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.
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 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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!