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The End Of One Journey, The Start Of A New One!

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This is the very first blog of our new journey through life.  We have just finished selling Leu Cat, our Lagoon 44 Catamaran sailboat which we spent 10 years sailing around the world, and have bought a Tiffin Allegro Bus to explore North America.  We are very excited to begin this new journey and look forward to sharing it with you.

Before we begin, we wish to share with you some very sad news.  The new owners of Leu Cat, Susan and Doug, have just emailed us to say that Leu Cat is no more.  We sold Leu Cat on August 30th and she was anchored in the lagoon at Sint Maarten.  Unfortunately, the massive hurricane called Irma swept over Sint Maarten just a few days later and destroyed much of the island and hundreds of boats, including Leu Cat.  Here is the message that we received from Susan and Doug:

“It is my sad task to tell you that Leu Cat is a total loss from Hurricane Irma. According to the last AIS transmission, she ended up against the Skipjack Restaurant on Welfare Road at the short bridge to Snoopy Island at 5:05 am on Wednesday, Sept. 6. That was almost immediately after the hurricane hit St. Maarten. With that information, Ian found her at that location today under a pile of wrecked boats with only the flags on the forward hulls visible to identify her. She is in small pieces as she was blown through the causeway bridge. We are saddened also to know that he lost his Leopard catamaran (which was a business in addition to his surveying) as well.”

We were so saddened to hear this tragic news.  Susan and Doug are such nice people and this is the last thing we would want for them.  Fortunately, they did purchase hurricane insurance so they should recoup much of their loss.  Also, we are saddened because Leu Cat was such a wonderful home, sailboat and companion to us as we sailed around the world.  If you are interested in sharing the adventure we had with her, you can go go to our blog site by Click here to go to our sailing adventure blog site

In the days to come, we will be sharing with you our new adventures as we start our exploration of North America in our new home.  We have yet to name her and are open to any suggestions that you may have.  We will post photos of her in the next few days as the dust settles from our outfitting her.  She is a beauty!

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Year 2 Day 225 Tibico Marsh

If you know me well, you know that I start going stir crazy when I am stuck inside or at one place for any unreasonable length of time. With my lower back slowly recovering from an annoying pulled muscle, I have been tortured by my “itchy butt” syndrome over this last week. While the recent trip to Frankenmuth was a respite from my couch potato imitation, the “itch” was been getting worse with each passing day. Thus, this morning, after surfing the Internet for the umpteenth time, along with going up and down and then down and up, scrolling through the TV guide, I just had to get out and go for a nice, long walk.

I am so glad that I did because I ended up at the Saginaw Bay/Tibico March Visitor Center. It turned out to be a small, simple visitor center, with just a couple of rooms filled with exhibits. It presented information on how the marsh was formed and the various animals that call it home. It was fun to stroll through it, especially since I virtually had the place to itself and could take as much time as I wanted in front of each display.

I learned that the marsh formed behind a sand pit that was created along the shoreline of Saginaw Bay a few hundred years ago. As the spit developed, it slowly closed with the shore, forming a small lake isolated from the bay. Over time the fringe around the lake filled in with mud and muck and a freshwater wetland formed. The lake still remains but is significantly smaller now than when it formed. It has been altered by man over time due to logging efforts in the late 1800’s and again by the Civilian Conservation Corp back in the 1930s. It then became a private hunting club but as its membership declined, the two surviving owners donated the land containing the marsh to the State in 1957. Its guardian is now the State of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and is part of the Bay City Recreation Area.

The marsh is approximately 2000 acres in size and because it was formed being a long spit that enclosed with the shore, it parallels the bay shoreline. Deer, beaver, mink, muskrat, a dozen different species of song, shore, and marsh birds call it home. In the spring, and again in the fall, it is visited by thousands of migratory waterfowl since it is located along a major fly zone.

My exploration of the wetlands, the beach and the adjoining wooded uplands was very enjoyable. I will let the various photos I took present to you with what I saw.

Approaching Saginaw Bay By Going Over The March

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Walking Along The Beach

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Returning To The Marsh Via A Boardwalk

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Walking Along the Marsh To The Garden By The Visitors Center

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Year 3 Days 223 and 224 Frankenmuth

 

We have been taking it a bit easy these last few days as my lower back muscles recover.  Each day is an improvement and I am hoping that I will be able to get a round of golf this coming Monday.  I am keeping my fingers crossed.

