Road testing the new truck – Frankfort & Leland – July 19 – 28, 2021

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!

Brand new Silverado 3500 HD
Our Northern Outpost, Frankfort, MI
View from our driveway, Frankfort, MI
Arcadia Scenic Turnout, Arcadia, MI
View of Crystal Lake from Beulah Beach
Wild rasberries at the Northern Outpost
Frankfort Beach
Full moon over the Northern Outpost
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive,
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Microbrews at St Ambrose Cellars/ Brose Brewing, Beulah, MI
Point Betsie Lighthouse, Frankfort, MI
Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse, Frankfort MI
View of Frankfort from the lighthouse
Our campsite next to Brian & Lynn’s at Wild Cherry Resort, Lake Lelenau, MI. Their first time camping in their new rig, next to their old rig, which they sold to us.
Enjoying a fun afternoon with friends Lynn, Brian & Kayla (who took this photo) in Fishtown. Leland, MI.
45 North Vinyard and Winery, Lake Lelenau, MI – named after the 45th Parallel, which runs through their vinyard. Peaceful setting, great wine and only 4 miles from the campground!
Bel Lago Vinyards and winery, Cedar Michigan. This one has been on my bucket list for many years and is my current favorite (wine, view, lack of crowds, beautiful patio and tasting room)
Dinner at the Outpost – northern Michigan sweet corn!
Our last night of the summer at the Northern Outpost. Hoping the weather allows for fall camping.


Badlands RV Freedom tour – Taquamenon Falls & St. Ignace, Days 38 – 41

The drive to Tahquamenon Falls, our 16th campsite, was a scenic fall color tour. We arrived early and the ranger made us wait in the day use parking lot until 3pm. The lot was very full on that Friday afternoon, but we managed to find a spot for the RV, where we could wait and have a quick lunch. We were happy to see our large, pretty campsite, when we could finally enter the campground. We felt like we had our own space, though the park was 100% booked and many other campsites were packed more closely together.

Taquamenon Falls State Park typically has 500,000 visitors per year. By August that was up 4% over last year. The park ranger told us this was their busiest fall season ever, with campgrounds fully booked through October.

On Saturday we drove to Whitefish Point, thinking that most tourists would be at the falls.  We arrived to find the parking and overflow parking were completely full. People were parked on the road. It was too crowded to see the museum and enjoying the beach view did not feel peaceful or remote at all. We drove back to the park, only to find there was a long line-up of cars waiting to enter the camping/ lower falls area.

During our three days there, our routine was to visit the falls in the morning and late afternoon, to avoid the crowds. We could walk to the lower falls and find parking at the upper falls. We spent mid-days hiking the park’s trails, including a stretch of the  North Country Trail. It was another great way to avoid the crowds. We enjoyed a microbrew on the large patio at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub. We decided not to eat in the restaurant, but learned they had run out of whitefish, anyway. Dave’s consolation was some smoked brisket from the food truck.

The falls were beautiful, especially with the fall colors. We are glad to have spent so much time seeing them, but will not return anytime soon. The park is just too busy for us, especially during the pandemic.

Our schedule after Tahquamenon had been open.  We had hoped to drive back to Munising for a few days, but the forcast was changing for the worse, so we booked a night in St Ignace. Our plan was to have dinner on the patio at Jose’s cantina, where they have amazing tacos. By the time we arrived in St Ignace, the forcast was rain all day and all night there, too. Also, we realized Jose’s was closed on Mondays. It was an uneventful stay at Straits State Park, except for a great pizza and nice view of the bridge in the morning. Our next stop was our home away from home at our Northern Outpost in Frankfort, MI.

We were disappointed many times on the trip, that so many people were crowding into the UP. We even know many people here who went, after not going in many years or ever. Of course, we were there too, but we planned most of the trip before COVID. We did make the most of our trip and had fun, while staying safe.

