• Bicycling down Pike's Peak

    Today was one of those “Bucket List” items that I have really wanted to do.  We booked a bicycle tour with Pike’s Peak Bicycle Tours to bicycle from the summit of Pikes Peak down the mountain.  We met our tour leaders and the six other members of our tour group at the bicycle shop at 7:15 this mornin where we were given our helmets and the proper size Canondale bicycles for the ride.  The tour guides loaded the bicycles on top of their van and drove us to the top of Pike’s Peak.IMG 3806The Pikes Peak Highway is 19 miles from the Tollgate entrance to the summit and has a 2 lane road ascending more than 6,000 feet in elevation. The admission is $15 per person or $50 per car —unless you have the Senior Pass like us, then it’s free.  Because of the construction for a new visitor’s center at the summit, cars are not allowed to drive all the way up.  There is a temporary lot about 2 miles down and visitor’s are shuttled to the top from there .  The bicycle company had a special permit to drive all the way up, and we arrived at 9:00am.  We spent a few moments walking through the gift shop, using the restroom and taking pictures by the sign, and then got back in the van and drove less than a mile to a safe spot with no construction equipment, to begin our ride.

    The temperature was 37 degrees and dry—cold, but a perfect day to start our ride.  I was wearing many layers including a short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, lined vest, lightweight jacket, a windproof jacket and gloves when we started  the ride, but by the time we finished, it was about 67 and I had removed the windproof coat and gloves.

    Our total downhill ride was just over 20 miles as we descended from just below the summit to beyond the gate and past the North Pole Village in Manitou Springs.  What a day!

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    9:00 AM - 37 degrees

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    9:30AM at 13,387 feet

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    Tom on bike

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    Round and round and down and down we went! 

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    Enjoying the view of where we started our bicycle ride.

    After the ride we were treated to lunch at a Greek Restaurant Afterwards, we walked the streets of Old Colorado City and enjoyed looking at all the unique merchandise.  Tom’s site was the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Sign!

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  • Estes Park, Colorado

    After spending three days in Lakewood, CO with The O’Briens, we headed north to Estes Park, CO.  As soon as I parked Big Hat in lot 65 of Manor RV Park, I looked out the window and saw this beautiful Elk walking right behind the motorhome!

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    Because of COVID-19 we had to make reservations to enter Rocky Mountain National Park.  Our time slot to enter was at 2:00PM. We drove to the top of Trail Ridge Road and saw a little snow on the side of the road as the road increased in elevation  After parking at the Visitor’s Center at the top of Trail Ridge Road, we hiked all the way to the very top to reach an elevation of 12005 feet.  This is at least our fifth time to hike it, but I guess it’s our RMNP “tradition.”  The temperature was 73 degrees when we entered the park and fell to 53 degrees by the time we got to the Visitor’s Center.

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    The visitor’s center had this cool shirt made from 6 1/2 water bottles.

    From there we drove down to the Continental Divide for our final photo opportunity before heading back to the campground.  The weather was perfect and we enjoyed the vistas.IMG 3784

  • Roswell, NM

    Today we drove 75 miles from the Carlsbad RV Park to the Red Barn RV Park in Roswell, NM.  About 30 miles south of Roswell we ran into a blinding sand storm.  Tom carefully pulled the motorhome over on the side of the road and we sat 40 minutes in amazement waiting for the storm to pass.  We watched eight emergency vehicles pass while we were waiting.  Once the sandstorm cleared we saw all the emergency vehicles blocking the highway about 100 yards ahead of us.

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    Roswell, NM

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    Roswell NM

    As soon as we parked Big Hat at the Red Barn RV Park, we drove into town to visit the International UFO Museum which was interesting.

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    While we walking down the street, we saw a pink Women for Trump bus  coming and we stood around to see what that was about.  Someone in a call yelled, “Mary Hatfield!!”  It was our friends Chuck and Jo from Lake Charles!  We talked briefly and then made plans to meet for dinner at the Cattle Baron which was right by the Fairfield Inn where they were staying. Small world!  Nice evening—great dinner!

