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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

VACATION – Sunday on Superior

(This blog being sent on Tuesday when aircard signal was available)
We drove west through the U.P. of Michigan as the temps rose and it got HOT…. we had the dash air on so we were comfy, but the winds died down and it got HOTTER. Wow!
We were heading west through Wakefield, Bessemer, Ironwood and on into Wisconsin again.  My GPS showed a small harbor with a campground way up to the north on the shore of Lake Superior called Saxon Harbor… so we drove there.  It is a tiny harbor village with about 10 cottages, 2 small taverns, and a harbor with about 50 boat slips, 2 rings of a county park campground and a lovely beach with high red sandy cliffs that stretch on for miles and miles. 

Saxon Harbor aug 201041Saxon Harbor aug 20100
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Some folks were just leaving the campground with their dogs and said they had been there all week and it was GREAT!  The dogs were allowed on the beach, and not a lot of rules or folks around during the week either.   Plus they gave us all the rest of their firewood!  It was $18 a night with electric… and since the temps had climbed to 93 outside on our thermometer, and it was MUGGGGYYYYY  we gladly forked over our cash for a site and plugged in. 
Saxon Harbor aug 20105
The sites are close together, but some shade, and pretty quiet.  There are 7 or 8 other campers here, all seasonal and gone home after the weekend.  Only one tent with some folks in it, and one trailer down on the end.  Up above the marina is another loop with a motorhome and another trailer seeming to be seasonal.  That’s about it.
After we cooled off a bit, we left the dogs in the rig and headed out the Tracker for a ride around the area.  Five miles down a road that ambled along the cliffs of Lake Superior was another county campground, back into Michigan.  It was called Little Girl Point campground.  We scoped it out and saw about 5 sites we would consider for tomorrow night!  It was only $14 a night there with electric, but the sites are something to behold.  Here is one:
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They are all in a row along the steep high cliffs overlooking the waters of the lake… I think we will be moving in the morning!  haha
Saxon Harbor aug 201012
We came back and made some burgers on the grill, and then took the dogs for a nice long walk down the beach.  By the time we were there, it was after 7pm and all the weekenders had gone home.  There were only 2 couples on the beach with a friendly dog and a campfire.  We chatted a bit and then we wandered down the beach a ways, snapping pics.

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The shoreline is a high cliff of red clay sand
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Some teenagers were jumping off the harbor edging into the deeper waters.. gosh that water was ice cold, I bet they were catching their breath with each plunge into the icy depths!
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We came back to the camper for cool showers and now are settling in with books and a bit of Sunday Night Football.  There are no digital stations here, but there is one analog NBC station that is a bit fuzzy, but hey, it works.  Many of the small town stations in the U.P. of Michigan that work by transmitter towers did not have to make the digital switchover, so our dual analog/digital televisions come in handy when camping in these areas.  Other folks with only digital television tuners can not get even that station, much less any station around here unless they are on a dish. 
No air card signal here, no cell phone service either.  But there is a well-used pay phone over near the pavilion, and we can see why. Nobody can use their cell phones!  LOL
Our GPS wanted us to travel around the beach and up a high gravelly hill to get back down the to main highway when we leave here.  But we decided to check it out with the Tracker.  WOW!  We would have never made it in the motorhome!  It was all fresh new gravel, just pushed up against the trees and no guardrails or foundation of any kind. Whew!  Good thing we checked it out, NEVER trust a GPS!
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map of area

That is it for the weekend, we will see what tomorrow will bring…

Sunday, August 29, 2010

VACATION – didn’t get too far?

(Due to no air card signal here, I have to post three days worth from a saved file using Live Writer and publish it when I can as we travel)


Ahhhh Friday afternoon, all set, the rig is packed, the plants are watered, the mail is on hold, our kids and neighbors are handling the house duties---- we should be READY to roll…  

but ….

Poor Steveio comes home from work at about 3pm to say these dreaded words: 

Oh boy… so he took some Claritin D and went to lay down.   Little Chelsea was picked up by her daddy and I took the dogs outside to the rig in the driveway to keep them outta Steve’s hair so he could get some rest. I figured we wouldn’t leave now till Saturday or Sunday when he felt better.  The dogs and I hung out in the motorhome for the next three hours, with the air conditioning running, while Steve slept in peace in the house in the lowest level guest room where it was cooler. 

At 6pm the door of the motorhome opens and he bounces in and says he has the house all closed up, let’s GO!   LOL

We hooked up the toad, and off we went!  (double checking each other’s set-up steps and all went well)

We headed out to the west, into the blinding blazing sun as it was setting… we got as far at Gillett and he said we COULD turn north instead and to call my sister in Michigan and see if they are camping.  He said maybe I would want to spend the first few days of our vacation with my sister…awww how sweet is that?

