Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

And We’re Off…

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

DSC00092Yesterday, November 1, 2011, we left for the REAL trip! After months of planning, several small trips, one large trial run and a month of final preparation we are off to see America.

We spent our first night at Fort Custer Recreation Area in Augusta, MI, which is near Battle Creek. We stayed at this same park last spring on one of our smaller trial trips. It was raining cats and dogs then. We didn’t realize that the guy from whom we bought the camper had put on tires that were too big. This wore down the leaf springs causing the suspension to rest on the wheels. Holes were worn in the wheel wells and sludge and muck were being kicked into the camper. We spent a good part of the day cleaning not only the floor but everything that was on the bottom shelves of the camper. My husband had business in Battle Creek and ended up driving down to Ohio as well. We didn’t think twice about him taking off for the day leaving the girls and I alone in an almost uninhabited state park with no rangers on duty. After he left, we weren’t quite so brave. The beauty of the park far outweighed our uneasiness, however, but we still decided to enjoy it from behind locked doors. Last night we were only one of two campers at the park. It was much better having Barry with us the entire time!

When we visited the park in the spring, we were very green to the world of RVing. I remember wondering as I helped guide my husband into the campsite if our marriage would survive a trip full of trailer back-ins. Last night I realized how far we have come when we backed the trailer perfectly into our site on the first try in total darkness without raised voices, snide remarks, or dirty looks.

Fort Custer is a beautiful state recreation area. It is very peaceful and very large. Hopefully, we’ll stop there again when we have more time. The web address for the park is: http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?type=SPRK&id=448.

I think we all feel a little nervous now that we are getting started but it’s the kind of nervous that comes from planning something for months and realizing that this is it. I guess it’s probably more anticipation than nerves.

So with one last Biggby Coffee in hand, it’s goodbye to our beloved MI until next summer.


Guidos and WOW—Okemos, Michigan

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Two of our children have to eat gluten free. As we travel we often find it very difficult to find restaurants with a g-free menu. We love Guidos in Okemos, MI. Steve, the owner, has worked very hard to come up with really yummy g-free food. He also takes every precaution to make sure his food is not cross-contaminated with any glutenous ingredients. Recently, he has opened up a deli next door to Guidos called WOW (with out wheat). His restaurants are very clean and well run. Steve also has a big heart for those who have to live g-free. He often surprises our girls by letting them taste test his new creations. Everything they’ve tried has received an A+. Tonight he surprised them with homemade onion rings. Mmmmmm! They were so good. It was a very special treat for our youngest, who has been craving onion rings.

 

To find out more about Guidos of Okemos and WOW go to http://www.guidospizza.com/okemos.aspx and http://www.wowglutenfreefood.com/.


Catching Up

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. I have a lot to write about from our time in the northern Lower Peninsula of MI, the Upper Peninsula of MI and WI. We stayed in familiar territory and close to family for this first trip. We made lots of lists along the way of things we need to do to get ready for our goal: a trip to see all 50 states.

We arrived back in MI at the beginning of October. We’ve kept busy finalizing our plans, stocking up on supplies (we learned from our time in the more remote areas of MI and WI that you can’t always rely on finding gluten-free items like we can here), seeing family and friends, and tying up miscellaneous loose ends. We’ve tried to anticipate every problem we may encounter and every need we may have.

We leave MI on Monday, October 31. We won’t blog about our exact location until we have left each place. This is the world wide web after all and our children’s safety is utmost in our minds. We have two contact people who know where we are at all times. Our facebook friends can write us personally (behind the scenes) if they wish to know our location.

Yesterday we visited The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village (http://www.thehenryford.org/) for our last time on our membership. With us were friends whom we met on our first week of fulltime RVing. We had a great day at this wonderful place. I highly recommend it as a vacation destination. It’s a must stop!!!! I have to give a shout out to our favorite docents: Tom from the glass blowers shop and (I can’t remember her name) the woman from the pottery shop who also used to work in the tinsmith stop. Our girls look for you both each time we visit. Thanks for all the time and education!!! We look forward to seeing you when we visit MI next summer.


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

320742_10150302856238846_683938845_7931835_4080433_nAugust 21, 2011–We drove to Traverse City, MI, with the plan of walking around Old Town. As soon as we got to Grand Traverse Bay, we decided to stop and walk around on the beach. It was supposed to be stormy but it turned out to be a beautiful, fall-like day with brilliantly blue, white cloud filled skies. As we walked, my husband said “Let’s go on to Sleeping Bear.” We weren’t really dressed or prepared for it but who wants to shop when the beautiful sands and waters of Lake Michigan are calling? We started over right away.

