Down Time and the Superior Circle Tour

Since my last post I made my way back across the country to my hometown of Longview Washington in time to visit my stepmother, Marilyn Reisner, just before she passed away. She had been ill for some time and her body had grown quite frail, but we were able to share some smiles and memories, and hugs and tears… along with my daughter Elissa… before she left us. We will surely miss our visits, always filled with innumerable questions and loads of unfiltered but heartfelt advice like only Marilyn could give. Rest in peace Marilyn. I pray you know how much you were loved.

Cowlitz County Fair, Longview WA

One of my favorite shots of Marilyn, with Elissa and her cousin Davis.

As of my last post I was crossing into Michigan from Ontario Canada. While there I routed myself within visiting distance of friends I met while camped in Florida during the winter. The first was Norm Webb, who I met in a rather hilarious way. Story here! Norm has a nice big front yard on the outskirts of Howe where I was able to set up camp and stay for a few days of down time. (I know you don’t have internet out there in the country Norm, but I hope you see this… Thank for your hospitality! It was great to spend time with you and meet your boys!)

Howe, MI

Old barn and curious horse near Howe Michigan

My next stop was farther north and west near Mancelona, where my friends Judy and John Burton (and their super cool Goldendoodle, Karma) also have a sizable property AND full hook-ups for a motorhome!! After their warm welcome and help getting situated on the prime campsite in their side yard, they took me for a drive through the country and past several of the lakes the area is known for, stopping for lunch along the way at Torch Lake.

Most of the rest of our time together was spent relaxing, barbecuing, watching baseball and walking the dogs in the comfort of their back yard. I think I told them a time or two that they might have a hard time getting rid of me! Thanks you two! I truly enjoyed the visit!!

Michigan

Paddle boarders and their dog on Torch Lake

Mancelona MI

Jazzy, Sadie and Karma lead us on a walk in the woods

Mancelona MI

Birch tree grove

Mancelona MI

Chillin’ and grillin’ with John, Judy and the girls

Mancelona MI

One of the best campsites anywhere! Chez Burton!

Next up was the completion of the Lake Superior Circle Tour. Last year, while traveling through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan I was able to complete (in sections) most of the US side of this 1,300 mile loop, from Duluth MInnesota across to the northeast corner of Wisconsin, and a few weeks later, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from west to east. (Those stories begin here and continue over the course of several posts.)

After saying good bye to Judy and John I traveled straight north, crossed back into “the UP” via the Mackinac Bridge and followed the road across the border to Sault Ste. Marie, and beyond to Pancake Bay Provincial Park where I stopped for the night.

I wish I had rave reviews for this campground, but I don’t. Admittedly, the weather was pretty dismal, and that can’t help but have an impact on any camping experience. And it was “snug”, meaning not planned with monster motorhomes in mind. I had no reservation, so I was fortunate to find a site large enough for The Beast. That was the highlight. My site was just beyond the trees from the shoreline, and after several hours on the road it would have been nice to enjoy a good walk there with the dogs, but they were not allowed. The mosquitos were so plentiful and persistent that grilling quickly became an aerobic workout, so enjoying dinner outdoors was not an option. With no wifi and no electricity the night ended early while curled up with a good book.

Ontario Canada

Lake Superior near Pancake Bay

Ontario Canada

The shoreline at Lake Superior Provincial Park

Ontario Canada

Colorful lichen

The following morning I continued north on Highway 17. It was a lovely drive even in the gloomy weather, with hundreds of small lakes on one side of the road, and the magnificent Lake Superior on the other. I was glad for a few opportunities to pull off the road when I wanted to, but most of the view was simply enjoyed from the drivers seat of my Winnebago. I have not lost my fascination for this lake. Maybe it’s because I grew up near the Pacific Coast, but I continually have to remind myself that it is not an ocean. It sure seems like one while watching the waves roll in on a sandy beach or crash against the rocky shores.

Lake Superior shoreline, Ontario

Canada

Shoreline of Lake Superior near Wawa Ontario

Ontario, Canada

Waves crash over rocks on Lake Superior

My next stop was at Wawa RV Resort and Campground which was much more to my liking. The grounds were clean and spacious, and the wifi worked well as promised. That evening, at the suggestion of the owner, I took a drive out to see some of the local area waterfalls.

