A Mixed Bag of Camping

It’s late summer, and the camping bug is biting.  The Fireball sits in the driveway, begging to be hooked up and towed out of the city.  We surrender to the call, and hit the road.

It’s always a temptation to head to our favorite spot, but we resist, grabbing our worn copy of Michigan’s Best Campgrounds (Jim DuFresne, out of print), and pointing the truck north.  We land at Lake Dubonnet State Forest Campground, west of Traverse City.  What a great choice that turned out to be.20140808_155226 Our large campsite let us put the Fireball in the afternoon shade, while keeping our Zamp Solar panel out in full sunshine all day. 20140809_16343420140809_16393320140809_164343 20140807_163719Clean vault toilets, distant neighbors, trails to hike.  Perfect.

We were close to Interlochen Center for the Arts, so we pedaled over to explore one afternoon.  Interlochen students study music, fine arts, film making, and other arts in a gorgeous campus.  The campus is a varied collection of practice rooms, dorms, and open-air performance venues, all enhanced by music drifting through from various locations.  It’s a popular site for summer band camps, and percussion groups were practicing in earnest everywhere.  Naturally, I forgot my camera that day, so I have just one photo to share, which I shot with John’s iphone.  Bummer. photo 1(1) We cruised through Interlochen State Park, with its two enormous campgrounds.  They were jam-packed – not an empty site to be found.  Campers piled on top of each other, vying for a bit of space.  Yikes!  Get me outta here.  Controlled chaos.

Happy Anniversary to us!  We celebrated with ice cream at Moomers.  Cow Tracks/Key Lime for me – Butter Pecan/Orange Dark Chocolate for John.  A great stop on a hot day, and fun way to mark our six years together.  We befriended Chas, a big St. Bernard, who seemed to love us more for the possibility of getting a lick of our ice cream, than for getting an ear rub.wpid-20140808_133556.jpg

Time to move on.  We consulted a map, and decided to head for Fisherman’s Island SP, just south of Charlevoix, on Lake Michigan.  Score!  Bingo!  Rustic camping means fewer campers.  Again, we lucked out and found a huge shady site. We could hear the waves lapping on the shore, although the water wasn’t visible from our site.  Peaceful.  Wonderful.20140813_083148 In my view, this is one of the best places EVER to camp.  We had miles of shoreline to wander – tons of Petoskey stones and granite of every color begging to be picked up. 20140811_103644 I remember, as a kid, always having a jar of beautiful stones in water to admire.  Must be I’m reverting back to my childhood, as looking at this collection makes me happy.wpid-20140817_091524.jpgA day of rain posed no problem.20140811_143634One bad thing did happen here – our refrigerator crapped out.  Somehow, the door had swung open during our trip over a very bumpy gravel road.  Although the light was on, it no longer cooled.  We turned it off, thinking that it just needed to rest/reset.  Nope.  After three days, we still had nothing. John’s research and phone calls seemed to offer us two options – a $400 compressor and three hours of RV dealer labor ($110/hr), or a replacement refrigerator for about $700.  Hmmmmm, let’s think about that for about a minute.  He ordered a new Norcold fridge – shipped to the house in three days.

We did head out to dinner with some Grand Rapids friends who had been tandem mountain bike racing in the Upper Penninsula.  They are fearless on the trail, and did well in the 50 mile Oar to Shore race.  At dinner, John ordered a mac & cheese SANDWICH.  Of course, when offered the option of adding bacon to the stack, he said yes.  Oh, and throw in some avocado as well.  Heart attack on a plate!wpid-20140810_191136.jpgLots of beautiful sightseeing in the Charlevoix area.  It’s a treat.20140810_18313820140810_18253520140810_204205We packed up and headed toward Torch Lake, where a friend had rented a cottage for the week.  Driveway camping!  A real shower!  Beer!  Detroit Tiger baseball on TV!  Life suddenly looks good again.  It’s unseasonably cold, with big winds.  Too windy for a campfire, and too cold for a pontoon boat ride.  We settle in, like only good old friends can do, with beer, wine, brats, and conversation.  Ahhhhh.  Morning brings a long walk with Jezzy, corned beef hash and eggs, gallons of coffee, and bloody marys.  It also brings the startling discovery that our refrigerator has rumbled to life.  Crap!  Yea?  We’ve already got a new one in transit.

