Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Oversized Breakfast of the Week

I'm in the little Upper Peninsula town of Pickford, MI staying at their giant 30 acre town park.  I'll do a full review in a few days.  Whenever I get to a new town I use Yelp to discover local diners and restaurants to try out.  When I "Yelped" Pickford a diner named Big D's Diner came up with all 5 star customer reviews so I walked over from the park and ordered the Southern Omelette Special they were featuring.  This is what I got served:

The biggest "3 egg" omelette I've ever seen!

When the waitress set it down in front of me and I exclaimed "Wow!' she laughed and said "We don't mess around here!"'  I think I did a pretty good job by getting through 2/3'ds of both the omelette (you can't tell from this over head shot but it was about 2 inches thick!) and the hash browns.  If you ever are in Pickford you HAVE to get breakfast at Big D's Diner,,,,,you WILL NOT walk out hungry!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Campground Review: Northern Lights Campground Republic, MI

The township of Republic, Michigan got funding to upgrade the recreation facilities around the tiny town, with the project finishing up at the end of June I revisited Republic in early July to checkout the new campground.  Readers of the blog may recall I had stayed at Republic's "free" campground in 2014 when it wasn't much more than a field to park in.  Click here for the 2014 write-up  The new camping facility is quite a step up for Republic and has a new name, Northern Lights Campground.

It also comes with a brand new set of rules!
The Michigan DNR closed the old campground in 2009 for "lack of funding" and it still resides to the other side of a road from the new Northern Lights Campground.  The new campground consists of 12 spaciously arranged RV sites with electric and water hookups and about a dozen tent sites with no hookups.  During my stay over the 4th of July the RV sites were about half full.

Here's the Northern Lights data sheet:

Hookups:                                             20,  30 & 50 amp, water                                            
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                 
Water Access:                                     Yes (river)                                                                  
Fresh Water:                                        Yes                                                     
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                                     
Toilets:                                                Yes (vault)                                                     
Showers:                                             No                                                                  
Dump station:                                      Yes                                                     
WiFi:                                                   No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                      
Store:                                                  No (Minimart 1 block away)                                      
Pool:                                                   No                                          
Shade:                                                Yes                                         
Verizon reception:                               3G, 2 bars                                           
Internet reception:                               2 bars                          
Cost:                                                 $20 / night for RV's, $5 / night for tents

The Mini's campsite at Northern Lights.

Going from free to $20 a night is a reach but the new sites are legitimate campsites compared to the old field the DNR used to maintain (come to think of it how would they run out of funds for a field?)

One of the tent sites with fire ring.

Did I mention that each RV site has cable?  With more than 60 channels!  All the homes in Republic that I passed on my walks have Dish or Direct TV antennas but somehow the county (I assume that's who administers the campground) got cable into the new campground - go figure!  

The upgrade project also created (or upgraded) a hiking/ATV path through the woods surrounding Republic.  I walked for three miles and didn't come close to the end of the trail before some mosquito attackers drove me back onto the streets of Republic, 

The start of a hiking trail out of the campground.

While I always hate to see a free campground go away the new Northern Lights Campground is a really nice upgrade for Republic and should bring in a lot more RV traffic to the township.  I'll include it on my yearly UP camp list!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Rain, Rain....

I'd like to preface this whine by saying I was born and grew up in Michigan.  After graduating from high school I did a four year degree in five years at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.  I remember one time in May it snowed 5 inches while I was at MSU.  So I get it, Michigan weather can suck.

The weather outside is frightful...
But I cannot recall it being this nasty for this long.  I've been in the UP since June 30 and it has rained all but one of those days.  Not the jaunty 30 minute summer showers and then it's sunny and nice kind of rain, more like the get up in the morning after a night of rain to overcast and predictions of more rain throughout the day and the high is 58 degrees.  The poor residents of the UP are having their summer stolen from them by...rain.  Needless to say I won't be moving to Seattle!

OK, rant over.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Campground Review: Wakefield Park Wakefield, MI

I crossed over into Michigan's Upper Peninsula on US 2 aiming for the small town of Wakefield which US 2 passes through.  Just off of that highway on M-28 is a small six site grassy park that allows overnight camping for a requested donation.  The park is right up against Sunday Lake and the campsites, which feature electric hookups and water, are within feet of the lake.  When I got to the park there was only one site open but it turned out to be the best one in my opinion and I jumped on it.

The Mini's site at Wakefield Park.

My site was on a little peninsula that juts out into the lake and, more importantly, was separated from the other closely packed sites by 40 or 50 yards so it had more privacy.  You do have to drive over some grass that can get soggy if it rains (which it was) but to me it was worth it.

If you look through the trees on the left you'll see my closest neighbor.

