Friday, July 31, 2009

House and RV update

I think I forgot to mention this, but last week as we were packing up the truck I kept having this funny feeling that the realtor was going to call us on vacation and want to show the house. So, as I was packing, I was also straightening and cleaning up a little. Sure enough, just before we pulled out of the driveway the realtor called and had a showing for the next day!! We made arrangements for him to get a key, and left confident that the house was in pretty good shape -- except for the front lawn which hadn't been cut in a month because our mower was (still is!) broken!

He called last night to give us feedback. This was a younger couple, early 30s, who are looking to relocate from Detroit to Ann Arbor. The man is apparantly a record promoter, and is expecting a large increase in money from investors. So, they are looking for a house suited to their "new stature", whatever that means. They found our home online, and asked for a showing, but according to the feedback from their realtor our home wasn't quite "glitzy" enough for them - but neither were the other 4 houses they looked at. So, nothing new on the home front, but that's OK.

As for the RV, it's been at Duncan RV Repair in Elkhart, IN for the last 3 weeks, where they have been taking care of many minor imperfections to bring it up to "new" condition -- pretty much all of which is covered by the Newmar warranty. The folks at Duncan have been great, and they are going to have it ready for us to pick up Monday morning. YEAH!!

I can't believe that today is the last day of July -- the summer is going SO fast!! The start of school is just around the corner. My boys go back on Aug. 25th, which is 2 weeks before Labor Day, and WAY TOO EARLY, if you ask me! I'm half tempted to keep them home those 2 weeks! Oh well, I probably won't . . .

Have a good weekend, everyone!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our tenting trip comes to an end

We got rain again Saturday night, but not too much. It was still pretty gloomy in the morning, so we just got dressed and headed right into Frankfort for the 9am mass at St. Ann's. We got there by 8:30, so we sat in the truck for a bit and I uploaded the rest of my pictures from the camera to the computer. After mass, we went to the Crescent City Bakery to enjoy donuts, coffee and wi-fi. When I finished up the Wed - Fri post, it was still overcast, but the radar said that we should get some sun in the afternoon. Our friends had gone to the dunes in the morning, but all the kids really wanted to go tubing down the Platte River, so we decided to all meet back at the campground for lunch and then go tubing.

We stopped at a little farm market to get some fresh cherries and cinnamon bread (YUM!), and then picked up subs from Subway for lunch. It was still only about 63 degrees and cloudy, so I decided to skip the tubing adventure and stay with the dog. We had already gotten one warning about leaving her "unattended" -- in her crate, in our screenroom!

I dropped everybody else off at the river and told them I'd meet them at the beach at the end of the river in 2 hours. Casey and I took a long walk around the campground, and then I headed down to the beach. I could see them floating along in their tubes, and knew I'd have some time still before they reached the beach. I took a stoll on the beach, collecting some pretty rocks and a few petoskey stones.

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Just when I got back to the truck, they were walking up from the river - freezing! I took a quick picture of the tubers, and then loaded them up to go back to the campground.

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They all decided to go for warm showers, and then we drove up to the little village of Empire for dinner at "Joe's Friendly Tavern." It was indeed a friendly place, and Joe himself seated us. Tari had whitefiish, Paul had a grilled chicken salad, I had an "award-winning" hamburger, and tom had the special -- duck medallions on a bed of spinach greens, with goat cheese and dried cherries. It was quite a presentation -- too bad I didn't bring my camera!! Nicolas had a philly cheessteak sandwich, Bryce and Hannah had noodles, and Jensen had chicken fingers. Everybody's food was delicious, and we left there stuffed! Not too stuffed to pass up the ice cream at "Tiffany's" next door, though!! Tom and I shared a cone . . .

Since we were all eating ice cream, we decided to take a walk. Our camping neighbors had told us that the beach in Empire is quite beautiful, and they were right! Just a few blocks from "downtown", it's a lovely beach with a playground, seating areas, and firepits on the beach. It would be a great location to watch the sunset over Lake Michigan! We didn't stay for the sunset (no cameras!!), but we did let the kids play in the playground for a while -- even Nicolas enjoys playing still!

