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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Coffee Cake Debacle – Blame the Eagle

Coffee Cake Debacle – Blame the Eagle

Being housebound isn’t all bad. The downtime has given me the opportunity to clean house, binge-watch something, get caught up on RV maintenance projects that we’ve been avoiding, binge-watch something, go for long walks, reorganize a bunch of crap stuff on my computer, binge-watch something, and finally finish editing a video that has been in the works since last August. 🥴

Quite frankly, I had put the whole YouTube channel/video stuff on the back burner. That is until I went looking for a recipe in my recipe notebook recently. When I finally found the blueberry coffee cake recipe that I was searching for, I was reminded that I had shot a video on how to make this easy blueberry coffee cake. So then I thought, ok if I’m going to post the recipe, I might as well share the video. Right?

So since we’re all stuck at home during this pandemic, I’m pretty sure many of you are cooking and possibly baking more than normal. For me, I may be baking more but only cooking slightly more since we don’t normally go out to eat on any sort of regular basis anyway. It’s usually about once a week that we’ll eat out, and I’ll admit, I’m missing that. Sorry, but carry-outs aren’t the same.

blueberry coffee cake baked in a cast iron skillet

With the whole pandemic in full swing during the month of April, Easter Sunday was naturally a little quiet for us. Of course, all along we’ve been adhering to a good practice of social distancing, but distancing from my daughter doesn’t count since I’ve been seeing her regularly ever since the beginning of this pandemic. With that said, our daughter, Ashton, joined us for Easter Sunday and we started off the day with blueberry coffee cake and mimosas. 🥂

You see, the RV park where we’ve been sheltering shortened the hours that the laundry facility is open, making the laundry room more crowded than it normally would be 😬 which kind of defeats the purpose of social distancing in my opinion. Therefore, I’ve been doing my laundry at Ashton’s place while keeping her company during lunch. I feel that’s safer than using a busy laundry facility filled with germs. Since my daughter lives by herself and is currently working from home until June 1st, she gets a little lonely and enjoys my laundry/lunch dates.

So as Easter was approaching, I decided to use up the last of the wild blueberries in my freezer to make this easy blueberry coffee cake. During Ashton’s Easter visit while enjoying the coffee cake and mimosas, we reminisced about picking blueberries in northern Wisconsin and being awed by the bald eagle family that we’d see either in the trees or hanging on the boat dock.

bald eagle in a tree with wings spread

The eagle was a routine distraction for me in Wisconsin and I was constantly jumping out of the RV to try and capture images and footage. It was a frustrating endeavor, but I did manage to capture a little video on my iPhone. Ah, distractions while trying to follow a recipe is usually a recipe for disaster. And although I didn’t encounter a disaster per se, there was a little faux pas with the failure to add an ingredient … a very important ingredient … the star of the show ingredient … blueberries. Yep, I made a blueberry coffee cake without the blueberries 🤪 I blame the eagle! I encourage you to watch the video and see how that all played out.

blueberry coffee cake in a cast iron skillet, picnic

Which is better … non-stick or cast-iron?

Oh well, my little mistake in my RV kitchen served as the perfect opportunity to bake a second coffee cake (WITH blueberries) and do a little experiment. Does the choice of the baking pan make a difference? Is there a pro or con to baking in a non-stick metal pan versus a cast-iron skillet?

Is one brand of all-purpose flour better than another? Yes! I’ve been a fan of King Arthur Flour products long before they started distributing across the country. I used to order their products directly and have them shipped to me, but somewhere along the way, I ended up purchasing a different brand, and this little experiment of mine reminded me that King Arthur Flour is superior. It bakes a fluffier, less dense coffee cake, and personally, I think it’s worth the extra buck or two. (This is not a sponsored post. I’m merely a happy customer.)

