Unspoiled Beauty – Apostle Islands

Unspoiled Beauty – Apostle Islands

After a very stormy night, we awoke to an eerily calm, fog-covered morning. Lake Superior’s water was as smooth as glass; a rare treat to behold. Even though the campground is located on Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay, creating some protection from the open waters of this Great Lake, a mere few hours earlier, she was showing her true personality with large whitecaps, waves crashing over the shoreline, and ominous clouds swirling overhead. Lake Superior is a force that demands respect.

As we sat in the comfort of the RV enjoying the view while sipping our morning coffee, Al and I discussed the plan for the day. There was still a heavy layer of cloud cover blocking any sight of the sun rising. Thus, when I suggested we take a scenic cruise of the Apostle Islands, Al thought I wasn’t thinking clearly and proceeded to fill my coffee cup in hopes more caffeine would improve my logic.

I was serious though and thought the day would be perfect for a three-hour Apostle Island cruise on Lake Superior, not that I didn’t have my doubts considering how the visibility was currently poor and the overall feel was very gloomy.

Kreher Campground
Our view of Chequamegon Bay from the RV. Lakefront site at Kreher Campground in Ashland, Wisconsin

Visiting the Apostle Islands had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved looking at maps and am intrigued about places the more I study a map. That little passion of mine has lead us to explore some beautiful locations and this part of northern Wisconsin fits that bill.

As many times as we’ve driven along Lake Superior’s Northshore, her south shore eluded us until the summer of 2019. And believe me, she did not disappoint … Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands

Visiting the Apostle Islands

The picturesque little town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, is the gateway to this national lakeshore. The Apostle Islands consists of 22 coastal islands in Lake Superior that feature lighthouses, sea caves, hiking trails, camping, sailing, and amazing kayaking. It’s said that the area offers some of the best kayaking in the world allowing kayakers to weave in and out of dramatic archways of sea caves.

Tent camping is allowed on several of the islands, but you’ll need to hire a water taxi if you don’t have your own watercraft. There is a vehicle ferry available for visitors interested in touring or camping on Madeline Island. Voted as one of the coolest small towns in the U.S., this Apostle Island is not technically part of the national lakeshore but worthy of a mention. (Personally, I feel the ferry is a tad pricey. Vehicle price is based on length with an additional per person charge.)

During the winter when the waters along the lakeshore freeze over, hikers are able to hike to these ice caves that are adorned with windswept icicles. Although northern Wisconsin winters are no longer something I feel a need to experience, I might change my mind in order to photograph these ice caves. It looks like a really stunning sight and adventure.

(In reality, I’ll stick to viewing pretty images of that winter wonderland from the comfort of my desert located RV. I don’t think I could handle the thirty plus below wind chill conditions anymore 🥶 I’m definitely out of practice.)

Our Tour boat!

Cruising the Apostle Islands

Visiting the town of Bayfield is enjoyable, but in order to really see the beauty of the National Lakeshore, you’ll need to get out on the water. Apostle Islands Cruises offers a nice variety of tours to choose from. We loved our cruise and would definitely recommend.

During our visit in the summer of 2019, we chose to take the Sea Caves and Lighthouse Tour. I was really looking forward to taking another one of their cruises this summer, specifically the Lighthouse Tour, but the cruise company ended up canceling that specific tour during the 2020 season in order to accommodate Covid-19 safety guidelines, and thus, tours and schedules were rearranged.

Things to be aware of when cruising on Lake Superior …

  • Temperature – don’t dress for land, dress for the ‘sea’. Temps can be as much as 20 degrees colder once your away from land and the weather can change drastically in mere minutes. Thus, bring a sweatshirt and/or raincoat regardless of what the weather is like on land.
  • Open Water – the lake can get rough. Even though this is a lake, view it as a sea.
  • Wind – we enjoyed sitting on the top deck, but it’s windy as all heck and the wind is always cold. All that wind makes for great sailing though.
  • Camera and info – it’s beautiful so plan on taking lots of photos, and the captain shares fascinating information on the islands and happenings.
Raspberry Island Lighthouse on Lake Superior, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Raspberry Island Lighthouse – Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Lighthouses

The lighthouse on Raspberry Island has long been known as the Showplace of the Apostle Islands. At scheduled times, the Park Service provides a narrated historical dramatization to tourists. In addition to the lighthouse, boaters often anchor about a mile away along Raspberry Island’s shoreline at one of the more scenic sand spits in the Apostle Islands, and hikers who arrive by boat can follow the trail between the lighthouse and the sandspit to explore.

Sand Island Lighthouse
A kayaker’s delight!

Perfect Day

We couldn’t have picked a better day for our tour. Since the morning’s weather was gloomy, misty, and less than optimal for a three-hour scenic cruise, our boat was barely half full that afternoon. Glancing at the sky while boarding the boat, there visually appeared to be more weather rolling in, but according to my weather app radar, it was looking good. The captain concurred that we should have a lovely day for a boat ride.

And what a lovely August afternoon it was! Aside from Captain Mike’s informative narration, he interjected his excitement regarding the rare optimal lake conditions as well as personal lake life tales and experiences. He hails from a generational seafaring family and his passion and love for Lake Superior and the Bayfield Pennisula was obvious.

He and his crew appeared to be enjoying their time out on the lake every bit as much as the passengers considering we were all experiencing a rare treata very calm Lake Superior.

According to Captain Mike, the lake is rarely that calm … happens maybe ten or twelve times a year… a year … and we were fortunate to have experienced it. The afternoon weather was gorgeous combined with the calmness of the lake made for a magical day. I don’t think we could repeat those conditions even if we tried. Luck was definitely on our side that day. A bucket list memory for the books! ⛵😎❤

Where to stay!

The charming town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, offers a unique variety of accommodations; small hotels, historical Bed and Breakfasts, and vacation rentals. The nearby towns of Washburn and Ashland offer additional lodging options.

RVing – There’s a variety of places to camp throughout the Bayfield Peninsula. We stayed in Ashland at the Kreher Campground which is a first-come-first-serve campground and is big rig friendly. Our second choice would have been at the town campground in Herbster purely for the sunsets. The Herbster Campground is also a great spot to stay if your goal is kayaking the sea caves which are accessed via Meyers Beach in Cornucopia. FYI – kayaking tours start in Cornucopia.

We also checked out the county campground in Washburn, and although workable, we thought the sites were pretty close together and the abundance of trees with low branches could be problematic. This CG is better suited for travel trailers, Class C’s, and tents, although we did see a couple of 5th wheels.

The Legendary Waters Casino in Red Cliff is an option for larger RVs, but expect close neighbors and unlevel sites, but the beautiful views might make up for the cons. The national forest campgrounds that we drove through we’d consider best suited for tents, vans, or popup trailers.

Obviously, we weren’t able to explore all the camping facilities in the area. So, for additional RVing options and more detailed information, please check with your favorite app. Our favorite apps are Allstays and Campendium. Happy trails!

