CFL, LMHS, HOF

After departing Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park we headed south to a group of towns on the north side of Orlando.  Normally we would stay at one of two state parks (Wekiwa or Blue Spring) or at a few county parks (Kelly Park at Rock Springs, Lake Monroe, or Trimble.)  They were all full up, at least for the three day weekend we needed at the times we checked, so we opted to lock in reservations at a private RV resort, Twelve Oaks, rather than work our usual “check multiple times a day for last minute cancellations” method that has served us so well in the past. 1-hof-4-rose-i

Twelve Oaks, at a bit under $41 a night with a veteran’s discount, and currently positioned directly beside very extensive highway construction, is not exactly cheap.  But it was the best positioned option for our specific reason for visiting this specific town on this specific weekend. 2-hof-2-inductees

Which was my induction, along with five other former Lake Mary High School athletes, coaches, and staff, into LMHS’ inaugural Hall of Flame class.   It was a great honor and the ceremony was top notch.  I got to meet up with coaches and a couple of people I went to school with that I haven’t seen in 35 years.  We had a cocktail hour, a catered meal, a well conducted ceremony complete with short video montages for each inductee.  And yes, a whole lot of speechifying.  3-hof-3-bio

The only down point was that both my parents ran into complications forcing them to pull out even after having secured the pricey tickets, and in Dad and Marcia’s case had already driven down from the panhandle.  Ah well, we had an aunt, uncle, cousin, son and daughter-in-law available to fill in for an overall fun and nostalgic night.  4-hof-1-family

 

Back to Florida!

After our four day visit with Mom and Tim in Wilmington, we headed due south towards the Sunshine State, but at our traditional, somewhat leisurely pace.  We stopped for one night at Swamp Fox Campground in South Carolina, a perfectly serviceable full hook up park within the Passport America discount system; so $23 for our stay.  We followed this with two days at Eagle Hammock, the RV Park on Kings Bay Naval Base1-swamp-fox

This campground and the one at Mayport Naval Station have been on my list to check out for sometime now.  It is a relatively small campground that has an interesting method of dealing with overflow campers once all the full hook up sites are full: They begin splitting sites, with the first rig getting full services and the extra rig getting electricity (whichever amperage the first rig is not using) and water (off a splitter.)  The camp hosts were very helpful and well organized, getting us into one of the biggest split sites still available.  On a nice lake with access to the good sized commissary and exchange complex this place was well worth it at $17 a night. 2-ga-sign

Sunday morning we pulled out and headed for one of our favorite Florida state parks, Gilchrist Blue Springs.  Purchased from private owners by the state a couple of years ago, it has technically been renamed “Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park,” but I’m only typing that out this one time.  In addition to the beautiful springs and woodland trails, it’s less than half an hour from cousin Robb and Colleen’s house, so they and the twins are able to come out to the springs and hang with us, work and school schedules permitting.

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A successful geocaching hunt.

This they did, with Maeve and Nola getting an extra holiday from school so they could tent camp on our site for a night.  We had an excellent visit with all the expected activities: swimming, snorkeling, short hikes, geocaching, nature encounters (deer, wild turkey, giant cypress trees), a campfire, and smores.

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The main spring

The quaint town of High Springs is 15 minutes or so from the park, and provides all the things you would want from small town America: a few restaurants, an ice cream shop, a craft brewery, a barber, thrift stores, a weekend farmers market, small groceries, and various artsy little shops.  On our last day we hit the town’s very best Mexican Restaurant, El Patio, and High Springs Brewing Company for an excellent flight.

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The twins and “Aric” a 350 year old Cyprus. 

As I have written before, Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is not for everyone: two miles of washboard entry roads, tight maneuvering to get to the sites, all of which are on dirt, and tree cover preventing easy connection for those with satellite TV.  But we love it, and plan to stop every time we can fit it during our exit from and return to Florida each year.

