Movin’ On

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The past ten days have been busy ones. Friends, Pat and Carol, are parked just down the lane from us. They’ve been hosting a rally for their Bounder MH travel club. They graciously extended an invite for us to join in their activities but not wanting to feel like “fifth wheels”, pun intended, we declined. However, we have stopped to chat for a couple of times during their evening campfires.

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Shopping day at the local market.

On Sunday we pulled up stakes and headed over to Indiana Enterprise Interstate to spend the night in their parking lot. The Suitepea was first on their list for scheduled repair work on Monday. It didn’t take long to have our water pump and entry steps replaced, as well as a few other minor things tended to. By mid-afternoon we were back on our site at Shipshewana Campground. We did have one glitch in the moving process. The side mirrors on the truck wouldn’t extend. It’s not a deal breaker for towing but Don did have it looked at.

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Beau celebrates his 1/2 year birthday with a bowl of Yup’s vanilla custard.

Tuesday found Don at the Ford service department where the tech said it was a minor fix. It just needed a new fuse. Before Don left Ford’s he tested the mirrors and they extended and retracted just fine. Later, on our way home from dinner, I suggested Don extend the mirrors again, you know, just to be sure, and nothing happened. The mirrors weren’t working again. Don called the service department and made another appointment for Wednesday, today.

Eby Ford had the truck in a service stall for 3 hours before finally determining that the motorized mirror was bad and needed to be replaced. The total for the mirror with installation would run $1700 and they did not have the part in stock but could have it sometime tomorrow. Don made the decision to get their determination in writing to take with us, then when we have the time and opportunity to deal with it, we would. He also had them physically extend the mirrors out until that time. So…..

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our time in Indiana has come to an end. Tomorrow morning will find us with wheels on the ground, rolling in a south easterly direction. It feels good to be moving again. We’ve sat too long. Since April of 2015 we have found ourselves parked for months at a time in either Indiana, Michigan, or Alabama. Grant it there have been good reasons for it, the birth of grandchildren, repairs to the truck, RV, or both, and deaths in our families,  and yet, the urge to travel, hitch-itch, as we fulltimers call it, has been patiently waiting to surface anew. I can’t speak for Don but I for one am giddy with excitement. If everything goes as planned from tomorrow until next April, we will be visiting places and seeing sights we’ve never seen before. And that is the very reason we embarked on this lifestyle in the first place.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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Playing Catch-Up

           Quilt patterns are displayed on buildings everywhere. These are just a small sampling.

Time is passing so quickly. It’s hard to believe we’ve been here five weeks already. It’s not that we’ve been overly busy although we have managed to get a few chores checked off our To Do list.

                                       Beau’s Summer romance is a Spaniel pup named  Zoey

Don tackled the biannual task of cleaning the RV’s roof then inspected it for any issues. In a couple of spots he removed old sealant, replacing it with new then proceeded to check and clean both air conditioning units. I surmised that since he was already up there it would be a good time to tackle the nasty job of cleaning all three Fantastic Fans too. With only a little moaning and groaning (from Don), we were able to knock that off the list as well. I thought it would be a good idea to give him a day off before hitting him up with the remaining chores I wanted to tackle. I even threw in a trip to Don’s favorite bakery for breakfast just to sweeten the pot.

                                            A few of the older beauties in the campground

                                                                   1983 Sceptre by Apollo

                                                                An old style pop-up, new canvas

                                                                           Restored 1965 Shasta

We wrapped up our To Do List by getting an oil change on the truck, having Beau groomed, washing the Suite Pea’s windows and screens, then cleaning the interior air and heat vents. We are finally done! (For the time being.)

                                             Beau looks so hound-some after grooming

Another item we were able to check off was the Suite Pea’s yearly wash and wax job. It’s a chore that Don no longer does himself, at least not the entire rig. He does do the cap occasionally, when he feels it needs it. We were going to swing through Myrtle Beach on our way south this Fall as there’s a company there that does a nice wash and wax at a reasonable price, but Don had a local company come out instead. He had seen them at work in the campground and liked the results,  and their rate beat out the South Carolina company’s. So if you find yourself in the Shipshewana area in need of an RV wash and wax, we recommend  contacting Xtreme Auto Detailing. The awning and the tires were also included in the price.

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One of the many Quilt Gardens in the surrounding area. This design is an Indian Star. It  first appeared in the Kansas City Star in 1937.

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This pattern is called Indian Sunburst. It debuted in 1981.

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This is the Hearts & Flowers pattern. It debuted in 1841, the same year the Amish arrived in Elkhart County, Indiana.

Don noticed the  sight in his left eye had progressively been getting worse. He’s been putting off having an eye exam until we reached our winter location in Florida. Beau however nixed that idea. Don unthinkingly left his glasses within reach of the pup and well, you can guess the rest. We were able to get Don in right away with the local eye clinic. The eye exam told us that he has developed a cataract in his left eye. The optometrist felt he could improve Don’s vision temporarily with lenses but that Don would be looking at laser surgery within 2-3 years. Don’s comment was he thought only old people developed cataracts. Guess who just registered for Social Security this week? Huh.

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A few of the murals I found in Shipshewana

It hasn’t been all work and no play. I gave Don a weekend break (from me and my Honey Do list) by going down to my mother’s. Actually it was because my youngest had scheduled a photo session to have a four generation picture taken with her daughter, herself, mom, and I. I added an extra day so I could tag along on my granddaughter’s first visit to the zoo. Bobbi and Kendra ended up with two tag-alongs as Kendra’s paternal grandmother decided to make it a foursome. Kendra wasn’t overly thrilled with any of the animals other than the colorful parrots and the dolphins. Her mom and grandmas sure had a good time though. As an added bonus our admission to the Indianapolis Zoo included admission to the White River Gardens next door AND the gardens was hosting a Lego exhibition. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Lego exhibits? Well I do! I have been fascinated by them since seeing my first one at Disney World in 2003. The Indianapolis event did not disappoint either.