Anyway, if you’re looking for a tasty and easy blueberry crumb coffee cake recipe, give this one a try. And don’t forget to add ALL the ingredients. Yep, when you’re making a blueberry coffee cake, don’t forget to add the blueberries. (Please note, all video footage was filmed and edited on an iPhone 8+)

This summer, I swear, I won’t go out of the RV without my big camera with zoom on my person at all times and hopefully there will be another eagle family for me to photograph … but not while I’m baking 😉

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you learn!

Blueberry Crumb Coffee Cake

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Dry Ingredients for cakeblueberry coffee cake
2 cups all-purpose
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients for cake
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, do not thaw, use frozen)

CRUMB TOPPING
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, slightly softened and cubed

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. For the cake: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a large measuring cup, whisk together egg and milk then add to dry ingredients. With a spatula or wooden spoon start mixing then add the melted butter. Once all ingredients are incorporated, fold in the blueberries.

Transfer to a greased baking pan (9×9 square non-stick or 10″ cast-iron skillet). Set aside.

For the topping: In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in butter with a fork forming small pea-size crumbles. When all the butter is combined forming a crumbly mixture, top the cake evenly with the crumble, then place the cake into a preheated 375-degree oven for 30-35 minutes. (Do not overbake). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe by Ingrid @LiveLaughRV.net

(This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support❤ )

The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook
Non-Stick 9-Inch Square Baking Pan with Lid, Set of 2
Lodge 10.25″ Cast Iron Skillet

Are They Goals or Resolutions?

Are They Goals or Resolutions?

As I switch out the calendar hanging on my wall, I’m saddened by the thought that 2019 has come to an end. I had a fantastic year, a year filled with good health, mingling with friends old and new, lots of time connecting with family, and traveling in a relaxing sort of way. So, as I reflect on the passing of yet another year, I look toward the future.

Not only is it a new year but a new decade. 2020 sounds so George Jetson like, doesn’t it? And although we may not have a Rosie in our lives, we do have Alexa, Siri, Roomba, self-driving cars, smartphones, and all the other gadgets out there that supposedly make our lives easier. I’d say, we’ve come a long way in the past decade and it’ll be interesting to see where this new decade takes us.

spreading your wings. a sculpture with wings out stretched
Spreading our wings in 2020

Resolutions are made up of goals.

Yeah, 2019 was a good year for me, an excellent year, but there’s always something refreshing about changing out that calendar. With a new year and a new decade in front of me, I feel a sense of a blank slate that needs to be filled with hopes, dreams, and goals. I don’t usually do the whole New Years Resolution thing per se, but I do think about loosely set goals. However, goal setting, in general, is something I consider regularly and not just yearly.

Hmm, I wonder what’s the difference between resolutions and goals?

While there is a difference between goals and resolutions, they are intertwinded. Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something. Goal: the object of a person’s amibition or effort; an aim for a desired result.

Goals provide a direction to follow to achieve a desired outcome. Goals involve planning, preparing, and taking action. Ah, I do have goals indeed and perhaps even a resolution thrown in the mix just for fun.

My top five goals for 2020

  1. Eat healthier and hopefully lose a few pounds (isn’t this on everyone’s list?)
  2. Exercise more – get more physically fit (again, popular)
  3. Save more, spend less money (this should be on everyone’s list)
  4. Blog consistently – for fun and to provide helpful information
  5. Embrace cooking and try new recipes regularly.
blueberry coffee cake baked in a cast iron skillet
I wonder, will I be baking as much in 2020?

Ah, I’m sure those top three goals aka resolutions are on most peoples list and usually are every year. Guess I’m not being too original, but I’m ok with that. However, seeing these goals down on paper (or rather computer screen) seems like a lot to be working on all at once. I know I’ll have good days and bad days achieving these goals, but I’m hoping by writing things down via a daily journal that I’ll have more successes than failures. I assure you my computer’s cookies are loaded with how-to “bullet point journal”. Did someone say cookies? 🍪🍩🍪

It also helps that Al, darling husband, shares these same goals … well, except for #4 and #5. First, he doesn’t blog, and second, he doesn’t cook, but rather encourages me to cook and him to suffer through the taste testing. Don’t you feel sorry for him? Actually, he can cook when he has to, but not the kind of dishes I’d eat … very bachelor/guy kind of stuff. Between you and me, I don’t think even he likes his own cooking. He much prefers encouraging me in the kitchen and he’ll even run to the grocery store to help me out. Awe, isn’t he sweet? Did someone say, Sweets? (Diets suck!)