Sure nuff, they WERE camping at Lake Ottawa and would save us a site.  We knew we would be arriving after dark, but knowing the park as well as we do, plus the huge backup spotlights in each side of our rig, we will be fine arriving late.

On the way, we stopped in Lakewood to fill with diesel, $2.85 a gallon, so that was about a $200.00 trip cost so far.  They always are cheaper than any surrounding towns, so we were lucky to fuel up there.

Got to Lake Ottawa by 9:30 pm.  Our favorite site #17 was taken, but #11 close to my sister and broinlaw Fuzz was saved for us.  We backed in without a problem and got out the chairs and some beverages and joined them at their campfire.  Ahhhhh VACATION!

 Ottawa Lake Aug 20100

Saturday we woke up to sunshine, blue skies and wonderful woods full of birds and red squirrels.  Since sis and hubby were still sleeping, we took the dogs for a nice lap around the campground in the early morning quiet. It felt soooooooooo good to be out in the woods.

We knew our propane was getting low, and instead of taking a chance while on the road to parts unknown, we decided to hop back in the rig after breakfast and drive to town to fill up at Marlowe’s Propane in Iron River.  They are always reasonable and know how to fill a tank on a motorhome and give us the household price, not the higher BBQ grill/20 pounder recreational price.   Since we hadn’t really set anything up the night before, not even the jacks, we were fine to hop in a go, leaving the Tracker, table cloth and a sign on our campsite saying “CAMPSITE OCCUPIED – BE RIGHT BACK”  to prevent anyone from thinking it would be available for the upcoming night.  First come first served here.  We dropped off our Saturday night fee in the Iron Ranged tube and headed out for propane.  Filled that up, 38 gallons at $2.50 per gallon.  and filled our little 20 pounder we take for outdoor stuff at $16.

Came back, got into our site again and level and we were all happy campers.   The guys decided they wanted to work on Fuzz’s boat and trailer, tracking down a short somewhere.  They had bought a new battery and wanted to go over all the wiring before installing it.  Plus they had new taillights for the trailer to be installed too.

We women hopped in the Geo Tracker and did some rummage sale-ing.  Found a few little things, on being a Swiffer Carpet Flick that is used to quickly skim over the carpets and not have to use any electricity.  Good for the these leaf-butt dogs who drag in dried leaves on their furry butts and shed them off all over IN the motorhome! 

A lovely supper of steaks, tater packets, shrooms and cucumber salad and grilled zuchinni over the fire…

Ottawa Lake Aug 20103


Just sitting around BSing till the supper was done….  sun setting and lovely weather….

Ottawa Lake Aug 20102 

But then the guys went out in that boat and fished till 11 pm.  We women sat around the fire and kept the lights on so they could find us along the shoreline in the dark.  The boat is parked near their campsite overnight along the shore instead of loading it back on the boat trailer in the dark at the boat ramp.

We toddled off to bed about midnight, after hearing all their wild fishing tales of glory and success.  Of which we saw NO fish come back with them.  They said they let them all go?


On Sunday we woke again to sunshine, 67 degrees, not a cloud in sight.  Sipping coffee here and catching up this blog post, and soft music playing. ahhhhhh  this is nice.

Once Schmoo and Fuzz were out and about, we went over to start breakfast.  Fuzz started bacon in the big fry pan.  This looks like a regular 9 inch cast iron pan, but no, it’s really a big fry pan about 20 inches across.  Once that was done, Fuzz laid the flat griddle over the rack and Steveio took over.   He was making us panny-cakes!  

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Whew!  It’s HOT standing over that fire to ladle on the batter

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Yummmmm what a TREAT!

Ottawa Lake Aug 20109


Once breakfast was done and cleaned up, the guys went and loaded the boat… we packed up and got “road worthy”, said our goodbyes, dumped and rinsed at the station and headed out.

On the way out, a state cop flew past us headed towards the park… then a sheriff whizzed passed us too, headed out there.  Light a flashin, so something must have been going on.  Will wait for my sister to get home later this afternoon and tell me what was going on.


We headed west on U.S. across the rest of the U.P. and as I write this, we are passing through Ironwood, home of downhill skiing at Powderhorn Mountain.  We found a little harbor and campground on the shore of Lake Superior that we will head to… if we don’t care for it, we will continue on to Copper Falls, WI as it’s something we had seen on the PBS Show “Discover Wisconsin” last winter and made a note of wanting to see that too.


Will see what will happen, but for now I will post this…..