Ontario Canada

High Falls near Wawa

Ontario, Canada

Silver Falls

This 28 foot tall Canada Goose sculpture sits high on a hill overlooking Lake Superior at the Wawa information center. It was designed and sculpted by Dick Vandercliff in 1960 as a symbol of the community of Wawa whose name is an Ojibway Indian word meaning “Wild Goose”.

Ontario Canada

Canada Goose Statue in Wawa

Ontario Canada

Canadian Flag blows in the wind on a stormy night in Wawa

The following morning brought a little better weather so before pulling steaks and moving westward I took a drive out to Sandy Beach which was completely empty of people and a perfect place to enjoy an invigorating walk with the dogs.

Ontario, Canada

I see mountains in the sand. Do you?

Ontario Canada

Near Wawa- Sandy Beach on Lake Superior

From Wawa we continued west on Highway 17 attempting a few stops along the way to see places I’d been reading about. Unfortunately the signs pointing to parks and scenic vistas along the highway did not indicate whether the roads were RV friendly. Twice I risked it only to find myself having to unhook my car, get both vehicles turned around in tiny little parking lots, reconnect the car and get back on the road because there was no place to park.

At another spot I drove a fair distance off the highway to hike to a scenic vista only to discover that dogs were not allowed on the trail. Since I couldn’t leave them in the motorhome with the high temperature I had no choice but to forgo the hike and get back on the road yet again. After about five hours on and off the road I pulled into Rainbow Falls Provincial Park where I confirmed at the gate that I’d have room to turn around and dogs were welcome on the trails before paying the entrance fee and driving to the parking lot at Whitesand Lake for a hike along Whitesand River and Rainbow Falls. Jazzy and Sadie were thrilled to be out on the trail with me. They are great little hikers!

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, Ontario Canada

Rainbow Falls

Ontario, Canada

Whitesand River, Rainbow Falls

Ontario, Canada

Zippy and The Beast at rest along Canada highway 17

Once back in the motorhome we continued on toward Thunder Bay where I intended to camp for the night. I should note that, although I arranged for international cell and wifi service before crossing the border, I had neither. This makes it nearly impossible to plan and make arrangements while in route, and a little unsettling as you drag 52 feet of metal into a big city. For the first time since I bought it, I opted to use the RV campground locator on my GPS system. My evening went from somewhat amusing to frustrating and tiring very quickly as I was routed into the tight streets of downtown Thunder Bay, taking turns that seemed to have me going in circles at times, and then… as I excitedly made a left on my final approach to the campground… I was faced with a tiny little bridge that I KNEW I could not cross. (I actually located a picture of it on google! View here.)

Gulp!! Now I have cars turning on the same road behind me, and nowhere to go but the little parking lot of some sort of low income housing project to my right. I had no choice but to turn into the parking lot with visions of going through the drill of unhooking my car, getting both turned around in a tight space AGAIN… with lots of curious eyes on me… and most likely having to block traffic and drive a short distance the wrong way on a one-way section in order to get back on the main road. (For those who don’t know; while towing a car behind a big motorhome… backing up is not an option.)

Thankfully I noticed a small drive to the back side of the building and made a split second decision to see where it went rather than pulling directly into the lot. I’m sure I was holding my breath as I made that turn because it could have put me in an even more precarious position, but I was relieved to find the narrow drive (we barely fit between the building and the fence) ran the entire length of the structure and back to a road I could turn on. With little faith in my trusty GPS I ignored it’s jabbering (still programed for the campground) and followed my instincts until I found a main roadway that I could follow to the west. At this point I’d pretty well resigned myself to continuing my trek however long it took to reach a safe place to camp over the border in Minnesota. I was tired. Beyond tired… I was fried. And I was hungry. As I drove and attempted to rally for a long night ahead, I noticed a restaurant just off the road… and as I drew closer noted the size and layout of the parking lot… and pulled in thinking I could at least revive myself with a meal.

I drove through the parking lot and around the building to a place where I could park out of the way of other patrons. As I walked to the entrance, one of two gentlemen sitting on the restaurant deck nodded toward my motorhome and said something about it being a great way to travel. I mustered a smile in agreement. The hostess seated me a couple tables away from the two men, and with nobody else on the deck we quickly engaged in conversation. They learned a bit about my journey, and the frazzling adventure I’d just experienced in town. Little did I know my luck was about to change. One of the two was Chris Davidson, owner of the fun and historic restaurant I’d found myself in… BeauxDaddys CAnaJUN Grillhouse.

