Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday, August 3, through Sunday, August 12, 2012: Heading East:

Friday we went 148 miles to South Range, Wisconsin---a suburb of Superior, Wisconsin, which is right across the border from Duluth, Minnesota---at the western tip of Lake Superior, one of the Great Lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world.   

It was an easy trip, even though the roads in Minnesota did not improve.  I can't imagine how much damage is being done to our trailer from the constant thumping.

We are staying at the Northland RV Park. 

It's a nice place and we have a nice site.  We're here for only one night to make up for the extra day we had to spend in Bemidji. 

After setting up, we immediately returned to Duluth.  We had been advised to spend some time at Canal Park, a restored area of nice hotels, shops, and restaurants near the entrance to the port area of Duluth/Superior. 

There is a waterfront area where huge numbers of people gather to hang out and watch the massive ships enter the port under a bridge that rises and falls 165 feet, as necessary.  It's fun.

One ship (1,000 feet long) coming in was here to pick up 65,000 tons of coal, to be carried to Ontario, where the load would be combined with similar loads from five more such ships into an even larger ship, for transport to Europe.  Wow!

We then stopped for a couple of drinks at the hotel on Barker's Island in Superior.  A nice break.

Tomorrow, it's on to Michigan.

The trip to Ishpeming, Michigan, the next morning was an easy, but long, 238 miles---over much better roads.

And we lost an hour by entering the Eastern Time Zone.  The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is very rural, much like the parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota we passed through.  We are staying at the Country Village RV Park, a very nice facility, not far from Marquette, the largest city in the U.P.  We had to back into our space, which was a bit of a challenge since I’m still not very good at it, even after all these years.  But, we made it.  The highlight of the afternoon was visiting the nearby meat market which was celebrating its opening with lots of free samples (only bite-size, though).

Being a travel day, we didn’t do much else the day we arrived.

Sunday afternoon, we traveled the 15 miles to Marquette to look around.  It seems like a decent place.  It is, for example, the home of Northern Michigan University, a sprawling campus of 9,400 students (NCAA Division II; Nickname:  The Wildcats). 

The university is the home of the Superior Dome, the biggest wooden dome in the world---which is used for various sports activities on campus.

We walked along the waterfront in one of the several very nice parks in town.

We also visited Presque Isle Park.  Nice place.

There is a huge coal-fired electricity-producing plant in Marquette.  (Coal is very plentiful in this part of the world.)   If you listen to the environmental folks, who hate coal, you would be amazed to discover that the air is extremely clear here.  Hmmmmm.

We stopped at Wal-Mart on the way back to Ishpeming where I got a haircut and we picked up a few things, including mussels which we had for dinner.  Delicious.

On Monday, we drove along the edges of three of the five Great Lakes on our way to Mackinaw City, Michigan.  The 148-mile trip took us by Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron.  Man, are they big.  The trip itself was an easy no-brainer.  The last leg involved driving over the Mackinac Bridge (five miles long; opened in 1957; beautifully lighted at night)

connecting the Upper Peninsula to the main body of Michigan.

I’m glad Becky was driving.  (I don’t like driving over water.)  Between the two is Mackinac Island, home of the famous Grand Hotel, which we plan to visit on Wednesday.

We are staying at the Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground, a beautiful; tree-filled park with more than 500 RV sites, right on Lake Huron, in Mackinaw City.

According to a local, the Island (which is technically a city) and the City (which is technically a village) are spelled differently so the Post Office could tell them apart many years ago.  I don‘t know if that‘s true, but it sounds like something the Post Office would do.  Whatever, they are pronounced the same way.

We had to back into our site again, which I let Becky handle.  She did a great job, with my guidance, of course.  Even though there are a lot of trees here, we are in a site with satellite access. Whew.

Tuesday was largely a relaxing day.  We drove into town to see what it was like. It’s very civilized.  Then we went to nearby Mill Creek Discovery Park,

a large, very nice historic state park containing, among other things, a recreated sawmill and related buildings that were originally on the site.  It was well worth the admission price.

