Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Michigan - East side


We stayed in the Sterling State Park on Lake Erie. Beautiful park, with a nature trial that meanders around the wetlands and lakes that is full of birds, a long beachfront to walk, play, find trinkets or watch the sunrise,
The one weird or disconcerting aspect of the park is we were nestled between the nuclear plant and a factory that is emitting steam 24/7. If you ignored those it was perfect.

Wasp nest in the sand
Thought of our son-in-law Steve when we saw this sign

This has been a pretty mellow stay, which after the hectic pace of Kentucky, Indiana, and Holland, we were perfectly happy to stop and catch our breath. We have explored the nature trail, and even found time to ride our bikes, which we hadn't done yet on our trip. As always there were stairs to climb.
Observation Deck and view 

We visited the Raisin River Battlefield, which was really interesting. They have a lighted audio presentation you can listen to that was very informative, as well as displays inside the museum and outside on the grounds.
It is hard to wrap your brain around what it must have been like to fight in a war with the brutal conditions that existed back then.

Nancy so wanted to play dress-up 

The freezing weather, without proper clothes or shoes. The lack of food and poor accommodations had to have been unbearable.

Mother/Daughter Time
Nancy spent three days with Katrina, while Steve was out of town. They had a great time shopping, eating, beer tasting and laughing. They enjoyed downtown Northvillle and the North Center Brewery. Opening day of the Farmington Farmer's Market, as well as the Cheese Lady Store - you must go there. Lunch and beer tasting at the Farmington Brewery, which was a favorite of Nancy's and then a hike at Mayberry Park with Heidi, their dog. Sunday was church at the Ann Arbor Vineyard, so good to see old friends, lunch at Bigalora and then babysitting for Cora, Nigel and Tina's adorable little girl. The weekend ended much to fast, but we still had a week coming up to stay with them.

We got to give tours of our RV while visiting with friends. Denny and Maggie came and spent a day with us, it was so good to see them again, it had been way to long. We love to share our new home with everyone and of course one of Nancy's favorite things to do is to feed people. Due to some heavy rains our site was a little flooded but if you walked carefully you could avoid the lake.
We also had a visit from Mary Ellen and Paul and LeeAnne. Always good to spend time with them.

We got a much needed hair cut for Mielikki and while she was getting beautiful we headed to the Toledo Botanical Gardens. This is one of the best botanical gardens we have been to. They have a small artist village with a pottery studio, glass studio, and a hands on studio where they offer classes. A cute little gift shop filled with many pieces from local artists, and a lithosphere museum. We were a little early for some of the gardens to be in bloom but the rhododendrons and peonies didn't disappoint us. The herb garden was pretty abundant as well. It was a refreshing stroll through all of the gardens - some surrounded by large circular hedges that were like stepping in the Secret Garden. They also have an adorable fairy garden behind the gift shop.

Beehive tepee 

We were impressed with how well the grounds were maintained. The majority of the paths are asphalt so easy to navigate, especially for strollers and wheelchairs.

The landscape is dotted with sculptures, gazebo's, statues and gates. Along with a creek and ponds full of birds and fish.

We ventured into Cabela's one day between our visits to Dundee and Tecumsch. The store is huge and has just about everything you can think of for the outdoors. In Dundee we had coffee at Cool Beanzs Coffee Shop - it is such a neat place, lots of local artists work for sale and they offer classes as well. In Tecumseh we stopped for a flight of beer at the Tecumseh Brewing Company. Good beer, a favorite was the mango wheat.

We also stopped at the Silver Bells Christmas Store - this one has everything you can think of for Christmas. If you need a decoration you can probably find it here.

Nancy loves old cemeteries and wandering through the headstones to find angels and other statues. Monroe offered up a pretty nice one.

Next stop Katrina and Steve's, so until we meet again.....

Happy Trails to you!

Tips and things we have learned along the way 
~ when making your site reservations ask about flooding on the site
~ check for ants everyday - we hadn't had any for over a week and opened up a cupboard one morning and found a ton of them - so we will now check everyday to catch them right away.
~ when you live in a small space you need to be aware of every inch you live in. Les went to turn the recliner one night while the back was down a bit and hit the light switches and broke them off - another visit to Camping World to get new ones is on the to-do list.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Michigan - West side

Holland Michigan
We are so glad we decided to stay in Holland an extra week, as there is so much to see and do, even so we still didn't get it all in. 

Now that it is officially "in season", we did run into a bit of a problem getting into the park, as we did not have a Michigan State Park Passport. We didn't needed one up to this point, so it came as a surprise that we needed one now. On top of the $350.00 we had spent for our sites we had to spend an additional $62.00 for passports (non-resident) so we could get into the park to our RV. We needed one for the RV and one for our car. We were not exactly thrilled about this. In Indiana, our campground receipt got us into every state park at no additional cost, which just makes sense.
A foggy Big Red

We had many days of rain, which put a damper (pun intended) on exploring. But it did create some great fog. Nancy loves the fog, it brings back some fond memories of fog walks at her cottage when she was a kid. So walk we did. We walked out onto the pier where the canal leads from Lake Michigan into Lake Macatawa. Like most fog it would come in in waves and then clear almost as quickly as it arrived. 

One of the foggy nights we saw a wind surfer, he was spectacular. He would sail out so far we could hardly see him and then he would float into view through the fog, lift and spin like a top and smoothly land down on the water. We were freezing just walking, and even though he was in a wet suit he had to be cold. 

