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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

VACATION - Recap, Costs, Links for Looping Around Lake Superior 2017

Now that we are home, I went over our financials about our trip around Lake Superior.


  • We spent $1,001.61 for 14 days, averaging $71.54 a day, went 1,513 miles.
  • All money has been converted to US dollars in each catagory
  • We started with 1/2 tank $132 reflected in fuel column on 1st night
  • We had 4 nights of boondocking without any fees
  • We had 10 nights of campgrounds with fees. 
  • We didn't eat out at any restaurants, and cooked all of our own foods. 
  • We used most of our own groceries from home, only picking up items later in Canada that are banned at the border. (potatoes, produce, citrus and dairy). I didn't put in a figure for the groceries from home, because we would have used the same if at home or away on vacation. The dozen pasties I picked up on the last day were not included because they were for future meals at home later.  

As far as reviews for all of the campgrounds we stayed at, each and every one was GREAT!  Easy availability of sites in Sept in the Provincial Parks of Ontario, and no reservations were required at any of them.  Most had 2 pm checkout times.  I would say 80-90% of the sites were fairly level, and easily accommodated a 40ft rig.  Only one in the US had a grumpy host, but she might have been experiencing burnout at the end of the season. LOL

Firewood was available at most parks, but we took along bags of pellet wood to use in our Flame Genie pellet campfire unit. Pellet hardwood is safe to transport and does not carry infestations of bugs over forbidden borders. Stays clean and dry in 40lb bags in our storage compartments.

We spent a little more on campground fees than usual, preferring to boondock more often to save on the budget. But then things changed due to the hurricanes down south, and things got very humid, hot and hazy.  We really needed electrical hookups on those days to run the rooftop AC units for my health, and for the comfort of the dogs.

Since we decided against our plan of going down to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan or using the $400 fee for the ferry from Ludington to Manitowoc, we splurged a bit more on campground fees.

1- MONDAY 11- Brunet Island Wisconsin State Park
2- TUESDAY 12- Duluth Aunt Nancy's yard
3- WEDNESDAY 13-  Two Harbors MN Super One grocery boondock
4- THURSDAY 14- Thunder Bay Walmart boondock
5- FRIDAY 15- Kakabeka Falls Prov Park
6- SATURDAY 16- Sleeping Giant Prov Park
7- SUNDAY 17- Lake Helen Boondock
8- MONDAY 18- Rainbow Falls Rossport Prov Park
9- TUESDAY 19- Penn Lake Marathon City Park
10- WEDNESDAY 20- Agawa Bay, Lake Superior Prov Park
11- THURSDAY 21- Pancake Bay Prov Park
12- FRIDAY 22-  USA - Soldier Lake Hiawatha National Forest park
13- SATURDAY 23- Little Bay de Noc Hiawatha National Forest park
14- SUNDAY 24 - Kleinke Menominee Michigan county park

We found dump stations in the provincial parks to be easy to maneuver. We only needed to dump three times as we have 50 gal holding tanks for both black and grey water.  We found good potable water at each park, which was just fine for showering and doing dishes and washing up.  Once our good water from home in our 100 gal fresh water tank was depleted, we drank bottled water purchased in 1 gal jugs from Walmart for 88 cents each. We used it for cooking, coffee and the dogs.  Especially for the dogs, so they don't get sick from ingesting different water types.  We have learned over the years that long haired doggy butts and diarrhea do not mix well.

Steve says for the most part, the Canadian roads are in very good condition. There really is only one single road around Lake Superior, Trans Canada Highway 17/11 and the roughest part was between Marathon and Wawa.  Some road construction from Pancake Bay to Sault Ste Marie. The stretch in Michigan on US2, between Rapid River and Gladstone leaves a lot to be desired.  We only saw one or two police cars the entire trip.

We did experience a lot of rainy days, and some cooler nighttime temps in the 40's and 30's F. We used a Lasko electric heater on the hookup nights in campgrounds. It runs quiet, is thermostatic, it can oscillate if we want, has a tip over safety switch and looks pretty.

We used our propane Wave 8 catalytic heater on the cold boondocking nights. This heater can cook us out on HI, so we only put it on LO and turned it off in the morning after kicking off our covers overnight.

I didn't figure any propane costs into our budget as it's kinda hard to figure. We used propane for cooking, water heating, refrigeration and some nights of heat.  The needle barely moved on the gauge as we have a huge 50 gallon onboard tank. It has only been filled up once this entire year in spring. Our generator also runs on propane, but we didn't need to use it at all.  We could kinda guess $10 or $20 worth of propane used?

Although I could have enacted the TravelPass option on my Verizon phone (costs $5 a day and uses my US data plan and minutes) I chose not to.  Even along the one and only main highway, Trans Canada 17, there is a lack of data signals.  So even if I did enact my Verizon plan, there wasn't anything to connect to.

People suggested things like free WIFI at McDonalds, or Tim Hortons, libraries, etc.  Well, there aren't ANY of those kind of places around Lake Superior once we got past Thunder Bay.  The aren't any towns of any size to generate any chain stores or restaurants.  The most you find is maybe a gas station or a gift shop.  And none of them had WIFI.

We relied on WIFI hotspots in two tiny towns (Rossport and Kakabeka Falls at a tiny B&B and a motel) and at one tourist trap near Agawa Bay.  Even the single Flying J in the middle of our loop around didn't have WIFI, not even some you could pay for by the hour.

Only ONE campground had its own WIFI and that was the municipal campground at Marathon, Ontario called Penn Lake.  It was spotty, but it worked better late at night or early morning before anyone else logged on.

