Monday, June 24, 2013

The Island

I spent the first 25 years of my life in Michigan and in all that time I never visited Mackinac Island, one of Michigan's premier tourist destinations.  It may have been because ferry cost out to the island was $12 for a child and my Dad had seven (plus two adults at $25/head) added up pretty quickly to a "No we're not stopping." retort to our on-the-way-to Gram-ma's entreaties.  One of the cool things about blogging is the readers keep you "honest".  Left to my own devices I probably would have passed on visiting the Island but I can just imagine reading the "You were within sight of Mackinac Island and you DIDN'T go???" comments from some of the readers of this blog (and you know who you are....;>D) so I ponied up the $25 round trip ferry cost and went.

From the ferry, Grand Hotel is the big white building.
I arrived on-Island at 10 am in perfect 75 degree sunny weather aware that the forecast called for afternoon showers so I got to work.  There are no cars on the Island (with the exception of emergency vehicles) so horse-drawn carriage or bike rental is the common method of getting around it.  I passed on the $6/hour bike rentals and hoofed it after coming up with the locations I wanted to see.

Big Mac from the south shore bike path.

From town I walked along a lakeside bike path towards the west end of the island with a great view of Mackinac Bridge and deep blue Lake Huron.  Wild flowers were growing everywhere on both sides of the tree-shaded path.

After walking a lot further than I had figured on I got to the west end of the Island and had a lunch of a chili-dog and a bottle of water.  The British moved their fort to the island from one at the tip of the Lower Peninsula prior to the War of 1812.  This cannon was probably to dissuade attempted landings by the US on this remote part of the island.

That's the Lower Peninsula across the Straits.
Heading back towards town I passed the site (now a golf course) of an important battle of the War of 1812 where a force of 750 Americans tried to retake the Island from the British.  The American commander was killed early in the battle and the Americans forced to retreat back to their flotilla in a clear-cut British victory.

Story board of the battle at the site.
From the battle site I walked back to the southeast side of the Island to Fort Mackinac, the British battlement that made Mackinac Island strategically important in 1812.

Ft. Mackinac from the west.

There was a $11 entrance fee to get inside the fort which any history buff would fork over willingly.  There are numerous actors dressed up as soldiers and 1812-period civilians within the fort which has been restored to it's 1890's condition, after which it was no longer garrisoned.

The North Blockhouse

Fort Mackinac overlooks the town and scenic harbor of the Island.

Upper Peninsula in background.

Here's why the Fort was sited where it is by the builders.

Cannon covering the north passage past Mackinac Island.
Noticing some clouds forming up I quickly left the fort for the Grand Hotel, scene of business "seminars" and tax-write-off-able R&R for businesses.  It cost $10 to enter the hotel if you weren't staying there so here's my resolution to that cost.

Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel.
With blue sky over half the island and dark clouds over the other half I headed for the jet boat back to the Lower Peninsula.

The Star Line jet boat back to the Lower Peninsula.

They say a good day of walking is taking 10,000 steps.....Check out my post-Island pedometer reading.

Maybe bike rental IS the way to go.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Catch Up

Looking over some of the last blog posts I realized there were several issues that have been "resolved" but not communicated about so here goes:

Damage Control
 The refrigerator vent cover on the roof of the Tank took a severe hit from a tree in Terre Haute, IN (scene of the infamous 3 hour I-70 detour) and had to be replaced.  No big deal until you recall that my camper's manufacturer went belly up in 2009 making replacement parts a tad hard to come by.  So I went into a small RV store in Midland, MI prepared to be disappointed when the saleslady asked me what make of camper the vent was for?  When I replied Sun-Lite she smiled and said "That's the first camper line we ever sold!" Then she promptly showed me an exact duplicate of my wrecked vent and sold it to me for $20.  SCORE!

Surprising My Dad
My travel to Michigan was originally timed to allow me to arrive in time to surprise my 86 year old Dad on Father's Day.  Having arrived a few days in advance I "stealth camped" on my brother Jim's driveway.  My brother was scheduled to visit our Dad on Father's Day so we drove there together but I hung back around the corner out of sight of the doorway.  After being greeted at the door Jim told my Dad that he had run into "a homeless guy" and would it be OK if the homeless guy joined the Father's Day meetup?  You can probably imagine the look on my Dad's face as he contemplated some guy pushing a shopping cart full of cans up to his front door, so he was pretty relieved (and surprised) when the homeless guy was me.

My Dad and Stepmother Dorothy

Transporting the new Kayak
The last blog entry discussed my perceived need of a water transport option and the subsequent purchase of a kayak.  At that point I aimed at transporting the kayak on the roof of the Tank but had no notion of how it's bulky and unwieldy 40 pounds could be lifted there by one person (me).  My brother Jim and I came up with a solution after some comical misfires.

Step 1:  Cover the hood of the truck with a towel to avoid abrasion from the kayak.  Tie a length of rope to the rear of the kayak and lean it in a standing position against the hood of the truck.  Throw the rope up to the roof of the Tank then scramble up the ladder up to the roof.

Step 1   

Step 2:  Pull the kayak up over the towel-covered hood of the truck and then up over the rounded "airfoil" of the Tank, being careful not to fall off the 9 ft roof!

