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.

Living in an RV park, part three

Again, Jeff and I have been used to camping in a tent. In fact we preferred the tent over staying in hotels because our tent was often times cleaner, and smelled like a Carlsons and not other weird stuff.

Another thing about tent camping is that we would use it just to sleep in and eat at the picnic table and then travel, explore, and play. but living in this RV is our temporary shelter before Jeffrey tires at the end of October. In it we eat, sleep, and work, so it is nothing like the use of a tent while camping.

However, with Friday night’s frost, we did experience a new level of RV living. Chilling. We have camped in a tent when there has been frost on the ground, and even snow, but in the tent situation we were just pack it up, got into a warm car, and went to the next destination. Frost in an RV, especially one owned by someone else, means a bit of worry about freezing the lines. It’s also cold. Plus, all our winter clothes are packed up and stored somewhere in Kalamazoo until we move out of state. Chilling.

Jeff (thank you, Jeff) takes care of the gray and black water tanks every two days. I think this fact by itself has cured us of getting an RV. Because: yuck.

Living small is not too very hard. My dresser clothing contents are above my bed pillow.My socks and underwear are in one shoebox I can slide out. My short sleeved summer shirts are in another shoe box I can slide out. I have three turtleneck shirts and two sweatshirts in a shopping bag at the floor of my 10-hangar closet. I have no idea where I would store a winter coat.

I also quit buying two for the price of one foods, or larger food items, because they were a much better price than the small items. There simply is no space for excess pantry. No hoarding allowed.This is good training for something or other. I do see it as a new discipline. I don’t know for what, though.

Other RV Living posts I can write on deal with the abundance of characters in an RV park, and various events going on in an RV park. Until then…

RV Living, Part Two (TMI)

We are in the middle one.

We are starting on week four of living in an RV — a space graciously provided by friends for the time between selling MI house and buying/moving to our WI house, with retirement in between.

Living small is not a problem. Living in close quarters with my husband is not a problem. Going to a laundromat every four days is not a problem. Cooking meals in a microwave and a small appetizer crockpot is not a problem. Having very close, and rotating neighbors is not a problem.

The three biggest problems of living in an RV for me are: 1) sleeping in a cave, as our grandson aptly called it;

2) vibrations throughout the RV at every step taken; and 3) no Internet. (A fourth might be the awkward-yucky job of draining the gray water and black water every two days. Bless his heart, Jeffrey handles that; literally.)

The RV park where we are staying advertises Internet available. We were told it is spotty especially on weekends when lots of children are streaming movies. But we can’t stream movies, and found it mostly impossible to connect to even during the week.

Mostly, I get a circle going round and round showing me my phone is trying to connect to the Internet. Once in a while, I get the politenotice: “No Internet connection. Please try again.” Even when I am in the community building where the cell phone tower is, it often is dysfunctional.

We also depended on the church Internet. In order for Jeff to do his sermons he uses the Internet for many resources. I would go in to town with Jeff to use the church’s Internet, but it went from unreliable, to available only in a hallway to none at all within a week. The none at all it was caused from a violent storm which turned off the fuse box. now the single room of the entire building which is semidependable Internet is the library. Jeff also must do all his committee zoom meetings at church, too. At least it’s a pretty 20-minute drive over Michigan countryside.

No email, no text messages, no iPhone updates, no Facebook (I can sometimes go several days seen only gray squares for pictures with no updates in that time.) No news apps (I have 4), no YouTube, Netflix, Acorn, BritBox, or other streamed channels to watch, no iPhone games except a couple basics, no Goodreads, no weather channel, no checking my bank account or PayPal via the iPhone apps, and only the occasional updates to my iPhone, with daily messages saying they were unable to update my iPhone at the schedule 5 AM times. I also cannot send photos or text messages to my husband standing next to me at the Community Building.

I could do some of the above, including FaceTime with the grandkids, if I pay for extra cellular data.

I am, however, able to read the Kindle books and Hoopla I have downloaded earlier, as well as write on the notepad, but writing on the notepad has caused my right hand to go numb.

To communicate with others, I can actually: 1) call; 2) write and post a letter; or 3) visit in person when the van is available.

I feel like I am on a deserted island and have run out of a supply of empty bottles with no paper to write on.

Some of you might be saying, “oh, that sounds so restful. And who wants to listen to all that bad news, anyway? And how great it is to get away from electronic devices.”

I do agree that all that would be wonderful, IF it were planned. But when you expect to have things available daily, to do work or just be able to communicate, and they simply are not available, it takes for some adjustment. We are adjusting.

The two nicest things about living in the RV are: 1) being so close to my husband; and 2) the sunsets.

Eight more weeks to go.