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The less visited second spring

Next up: back to Central Florida, I get honored, and we begin five weeks of rather chaotic bouncing around Central Florida and the southern half of the Gulf Coast.  7-pkm-leaves

 

 

Working our way down the Atlantic Coast: Wilmington

Our entire route from the UP to Florida was determined exclusively by where family and friends happened to be.  We met up with Nick in Green Bay, Chris and Amy in Burlington, Andrea in Chicago, and Linda and crew in Virginia Beach.  We continued that plan during the second week of October when we made the long run down to Mom and Tim’s in Wilmington, with a brief stop in Castle Hayne to store Serenity at Jack’s Boat and RV Storage Lot.  This is the same place we used the last two visits to Wilmington, and if you have the need, we recommend him.

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PKM not enthused about getting underway again.

The Fords have been trying to downsize from their large historic home for two years now, suffering through a last minute buyer pull out, major hurricane damage (Florence in 2018) and the complicated repairs and insurance issues resulting.  Shortly before our arrival they managed, finally, to sell their old place and move into a spacious townhome in a newly built development nearby.  You can see the palpable relief on their faces finally having a long ordeal completed, and it must be a pleasant change to transition not only to a smaller and more manageable home, but also one in which every single board and fixture is brand new.

Restaurants and other excellent meals always feature prominently in our Wilmington visits, and this time was no exception.  Rosemarie made a fresh shrimp, spinach and quinoa concoction for one of our dine in meals while Tim put his Big Green Egg to use to make sliders for another.  We had a great lunch at Peno’s, a Greek fast casual place in town with fantastic hummus and gyros.  And as always, at the top of our culinary priority was the Wednesday evening wine pairing event at Sweet and Savory.  Six wines matched with six small courses for a very affordable $25. sweet-savory

Over nearly five years of full time RVing, our wardrobes have become decidedly casual, but in preparation for a upcoming formal event, we have been hitting thrift shops and discount stores to make ourselves presentable.  Mom and Tim found us an excellent local thrift shop that took care of most of my outfit in one shot.

Mom and Tim had this crazy plan to rent van to haul a mattress and box spring down to Central Florida to give to Aunt Judy, a venture that would, in my general opinion, have cost more than the value of the items and taken about 18 hours of driving, round trip.  Since we were headed that way eventually anyway, we stuff the mattress and box spring into our rig, living without the dinette for a week until we were able to make delivery. mattress

Next up: Our return to Florida after a brief stop at another military campground.

 

57 Months Fulltiming: September 2019 Report

Our last post took us from Chicago to Virginia, with the bulk of that time actually taking place in October.  So before we get to deep into that month, let’s catch up on the monthly reports.

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Rosemarie in front of the Buckingham Fountain in Chicago

The Distance:  We followed our low mileage August with a fairly big month in September as we began our meandering journey back to Central Florida.  This translated to 1,219 miles as we shot south to Chicago, then east all the way to Virginia Beach.  Our 2019 total is up to 7,050 miles.  October should also be a pretty big month as we continue that journey south, though November will see a slow down. 2-september-2019-route-map

The Places:  We spent 17 more days in the UP, all but three in the Marquette Tourist Park, before beginning our run south.  During this trip we thoroughly enjoyed a two day stop in Green Bay followed by four days in the Burlington area to visit Chris, Amy, Elijah, and Jude.  From there we continued south and met up with daughter Andrea in Chicago before beginning our 900 mile sprint east towards Virginia Beach.

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Andrea and Jack in Chicago

During this time we enjoyed 23 days in public campgrounds (2 in a state park and 21 between Marquette, Munising, and Cook County IL municipal parks.)  The remaining  five days included two driveway camping at Chris and Amy’s and five days in private “parks” (two at a casino and three consecutive days at Cracker Barrels.)  Along the way we had 4 days with full hook ups, 21 with partial (electric and water,) and dry camped for 5.

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Rosemarie and June-June at our campfire night in Virginia

The Budget:  After having had an excellent August in which we finished nearly 30% under budget, September was the opposite.  Our significantly ramped up gas bills as we headed south, a repair bill, and sum unusually pricey campground fees along the way are a big part of that, but we also had to make a major down payment on a future international vacation.  C’est la vie.

