First Short Hike in Wisconsin in Decades

We used our iPhones to find a close park with trails — a nice break from nearly three weeks of unpacking boxes and fixing up the house to standard. We settled on Whitnall, a Milwaukee county park about 10 minutes from our house. The Wehr trail was not what we were heading for, but this particular park is rather huge, so perhaps that other trail is somewhere else in the park. The park also very popular.

They were signs in English and Spanish to wear masks while hiking. But Jeff and I were the only two who actually did.

Even though we ran into many people — about 20 during the hour hike — we were also blessed to see a mallard duck below the waterfall with his harem of five, then two doe, and two buck. Something stirred inside of Wisconsin-born Jeff when he saw the eight-point buck, mid November, in the woods.

Too far away for a clear (photo) shot of this doe who blends so splendidly in the fall woods and field.
One side trail was a prairie trail.
There were several boardwalks over marshy areas.
It reminded me of Michigan trails.
Mostly the trail was wood chips
through a young forest.
We believe the trail went around this lake but there were several side trails. We weren’t sure where we were going without a map.
We found one online after we got home.

Well… that was a nice little break. Now back to unpacking and fixing up this house.

Bittersweet parting and sweet new retirement chapter

Last Sunday was Jeff’s last time preaching as an installed of pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Battle Creek. For safety reasons, we met at a pavilion at Binder Park Zoo.

It was so wonderful to see so many people. This pandemic has been hard on so many people. 2020 was supposed to be a year of us getting together with friends we’ve made over the past 16 years living in Michigan, and having long, bittersweet goodbyes. The COVID-19 pandemic changed all that. WithPeople staying away from a group of people in a worship service because of the pandemic – even outdoors – and everyone else who came, wearing masks, Jeff wanted the photo directory to recall faces. A new one was planned this past spring to replace the 2013 directory. COVID-19 change that plan as well.

For me, it was like looking at faces pass on an Amtrak train. Goodbye. Goodbye. Wave. We’ll miss you so! Farewell. God bless.

Even some former neighbors (pre-Turkeyville) came to bid us farewell.

A tearful 16-year video created by Cathy L. What memories you all have given us. We also have a huge decorated album filled with cards and notes, along with a dozen or so given that day.

After service was a box lunch, but it was chilly enough that only a handful stayed to eat at the pavillion.

We are reading the cards a few at a time because it’s quite emotional for us. Sometimes I have to hand some to Jeff to read aloud because I’m too choked up. Thank you all so much for a wonderful send off and amazing friendships made over the past 16 years. We love you.

(Posted from our son’s house, where there is Internet.)

Last Trip to Ionia State Recreation Area

With only two weeks left, with two days off work before Jeff retires and us leaving Michigan as residents, what was one place we hadn’t said goodbye to? Ionia State Recreation Area — between Lansing and Grand Rapids, and about an hour north from both Battle Creek where we lived for 16 years and Camp Turkeyville where we presently live in an RV.

I don’t know why this particular park sees such little use. It’s gorgeous, wooded, with lakes and creeks, hills and ravines. Not many people there, at least the times we choose to go. Except, mind that there are hunters, so wear orange. Last Friday, we went. God did not disappoint. Gorgeous autumn. I shall let a few pictures of the park speak for themselves.

Something which always amazes us is to have visited a place so many times, and then discover something new there. I asked Jeff to stop the van so I could get a photo of a creek. He pulled into a tiny gravel parking area. I took the shot I wanted, but between the trees, noticed a lake you can’t see from the road. New place! We hiked down to it.

We assumed the trail went around the lake. Wrong. At least I believe we are wrong. We followed it up the hill, overlooking the small lake. Spectacular.

As the sky darkened and moved toward us, we made a last stop at a vault toilet, and then headed out as it was starting to sprinkle on us. Shortly thereafter, it slushed on our windshield. And then, we drove southward into the sunshine.

It was a fantastic last trip to Ionia State Recreation Area. I know there are woods and lakes in Wisconsin we shall be able to explore. I look forward to experiencing more of God’s great creation.

The start of a new era — living in Wisconsin, Again

Our new residence

We moved into our house in Wisconsin two weeks ago, after spending 16 wonderful years in Michigan. We plan on spending the next 30 years or more in this house — at least that is how long our mortgage loan is. We’ve never been able to pay off a mortgage loan in the past. We hope to this time, and also expect this to be a wonderful place to grow old in.

