If you’re going to have a flat tire, then……

Day 77

LOCATION:  Near Alpena, Michigan – on eastern side of the state
CAMPGROUND:  Campers Cove RV.  Water, electricity, bad firepit, crumbling picnic table, bad TV, so-so internet, nice bathrooms.  Indoor pool.  Marina. with pontoons, canoes, kayaks to rent.  $34/night.  3 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Mostly cloudy.  Rain in the evening
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  2 hours (++++ – see below)

We said good-bye to our little piece of heaven – 6 Mile Lake Campground.  It has been a lovely 3-night stay here. 

After about a half hour driving on country roads, our tire monitor started beeping and going crazy.  I saw it nosedive from about 80 to 17 in seconds.  I found a spot to pull over.  Yes, indeedy…. Joy had a flat tire. 

Since it is the 4th of July, and since we are out in the middle of nowhere, George decided he would have to change it himself.  He got out his wimpy travel jack and surveyed the situation.

Meanwhile, I stood on the side of the not well-travelled road and waved to a man slowly passing us on a tractor.  He stopped and asked us if we needed anything.  We told him about the tire and he invited us to follow him about a half mile to his well-equipped garage.  So we did.

If you are going to have a flat tire, then………..this is the place to have it!  His garage/machine shop has every tool imaginable that one might need. And, it is neat as a pin.   He has an RV and boat, so the driveway was paved and easy to maneuver around. 

The kind man brought out his heavy-duty jack.  He and George worked together, removing the spare tire, taking off the flat tire, and putting the spare on.

The culprit was a muffler hangar that had somehow had  flipped up and punctured the tire.  A little patch job won’t work here!

  What luck that this happened near his shop and that he was there with his tools to help us!. 

The man suggested that we stop in Gaylord, about 25 miles away at the Walmart to get a new tire. he thought it would be the only place open on this holiday.  So after about a half hour, we were off again. 

Gaylord experienced a bad tornado a few weeks ago, and we saw some of the damage as we entered town.  Buildings like Hobby Lobby and others were totally smashed.  It looked like the tornado had jumped around a lot.

Normally, I bad-mouth WalMart but today I sang its praises!

  Not only did they have the tire (a kind of uncommon RV type), they had a mechanic ready to put it on.  The friendly and seemingly competent (how would I know?) mechanic was efficient and eager to do everything George asked him to do. 

Twenty minutes and $125 later, we were off again toward Alpena.  Lots of beautiful wild flowers along the road.

We were a bit disappointed when we entered this RV park.  It seems crowded, and not the kind of place we usually like.  We couldn’t find the hook-ups, and then realized we have to share the box with 3 other sites.  This meant that we had to back deep into the site in order for the cord to reach the post.  We even had to move the neighbor’s clothesline!  There had not been many options for this 4th of July holiday weekend when I booked it several months ago.  On a positive note, we may rent one of their pontoons one day while we are here.  We are about 6 miles from the town of Alpena and we will find things to do, I’m sure. 

DINNER:  All-American 4th of July dinner – brats, potato salad, and corn on the cob.  Well actually brats and potato salad are really German; corn is Mexican.  Right?  But isn’t that what the USA is?  A melting pot! 

One brat was cheddar asparagus and the other jalapeno pepper.  Super delicious.  George started cooking them on the campfire, but it started to rain and the fire went out.  We finished up in the trailer.    I made my mother’s potato salad recipe that always turns out well, and the corn was super tasty.  All quite a nice holiday meal. 

BOOK:  “Vanish”  by Tess Gerritsen.  This is one in a series about a female detective with a great personality. Always a good read.  4 stars out of 5

Holiday weekend fun

Day 76

LOCATION:  East Jordan, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  6 Mile Lake Campground
WEATHER:  Great!  Sunny.  High 74

We enjoyed a relaxing Sunday morning.  George tried his hand at fishing again.  No luck.  Here is a picture of Joy taken from our own private pier.

We drove to the lakeside town of Boyne City for lunch.  We had been to their brewpub, Stiggs, before and really enjoyed it, and wanted to return.

They take these trucks to catering events where they can set up kegs of their beer to pour from the truck.

We sat at the bar, which we typically do – to chat with the staff.  Today, they seemed a bit inexperienced, but super friendly.  We learned that it was because today was a fundraiser with the wait staff being all volunteers.  Proceeds and donations went to a local food bank.  Stiggs does this once a month.  So good for the community!  These 2 fun volunteers didn’t have much to do so talked with us a lot.