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Golden beats and other goodies from a farmers market

The Drama and the Improvements:   We suffered damage to our shore power cable connection back in November of 2018, but I added to that in a significant way during our Green Bay stay.  Thus we entailed a couple of hundred dollars in repairs to get our electrical connections back in shape. We continue to nurse our hydraulic systems (slide outs and levelers) along until we get back to Florida. dscf4226

OK, so yes I said it before, but now I mean it: next up Wilmington, NC.

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Shrooms!  Yes, even that roundish one as big as your head

 

 

Sprinting East to the Virginia Coast

So far our run from the UP to Florida has been an almost straight flight south as we passed through Wisconsin and Illinois.  Now, however, we would begin the mile stacking zig-zag as we turned towards various family members locations.  First up, a 900 mile track mostly east to Virginia Beach.  And of course, since we don’t like doing more than four hours a day driving the big rig, we broke that up into four individual legs of less than 250 miles each.  Having spent a lot of money in Chicago, we elected to parking lot camp for free in three consecutive Cracker Barrels!

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One of our Cracker Barrels.  A block or two off the main road, no strip malls, limited traffic, a residential neighborhood behind us.

Ever since getting back into the US and staying at a Cracker Barrel in Ohio, we have become solid fans of their Southern Fried Chicken combo as well as their RV parking arrangements.  These are usually quieter, a bit more isolated, and probably safer than some of the alternatives such as Walmart and Home Depot.  Oh, and did I mention that they offer a Southern Fried Chicken combo?  For $10 you get four pieces plus two sides plus biscuits or cornbread, which is a ridiculous amount of food, and we now know to split one meal; it will be plenty.  2-cracker-barrel-fried-chicken-dinner

So a big thanks to CB, particularly their Maumee OH, Cranberry PA, and Frederick MD locations.  For our stay in Virginia Beach to see Linda, Jayson, June-June, Kaytarra, and Nasir we selected Cape Henry RV Park on Fort Story.  This is the fourth military campground we have tried in the Tidewater area, and is our new top choice. 3-run-to-va-map

The little known Stewart Campground was efficient and convenient for our first trip through the region in 2016, but it is a bit bare bones and further away from the people we are visiting.  Sea Mist, which we basically used as an overpriced RV parking lot in 2018, is popular, fully serviced, but I think it is overrated since the beach access is limited.  We thought we had found the perfect option at Little Creek JEB Campground when we came through the area this last May: a short drive to family, full hook up sites for $27 a night, and a nice setting in the woods.  4-lighthouse

But in preparation for this trip I stumbled across Cape Henry, which I don’t believe was listed on All Stays until recently, possibly because it is run by the same office that manages Little Creek’s campground.  Even the central reservation site for all navy campgrounds was unfamiliar with the name “Cape Henry” and referred to it as the Navy Getaways Campground on Fort Story.  Regardless, it is our new got to spot for Tidewater. Located even more convenient for us than Little Creek, it is power and water only for $25 a night, but the sites are larger and more secluded than Little Creek’s offerings.  5-rose-dolphin

We were able to spend part of three days with Linda as she transitioned to a privately run group home in Virginia Beach.  We enjoyed a fantastic evening with June-June, Kaytarra, and Nasir at our campground, celebrating with campfire, smores, and story after story until well after midnight. 6-fire-1

There is just something special about a cool evening with friends and family around a campfire.  Nasir is fascinated with our camera; I guess the idea of a single use electronic device is unique to someone who has only ever used smart phones and tablets for taking pictures.  This is my way of saying Rose and I are not to blame (or rather, we cant take credit) for any of these campfire pictures.

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Cutting off part of his own face in this selfie was not an accident, it was surely an artistic choice.

We had enough spare time such that Rose was able to do some crafting in anticipation of our next big festival vending opportunity in Florida later this month, and I was able to do some geocaching.  We also visited yet another Moose, where we enjoyed a warm welcome from the locals at Lodge 1198, Virginia Beach.

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PKM helping Rose with some crafting.

After our three consecutive nights at Cracker Barrels in route here we reigned in the restaurant activity quite a bit, settling for one evening of Chinese take out, though we did stumble across Wasserhund, a local craft brewery, for a solid and interesting couple of beers.  9-beer

Next up: continuing south to Wilmington, NC. 10-fire-3

 

 

 

 

 

On to Chicago!

