Year 2 Day 198 Happy Birthday Mary Margaret!

Today is Mary Margaret’s birthday day. Yea!  We wish to thank everyone who emailed, texted or called to wish her the very best on this special day.  We also wish to thank those who sent e-cards to celebrate her day. These efforts were so very kind and thoughtful.  It is really nice to be remembered on one’s birthday.

 

And, we also wish to extend a special thanks to those who contributed to her birthday fund, donating to the ACLU, in support of their legal efforts to reunite those immigrant kids who were taken from their parents.  We both found that action taken by the Trump Administration to be so unforgivable, cruel, unnecessary and against the values that made this country great.  It is one of the darker moments in American history and we are so appreciative of everyone supporting to stop it and reunite the kids with their parents.  Thanks to your generosity, she exceeded her goal of $500.  It will be well received and used by the ACLU.

 

To celebrate Mary Margaret’s birthday, we did two things that she loves to do and we miss doing so much since we stopped sailing.  We first went to the closest thing we could find to a farmers’ market and then went to the beach where she spent the afternoon swimming.  While during our sailing years, we discovered that many places we sailed to did not have supermarkets.  Instead, one bought fruits and vegetables at an open farmers market where scores of canvas-covered stalls offered fresh-from-the-garden goodies.  Mary Margaret loved to stop at each stall, talk to the vendors and inspect their goods.  I trundled behind, helping to carry the bags of fresh goodies she negotiated for.

 

While we did not find an open-air market like that today, we did find a roadside farmer’s market nestled amongst the blueberry farms that are so common in this part of Michigan.  We toyed with the idea of picking our own blueberries, something that we did when first married, but opted to just buy them already picked since they were so reasonably priced.  We ended up with a 5-pound box of fresh blueberries for just $13.  Whoo Hoo!  Mary Margaret also selected a handful of yellow squash and zucchini.

 

This afternoon we returned to the beautiful beach at our campground but this time came armed with our towels and bathing suits.  We discovered the wind was blowing a bit at the beach (15 or so knots) and the coast guard had issued small craft warnings.  Small craft warnings are supposed to be issued when winds are predicted to be above 22 knots within the next 12 hours.  Apparently, a storm was making its way toward us.

 

Also, the beach was flying a red no-swimming flag.  This blew our minds since the swells on Lake Michigan were just in the 1 to 3-range and the surf rolling in was about the same height.  It looked like a perfect day to go sailing to us and it made us think of how great it would be to have good ol’ Leu Cat here, dancing over the waves.

 

I guess everything is relative to what you are used to but what we saw looked just perfect to us for a good, long swim.  Apparently, it looked the same way to most of the beach goers as they too were enjoying the water.

 

This was the first time since living on Leu Cat, which we left about a year ago, that we went swimming in a body of water.  It was awesome!  The water was “almost warm” but once you got in, it was perfect!  Mary Margaret so enjoyed herself that her smile lasted the rest of the day and well into the night.

 

Whoo Hoo!  Happy Birthday, Mary Margaret!

Year 2 Days 196 and 197 Lake Michigan

Yesterday was a sweltering 94 degree.  It was so hot that we decided to just hunker down and rest inside cool LeuC.  We were thinking about going into Ann Arbor and touring U of M’s central campus a bit, allowing us to reminisce about the years we went to school there.  It was very tempting but with no breezes to cool us down some and with humidity creeping into the very uncomfortable level, we opted out.  We will be returning in mid-September, when we will be flying in to attend a football game and will then tour the campus.

 

Today, we bundled up LeuC and headed down the road again, this time with Lake Michigan as our destination.  Specifically, we will be spending the next 5 days at the Van Buren State Park.  It is located just south of South Haven, along the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan.