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain

Bayfield, Wisconsin

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A Week in the Life

A Week in the Life

My daughter flew into town last week (July 25th) for some fun at the lake. She had two goals on her list that she wanted to accomplish during her vacation visit. One was fishing with her dad … a first. And two was blueberry picking with her mom (me), another first.

During her visit to northern Wisconsin last year, she arrived at the end of the blueberry season which she found a little disappointing. So, she made sure to schedule this trip with the blueberry season in mind and she wasn’t disappointed.

blueberry picking in northern Wisconsin

Where to go blueberry picking.

Bayfield, Wisconsin, is famously known as the Gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, but it’s also considered the Berry Capital of the state. Bayfield’s local agriculture produces some of the largest crops of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries in the Midwest. The rolling hills, lush vegetation, and beautiful Lake Superior shoreline make visiting this part of northern Wisconsin well worth the out of the way drive.

a hand picking blueberries

Mid-week, Ashton and I hopped in the truck and took the hour and a half drive up to Bayfield for a morning of blueberry picking. I took her to my favorite fruit farm; Blue Vista Farm. I’m in love with this property and barn and try to visit at least a couple of times each summer.

Blue Vista Farm, Bayfield, Wisconsin

The weather was gorgeous and the bushes were covered in berries and ripe for the picking. We picked lots of blueberries. Quite frankly, more than I’d have room for in the RV. Thank goodness my sister-in-law has an extra freezer for us to use. However, Ashton was quick to check with me that I’d have plenty of room in my little RV freezer to haul her five pounds of freshly picked berries back to Phoenix on our return this fall. I assured her that my Tetris skills were such that that wouldn’t be a problem.

young gal fishing on a pristine lake

Fishing with her dad

Ashton bought a four-day fishing license and certainly made the most of it. She and Al along with Al’s brother-in-law had their fishing poles in the water regularly. There were some successes and some failures, but enjoyable moments for sure. Ashton had a great time fishing and already looks forward to doing it again. However, she’d prefer daddy to handle any fish she catches 😎🐟🎣 They feel slimy, ya know!

During the middle of the day when the weather was too warm for fishing, we’d take the boat out for a ride and sometimes pull up to an island and splash in the water.

Other times, we were in the mood to paddle. Al and I will occasionally take the canoe out … something he and I hadn’t done in many, many years. This year, I kayaked for the first time and immediately fell in love with it. Hmm, do you think I can talk him into getting kayaks when we’re back in Phoenix?

Me in the kayak and Ashton on the SUP

Wildlife sightings!

In addition to all the fun activities we did during the week, Ashton also saw some wildlife. Of course, while visiting this part of the country, my favorite sightings and sounds are the Loons. I haven’t been able to capture any nice photos of them this year, but I was thrilled, as were Ashton and Al, with seeing this Loon family.

We’ve also seen two nesting bald eagle families at opposite ends of the lake. All I can say is those juvenile eagles sure do squawk a lot. And I thought a colicky baby was bad 🥴

Mama eagle didn’t like us paddling in her territory. She had some fishing to do considering baby eagle kept squawking and wanted to be fed.

We also saw a deer swim, a coyote swim, an otter with a fish in its mouth swim by the boat along with several Great Blue Heron sightings.

Great Blue Heron in flight

It was a fun week … over way too soon. We lucked out with fantastic weather during Ashton’s visit and another first for her was taking a boat to go out to dinner. One of the resorts on the lake serves up a great burger and onion rings. Why take the truck out to dinner when you can take the boat?

We drove Ashton back to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport yesterday and bid her farewell. We already miss her. And now it’s back to lake life as usual.

Despite all the restrictions, I hope you’re enjoying your summer as much as we are and that you’re able to spend a little time with family. We all need moments with our loved ones, especially these days.

 

We have the Fix!

We have the Fix!

I’m deep in thought as I slowly move the paint roller across the wall. I do some of my best thinking while painting. As I tackle this little remodel project, I listen to music from Tom Petty and am put in a reflective mood.

Along with the wheels in my head turning, my body is being physically challenged. Doing anything in an RV tests one’s contortionist skills and I’m certainly testing mine in this 3 foot 4 inch by 2 foot water closet (toilet room). As I bend over the toilet (with the lid down, of course) to paint behind and around the toilet, I brush up against a freshly painted wall with my bare shoulder. Ah, time for a quick break!

I step over to the medicine cabinet mirror to wipe the paint off my shoulder and notice the round faded scar on my upper right arm … a scar from a smallpox vaccination that I received as a child. Hmm, smallpox? Another nasty virus!

A reflective mood!

A change in travel plans

A virus, a pandemic, a health concern, makes one think and reaccess priorities. Back in January while sitting in Arizona, I was thick in the research phase of our summer excursions. I had all these grandiose RV travel ideas that would begin from our summer home base in northern Wisconsin. These out and back trips would take us into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Minnesota’s Northshore. I love Lake Superior and never get enough time exploring her shoreline. So, I couldn’t wait for summer to roll around and dive back into this beautiful part of the country with camera in hand.

By the time May rolled around, it became obvious that this new Covid-19 virus wasn’t just a normal flu bug, and therefore, it definitely wouldn’t be travel as usual. We had already pushed back our Phoenix departure date a couple of times and eventually started rerouting our journey and timeline to Wisconsin with consideration for restrictions due to the pandemic.

It was time for us to simplify our RV travel plans for the summer. A problem with the RV grey tank while en route to Wisconsin made simplifying those plans easy as well as necessary. Long story short, we fixed our RV ourselves and avoided the need for hunting down an RV repair facility that could get us into the shop in a timely manner … a real problem these days, plus we saved ourselves some serious moola in the process.

Under the belly of the RV – “I think I can fix this.”

The new RV travel plan

Our plan for the summer is not to travel, but to stay put on lakefront private property. Oh darn! Guess that means we’ll need to paddle the canoe more or give the pontoon boat a frequent workout. I believe Al and I are of an age where we don’t feel the necessity to be on the go exploring all the time, and we actually relish the quiet solitude found here in northern Wisconsin.

We’ve lived a blessed life filled with extensive travel and careers we loved. If we don’t make it back to the UP or Northshore this summer, we’re okay with that, and hopefully next summer, things will be back to travel as usual.

Ah, but we haven’t totally hibernated. We’ve taken little jaunts up to Duluth for shopping and hiking, but mostly shopping (Home Depot). Since we’re hanging with family this summer and not moving around, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to freshen up the RV with a little remodeling … hence the painting of the bathroom. I originally wanted to do a major remodel which would include replacing the flooring but nixed that idea once the Midwest summer heat and humidity set-in in full force. I think it might be wise doing most of the projects when we’re back in arid Phoenix. Too much humidity could play havoc on those projects.

Problem Solving

In addition to the RV projects, I managed to repair some damage to the pontoon boat bimini. I brought my sewing machine with me to Wisconsin thinking I might crank out some new face masks, which I still might do, but the machine came in quite handy to accomplish repairing a few rips and replacing zippers on the pontoon canvas bimini. Once repaired, it was lake time. Thank goodness for my sewing skills … thanks mom.