VACATION - didn't get too far!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We TOAD! We TOAD! We TOAD! For the first time....

Well, if you have been reading my past few blogs, you know we are getting ready to TOAD!

For all my non-RVing readers---  a "TOAD" is an RV term for towing a vehicle behind your motorhome with a towbar setup.   Our Geo Tracker is a nice little toad, lightweight and has a stick shift with manual dial out hubs to loosen up for towing (automatic hubs don't work)

Soooooo all the prep work has been done---

The tow base plate inspected, repainted, new bolts and put back on.  

We lined up the motorhome and the Tracker out on the road in front of our house

Steve hooked up the tow bars, safety cables and wiring to the lights

I was in the inside of the toad, doing the parking break, key position, shifter and transfer case.

He tested the lights from inside the motorhome while I watched from outside behind the toad.

I had tied a white rag to the top center of the steering wheel, (tell you why in a little bit)

Then we double checked each other's tasks....  good habit to start! 

He pulled ahead slowly while I watched for the two little levers to *pop* up --- 
meaning the tow arms are engaged and working properly.

We are nice and level with the tow bar and do not need a drop down receiver.

We were ready to roll!   

Our big TV inside over the driver's seat also is the monitor screen for our back-up camera.  We can see the toad out back through the tv!   (Our motorhome does not have a rear window)   By tying the white rag on the steering wheel, the co-pilot can see the wheel turn as you go around corners and return back to the upright position again.  If it does not return to the upright position, you know something is wrong and you should stop immediately to check it out. With the dark black interior of the Tracker, a white rag works well.

Here is my Steveio, piloting our rig and our toad down the country roads...  the evening sun is coming in strong on his side, so that new window shade we installed on the side window sure came in handy!   The camera only catches bars on the tv screen, but for sure it was a full clear picture as we were driving along.

We went around our big country block, which is a couple miles around.  All went just fine! 

We came home, reversed our procedure to unhook the toad.
And we made sure that we used the parking brake before unhooking.
Then once was all unhooked, we released the parking brake as I drove the toad back into our garage.

The tow bar can stay locked on the back of the motorhome and swivel up and out of the way to one side. 

And I had sewn a nice little vinyl cover for it when parked.  Blue Ox wanted $48 plus shipping for one!  

So there you have it---



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS - new outlets and tow plate repaint and dog stuff


Steve's mom is now doing better and resting comfortably at home, 
our daughter Heather's bridal shower is done, 
and we got a toad to pull behind the motorhome----   

Now that the big powered windshield shade installation is done, 
we did a few more little things to prepare for our upcoming vacation.  

We can finally sneak away for a few weeks vacation before all the wedding hoopla starts up. Heather and Jesse tie the knot on October 8, 2010.  So we better get while the getting is good~!

The first modification is that we wanted another outlet near the table that will run off the inverter.  There is an outlet up over the table underside of the overhead cabinets, but that one only works when there is plugged in shore power available.  Then we also wished to put in a 12 volt outlet too, so we can plug in our tire pressure monitor system base there to receive signals from both the front and the back portion of the rig, without needing to buy a signal repeater.  We are also going to be monitoring the four new sensors we are adding to the toad.

So Steveio measured up the distance, tapping into the power sources in the lower basement compartment, and ran both new wires up through the floor into the cabinet under our table.  From there he drilled out portions of the side of the cabinet, installed power boxes behind and hooked up the two new outlets.  They work great!  I tested it out with our new digital picture frame, filled with photos of past camping trips.

(we stole this idea from Mel and Paula --- thanks!)

Next project on the docket was changing the single 12 volt outlet to a dual 12 volt outlet up by my passenger side dash.   Now that we have a 12 volt Cradlepoint router, having 2 outlets will work better up there....  my laptop already has a 12 volt adapter, so that is also plugged in up there too.   We don't like having to run the inverter for 120vAC power when they run just as well off 12volt.

Next project on the list was that Steveio noticed the base plate that came on our Tracker was a little rusty looking.... so he took it off, inspected it (good thing, one of the mounting bolts was broken!)    and he coated it with a rust-neutralizer coating, then a new coat of rustoleum paint.  He can bolt it back on tonight after work with all new bolts.   Then we will line it up and see if we need a drop receiver adapter to keep the tow bar level.

I am making a vinyl cover for the towbar, which we can use when the toad is unhooked... we are told it is best to cover it up if not removing it.  There are keyed locks to hold it in the hitch receiver so it don't *walk away* at some campground.