 

The drive was a snap, with the vast majority of it along freeways.  It was only 2.5 hours long and we arrived before 1 PM.  This allowed us time to walk to the beach once we set up LeuC.  The campground is located behind tall sand dunes that have formed since the last glacier retreated for the area about 10,000 years ago.  They are wind generated and in a later blog, I will explain how they form.fixedw_large_4x

 

Fortunately, a path runs between two adjacent dunes, allowing easy access to the beach.  Here is what we saw:

 

If one does not live around the Great Lakes, you probably have no idea how “GREAT” and unique they are.  Five lakes which make up the Great Lakes.  As I learned in third grade, the first letter of each of the lakes spells “HOMES: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.  The five lakes, which are interconnected, make up the largest body of fresh water on Earth, accounting for one-fifth of the freshwater surface on the planet at 6 quadrillion gallons. The area of all the Great Lakes is 95,160 square miles and span 750 miles from west to east. The square mileage is larger than the state of Texas.

 

Now I have a hard time understanding what 6 quadrillion gallons of water looks like.  I understand what a quadrillion is.  It is a thousand trillion or 1,000,000,000,000,000.  But what does that amount of water looks like.  After a little research, I discovered that with this amount of water, you could cover the land mass of the United States with 9 feet of water.  Wow!  Plus, it is all crystal clear, fresh water.  Double Wow!!

 

We plan on going to the beach here each day to swim, sun bath and r-e-l-a-x.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.  It will be great!

 

Year 2 Day 195 So Long Ago…Continued

Yesterday, I wrote about Rich, who I shared a dorm room with me back in 1968 while attending the University of Michigan. He and his wife, Joy, had spent that afternoon visiting us at our campsite near Ann Arbor. It had been decades since we had last seen each other.

Today, the trip down memory lane continued as Mary Margaret and I decided to drive over to what is now the Colonial Square Cooperative to see where we lived during our first years of marriage. We were married in late August, 1971 and received notice the day of our wedding that our application for a townhouse unit had been accepted. Whoo Hoo! Just in the nick of time. We had submitted our application in March and it took this long for a unit to open up.  Prior to receiving that notice, we had no idea where we would be living once we returned to Ann Arbor after our 1 week camping honeymoon.

We had been turned down by the University of Michigan regarding our application for an apartment unit in their married housing complex. We were informed that we were not poor enough. Our net wealth at that time was -$500 and we were not poor enough. Go figure!

Fortunately, we were poor enough to qualify for a 2-bedroom, 960 square foot townhouse unit in the newly opened low-income housing project called Colonial Square, located a few miles to the southeast of the University. Our notice of acceptance stated that we could move in during the first week of September, which was perfect. We would be returning from our honeymoon then and would have a week to move in before classes would start at the University. Whew!

We lived in the Colonial Square townhouse for 4 years. Our rent started out at $78 a month for the two-bedroom unit, that was two stories and had a full basement.20180714_145426

The unit also opened up to beautiful woods just behind our backyard.20180714_145625

After our first year there, our rent went up to $99 a month because the rent amount was based on our income. Once we were married, we decided that since I was a year in front of Mary Margaret, I would go to school part time and work full time, while Mary Margaret would go to school full time and work part time. That way we would both graduate at the same time and generate some income to live on. Our first year we made a whopping $7,000 and which allowed us to squirrel away a few hundred bucks in the bank. At that income level, we were moved into a higher rent level.

We ended up living in our townhouse for 4 years. During that time, we both graduated and then continued on with our Masters Programs. In 1975, I was accepted into the University of Delaware’s Ph. D. program in Marine Engineering and that summer we moved out of our beloved townhouse.

When we went there today, we were surprised to see it how well it was kept up. It was no longer a government controlled low income housing project but was now a cooperative. I believe that means that it is owned by those who live there and the cooperative’s governing board sets the rent requirements.

After seeing the old place and reminiscing a bit, Mary Margaret and I then drove to Tanglewood, an upscale neighborhood that is just to the northeast of Ann Arbor. Less than a mile from UM’s East Medical Campus, it is a nestled in a forest and each house sits on ample sized lots. We had made arrangements to tour a house that is for sale. We met the real estate agent. After inspecting the house, we shared with her that we are interested in finding a house in the not too distant future. Since we had loved Ann Arbor, it was one of the places we wanted to check out.