While we have been taking it easy, we have not been complete couch potatoes.  Yesterday day we took a drive over to Frankenmuth, a town that that takes pride in its Bavarian heritage.  While many people must like it, because it is a famous little town, it was just a tourist trap to us.  The store fronts are all faux architecture, the stores broadcast their wares as fudge, ice cream and local nick-knacks, and the sidewalks are filled with overweight old fogies, wearing tee shirts and baggies shorts, gawking at the merchandise on display in the windows.  Yech!

Sooooo, here we were, two overweight old fogies, wearing baggie shorts and tee shirts and what do we do… we go to Bronner’s.  Bronner’s is the largest Christmas store in the US.  It covers the area of 6 football fields and is stuffed with every kind of Christmas ornaments and do-dads one could ever imagine.  Even though it is August and Christmas is over 4 months away, the store was doing a very good business.Brooner's

It was a little bizarre shopping for Christmas ornaments in August but what we discovered was whatever you could ever dream up for an ornament, they had.  Plus, included in the price of the ornament was their service to personalize it.  Thus, after 90 or so minutes, we left armed with all kinds of beautiful Christmas ornaments that we had personalized for our kids and grandkids. It was pretty neat!

We then drove over to the Bavarian Inn for a late lunch/early dinner.  We had hopes of an authentic Bavarian meal.  Unfortunately, our hopes were dashed as the traditional Bavarian food we ordered was pretty bad.  Sigh.  However, after our meal, we did stumble into its bakery on our way out and there spied some wonderful strudels that we just had to get.  Under Mary Margaret’s good eye, we selected a large apple, a large cherry and a large blueberry strudel to go.  We complimented the strudels with a chocolate/peanut butter brownie and a chocolate éclair.  As it turned out, Mary Margaret selected well as each item was a taste-treat that more than made up for the poor food in the restaurant.

On our way back to our campsite we stopped at a roadside stand that was selling fresh, farm-grown vegetables and fruits from the farm that was behind it.  We loaded up with what turned out to be the sweetest corn on the cob we have ever tasted, a huge, tasty cantaloupe, and a few other bags filled with assorted fresh veggies.  Yum!

 

 

 

 

Year 2 Day 222 Bay City State Park

 

As my lower back pulled muscle continues to slowly heal, we bundled up LeuC and, once again, headed down the road.  Our destination this time was the Bay City State Park.  It sits along the shoreline of the Saginaw Bay.  If you are not familiar with Michigan and the 5 great lakes that surround it, Saginaw Bay is a massive bay which is part of Lake Huron on the eastern side of the Lower Peninsula.  The Lower Peninsula of Michigan can be viewed as a left-hand mitten with the space between the thumb and the rest of the hand being Saginaw Bay.

The park is famous for Tobico Marsh, one of the largest coastal wetlands on the Great Lakes.  Our campground is situated next to the marsh and one needs to walk across a boardwalk that transverses part of the marsh to get to the beach and swimming area.  This part of the marsh is a thin sliver that rests between the uplands forest and the sandy beach of Saginaw Bay.  We are looking forward to exploring this area and going to the Visitors’ Center which presents a series of displays and exhibits on the marsh and the wildlife that it provides a habitat for.

The drive to this state park was pretty short, taking only about an hour and a half.  The signage pointing to the campground was not very good and we made a wrong turn that ended at a dead end.  We had to unhook our little Fiat from LeuC in order to turn LeuC around at the end of the road.  From there, Mary Margaret drove the Fiat as our little caravan finally found the campground and we checked in.

Unlike our previous two campgrounds, this one is very nice with spacious campsites, a reasonable distance between each site and lots of trees creating shade and a wonderful ambience that we have been missing.  The photos I have posted below says it all.

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Tomorrow, we will be taking a side trip to Frankenmuth which is about 20 miles to the south of us.  We grew up in Michigan hearing a lot about Frankenmuth but never going there.  It is a village which embraces its Bavarian heritage with German architecture, food and beer.  We love German food and beer and are looking forward to having lunch here.

 

The town is also famous for the worlds’ largest Christmas store.  I read that it is as large as 6 football fields.  While we are not so much into shopping, it may present an opportunity to pick up a few unique tree ornaments for our grandkids.  We shall have to just wait to see…

Year 2 Day 219 and 220 Exploring The Rifle River Recreation Area

 

Yesterday I pulled a lower back muscle improperly lifting the heavy box of firewood we store in one of LeuC’s “basement” compartments.  It is not a big deal but the stiffness that resulted laid me up for the day.  Mary Margaret and I had hoped to go play golf but instead, it was decided that it would be smarter to just keep to the campsite and do back and stomach exercises to loosen the sore muscles and strength my stomach muscles.