Our original loose route back to Florida included a big westward swing to visit daughter Andrea in Ames, Iowa.  Turned out the dates were nearly unworkable with her shift schedule and a work related nursing conference in Chicago she would be attending.  Solution: just meet her in Chicago!  This shortened our route considerably, and allowed us to visit a great city.  I managed to screw up the dates a bit, and we accidentally arrived two days before her visit, but it mostly worked out.  1-bean-3

After our usual All Stays, Passport America, and RV Park Reviews research, we selected Camp Bullfrog Lake, a county park about as close as you can get to Chicago without resorting to a truck marshalling yard.  We considered going back to the Great Lakes Naval Station, which would have been significantly cheaper, but also considerably further away from downtown.  Staying this close to the city costs you: $45 for weekdays and $60 for weekends!  Ah well, they do at least provide you one free bundle of firewood.

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The view from our campsite.

It is a nice campground deep in the woods on a terraced lot overlooking a small lake.  The sites are mostly electric only (though we lucked out getting the only site with a sewage connection.)  Since we arrived on my birthday, we celebrated with a good cut of steak and some of our Green Bay Farmer’s Market purchases: heirloom tomatoes and hedgehog mushrooms.  3-birthday-dinner

We spent the second day driving around the outskirts of Chicago without actually entering the city.  We finished things off with a visit to the Berwyn Moose, which was technically closed, but the administrator, Paul, was on premises, and he gave us a great welcome, including a tour of the lodge.  When he offered, we though, uh, ok, how much of a tour can you get from one moose center?  Turns out, quite a long one.  The Berwyn Lodge is HUGE, easily the biggest Moose we have ever visited.  Imagine two full size basketball gyms side by side, and two more in the basement.  4-berwyn-moose

The next day, not wanting to experiment with downtown Chicago driving and parking that would extend into the evening, we took an Lyft into Chicago.  Even this was challenging: turns out Lyft’s mapping app does not have the correct location for Camp Bullfrog, and the driver stopped nearly two miles away.  We walked about a mile and managed to talk him back the other half, and finally made it downtown a bit later.

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For those not familiar, this is Chicago’s famous park art installation: The Bean.

We did touristy things for a while, including two of the major parks, and, of course, The Bean, before meeting up with Andrea in front of the extraordinary Buckingham Fountain.  From there it was off to dinner, letting the mostly vegetarian daughter select the restaurant.  We ended up in at The Berghof, a German place with plenty of non-meat options, and everything was superb.  6-us-fountain

We took a lyft back to the campground, confirming that the map error was not a one time glitch, but the driver followed our directions to get back to the actual park rather than some random spot on a dark road.  The next day we resolved to switch to Uber for our downtown outing, and had no problems at all. 7-berghof

Andrea’s pre-conference research had dug up a monthly event at the famous Shedd Aquarium in which they turn the venue into an evening cocktail social and nightclub.  It was great, and we highly recommend it.  Be forewarned: they are serious about no outside food and drinks (checking everyone’s back thoroughly) which became a problem for us since we had brought a bunch of gift for Andrea from various farmers markets.  One of the managers was kind enough to bend the rules and let us store them in one of the pay lockers for the duration of our stay.  8-us-and-andrea

We had a great time: for $25 a person you get the run of the whole aquarium and the option to purchase food and drinks, though both are “nightclub” pricey, as in $10 for a glass of wine.  That’s it for Chicago.  Next we return to The South. 9-fountain

 

Heading South: Two stops in Wisconsin

With a specific obligation in Florida pending and many people to see along the way, we finally left the U.P. and began our meandering, criss-cross of the eastern states southward journey.  First up, a long run down to Green Bay, Wisconsin to visit our friend, Nick, who we met last year during out short stay in Sault Ste Marie.  We pulled into the Oneida Casino, which from our 2017 stay we knew operated a small RV park on property, providing electricity for $15 a night.

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Our RV site at Oneida Casino

We registered and paid for two nights, and maneuvered into our spot, only to find that I was a couple of feet short of being able to connect the shore power cable to the pedestal.  No problem, just pull forward a bit.  Unfortunately, somewhere between thinking that and climbing back into the driver’s seat, I decided to completely reposition, and while pondering how to do that managed to forget that I still had the shore power connected to the rig.  As I maneuvered back I ran over it, pinning it down, then pulled forward, stretched it out, and completely ripped it loose from the RV connection point.  Not a good start to our stay.

