A Visit to the Big City

A Visit to the Big City

I love my time in nature. It’s my happy place, my church, my way to recharge and reflect, but there’s still a city gal lurking in me that requires a little hustle and bustle every now and then. Okay, maybe not too much hustle and bustle, it’s more about the shopping that’s at the real core of my city longings.

I grew up in the Chicago suburbs near one of the largest shopping malls in the United States, and as a newlywed, Al and I lived near the second-largest mall in the state of Illinois. I’m used to having lots of stores at my disposal and that includes grocery stores.

Obviously, with online shopping, the need to have shopping facilities in close proximity isn’t as much of a priority in my life as it once was, but it’s still nice to have choices especially when I’m on the hunt for something specific and can’t or don’t want to wait for delivery. Truth be told, I’m a hands-on kind of shopper.

Visiting Duluth, Minnesota

Wisconsin humor, driving distancesSpending the summer in the Northwoods of Wisconsin with the nearest town being a thirty-minute drive away (not too far), and boasting a population of less than 3,000, does not bode well for a city gal and her shopping desires.

So, two to three times a month, I hop in the truck and head for the nearest city located ‘a little ways’ away, and in less than two hours, I’m crossing a bridge taking me from Wisconsin into Minnesota and the city of Duluth.

With a population of less than 100,000, there was a time when I’d consider Duluth merely a town, but all things are relative, and these days, she’s the closest thing to a big city for my shopping excursions. Duluth does offer all the big box stores which allow me the ability to stock up on supplies and shop for those specialty items that I just can’t find in the small town of Hayward, WI.

Shopping aside, Duluth has some of the prettiest parks offering an abundance of lush vegetation and lots of trails to walk/hike.

Enger Park

One of the parks that I always make the time to visit is Enger Park. This park is a gem and one of my favorites. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and include a small Japanese Garden, a large climbable tower type of structure honoring land donator, Bert Enger, and at the opposite end of the park is an overlook showcasing an amazing bird’s eye view of Canal Park and the historic Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge.

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

Rose Garden – Leif Erikson Park

Next on my list of must-see parks is the gorgeous Rose Garden. The Duluth Rose Garden is an extension of the Leif Erikson Park and offers a stunning arrangement of more than 3,000 rose bushes and other flowering plants. The park sits high above the lakeshore offering a beautiful view of Lake Superior.

Beyond the rose garden are trails/walkways leading further into the park and connecting to the Waterfront Trail near the shores of Lake Superior. According to some locals I spoke with, the best time to visit the Rose Garden is in July when the roses are blooming in abundance.

Leif Erickson Park and the Rose Garden

Canal Park

No visit to Duluth would be complete without a visit to Canal Park. Canal Park is the entertainment hub of Duluth. The old warehouse district has been converted into an attraction offering an array of restaurants, shops, cafes, and hotels. The building conversions began in the 1980s in an attempt to promote tourism. In my opinion, they’ve done a great job, and if crowds are any indication, I’d say the project is a huge success.

Along with the usual tourist type of shops, there’s one store in particular that I like to visit; the Duluth Pack store. A Duluth Pack is a specialized type of backpack made of heavy canvas and leather. The packs are a traditional portage pack which are nearly square in order to fit easily in the bottom of a canoe.

We still have our son’s Duluth Pack safely tucked away in our storage unit. For me, it’s always a nostalgic walk through the store which conjures up fond memories.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Minnesota
Al and our four-year-old son, Logan, head out into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota for an overnight. Logan carried his own Duluth Pack filled with camping essentials – cheerios, marshmallows, and juice boxes. Summer of 1991.

Some of Canal Park’s attractions include a 4.2-mile long lake walk, a lighthouse pier, the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, the Great Lakes Aquarium, a floating ship museum, and the famous Aerial Lift Bridge, Duluth’s landmark. Watching vessels from around the world enter/exit Duluth’s port is interesting to watch. You don’t realize how huge these ships/barges are until you stand near one.

canal park, Duluth, Minnesota, Aerial Lift Bridge
A ship going under the Aerial Lift Bridge. To the left of the bridge is Canal Park. Cross over the bridge to the right and you enter Minnesota Point.

I loved watching the Aerial Lift Bridge rise and then a 750-foot ship glide through the canal. Be warned … those horns are loud!

Minnesota Point

Minnesota Point is the largest freshwater sandbar in the USA. The narrow Park Point extends 7 miles out from Canal Park and offers miles of public beach for everyone’s enjoyment.

