Our first stop on this epic tour was at Warren Dunes State Park. Initially Dave wanted to drive straight through to the next stop, but he changed his mind. So glad he did! We loved the park and the drive from there to Geneseo, IL was pretty brutal, with construction and bad road conditions on I-80. It would have been a nightmare to add 3 1/2 more hours to that drive. We had a great hike on the trail over the dune, to the beach and then a short trip to Greenbush Brewing Company. It was a pretty fun day.
We went to the small town of Geneseo, IL because it was on the route, was a good point to stop and the town had two microbreweries. We loved the quiet campground and the cute small town, where we enjoyed dinner on the patio at Geneseo Brewing Company.
Eugene Mahoney State Park in Nebraska is pretty large, with multiple small lakes, a marina, trails, fishing, tennis, a theater, a disc golf course and an adventure ropes course. It was a great stop to do some walking and relaxing after a day on the road.
The only camping we could find between Mahoney SP and our first stop in Colorado was a KOA right off of I-80 in Ogallala. Though it is a bit noisy, it is a full hook-up, allowing us to shower and use as much water as we want. The owners are very friendly people . The sites are gravel and very flat. Some have patios, barbeque grills and small fenced in pet pens with fake grass. There was nothing that interested us nearby, except the Safeway grocery store, so we stocked up on supplies and I worked on this blog post.
For the Colorado tour, I plan to try to post periodically, as we travel,, but more quickly and with mostly photos. I want to enjoy every moment. I can always update the post later.
We were fortunate that our new Silverado 3500HD was built, even during the chip shortage. We were able to pick it up at the dealership just in time to allow for the 500-mile “break-in” period (500 miles of city dring under 55 mph, no towing), before our trial run towing the RV. Our trial run was to our property in Frankfort, MI, (aka The Northern Outpost), a short trip to the Lelenau Penninisula, to meet up with friends, back to the Northern outpost, then home. It was a great way to try out the new truck and hitch before our next major road trip. Colorado is one of our favorite states, and we have been planning a tour their since early winter.
We purchased the new truck, as the lease on our light duty Silverado is running out, and we want the flexibility to add more weight and to tow in the mountains. Though the trailer pin weight is significatly lower that the maximum, for the truck, the total weight was near the maximum towing weight. This deterred us from towing over any steep grades and forced us to be very weight-conscious when packing for a trip. We plan to have this truck for the next 10 years, or more. We also purchased the Curt A16 5th wheel trailer hitch, which was specifically designed for our truck and is an upgrade from our old hitch. We were thrilled to find that the HD truck ride is just as smooth as the light duty truck, if not better.
As soon as we hitched up and hit the road, it was apparent that the new truck and hitch were both major improvements. The hitch is far more solid and sturdy, no creaking or clunking when turning or going over bumps. The ride in the truck felt nearly the same as it does when not towing. It was awesome!
This would be our final summer stay on our property, before fall, so we made an effort to see and do as much as we could. My foot is still recovering, so I did not join Dave for the usual daily hiking. We went to our favorite local microbreweries, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Glen Arbor, Manistee, the local beaches, Beulah, downtown Frankfort and Arcadia. Last year, during the first summer of the pandemic, people began flocking to the area in droves. Some of the small, usually quiet towns, including Frankfort, were jammed with people. This year, it was just as busy. The Sleeping Bear Dunes area had been closed last year, but this year was jammed with people, even on a Wednesday. We managed to avoid the crowds and have fun.
For the first time, we planned a camping meet-up with friends. We purchased our fifth wheel from Lynn and Brian, when they were upgrading to a larger rig, to accommodate their growing family. Their old rig was adequate until the kids were fully grown and son-in-law, grandchildren and a second large dog were added to the family. They were spending a week at the Wild Cherry Resort, with plans for two of their grown daughters (with boyfriends) to join them at times during the week.
We spent two nights at the campground. Our site was probably the prettiest on the property and was next to our friends’ site. We had a great time exploring Sutton’s Bay, Fishtown and visiting a couple of wineries with Lynn, Brian and their daughter Kayla. We found that the Lelenau penninsula is not too crowded, with the exception of Fishtown in Leland. The wineries that we went to were low-key and without tour busses.