Life in an RV park

My husband and I are presently homeless. That is to say, we are between having sold our house here in battle Creek and buying another house in Wisconsin after Jeff retires in order to be close to our grandchildren. All during a pandemic! What a year. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, his last year of retirement. We envisioned parties year long. Instead, there is isolation and social distancing.

In the meantime, friends have loaned us their 25’ RV trailer for shelter. We have been tent campers, and backpackers, but spending one night in an RV, let alone 2-1/2 months, was a new adventure for us.

We originally thought it would be very much like camping, since we’ve seen many RVs at state park campgrounds. We also figured that we would be one of the few people living long-term in an site RV. We were also thinking that we would be the only car or van at the park which would be unable to move the RV. And lastly we thought a 25’ RV was huge. We also thought that spotty Internet connection at the park was accurate. Ha on us. None of those are true.

So what is it like to live in this RV in this RV park at Camp Turkeyville, Marshall, Michigan?

Living in such close proximity to each other is not a problem for Jeff and me. Perhaps this is because we’ve spent so little actual time together in our 42 years of marriage because of his demanding work, with one day off a week. But making our way sidestepping around the bed, or not being able to bend over in the shower, or choosing which 10 clothing items get a hanger preference are a few of the unique things of RV life.

The airplane toilet with flush-pedal-on-the-floor took some getting used to. And bless Jeff’s heart, he is the one who drains the gray and black tanks. Another new experience.

Although, when he gave himself a reminder on his iPhone to drain the the gray water, the recording came back to “drain the Great Lake Lakes”.

People are not really camping here. In the past two weeks, there has only been one fire in a fire pit of our close 50/300 neighbors. Many people use their RV site as a summer cabin, paying for the season. There is a swimming pool at the park. Kids tend fill the pool on the weekends, or free range children buzz around The gravel roads on their bicycles. And golf carts. So many people have golf carts. Unexpected. People also use their RV as a place to stay while working away from home, like the man in the huge RV next to us with five slide outs, who works in construction. His family came to visit once for a few days.

There are also five other sites used by people who are between houses like we are.

A day off of work and a full day of thunderstorms, with no Internet to stream movies, makes for an interesting challenge, in a 25’ RV. This is nothing like we imagined it would be like, living in an RV park.Worse is a night of thunderstorm warnings – lightening, winds, hail, rain – with the trailer jiggling all over and no place to go.

Camp Turkeyville itself, though, has interesting nuances. Turkeyville is a restaurant that used to be a farm. The menu is all turkey. It also has a dinner theater. It’s a fun place to visit. There are also a few cows a donkey a small herd of goats and of course a flock of turkeys. The Mid Michigan railroad club also has a train track through part of the area. There is a small pond where children can catch and release fish, as well as one woman who rides in her golf cart with her little purse dog to watch the sunrise each morning over the pond.

There are lots of other interesting things living in an RV. Perhaps another blog post.

I imagine just when we will feel we are getting used to living tiny, Jeff will retire, and afterwards off we go to live in a real house once again, which shall seem huge!

Triple Walk Day

Besides regular work activities, and moving an entire household, Jeff actually managed to take his normal Friday day off last week. A welcomed change.

We headed first to grievers natural area. We’d only approached it from the west till now. But in our new location, we are north of it. We ended up exploring without map or GPS, and traveled over scenic Michigan countryside to reach the park hoping for a lovely Woodland hike. We were not disappointed.

The area is a delightful example of Michigan water and Marshland as well.

Although there are many cross-secting loops in this particular nature area, we had to turn back because of fallen trees a couple times.

I spotted some Indian pipe weed, but did not venture closer for a better photo, because it was surrounded by poison ivy.

After this hike drove past the Calhoun County Fairgrounds. This was the year we were planning on attending. This is the first year since 1834 that it has been closed. Stupid coronavirus.

On to the Brook’s Nature Area to the east of Marshall. We only walked about 20 minutes along the meadow trail because it was so hot. We were not prepared for a heated walk, and had brought little water, no regular hat to protect from the sun, and no wet bandanna to tie around my neck. Hot!!!

In the evening we did a circle around the entire RV park. The smallest size of RV allowed in the park is 25 feet; the one loaned to us is 25 feet. It is adequate for us in this temporary situation, and for which we are quite grateful to have, but it is one of the smallest RVs there. Huge RVs!

Interesting change of environment, and of activities, for these pre-retirement days.