  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       We set the alarm for 5:00AM this morning so we could drive the 30 minute drive back into Carlsbad Caverns National Park, our  34th National Park, to stand in line to get into the caverns.  We arrived at 6:40 am and a there were already 100 or so in line.  Tom and I took turns standing in line and sitting in the car before the doors opened at 8:00 and they started handing out the entrance time slots.  We were given a 9:10 time slot and so the adventure began!

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     The entrance to the cave

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    We walked 1.5 miles down, down, down into the cave. Switch back after switch back after switch back...

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    At first, the public entrance to the cave was by a guano bucket, but in 1925 The Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce paid to have the first staircase built from the natural entrance into the cave, an extremely strenuous trek to come back out of the cave!  The first elevator service was built in 1930.

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    The Big Room is the largest limestone chamber in the Western Hemisphere. Floor space in the Big Room is estimated at more than 600,000 square feet, an area comparable to 14 football fields. (Obviously photos don’t do it justice because the camera can’t get enough light to take the picture)

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    Mirror Lake

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  • Guadaloupe Mountains National Park

    Still under mandatory evaluation from Lake Charles, we are now trying to see the National Parks we had planned to see doing the summer when our trip was cut short.

    This morning we left Carlsbad, NM at 7:45 AM to drive to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, a  30 minute drive.  We arrived around 8:15 and were astonished to see the LONG line of people waiting to get into the Caverns.  Only 35 people are allowed into the caverns every 15 minutes because of COVID.  There must have been almost 1,000 people in line already.  We decided to skip the caverns for the day and drive 25 miles more to see Guadaloupe Mountains National Park and try Carlsbad EARLY tomorrow morning.

    Guadaloupe Mountains National Park

    We drove into our 35th National Park and were not surprised to find that the Visitor’s center, water fountains, and bathrooms were closed because of COVID-19.. However, there were chemical porta potties to use.

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    Map marking Guadaloupe NP

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    Because we were intending to be inside Carlsbad Caverns today, we were dressed in pants which were too hot to be wearing for hiking in this wilderness area.  While here we hiked about three miles and then called it a day!

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    Guadaloupe house

    The Frijole Home with Frijole School (red building) in backgrounders

    According to the sign by the house, this structure is the most complete remnant of early farming and ranching in the Gaudaloupe Mountains.  The home, which consisted of the front rooms, is the oldest substantial building in the area, built in 1870.  The Smth family moved here in the summer of 1906.  They made their living primarily from truck farming and a small orchard.  They used the first hydraulic ram in the area to pump water for the house and farm use.  The nearest market for their produce was Van Horn, TX—a 60 mile trip one way.  The family would leave in the evening, after covering the fruits and vegetables with wet paper and rags to protect them from heat, and arrive in time to meet the next morning’s customers.

    The Frijole School House (red building on left) was built in 1925 and used into the 1930’s by up to 8 local children.  The Smith’s hired a teacher for $30 a month plus room, board, and a horse.  The teacher’s bed was in a separate room in the building.

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    This outhouse has fresh water running from the spring to it and then leaving out the back.

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  • HURRICANE LAURA - Evacuation Days 3 - 11

    The Headlines were “Unsurvivable and Catastrophic”.

    Landfall occurred at Cameron Parish at 1AM, August 27, 2020 with maximum winds of 150 mph a strong category 4 hurricane. (Katrina’s winds were 125 mph at landfall).  Laura was the strongest land falling hurricane in Louisiana on record since 1856 (that one hit the community of “Last Island.’).

    Laura is tied with the fifth strongest storm to hit the US.  Highest wind speed estimate before equipment failure at Lake Charles Airport was 133 mph.

    The Aftermath:  Catastrophic was definitely the correct description tor Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana !  The aftermath is unbelievable.  From Entergy alone the damage assessment revealed 1,000 transmission towers, 6,600 broken poles, 338 miles of wire, and almost 3000 transformers requiring a near complete rebuild of the system.

    Homes were blow apart, shingles flew off of houses, trees toppled or snapped, roofs collapsed, bricks tumbled.  Billboards messages flew off and some billboards actually fell on homes.  But our house stood firm.  

    We drove back into Lake Charles to assess our damage and clean out the refrigerators and freezers. We had driven from our evacuation location of Lewisville, TX in Big Hat, our motorhome, but parked it in the Kroger parking lot instead of driving it into the neighborhood because of all the trees and debris across the road (and the possibility of getting flat tires from the fences and roofing nails).