So now that you know my goals for 2020, I’m relying on you to help keep me accountable 😆

a mysterious path in the forest
What does your path look like in 2020?

2020 Travel Plans

Having lived and traveled in our RV fulltime since 2013, we’ve slowed down the last couple of years … not that we ever crisscrossed the country like some RVers or had any specific travel goals in mind like visiting all 50 states. No, we’ve always planned our travels more on a whim and keeping visits with our children in mind.

Now that both kids live in Phoenix, Arizona, it makes travel planning super easy, at least the winter plans. We enjoy spending the winters in Phoenix and the rest of the year is determined by the direction we point the RV.

Last summer, we spent three months camped on Al’s sister’s property near Hayward, Wisconsin … lakefront property I might add. We had a great time, so much so, that we’ll be doing a repeat this summer. We do have a few out and back trips into Minnesota and the Upper Penisula of Michigan planned, but we’ll have to see how that all plays out. Ya know how that goes … plans written in jello with lots of wiggle room.

The main difference between last year’s travels and this year will be the journey between Phoenix and Hayward. Last summer we took almost four weeks to drive the nearly 2,000 miles. This year we don’t plan on meandering but rather focus on the destination and hightailing it in about four days. Our route will be determined by spring storms and the avoidance of running into Dorthy and Toto aka tornados. Yeah, the month of May can be a dicey month crossing the Great Plains and keeping an eye on weather conditions is paramount.

reflections in water
reflecting on life

Happening around our RV

Even though we’re only five days into the New Year, I’m down a pound. My meal planning has been successful and my legs are feeling the activity. So far, so good! And things on the blogging plan front? Well, that still needs a ton of attention. I’m still suffering from a creative block. That’s a real thing, isn’t it? I haven’t been out with the camera much and I certainly haven’t been writing. Perhaps I just need a nudge and if that means staring at a blank computer screen for thirty minutes or just taking random photos of something, that’s what I plan on doing to try and get myself back into a creative mood … ya know, get those creative juices flowing again. After all, that’s when I’m at my happiest; when I’m creating.

I’m excited about the possibilities, goals, and plans for 2020. Whether I’m exploring new places or revisiting some old favorites, my hope is to start the new decade on a positive note and keep it going throughout the new year and beyond.

How about you? What are you looking forward to the most in the new year?

quote carved in a stone bench Where do we go from here
Where do we go from here?

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Star Right Bullet Notebook Journal Set
Bullet It!: A Notebook for Planning Your Days, Chronicling Your Life, and Creating Beauty
Instant Loss: Eat Real, Lose Weight

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?

(Thank you for using my affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases and really appreciate your support ❤)

OXO Good Grips Non-Stick 12″ Open Frypan
Pyrex Glass Mixing Bowl Set (3-Piece)
Lucky Brand Women’s Floral Printed Peasant Top

Wholesale Warranty

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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The Happy Hooker and Getting Loonie

The Happy Hooker and Getting Loonie

Our five days in South Dakota were over before we knew it, and before long, the RV wheels were rolling down the road heading toward our summer destination in northern Wisconsin. It was the third week in June and with severe storms coming and going throughout the Midwest, we opted to move quickly and not linger along the way. We also decided to stick with Interstate roads where feasible. We were on a mission to get to our summer home as soon as possible and avoid getting caught on the road in one of those nasty storms.

Whenever we travel through a major city, we try to plan on doing so on a weekend morning in hopes of avoiding any rush hour traffic or other heavy traffic. Although the drive through St. Paul, Minnesota on a Saturday morning was uneventful, I think the next time we drive through the area, we’ll take the truck/bypass route (494 to 694 back to 35E).