We spent one last night at the Northern Outpost. We packed everything up, for the winter, in case the weather is bad in the fall and we don’t return. We are now at home, packing up for our next big adventure, leaving tomorrow. Colorado, here we come!
We had the unique experience of having our first long tour during a pandemic, from January 27 to May 27. We had already experienced shorter trips, since COVID hit the world, last year, so we knew generally what was in store for us. Of course, we assumed that by March or April, it would nearly be behind us and were wrong. By the time we were in St. Augustine, FL, in early April, Michigan had become the new COVID epicenter in the US. I realized that was possibly the reason people were keeping a very large distance from me, while out walking or running and wearing my Detroit logo gear. We began telling everyone we happened to be talking to, that we had been in FL all winter, so they would not be afraid we would contaminate them.
Lockdown was tough for full-time RV’rs
The pandemic made us quite aware of issues that might arise for someone RVing full-time. Fortunately, all of the campgrounds had reopened by the time we headed out for the tour, but we know of people who literally had no place to go when all of the campgrounds were shut down. In those cases they had to stay with friends or relatives, aka mooch-docking. We have not considered RVing full time, but knowing this further ensures we will not.
Getting vaccinated in another state
Throughout our winter tour I had been working on a strategy for us to get COVID vaccines. It was challenging, as many states, including Georgia and Florida only allowed vaccines for residents of their states. Proof of residency was required. We met many snow birds along the way who had either flown to their home state or had driven many hours to get a vaccine (to no avail). I knew that South Carolina did not have a residency requirement, so our “plan A” was to get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine (single dose, only), if it was available. That was the quickest way to be fully vaccinated. When safety issues were raised for that vaccine I started searching for a place that had Pfizer or Moderna. By the time we had an appointment for the Moderna vaccine at Walmart in SC, I learned that North Carolina no longer had a residency requirement, allowing us to plan our 2nd dose there. The plan worked out well and we are happy that Walmart recently sent us a digital vaccine record. We may need it to fly to Maui this coming winter.
What we missed out on
The greatest drawback to traveling during a pandemic was not doing or seeing everything we normally would have. Mask mandates were looser or nonexistant in most states we traveled through and few people wore masks. We didn’t go indoors anywhere that was not open air (windows and doors open) or that seemed crowded. On bad weather days windows, doors and outdoor patios were closed and people were crowded indoors. There were countless times that we went to a restaurant or microbrewery and just turned around and left. A rainy, cold day would normally be a good day for a museum, a long leisurely dinner out or even a movie theater, but not during a pandemic. I think we quickly went through a couple of visitor centers, but otherwise, no museums, historic homes or indoor dining.
The pandemic also resulted in many people camping, who otherwise would not. Our impression of the normal snowbirds, who migrate south annually, is that they are experienced campers with no small children and who usually have some awareness of campground etiquette. Typically, there are campsite vacancies that allow for some people to maintain a less defined schedule. This year all of the campgrounds were fully booked. There were many large families who were presumably homeschooling and either “working from home” or not working. There were also vacationers who were camping rather than going on cruises or resort vacations. We believe this generally resulted in a less peaceful, quiet experience.
Still worth it, for us
The benefits to RV touring during a pandemic outweighed the drawbacks. We got to see something new almost every day and we made a point to do so. We walked and cycled every trail and every section of each park that we could. We regularly took walks around the campgrounds, checking out the multitude of rigs and camping styles and talking to countless interesting, cool people from all across the country. We saw and met so many cute traveling dogs and cats. We checked out as many hiking trails, cute towns, beaches and ocean front tiki bars as possible. We found all the best local fish markets and became skilled at cooking in our RV, as it was usually too dark, windy and/or rainy to cook outside).. None of these experiences would have been possible if we had stayed home and stuck to our pandemic lockdown routine.
Reposting some of my favorite pictures of uncrowded places: