Category Archives: Michigan

No Overnight Parking

Monday was our last full day at Addison Oaks County Park in Oakland Township, Michigan (map). We still had Bill Frahm’s Nissan SUV and took advantage of that by running out to Costco. We wanted to buy bottled water and coffee and also replenish our supply of Traeger hardwood pellets for the wood pellet smoker/grill.

At the Costco on Brown Road, we found Traeger smoker/grills for sale but no pellets. When I asked an employee, I was told they don’t have them – they only had them when the Traeger Road Show Team was demo’ing the product. Huh? You have the grill for sale but don’t carry the pellets necessary to use the grill?

After we left Costco, Donna used her phone to look for other possibilities to pick up pellets. It showed Home Depot carrying them. We made a roundabout trip following directions on Donna’s phone which circled us around to within a quarter mile of Costco – after four miles of driving.

We went to the grill section of the store and the guy told us wood pellets were seasonal and they didn’t have them now. What? It’s grilling season, right? He was talking about heating pellets, not cooking pellets. Next, Donna found hardwood pellets on her phone at Target. She phoned the nearest Target and asked if they had them – they said yes. Target was right across the street. Once there, we couldn’t find them. Donna asked a woman – who happened to be the one she talked to on the phone and the woman showed us hickory chunks for smoking. No pellets. It appears to be a regional thing. Wood pellet cooking isn’t big in the upper midwest. It’s common in the south and also in the northwest and northeast from what I can gather on the forums.

After we came back, Donna went to Rochester to wash Bill’s SUV and fill the tank with gas. I spent the rest of the afternoon packing the trailer and making us ready for travel. When Donna returned, her friend Jo from our old neighborhood in Rochester Hills came over. Jo had her arm in a sling due to a fall. Donna and Jo went out for an hour-long walk.

Donna and Jo

Donna and Jo

Tuesday morning, Ozark the cat had me up at 6am. She was playing with her toys and running the length of the coach. I wanted to be up early anyway, but Donna was sleeping soundly. I read until Donna woke up at 7am.  It was 9am before we were ready to roll though РI was hoping for an earlier start.

I skipped the dump station on the way out – Donna was following in Bill’s Nissan SUV. I wanted to get down to Troy and return Bill’s car as early as possible. By the time we returned his car and said our thanks and until next time, it was 10am. My plan was to use the dump station at Cabela’s in Dundee.

The route to Cabela’s took us west to US23 before heading south toward Ohio. This was a loop since we wanted to head east through Ohio. But I wanted to buy a couple of things at Cabela’s and they have a free dump station. Also, the last time I went down I-75 from Detroit to Toledo, the rough road surface nearly shook my fillings out. US23 is a much nicer road. When we used the dump station, I saw a sign stating it won’t be free much longer. New card readers are being installed to charge a $5 dump fee.

We had lunch at the restaurant in Cabela’s, then I found a pair of Teva flip-flops I wanted and we also found – wait for it – hardwood pellets. They’re packaged as Cabela’s brand but I’ll wager that Traeger is the source. They had several different hardwood blends. I bought 20 pounds of hickory and 20 pounds of their competition blend.

Back on the road, I programmed Nally (our Rand McNally RVND7720 GPS) to avoid toll roads and take us to Canandaigua, NY. There was no way we would reach Canandaigua in one day, but that was our next destination. Our route kept us off the Ohio turnpike and on fairly nice highways through farmland and woods once we were past Toledo.

US20 took us to a non-toll section of I-90 through Cleveland. I motored on and we decided to hit a Walmart parking lot in Erie, Pennsylvania. Before we left Ohio, I stopped at a Pilot/Flying J travel center and filled our tank. I knew fuel is much more expensive in Pennsylvania and New York. I paid $2.72/gallon in Ohio. In Pennsylvania, we saw diesel fuel priced at $3.39/gallon. We covered 340 miles by the time we parked at Walmart. It was a longer day than I usually drive. Ozark was quite the traveling kitty. She took to her crate without too much fuss and didn’t protest much on the drive.

Tuesday morning we pulled out of Walmart around 8:30am after I ate a breakfast sandwich from the Subway shop in the Walmart. Our plan was to head to Canandaigua on the north end of Canandaigua Lake in the Finger Lakes Region of New York (map). Donna had planned to meet up with her old college roommate, Kathy. Kathy thought we could fit our rig alongside her house in the village of Canandaigua. Along the way on I-86, the traffic was very light. A murder of crows were on the road ahead. One of them made a rare miscalculation – crows are usually very sharp. He flew up in front of us but didn’t account for our height correctly and I’m afraid our front cap meant his demise as he bounced forcefully off of it. Birds are fragile with hollow bones – I don’t think the collision was survivable.

Once we got to Kathy’s street, I could see it wouldn’t work. She may have enough room by her house, but the street was too narrow for me to maneuver and back the trailer in. I programmed the Walmart in town in the GPS and we continued on. The GPS took us northwest then told me to make a U-turn.

I saw a turn lane ahead marked for U-turns and the road on the other side was two lanes wide. I over-estimated the width of the median – the turn lane angled and once I initiated the turn, I realized I made an error. It wasn’t a wide enough highway for me to complete the U-turn. I stopped short of the grassy shoulder on the opposite side of the road and backed-up a few feet. The trailer would jackknife if I went back any further. I worked it back and forth a couple of times, blocking both lanes of the road.

