Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tampa Area

Here’s the problem.  New Years weekend I woke up with some eye discomfort in my left eye – Yes – the one I just had corneal surgery on this past August at the Kellogg Eye Institute in Ann Arbor!   I thought I had come down with a cold in it. Of course it was the holiday weekend and we were miles from home.  Tuesday we called and right away got into the Mid Florida Eye Center in Mt Dora.  I was diagnosed with an injury to the outer layer of my cornea, prescribed a pricey eye drop and referred to one of their corneal specialists.  I have seen that corneal doctor 2 times - at 2 different branch offices and a third specialist at yet another of their offices!  The “injury” has been given the name Corneal Ulcer. Within the first 3 days of the New Year, I already met my Medicare deductible AND have even more costly, stronger eye drops with names that we can’t pronounce and had to be compounded at a real pharmacy!  No Wal-Mart this time! 

Lithia Spring  in the morning

We moved from Trimble Park down towards Brandon and parked at one of the 3 Hillsborough county parks – Lithia Springs.    SPFB!!  Check out this picture of the springs from H’s up high drone camera!  The weather was cold and gray but the spring was still clear as it bubbled up and then flowed around the point and out to the river.  The campground sites are still cozy, carved out niches in the live oak woods.  Our favorite site was surprisingly available and without hesitation we chose it!  It’s also the biggest and most open – and a pull thru!
With only 5 days here and with my eye situation, our “list” has been curtailed - significantly!   We did bundle up (I covered my eye) and wandered thru the Big Red Barn Flea Market and had our annual lunch at Anna Marie’s Oyster Bar!   A visit with hometown/ high-school friends at their new home in Sun City Center was a must!   And no matter what – we cannot leave the area without revisiting the Apollo Beach Power Station and the Manatee Observation Park!  Sunday broke breezy and cool but with bright sunshine so we headed out – with my days supply of eye drops in our trusty little cooler!   Everyone else in the county had the same idea – they were all tired of the cold and gray and wanted to be outside!  We had NEVER seen so many people out on those wonderfully strong looking observation walkways!   But – just how much could those beams endure???  YES – the manatee were there in abundance, trying to stay warm – hovering just below the surface of the steaming discharge water of the power plant.

And then there was the run to Brandon to visit yet another corneal specialist!   Dr Fouraker wedged me in on his busy Friday schedule and was very personable and VERY thorough!  He also changed one of the compounded eye drops for an even more powerful one!  I explained how H and I move around the state and that we were moving down to Ft Myers on Monday morning.  Not only did he schedule me at 7AM Monday – he checked for a new doctor in Ft Myers!   He also knows “my” Doctor Sugar up in Ann Arbor!  Oh – I wish I could bring this doctor with us!

H has been patient throughout this ordeal of spending most of the last week waiting for me to do my eye drops or chasing to this eye doctors office or to another.  But now it’s getting old.    And it’s time to move to WP Franklin Lock and Dam Campground  – and to call the new corneal specialist for an appointment!

Yes – after almost 3 very uncomfortable weeks, 3 specialists, and 3 changes in eye drop prescriptions – the eye is finally STARTING to heal.  Thanks to our Great Healer, the wisdom He gave to these specialists, the amazing knowledge behind those powerful drugs prescribed and the hard work of all my prayer warriors – healing is on the horizon!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Mt Dora Area

It’s so hard to write when it’s SO cold outside!  When we arrived in our favorite Trimble Park it was shirt-sleeve weather.  The resident hawks were screeching at each other from one side of this peaceful wooded peninsula to the other.  We heard the owl!   The petite little white egrets busied themselves with hunting for lunch and the little blue heron took her time scouring the shallow water by the shoreline for a
tidbit to eat!   The woodpeckers, the little brown birds with their great big songs and even Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal were all there!   Our new neighbors were indeed “NEW”. Gary and Chris hadn’t even had their “new to them” conversion van for more than a month.  H was a great help to them with advice about camping and the workings of their van!

