August 2005               

               

      When we left Milton last month, the part for the cruise control on the truck had not arrived. Dick called ahead to a dealer in Washington, PA and had them order the part and set up an appointment to have it taken care of.

       We left Elkins and arrived in Washington shortly after noon.  We checked into the RV park and got set up.  We decided we would spend a week here and take care of housekeeping chores and getting the laundry done. 

       On the appointed date the cruise control was repaired and is now working fine.  We enjoyed our week in Washington.  We put out our hummingbird feeder and was promptly visited by several of the little beauties.  Of course, they were quite upset when we took it down!

       We had an appointment on the 8th at All Brands RV Service in Elkhart to have our countertop replaced and have a general check up for the trailer.  We arrived on Sunday and got parked.  We had electric service which was great as it was hot. 

       Shortly after we arrived, an older Travel Supreme unit came in and parked next to us.  They were accompanied by a large tractor-trailer rig.  The trailer of this rig had windows in it and as we had seen rigs similar to this before, we assumed these were people who worked for a carnival. 

        On Monday morning we were up early and soon the service manager came to our rig to go over our list of things to be done.  He thought that the counter top would probably not be installed until Tuesday, but they would get the rest of the list started that day.

      While visiting with another owner there, we discovered that our first assumption of our TS neighbors was somewhat right, but that the tractor-trailer rig was not a bunkhouse, but actually contained several Tigers! 

       Dick pulled the rig into the designated bay and as he did, a truck pulled up behind him.  Millie noticed that her new countertop was in the back of the truck.  It was exciting to see that it was going to be installed right away. 

       We went to breakfast in Goshen and then stopped at a satellite dealer to purchase some new modems for our Motosat system.  We have been experiencing problems for over a month and after numerous tech support calls, Dick decided to update the modems. 

        We stopped by Camping World in Elkhart and picked up a few items, then returned to All Brands to spend the afternoon in the lounge. 

        We were pleasantly surprised when all the items on our list were taken care of in one day.  Dick had the trailer brakes checked and one pair had to be replaced.  At 4:30 we were ready to roll.  Oh no Ė not quite.  One of the new brakes was locking up.  After several adjustments, we were on the road. 

        Since Dick had to install the new modems and get everything working with the Motosat, we spent a few days at Elkhart Campground.  We had planned to stay 3 days but kept saying ďletís stay one more dayĒ, so our stay ended up being 6 days.  (One of the advantages of being full time, with no particular place to go.)  Dick got the modems installed and working so now we are back online. 

       We left Elkhart on Sunday morning, but only made it 5 miles when a man flagged us down, indicating a problem with our rig.  One of the brakes was overheated and smoking.  We called our road service but unfortunately it wasnít much help.  They could only tow the rig and that was not going to solve the problem, we could tow it ourselves.  It was suggested that Dick pull the electric power to the brakes to try to make it back to All Brands. 

     Even though we had disconnected the power to the brakes, we still had a heating problem and had to stop numerous times to let the brakes cool off.  After several hours we arrived at All Brands and parked.

     Monday morning our brakes were checked and the problem on the one overheating was corrected. A part had been installed incorrectly and was causing the problem.   We were on our way again by 9:30, north towards Michigan.

    Our first stop was in Cadillac, where we intended to spend the night.  In the morning we decided we should call ahead to Mackinaw City and make reservations.  It is very hot and we needed to be sure we could get a space so that we could run our A/C.  The KOA park would not have space for us until Thursday, so we signed on for a couple of extra nights in Cadillac.  The park was clean, quiet and had large spaces so we didnít mind staying for a few more nights.

     On Thursday we hitched up and headed north.  As we arrived at the park in Mackinaw City, it began to rain.  We got set up in the rain, then sat back and relaxed.

      We had rain for several days before the weather cleared up and warmed back up.  We drove into Mackinaw City and boarded a ferry for the trip to Mackinac Island.  The island has been used by people since 1000 BC and was a center for fur trade and commerce during the early history of our country.