We head home.  I want to return new fridge, John wants to install.  It arrives, and (as anticipated), it’s a different interior configuration.  To me, the new design is stupid.  It’s got a huge shelf in the door, which juts into the interior space.wpid-20140817_102259.jpg A useless freezer takes up a full third of the interior space. The temperature control is located in the back of the unit, so to see or change the setting, one needs to unload the top shelf. wpid-20140817_100919.jpg wpid-20140817_100754.jpgThere’s an annoying blue interior light.  The whole design is just lame.  But, John’s already got it installed, so it appears that I’ve lost this battle. Bonus is that it’s extremely quiet, and supposed to be more energy efficient.  Less draw on the solar, which we like.  We were happy to have thought of taking the old broken one to Goodwill for recycling.  Now that it’s still functional, it will probably wind up in the garage with all our other crap.  Arrrggh!

One more thing…..my garden hasn’t done well at all this summer.  Cool days and a less than optimum spot for my tomatoes make for a sad crop.  However, I had high hopes for two big tomatoes, which were beginning to ripen as we left.  First thing when we got home, I rushed to check their progress, sighting their ruby globes from a distance.  Dang!  Here’s the entire crop from six tomato plants.20140814_19515520140814_195144 They’ll be going to the plant dump tomorrow.

Hopefully, by the time another blog post is due, I’ll be over this.  Maybe I’ll just spend more time gazing at my stone jar, absorbing the good vibes that emanate from that.  ;-)

End of rant.


28 thoughts on “A Mixed Bag of Camping

  1. Hello, Campshaws! Instead of living my own busy life over here in Wisconsin, I’ve slowed to a crawl here, entranced by your travels through the U.P. and all those great pics from Pictured Rocks, the Porkies, Lake Superior etc etc.

    Very, very nice. (And you – or I – can probably thank Ingrid of “Live, Laugh, RV:” – I think that’s how I’ve connected to you.)

    Anyway, once I discovered you, discovering Interlochen, the music camp (and, in the winter it’s Interlochen Arts Academy), I had to stop and say “hello”. My daughter finished high school there in 2002-2004, as a dance major – so lots of nostalgia for that place and that part of MI. I absolutely hated letting her go, but what a wonderful experience for a good kid – as you can imagine, living and going to high school in the snowy woods, dancing all afternoon, hanging out with the percussion and brass majors etc. It’s a little quieter there in the winter – than summer camp – but always a magical place when we visited.

    Thanks for sharing your travels. I’m hooked.


    • Hi, Kathlin! I’ve been prowling around your site and its various links. Amazed and a bit disappointed to find out how close we actually are to Berlin, from Richardson Lake Campground in the Nicolet NF. Never have I actually seen a live Whooping Crane, although I did see a stuffed one at a National Wildlife Refuge Center station. The whole process of leading them to the migration path is so amazing.

      We’ve had a great trip for the last couple of months in the North. My first time EVER to camp as a kid was at Interlochen. I had a girlfriend in junior high whose family called, and I was invited for a week. How lucky your daughter was to actually attend school there. What a gift! I still smile inwardly about the idea of my family EVER camping. Neither of my sisters would ever be caught dead in a tent. But that experience opened my eyes to an outdoor world. I love tent camping, but our little camper is far more practical for us to camp with Jezzy. We still pack camping gear on our bikes from time to time though, and head off into the woods. It’s life’s great escape.

      Thanks for sending your note. I think today is our last day in WI. tomorrow, we will probably be back in the UP, winding our way home along the Lake Michigan shoreline this time. I’ll be following you – thanks for all the great info on your site.


    • What we picked up were probably not actual Petoskey stones – they lack the five-sided structure that defines the stone. Guess I wound up with just some pretty fossils. Petoskey stones are found along the Lake Michigan shoreline, probably no farther south than Traverse City. Prime location would be Charlevoix/Petoskey area. They are much harder to find than they used to be – it used to be easy to gather a handful in a short time. Good luck – it’s a beautiful area with or without Petoskey stones.

      On Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 11:44 PM, campshaws wrote:



  2. Thanks for your reviews of the campgrounds that you stayed in, that’s always helpful. I usually stay at Lake Ann in the TC area, but it sometimes gets pretty crowded so I’ll try to remember Lake Dubonnet.

    I’ve seen some improvements in how well the state forest campgrounds are maintained now that we have the recreational passport and some of the money raised now goes to the rustic campgrounds. I would never camp in a state park unless I had to, like last fall when I stayed in the rustic section of two of them in the UP, only because they were about my only option.

    And before I forget, congratulations on your anniversary!


    • Lake Dubonnet did fill up on the weekend – don’t think there were any open sites. There are lots of campers out these days – we stayed at Silver Creek Campground (State Forest) near Luther a couple of weeks ago, and it was packed. Not such big sites there!