As we paid the $10 parking fee at the ranger station, Jenna noticed a sign that said to be sure to take water on the climb up the dunes. She asked me about it and I said, “Pshawwww! You don’t need water. This isn’t the Grand Canyon.” My husband has climbed the dunes a few times and has never had a problem nor has seen anyone have a problem. Plus, the temperature was only in the 70s. Big mistake!

The park brochure states this about the Dune Hiking Trail: 3.5 miles. Strenuous—Hilly, all sand, and no shade. Travels over nine hills through the high dunes plateau to Lake Michigan. Blue-tipped posts mark the trail. It can be a hot, exhausting, three to four hour trip. Plan ahead. Take water, sunscreen, hat, shoes, and a snack.

We started our climb. The first dune is by far the worst. When we were a little more than half-way to the lake, Barry and I came to the realization that if our youngest daughter didn’t stop soon or get some water, she would be in serious trouble. We decided that I would stay with her Barry, Jenna and Mikayla continued on to find some. We had seen so few people with water bottles that I knew this could mean they would have to find some way to bring lake water back.

I have been to the Dunes once before but had only hiked up the first dune because I had a baby and two little ones. I was more than just a little disappointed that I couldn’t go all the way to Lake Michigan. Eva and I found a rare shady spot and began our wait. She was so thirsty that I worked hard to distract her. We soon made a game out of trying to write her name in the sand. It seemed impossible at first because the sand is so unstable, but she soon found a way. It ended up that we had a really great time together, just the two of us.

As I saw life start to come back into her face, I decided that we should start to slowly make our way back. I reached for my cell phone to let my husband know what we were doing. No phone! Oh well, “I’ll just get it when we get back to the parking lot,” I thought. I let her set the pace. We took our time, enjoyed the various plant life and beautiful views. I did find a lady who was hiking all the way to the Lake, gave her a description of my husband and asked her to tell him that we were heading back. (She did find him.)

In the meantime, I noticed that quite a few of the people coming back from the lake were in bad shape. No one had water. I started to worry about Barry and the other two girls; especially our middle girl, Mikayla, who is just under 5’4” but weighs only 85 lbs. I voiced this to Eva. We asked God to be with them.

While we were making our way back, Barry and the girls had made it to the lake. Jenna found a youth group (from a Lutheran church in Clarkston) who had three empty water bottles. She asked if she could have them and filled them with lake water. She felt really strong and started back alone with the one of the bottles. Barry wanted Mikayla to rest a bit longer. By this time Eva and I were doing really well and were walking almost non-stop back to the truck.

As Jenna searched for us, a young woman in her 20s who was in rough shape approached her. She asked for some water. Jenna showed her how to filter the lake water with her shirt and helped her find her boyfriend from whom she had become separated. We were very happy to see them at the bottom of the dunes before we left. They made it and the young woman expressed her thanks to Jenna once again.

Eva and I finally made it back. By now, I had realized that I didn’t have keys to the truck. She had money in her pocket but was 15 cents short of the $1.25 she needed to get water. Ugh!!! Fortunately, she remembered the bathroom has drinking fountains. I think she drank them dry! As we walked out of the bathroom, I looked up and saw Jenna coming down the dune!

293456_10150302863818846_683938845_7931883_3420521_nWe hurried to meet her. She told us that she was worried about Mikayla. That’s all I needed to hear to start up the dunes again. We quickly cleaned out the water bottle and filled it with fresh water.

As I started the difficult climb again, my ankle (previous injury) started to bother me. I had ignored the fact that it was already swollen. I knew this wasn’t good but I was worried about one of my cubs. As I climbed, I kept saying, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” When I thought I would have to sit down and give my ankle a rest, I heard a voice behind me. “Hard climb isn’t it?” I turned around to see a very kind looking woman. “Yes! And this is my second climb up this dune today.” She asked me why on earth I would do it twice. When I explained she said, “It’s amazing the strength that is a result of love.” Yes it is!! We kept talking and before I knew it, we were at the top of that first dune and over the other side came Barry and Mikayla. They were tired and thirsty but they were alright.

As we drove back to our campground, we discussed the many mistakes that were made. We left the trail map in the car. I left my phone and keys. No one had money on the climb except for the $1.15 that Eva had in her pocket. The obvious mistake of course, was no water. In our defense, we’ve never seen anyone have trouble at the Dunes (Sleeping Bear, Warren, or Indian Dunes National Lake Shore). We now have a list of supplies to always have with us.