We walked around the harbor at Boyne City.  It seems very nice.  Might be a place to put on our “up north” place list.  George is looking at his phone, which is normal….

For the past few days, I have been dodging things on roads.  While doing the trip around the Leelanau Peninsula, I had to suddenly brake twice for deer jumping across the road.  Then when we drove through busy Traverse City, traffic was backed up about 2 miles each way while we waited for a mama duck to cross the main highway, followed by her little chicks.  Yesterday, I slowed to miss a turtle.  Then, today it was an Amish horse and buggy.  Fun!

Back home, George made a great fire for tonight’s dinner and for “ambiance”.

DINNER:  Trader Joe’s Indian lentil beans over rice.  We had 3 chicken wings left that he heated/charred over the fire.  Side was steamed peas.

After we went to bed, the fireworks began over the lake.  We opened our bedroom window (which faces the lake) and enjoyed the show from our bed!

Lapping up luxury!

Day 75

LOCATION:  East Jordan, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  6 Mile Lake Campground
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Sunny.  High 72.  Cool at night – 48

This tiny campground is truly a beautiful spot.  Other than the owners, we are the only ones here.  We sat in the chairs next to the firepit and watched the boats, mostly pontoons, go by.

We have our own little dock right in front of our site. This would be perfect for someone with a boat.

There is also a larger fishing pier, and of course George had to try to catch a fish.  No luck. 

Joy is very happy to be nestled next to the woods and near the water

We drove into the nearby town of Bellaire to have lunch with our friend Pat and her sister.  We met at Shorts Brewpub which is very popular.  We sat outside and had pizza and beers.

The town of Bellaire is really cute.  You can tell there is a lot of civic pride.  This little alley was made by the city to connect the downtown to the remote parking area.

We did some shopping in some cute shops.  Lots of flowers line the street….

And beautiful Victorian houses…

Pat and her sister then came to our campground with us….

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the lake. 

DINNER:  George made a fire in the firepit. 

I was doing shrimp, and I don’t like to cook it inside, so we put the grate over the fire for cooking.  This was a really good and easy recipe….

4 T butter
1 # shrimp
Salt and pepper
4 gloves garlic minced
1 tsp pizza pepper flakes
3/4 cup white wine
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup Parmesan
1 c chopped parsley
12 oz cooked angel hair pasta  (I substituted the spinach fettucini I had bought at the farmers’ market)

Melt 1 T of the butter.  Add shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook until just pink and transfer to a plate.
In same skillet (I used an iron skillet since we were cooking this over the campfire), add remaining butter and garlic.  Cook 1 minute.  Add wine, lemon juice, and pepper flakes.  Simmer 2 minutes.  Add parsley and Parmesan and cook 2 more minutes.  Add cooked pasta and shrimp and toss.  Garnish with extra Parmesan and parsley.

For a side, we had lettuce salads and some hard rolls that I rubbed with a garlic head that I had baked in the coals of the campfire, in aluminum foil.    I also sauted some oyster mushrooms whose price had been slashed  at the grocery store. 

All paired with a lovely Gewurztraminer

BOOK:  “A Common Life” by Jan Karon.  This is a syrupy-sweet novel about a pastor and neighbor who fall in love in a quaint town.  It is part of a series.  The character development is good.  3 stars out of 5

On to Paradise!

Day 74

LOCATION:  East Jordan, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  6 Mile Lake Campground.  Tiny campground – 3 sites.  Right on 6 Mile Lake.  Private dock, swimming area, fishing pier, firepit, and picnic table.  Full hook-ups (20/30 amp).  No showers or bathrooms.  So-so TV reception.  Good wifi.  $45/night.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Perfect.  Sunny.  High 70

After a quick breakfast, our visiting friend Pat and I walked around the RV park and RV resort.  We talked with some friendly campers.  Then, she was off to spend a month with her sister in central Michigan.

We packed up for a 11:00 departure from Indigo Bluffs RV Park.  As I have mentioned before, our month-long stay here has been a bit of a test.  We have never stayed this long in one place before, as we usually hop from place to place, staying 3-7 nights in one spot.  Overall, we have enjoyed the month.  The big “pro” is that the nightly rate when you stay a month is about half of what a single night stay is.  We have enjoyed everything about this park except its wifi.  It has been disappointing at best.  Empire was an excellent choice to spend one month. There is a lot to do – 1) hiking on one of the many trails in Sleeping Bear Dunes, 2) checking out a lot of fun breweries, brew pubs, restaurants, distilleries, and wineries, 3) scenic drives, 4) picnics in lovely locations, 5) cute shops to explore, and 6) musicians to enjoy.  And best of all, the weather has been almost perfect.  We had a few days when we had to run the heater and a few days with the A/C, but mostly the highs were in the 70s and the nights in the 50s.  Just like Camelot – when it rained, it was mostly overnight.

