"Of all the paths you take in life make sure a few of them are dirt" US Forest Sevice

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Driving across the Midwest

Driving across the Middle

Mississippi River's back waters

We headed to Goose Island in the backwater of the Mississippi River. Yes, they have large mosquitos but  turned out to be a nice and interesting area near La Crosse, WI for a short time.
La Crosse has been on our radar since reading about their trails and bike riding. Besides, we were driving right through the area.

 Goose Island turned out to be a very large and lovely campground with large spaces. We enjoyed our walks along the river and learned about people taking their boats out to sandbars to camp. One fellow has a camper shell on his pontoon for protection from the elements and bugs while camping on the Mississippi sandbars.
Lock & Dam #7 is one of the most visited lock and dam structures on the Mississippi River and lies in the rolling Upper Mississippi River Valley near La Crescent,  MN and La Crosse, WI.

 This lock is located at one of the most scenic spots on the Great River Road. The river is miles wide at this point, with many islands. The locks and the main dam control structure are located on the Minnesota side of the river.

All types of vessels use the lock during the navigation season, which extends from mid-March through mid-December. The lock provides a vertical lift of 8 feet for boats, ranging from canoes to large towboats with barges. The Upper Mississippi River serves as a main artery for Midwest grain bound for both domestic and international markets. More than 15 millions tons of cargo pass through the lock each year with farm products, chemicals and coal the major commodities. Also, more than 13,000 recreational craft use the lock annually.

Pool 7 which is the lake created upstream from the dam, forms a valuable upstream environmental habitat and resource for migrating waterfowl. Sand bars along the channel offer opportunities for recreation.

We watched as the tugboat maneuvered the barges that were tied together into the lock very slowly with only inches to spare on each side. Half of the barges were released and the tugboat pulled the last half back out since there was not enough room for all of them. The first half was lifted and then the second half sent though and then the two halves rejoined. It was quite a slow process.

This 24-mile trail travels through prairies and backwaters of the upper Mississippi River valley. Built on an abandoned Chicago-Northwestern railroad line, the trail has a finely crushed limestone surface suitable for walking and bicycling for much of the year and snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. The Great River trail is within a larger area called the Mississippi Flyway and passes through two National Wildlife Refuges.
 There are several Rails to Trails that run along the rivers and marshes around La Crosse. The first day was a quiet, long and mostly straight trail. We paid our $5 for the trail pass before our ride.

La Crosse's Friendship Gardens


 We enjoyed the beauty of the Riverside International Friendship Gardens. This collection of public gardens celebrates La Crosse’s sister-city relationships with communities in China, Germany, France, Russia, Norway and Ireland.

Flying Goose

There is a lot of open space with corn, soybeans and sunflowers as we drove through the Midwest. We stopped at Flying Goose Campground but decided to forego seeing the Spam Museum.
 Our morning walk as the sun was coming up.
Our next stop was in Mitchell, SD and the Corn Palace.

 The Palace is redecorated each year with naturally colored corn and other grains and native grasses to make it “the agricultural show-place of the world”. They use 13 different colors or shades of corn to decorate the Corn Palace: red, brown, black, blue, white, orange, calico, yellow and now green corn! A different theme is chosen each year, and murals are designed to reflect that theme. Ear by ear the corn is nailed to the Corn Palace to create a scene. The decorating process usually starts in late May with the removal of the rye and dock. The corn murals are stripped at the end of August and the new ones are completed by the first of October. Looks like we made it in the nick of time.

 The 50-foot-tall statue depicting a young Native American woman with a star quilt is made entirely of stainless steel and weighs about 50 tons was built along the banks of the Missouri River.
We made across those states and pulled out our hiking boots in Western South Dakota.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Upper Michigan

Heading North

Hauling our home on wheels around on these bumpy roads can be hard on it at times. One of the tires on the trailer was  not wearing well. We made a stop in Traverse City at Discount Tires and they  replaced it in no time. We headed towards Mackinaw City.
Before leaving Maine, our awning's motor quit working in the out position. Mike climbed the ladder and used the drill to manually bring it in. We found an RV service place in the next town that replaced the motor and were lucky enough to have it still under warranty. Six weeks later in Michigan, it quit working again. We will now wait until we get back to Colorado or Arizona to see what the problem is.
  The rain was falling pretty hard as we left Lake Leelanau heading north.

Mackinaw City

 We had considered taking a ferry to MacKinnac Island for a bike ride. Once we saw the number of people boarding the ferries every 15-30 minutes, we changed our minds and decided to enjoy the area where we were. That island has to be too congested for us. The campground is located on the shore of Lake Huron overlooking the Mackinaw Bridge. One afternoon, we spent sitting along
the shore of Lake Huron reading, listening to the waves and seagulls and watching the ferries, kayakers and  barges hauling iron ore, grains and limestone.

The UP

The winds were calming down quite a bit as we made our exodus to the UP (Upper Peninsula) by way of the "bridge".
There are many lighthouses along not only the Great Lakes but also the rivers and waterways.