Although all the repairs and projects have kept us pretty busy, we’ve still managed to get in plenty of fun-time with Al’s sister and her husband. After all, it’s their property that we’re camped on for the summer.

So what do four baby boomers do when they hang out together in the hinterland? Of course, there’s the boating and splashing in the lake like twelve-year-olds. Then there’s the eating and drinking accompanied by problem-solving conversations and more drinking. Have I told you how my culinary and bartending skills have improved significantly with all the practice I’m getting lately?

When the weather is bad, we’ll watch a movie or sit on the screened-in deck and watch the storm clouds pass … more drinking and world problem-solving ensue. Along with light-hearted jovial tales, we’ll discuss more serious topics which brings me full circle to the beginning of this post about that smallpox vaccine scar on my arm.

Sitting on the deck watching the storm!

While the four of us discuss current affairs, we can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu. History seems to be repeating itself in little ways. We come up with a list of events from our past that impacted our lives.

  • In the ’60s/’70s, the U.S. was involved in the Vietnam War. Today, it’s the Middle East and soldiers are thanked for their service. Back then, those serving in the military were spat on, had raw eggs thrown at them, and were verbally assaulted. Hanoi Jane and folks that protested the war or dodged the draft were forgiven, but Vietnam Vets have never forgotten.
  • Viruses; I personally had the chickenpox, mumps, and German measles (rubella). In the sixties, polio still existed in the U.S., although rare. I remember a young classmate who wore braces on her legs from having had polio. In the ’80s, we were introduced to HIV and Aids. This was a scary time as there were no meds or treatments for this perplexing virus. The diagnosis was a death sentence and many of us lost at least one friend due to Aids.
  • In the late ’70s, my high school was evacuated a couple of times due to racial riots. In 1991/92, riots broke out over the treatment of Rodney King.
  • During my high school years, the war on drugs was in full force. Random school locker searches by teams of law enforcement officers accompanied by drug-sniffing German Shepards took place monthly. And here we are in 2020 and the war on drugs continues.
  • In the ’70s and ’80s, the airline industry was in turmoil and furloughs were a part of their business model. I predict the airline industry is in for another rough patch and history is on the verge of repeating itself, unfortunately.

How much has really changed over the past sixty years? People are people and you can’t legislate morality or respect. During our happy hour conversations, we share our opinions and potential solutions for the problem … whatever the flavor problem of the evening might be… one of us can usually come up with a fix cause we’re a group of edumacated mature individuals.😆

Now implementing our fix may not be perceived in a favorable light, but hey, it’s only a thought and we’re usually under the influence of spirits while coming up with these ideas.

Since the four of us grew up just west of Chicago, one evening we came up with a solution for the soaring crime and violence in the city … all the southside Grandma’s need to embrace their inner Paul Kersey character and take their communities back from the gangs. Can we get the Hill Street Blues to go along with that plan? Okay, kidding … or am I? Did I mention, we may have watched a couple of Charles Bronson movies during last week’s tornado warning?

Okay maybe some of our solutions are questionable, but perhaps someone like Sigurd Olson was onto something with his profound and thought-provoking words.

Joys come from simple and natural things; mist over meadows, sunlight on leaves, the path of the moon over water. Even rain and wind and stormy clouds bring joy. We humans need wilderness. It is a spiritual necessity, an antidote to the high pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium … only when one comes to listen, only when one is aware and still, can things be seen and heard – Sigurd F. Olson, Listening Point

So now ya know what life is like around my neck of the woods. How’s life treating you?

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A Mixed Bag

We arrived at our summer destination a little over two weeks ago. Those two weeks have been filled with a mixed bag of emotions, poor energy, and stress. In addition, we celebrated an anniversary.

Wedding Anniversary

Al and I met toward the tail end of 1980 … nearly 40 years ago. That’s a lot of time to spend with one person. We’ve certainly had our fair share of ups and downs but no regrets. During the month of June, we celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary.

Our special day was spent visiting the city of Duluth, Minnesota. We had some errands to run while we were in the ‘big city’. After our errands and lunch, we strolled a Lake Superior beach and talked … reminiscing and wondering where has the time gone. Northeast Minnesota – Minnesota’s Arrowhead, will always hold a special place in our hearts.

This photo of Al was taken 38 years ago. Near Gunflint Lake, MN

Al and I used to spend our summer vacations in northeast Minnesota camping and canoeing. At the time, we worked in the airline industry; he a Pilot and me a Flight Attendant. We could’ve flown anywhere in the world for either free or mere pennies, but we chose to escape civilization and immerse ourselves in Minnesota’s Northwoods. Ah, the memories!

In light of those memories, our anniversary gift to each other was a couple of Minnesota coffee mugs. We rarely set foot into a Starbucks, but when our daughter introduced us to the “been there series” of mugs, well let’s just say it was time for a Starbucks visit. These mugs make us smile every morning while enjoying our coffee.

By the way, Al spent seven years in the Navy, twenty-two years as a Commercial Airline Pilot, and twelve years as a Residential General Contractor and NEVER drank coffee. But after just two short years of living full-time in an RV with me, I was finally able to corrupt him, and for the past five years, he has been an official coffee drinker. I started drinking coffee when I was sixteen during a summer spent in Germany and it took me 35 years to bring Al to the dark side. And yes, he drinks coffee black just as I do!

Other news – RV repairs and Stress

So although we enjoyed our actual anniversary, those first two weeks in Wisconsin were very stressful and sleep-deprived. During our long drive to northern Wisconsin, we encountered some problematic issues with our RV.

Anytime the belly of the beast leaks, that’s an issue for immediate attention. Fortunately, it was not of the stinky nature, but a serious problem nonetheless.

Slicing open the belly of the RV, diagnosing the problem, AND then figuring out the fix was a stressful situation … a situation that caused many sleepless nights.

First, we wondered if this was a project we could tackle, and second if we couldn’t, would we be able to find a place to get it fixed? Oh, and we haven’t even addressed the money issue yet.

Spoiler alert – the RV is almost put back together. Al and I fixed her up and are in the testing phase to make sure there won’t be any future leaks. We’ll give her another week or so before we close up the RV belly with new material that is on order.

So while we’re almost done with this major RV project (relief), how about doing some more projects – fun projects? Insert serious eye-rolling/head shaking from husband Al. Ah, and to think he thought he’d have nothing to do all summer but fish 😁. After thirty-seven years of marriage, did he really think he could just idle away his summer? He should know better! Besides I can be rather persuasive … lots of fresh baked goods, steaming hot coffee, and logical reasoning are in his future, amongst other rewards. Stay tuned for RV Fixer Upper!


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Insane Drivers & Road Trip Cost

Insane Drivers & Road Trip Cost

I wish I could say Al and I knew exactly what we were doing when we decided to drive 1,900 miles (3,058km) in four days, but I’d be lying. That was clearly some insane amount of driving and we’ve already promised each other never to push like that again. There was, however, a method to our madness!

