Sunday, August 16, 2009

Northern Michigan

Northern Michigan

OK, OK - - we’re home! Northern Michigan is known for it’s gorgeous vistas and beautiful lakes – NOT for having much wifi! That and we were busy!! Our last posting to the blog was not done until we returned home, so be sure to go back and read it also! Now, where were we??? Oh, yes - - the races!!

Sunday was our day to move from the Waterways so our little caravan moved on – actually up and over to park down the road from Mel and Donna’s log home on Carp Lake. The 2nd leg of the boat race was to begin at noon so we climbed into their van and hustled on down to the town of Indian River where H found us a good spot right in town and on a curve of the river to watch the boats race by! The day was getting sunny and warm so it was a good thing there was a gentle breeze coming up the river. And the spray from a close passing boat didn’t hurt either!! We were CLOSE!! This day’s race was 42 miles long and again started in Burt Lake. They went west thru Crooked River and Alanson, turning around in Crooked Lake, which is at the very end of the Inland Water Route. Back thru the Crooked River, across Burt Lake, thru the Indian River to a turnaround in Mullett Lake - returning once more thru Indian River and finishing up back in Burt Lake. The challenge of the 2-day course resides in the combination of lake and river waters. Drivers are required to maneuver their crafts around winding curves, thru rough-waved waters, all while watching for other boaters and docks, along with sand bars and broken stumps hidden beneath the surface of the water. There are 6 classes with drivers from ages 9 up to seniors; boats ranging from 10ft to 12ft, weighing from 290 lbs (for the 9 yr olds) to 505 lbs, and outboard engines from 15 cu in to Merc 55s. Speeds ranged from 45mph to 68 mph! There was even a class for inflatables and they had 2 orange bodies on board, steering or leaning to keep the boat level – or level as possible!!

After the race, Donna fed us well, as always! Before the sun was setting, we bid our friends goodbye again and headed south as far as Petoskey where we parked overnight for free in the well lighted, secure parking area of casino there. We “donated” our $1 to the penny slots and then went out to get a good night’s rest.

Monday started out in rain and a little fog but we finished the next leg of our journey in the sunshine to wait in line to get the next to the last non-electric camp spot available in the Platte River National Park Campground, just south of the Sleeping Bear National Dunes. This time we put the kayaks in the water up by the bridge and were both surprised at how much longer the ride was by boat than by car! We slid thru the clear waters on a swift currant most of the time and even paddled out onto the clear blue expanse of Lake Michigan. Of course that also meant we had to paddle back up stream a ways - against the strong currant to the boat ramp to take our trusty orange crafts out of the water!!

Tuesday, it was time to go exploring the neighborhood of Empire, the town just to the north. We found the beach and park complete with a petite white lighthouse. We saw signs that read Empire Bluff Trail and H agreed, after much persuading, to hike it to the overlook. He thought the sign said 1.5 miles each way but was actually the total of the round trip. To hear him whine and grump - - it was 11.5 miles each way!! The up and down hill hike was well worth the view - looking down thru the windswept trees at Sleeping Bear and the Lake Michigan shoreline. A drive further north thru Glen Arbor and around the lake there was completed with a stop at a local vegetable market that was an old blue Dodge pickup truck, parked by the side of the road, with a self serve money bucket in the bed, next to a pile of fresh picked sweet corn. Delicious!

No trip to that area can be done without a stop over at Silver Lake Dunes and a camping night at the city park in Hart. Of course, Wednesday afternoon was spent on the dunes! Thursday morning we headed down Rt 31 to US 96 and home. And you know the rest - - laundry, wash vehicles, empty trailer, weed the garden, pick tomatoes, etc, etc! Now – go read the blog that precedes this one!

Northern Michigan

Northern Michigan

It’s COOL way up this far north but at least now the sun is shining most of the time. High temps are barely into the 70’s. When our chores and errands for the day were finished, the boat was slid down the ramp and into the clear water and the bow was pointed to Mullett Lake and then along the western coastline of the lake where the water was calmer. Topinabee is the small town that is half way along the 10-mile long lake that has a public park with a new boat dock and play area. Across the street are an old hardware store and the local gas station/snack store. Too bad it wasn’t time for ice cream yet. According to some of the natives around here, Topinabee is so named because the “B” line train from Detroit Michigan used to end there – the “top” of the line. And we’ve been advised more than once that the correct pronunciation is: Top-nah-bee and NOT: Top-in-AH-bee.

Back at the “mobile motel”, I baked a peach crisp and we took to meet Joel and Carol, our friends we met on South Padre Island, Texas. (See our past Texas blogs and from our trip up north last fall!) They live in the UP but have a sweet little cottage out on Mullett Lake but by road it is just across the bridge (right here by the campground) and down a dead end road a mile or so. It was so good to see them again and renew our friendships. We ate and gabbed and ate and gabbed some more. The dinner, ofcourse, was delicious!

Thursday was cool again, but still sunny. H drove the half-mile up to Rt 27 and filled the tanks on the boat and the Jeep. This time on the water, we headed straight across Mullett Lake and H was calling the depth markings like a boatman down on a Mississippi river boat- only these sounding had 3 digits – like - 110! Our outing took us to downtown Indian River where, as always, we docked the boat and walked the few blocks to shop a bit. Out on Burt Lake, it was windy with quite a chop so it was back to the quieter rivers!

Friday, Mel and Donna (Mel is ANOTHER one of H’s school buddies!) were finally back home from their trip south – to Swanton, Ohio - so we spent a delightful day together. Donna and I always need more time to catch up but we gratefully took what we had! I love riding in the stern of the boat with a lady friend while the 2 old codgers in the front seats do the heavy work of driving the boat and getting us secured at any dock. This time in Topinabee it WAS time for ice cream and a stop at the local 2nd hand store for some gently used treasures. Back at the campground the day was finished off nicely with a cookout and more conversation.

Saturday was the 1st leg of the 61st Top O’ Michigan Marathon Nationals which is rated as the World’s Toughest Outboard Race and we were going to watch it from the RR bridge (right next to the campground that crosses the Cheyboygan River. The morning was gray and cool and the rain stopped just in time. The gracious owners of the Waterways Campground put on a lovely hotdog, chips, fresh veggies and homemade cupcake picnic for everyone in the campground and before we were done chowing down, we heard the whine of the 1st boat in the race. There was plenty of room on the broad span of bridge for anyone willing and each would have a good spot to see the race. We could see up and around the curve as they approached, sometimes skidding around the bend and thru a patch of weeds. We just had to turn around and look downstream, towards the Rt 33 bridge and Cheyboygan, to see then racing back – sometimes with only the bottom of the motor being in the water!

The 1st leg of the race is 45 miles long, starting in Burt Lake and running thru the entire length of Indian River into Mullett Lake and across the western shoreline. From there it is up the full length of the Cheyboygan River to a turnabout by the city dam and then returns over the same course to a finish line in Burt Lake. On Sunday, they run the opposite direction!