    IT’s UNBELIEVABLE— OUR MADE IT THROUGH THE STORM! The big maple and pin oak trees in the back yard fell and knocked out the fence.  They even fell toward the house, but not ON the house.  Our big windows on the back were fine as was our roof.  We are so fortunate  because this good news certainly did not apply to our neighbors nor to the town.

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    After we finished what we had planned to do at home, we drove our car back to the Kroger parking lot and spent the night in Big Hat.  Kroger had crews cleaning the parking lot that night and much to our surprise, were fully open on Saturday morning!  We drove the car back to our house in the morning and packed the clothes and supplies we needed for evacuation.

    Since Lake Charles is under mandatory evacuation and that fact that we have no damage to the house, we decided to pack up the motorhome and finish the rest of our summer vacation that was cut short in July.

    We drove to Katy Lake RV Park in Katy, TX and paid to stay there for a few days.

    We drove over to Dan and Brenda’s house and visited with them the rest of Saturday before heading back to the RV Park to spend the night.

    Sunday, August 30, we spent the day with Dan and Brenda again.

    Monday, August 31 we drove out to Fulshear and spent the day with Steve and Mary Cole

    Tuesday, September 1 - We got the oil and cabin filter changed in the car and Tom got a haircut.  In the evening we drove back to Dan & Brenda’s for dinner and to visit.

    Wednesday, September 2 - We left Katy and drove to Austin East KOA.

    Thursday, September 3 - AUSTIN, TX -We drove down to the Capitol in hopes of being able to tour the building, but it was gated off because of COVID-19.  We walked around the capitol block and then drove to Black’s BBQ where we met Michael for lunch.

    Friday, September 4 - We headed further NW to the Whip In RV Park in Big Spring, TX.

  • Evacuation for Hurricane Laura

    Day 1 Evacuation- Tuesday, August 25

    A mandatory evacuation order was issued for SW Louisiana and SE Texas.  We prepared our home  and left in our motorhome.  We were very pleasantly surprised to find that there was very little traffic going NW.  We drove as far as Lufkin, TX where we stopped for the night at the Good Life RV Park.

    While Tom set up the motorhome at the campsite, I drove to my friend Jennifer Yabloksy’s home and visited with her and her husband Michael..  We visited for about two hours--first visit since our 40th class reunion.

    Day 2  Evacuation - Wednesday, August 26

    We drove from Lufkin to Lewsiville, TX where we stayed at the Lake Park Campground.  In the evening we walked around the campground and watched the sun set while we enjoyed the lower humidity .IMG 3314

    Day 3 Evacuation - August 27, Thursday - Lewisville, TX

    Our friends Monty and Renee who live in Lewisville drove over to walk with us this morning before they left for work.  We walked 2.5 miles while we visited.  

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  • Itasca State Park, Minnesota - Days 43 and 44

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    We rode our bicycles from our campsite down to the headwaters of the Mississippi River where it leaves Lake Itasca and begins its 2,552 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico.

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    We walked downstream and back upstream for about .25 miles because the water was only 2-3 feet deep.  This is the first bridge that crosses the Mississippi!

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    Lake Itasca

    Itasca biking

    The bicycle trails within the park were very nice.  The back gears on  Ben’s bike broke, but luckily, the person who rents bicycles at the park was able to install a gear for him.

     

    Trip Statistics:


    We have driven at Toal of 4,865 miles - 3,361 in Big Hat and 1,504 in the car
    We have spent 995.56 on gas or an average of $24.89 per day (today we paid 1.99 per gallon)
    The Itasca State Park was $32 per night.  Total campground costs is $1,748.366 or 39.74 per night
    Groceries and eating total $2,261 or an average of $51 per day

  • Voyageurs National Park Minnesota - Days 41 & 42

    We drove from Saginaw, MN to the Pines of Kabetogama Resort outside of Voyageurs National Park on Kabetogama Lake.