      I agree with you about the State Parks. We only go there midweek, off-season, as there are just too many noisy idiots around to make it pleasurable otherwise.

      Thanks for the anniversary greetings.


  3. Congratulations to you and John on your anniversary !!! I can’t think of a better way of celebrating than with some Moomers ice cream. If you ever find yourself traveling through Arcadia Michigan (M22 a few miles south of Frankfort / Elberta), stop at the Arcadia Ice House Ice Cream Shop in front of the Arcadia Marine on M22. They have 30 to 35 flavors (some you won’t find anywhere else) from four ice cream companies: Moomers, Hudsonville, House of Flavors, and Strohs Ice Cream. http://www.arcadiamarine.com/icecream-shop.php


    • Thanks, Ken. Maybe we’ll just have to take an Ice Cream Tour, and cover all the good spots. Moomers was fun – as we passed through Traverse City, we considered stopping at that location as well, but trailer logistics got the better of that idea!

      On Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 8:32 AM, campshaws wrote:



  4. Love the rocks in a jar of water. I’m going to steal that idea. We just ed polished a couple Petoskey stones, so the don’t need water to show off the pattern.

    Lake Dubonnet is a favorite of ours. Even when we lived in TC, we went there to camp. We’re also not fans of the pack them in State Parks.

    We’re on our 6 week retirement celebration trip. Currently at Glacier. Loving having no deadline to get back.


    • We will revisit Lake Dubonnet for sure – really enjoyed it there.

      We’re two years into retirement/travel, but haven’t made it to Glacier yet. Hope you are having a great trip – the National Parks are always special places to visit.

      Thanks for checking in, Marsha.

      On Sun, Aug 17, 2014 at 10:03 PM, campshaws wrote:



  5. Judy, I can’t tell you how much I loved this post! Today we “mothballed” Babe, parked her in the storage yard and put her cover on her since we’ll both be heading out on various journeys for the next month or so. I’m already anticipating some late September and October camping trips. Someday we will make it to Michigan which, from all we’ve been hearing from our T@da buddies, is heaven on earth. I love those Petoskey stones. I love Interlochen. I love ice cream! Sorry to hear about your fridge. . .those break-downs just suck. Maybe you can have a beer fridge in your garage? We’ve been thinking about replacing our fridge with a Norcold 3-way so we can use propane.


    • Hi Jen – sorry to hear that you won’t be camping for awhile. We hope to leave again on Labor Day, and not see Grand Rapids for two months after that. I love being away for long periods at a time, although I do stress out about the yard going to crap while we are away.

      After reading all of the T@B/T@DA forums, we are always glad that we don’t have a 3-way fridge. They seem to use lots of power when you do have them on 12V, and all the extra venting and heat they throw when on propane just won’t work well for us. Hopefuly, we’ve bought our last fridge – I can live with that thought.

      Susan suggested that we’re in competition with you for refrigerator problems. I say, someone else can win that crown. We’ve both paid our dues!

      On Sun, Aug 17, 2014 at 6:32 PM, campshaws wrote:



  6. How wonderful to get to “go” on another camping trip with you! I was surprised by the real ocean-looking wave on the lake! I know — I live a very sheltered life! :D

    Loved the buttonbush flower photo. I had to expand it to see all the mini flowers. I haven’t gotten a decent photo of one yet!

    I really laughed at your lame refrigerator description–with photos for evidence!

    Jezzie, as always, is beautiful. What a precious doggie.

    So sorry about your tomato crop failure. I don’t know what caused it, but it is sad. And then to lose those two gorgeous specimens at the end!.

    I always loved beautiful rocks, too. I used to have them (and seashells) scattered all around on shelves and tables. I never thought of displaying them in a jar.

    Thanks for the great post!


    • Sharon, you make me laugh. Those were fairly small Lake Michigan waves – it was really roaring the morning after the storm. The Big Lake (as we always called it when we were kids) is always more fun with waves!

      Thanks for the id of the buttonbush flower. I nearly plunged myself into the water to get it, and was pleased with how well the photo came out.

      Tomatoes? I wouldn’t be whining over the loss of a couple if they weren’t the ONLY TWO in my whole freaking garden! If Jezzy were better at keeping critters out of the yard instead of snoozing in the sun, we probably wouldn’t have such issues to deal with. She’s precious, but doesn’t work too hard for her supper each day. Guess it’s too late to start in training her now, since she’s about 8-1/2.

