Archive for June, 2007

Google Earth – Coming and Going

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

USA & Maritime Map

We are now 80 percent of the way to Maine (red line) with 3600 miles and lots of experiences (past blogs) under our belts in 45 days, and about 900 miles left to Houlton Maine (green line).  We rushed through the western states as we visit there a lot, and are now ready to enjoy a few days at Niagara Falls this weekend. 

On July 14th, we will join an Adventure Caravan tour, in Houlton Maine, with 21 other RVs for a 2800 mile, 49 day tour of the Canadian Maritime (yellow line) through New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edwards Island and Newfoundland.

We will return after the Caravan to Bangor Maine on August 31st from where we will start a 2000 miles trip down the east coast to Naples FL over a 90 day period (not shown) and then back to the Palm Springs California area sometime in December.

Check out our full Blog (Diary) by clicking BLOG.  Plus we have a great photo gallery viewable by clicking GALLERY.

Frankenmuth, MI

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Chicken dinner at Bavarian InnFrankenmuth was founded in 1845 by a group of fifteen German-Lutheran missionaries who came to the area for the purpose of teaching Christianity to the Chippewa Indians.  Today, Frankenmuth is a thriving community of 4,900 residents who take great pride in preserving their German heritage.  The whole area remains neat and clean reflecting this German ethic. Well-tended flowers and lush greenery abound in this most authentic Bavarian community to be found in the United States — this beats Mt Angel Oregon or Leavenworth Washington.

Bronners CHRIST-mas StoreFrankenmuth is actually Michigan’s leading tourist attraction, beating out Mackinac Island in second place.  It is famous for good food, particularity chicken.  Between the two leading restaurants, Bavarian Inn and Zehnder, over 710 tons of chicken are served yearly in nearly two million dinners.  The dining rooms are beautifully decorated – in Zehnder’s you will be seated in one of their 10 dining rooms.  Meals are served family style at your table by costumed waiters and waitresses in both restaurants – they refill anything you run out of.

Herb with laptopBRONNER’s CHRISTmas WONDERLAND is the world largest Christmas store covering more that 92,000 square feet, using $900 per day in electricity, has more than 200 employees in the store (except near Christmas the store staff grows to over 500.  The store name is pronounced “Christ Mas”. There is even a tree ornament that looks like Herb dressed up in a Santa Claus outfit holding a laptop PC!!!  Over two million people visit the store yearly, as well as 2000 buses. Bronner’s Web Site.  Check our photo gallery for more photos. 

Traverse Bay, MI

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

Traverse Bay RV ResortAfter a wonderful uneventful trip from Michigan’s U.P. (upper peninsula), we arrived at a very beautiful Michigan RV resort near Traverse City. This park included the finest amenities. These lots were beautiful and some were still for sale. Needless to say, this was an ownership park. Most every lot had a view to greenbelts or waterfront. The first night we got there, the park had a pizza night for a dollar a slice. On Saturday noon there was the free Potato bash with all the trimmings. And Sunday morning before we departed, we had a wonderful brunch at the clubhouse for just five dollars.  We certainly enjoyed our stay and wished all RV Parks had the same nice settings. 

Traverse City is located on the west side of Michigan on the Bay. Herb and I drove 17 miles on the peninsula, visited a well known winery, and at the northern tip we arrived at the 45 parallel — half way between the north pole and the equator. Herb and I did the tasting and touring of the winery.  Most California wineries do charge for tasting. Not here. Found out that the grape picking is done all by machine that harvest the grapes and then placed into a crusher. They also "feature" hand picked grape cluster wine!!!! 

Herb and I were amazed at the dense forests throughout the state.  Tall, skinny, densely spaced trees.  We would not want try to walk through those forests and underbrush.

Being in Michigan, we found out that just about every other car is a GMC, Ford, Chevrolet or Pontiac. These people really support the auto manufacturers. Towing a GMC, we felt really good about driving through Michigan. -grin-

St Ignance and Mackinac, Michigan

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

This is a fun and amazing area to visit. The five mile long Mackinac Island Bridge divides the Michigan Upper Peninsula from the Lower Peninsula, St Ignance to the north and Mackinaw City to the south, and Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Huron to the east.  Evidently Mackinac and Mackinaw are pronounced the same – Mac-ki-na. 

Grand HotelBoat service to Macinac Island is available from both cities by three separate companies, each running boats every half hour for the 15 minute crossing — Star Line, Shepler’s and Arnold.  We chose the Star Line because of their "Hydro-Jet" boat.  You see their roster tail across the bay.  But to my disappointment, the boat is equip with three engines — two 1400 hp that drive props, and a 200 hp engine that does the roster tail just for show.  When approaching the island, the Grand Hotel looms on the hillside.