There was a steel reflector post on the edge of the grass on my left and a tree to the right. I shot the gap and pulled our rig onto the grassy shoulder without hitting anything and cleared the roadway. I was praying the earth beneath the grass was stable enough to support the weight of our coach. After taking a few seconds to compose myself, I waited for a break in the traffic and merged back onto the highway.

Fifteen minutes later, we found the Walmart. As I pulled in, I saw signs prohibiting overnight parking. Walmart’s corporate policy is to allow RVers to park overnight. Local ordinances trump this policy. In touristy areas, local councils often enact these ordinances presumably at the urging of local RV parks and resorts. The fallacy in this is most RVs in a Walmart lot are only passing through. They aren’t going to spend big bucks at a resort. They will spend some money in the Walmart store though.

After a frustrating search for an overnight spot, we resigned ourselves to the fact we had no choice for dry camping if we were to stay in the area. I found a site at the Bristol Woodlands Campground. It really irks me to pay for a full hook-up 50 amp site when I’m only wishing for a place to spend one night and don’t need to hook up.

Having said that, I should add that this is a nice park with roomy sites. Getting here was an adventure though. We left Canandaigua and drove about 20 minutes through rural countryside. It was very hilly and steep in places. The road to the campground is unpaved for the last mile and signed for no vehicles over 10 tons.

This had me worried. It was a narrow dirt road with no easy way to turn around. We are 17 tons. I was hoping we would find the park before we had to cross a bridge or culvert that wasn’t rated for our weight. We found the campground and at check-in, the manager told me not to worry. He doesn’t understand the sign. There’s no bridge and he said no one pays attention to the sign.

We were assigned a long back-in site, long enough to accommodate our 56′ length without dropping the trailer. There were two issues though. The water and power are located at the rear of the site. I had to back way in, putting the trailer on the grass below the grade of the site. The second issue is the slope. The site slopes downhill from front to back. I had to jack the rear to full extension and we’re still not level. It’s close enough and it’ll do for one night. I had my 50′ power cord fully extended and it just barely reached the pedestal.

Roomy site with a long run to the pedestal

Roomy site with a long run to the pedestal

Beautiful park with lots of room, but not level

Beautiful park with lots of room, but not level

Donna’s friend Kathy and her daughter Kierra came over and picked Donna up around 4:30pm. I hung back in the coach to write most of this post and tend to all of the insect bites I have from Sunday night at Addison Oaks. The mosquitos really skewered me and I’m suffering from it.

Wednesday was the first day since I-don’t know-when that we drove without the roof air conditioners running. We’re now at an altitude if 1,500 feet and can sleep with windows open.

Today we’ll head toward Albany and maybe find a dry camping spot around Skaneateles (map).

Potluck With Friends

Although a few dark clouds passed overhead yesterday, no rain fell and the weather radar app didn’t show any precipitation in the area. So around 11am, I rode the scooter to Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market and bought three racks of baby back ribs and some “Rub with Love” dry pork rub.

I removed the thin membrane from the bone side of the ribs and applied about one and a half tablespoons of dry rub to each side of the racks. I piled them together, re-wrapped them in butcher paper and put them in the refrigerator around noon.

Our friends Bill and Cindy Davey arrived just as I was firing up the Traeger wood pellet smoker/grill a little before 2pm. It was hot and very humid outside – upper 80s. We sat and visited for a while, then Bill unloaded their hybrid electric bicycles. These bikes have electric motors and 48-volt lithium-ion batteries. I took a spin on Cindy’s 1,000-watt bike. You can let the motor do all the work by twisting the right hand grip or you can pedal with motor assist. I pedaled away, then increased the power assist on the controller and did a quick, effortless lap around the campsite area. Bill’s bike has even more power with a 1,500-watt motor.

Around 4pm, our friends Keith and Julie Burk showed up with their daughter Alayna. Keith and I worked together from 2009 until I retired and had a lot of fun times together.

More old friends arrived and we tried to find shade for all the chairs. Everyone sat and talked for a while, then at 5pm I took the ribs off the grill. While I was cutting the ribs, the rest of the feast – pasta, salads and fruit bowls – were spread on the picnic table. The potluck was on.

Visiting in the shade

Visiting in the shade

My friends and former colleagues Allen Hutchinson and Justin Rose showed up in time for the food. Justin and his wife Jen just got back from a week-long trip to Chicago with their two young sons in tow. I think we had about 15 people around the table by then.

Justin, Keith and Ironman Allen

Justin, Keith and Ironman Allen

The food was fabulous, the baby back ribs were a hit and once again, the Traeger made it easy. The beer flowed along with conversation. It was fun catching up with the guys and hearing stories about life back at the office. I haven’t thought much about work since I retired two years ago. Back then, I said the only thing I would miss is some of the people – and that’s held true.

I broke out the bottle of Dragons Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout from New Holland Brewing. The bourbon was obvious and maybe a little bit too forward in the 9% ABV beer.

Dragon's Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout

Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout

The crew

The VW crew

The time passed much too quickly. As the evening drew on, people began packing up to head home. It was well past 9pm when Donna I cleaned up the picnic table and came inside.

Once again, Ozark provided amusement before we went to bed. She was intent on stalking and catching a fly that found its way into the coach.