That strategy seemed to work as this morning as I was feeling much better and could get around pain free.  The regime of exercises will continue for a week or so but I will no longer be hindered by my back.  Yea!

To celebrate my recovery, and to scratch the itch to get out and around, I decided to use our little Fiat and explore the large recreation area we are in.  Mary Margaret was in the middle of a good book so she decided to stay home and “nest”.

I had been told about an observational tower nearby from which you could see the five lakes that dominate this part of the rec area so that was my goal for today.  As it turned out, it was “a’fur a piece” down a narrow, one lane bumpy dirt road that cut a path through the thick forests which dominate this rec area.

In my last blog, I was rather critical of the poor job that Michigan’s Dept of Natural Resources had done in creating the campground we are staying in.  Instead of merging the campground into the natural habitat of the dense woods, they simply bulldozed a clearing, plopped down some picnic tables and fire rings, ran a 30 Amp power line, paved a narrow lane to loop around the campground and squeezed in, a lot of sites.  The result is a crowded RV park-like setting instead of a beautiful campground that it could have been.  Sigh.

In contrast to our ugly campground, the photos I took today shows the beauty of the area we are surrounded by and the potential of creating a beautiful campground which the numskulls from the Dept. of Natural Resources missed.  I will augment each photo with a little explanation of what it shows but, for the main part, will let the photos do the talking.

View Of The Lakes

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After climbing up the 40-foot tall observational tower, I was presented with a 360-degree view of the 5 lakes that surrounded me.  Two of the lakes are really just large ponds but all combined, they are the source waters of the Rifle River.  With these two photos, you can see how beautiful the woods are.  Also, you can see in the lower right corner of each photo the narrow dirt lane that I followed.

A Fishing Dock On One Of The Lakes

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All of the lakes here are relatively shallow.  These two photos are of one of the lakes and their how beautiful but shallow it is.

Woods and River

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These two photos present how thick and wonderful the woodlands are and what the Rifle River looks like as it runs free from its source waters.  Throughout its 60-mile course to Lake Huron, it is fairly narrow and shallow, with depths of only 18 to 48 inches deep.  Nevertheless, it is a wild river and offers great wild trout fishing.

 

 Year 2 Day 217 Grousehaven Campground, Rifle River Recreation Area                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Today we explored our campground here on Grousehaven Lake, within the Rifle River Recreation Area.  It is one of several campgrounds within the recreational area.  This particular campground is composed of two loops, each separated by a bit of woods.  Both are just a short walk from the lake, which has a nice little beach.  Rifle River flows from Grousehaven Lake and is augmented by several springs in the area.  It is a slow-moving river that meanders for 60 miles before emptying into Lake Huron.  While I am not sure of its actual designation, I do know that the State has applied to the federal government for making it a wild and scenic river since no dams or other man-made impedances restricts its flow.  Wild trout fishing, canoeing and tubing makes the river very popular during the summer months.

All of the above makes the area and the campground sound like an RVer’s dream: set in a wildness like setting, situated on a beautiful lake, wild trout fishing, scenic canoeing and a wild and scenic river, wow!

Rifle River REc Area

Rifle River

There is only one problem, the State in its infinite wisdom of creating a campground that can hold as many campers as possible, set it up so that each camper is packed close to one another, stripping privacy from everyone.  Sigh.  I really do not understand it.  We are smack dab in the middle of a large dense forest, with miles upon miles of woods.  Instead of planning and building a campground with each site screened from the next by trees and shrubs like what most other states do, instead Michigan’s Dept. of Natural Resources cleared out an area, paved a narrow lane around it, installed some picnic tables and fire rings such that tents, trailers and motorhomes are packed next to each other.  I feel sorry for those who are tent camping because the trailers and motorhomes carry air conditioning units on their roofs which cycle on and off 24 hours a day.

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Plus, the lack of space and privacy forced a group of kids to play kickball on the narrow, paved lane, right in front of our bus. So much for the good life…

Mary Margaret and I tripped over tent stakes, boat trailers, pickup trucks, cars, trailers and motorhomes as we walked over to Grousehaven Lake to check out the beach.  It was a nice sandy beach and the water was nice and warm.

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There were a few kayakers but, for the most part, the lake was not crowded.  It is mystery to me as to where everyone in the campground goes for the day.  Maybe they rent a canoe or a tube and float down the Rifle River which flows from our lake.