Kendra's first trip to the zoo. With mama, & grandma's Lisa & me

Kendra’s first trip to the zoo. With mama, & grandma’s Lisa & me

 

                                                      Below is a few of the Lego exhibits

Back in June, or possibly it was July, I contacted Jim Bennett of Palmetto House Signs to replace the dog bone portion of our RV sign. We stumbled upon Jim and his sign company seven years ago while on vacation at Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach. Jim and his wife had a home there. While exploring the facilities which includes cottages as well as the park, Don and I couldn’t help but notice and admire all of the colorful and unique house signs on many of the cottages. At that point in time we knew that we were going to be full time RVers one day AND we knew we wanted to have a sign to hang with our names and (newly started) blog name on it. Up to this time we hadn’t seen anything that jumped out at us.Until we saw Jim’s signs. I stopped in at the park office to inquire if they knew who to contact. The lady manning the desk laughed and said “Yes, my husband.” Then she gave me Jim’s number. Talk about luck!

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Our original sign

We called Jim right away and made arrangements to meet at their cottage the following day. The day before we were to leave for Charleston. Jim was wonderful to work with. We explained what we wanted, and why. Jim showed us his product, how it was made, and  gave us a time frame in which he’d have our sign completed. He said not to worry about how or when we’d pick it up, he’d mail it to us.

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Our present sign & Beau’s

That sign worked well for us for five years until we decided we needed something a little more classy and less Parrotheadish. Is that even a word? We also wanted to add a bone shaped sign for Tucker. So two years ago on our last pass thru Myrtle Beach we again contacted Jim and once more he delivered. We’ve been very pleased with our Palmetto House Signs appearance and durability. We’ve received numerous compliments on both over the years. After we lost our Golden boy Tucker in May, I packed up all of his things including his sign into a keepsake box which is stored at my mother’s. Then along came Beau. We needed a new bone sign. I sent off an email to Jim to see if he would make us a new one with Beau’s name on it. Not only did he make a new sign and ship it to us, he refused to take payment for it. He told me it was in memory of Tucker. Jim also mentioned that after meeting Don and I at Ocean Lakes, he and his wife were inspired to travel. They sold their cottage and purchased a travel trailer. I teared up and when I shared Jim’s message with Don, it touched his heart as well. Thank you Jim for your kindness and generosity.

Jim gave me permission to share his company info on our blog. So folks if you like what you see, contact Jim Bennett at

http://palmettohousesigns.com

You can find him on Facebook too at

https://www.facebook.com/PalmettoHouseSigns

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We were surprised to see this campground packed over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Weekends at Shipshewana Campground are normally quiet with less than a third of the sites filled. It’s Tuesdays and Wednesdays that pack ’em in. Those are the days the auction and flea market are in operation. There’s no pool, no playground, and on Sunday’s,  Shipshewana, as well as the surrounding towns, close down in observance of The Sabbath. But packed it was, and so was the Suite Pea. Our daughter Bobbi and granddaughter Kendra drove up on Friday evening and stayed until Monday afternoon. It’s the first time in twelve years of employment that Bobbi’s been given a holiday weekend off. (Just one more reason to like her new job.)

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The Ten Commandments prominently posted on a barn

It was too late Friday to do anything but Saturday morning after a big breakfast of my cinnamon pancakes with locally produced eggs and bacon, and a stroll through the campground, Bobbi, Kendra, and I were off to do some shopping. I took the girls to a little bakery I knew of that’s off the beaten path. It’s Amish owned and operated right on their farm. Mom and daughters start baking at 2:30 in the morning then open for business at 5 am. One of her son’s operates the till. I needed to purchase bread for the vanilla French toast I was planning to make and Bobbi picked out a pumpkin roll for her dad. We dropped these off with Don. Next stop, Davis Mercantile. The mercantile has four levels of shops, cafes, and,  an antique carousel. The 1906 Dentzel Carousel was the purpose for our visit. I thought Kendra would like to ride one of the beautifully hand carved farm animals. It was her first time on a ride of any type. She was leery at first but once the music started and the carousel began to move, she was all smiles.

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Kendra is an avid book reader. Books have been her favorite “toys” since she was able to sit up. The mercantile has a wonderful children’s bookstore called Red Wagon, it was our next stop. I don’t know who was more excited about finding Corderoy in board book form, Kendra, or Bobbi, who squealed so loudly with delight upon finding it that it made the staff and other customers laugh. I also purchased a variety of treats at Aunt Millie’s Candy to send to my father. Aunt Millie’s carried three of his favorites, pecan brittle, salt water taffy, and good black licorice. I bought enough to last him for a good long while. After stopping for lunch at a little cafe we decided to call it a day and headed back to the rig. Later, Don and I took our girls to Das Dutchman Essenhaus for a Amish-Mennonite family-style dinner.

Sunday we went to Krider Gardens in Middlebury for a photo shoot with the baby but the mosquitos were so bad that we didn’t stay long. Then on Monday, Don wanted to take Bobbi to his favorite ice cream parlor before she got on the road. Yes, we’re nuts, we drove 33 miles just for ice cream but it doesn’t come any fresher than Rocket Science Ice Cream where it’s made to order than flash frozen with liquid nitrogen. All too soon our babies visit came to an end.

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We haven’t done much in the way of sightseeing while here. We’ve pretty much covered all of that on our many previous visits. There was one thing I’ve always wanted to do but for various reasons it never panned out. This time though I found a playhouse that was featuring the musical comedy “Plain & Fancy” and purchased tickets for a Saturday matinée. It was one of the first depictions of the Amish community in American pop culture and ran on Broadway back in the mid fifties.

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The Round Barn Theater

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Blue Bird Thing, this bluebird with both eyes on one side of it’s head, is a central focus in the musical “Plain & Fancy”

When I started typing this post I didn’t feel I had much to say. I guess I was wrong.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…..

Beau loves to watch the horses go by

Beau loves to watch the horses pass by (If you look closely, in the lower left corner of the window you can see a horse drawn buggy.)

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Decision Made

After two 8 hour drives into the early morning hours I made an executive decision. We packed up the Suite Pea and moved to a halfway point between my father’s northern Michigan home, and our youngest daughter’s southern Indiana one. This way if I’m needed at either location, I can make the drive in a relatively short period of time. Even though it’s nice to be needed, I’m truly hoping that won’t be the case. As it is, we had intended to land here at the end of August anyhow, it being the RV Capitol of the USA and us being in need of repairs. As an added bonus, it’s one of our favorite destinations to visit (& to eat).

