Monday, October 31, 2016

Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping - Michigan

Mackinaw is about as far north as you can travel in Michigan without crossing "the bridge" and going into the part of the state known as the Upper Peninsula. Some of Mackinaw's claims to fame include 1) two Great Lakes meet there, 2) the iconic Mackinac Bridge dominates the skyline and 3) Mackinac Island is just a short ferry ride away.

Entrance sign at the park

We stopped at the Mackinaw Mill Creek Camp for three days before heading to the U.P., as the locals call the Upper Peninsula.

First, Mackinaw Mill Camp is a huge park that is along the shore of Lake Huron. There are camping roads running helter-skelter through the park and it was incredibly easy to get lost while trying to find the exit. Second, none of the roads in this park are straight. They all curve in random directions. To help with the confusion, some of the roads we thought were primary routes were dirt while roads to nowhere were paved. There must have been some strong and diverse opinions on how to lay out this park and either everyone won or all lost at the park's planning meetings.

Rosie facing Lake Huron

Lake Huron

The Mackinac Bridge

Rosie's site faced the shore of Lake Huron. (Rosie is our 25 foot Airstream trailer.) We could easily see both the Mackinac Bridge and Mackinac Island from Rosie's front window. The brisk and constant wind from the lake meant that we needed to keep Rosie's awnings in while in this park.

We played the role of tourists while here and took the ferry to Mackinac Island. The ferry we rode took us under the Mackinac Bridge, which was interesting to see from that perspective.

Boarding the ferry

Our ferry ride took us under the Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Island was where the rich and famous visited in the early 1900s. One of these types of people was John Jacob Astor who was one of America's first self-made millionaires. He operated a large fur trading company on the island. He didn't visit the island often because he was afraid of water. It is very ironic that he was among the thousands who drowned in the Titanic tragedy.

There are no cars on the island except for a few emergency vehicles and they are only seen when there is a fire or medical issue. That means you travel around the island on a bike or in a horse-drawn carriage. We elected to tour the island in a horse carriage.

The horse-drawn carriages on Mackinac Island

Arch Rock on the island

The shoreline on the island

Making deliveries on the island

We had a mental picture of of what a horse carriage ride around the island would be like. It didn't include being one of 16 people in a carriage. Once we adjusted our image of what a ride would be like, we enjoyed the tour.

One of the "touristy" things to do on the island is to buy fudge. We didn't disappoint the locals, who benefited from our boost to their economy.

In addition to visiting the island, we went to a water-powered lumber saw mill. It was interesting to see the saw mill in action and the tour guide plus the mill operator were both very knowledgable and helped make that excursion more memorable.

Getting a log ready for the saw mill

Saw mill building

About to cut the log into boards

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • Our site had 30 and 20 amp electrical service.
  • Our site had water and sewer connections.
  • The park had Wi-Fi, but we never successfully connected to it.
  • AT&T placed a strong 4G signal over the park for both voice and data.
  • We were able to see TV signals from ABC, NBC and the Comet digital channel.
  • The sites along Lake Huron had spectacular views of the lake and bridge. It is worth spending the extra fees to get lakeside sites.
  • There were some pit toilets near our camping site. We didn't investigate them.
  • This is a pet friendly park.
  • There was only one dumpster area for the entire park and it was next to the entrance. That meant everyone had a long distance to go to get rid of their trash.
Make sure you bring all the groceries you will need when visiting Mackinaw. The grocery store when we were there was an oversized convenience store. If you need something beyond the simple basics, your next store is about 30 minutes down the road.

This was a nice camping spot and one we would camp in again.

Rosie in the campground

Rain clouds over Lake Huron

A lighthouse in Mackinaw

Suzy ignoring her new friend

Lighthouse in Mackinaw

Wonder what they sell here in Mackinaw?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ludington State Park - Michigan

Ludington was our first time visiting a Michigan State Park. The entrance was our first clue that this park was different from any other state park we had visited. There were four or five dump stations parallel to each other heading into the park. These had drinking water hoses so that you could top off your fresh water tanks before heading to your campsite. We followed our other camper's leads and filled Rosie's, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, fresh water tanks while draining her grey and black water tanks.

The sign entering the park

Topping off Rosie's fresh water tanks as we enter the park

It was a good thing we took care of Rosie's tank because Ludington's sites are electric only. You need to bring in all the water you intend to use because there are no water connections at each campsite.
We learned from talking to other campers that Michigan isn't the only state offering electric only sites. Several other "northern" states do the same. Maybe it is too hard to protect water spigots from the brutal cold northern winters.

There are multiple camping loops in this park. We reserved a site in the Pines area, which is closest to the shoreline. A 30 foot high dune separated Rosie from Lake Michigan.

The Pines Camping Area

The downside to the Pines loop is that we couldn't see any reliable voice or data service from AT&T. We noticed that the Beachwood camping area had a good 4G signal on our iPhones.

The tradeoff may be TV. We were able to watch TV signals from Green Bay and Milwaukee from the other side of the lake. I don't know if those signals were able to make it inland to the Beachwood and Cedar camping loops.

Looking at Rosie from the dune behind our camping site.
Lake Michigan as seen from the dune behind Rosie

It appeared to me that the Pines camping area had more shade than the others. Of course, that also means more things will fall from the trees onto your camper during rain or wind storms. Yes, it did rain while we were in this park and yes, we heard every acorn that fell onto Rosie.

There are some great biking and hiking trails in this park. One of the popular trails leads to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse. This was a great destination while riding our bikes. We had a flat one day about halfway to the lighthouse. I walked the bike back to Rosie and successfully changed the tire's inner tube.