Minnesota Point, Park Point, Largest freshwater sandbar, Duluth

More parks and waterfalls

I never seem to have enough time when I visit Duluth. I’m usually visiting just for the day and running errands which limits my explorations. When I have overnighted, I was able to explore more, but not enough. I’m still left with a list of parks I’d like to see, especially one’s with waterfalls. And let me tell you, there is no shortage of waterfalls in this neck of the woods.

On my Duluth list yet to visit are Lester Park, Congdon Park, and a tour of the Glensheen Mansion and her beautiful grounds. Did you know, you can even arrange to have lunch delivered to your picnic spot on the grounds of Glensheen? How cool is that! Visit their website for more details.

Hmm, perhaps I can squeeze in one or two more excursions to Duluth before we leave for the season.

Where to stay when visiting Duluth

There’s no shortage of lodging around Duluth. Peak season usually runs from mid-June to mid-August, and thus, prices can vary … a lot.

Last September, my daughter and I enjoyed a last-minute overnight at the Inn on Lake Superior located in the heart of Canal Park. We loved the location. From the hotel, we were able to walk to the Aerial Lift Bridge, stroll the local shops, dine at a couple of different restaurants, photograph the lighthouses, and stroll along the lakeshore.

Provided we chose not to stay in Canal Park, I think next time she and I would look into an Airbnb on Park Point. Or maybe we’d stay at the Two Harbors Lighthouse for a unique experience.

The lodging choices are endless, and there really is a little something for everyone.

RV Parks – We’ve enjoyed camping at the Burlington Bay Campground located in the town of Two Harbors. It’s an easy thirty-minute drive east of Duluth, but for those wanting to stay as close as possible to Canal Park, consider staying at the Lakehead Boat Basin. Unfortunately, it’s parking lot style RVing. The sites are close together and depending on where cars are parked, it could be a challenge to maneuver. But it’s all about location at this place.

Lakehead Boat Basin – RV Parking

Indian Point Campground is another popular Duluth option for RVers. Personally, we have not seen this RV Park but know folks who have stayed here and liked it. It’s located on the west end of Duluth near the zoo and the St. Louis Bay.

Duluth DrivingTip

Navigation – Most cities have some form of a congested traffic area with interchanges. In Las Vegas, it’s called the Spaghetti Bowl. In Phoenix, it’s called the Stack and the Mini-Stack, and here in Duluth, it’s called the Can of Worms, and it really is a can of worms.

Can of Worms – Duluth interchange

This Duluth interchange, I-35 and Highway 53, is one of the busiest in the region. It can be congested and confusing to navigate and more so with an RV. This series of bridges and ramps are sometimes single lane with little room to merge or change lanes. I highly recommend using the aid of a GPS during your first time or two driving through this area. Construction to try and fix this mess begins soon making it even more fun for us to navigate with RVs. Yippee! (she says with sarcasm)

Enger Park, Duluth, MN, walking trail through the woods

I’ve become quite smitten with this scenic city nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake. Pristine forest, rocky cliffs, waterfalls, and nice shopping make Duluth an ideal place for any getaway. This little big city continues to pull me back time and again nudging me to explore more … with camera in hand, of course!

Celebrations & Catching the Big One

Celebrations & Catching the Big One

Some weeks are more eventful than others, and this past week was one for the books. First, three out of the four of us celebrated a birthday. So of course, there had to be festivities.

And what’s a birthday celebration without plenty of tasty food and fine spirits to toast to another year?

Fine food and drinks

I’m not sure where the time has gone, but all four of us fall into that “senior” category and considered to be in the last quarter of our lives. Eek! That sounds eerie, doesn’t it? So when ya put it into that light, we might as well live it up and throw any thought of diet or restrictions out the window. Right? Bring it on!

Inspiration

Despite all the negative happenings centered around 2020, Al and I have been enjoying a fantastic summer staying on family property, and having a ‘real’ house at our disposal.

mist on a lake with lily pads in the foregroundA real kitchen, a real shower, and a big-screen TV with cable have been huge bonuses.

I’ve been able to watch the Food Network to my heart’s desire which has led to lots of experiments in the kitchen … in both the RV and the sister’s house.

Some recipes have turned out better than others, but there hasn’t been any out and out fails.

There’s something about watching one of my favorite personalities cook (or bake) that inspires me to get in my own kitchen. Believe me, I need all the motivation I can get!

