Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kinross RV Park East - Kinross, Michigan (July 2017)

We had the feeling driving into Kinross, Michigan, that we were on an old military base. Having served in the U.S. Army, the buildings and their locations next to each other screamed "military" in my head.

Then there was the two-mile long runway at the local airport. Why would a small community need a runway designed to handle the largest airplanes made?

An airport with a two-mile long runway in a small town

The answer came soon enough as one of the visitors camping in this municipal campground said that he used to serve on Kencheloe Air Force Base and lived in the base trailer park for enlisted men, which was exactly where the campground is now.

The sign at Kinross RV Park

A quick Google search found that Kencheloe was an artifact of the Cold War. The U.S. kept B-52 bombers in the air 24/7 during that time. The B-52s and the refueling planes flying over the Atlantic Ocean were out of Kencheloe. One wing of aircraft would stay aloft for 24 hours then it would land and the ground support crew had 24 hours to fix any problems while the other wing was in the air.

The cycle repeated every 48 hours. And yes, the B-52s were armed with nuclear weapons.

The base closed in 1977 and federal government gave it to the State of Michigan. The state came up with an novel plan to use the land and buildings that used to be Kencheloe Air Force Base. Why not string Concertina wire around everything and turn it into a state prison?

More than 1,000 "guests" of the State live behind the bars and fences that now enclose the former base. After looking around the campground, it became apparent that the prison is the town's main industry and that it was on three sides of the campground.

Old Kencheloe Air Force Base buildings now serving as a prison

We occasionally heard gunfire while in this park. The seasonal campers in the park said we shouldn't worry because some hunters were in the woods looking for wild turkeys. Still, it was unnerving to hear gunshots so close to a prison.

Rosie parked in Kinross RV Park

When we called for reservations, we were told to simply drive to the park and select a site. That made sense when we arrived. This is a large park with little chance of it filling up.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • Our site had 20 and 30 amp electrical service
  • Our site had a water connection with good pressure
  • Our site had a sewer connection
  • There was one bathhouse serving the campground. It was clean and had plenty of hot water for the showers.
  • We had to use a leveling tool to correct a slight lean.
  • The park did not provide WiFi service
  • AT&T placed a strong 4G signal for voice and data over the park.
  • This was a pet friendly park
  • We were able to see ABC, CBS, NBC and Global Network from Canada. The only digital channel we saw was Comet.
You cannot help but think about the people who served at Kencheloe Air Base during the Cold War while camping in Kinross RV Park. It doesn't take much effort to imagine the sounds of B-52s as they took off and landed along with their refueling aircraft. While the Airmen have moved on, we are thankful for their contributions to our nation's security.

Lighthouse at the Great Lakes Ship Wreck Museum

A quick lunch at Brown Fisheries Fish House in Paradise, Michigan, featuring whitefish
Searching for rocks along the shore of Lake Superior

Visiting Tequendama Falls

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Straits State Park Campground - St. Ignace, Michigan (July 2017)

There was a wind advisory while we were pulling Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, across the Mackinac Bridge, the gateway to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. That meant we had to crawl along at 20 miles per hour. This gave us plenty of time to see how the wind was kicking up some large waves on Lakes Michigan and Huron.

Crossing the Mackinac Bridge

The waves on Lake Huron

To add to the tension, there was some construction on the bridge. The workers weren't there, but their equipment filled one lane near the middle of the bridge and that forced a white-knuckle lane change as we were crawling along on the bridge.

Straits State Park is practically the first thing you see once you clear the bridge and turn towards St. Ignace on Highway 2. This is a park that is best described as a mixed bag. It has some really nice features and it has room for improvement.

Sign at the entrance to Straits State Park

For example, we loved the outdoor feel of the park. Our site backed up to the woods and there were trees throughout the park.

What could be improved? Most sites were soft sand. We had to use more than four inches of levelers and that was only enough to get within one bubble of level. As the levelers sank in the sand, Rosie's lean became more pronounced.

Rosie parked in Straits State Park Campground

The dirt sites created another problem. It rained while we were in the park. That turned too many sites into mud pits. We were alarmed at the number of deep tire ruts in this park, a sign that those campers had a difficult time pulling out when it was time to leave.