After hearing my tale of the evening Chris immediately offered to let me stay and camp for the night in the parking lot. I’m sure he had no idea how exhausted I felt, nor what a hero he was to me at that very moment. After a good meal, a couple glasses of wine, and enjoyable conversation with Chris and some of his staff, I walked a few steps out to my motorhome and enjoyed a good night’s sleep.

Feeling refreshed in the morning I took Jazzy and Sadie for a good walk, left a thank you note on the door for Chris, turned “The Beast” onto Highway 61 and headed west toward the US border at Grand Portage.

Note: Normally my GPS system will not allow me to turn onto a road I can’t physically or legally take, so this was unexpected. Needless to say, Nathaniel (named for my favorite character in Last of the Mohicans because I couldn’t think of anyone I’d trust more to blaze the trail and keep me safe 🙂 ) and I had a bit of a falling out that night. He’s been working hard to gain my trust ever since! haha!

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Up next… new discoveries in Minnesota and a long trek west for yet another visit to one of my favorite places; Grand Teton National Park!!!

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16 thoughts on “Down Time and the Superior Circle Tour

  1. Well, Fran, as usual…. I am loving your journey! Your “tight” stories have me reading faster to make sure you got through OK! 🙂 No pressure, but I’m looking forward to your next update! This part of the country is so pretty and amazing (I’ve been looking at maps to follow your trek).

    We missed you this year in South Dakota. You would have loved it, temps were very nice and not much wind! We were all on the lookout for DOGS the whole time we were there, and saw several!!! Our trip this year was >4,000 miles and 12 states on the Harleys… another great one for the books!!

    • Thanks Susan! Rest assured you “Sturgis buds” were on my mind that first week of August! Now that things have settled some here I’m hoping to crank out a few entertaining posts soon. And I’ve got a few cool side trips planned while in the northwest, so there’ll be tales form my childhood stomping grounds too! My best to you, Mike and the rest of the gang!

  2. I’m glad you made it home to share some time with your stepmother. Keep her in your heart and she’ll always travel with you. Also glad you had the time to spend with friends, not much better than “grillin and chillin”! Beautiful photos as always, looking forward to the next adventure!

    • Thank you Laura. Interestingly, Marilyn did not have a computer and could not follow my blog, but she always enjoyed my verbal tales from the road.

  3. I’m sorry to hear of your loss, but glad you made it back in time to say goodbye.
    This episode was full of harrowing adventures. All the unhooking, tuning around, venturing into blind alleys wore me out just picturing it. But I thoroughly enjoyed vicariously sharing the nerve wracking, adrenalin rush. Not something many people could pull off. I’m glad you landed safely.

    • Thanks John. Things can get stressful in the rig when I roll blindly into a situation that calls for quick decision making, knowing an undesirable outcome lurks if the wrong one is made. Often times it’s simply laborious and tiring, but there’s always the potential for worse. If I hadn’t noticed the size of the bridge before passing the driveway… it would have been ugly (not to mention embarrassing!)

  4. Fran,

    I too am sorry about your loss. Glad you where there to be with family. Paula and I just purchased a 40″ Fleetwood Providence diesel pusher and will be back in Florida this Winter. If your in Florida again we would like to see you in February if possible. Hope all is well in your Journeys. Jeff

    • Thank you Jeff. And congrats on your new baby! 🙂

      I have no idea where I’ll be this winter, but we’ll see. You know how to find me! 🙂

  5. Thanks for posting that wonderful picture of our dear Marilyn and the kids. What a great memory for you all to have of her. She loved her grandchildren so much and so proud of her entire family. And, thanks for taking those wonderful pictures of the families at the memorial service for us to have. It was so good to see you and your brothers and children again; and we are enjoying reading your blog very much. Safe travels to you. GodSpeed.

    • Thank you Dennis. Although a very sad occasion, it was wonderful to see you and the family again after so many years. It brought many great memories flooding back to me. I’m glad to know you’ll enjoy my journey along with me as I travel on. My best to all.

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  7. Fran, Once again I want to say thanks for giving of your time to share with us slides from your trip. I think the questions you received and the comments the seniors said were signs that the C R Senior Center certainly enjoyed your show. We wish you only the best as you continue your Journey and when you are back in the C R area we hope you will stop by and share some more of your great slides with us. Myron

    • Thanks Myron. It was my pleasure to come out and share my journey with all of you. You will see me again down the road. Until then you all take care!

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