Sunday, July 27, 2014

Northwest Michigan

One of our favorite places in the country is Northwest Michigan, an area with beautiful lakes, golf courses and biking trails. We stayed for 10 days just outside of Petoskey at Hearthside Grove, one of the finest motorhome resorts in the country.

Our "campsite" at Hearthside Grove
This is an owner resort and many of the sites have been improved with bungalows and fire pits. When we arrived we learned that they lost our reservation, but this worked out in our favor as we got "upgraded" to a site with a fire pit.

We took a few side trips including one to Charlevoix, a nice town at the intersection of Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan. Boating is a major activity here. One evening we had dinner on the Weathervane deck and enjoyed watching the boats pass between lakes under the drawbridge. 

I would happy with the dinghy

We also visited Harbor Springs a few times, and on one evening noted that many sailboats were docked in town. This was because of the "Race to Mackinac" which took place last week out of Chicago. We enjoyed watching the boats as they stopped by Harbor Springs on the way home.

Sailboats in Harbor Springs after the race

There is a fantastic bike trail which runs along the Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan. The Little Traverse Wheelway runs for 26 miles and is mostly flat. You can ride the whole trail or any part of it, stopping in towns along the way and enjoying the view.

View of Little Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan
It's time to leave this little slice of paradise and head "downstate" to Algonac to visit with family. It will be tough to camp in a state park after the luxury of Hearthside Grove, but it will be great to see our friends and family. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lake Superior Pictured Rocks

We spent a few days in Munising MI on the shores of Lake Superior. This is a big lake - the largest freshwater lake in the world as measured by surface area. The sunsets are magnificent. 

Sunset over Lake Superior on the shores of
Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Watching the sun set in the UP
This area of Lake Superior is known for it's colorful cliffs in place called Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We took some hikes and got a few views of the cliffs, but we found that the best views by far are to be had on a boat tour which goes along the shoreline. 

Pictured Rocks on Lake Superior MI
with kayakers along the cliffs
The sandstone in the cliffs is white, but it takes on vivid colors from trace minerals dissolved in water which seeps through cracks in the rock. The minerals include iron (orange and yellow), copper (green and blue) and manganese (black). Here is a good view of the seepage. 

The vivid colors come from different minerals seeping throughout the rock

Furthermore, the lake water can appear green, turquoise, aquamarine or blue depending on the depth and angle of light. There is lots of erosion of the sandstone and several caves and arches can be seen along the shoreline. 

Typical caves, alcoves and archways.
One cove was large enough for us to enter. 

Below is a picture of another tour boat that passed. You can get an idea of what it's like to be on the boat as it passes by the cliffs.

Perhaps the best way to experience this place is from a kayak. You can get as close as you want to the cliffs and go in and out of the coves. While we didn't do the kayak this time, we passed several kayakers along the way.

Someone enjoying Pictured Rocks from a kayak (right) 

Some of the rock formations are pretty interesting. The plant life finds a way to grow on these rocks.

This tree survives via a root bridge to land (on the right)
There are a few waterfalls to enjoy along the way, depending on the time of year. Some dry up in late summer but this one was flowing pretty good.

Spray Falls
I found it surprising that a geological marvel of this quality would be in Michigan. It seems like something out of Utah (e.g. Lake Powell) or California. But it's here to enjoy and I highly recommend checking it out if you happen to be close to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

Here is one more Michigan sunset for you to enjoy...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Polar Vortex in July

So here we are in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan having arrived in the middle of a polar vortex. Apparently there is some odd weather pattern causing fall-like weather.

We arrived wearing shorts and a T-shirt and quickly went for our winter clothes. Kind of weird to be in 49 degrees in the middle of July.

Nav and temperature screen from our car.  49 degrees!!
I guess this is payback for us since we were in Palm Springs last winter enjoying 80 degree weather when the real polar vortex hit the midwest with subzero temps. They say it will warm up later in the week - maybe even into the 60's!

Oh Canada!

We spent the last 6 days in Canada traveling from Maine to Michigan. We entered Quebec at a small border crossing in Vermont, and the French speaking border guard looked like she had never seen a motorhome before. She didn't quite know what to do when we told her we had some wine (5 bottles), vodka (1 bottle) and some fresh fruit in our coach. "Berries" she said with a quizzical look... perhaps she didn't know the word. I told her only 3 pints, and we managed to get through the crossing even though we were officially over our alcohol limit (in the coach I mean, not in our bloodstream).

We spent 3 days in Montreal and it felt like being in France. Everyone speaks French, all the signs are in French, and the streets have that European look. But we found the people to be very accommodating with most speaking English to us after we massacred a French word or 2.