Unfortunately, the site next to Rosie was invaded by a horde of party-minded college students. They came with too many people, loud music and fireworks. We were happy when our iPhones warned us that it was about to start raining--again. Strangely, that horde of people and their multiple tents were gone when we woke up the next morning. We wondered if they were stealth camping (sneaking in without registering or paying) or if they were kicked out of the park during the night. We doubt that they planned to stay only one night because they set up too much stuff.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • This is a large park with more than 260 sites in multiple camping loops.
  • Our site had 20 and 30 amp electrical service. Some sites had 50 amp service.
  • This is an electric only park. There are no water and sewer connections at the camping sites.
  • Since sites don't have water or sewer connections, you need to arrive with a full fresh water tank and empty gray and black water tanks.
  • We found two dump stations in this park. Both also have drinking water, allowing you to fill your fresh water tank. Expect a line getting into the dump station when leaving.
  • There were multiple bathhouses scattered throughout the park. The bathhouses were clean, well-maintained and up-to-date.
  • AT&T placed a good 4G signal over the campground for both voice and data.
  • There wasn't any WiFi service in this park.
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS using Rosie's TV antenna.
Perhaps our opinion of this park would have been better if the weather had been better during our stay. It was cold, wet and gloomy. We opted to not ride the ferry to Mackinaw Island because the lake waters were rough with large swells. Besides, the thought of being on the island in the cold and rain didn't sound appealing to us.

To end on a positive note, there are several areas in this park with amazing views of the Mackinac Bridge. You will want to search these areas out when you camp in this park.

View of the Mackinac Bridge from Straits State Park

In case you missed it, the bridge is that way!

View in St Ignace, Michigan

The lighthouse in St. Ignace

Selfie along the shore of Lake Huron

Having a pastie

A pleinair watercolor painting created by Becky

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Otsego Lake County Park Campground - Gaylord, Michigan (July 2017)

As the name suggests, Otsego Lake County Park is on Lake Otsego near Gaylord, Michigan. We camped there on the way to the 2017 WBCCI International Rally, which was to be held in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The sign giving directions to Otsego Lake County Park

The park was very wet when we arrived. It rained there the previous day and our site was muddy. This made backing in a little dicey. We ended up having to back in at a 45 degree angle to avoid the mud pits.

It didn't take long to figure out that this is a family-oriented park. Kids seemed to be having the time of their lives playing in this park. They were well behaved and pleasant to be around.
Several campers were taking advantage of the park's nice beach area. This also appeared to be a popular place for boating.

Rosie parked at Otsego Lake County Park Campground

Otsego Lake

The view outside Rosie's rear window was the backyard of a house just over the fence. (Rosie is our 25 foot Airstream trailer.) That view kept reminding us that this park wasn't in the woods and that you were camping next to a residential community.

Here are some specifics about this park:
  • There were two main camping areas in the park. The main loop included sites along the lake.
  • Our site was dirt and tended to get sloppy after rain storms.
  • Our site had 20 and 30 amp electrical service.
  • None of the sites in this park had water connections. You need to arrive with a full fresh water tank. If your fresh water tank is dry, there is a drinking water hose at the dump station that you can use to top it off.
  • There are several fresh water pumps located around the park.
  • None of the sites in this park have sewer connections. We drove by the dump station when we arrived to make sure our gray and black water tanks were empty and our fresh water tank was full.
  • There is only one dump station in this park. You may have to wait your turn if you need to use it.
  • The park had two bathhouses that we found. Both were clean and well-maintained.
  • The park did not provide a WiFi signal for campers.
  • AT&T placed a strong 4G voice and data signal over this park.
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS using Rosie's TV antenna.
  • This was a pet-friendly park.
We found the staff working in this park to be very friendly and helpful, which made this nice park a very pleasant camping experience.

The park

Walking Suzy

The drawbridge in Charlevoix, a short trip from Otsego Lake County Park Campground

The light tower in Charlevoix

On the beach at Charlevoix

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Camp Dearborn - Milford, Michigan

This place looked amazing on its Web site. It had everything: lakes, miniature golf, tennis courts and lots of playgrounds for the kids. The icing on the cake is that this campground is close to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn and its amazing collection of American artifacts.
Sign at Camp Dearborn

What was overlooked on the campsite's Web page? Plenty! 

For example, the sites appear to be adequate in size until your neighbors erect their kitchen tents next to your site. 

Another example was the number of people who ignored the large "NO FIREWORKS" sign at the entrance to the park and elected to explode them up until the wee hours of the morning. How about the campers burning wooden pallets for their campfire? The resulting fire would make any college homecoming bonfire envious. 