Oh, and I’ve been banned from watching HGTV after trying to talk my husband into doing a complete remodel on the RV … back to that inspiration thing. 🥴 Little does he know, there’s still Pinterest and Instagram that keep those remodeling ideas alive in my head. Shh, that’ll be our secret!

With new-found cooking inspiration, for Steve’s big day (Al’s sister’s husband), I made filet mignon cooked to perfection in a cast-iron skillet, a Ceasar salad made with homemade dressing, and a side of my version of focaccia bread. Dessert consisted of my favorite chocolate cupcakes drizzled with chocolate liqueur and whip cream. Yum!

While I made a fantastic meal and dessert for my brother-in-law’s birthday, we went out to brunch to celebrate my own birthday. Over the river creek and through the woods, we arrived at the Garmisch Inn located along the shores of Lake Namekagon. Good food, great view, wonderful company … a gal can’t ask for much more!

The fun didn’t end with brunch. The weather was perfect for a boat ride. So when we returned home, we hopped on the pontoon boat for a spin around the lakes and a little fresh air and sunshine. Later in the day, I made my favorite Sloppy Joe’s and Margarita’s, followed by more Margarita’s around a campfire.  #LifeisGood

The third birthday occurred at the end of the week. The festivities continued as we celebrated Al’s sister’s birthday. We started off the day with a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, cinnamon toast, and Bloody Mary’s followed by a boat ride. For an early dinner, I made Chicken Marsala, Buttered Egg Noodles, Ceasar Salad (by request), and herb topped dinner rolls. Al popped the cork on some sparkling Prosecco as we toasted to another year and another great summer spent hanging out together.

The day was topped off around a toasty campfire while indulging in my homemade apple crisp and spiked hot cocoa. We are definitely into fall weather. So the hot chocolate was the perfect way to end a great day.

Catching the Big One

Birthday cheers … eating, drinking, boating, and campfires weren’t the only events of the week. Although Al and Steve get out on Teal Lake fishing regularly and do routinely catch fish, they recently enjoyed a very special and rare fishing outing.

My husband had a once in a lifetime experience earlier in the week during an evening of fishing. He caught his biggest fish ever; a 42 inch, 24 pound, Musky. Al is still beaming. According to fishing guide Steve, aka brother-in-law, this Musky was trophy size (especially for this small Hayward lake) and many an angler spends a lifetime trying to catch such a Musky. For the serious and tournament anglers, they choose to try their Musky luck on Wisconsin’s third-largest lake located a mere fifteen minutes away from the family property; Lake Chippewa Flowage.

Al catches a trophy size Musky

And this was Al’s first-time Musky fishing. Beginners luck! Al usually focuses on fishing for Bass, Walleye, or Crappie… the good eating fish. He has never been one to trophy fish.

Happy Birthday to me and congratulations to Al.

So what does one do when they catch such a fish as a Musky? You snap lots of photos, take measurements, and do so quickly. Then you gently lower this freshwater shark back into the water and massage/revive the fish.

Once he starts fighting and you know he’s fine, you let him loose. “Be safe Mr. Musky and go make more Musky’s”.

These days, you never ever keep the fish. First, Musky doesn’t taste good, and second, for those wanting the wall hanger, you provide a taxidermist with the measurements and photos and a plastic replica is made.

If an angler did show up at a taxidermist with the real fish, the angler would be thoroughly chastised for his selfish stupidity. “Not cool, dude. It’s catch and release“. BTW – there won’t be any wall hanger in this RV, and that’s okay. Al is quite content with his Musky photo screen saver.

The summer is wrapping up!

With the cool air blowing in and the leaves beginning to change color, it’s time for Al and me to think about our migration south. But not so fast! I have my camera batteries charged and waiting at the ready for fall colors. I have a few day trips planned to capture that beautiful autumn foliage … fingers crossed! 🤞

For my birthday, I received more cooking inspiration. These are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support❤.

Valerie’s Home Cooking: More than 100 Delicious Recipes to Share with Friends and Family
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime – Comfort Classics
Porcelain Tea Pot – Loose Leaf Teapot

Is There a Right Way or Wrong Way?

Is There a Right Way or Wrong Way?

Due to the current circumstances surrounding 2020, travel of any kind can be challenging and that holds true even for those of us with RVs. Restrictions abound! But let’s take the pandemic out of the travel equation and pretend like life is normal.