We had heard about the Artic Clipper - the next huge storm that was to cross the nation so we needed to get busy working on our Trimble Park/Mt Dora list!  Downtown Mt Dora and the marina’s Christmas lights - check!  A drive thru the Nature Preserve on the north side of Lake Apopka – check!  I didn’t think we’d see much wildlife since the weather was starting to cool down, but even on a chilly 60-degree day there were at least 10 gators of various sizes trying to keep/get warm in the sunshine.  And when you have
He could have been gator lunch
gators – you have STUPID tourists who insist on aggravating the creatures, trying to get as close as they can for a good picture.  The man in this photo had just disturbed this gator and we thought for a moment there would be trouble.  The gator snapped at him but then turned back and tried to just ignore him.   We know this jerk got too close to another gator also, but thankfully, the rest of the gators were snoozing on the opposite side of the ponds and levees.   A trip thru Magnolia Campground was next - to take “attendance” and to see if the resident peacocks were out and about.  And if you’re going that far around Lake Apopka – then Winter Garden at the southern end is a must.  SPFB!!   The historic downtown had plenty of walkers and folks on bicycles buzzing up and down the center boulevards.  At the end of the Christmas display this year was a grouping of vibrant red poinsettias formed into 2 trees with benches in front for picture taking!  The dancing fountains were still dancing but no little ones jumping thru them!  Way too cold!

The forecasted storm was getting closer and the weather was starting to turn. H made the decision that we should go on a day trip anyway and we ended up in Crystal River - on the gulf side of the state. We’d been to Homosassa State Park and had camped in that area but had not really investigated “Crystal River”.  We found the Archaeological State Park and watched their free movie but chose not to wander their grounds.  Instead we followed back streets looking for the  “ park where you can swim with the manatees” – we found out that there are 7 springs that are out in the different basins of the river and that you need to take tour boats out to see and swim with the manatees.  We didn’t see manatees from the shore but there was a pod of dolphins jumping and splashing!  For us – it counted!   To get back home we had to drive thru the towns of Leesburg and Tavares on the opposite side of the cluster of lakes by Mt Dora.  The sun had set when we came thru downtown Tavares and their streets were lit up with the glow of their Christmas lights!  H drove thru town twice for me but it was cold and my hands were shaking with the window down so my pictures are blurry.  The streets are lined with stately palms and they were wrapped with white lights and topped with red at the top where the fronds are!  A circular government building was crisscrossed in red and white lights to make it look like a giant toy drum!  The traffic circle was lit up and the American flag was flying proudly!   Of course the waterfront park was also gaily decorated with trees wrapped in white and big colorful ornaments hung from the huge branches.

H has never been to Webster’s Famous HUGE Flea Market so even tho it was cold and raining – on Monday January 1st we headed cross-country to find the flea market and check off one more ‘to do” from the “list”.  I think it was last years blog that I mentioned we made the trek but on the wrong day!  We wisely checked and they were open – no matter that is was the first day of the year or that it was cold and raining.  Less than half the vendor tables were occupied but there was still a plethora of shoppers out looking for a bargain.  H found his and spent all of a $1 to get it.  There were some folks dressed like it was mid winter (us!!) and carrying umbrellas and some silly ones in tees and flip-flops!
Cold rainy day at Webster

Christmas and New Years has come and gone.  The cold has really set in. Grey windy days and the temps are falling. Not like up in Michigan tho!  I emailed our friends up in Soo Sault Marie and asked if they had any degrees.  The reply was that someone had stolen them all and they were in the minus!  Our friends in Gaylord said minus 18 and 91 inches of snow so far this winter.  Not as bad in our own neighborhood but that news didn’t help much.  We’re running out of warm winter clothes!!  Freeze warnings every night.  There was even snow in Tallahassee and Jacksonville!

The weather has now eased and the temps are finally climbing slowly back up the thermometer scale!  Our fingers and toes are toes are thawing!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017

What a WONDERFUL DAY in the neighborhood!!   The sun is shining and the air is warm!  The neighbors are great!   The new ones AND the others from years past!  Fred and Barbara are English!  Deb and Bill from Indiana, Earl and Laura from Arkansas, and Ron and Katie from Pittsburgh, Pa! They have all aided in completing part of our Forest Bucket List – a campfire with roasted marshmallows!  The firewood was provided by a big dead limb that hung over our driveway AND the bright blue truck!  The storm last week brought down part of it and after that H began parking his truck in the empty drive next door.  The forestry truck finally arrived one day to finish the job and the downed limb was just enough to afford a very nice fire!