Speaking of rain, it rained last night.  We always enjoy hearing the drops pitter-pattering on top of the trailer.  The TV weatherman said that this predicted rain is needed for the cherry tree crop that should be at its peak in about a week.

Happy Canada Day! We celebrated by wearing our Good Cheer Trail t-shirts that we “earned” by visiting several wineries and breweries in Nova Scotia last summer.

Our drive was quite nice.  In the month we have been here, we have watched the corn grow.  Indeed it will be “knee-high by the 4th of July”.  We passed a lot of cherry tree orchards and you can see the red berries on the trees.  Lovely

We had to drive through busy Traverse City, but George figured out a route to avoid the busiest downtown area.  We did a grocery stop, and then returned to one of our favorite breweries just outside of town – Stone Hound Brewery.  Inside the brewery is a separately-owned vegan Mexican restaurant.  The food is outstanding!!!  We shared a Big Ass Burrito with a plant-based “asada”.  The weather was so nice so we sat outside to eat.  George befriended the chef (of course) who then encouraged us to sample some of his specialty hot sauces.  Yum!

Then, on to 6 Mile Lake Campground.  We stayed here last year and couldn’t wait to come back.  It is the most unique campground we have been to.  Only 4 sites, and one is the owners’ permanent site – so 3 sites in total.   We are about 5 feet from the pretty lake.  We have our own dock and firepit area.  We share a fishing dock and swim platform with the other 3 sites.  It is super quiet and absolutely beautiful.  The owners are really nice and remembered us from last year.  Today, we are the only ones here – have the place to ourselves.  It feels luxurious!!!

DINNER:  Rotisserie chicken that we bought today and grilled on the firepit, along with the last of the garlic scapes on the grill.  Sides were lightly sauteed potatoes, and a stir-fry of snap peas, mushrooms, and green onions. 

Winding down our stay in Empire, MI

Day  73

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV Park
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 75

During my power walks each morning, I count the number of Airstreams.  Today there are 6 of us here.  The most has been 11; the least has been 4.

Today is our last full day here in Empire.  We had 2 more things on our “want-to-do” list. 

1) We had lunch at the M22 Deli.  Michigan  people love scenic M22 highway.  There are even shops that are called M22 which sell everything imaginable with the M22 logo on it – t-shirts, coffee cups, etc.  We shared the most delicious pastrimi reuben sandwich I have ever had.  It was enormous, too.  Check!
2)  We returned to the smokehouse where we had shopped before to buy some brats for the road.  The shop smells heavenly.  Check!

We spent time in the afternoon packing up the truck.  All of our plastic bins needed a good cleaning. 

DINNER:  Tuna salad over lettuce.  We wanted something light so that we could have some snacks when our friend Pat arrived later this evening.

Pat took the SS Badger ferry, like we did, from Wisconsin to Ludington, Michigan.  She had a 1.5 hour drive to get here, arriving at about 9:30 PM. We chatted around the campfire, and I served nibblies to go with toasted baguette slices – smoked whitefish, smoked pork loin, and an eggplant/garlic spread.  It was so nice catching up with her, a friend and co-worker from Rochester, MN.

BOOK:  “The Downstairs Neighbor” by Helen Cooper.  This is a real page-turner.  A teenage girl disappears resulting in all kinds of secrets that come out about the family and neighbors.  Quite well-written.  4 stars out of 5

Let’s try some horseradish vodka!

Day 72

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV Park
WEATHER: Beautiful. Sunny.  High 74

I got in the habit of taking a “power walk” when our friends Tony and Jenny were here, and now I continue doing it each morning.  It is a zigzag on every street in the RV park.  It totals about 2 miles.  I try to walk really fast to get a good workout.  After the walk today, we planned our day.  We will do a loop around the Leelanau Peninsula. 

Wanting to do a few more of our “want-to-do” items, we drove in to Glen Arbor (5 miles) to have lunch in one of the restaurants we haven’t tried yet.  The weather was so nice that we sat outdoors.  We shared a whitefish sandwich.  Good! 

We took the scenic M22 highway that follows the perimeter of Leelanau Peninsula.  Our first stop was Northport, about 25 miles north on the tip of the peninsula.  Why, you ask?  Because there is a brewery there that George wanted to try!