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Fill ‘er up please

As some of our blog followers are aware of, our water pump malfunctioned while we were in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula last month. Don scheduled an appointment to have it repaired along with our water cabinet seals getting replaced. (They’re becoming harder and harder to open and close). Then, while I was in Indiana last week our entry steps broke. That’s three things, right? And the saying is, these things come in threes, so I thought, okay, we can deal with that. WRONG! Today, a 90 degree day with more to follow, our AC quit.

LATER IN THE DAY

I asked in the park office if they could recommend an RV tech in the area. They did indeed, in fact they highly recommended we talk to Al of Tri-Star Mobile RV Service and gave me one of his cards. Don called immediately and left a message with his office. Al was out on another job at the time but did give us a call back to say he would come by when he was finished. From Don’s description of what happened with our AC, Al said it sounded like the cable was bad. True to his word, he arrived later in the afternoon and had us up and running again within 15 minutes. I must mention that unlike technicians we’ve used in the past, Al only charged us for the 15 minutes he worked and not for a full hour. Can’t beat that kind of service and yes, it was the cable.

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Beau in the morning light

Now I’m going to back track a little. When our water pump went out in July, Don contacted Interstate to get us an appointment after which I called Grandview Bend Campground in Howe to make a reservation. We have stayed there many times in the past. I requested site #1 and was told it was available during our time frame. My reason for requesting this specific site was because it is an end site and therefore no one would be on our door side giving Beau an open area to run and train, it also has one of the few 50 amp hookups.  (Grandview Bend consist mainly of seasonal sites with only one row for short term campers, most of which are 30 amp sites. Sites are tight with little more than the width of a picnic table between them). Not exactly our cup of tea but the location and price is right.

I called again 5 days before our intended arrival and was once more assured that we would be on our requested site. Satisfied, Monday we pulled out of Kalkaska and made the trip south to Howe, Indiana. Imagine our surprise upon our arrival at Grandview Bend to find another RV in our reserved site! I immediately contacted the manager to find out what was up. She informed me that she took the liberty of moving us to another site because the motorhome that was parked on it wanted more room for his tow vehicle. Now had we planned on staying for only a few days to a week, it would have been fine for us BUT NOT for a whole month and a half in a cramped campsite!

I reminded the manager of our prior two conversations, that we were returning guests, and at the very least she should have called me first since she had our number. At which point her husband jumped in and let us know in no uncertain terms that we were just plain lucky to even have a campsite. What!!! Do reservations not mean anything??? Did I mention this park is under new management? Well it is and unfortunately their management skills are not as courteous as those of the previous manager’s. After some discussion with Don we decided to pay for one night so we could unhook then take off in the truck on a scouting trip for another campground in the area.

We were in luck. We scored the last site available at Shipshewana RV Park South, and another stroke of luck, it was open for the entire time of our stay. I checked us in then we returned to Grandview to get Suite Pea and bring her to South. At check-in we learned that we were the fourth RV to leave Grandview Bend within the past couple of days on account of the treatment they’d received. It goes without saying, we will never return to Grandview Bend.

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Amish homesteads abut the campground on 3 sides. Our view on the left…..

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to our right…..

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and our view to the rear.

Thus begins our stay in Shipshewana. We’re looking forward to meet ups with old friends, making new ones, and having our repairs behind us.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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Too Soon Good-Bye

 

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Sadly, our time in Trout Lake is too quickly coming to an end. We have greatly enjoyed our two relaxing weeks by the water.

The heat on Friday was unusual for U.P. weather, topping out at 89 degrees. It made for a lazy day. While Don fished, I sat under the shade of the white birch trees reading and dozing off and on. With only a 30 amp hookup we can’t run our AC units. I suppose we could run just the one in the front and close off the bedroom area but why bother when our outside setting is so inviting. In the evening, Don and I drove to the cabins where the family is staying. It was too hot for a campfire so we visited on the porch until the mosquitoes forced us inside.

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Saturday morning saw the Iowa portion of family head back home leaving only the Michigan portion and us behind for one last night together. Don rose early, very early, around 3 am to do a little walleye trolling before I got up at 6. We made plans to drive the Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway then stop for a whitefish dinner at Brown Fisheries Fish House in Paradise. The restaurant is well known for its whitefish.

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The byway follows alongside the Lake Superior coastline but unless you pull off to visit the points of interests along the way, you won’t see the lake for the trees. We did stop to view a couple. The overlook was nice but I think it would be spectacular in Autumn when the trees are dressed in their Fall finery.

Lake Superior overlook along the Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway

Lake Superior overlook along the Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway

We also came upon a beautiful secluded beach that could rival any ocean beach. The shore was sandy, not agate strewn like much of Superior’s coast. There was a group of people picnicking on the sand with a small campfire going. Best of all it was dog friendly.

Where the water meets the sky-almost indistinguishable

Where the water meets the sky-almost indistinguishable

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Another place of interest is the Iroquois Point Lighthouse. It’s open for tours and it’s free. Since we had Beau with us we chose to just stroll the boardwalk that looped around the light and abutted the shore. We let Beau test the water which he seemed to like until a rogue wave smacked him in the face.

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That evening we hosted one last campfire with family. Only Karla and Larry joined us as the other four family members were still pounding the lake vying for that one elusive big fish that would take them home with this year’s trophy.

With family gone and rain in the forecast, Sunday was a good day to get laundry done and pick up groceries for the week.

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                                                                Wonder what Don did this time? 

We awoke to a cerulean blue sky. I treated Don to breakfast on the porch of the Bay View Inn in Epoufette. He had their most popular breakfast of whitefish, American fries and eggs. I ordered a short stack of fresh Michigan blueberry pancakes. Glad I had a half order as my two cakes came platter sized. Neither of us had a need for lunch that day. Instead we drove up to the Lake Huron towns of Hessel and Cedarville to explore. In Cedarville we discovered two RV parks that we liked. Both are on the water with waterside sites. I made note of them in both our Michigan Counties atlas and on my Excel file for future reference.

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Just the three of us around the fire Monday night as we listened to the Tiger ballgame on the Don’s MLB iPhone app. I commented as to how that brought back memories of hiding the transistor radio under my pillow at bedtime just to listen to the game, until sleep carried me away.

