9/19/14

New Salem, Wisconsin

We left Michigan for the final time this morning, and drove nearly all the way across Wisconsin on State Highway 21. Lake Michigan was a different animal from the one we met yesterday...the one with blue water and blue skies. The one we left this morning was gray and threatening. The wind had come up, and the temperatures were quite cold. We left wearing our winter woolies.


There were storms and high winds and waves in the forecast. You can see that the storm surge has driven the water up into the marshy areas where Smitty and I walked yesterday.

Just after crossing a river into Wisconsin, we passed through the little town of Marinette. It gave the appearance of a European town with its interesting and historic architecture.



And almost immediately thereafter, we saw this sign, which made me laugh. Wisconsin is a cheese state, as everyone knows. Cheeseheads, we salute you!


From there on, it was picturesque farm after farm after farm. I had my camera on almost all day trying to get shots of barns. Most were too far away, or sped by too fast (we did, not the barns) for me to get very good images, but I did get a few that were acceptable.




I wish I could have taken a picture of the warning sign we saw...yellow with a black horse and buggy...indicating the presence of the Amish. We did see a few Amish farms along the way, recognizable by the farmers in their typically Amish straw hats. My ancestry is Amish, and so I have a special place in my heart for these folks.


And we saw lots of cows, as you might imagine.



Even the shabbiest of barns are beautiful to me. In Wisconsin, we noticed that many of the barns have brownstone toward the bottoms of their walls. We assume this is because of deep snow.


Something else we have noticed in all of the states of the region is that signs are posted prohibiting parking between 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. We assume this is so that the snow plows can plow the roads.

Everywhere the leaves are changing color, and the landscape is quite beautiful.


Even though it was cold when we left the shores of Lake Michigan this morning, the weather was warm at our final destination of New Salem, Wisconsin. It is near 70 degrees tonight, and we have all of our windows open. It's nice to know we aren't into winter yet...not us, but you folks who live here...better get ready because it's coming.

On the way today, we stopped off at a quilt shop in Oshkosh. I'll tell you about that in a separate post. For now, I'm hitting the hay. It's early, but it's another long day tomorrow...and the day after that...and the day after that. We'll be driving near the southern border of Minnesota tomorrow on I-90, turning south about 3/4 of the way across the state and heading for Sioux City, Iowa. I don't know if we'll actually cross the border into Iowa tomorrow until I check the mileage, but we are moving along now...due west. More to come.

JW Wells State Park, Michigan

Yesterday was a good news, bad news kind of day. I'll start right off with the good news that the RV is fixed, and we were able to get on down the road a piece, headed toward home. 

It started off with good news when our kindly neighbors came over and helped Mike push the slide in manually while I operated the switches inside. After that, we took off for Ishpeming, and felt as if we'd met our saviors when we pulled into the Hillstop RV Superstore we'd seen on our way to Munising. (We'd stopped in Ishpeming on the way in while I went into a brewery to buy a t-shirt for Erik. While Mike waited in the truck, he saw the RV place. It seems a little like a portent of things to come, in retrospect, but it was good to know such a place existed when things went bad.)

Mike had been speaking to these folks for two solid days. We had a 10:00 appointment, and high hopes that they already had the part we needed.

But not so fast, cowboys and cowgirls, because things went to sh*t pretty quickly from there.


We walked into the store only to discover that in fact, we'd been talking with the folks at the Escanaba, Michigan, store, which was an hour and a half down the road. We'd already driven 60 miles in the wrong direction! Now we needed to turn ourselves around and go back the other way. So, what are you gonna do? Right? Nothing to do but get in the truck and drive on. 

When I say "the other direction" I really mean south instead of west. As we drove south to Escanaba, we caught our first view of Lake Michigan. (Fanfare, please!) And that means I can add Lake Michigan to the side of the RV now! Yeah, baby!


Eventually, we arrived at the Escanaba Hilltop RV Superstore...Same sign...I had a good laugh when I noticed the RV in the lower right of this image with the decal that says, "Take-It-EZ". Sure thing. Thanks.


And from here the news is all good. They had the right part, they fixed it quickly, they didn't take ALL of our money, and they sent us off with a smile. Here's Mike saying good-bye to our friendly repairman, Bill. And Bill taught Mike some things about the operation of the slide as well. Nice folks.


Our plan was to try to get to Green Bay, Wisconsin, today. It was 2:30 by the time we life, and we decided to stop for lunch at JW Wells State Park along the actual bay of Green Bay, on Lake Michigan. We'd only just seen glimpses of the lake, and we wanted to really see it. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous...and so fricking big it's hard to believe. Smaller than Lake Superior, but still so big is stretches all the way to the horizon.


And this campground was so utterly beautiful that we decided to stay for the night. We decided we'd filled our stress quota for the day, and it was a great decision to stop.


They had a nice paved level spot so that we didn't have to unhitch the truck and deal with the still-broken jack. (Mike is replacing those with a part that will take longer to get.) Here's where we're parked tonight.


We are about as close to the lake as we can be without actually being *in* the lake.