Pandemic Getaway to Michigan’s West Coast

The pandemic’s still going strong. Jeff still gets one day off of work (usually) each week. We are so centrally located in Michigan that, depending on weather, there are many wonderful places we can go for a day’s getaway. Now, with Jeff retiring this fall, the crunch is coming along with our plans to move to Wisconsin to be near most of our family. Top on our list for a place to revisit before we leave was the South Haven area on Michigan’s West Coast. Even the 90-minute drive to the water and woods and sand is enjoyable (especially once off of I-94). Roadside flora included white queen ann’s lace, orange day lilies, red sumac, brown cattails, and purple and blue flowers I could name if my wildflower books weren’t all packed up.

First stop on the coast was at familiar Van Buren State Park. We checked out the campground just because we do that. In all our visits, we have never-ever seen it as crowded. Mostly there were very large RVs, making the narrow camp roads filled with pickups to move those large homes, more narrow. We were flabbergasted. And claustrophobic. Plus, we only saw two people wearing masks, even around the bathrooms where six foot distancing cannot be maintained. People.

On to the main beach entrance with flush toilets and vending machines and playground. Last we were there, Lake Michigan had eroded a lot of the beach and beach trail. Beach access was closed. The sidewalk was a crumbled mess, with almost a sidwalk-width of beach. Yes, the sign read no beach access, but it didn’t stop people from accessing it. People.

We still got in a little bit of a sand climb while there onto the wood-covered dunes.

 

Second stop. I’d recently read about a little known public beach between Van Buren State Park and South Haven and thought it would be fun to check it out. WHY hadn’t I heard of Pilgrim Haven Natural Area over our visits once or twice a year during the past sixteen years? My guess is that under normal circumstances, this place would be pretty much void of people. The shore was rocky (only a few miles north of Van Buren), and rock hunters were out. We walked the short length of beachfront, and then discovered a stream with a bridge.

 

Butterflies! Oh, my. There were many butterflies around this stream. I tried to capture them in photo, but failed. We circled through the woods and back to the parking lot. It was a short but sweet hike.

 

Along the parking lot were more wildflowers, and a pretty little monarch to make my day.

 

On to the mandatory DeGrandchamp Blueberry Farm shop.

 

It was a very short visit because there were many people inside, and a long line waiting to purchase items. Everyone was masked, but most people do not know how far six feet is. We left quickly without buying a single blueberry anything.

 

On to South Haven, which looked like a normal July day, pre-pandemic. About one in 200 people wore a mask. As people walked everywhere, we decided to eat our picnic lunch inside the van and watch the people and boats go by.

 

There’s a new Splash Pad for children at the base of the lighthouse pier. It looked rather fun.

 

The beach was also barricaded off. It had already eroded a lot over the past couple years, but what was left was now halved. We didn’t get out of the van to see how crowded it was, but there were no parking spots available, and many umbrellas up.

 

To close our west coast trip, we stopped at a farm market where only one other customer lingered. We lingered long, and bought much. All the fruits and vegetables looked great. Among other things, we bought a blueberry pie, and cherries from Traverse City, and apple cider from their own farm (leftover from last fall, but we had some last fall, too).

As we pulled into our neighborhood, we got word that the paperwork from our house buyers was done. Jeff turned to me and said, “We’re not going home. We’re going to our rental.”

And so begins our next stage of pre-retirement.

(Taken from the front porch of our rental property on Friday evening.)

The Conclusion of an Era

Sixteen years ago, Jeff accepted a call to come to Battle Creek, Michigan in the midst of a thunderstorm. Last Sunday, in the middle of a pandemic, the congregation agreed to dissolve the relationship so he could retire, and move near family living out of state. It thunderstormed immediately after the meeting.

Sixteen years. Sixteen good years. Sixteen years when we came to call many people in this congregation friends — more so than in any other congregation. Leaving is bitter-sweet.

We met in the parking lot, attempting social distancing. It was the first time many of us had seen each other in four months.

Susie asked if we would stay if she promised Jeff an unlimited supply of chocolate chip cookies. Tempting. She makes a mean batch of cookies.

The conclusion of this era won’t be completed until the end of October. So we have more time for good-byes. Under normal circumstances, we’d be partying the next few months with friends. However, there is nothing normal about a pandemic.

Stay healthy. Stay true. We will miss you terribly. We travel new seas. But we will meet again. Jesus promised.

Pandemic 4th of July Weekend

For Jeff’s day off (day before and part of day after, although he still worked all three days), we headed to Wisconsin, where we have family, and where we plan to retire in the fall.

It was our first time traveling outside of our county since the 3rd of March. We were somewhat nervous, doing so with Covid-19 cases all over the place, but, hey! we’d spent the night in a hotel during our power outage last month! And we’ve even started doing our own grocery shopping, still before 7AM.

Some highlights (disclaimer: I rarely show family photos on FB):

Sparklers with the grandkids who used them to cast Harry Potter spells. And a few store-bought crackly fireworks.