Once we got back into the United States in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, my own Verizon data plan worked great.  Even on the country roads of M28 and US2, we had signal all of the while and could use our phone for GPS and calls and data.

I love using my Microsoft Streets and Trips 2011 on my laptop with GPS dongle. It is no longer supported by Microsoft but is still usable. My laptop has an optional 12 volt cord that plugs into a cigarette lighter outlet. Not all 12v plugs work with laptops. It is a special cord I had to order from Acer with a block on it that converts the needed 19v from a 12v plug in.

The best reason I like the Microsoft Streets and Trips is that it leaves a "GPS Trail" of every road and spot we travel on, as well as lets me put on "pushpins" with information embedded in each one. I can notate campgrounds, fuel stops, good boondocking places etc.   I import POI files of campgrounds and Walmarts and Cracker Barrels and Flying J across the entire country.  I keep a map of each and every trip we have gone on.

I love having a large screen to zoom in and out to see the route at any time while in transit. It allows me to snap calculate distance to the next place on our list, or change the list at any time. I can add stops, delete stops, rearrange things, search for nearby things of any set distance I choose.  Places like grocery stores, gas stations, campgrounds etc. It figures out the best route and does a good job. We always follow up with a paper map and do not blindly follow a GPS.

This is the GPS dongle unit that connects in my USB port. 

During the last couple of trips, my screen has been flickering when in use with the program. It's irritating but still works. I tried a bunch of suggested online fixes, but it still flickers --- unless I wiggle my wireless mouse on the screen... then the flicker goes away?? I am going to try to install it on Steve's smaller NextBook, but I didn't have the installation disk along with me.  I will try it now that we are home.

My Motorola droid phone is not much use as a GPS. It can only use the GPS for planning when I have a data connection.  Without data connection, it will show me where I am on a route that I pre-planned while having a connection, but it does not let me plan any routes or search for anything until I find another data connection again.

I didn't have internet access of a sufficient speed to upload all of my video clips.  So I did now once we got back home. I am going to back into each blog to insert them. Here is a playlist of all our little video clips, if you are so inclined:

Yup, $1001.61 for 2 weeks... 
 and the memories are


  1. Nice wrap up of your trip, sounds like a perfect vacation all-in-all! :c)

  2. Its interesting to see how other people account their expenses.

    I understand you are only looking at camping expenses for this trip, and not counting what you brought along. For example, In theory you should also include the cost of your last vet bill when you had your dogs vaccinated and got their health certificates for crossing the border. Or for that mater, how many times have you used your passport? For someone who has not gone into Canada they need to count that as an expense too. Also the food you brought from home was not "free."

    Because we are full time, I include prorated amounts for all insurance, jeep, motorhome, extended warrantee, and a rider for our personal property and liability that might otherwise be covered under a homeowners policy. Although it is not much, we still have to pay income tax on our investment income and on our Social Security. Plus Life insurance, health insurance, and Medicare insurance. Then we add in all motorhome repair and maintenance costs such as new tires, satellite service, dish repair (we went under an unavoidable low branch at one of our few boon docking locations. This year we had our windows defogged, and a new microwave put in. I also account of all memberships (Escapees, Passport America, Allstays Pro) and books that I have bought to plan our travels. Add to that, clothing, regular groceries, personal products like shampoo and toothpaste that must be bought from time to time, a few bottles of wine and Crown Royal, snacks, ice cream cones from time to time, etc. etc. I also add the cost of gifts I send to my family for birthdays and Christmas. In other words, every cent we spend is included in my daily and monthly account. As far as campground fees, we rarely boondock so we pay more there, but that is a personal preference. Craig just hates Walmarts. I don't mind and wish we would stay at them more often to save a few dollars. We also pay a monthly fee at Jojoba, even when we are not there. (but when we are there our monthly space fee is only $263.

    I bet if you added in a pro rate of all your regular expenses it would look like more than $1001.

    Of course we are not on "vacation" and I count RV expenses as part of the cost of living.

    I think the main point is that we each look at things differently and I cannot separate camping costs from my cost of living. All anyone can do is to try to spend less than their income if possible. Owe no-one anything. No mortgage, no car or rig loan, no credit card balance. We are all lucky if we can do that!

    1. Oh yes, Merikay, with you and Craig living full-time in your RV it is a whole different budget. With your costs it is much higher factoring in your other items like insurance, vehicle maintenance expenses etc. You guys have a great life on the road!

      But on the other hand, you don't have to figure in the mortgage, taxes, homeowners insurance, and all the utilities etc tick tick ticking adding up at the house even when you are gone on the road.

      I suppose in my budget I could include all the costs of what we left at home as well as the house sitter (she bartered to be able to use our unlimited wifi for her school work and a quiet place to study) I just wanted to post a budget of what we spend when we are on vacation. It is a lot less than most people spend I think, because we try to avoid restaurants as much as we can. And tourist trips. And resorts as opposed to national forest campgrounds and provincial parks.

      Compared to some people's vacations of staying in a condo or hotel, jet airfare or car rental, and eating in restaurants for all their meals is wayyyyy over our budget by a long shot.

      But I think $1,000 for 14 days of fun is pretty good--- Having our own bed, bathroom, food and dogs along is priceless!

  3. Sounds like you had a great trip! I’m leaving Wednesday for a trip with friends up the North Shore and Gunflint Trail area. I hope we don’t miss the fall colors.

    1. Hey Jeff~ If you are coming any where near Chilton on your way through, give us a shout!


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