Driving I-35E through St. Paul, MN

Once we made it to Hayward, Wisconsin, Al’s sister met us at the local Walmart so she could help direct us to her and her husband’s place, our home for the summer. We were really glad we followed her to the house because our GPS was just a smidgen off. Normally that’s not a problem with just our truck, but when pulling an RV things get a little more difficult especially when the roads are densely wooded and there’s no spot big enough for us to turn around.

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

The Happy Hooker

After a relaxing first day at our new RV campsite, it was time for some summer fun. High on our agenda was visiting the Happy Hooker. A few miles down the heavily tree-lined road from our RV site on private property is a cute little store called the Happy Hooker Bait and Tackle shop which is like an old fashioned country store that has a little bit of everything.

In addition to a large selection of fishing tackle & bait, they have gasoline, ice, beer, liquor, clothing, gifts, groceries, and most importantly … bug repellent. Just about anything you might need in a pinch with the convenience of not having to drive the thirty-minutes into the town of Hayward.

It was here that Al and I purchased our Wisconsin fishing licenses for the summer. Yep, the Happy Hooker is all about fishing. What did you think I was talking about?

That first week back in the Midwest took a bit of adjusting. First off, the bugs. Boy, I’d forgotten how annoying mosquitos are and as much as I tried to stay away from the harsh bug repellent, that first tick bite had me grabbing a can of spray-on Deep Woods Off. Yeah, bring on the “Deet“.

How many lakes does Wisconsin have?

Water recreation during the summer in northern Wisconsin is huge and the state is home to more than 11,000 lakes. With approximately 1 million acres of lakes to choose from, it’s no wonder that folks from the Chicago and Milwaukee areas flock to their favorite lake for a summer vacation, or better yet, they actually own a second home on lakefront property for regular weekend getaways. Who doesn’t dream of owning lakefront property? (Ok, maybe those of you who prefer oceanfront property 😄)

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, our family summer vacations were always spent at a campground on a picturesque lake, usually in Wisconsin. One of our family favorites was on the Chippewa Flowage just outside of Hayward, Wisconsin. We had a popup trailer at the time and my dad had a fishing buddy that would regularly join us so he could bring up our boat.

When my sister-in-law and her husband moved up to Hayward, Wisconsin, from northern Illinois, I couldn’t wait to visit them and revisit some of my childhood stomping grounds.

This was the campground beach where my brother and I spent most of our time playing when we weren’t learning to waterski. Still looks like a ton of fun today! Our little sister was too young to join us without mom nearby. Revisiting was rather emotional for me as thoughts of fond childhood memories flooded my mind. Oh, how I wanted to call my dad to let him know where I was, but that wasn’t possible. It has been just shy of a year since his passing.

Getting Loonie

All that water not only provides a great deal of recreation, but it also provides a water source to an abundance of wildlife. When Al and I decided to spend our summer in northern Wisconsin, high on my wishlist was capturing a nice image of a Loon, one of my favorite birds. Not only are they a beautiful bird, but their sound is so unique. There’s nothing like a quiet morning on the water in a canoe listening to their calls.

Although we no longer own a canoe, we do have a pontoon boat at our disposal this summer … perfect for lake cruising and fishing. During one of our boat rides, I noticed something white in the tall grasses near the shoreline. Initially, I assumed it was a plastic (Walmart) bag and directed Al to get near so we could retrieve it and dispose of it properly. Before getting too close to shore and possibly getting the boat prop tangled in weeds, I used my camera’s lens to zoom in and confirm that it was indeed a plastic bag.

Surprise, surprise, surprise! It was not garbage but rather a nesting Loon. To say I was giddy with excitement would be an understatement. Al turned the boat so we wouldn’t get near the nest and disturb the beautiful Loon. Loons only have one or two chicks and the last thing we wanted to do was stress the mama and cause her to leave the nest.