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That white part nxt to the red shore power end piece is supposed to be connected to the RV.  

It was too late in the day to locate a repair place, so we might as well just get on with our Green Bay plans.  First up, the Wednesday evening farmers market, We had learned of this event from Matt, our mushroom guy in Marquette, who declared it the best evening market in the Midwest.  It did not disappoint.  Occupying several blocked off streets in the downtown area, it had a couple of hundred merchants and a LOT of attendees.  We purchased flowers (there were dozens of flower vendors, many from the same family we suspect,) cheese (of course,) golden beets, kale, fresh bread, a brisket sandwich, craft beer, and, finally finding Shiitake Creek’s booth, an assortment of fungus.  This is a great market, and we highly recommend it if you are in Green Bay on a Wednesday.

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The bulk of our goodies from the Green Bay market.

Having previously made arrangements with Nick, we headed to the local Moose to meet up.  We had a great time!  This lodge is one of the more welcoming ones we have visited, everyone was gracious and eager to hear about our travels and tell us about their city.  They had a lively table shuffleboard tournament going on, and generally seem to be a very active Moose.  They also provided us the name and location of the go to RV repair shop in town so we could get our problem fixed. 4-gbfm-tomatoes

We also learned about booyah.  No, not the expression of triumph, but rather the very regional (almost specific to just Green Bay) chicken and beef stew, often made in very large batches.  We love us some regional fares, and are willing to try just about any.  Our time in the UP turned us on to pasties, for instance.  Once we expressed intrigue and interest, one of the Moose members, Lee, went out to the freezer and gave us couple of quarts from his last batch.  Booyah!

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Booyah indeed.

We had a relatively quite Thursday; just a bit of gambling at the casino, a shorter stop in to the Moose, and a few phone calls to Van Boxtel RV to make arrangements to repair our shore power connection the next morning before we continued south.  We ended up paying for two nights of electricity without being able to use it.  Ah well, we arrived at the repair center just before they opened, putting us nearly first in line.  They had us up and running after a couple of hours, which meant that we were really starting our drive day about when we normally would: late morning.

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Our huge site at Big Foot Beach State Park.

We continued south towards Burlington to visit Chris and Amy and the boys.  Along the way we made a short detour to the outskirts of Milwaukee to finally return our broken bike rack to LL Bean.  Having previously received an email confirmation from their corporate office regarding the return and refund, we had no trouble (other than parking); they took the rack and no questions asked refunded the cost to our credit card.

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Us with Elijah.

We split our time for this visit between Big Foot Beach State Park on the shores of Lake Geneva and Chris and Amy’s driveway; two days in each location.  This allowed us to have a camping like adventure complete with pizza, a campfire, and smores with the kids on the first night, and save money and spend more time with them on the last two.

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Chris and Koda

Big Foot Beach campground is nice: most of the sites are spacious with plenty of trees blocking you from your neighbors, just like we prefer.  It is, however, pricey.  On top of the $33 a night for (non WI residents) camping cost, they also hit you with a daily vehicle entry fee of $11, pushing the total cost up to $44 a night.  They do offer an annual vehicle pass, so if you plan on staying at Wisconsin state parks for more than three nights, that is the way to go.

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Trying to teach Elija a judo move

The park was fine, but our driveway camping was great.  They have a very long driveway that was easily capable of accommodating our 35′ rig plus a car, and Chris hooked us up to a standard 20 amp outdoor circuit to keep our batteries charged.  The weather was cool enough that we had no problem living without AC for our two nights there.  Thanks for the great visit, guys, hope to see you all soon.

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Wish this had come out better focus: Rose, Amy and Jude.

 

Our last few weeks in the UP

In September we added 17 more days to our Upper Peninsula stay.  We would have stayed another week or two but for a hard commitment back in Florida and enough family and friend visits along the way pushing our schedule.  It was a good two and a half weeks.  We continued our Marquette Tourist Park stay for a couple of days, then shifted back to Munising for three, with the idea being that bouncing back and forth between the two towns would provide an efficient way of working the markets in both places while allowing us some waterfront time in the excellent Munising Campground.