This brings up another problem in that the park staff members were either unable or unwilling to help with enforcing their rules. So, you end up with a rowdy crowd behaving poorly and that is unlike most parks we have stayed in.

Rosie at Camp Dearborn

The park is designed so that you have loops of camping sites that have a parking lot appearance. This would be next to a huge open field. The center of the park was an area for tents. Behind that was what we called "tent city," an area of '50s style tents owned and rented out by the park. As odd as these tents appeared to us, the occupancy rate appeared high.

There are some scenic views in this park and many guests seemed to be enjoying the beaches on the lakes.

Playground at Camp Dearborn

Here are some specifics about the park:
  • Camp Dearborn is is huge park. There are multiple camping loops with varying levels of amenities and utilities.
  • Our site had 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical service.
  • Our site had a water connection. The water was very cloudy from the high iron content. You will want to bring bottled water to drink.
  • Our site had a sewer connection. It was nearly impossible to use because it was uphill from our site. I wonder why some campgrounds are convinced that water flows uphill?
  • There was a single dump station in the park. Expect a wait there if you are in one of the many sites without sewer connections.
  • There were multiple bathhouses located around the park. The one closest to Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer, served too many campers and was overused. It was also dirty.
  • The park did not have WiFi service.
  • AT&T placed a strong 4G signal over the park for both voice and data.
  • We were able to watch ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS using Rosie's TV antenna. We also saw Buzzr, Cozi, Decades, Escape, Get, Grit, Me and My digital channels.
  • This is a somewhat pet friendly park. Leashed pets are allowed in specific areas and camping loops. As expected, many dogs didn't read the rules and were roaming free through the park.
  • We camped in this park during June 2017.
It is obvious that many people love this park and it is a popular regional destination. While we are glad they really enjoyed their time in this park, we didn't and Camp Dearborn is now on our "been there, done that" list.

The Henry Ford Museum


A doll house inside the museum
What could possibly go wrong by taking this car out for a spin?

A round house made out of aluminum

FDR's Presidential Car

Time for a milkshake

An early Airstream trailer

A Mustang! A reminder of Becky's first car
We found a good pizza place in Dearborn

We found a Cruise-In while heading back to Camp Dearborn

The Cruise-In

The Cruise-In

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Airstream Terraport - Jackson Center, Ohio - June 2017

We were on our way to join the WBCCI Southeast Camping Unit's Caravan to the Wally Byam International Rally. The rally this year was in Escanaba, Michigan.

Traffic around Cincinnati is always slow and difficult. This particular trip may set the record for the longest and worst trip through the city.

Construction on the bridge heading into Cincinnati

First, we have to say a loud "whew!" We came close to being the victim of two accidents while on I-75. Both times the driver was holding and talking on his or her cellphone when each decided to move into our lane.

How can you miss our truck when we are pulling Rosie, our 25 foot Airstream trailer? We have a huge footprint on the road. I'm not sure that one of the cell phone talkers ever realized that he was within millimeters of causing a wreck on the Interstate.

We ended up pulling into the next rest area to walk around Rosie to make sure there weren't any new scrapes or dings on her. That was a welcomed stop as we needed a place to calm down.

While parked at the rest area, we started thinking that the Airstream factory was only a couple of hours up the road. We set our GPS for Jackson Center and decided to camp in the Terraport.

After backing into the Airstream Terraport site we picked for the night, we thought it would be a good idea to walk off some nervous energy. Besides, Suzy, our Yorkie, needed a walk. We were no more than 50 feet from Rosie when we heard a familiar voice shout out, "I know you!"

Always great to run into some good friends at the Airstream factory

That was true. A couple from our WBCCI Southeastern Camping Unit was also Camping in the Terraport. We really needed to see friendly faces to take our minds off the narrow escapes around Cincinnati.

We were in Jackson Center only a month or so ago, and our review of the park hasn't changed. This is a great place to talk with other Airstream owners and to share tips about Airstreaming. You also can learn about some great parks to add to your "must see one day" list.

One more thing is that you will occasionally see prototypes of future models while there. Did we see something? Maybe. Airstream doesn't appear to be very good at hiding company projects. We will watch the WBCCI's Blue Beret magazine to see if what we stumbled on actually makes it to production.

Haven't seen this prototype before!

The Nest?

View of the factory

Factory sign

Airstream Factory Service Center

View behind the service center