Even though those four days weren’t consecutive, they were still exhausting. At the end of day three, we arrived at a beautiful CORP of Engineers campground just north of Des Moines, Iowa, and ended up sitting for two days waiting out some very nasty weather. I still don’t know how we managed to get so lucky snagging such an amazing campsite without a reservation. All I can say is the travel Gods smiled upon us and this turned out to be the perfect place to rest and wait out the weather.

Prairie Flower Campground, Iowa

Our reasoning for the insane driving was the weather. Tropical Storm Cristobal was hitting the Gulf Coast and edges of the leading winds from that storm could be felt across the Midwest. We endured some challenging crosswinds while driving east through Kansas as the winds were blowing up from the south. Once we turned north in Kansas City, we enjoyed a nice tailwind and brief respite from the negative winds.

It’s very unsettling to see semi’s turned on their sides from high winds. During our trip, we saw two overturned semi’s and witnessed numerous others swaying from the wind gusts and trying to stay in their lanes. Fortunately, our RV handles rather well in the wind. However, with that said, we do our best not to test Mother Nature which is why we planned to wait out the worst of the storm at a campground in Iowa.

Our crazy schedule

We departed Phoenix, Arizona, on Saturday, June 6th, and by 5:45 in the morning, we were rolling north on Interstate 17. It was already 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21c) and would rise to over 100 degrees F (37c) in just a few short hours. Considering we had some serious elevation to climb (5,000 feet within a two-hour drive), we wanted to make that climb during the coolest part of the day. Over the years, we’ve seen one too many RVs / trucks stuck on the side of the interstate due to overheating. Plus, we know never to run the A/C as we make that climb while pulling the RV. So hitting the road early in the day at this time of year was paramount.

Travel Day 1

Phoenix, Arizona to Tucumcari, New Mexico = 615 miles / 12 hour day
Lodging/camping = Elks Lodge $20 for electric hookup (Elks members only)

Travel Day 2

Tucumcari, New Mexico to Newton, Kansas = 491 miles / 10 hour day.
Lodging/camping = Harvey County East Park $20 for electric hookup.

Harvey County East Park, Newton, Kansas (just north of Wichita)

This was a great little find. It’s about 7 miles east of Interstate 135 and north of Wichita, Kansas. Harvey County East Park appears to be an extremely popular place on weekends with anglers and boaters. We arrived around 4:00 in the afternoon on a Sunday as campers were clearing out. Check out time was 3:00, but folks didn’t appear to be in any hurry to leave. We snagged a nice long site so we wouldn’t have to disconnect, but the majority of sites appeared to be geared toward smaller RVs.

Travel Day 3

Newton, Kansas to Saylorville Lake, Iowa located just north of Des Moines and west of Interstate 35 = 398 miles / 8 hour day. Lodging/camping = Prairie Flower Campground $22 a night – half off with the National Park Senior Pass. Thus, we paid $11 a night and stayed 3 nights for a total lodging cost of $33. Our site had electric hookup only and was plenty long for us to stay connected.

Saylorville Lake, Polk City, Iowa

Our two-day break here was planned due to impending weather. Al and I are originally from the Midwest and are all too familiar with the possibilities of tornados in this part of the country. Therefore, we kept a close eye on the weather radar via my phone app. Much to our surprise, it wasn’t tornado activity we had to worry about but rather a tropical storm. Yep, remnants of a tropical storm had made its way into America’s heartland. As Tropical Storm Cristobal made its way inland, it brought sustained winds of 20-35 miles per hour with gusts much higher along with heavy rain … conditions we certainly didn’t intend to drive through. Nope, we would wait it out and return to the road during fair weather once the storm passed.

We enjoyed traveling the 2 lane roads through the Midwest. Windshield shot.

Travel Day 4

Saylorville Lake, Iowa to Al’s sister’s house located about 30 minutes outside of Hayward, Wisconsin = 390 miles / 8 hour day. We arrived in Hayward on Thursday, June 11th. Lodging/camping for the summer $0 in exchange for kitchen and bartender duty 🥧🍹 😎. Sounds like a fair trade to me especially since it’s lakefront property with a pontoon boat at our disposal 💃. We are happy campers, indeed!

How much did this road trip cost?

We drove 1,894 miles and consumed 214 gallons of diesel fuel at a total cost of $491. The most we paid for diesel was in Holbrook, AZ at $2.69 a gallon and the least was in Bethany, MO at $1.75 a gallon. Seriously, a $1.75 a gallon … how awesome was that! The average price was $2.29 a gallon.

Diesel fuel          $491
Campgrounds        73
Meals eaten out      0
Grand total         $564 for six days of travel and almost 1,900 miles

Total hours on the road = 38 hours which does include quick stops for gas. Only once did we sit at our RV dinette for lunch. The rest of the time, we ate while driving. So the breaks were short with our focus kept on outrunning the weather. In order for us to drive those long distances with an RV in tow and maintain our sanity was for Al and me to split the driving. Some days, Al drove more miles while other days I did more driving. It all depended on how rested we each felt. Safety always comes first!

Settling in!

We’ve been settled in at our summer location for a little over a week now, and are finally starting to feel recovered from the long drive. Al has been able to get in some fishing while I’ve been able to get in some photography. And although we intend to get in lots of playing this summer, there will also be a fair amount of work on the RV that we’ll need to tackle. Some projects will be a bit more serious than others. Ah, such is life!

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Encounter with a Game Warden

Encounter with a Game Warden

The RVers were quarantined in their snug little homes, while visions of travel danced in their heads …

“Okay Ingrid, snap out of it”. I do believe the soaring 100 degree plus Fahrenheit temps in Phoenix, Arizona, have caused something to dance in my head, or is it the increase in consumption of brownies and alcohol? 🤫 Staying housebound in a tiny home, aka RV, during the Phoenix hot season is obviously not an ideal scenario.

Weather is temperamental

April is always an interesting month for the weather. The changing of seasons is rarely gradual. When we lived in Colorado, April always found winter making at least one final appearance by dumping a boatload of snow just when we were ready to welcome spring. It’s as if winter is talking to spring and saying, “Ah ah, not so fast”.

But it’s a dry heat! 🤪

It’s somewhat similar here in the desert southwest, but instead of cold, it’s heat. Sometime in April, the weather warns us of the impending summer heat by sending us those soaring hot temps. We’ll get a reprieve (hopefully) before real summer sets in. Last year, we enjoyed lovely weather in May, but so far this first week in May is not looking promising for any kind of break from the soaring temps. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the year plays out. Let’s face it, so far 2020 isn’t playing nice. So I don’t have high expectations for anything these days.

With that said, it’s that time of year in the desert southwest when those that can do and those that can’t suffer.

I’m talking about hitting the road and escaping the desert heat. Fortunately, we fall into the lucky category where we get to leave Phoenix for the entire summer.

Others will try and get a reprieve on weekends by traveling either up to northern Arizona or to the White Mountains in eastern Arizona where temperatures can easily drop by at least 20 degrees.