The path to the lighthouse

The lighthouse

The stairs leading to the top of the lighthouse

Becky on the top platform at Ludington's lighthouse

The view from the top of the lighthouse

We also enjoyed seeing some different types of trees than what we normally see in the south while camping at Ludington State Park. We were probably there no more than three weeks before the fall colors started showing up in the trees.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • Our site had 20 and 30 amp electrical service. Some sites near us had 20 and 50 amp service. You need to check on the power available at a site before reserving it.
  • Our site did not have a water connection. You need to bring in a full fresh water tank to your site.
  • There are a couple of fresh water taps in each camping loop. These allow campers to refill small water containers.
  • Our site did not have a sewer connection. There are dump pads next to most restrooms allowing you to empty your sewage totes.
  • We had no service from AT&T at our campsite. We discovered that the other camping loops had better voice and data service.
  • Our site was dirt and not level. The soft dirt guaranteed that our leveler would sink into the ground and our unlevel status would only get worse during our stay.
  • The left-to-right lean wasn't our only problem. There was a strong front-to-rear slant. This made hitching up our Hensley type hitch an hour-long nightmare instead of our normal five minute deal.
  • It rained while we were camping here and that turned our dirt camping pad into a muddy mess.
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC most of the time. NBC from Green Bay would drift out for a minute or two then fade back in for a while.
  • The restrooms and showers were well maintained.
  • This was a pet friendly park.
We really enjoyed camping in this park and we look forward to returning there one day.

One of the trails in Ludington State Park

We found Lost Lake

Lost Lake trail

Steve and Suzy in Ludington State Park

A small lighthouse in Ludington, Michigan

In Ludington, Michigan

We found a place serving ice cream in Ludington

Sunset over Lake Michigan
Becky and Suzy in front of the dunes

Art in the park
Pen and Ink drawing by Becky
Becky was able to visit with her cousin in Michigan

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Airstream Terraport, Airstream Factory, Jackson Center, Ohio - Third Visit

We always have mixed emotions when we camp at the Terraport next to Airstream's factory in Jackson Center, Ohio. We love seeing other Airstream owners and taking the factory tour. We also depend on the high level of competence and professionalism of the technicians in the service area. I don't think you can find a better place for service on your Airstream trailer.

The Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio

The scary part is getting the bill for your repairs. This isn't to imply that Airstream charges more for their services than other places, just that we tend to save up our needed repairs and end up bringing a longer list of things to Jackson Center.

This is where them build them!

This trip was different. We didn't need any repairs on Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer. Instead, I was asked to help the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, the Airstream Owners Association, with the creation of the digital version of their monthly magazine. Translation: We would not end up with a repair bill at the end of our visit. Yes, this was going to be a great visit.

I serve on the WBCCI's Electronic Communication Committee and my role on the ECC is to help answer questions about the software used to create their Blue Beret Magazine. Their questions centered around moving the print production files into a digital product for computers, smartphones and tablets. Having taught an undergraduate class in digital publications at a university, I was able to be helpful and felt they had a handle on that process when I left.

Rosie parked in Airstream's Terraport

Sunset over the Airstream factory

Sunset is always great at Jackson Center

One of our neighbors in Airstream's Terraport suggested that we try a little restaurant next to the factory for breakfast. We did and enjoyed it. We noticed that our server also bussed the tables, cooked the orders then ran the cash register as we were leaving. We decided that she earned a bigger tip for smoothly running the entire restaurant by herself.

Something was different this time from our previous visits. We noticed that Wally Byam's golden Airstream along with several other early models were no longer parked in front of the service center building. (Wally Byam was Airstream 's founder and designer.) The staff said they needed more room for parking and Wally's trailer was demoted to the back lot.

Wally's Airstream trailer demoted to the back lot

We always learn about our trailers from the other campers staying in the Terraport. One was having the same problem with his tire pressure monitoring system that we were experiencing. His solution was something I think will be helpful to us.

We were able to share a couple of tips we learned from other Airstreamers during an earlier visit to Jackson Center. It felt good to contribute to that conversation.

Here are some specifics about this campground:
  • There are four camping loops in the Terraport. Each is named after an Airstream model.
  • There are eight back-in sites in each loop.
  • Each site is paved.
  • The sites have 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical connections.
  • Each site has water and sewer connections. Our sewer connection was slightly uphill behind Rosie. It took every extension we had to reach the sewer. It was a challenge to confuse gravity by lifting segments of the sewer hose when we dumped Rosie's tanks.
  • There is a dump station at this park. The trailer parked next to us had to use it since they didn't have a sewer hose long enough to use the connection at their campsite.
  • AT&T placed a weak voice and data signal over our site. Campers with other cell providers said their service was also weak to nonexistent.
  • I think we have learned where to park in order to use the Wi-Fi provided for the service customers. While it isn't the fastest connection to the Internet, it was adequate for our needs.
  • We were able to receive TV signals from ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, NBC and PBS. We saw digital signals from Antenna, Bounce, Comet, GET-TV, GRIT, ME-TV, MY-TV and one station that aired Ohio high school football games all day and night.
We always enjoy our visits to Jackson Center. We had to adjust to the temperatures. Highs were in the mid-90s and lows were in the mid-70s when we left Alabama. Less than 48 hours later, the high temperature was 76 and the low was 53. It was time to get the warmer clothes out!

Becky and Suzy, our Yorkie puppy, in the waiting room at Airstream's factory

Steve and Suzy out for a walk


Snow shovel? That is something you don't see in Alabama!