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Our last site in Marquette

Not everything works out perfectly, or course.  The first Munising market of the month was a bit of a bust: the event seems dependent on excellent weather, live music, and the availability of hot food, none of which were available in this market’s final weeks of the season.  The Marquette Wednesday evening market was likewise quite slow, and certainly not worth the one hour drive there and back from Munising.  I ended up cancelling the next week’s stay in Munising (and the market there,) resolving to complete our UP time solely in Marquette.

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PKM loves the beach at Munising Tourist Park

With Rosemarie flying back to Virginia for another visit with Linda (in her fifth year with ALS) I handled our second to last Marquette Saturday markets alone while she was gone.  It was a successful event, despite my limited ability to keep up with the restocking of the sales racks the way Rose would if she were present.

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A Gagl of Linda’s Grandkids

When Rose returned a few days later, we closed out our Marquette market season with one final Saturday event.  It was great, and left us eager to return to the UP for more. Marquette’s Saturday market during the summer, with decent weather, is an incredibly consistent money maker.

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Late season flowers at the Mrquette market

For those of you weary of reading about all this vendor and market nonsense: you are in luck: we don’t have another event until late October.  That means more than a month of posts with no painfully specific and repetitive discussions of where we sold, why we chose that location, how well we did, and future plans to return.  Of course, we enjoy farmers markets so much that when we don’t sell at one we often attend, so you might hear about a few purely from a buyers perspective.

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A dozen different farmed and foraged mushroom varietals at our favorite mushroom vendor. 

I lied, here is one more paragraph on the market vendor subject: while Rosemarie spent nearly a week in VA, I entertained myself with two main activities; market preps and geocaching.  Rose is so much better at keeping our inventory up, the display racks full, and our back up options ready, and she did a phenomenal job of setting me up for success.  But nothing makes you learn like jumping in and doing it, so the big market I did while she was gone really helped me learn and understand her preparatory and storage system.  At the end of the week I felt much more knowledgeable about our product. 6-to-norfolk

Anyway, I did a lot of geocaching, but I will leave the specifics for a separate post I have in mind: “Geocaching the UP.”  Expect that within a couple of weeks.  For now, suffice it to say that between Grand Marais, Munising, and Marquette, I did more than a hundred caches in the region and some of them were just outstandingly fun adventures. 7-pkm-black-and-white

With our days in Marquette coming to a close, once Rosemarie returned from Virginia we sought to enjoy the best of what we had experienced this summer, especially the food and bar scene.  We returned to the Rice Paddy, had drinks and bought a case of 51K IPA (our new favorite beer) at Black Rocks Brewery, tried something new at Dia de los Tacos, split a gourmet burger from The Burger Bus, and experimented with pizza slices from a couple of new places.  All but the last were excellent.  I just don’t know what to say about Marquette pizza, other than that we have not found one place we liked, while every other food category has produced great results.

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Black Rocks beer and Rice Paddy rangoons: fantastic! 

And so we head south now, with a nearly 3,000 mile zig-zag across a dozen states in order to visit friends and family on the way to Central Florida, with plans to arrive there no later than mid October.  After a month in CFL we will bounce back and forth across the SW and SE coasts for a couple of months before ending the year in Key West. 9-sunset

56 Months Fulltiming: August 2019 Report

What a month!  Nearly all of it in one of our favorite regions, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 1-50k-miles

The Distance:  We transitioned from July,  one of our biggest mileage months in a long time to, other than our stationary time in Key West and Sanibel, one of our smallest.  Only 291 miles as we traveled from Michigan’s Lower Peninsula north to the Upper Peninsula and then west across the region.  This brings our 2019 total up to 5,831 miles. 2-august-2019-route-map

The Places:  After leaving Otsego Lake County Park we crossed the Mackinac Bridge into the UP and stopped for two nights in Seney Township Park to facilitate participation in the first of our 2019 UP markets.  From there it was on to Grand Marais, one of our favorite towns in the country.  Then we headed west along the Lake Superior shore, with stops in Christmas and Munising before closing our the month with nine days in Marquette. 3-rose-beach