Wednesday was our planned trip to Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel.  We took the Star Ferry for the 23-minute ride to the island.  Normally, it only takes 18 minutes to cover the nine miles of water, but this one circled under the bridge first.  A nice addition. 

At first, the island looks quite like any other shorefront location, but it’s a bit nicer.  And there are no motor vehicles allowed on the island.  There are, therefore, zillions of bicycles and quite a few horse-drawn vehicles.  There are lots of Victorian-style buildings there, and a few magnificent mansions.

And the Grand Hotel is spectacular.  It’s 125 years old this year.

We paid the $10.00 (each) fee to merely enter the hotel, and, after passing by many upscale shops, strolled the 600 foot long front porch, which faces the Straits of Mackinac which we had just crossed on the ferry.  Quite dazzling.

We had an adult beverage on the porch;

then bicycled through the town and along the beach; stopped at a roadside stand for a quick lunch of brats; then hopped on the ferry for the trip back.  Altogether, it was a nice five hours.

We then picked up Ramsey at the kennel where he had spent the day, and filled up with diesel for the move to Traverse City, Michigan, on Thursday.

The 112-mile trip to Traverse City on Thursday took us on Michigan Route 31 through the towns of Petosky and Charlevoix.

They are beautiful places, but the roads through them are not so wonderful.  We arrived at the Holiday Park Campground a bit early, but our assigned space was available and we settled in.  It’s a very nice park and we are very comfortable here.

We then went into the heart of Traverse City to have lunch at the Red Ginger restaurant.  It‘s the only sushi place in the area and all of the choices were rolls. That is, there was no simple fish-on-rice or sashimi.  (The dinner menu is normal.)  A bit strange, but the food was delicious.  I might add that there was not an Asian face anywhere in the joint. 

That's unusual for a sushi restaurant.  We then walked around town a bit.  It’s a summer tourist destination, and the place was packed with happy tourists.  It seems like a decent place.

Traverse City is located on Grand Traverse Bay, a huge bay on the east side of Lake Michigan.  It has only 14,000 people, but it’s the center of a metropolitan area with ten times that population. 

Surprisingly, there are a great number of wineries in the area.  (It's located on the 45th parallel, the same as the wine area in eastern Washington.)  It’s also known as the “Cherry Capital of the World.”

Friday we took a circle route to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore

and back through the Leeanau Peninsula.  The dunes (huge, adjacent to Lake Michigan) were fascinating.  The story is that after the glaciers carved the lakes, the dunes were created by sand blown in by ferocious winds. 

The dunes have stopped growing, but the winds have mostly stayed.  One local referred to them as "our constant gentle breezes."  Apparently, "gentle" means something else in Michigan.  The peninsula is pretty and the final 20-mile drive back along the lakeshore was very picturesque. 

We stopped at the Good Harbor Winery on the way back and sampled some of the wares.  And bought a case of the wares.

It was a nice way to end our stay in the Traverse City area.  Saturday, it's on to Birch Run, Michigan, our last stop before heading back into Canada.

The 151-mile trip to Birch Run was easy.  We are staying at the Pine Ridge RV Campground. 

It's very nice.  It also has a lot of trees.  When we made the reservation, we were smart enough to request a site that would accommodate our rooftop satellite dish.  It worked.  We got one of the few that exist here.

Our first order of business was to have lunch at Tony's I-75 Restaurant, a local landmark. 

We had been put onto it by our Michigan friend, Bill Wheeler.  It's amazing.  The place is known for a lot of things, including its huge plates of food.  I ordered Fish & Chips

and was able to eat only 1/3 of what they gave me.  The guy in the next booth ordered a BLT that was 8 inches tall, mostly due to the bacon.

According to the menu, Tony's serves 11,000 pounds of bacon, 600 pounds of onions, and 625 pounds of tomatoes every week

After lunch, we visited the nearby town of Frankenmuth, founded in 1845 by 15 German farmers---and still thriving. 

The place was very pretty (almost entirely Bavarian-style buildings---a German version of Solvang, California) and very busy with visiting tourists.     


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