Step 2
Step 3:  Position the kayak between the airconditioner vent and the side rail.  Install eye-bolts to allow 3 bungee cords to secure the kayak to the roof (then tie a "just in case" 4th rope to the front of the kayak) and secure it.

Step 3
Following highway speed trials the kayak didn't move an inch!  Challenge solved.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Naval Capability

Leaving my brother's I went for 3 days of what turned out to be dry camping (no hookups) at Houghton Lake State Park which unsurprisingly is on the north shore of Houghton Lake.  I got a campsite right on the water for $17 a night which seemed a little steep for dry camping but I guess it's "the height of the season" for camping in Michigan.

The view from the back steps of the Tank.

Once again there was unfortunately no boat or kayak rental within reasonable distance of the park so I was unable to try out my fishing rod.  Readers of this blog remember that the lack of boat rentals has been a problem encountered in "on-the-water" parks in Texas and elsewhere in the past.  Sooooo......I went shopping and found a kayak back in Midland at a store for roughly 30% off and a paddle and life jacket that were also heavily discounted,  I took the brand new vessel to Sanford Lake (about 15 miles north of Midland) and tried it out....very fun AND I didn't tip over, probably thanks to the very modern kayak launch built into the boat dock that you see here.

Got everything for just under $300.

The kayak is 9 ft 6 inches from stem to stern and weighs in at just over 40 lbs.  It fits in the camper (which is a less than desirable way to transport it) but I'm trying to figure a way to transport it on the roof of the camper.  I have some ideas but I need to do a little research to see if a fellow RV'er has already invented this wheel and I can just shamefully steal their method.  I'll update with pictures if I can figure anything out.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Damage Control

I finally worked my way to my brother's house in Midland, MI.  It's been a fairly eventful last three days.  Tuesday night I stayed at the Missouri Welcome Center on US 57 just across the Arkansas border and endured a huge thunder storm with winds so powerful the Tank was "rolling" back and forth through about a 20 degree arc.  I couldn't help but think about Oklahoma and wonder if these winds were the lead-in to something catastrophic but they eventually died out, resulting in about a 20 degree dip in the temperature.

Wednesday I drove up through Southern Illinois till I hit I-70 and headed east.  Right before Terra Haute, IN, with one of two lanes of I-70 down for road work there was a huge fatality accident with a chemical spill.  They completely shut down I-70 for over 6 hours, diverting traffic through the city streets of Terra Haute in a mind numbing gridlock.

Miles and miles of 18 wheelers.

It took 3 hours to get through Terra Haute....usually it takes less than 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, many of the trees on the tree-lined streets of Terra Haute hadn't had their limbs trimmed back for some time and one of them whacked the Tank's refrigerator vent pretty hard which necessitates damage control and (hopefully) finding a local source for a drop-in replacement.

At least the tree didn't take out a solar panel!

After fixing the refrigerator vent I'm targeting Houghton Lake State Park for some Sunday through Wednesday camping where I can try out my never-been-used collapsible fishing rod.  With daytime temperatures here in the low-seventies it's hard to believe I'm in the same country having come from sweltering Texas to a Michigan with 46 degree nights!  I can get used to this!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


I'm slowly working my way to Michigan to surprise my Dad on Father's Day (it's OK, he doesn't follow the blog) and stopped in Hope, AR at Fair Park, a city park that doubles as a RV park (water and electric hookups) for a nightly fee of $15, which is pretty cheap.  About 50 feet from my back door is an American Legion baseball field where they played a double header last evening.

Hope nobody goes Miguel Cabrera on my back window!

I'm not really not trying to set any land speed record in to getting to Michigan so if it takes a few extra days so be it.  The goal is to get far enough north to not need to run the Tank's AC thus not needing to pay for hookups.  Arkansas is getting 90 degree weather so onwards and upwards (north).

They actually let you park on perfectly mowed grass.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Anchors Away!

Readers of this blog know I encountered "a little" difficulty in selling my home in preparation for assuming a mobile life.  I'll document that battle in a separate post later, the good news is I closed on the sale yesterday!  YAY!

Good-bye little house, it was a good run!

So readers with a nautical background may have noted in the title of this entry I misspelled "aweigh" which indicates in naval terms that a ship's anchor has been lifted off the seabed allowing a ship to get under way.   I used "away" intentionally because my anchors (possessions) have really gone "away".  For the last three months I have sold or given away (mostly given away) all my "stuff" that won't be accompanying me in the Tank - which is what I have named my pickup/camper RV.  If it weighs like a...drives like a...gets the same MPG as a...then it's a Tank.  Anyway, I really wondered if anyone would want some of my bigger possessions like a 25 year old sleeper sofa. 

400 pounds of moving agony!

Or how the heck do you get rid of a home gym?

Talk about an "anchor", try pulling this!

Surprisingly, though, it's true how the saying goes:  "One man's trash is another man's treasure."  I should have photographed the happiness on the strangers from Freecycle faces as they cheerfully wrestled my surplus possessions into their pickups and SUV's for just a photo post on this blog.  Several times it occurred to me to ask if this home gym or heavy couch wouldn't become an "anchor" in the happy new owner's life but I held my tongue, if possessions (very large ones) make people happy it's no place of mine to rain my outlook down on them.

My sister asked me if it didn't make me a little sad to part with all my stuff.  I really believe I was being honest when I said it was a feeling of relief more than anything else.

Thanks for reading!