Great Lakes Rendezvous: Ready to Go!

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April 21st 2018
Published: April 21st 2018
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Questa, NM

Our big trip of the year is about to launch! The girls know something is up and are as anxious as we are.

We’ve been working hard to get ready. Got the dogs a good grooming to reduce shedding. Also had to get them started on Frontline - we are headed into tick and flea country again. Brought the trailer out of its winter stasis - tested all the gas and electric systems, and sanitized the water tanks. Had to get a new sewer hose so we can take care of that little nasty chore.

As we are packing the rear closet of the trailer, the bottom of the closet fell out right on top of the water heater. Wish I could say we had caused it, but really it wasn’t my fault. I understand that these ‘ultra-light’ trailers are designed to save on weight. I get that they need to use lightweight materials, which is why the bottom board was a scant quarter inch thick. And so it bends pretty easily and since, for some strange reason, the attaching brackets were inserted from the bottom, then what do you expect happens except the damn thing falls straight down. So, they did put in a cross bar to try and provide support along the center of the piece. But what do you know, the cross-bar is only attached on one end. In fact it is two inches too short to span the entire distance, so there is no support at all - its just dangling there. Was that missing two inches to conserve weight? Or just abysmal construction and quality control? (I think we know the answer.). I acknowledge now that the trailer industry in general operates on a very low cost model and expects to make money by having the owner back multiple times to get things fixed.

In my case, though, they lose. With the help of my neighbor, Andy, I found a 3/4 inch piece of plywood, cut it to proper measurement, beefed up the support brackets on the side, and laid the thing right in there. It fit perfectly, and, once again, I didn’t have to give any more of my money to Camping World.

We had some additional tasks this year because Joan has added several bicycling excursions to the itinerary. So we had to get the bikes tuned up after sitting idle for several years. And we had to install Yakima bike racks on top of the LandCruiser. That’s all done now, but it is going to make for an interesting trip. The LandCruiser is already a pretty tall car standing almost six feet off the ground at the roof rack. Now you put bicycle racks on top of it and there is a very interesting challenge - getting the bikes up there. I’m pretty tall, but even so, it isn’t easy to hoist a bicycle up six feet, navigate it into the proper slots, and tighten up all the fasteners. Even with a short stool that gives me an extra foot, I still need Joan’s help to hand be the bikes. I haven’t been able to get a precise measurement, but I expect that, when loaded, the top of my handlebars is taller than the trailer. So we are going to make quite the sight driving down the road.

Food is always a concern when traveling, but since we have both adopted a new meal routine, I think our meal plan is actually quite a bit simpler than before. We will basically have three kinds of days: On travel days, we will be stopping en route for lunch at some restaurant or diner that Joan seems pretty good at locating. This is our way of sampling the local foods, and we’ve already identified the ‘iconic’ foods and drinks for each state on our itinerary. So lunch on the road becomes part of the local experience. When we get to camp on a travel day, we will be limiting our meal to something like salad, or veggies and dip, or maybe cheese and crackers - but there won’t need to be any cooking.

On sightseeing days, we will be out and about and may take advantage of other restaurant opportunities, or we may pack picnic lunches to enjoy on a hike or at a park. We won’t be cooking an evening meal on those days either which should make sightseeing days a little more relaxed.

So the only time we will be actually cooking, will be on down days when we have more time. We’ve packed ribs, chicken, brats, and hamburger to put on the grill. We are hoping that limiting our cooking to just every now and then will make it a bit easier, and hopefully, will lead to less weight gain. After Southern Charms last year, I came home to weigh-in at 10 pounds heavier than when I left. I can’t afford to do that too often.

So the car, trailer, dogs, and bicycles are all ready to go. Just the last minute packing to finish. Then shut down the house for an extended absence. And hit the road. We are leaving in just a couple of hours from now.

I’ve described this trip, Great Lakes Rendezvous, in some detail in an earlier post. We are headed to the Great Lakes region to see an area that Joan has never been to and my foggy experiences are several decades old. We will head down the mountains and on to the Great Plains, working our way across Colorado and Kansas. First stop will be at a National Monument in Nebraska, our last bucket list item in that state. Then we will be going across Iowa to spend a few days on the Mississippi River in the northeastern corner of Iowa. From there, we go through southern Wisconsin into the Chicago area where we will be spending nearly two weeks to visit one of the world’s greatest cities and the surrounding lakeshore.

Out of Chicago, we head south to southern Indiana and then across to the Dayton and Cleveland/Akron areas of Ohio. From there, we head straight up Michigan to spend a great deal of time in northern Michigan, especially the Upper Peninsula areas bordering Lakes Superior and Michigan. That part of the country introduces both of us to an entirely different ecological zone - the Northern Forests - which we are both very interested to experience. As part of our trip we will be taking a boat ride over to Isle Royale to spend three days for what we hope will be a trip highlight. After than we head to northern Wisconsin and the Duluth area for a few days. The last long stay will be in Northern Minnesota.

From there, we head south, re-enter the prairie region - and what we expect will be intense summer heat. There is one last park in southwestern Minnesota to visit before we thread our way through the wheat, corn, and prairie grass of Nebraska and Colorado to return home. We will be gone for a fairly long time, but are expecting to love every minute of it.

I hope readers will find this trip as interesting and fun as we do. We are visiting 17 National Parks, Monuments, and Lakeshores and Joan has a long list of ‘rebellion items’ to add some depth to the itinerary. We will be visiting eight states not counting drive-throughs in Colorado and Kansas, for a travel distance of more than 5000 miles.

I am hoping to post daily, but there are several places where the internet fails to penetrate, so there might be times with no posts. Please feel free to sign-up on my blog-site for notifications of new posts by becoming a subscriber. I will also post links to the blogs on Facebook. Please feel free to add comments or ask questions - I promise to respond.

Anyway, we have a few more things to pack and some errands to run before we hitch-up, so I best get to them. Looking forward to the Great Lakes Rendezvous and hope everyone can follow us as we work our way through the trip. Happy Trails!


21st April 2018

What a trip
I can't wait to (virtually) ride along!

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