Ozark intent on catching a fly

Ozark waiting to ambush a fly

Today we should have good weather – not quite as hot as yesterday. I’ll pack the trailer, remove the tire covers and windshield cover and check tire pressures in preparation for travel tomorrow. I want to head out early as we have to hit the dump station on the way out. Our first stop will be in Troy where we’ll return Bill’s vehicle. I don’t know where we’ll end up tomorrow night – we’ll see what comes up down the road. I won’t post tomorrow.

 

Sudden Shower

Weather guesser is an appropriate term in southeast Michigan. Yesterday’s forecast called for zero percent chance of rain until late afternoon when there was a slight possibility of scattered showers.

Donna drove over to Stony Creek Metropark (map) in the morning to meet up with some girls to rent stand-up paddleboards on the lake. She took her bike along in the back of Bill’s SUV which we still have. She planned to ride with Bill after paddleboarding. Then she wanted to shop at Vince and Joe’s Gourmet grocery afterwards, since it’s close to Stony Creek Metropark.

I had a few errands to run, so I headed out on the scooter. I rode through downtown Rochester where the roads are under construction, creating traffic jams in every direction. I went to Petsmart and bought more food for Ozark. For a little cat, she sure can eat. Then I went to Barnes and Noble and picked up a few more Vince Flynn novels. I’m hooked on the Mitch Rapp series of thrillers.

I made another stop at CVS pharmacy, then went to Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market on the way back. I’d like to know who Joe is. Around here there’s Trader Joe’s, Vince and Joe’s and also Papa Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is nationwide, but the other two Joe’s are local and very upscale.

Papa Joe's Gourmet Market

Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market

I checked out the baby back ribs at Papa Joe’s, thinking if the weather holds out, I’ll buy them on Sunday to grill for our potluck bash. I also found a 22-ounce bottle of Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout that will go well with barbeque ribs.

I came home and heated up leftovers for lunch. Suddenly the sun was blocked out by clouds and it was dark out. I looked at the weather radar app on my phone. A line of thunderstorms stretching from the southwest to the northeast was almost on top of us! I went out and covered the scooter and picked up a few things on the picnic table. I brought them inside just as the rain began to fall. We had a real downpour! So much for zero chance of rain for the day.

Donna texted me from Vince and Joe’s – she spent an hour shopping there and said she was in heaven! It rained there and she wondered if we had rain here. By then, the storm had passed and it was sunny again.

Donna came home with a porterhouse steak. I seasoned the steak and wanted to try grilling it on the Traeger smoker/grill. The thing is, the Traeger doesn’t provide direct heat like I would normally use to grill a steak. It’s all indirect convection heat. This makes it difficult to get grill marks and any charring on the surface of the meat. It’s arguably healthier not to char the meat, but that’s what makes a grilled steak so tasty.

I had an idea. I turned the grill on high and put a cast iron skillet inside while I had potatoes baking. After a while I added the steak to the 450-degree grill.

Cast iron skillet, potatoes and steak

Cast iron skillet, potatoes and steak

After cooking with the lid closed for eight minutes, I placed the steak in the hot cast iron skillet. My plan was to flip it after two minutes and try to get a little char from the radiant heat of the cast iron skillet. I made a big mistake though. After I closed the lid, the temperature didn’t rise in the grill, it began to fall. I hadn’t stirred the pellets in the hopper and as the pellet supply went down, they formed a bridge over the auger and quit feeding. My fire was out! I stirred the pellets and got it restarted, but my skillet experiment was ruined. The steak came out okay, but I’ll have to try this again and see if I can perfect the technique.

Steak and potatoes hot off the grill

Steak and potatoes hot off the grill

Donna steamed asparagus and sauteed mushrooms and onions to accompany the steak and potatoes.

Steak under sauteed mushrooms and onions with roasted potato and steamed asparagus

Steak under sauteed mushrooms and onions with roasted potato and steamed asparagus

After dinner, Ozark the cat amused us with her antics. She loves to bat the parchment paper toy Donna made. She also tosses and chases the little catnip-filled mouse toys I bought. I put a little dried catnip on her scratching post and she attacked it. Finally she wore down and seemed a bit dazed by the catnip.

Ozark dazed by the catnip

Ozark dazed by the catnip

The weather forecast for today went from 60% chance of rain on yesterday’s prediction to 35% chance of rain by last night. This morning they say 0% chance of rain, but we know how that went yesterday. I’m hoping they got it right today so we can have guests join us for the potluck picnic we have planned. I’ll head out to Papa Joe’s and pick up the ribs around noon if the weather still looks promising.

Weather Permitting

The heavy rain quit falling by 9am yesterday. The day remained overcast with occasional showers. Donna went shopping in the afternoon and made stops at a pet store, CVS and Trader Joe’s. Our plan for a picnic dinner with the Bates family was on hold due to the inclement weather.

Around 3:30pm, Donna sent me a text saying it was sunny in Rochester (map). I replied that the sun was shining here at Addison Oaks County Park also. The weather radar looked good, so the planned picnic was on. Donna made a stop at Bush’s Grocery and bought a family pack of eight chicken leg quarters. She also bought 6 ears of fresh corn.

When she got home, she rinsed the quarters and patted them dry, then lightly coated them with olive oil. Then she sprinkled Traeger powdered chicken seasoning on them.

Chicken leg quarters seasoned and ready to grill

Chicken leg quarters seasoned and ready to grill

I fired up the Traeger wood pellet grill and preheated it for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. I arranged the chicken on the grill at 5:30pm – eight chicken leg quarters are the limit for our 300-square-inch grill!

