Monday, July 29, 2013

Sweater Weather

I entered the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from Wisconsin intending to drive to the Kewadin Casino in the town of Christmas (no kidding).  While listening to a country FM station the song playing was interrupted by that buzzing emergency announcement sound.  The part of the state I was driving to was under a severe thunderstorm warning with predictions of 60 mph winds and golf ball size hail.  Plan "B" suddenly coalesced and I stopped overnight at a city park in Crystal Falls, MI, well short of the storm track.  I made it to the casino the next day grateful to have avoided the potentially solar panel damaging golf balls falling from the sky and pelting the Tank.

It's Christmas every day in Christmas, MI.
 The residents of the UP that I've interacted with thus far have all been extremely friendly and cheerful.  They are also a hardy group, in the four days I've been in the UP the temperature has not risen above 60 degrees with nights in the 40's.  It's also rained four straight days.  In the first 25 years of my life spent growing up in Michigan the phrase that got imprinted on my mind was "It looks like it might be letting up a little."  Statistically Michigan gets 2392 hours of sun per year, slightly less than 100 days, which means the other 265....

The Tank parked free with complimentary hookups!
The Kewadin Casino chain in the UP is owned and operated by the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Indian tribe.   The Sault Tribe’s ancestors were Anishinaabeg fishing tribes whose settlements dotted the upper Great Lakes around Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, throughout the St. Marys River system and the Straits of Mackinac. Anishinaabeg gathered for the summers in places like Bahweting (Sault Ste. Marie) and broke up into family units for the winter.  Anishinaabeg translates as Original People.  The Tribe's six casinos employ over 2000 people in the UP making it the largest non-governmental employer here. 

One of the advantages of living a mobile life-style is that if you don't care for the weather where you are you can mobile on down the road to better weather.  After I do my "Anytime Fitness" workout (and get a shower) tomorrow I'll probably cross back over into the Lower Peninsula and see if I can find some warm weather.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 26, 2013


Leaving South Dakota I made a series of "hops" across the upper Midwest continuing on my way to Michigan.  The first was a free (that magic 4 letter word) overnight at Crystal Lake County Park outside Gibbon, MN where I stayed two nights.  It's a pleasant little park without hookups so the solar setup on the Tank was pressed into service but with two cloud-free days the system kept the cell phone, tablet and laptop topped off.

Had to relocate from this spot..too much shade!
On Tuesday Crystal Lake was calm so I got the kayak off the roof of the Tank and paddled around for a while--great arm exercise!

Ready to launch!
From Crystal Lake Park I moved to the Ho-Chunk Casino in Black River Falls, WI for another night of free (yay!) parking.  They have three spots with 20 amp (120 volt like in your house) free hookups so to take advantage of the free juice I ran an extension cord to a power strip inside the Tank and plugged in/charged the electronics from there.

The tribe has 5 other casinos besides this one.
The Ho-Chunk, also known as the Winnebago, are a Siouan-speaking tribe native to the Wisconsin-Minnesota area.  They were the dominant tribe in their territory in the 16th century and numbered in the several thousands.  In the 1990 census their number was placed at 7000.  After hours of blackjack at a $3 table I left with $29 dollars of their money but bought two meals in their snack shop so, hopefully, it was a good deal all around.

On to Michigan.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Good Idea.....In Theroy

From Wyoming I traveled to central South Dakota to the Oahe Downstream Recreation Area which is a long name for a really nice state campground.  The Oahe Dam across the Missouri River created Lake Oahe, the 4th largest artificial reservoir in the US.  The dam supplies a good portion of the Upper Midwest's electricity.

Campground boat launch and marina
The park is along the reservoir near the town of Fort Pierre, SD.  The weather has been ideal with breezes in the afternoon that keep things cool enough that I've had no need to run the AC.  Somehow, even though I'm camped in a semi-forest with water near there are no mosquitos!  I don't know how the South Dakotan s managed that....go figure.

Tree lined estuary that leads out to Lake Oahe
The campground is set up in a circular fashion with the campsites all open to a large central grassy area that is really nice.

Birdhouse in my "backyard"
So what's with the "good idea" in the title of this post?  Well you may recall that my bike has a flat rear tire.  On the way to South Dakota I never passed through a town large enough to have a store that sold bike inner tube repair kits.  I came up with the idea of using duct tape and super gluing it over the leak!  So I pulled out my tool case and stripped the tire off the bike and located the leak.

The patch job! 
With relatively low pressure in the tube the patch appeared to work.  So I reassembled the rear wheel and put it back on my bike.  I then pumped the tire to normal pressure and again it appeared to be fine.  I went back into the camper to get geared up for my bike ride, got distracted for about 20 minutes then came back out to get on the bike.