Unusually, the entire month, all 31 days, we stayed in municipal (county or city) parks.  Five campgrounds in a row: Otsego Lake, Seney Township, Woodland Park, Munising Tourist, and Marquette Tourist.  This really enforces our belief that county and city campgrounds are the hidden gems of RV parks.  During that time we had four days of full hook up, 25 days with power and water, and two with just electricity. 4-pr

The Budget:  As expected, we completely turned things around this month compared to our way over budget July.  Despite a couple of hundred in medical bills catching up with us and over $900 expended on our annual motorhome insurance, we still ended up 27% under budget!  Sure, the moderate campground fees (averaging $27 night for the month) and our almost complete lack of motorhome gas expenditures due to our limited travel distance helped a lot, but the biggest factor by far was our market successes.  Between Marquette, Munising, and Grand Marais, we participated in nine events, with six being highly successful and none of them failures.  This month was one of our top two months ever in market sales. 5-fire

The Drama and the Improvements:   Nothing significant to report.  Yes, I nearly submerged the entire RV into Lake Superior, but it was only a “merely” incident. We continue to nurse our hydraulic systems (slide outs and levelers) along until we get back to Florida. 6-sunset

Splitting time between Munising and Marquette to close out August

We left Grand Marais and headed west to Munising, a significantly bigger town also on the shore of Lake Superior.  We had multiple reasons to make this move: less of a hassle getting to our excellent downtown Marquette markets, the option to participate in the Munising Tuesday market, the ability to see more of the UP, and Grand Marais, though lovely, is quite small and we wanted to see and do more.

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We did a cruise tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, so be forewarned: Half the pictures in this post are of rocks like these.

We pulled into the Munising Tourist Park, a city owned campground right on the shore, and as it was Monday I expected plenty of openings at this first come, first serve park.  Unfortunately, I had mis-remembered: the Munising Tourist Park is not first come, first serve, and they tend to be near full capacity throughout the summer.  They had no openings at all; the best they could do was give us two day later in the week.  2-pr

Ah well, we continued a couple of miles down the road intending to check out a rather new private RV park, but then spotted the Kewadin Casino in Christmas (yes, that’s the name of the town, and they really work it for the tourists) and remembered that they have ten RV sites with power.  Checking in with the players club we were told to pick a spot, it was free, and we could stay up to four days.  Free is good; we like free.  It wasn’t the prettiest place we have stayed, but the price was right, we had 50 amp electricity, we enjoy casinos, and got to explore another small UP town.

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Jack at the Kewadin Casino in Christmas, MI

On our second day we made the ten minute drive back to Munising, and after coordinating with the market manager set up for the Tuesday evening affair.  It was fantastic.  They had an excellent live band, a good sized and energetic crowd, and food, all of which translates into a money making experience for vendors.  We were quite excited to realize that between Marquette and Munising we had two excellent markets to enjoy for the remainder of our UP stay.

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PKM wanted to check them out but was cautious: ducks are kinda big.

After two days we moved from the casino to the Munising Tourist Park, where we lucked into a water front site.  We had one ever so small hiccup while setting up: I had failed to put the motorhome in “park” when I got out to check my position, and thus nearly rolled the rig into Lake Superior until Rosemarie hopped into the driver seat and hit the brakes.  Details.

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Our site at the Munising Tourist Park

Anyway, our site was stunning.  The shore was quite literally 30 feet from our bedroom, we had a beautiful view for sunset, and went to sleep each night with the sound of waves gently crashing ashore.  We resolved that all stays at this park must be waterfront as every other spot would disappoint.

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Our beach at the Munising campground.

While in Munising we made the less than an hour drive to Marquette to try out the new Wednesday evening market.  It is much more… intimate than the rocking Saturday event.  Instead of 65 vendors there were about a dozen, and we observed far less foot traffic.  On the plus side, there was live music and an excellent food truck, Dia de los Tacos.

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Sunset from our site in Munising.