      Having rocks in a jar is so much easier than having to spit on them to see what the colors are. Actually bought the jar at a neighbors yard sale for a couple of bucks, just for the rocks. Going to work on improving the color selection in the jar.

      Thanks for keeping track of us.

      On Sun, Aug 17, 2014 at 5:36 PM, campshaws wrote:



  7. I gave up on growing tomatoes years ago, but this very thing happens to my strawberries, one bite……they will be pulled up this fall. It was good to see a Petoskey stone again, forgot about them! And sorry to hear about your fridge, but it beats our brand new panoramic Airstream window blowing out due to pressure in the coach…..$1600 later I was blessing the insurance company for paying! Happy Anniversary and look forward to camping along side you in the future!


    • Sandi, I heard about your window – that must have been a real shock. How do you get so much pressure inside? Why didn’t Airstream cover it? Be happy for insurance, and I’m glad nobody was hurt.

      A jar of Petoskey stones is my magic potion. I’m debating whether to ask my friend with the rock tumbler to polish up a bunch of the granite, so that I can actually fondle the stones, instead of keeping them locked up in a jar. Anyway, it’s a cheap happiness.

      How was PEI? Hope to catch up with you soon.

      On Sun, Aug 17, 2014 at 4:47 PM, campshaws wrote:



      • We’ve been told that heat inside/out, is the pressure point so now we keep it vented. Shouldn’t be a problem in colder months. AS won’t claim the problem as they say it could have happened from a slight stone hit on the window then pressure blew it, and we can’t prove it didn’t. They should tell everyone to vent in heat, and it just wouldn’t happen. We’ll be in PEI Sept 15-21rst. Will be bloggin’ on Glampers about the trip! Take care and hugs to John and Jezzy!


      • Thanks for the info. Glad it didn’t cost you a bundle to learn this lesson. It’s been cool enough here this summer that heat inside/out would NOT be a problem.

        Have a blast on your road trip.

        On Sun, Aug 17, 2014 at 5:35 PM, campshaws wrote:


        Liked by 1 person

  8. Darn on those mators. I remember the Japanese Beetles eating all my raspberries just when they got ripe!!! But jackpot on the mac and cheese sandwich….dreamy! And rocks…we have a few from South Haven…soft enough to rub out some worries and bring back calmness. Nice post!!!


    • Carla, you have to get into the NW corner of Michigan to get to the good stuff – Petoskey stones. They make rock hunting worthwhile. So happy to have a Farmer’s Market nearby that I visit once or twice a week. If I had to rely on my own gardening abilities, we’d be much thinner folks than we are. But, my first year at growing kale has been hugely successful. Happy with that.

      Still want to head to St. Joe, and have one of those burgers you mentioned in your blog. I can picture that photo of yours in my sleep! ;-)

      On Sun, Aug 17, 2014 at 12:49 PM, campshaws wrote:



    • We haven’t had too many on-the-road calamities for as many miles as we have, so we’re trying to look at this as our turn in the box. But, it’s painful to deal with (for me). John’s a lot more easygoing about crap like busted refrigerators. He doesn’t take it personally – can hardly imagine that, myself.

      He never even offered me a taste of that sandwich, so I guess he loved it. Out of our table of four, I was the only one NOT eating bacon in one form or another.

      I need to just get over this, and move on.

      On Sun, Aug 17, 2014 at 12:07 PM, campshaws wrote:



  9. I was wondering if the new fridge would be quieter—-so that is a real plus and no need to store ice packs in fridge or turn fridge off at night—-but out $700 with a working fridge in the garage—not so nice. Enjoy the calming blue light as you bask in its glow each time you open the fridge. I’ve had a notion to take out the cupboard above the fridge and the noisy Norcold and replace both areas with a larger, quieter fridge. But, if the little Norcold is $700 what would a larger unit cost? Guess I’ll sit on that notion.


    • We probably will still continue to use the ice packs and turn off at night – seems like we rarely camp where we have electric power anymore, so power conservation is important to us. What are we going to put in that stupid little freezer, anyway? I’m going to smash the blue light, so that won’t be a worry. If you want a second Norcold that may or may not work, we may be able to help you out. ;-))

      Can you tell that I’m still mad?

      Have you started your new job yet? All good?

      On Sun, Aug 17, 2014 at 11:32 AM, campshaws wrote:



    • Guess it’s cheaper to buy a bunch of old Mason jars than it is to get a rock polisher. John’s sandwich may have been the calorie king of all time! Have to admit that he loved it, though.

      On Sun, Aug 17, 2014 at 11:19 AM, campshaws wrote:



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