Mackinaw CityMackinaw City has an historical downtown with fun shops and large new set of buildings very nicely arranged in a series of courtyards. Colonial Michilimackinac is a rebuilt fort whose building are based upon extensive archaeological research in 1959 and continuing to the present.  So much change of "ownership" in the area, that I lost track of the power struggle and cooperation that went on between the French, British, US, and the natives between 1671 and the late 1800’s.

horse drawn carriageThe next day we enjoyed Macinac Island, including its own Fort Mackinac.  The island has banned automobiles since 1898 (and this is not an Amish community).  Everything is done by walking, horse and carriage, or bikes.  Even the UPS deliveries were done by bicycle, or horse and cart for large packages.  There is one gas fire engine and one police car.  The island is approximately 2,200 acres, two miles wide, three miles long and eight miles around by bike.

We started our tour by two-horse drawn carriage.  At the butterfly exhibit, we transferred to a large three-horse drawn carriage which took us up into the hills, through the woods, and by the cemeteries.  The 1.5 hour tour cost $22 each.  Somewhere In TimeHorse carriage taxi’s are also available.  Over 3000 bicycles are licensed by the city — mostly to bicycle rental companies who rent them from $6-10 per hour, depending upon type.  You may also bring your own bicycle across on the boat for $7.

We learned that "Somewhere In Time" was filmed at the Grand Hotel on the island.  Tonight we watched the DVD, both as a standard movie, and then repeated with the Director’s Comments sound track.  Very interesting.  The Grand Hotel is such a magnificent structure.

Please check out our photo gallery.

Munising, MI – Pictured Rocks

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Pictured RocksWe camped at the city park at the edge of Lake Superior.  Because of Grand Island’s location in Lake Superior, this worlds largest fresh water lake looks small since we are only looking over a two mile bay to the island.  The crystal clear blue-green waters of Lake Superior have created masterpieces of color and rock formations found in the Pictured Rock National Lakeshore, just to the northeast of Munising, MI.  The easiest way to reach it is by Pictured Rocks Boat Cruises, Michigan’s #1 boat cruise, which take you on the 2.5 hour, 37 mile trip.

Sea GullWe had a refrigerator problem upon our arrival in Munising Friday afternoon.  We were able to contact an RV service department about 60 miles back on the road we came on, in Ishpeming (don’t you love these names)!  Saturday we drove back and they located the problem and provided a bypass, which I can replace when I get the part next week from NorCold.  That Saturday afternoon we came back to Munising.

While on the boat trip, I also shot some good close-ups sea gulls.  See the Photo Gallery for both Pictured Rocks and the Gulls.

Duluth, MN – Lake Superior

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Vessel passing under Aerial Bridge Duluth is on the very southwest tip of Lake Superior, one of the five Great Lakes.  Combined with neighboring Superior WI, it has a huge boat port for shipping iron ore pellets (taconite), grain, cement, coal and much more.  Many grain elevators, one complex alone holds enough wheat to make a sandwich for every person on earth! Ore boats which are over 1000 feet long and 105 feet wide can load ore at the rate of 3000 pounds per second or a full load of 68,000 tons in less than 15 hours.  Picture shows one of these ships going under Aerial Bridge in Duluth.

We did not allocated enough time for the Duluth area.  From the Lakehead Boat Basin, where we parked our motorhome for two nights, it was just a 1/4 mile walk over the Aerial Bridge to Canal Park, a nice area with restaurants, museums, shops, aquarium, and Vista Fleet Harbor Cruises!  The 1.5 hour harbor lunch cruise was very informative, and the lunch delicious.  We missed the opportunity to tour the paper mill – one of the largest producers of glossy paper for catalogs, newspaper ad inserts, magazines, etc.  Tours are Monday, Tuesday and Friday. We explored the North Shore Scenic Drive, but only up to Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls State Park (see our photo gallery for photos)

Depths of Great LakesLake Superior is a huge lake.  If you could pull the plug, its water would cover the entire United States, Canada, Central America and South America with one foot of water. It is the largest body of fresh water in the world.  In volume, the amount of water it holds, only the mile deep Lake Baikal in Siberia is larger. This photo shows the relative depths of the five Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario – left to right).

Minneapolis – Northfield – Farmington, MN

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

After a short drive from St. Cloud MN, we arrived in Farmington where Jeff’s Grandmother lives. We had a great lunch that she cooked at age 97. She truly is someone to admire. It also was great to see Jeff’s half brother Ted and his Father and wife Kris.

Ellen Melitta and ElaineLater on, we drove a short distance to Northfield where my friends from the 60’s live. They have a beautiful home with a large front yard where we parked our Motor Home with plenty room to spare. Ellen and Carl drove up that afternoon from Rochester, MN. For the next 3 days we had more fun talking, laughing and reminiscing our past. We played a serious game of Mexican Train. The next day, Herb and Roger took on a 20 miles bike trip down to Redwing, MN. Redwing is famous for their shoes. I was told that Pres. Eisenhower had bought his boots there. The Mississippi River cuts right through that beautiful town and is shippable from there until it merges into the ocean by Louisiana.  More Pictures

Mamma Mia!That last day we all went to Minneapolis for dinner. Herb and I introduced our friends to the famous "The Cheesecake Factory". Needless to say, they loved it. Afterwards, we bought tickets to see the the Musical Comedy "Mamma Mia". It has more productions playing simultaneously around the world than any other musical, the music of ABBA (often called "Sweden’s most famous export") continues to captivate audiences on a daily basis. We highly recommend you go and see it.