Here's Wakefield Park's data sheet:

Hookups:                                             20-30-50 amp, water                                                  
Fire ring:                                              No fires allowed                                                        
Water Access:                                     Yes                                                     
Fresh Water:                                        Yes                                         
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                         
Toilets:                                                Yes (flush)                                         
Showers:                                             Yes                                                     
Dump station:                                      No                              
WiFi:                                                   No                              
Level sites:                                          Yes                                         
Laundry:                                              Yes                                                     
Store:                                                   No (Mini-mart within walking distance)                   
Pool:                                                    No                                                      
Shade:                                                 Yes                                                     
Verizon reception:                                 4G, 2 bars                                           
Internet reception:                                 2 bars                          
Cost:                                                   Free (Donation requested)

When I looked on Yelp for restaurants in Wakefield a diner named Ma's Diner came up within walking distance of the campground so I walked to breakfast the next morning and wound up stuffed!

The Pa's omelet.  Stuffed with hash browns, sausage and bacon!

I almost got 2/3's of the way through the Pa's omelet (at Ma's!) when my brain over-ruled my stomach (or maybe the other way around?) and I stopped.  I'd never had an omelet that had all the rest of the breakfast stuffed inside it.  It was great but way too much for one person, splitting it between two people would be the way to go, but I highly recommend Ma's Diner for breakfast!

Sunday Lake isn't that large a lake and the town has constructed a walking trail that allows you to walk all the way around it, which I did.

A section of boardwalk Wakefield has constructed around Sunday Lake.
Sunday Lake as seen from the boardwalk.

I was enjoying my great campsite on Sunday Lake so much I decided to stay there a few extra days but July 1st, after two days, a city employee knocked on the Mini's door and politely told me I had to move, in fact all the campers had to vacate the park because they were going to start setting up for the annual fireworks display scheduled for the 3rd.  Bummer!  Another employee told me they use my peninsula site to shoot the fireworks off over the lake so I packed up, left a $10 donation in the donation box feeling grateful for the two days I DID get and continued east across the U.P.

If you are traveling along US 2 in the far western part of the U.P. check out Wakefield Park on the southern side of Sunday Lake.  Don't confuse it with the park on the north side though, that park charges normal fees for it's camping.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Campground Review: Jackie Berger Memorial Park Duquette, MN

I drove east across the top of North Dakota into Minnesota, I have a meet-up in the end of July with my Dad and brothers in Michigan's Upper Peninsula so my plan was to take my time and camp my way there.  Duquette, Minnesota (Pop: 70) is a tiny town in Pine County in north eastern Minnesota that hosts Jackie Berger Memorial Park.  Jackie Berger was a local resident who died on Omaha Beach during World War II's D-day invasion and the park is named in his honor.  Free camping (donation requested) is allowed in Jackie Berger Park and I pulled in in the middle of the week and lucked out and got one of two campsites with electric hookups the park has.

The Park's rustic sign.

For a town of 70 people Jackie Berger Park is very well outfitted with a softball park, tennis courts (bring your own net, apparently) a couple different sets of kid's playground equipment and a covered picnic pavilion.

Pavilion, playground equipment and softball field in the background.

 There is also a series of ATV/hiking trails through the woods that abuts the park.

One of the many hiking trails around the park.
Here's Jackie Berger's data sheet:

Hookups:                                             15, 30 amp                                                                 
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                     
Water Access:                                     No                                                      
Fresh Water:                                        No                                          
Trash Service:                                      No                                                      
Toilets:                                                Yes (Porta-John)                                                        
Showers:                                             No                                                      
Dump station:                                      No                              
WiFi:                                                   No                              
Level sites:                                          Yes                                         
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                  No (there’s a general store a block away)                  
Pool:                                                   No                                                      
Shade:                                                Yes                                                     
Verizon reception:                                4G, 1 bar                                                        
Internet reception:                                1 bar                           
Cost:                                                  Free for 4 days (donation requested)  

Willow River runs through the hiking trails and there were fishermen fishing it during my time there (license required).

Willow River from a hiking bridge crossing it.

As I mentioned only two of the 5 or 6 campsites within Jackie Berger Park have access to electricity.  Mine had a conventional hookup box with 30 amp power, the other was a 15 amp socket on a light pole near the tennis court.  Another guy in a camper came in the day after me and utilized the light pole outlet. 

The Mini's shaded site with fire ring and picnic table.

While the camping is free at Jackie Berger Park there is a sign on the pavilion directing campers donations to the one store in Duquette, the Duquette General Store which is about a block from the park.  A lady behind the counter there gratefully accepted my $20 into the donation envelope and told me I'd be surprised at how many campers don't donate at all.  This seems like an awful shame as it's somewhat obvious the town isn't doing that well, economically, like so many of the small towns I travel through, and even a small donation helps defray the park's operating expenses.  I always make a point of donating at parks that request it.

The General Store.  Everything from pork chops to DVD rentals!

Except for occasional trains on nearby train tracks the camping is really peaceful in Jackie Berger Park (no trains after dark).  I really enjoyed getting my daily walks in on the woods hiking trails and overall really liked camping there.  I'll be back!

Thanks for reading!