Our plan is to endure the Phoenix weather until the end of May and then hightail it up to northern Wisconsin to stay on Al’s sister’s property. We stayed there last year but took a little over three weeks to drive the 1,900 miles. This time around, Al has fishing on the brain and just wants to get there asap, plus with this whole pandemic thing, it’s probably best not to meander. Beam me up, Scotty!

I don’t think anyone could’ve envisioned something like a pandemic shutting down the country and impacting our freedom to travel, but I think it’ll be okay for us to drive to Al’s sister’s place by the end of May. However, we will be cautious on our drive there and reconsider doing any further excursions this summer once settled on private property. I had a list of places in Michigan’s Upper Pennisula that I wanted to visit, not to mention returning to the north shore of Lake Superior. Time will tell how it’ll all play out this summer!

Guest post

For those of us living a nomadic lifestyle, we’ve had to rethink our travel plans and some nomads have needed to do some serious scrambling just to find suitable accommodations to abide by the ‘stay at home / shelter in place’ orders. Sue and Dave over at Travel Tales of Life have recently written a series of blog posts showcasing folks from around the world and how the pandemic has impacted their lives personally. I was honored to be asked to be a guest writer. You can check out their blog here.

Back to visions dancing in my head

So with visions of Wisconsin dancing in my head, I thought I’d share a lake tale with you …

Reflections in a lake in northern Wisconsin, boat at a dock on a lake

Ingrid and the Game Warden

It was a beautiful summer day in northern Wisconsin. Al had spent the better part of the morning on the boat fishing. After several hours of fishing, he returned home to take a nap.

Considering it was such a lovely day and the lake looked so inviting, while Al napped, I decided to take the boat out. I motored out a short distance to a quiet bay, dropped the anchor, and began reading my book. “Ah, this is the life!”

While turning a page, I glanced up at the approaching boat which appeared to be a Game Warden. He pulls up alongside my boat and says, “Good morning, Ma’am, what are you doing”?

“Reading a book”, I replied, (thinking to myself, “isn’t that obvious”?)
The Game Warden informs me, “You’re in a Restricted Fishing Area”.

In a very polite voice, I responded, “I’m sorry officer, but I’m not fishing, I’m reading”.
“Yes, but you have all the equipment. So, I’ll have to write you up a ticket”.

“For reading a book?”, I asked quizzically.
“You’re in a Restricted Fishing Area, Ma’am”, he says rather matter of factly.

Somewhat exasperated, I stated once again, “Sir, I’m not fishing, I’m reading”.
“Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I’ll have to write you up a ticket and you’ll have to pay a fine.”

“If you do that, I’ll have to charge you with sexual assault,” I responded.
“But I haven’t even touched you”, explained the Game Warden.
“That’s true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment”.

“Have a nice day ma’am”, he responded and quickly motored away.

campfire
Tales around a campfire!

So maybe this didn’t actually happen in real life, but it could’ve.🤣

MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It’s likely she can also think.

I hope you enjoyed a little chuckle and you all are having a great day and staying healthy. And although we may have to rethink our travels and possibly make new plans for the summer, we’ll get through this challenging time and may even discover new hobbies in the process. Cyber hugs!

a canoe on a lake at sunset

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Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes | My First YouTube Video

Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes | My First YouTube Video

What do blueberries and video making have in common? Well, dear friends, please read on.

The month of September was a little overwhelming for me, but mostly in a good way. The month started off great with a small family reunion in northern Wisconsin which included a visit from our daughter along with Al’s other sister and her husband. For those new here, Al and I spent a fantastic summer camped at his youngest sister’s lakefront property near Hayward, Wisconsin. Special memories were created this past summer along with that week-long visit from additional family members.

The month ended with us moving our two storage units in southern Colorado (after purging) to Phoenix, Arizona. To say that move was exhausting and stressful might be an understatement. I’ll save that tale for another post. Let’s talk about the fun stuff first, and that includes that visit from our daughter.

foggy morning at Enger Park in Duluth Minnesota
Enger Park, Duluth MN

A mother/daughter photo-op getaway!

Not one to pass up a chance for a mother/daughter getaway, shortly after her arrival in Wisconsin, I quickly arranged a 48-hour trip for just my daughter, Ashton, and myself. The other family members didn’t mind since they themselves were enthralled in catching up with one another.

Our first stop was to Lake Superior’s north shore near Duluth, Minnesota. My daughter had never been to this part of the country before and I was eager to share a little slice from my past with her.

She fell in love with the landscape as I knew she would. Gosh, what’s not to love? The spectacular scenery includes seven state parks, several waterfalls, small shoreline towns with restaurants and unique shops, and Lake Superior lighthouses.

Since my daughter shares my interest in photography, this trip was geared with photo-ops in mind. And let me tell you, this part of the U.S. will not disappoint a shutterbug.

After exploring the shoreline from Duluth to the Split Rock Lighthouse, we returned to Duluth where I had snagged us a room at The Inn on Lake Superior. Canal Park is considered the entertainment district of Duluth and we really enjoyed strolling the area and taking more photographs.

(To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image)

The following day, we drove to Lake Superior’s south shore in northern Wisconsin; a place I only discovered this past summer. I have fallen in love with this part of Wisconsin and found myself returning to Bayfield multiple times during our summer northern Wisconsin stay. If you enjoy kayaking then the little town of Cornucopia and Meyers Beach are not to be missed. The ‘sea caves’ along Lake Superiors coastline provide visitors with an extraordinary kayaking experience.

Lake Superior beach in Cornucopia, Wisconsin
Beach in Cornucopia, WI

Let’s go blueberry picking!

Not only is the Bayfield Peninsula known as the Gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, but it’s also known for the abundance of fruit farms dotting the landscape. Since Ashton had never visited a ‘pick your own‘ type of farm before, I knew I had to share this experience with her. Unfortunately, our timing wasn’t the greatest in early September. The blueberries were at the tail-end of their season and the apples weren’t quite ready for picking.

However, there were still some bushes with blueberries here and there for her to pick and eat right off the bush so she could enjoy the overall experience, and the farm still had prepicked blueberries for us to purchase. Therefore, we did not return home empty-handed.

An apple orchard in northern Wisconsin Blue Vista Farm
Apple Orchard

How to make the best blueberry pancakesMy sister-in-law and I had visited the Blue Vista Farm a few weeks earlier (mid-August) when the bushes were loaded with berries and picked nearly 5 pounds of blueberries.

Once those berries were washed and divided, I went into baking mode and stocked my sister-in-law’s freezer with treats centered around blueberries. I don’t think any of the family members complained about eating blueberry pancakes, blueberry coffee cake, blueberry scones or muffins. Nope, not at all!

Everyone loves my pancakes and they’re always a hit. So much so, that my adult children still frequently request them. Therefore, blueberry pancakes became a regular part of the weekly menu for our guest’s during their Northwoods visit.

 

Just in case you’re interested here’s the recipe, and do me a favor, throw that box mix away. I promise you won’t need it after you try these 🤗

Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes that are super easy to make!

Easy Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Dry Ingredients
blueberry pancakes topped with banana slices1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk (or 1 cup water plus 1 Tablespoon brewed coffee)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons melted butter (unsalted)

1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions
Melt the butter and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a 2 cup measuring cup, whisk together the wet ingredients and add the melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until all ingredients are fully combined. Fold in blueberries.