Jason, Danielle and two of their sons, Evan and Austin arrived around 6:00pm. Evan’s twin brother Noah wasn’t with them, he was at his grandma’s house. We met Danielle Bates when we first moved to Michigan in 2009 and have always enjoyed getting together with her family.

At 6:20pm, I began soaking the corn in the husk in a pail of water. I like to soak the corn for 15-20 minutes before I grill it. It helps to keep the husk from burning and the corn gets steamed in the husk on the grill. I put the corn on the Weber Q gas grill and let it cook for 20 minutes over medium heat. I also basted the chicken quarters with a honey-maple dressing we bought last summer at the farmers’ market in Coeur d’Alene and closed the lid for the final 15 minutes of cook time.

The corn was done about the time I took the chicken off the Traeger.

Grilled chicken leg quarters

Grilled chicken leg quarters

Shucking the husk from the hot ears of corn is always like playing a game of hot potato!

Slathering butter on hot freshly shucked corn

Slathering butter on hot freshly shucked corn

Jason brought a couple of bottles of Lagunitas Sucks Brown Sugga Substitute ale. It was tasty and just the thing for a barbeque picnic. The chicken was so tender and delicious. The meat fell from the bone and the dressing glazed perfectly without charring. Cooking on the Traeger wood pellet grill is too easy. I love it!

Donna, Danielle, Austin, Jason and Evan

Donna, Danielle, Austin, Jason and Evan

We enjoyed the meal and company at the picnic table. After dinner, Jason and I had Mackinac Island Fudge Stout from Arbor Brewing for dessert. The kids went to the playground and we sat and talked well into the night. It was a very enjoyable time. Donna and I were happy to have the chance to visit with them.

Today the weather guessers are calling for a high of 91 degrees with humidity above 60%.

 

A Riveting Tale

In my last post, I mentioned how hard the water is here at Addison Oaks County Park (map). It left water spots and streaks after I washed the coach on Wednesday. After writing that post, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I got the ladder out and a couple of clean microfiber cloths and went at it with a waterless cleaner call The Solution.

While I was working on the finish, going up and down the ladder, Donna went for a power walk. She walked about five miles and got her 10,000 steps. I cleaned about 3/4 of the coach by the time she came back. I took a break and we had lunch. I kicked back for about 20 minutes and finished the Vince Flynn novel I was reading before I went back to work cleaning. It took about three hours to get the job done. The water spots were stubborn in places.

Sometimes when we’re rolling down the road, I hear a rhythmic rattling sound on the right front of the coach. It only happens when we’re driving on concrete slab with expansion joints that set up a certain frequency. While I was cleaning, I noticed a side panel on the right front beneath the compartment for the HWH hydraulic reservoir and pump had play in it. This body panel had two rivets holding the trailing edge to the frame. The rivets were worn and loose. I could grab the panel and rock it back and forth and hear the same sound I heard on the road.

I got a few tools out of the trailer and went to work. I drilled out the old rivets with my cordless drill.

Upper rivet drilled out

Upper rivet drilled out

About this time, Donna was leaving for her hair appointment. When we knew for sure when we would be in the area, she made an appointment with the stylist she used to go to when we lived here. After her hair appointment, she planned to drive to Harrison Township for a meet up with a swap group she established a few years ago. Donna didn’t expect to be home until after 9pm, so I was on my own.

Back to my task. After drilling out the old rivets, I set up my pop rivet tool. Blind rivets are commonly called pop rivets – this is because the original manufacturer was POP. Pop rivets are tubular with a mandrel through the center. You insert the mandrel into the tool and push the rivet into the holes on the parts you are joining. The tool pulls the mandrel, expanding the rivet and flaring the back side until it clamps itself in place. The mandrel then snaps off, leaving the rivet in place.

Pop rivet tool and rivet

Pop rivet tool and rivet

Rivet mandrel inserted into tool

Rivet mandrel inserted into tool

After installing the new rivets, the panel is now held firmly in place. This should prevent the rattling sound.

New rivets in place

New rivets in place

After I put my tools away, I rode the scooter to the store a few miles from here. I found local IPA brewed by the Rochester Mills Beer Company in 16-ounce cans. I brought a four-pack home and tried it. It doesn’t have the balance and mouth-feel of good west coast IPA. It had a grainy flavor – not malty, but a thin grain aftertaste.

Cornerstone IPA, Rochester Mills Beer Co

Cornerstone IPA, Rochester Mills Beer Co

Maybe it’s the can that’s influencing the taste. I’ve had it on tap at their brew pub before and liked it. They also have a milkshake stout that I liked before and I’ll have to try it next time.

Before Donna left, she gave me a quick lesson on how to preheat the convection oven and set the cook temperature and time. I planned to reheat one of the frozen pasties we picked up in the U.P. for dinner. It occurred to me that our Traeger smoker/grill is also a convection oven. Why use the indoor microwave/convection oven when I could fire up the Traeger outdoors and maybe also add some smoky flavor to the pasty?

Pre-cooked frozen pasty

Pre-cooked frozen pasty

Heating up the Traeger

Heating up the Traeger

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

I had the pasty on the grill for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. It came out perfect, but didn’t retain as much smoky flavor as I thought it would.

Donna got home after 10pm. It was bedtime for me.