       Mackinac Island is a beautiful island with many turn of the century homes.  No automobiles are permitted on the island.  Transportation is by foot, horse drawn wagons or carriages and by bicycle.  We had come here before, many years ago and had such an enjoyable time that we wanted to return. 

       Our first stop was at Old Fort Mackinac.  The fort, now a State Park, was dismantled on the mainland and moved to the island during the American Revolution.  The fort was in possession of the British during the war of 1812 and the island was returned to the US as part of the peace treaty in 1814.

       Following a decline in the fur trade, the islandís principal commerce was fishing and the fort became obsolete.  The fort was closed during the Civil War except for one soldier caretaker.  During the summer of 1812 and the island was returned to the US as part of the peace treaty in 1814.

       Following a decline in the fur trade, the islandís principal commerce was fishing and the fort became obsolete.  The fort was closed during the Civil War except for one soldier caretaker.  During the summer of 1862, 3 citizens from Tennessee were held there as prisoners. 

       The fort and island were created as a national park in 1875.  It was the second national park after Yellowstone.  In 1895 the government moved the soldiers from the fort and turned the fort and national park over to the state. 

       The island banned automobiles in 1898 and this is what has greatly contributed to the popularity of the island.    

       Following our tour of the fort, we walked back downtown and found a place to have a quiet lunch.  After lunch, we embarked on a walking tour.  It wasnít long until we were regretting not bringing the bikes.  If we ever come back, the bikes will come with us. 

       We were very tired when we returned to the ferry dock and were quite happy to see the boat when it came into the dock.  After returning to Mackinaw City we spent the evening resting our weary feet.

       Our last day in Mackinaw City we headed downtown.  Dick dropped Millie off to visit the shops while he fueled up the truck.  We had located a station that was offering 6 cents a gallon off if you purchased over 50 gallons of fuel and we took advantage of the offer.

      We headed north to the Upper Peninsula, crossing the majestic Mackinac Bridge.  This suspension bridge is 5 miles long.  Millie was a little apprehensive but the crossing was uneventful, although construction had the lanes down to one each direction. 

     The bridge was constructed beginning in 1954 and opened to traffic in 1957.  It is 5 miles long, with the center suspension section being 7400í. It carries approximately 5 million vehicles a year. 

      We reached our destination of Sault St. Marie and checked into Soo Locks RV Park.  We had a nice large grassy site.  The park has some waterfront sites but these were all full. 

      The Soo Locks are the only way for boats to cross from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan.  Lake Superior is 21 feet higher that Lake Michigan and the St. Maryís river flowing through the area has rapids which made it necessary for boats to portage around them. 

       The first locks were constructed in 1855.  These locks were rebuilt as the ships became larger and heavier.  The newest lock was opened in 1968.   There are now 4 U. S. locks and one Canadian lock.  Of the 4 U. S. ones, only three are presently in use.  The Canadian lock is much smaller and appears to be used mainly for pleasure craft.

       There are two ways to see the locks, from the free viewing platform and from inside the locks themselves, on a boat tour.  We did both.  We boarded one of the boats of Soo Locks Tour for a 2 hour trip. 

     Our guide explained to us that we had been cleared to enter the first set of American locks.  Our boat and another sightseeing craft were the only ones in the lock.  After the gates were closed, valves under the locks were opened and the water level began to rise.  It was fun to watch as we went from looking at the concrete walls of the lock to looking at the folks on the viewing platform at eye level!   When the water reached the level of Lake Superior, the gate there was opened and we exited into the lake. 

      After a tour around the area, we returned by way of the Canadian locks.  There the water was removed from the locks, lowering us to the level of Lake Michigan.   We really enjoyed this fantastic experience.

      We returned home and after lunch and a rest, we drove into town to the viewing platform to see the locks from that perspective.  We timed it just right!  Three large freighters were coming thru, one of them 1000 feet long! 