And let me tell you, nothing would do until we got Smitty out for a walk. He hasn't been able to walk for the past couple of days because the previous park was over-run with approximately three large woofies. And we're not even going to talk about the golf-cart racers running all over everywhere. It was absolutely terrifying, I say.


Today, a dose of courage took over his loins.


While he was outside, Gracie took the opportunity to occupy the catio, and even she decided it was safe to venture out.


The lake shore is marshy, but Smitty blazed a trail...


At a spot where we paused a bit, I discovered happily that we were standing beneath an apple tree loaded with apples!


Cool! Well, I just picked that one right off the tree and took a bite. It was just slightly tart, but oh, so delicious and crisp.

When Smitty got going again, he blazed a trail right over these large rocks. It was a lot easier for Smitty than it was for the hapless human tethered by a leash.


He marched right on down to where the lake begins, and he would have kept going except that his leash suddenly grew a lot less, um, freedom-loving. Sometimes the leash is just too short.


Guess we'll just have to look elsewhere for that righteous Michigan weed.


Here's how it looked where we were standing. Beautiful.


Just past that bush, we saw Mr. and Mrs. Duck standing on a rock flapping their wings.


Eventually Smitty had to go back inside. He went straight to the litter box. Go figure.

I went back and picked some of the apples that I could reach without breaking any bones. Nice.


The walk just about wore poor Smitty out, and he climbed up in his cubby for an hours-long nap.


And that's where we spent the night. Today...onward. The miles and miles and miles and miles of driving toward home. We have about 2,500 miles and eight days to do it. Let's hope for smoother sailing ahead, shall we?

9/18/14

RV Woes

This morning we're trying for a second time to leave Munising, Michigan. Nothing against, Munising, you understand. It's a nice little town. Somehow the prospect of wintering over with somewhere in the neighborhood of 285 inches of snow (no exaggeration) does not appeal to us. Smitty is absolutely opposed to the idea, and one must always go with the wishes of one's cat. Gracie doesn't care. She just wants to go home, wherever that might be.


We've enlisted the support of some gentlemen from the trailer next door to try to manually shove in the slide this morning. Hopefully, that will work, (Amended to say: "It worked!!!") and we'll be on our way to Ishpeming, Michigan, about 60 miles east to get repairs done. We are optimistic that the RV place has the part we need. If not, it can be air-freighted in tomorrow, and repairs done then. Please continue to keep your fingers crossed.

I used yesterday's down time to read through the 90-page self-training module that has to be completed before I can attend the Oregon Department of Corrections training on October 2nd. (Recall that I'm going to be teaching quilting to female prison inmates with the Coffee Creek Quilters.) I've mailed off my self-test, and that part of the effort is done. Now I need to attend the training and also get an orientation/tour of the facility. After that, I'll be eligible to receive my stinking badge. (We don't need no stinking badges!)

Also, yesterday, I had a finish of sorts. I finished the little quilt for my Quilting Snowlady quilt block. With all that satin stitching, it always feels as if the block is nearly finished when the quilt is all stitched.


I'll have some more time to work on that while they do the repairs (hopefully) this morning.

Finally, I've re-routed our trip to head for home now. We are going to head south down toward Lake Michigan and then west in a death march toward home. We've had a lot of fun and spent more time in the east than we should have. I'm terribly disappointed that we are going to miss visiting two friends along the way. There simply isn't time to do that and still get Mike back to work on schedule. Another time, perhaps.

Here's the route as it stands. The pins have no meaning beyond getting us on the roads we want to travel.


This is a last-minute post, being written with the laptop on battery power as I sit in the truck waiting for Mike to make final preparations to take off for Ishpeming. I'm very much hoping that the next time I write, we will be on our way back west. Wish us good luck, please.

9/17/14

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

We had a lovely day in Munising, Michigan, yesterday. Our cruise didn't leave the dock until 5:45 p.m., and so we spent the day just lazing around and sight-seeing.

Munising is another picturesque town in Michigan. If I had to choose one word to describe the Great Lakes areas that we have seen, it would be "picturesque".


There are a lot of historical buildings in Munising.


Yesterday, the windows captured my photographer's eye. Someday, if I live long enough, I'd like to make a quilt of nothing but window blocks. Here are a few for my library of window images.






Mike needed a couple of items from the hardware store. After we took care of that little bit of business, we decided to take in a few of the waterfalls denoted on the town map. I've marked the ones we saw in the image below:


Horeshoe Falls turned out to be a tourist trap. We were suspicious when we saw large billboards and signs directing us to the parking lot. When we arrived, we discovered we could only enter through a gift shop. No doubt, tickets were for sale inside. We didn't even get out of the car. We saw Alger Falls along the roadside. It was less-than-impressive. On to Wagner Falls, we saw something a lot more interesting. Here's the placard at the short trail leading to the falls.


We walked a short muddy path,


and crossed a wooden footbridge,


climbed a few stairs,


and there it was! Pretty. Not a huge waterfall, but it was definitely worth the walk.