Donna's new do

Donna’s new do

This morning, I woke up to the sound of thunder and rain drumming on the roof at 7am. There goes a half day’s work cleaning the coach!

Weather radar this morning

Weather radar this morning

The rain has stopped now and I hope it bypasses us this afternoon. We want to grill dinner with our friends Jason and Danielle Bates and their sons. The current forecast shows a 50% chance of rain this afternoon. Our plan B is to meet up for pizza.

Cat House

I got Donna’s bike out of the trailer and aired up the tires before our friend Bill Frahm picked up Donna around 11am. They drove to the parking lot at Onyx skate rink where the Macomb Orchard Trail passes through to start their 20-mile bike ride on the paved trail.

I got my wash bucket and 75-foot hose out and went to work getting the road grime off the coach and trailer. Driving through thunderstorms on Tuesday really left a mess. After two and half hours, I thought it was “job done.” As I installed the windshield cover, however, I noticed that the water spots on the windshield were pretty bad. Then, when I put the tire covers on, I could see the spotting on the alloy wheels.

As the sun moved westward, I could see water spots and streaks all over the right side of the coach. The mineral-laden hard water here at Addison Oaks County Park made the coach look worse than before I washed it! What a bummer.

After their ride, Donna rode with Bill to his house and then he gave her the keys to his Nissan SUV – Bill generously offered to let us use his vehicle while we’re here. On the way back, Donna stopped at Papa Joe’s, a local gourmet market, and picked up a few things.

One of items she bought was a fresh ruby red trout filet. She prepared the trout by coating the fish with a mixture of dijon mustard, mayonnaise, lemon juice and dill. I fired up the Traeger grill and preheated it to 350 degrees. As I explained before, it doesn’t hold the temperature at precisely 350. The temperature swings up and down and averages 350. This is normal. If you could accurately ¬†measure the temperature in your oven at home, you would find the same thing happens there.

Preheated to 350

Preheated to 350 degrees

After lining the drip pan with aluminum foil, I put the fish skin side down directly on the grill. Twenty two minutes later, I removed the fish and cranked the grill to high. Donna also bought fresh baby bok choy at Papa Joe’s. She split the bok choy lengthwise and seasoned it with olive oil, salt and pepper.

High temperature for bok choy

High temperature for bok choy

The bok choy cooked quickly – it only took about 12 minutes on the grill. I like a little crunch in bok choy. It’s a favorite side dish for me.

Trout filets and bok choy hot off the grill

Trout filets and bok choy hot off the grill

Ozark the cat began displaying strange behavior over the last few days. She’s been very vocal and restless, pacing the length of the coach, jumping up on furniture and counter tops, and spending a lot of time looking out the windows. She stretches her body, pressing down close to the floor, tail high and tapping her rear paws in a pedaling motion. Donna did some research and learned that this is textbook behavior for a cat in heat. Donna said she understands where the term “cat house” came from as Ozark struts her stuff in the windows trying to catch the attention of a passing tomcat.

Her behavior is a little annoying but we understand her hormones are raging. We have an appointment with a vet in New York about 10 days from now to have her spayed. The good news is that if she’s in heat, she’s not pregnant which could have been the case as she was a stray when we found her.

Although scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast Friday and Sunday, I think I’ll get the ladder out and clean the coach. I’ll use a waterless cleaner called “The Solution.” I didn’t use this yesterday because I wanted to wash the grit and road grime off with water. Today, I know better about the water here and I’ll go waterless with microfiber cloths.

On Familiar Grounds

We were up early yesterday and didn’t waste any time preparing to leave St. Ignace. I dumped and flushed our holding tanks even though it had only been a few days since I last did that. I wanted the tanks empty because we won’t be hooked up to a sewer line for at least a week. The black tank won’t be an issue, but we have to be careful with our gray water. We’re so used to full hook-ups that we don’t think much about our water use. Though we never run water while brushing our teeth, we do like to luxuriate in long, hot showers. And Donna does a load of laundry most days. But we’re in water conservation mode now.

We pulled out of Lakeside RV Park around 9am and made a stop just two miles later at Jerry’s Pasty Shop. We bought three pasties (pronounced PAST-eez) and some smoked whitefish along with a whitefish sausage. These are staples of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Pasties are a baked pastry that originated in Cornwall – the southernmost county of England. They’re made by placing uncooked meat and vegetables in a circular shortcrust pastry, folding in half, and then crimping the edges to seal the filling inside. Once baked, the result is much like a pot pie with a turnover shape. They were a favorite of Cornish miners who spread the dish around the world. Whitefish is a prime commercial species from the Great Lakes and it’s delicious smoked.

A few miles later, we crossed the Mackinac Bridge and entered the Michigan mitten – if you look at a map of the lower mainland of Michigan, it resembles a mitten. The toll for RVs crossing the bridge is five dollars per axle. With our cargo trailer in tow, we are a three-axle vehicle so it cost us $15 to cross. The last time we crossed this bridge was on our motorcycles back in 2010 when we did a 2,400-mile tour that included the U.P.