Tuesday morning Don was on the Pine River by 8 am. He hooked into a dozen walleye but not a one was keeper sized. A DNR officer he spoke to said he needed to be on the river by 6 in order to catch the big ones. Don didn’t feel the time was wasted though as he picked up a few river fishing tips from the locals.

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The Pine River

Most of the campers have left, it’s just us and another couple two sites over on our side of the campground. It’s so peaceful when the train isn’t passing through. This is a rough life we live.

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Mouth of the Tahquamenon River

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Today is our last full day in our perfect little campsite. We’d love to stay a while longer but other campers have reserved our spot. So Don is cleaning and packing up his inflatable boat while I catch up on our posts. Tomorrow we return to The Property. We won’t be staying there as long as we originally intended though. In two to three weeks we will make our way south to have our water pump repaired or replaced. It’ll give us the opportunity to have the valve seals in our water cabinet replaced as well. The gray valve takes more strength than I have to open or close it and Don is even finding it very difficult now. No amount of lubrication has had an affect.

Until next time, here’s lookin’ at you kid……IMG_1852

 

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A Favorite Family Haunt

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The Mackinac Bridge

My mother’s side of the family has been coming to Trout Lake for as long as anyone of my generation can remember. Mom’s siblings came every summer and brought their children (my cousins) with them. As my own parents often did. We all have many wonderful fun filled memories of this park and a few of us have passed our love of it down to our own children. Some of our reminiscences are bittersweet as too many of our loved ones are no longer with us. Then there are others who wanted to join in this year but for various reasons were unable to attend. Sadly two of our own daughters were in that mix, one has a grandchild at home with serious health issues, the other started a new job.

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Our campsite

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Our view

Don and I made the trip up early. We felt the need to spend a few quiet days together, just the two of us, before the rest of the family arrived. So on Wednesday morning, the 13th, we made the two hour trek north across the Mighty Mackinac Bridge to set up camp at Trout Lake Township Park. (You won’t find it listed in RV Park Reviews) We arrived with our fresh water tank full as there aren’t any spigots on the grounds. I should mention however, that there is a fresh water fill located near the dump station and bathhouse. We were greeted with blue skies, abundant sunshine, and a nice breeze coming across the lake. It felt great to be out in the sun again after being under a heavy canopy of trees for the last two and a half months. Unhappily though, we found our water pump wasn’t working correctly. It became very hot to the touch. Being concerned that it might cause a fire, we are utilizing it only when deemed absolutely necessary and have instead resorted to using water jugs. It’s a good thing we keep a few on hand just in case.

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Thursday was more of what we affectionately refer to as a typical Trout Lake day. It was cool, breezy, and rained the entire day. The rain moved out as evening rolled around. The wind calmed, the water laid down, and we had a perfect ending to the day huddled up next to a glowing campfire.

On Friday Don inflated his portable Sea Eagle fishing boat and charged his little trolling motor. We spent much of the day doing leash training with Beau or reading and soaking up the sun’s warm rays. At the campfire that night we sent up a memory balloon in honor of Tucker’s 10th birthday. Teary eyed, we watched it drift heavenward until it was no longer visible. We turned  our attention back to our campfire until long after dark.

St. Ignace

St. Ignace

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Clyde's of St. Ignace, MI, a U.P. icon

Clyde’s of St. Ignace, MI, a U.P. icon

We got an early start on Saturday. The three of us drove the 30 miles into St. Ignace. I had laundry to do and groceries to pick up. Don had a short list of things he wanted to get at the hardware. We figured we’d be in town the better part of the day so we added an early dinner at our favorite drive-in restaurant, Clyde’s. We make it a point to stop and have a Big C every time we visit the U.P. On our drive over we had two deer cross the road in front of us. One was a six point buck. The photo isn’t too clear as I had to scramble to get a shot of it and it was taken through a bug splattered windshield. When we returned to the campground we found my father had arrived with the boat in tow. He was supposed to spend the week up here as well but left to go back home within the hour. Dad is so notorious for doing stuff like that that, but sorry to say, we make bets as to how long he’ll actually stay once he arrives. So once again, no surprise other than we thought for sure he’d make it at least a day or two.

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6 point buck. Photo’s not to clear but you get the gist of it. We’ve seen more deer this week than we’ve seen the entire summer at the property.

Our daughter Leslie and granddaughter Ava arrived Sunday afternoon to spend the next three days visiting us. The first of our family members also began arriving. They are staying in cabins about 3/4 mile away from the campground but also on the lake. Apparently no one camps anymore. My uncle Lloyd and cousins Karla and Larry stopped by after they were settled in. It was a nice visit. Always good to see my Kinsey side of the family.

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On Monday the rest of our extended family arrived and settled in. Don and I took the kids to Oswald’s Bear Ranch in Newberry. I had visited a similar one as this when I was a child and the memory of it has always stayed with me. I was hoping to share it with all of my grandchildren this week but such was not the case. Ah well. Ava enjoyed it though. She not only got to see huge full grown female and male black bears but yearlings and cubs too. Oswald’s offers a photo op to guests, for a $10 fee you can have your picture taken with a cub. Of course Ava was up for that. This is something I think she’ll long remember. At least I hope so. After a quick lunch we headed back to camp where Ava went swimming. That’s one of the nice things about this lake, there is a roped off beach area but “the sandy beach” actually extends the entire length of the lakefront campsites. You can walk quite a ways out before it becomes waist deep.

 

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IMG_0510Campers next to us had a medical emergency and had to leave early. They offered us all of their firewood, almost a cord in all. We thanked them and moved it piece by piece to our campsite knowing it would be used up by week’s end. In the evening everyone gathered here to celebrate uncle Lloyd’s 82nd birthday with cake, ice cream, and a bonfire. A perfect ending to our day!