Our neighborhood is nice. Quiet. For the most part. The dress is casual. By that I mean I’ve seen 6 different neighbors from 5 homes walk about outside in robe or pajama bottoms, even engage in conversation with me. At first we thought of Arthur from Hitchhiker’s Guide, but then more and more Arthurs popped up. Guess I’ll have to go sleepwear shopping soon.

But the very best part of being here is that it is only 15 minutes from family. (Although, one son is still down in sunny, warm Arizona. He will get to enjoy winters when he comes at Christmas.)

Our living room before the movers came
The living room after the movers came

We honestly did a lot of downsizing before moving. And as you can see, we have our wicker furniture from our Michigan three season room as our living room furniture. For now. That is because we gave away all of our living room furniture. (You may or may not see another photo of our living room after it is livable, but maybe it fits the casual nature of this neighborhood.)

We lasted 2 1/2 months without Internet at Turkeyville, Michigan. And it seems that the lack of Internet accessibility has followed us here to Wisconsin. We have tried since house closing on September 8 to get Internet connected to our new house. You would think that being just a few blocks from Milwaukee, that access would be simple. It’s just one of those challenges we face as retirees. At least at our son’s house we can use his Internet service. But at 9:20 on November 2…internet lives! Now for a washing machine which works. I have 8 loads ready to go, while waiting for a replacement for the lemon one we got from Home Depot last week. (Water doesn’t drain.) I don’t suppose the bouncing off the truck as it was delivered helped. I just look forward to clean…everything. Oh, the trials of First World living. I can, however, use our son’s machine, but I’d rather play with the kiddos than do chores.

We’ve only been to one city park, about a mile from us.

Not like the woodsy Michigan trails we’ve loved. But there are state parks here, too.

So many new things to experience, to explore, to be and become in our new state. And, please do know that any friend is welcome to visit us anytime.

Living in an RV, part 7 — my pros and cons

This will be our last week in our temporary RV housing between selling our house in Michigan and buying one in Wisconsin. I never thought I’d be spending my 70th birthday as “homeless”. We are extremely grateful to our friends who loaned us the use of their RV during this transition. Thank you! Thank you! All during a pandemic.

Jeff and the Turkeys in Turkeyville

Jeff and I had never spent even one night in an RV before moving into this. What I have learned after 9 weeks (with one more to go) of living in a 25 foot trailer in a trailer park:

We had thought that 25 feet was a sufficiently large RV. It is the minimum footage allowed at Turkeyville. We were surrounded by monsters.

I can certainly deal with living small. We have 4 spoons, 4 forks, and 4 knives. With no dishwasher, the few dishes we do have are washed after each meal. Our broom closet is the space behind the bedroom door which is left open all the time, hiding the broom, etc. My underwear and socks are in one shoebox; my 5 shirts are rolled up in another shoebox; laundry is every 4 days.

There is a difference in RV use people. Some are campers and enjoy their time in state parks around a campfire with friends and family. These are the weekenders that fill up every site at our RV park at Camp Turkeyville. Noisy, but happy noises.

Friends and S’mores

Some use their RV or mobile home as a summer cottage, renting a site for the season; some rarely even visiting their RV during the 9 weeks we’ve been there.

Others, like us, use an RV or mobile home as a transitory or even permanent place to live. Some are retired, some go to work every day, like Jeff.

Also, golf carts! My goodness, but RV people love their golf carts.

A lot of the time, people just ride around the campground area. Our first Saturday evening there, they had a golf cart parade, with people following in line, going around in circles on the gravel roads, yelling and clapping and waving and shouting “parade!”

One of the RV Groups which came on a Weekend

Also, Jeff and I are one of the 2% of RV people who do not own one or more dogs. And 99% of those RV owners are responsible and pick up after their dogs, keep them leashed, and take them for walks. We’re presently next to a 1%er.

RV parks are known for additional activities. Camp Turkeyville has a swimming pool, a catch and release fishing pond, a community building, horseshoe pit, tetherball, basketball court, gaga ball, and sand volleyball area with net. But during a pandemic, we only use the laundromat.

And stunt plane fly-overs

It also celebrates Halloween all month long. There’s a corn maze, hay rides, and many other activities. October is nuts. People decorate their RVs, mobile homes, and golf carts.

There is a trick-or-treat night with adults as well as children in costume. It is interesting to observe. But unfortunately, no one in the park wears a mask unless it’s part of their costume.

