Monday, August 31, 2009

Ionia State Recreation Area, MI

Last night we tried out the furnace for the first time as the temperature plunged to 40 degrees - in August! If global warming is real, then what about this part of the globe? At least the magical propane tank continues to  fuel the three appliance that we need it for - refrigerator, hot water heater and furnace. Still have yet to turn on either the range or oven, since the microwave does such a good job at minimizing the hassle of food prep. The tank gauge is showing  more than 3/8 full, while the coach lights indicate 2/3 full.
Today, we found the Ionia - the Holy Grail of camping. A perfect campground, sparsely occupied, in an absolutely beautiful setting, with perfect weather, state of the art plumbing, and we are situated just off the end of a country landing strip with sail planes. We almost ditched this destination when we found another casino was just about as far for today's jaunt. But Lynne pointed out that I was probably more interested in the buffet than the gambling, and she was right. So we continued on our original plan to Ionia.
Along the way, we detoured through Grand Ledge to pick up supplies at a Meijer. Wow, event that was an experience. Much bigger store that what we are used to in Ohio, with larger selections, and very noticeably fresher, cleaner, and better organized. But then we are getting close to home base for the Meijers's. Here is obviously where the brightest and fastest rising stars in store management come home to roost.
We bought a 3 liter box of Chardonnay wine for cocktails and dining. This replaced a somewhat strange chillable red that, at 5 liters, seemed to be lasting a really long time. We also took advantage of a half-price sale on Lean Cuisine - a welcome change from the steamer meals that had been a regular. Then just had to stock up on the orange pumice hand cleaner. The $3 bottle was on sale, but so was the $5 dollar jug, then we found the keg for $6. Lynne dutifully un-shopped the smaller bottle so I could have a 15 year supply right at hand in our traveling garage.
To set up camp here, we pulled just about everything out from Morty's garage: the recliners, camp chairs, bikes and helmets. Then we rode down to the lake and looked around a the fishing and picnic area - deserted. Then we pedaled on over to the beach and found some other users. The 800 foot sandy beach, had one couple and a single taking a little sun in basically street clothes. The college intern who checked us in to the campground was on his last day of vacation before returning to school to study natural resource management - he might have just been filling in while the regular was out to lunch. We saw him again mowing the grass around the bathhouse at the beach.
I am anxious for darkness, so that I can work on some more dark sky photos. The sky has been perfectly clear today, and I am hoping that it will hold into the night, even though we are supposed to plunge back into the forties again. It's starting to look like we will want to spend another day here before moving on to the western shore of Lake Michigan. At least here, we have a local propane dealer right in town if we suddenly find out that we have to be a lot more pessimistic in interpreting our propane gauges! He might even make house calls.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pinkney Recreation Area Bruin Lake

Ann Arbor

On Saturday, Morty took us to Ann Arbor. Lots of traffic. Could they already be in session? No, not that much. We parked on South State St at a meter and a half, just about at the main entrance of the UM Museum of Art, and indeed the main campus itself. The collections and buildings were impressive, and I mean in a good way. Many permanent collections. Conservators and curators that obviously are at the top of their game.  Sadly, OSU has nothing in this league. Took way too many photos, so will share a few with you.  I still need to photograph museum exhibits in order to properly enjoy them. Without the picture, I forget 99% the same day -- of even what I really like. I also think that the pictures are better than the original in many cases.

Later in the afternoon, we headed further north to the land of Green and White. Pinckney Recreation Area Bruin Lake campgrounds is about three quarters full, but we are in a large quite corner that is still close to the showers so now everyone is happy - except for the fact that tonight it is too cold for showering. Once again, we find ourselves walking to the boat ramp and along the shore, but this is only about a twenty minutes of actual exercise. Well, we did cover two buildings including six floors of the museum for two hours of walking earlier.
Thinking about heading northwest now. Ionia rec area is about halfway to Manistee casino and commercial campground on the shore of Lake Michigan. We will stay at Pinckney until Monday.

By the way, if some of my wacky references are not clear, it's just me having fun. Anyhow, we're always happy to elucidate, as my younger sister says. Just ask.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lake Hudson Recreation Area, MI

We have a little Garmin Nuvi GPS that we let do most of the navigation as long as it's not too wonky. We don't expect a lot from it, since it came free for opening a new credit card a couple of years ago. And we haven't used it much since we have GPS in our cars. But with Morty, we have it on all the time. Today, it chose a series of mostly county roads to be the quickest route to Lake Hudson. I would have understood shortest, but quickest too? We must have been smack in between the highways and interstates. So the google map that I sent a link to was nice but not as interesting as the many small towns and country roads we experienced today.
Many of these little towns are right out of the 19th century. The town of Harrod's State Bank is a prime example: Sandstone building with big windows and bold gold leaf lettering that hasn't changed in nearly 150 years. Another bank in Napoleon advertises "Bailout-free since 1897." Journeys like today's are every bit as good as the destination. We were a little surprised to drive through some huge fields of cherry tomatoes, in an area that seemed well in the ruts of corn and soybeans.
Lunch was a little Chinese restaurant in Napoleon -- very reasonable, and way above average in cuisine. Dinner was relegated to a couple of micro waved calzones around 9PM.
The campground was about what you should expect from a state recreation area at this time of year: dirt and pebble roads, electric-only huge sites, very low population since the start of school. The nightly fee is only $16, but you also need a pass - annually $29. We were a little disappointed by the intermittent rain, but it did hold off for our walk of a couple of hours through the campground and down to the boat ramp. Got some decent pictures of the flowers and trees, but totally missed the huge white tail that bounded across the road fifty feet in front of us. The lake is man-made, and pretty shallow, but the DNR uses this for fish brooding, so the fishing is supposed to be excellent. The bad news is no cell or wi-fi here, so this update will be delayed somewhat.
This campground is the first Dark Sky Preserve in the Land of the North - no or minimal lights to enhance night time sky observation. Lynne woke me around 4AM to say that some stars were peeking through the clouds. When I finally got up around 5, the sky was clearing substantially, so I tried to get some star photos. A tripod is mandatory since you just get glow worms hand-held. Otherwise some interesting results.

Lynne had an article about the UM Art Museum at Ann Arbor, and we might make that tomorrow's intermediate stop. I guess its about 80 miles from here. Then we would continue on further north to Pinckney State Recreation Area.