Our first official stop was Holland, MI and our last was Wall, SD. In between, we found so many treasures and places of beauty that we'll never forget this summer.
Our first official stop was Michigan, which is green, full of beautiful Lake towns and home to many exclusive and beautiful RV resorts. We had a great time from Holland to Traverse Bay to Thunder Bay, to Petoskey. We loved our time in Mackinaw City and the day spent on Mackinaw Island, riding our own carriage around the Island. That was one of our highlights.
Shortly after, we crossed the mighty Mackinaw Bridge and hit the Upper peninsula. We stayed at a beautiful city campground in Manistique, right on the lake. We listened to the waves every night. And our PIctured Rocks Cruise was one we won't forget.
From Manistique, we moved into Wisconsin, where we spent a week in the beautiful Door County area. The scenic drives and picturesque villages were a sight to behold. After a few days in Pelican Lake, we moved on to the Apostle Islands Campground in Bayfield. There, we took a private boat tour around the Apostle Islands and loved the scenic tour.
Goodbye Wisconsin, hello Minnesota! After a few days in saginaw, we moved on to the Voyageurs Sunset REsort on the Ash River and had the time of our lives. No wi-fi, no cell service. The entire area was really set up for fishermen and hunters and we definitely got our fishing practice in! We borrowed their small boat twice and went fishing. I caught my first fish! Dave caught Walleye and Pike, which was new to him. We thororoughly enjoyed our time there. We also drove to International Falls, the coldest place in the USA. IN the summer it's a charming little town.
Our wonderful week on the Ash River was followed up by a couple of days in Bemidji, where we saw the Paul Bunyon Statue.
A quick overnight in Fargo, ND and we were on our way across the state to the western side and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The entire drive there was nothing but prairie land, which got old fast. But our first day, driving the scenic loop in the Park was worth the drive. The National Park was incredible, with acres and acres of wind and sand whipped rock formations. It was like being on another planet!
Once we left TRNP, we headed straight south to Custer, SD, where we spent three glorious weeks. There is so much to see in that area - MT Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Needles HWy, Custer State Park wildlife loop, where we saw herds of buffalo and mules. Sylvan Lake and the Blackhills National Forest were also breathtaking. So much that we actually bought a tent and camped. Also nearby is Deadwood, Spearfish just to name a few. We truly fell in love with this area of South Dakota.We're looking forward to going back andI can easily see this becoming our summer home. We'll see. In the meantime, we made memories there that we'll never forget. South Dakota called to us in a way we can't explain. You have to see it for yourself to understand.
We also spent a couple of days in Wall, visiting the famed drug store and driving through Badlands National Park, where we fell in love all over again. We actually took the rig and boondocked on top of the canyon, looking down at incredible vistas. We ended up having to leave a day early because of the gale force winds, but we'll be back - that we know. As a first time boondocking experience, it was unparalled.
We left Wall on Seotember 15 and started our journey south to our new winter home. This trip included stops in Sioux Falls SD, Omaha NE, Topeka, KS, Oklahoma City, Ft Worth and finally, our first winter destination in Castroville, TX, just outside San Antonio. We'll be here until the beginning of December, when we'll move further south to Mission until next Spring.
So, what did we think of our summer and what did we learn? Here's my Top Ten List:
1. We lucked out the entire summer, with weather mostly in the 70s and low 80s. Somehow we missed bad weather mostly everywhere we went.
2. We had a few minor mishaps with Louis, but for a ten year old rig, we didn't have any major repairs. Of course, we did all maintenance in early spring, to include all new tires and other issues.
3. The doggies are the best traveling companions. While on the road, Chacho has his perch on the dashboard, while Sage is in my lap. Once we got somewhere new, they needed about a day to figure out their new boundaries. They made friends with every dog and human they came in contact with. As a matter of fact, Chacho found his girlfriend in one place and was heartbroken when we left her behind. We learned that PetSmart was a great place for Chacho to get his nails done. Turn in his vaccination one time and we were done. And if we were in small, rural areas, like we were many a time, we simply made an appointment with the local vet and had it done there. Their dog food was a major concern for me because it's so specialized. But it ended up being a non issue. When we landed on a place for more than a week, I would order it in bulk from Amazon and we had enough to last until the next place. We had no major health issues, thank goodness and for the more minor ones, I called our vet at home and got it taken care of.
4. We got our packing up routine down to about thirty minutes.
5. Seeing parts of the country we've never been to before was incredible. I had never seen any of the great Lakes, So when we stooped at Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, I made sure to dip my toes into every one. Yes, they were cold. These were all states we had never been to before, and what a great learning experience.
6. As a rule, people were very nice everywhere we went, even when we had a dumb tourist moment. Two that stand out in my mind was the young server at breakfast on Mackinaw Island who told us how to avoid the touristy carriage rides and drive our own carriage. That little tidbit made our day. Another one was one of the owners at the campground on the Ash River in Orr. He was just a great person and fascinating to talk to. I know there are many more that I haven't written down, but the term customer service is alive and well in the Northern Mid West.
7. One of my biggest challenges was learning new stores everywhere we went. Since most of our time was spent in rural areas and not near cities, my choices were usually limited to Wal-Mart or a local small grocer who carried basics and nothing more. I've also come to greatly appreciate the big size of my pantry - without them I'd have been in trouble. Most of our trip, the grocery stores were at least half an hour away, if not longer. There was no running to the store in most places, so the size of my pantry saved me many miles in the truck.
8. Amazon is my friend. Truly. Reason one: Without Amazon Prime and their two day shipping, I can't count the number of times we would have been up the creek without a paddle. If I couldn't find something locally that we really wanted or needed, we were able to find it on Amazon. Reason two: Amazon's Kindle Unlimited is truly the best thing since sliced bread. I actually counted how many books I read this past summer. 238. 238 books that I didn't have to lug around and most of them were free through my Kindle unlimited. And if I did pay for some, it was minimal. Dave bought me my Kindle several years and it's still one of my favorite gifts ever. It also syncs with my Ipad so I can read back and forth and never lose my spot.
9. We've also learned never trust a website or even You tube for the actual quality of a campground. Everywhere we went, we visited local campgrounds in the area to see where we might want to stay when we come back. 90% of the time the websites were not representative of the actual campground. Which is not to say that they were all bad, bit if you have a chance, visit them in person to avoid disappointment. And always research with reviews, etc. Don't go by a website alone.
10. Be prepared to see the unexpected. I can't count the number of times I wish had my camera handy with me as we drove by something. And it never fails that it's somewhere you can't turn around and go back. Be alert when driving and if you're the co-pilot, be prepared.