    Saginaw to International Falls

     

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    Voyageurs National Park

    After getting settled and taking a quick rest, we drove Into our 34th National Park--Voyageurs National Park and hiked a 3 trail called the  Echo Bay Trail.  It was the worse trail we’ve ever hiked!  The trail was mostly uncut tall grass with horseflies and bugs all around us.  All the visitorss' centers in the park are closed because of COVID-19, so I guess the maintenance crews aren’t working either.

    When we got back to the campground, Ben used the kayak and paddle board to enjoy the lake.

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    Although Ben had no trouble gliding through the water, I didn’t actually try paddle boarding because I was afraid I might fall off into the COLD water!

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    International Falls

    On Friday morning we drove to International Falls which is located on the Rainy River directly across from Fort Frances, Ontario, Canada. There is a major U.S. Customs and Border Protection Port of Entry on the International Falls side of the toll bridge and a Canadian Customs entry point on the north side of the bridge. 

    When Tom planned this trip in January, we were supposed to be coming back into the US here in International Falls after spending eight days driving above Lake Superior on the Canadian side.  Unfortunately, that part of the trip didn’t happened and was replaced by our driving across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to get back to this location. The border into Canada is still closed because of COVID.

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    We were finally able to get a Welcome to Minnesota picture in International Falls for the tourists coming from Canada.  When we entered the state near Duluth, the sign was by the bridge over Lake Superior and we could not stop for our photo opportunity.

    Welcome to MN

    International Falls is nicknamed the "Icebox of the Nation,” with an average of 109.4 days per year with a high temperature below 32 °F.

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    This is statue of Smokey Bear is the largest of its kind in the nation. This 26’ foot replica of “Smokey,” the national symbol of forest protection, was erected in 1953.

    Bicycling the Rainy Day Trail

    We road bicycles into the Rainy Lake section of Voyageurs National Park from International Falls and stopped for an ice cream break at the town of Ranier, located directly on Rainy Lake also.

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    Since the trail was 11 miles long one way and we would have to ride back to return to the car, I rode the first 4.5 miles with Tom and Ben and then rode back to where we parked the car while they continued riding to the end.  The trail was not well marked and they ended up riding two miles uphill in the wrong direction, but I found them and picked them up in the car.

    Voyageurs is definitely a water-based natural park.  We saw a huge number of parked trucks with empty boat trailers.  Also, houseboats with slides could be rented by the week or for a three day minimum.

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    Sunset over Lake Kabetogama at our campground.  

     

     

     

     

  • Duluth, MN - Day 40

    We drove from Ashland, Wisconsin to the Red Pines Campground in Saginaw, MN, near Duluth.ASHLAND TO SAGINAW

    We drove to downtown Duluth to walk around and to see the Aerial Lift Bridge, a Duluth landmark.  The bridge is lifted on the hour and the half hour if there is boat traffic waiting. For the huge vessels that pass under the bridge, the bridge is lifted when the vessel is still 1.5 miles out because those large ships can’t stop quickly.  The bridge operator must give the vessels time enough to manuver if something happens.  Boat traffic always has priority over vehicle traffic. The ship right-of-way into the harbor was the deal the city made with the United States Coast Guard when the bridge was built.

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    In this picture the bridge is down to allow pedestrians, cars, and trucks to cross

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    The bridge is lifted to it’s highest position to allow this ship to pass underneath.

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    Since this boat is not as tall as the ship, the bridge is not lifted as high.

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    A view of the bridge as cars approach to cross

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    A tug boat is on displayed at the museum near the bridge.

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    We ate lunch at Grandma’s Saloon and Bar by the bridge

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    The unique building is part of the College of St. Scholastica  campus

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    Our view from the campground

    Trip Statistics:

    • We have driven at Toal of 4,419 miles - 3,231 in Big Hat and 1,347 in the car
    • We have spent 995.56 on gas or an average of $24.89 per day (today we paid 1.99 per gallon)
    • The Red Pines Campground was $42 per night.  Total campground costs is $1,534.36 or 38.36 per night
    • Groceries and eating total 974.09 or $24.35 per day

  • Ashland, Wisconsin - Day 38

    We left Van Riper State Park around 1:00 and drove to Ashland, WI, our stopping point on the way to Saginaw, MN (near Duluth). We stayed at the Kreher RV Park right beside Lake Superior.  The city has a population of 8,200 and  maintains two beautiful campgrounds right along the lake.  In addition, they have several beautiful playgrounds and beach areas for families to enjoy.  We walked downtown and enjoyed seeing the well-maintained landscaped lawns, wide streets and nice sidewalks.