Back at the campground, we started a fire and enjoyed the evening.

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From 200907_Platte River

Casey was apparantly exhausted!

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No more rain Sunday night, so we only had to wait for the dew to dry off the tents the next morning before we could start packing up. We got everything in the truck and were ready to hit the road around 11:30am, 30 minutes before checkout. We said good-bye to our good friends, hoping that we'll be camping with them again soon - but in our camper next time!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Saturday, July 26th - a BEAUTIFUL day

We had quite a bit of rain overnight on Friday, but woke up Saturday morning to a promising day . . . and we stayed pretty dry overnight!

We had waffles and sausage for breakfast, and then discussed our options for the day.

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Our neighbors from West Virginia told us about a really nice hike to Paradise Point, a sand dune bluff overlooking Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands. They also told us about some "secret beaches" along the Good Harbor Bay, which sounded like a great destination to us.

We packed lunches, loaded up the beach gear and the dog, and headed out. Our first stop was the Paradise Point Trail, and we weren't the only ones who thought it was a good idea -- we were lucky to get the last 2 parking spots! It's a 0.6 mile hike UP to the overlook,

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but boy is the view worth it! The day was really clear, and you could see for miles! We could see South Manitou Island clearly in the distance.

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Here's our group, contemplating the distance down to the lake!

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The kids would have loved to run down that dune, but no way were we letting that happen!

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The Gimmarro's pose for a family picture.

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We hiked back down to the trucks, and then headed down the road to Good Harbor Bay. There's a dirt road that runs parallel to the coast, and multiple locations where you can park and take a short little hike to the beach. We picked a spot, grabbed our beach gear, and headed to the beach -- through the woods, across a small river, and onto the sand. We all ate our lunches, and then spent a couple of peaceful hours searching for petoskey stones, swimming out to the sand bar, and napping! Even Casey spent some time swimming -- we found a stick to throw to her, and she would have jumped into the water to retrieve it all afternoon! It was an awesome afternoon!

Here are Bryce and his friend, Jensen, swimming back from the sandbar.

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Here's Casey taking a rest after her swim.

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On the way back to the campground, we stopped in the little town of Glen Arbor to walk around and check out the various shops. Our favorite was The Cherry Republic -- with more cherry products than you can possibly imagine! They had snack mixes, several versions of chocolate-covered cherries, cookies, salsas, candies . . . and on and on! The best part was -- they had samples out of pretty much everything!! We all enjoyed the offerings, and left with some chocolate covered cherries and sour cherry candies for the kids. Next stop was the wine and pop tasting room . . . there were several varieties of wine for the adults to taste, and a half dozen cherry soda pops for the kids to taste . . . we really liked the cherry cream soda -- YUM! Tom and I purchased a bottle of wine to add to our wine rack at home . . . we need to start drinking them - our shelf is full!

Arriving back at the campground, we decided to have pizza hobo pies for dinner, so we got a campfire going right away. This was the first time we have made the pizza version of the pies, and they were definitely delicious! Our friends use biscuit dough instead of bread, and those looked really good, too . . . more like thick-crusted pan pizza. The rest of the evening, we just enjoyed the campfire while the kids played Uno, and called it a night around 11:30. What a great day!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Three days fairly dry

This morning we drove into Frankfort for mass at St. Ann's, and then to the bakery in town for some donuts and coffee. They've got wi-fi, so I thought I'd do a quick post to update you all on our rustic vacation.

Wednesday, July 22

Arriving back at the campground after our trip to Frankfort, the rain had stopped so we emptied the tents, laying out all the bedding to dry, and turning the tents upside-down to dry.
From 200907_Platte River

The breeze and the sun dried averything out, so we were good to go. Later in the afternoon, we walked the RR Grade trail to Lake Michigan, and all braved the cold water.
From 200907_Platte River

From 200907_Platte River

Thursday, July 23

On Thursday, we awoke to a promising day so we loaded up in the truck and headed to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We drove through the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, where we saw beautiful bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. One overlook posted a 450 foot drop down to the lake, where several brave (or crazy) souls made the trip down -- we never did see them make it back to the top!
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From 200907_Platte River

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Next stop was the Dune Climb. The boys made the climb to the top, and were plenty tired when they got back down!