Right lane closed - there seems to always be construction work on the bridge

Right lane closed – there seems to always be construction work on the bridge

Donna's view of Lake Michigan to west from from the Mackinac Bridge

Donna’s view of Lake Michigan to west from from the Mackinac Bridge

Once across the bridge in Mackinaw City, the sky darkened and the windshield became wet with mist. The wipers swept the windshield intermittently and visibility was reduced by the foggy mist. As we drove south on I-75, we hit brief thundershowers with heavy rain at times. There were a few dry patches but it was mostly rain or mist with a gloomy overcast. Around noon, I fired up the generator and Donna put a pasty in the convection oven. We stopped at a Pilot/Flying J travel center near Saginaw. I filled our fuel tank and we parked to eat lunch. The pasty was filled with chicken, potato, carrots and peas. It was tasty and very filling.

Ozark seemed content in her crate. It was our third day in a row on the road and it seems she has accepted travel in her crate. She spent the whole six hours mostly sleeping, often soundly, and didn’t complain.

We took the I-475 loop in Flint and hit I-69 eastbound. I thought it was odd. The interstate numbering system has odd numbers on north-south routes and even numbers on east-west routes. I-69 is east-west from Lansing all the way to Port Huron. From Lansing it turns south to Fort Wayne, Indiana and points beyond, but I think it’s strange to designate the interstate from Lansing to Port Huron I-69.

We were on familiar ground. We found our way to Addison Oaks County Park in Oakland County, Michigan. We lived near here from 2009 until I retired and we hit the road in July 2013. Check-in was easy – we had reserved and prepaid for our week-long stay. Dropping the trailer wasn’t so quick and easy. The narrow gravel road curves past our site. Getting the trailer into position took a few attempts before I got it right.

Our spacious back-in site with the trailer in our parking space.

Our spacious back-in site with the trailer in our parking space.

This was the first time I had to drop the trailer since we were in Texas two months ago.

We were hooked up and settled in quickly with everything done by 4:15pm. A little past 5pm, our friend Nancy picked us up in her van. We drove to Lake Orion where we picked up her husband Tom and headed over to Kruse and Muer Roadhouse in Lake Orion for dinner.

We had a great meal with lots of conversation and laughs for the next couple of hours. Coincidentally, one of Tom’s water ski buddies sat at the table next to us. We recruited him as the photographer for our group photo.

Tom, Nancy, Donna and me

Tom, Nancy, Donna and me

They dropped us off around 8pm and we gave Tom a quick tour of the coach. The coach and trailer are badly in need of a wash after driving all day on wet roads. That’s my chore for today.

Donna’s bicycling buddy, Bill Frahm, is coming over at 11am. They’ll probably take their bikes to Stony Creek Metropark near our old house to ride.

More Deer Than People

Traveling the last two days left me behind on posting. On Saturday morning, we started off with Donna’s famous banana pancakes made with just two ingredients – bananas and eggs. We eat them with a little maple syrup and a dollop of fresh ground peanut butter.

Donna's banana pancakes on the induction cooktop

Donna’s banana pancakes on the induction cooktop

The rain in the forecast never materialized – it passed to the north of us. Donna went out for an 18-mile bike ride to check out Lake Cleary Regional Park. On the way back, she saw what looked liked a farmers’ market in downtown Prior Lake. Sure enough it was, but all the vendors were just breaking down. The market is open from 8am to noon every Saturday.

We took advantage of the dry weather and put the Traeger grill to use roasting a whole chicken. Donna rinsed the chicken, patted it dry, brushed it with olive oil and spiced it with salt and pepper inside. She added grated fresh garlic and put a cut lemon with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary inside. This is how she usually prepares the chicken to roast in the oven.

I preheated the grill on high for 10 minutes, then put the chicken on the rack at 450 degrees. An hour later, I added mixed veggies in a special grilling pan with holes in it. Donna cut up peppers, onions and asparagus and coated the mixture with oil before I put them on. After a total time of 75 minutes, we had a delicious roasted chicken and veggies.

Roasted chicken

Roasted chicken

Roasted veggies to go with the chicken

Roasted mixed veggies to go with the chicken

Clean-up was a snap. I had lined the drip pan and bucket on the Traeger smoker/grill with aluminum foil before started. All I had to do was wipe down the grill, pull the foil and throw it away and wipe the pan. Simple. I like simple clean-up.

On Sunday morning, we pulled out of Dakotah Meadows RV Park and said goodbye to Prior Lake, Minnesota. We crossed the Mississippi River on I-94 and were in Wisconsin. We left I-94 at the junction of US29. We followed this almost to Wausau before we headed north toward Merrill.

The terrain was a series of rolling hills, never flat. As we drove north on US51, there was a steady stream of vehicles in the southbound lane – cars and trucks pulling trailers with ATVs and boats along with many RVs. Everyone was heading back to the city after a weekend up north.

We took a break at a truck stop and Donna fixed lunch for us. That’s one of the nice things about a motorhome. We can stop and eat, use the restroom and move on without even leaving the coach.

We finally found ourselves driving east on US8 after Nally (our Rand-McNally RVND7720 GPS) directed us along a few lightly traveled county roads. It wasn’t the route I would have chosen looking at a map, but it was interesting drive.

Ozark was in her plastic carrier crate and she wasn’t happy about it. She took a couple of short naps, but spent most of the time vocalizing her displeasure with rolling down the road. I think the crate is the best thing for her though. She isn’t freaked out by the motion and going crazy, just complaining. I don’t know if cats ever get to be good travelers.

We covered about 300 miles of fairly easy driving before we found a wayside park west of Armstrong Creek that we had read about. It had a large lane for parking RVs or trucks with trailers. Overnight parking in rest areas is allowed in Wisconsin, so we set up for the night. We only put out the bedroom slide on the curb side to keep from having a car hit a slide on the street side in the night.