Heat a greased griddle or frying pan with either butter or non-stick cooking spray. Ladle batter onto the grill. Flip once the edges are browned. Once fully cooked through, serve pancakes topped with butter, maple syrup, or bananas.

Recipe by Ingrid @LiveLaughRV.com

Recipe Variation

I do change up the recipe from time to time depending on what fruit is in season or add some chopped walnuts to the batter and top them off with banana slices  It’s not uncommon for us not to have real milk in our RV fridge and I’ll use almond milk instead. Lately, we haven’t even had almond milk in the RV. So, what to do? These days, instead of milk, I use 1 cup of water with 1 Tablespoon of brewed coffee added and they turn out quite tasty. Seriously, give it a try. My daughter thinks they taste better with the water/coffee mixture than they do made with milk.

My first YouTube video

And if you’d like to see me make these easy fluffy blueberry pancakes, after I go blueberry picking (Yes, I take you blueberry picking), check out the video … my first ever! 😲 Oh yeah, there’s some faux pas, as in plural, but I figured, if I waited to make the perfect video, it’d never happen. So, here I am with plenty of mistakes, ums, and anyways included. I’ve been told, it gets easier to be on camera the more you do. We’ll see! Let me know what you think. (I have to admit, I’m doing a little cringe over here.)

BTW – The whole video was filmed on my iPhone 8+ and editing was also done on my iPhone in iMovie. As near as I can tell (or I’m not swift enough to figure out), I’m unable to add text to frames in iMovie on my phone. I’ll be visiting the Apple Store next week with a list of questions. I’m also not happy with the sound, but before I decide to spend any money on gear, I want to make sure I enjoy this video making.

Oh, and there’s more blueberry recipes to be had. Are you interested?

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A Love Affair with Blueberries

A Love Affair with Blueberries

The rolling hills, lush vegetation, and beautiful Lake Superior shoreline make visiting this part of northern Wisconsin well worth the out of the way drive. I’ve always been curious about the south shore of Lake Superior and have long wanted to visit this far northern part of the state. I finally had the opportunity recently and was not disappointed.

Bayfield, Wisconsin is considered the Berry Capital of the State and also known as the Gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Bayfield’s local agriculture produces some of the largest crops of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries in the Midwest.

Blueberries on a blueberry bush

Summertime is berry season on the Bayfield peninsula. That means fresh, locally grown berries are ripe for the picking. You can either pick yourself (most cost-effective) or you can purchase pre-picked berries. The “Fruit Loop” drive not only immerses visitors into the picturesque landscape but introduces them to the local farms and farm stands along the small country roads.

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and more

Al and I spent our summer camped on his sister’s lakefront property near Hayward, Wisconsin. Considering the quaint little town of Bayfield is located an easy hour and a half drive away, my sister-in-law and I decided to take a day trip up to the town to pick blueberries. She had never gone berry picking before. Ah, I’d need to fix that. (We called ahead to check on the status of the blueberries before making the drive. The second week in August 2019 was perfect for picking blueberries. We also kept tabs via the Orchard-Reports.)

Our first stop was at the Blue Vista Farm. I fell in love with this place. The property is stunning with its historic barn, and flower garden. And then there’s the orchards, butterflies, and birds along with clean air and puffy clouded blue skies. Seriously, I could spend a summer here and easily run out of film 😆. My sister-in-law literally had to pull me away so we could continue with our Bayfield explorations.

Blue Vista Farm – To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.

After picking roughly 5 pounds of blueberries at the Blue Vista Farm, it was time for us to head to our next destination; Erickson’s Orchards & Country Store. Here, we weren’t interested in picking any more fruit. Nope, our visit was totally centered around their baked goods available in their country store.

We had visited Bayfield a few weeks earlier and had stopped in at Erickson’s. It was at the tail end of strawberry season and blueberries weren’t yet ready to pick. So, we settled for a sampling of baked goods and a bottle of local wine. And wow! So, now it was time for a repeat purchase, but instead of strawberry treats, it was blueberry treats. Yum! Many of these farms also offer additional products such as jellies, jams, preserves, and honey that we’ll consider during another visit.

Fish Tacos BlackenedWith our stash of freshly picked blueberries and a box full of baked goods safely stored in our cooler, we headed into town for lunch at the Bayfield Inn. Their rooftop restaurant offers beautiful views and casual dining.

The town of Bayfield is home to one of the remaining sustainable fisheries on the Great Lakes. Local fishermen bring in a daily catch of salmon, trout, and whitefish.

With whitefish being the most popular, many of the local restaurants offer it on their menus cooked in a variety of ways.

I ordered the White Fish Tacos blackened and they were absolutely delicious. So tasty that I’ve tried replicating them at home. I’ve gotten close to their recipe, but I’ll need to keep working at it and Al will continue to suffer through my culinary experiments. I don’t think he’s complaining.

Shopping

After lunch, my sister-in-law and I did a little strolling up and down historic Rittenhouse Avenue. Bayfield is a small town and each shop offers something different and unique. Of course, my T-shirt addiction didn’t allow me to walk away empty-handed. 😏 And my sister-in-law couldn’t resist a purchase at the Candy Shoppe. Their fruit wine breads and chocolate turtles were to die for and we hear their homemade ice cream is pretty tasty as well.

Gardens

I think one of the things that surprised me the most during my visits to this historic Wisconsin town was the gardens. From residences to shops and even marinas, they all pride themselves in providing lovely flower gardens complete with yard art. It was so enjoyable to just walk around the town taking in the sights.

I’ve loved every single visit I made to Bayfield this past summer. Al and I even managed to take one of those 3-hour boat tours around the Apostle Islands. And we couldn’t have picked a better day to do so, but I’ll save that adventure for another post.

Bayfield, Wisconsin
Bayfield, Wisconsin

What I’ve been working on!

We had an absolutely fantastic summer and a busy one at that. I’ve been so busy especially these last few weeks that blogging has been put on the backburner. Not only have I enjoyed adventures with family, but I’ve also been trying my hand at video. Not very successfully, I might add. Video will never replace my love of still photography, but it may enhance this blog as well as challenge me creatively. I do have three videos ready to upload to my not yet created YouTube Channel. That’ll need to wait until I’m settled into my winter location. Yep, we’re in travel mode right now transitioning between northern Wisconsin and Phoenix, Arizona. In the meantime, I thought I’d share this silly little trailer I threw together in iMovie. More adventures to come!

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Summer’s Last Hurrah

Summer’s Last Hurrah

This is Labor Day weekend here in the United States which usually marks the end of the summer camping season for many. Fortunately for us, we get to continue RVing and head south for the winter. I’m extremely grateful that I’m able to follow my feathered friends and migrate with the seasons, but I’m not ready to move on … just yet.