Part of the Annual Bucket List ALWAYS includes hunting for a bear or deer. Both have been accomplished!  Kayaking with the manatees has been checked off as well.  We were out sharing the experience with two young ladies, one on a paddleboard and one in a kayak but we left the water before they did.  As I looked back out over the fairly calm scene, I saw a large dark body skim the top of the water and then saw the ensuing splash as the young lady on her stand up paddle board lost her balance in the excitement of having a manatee surface that close. When she resurfaced the laughter ricocheted out over the surface of the once quiet water!!  Of course, after her struggle to regain the flat top of her board, and subdue the amount of embarrassed laughter – I added to her situation by loudly clapping and cheering from on shore!  Always glad to help!

Last week we checked off St Augustine and this week we checked off Daytona Beach. H squeezed the truck into a parking spot right by the fishing pier and boardwalk.  We took our annual stroll up and back on the wide boardwalk.  The sun was warm and inviting and lots of families were taking advantage of it!  H noticed the bungee jump had been moved to the other side of the waterfront park and we went to see what the newest ride that was with it. A huge wind generator type blade with a 2-seat bucket on each end began rotating and it was impossible to not hear the screams from the passengers being swung up and over – and over – and over. When that ride was over the bungee ride sent 2 other brave folks soaring way up high and bouncing way low – over and over!  Enough!  My stomach was queasy just watching! 

The “neighborhood” is filling up!  The nights are now lit up with lots of sparkling Christmas lights at most of the campsites.  Part of the added population is because it’s a beautiful weekend and some are just more “snowbirds” arriving!  Needless to say there was a good turnout at the Christmas Party Potluck that American Land & Leisure Company put on for the campers this afternoon!  AL&L run the office and are the maintenance folks for the Ocala National Forest Campgrounds.  Bob, the elf with the big striped slippers, has been here since the 1960’s!   Aren’t they all cute?
  I think Santa needs to put back on some weight tho!  There was plenty of delicious food and we all left with full tummies and empty dishes.  My pot of Sweet and Sour Green Beans was well received!  The only thing left in the bottom of the pot was a dibble of sweet & sour juice!

Christmas is coming!  Our afternoon is going to be enjoyed at Dick & Sharon’s always lovely home in Ocala.  It’ll be great to see Rick and Terry and John again! Our pretty little Christmas tree will be packed down, and the outdoor lights tucked away for the move down to our next stop in our winter venture.

Until our next blog conversation, please have a blessed and wonderful Christmas Holiday.  Without Jesus’ birth – there would be no reason for this or any other season!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Salt Springs Florida

Florida!  We made it and it only took 5 and a half days to do it! 

Fernandina, out on A1A was the first stop – it was lunchtime!  H found a seafood place – The Beach Diner and it reminded us both of the Anna Marie’s Oyster Bar Restaurants in the Sarasota area.  We both love Anna Marie’s and this one is good too!  To work off our excellent lunch we knew we needed to walk the main (Centre) Street of the touristy old fishing hamlet.  We did – stepping in and out of small shops, all the way to the huge antique mall at the edge of downtown and back.  Chatted with a Deputy Sheriff and then headed out of town – down condo lined A1A, across Amelia Island and onto the Talbot Islands.

Little Talbot Island State Park is old and in need of updating!  The last time we were there we were in the silver pickup truck with the popup camper.  MUCH easier to maneuver than this “train”!  Narrow and winding does not say enough.  Neither does the term “jungle”!   We wiggled into our site for the night and settled in.  The first wave of rain in the much forecast upcoming rain and cold front event hit us during the night.  When we stepped out in the morning – we were sitting in a huge swampy puddle!  H had to pull the truck and train out before I could grab the leveling ramp and chocks without wading thru the muck!

On our way towards I 295, the northern bypass around
Kingsley Plantation
Jacksonville, H found a sign for the Kingsley Plantation – the oldest plantation house still standing in Florida - and chose to turn in.  We expected a short drive to this National Park Preserve but the sandy, rutted, narrow road extended deep into the swamp for several miles before it deposited us at the St George River and the plantation itself.  Back in the late 1700’s it was the river that was used for transportation – way easier than tramping thru the jungle, dragging a 35 ft trailer!  We strolled thru the grounds and inspected the barn, the kitchen building, the main house and the slave quarters that were made out of tabby – a cement like mixture of lime from cooked oyster shells, sand and water.  This extremely interesting bit of history showed the life of Zephaniah Kingsley and his wife Anna whom he bought as a slave in Haiti.  He freed her and their children in 1811.  Spain lost control of Florida in 1821, and the laws became intolerable regarding freed people.  In 1837 he moved Anna, their 2 sons and 50 of his now freed slaves to Haiti, a free black republic, so they would not lose their freedom. 