Tuesday morning was the perfect fishing conditions so Don took the inflatable out to try his luck while I took the girls to see Whitefish Point on Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay. It was made famous in Gordon Lightfoot’s song about the sinking of the Edmond Fitzgerald. Whitefish Point is a former Coast Guard Station. It’s lighthouse is the oldest active light on Lake Superior. Although it hosts a beautiful beach filled with agates and sun bleached white driftwood, I’ve never seen anyone swim here since the water temperature is bone chilling even in the hottest of summers. The place is now a museum that pays homage to the Fitzgerald but does mention other shipwrecks as well. At one time it was free to tour the buildings here, now it’s a bit costly, certainly more than I cared to spend. For 4 year old Ava the fee would’ve been $9 plus another $5 on top of that to hike to the top of Whitefish Point Lighthouse. She did however like rock hunting on the shoreline and even ventured in to get her feet wet.

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Commemorative plaques of lives lost upon Superior's waters

Memorials to lives lost upon Superior’s waters

Back at camp Don had caught 3 small mouth bass, only one was keeper sized though. He released it back into the water since he’s only interested in hooking fish and not in vying for this year’s family fishing trophy. While sitting out in our camp chairs Don and I witnessed a Broad-Winged Hawk swoop down to the water. He was after one of the six ducklings swimming near the shoreline. Mama duck put up a mighty ruckus and much to our amazement won that round against the much larger hawk.

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Later around the campfire that evening we were lulled by the gentle waves lapping against the shore, the sound of the loons calling from the far side of the lake, and the sight of a full moon rising over the tall pines to our east.

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A trip to Tahquamenon River’s upper and lower falls were on our to do list for Wednesday. I can never pick a favorite. I love both falls equally. I have wonderful memories of visiting both as a child. At the lower falls, we would all pile into rowboats and row across the Tahquamenon River to the island centered in the middle. Back then we could walk out on the slippery rocks into the spray of falls. I seldom see anyone do this anymore. Perhaps it is frowned upon by the park service now. Today, because we had Beau along, we didn’t rent a boat but instead gazed upon the lower falls via several vantage points from above.

 

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Four miles further up river lies the upper Tahquamenon falls. The upper is said to be the second largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River with Niagara Falls being the first. The average volume of water going over the falls is about 7,000 gallons per second. In the Spring, the runoff can be as much as 50,000 gallons per second. I can attest to the beauty of these falls in all of Michigan’s four seasons but in the Autumn when the leaves are dressed in a multitude of color, that is when the falls are most spectacular. As a child I  could walk a path behind the upper falls and hear their thunderous roar surround me but erosion has pretty much put a halt to that except for the truly adventuress (or stupid) who attempt it from the opposite side of the park.

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Tahquamenon Falls State Park includes a micro brewery and restaurant on site. Don and I have eaten here a couple of times and the food is pretty good, especially the whitefish, today was no exception. We located a picnic table in the shade rather than eating inside, since the pup was with us. I ordered our food carry out. Each of us had something different but all agreed t was delicious. Don isn’t a fan of micro brews so no beer was ordered. We have sampled their Blueberry Ale in the past and it was good. On the drive home our two tired babies took naps, Ava in her car seat and Beau in my lap.

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Leslie and Ava left early on Thursday ahead of the thunderstorm that was moving across the U.P. Don and I waited for the storm to abate then the three of us took a drive to find the mouth of the Pine River where it empties into Lake Huron. One of the locals informed him that folks were catching the limit on Walleye there. He wanted to find a boat launch where he could put his inflatable in to do a little fishing later this week. We also scouted campgrounds in the area but didn’t find one that could entice us to move from where we already are. We stopped for lunch at Susie’s Pasties before heading “home.” They were very good but Muldoon’s in Munising is still tops for pasties in our opinions. We were still feeling full by dinner time so I suggested we just go for pie at McGowan’s in town. The raspberries are in season and I knew they had fresh homemade raspberry pie on the menu. That was our intention but the ample selection of the salad bar called to us so we both ended up having salad, a cup of homemade chicken and dumpling soup, AND raspberry pie ala mode. McGowan’s is the only true restaurant in Trout Lake with the other two places to dine being taverns so saying it is the best restaurant in town doesn’t do it justice. I think it serves some of the best food in the Yooper.

March of the geese in early morning light

March of the geese in early morning light

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Don went out fishing again in the evening but returned when he saw I had company. My cousin Erik had arrived and heard we had Jameson whiskey on hand. We visited until a little after 11 then called it a night.

Thus far it’s been a relaxing “vacation”, so much so that I extended our stay by three nights. I would have extended longer but others have reserved our site for a week beginning on the 28th. We’ll enjoy it for as long as we can.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid……

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Just What the Doctor Ordered

There’s nothing like a visit from grandchildren to lift ones spirits.

I met my daughter in the town of Coldwater, the halfway point between us, on June 28th to fetch two of our grandchildren, Brad and Gabby for a visit. From the ride back to The Property it wasn’t clear to me which they were more excited about, staying with us in the fifth wheel or meeting our new puppy. Beau was happy to meet them too and except for his pouncing on them early in the mornings to wake them up, the feeling were mutual.

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The first full day of the grandkids visit I took them on an outing to see Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. Don remained at the RV with Beau since we were uncertain about his tolerance for traveling that far nor that long yet. On our way I made two stops, the first in  Traverse City so the kids could wade in the bay, and the second in Glen Arbor to have lunch at Art’s Tavern. On our drive to the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive park entrance I told them the Chippewa Legend of Sleeping Bear.

A long, long time ago, a mother bear and her two cubs escaped a forest fire in Wisconsin by diving into Lake Michigan. They swam for many hours, this tired the two young cubs and lagging far behind their mother, they drowned within sight of the Michigan shoreline becoming the Manitou Islands. Upon reaching land, the mother bear climbed to the top of a high bluff to watch for and await the arrival of her cubs. To this day she waits there still.

 

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Those are people at the bottom of the dune.

Those are people at the bottom of the dune.

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We stopped at all of the scenic turnouts along the drive, the views of massive Lake Michigan being the favorites. Gabby was certain I was pulling her leg when I told her it was only a lake and not the ocean. Neither could quit exclaiming over how blue nor how clear the water was.I followed the tour up with a stop at the Dune Climb where Brad challenged Gabby with a race to the top while I stayed below snapping photos of their progress. One trip to the top was enough for Brad but Gabby having excess energy to burn, made the trip up twice.

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Brad & Gabby at the top

I felt they needed to refresh themselves after that workout so I took them to the beach in the historic village of Glen Haven. Afterwards we toured the little hamlet. I told them stories of how when I was little this was still a bustling beach town where we could rent dune buggies to ride out over the massive dunes on. Nowadays we better understand how that contributed to the dunes erosion and damage to plant life.