Prior to this summer, it had been years since I’d spent any time in northern Wisconsin let alone stay this far north into September. And this past week has served as a reminder as to why the camping season comes to an end after Labor Day Weekend in the north woods. It has been downright cold at night. I’m talking in the 45 degree Fahrenheit range with daytime temps struggling to hit 70 degrees F. Plus, the leaves are already showing signs that fall is just around the corner as they tease us with hints of gold and red. And it’s only the first few days in September! That said, there is a raw beauty to the landscape and a clean crispness to the air that I’m absolutely loving. Bring on the sweatshirts!

Kreher Park Campground in Ashland Wisconsin
Kreher Park Campground, Ashland, WI

We really enjoyed this town!

So, with summer weather clearly in the rearview mirror, my thoughts drift back to some great finds that Al and I discovered this season … one of which was Ashland, Wisconsin.

Located in northern Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay lies an interesting little town called Ashland. It was once a center for lumbering, mining, and Great Lakes shipping but today Ashland is a popular destination for tourists and anglers and is known as “The Historic Mural Capital in Wisconsin”.

This community of around 8,000 has eloquently preserved its history by painting murals on many of the downtown buildings creating a fascinating walkable history book. In fact, it may have more murals per capita than any other place in the Midwest.  There may be large cities with more murals over a wider area, but Ashland packs a concentrated punch of murals in the town’s center.

The murals in this south shore town are special to locals because they portray folks who once lived in this small community.  Some of these people had an influential role in the town while others were merely everyday people who contributed to everyday life. You could easily take in most of the murals on foot in about an hour depending on how long you spend at each mural and how quickly you walk.

Images of Ashland … to enlarge photos, click on any image

10 Things to do around Ashland

  • Go on a Mural walk downtown
  • Bike or hike the trails
  • Fish
  • Visit a waterfall
  • Cruise the Apostle Islands
  • Kayak
  • Shop the historic town
  • Take a scenic drive
  • Birding
  • Visit an orchard and pick your own

Wonderful Bike Trail

We really enjoyed walking around the downtown area and admiring the murals, but we also discovered the town’s amazing bike trail. We don’t have bikes anymore so we stuck to hiking portions of the trail system. Sigh … this was one time I truly missed my bicycle. This bike trail is perfect for my kind of biking; paved and gentle hills.

The bike trail even passed right by our awesome Lake Superior lakefront campsite.

Campgrounds

Al and I have been spending the summer on private property at his sister’s lakefront home near Hayward, Wisconsin. Not wanting to overstay our welcome, our plan all along was to do some out and back trips over the course of our three-month summer stay. We enjoyed a great trip down memory lane when we visited the north shore in Minnesota in July and we were hoping for an equally fun trip.

I had spent hours mapping out our journey into Michigan’s Upper Pennisula. Blog posts and campground reviews were read. Stops, sites, things to see and do were clearly noted in my notebook. We bid farewell to sister and brother-in-law with the intent of returning in 7-10 days.

Our first stop was in Ashland; only an hour and a half drive away from the family. This would be merely an overnight …. or so we thought. The drive to Ashland was scenic, well as scenic as the same lush forest on a two-lane road gets. Once we arrived in town, we quickly found and drove through the county park campground where I had planned on staying. Kreher Park Campground is a first-come, first-serve kind of place and we missed snagging the last site by mere minutes.

The other option was the small county park at the opposite end of town also first-come, first-serve. After talking to the camp host at Kreher Park, we didn’t have high hopes for finding an open spot in town that night but we decided to drive through Prentice Park Campground just to make sure there weren’t any openings.

Great campsite at Prentice Park Campground

Luck was on our side and we snagged the one and only open site which was also one of the best. Prentice Park only has a total of seven sites. One for the camp host and a couple of others were taken by monthly RVer’s leaving only four sites that rotate. So yeah, we sure got lucky.

The next morning, we returned to Kreher Park CG just as an RV was pulling out of a lakefront site. Score! Someone was doing a happy dance. Can you guess who? 😁 The previous folks also left behind a stake of firewood … more happy dancing.💃

That evening as the sunset over Lake Superior, Al and I enjoyed drinks while a lovely campfire kept us warm. Ah, life is good! That’s when Al asked, “Where are we going tomorrow?” “What do you mean?”, I quizzically responded. “Well, don’t you have a whole trip planned out for us to explore the U.P.?” “Oh yeah, that. How about we just stay here? And on that note, the plans were quickly changed!

The view from my campsite at Kreher Park

So all those hours of trip planning were canceled in mere minutes. Ah, no regrets on my part. Camping along the shores of Lake Superior was a goal of mine since we pulled out of Phoenix at the end of May. All the notes are saved and archived for next summers excursion. Yeah, I have a feeling we’ll be back next year.

A note about Kreher Park Campground: it is a first-come, first-serve CG with E/W only and an onsite sloped dump station. Most sites are unlevel, mixed sizes, and gravel/grassy. There are local construction workers renting sites on a monthly basis which makes this small campground even more difficult to find an open site. Have a backup plan and Walmart is not it (no overnighting at the Walmart). There is boondocking at a boat landing near the power plant for $20 a night but the air smells from the plant. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of camping options around here for RVs of a larger size. Small travel trailers and tents rule in the north woods.

The Best Drinking Water

One of the many reasons I wanted to camp near Lake Superior was for the drinking water. I grew up near Chicago and most municipalities in Chicagoland get their drinking water from Lake Michigan. Lake Superior and Lake Michigan are cold and deep and the water is clear and delicious.

These days, we find ourselves spending most of our time in Arizona and the local drinking water for most municipalities comes from the Colorado River … rich in minerals; minerals that cause calcification in our RV plumbing AND in our bodies. Intense filtering is necessary.

The moment we were set up at the Prentice Park Campground, Al opened our freshwater holding tank to let it drain (it was only a quarter full anyway). We then filled up with the excellent water at our campsite. Later, we were told the water came from an Artesian Well. This was the clearest and tastiest water that we’ve seen come out of a spiggot in years. It’s hysterical how Al and I are treating that fresh water in our tank as a precious commodity. “NO, you can’t use it to flush the toilet”, we both scream! 🤣

Artesian Water – We filled every empty container we had.

Turns out, there’s actually an Artesian Water fill-up station (not for RVs – you’ll need a campsite) at Prentice Park as well as at the Maslowski Beach along Highway 61. We filled up any empty or half-empty water containers we had in the RV. Seriously, this is the best water I’ve tasted in years and I’m so glad our freshwater tank is filled with this stuff.

A Cruise on Lake Superior

Our five days in the area were not only very relaxing but provided some fabulous sightseeing. High on my bucket list was a visit to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. My previous visits to Bayfield (gateway to the Apostle Islands) were either filled with other adventures or the weather was somewhat inclement. Once again, we lucked out and enjoyed a perfect day for a cruise around the Apostle Islands. But I’ll share that in another post!

Bad weather was rolling in – time to lift the jacks

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Lumberjacks, Rainbows, and Unicorns

Lumberjacks, Rainbows, and Unicorns

One of my favorite things about RV travel is the ability to spend extended time in diverse landscapes. This past winter, we were exploring the Sonoran Desert surrounded by the majestic saguaro cactus, and this summer, we find ourselves living on lakefront property surrounded by a lush landscape full of tall trees and a forest floor carpeted with ferns and wildflowers. Talk about extremes!