Is there a right way or a wrong way to RV? How much travel is too little or too much? Is the RV lifestyle about constantly moving to new locations, about seeing all the National Parks, about visiting as many states as possible, or is it about living an alternative lifestyle, or is it a way to see extended family more frequently? Whether we travel part-time or full-time, it’s a personal journey … gosh, life is a personal journey!

Blog comments that make you think!

I originally started this blog to journal about our RV adventure and keep family and friends up to date. A surprising by-product of this little travelogue has been YOU, my reader. I never could’ve imagined the friendships I’ve developed via my simple writings and blog comment interaction. I’m humbled and grateful, but before I get all mushy, let’s jump into the meat of this post.

Several weeks ago, I received a comment that I can’t seem to get out of my head. Fortunately, it has led me down the path of memory lane …

Hi, new reader to your blog and future part-time RVer’s! I am a bit surprised that you have not done that much moving around the USA? Maybe I am missing these posts, but don’t you want to see the west (Washington) and east coast? I realize now is not a good time, but you have been at this for a few years.

The rules of RVing … spoiler alert, there are no rules!

There are so many variables to consider when it comes to traveling; a major factor being finances (yeah, travel costs money), followed by interests and goals, and working around obligations like work or family or both. And just like there are all kinds of different RVs, from inexpensive small pop-up trailers to large expensive motorhomes and everything in between, there are also all kinds of ways in which to RV travel.

camping, boondocking at Lake Powell

It’s not uncommon for RV newbies to get out and explore as much as possible that first year. FOMO is real (fear of missing out). They’ll log ridiculous amounts of mileage and exhaust themselves in the process. Some are smarter and will take it slow. And then there are those that prioritize connections with fellow RVers over destinations. Hence, meetups, convergences, and rallies. I know, we personally have rearranged travel plans so we could connect with blog readers and/or family and friends.

There are no rules for embarking on the RV lifestyle adventure. Whether one travels back and forth between the same two states repeatedly or decides to visit all 50 states, it doesn’t matter. Perhaps there are those that have some preconceived notions about RVing, but that’s merely an opinion. We all need to do what we feel is best for us, and what’s right for us may not be right for others.

Given a choice between visiting a stunning and exciting new location or spending time with loved ones, we’ll pick time with loved ones; whether that be family or friends.

Perhaps when we were younger, we would have chosen the exciting destination. Okay, I know we would’ve gone for the travel destination. 😏 Age has a way of changing one’s priorities; changing our interests and desires.

So yes, we have been at this RVing thing for a while, but we’ve been at life for a while as evidenced by the abundance of grey hair that Al and I are sporting. This means we had a life long before we bought the RV and long before I started writing this blog.

We’re no longer young. (I know, what a surprise 🤣) We’ve lived … we’ve lived an exciting life … we’ve traveled, traveled extensively … we’ve survived tragedies … we’ve persevered … we cooperate, compromise, and prioritize and that means, we don’t always get what we want, but the older we get, the more our interests shift.

No justification needed.

A few years ago, one of my regular commenters practically apologized on a regular basis for not traveling in the RV beyond the southeast corner of the United States. Instead of doing the extensive travel that they thought they would do once they moved into the RV fulltime, they found themselves returning to a town along the east coast routinely to visit with their grandsons. Why did she feel a need to justify their travels or lack of distance traveled?

Another blogger/commenter I met made a remark that resonated with me. She and her husband had just spent the previous three months traveling the west and west coast visiting some of America’s most stunning places. When we got together, they’d already been in Colorado for a week and had reservations to spend another two weeks near a different mountain range that they hadn’t yet explored, but they seemed to have lost interest and all they really wanted to do was return ‘home’ to the Gulf Coast.

She said, “I know this may sound bad, but once you’ve visited several beautiful National Parks with jaw-dropping scenery, seeing another mountain range becomes just that, another set of mountains. Of course, still beautiful but less impactful and less interesting“.

They ended up canceling the rest of their Colorado trip and returned to the Gulf Coast. It appears that the law of diminishing return applies to a lot of things including travel … I get it.

Thank you, blog readers and commenters.

I appreciate every single comment left here on my blog and do my best to respond to each and every one. Although I may find some comments perplexing, that doesn’t mean I don’t value them.