After all the fresh air, sunshine and exercise, our grandchildren slept well that night.

The next three days of Brad and Gabby’s visit were filled with fishing, swimming, romping with Beau, seeing grandpa perform at the Eagles 4th of July bash,  ATVing, and oh yes, let’s not forget, seeing the Blue Angels perform at the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City.

We wanted to get in one more outing before both, the 4th of July and before we drove the two back home to Indiana so I suggested we take them to a place that was always a favorite of their mother’s when she was a little girl, Hartwick Pines.

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Hartwick Pines State Park has over 9,500 acres much of which is an old growth pine forest. There’s also an interesting logging museum,  a beautiful chapel, the Au Sable River,  and many walking trails on the grounds. It’s dog friendly too. A perfect outing for the entire clan and an opportunity to see if Beau’s motion sickness had improved.

The kids enjoyed the walk through the lush pine forest. Brad commented more than once on the circumference of several of the trees and on how much he liked the pine scented air. Gabby I think liked the museum best where she was able to get some hands-on experience at games once played by children at the old logging camp. Beau basked in all the attention he received from other “tourists” on the trail. He started out doing extremely well on the leash but by the time we were half way into our walk he was pulling again. Looks like we still have work ahead of us.

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The 4th was spent with Gabby at the beach, Brad ATVing, and a cookout for dinner. At dusk Don and I took the kids into Grayling for fireworks. The city put on an impressive light show for being such a small town.

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The following morning found us back on the road heading to Indiana. Brad and Gabby were due back home and my mother’s 80th birthday was on the 7th. It was another whirlwind trip but it was nice to be back home with our daughters and grandchildren even if it was only for two days.

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Mom surrounded by her only child, granddaughters, & all of her grandchildren                             FIVE GENERATIONS

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And this little guy, he hasn’t had motion sickness in 2 weeks! Yeah!

Back on the property we are presently preparing to move the Suite Pea northward across the Mighty Mac for a family camping reunion. We are looking forward to the change of scenery and the competitive fishing.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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Inertia

As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve been lacking the motivation to write any new posts. As a matter of fact, I’ve been lacking the motivation to do much of anything. I’m pretty certain my inertia is in part due to the periodic moments of grief I feel when something triggers a memory of Tucker and if I’m being honest, having to cancel our travel plans for this summer and fall has left me a tad disappointed too. Especially since I was so looking forward to getting back on the road again after having sat so long this past fall and winter. How do I continue to write about all the daily ennui without boring myself and my readers to tears? I am finding it difficult to do.

 

Our training of Beau continues. He retains the majority of our time and effort. I do believe we’ve turned the corner on our housebreaking since we’ve had no “accidents” for several days now. Beau also seems to have the commands sit, down, and stay down pat, however his command to come still needs work. Everything is a distraction for him, a stick, a butterfly, his own reflection….. His leash training is still a work in progress as well.

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We’ve also added swimming lessons and short rides in the truck to his regime. The verdict is still out on whether he will be a water baby or not. Some days he goes into the water with no hesitation at all, other days he doesn’t want anything to do with it except roll in the sand. We get the biggest kick out of him when he chases after the minnows, trying to get one in his mouth. The rides are to aid Beau’s motion sickness. We hope this is due to his inner ear not being fully developed. If this is the case, as he grows this should correct itself. This issue along with Beau’s inability to hold his bladder for long periods is why we haven’t gone on any outings. Although we did manage to get together with friends visiting in the area.

Last Saturday we met friends from our old life in Indiana.  Kevin and Bryan were up for a fishing trip on Leelanau. We met them halfway in Traverse City for lunch at Don’s Drive-in. I suggested the old 1950’s style diner for its popular cherry shakes. It was good to catch up with our old Eucher buddies, I only wish their wives would’ve come up too. I would have liked seeing Sandy and Pam again.

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Kevin, Bryan, Don & I at Don’s Drive-In

Then on Friday we got a call from Tom and Jean, friends we made shortly after we began this lifestyle. They are camped in Traverse City but we’re playing golf at a local Kalkaska course. We met for “linner” (late lunch, early dinner) afterwards. I believe we spent more time talking than eating. We really enjoy their company and have made plans to meet up again this Fall when we leave The Property.

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Jean & Tom Moore with Don & I

Also in the interim since my last post, we celebrated my father’s 81st birthday by taking him out to a favorite restaurant of his, Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen in Elk Rapids, where the food is always delicious and, Don had a gig playing at the local Chapter of Eagles. He was such a hit that he’s been asked to play for their 4th of  July bash and their customer appreciation party in August.

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Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen has a Mardi Gras decor

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Don at the Kalkaska Eagles aerie

This pretty much wraps things up. Come Tuesday I will be meeting our oldest daughter halfway to get two of our grandchildren for a visit. They should liven things up around here a bit. Here’s lookin’ at you kid…..

 

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Full Circle

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The week following Tucker’s demise we were left dealing with a potpourri of emotions. The most prevalent one being the deep void we now felt in our lives. Tucker was always such a big part of our day to day goings on, without him our home seemed empty. One morning when Don was acutely feeling the vacuum he approached me with the idea of getting another Golden Retriever. He was surprised to learn that I too had been entertaining that same notion. So Don began researching breeders in Michigan and the surrounding states. That research led him to Carol Ruby. Carol heads up the Michigan Golden Retriever AKC and she in turn, led us to Leeah Chew of My Buddy Goldens.

Leeah, a veterinarian, not only breeds Goldens, she also shows them. We learned that two of her females had each given birth to a litter of pups about two weeks apart back in March. Leeah had one male pup left from each litter for adoption. We felt blessed to have found her as our only other alternative would have been to get on a waiting list with a breeder or breeders for a puppy from a future litter. Since time is of the essence for us in this gypsy lifestyle we would have felt pressed for time, waiting to learn if indeed there was a pup available for us, waiting the requisite 8 weeks before actually bringing the new pup home with us, and then having the time to get the puppy housebroken before we got back on the road again.