 Michigan has so many rails to trails paths, most straight but go for many miles through treed canopies. We didn't stop for long with all of those mosquitos and bugs for encouragement to keep moving.

We had a great sunset one evening.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan

Two years ago, when we were planning our trip to Michigan's UP, our friend, Matt, from the Colorado Springs Cycle Club told us to visit Tahquamenon Falls. We didn't make it quite that far then. This time, we were only 60 miles from the state park and had plenty of time to make the stop. It is in the northeast section of the UP without internet, TV and basically in the middle of a forest.

The Lower Falls are a half mile from our camp site. In the quiet morning, we could hear their rumble through the woods. The water was an interesting rust color caused by the tannins leached from the cedars. They are also called "root beer falls" because of the color. 
 There are boat rentals at the base of the falls that can be taken across the river to the island.

 I tried a pastie (a UP specialty) again and still think they are awful even with gravy. I don't think I will do that again.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

North Lower Michigan

 That's what I call bike riding!

Traverse City and Sleeping Bear Dunes have been on our radar for quite sometime. We had to go west. So we headed to North Lower Michigan's little finger for some bike riding and relaxing.
The Leelanau Peninsula is dotted with small communities surrounded by farms, vineyards and orchards making it a perfect place for stargazing and considered one of the state's dark sky areas. We haven't been fortunate to see the milky way due to the clouds but they do keep us cool while out and about.

After catching up on our sleep, we pulled out the road bikes and map to plan out our routes for the ten days we were here and got the rubber on the road.

The rails to trails paved path from Sutton Bay to Traverse city between lakes was a great 30 mile ride. I have found riding flat or rolling hills sometimes painful on the butt. this ride did not disappoint, delightful with a touch of discomfort. Actualy, it hurt.
The fish tacos were just right.

Our ride from Glen Arbor to Sleeping Bear Dunes along Glen Lake on the road was so pleasant returning on the Heritage Trail. 

One of the museums in the Dunes.

It took a while to climb in the sand with a few calf cramps.

This part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is very steep. People were crawling back up on their hands and knees. 


 Northern Michigan's commercial fishing heritage remains alive today in Leland's Fishtown. We walked along the docks, amongst the weathered fishing shanties, smokehouses, racks of drying fishing nets, and fish tugs on the Leland River, and we could imagine what it would have been like in the early 1900s to live and work in this small fishing village, nestled along the shore of Lake Michigan. Fishtown still operates as one of the only working commercial fishing villages in the state of Michigan. Many of the shanties now house gift and clothing boutiques, art galleries and specialty food shops.

 We took a ride around North Lake Leenanau stopping in Fishtown in Leland which was a favorite of ours. The ferry to the Manitou Islands leaves from these docks daily at 9:30 and returns at 5:30. 

While living in Colorado Springs, we often enjoyed riding with the Colorado Springs Cycle Club on their Saturday morning  Latte Rides. This stop at the end of our ride made us think about those rides and our friends. We think they would have enjoyed this ride on  a perfect day around the lake.

Since our bike rides often end with a stop for "coffee", we often meet interesting people. There is something about being on a bike that makes people stop and talk. While stopped in Lake Leelanau at the end of one of our rides, we met a young lady that was touring along Lake Michigan on her mountain bike. She was riding 30 miles a day for 10 days and enjoying the lovely sunshine and blue water.
After our  Sutton Bay ride, we met a man that is spending the summer sailing the lakes in and around Michigan's lakes. He  had walked from the marina for coffee and a treat before heading over to the grocery store. He had stories to tell.


The Traverse Lighthouse that over looks Lake Michigan is said to be haunted by Captain Nelson.  Danish ship captain Peter Nelson, was the lighthouse keeper at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse from October 12, 1874 to July 11, 1890. He died two years later.
Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum accepts applications for volunteer lighthouse keepers for the season, April through December. You’ll work hard during the day greeting visitors, spouting historical information and helping with maintenance of the buildings and grounds, but, hey, it can’t be as grueling as the work of the 1880’s keepers, who spent their days
filling lights with sperm oil, trimming wicks, polishing lenses. You can watch panoramic sunsets in the lighthouse tower at day’s end, and tuck up in your own bed in the northern apartment of the lighthouse. Volunteer keepers live at the light for one or two weeks.

 Along the country roads were self serve stands selling produce, pastries and jams along with anything else they want to sell. On our return ride from the lighthouse, we stopped for some great peaches and a piece of apple pie.

We did get a hike in to do some geocaching but the mosquitoes were insane in places. That just made us keep moving while we did the loop. We did find the caches and stopped at the overlook to enjoy the view.
This strange looking creature had just come out of his cocoon while we watched.
This part of our Michigan trip was better than we could have hoped. Riding our bikes to visit the small towns along the country roads with temps in the low 70s and very little rain was a perfect way to enjoy our summer or at least a small part of it.