We pressed on in the rain, up and around Jacksonville and down thru Palatka then on to Salt Springs Campground – our home for the next 2 plus weeks.  H will no longer need to hook / unhook the train each morning and evening!
Our home at Salt Springs

The Cold Front with its thunder and lightening have come and gone.  Temps are mild once more.  We’ve settled in and besides doing a lot of walking and bike riding we’re working on our “Forest Bucket List” –

1.     Day tripping: Micanopy was 1st with its antique lined streets and quaint old homes.  Coming back to camp we ended up on a sandy forest road and ran into a “road closed” 
Down town Micanopy
    sign and a detour – deep in the middle of the forest!  Go figure!

Alcazar Hotel

     Shooting skeet:  Followed by lunch at Corky Bell’s in Palatka and a jaunt to St Augustine to see their famous Christmas lights.  Since we arrived before dusk, H just had to do his annual drive on the beach!  The Old Town was festooned in millions of white lights, as was the nearby college and the 1888 Alcazar Hotel, modeled after a Moorish Castle in Southern Spain, which is now a museum and city hall.  I loved how the water splashing from the ornate fountain created all the dancing reflections.

 3.     Attendance taking:  Almost daily trips to the beautiful clear blue spring to watch the elevated water level slowly slide back down to normal  after all the previous rains!   Fat Mullet still leaped high out of the water and then resumed their position in the swirling mass of silver bodies in the massive school of fish.  Bass, bluegill and even a perch swam innocently back and forth.  Two good-sized blue crab seemed to dance as they moved under the sparkling water.  A small alligator tried to hide in plain sight in the bed of grasses at the mouth of the spring but we saw him anyway!

Tomorrow we meet Dick and Sharon for lunch in Ocala!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Heading South 2017

Friday, December 1st – our Official First Day of Winter 2017/18 arrived earlier than either one of us wanted.  Getting up at 5 AM and getting on the road before 6:30 AM is ridiculous!!  But we did it anyway.  Shut off the water, locked the door behind us and climbed up in the bright blue truck and headed south!  The day was full of sunshine and blue skies and the miles rolled on!  That is until we reached southern Ohio’s farm fields where a soft haze of fog lay in wispy layers. 

crossing the Ohio River
The closer we got to the Ohio River, the thicker the fog got. As we crossed the tall double spanned bridge, the fog stayed over the river and we drove back into the sunshine! It was as tho it was not allowed to leave Ohio!  We rolled right on past our planned 1st night’s stay in Kentucky!  Kingsport Tennessee was a push but Warriors Path State Park was our new destination.  We had camped there before on one of our ways home but this time all but one camping loop was closed off and the only site we would fit in was as uneven as you could imagine.  We used just about all of the wooden blocks we had and were still a quarter bubble off!

The next day was uneventful as we rolled along – up and around each mountain and down the other side.  I got to look out over the edges and enjoy the colorful toy train setup that was spread below in the valleys.  The distant mountains were in shades of blues and grays, cloaked in fog and low clouds!  Across North Carolina and into South Carolina we charged!   A new to us state park – Wateree Lake State Park was selected for the nights stay!  Wonderful accommodations!  Autumn was still residing in the park and across the lake were hues of oranges and yellows. 

As we stood, soaking up the peaceful scene, boats began appearing from all directions of the lake and congregating at the boat launch.  It was a catfish tournament and the fishing time was just about up.  While bass fisherman seem to require much fancier, obviously more expensive fishing equipment, this group of hardy fellows had boats that ranged from small dingy camo colored runabouts to large family oriented pontoon boats.  Unfortunately, it was cold out and we were feeling chilled so back to the warm “condo” we went without seeing or knowing what monster fish won the contest.