We made decent, if not great money, so despite the higher than expected vendor fee ($30 as opposed to the Saturday $20 price) we considered it well worth it for the two hour event.  Besides, the great thing about both of the Marquette markets is that we don’t have to bring our own tent or tent weights (the city provides them) so the ride in our little Geo Tracker is much more comfortable.  8-pr

We picked a good weather day for something we had been meaning to do ever since our first visit to the UP: a sunset cruise along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  We highly recommend it and can’t believe we waited this long.  The views are stunning, and the billion year old geology fascinating.  9-pr-us

After four days in the Munising area we shifted further west to the big college town of Marquette, home to Northern Michigan University.  We stayed at yet another municipal park, the Marquette Tourist Campground.  Though not as consistently full as Munising’s, the summer weekends can present a challenge for those of us seeking last minute reservations.  We used our typical “check the web site every day for cancellations” method and secured back to back reservations for an 11 day stay, which would get us into September.  10-pr

The Marquette campground offers full hook up, electrical only, and dry camping sites, all of which are quite large, in a lightly wooded riverside location.  While it simply can’t match the stunning waterfront views we experienced in Grand Marais and Munising, it is reasonably affordable ($30 for electrical only, $35 for full hook up) and is positioned in what is becoming one of our favorite cities.

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One of our spacious spots in Marquette.

Most “college towns” are pretty interesting, possessing an energetic and youthful “vibe.”  What really jumped out at us in Marquette: it’s not just the college kids, a pretty high percentage of the adults were just.. interesting.  Free spirited.  The place reminds me a little bit of Asheville, NC and Portland, OR.  We took the time to do some exploring and to take in the atmosphere of the town.  Two of the highlights:  Black Rocks Brewery and The Rice Paddy restaurant.

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I believe this is called Temple Rock.  The dark line from the rock that looks sort of like a footbridge to the main shore is actually a network of roots from the tree on top of the rock.  Years ago the land bridge gave way, but the roots remained, still providing water to the tree.

If you have read our Maine and Nova Scotia posts, you know we enjoy our craft beer, particularly sampling it on location.  The great thing about our life style is constantly finding new “local” spots and thus establishing new “favorites.”  Nothing against Ore Dock Brewing, but Black Rocks is definitely our UP top brewery, and their 51K IPA is our new fave beer.  The atmosphere of the bar and outdoor area are just excellent.  Everyone is friendly, they have frequent live music, and regular food trucks.

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Jack enjoying Black Rocks Brewery perhaps a little too much.

The Rice Paddy is a Marquette institution, and the proprietor, Aoy Lacapelle, is a bit of an icon in the town.  There is some limited seating; but it’s mainly a take out place for authentic Thai cuisine with some other Asian options as well.  It is a must visit place, though call ahead and be prepared for long wait times during peak hours.  A final word of warning, they default to spicy, and they are not playing around with it.  Unless you have a high tolerance for the spice, ask for it mild.  14-pr

Towards the end of August we attended a local geocaching get together hosted by some local cachers.  A couple dozen of us met up on Presque Isle, a very nice park with a good number of caches, for some food, conversation, and prizes.  Ever since attending the MidWest GeoBash we have been much more engaged about finding geocaching related events, and were glad to have this one pop up during our stay.  Thanks “2 UP Geologists” for hosting this affair! 15-pr

Finally, a bit more on our markets.  And yes, I realize the last couple of posts have been rather heavy on “market talk,” but frankly, these seven weeks in the UP and a ten week stretch in Key West are our top earning windows.  Once we leave Michigan, we don’t expect another market for two months or so, and they won’t be as rock solid as what we experience up here.

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Can’t go to a fantastic market and not buy something!

So with that said: during the last nine days of August we did three more markets.  The two Saturday events in downtown Marquette were outstanding, almost record setting for us.  We really benefited from the timing: peak summer season, good weather, and lots of NMU parents dropping their kids off for school and orientation.  The Munising Tuesday event got rained out: some vendors still set up, but the band and food cancelled, and with high winds and lightening anticipated we took a pass.  Lastly, the two hour Marquette Wednesday market was extremely slow, but not every vending opportunity is going to be a winner.  17-sunset-after-cruise

Next up: August Report and then our final couple of weeks in the UP.