Once it was confirmed that we were indeed getting one of Leeah’s puppies, it was off to the Traverse City PetSmart we went. We had a whole list of items to purchase, a crate, a travel carrier, a dog bed, puppy food and vitamins, training treats, a short leash and collar, and a numerous assortment of toys. Oh yes, don’t forget the bitter apple spray! Lord knows we’ll need that to help us through the teething stage.

The Caribbean has nothing over Lake Michigan. we have the same tropical hues here.

Wine vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula

Wine vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula

Since we were in town anyway, I suggested to Don that we take a ride out onto Old Mission Peninsula to see the cherry blossoms before they faded away, after all, Traverse City is the Cherry Capital of the World. I also bribed him with lunch out. It was a lovely Spring day for a ride. Blue skies and bluer water. We did make a stop at the Old Mission General Store for a couple of Faygo’s to quench our thirst. It had been many, many years since we had Faygo pop. I couldn’t decide between two old favorites, the Redpop or the Rock & Rye, so I did what anyone would do…..I bought them both.

 

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Lunch was burgers from Slabtown Burger, a favorite restaurant with the locals. A delicious and filling way to end our outing.

I have cousins that live in Lewiston, which is about 40 miles away from the family property in Kalkaska. They had recently purchased and remodeled a building to open up a retail and repair shop in. It was time for their grand opening. Dad, Don and I attended as we wanted to wish Vito and Carol good luck on their new venture, Sun ‘N Snow. Other family members were in town to do likewise. Yea! It was an impromptu mini family reunion! A few of us met afterwards at Tally’s Tavern for a beer and a burger. The Tally burger has a reputation for being delicious. It didn’t disappoint.

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The day finally came when we got to pick up our newest addition. We drove down the night before in order to be on time for our 9 am appointment with Leeah. The welcoming committee met us at the door. Three golden retrievers with tails wagging and one very nosy one who immediately stuck his nose in my bag to see if I had brought any goodies for him. What a delight they were, each striving to get our undivided attention. We met our pup’s mama, grandma, and grandpa in this bunch. Our visit took a little longer than planned as Don and I did have a few questions. Some things have changed since Tucker was a puppy. One of which could’ve been a contributing factor in Tucker’s death and that is waiting to neuter until the pup is 18 months to 2 years old. A reputable study has found that doing this procedure at an earlier age may affect the animal’s risk for certain cancers and tumors. We want our little boy to have the best chance possible for a long and healthy life.

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Leeah’s welcoming committee

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Our days (and nights) haven’t been the same since bringing our little bundle of fur home. He’s been our main focus. Housebreaking, learning simple commands, leash training, and teaching him that neither mom nor dad are acceptable chew toys. And what did we name our little boy you ask? Well, let me introduce you to, Believe in 2hearts Beauregard. Beau for short, and he is quickly filling in that empty space that was in our hearts.

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Lastly, Memorial Day was the day dad chose to inter my  stepmom Dottie into the family plot. A very simple service was held in which my stepbrothers Tom and Larry spoke. This was followed by the small gathering of family and friends each taking their turn at the final ritual of saying good-bye, the tossing of dirt into the grave. A nice tribute to a life well lived and a woman much loved.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid……

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We brought Tucker home this past week. He will continue to travel with us.

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A Walk in the Woods

I probably should have posted this sooner but my heart was not in it.

On May 10th our Golden boy crossed The Rainbow Bridge. Tucker did not go alone, his daddy and I held him as he quietly slipped away and a piece of each of our hearts went with him.

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In our grief we have taken to walking in the woods looking for solace. We walk in the crisp coolness of the morning. We walk in places where Tucker once walked alongside us. Our memories of him running here, carefree and off leash give us some measure of comfort. He loved it here. We are grateful we were at the property when he left us as we feel his presence everywhere.

Bear Lane

Bear Lane

Birch trees on Bear Lane

Birch trees on Bear Lane

Some mornings we walk the dirt road upon which the property is located. In our minds eye we see Tucker racing ahead of us then stopping and looking back at us as if to say, ” hurry up mom and dad”, only to dash further up the road once we’d caught up to him, repeating this scene again and again. As we plod along, kicking up wisps of sand where we step, we occasionally capture the scent of sweet grass growing nearby. It reminds me of the baskets the Chippewa women weave and sell during the annual Pow Wow. We look for tracks in the sand as we go. Deer and turkey tracks are in abundance and every so often we’ll spot coyote or coon prints mixed in. If the tracks are fresh, we’ll stop and scan our surroundings, hoping to catch a glimpse of the critter that passed before us. This occupies our minds for awhile.

 

path on the property

path on the property

Berry patch

Berry patch

Other days we traipse along the path on the backside of the property. We hike through  acres of hardwood until we reach the two track that separates the family plot from state land. We find ourselves in an ever increasing field of blackberry bushes. Prime black bear country….but it will be a while before the berries come in. We watch for signs of bears as we walk but we don’t fear them. If we choose to go left on the two track we will once again find ourselves in hardwoods. Don will look for morels as we pass while I search for any hint of ground color that indicates woodland flowers are coming into bloom. I am far more successful in my hunt than Don is in his.

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Two track on state land behind the property

Two track on state land behind the property

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But what if we had turned right on the two track instead? That way is best. The berry bushes will once more give way to hardwoods, they are more dense in this direction. Beyond lies a clearing that holds a smattering of dogwood all in bloom. I like this spot. The sun shines down, the cloudless sky is a brilliant blue, and on the air rises a cacophony of birds chirping. But the best is yet to come.

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dense pine needled path

dense pine needled path

We follow the bend in the road, to our left we find ourselves looking up into a forest of tall white pine. Another two track once ran through the pine, now the passage is blocked by tree trunks and the track is heavily laden with pine needles but we know the way. Don and I climb over and around the trunks. Our movements are muffled.  The air is cooler and pine scented. We inhale deeply. Sometimes we walk, making our own path as we go. Sometimes we sit down on make do seats, old tree trunks, we don’t talk,  we just sit, and listen to the soothing quiet that engulfs us.

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Stop This Roller Coaster Ride, We Want to Get Off

One day after posting our previous blog account, my stepmother Dolores (Dottie) passed away in her sleep in the wee hours of the morning. My father, oldest stepbrother,  and his wife were by her side. It was another four days before we had our truck back from the Moyer Ford Service Department in Foley, Alabama before we could get ourselves, Suite Pea included, back on the road headed to Michigan.