    We stopped at Dairy Queen after dinner and then went to Walmart for a groceries.  

    Wisconsin

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    The building design is painted on the corner and side of this building.

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    Best Western - The Hotel Chequamegon

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    Our campground right on Lake Superior

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    Sunset from our campsite

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    Played two games of Navy Bridge before bedtime.  First night back in Central Daylight Savings Time.

    Drive from Van Riper to Ashland

    Trip Statistics

    Trip Statistics

    •  Gas total 877.99 or an average of $23.73  per day.
    • Kreher RV Park (City of Ashland) was $35.00. Total campground cost of $1,450.36 or an average of $39.20 per night.
    • We’ve spent $191.20 on eating out and $700.89 on groceries or 23.47 on food.

  • Picture Rocks National Lakeshore - Munising, MI Day - Day 37

    We had an early start this morning!  We drove from Newberry 59 miles to Munising for a 10:00 Kayak tour on Lake Superior in Picture Rocks National Lakeshore.  Tom walked to Miners Falls (1.2 miles roundtrip) and then Miners Castle so he could photograph us kayaking once we got to that point.

    Picture Rocks  National Lakeshore has beautiful sandstone cliffs and fine sandy beaches along Lake Superior shoreline as well as waterfalls, sand dunes and dense forest.  The cliffs rise from 50 to 200 feet above Lake Superior for 15 miles from Sand Point to Spray Falls. The name “Pictured Rocks” comes from streaks of mineral stain that decorate the face of the weather-sculpted sandstone. These colors occur when groundwater oozes out of cracks and trickles down the rock face. Iron (red and orange), copper (blue and green), manganese (brown and black), and limonite (white) are among the most common color-producing minerals.

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    Miners Falls

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    Miners Castle from the kayak

    We booked our tour with Paddling Michigan and did the Morning Delight tour (@$109 each).  The tour enabled us to paddle into the caves, along the cliffs, and get an upclose view of Miners Castle from the water.

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    Check out Ben’s fashionable look!  The blue layer under his life jacket fits around the kayak opening to keep him dry.

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    Getting a quick lesson before our tour.

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    Tom took this picture of the crystal clear WATER from Miners Rock.  

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    After our amazing kayak experience, we drove to Van Riper State Park near Champion where we are staying for the night. It has 1.5 miles of frontage on Lake Michigamme with a fine sandy beach and 1.5 miles of frontage on the Peshekee River.

     

    Newberry to Van Riper

    Trip Statistics

    • We have driven a total of 4,171 miles — 2,831 in Big Hat and 1,340 in the car .
    • Gas total 877.99 or an average of $23.73 per day.
    • Van Riper Campground  was 37.00 per night for a total campground cost of $1,415.36 or an average of 38.25 per night.

  • Tahquamenon Falls State Park & Whitefish Point, MI - Days 35 & 36

    Tahquamenon Falls State Park

     We drove 34 miles from the Newberry Campground in Newberry, Michigan to spend a few hours hiking between waterfalls in Tahquamenon (rhymes with phenonmenon) State Park. The Tahquamenon River with its waterfalls is the main attraction for this park of 50,000 acres spreading over 13 miles.  The Upper Falls is one the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. It has a drop of nearly 50 feet and is more than 200 feet across.

    We walked from the parking lot to the Upper Falls overlook which was only .5 miles to take a few pictures, It was much more crowded than we had anticipated, but we were prepared with our masks.

    After taking a few pictures, we decided to hike to the lower falls, a four-mile trek.  Most of the crowd was only interested in the overlook, but there were still some people who decided to hike the whole way. Since it would be another four miles to hike back  (and mostly uphill the whole way), Tom hiked the first mile with us and then hiked back up to get the car, while Ben and I continued hiking to the lower falls.  By the time we got there, Tom had driven to the lower falls parking lot, parked the car, and met us on the trail about .5 miles from the lower falls.

    The hike was strenuous in some spots, but basically just a pleasant hike though the forest.