We took advantage of one of the nice days and headed to Grand Rapids. Our last few visits there had been during Art Prize (held in September and if you haven't been you need to go) so this was a much different visit, not as many people walking the streets. We went to the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. It was laid out very nicely, and while some of it was somber due to the circumstances of his presidency it all was very informative.                                                                                                                               

We meandered our way around town, choosing our steps wisely, and enjoyed some of the art work and buildings.  

 We saw the La Grande Vitesse, which is French for "the great swiftness" or "the grand rapids".  It was done by French artist Alexander Calder in 1969. 

Accoding to the editor of the New York Sun in 1884. Grand Rapids was the first city of labor in Michigan. Who knew! 
The Spirit of Solidarity Fountain, which was created to honer the bravery of the striking immigrant workers in 1911sits in the Ah Nab Awen Park. Which is a former site of a native village. There are three distinct grassy mounds that represent Native American burial grounds. 
            The woman in the sculpture represents the wives of the workers who supported the strike despite real personal hardships.  Careful, she's hiding rocks under her long skirt, just like the women did all those years ago in the one violent event that took place during the strike. 
            The older male figure waving his fist represents a Dutch Protestant worker who united with his fellow workers despite years of statements from church leaders that tried to use religion as a method to separate workers.  
           The third figure represents the immigrant Catholic workers (Poles, Germans and Lithuanians) who brought the value of solidarity with them from Europe and with waving hat in hand enthusiastically invited people to join the movement and march for the rights of all working people. (Borrowed from the MichiganLiberal.com page)
The Rivers Edge by James Clover, almost all of his sculptures are white. We found some interesting buildings and trees along the way and did some "reflecting" as well. 

The old reflected in the new

Never seen a lock on that side of a door 
Again, we found ample places to fill our bellies and wet our whistles. In Grand Haven we tried out the beer at Odd Side Brewery. A favorite was the Chocolade Koffie StoutThis is in an old building along with a coffee shop we stopped at a few days ago, and a hat shop, Les got a new hat this time. There was a strange door in the hallway, must need extra security or something! 
In Holland we enjoyed coffee more than once at Lemonjello's, a cute little coffee shop, with lots of table space, a nice window counter and an outside patio. The coffee was good and the nibbles were great. They even have a hip gnome to keep you company. 

We found the best breakfast place not far from the campground. deBoer's Bakery and Restaurant. Their corned beef hash was excellent, as well as the vanilla sugar bread french toast. The service was great. They have a bakery that has every Dutch item you can think of and the raspberry coffee cake was the best.
The Grand River 

While in Grand Haven for beer tasting we explored the Grand Haven lighthouse, this is where the Grand River starts at Lake Michigan. For Nancy, who has lived her whole life by the "Grand River" - both
river and road - this was pretty cool to see. The walk out to the lighthouse takes you through a row of black iron trusses. Nancy felt like she was walking in Wonderland while under them. At one point we came across a group of high-schoolers that had spent the night in their hammocks suspended under the trusses. Oh to be young again!

Coast Guard heading out onto Lake Michigan 
We have continued our search for Oddities or Roadside Attractions. We found a few of our own plus ones listed at RoadsideAmerica.
These were on a lawn we drove past 

The scariest park toy ever 

 Rusty the Dog is one of many metal sculptures in Holland but the only one listed on Roadside America.
We really liked the old sailor dude in front of one of the marina's so had to include him in our pictures.

We did a walking and driving tour of Holland to see all of the art work and sculptures they have all over town.

These are the other metal sculptures - they line Pine Ave as you come into town across the Unity Bridge.

Geertje & Cornelis ~~ Strong Women ~~ Contemplation 
The Protector ~~~ Pledge of Allegiance 
The Valentine ~~ Secret Garden
The Immigrants 

There are so many beautiful pieces throughout town and all the settings for them seem perfect.

Ben Franklin hanging out with the birds and Les and Mielikki.

Smily Water Tower in Fruitport ~~ Big Hand in Norton Shores
Stonehenge in Nunica 

Sun Dog
More Roadside America attractions.

We also got to enjoy the Tulip Festival Parade and wander the carnival to watch all the crazy rides safely from the ground.

Nancy with a David Zinn 3D chalk drawing 

There is an overlook next to the Beach Campground that we found the name of very amusing. It is called Mt. Pisgah and it is a large sand dune. It is 157 feet up with a staircase of 230 stairs, everyone talked about it as if it was so high - which it is - but coming from Asheville where Mt. Pisgah is a 5,721-foot summit it just doesn't seem that high!

One more historical sign for you.

Just for you Gail Allen 

One more name of a friend sign as well.

This wraps up our stay in Holland. We did encounter one more hiccup with the RV while here. We had to move to another site while in the Beach Campground. Not a problem, the jacks worked this time so we thought great no more issues. Well, we backed into our new spot, Les shut her down and then we decided to back her up a bit more and the RV would not start - dead - done and over. Turns out it was a simple fix - just needed to clean the battery connections and tighten them down. Snoopy dance was done when we figured that out!

Headed to the East side of Michigan next, to explore the southeast and spend some time with family and friends.

Until next time...

Happy Trails to you!

Tips and things we have learned along the way 
- verify what you need to get into the state parks so there are no surprises half way through.
- check your battery cables before heading out and clean and tighten them so you don't scare yourself half to death when your RV won't start.
- when using a laundromat go in and check it out before hauling all your clothes in - that way when you discover it is disgusting you just leave and find the nice one in town. With no water we couldn't use our washer and dryer, so the second tip would be to wash cloths before you pull out from a place that does have water.