It had taken Don’s calling the customer service personnel at Ford Headquarters to get the ball rolling in the right direction. We were immediately assigned a case number and a representative contacted Moyer Ford to get the low down on our pick-up. A Ford think tank then brainstormed and came up with a solution.

They suspect the problem dates back to 8 years ago when we first brought our new truck home. Two weeks after taking delivery of it Don noticed an oil stain on our newly laid driveway. Come to find out the rear seal gasket was damaged, needing replacement. Because of the gasket’s location the entire engine needed to be pulled out in order to reach it. Somehow during this process a wire was frayed and shorting out. Over time the damage worsened causing us a host of repair issues. Of course Ford Motor Co. doesn’t accept any responsibility but at least we were not charged for any parts, only labor, and Moyer Ford gave us a nice discount on that.

As we journeyed northward on April 18, I was on my cell canceling all of our Spring, Summer, and most of our Fall reservations. This year our focus will be on my father and making sure he is in a position to take care of himself physically and financially before we head south again for the winter. Our goal is to persuade him to come south with us.

It did feel good to have our wheels rolling again. We were ready for a change of scenery and after 3 very long days on the road, we arrived at the family compound in Kalkaska, Michigan, affectionately dubbed “The Property.”

Don had Suite Pea backed into her full hook-up slot and set up in no time flat. My father was assuredly happy to have us finally here.

We didn’t waste anytime in trying to get a handle on things. Dad directed me to give ma’s clothing to the local organization KAIR, Kalkaska Area Interfaith Resources and many miscellaneous items to Goodwill. I did this while he and Don cut up trees and large branches that had been brought down during the winter. They also began raking up the endless supply of leaves, a futile effort if you ask me.

One morning I went with dad to pick up ma’s cremains, then to the credit union where they had all of their accounts. Dad needed to notify them of mom’s death and to get a bank card in his own name. I suggested he get a print out of his checking account so he could balance his checkbook. After spending most of what day remained trying to decipher ma’s method of balancing her ledger we threw in the towel and decided to start a new ledger. We also drew up a tentative budget for dad, tentative because we can only guesstimate what his income will be at the moment and he’s unsure of what all his bills are. He’s never handled the household finances before.

It hasn’t  been all work since we arrived. On 3 consecutive days Don and Tucker have roused deer on their morning walk. We’ve taken time outs to watch the antics of the numerous squirrels as they try to reach the bird feeders and we’ve been entertained by  the turkeys that visit several times a day every day. But our biggest excitement came early one morning when a young black bear paid dad’s feeding station a visit. He wrecked havoc on the suet feeder and pop’s can of corn.

In 8 days time Don and I had to be in Indiana for doctor and dental appointments we’d scheduled months before all of this. On the day prior to packing for that trip another crisis occurred. Tucker began his day feeling out of sorts. It was obvious to us he wasn’t behaving normally although he didn’t seem to be in any pain or distress. We made the decision to do nothing at that time except to observe him as the day progressed. During breakfast Tucker vomited up grass and we assumed he’d ingested something that didn’t agree with him. Having expelled it we felt certain he would begin to improve. That wasn’t to be.

As the day wore on Tucker deteriorated. At one point when he tried to stand Don saw that Tuck was wobbly and we knew we needed to act immediately. Dad and Don carried Tucker to my father’s truck, then dad got behind the wheel and took off in the direction of the veterinary clinic he uses while I called ahead to alert them we had an emergency and were enroute.

By the time we reached the veterinary hospital Tucker was incapable of standing. Two staff members loaded him onto a stretcher and carried him into an examination room where the vet, Dr. Ackler did a hasty but thorough exam. He then ordered blood work and x-rays. It took only minutes for the good doctor to determine that Tucker had internal bleeding. He suspected it was coming from Tuck’s spleen. He recommended we consent to immediate surgery as it was vital to Tucker’s survival.

Tucker was prepped for surgery before we’d even left the clinic. Don and I were beside ourselves with fear. Memories of our Golden Retriever Maggie’s last day washed over us. She too had been unable to walk at the end.

Two hours later Dr. Ackler called to let us know that Tucker was resting comfortably from his surgery. He had removed 2 liters of blood from Tucker’s abdomen and the cause was indeed a ruptured spleen. The vet said there were tumors on the spleen which more than likely contributed to it rupturing. It was sent off for a complete histology report and Dr. Ackler hoped to hear something back by week’s end.

When Tucker was released to come home we were informed he was in no condition to travel and would require at least 2 weeks to convalesce. Since my doctor appointment was of more importance than Don’s, I drove down to Indy alone while he stayed behind to care for our fur baby. I arrived in Indiana 2 days prior to my doctor visit in order to help my youngest prepare for our granddaughter’s 1st birthday on Sunday. I also wanted to attend my grandchildren Gabby and Ian’s AWANA ceremony at church. Regrettably it’s not always possible to attend most of their activities or special events so when I get the opportunity to do so, I take it.

 

 

(I wrote all of the above while staying at my mom’s in Indiana with the intention of posting it when I had a wifi connection. However the following couple of days left me reeling & unable to finish until now.)

My doctor appointment was on Monday, I planned to drive back to Michigan early Tuesday morning but that changed late on Monday evening. A phone call from my daughter Kristi informed me that my granddaughter Maddy was in active labor, 3 weeks earlier than her expected delivery. I contacted Don right away with the news and stated I’d be delayed a day. Maddy gave birth the following evening to our first great grandchild, Mia Bree. A good sized baby,  7 lbs. 2 oz., for having made her debut 3 weeks ahead of time. After having made her acquaintance and being assured both Maddy and Mia were doing fine, I was on the road early Wednesday. About 2 hours into my journey home I received a call from Dr. Ackler. The histology report stated that Tucker had an aggressive form of cancer. Dr. Ackler couldn’t say how much longer we will have our Golden boy with us, 2 months, maybe a year. In answer to my question about treatment I was told that chemo would only prolong the inevitable and may hinder his quality of life. I thanked him for his call then pulled off the road and bawled my heart out. I called Don when I was able to speak again. It was a very long and sad trip home.

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