After our four days in Ohio we faced a long drive to our next destination: Lower Michigan on the east shore of Lake Michigan. We didn’t really know how to “do” Michigan. Sporadic recommendations from friends were all pointing us toward nice locations in the lower portion of the state, but our research suggested the Upper Peninsula would be more to our liking. We decided to give the state at least twelve days so that we could meander our way from south to north and then west across the peninsula into Wisconsin. This is a much longer drive than we had considered before actually mapping it out.
And the length of drive is important. Gone are the days when I am willing to drive ten, twelve, even all night to get to a destination. That is a foolish young person’s game. Add to that the significantly more difficult and stressful aspect of driving a 14 ton, 35 foot motorhome with a car in tow, and we arrive at a preferred three hour drive between locations, though we will push it to five or six when necessary. Finally, there is Pad Kee Meow’s occasional motion sickness. Though she is nearly ideal for the RV lifestyle in every other way, rarely bolting out the door, leash trained, dog and child tolerant, she does tend to get sick when subjected to long drives, especially on the back roads where Serenity wallows from side to side.
We have discovered four levels of cat sick warning signs, or DEFCAT levels, if you will. At DEFCAT 4, PKM is happily sitting on the wide dash watching our travels through the huge front windshield. At level 3 we see our first low grade warning signs as she shifts to Rosemarie’s lap and insists upon petting and attention. Our best road trips see her there for the majority of the trip. At DEFCAT 2 she moves to the the floor, either under Rosemarie’s seat or near her water bowl, sort of napping, but a bit restless. Finally, a true warning of imminent sickness, she shifts to the lowest step next to the exit door, plaintively staring from the door to us, as if begging someone to let her out. When we get to this DEFCAT 1, we look for signs of nausea, particularly excess salivation, and have on a two occasions just pulled over to let her recover for a bit before finishing the trip. Usually though once we get to the salivation stage its too late and we have to do a clean up in aisle one.
With all that in mind, the eastern shore of Lake Michigan was a solid six hour drive from our Ohio departure point. Cross referencing All Stays with reviews on Trip Advisor and RV Park Reviews, we selected Weko Beach as our first stop. It looked like our cup of tea, and positioned as it was at the southern end of the state and the lake, it worked well for our developing plan. We spoke with a woman in the front office at this popular first come, first serve campground, who recommended that we wait to show up until Monday rather than late on Sunday to maximize a chance at an open hook up site.
This worked out fairly well for us because the six hour drive was unappetizing; now all we needed was a suitable stopping point along the route. Checking our options on Passport America led us to Grand View Bend in Howe, Indiana. Yes, this would technically give us one night RVing in a new state, but this is the one time we skirted a border without trying to collect another state. Besides, we spent five days in Indiana earlier this year, and intend to pass through again when we turn back to Florida. Grand View Bend truly was directly on our route at about the right distance we wanted to travel, honored the astounding PA rate of $12.50 for a 30 amp and water hook up site, and had decent amenities. Perfect for a one night stay.
The place offered us a spacious site, lush grass beneath our feet, a lovely field of cultivated farmland out to our backs, and a generally pleasant stopover experience. The only downsides we discovered during out 20 hours there was the somewhat half hazard check in process and the poor alignment of the spaces with the electrical connections. The short term area of the park is distinct from the full and seasonal residents, and laid out in a long line on one side of the lengthy entrance road. Apparently the original spacing was altered in the last few years to make each site more spacious. Unfortunately they did not move the electrical connections to match the new alignment, resulting in about 1/3 of the spots requiring an extremely long shore power cable to reach. Fortunately they had three our four spots to pick from, and we selected one with properly positioned connections and a big shade tree to mitigate one of the hottest days we had experienced in a while.
We closed all our blinds and rolled out the awning to assist the one AC we could run on the 30 amp circuit in its struggle to get get the interior temp down while Rosie and I took a dip in the nice sized, in ground pool. With a stiff breeze blowing it was actually nicer outside than in, so we spent a good portion of the late afternoon and early evening relaxing outdoors watching the cat obsess over the ground squirrel holes and observing the sun lower over the adjacent farm. About the only other thing to report about the park is that the free wifi was completely unusable, but at $12.50 a night, all in, it was still a fantastic deal, perhaps the cheapest decent park at which we have ever stayed.
The next morning we made the 90 minute drive to Weko Beach, a bit anxious since we really didn’t know if a site would be available. As we pulled up to the front office we spotted the large “No Campsites Available” sign, but hoped that was just because the morning departures had not yet been counted. Sure enough, as we waited the staff checked the two sites with scheduled departures, and finding them empty gave us the green light to select one and park.
We passed on what I considered the nicer of the two because our would be neighbors there had three large, loud and unleashed dogs on their site. Instead we selected the more awkwardly arranged, though dog free spot. Pad Kee Meow is mostly unconcerned with dogs, often staring down and willingly approaching even the yippiest of them in some sort of test of wills, but these three looked to be under minimal owner control, and raised a ruckus whenever anyone walked by. No thanks.
Instead, our selected site was mostly dirt with a triangular shape and a barely reachable water and electrical connection. If you are getting the picture that Weko Beach is a bit half hazardly arranged and managed, then your perception matches ours. Oddly laid out sites, lax enforcement of the rules, and basic accommodations, and yet it was fantastic; yet another example of why we lean towards country rather than state parks if all other things are seemingly equal. Because for $30 a day ($35 on weekends) we were a couple of hundred yards away from an excellent Lake Michigan beach with a first come first serve policy that worked well for those of us whose RV pattern doesn’t often allow long term planning.
Intellectually I understood that the great lakes really are like oceans, with storms and big vessels and ship wrecks and the like, but seeing them in person really drives this home. Water as far as you can see, wave action crashing on the shore, sandy beaches, the works. Set down without knowledge of your location, it would be very easy to assume you were on an Atlantic or Pacific beach. The water temperature was quite tolerable, the uncountable rocks all over the beach beautiful, the beach itself uncrowded, and after a dip in the lake one exits clean and without the need to rinse an uncomfortable layer of salt from your body. Oh, and no sharks. I had never thought much about the allure of the Great Lakes, but I am definitely a convert to their coolness now.
As a collector of things from the sea, Rosemarie had another reason for wanting to stop at Lake Michigan: beach glass. As best I could determine from online research, the southern portion of Lake Michigan is best for it, so we spent a few hours leisurely walking the beach from Weko into the adjacent state park. We didn’t have great luck, only finding two pieces, but one was thick and large, allowing Rosemarie to turn it into a great piece of found object jewelry.
We only stayed for our traditional thee days, but we made the most of it, spending at least part of every day at the beach, especially for the three wonderful sunsets over the water. The nearby town was large enough to support basic needs, though we did not explore it for anything beyond resupply. We have since moved on, still in Michigan but much further north, and having had the benefit of a few other campgrounds in the state, we would be hard pressed to pick our favorite, but Weko Beach would definitely be in contention. The loosey-goosey aspects of the park are not for everyone, but we found it perfectly suited to our RV style.
We are now only two locations and zero states behind in this blog, though admittedly that is because of our soon to be reported extended stay in the Upper Peninsula. Next up, continuing up the Lake Michigan shore.