Monday, August 29, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 34--Home

Easy driving but not so easy hot weather.

The last two days of this latest adventure was fairly uneventful. We left Winterset, Iowa, around 9:00 yesterday morning and headed south. Traveling on a Sunday makes for good driving because there is not much traffic on the road. Passed through Kansas City just after noon and again found little traffic. We headed across Kansas and pulled into the Emporia RV Park, in Emporia around 3:00 PM. This is a pretty basic RV park that is good for an overnight stay. Full hookups, including cable TV, for a reasonable price. We were glad to have 50 amp service so we could run both air conditioner units. Somewhere between Kansas City and Emporia it started to get warm. We finally had to pull off at a rest stop to start up the generator and turn on the roof A/C unit. After the 70 and 80 temps we had gotten used to these 100 plus degree temps were a little much.

Got out around 8:30 this morning and back on Interstate 35. We had the coach fairly cool from the previous night so to keep it that way we ran the generator and roof air all the way home. We arrived at our house in Warr Acres around 1:30 this afternoon. It was over 100 here again in the Oklahoma City area. (This year Oklahoma City has had the most days with over 100 degree temps in recorded history. Old record was set in 1950.) The TV weather guessers are predicting it to stay over 100 through this week but to drop by Saturday. Plugged in the coach as soon as we got it parked in the drive and left the A/C running. That made it easier to clean out the coach and get everything carried into the house and put away.

We had a great adventure and saw many sights and did many things. We'll settle in at home for awhile, check on family members and try to spend some time with the grand kids. We'll also start preparing for our next adventure on the road which will be in Louisiana.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 32

Balloons, historic buildings and The Duke all in one day.

This morning we set off to explore the area around Winterset, Iowa. When we were here in 2006 we sought out all the bridges of The Bridges of Madison County fame so we did not do that again. We did take a turn around the town square in downtown to see all the potted plants they have out for the summer. This seems to be big up north since the City of Duluth had similar pots hanging from their light poles in both downtown and in Canal Park. Next we took a drive east, about 30 miles, to the town of Indianola where the National Balloon Museum is located. The big annual Balloon Festival, that is now held each fall in Albuquerque, New Mexico, originated in Indianola. The museum has many displays of balloons including gas filled to hot air balloons. Also the many types of gondolas that are associated with ballooning are shown here.

Our next stop was back in Winterset at the Madison County Historical Society Museum Complex. We first visited this in 2006 and enjoyed it enough to return. The main museum is on two floors of a pretty good size building with a large amount of material depicting the history of Madison County. There are several other buildings on the site, including an 1800's mansion that was original to the property. They have also moved in an old train depot, a one-room school house and a small church building. These are all original buildings to the area. A very large barn has been constructed and it is chock full of farm machinery and vehicles. This is definitely a place that museum and history buffs should stop to see when in the area.

Our last stop for the day was to pay homage to an American icon, one Marion Robert Morrison, or as he is better known The Duke, John Wayne. He was born in a four room house in Winterset on May 26, 1907. We took the tour of the house when we were here in 2006. At that time we were told of plans for a large John Wayne Museum to be built on adjacent property. One of our reasons to stop in Winterset on the way home was to see the progress of the museum. Unfortunately the town has had trouble with the fund raising so ground has not been broken on the museum. They do have a very nice statue of The Duke on the site. We'll have to keep track of this over the next few years and plan a stop here again once the museum gets build, if it ever does.

We drove through some light rain showers yesterday that really made a mess of the car. We finished off the day by taking the car to a car wash to get it ready to put the travel cover on for the rest of our trek toward home. That was followed by a good dinner at a local diner.

Friday, August 26, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 31--A special day

Moving day again plus a special celebration.

We headed out of Prior Lake this morning, going south. After an uneventful drive we are now in the City Park in Winterset, Iowa. The park here has full RV hookups for a modest cost so it makes a good stop over place. Winterset is located in Madison County, the home of some bridges made famous in a Clint Eastwood movie: "The Bridges of Madison County". We were here in 2006 and took the time to drive out and take pictures of all six bridges. We won't do that this time. This is also the birthplace of one of my hero's, Marion Morrison. We'll get around tomorrow to go see what has been added about him since we were last here.

This date also marks a special day in our lives. Twenty-three years ago today I stood and watched my bride walk down the aisle. That was the beginning of The Excellent Adventure of Rick and Joanne. Since we were going to be on the road most of today I gave her an anniversary present yesterday evening. While in Duluth I discovered a jewelry store that sold gold charms of the Aerial Lift Bridge. I had them put this on a gold chain to make a necklace for her. Tonight we went into town for a quiet dinner at a local diner. This adventure just continues on as we explore this great country.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 30

A little driving, a little exploring.

A few years ago a good friend turned me onto a website called Roadside America. This is a listing of tourist places that are odd and unusual and that are not listed in the regular guide books. These places are listed by state and then by city. As we have traveled we have often gone out of our way to see some of these sights. Today we went to three of them. First stop was Faribault, Minnesota to see the Tin Man Family. These are in front of a sheet metal fabrication business. While we were in Faribault Joanne wanted to stop at Faribault Wollen Mills. The GPS took us to a former location of one of their outlet stores. Turns out that company had gone out of business. After returning to the coach and looking on the Internet we learned a couple of guys have bought the assets and are in the process of reopening the company but that has not happened yet.

Our next stops were in the town of Owatonna. First I wanted to go to their Cabela's store. This is one of the best outdoor stores in the country but, unfortunately, they do not have a store in Oklahoma. They usually have great prices on ammunition and I have been purchasing from them online/mail order. Was able to pick up several boxes at a really good price. Also had lunch in their restaurant. All the Cabela's stores have neat nature statues in front of their buildings. Inside they have great displays of stuffed wild game posed in their natural habitat. Always enjoy a stop at Cabela's.

While in Owatonna we headed to two more of the sights from Roadside America. First was The Coming King statue. This is located on the grounds of a large church and is a bronze sculpture standing 18 feet tall and weighs 3600 pounds. It depicts Jesus Christ as a mighty warrior King returning in glory to establish the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God on Earth. This is based on the scripture in Revelations 19:11-16. This sculpture was done by Max Greiner, Jr., and is very well done.

Our next stop was at the Owatonna City Airport. Located there is The Three T-38 Jets Statue. These are former U.S. Air Force jet aircraft that were originally displayed in front of a local air museum. After the museum closed the city had the jets moved to the airport. The planes are now painted in the colors of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbird demonstration team. They are placed in the "bomb-burst" formation that is done by the Thunderbirds.

We had an enjoyable time here, on our last full day in Minnesota, and got a few more of the Roadside America sights checked off our list.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 29

Some relaxing, some laundry and a chance for Joanne to see old friends.

Not much happening in the Minneapolis area for us so far. We have kind of settled in for the few days we'll be here at Dakotah Meadows. Yesterday was mostly for housekeeping things that need to be taken care of when out on the road for extended periods. A little maintenance on the coach and then it was off to do laundry. The campground has a coin operated laundry but it was being used all morning by folks that got in ahead of us. So, we took off looking for a laundry. After the wash was done we stopped at a local Dairy Queen for a late lunch and then back to the coach for the evening. Not a very exciting day but got the necessary things taken care of.

Today was a bit different, at least for Joanne. She spent most of the day visiting with old friends from her days when she lived in and attended school in Duluth. First, her friend Marcia, picked her up just before noon to go to lunch. Afterward they came back to the coach and enjoyed the beautiful weather to sit out in the lawn chairs catching up on old times. (Marcia came to Oklahoma in 1988 to serve as Jo's Matron of Honor when we got married.) I used this time to make a trip to Best Buy to pick up some stuff to clean up our computer screens.

Later in the day two other friends, Sharon and Merridy, picked her up to go to dinner. Both of these ladies grew up in the same neighborhood as Jo in Duluth. They went down the street to the Little Six Casino to eat in their restaurant. (These casinos are owned and operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community, a part of the Cheyenne Sioux Tribe.) While they were out I wandered over to the bigger Mystic Lake Casino to grab a sandwich and try my luck a little. Didn't have much luck at finding food or on the casino floor. Due to a big outdoor concert by Stevie Nicks the casinos and restaurants were swamped with people. Finally was able to get into the food court and get a burger and returned to the coach after a couple of hours. Jo and her friends must have been having a good time visiting since they did not return until after I was back. Needless to say, a good day all in all.

Monday, August 22, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 27

Moving day.

We wrapped up our time in Duluth this morning. The owners of the Lakehead Boat Basin, Joel and his daughter Jody, stopped by as we were hooking up to leave. Although not the conventional RV park the Boat Basin is a great place to stay, especially with the way Joel and Jody go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome.

As we rolled south on Interstate 35 we experienced plenty of road construction, eight major sections to be exact. Most just caused everyone to slow down some but the last one pretty much brought traffic to a stop. It was backed up for miles and took close to 30 minutes to go 4.5 miles. We did manage to make what has become a traditional stop at Tobies in Hinkley, Minnesota. We needed to stop for fuel so this was as good a place as any. In years past Tobies had a very large clothing and souvenir store along with their restaurant and service station. The store closed some time back but the restaurant is still a great place to eat. We had lunch and purchased some cinnamon rolls from their bakery for tomorrow morning.

After lunch we moved on south to the Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, Minnesota. Well, we are actually at Dakotah Meadows RV Park, which is a part of the Mystic Lake complex, which also has a championship golf course. We have stayed here several times over the years. It is a very nice park with all the bells and whistles. We'll be here the remainder of this week before we start working our way back to hot Oklahoma.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 26

An Arts Festival, a good lunch and then kicked back for the day.

The city was having an Arts Festival over in Bayfront Festival Park, just a short distance from where we are parked. This festival used to be held over in Canal Park, in one of the parking lots, in the years when we were first coming up here. Since then, 1) the festival out grew the parking lot location and 2) Canal Park has grown to the point they cannot afford to give up parking space for a full weekend. We went over to the festival around 10:00 this morning and walked through all the booths. This was made up mostly of local artist and most items pertained to this area. There were several people displaying their photography and we saw some great pictures of places in Northern Minnesota. Didn't see anything that made us want to shell out the cash to take them home.

After the festival we headed east to find some lunch. The first place we headed for, a Perkins Restaurant, was closed so we had to fall back to plan B. Stopped at a longtime local place, the Pickwick Restaurant and Pub, but found the restaurant side was closed on Sundays. We walked next door to the Fitger's Mall, which is in the old Fitger's Brewery, to one of it's restaurants. It is located right on Lake Superior. We picked the Midi Restaurant on the bottom level and got a table by the windows directly overlooking the lake. This was a bit more upscale than the places we normally seek out but the food was good and not too overly priced.

We had talked about going down to Leif Erikson Park for a concert this afternoon but that did not work out. A U.S. Air Force band was playing there today at 3:00. About 2:00 it clouded up and poured down rain for 30 minutes or so. Since this was going to be an outside concert we decided to stay in. We wound up lounging around the coach all afternoon. Since we are leaving Duluth tomorrow morning I did take the time to start getting the coach ready to move, taking the vinyl wheel protectors off, removing the sunscreen off the windshield, putting our lawn chairs and outdoor light away and emptying our waste holding tanks. That will just make it easier in the morning to get hooked up and on our way.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 25

A boat in the canal, shopping at Canal Park and then out visiting.

In all the years we have been visiting Duluth I have taken many pictures of the "world famous" Duluth Lift Bridge. One thing that has eluded me is to get a good picture of a ship, or "ore boat" as they are called up here, coming through the canal under the bridge. This morning we decided to take a walk over across the bridge to Canal Park. As we were going down the street from the RV we noticed the bridge was all the way in the up position. Usually when the local tour boats or a small craft is going in or out of the harbor the bridge only goes up half way. We looked back into the harbor to see one of the ore boats heading out from it's pier. We hurried down to the canal and I was able to get in a good position to snap some pics as she came under the bridge. This vessel was about 550 feet long. After she passed out of the canal and the bridge came back down we proceeded to go up on the bridge to cross over. We did notice another, even larger, ore boat was out in the lake heading in. About half way across the bridge we heard over the PA system to "hurry off the bridge" since it was going up again. We barely stepped off the end and up it went to allow the next ship to enter the harbor. This ore boat was 736 feet long according to the schedule posted in the daily paper of ship arrivals and departures from the harbor. (Later, as we were returning to the RV, we got caught on the bridge again and had to hurry off before it started up to allow a local fishing charter to enter the harbor.)

While over in Canal Park we took the time to do some shopping for our grand daughters. Funny how when they come to visit, after we have returned from our latest adventure, they head straight for the place where Grandma puts the stuff we brought back for them. We also picked up a couple of other gifts for relatives while there. Canal Park has grown a great deal over the years we've been coming up. Now there as several hotels, both in the converted warehouse buildings and new ones built on the lake side. Most all the former warehouse buildings are occupied with shops or eateries. The city has turned this into a really nice tourist/entertainment district. On our way back I could not resist taking a picture of one of the many fire hydrants in the area. It reminds me why I could never live up here year round. I'm not about to live in a place that has to have extension poles on the fire hydrants so the firemen can find them in the snow in the winter.

In the afternoon we drove out to far West Duluth to visit an old friend of Joanne's moms, Vivian Hanson. We have visited Vivian previously when in Duluth. She is soon to be 94 years old and still living at home and still driving. She told us she still has a cabin on one of the local lakes but has turned over the maintenance of it to her sons. Hopefully, we all can be so active and independent when we reach this age. We finished off our day with a fine dinner at the home of Aunt Pat and Uncle Dennis, followed by a game of cards.

Friday, August 19, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 24

A drive up the shore and then dinner with the relatives.

After relaxing around the coach this morning we decided to take a drive up the North Shore of Lake Superior. We took the scenic route right along the lake edge to the town of Two Harbors. This is about 30 miles north of Duluth. This was a really beautiful drive this time of year. On the way back we stopped at a popular local fish market, Kendall's, to pick up some White Fish to take home to Joanne's mother. Personally I really don't care for it but her mother enjoys it. I guess it is an acquired taste. Anyway, we had a really nice leisurely drive. We did stop at a new small protected harbor that has been built for the launching of small boats. This gave us an opportunity to take some pictures of the lake and the shore along the road. After returning to Duluth we met up with Joanne's brother and sister-in-law, Roger and Marilyn, for dinner at Applebee's in the big mall here in town. All in all a relaxing and fun day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 23

A couple of days trekking through cemeteries and then a day of sightseeing.

After getting settled in at the Lakehead Boat Basin here in Duluth on Monday afternoon we called Joanne's Aunt Pat and Uncle Dennis to let them know we were here. We wound up going over to their place after dinner to visit and to meet their three youngest grand kids. In the days before we started this RV thing we would stay at their house when we came up to Duluth for our visits. Even after we purchased our first RV we parked in their yard twice, for a couple of weeks each time. After trading for a coach with slide outs their yard could no longer accommodate us so we started staying down here at the Boat Basin. We met up with them again on Wednesday evening for dinner at the Duluth Grill. (This is one of the places we saw on the Food Channel's show "Diner's, Drive-In's and Dives".)