RV living: I would prefer to have space to stretch my arms above my head, or be able to look out a window without sitting down, and especially be on solid ground instead of in a vehicle that shakes with the wind, and vibrates water rings in cups with every step. I look forward to a garage, and van floor mats not covered with gravel. I also look forward to having heat which we don’t need to refill in tanks, whenever they empty, which could happen in the middle of the night. Especially, most especially, I look forward to having Internet available 24-7, and having a computer to use vs iPhone, typing by thumb.

But, what an experience this has been! I would have never dreamed of getting so many characters to use for future fictional characters, nor situations to use for plot lines. Now on to the closing of an era — to bundle up at nights in our sleeping bags over the blankets, bid farewells to dear friends without hugging, head to Wisconsin, unpack all the stuff in our new house, and start writing.

Fare thee well, turkeys of Turkeyville.

Last trip to Michigan west coast as MI residences.

Camp Pilgrim Haven

Last Friday, Jeff and I took our last trip to Michigan’s west coast as residents of Michigan. I wanted to return to the Saugatuck area, because I had not been there in a long time. It was also the place where my first book was set.

We started north of Saugatuck, at Saugatuck State Park. It was crazy busy. There were only two parking spots left in the parking lot. A few people were wearing masks but certainly not the majority. We used the bathrooms, and decided to leave. It was difficult getting out of the parking spot, because people kept walking and not letting us go through. Too bad.

This is five groups of people.

We decided to pass the quaint and beautiful little town of Saugatuck for a lady just south of it: Douglas!

Again, because it featured in my first book, I wanted to hike to the top of Mount Baldy.

The view of the 302 steps

The last time I climbed this, I rested a couple times. Or three. I was surprised at how out of shape I was. Rested often. But we did make it to the top. It was well worth the legs turning into jelly.

I was thankful that my “A” tree was still standing. Again, this particular tree at the top of Mount Baldy, is featured in my book The Town That Disappeared. I was glad to see it standing and to say goodbye to it.

From Mount Baldy, we descended the stairs and drove around to Oval Beach. The banner at the top of my website shows a shot of the original pilings where the Kalamazoo River used to drain into Lake Michigan.

After a lovely time listening to the waves on the sandy shore, we headed further south to Camp Pilgrim Haven, between South Haven and Van Buren State Park.

We only recently discovered this little gem. And as expected, it was not crowded like the other places. The photo at the top of this blog post was taken there. And here are a couple more shots:

It was all together a lovely day. It is pretty weather. Gorgeous country. Lovely water. I shall sure miss the West Coast of Michigan.

Living in an RV, part 6: Bogs, Logs, and Fog — The Country Road to Town

In our transition between selling our Michigan house in July and living in the house we bought for after retirement in Wisconsin in November, we are living in a borrowed RV.

The 20-minute drive between the RV park and town is not unpleasant. It is your quintessential Michigan countryside.

There are hills, ponds and bogs.

There are soybean and corn fields, and nice, big red barns.

Much of the shoulderless road is tree-lined, allowing gorgeous travel through tree tunnels. I do look forward in the next couple of weeks when the trees will display their fall colors for us.

And, naturally, on a wooded country road, if a tree falls there are sometimes branches or logs one must swerve around near to or onto the road.

You must be careful to drive more slowly in the nighttime or in fog. As much as the narrow country road is stunningly interesting, you do not want to go off it. One of the ponds along the route has an algae-covered car tire sticking out of it — a warning to other careless drivers.

There is even a haunted house along the way, hidden among the trees, not far from the road. It is easy to miss, draped in tree branches. I will not show you a picture of it. The ghosts may come after me for exposing them.

I do look forward to Jeff’s retirement and living near our grandchildren. I will miss the Michigan countryside and the beautiful sunsets we see in this open space.

Living in an RV, part five

(Six weeks down; three weeks to go.)

We are very grateful to have shelter during our transition for moving from Michigan to Wisconsin. We are grateful for generous friends lending us their RV for this in-between-time. Thank you, dear friends. Also been some families who have provided meals for us while living in an RV. Thank you, too, dear friends.

Last week we did a quick trip to Wisconsin to move our furniture and boxes into the house we bought. At first I was delighted to use toilets that had more than 2” of water in them, like in an RV. But after a while, using so much water to flush seemed almost obscene. The same with the shower. In the RV, the used shower water becomes gray water, and must be dumped every two days. Therefore, to make sure the RV tank does not fill and overflow, we turn off the water in the shower when not rinsing off ourselves.

