On the Road Again

October 22, 2021

Still searching, as we only found a few candidates for that "Next Best Place".

It’s that time of year when 7 am is dark here in the Shenandoah National Park in October and the temps are in the 40’s at night.  Glad we have an RV with a furnace to keep us warm while we sleep – no electric hook-ups in National Parks.

After a beautiful 6 weeks (July thru August) traveling through South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa to see my side of family, friends, relatives and Wisconsin to see, and Sean to meet, my Global View family, time (over 40 years) and distance melt away while relationships are deepened and renewed.  We make our way to Northern Wisconsin/the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan and stay for 3 nights on Lake Superior at Saxon Harbor.  After swimming in lakes in Minnesota and Iowa, Lake Superior topped ALL lakes thus far with its beautiful sandy beach, crystal clear water, coolish temps and size that makes it seem like the ocean.  We stayed at the newly opened Saxon Harbor campground with wonderful neighbors, beautiful lake views and a safe harbor for mariners.  We jumped off the breakwater (protective wall to the harbor), to earn the title of a true Saxonite before we left 😉.

On to Lake Michigan, stopping at the UP State Fair on the way, we find a well-kept-secret of a town campground on Lake Michigan with only 4 sites.  Luckily, we get the #1 site right on the lake.  We meet a couple, Floyd and Ruby, who have been coming to this little campground for 50 years with their family (they’ve been married 67 years); they think we must have been here before to know about it.  Actually, when finding our way to this campground, I’m not even sure it really exists and try to prepare Sean for maybe finding an alternative site; Campendium, the app I use to find campsites gives conflicting opinions as to the validity of this campground.  This hidden gem is so beautiful, that despite no hook-ups or services (just a vault toilet) we stay at this beautiful location, lakeside, for $10/night.  While the water of Lake Michigan is definitely warmer than Lake Superior, it isn’t too deep at this campground; we settle for wading and bathing in the lake.

On to Lake Huron for a night on Michigan’s eastern border at Harrisonville.  This campground is FULL and crowded and we have 1 night here.  Lake Huron is so swimmable with nice temps and depth for a dive and a real swim.  We aren’t ones for crowds and find this at-capacity, lakeside retreat not as enjoyable as others; there are people everywhere.  It is a Saturday in August in Michigan – all seems normal.

When we left the UP and found our way to Lake Huron, we were starting to hear our brakes.  We had them looked at and fixed (or so we thought) in San Antonio, only 10,000 miles ago.  We (Sean) drives with care as now he says the brakes are metal on metal.  He uses the brakes sparingly as we drive and down-shifts instead to reduce speed.  We limp along and get ourselves to a campground just outside of Toledo, Ohio on Lake Erie.  It’s a Sunday night and peaceful.  And, we need a garage that can handle our truck/RV and get our brakes fixed before we can go any further. 

Monday morning and a few phone calls later, we make our way to a garage on the eastern edge of Toledo (not a great side of town) but we meet a wonderful group of folks who do a brisk business. There is a lot going on here at this garage, AND they agree to help us. Their “driver” (our chauffeur, Bill) takes us to a diner for breakfast while they go to work on the RV.  They don’t have a garage big enough to put our RV in, so they jack the whole thing up (outside) and take off all 6 tires to diagnose what is wrong.  With only 10,000 miles on the last brake job, there is definitely an undiagnosed, existing problem.  We return from breakfast and there are big problems with the rear brakes; not anything that can’t be fixed, but they need to get parts and it will take time.  I am not worried.  I imagine that this 1999 chevy truck was probably manufactured somewhere kind-of near here (we are in the nation’s rustbelt) and believe that the parts will arrive so the our repairs will get done at a reasonable price.  So far, during our trip, we’ve had great service and not been broke down anywhere.  Why would this be different?  We will have to spend the night somewhere so repairs can be completed.

Again, we must depend on the kindness of strangers.  Bill takes us to the Marriot in downtown Toledo, right on the Maumee River that flows into Lake Erie. While it is a Monday in August during a pandemic, there is no one in downtown Toledo.  We walk and we walk, along the well-kept riverside as well as many clean streets of downtown – its deserted, except for workmen.  We decide that we’ll have dinner at the hotel restaurant that is on the top floor – Wow, this is where all the people are – it’s actually kind of crowded and we enjoy a nice dinner enjoying the view of this well-kept city. 

We pick up the RV at 11 am the next day with a repair bill that I know is less than if we had this major work done at home, we set our sights for Letchworth State Park in the Genesee River valley, south of Buffalo in New York State.  However, in my haste to get on the road (we have a big drive) I injure my right knee or as I learn later, strain all the ligaments behind my knee as I stepped into the RV (2 ft from the ground) and press up using my weaker, right leg.  Shit!

On our way, as we drive, Sean figures we had been traveling using only the front brakes.  We have been up, down and through some pretty challenging driving conditions and are GRATEFUL we have been kept safe throughout.  We make our way to Letchworth, a park we’ve visited before, but I can’t hike as we had planned.  But, to our surprise, they have white-water rafting and a pool; two great activities that don’t require walking.  We have a super fun time rafting as we team up with another couple our age; Sean and I steer, feeling comfortable and competent.  These are level 1-2 rapids, so a great first experience for me (second for Sean) and the guides take us to a waterfall to experience and play in; everyone is having fun!  I am smiling during the whole trip.  After a beautiful 3 nights, we head towards home, stopping half-way at our nephew’s home in Turner Falls before we get to Marshfield for our 6-week stay in home waters.

In Marshfield, we stay at the summer family home.  We see our kids, friends, family and clients.  It is a busy time and I can’t walk or drive – that right leg starts to throb when I attempt either, UGH!  My physical therapist prescribes an additional stretch, so I decide to bike-ride and stretch.  It takes a couple of weeks and I finally figure out that I need to STOP exercising and continue to gently stretch for healing to finally begin.  Sean is still doing all the driving and (without complaint) takes me to all my appointments.  I am grateful.  There was not enough time to see everyone we miss and decide that we will come back to home waters every July and August (at least).

We thoroughly clean the RV, make some minor repairs and do some painting to refresh the RV for the next leg of our trip – the interior, southeast part of the US:  South through New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas to Oklahoma City for Thanksgiving with my sister, Mary.  We hear that some of the cleanest water is in these southern states of Tennessee and Arkansas (from climate activists we met in Iowa City, Iowa) and want to explore for ourselves, other bodies of water that are not the ocean.

While we enjoyed being “home” and seeing our cherished family and friends, we miss our own bed in the RV and the “aloneness” of the road, as we are a couple of introverts.  On the road again, we are meandering through the western side of Virginia (a state for lovers) via the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Great Smokey Mountains in North Carolina before we head west via Tennessee and experience the “Cumberland Plateau”.

Heading on South for warmer temps,

Sean and Kelly