I’m writing this final post of the trip from home. The last couple of days have been like being at a spa or luxury hotel. We have easily spent 41 days on the road, in the RV and then 2 more off-grid on our property, but are really enjoying the comforts of home – long showers, no limit on water for any use, heat, king-size bed, wifi, cell service, internet and television (antenna, Roku and Hulu). Our house feels enormous….  We’ve been cooking food that we missed on the road and I started running again (my foot seems to have finally healed). Most important of all, we immediately started working on completing plans for our 3-month winter trip to the Florida panhandle and the southern Atlantic coast. We are still hopeful that we will return to Maui for a stay in our condo in December. We are also starting plans for a trip out west next August.

This trip was everything we had hoped it would be. It was a great adventure including many new places, new campgrounds and lots of fun. It was so awesome to be outdoors every day in such beautiful places, hiking, exploring and mountain biking. We learned a lot about our rig, about being on the road and how much we love it. It further confirmed what we already knew – that we both love travel, the outdoors and being together. We can’t wait for the next big adventure.

Upper Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Upper Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Whitefish Point Lighthouse
Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub
Campsite at Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Lower Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Taking a break by the Tahquamenon River, Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Lower Falls, Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Campsite at Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Crossing the Mackinac Bridge, aka the Mighty Mac
The Mighty Mac from Straits State Park, St. Ignace, MI
Home Sweet Home, The Northern Outpost, Frankfort, MI
The Northern Outpost, Frankfort, MI

Badlands RV Freedom tour – Canyon Falls & Marquette, Days 36 – 37

We drove from Copper Harbor to Marquette on September 22. It was a warm, sunny day and the fall colors were approaching their peak. Our running joke, at the time, was that the various colors of my bruises from mountain biking were peaking at the same time as the fall foliage. Canyon Falls is located along the route, at a quiet, little-used roadside park in L’Anse, MI. The Northcountry National Scenic Trail (aka North Country Trail or N.C.T.) passes through the park and provides an easy, pretty hike to the falls. The parking is suitable for large RVs and we planned to stop there, as we had last year. When we arrived we were shocked to see the parking was almost completely full, compared with only a couple of cars a year ago. We almost did not take the trail, assuming it would be too crowded.  We found that the trail was long enough to disperse the hikers, so that it didn’t seem crowded. Definitely worth the stop! Note that we had hiked parts of the NCT on our warm-up trip in August.

In Marquette, we camped at the Marquette Tourist Park, in the same campsite we had last year.  The park has many old red pine trees and is located on the Dead River on the edge of town. It’s pretty and quiet, with the exception of the city’s public works vehcles departing early in the morning from the lot nearby.

Our first mission in Marquette was to go to Black Rocks Brewery, where have been several times and met some great people, including owner, Dave. We really love the beer and atmosphere. It is located in an older neighborhood, in an old, historic house. Since they first opened, they have expanded to the house next door and now have a huge outdoor patio. It was a nice, sunny afternoon and great to talk to the owner again. We are hoping that after the pandemic is gone, all the restaurants and breweries keep their expanded outdoor seating. We prefer to be outside!

The next day we went to pick up some amazing fresh bread from a local bakery, which we always do in Marquette and then to the landermat. We walked around Presque Isle Park and then hiked Sugar Loaf Mountain and enjoyed the spectacular views.  We had a beer at Ore Dock Brewing, then picked up some burgers from the Burger Bus food truck, for dinner at the park near the ore dock. It was another great stay in Marquette. Next stop – Tahquamenon falls!

Canyon Falls, L’Anse MI
Canyon Falls, L’Anse, MI
Canyon Falls, L’Anse, MI
Marquette Tourist Park
Black Rocks Brewery
Presque Isle Park, Marquette, MI
View from Sugarloaf Mountain, Marquette, MI
View from Sugarloaf Mountain, Marquette, MI
View from Sugarloaf Mountain, Marquette, MI
Tasty Falafel burger at the ore dock in Marquette