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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Houghton Lake, Michigan

Hello from Northern Michigan!  We're in Houghton Lake after a good but long trip of about 250 miles today. We pulled out of Shipshewana,  about 10 AM and arrived here at West Houghton Lake Campground about 3:30. Houghton Lake is the  largest inland lake in Michigan (other than the Great Lakes)  and is in northern Michigan.  It's a popular area for  water activities and fishing. In fact there are as many boats in the campground as there are campers. The trip was under gray skies with on and off showers. I just washed the rig  and truck a couple of days before we left , so I knew it had to rain! Traffic was surprisingly light except around Lansing where it got a little challenging.
            Once we started getting into Northern Michigan, I was surprised to see how much the area and terrain reminded me of Maine. We saw many Aspen and Fir trees that are common to higher elevations or to a colder climate. In fact, we observed just a hint of color in a few of the aspen's. I'm sure this area is quite scenic in the fall when all the leaves are turning. 
             We plan to pull out in the morning and make the final 100 miles to Mackinaw City and  will be staying at the Tee Pee Campground on the shore of Lake Huron. We're staying there for five days and can't wait to explore the area.

Map of our trip today.
Very nice welcome center on I-69.
Another nice welcome center on 127. Notice the metal sculpture in middle left of photo.
Closeup of that sculpture.

Lighthouse mockup behind the same welcome center.

Black Eyed Susan's.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Well, it's been a week from our last blog entry and we're still in Shipshewana, In. We had originally  planned to be here for just a week, but have extended twice after our original week. We like this area a lot and have had a great time here, but unless something unforeseen happens, we're pulling out Saturday headed to Mackinaw City in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It will take us two days to get there  as it's about 350 miles from here. We'll be there for five days and then we head into northern Wisconsin to Eagle River for four days, which will get us through  Labor Day weekend.  The parks usually fill up on holiday weekends and finding accommodations can be tricky, so we were happy to nail down a site for that weekend. Not really sure where we're going from there yet, but looking at Minnesota. Anyway, we should have a lot more blog material to share once we get back on the road.
         We were happy to learn our good friends, John and Patsy McCutcheon, are in Elkhart, about 20 miles from here. They're in the area to attend a Grand Design RV rally and we were happy to get together with them for a couple of visits. John and Patsy were with us for part of our west coast trip last year. They have recently sold their home in Ocala, Fl. and have become full time RVer's. Their home is on wheels and they can take it with them wherever and whenever they may choose. Isn't that great!
        We went to the Bluegate  Theater Monday evening to see the wonderful musical play "Josiah for President", written by Martha Bolton.  The play is about an Amish farmer who is coerced into running for President by a disenchanted congressman. The timing seemed appropriate since we're getting into that time frame when we elect a president again.   I won't give away the plot in case any of you decide to see it, but will highly recommend it. We noticed the same play was on in theaters in Lancaster, Pa and Berlin, Ohio, which are all Amish communities. The Bluegate theater is part of a large complex including a nice restaurant, bakery and hotel with many amenities. We also did a day trip to Michigan City, In. to check out the area and found an interesting park on the banks of Lake Michigan.  Another day trip was to the RV Hall of Fame Museum located in nearby Elkhart. The museum has about 60 displays of vintage RV's with the earliest dating back to early 1900's. It's really a cool place to visit for anyone interested in the history of RV's.

Here's a shot of John and Patsy at Mt. Rushmore from last year's trip.

RV/Motor Home Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart, Indiana. I'm sure the reason this location was chosen is because the region is the home of the majority of  RV manufacturers in the country.  It's a very nice facility with impressive displays. I won't bore our non-RVing friends with a lot of pictures of old campers. If anyone wants to see the displays, drop me an email and I'll be happy to oblige.

I will include this one old camper as it has a colorful history. It was parked outside the museum.

Inside of the same camper. Notice it has a wood stove for heat.

Painted elk outside  museum.

The Blue Gate Theater, Restaurant and Bakery Complex. The theater is on the second floor and seats around 300 people. The hotel complex is down the road about half a mile.

Water tank in Michigan City, Indiana

Walkway and break to lighthouse at Washington Park. There's a large marina behind the walkway. 

View from lighthouse looking back towards beach.

Walkway from parking lot to beach area.

We caught this fellow today when we were in Sturgis, Mi. which is only 15 miles from Shipshewana. Haven't seen very many black squirrels in our travels.

I thought this was a cool photo opportunity. It's  not everyday you see horse and buggies parked in front of a Dollar General store. The Wal Mart near Goshen has covered shelters for them to park their horse and buggies under.

As most of you probably know, the Amish do not have telephones in their homes. The ones that do have them are in small shelters like this one and are usually in their yard or beside their driveway. I noticed quite a few we saw had doors and windows that are used in RV's.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Shipshewana, In

Well, I've been kind of slack on the blog recently, so I want to post a brief report and let everyone know that we're fine and  had a very nice trip from Berlin, Ohio to here in Shipshewana, Indiana, about 320 miles. About 200 miles of the trip was on Interstate 80 & 90 which is a toll road in both Ohio and Indiana. The toll for about 150 miles in Ohio was $20.25 and the toll in Indiana was $4.00 for about 50 miles. One reason our toll was higher than normal is because of pulling the RV. The tolls are based on total number of axles. We're at the Shipshewana South Campground, a very nice park with full hookups right on Highway 5. The rate here is about $280 per week, which isn't too bad considering this is a nice park in a desirable location. This area is close to Goshen, Middlebury, Elkhart and several other smaller towns, all of which are heavily influenced by the RV industry and the Amish community. They tell us over 80% of all RV's manufactured in the US are made here, and it's not hard to believe when riding in the area and seeing facility after facility that is either directly or indirectly involved in the RV business. As a result, a large percentage of the Amish are employed by the RV manufacturers.
              We were very happy to be greeted by our good friends, Ed and Linda Allison upon our arrival here last Wednesday. We've had a great time visiting with our buddies and were sad to see them leave yesterday. We'll see them again in Florida this winter if all goes well.  We've decided to extend for another week and will leave next Wednesday, heading north into Michigan. We've been busy since arriving here having some upgrades done to our RV, touring RV factories and the local area. We don't have a whole lot of blog worthy activity to share but will hook you up with a few pictures and descriptions of some cool stuff in the area.

Our RV Park, Shipshewana Campground South located on Highway 5.
Our Camp Site, #88. Ed & Linda were across the road.

This was taken on I-80/I-90 in Ohio. I didn't realize towing triple was legal here. The only other places we've seen this was in some of the western states last year. 
Crickett and I in front of pretty flower display behind Reigsecker Craft Barn in downtown Shipshewana.

Meet our good friends, Ed & Linda Allison from Bristol, Tn.
There is a heavy Amish population here and we see LOTS of horse pulled buggies on the road, but this one was different from most of the others. It had fenders over the wheels. First one I've seen like that, but have seen more since. Also, noticed they have license tags on the buggies here, unlike Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Local market that sells grocery supplies in bulk. It's very popular with our Amish friends.

Linda took this shot at Tiffany's Restaurant in Topeka, In. The restaurant has wonderful food and is popular with the Amish.The Amish children are about the cutest you will see anywhere. Bicycles are very popular here with the Amish (unlike Pennsylvania) and women wearing long dresses can be seen riding them.

Pink trash container alongside highway waiting to be emptied. Most trash containers were brown, but we spotted several pink ones. We assumed it was to support breast cancer research.

One of the upgrades we had done to our rig was to replace the old steps with newer lighter aluminum ones. This is the "before" shot.

And here is the after shot. These steps are lighter and much easier to handle. They seem to be as strong and sturdy as the steel ones. Crickett can handle these whereas the steel ones were too heavy for her. 
Here's our rig at the Lippert Customer Facility having the new steps installed.

Check out the fuel prices on the sign. It's been many years since I've seen the price of diesel to be cheaper than gas, but it's common throughout this area. The prices on some of the signs do not include the state road tax, but this one did. We saw  diesel prices as much as $.50/gallon cheaper than gas.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ohio Amish Country and Goodbye Bailey

Well this has been an eventful week with emotional highs and lows, but it has been a good week.
        We arrived here at Berlin RV Park & Campground in Berlin, Ohio last Wednesday after a long 300 mile trip from Lewiston, NY (near Buffalo). This is a nice clean park with sites that are well spaced and has full hookups. The rate here was $182.70/week which comes out to about $26/day, which is a bargain, especially considering what we just paid in New York.
        Holmes County and the city of Berlin is considered to be the center of the largest Amish population in the world with an estimated 36,000 Amish living in the five county region surrounding Holmes County. The area and people are similar, but different (if that makes sense) from the Amish settlement we visited in Lancaster, Pa. The topography in Lancaster is relatively flat whereas it's extremely hilly here in Northeast-central Ohio. We've noticed subtle differences between the two communities such as the Amish here use bicycles for transportation, use tractors on their farms and seem to be somewhat more liberal than their Pennsylvania cousins. There are about twelve different sects among the Amish and Mennonites here in Ohio with their lifestyles ranging from very strict  to somewhat liberal. The Amish here seem to be more diversified with less dependence on Agriculture and are self employed in business ventures and work in the private sector.
         We have spent the majority of our time here riding through the countryside visiting the many Amish business establishments and have really enjoyed the delicious food at several of their restaurants. Not sure, but I think we all might have gained a few pounds since being here. We also went to the Amish Country Theater that presented a country flavored  comedy variety show that poked good natured fun at the Amish and featured a lively bluegrass band and ventriloquist Ken Groves, who was hilarious.
           Sunday, we drove Bailey to the airport in Cleveland to meet our daughter, Pam, to travel with her back home. Pam had a good flight and arrived on time but the return trip was not as smooth. Pam's husband, Rick, works for US Air and consequently their immediate family get  to fly free, but are subject to standby limitations. This means they get to fly on unsold seats on the flight, but if the flight is sold out, they get bumped off the flight. Well, that's what happened on their originally planned flight at 1:30. The next flight out was at 3:30 but looked iffy too. As it worked out, Pam and Bailey barely made the flight, getting the last two seats on the flight and arrived back in Charlotte around 5PM.  Needless to say, we have enjoyed having Bailey with us the last three weeks and have made many wonderful memories that will last the rest of our lives. We sure were sorry to see her leave and will take some time getting used to her not being here.
            Wednesday, we're pulling out heading to Shipshewana, Indiana.  We have reservations at Shipshewana South RV Park for a week where we plan to visit our good friends, Ed & Linda Allison, who are our snowbird buddies we met while in Florida for the winter. This is an Amish area as well and is also the RV manufacturing capitol of the country. We plan to have a few upgrades made to our RV while there and also plan to visit the Amish communities and also tour several RV manufacturing facilities.

Entrance to our RV park here in Berlin, Ohio
Our site # 23

Hershberger's on road 557, a really cool establishment that has an animal petting area, grocery store with fresh produce, and a general merchandise store. Their fried pies will make your eyes roll back in your head! 

The roof of their animal petting area. They have a ramp up the side of the shelter where the goats can get on the roof. You can purchase a cone filled with feed that you can put in a slot in the conveyer belt and crank it up to the goats on the roof, who are anxiously waiting on it.
Bailey petting a Saint Bernard pup.
Say hi to Big Ben, the biggest horse I've ever seen. He's waiting on treats too. When you got in his area he would start pawing the ground, which was his way of saying " hey I'm over here, feed me"! They had the same cones filled with feed that they had for the goats.  Beautiful horse.

Now, for our non equine friends, a "hand" is a measurement of a horse's height and is measured at the withers or the tallest point of the shoulders. A hand is equal to 4 inches, so that makes Big Ben 79 inches tall at his shoulders. Of course, his neck and head make him much taller than that. 3000 pounds is a big horse!

Did I mention Hershberger's had fried pies?  They were flying off the shelf about as fast as they put them out. We skimped and only bought a dozen!

Guggisberg Cheese Factory and store. The facility had a Bavarian German theme due to their German heritage. 
This pretty lass was dressed in a Bavarian theme as were her counterparts working behind the counter.

View of their cheese manufacturing facility. The yellow containers in the foreground are molds the cheese is formed in.

There were many cuckoo clocks for sale.

Cooler where some of their products were for sale. We bought a pack of Baby Swiss, which is their most famous type.

I took this picture to illustrate how hilly the terrain is here. This hill is pretty much typical. The truck sure knew it was a steep hill when we were pulling our RV in this area. 

Amish ladies on bicycles and horse and buggy headed out of town.
Shot of the parking lot at Mrs. Yoders Kitchen. This is our favorite restaurant here and is obviously a favorite of the locals  too.

Beautiful plant known as Cockscomb. It's called that because it resembles the comb of a rooster. This was at a Amish roadside produce stand where we purchased some tomatoes, cantaloupes, honey and beets. Oh, we purchased some of the Cockscomb too. Crickett made a pretty arrangement  with it and have it here in our RV.

Close up of the Cockscomb

Amish school. They are definitely different from the ones we saw in Pennsylvania.
Our neighbor told us about an annual Amish auction in Farmerstown, about ten miles from here. This is a shot of a small number of the buggies we saw there. The horses were in stables in the barn or tied to a rail in the shade.

Inside one of two auction tents. There many beautiful Amish items for auction. They had a flea market area outside with some not so beautiful items. The auction is held once a year and is widely attended.

Some of the Amish furniture to be auctioned off.

A corn crib used to store corn on a farm we visited.

A field of some type grain thats been cut and stacked. I've seen pictures of hay and grain stacked like this before, but first time I've seen it. I assume it's stacked like this so it can be loaded onto a wagon by hand.
Lehman's Hardware in Kidron, Ohio. A truly unique store where they cater to Amish needs. The store is actually much larger than it appears in the picture. There is so much unusual merchandise for sale that it would take quite a bit of time to take it all in. They have a lot of regular merchandise as well. If you're ever in the area, this is a cool place to visit.  They do have a web site and do a mail order business. The link is highlighted in the name above.

Need a litter box?

Or how about a bell? This bell is very large. I would estimate about two foot across the bottom.

Or, how about an Amish hat?

Crickett found a bonnet. You don't see those every day!