Getting to see our AZ son, last seen over Christmas break.

Uncle’s gift of walkie talkies, and watching the three grands follow after each other all around the house one behind the other, speaking into, and answering each other, through them, before they figured out they didn’t have to see each other to be heard.

Cheering on the 8-year-old each time she caught the frisbee tossed to her by Grandad.

The grandboy, after seeing his first firefly caught by Mom, announced, “I will call him Fred.” And, as we all know, once you know someone’s name, he is thereafter easily distinguished from all his relatives and friends.

Adult time: Beer tasting and watching “Hamilton”.

Realizing it’s a house seller’s market in Wisconsin, with houses getting contracted within hours of being listed. Also realizing how much I like our clean and maintained and open present house in Michigan.

Missing family before we even said good-bye.

Daring to stop at rest area oasis, and bathing afterwards in the van with hand sanitizer. There may have been few people there, but most didn’t wear masks, nor practiced social distancing.

Wondering if police were showing the public what defunding would look like, with one police car seen while we traveled through three states, and that at an accident. (We saw three others traveling through Michigan.) It was a scary and dangerous ride home with all the weavers and speeders, and very few vehicles with working blinkers.

Public fireworks were canceled this weekend all across the nation. We got home well before neighbors started shooting off illegal fireworks in a 360° circle around our house. Noisy, like at a free for all rifle firing range. Exciting. Pretty. Nerve-wracking.

Happy to see family. Glad to be safely home.

God bless us, every one.

Scenic North Country Trail – Last Day of Spring

Last Friday, I woke at 5:30 and Jeff at 6. We decided since it was his day off work, and because the temperature was going to soar into the 90’s, we’d get ready and go for an early morning hike – on the last day of spring. We prepared our house for a showing, just in case we were called for one while we were gone, and then left the house by 8:00.

Our target hiking trail for the day was the Scenic North Country Trail near Fort Custer State Park, about 20 minutes from our house. No cars were in the “parking lot” – a dirt widening in the road, enough for 2-3 cars.

So off we went into the dry-dry woods, surrounded by hundreds of mosquitoes who enjoyed our company.

When we came to a large fallen tree over the trail, I was thinking about turning around, and regrettably looked behind from where we had come, for it was too early to quit. When I turned back to Jeff, he already was sitting on it, swinging one leg over that supposed deterrent. The mosquitoes encouraged me to quickly follow suit.

At one point Jeff stopped to look at a flower and asked me what it is. I know the names of many wildflowers, but didn’t for that one. We’d brought a wildflower guide, but again with the mosquitoes who really-really wanted us to stop long enough to land thickly upon the only moist things for a long ways. So we decided to look it up later. But what we did identify, and moved along too swiftly to take photos, were daisies, yarrow, deadly nightshade, and yellow waterlilies. However, the waterlilies were too far away for a good shot without waders.

About halfway into our walk, we reached the bog. The boardwalks and slightly raised area between two marshy pond areas had always kept our feet dry in the past, even a few inches from the water. This time, though, it was hard to avoid sinking into the soft black muck when there were no boardwalks.

My running shoes quickly led the way to soak my socks within. I was afraid that each time one of my hiking poles sank into the mud that when I pulled it out with the suction, that it would be missing it’s end cap. But they both held on strongly. The disappointment was that I had been developing a small tear in one of my shoes near my baby toe. So I used the ultra strong gorilla tape I’d recently purchased. It is so strong, it’s a bit of a struggle for me to pull it from the roll. However, it was no contender for the North Country Scenic bog.

Sitting on a bench on the boardwalk in the middle of this swampy area, we were filled with sounds — birds singing and bullfrogs bah-rumping. But the wonderful thing was that there, surrounded by wetness, there were no mosquitoes. So we rested a while.

I watched two dragonflies playing with each other and tumbling in the air. (Wink-wink) And then they’d separate to rest, then go back to their “playing.”

We continued on the trial until the boardwalk ran out and the narrow black trail was rather sinking. I struggled on, knowing the land rose someone soon. But the bog sucking at our feet and sticks-poles made the decision for us to turn about. Some dryer time we may continue on to the other side of the bog.

(Two photos of the trail & one, the bog)

Back into the dry woods and dusty grey trail. The green forest greeted us with hoards of waiting mosquitoes. We quickened our pace once again.

If men sweat and women glow, then I had streams of glow flowing into my eyes and down my face and shirt. The temperatures were rising with the sun. We fairly leapt over the fallen tree.

We arrived home about 10:00, happily satisfied with our hike and the fact that we had an air-conditioned house waiting for us to shower in.