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Further down the road, we visited an former Life-Saving Station which is now the Glen Haven Maritime Museum, where we learned how the coast guard used a "breaches-buoy" to rescue sailors from sinking freighters. This particular stretch of Lake Michigan coastline is shallow, and has had hundreds of shipwrecks!

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Back at the campground, we biked down to the Platte Point Beach, about 2.5 miles each way. The Platte River runs into Lake Michigan at this point, and the warmer water of the river made for a nice place to swim.

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We ended the day with brats and hot dogs on the campfire . . . no rain again!

Friday, June 24th

We woke Friday morning, again grateful to have stayed dry! We were just trying to decide what to do, when our friends and fellow-campers arrived! They couldn't get on their site yet, so they parked their camper on our site and we visited while the kids played corn-hole. At 12:30, they could get on the site, so we had lunch while they set up. Afterwards we all took a bike ride to the beach, where the kids swam and buried Jensen in the sand!

From 200907_Platte River

From 200907_Platte River

After hamburgers for dinner, we gathered for a campfire. Around 9:30pm, it started to drizzle, so we bailed out on the fire, and moved into the screenroom to play the dice game, Left-Right-Center. Around 10:30, the rain started coming down harder, and we broke up for the night. It rained most of the night, but we stayed fairly dry in the tents.

More to follow once we get home tomorrow . . .

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This is why I have an RV!!!

Well, it took a couple of hours, but we finally go everything loaded into the truck for our "camping trip". It was a tight fit, but it all went in.

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As we were packing, we all couldn't help but think "It's SO much easier to camp in the RV!!" We finally hit the road at 3pm -- good thing Tom and I took the afternoon off, or would have never gotten on the road today! The drive was uneventful - 250 miles, about 4 hours - a few drizzles, but for the most part we dodged the rain. As we neared our destination, the sky started looking rather threatening, and we hoped the rain would hold off -- and it did, that is until we got most of the truck unloaded and started setting up the tents!!! Then the sky opened up, and we got drenched! The boys were in the middle of setting up their tent, and the whole inside got wet! Tom and I were working on the screenroom, so that we'd have a covering for some stuff, and so our tent stayed dry in the truck's tonneau cover. The rain finally let up a little bit, and we finished the setup, and got the boys' tent dried out enough to put their air mattresses in. We finished up around 10:30, and just went to bed. Shortly afterwards, it started raining again, and didn't stop all night!

There was a smal lull around 6:30am, and Tom and I were awake, so we ran over to the bathroom, and took Casey out for a quick walk. We could hear thunder rumbling in the distance, and about halfway around the loop, it started raining again! We ran back to the tent and went back to bed! It slowed down again around 9am, and the boys got up, so we all get dressed and had breakfast. We even had time to take Casey for a walk around all of the loops.

So now we're in the small town of Frankfort, MI, and the boys are out walking around while I sit in the truck checking our email and writing this post coutesy of the wireless internet of "Serendipity House". It's still pretty gloomy, and we're hoping the weather takes a turn for the better. That reminds me, I want to check . . . .

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Getting ready for CAMPING

On Friday, we went downtown to walk around the Ann Arbor summer art fairs -- I've read that collectively this is the largest air fair in the US, and I believe it! We spent several hours walking around and "window-shopping". I only made one purchase -- a silver necklace with a glass pendant -- orange,, the same shape and size as a life saver candy. It's quite fun, and I love it! After our shopping expedition, we met Tom's family at a local italian restaurant for dinner to celebrate his Mom's 80th birthday. Afterwards, we went back to their house to visit and have cake.

Saturday was a busy one -- having trees cut down, stumps ground, pulling weeds, spraying fruit trees and weeds -- and we accomplished alot! We got done just in time to make it to 4:30 mass, and then to our friends' daughter's graduation party. It was a very nice party with good food, drinks, music, and friends!