The town is really cute with a lot of flowers, ice cream shops, and gift shops – for the tourists who summer there. 

We strolled down to the marina which is very pretty.

From Northport, the M22 turns south.  We followed Lake Michigan and passed by a lot of wineries.  No, we didn’t stop today.  Our destination instead was a distillery that friends had recommended.

We tasted their flagship product – horseradish vodka, along with some whiskeys and gin.  We ended up buying the horseradish vodka – just couldn’t resist!

DINNER:  Leftover fajita mix that I turned into tacos.  It is a good way to use up extra vegetables.  To the mix, I added a poblano and some green onions.  George toasted the tortillas on the grill for just a minute which added some nice flavor.

BOOK:  “The Day The World Came to Town – 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland” by Jim Defede.  This is the true story about the planes that were diverted to Gander on September 11 when the USA closed its airspace.  It describes the exceptional warmth of the residents welcoming the passengers, the logistics of housing about 6,000 people, and tells the stories of some of the passengers.  Very heart-warming.  5 stars out of 5

Enjoying the Bounty of Farmers’ Markets!

Day 71

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 73.  Perfect for camping

We shopped at the Glen Arbor Farmers’ Market.  Each week more and more fruit and veg are available.  Today we bought a baguette, lettuce, sugar snap peas, and smoked walnuts. 

This B&B sits outside the farmers’ market.  So quaint.  I bet it costs a lot to stay there!

There were a lot of flowers for sale. It looks like these locals bought some and will take them home on their bikes…

We are here for only 3 more days, and are working to check off a few remaining “to do” items.  Today it was to have lunch at Joe’s Friendly Tavern in Empire.  It really is friendly…an old guy welcomes you as you enter.  This place, dating back to 1946, is famous for its burgers, so we shared a blue cheese burger.  Indeed, it was award-winning.

We drove around Empire, and checked out the very popular beach there.

DINNER:  Time to use farmers’ markets items again.  First was an appetizer of a version of jalapeno poppers.  Not finding jalapenos here, we subsituted poblanos.  We stuffed them with seasoned cream cheese and wrapped them in bacon that we had  bought at a Harvest Host farm a few weeks ago. 

Next was a salad with the sugar snap peas and the lettuce we bought this morning.  Can’t get much fresher! 

The main course was paninis using slices from this morning’s farmers’ market baguette purchase.  I spread the slices with pesto from last week’s market, and laid on smoked pork loin slices from a local smokeshop and feta cheese.  Really yummy!  Sides were more of the Parmesan/lemon garlic scapes from the market.

Recuperation Day!

Day 70

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV Park
WEATHER:  Much cooler.  High 63

Tony and Jenny got an early start this morning, as they had a long drive to the Upper Peninsula today.  I bade them a fond farewell at the dump station.  The joys of camping!  We have REALLY enjoyed meeting up with them again.

After their departure, I took a solo “power walk” around the RV park.  Back to the RV, where I had to turn off the heater that George had turned on.  🙂

It was a quiet day, recuperating from our busy days with our friends last week.  We both read a lot.  George napped.

In the late afternoon, we returned to Iron Fish Distillery where we met friends that live in Retama Village in the winter and near here in the summer.  George had an “extra spicy” Bloody Mary and I had something called an Eplet that was tasty.  We had a nice conversation, sharing our summer’s experiences so far. 

DINNER:  This was a farmers’ market feast.  I  followed this recipe that I picked up at the market along with the garlic scapes:

Grilled Garlic Scapes with Lemon and Parmesan

2 # fresh garlic scapes
2 T olive oil
1 lemon, squeezed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper

Brush or toss the scapes in oil and then toss them on a hot grill.  Make sure that the grill is really hot to get grill marks on the scapes without turning them into mush.  Remove from the grill and put them back in the bowl with the oil.  Add everything else. 

Meanwhile, I cooked some fresh spinach fettuccini –  homemade from the farmers’ market.  To serve, I put the drained pasta in individual bowls,  added a big spoon of homemade pesto (also from the market), stirred it up, and topped with the scapes.  It really turned out nice.

Note to my vegan daughter – Almost vegan!  Could use Parmesan substitute. 