On the street in Montreal
We parked on the street and I tried to figure out the parking signs. A nice Montrealer came up to me and in French-English said "you can't park there". And then he proceeded to give up his parking space to me and explain the meter system. Whoever said that French Canadians weren't nice? I was amazed at his hospitality.

A pedestrian zone in Old Montreal 
Notre-Dame Basilica
Of course we sampled some great French food. Perhaps the best meal we had was at a modest bistro where I sampled the asparagus salad and Duck confit. Simple food done right! 

After Montreal we crossed through Ontario on the Trans-Canada Highway and made our way back into the US at Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. 

It's nice to be "home" (even though we're always home).

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Any visit to Maine would not be complete without lobster. The local delicacy is everywhere! There are 3 "Lobster Pounds" within a half mile of our campground, and every restaurant in the area serves it in any number of ways. 

We sampled lobster almost every day and in several different forms. On our final night, I decided to go big and had the best lobster of my life at Down East Lobster Pound. 

A perfectly cooked 3.5 pounder
That's one huge claw - my hand looks small next to it
Lobster pounds sell by the pound (duh) and you can take your lobster live or they will cook it to order. We enjoyed our dinner on their picnic tables with a bottle of chardonnay that we brought.

On this occasion, Denise decided to go with the lobster roll. They take a freshly buttered and grilled hot dog bun and top it with tons of lobster chunks with a bit of mayo and old bay seasoning. Delicious! 

Lobster roll done right
We also tried this tasty dish one day for lunch. 

Lobster mac-n-cheese 

By the end of our 7-day stay Denise was ready to throw in the towel on lobster - but I could eat it every day. Unfortunately it's time to leave Maine and the tasty crustacean behind. We're on our way to Montreal where we will try to get by on poutine. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

One year on the road!

We started on this adventure on July 8, 2013 and today marks the one year anniversary! It's hard to believe that so much time has past and so many miles (over 11K) have gone beneath our tires. We've really enjoyed it and plan to keep going with no specific end date in mind.

We spent another day at Acadia visiting the Schoodic peninsula region. This area is about 1 hour from the main park and is mostly free of tourists. The scenery is beautiful, especially from Schoodic point, and we really enjoyed this quieter side of the park.

Along the Schoodic Peninsula in Acadia National Park

Schoodic Point
We also spotted some wildlife in this area including a red fox and a great blue heron. The red fox was a juvenile and appeared to be posing for our camera!  

A red fox trying to get an afternoon nap

Great Blue Heron with his reflection

We also visited Jordan Pond and had a traditional lunch at the restaurant. They are famous for their popovers and we sampled a few - they are really good with strawberry jam and butter.

Jordan Pond House restaurant
Jordan Pond with "The Bubbles" in the background

One year down on our journey and another great day. On to year 2! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Back on the road - Acadia National Park

After 6 wonderful weeks in our former "home town" of Philadelphia we are now back on the road for our second round of North American travel. We had a great time visiting friends in and around Downingtown PA and we'll look forward to seeing them on our return next year. 

We set out on July 2 for Bar Harbor Maine, stopping for one night in Massachusetts on the way up. Unfortunately, the first 2 days here were a washout due to tropical storm Arthur which dumped a lot of rain. But today was a beautiful day and we took advantage and toured the National Park. 

Acadia is a beautiful rugged park on the coast of Maine filled with granite mountains (well... more like hills) overlooking rocky cliffs. It reminds us a bit of the Pacific coast. 

The rocky coast of Acadia National Park

Acadia is the first National Park established east of the Mississippi and is one of the smaller parks in the US. It's proximity to population centers of the Northeast means that Acadia is one of the most visited parks in the country (9th at last count). The name "Acadia" probably stems from a name given to the area by the explorer, Giovanni Verrazzano, in 1524. The shoreline reminded him of an area in Greece named Arcadia. Verrazzano went on to bigger things, being the first European to enter New York Harbor. In fact we crossed his eponymous bridge on the way to Maine. 

We took a hike up to Gorham "Mountain" (525 feet) and managed not to get lost due to the fantastic signage.

At the top of the hill we met a new friend, a 9-year old Golden named Zoe. She reminded us a lot of our beloved Skye.

Zoe at the top of Gorham Mountain
The bay across from Bar Harbor is called Frenchman Bay - it reminded us a bit of the Virgin Islands (if you use your imagination a bit). The good news is that the bay is full of lobster and you can find it everywhere on the island prepared any number of ways. 

Frenchman's Reef, Acadia National Park
We also stopped at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse - unusual because it has a red cover over the lens. The lighthouse is now automatic but the house is still occupied by a Coast Guard family. 

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Overall we had a very nice day in Acadia. We'll be here a few more days before heading into Canada.