As you can tell, we both are rather disappointed in our campground here.  This type of camping just is not fun and I am at a loss to explain why this campground is so full.  I talked with the campground host this evening who spoke in glowing terms about how beautiful this campground is.  Really?  I was polite and bit my tongue a lot during our conversation.  It is sited in a beautiful location but the campground itself is just terrible.  Oh well, chalk it up to a learning experience.

Year 2 Days 215 and 216 Renewing Insurance

Yesterday we did our “slug” imitation and just rested the day away.  Actually, we worked on evaluating insurance policies for our RV and Fiat.  Our current set of policies are up for renewal shortly and we were not pleased with the renewal costs going up.  This is especially true since we were not involved in any accidents and no claims were made.  The increases motivated us to research other companies that specialize in RV insurance.

 

Both our Fiat and LeuC are covered under policies issued by National General that are offered through the Good Sam’s Club.  The Good Sam’s Club is an organization for RV’ers that we belong to.  We also belong to the Family Motor Coach Association, another organization for RV’ers.  They have chosen Progressive to offer insurance policies to their members.

 

It took me awhile to read once again our existing policies and then compare it to the policies offered by Progressive to see where the differences were, especially with exclusions and limitations.  What I learned is that the Progressive policies were a bit more comprehensive and significantly less expensive.  Thus, I had an extensive discussion with their agency over the phone to get a better understanding of the coverages I would be buying and the quotes they gave us.

 

I also inspected the ratings and reviews on each agency and discovered that National General was rated 5 stars while Progressive is rated 4.5 stars.  The negative reviews I read about both companies appeared to be mostly from people who had bought used RVs and were mad that their respective insurance company was claiming that damage occurred prior to ownership and coverage.  Relying on ratings and reviews can be somewhat problematic at times since you really don’t know how the ratings are created nor do you know the details of what lead up to the reviews.  However, we have met a local FMCA Chapter President and she did say some nice things about the insurance carrier (Progressive) that FMCA works with.

 

As it turned out, after discussions with Mary Margaret, we opted to switch providers and go with Progressive. The two policies, one for our Fiat and one for our RV, came in over $600 less than our current policy with broader coverages and with significantly lower deductibles.  The wisdom of our selection will only be born out if we ever make a claim.  Hopefully, the service they provide will meet our expectations.

 

Today, we bundled up LeuC and drove a couple of hours south to the Rifle River Recreational Area.  Our campground is on Grousehaven Lake, near Lupton, Michigan.  Like the Aloha State Park campground, it also reminds us of a RV park, with campers packed in close to each other.  Tomorrow, I will write a bit about this campground and offer pictures so you can see what I mean.

Year 2 Day 214 A Great Family Visit

 

This afternoon Barbara, Dave and Dan made the hour drive from Petoskey, Michigan over to our campsite here in Aloha.  It was so great to see them.  They are our relatives from my brother, Don’s, wife’s side of the family.  Dan is Debbie’s father, Barbara is Debbie’s sister and Dave is Barbara’s husband and Debbie’s brother-in-law.  Dan is 96 years old and is still spry, sharp as a whip, and loves telling jokes and puns.  I want to be like him when I grow up!20180802_142516

 

It had been about three years since we all had been together.  It was during Debbie and Don’s daughter’s wedding.  Sarah, their youngest daughter, married John near Cherry, New Jersey and we all made the trip to attend.  It was a great wedding with all kinds of fun events planned over a three-day period.  Time sure flies by, doesn’t it?

 

We have such wonderful relatives as it seems no matter whom we see, they are all so warm, kind and friendly.  What a great extended family we both have.

 

Barbara had brought a fresh fruit plate with a Cool Whip and yogurt dip she had made along with chocolate covered nuts and pretzels to share.  We had prepared another fresh fruit salad but we all decided to dive into the fruit plate and chocolate.  Yum!

 

The afternoon just flew by and before we knew it, it was time for Barbara, Dave and Dan to leave.  After hugs and kisses all around, we waved our goodbyes.  What a great time we had and we returned to LeuC knowing that we both are very lucky to have such a great extended family.  Whoo Hoo!

 

Tomorrow we will just be taking it easy, resting up from the last two days that included a boating adventure with old friends and then this fun visit by relatives.  Then, on Saturday, we will be driving a few hours south as we start our southernly journey to Lansing Michigan.  We need to be there by mid-August so that we can attend my 50th high school reunion.