Okay, the next one isn't really a motorhome modification, but it is something for camping.  You all know we take along our two fur ball doggies camping and everywhere we go.  We are very careful about picking up our doggie messes----   and always carry along doggie bags --  by reusing plastic store bags.  Since we have gone to fabric shopping bags for groceries, we don't have many plastic store bags any more.    Last week we were shopping at Dollartree and found these neato boxes of smaller black scented doggie bags!

You might think this is a dumb thing to blog about, but it goes along with the next photo:

 Mom and I were shopping at Goodwill last Friday and I found two of these, still new, in the wrappers! They are made to fit around the Flexi brand retractable dog leashes we already owned. 

Sure beats having to tuck extra bags, keys, cell phone etc. into your pants or sweatshirt pockets
to just take the dogs out for a walk.

Well, off to feed the little gremlin girl some lunch and spend the rest of the day making lists of things we need to pack before leaving on vacation!!!  Wheeeeeeeee

Monday, August 23, 2010

MOTORHOME MODIFICATION- Our new powered windshield shade

Last weekend, fellow Safari owners, Mel and Paula stopped to see us on their way north.  They had just bought and installed a nifty item, a powered windshield shade.   They had bought it on a special deal from King's Campers in Wausau as leftover overstock.  They said there was ONE more left, so we called and got it held for us.

They are made by :    MCD Innovations   You can get either the solo shade, or a dual shade with a day/night design of two layers.  We only wanted the solo shade in the heavy room darkening vinyl.

It has always bugged me to see rumpled curtains drawn across the front of lovely sleek stylish motorhome. See what I mean, in the windshield of our rig?  And that is after hanging there a while.  They are worse when first unstrapped from being pulled back while driving.

Our last motorhome, a Coachmen, had a nice pleated shade that held it's shape, and I had considered ordering one in the future for our Safari.  But the cost was about $300 to have one custom made and shipped.   The alternative like Mel and Paula's was being close-out priced at $85.

The first steps were to remove the old curtains and tracks.  Also we had to remove my slide out laptop desk, as it had to be relocated forward a few inches for the final drop area of the powered shade.

Next was to install the clips that hold the powered shade into place...  we had a great recessed area between the cabinets and the padded vinyl windshield surround on the inside.   When the shade is in it's fully UP position, you don't even see it. 

There... all snapped up into place.  

Next step is to drill out a hole in the dash and mount a DPDT toggle switch.  This is just a momentary switch to power the shade either up or down by pushing on it.  It is a center OFF and momentary in either direction for the up and down wires.  We chose to install this kind of switch, so it will not to be left on where it will burn out the motor.   I was nervous about Steve drilling into the plastic dash, but it went well and he fished the wires down, around and into place. 

After a test--- it worked GREAT! 

We repositioned the desk unit so the shade could drop fully down to the dash, by moving it about 2 inches forward and reinstalling it.  My seat is adjustable so it really didn't change the distance between my seat and the desk.  My laptop sits inside of here and it rolls out on a little tray when in use.

The shade can come down all of the way, or just part way as a long sun-visor instead of the two small ones that come standard on the rig.  How often does the sun go down between those small visors and you have to lean over to drive or see something till the sun either sets, or you turn a corner and drive in a different direction? LOL 

Soooo step one is done.  Now for the side windows----   

Mel and Paula had chosen to put up flexible fold up window blind units that can stow away when not in use.   But Steveio thought:  What about regular room darkening window shades on each side window?   Off we went to town and picked up two heavy room darkening Levelor window blinds, 46 inchs long. 

We mounted in the hardware and hung the rollers.  It was a tight fit, and we had to remove the two boxes on each side of the cockpit seats to install the rollers.  We had to reinstall those boxes because there were light fixtures mounted on them for the livingroom area.  Once that was done, I took a pic.  It's kinda showing a lot of light coming in the tiny gap between the side and front shades.  But it was a strange picture taking situation, with the dark interior the camera kept focusing on the light coming in the slits.  It really is very close, not a huge gap letting in light.  This was really dark inside, so I turned on the inside lights to snap the pic. 

The left side and right side

So the final result from the exterior is just what we were looking for:

My next blog will be the new power outlets Steveio is installing next to our kitchen table area.  (Mel and Paula did this too)   Steve is putting in a 120 Vac outlet for running items off the inverter.  He is also installing a 12volt outlet in that area, mid coach, for plugging in our tire pressure monitor base.  We are adding four more sensors for the toad (tow Tracker vehicle) and by moving the 12 volt base back further, we may eliminate the need for a repeater.   We will see.   Plus having the new outlets located there will allow us to use the computer at the table or in the recliner chair without stretching power cords all over. 

Does anyone wanna buy a set of windshield curtains?