Dillon, Frisco, Breckenridge and Vail – Aug 21 – 26, 2021

We planned  6 nights at Heaton Bay Campground in Silverthorn, CO, because it was located near Frisco, Dillon, Breckenridge and Vail.  There is a lot to do and see in the area. We were thrilled to see our campsite, the prettiest in the campground, and knew it would likely rank as one of our all-time top 5 most scenic campsites.  There was a little distant road noise from I-70 and Dillon Dam road, but it was more quiet at night.

We were exhausted from the long drive on bumpy I-80, but forced ourselves to check out Dillon, our first night. We enjoyed part of a reggae concert in town and had a beer at Pug Ryan’s brewery. The two bar tenders that night, were from Detroit. We exchanged stickers and discussed our favorite places. One of the guys was talking about his upcoming wedding. I am mentioning this detail because a couple of days later, we were in Breckenridge, at the Gold Pan Saloon and we ran into the same guy, who was there having a pre-wedding meeting with his fiance, which would be taking place at the Gold Pan. Coincidentally, a friend of theirs started talking to us and he used to live in Maui and knows many of the same people we know. It’s a small world.

We hiked every day, except for the day we rode our bikes. It was really nice to slowly acclimatize and start with easier hikes and work our way up. Unlike Dave, who is completely unaffected by altitude, it takes me about a week to adjust to it. In the past we visited Colorado for 5 – 7 days and Dave would insist on some epic hike within the first 24 hours, sometimes climbing a 14,000-foot peak. Sometimes I could do it and other times I could not.

We visited many of the nearby towns. We really liked Frisco, which is a small, walkable, scenic town, though we didn’t care for the  road construction and traffic heading into town. Breckenridge is no longer the small mountain town it was when we first visited. It now seems to be over-developed. You can no longer see the mountains from any place in town and it is crowded with traffic and people. We enjoyed Vail Mountain Village on previous trips, when it was a fairly casual place. It has become far more upscale, with high end jewelry stores, spas and upscale restaurants.

The highlights here were the campsite, hiking trails, bike paths, Frisco and meeting people from Detroit and Maui.

Note: I was planning to post as we traveled, but had little internet and cell service after leaving Heaton Bay.

Heaton Bay Campground
Slushie, enjoying the view at Heaton Bay Campground
Heaton Bay Campground
Meadow Loop trail, Dillon, CO. Our first of almost daily hikes in Colorado
Loveland Pass, CO
Dillon Reservoir, aka Lake Dillon
Gold Pan Saloon, Breckenridge, CO. We have been here many times. Dave’s first beer here was when he rode his bike across the country in college. Breckenridge has changed drastically since then and even since our first visit together about 15 years ago. Thankfully, the Gold Pan remains the same.
Dead pine trees, killed by the pine beetle
Masontown trail, Frisco, CO. We saw this moose, resting about 10 – 15 yards from the trail.
Masontown Trail, Frisco, CO
Gore Creek, Vail, CO
Lion Square Lodge, where we stayed on 2 previous trips to Vail. They have amazing free coffee 24/7 in the lobby and you can hear the rushing Gore Creek from all of the rooms.
Lilypad Lake hike,Frisco, CO
Lilitypad Lake hike, Frisco, CO
Chilling on the rooft top at The Uptown on Main, in Frisco, CO.
We rode the beautiful paved bike path that runs between Dillon and Frisco, with a detour on a dirt path to another campground

Our route to Colorado – August 17 – 20, 2021

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.

Our pretty campsite at Warren Dunes State Park. It may be the only site our rig would fit in.
Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Dunes State Park
Greenbush Brewing Company. Sawyer MI. It reminded us of being at Paddle Hard Brewing in Grayling exactly one year ago , our first stop on the Badlands Freedom Tour.
Warren Dunes State Park. They have a LOT of rules here! There was an “Alchohol Prohibited” sign about every ten feet on every park road. No big parties in this campground.
Warren Dunes State Park
Warren Dunes State Park
Geneseo Campground, Geneseo, IL
Walking the Hennepin Canal trail, which boarders the Geneseo Campground
The old locks on the Hennepin Canal
The old locks on the Hennepin Canal, now a waterfall
Geneseo Campground, Geneseo IL
We had a great dinner on the patio at Geneseo Brewing Company
The cornfield next to the Geneseo campground. I expected some baseball players to appear, but it didn’t happen.
Slushie enjoying his first trip to Illinois and seeing his first corn field!
Beautiful campsite at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland, NE
Campsite at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland, NE
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland, NE
An owl watching us at our campsite, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
One of the lakes at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
Our site at the KOA in Ogallala. We were literally right next to I-80. I guess we can say we camped next to a freeway one time….

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


Keystone Cougar 29rbs X/Lite

Post by Dave

People ask me how we chose our 5th wheel RV?  Well, we didn’t actually choose it…. it sorta chose us.

We were looking at smaller RV’s, a lot smaller, and looked at a few 18-22′ range lite bumper pulls.  Lisa and I looked at a friend’s  Airstream Basecamp, but at 6’7″ tall I didn’t really “fit” in any of these things.

My longtime friends Lynne and Brian just happened to be upgrading to a bigger rig and had theirs up for sale.  Brian wanted me to buy it, but I resisted because we thought theirs  was way to big for us (so I thought).  Brian convinced us to at least look at it.  The moment I stepped into it and looked up with 18″ to the ceiling, I knew it was for me.  I then had to convince Lisa that this was the one. It was a real leap of faith for her.

The RV is a 2012 Keystone Cougar 29′ internal foot print, 32’6″ overall length.

I’ve made lots of changes to it, stripping out the bunk house, most of the doors, the dinette,  and other useless dead weight (useless for our needs).  We also added a full size queen memory foam mattress (Sealy To Go), and it’s the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept on.

The bunk house in the rear carries all of our gear – mt. bikes, boards, etc. Not having our bikes dangling on the back is really nice.

We  had a blowout on one of our first trips last summer, on the old tires.  That time on the side of the road was not fun, and I made a point not to ever have to do it again. The whole thing was a blessing in disguise.

I’ve upgraded the old suspension with new springs, and ezflex equalizers.  My brother loaned me the use of his shop and tools and I did most of the work myself…. with the help of his trailer mechanic, Ricky.  I took the opportunity to learn everything I could from Ricky about the suspension, hubs, wheels, bearings, etc.

I also upgraded the tires to Carisle Radial HD ,  with the highest rating  to E load range (for 15″).  Original factory RV tires are commonly known as “china bombs”. Few people actually notice the low speed and weight ratings of these tires.

The loaded weight with all of our stuff is just about 8,000 lbs, and pin weight approx. 1500lbs.  We pull it with our 2019 Chevy Silverado, with Max NHT tow/payload package.  I drive with 3 fingers. Its so easy… and the Silverado pulls it like it’s hardly there.

St Ignace, MI, just over the Big Mac
Myre Big Island St Park, MN
Fayette State Park MI
Home on the Range, Frankfort MI
My brothers shop, getting upgrades!
All new upgraded suspension