It’s still difficult to get used to turning on lights from the switches on the ceiling, and looking into LDS lights as we do so.

We have always been nervous about the use of propane, and how long the tanks last. However, we need propane for heat, and October is a good month to have heat turned on.

Before moving into the RV, I was concerned about meal preparations. We do have a stove and oven with propane, but we prefer using electrical electricalmicrowave or crockpot. We had a toaster oven for a while, but decided to no longer use it, because when any other electrical item was on, like the AC, it would turn off our power to the RV.

Here in our “living room”, you can see the heat vent on the floor. All the heat vents are on the floor. The one in the bedroom is under Jeff’s end of the bed. He does not tuck in the sheets at his feet. Therefore, it blows up and warms his toes in the night. He worries most about the propane running out in the middle of a cold night, then having to go outside and change it to the second tank. but we still don’t know how much is in either tank.

Getting used to life in an RV has been quite the experience for Jeff and me, who’s never spent a night in one before this.

Adapting to the trailer has been interesting, and no Internet service has been horrible. But I find our neighbors in the park interesting to observe. The drive through Michigan countryside into town is beautiful. The sunsets and sunrises at the park are stunning. And as friends continue to remind me, all this (temporary) experience is great fodder for future stories.

A turkey vulture at Turkeyville

Last trip to Whitford Lake, Fort Custer recreation area

Fort Custer recreation area, a.k.a. Fort Custer State Park, near Battle Creek, has been a wonderful and very close wooded and lake-filled place for Jeff and I to hike.

A couple of weeks ago it took us 50 minutes to reach that place vs 20 from our old house. We had not hiked around Whitford Lake in two or three years, choosing other trails instead. There were very many changes, but one thing I noticed was How surprised I was at how young and small the tree trunks were (for the most part). I just did not remember them being that young.

We were able to see for white swans in the distance on a neighboring lake. We have seen up to 16 swans on that lake in the past.

The trail was meadow-y, wet mud, sandy, and dried dirt. For the most part this was good because they were still due on the grass when we started the hike.

It was a little sad for both of us to realize we may not take this particular trail again. However we do look forward to the many trails we will experience next winter and following in Wisconsin.

Living in an RV park, part four

As promised, this post is about the characters in an RV park.

When we first had the trailer moved into our site, it didn’t take long to get things organized, because there weren’t many spaces to store things.

Jeff used the laptop to do work in the RV, as long as it did not require Internet connection, because even though they said it was there, it rather escaped us. in the meantime I became a people watcher.

We expected people using RVs to come and go as they did during our tent camping. We discovered this is may be common on weekends, but there is so much more. Some people plant their RVs at a site in the park, where they can use it like a summer cabin all season long. In the past seven weeks I have seen some trailers at which I have not seen any human occupancy. One man parked at the site next to us, had a job teaching during the week for three weeks. He would go home to his family on weekends.

There are also several of us at this particular RV park who have sold our houses in town, and waiting to move into our next house. Then there are some people I have met who also sold their house, bought a humongous motorhome, and never plan on living in another house again. It takes all sorts. It takes all sorts.

Only a handful of people in this RV park wear masks. The children are mostly all free range children.our RV site backs up next to the playground. It is fun to listen to the children talk and play when they arrive on the weekends.

I started to learn the names of several people at the park. But before that happened, I gave them names like I would characters in my fiction books. They were “the pink ladies”. Two women who have a seasonal RV there, who always wear pink. Always. There is a “Radio Roger”, who barreled into the site across the road from us, and turned on his radio loud enough to be heard over the power tools he was using for his porch, etc. there is the family who had a site on the other side of the playground from us who had a trailer about our size of RV. They were two adults and six children under seven years old. The children always eat at the picnic table outside while the adults assumedly ate inside. “Panama Jack” I so dubbed because he wears a white Panama hat as he goes around every morning picking up the garbage. Ironically, his name is rather close to what I called him. There is the younger goth couple who occasionally will bring a third young woman to their RV. I have never seen any of these third women leave. There is the very “Jolly Molly” Who invited us to their trailer as we walked past to have drinks and food. She was quite happily plastered, and we were sure she was a big hugger.

Well. Even though I cannot write at the moment, there are more characters and intrigue coming, I am sure, all for future stories.