Al slowed the boat and for the next ten minutes, we cruised by her a few times. With my 600mm zoom and a little crop in processing, I was rather pleased with a few of my images. For the first couple of weeks in July, every outing on the boat included a slow cruise past Lily the Loon.

We knew hatching time was near when her partner was easy to spot. Normally loons dive when a boat gets near them, but one evening, it appeared Papa Loon was becoming very protective and refused to dive or get out of the way of boat traffic (which is thankfully rather light around here). This forced boaters to go around him to avoid potentially hitting him. Most boaters, like us, slowed down to capture a few photos of this rare treat. Guess I’m not the only loonie one around here.

It was thrilling to have Mr. Loon swim right alongside our boat.

Trivia; The $1 Canadian coin is nicknamed the “Loonie” – derived from the picture of a solitary loon on one side of the coin. Canadian’s have the coolest currency. Eh!

More wildlife sightings

Although my encounters with the Loons have made every mosquito, fly, and tick bite worth hanging out in the northwoods, I encountered another wildlife first. I’ll save that for a another post.

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Summer Trip Planning

I don’t know about you, but our winter whizzed by. Even though the weather here in Phoenix was cooler and wetter than usual, we still had a very fun and active season. This was the longest stretch of time that we remained camped in one place since Al and I moved into the RV full-time back in June of 2013. Wow, just saying that … I can’t believe we’re close to completing six years of full-time RV living. So much for doing this for just a year or two!

wildflowers in Arizona, summertime, spring flowers

Although we have slowed down our travels, we are in no way close to giving up the RV lifestyle. And as much as our seven-month stay in Phoenix was awesome, that hitch itch is starting to set in and summer trip planning is in full swing.

Our plans for the summer

So, where are we going this summer? We’ll be working our way from Arizona toward northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We have a few stops in mind, but our main destination will be visiting family in Wisconsin. We had such a great, albeit short, visit with family when they came out to Arizona for our son’s wedding, that we all realized a lengthier family reunion needs to be arranged.

For our excursion, there won’t be any advanced RV reservations made on our part. Instead, we’ll travel in our preferred winging it fashion. I already know that staying in picturesque state parks probably won’t be in the plans unless we get lucky snagging a last-minute cancellation. There really is a method to my madness and reasoning behind not making reservations – we don’t want a schedule. The whole reason we travel via our RV is the freedom it affords us, and making commitments takes some of the fluidity out of the equation.

Monument Valley, road trip, summer trip planning

Since we expect most RV parks and campgrounds to be full during the summer months (I did try making some reservations to no avail. State Parks are already all booked up), we’re counting on staying with family, friends, casinos, and wherever else we can find a place to park. I assure you, that first year out on the road, there was no way I could’ve traveled like this. I had such a fear of being homeless … fear of not finding a place to camp that I had a well-planned calendar complete with reservations for the first six months and beyond.

First stop Colorado

distance between two cities, our summer road trip, trip planningOur first two days on the road will include more driving than Al and I have done in over a year. We do have a reason or two for our plan to drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Pueblo, Colorado in two days (752 miles/1210 km)

First off, we know this route like the back of our hands. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve traveled this very route ever since our son moved to Phoenix, Arizona back in 2009, and we still lived in Pueblo West, Colorado. We used to make the drive in one long day, but that was without pulling the RV. With the RV in tow, we’ll definitely break it up into a two-day drive.

We won’t have time to dilly or dally along the way since our main focus will be dealing with our storage units (plural, unfortunately) in Pueblo, Colorado. The goal is to purge our stuff down to one unit. And who knows how much time we’ll need to deal with this daunting task. 😕

Fingers crossed that we get the work out-of-the-way quickly and we can get on with the summer fun!