As a matter of fact, they can be thought-provoking like the one noted earlier in the post… “haven’t done that much moving around.” Hmm … haven’t done much moving around? I thank that commenter for her thought-provoking words as it has led to some amazing happy hour conversations recently … reminiscing … lots of travel tales and laughs shared. I know the commenter was referring to travel in our RV, but Al and I didn’t purchase the RV with any specific destination goals in mind. After all, we already had a lot of travel experiences behind us.

Did you know Al and I, separately, each lived abroad? Me in Germany and Al in Turkey, Japan, and the Philippines. He and I together and separately have visited Hawaii a dozen times. Al has resided in Alaska, California, Texas, and Florida. Together, we’ve lived in Illinois, Nevada, Colorado, and Arizona.

There was a time when Florida and St. Thomas were the two warm-weather winter destinations that we visited frequently. We loved snorkeling in the Caribbean so much so that we even traveled with our own snorkeling gear in tow.

campfire
Tales around a campfire!

Here are just a few travel memories discussed recently around the campfire …

  • Regular visits to Clearwater Beach, Florida, and staying on a 40-foot single-hull sailboat owned by friends.
  • Disney World lots of times. Disneyland once.
  • A Jeep excursion on Aruba. Almost got stuck in the sand.
  • Watching the kids ski in the Colorado mountains. We one time lost our 13-year-old daughter for almost 2 hours at Crested Butte when she got off the chairlift and went down the wrong slope. Another time, our kids, beginner skiers, accidentally found themselves on a mogul run at Copper Mountain. We have lots of mountain stories that always bring on tears of laughter when we reminisce.
  • My mom and I took a train from Brussels, Belgium to Munich, Germany. The sights along the Rhine River were spectacular. Another special moment was visiting the Kölner Dom. I realize now, the time spent with my mom is more precious to me than the actual sights I saw during any of our trips together.
  • After a business trip to Calgary, Canada, Al and I reentered the United States near Waterton Lakes and visited Glacier National Park. Driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road over Logan Pass was stunning. We spent the night in the back of our SUV in a resort parking lot because there were no vacancies anywhere … hotel or campsite. Guess we’ve been sleeping in parking lots long before we heard the term “boondocking or stealth camping”. Al and I still laugh about our little adventure and our success at avoiding security.
  • We honeymooned in Ontario, Canada. We could’ve flown anywhere in the world for mere pennies, but chose to rent a remote cabin in the woods along the shore of a lake. We love nature and wildlife and all things outdoors and it was the perfect honeymoon for us!
a woman photographing a pink roseate spoonbill
I’m a lucky gal – I’ve enjoyed some amazing experiences!

inspiration, happiness, quote, Dalai Lama quote, Pinterest PinHmm, haven’t done that much moving around?

I have so many amazing travel adventures that this list could get very very long. I’m so fortunate to have traveled extensively throughout my life, not only in the RV but also during my airline days; travel tales that I’ve never shared on this blog.

Snippets of life … I used to hop on a plane first thing in the morning in Chicago and fly to Boston for the day to pick up fresh lobster or fly to New York City for a day of shopping.

I’ve been to Philidelphia and embraced history by visiting the Liberty Bell and other historical sites. I’ve seen the Cherry Blossoms in full bloom in Washington D.C.

I’ve gotten drunk while strolling the French Quarter in New Orleans and I’ve visited Minneapolis in the dead of winter with a minus 50 degree below F wind chill factor.

Who would’ve thought I would taste some of the yummiest pizza in Lincoln, Nebraska? Or finally find that matching cookware tea kettle in a shop in Topeka, Kansas, after scouring stores throughout Chicagoland and NYC to no avail?

Aside from Al going on a fishing excursion on the Columbia River, the Pacific Northwest remains an area of the United States that we have yet to explore. Is it still on my list of places I’d like to visit? Of course, it is, but I’m left with weighing out travel priorities. Do I spend time with family having our own little adventures or do I travel to new territory?

For now, my priorities lie with spending time with loved ones and revisiting familiar places that feel like home. These past two summers have been spent with family on private property located near a place I used to vacation as a child. It has felt like coming home. I feel a sense of calm and contentment that I haven’t felt in years.

The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” —George Santayana

So although I haven’t lost my interest in traveling to new destinations, for now, the shuttle between summers in Wisconsin and winters in Arizona is exactly what we need, what we want. Which goes to show, there’s no right or wrong way to RV travel. It’s whatever makes you happy!