This particular house met all of our criteria: it sat on a 1.7-acre lot, was on a quiet col de sac, had 4 bedrooms and 3.5 baths that would accommodate visits from our kids and grandkids, was spacious and comfortable (this particular house has 4,600 square feet) and was close to the University. This last criterion was important to us because the University has great plays, musicals, concerts, lectures and sporting events throughout the year. Plus, being a college town, it has a forward-thinking attitude and culture but accommodates more traditional and conservative values as well. As we discovered later, Ann Arbor has been also listed as one of the best communities in the US to retire to.

We enjoyed our house tour and, if we were actually ready to buy, this house would be at the top of the list. However, we still wish to inspect other areas of the US before we are ready to give up the nomadic lifestyle we are enjoying now.

Year 2 Day 194 So Long Ago …

One of the great things of living and traveling in an RV is that you get to visit with family and friends that you may not see very often. That certainly was the case today. Rich, who was my roommate at the dorm we lived in during our freshman year at the University of Michigan, way back in 1968, came to visit us at our campground here at the Brighton Recreational Area. He and his wife, Joy, arrived mid afternoon. As they stepped out of their SUV, I was surprised to see that they had hardly changed after all of these years.20180713_163944

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I had forgotten but Mary Margaret had remembered that the last time we visited was about 20 or so years ago when Rich came to visit us when we lived in Southern California. When she mentioned that, the memories of their visit flooded back to me and a smile crept on my face as I remembered the great time Rich and I had playing golf together.

Mary Margaret has such a great memory and has many times pulled facts out of the air of things we had done so many years ago that it just amazes me that she can retain such details from our very active and full lives. Another memory she shared with us was of when we visited Rich and Joy at their house way back in 1979 when we were living in Delaware. Rich, Joy and I were dumbfounded by the details she shared with us about that visit. As she went into the details of that visit, including how close in age our respective babies were, a dim memory of Rich and Joy’s house came back to me. We had spent only a couple of hours together as we were driving to Kalamazoo to visit with her parents. Nevertheless, that visit was well retained in Mary Margaret’s memory. Wow!

During Rich and Joy’s visit we had a chance to catch up a bit and share what we each had done with our lives. It was wonderful learning all of this and sharing old memories of time shared during university days. We also talked about the friends we had back then and what we know of them today.

Rich and I both grew up in the Okemos/East Lansing area but did not go to school together nor did we know each other. However, we did share friendships with some of the same people. Thus, Rich and I had a fun time rattling off names of old friends we shared and talking about what we knew of their current status. It was great!

Since we are staying in a recreational area, we all decided to continue our discussions while we explored the area around our campground a bit. We found a trail that led through the woods and followed it to Lake Bishop. During our hike, we continued talking about our pasts and friends we once knew. Along the way we stumbled on a fat green frog sitting on the trail. We learned that Joy has a hobby of learning about frogs as she gently moved the frog into the shade of the forest around us. She is a gentle soul who has spent her life caring for and helping others.

All too soon it was time for Rich and Joy to leave. We so enjoyed their visit and were sad to see them go. However, their short time with us was great and we greatly appreciated their making the effort to come and see us. We are hopeful that it will not be so long before we can get together again.

Year 2 Day 193 Michigan

 

It has been a couple of weeks since I have last written our blog. During that time Mary Margaret and I were back in the San Francisco Bay area attending a wedding and spending some time with our daughter, Heather, our son, David Paul, his wife Allison and their children. We had a wonderful time and filled our life’s bucket with tons of great memories. It was a hoot to see how much little Victoria and Molly are developing and growing. We look forward to November, when we will be driving LeuC down from the state of Washington, to spend Thanksgiving with them all.

We returned to where we left LeuC, just outside of Columbus, Ohio earlier this week and spent one night recovering from our overnight flight before bundling up LeuC Tuesday morning and striking out for Ann Arbor, Michigan. Most people don’t know that while I was not born in Michigan, I have spent more time living in Michigan than any other state. My parents brought their young family here in 1953, when I was three years old. We lived in the East Lansing/Okemos area for 15 years while my dad first went to Michigan State University to receive his Doctorate in Education Administration and then stayed as a professor there in their College of Education. He also served as Deputy Supernatant of Education for the State of Michigan in 1957. In 1968, when I graduated from high school, I went to the University of Michigan, where I received my BS and then MS degrees from the College of Engineering. During that time, I met and married my life mate.

Mary Margaret spent her formative years growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was born in South Bend, Indiana but her parents brought their young family up to Kalamazoo when she was eight, where her dad became a Professor of Library Science at Western Michigan University. Once she graduated from high school, she went of the University of Michigan in 1969 and entered its School of Nursing. She graduated there with a BS in Nursing and then started working there on her Master’s degree. Two years after arriving at University, she had swept me off my feet and we married while in school in 1971. Four years later, we moved to Delaware, where I eventually received my Ph.D. from the University of Delaware and Mary Margaret transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where she finished her Master’s in Nursing.

All told, I lived in Michigan for 22 years while Mary Margaret lived there for 16 years. We have been looking forward to returning “home” and rediscovering this wonderful state.

The drive up from Columbus was about 5 hours with stops to fuel up and then fill up with DEF. DEF stands for Diesel Emissions Fluid and is an aqueous solution made with 32.5% urea and 67.5% deionized water. It is sprayed into the catalytic convert to destroy the nitric oxide in engine gases before being released into the atmosphere. Before buying LeuC, with her 460-horsepower diesel engine, neither of us had ever heard of or knew of DEF. Now, about every 1000 miles, we have to refill our 7-gallon DEF holding tank. We can usually only get it at truck stops.
While in the Ann Arbor area, we will be staying at the Brighton Recreational Area, about 15 miles north of Ann Arbor. They have a campground set near Bishop Lake. It is not the nicest of campgrounds since it is really just a clearing cut out of the woods and does not offer much privacy. It reminds us of the campground we stayed at when we were in the Washington DC area20180713_101657

While here, we will be checking out houses since Ann Arbor is one of the areas in the US that we are considering moving to when we stop our nomadic days and sell LeuC. Since it is a very vibrant university town, it offers many things that we love: good plays and musicals, great sports, wonderful restaurants, a youthful attitude and lots of energy. Plus, compared to the housing and living costs we are used to after living in California for so long, it is a relative bargain. It’s only disadvantage is its winters, which can be cold and snow filled. That is something that we never missed in the remarkable climate we enjoyed in California.

While here, we will also be visited by our college friend, Rich. Rich and I were roommates in the dorm we shared during our Freshman year. He and his wife, Joy, will come on Friday to spend the afternoon and we are looking forward to their visit and catching up after all of these years.

Year 2 Days 177 and 178 Lazy River RV Park

We moved on this morning from our campsite in Fork Run State Park to Granville, Ohio.  Granville is about 30 miles west of Columbus, Ohio, where we will be catching a flight to San Francisco very early tomorrow morning.  We will be spending almost 2 weeks there to attend a family wedding and to be with our daughter, Heather, and son, David Paul and their respective families.  Thus, this blog may be the last until we return to LeuC .

 

We are actually in our very first RV Park.  We have tried very hard to avoid staying in RV parks because we much rather stay in state parks, national parks, county parks and regional parks or just plain dry dock somewhere out in the wilds.  They offer much more privacy, are in the middle of forests or in the middle of deserts and are a bit more rustic and scenic than commercial RV parks.  Most of the RV parks we have looked in to tend to pack the RVs very close to each other.  They seem to to cater to families with kids and present a more social, community type of environment.  That is great if you have kids or wish to play bingo, or other group games.  However, that is not what we are into.  Instead, we are trying to explore this country and meet people more one on one instead of in a group setting.

 

However, since we wanted a very secure and safe place to park and leave LeuC for 2 weeks, we opted to come to the Lazy River RV Park.  To give you a flavor of what a typical RV park looks like, I have posted the following photos.

As you can see,  it appears to be a very nice park, with a nice gym set, a fancy climbing area and even a zip line.  There is also a huge swimming pool, a water fountain area that the kids can run through and a snack bar that serves hot dogs, burgers, ice cream cones, and a wide assortment of candy and pop.

 

If you look at the picture of our site with LeuC, you see the cheek to jowl spacing of the RVs behind us.  Where we are, there is nobody currently near us because these sites do not have a sewer hookup  like the other sites and therefore you located in this park caters just to the weekend crowd.  We are told that all of the empty sites next to us will be packed this weekend.  We are glad we will be missing that!

 

I am posting this blog in a hurry because we need to pack for our trip.  We leave at 4 AM tomorrow and there will not be time to blog then.  However, while we wait at the airport, I will try to post pictures of our last campsite and the areas I explored.  I was not able to do that previously because of the poor Internet we had. Hasta la vista, Baby!

Year 2 Day 176 Ohio’s Hill Country

 

Yesterday, I wrote about the campground where we are currently staying at, Fork Run State Park.  While it is an aged park that could greatly benefit from some tender loving care, it is situated in a very beautiful area.  Called the Ohio Hill Country, it is actually on the edge of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world: the Appalachian Mountains.  When they first formed, approximately 500 million years ago, they reached higher than today’s European Alps and the Rocky Mountains.   Over hundreds of millions of years, wind and water erosion has reduced this once rugged mountain range, which spans from Labrador, Canada to Alabama, to its more modest heights.  Its tallest peak is in North Carolina, Mt. Mitchell, and stands at 6,684 feet.  Most of the highest elevations that we drove across in Pennsylvania and West Virginia peaked in the 3,000 to 4,000-foot range.

 

Part of the geologic process that formed these mountains, also formed what is now called Ohio’s Hill Country.  It is actually part of the western flank of the Appalachian Mountains which is called the Appalachian Plateau.   At one time this land was relatively flat and lay on the bottom of the ocean.  As volcanic and plate tectonic activity began up-heaving the ocean floor, the sandy bottom metamorphosed into sandstone.  As the seafloor continued to rise, lagoons, swamps and bogs formed along the shores of the uplifted land, trapping and burying the remains of vegetation in silt and mud  that washed down from the growing mountains.  As uplifting continued, these deposits were compressed by the weight of overlying sediments and formed oil and coal fields.

 

During the last few hundreds of thousands of years, in which periods of glaciation dominated,  thick and massive glaciers moved south from the Canadian Shield and pushed over the flat lands of northern Ohio, they were bounded by this Appalachian Plateau.  With global warming, the glaciers’ movements to the south gradually stopped and began retreating.  Massive glacial melting resulted which formed rivers and streams that cut through the sandstone leaving behind odd shaped caves and cliff formations.

 

Over these ice ages, with multiple glaciers coming and going, the etched plateau lost its topsoil making the land mostly unsuitable for farming except for a few river valleys that collected the silt washing off the hillsides.  The hill tops were just to rocky to support farming.

 

In some areas this turbulent erosion exposed rich iron, coal and oil deposits that were heavily exploited in the 1800s and 1900s.  Communities sprung up around these deposits and the land was stripped of trees to fire the ovens used to produce iron ore.  In some areas the land was stripped to reach shallow veins of coal that could be removed without digging deep coal mines.  The landscape became dotted with oil rigs pumping up oil and gas with over 200,000 wells being drilled.  Since 1860, Ohio’s oil and gas fields have produced over 1 billion barrels of oil and over 9 trillion cubic feet of gas. Such industrial, and extraction activities required laborers in large numbers to work the mines, run the blast furnaces, harvest the trees to fire the furnaces and later to dig for coal and drill for oil.

 

In time these resources were used up and the industries that grew up around them moved on.  The workers that supported these industries were left without employment and most left in search of work elsewhere.  Those that could eke out an existence, remained, but this area of the state is still depressed due to restricted employment opportunities.  In the later half of the 1900s the state stepped in and bought much of the abandoned land that would become state parks and forests such as our Fork Run State Park.  The stripped forests have regrown with much of the Ohio Hill Country now once again covered in thick forests of Ash, Hickory, Oaks and other hardwoods.