I went outside to check things in the trailer and found the area thick with mosquitoes. Donna put on plenty of insect repellent before she went for a power walk down a forest service road.

In the morning, I went outside to do my usual walk-around before hitting the road. I like to look everything over and make sure all is as it should be before we roll. It had rained in the night and the mosquitoes were out in force. I came inside and swatted 12 mosquitoes on my arms and legs, number 13 was on my face and number 14 got away.

Wayside Park for the night

Wayside park for the night

We continued east. Once again, Nally directed us to a little used county road to shortcut our path to US2. The county road was fine at first. Once we crossed the Michigan state line, the road surface immediately deteriorated. Michigan’s reputation for poor road conditions is well-deserved. On this section, we saw more deer than people. My friend Jim Birditt would probably say, “That’s not a bad thing.”

We stopped for fuel at Hermansville and continued east on US2. This route took us through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula along the north shore of Lake Michigan. After 230 miles on the road, we checked in to the Lakeside Park Campground on Lake Michigan about 3 miles west of St. Ignace, where I’m typing this. We lost an hour along the way as we are now in the Eastern Time zone.

Ozark was much better about traveling this time. She spent most of the time napping in her crate and only cried out when Donna would get up or start talking to me. Maybe she’ll adjust to traveling after all.

Donna took a walk along the northeastern shore of Lake Michigan and shot a few photos. I’ve been having a problem with my foot since being bitten by a bug in Texas and have limited my walking while it heals.

Trail from the RV park to the lake

Trail from the RV park to the lake

Mackinac bridge (say Mackinaw) a few miles east of us

Mackinac Bridge (say Mackinaw) a few miles east of us

Power company sign warning about underwater cables across Makinac Strait

Power company sign warning about underwater cables across Mackinac Strait

We didn’t unpack the grill from the trailer since this is just an overnight stop. Donna prepared tilapia piccata and a veggie medley of oven roasted parsnips, carrots and beets. Like most root crops, beets are full of nutrients but I’m not a fan – they taste too earthy to me.

Tilapia and veggies

Tilapia piccata and veggies

Today we are road warriors again making the drive across the Mackinac Bridge south through the state to Addison Oaks County Park in Oakland Township – our old stomping grounds. Addison Oaks is one of the first places we stayed in when we started RVing. So much has happened in the two years since then. It’s the time warp I’ve mentioned before. When we think of all the places we’ve been and the things we’ve experienced, we have to wonder how it could all happen in just two years.

 

Selling Everything

Donna here. Mike told me this morning that he wasn’t planning to write a post today, so I figured this would be a good time for me to make an appearance on the blog. As a cleaning and organizing expert, I’ll chime in from time to time on those subjects as well as general RV lifestyle topics such as cooking (it’s all about the food for me).

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you what it was like selling our home and everything in it in preparation to hit the road as full-time RVers. We made the decision to do this in late March and for the next four months, selling everything became my second job. I assured Mike that I would make it all disappear. As the author of How to Declutter and Make Money Now, I knew what I needed to do. But I didn’t realize how much work it would be, especially at the end.

I started by photographing some of the larger, pricier items and listing them on Craigslist. This resulted in the quick sale of our living room furniture, guest bed, gas grill, wicker patio furniture, lawn tractor, and other items. I also created a photo album called Moving Sale on my Facebook page and invited my friends to take a look. One of the items – a genuine black bear skin rug – sold to a friend in California who was willing to pay for the cost of shipping. Our washer and dryer also sold through Facebook to a friend’s son who was willing to wait on picking it up until the weekend before we left. Suh-weet. I sold books and a few other items on Amazon. Between Craigslist and Amazon and sales to friends, we made about $14,000.

 

Sold!

Sold!

We took our motorcycles to a local BMW dealer to sell on consignment. When we first talked about becoming fulltime RVers, Mike said he was going to sell his bike and I burst into tears. He said, “You don’t have to sell yours!” We both had touring bikes and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we didn’t need bikes that big for our new lifestyle and we hadn’t ridden much in the last few years and probably wouldn’t ride much as fulltime RVers. It was time to sell them and get a scooter that would be big enough to carry both of us, but not too big for me to ride on my own. The funny thing is that way back when I told everyone I wanted to get a motorcycle, I didn’t realize that what I really wanted was a scooter! But we did have a lot of fun on our bikes over the years and I’ll always have those memories.

“What about your clothes?” my friends asked. I sold a lot of clothes at my favorite consignment shop. I ended up going through my closet about six times and every time, I was able to let go of more and more, especially once I decided against keeping any items that required ironing (so I could ditch the iron). And shoes? According to a survey by The Container Store, the average woman has 40 pairs of shoes. I am no longer average. My everyday shoes (mostly sandals) fit neatly in a 10x10x10-inch bin. I packed all of our dress shoes in a larger bin that we store in the basement of the coach. Rearrange as I might, I just couldn’t close the lid. So I decided to eliminate one last pair of pumps. Problem solved.

The next phase of our downsizing plan was to have an estate sale. I considered prepping and running the sale myself, but then decided to hire an estate sale company and I’m so glad I did. If you ever want to do this, be sure to book your sale well in advance. The first two companies I called had no availability prior to our departure date. But we found a company that did a great job for us. The gals from Kane’s Estate Sales spent three days at our house, pricing and setting up for the sale. They did a great job with marketing. And they had four people on site every day of the three-day sale. We could not have done what they did with everything else we had going on and we were happy to pay them their 35% commission. Our share was just over $7,200.