Slowing down

With the storage unit task behind us, we’ll slow our travels down to a more enjoyable pace and work our way up to South Dakota where we hope to mooch-dock on private property with fellow RVers, Jim and Barb. Treats are in their future. 🥧🍹🍪

Jim and I have followed each other’s blogs for several years and have also communicated via email and Facebook. For now, they remain cyber friends with plans to finally meet in person. I love these internet connections, and we’ve developed some amazing friendships via this lifestyle and social media platform.

pronghorn aka antelope

Our length of stay with Jim and Barb will kind of be up to them, but I promise, it won’t be more than a week. What’s that saying … Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days! However, Jim and Barb are avid angler’s and probably aren’t bothered by the smell of fish and therefore, hopefully, we won’t be kicked off their property at that three-day mark. 🐟

Moving on

summer road trip, trip planning, distance between citiesAfter our Black Hills, South Dakota visit, we’ll meander our way toward Hayward, Wisconsin with the intent of arriving before the long 4th of July weekend. Yeah, we don’t want to get stuck out on the road somewhere without reservations over this busy travel time of year.

See, I still do stress about traveling without reservations especially when heading east. Somehow my free-spirited western mind reverts back to that Chicago gal who plans every detail down to the last minute. Oh, and let’s not get into my German heritage where we vill be on time! Boy, I’ve changed. Let me count the ways, I love thee, RV life 😏

So, the plan is to be comfortably parked on Al’s sister’s property in Wisconsin where we’ll be on and off from early July until sometime in mid to late September.

Again, not wanting to overstay our welcome, Al and I plan to do a little out and back from sister’s property to explore in this part of the Midwest all summer long. It has been many, many years since we were last in this area, and we’re looking forward to revisiting some favorite spots along with exploring new ones.

Preparing the RV for travel

Considering the past twelve months we’ve driven very little, Al and I are in serious road travel preparation mode and that includes making sure the RV and truck are in tip-top shape for our anticipated 5,000-mile (guesstimate) road trip.

RV warranty, Will your RV break down, do RV's breakdown, RV repairs

The truck has already had some major work completed and the RV is being spruced up including a new set of shoes. She’s been outfitted with four new tires and two new spare tires. Unfortunately, Al and I are experienced when it comes to blown tires. Seems to be our thing! Experience has taught us to travel with two spares. 😆 I’m sure glad we can laugh about it!

Our long list of to-dos is slowly dwindling and with the southwest weather starting to heat up with temperatures already nearing the 100-degree Fahrenheit range (37c), we’ll be more than ready to roll come the end of May. If it weren’t for a few lingering appointments, i.e. dental, etc., we’d be on the road today.

Recommendations, suggestions from you?

Okay, now that you know what our tentative plans are for the summer, I’d love your help. I’d appreciate any recommendations for places to camp especially any Indian Casinos in Wisconsin and upper Michigan or other options to camp that might have openings … boondocking, mooch-docking, parking lots, we’re not picky. We just don’t like heavily wooded sites, or shall I say, our RV roof doesn’t like trees. Speaking from experience, RV roof boo-boos are no fun. They can be costly and time-consuming. So, we’ll pass on the trees and leave them for everyone else to enjoy 🌳🌲🍃

Also, I’m in that time gate where I don’t mind making reservations since I have a better handle on our schedule (August, September, and late July – we’ll need parking just for a few days here and there because we plan on returning to stay with family in Hayward, WI).

How about things to see and do in northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula? I do know, we’ll want to revisit Mackinac Island and may want to overnight at a B&B on the island. Last time Al and I did that was in the early 1980s. 😳 Am I really that old? I revisited Mackinac Island with my daughter in 2011 and we regretted not overnighting on the island.

Mackinac Island, summer road trip, visit Michigan, island vacation
Me biking on Mackinac Island in 2011

Pictured Rocks and Tahquamenon Falls are a couple of places I’d like to visit, but not sure where we’ll find an available campsite.

I’m all ears! Please leave your suggestions in the comments below or feel free to email me anytime at livelaughrv@hotmail.com.  Thanks in advance AND if anyone is interested in meeting up, let’s see if our schedules can match up.

Happy travels everyone! Anyone have an epic trip planned this summer?

South Dakota badlands, summer road trip, RVing in South Dakota
Camped in the Badlands, South Dakota 2015

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