Today we finished up in the yard, and then went grocery shopping to get what we needed for our camping trip. Wehave to plan a little differently for this trip -- no camper means no microwave for convenience foods. And there's LOTS of things to remember to pack! I've got my list going, and we just have to hope it all fits in the bed of the truck! Tonight I mapped our route, although we're pretty familiar with the area and don't really need a map. Several of our friends are going up north this week, as well, and we're hoping to be able to get together at some point.

Tom and I work on Monday, and half a day on Tuesday, and then we're off! Hopefully we'll find some WI-FI somewhere so I can do a few posts, rather than one giant one when we get home!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A week at home

Well, we successfully delivered the RV to Duncan RV Repair on Friday last week. We got set up with one of the Master Technicians, Ron, and spent a couple of hours with him. We gave him our list of concerns, and he reviewed each one with us. Because we had a couple of paint issues, he introduced us to the "paint man", Vinny, who looked over the entire coach with us also. They are both really great guys, and thorough in their work . . . we're confident that they are going to do a great job, and get our coach into the "new" shape it should have been in. As a matter of fact, Ron called me today to find out where I had put the broken handle to the central vac floor port -- he knew I showed it to him, but didn't know where I put it after that! I told him it was in the bottom kitchen drawer . . . and then he went on to give me a status update. He's already taken care of many of the items on our list, and a few are awaiting authorization from Newmar, and he's found a few little things that he's fixed and added to our list. Great service!!

After dropping off the RV, we picked up a pie to take to my parents, and had pretzels and shakes in Shipshewana. Then we headed to "Grandma's Lake". It's really Manapogo Park, in Orland, IN, but in our family it's always been known as "Grandma's Lake". I remembered to take a few pictures. My parents have been seasonal there since the mid-70s, so they have a prime site in the "front row" overlooking the lake. Unfortunately, in the last few years, they've allowed people to park in the area between this row of campers and the beach, but the campers are on a slight hill, so the view is still pretty decent.

Looking towards the beach.
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Looking towards the boat docks.
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Looking back at the campsite,
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and the firepit.
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We had a really nice weekend there. After a downpour early Saturday morning, the sun came out and it was beautiful. Tom and the boys went with my brother-in-law out in his boat to ride around and swim in the middle of the lake. My mom, my sisters and I sat in the sun, reading our books and talking about my niece's upcoming wedding (Aug. 8th). Saturday night we had a nice fire, and I made hobo pies -- blueberry, cherry, apple . . . and cheese for my mom! They all love them, but nobody likes to cook them, so they all wait for me to be there so I can make them for everybody!! I don't mind . . . On Sunday, we sat in the sun some more, and then everybody was heading home kindof early. We were on the road by 4pm, and home by 6pm.

At home today, I had to put in a few hours of work, and then the kids and I ran over to the local florist to arrange to have some flowers delivered to Tom's mom on Friday -- it's her 80th birthday! This afternoon I baked cookies and made spaghetti sauce for dinner -- both were yummy! We're not getting any action on our house lately, and it's a good thing because I haven't had time to clean or do any weeding -- and it's really beginning to show!! So, today after an early dinner, Tom was working on his car and the boys were watching a movie, I decided to give the kitchen a thorough cleaning . . . cleaned the stove, cleaned the counters, mopped the floor . . . it really needed it, and now it looks great! I'll leave the weeding for Saturday morning -- it's supposed to cool down some again this weekend.

OK, I guess that's enough for tonight. I'm going to go downstairs and watch some tv with Tom and the kids, and work on my list of what to pack for our tenting vacation next week.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Our first trip to the RV Repair Shop

"Already??" you ask. Yes, remember I mentioned the bad seal around the slide? We're going to get that replaced, and have a few other minor things taken care of that we failed to notice during delivery of the RV -- too much to absorb at once!!