After that we drove on to Munising Falls, which is a part of the Grand Island National Recreation Area. There was a ranger on duty in the visitor center. Mike and I made the mistake of pausing long enough to use the restrooms while the ranger made her lunch break escape. Bummer. Oh well. No refrigerator magnet for me. The falls were very enjoyable. We walked another short path to reach them.


Here's the little explanatory sign:


There were quite a few people there taking pictures of themselves in front of the falls. What could we do, but join in?


After that, we returned to the trailer for some relaxation and an early dinner. I had chili in my little crockpot, and it was smelling pretty good by that time. At a little after five, we headed off to board the boat for our cruise out to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.


It was a sunset cruise, but see that sky? No sunset for us that night, I'm afraid. Still, the cruise was very enjoyable, and I was able to get some good pictures of the Pictured Rocks.

Here's a boat like the one we were on.


The tour guide was quite a hoot, and kept us laughing with his jokes and commentary. This is the East Channel Lighthouse on the east end of Grand Island. 


There is another lighthouse at the other end of Grand Island, but we didn't see it on our tour.

As I said in my post from yesterday, this is a sheltered bay. Once one heads out past Grand Island, one is on the open waters of Lake Superior where the water is much more choppy, and storms more severe. As we rounded the bend toward Pictured Rocks, this was the first formation we came to. These formations all had names, but I can't remember all of them. Our guide told us they'd toured past this formation one time to find a wedding in progress. Keep in mind that Lake Superior is in the other direction, and so this was a very scenic place to hold a wedding. Lovely. 


Here is a panorama of the area and our boat.


The colors you see in these images are explained by seepage of minerals into the soft sedimentary rock layers. The oranges, yellows, and lighter browns are explained by iron.


The little flecks of white are from calcium.


The only other way to see this area (other than by boat) is to hike the 40-mile trail that extends along the cliffs. There are steps down to sandy beaches where they exist. We did see some hikers out there too.


The water has cut caves and arches into the cliffside, and there are frequent rockfalls caused by water seeping into cracks, freezing and expanding, and then pushing the rocks away from one another. The darker color you see in the image below is caused by manganese, but also by the tannins from tannic acids in the decomposing leaves, grasses, and other vegetation growing at the top of the cliffs.


Here is one of the two arches we passed. (Arches is an incorrect use of the term, geologically speaking. "Arches" are caused by wind. "Natural bridges" are created by water. I suppose, technically, these are natural bridges, but I'm having a hard time calling this formation a "bridge". Perhaps "tunnel" is a better term. You choose.)


Our guide explained that during winter storms, waves crash into the cliffs and spray up onto the trees above. The ice can get as much as a foot thick on the vegetation. It also stunts the growth of the trees there.


Here's a formation name that I can remember: Indian Head Rock. I don't know...it looks like Richard Nixon to me.


Here's the second arch we passed. You can see that a rockfall has occurred underneath. Our guide told us that prior to the rocks collapsing here, one could drive a small boat through the opening.


The image below shows one of the most interesting things we saw on yesterday's cruise. This tree is literally hanging on by its roots. This formation is known as Chapel Rock, and a rockfall occurred between the pinnacle on which it grows and the cliff to the left, leaving its roots high and dry. My recollection of the tour commentary is that the rockfall occurred some 40 years ago, and the tree continues to survive, fed only by the roots that draw nourishment from the cliffs. Can you see how it is tethered to the cliffside in the middle left of the image below?


There were two boats on our tour. Here is the other boat, traveling behind us. It is just like the one we are on.


This is Bridal Veil Falls. I wonder how many Bridal Veil Falls there are in the world.


Look at these incredible colors...as if Mother Nature put paintbrush to canvas.


The green you see in the image below is caused by the seepage of copper into the rock


Here is another shot of the rocky cliffside.


And that was our tour. We headed back to the dock and arrived just before dark.

As I've been writing this post a small drama has been unfolding. We were set to take off in the trailer this morning. Mike disconnected power, water, and sewer, and took down our broken jack work-around. I secured everything inside, brought in the bedroom slide, and the smaller of the living room slides. Mike brought in the catio, and as I tried to bring in the slide on the catio side of the trailer, only one side of the slide mechanism was operating, twisting the slide as it came in. I called for a consult from Mike and discovered on investigation and attempted repair that a bearing in the gearbox is frozen, making it impossible to bring in the slide.

We've both been working, consulting, and attempting to get it repaired, but to no avail. We appear to be majorly screwed. We cannot go down the road with the slide out, obviously. There are no RV repair shops in town, and the weather is getting cold, bringing a special degree of urgency to this problem. Mike is currently on the phone with a large RV repair place that we saw in Ishpeming, Michigan, some 60 miles back. We are hoping to get repairs made quickly, but we are not at all sure what is going to happen at this point. I will have to update you as everything unfolds. For now, all crossed fingers and good thoughts will be appreciated.

If we can ever get going down the road again, I did manage to re-route our trip through Iowa and Nebraska, but of course it's all up in the air right now. More later.