In the morning, instead of backtracking west to the main highway, H listened to his GPS and she took us on a winding road that sometimes was in view of the extremely lengthy reservoir/lake below us! Sometimes the road hugged each cove and sometimes it crossed over the creeks and rivers that stretched out from the main lake.   It would have been a wonderful motorcycle road!  Finally back on a state road that was actually on our map, we continued our trip towards Myrtle Beach!

Huntington Beach State Park, just south of totally touristy Myrtle Beach and Murrell’s Inlet – the restaurant lined, condo crowded, historic jetty of land, used to be the winter home of the famous sculptor – Anna Hyatt   Huntington and her philanthropical husband - Archer Huntington.  In 1930, they purchased Brookgreen and 3 adjoining plantations and began construction on “Atalaya” castle the following year.  Archer designed the square structure with an intricate covered walkway in the central courtyard, from Moorish architecture that he was fond of.  The one story brick home was to be used as a setting for Anna’s sculpture work.  Across the highway is 2,500 acre Brookgreen, which is now a Garden and Museum.  It is home to many of her famous works of art and hosts many festivals.

My dear friend Sue, whom I went to high school with, lives just northwest of Myrtle Beach and is the main reason I wanted to revisit this area!   She met us for supper on the day we arrived and chauffeured us up and down the strand of Murrells Inlet, explaining the history of the area.  We enjoyed a seafood meal at Creek Ratz Waterfront Restaurant.  “Creek Rats” are local kids who grew up playing in the swamps and marshes of the inlet!    Behind all the waterfront eating places and bars was a gaily decorated wooden boardwalk that extended for quite a ways and we strolled along it, enjoying the evening a little longer!  All the bright Christmas lights danced and sparkled on the dark water.  The next day, Sue picked me up again and we spent the day together!   Just two good friends – catching up and sharing memories and talk of kids and grandkids!  She showed me Murrells Inlet in the light of day.  We even walked the fishing pier. I got to see what her life was like in Myrtle Beach!  We even got a little shopping done!
Murrells Inlet in the light of day

The rain and cold front that has been chasing us since we started this journey was catching up and H wanted to stay ahead of it as long as we could, so, off we went again, heading south.   Charleston, SC was one option but we took the bypass and kept going – Georgia was now on H’s mind and Savannah was the new destination!  Skidaway Island State Park is OLD and is in need of repair but is always a good stop over for the night!  Parked and secured, we left the condo in a handy pull thru site and headed for historic downtown Savannah.  This old town is decorated for Christmas and the cobblestone road by the river’s edge was fairly full of shoppers and even a few street entertainers vying for attention. The next morning we headed straight on down hectic I 95 and crossed into Florida just before noon!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Michigan's West Coast

By now you should know that when the maple trees in our side yard start to turn red at the top, fading to orange then yellow and still keeping the green leaves secure at the bottom – it’s time for H to plan a trip – somewhere – anywhere!  Would it be Maine this year?  Boston?  Pennsylvania?   An interesting state park in Illinois that we just learned about or back up to see the colors of Michigan?  Yep!  Michigan and its gorgeous coastline, deep forests and unique lighthouses and famous sand dunes won again!
Ludington Lighthouse

During the wonderful summer months, Ludington State Park is FULL to the brim with gaggles of camping families and vacationers so it is impossible to get a site.  After Labor Day it’s different and we managed to get a good site for a couple of days!  The Big Sable Lighthouse is located within the park and the Big Sable River runs right thru the park and empties into the great expanse of Lake Michigan.  Entering the park along the coast of Lake M is reminiscent of driving along the peninsula of the Gulf Shores National Seashore Park in the panhandle of Florida – blowing and drifting sand everywhere!   This sand is lovely pink/beige instead of the glistening white of the Gulf!  In downtown Ludington, the gigantic passenger/auto freighter, the SS Badger, was not traversing the 60 miles from Manitowoc Wisconsin to Ludington this day because the waves were 18 ft tall!  At the end of the ½ mile long cement breakwall the imposing 57 ft tall, steel plated North Breakwater Lighthouse guards the Pere Marquette harbor and downtown Ludington.
M 22 Overlook
When we started this journey north, the weather was cool and damp. Heavy rains and winds came during our 1st night (hence the 18 ft waves) but on Sunday as we ventured farther north the sun was bright and promising! On Rt 22 is a “Scenic Turnout” sign that failed to mention just how many steps one has to climb to get to the tippy top of the wooden stairs and thankfully secure decking on the top!  I made it – slowly, one step at a time up those 100 steps and kept reminding myself to breathe!  The view of the skyline above the treetops, the road that lay behind us, and the many shades of blue that is Lake Michigan was well worth the effort!