Jamestown ND and St Cloud MN

Friday, June 8th, 2007

Mississippi River through St CloudWe made an overnight stop at Jamestown Campground on our way to Minnesota.  We had a nice evening with a couple we met, David & Nancy Beasley, who were heading from Alabama to Alaska for a "short" trip.  Herb was going to help them with their computer the next morning, but at 4:10 a.m. our NOAA weather radio sounded a Severe Weather Alert of a strong storm cell 70 miles to the SW, moving directly NE to Jamestown at 25 mph and containing nickel size hail.  We quickly packed up and hit the road to Minnesota at 5:15 a.m.!  Sorry Nancy…

St Cloud Dam and spillwayWith such an early start we decided to skip our next stop and proceed 280 miles through Fargo ND to St Cloud MN, arriving at out planned stay at St Cloud Campground a day early.  In our rush, we apparently did not latch the sliding mirror doors in the bedroom and broke the mirror in one of the doors — thank goodness for safety backed glass which kept it in one piece.  We took the door into St Cloud Glass shop and had it replaced within one day.

We enjoyed St Cloud, including our visit to the Clemens and Munsinger Gardens on and near the Mississippi River.  See our Photo Gallery.

Medora, ND

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

I-94 between Billings MT and Medora NDWe drove 280 miles on I-94 from Billings MT to Medora ND, a small town of a few hundred residents.  We followed the Yellowstone River through the beautiful rolling hills of eastern Montana.   Medora is about 25 miles over the MT/ND border, and is on the edge of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park – the North Dakota Badlands.  The hills were alive with bright green grass and unusual rock formations which in some cases looked my pimples on the earth’s crust.

Medora hills near amphitheatreWe arrived on Saturday, June 2nd, and are planning to stay three nights.  Since it was raining Friday, the opening day of the 2007 Medora Musical was cancelled Saturday was beautiful so we took advantage of the great weather and booked a dinner at Pitchfork Steak Fondue, a behind the stage turn of the Amphitheater and the evening show (which became their opening night).

Ribeye steaks on a pitchforkThe nationally famous Pitchfork Steak Fondue is a delight.  Every evening their chefs load ribeye steaks onto pitchforks and fondue them western style in 350 degree oil.  We savored our steaks while overlooking the picturesque badlands from atop a bluff at the Tjaden Terrace, right next the amphitheatre.

We then enjoyed a backstage tour of the amphitheatre before the show, and took our reserved seats for the 8:30 pm show.  The amphitheatre seats over 2800 people — pretty amazing, since the closest large town is Bismarck about 130 miles to the east. 

Hey, It's Party TimeFor more than 40 years, the Medora Musical has been performed seven evenings a week (except rainouts) between the week-end after Memorial Day thru the Sunday before Labor Day.  The high-energy, clean, family western musical extravaganza is proudly dedicated to the legacy of America’s 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, and his time spend in the North Dakota Badlands.  It is an excellent two hour 45 minute show including intermission. Notice the countryside view behind the stage.

Named for the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt National Park covers 110 square miles of breathtaking vistas in the savagely beautiful North Dakota Badlands.  We enjoyed the panoramic vistas and a sense of solitude, inspiration, and timelessness similar to Theodore Roosevelt’s experience in the Dakota Territory in the 1880s.

"Bully", where Theodore Rosevelt comes alive in a one-act, one-actor, 45 minute play, at the Old Town Hall Theater, is outstanding.  You will learn about Theodore Roosevelt as President, father, husband, soldier, and hunter in the North Dakota Badlands.  4 p.m. every day during the summer. 

Please don’t miss our photos of this area in our Photo Gallery for North Dakota, Minnisota, Wisconsin and Michigan

Billings, MT

Friday, June 1st, 2007

On the way to Billings we drove US-89 from the northwestern entrance of Yellowstone to Billings MT.  We passed to the west of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, which contains the largest single expanse of land above 10,000 feet in elevation in the USA.  The entire winderness is a watershed for the Yellowstone River, the longest undammed river left in the USA.  It flows over 670 miles from its sources in Yellowstone National Park and is the lifeblood of about one third of Montana .  It joins the Missouri River, which also flows out of Montana, in northern North Dakota.

We are spending two days at the Billings KOA.  We normally don’t stay at RV Parks that begin with a "K"!!  However, this KOA was the first KOA in America, and it is a nice park, having been kept up to date. 

It rained most of the time we were here so we didn’t do much exploring.  We caught up on our Costco and OfficeMax shopping.  We discovered the HuHot Mongolian Grill where we stopped for a late lunch.  The Mongolian Grill had a variety of great sauces premixed, unlike our favorite in Roseville CA where you make your own by ladling a variety of ingredients onto your meat and veggies, before handing it to the grill master.  HuHot was excellent however, and the grill master, Drew, was really entertaining with this spatula flipping and grill "fire". See some addtional photos of Drew in operation.  HuHot is just off exit 446 on I-90 in Billings MT.