I just love it when the stars align and my days are filled with rainbows and unicorns. Ah, life is good in the Northwoods … that is when one of their insane storms isn’t rolling through!

When we decided to spend our summer with family in northern Wisconsin, Al and I weren’t sure if we’d enjoy spending three months back in the Midwest. After all, since moving west in 1992, the most time we had spent back here was in 2015 when we only lastest five weeks. Yep, after five weeks back in Illinois and Wisconsin, we ended up canceling a bunch of reservations so we could high-tale it back to Colorado.

Although we enjoyed that Midwestern excursion in ’15, I think our mindset at the time was more interested in exploring places west of the Rocky Mountains. These days, I’m feeling a draw to return to my roots and some old stomping ground favorites.

a reflection mallard duck swimming by

Hayward, Wisconsin

Folks come to Hayward and the surrounding area to enjoy the abundance of lakes and relaxing way of life. As a child, I spent quite a few family summer vacations in this part of Wisconsin, and they were always so much fun that my siblings and I couldn’t wait for dad’s vacation time so we could return to our favorite lake and campground on the Chippewa Flowage. Ah, such fond memories and now we have family that actually live just down the road from that favorite place … with room for us to park our RV. How sweet is that!

RV camped in the northwoods on a foggy morning
A foggy morning at our summer campsite. Yoho!

During summer months, fishing, swimming, and strolling Hayward’s small-town streets are just a few fun activities in this former lumbering town. Hayward keeps its past alive by hosting the Lumberjack World Championships each summer. And guess what? We had the pleasure of attending this entertaining competition. This was definitely a first for me! Who knew there was an International Timber Sports Competition? I know, I didn’t. And it’s even televisioned on ESPN.

Lumberjack World Championships

The Lumberjack competition is a three-day celebration of timber sports with over 120 competitors from around the world. Competitors are from five different countries; Australia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Canada, and the United States. There are 24 events including logrolling, boom running, sawing, chopping, axe throwing, and speed climbing.

Log Rolling: Lumberjacks and Lumberjills (yes, “lumberjill” … how cute is that!) run atop spinning, floating logs in an attempt to topple their opponents. If opponents don’t fall off after a specific time, they switch to a smaller log. Difficulty increases as the logs get smaller.

Boom Running: Competitors sprint atop a “boom” (a series of linked, floating logs) from one dock to another and back. The logs spin and dip. This is a test of speed and balance.

Boom running Lumberjack competition
Boom running

Sawing: Sawdust will fly when lumberjacks and Lumberjills attack lathe-turned white pine in a head-to-head competition using a crosscut saw or a souped-up chainsaw in a variety of fast and furious events.

Chopping: Lumberjacks and Lumberjills sharpen up their axes to compete in the high intensity standing chop, underhand chop, springboard chop, and standing block chop.

Throwing: Precision is the name of the game as competitors throw a double-bit axe as close to the center of a target as possible from a set distance away … bullseye!

Speed Pole Climbing: Lumberjacks go head to head in the breathtaking speed pole climb as they scale a 60′ or 90′ pole and seemingly fall to earth in record time.

Lumberjack World Championship Hayward Wisconsin
The storm passed just in time for the competition to begin.

Fortunately, the threatening storm clouds passed just to the north of Lake Hayward allowing clear skies to prevail for the championship to begin on time. “Yoho!” This was a really fun and interesting sporting event. The competition moved rapidly keeping everyone entertained. At various times throughout the event, spectators could be heard yelling “Yoho!”.

The story behind the “Yoho” goes something like this… Back at lumber camp (many moons ago), one of the lumberjacks needed to visit the outhouse. The weather was clear when he first entered, but upon exiting the outhouse the forest had become covered in a thick layer of fog. The fog was so thick that it was impossible for him to find his way back to camp. So he yelled out “yoho” to his fellow lumberjacks who in turn yelled “yoho” back. The yelling of “yoho” back and forth helped guide the lumberjack back to camp. “Yoho!”  😏

A special treat

Ah, when those stars align … seeing wildlife in their environment is always a special treat and my encounters with the Loons this summer has been amazing but seeing a bald eagle was equally spectacular.

American Bald Eagle

The first time I saw this gal/guy fly by was during happy hour. There we were, sitting on the back screened-in porch on the upper level of the lake house enjoying our margaritas when a huge bird swooped down from the top of the house and flew by us at eye level. We could literally hear the movement of her wings. I was giddy with excitement. I had no idea that this would be the first of many eagle sightings during my summer jaunt to the Northwoods.

Bald Eagle
The neighborhood Bald Eagle

Country living

We are absolutely loving our time and campsite on private property this summer. Not only do we have a lake view, but we also have hookups and access to a house AND boat, not to mention special time with family. Yep, I’m loving those boat rides. But there is a downside to country living, our cell phones and hotspot do not work. Well, I guess somedays that might be construed as a plus, but other days it does present some challenges. Thankfully, my sister-in-law has a landline and a pretty good internet service, so we aren’t totally disconnected … oh, and cable TV. We were able to get caught up and watch the final season of Game of Thrones. Pretty important stuff, ya know!

Heading into town is about a 30-minute drive and once in Hayward, I can find almost anything I need at the local grocery store or Walmart. But Main Street should not be overlooked.

Strolling the quaint shops and taking in the interesting architecture is equally entertaining. There are also plenty of restaurants, bars, and treat shops to satisfy anyone’s taste buds. Of course, being the T-shirt addict that I am, I felt compelled to add to the local economy by not passing up the opportunity to add to my collection.

Oh, and I bought a pair of super comfy Teva sandals at one of the local shops, Glik’s. My favorite Merrell’s were wearing out and needed to be replaced. I’m loving this new sandal and have been wearing them almost exclusively ever since I bought them. I found it pleasantly surprising that some of these small-town shops here in Hayward as well as Grand Marais, MN offer such a great selection of trail shoes and offer styles that I didn’t see in the big city of Phoenix. Hmm, do I dare go shopping some more?

All good things must come to an end

I can’t believe that it’s already mid-August and our summer is quickly coming to an end. For those of us that have been RVing for a while, we all know the ups and downs of the RV lifestyle. I usually cringe when I hear people say, “Your living the dream” because there are many times RV life is more like a nightmare than a dream, but this summer has really been a dream for us. We didn’t do the traveling we thought we’d do this summer. Instead, we settled into lakehouse living and enjoying our time with family and that’s fine by us. Traveling all the time can get tiring.

Perhaps we’ll return next summer and do that exploring we thought we’d do this year. Ah, time will tell! In the meantime, I’ll savor the last weeks of summer in the Northwoods before we head back to the desert southwest. Are there more unicorns and rainbows in my future? Stay tuned!

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Casual Print T-Shirt – Lake Life
Distressed Vintage Patch Hat: Lake Life, Black
Teva Women’s Verra Sandal