Pancake anyone?
Did I mention there are a lot of nice FOOT paths here?

Walking is supposed to be great exercise.

I'm going to keep a sharp eye out for bike repair stores on my way to Minnesota tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dude, where's the water?

Monday I drove from Golden, CO to Guernsey State Park outside of Guernsey, WY for a four day stay prior to camping my way back to Michigan.  Guernsey State Park is centered around the Guernsey Reservoir which was created by damming the North Platte River guessed it, the Guernsey Dam!  The pictures of the campsites on the State of Wyoming's website look great with many sites virtually on the water so I was pumped to get the kayak there.  Except I guess a funny thing happened on the way to my campsite.

Someone shrunk the reservoir!
There has been a long drought in southeastern Wyoming but the State forgot to update the park's website!   Oooops.  So instead of kayaking I took Wally the Mountain Bike (named after the store he came from) and biked up some pretty steep trails to get some photos of the park.

Pair of hawks looking for breakfast
I'll be honest here and admit that there were stretches of the trail I pushed the bike rather than try to ride it, even while in Wally's lowest gear.

Steep downhill, loose gravel...what could go wrong?

The park consists of 6200 land and 2400 water acres (when the reservoir is at 100%) and the elevation is 4420 ft at the reservoir edge.

Wally and I got pretty high up
  Apparently one of the sharp pieces of gravel on the trails put a puncture in Wally's back tire so these were the last "away from campsite" pictures I'll get from Guernsey State Park.

Kinda doubt the radar part

I'll have to stop at the first Wally World I see on my way to South Dakota to buy a tire patch kit (which I should have thought to pack in the first place).

"No Wake"? No Worries!
Friday I head for a park in central South Dakota.  It's online pictures look great too...let's hope the river there has water!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

14 Percent

14 percent....that's the humidity level here in St. Vrain State Park.  Coming from Houston, the humidity capital of the US, 14 percent humidity is pretty sweet!.  Even afternoon temperatures in the high-80's are quite comfortable and the lack of water in the air means the nights are always in the mid-50's.  I could get used to this.

Here's some random photos I've taken during my stay at St. Vrain:

Sunrise over the pond.

Great Blue Heron
Lego-like leveling blocks to level the camper
The Rockies are out there in the distance
Tank from across the pond
My time here is through Friday.  Back to the RV park in Golden for the weekend then...?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Moving Day

I spent the 4th of July weekend in an RV park in Golden, CO because all the state parks were reserved.  I met some very nice neighbors on each side of my rather tight RV parking spot.  One neighbor guy from Ft. Worth is an avid metal detector/hunter and he spent a half hour showing me how to use my newly acquired metal detector (thanks again to my brother Jerry!) so no doubt vast riches will be detected and help fund my nomadic life! During my time there I reserved Mon - Thur at St Vrain State Park near Longmont, CO (35 miles north of Denver) so I moved to my campsite this morning.  St Vrain is somewhat unique in that every campsite has water access which is what drew me to it (Kayaking!).

View from the door, shower house in the distance.
I'd like to get to the degree of comfort with my camping skills to boon dock on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land for free but I have a ways to go before I get there so these (paid for) state campground outings are sort of like my "training wheels" until I get the kinks ironed out.  The campsites here at St. Vrain are fairly level and positively spacious compared to the Golden RV park I left.

The door was soon shut so AC could run in today's 89 degree temps.
 It'd be too hot to go kayaking until it cools off towards evening.  This will be a shorter post but I'll put another one up later in the week.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Museums & Camping

My brother Jerry and his wife Nancy hosted me at their beautiful home in Lake in the Hills, IL for several days while I plotted my next trip.  Their home on the northwest of Chicago made a good jump-off for heading west so I did. 

My brother's place outside Chicago.

I eventually wound up traveling west on US 80 through Nebraska bound for Golden, CO (tour of the Coors brewery maybe?).  Just short of Ft. Kearney I noticed a sign for Pioneer Village Campground where I remembered reading of a small museum adjacent to the campground.  Both are located in the small town of Minden, NE.  When I paid for my campsite the check-in guy mentioned that I got a complimentary ticket to the museum (a $6 dollar value!) which was about a quarter mile from where I parked the Tank.

Tank at rest after a long drive from Chicago.
The museum is called the "Pioneer Village Museum" so I expected predominately exhibits from the 1800's of which there were some.

Pioneer guns, only a small portion of what they displayed of John Ford's classic westerns.

I would say that a major portion of the displays concerned cars and planes from the early 1900's though, which was OK by me.

Ford Model T

They had one of the older Harley's I've ever seen.

Older model Harley.
Where else can you see a carboat?

 And, finally, what trip through a museum on a mid-70 degree sunny day would be complete without a Christmas bulb collection display?

On to Colorado tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!