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent trekking through cemeteries. For the genealogy research we've been doing we've learned that only so much can be accomplished through online searches. Eventually there comes a time that you just have to go to the source. Additionally, thanks to my brother Chester, I have gotten interested in a website called "Find A Grave". This is a place where a person can set up a memorial page for those who have passed on. In addition to the information on the individual this site will also list where the person is buried. One of the entries that is normally posted is a picture of the gravestone, in addition to a photo of the person if available. To get pictures and information on members of Joanne's family up here we went to four different cemeteries and got the information on 18 of her relatives. We took two days because these cemeteries are spread out all over St. Louis County. Now we have been able to update our information in our genealogy pages at but were also able to set up 18 memorial pages on Find A Grave.

With our cemetery stuff taken care of we decided to do some sightseeing today. We wanted to check out some of the other RV parks in the area. We were sure that we'd not find any we liked as well as the Boat Basin and we were correct. The Boat Basin is a very popular place and we cannot always get reservations for the dates we want so we were looking for a backup. So far I have not found one I'd take my coach into. We've found they are pretty old and run down without the services we get here at Lakehead. We also drove up to the top of the hill to Enger Park to see Enger Tower. We've been to Enger Tower many times but we had learned that some major renovations have been done up there. It is also a great place to take pictures of the harbor down below, especially pictures of the "world famous" Aerial Lift Bridge. This morning, before we left the coach, a large ore boat (ship) came through and moved to the piers in the harbor. Would like to be up at Enger Park to get pictures as one of the ships was entering through the canal. We have to cross this bridge to get from town out to Park Point and the Boat Basin. So far the brige has only been up once while we were traveling through.

After Enger Park we drove back down to Canal Park for lunch. We went to a little place we like, right on the water, called Crabby Bill's. This is an old fishing boat that has been drug up on dry ground and converted to an outdoor seafood vendor. This was a change from the past two days. There are two Coney Island hot dog places in downtown, just a few blocks apart. One, the Original Coney Island, has been in continuous business since 1921. The other, Deluxe Coney Island, is relative new, brighter and cleaner. Can't say either one has any better food than the other. (Joanne's Uncle Dennis thinks that the Deluxe is better than the Original.) We ended the day with another sunset over Duluth Harbor.

Monday, August 15, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 20

Leaving Michigan behind and on to Minnesota.

We rolled out of Ishpeming, Michigan, this morning heading to our next stop on this adventure. We had 239 miles of driving to get to Duluth, Minnesota. It was a fairly leisurely drive along the south edge of Lake Superior through the Michigan U.P, across the top of Wisconsin to Duluth. We did stop, just before leaving Michigan, in the town of Wakefield to let the dogs stretch their legs. During this stop we saw a neat wood carving called "Leading Man". From there we pushed on, arriving in Duluth in early afternoon. We are now set up for the next week at the Lakehead Boat Basin out on a strand called Park Point. This strand separates Lake Superior and the Duluth Harbor. The Boat Basin is not an RV park like one would normally expect. It is actually a marina and working boatyard. In the winter they must take the small boats out of the water and store them on what would normally be asphalt parking lots. In the summer, with all the boats in the water, they have put in full hookup sites for RV's to help with the cost of operating the place. We have full hookups with a good 50amp service plus water and sewer. We love the location since it is within walking distance to Canal Park, Duluth's entertainment and shopping district, and downtown Duluth. We also get a great view over the marina out our front window, as the picture to the left shows. Getting to Park Point requires crossing the Duluth Lift Bridge. Over the years I have taken many pictures of this bridge but always go back to take more. It is simply fascinating. The bridge is over the channel from the lake to the inner harbor. Everything from ocean going cargo ships, to lake ore boats (also pretty good sized ships), to the local harbor tour boats cross through this canal and under this bridge. The only down side to being out on Park Point is almost every time we want to go somewhere in the car the bridge is up. Anyway, we are all settled in and ready to visit with many of Joanne's family members who still live here and revisit some of the sights we love in the area. We started off our stay tonight with a great Minnesota sunset. (Remember, all the pictures can be enlarged by just clicking on that individual picture.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 19

A boat ride, some sunken ships and some lighthouses. How much better can it get?