15 minutes out of Platte River Campground, a phone call confirmed that there were only 2 available “walk in” sites in that Sleeping Bear National Park Campground.  One was going to be ours for awhile!   Site 212 was level and long enough for the truck and train.  To find the park, using your left hand as the map of the “Mitten of Michigan” - Sleeping Bear is at the last joint of your little finger!!
The dark water is Platte River Salmon

As the Big Sable River runs thru Ludington State Park, the clear waters of the Platte run thru the southern edge of the Sleeping Bear National Dunes, not far from the roadway to the Platte River Campground and the beautiful beach at the Lake Michigan Park at the end of the road.  Between the campground road and the beach parking lot, there are two small gravel roads that lead back to the river.  At the end of one of those dusty paths is a small dam like affair called a weir.  In the summer months the gate in the weir is kept open.  The tubers and kayakers just paddle on thru on their way to the lake.  In the fall however, the gate is closed during the salmon run when the mature Lake Michigan fish return upstream to spawn in the same place as they were born.  Swarms of huge dark fish gather at the lakeside of the weir, fighting the current and trying to follow their instinct and swim upstream. On this sunny warm weekend day, the kayakers were out in full force and now had to portage around the metal dam.  Parents were letting their small children wade in the water, chasing the frantic fish.  Little did they realize that some of those hormone-crazed fish already had hooks and barbs stuck in their mighty jaws from previous encounters!  Had those fish rubbed against those tender little legs with 2 of those 3-pronged barbs still sticking out . . . . I shudder to think about it!  The guard at the small office showed us a day’s collection of hooks taken out of the fish caught in ONE day the previous week.  We toured the fish hatchery in nearby Honor and then returned to watch in amazement as hordes of huge dark fish in the race were lifted up by a huge rake affair and unceremoniously flipped into large tote like boxes to be shipped off for processing.  The selected fish that were allowed to pass thru the capture process swam upstream to the weir at the hatchery and their eggs and milt were collected before they would die.   All of the fish – the ones captured and the ones allowed to pass thru die after spawning.  By harvesting them – the pristine river would not be polluted by the mega amount of dead fish carcasses.
Pointe Betsie lighthouse

The rest of our time “Up North” included visiting other iconic lighthouses – the 1851 Grand Traverse Bay at the tip of Leelanau Peninsula, the 1853 Pointe Betsie which sits at the top of a massive cement embankment, White river, Muskegon South Pier, Grand 
Traverse Bay Lighthouse
Haven and of course the "Big
Red" Lighthouse in Holland.

While in the dunes area a MUST Do is the scenic drive thru the heart of the Sleeping Bear National Park.  From our very first ride thru the park, back in our motorcycle days – the views and the drive NEVER disappoint.  From the tall wooden observation platform, high up over the dunes you can see the shrinking “Mother Bear” dune watching out over the lake for her two cubs – the 2 Manitou islands in the distance.  Sadly time and erosion have diminished her size.  Also from the high perch, you can lean on the sturdy railing and watch the fool hearty folks quickly descend the steep dune and then struggle to slowly creep back up the steep loose sand!
The little black dots are people on the dunes

From our last campsite at the Fisherman’s Landing City Park Campground in Muskegon, our fall venture was cut short due to the inclement weather that arrived.  We were on the northern edge of the deluge of rain and strong winds so we missed the 6-8 inches of rain that dumped just south of us. Luckily, on our way back home we were mostly eastbound being pushed from behind by the 20-30 mph winds!
Fisherman's Landing campground
We’re safely home and all is well!  The train is ready for travel again in just over a month.  The gardens are about ready for winter – just in time for our first frost and falling leaves!   See you next trip, dear friends!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Northern Michigan week 2

