options. All the State Parks and most of the town camping parks were full. But it all worked out. As Canada was still closed, we headed east to Ontonagon Township Park, where the campsite assured us that if there was a space available, they would save one for us! A little nerve racking but we drove there as quickly as possible with our fingers crossed. And indeed, we were given a space, not beside the lake, but close by in the forest. We biked into the town a couple of times and had a great visit to the Adventure Mining Company copper mine in Greenland. (http://www.ontonagon.net/adventuremine/) It was our first visit to a copper mine, and we learned all about it! Amazing to consider that the copper can actually be too pure and the nuggets too large.
We made a brief stop in Marquette for a wonderful Mexican lunch on the deck overlooking the town, a visit to the first ore dock, the one that established the standards for ore transport on the lakes.
We then drove on to our next stop, Munising. We had managed to get a reservation for several nights, including July 4, at the KOA campground, albeit in two different sites. The weather was still quite hot, but the sites were fairly shady, and we were able to keep Blue cool. Munising proved to be a great base and we enjoyed our time there. The only pity is that the campground was on a narrow, very busy two-lane road with rumble strips on the shoulders, which made us reluctant to use the bicycles.
Two boat rides, one to look at various wrecked boats and another one to view the Pictured Rocks National Park from the water were fun. (Click for captions and full size images.)
The boat ride to the Pictured Rocks proved to be the right choice as you cannot really see the colors from the cliff tops. (https://www.nps.gov/piro/index.htm) We also visited a waterfall or two and enjoyed miniature golf for the first time in years. The ice-cream shop at the miniature golf course sold us an ice-cream flight which was a wonderful idea! We also tried the local specialty, a pasty, which we found rather heavy. We much prefer the ones sold in Devon and Cornwall in the UK. On the other hand, we loved the white lake fish and chips we bought from a food truck(!) – it was simply amazing.
Fred wanted to go to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point. And as we did not want to drive there and back, we found a most interesting campground called Kritter’s Northcountry Campground. (https://www.northcountrycampground.com/ ) Although full, they agreed to give us a tent site, so before our arrival there, we seized the day to visit the Seul Choix Lighthouse. (http://www.greatlakelighthouse.com/) Unfortunately, the ghosts took the day off, but it was a most interesting visit and we climbed to the top of the tower to admire the view.
We also went to Palms Book State Park near Manistique, where a Big Spring (Kitch-iti-kipi) has a large raft which can be moved across and back by means of a large wheel and some tourist muscle power. (https://www.michigan.org/property/palms-book-state-park)
We were early enough to walk onto the raft though by the time we left there was a considerable line. (Did we mention the crowds everywhere?)
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum has displays of various shipwrecks including the Edmund Fitzgerald, which has always interested Fred because of the song by Gordon Lightfoot. We were there nice and early and were absolutely stunned by the number of people who found their way to it.
By the time we left, it was packed with people and parking was difficult. (https://www.shipwreckmuseum.com/) (And yes, the Edmund Fitzgerald is still sunk.) We then wanted to visit the Taquamenon Falls and could not even get into the State Park, let alone park there. Cars were lined up on the entry road outside. It was becoming clear that after the July 4 holiday, tourism had increased in the area and that it was time for us to head south and home. Also, the weather had turned rainy and cold, and we crossed the Mackinaw Bridge, saying goodbye to the UP.
We stopped in Petoskey, Michigan to spend the night at the Boyne Valley Vineyards. (https://boynevalleyvineyards.com/) What an amazing place! Our designated camping spot was deep in the woods and we happened to hit the night when the Petoskey High School Alumni Steel Band was performing. So, not only did we enjoy tasting great wine and flatbread, but we got to hear a wonderful concert (and a free hotdog!). Altogether an amazing experience. Oh, and the wine was good as well.
We stopped off at the Historic White Pine Village and had a great time learning about the lumber industry and chatting with Civil War reenactors. (https://historicwhitepinevillage.org/)
After another night spent at Christofferson Fruit Farms in nearby Ludington, we continued south to the Detroit area, where Fred had plans to visit a guitar playing friend.
Running early, we stopped off at an outlet mall for some shopping. As we were leaving the clutch suddenly dropped right to the floor – we were immobile. Panicked telephone calls to our mechanic friends (Thank you, Rob!) ensued. Worse, all of the local tow companies told us that, as it was a Saturday night, tows weren’t available. In the middle of all of this, a gentleman walked up and said that he owned an expedition camper company, about a mile away. His company turned out to be Adventure Mobil and he had even visited our Tiger at a show some years ago. (https://www.advmobil.com/) Would we like some help?
Would we? We jumped at the kind offer. So, his friend, visiting from Tennessee quickly pulled the cab apart and diagnosed the problem as a small, broken piece of plastic in the clutch linkage. What to do? “Oh, I’m good at speed shifting, I’ll just drive the truck to the shop and we can fabricate a new piece.” And he was a good as his word. Denise was impressed, hills and crossing a four-lane road notwithstanding, he only stalled once. (Fred is now practicing speed shifting!) Once at the shop, the troops turned to and, in an hour or so, had fabricated a replacement part out of a billet of aluminum – even stronger than the original! As they refused any payment, we took the troops out to dinner.
After the repairs were finished, they offered us a wonderful overnight camping spotand we all settled in for a snooze. Sometimes the overland gods are kind!
From there we made our way home.