For our last day in Michigan we decided to take a drive over to Munising to take a ride on a glass bottom boat. First stop was at the Glass Bottom Boat Shipwreck Tours to pick up our tickets I had purchased online. We had a couple of hours before our scheduled trip so we decided to drive on in to town for lunch. The folks at the tour place suggested we try Dogpatch Restaurant and even gave us a coupon for a 5% discount there. Although it was after 11:00 AM they were still serving breakfast. On our way to eat we spotted, right in the middle of town, a lighthouse. This is one that I had not previously found online. Turned out to be Munising Range Rear Light. After a great meal, with way too much food, it was time to set sail. The boat, MV Fireball, first took us out to Grand Island just off the coast. Their website had mentioned there would be a possibility, if we looked close, of seeing wildlife on the island. The eagle was perched in a tree top right on the edge of the island. Another sight we were looking forward to was the East Channel Lighthouse on the south end of the island. The actual light has been removed from this lighthouse and it is now privately owned. (Only a small portion of the island is privately owned with a few seasonal cabins. Most of the island is owned by the U.S. Forestry Service.) The folks who now own this lighthouse are working to completely refurbish it to it's original glory.

The next stop was a white buoy marking the wreck of the Bermuda. The ships are all wooden vessels that foundered either due to weather or being over laden. The second ship was a scow schooner that was way too small to operate on the lakes. It also was the oldest of the ships we saw today and had been down there several hundred years. The last ship was the Herman H. Hettler. The picture to the right, taken through the bottom of the boat, is the anchor from the Hettler. These ships are very well preserved due to the very cold waters of the lake. The total tour took just over two hours and was very interesting. The young people who made up the crew, from the Captain on down to the deck hands, were absolutely fantastic. The young lady telling us about the wrecks was very knowledgeable of the wrecks in the lake.

On our drive back to Ishpeming we stopped at a place called Lakenland. This is a free, family friendly park that has been built by a guy named Tom. He has built many pieces of "junk art" and has them displayed on a trail/road back through the woods. This guy has a tremendous imagination and a lot more time on his hands than most people. Up by the entrance is a small band shell and today they had some live music going on. We heard a little of the music while stopped to take pictures. It was obviously a local band and they really were not very good. Oh well, it was free and you get what you pay for. The road/trail was set up to be seen by car or on foot. After we found how long this trail was we were glad we decided to drive through. Every few feet he had another junk art sculpture. I have no idea how many were there but would guess it was close to 100.

We have had a pretty good week here in the Michigan U.P., even though we did waste a bunch of time sitting around the coach waiting to get our necessary repairs completed. Tomorrow morning it is back on the road for our next adventure.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 18

Eureka! The repairs are done and we'll be able to put this thing back on the road.

We were expecting another day of waiting around for the RV dealer to call about getting us in to repair the slide topper awning. Had just about given up on them getting it done and had decided that tomorrow I would have to go on the roof and cut the fabric out. This would mean ruining the awning and would require buying a new one once we return to Oklahoma, at about $400.00 plus labor to have it installed. Joanne decided that we both did not need to sit around and wait so she took the car and headed for a Shopko store nearby. Not ten minutes after she left the phone rang and, lo and behold, that had a service cancellation and could get us in if we could get the coach over there immediately. I hurriedly picked everything up and stowed it all away as best as I could, unhooked the water, sewer and power lines and pulled the sunshade off the windshield and off the dogs and I went. There is a dirt road from the campground to the back gate of the dealership so that is the way we went in. The guys were waiting for us and immediately got to work. Turns out the repair was minor and all is well. When the wind caught the awning and completely unfurled it a bolt came out of the end that helps to hold the tension on the spring. Without that bolt the sping could not pull the awning back taut. We are grateful for their assistance and a very reasonable charge for their work.