What about you? Are you a homebody or is travel an integral part of your life? Is it about the number of places visited or about the kind of memories created?

Oh My Gosh, I hurt all over!

Oh My Gosh, I hurt all over!

Stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something you’ve never done before can be both scary and gratifying. For many of us, this summer has been chock-full of new experiences and that is certainly the case for Al and me. Aside from dealing with a pandemic, he and I have been working on RV repairs, and let me just say, that has been mentally and physically challenging.

RV Tanks – the good, the bad, and the ugly

One of the reasons this summer has been a record-breaker for new folks embracing the RV lifestyle is the ability to vacation while social distancing. Camping looks a whole lot different this summer due to some of the restroom closures at many campgrounds. Thus the banning of tent camping in certain states is just one of several reasons there’s been an increase in people using RVs.

Al and me working on the RV underbelly. This is serious stuff, ya know!

RVs allow the user to stay remotely at a national/state park or in the backcountry totally self-contained. No room service here! Hmm, self-contained? For those of you unfamiliar with RVs, allow me to give you a quick overview regarding RV holding tanks and why the term “self-contained” is used.

Most RVs come equipped with a kitchen sink, bathroom sink, shower, and toilet. Anytime you use water, that wastewater has to go somewhere. The kitchen, bathroom, and shower wastewater drain into a “grey tank“. The toilet waste drains into a “black tank“. And depending on usage (lots of variables here), most tanks can hold up to a week’s worth of waste at which point a visit to a “dump” facility is necessary. Some RV parks have a sewer/waste connection right at the campsite while others offer a “dump station” that you’ll need to drive to.

The good thing about these RV waste holding tanks, along with an onboard fresh-water holding tank is the ability to be self-contained and vacation distanced away from other people. Therefore, this kind of travel is perfect for social distancing during a pandemic. You sleep in your own bed, use your own towels, and cook your own food. There’s very little interaction necessary with anyone else or anyone else’s germs.

The bad thing is the need to rid (dump) the RV of stinky waste. In reality, it’s not all that bad or difficult especially when you get used to doing this regularly. However, the really ugly thing is when something goes wrong with one of those holding tanks as did with our RV earlier this the summer. Pee-yew! Talk about a stinky mess that’ll stress even the most Zen of people.

roses
Smells like roses around here … one can hope!

The RV repair

Ok, I won’t gross you out with the smell of saturated insulation from a week’s worth of kitchen sink wastewater. Let’s just say, thank goodness a dumpster was nearby when Al and I removed the front half of the RV underbelly covering.

We were really scared and unsure of our abilities to fix the RV ourselves, but we had to figure it out because we were in a part of the country where the nearest RV dealer was a 45-minute drive away and their service department was booked at least two months out. 😕 We had to put our fears aside, pull out the tools, and dig in.

We fixed the leak a little over a month ago but left the belly exposed to make sure everything was in good working order with no potential for a future leak. We tested and retested, and once we were confident in our workmanship, it was time to cover up the exposed belly with new clean material. Easier said than done!

Imagine a large 6 foot by 12 foot area rug that needs to be installed with an exact reveal on all sides. Now imagine that rug to be somewhat ridged and installing it on the ceiling. How do you hold it in place while drilling in the screws? Sure clamps might work … to an extent. Therein lied part of our dilemma. Al struggled with the install. The plastic-like material would slip, sag, and cause the cumbersome sheet of material to repeatedly move which impacted the overall reveal on the metal framework which was totally unacceptable.

This looks wrong 🤣 Me assisting the clamps holding the underbelly material in place while Al installs the screws.

This was definitely a two-person job. Ingrid to the rescue! The photo above was taken near completion. I used my feet to smooth out the material while Al installed clamps further down. By me continuing to hold the material up, the clamps did their job and Al was able to do his. Try laying in that position for hours 🥴

Al’s brother-in-law happened to step out of the house when Al and I were in one of our many awkward positions and insisted on snapping some photos. He was duly entertained by our antics but also impressed by how well Al and I worked together.

Admiring our work – Teamwork – High Five!

The underbelly install took us two days to complete. And believe me, these 60 and 70 year old bodies were feeling it! We were hurting all over from all the unusual positions and movements that were required to get the job done. We feel so relieved to have this project behind us. Now if only the body aches would subside.

More RV projects!