I have gone back and re-read our July/August blogs from the last 2 years!  Last years trip and story about Petosega is just about the same as this year’s!  We are still in awe of God’s gorgeous landscapes that he calls Northern Michigan!  Every time we come rolling over a certain hill on the way to Petoskey and the agriculture quilt-block of farm fields open up before us, I catch my breath! Yes, I do get the camera out and ready but there is no chance of catching that vision on film.  First are the fields of dark brown horses, then the curve of the road in the sunshine. Past that are the fields of golden grain, perfectly straight rows of vegetables and the yellow tassels that top the ripening corn that stand calmly, surrounding the picturesque red barns.  Past all that are more hills and the first glimpse of Petoskey and the blue waters of Lake Michigan.  Once again we found ourselves strolling along the waterfront parks, admiring the harbor and expanse of blue beyond.
Petoskey Harbor
And once again we enjoyed a wonderful Polish dinner at the Polish Kitchen – this time with our hometown neighbors, C&T and their handsome son, Nate who was up visiting them from Georgia!

Harbor Springs is another beautiful, historic town that sits on the opposite bank of the bay and can be seen from the harbor in Petoskey!  Both towns have quaint tourist shops that line the downtown areas and manicured grounds and gardens along the walkways by the bay.  We arrived just in time to observe a sailing lesson for a handful of soon to be dare
Harbor Springs
devil sailors in their little white “bathtub” boats with their bright blue and white sails!  The little fiberglass vessels at first looked indestructible but the longer we watched – we realized they were tip-able after all!!  After many near misses and even more almost tips – one small craft did finally go bottoms up and the young crew ended up in the cold water!  Not to worry – everyone had life jackets on and the adult instructors were there quickly to rescue the crew and teach them how to right their upside down craft.  All ended well!

This north shoreline is it’s own protection from the west and north winds so  docks stretch on for the length of the town!  Some docks were lined with small rubber landing boats that serviced the many anchored boats that dotted the bay. Some docks had the average sized sailboats or motor powered runabouts. Then there were the docks that had the yachts pristinely moored to their chocks!  The  “Seaquest” is owned by the son of Dick and Betsy DeVos, the founders of Amway.   Built in 2008 and at 163 ft, it is valued at $40 million!  On another dock was the “Lukousarus” out of Boca Raton, Fl and is valued at $1.69 million.  Handsome young men in matching white attire were busily “swabbing” her decks and polishing all her chrome!

Our stay was drawing to an end and we still wanted to go find our “old” neighbors who had sold their home and moved up to Sault Saint Marie!  Thursday arrived and the forecast was for clouds and possible rain so we made a beeline for the Mighty Mackinac Bridge and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The winds were kicking up and the precipitation was coming down but we got in line with the rest of the rain soaked vehicles and drove out onto the 5-mile long, famous suspension bridge.   At first we drove on the outside lane – the SOLID CEMENT outside lane!  Road repairs then moved us all to the inside lane – the OPEN GRATED METAL inside lane – where it felt as tho the van tires were wiggling from side to side and if you looked down you could see the white caps on the water - some hundred or so feet below! 
Thru St Ignace with a stop for pasties and then we were back on I 75 north - 60 miles to the “Soo”.   From memory we remembered part of their address and how to find their 3-story home near downtown and lucked out and found them almost right away!  A wonderful visit included the grand tour of their “work in progress” remodeling project before we bid adieu and headed out once more.

On Friday the sun was shining again and we “headed out once more” – heading south towards home – just “towards” home!  We still had two more nights out!  Wilson State Park is in Harrison Michigan on the NW edge of Budd Lake.  We vaguely remembered camping there in the past but it was way too far in the past to remember much – other than it is right across the road from the fairgrounds.  We arrived late Friday morning and the loop we were assigned was beginning to fill up with great groups of tents and Ninja Warriors on their little two wheelers!  By Friday evening we were surrounded!!  Green Ninja Turtle bike helmets with red sashes and orange sashes were zooming around and around the camping loop!  We were getting dizzy!

The boat launch to this lake is on the opposite side of the lake but we found it and launched quickly and easily.   On our tour around the lake we each caught 2 fish but H’s 2 could have passed for bait instead of supper!  Not a problem – we tossed them all back anyway and headed out to the local restaurant for their fish dinner!

Sunday came early and we headed home – retracing our journey back down the way we came.  It’s always fun to go but it is good to come home!  We’ll be doing this again so check back to see where the “tan train” wanders next!