So, now we were free to get out and see this beautiful area. There were several lighthouses we'd like to see along the lake but most were over 100 mile drive. We picked one a little closer and headed to Big Bay, Michigan, just a little north of Marquette. This is the Big Bay Point Lighthouse, about 3.5 miles past the town of Big Bay, with the last half mile or so being down a dirt road. This light has also been deactivated but has been sold off to a private party. It has been converted to a Bed & Breakfast facility so we were unable to go inside. We were lucky that the owners allow people who are not staying at the Bed & Breakfast to enter the grounds for picture taking. Many of the lighthouses that have been sold to private parties close the grounds to tourist. This lighthouse sits on a high cliff overlooking Lake Superior. It was originally established to protect the Big Bay Harbor. After seeing the lighthouse we headed back to the town of Big Bay. This is a fairly small community. We saw a couple of churches, a real estate office, a tavern and Big Bay Outfitters (pictured on the right). The Outfitters cater to the outdoorsmen in the area. In addition to fishing tackle and live bait they also offer some clothing and articles made by the local artisans. Although we were only 25 miles from Marquette we felt we were definitely out in the woods.

We ended our day by going to a local place for dinner, the Jasper Ridge Brewery & Restaurant. This is just out the gate from the RV park and appears to be a popular place with the locals. Had a good meal along with a mug of their in house root beer. Yes, it is a micro-brewery but since neither of us really care for beer their root beer had to do.

Friday, August 12, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 17

Bummer, another day without getting our repairs done.

Spent the morning waiting for the RV dealer to call about working us in to get the slide topper awning repaired. No call came. We finally decided to get out of here and go see something. Figured if we didn't venture too far away we could always hurry back if the call came. So we headed back over to Marquette to see their Maritime Museum and Harbor Lighthouse. Although this is operated by the City of Marquette the property is still owned and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. There is a Coast Guard station still operating there. The museum was not that large but did have some good displays about the old Life Saving Stations, shipping on the Great Lakes and the lighthouses that dot the lakes. The lighthouse sits up on a cliff a short distance from the museum. The building is two stories with a basement. The basement was a work area while the other two floors contained matching apartments for the Assistant Lighthouse Keepers and their families. The Lighthouse Keeper lived in a nearby house that is now occupied by the Commander of the Coast Guard Station with his family. There are two smaller lights in the Marquette Harbor, the Upper Harbor Light and the Lower Harbor Light. These are located out at the ends of seawalls that protect in inner harbors. The Upper Harbor Light was quite a ways from where we at and the seawall goes out over three miles. We did not attempt to go out to that one. The Lower Harbor Light was not far from the main lighthouse. We did walk a ways out on the seawall but it was fairly narrow and uneven so we turned back after taking a quick picture. All these lights are now automated and no longer require full time Lighthouse Keepers. Actually, most of the Great Lakes Lights have been deactivated and are no longer in use. With today's radar and GPS tracking lighthouses are a thing of the past. Kind of like us old retirees. Since we do enjoy the old lighthouses we'll continue to seek them out as we travel around the country.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 16

Another day of waiting with just a little sightseeing.

We spent another day waiting around for the RV repair guys. The Service Manager finally called about 4:30 PM to say they were sorry they could not get us worked in. They hope to get us taken care of either tomorrow or Saturday. That means we are stuck staying close to the coach so we can take it over there as soon as they call. We came to Michigan because we had never been here and thought it would be a good place to visit. Never thought about all we'd see was the campground. We did see a strange aircraft this morning. We heard a funny engine noise and went outside to see this contraption flying above us. Really don't know what you would call this thing. The unit has three wheels mounted to the frame with a motor with a rear propeller. Definitely a one person flying machine. He made a couple of passes over us and then headed back to the west.