BOOK:  “The Venice Sketchbook” by Rhys Brown.  This book, historical fiction, is about a British woman trapped in Venice during WWII (involving art and a lover, of course) and a parallel story about her grand-niece who discovers the older lady’s secrets in 2001.  4 stars out of 5

Last day with our good friends Tony and Jenny

Day 69

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV Park
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Not so hot.  High 74

I, the taskmaster, had a busy schedule for us again today.  Before our 8:00 AM power walk, at 7:30, Jenny and I loaded the RV park’s washing machines to do our laundry.  Good tactic, as the machines tend to fill up fast. While the clothes were washing, we did our half-hour walk, then moved the clothes to the dryer.  From there, we zipped  back to our campsite where George had breakfast going.  We enjoyed a twist on our Sunday morning ritual breakfast….  Tony contributed bacon (Canadian, of course) and George whipped up his yummy grits with scrambled eggs.  Great breakfast with friends!

Then, following the day’s itinerary as I had thoughtfully documented and shared, (haha!)  we had an hour of downtime before starting our busy afternoon. 

We drove 20 miles to Beulah, another cute town we like on the lake.  We were going to have lunch in a pub, but it was closed on Sundays!  So, we went to Five Shores Brewery for brewskis and pulled pork tacos.   Very good (beer and food)

Next stop was Iron Fish Distillery, a great little gem in the countryside outside of Beulah.  First we did a complimentary whiskey-tasting, then went to the bar to watch the mixologists make up fancy cocktails.  They really turn it into an art, chilling glassware, making their own syrups, garnishing with orange peel or herbs.  Tony had a work-of-art bloody Mary; Jenny had an old-fashioned with maple syrump;  and I had a Manhatten with amaro, a unique bitters like Campari. 

We took our drinks out to the patio to enjoy the live music.

What a fabulous afternoon! 

DINNER:  We bought wood-fired  pizzas at Iron Fish and brought them home for dinner.  One sausage and one spinach.  Yum Yum.  We sat outside and paired the pizza with my “world-famous” margaritas to celebrate our “Last Supper” together. 

Tony and Jenny are taking off tomorrow AM for the Upper Peninsula.  We had a great 6 days with them, and will miss them a lot.  We are already planning our next rendezvous. 

A very busy (and fun) schedule with our friends

Day 68

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV Park
WEATHER:  A bit on the hot side.  High 85

Another day with a busy schedule with friends Tony and Jenny.  After our 8:00 power walk, we drove into the town of Empire to buy a few things at the small farmers’ market.  I bought some lettuce, unusual mushrooms, and garlic scapes.  George and Tony are so much alike – they both chatted up the vendors. 

We dropped Tony off at the excellent, brand-new library in Empire, and the 3 of us went to do another hike in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.  This was a shorter – 1.5 mile – hike through the forest.  I forgot to apply bug lotion, and now have a lot of mosquito bites.  😦

After picking Tony up, we headed north on the famous M22 highway that goes around the perimeter of Leelanau Peninsula.  Our plan today was to visit several wineries on the peninsula.  But first, lunch.  Someone had recommended this restaurant, so we thought we would try it.  It is very retro.  It was a lumberman’s house originally.  It has old furniture in it, has lace curtains in the windows, and is a bit dark inside.  The staff were super friendly and indeed the food was good.  We had their special – walleye. 

Winery #1 was called Dune Bird.  It was quite new.  In the winery brochure, it describes the atmosphere as “hygge”.  I asked what that means, and learned it is a Danish word that means homey.  Indeed, the decor is definitely Scandinavian and warm-feeling.

Winery #2 was 45 Vineyards, so named as it sits on the 45th parallel, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.  We sat outside, thankfully in the shade, and tasted a white wine. 

We headed toward winery #3, but all decided that we had had enough to drink, so we came on back.

DINNER:  We ordered from the food truck located here in the RV park.  George got a burger, and the rest of us ordered smoked (not fried) chicken wings. Sides were French fries and sweet potato fries.  I made a salad so we would have something a bit healthy!  I made this up, and think it turned out tasty….

Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas

1 can Trader Joe’s yummy spiced chickpeas. Do not drain
2 cups cooked quinoa.  I make mine in vegetable broth
1/4 cup diced raw red onion
1/4 cup diced radishes
2 T mixed nut pieces – optional, for crunch
Pepper.  (Taste for salt)

Mix all together.  This is vegan, but otherwise you can add feta.

BOOK:  “Peppermint Tea Chronicles” by Alexander McCall Smith.  This author writes delightful stories, some set in Africa and others in his new residence of Edinborough, Scotland.  This is one in a series about the goings-on in a neighborhood there.  Each chapter is an actual article in the local Edinborough newspaper.  The stories have been compiled into this book.  The characters become intertwined.  It is heart-warming.  I always feel like I expand my vocabulary after reading one of his books.  5 stars out of 5