Even though the trip didn’t go quite as we thought, it was a beautiful day. The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is beautiful and worth the time. There is a lot more to do in the area. We would like to go back and do it all. This time, we’ll bring water!


Water, Water and More Water!

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

We found our camper, a 29 foot Wildwood, on Craig’s List in April. It was very clean and had a floor plan that would suit our needs. Being 10 years old, it wasn’t perfect but it would do.

You just don’t buy a camper for a trip across the country and into Alaska, pack it up and leave. We knew we would need a lot of preparation, planning, and trial runs. The first thing we did was to spend several nights in the camper while it was parked in our driveway. Fortunately, it was very cold outside so we could test our plan for heat. We soon felt ready to take off to a park deciding to stay close to home so we could easily run back if we needed anything. This was more than just camping but a time to try to think of everything we would need once on the road for good.

With all our planning things didn’t always go very smoothly. In fact, the first trips were rough. So rough, that there were times that I thought our dream was more like a nightmare. We had an extremely rainy spring. Days and days and days of heavy rain! On a trip to Wisconsin, we noticed water, mud, pebbles and sand in the camper at every stop. At first we thought we had messed up our black water. Yikes! Fortunately, it wasn’t that but it wasn’t good either. The new tires that the previous owner had just put on the camper before we bought it were too big. This caused the tires to wear holes in the wheel wells. Thus all the sludge! The oversize tires also created a problem with our suspension. The leaf springs were worn flat and had to be completely replaced. We literally dragged the camper to Madison, WI, (about an hour from my parents) where they fixed it enough for us to get home to Michigan where we could have the job completed.

Then there were problems with no water at all, no hot water, a leak in our holding tank, a leak in the roof, and of course, more rain (and more rain and more rain…). I purposefully didn’t blog during this time because it would have been a depressing read. Every day we were in the camper was hard. Every day we worked like dogs. Every day there were major, wet messes to clean. Every day there was a new obstacle but with it a new lesson. I’m really glad that that we stuck with it and eventually worked out all the bugs (literally in some cases but that’s another post).

We cleaned up our last big water mess at the beginning of June. As I threw the last of the rags away, I said to our oldest daughter, “You know what sums up this experience so far? Water, water, and more water!”

She replied, “At least it hasn’t been, poop, poop and more poop!”

She was absolutely right!


How It All Began…

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

When we first started homeschooling some 13 years ago, I read an article about a homeschooling family who took a year off from life to travel the United States in an RV. I shared the article with my husband and it instantly became our dream. We never thought it would happen for us, however, because the other homeschooling family was definitely very wealthy. Still we dreamed…

Last summer we left years of tenting behind and bought a 23 year old pop-up. It was in horrible condition so my husband rebuilt almost the entire thing. We nicknamed it the Duct-Taped Ghetto because we had to add more duct tape nearly every day. We had a great time camping all over the eastern side of MI.

At the beginning of that summer, our oldest said to us one night across the campfire, “You know, you only have about 3 years left with me. Then I’m off to college.” We couldn’t believe it. How had the time slipped away? I remember thinking, “Our dream will never happen.”

As the summer went on and different things came up in our life, we began talking more and more about the possibility that our dream just might come true. We homeschool, so school isn’t a problem. My husband’s business is 100% web-based, so that’s another problem solved. But wouldn’t it take a lot of money? Could we afford a bigger camper? Would it hurt our business to leave the area? What would our family and friends think? Is it really sane to take off with three girls and two cats in a camper and live like gypsies? What about church, mail, banking, etc? We began praying about the possibility and then reading everything there is on the internet about full-timing. We started to realize that it was going to happen!


Friends, fun and pirates! (Yes…Pirates.)

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

We started officially full timing this Monday, May 16, 2011. It’s been an adventure to say the least!

We started off at Metamora Hadley State Recreation Area which is close to our house in Davison. That way we can pack, clean and get ready to leave completely without traveling an hour one way just to get to our house! The three days we were out camping it rained almost the entire time! (At least we know that our camper doesn’t leak. Good thing!) However, it was still very beautiful and the few times when the skies did clear up we enjoyed our time even more than if it hadn’t been raining. What a beautiful place!

After Metamora Hadley we then moved our home to our good friends’ house where we are staying two nights. During this time we visited their grandparents where we had a wonderful time learning how to cook some Indian recipes, laughed a ton and have been attacked by pirates! OK, we went and saw Pirates of the Caribbean on Stranger Tides in 3D. The very first showing (at least in our area)!

Well that just about sums up our first week of full time camping besides the fact that mom is no longer working outside of the house.

Next destination, here we come!

Jenna