We did do a little sightseeing here in Ishpeming. Close by is the Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum. We decided to drive over and check it out and still be fairly close if the RV guy called. This was a very large iron ore shaft mine that closed in 1967 after almost 100 years in operation. They had three main shafts that went down to several levels that then had many miles of mining tunnels. The bottom level at the time it was closed was over 1250 feet down. The picture to the right is of the housing for the elevator above "C" shaft. This was the shaft that brought the miners into and out of the mine. The main mine is now sealed off and has filled with water. We did go down through the underground tunnel that connected all the buildings to "C" shaft. (Several years ago we went to a mine museum in Northern Minnesota that actually took us down several levels and then took us by mine train well into the mining tunnels.) The picture to the left is of a truck used to haul the ore away. This is the smallest of the three sizes of these trucks that were used in this area.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 15

A day of waiting and then a little sightseeing.

Yesterday's wind kept coming all night and into today. The Service Manager at the nearby RV dealer said they could not get anyone over here to see about our slide topper awning until after lunch. It was about 1:00 PM when the guy showed. He thought he would be able to remove the awning to see if they had the parts to fix it. If not, I could at least store it away and wait until we returned to Oklahoma to have it repaired. Currently, there is no way we can drive the coach until it is either repaired or removed. After going back to the shop to get a helper and another ladder it was decided that the wind was just too strong for them to get anything done. Now we'll have to wait until they can work us into their shop. Fortunately they are directly next door to the RV park so I should be able to ease over there without tearing up the awning. Anyway, once they were gone we decided to get out and look around. First stop was the Welcome Center that we found closed yesterday. This is the place that has a great view of Lake Superior.

After picking up some tourist info we took a drive around the downtown area of Marquette and then headed back to Ishpeming. Here we went to Da Yoopers Tourist Trap. Basically, this is a large gift shop that has many unusual decorations around the outside. Whoever put this all together definitely had a good imagination. One of my favorites was "Big Ernie", a huge rifle mounted on the back of an antique truck. This is a working firearm. It is loaded with a projectile through the muzzle and is then fired using a 12 volt electrical igniter system using propane and oxygen. Another item was a 3500 pound chainsaw that was operated by a 350 cubic inch Chevrolet engine. The place was surrounded by these outlandish pieces of equipment. After returning to the coach for dinner we relaxed and watched the sun go down.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

North Country 2011--Day 14

Left Wisconsin behind, hello Michigan.

Pulled out of Green Bay this morning and headed north to the Michigan Upper Peninsula, or the UP as it is called up here. We are now set up in the Country Village RV Park in Ishpeming. The weather is much changed from what we were used to in Wisconsin. For one, the humidity is considerably less than down south. Also, the temperature is much better. At 4:00 this after noon it was 69 degrees. Looks like instead of running the air conditioner tonight we'll be running the heat pump. We had a pretty good drive up. Ran into a detour due to road work that added some miles but still drove less than 200 miles. The scenery was very nice including a small waterfall at a road side stop we made to let the dogs stretch their legs. We did cross into the Eastern Time Zone a little ways into Michigan so we lost an hour of our day.

After we got set up in our campsite it was time to go wandering around. First was a stop at Wal-Mart to get a couple of prescriptions refilled then it was off to find the local Welcome Center to pick up any information on the area. Unfortunately the center was closed for the day but it is located right on Lake Superior at a picnic area. This is a nice area of the lake with nice sandy beaches. On the way back to the coach we stopped at a shop that sells pastys. This not something I had eaten before but they turned out very good. It had been trying to rain all afternoon and finally started up pretty good. Also, the wind came up and while we were sitting in the coach we heard a loud noise and the coach shook. The wind caught the slide covers (roll out awning) over one of the living room slides and completely unfurled it. In the process it appears it broke the spring in the end of the roller so I cannot roll the fabric back in. It currently if flopping in the wind. Hopefully it won't tear up during the night. There is a RV dealer next door to the park that I'll go check with in the morning to see if they can send a Tech over to repair it. This will slow down our sightseeing for awhile but we are scheduled to be here until next Monday. As the day ended the storm seemed to have moved out and we had a nice sunset. Just a few winds gusts now to flap the loose slide cover.