So, we are taking it to Duncan RV Repair in Elkhart, IN. This is a shop that RV Dude told us about that does Newmar warranty work. We're dropping it off tomorrow, and then spending the weekend with my parents, who are in the area. We'll return for another weekend visit with my parents in a few weeks, and stay to pick up the RV on Monday morning. We'll be without our rig for three weeks, but not to worry -- our next camping trip requires us to be in tents anyway -- that'll be an adventure!

We didn't do too much this week -- just work, catching up with laundry, and emptying the RV of all the "camping stuff" we'll need. This weekend should be nice -- we haven't been to "Grandma's Lake" since Memorial Day . . . I'll try to remember to get some pics this time!

That's it for tonight . . . going to bed now, so we can get a fairly early start tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Geneva State Park - Lake Erie

Well, the mailman brought us the title to the truck Wednesday just before noon, and we made a quick (OK - not so quick, but as good as could be expected) trip to the Secretary of State Office. We paid our sales tax, transferred our plate from my minivan, and we on our way home to complete packing. Tom and the boys filled the truck with diesel ($2.59/gallon), while I finished packing the trailer. We finally hit the road at 3:45 pm.

Trip statistics:

240 miles each way
Paid $2.59, $2.63 and $2.69 for diesel, for a total of $202.30
Averaged 8 mpg -- only drove a few miles without the trailer, mostly used our bikes
Paid $13.75 in tolls on the Ohio Turnpike

Geneva State Park is on the shore of Lake Erie, in the resort town of Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio. There are approximately 70 paved sites with electric, 3 full hookup sites (for hosts), and about a dozen primitive sites in the campground. The state park also emcompasses some rental cabins, a large beach, a marina and boat launch, and a lodge. The roads are all paved, and each site has a 10' x 45' paved pad on which your rig and tow vehicle (or toad) both need to fit. They are very strict about no parking on the grass, which makes for very nice grassy sites. The loop we were in (sites 1- 37) was very open and sunny, and the other loop was more shady.

We arrived at 8pm, and the check-in station was already closed, so we followed the procedure for self check-in (we had reservations and were already paid in full). We we able to back in far enough to have our back wheels at the very end of the pad, so that the truck could fit in front of it. It was tight, but we got them both on the pad!

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Wednesday - Friday were cloudy and chilly, with a little bit of rain, but we managed to keep busy anyway. We checked out Geneva-on-the-Lake, the Ashtabula working harbor and some of the area wineries, and did some bike riding. The park had just completed a paved bike path from the campground into town -- not sure of the mileage, but it was about a 25 minute ride, one way. It was a really nice path -- wide, smooth, and very scenic!

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On Saturday, the weather improved greatly. The boys had been bugging us to take them to "Adventure Zone", which is your typical mini golf/go-cart/bumper boat/arcade money pit. We bought an Adventure Pass for $13 each which gave the boys each 1 go-cart ride, 1 bumper boat ride, and 1 round a miniature golf.

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From 200907_Geneva_OH

They had fun there, and then we went to Eddie's Grill for lunch. This is a 50s style outdoor burger/hot dog/ice cream shop -- fun atmosphere and good food!

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On Saturday night, there was a fireworks display at the Municipal Golf Course, which we went to, again on our bikes. We were told that would be a better option, since there is only one road through town and it would be bumper-to-bumper on Saturday -- they were right! After the fireworks, we went to Eddie's Grill again, this time for one of their overflowing Blizzards (Eddie's is also a DQ) -- YUM!! We were amazed at the number of people in town - it was packed!

On Sunday, we went to mass in the morning in nearby Geneva, OH, and then returned to the campground for a quick lunch before heading to the beach. We spent the afternoon swimming and soaking up the sun, and I finished my 2nd book of the weekend. Ahhhh . . . vacation!!

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We had a good campfire that night, and burned almost all of our remaining wood. Campfire tip that we got from our neighbor -- take cardboard egg cartons, packed them with dryer lint, and soak the lint with melted candle wax -- they make really good fire starters.

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On Monday, we packed up, cleaned up the RV, and were on the road by 11:45am, arriving home just before 4pm. It was an uneventful drive (always good!), and overall a very nice first trip in our new home!