By the way, I kept a spreadsheet on what we sold, to whom, how, and for how much. Page two of that spreadsheet itemizes what we bought – everything from bedding, kitchen and bath items and organizing products to our new Kymco Downtown 300i scooter and a 10-foot cargo trailer that we use to haul it.

The final phase of our move from real estate to wheel estate was the hardest — what to do with everything that was left. I listed a couple of desks and a bookcase and some other items on Craigslist at rock bottom prices and they sold pretty quickly. I gave away some glass art and an antique side chair to a couple of friends who had admired those items. It felt good knowing that my stuff was going to good homes where it would be loved and appreciated. Mike gave two high-end guitar amps that he had built plus a 212 speaker cabinet to his friend Gerhard. We donated a whole bunch of stuff to two charities — an animal rescue organization and an organization that helps abused children. They came and picked it all up and gave us a tax receipt that we will use to offset our 2013 income taxes.

At that point, there was still quite a bit of stuff left, including just plain junk. I put it all in the garage and posted to Freecycle.org that I was giving away “Leftovers from Our Estate Sale” to anyone who would come and take it all. The first person to respond said they had a 19-foot trailer and would be happy to come and collect everything for a church yard sale to benefit their youth organization. I chose to believe them and we got our garage cleaned out for free.

And then the only stuff that was left was the stuff we had yet to pack into the basement of the RV and our trailer. Amazingly, it all fit. Barely. The crazy thing is that I am quite sure that we will downsize again down the road.

We have yet to miss anything (though we are still searching for Mike’s cordless power drill and charger). Are we bound to miss something eventually? Probably. Meanwhile, we have everything we want and need to live and work on the road — laptops and smartphones (and a Verizon JetPack for WiFi), printer/copier, my digital piano, Mike’s guitars and amps, hundreds of books on my Kindle reader, our bicycles, my hoola hoops, Vitamix, and other wouldn’t-want-to-live-without things.

We knew what we wanted to do – live the RV lifestyle. We knew what we had to do to get here – sell everything. We did it and now here we are enjoying a beautiful summer day at a campground in Wisconsin, getting ready to head to Minneapolis tomorrow morning – right after the pancake breakfast.

Closing the door to our sticks and bricks home

Closing the door to our sticks and bricks home

Opening the door to our new life

Opening the door to our new life

 

 

No Rest for the Weary

We started our day Monday, July 22nd full of optimism and believed we could start our journey a day ahead of schedule. Before breakfast Donna said, “10 hours from now we’ll be on our way.” I think I better get used to things not always going according to plan.

We buckled down and started packing things. It seemed like odds and ends kept multiplying – where was all this stuff coming from? It took me a couple of hours to finish moving things from the basement of the “sticks and bricks”.. home and find space to load it in the basement of the motorhome. Around noon I loaded a couple of amplifier heads and a 212 cabinet into my Touareg and took them over to Gerhard Rauch. Gerhard is a good friend and leader of the band “Backtrack.” I gave him the equipment but he insists that he’s just holding on to them for me.

From there I drove up to Romeo and collected the proceeds from our estate sale. This gave me the opportunity to see our new friend Nancy and mumble another goodbye. It also robbed me of about an hour of time I needed to continue loading the motorhome and trailer. Meanwhile Donna kept plugging away at the paperwork she was sorting through.

I made arrangements to leave my Les Paul guitar with Jeff Quartuccio, Jeff plays guitar in the band Planet of Fun and also taught me guitar lessons. I was supposed to meet him at the studio at 4pm. I also needed to return the Comcast DVR box and router but I wanted to hang on to them as late as I could for an internet connection. This wasn’t too smart. I have a Verizon Jetpack (which is how I’m online now) and should have returned the Comcast stuff earlier. I didn’t realize I would have to go all the way out Hall Road to Macomb to return it. Around 3pm I asked Donna where the Comcast place was. She only had a vague notion of it being on Hall Road. For some reason I thought it was nearby on Van Dyke. I did a Google search and it showed the nearest Comcast store in Sterling Heights south of 16 mile. This was no good, it would take me an hour to drive there and back. Donna was sure that wasn’t right, I decided to go down Hall Road and try to find the place she remembered. While I was driving she was on hold with the Comcast phone-bots.

Donna finally got a live person on the phone and got the address while I was driving back and forth through the usual Hall Road mayhem trying to find Comcast amid the endless strip malls there. She phoned me and gave me an address – now I can rant about street numbers. Building after building on Hall Road have business names but try to find an actual street number. I finally found the place – it’s not called Comcast, it’s the Xfinity store!

By the time I dealt with Comcast (Xfinity) and dropped the guitar off I’d lost a couple more hours and it was time to turn in my Touareg at the dealership in Rochester. Donna drove the Touareg there while I rode the scooter. Another hour lost.

We were home and back at it by 6pm. Once I loaded the scooter in the trailer I was able to finish packing the remainder of garage items fairly quickly but I knew there was no way we would be on the road today. We ordered a pizza from Dan Good pizza and finished loading, By 8 o’clock we were finished and showered. I was beat once again, settled down with a couple of cold ones and called it a day.

We’ll hook up the trailer in the morning and the journey will truly begin.