      The viewing platform is 2 stories high.  The ships were coming in from Lake Superior and the decks were above the level of the platform.  It took about 15 minutes for the first ship to make its way into the locks at a speed of 2 mph.  This was a smaller (750í) freighter.  Once the ship was in the lock and the gate closed, we were able to talk to crew members who were on the deck.  At first they were above our eye level, by the time the lock was emptied, they were below the edge of the lock, 2 stories lower.  We learned that this freighter was heading to Chicago with a load of coal for a power plant. 

      The larger, 1000í freighter was locked thru the second set of locks, the only set that can handle those big boys. 

      The Soo Locks are run by the Corp. of Engineers and no ship of any nationality is ever charged a fee for using them and over 1200 ships a year use the locks.  The viewing platform is free and they even have it set up so you can hear the lock master and the freighter captain conversing via radio.  There is also a visitorís center with a board where they post the ships coming through and their size.  By the time we left the viewing platform, it was late, we were hungry and the visitor center was closed so we did not visit it.  Maybe on our next trip through.

      On Saturday, the rains came down!  It rained nearly all day, very hard, so we stayed in and just messed around.

      Sunday we were on the road again, heading west to Munising, MI.  This town is on Munising Bay and is about midway the peninsula.  We found the Munising City RV Park and checked in.  This excellent park was on the shore of the bay, overlooking Grand Island and Lake Superior.  The sites are large and we had 50 amp service. 

      We stopped here to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  The first day was cool, so we opted to do the driving part of the tour rather than to spend it out on the water.

      Pictured Rocks was established in 1966 and was the nationís first national lakeshore.  It is 40 miles of Lake Superior shoreline.  The beautiful colors are created by water leaching thru the cliffs passing thru various minerals and then oozing out onto the face of the cliffs leaving colored streaks.

      We first visited the Park headquarters and picked up a brochure on the park.  We also stamped our National Parks Passport that we purchased a couple of years ago.  You purchase the book and it contains space for a stamp from each park.  You stamp your book with the date and name of the park as you visit.  It is fun to see how many stamps our book now contains.

      Our first stop on the driving tour was at the Miners Castle overlook.  This is a beautiful rock formation that has been sculpted by the water.  Lake Superior is beautiful, the water being a wonderful green color. 

      Our next stop was to view the Miners Falls.  These falls were worth the .6 mile walk.  While at the falls we met a couple who were on vacation camping in a popup camper.  They were very interested to learn of our lifestyle.  We always enjoy meeting folks and answering their questions.

       The next day was warmer and we decided to take the boat trip to view the Pictured Rocks (see photo gallery).  The only way to really see this magnificent park is from the water.  Our trip was 3 hours and we were in awe of the many wonderful rock formations and colored cliffs we saw.  Our guide was very informative and also funny. 

       We learned that the Munising area averages over 200 inches of snow annually.  One funny story he told us was that the city built the new hospital with a view overlooking the bay.  The patients were pleased to have such a wonderful view from their beds.  However, the first winter, the snow drifted up over the windows and they had to hire local folks to shovel it away.  The next winter the snow actually drifted over the building and they had to buy a front loader to move it.  Maybe it isnít exactly the best place for a hospital after all.

       Our next destination was Houghton, MI on the Keweenaw Peninsula, on the western Upper Peninsula.  The park here is also city run and we wish we were able to have a park like this everywhere.  The sites are on the Portage Lake/Canal and each site is paved, has a concrete covered patio with table, a fire ring and a park bench.  With full hookups.  At $20/night!   We had planned to stay for a week, but are now considering staying longer.

      Next month we will finish our stay in Michigan, head south through Wisconsin to Springfield, Illinois, then to DuQuoin, IL where we will be attending our first Escapees Escapade.  Till then, see ya!

 

(Lots of new photos in the gallery, take a look.  We couldn't link to all of them.)