Oh and as if my body didn’t hurt enough … I decided to tackle another project which required me to climb on top of the RV and give the old gal (referring to the RV) a good cleaning while Al worked on other honey-do items. My brother-in-law’s ladder wasn’t tall enough for me to reach beyond the name Laredo. So I needed to work from the top down scrubbing off all those wonderfully juicy Midwest bugs. Once she’s washed, she’ll need to be waxed. Are we having fun yet?

When a ladder isn’t tall enough to get to the top – work from the top down!
Laying down on the job 🤣 This worked better for me than using our scrubber with the extendable pole.

Next on our maintenance list is replacing some RV slide-out rubber seals. That Arizona sun can be brutal on our equipment and considering, we spend more than half our year in Arizona, this won’t be the first time that we’ve replaced the rubber seals and doubt it’ll be the last.

Gratifying

Near the end of the year, we’ll celebrate our RV’s tenth birthday. We bought her new and were such RV newbies at the time. Everything about the RV intimidated us and somehow seemed very complex. And here we are, almost ten years later, no longer newbies, considered seasoned RVers, performing all our own maintenance on the old gal. (It’s sad that ten in the RV world is considered old.)

There’s something very gratifying about doing the work ourselves and learning the ins and outs of how the RV operates. Even though we may still have doubts, we’re no longer intimidated or afraid to tackle RV repairs. The three of us (Al, me, and the RV) have grown and aged together, and although the RV will require a few more updates, Al and I feel confident in our abilities to tackle those projects … now if only our bodies would agree. Where’s that bottle of Advil?

“And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln

Sad, But Happy!

Sad, But Happy!

I can’t believe it’s mid-August already. Has your summer flown by as quickly as mine has? I’m feeling a little sad because I can already feel the changing of seasons is near. Here in northern Wisconsin, there’s a crispness in the air letting us know Fall is just around the corner.

I’m not sure I’m quite ready for summer to end and fall to begin … no, I know I’m not ready.

a lone duck swimming on a lake slightly covered in fog

Changing my mindset!

So, as sad as it may be to bid farewell to summer, I have my happy memories; some very fond summer memories. Oh sure, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the elephant in the room … Covid-19 that nasty Coronavirus pandemic thingy that has plagued much of 2020 thus far. That has not been fun and was partly the cause of my summer starting out with me feeling very stressed, overwhelmed, and sad.

I think I was too caught up in the news and world happenings, that quite frankly, I have no control over which is a difficult situation for a control freak for someone who likes to be in control.

Somewhere along the line, I’d had enough … enough negativity … enough bad news. It was time for me to work on my mindset and not be influenced by all the noise. After all, I was sitting in a beautiful, secluded location surrounded by nature and people I love. It was time for me to control me. Ah, an epiphany!

Enlightened by canoeing!

It was a quiet and calm morning in early July when Al and I launched the canoe. Five minutes later, we were paddling through a patch of lily pads. It was so quiet and calm that other than the occasional call of a loon or croak of a frog, the only sounds we heard were the trickling of water dripping from our paddles and the movement of the canoe gliding through the floating flat leaves. It was a magical moment, a picturesque moment, but alas, I consciously left my camera behind. I wanted to live in the moment with no distractions.

As we continued canoeing, Al and I paddled in silence taking in our surroundings. Soon we exited the lily pads and rounded an island. We spotted a bald eagle sitting on a tree limb high above us. Moments later, we spotted another bald eagle on a much lower limb and smaller in stature. (Where’s my camera when I need it? 🥴) We determined that this must be a nesting pair of bald eagles as evidenced by the loud squawking sound heard nearby from a hungry eaglet. “Feed me, feed me!”

We sat in the canoe with our paddles idly resting across our legs while floating and being awed by our surroundings. My mind was quiet. I felt more at peace and relaxed than I had felt in months. I was happy! Perhaps, I would’ve been even happier had I brought my camera along to capture the exquisite morning. No, I was definitely happy despite being without a camera or even my iPhone. I was in my element and savoring every moment, sight, and sound.

A great summer!

So, even though my summer didn’t start out the best, it has turned into a very relaxing and enjoyable time filled with plenty of fond memories. Come early October, I’ll be sad to leave our little slice of perfection on family property in northern Wisconsin behind, but I’ll be happy to hit the road bound for Arizona in search of new adventures.

This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.” ― Susan Polis Schutz

I leave you with a few more images showcasing my summer sights. To enlarge a photo in a gallery, simply click on any image.

How was your summer? Are you happy or sad to see it come to an end?


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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