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    According to a gin by the falls:  ”The falls are brown because of the tannic acid in the water caused by organic materials that originate from the decomposing vegetation founds in the cedar, hemlock and spruce forest found in the drainage basin.  The tannic acids and other naturally occurring acids that stain the water are very weak and have little effect on lowering the natural pH of the river..  Over the last 20 years, the average pH has remained at 7.3 (slightly basic), which is safe for fish and wildlife.”

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    It definitely isn’t easy hiking in a mask, but we were diligent about wearing them when any people were near.

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    The Lower Falls

    Whitefish Point

    After leaving the state park, we drove 22 more miles to Whitefish Point.

    According to a sign at Whitefish Point, it “has been called the graveyard of Lake Superior.  Since navigation began on Lake Superior, there has been approximately 550 wrecks.  More vessels were lost in the Whitefish area than any other part of Lake Superior. …Coliisions were more common in earlier times because there were more vessels.  In the 1880’s over 3100 commercial vessels were on the lakes compared to less than 200 today. Since the first known shipwreck of a commercial vessel, the Invincible, in November 1816 to the Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10, 1975, approximately 320 lives have been lost in over 300 shipwrecks and accidents.”

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    Ben and Tom getting their feet wet in Lake Superior

    Map to Whitefish

    Trip Statistics

    • We have driven a total of 3,995 miles – 2,697 in Big Hat and 1,298 in the car .
    • Gas total 783.37 or an average of $21.76 per day.
    • Newberry Campground was $55.00 per night for a total campground cost of $1378.36 or an average of $38.29 per night.

  • Sault Ste Marie - Days 33 & 34

    We started the day with a 52 mile drive from St. Ignace to Sault Ste Marie, the oldest city in Michigan.  We camped at the Soo Locks Campground, a beautiful location along the St. Marys River right across from Sault Ste Marie, Canada.  Our initial plans before COVID were  to cross the border into Canada and travel above Lake Superior.  However, since Canada is still not allowing US citizens to cross the border for pleasure, our plans have now changed. We will now be driving across the Upper Peninsula to get to Minnesota to continue with the rest of our itinerary and reservations.  

    Dec21 J soolocks

    Here is where we are!

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    The campground was  only 1.6 miles from the Soo Locks

    Prior to the Soo Locks’ construction, the waters between Lake Superior and Lake Huron were impassable by boat due to the rough 21 foot drop at the St Marys River rapids. Indians and early settlers had to portage their boats and supplies on land for one mile to go around the falls. This painting by John Bower, Jr hanging in the Tower of History, shows tracks through the town that were used to pull the goods and boats through town and back to the St. Marys River.

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    Tower of History

    Construction on the Tower of History began in 1968 as the “Shrine of the Missionaries.” It was built to tell the tales of early missionaries in the Sault Ste. Marie area. The Sault Historic Sites donated it to city in 1980, and it now also  includes Native American history.. There are 292 stairs (which we did not walk) and an elevator to the top where we had a panoramic view of the city, its bridges and the Soo Locks.  Actually, the Tower’s literature boasts views of 1200 square miles from the top.IMG 2489

    Soo Locks

    The Soo Locks is the busiest port in the world by tonnage passing through its locks. On average, between seven and ten thousand ships come through the locks during the shipping season each year.(the locks are closed from January to March)  Originally built in 1855, these locks connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron and beyond.  Freighters over 1,000 feet in length can travel along the St. Marys River all the way from Duluth, Minnesota outward into the Atlantic Ocean and beyond.  There are five parallel locks, four on the American side and one of the Canadian side.  Two of the four American locks are no longer in usevand are slated to be removed to make room for a larger lock at that location.

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    We took an interesting trip with Soo Locks Boat Tour ($32 for adults; $11 for kids). We were able to see all five locks as we went through the MacArthur American lock as we sailed towards Lake Superior and came through the Canadian Lock on our return trip.
    We cruised underneath the International Highway Bridge that connects the USA to Canada  and under the International Railway Bridge. We cruised right along side giant lake freighters & ocean vessels and learned the dimensions and tonnage of the passing ships.

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    Ben with the captain

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    We are waiting for our turn to enter the MacArthur Lock on the left.  The Poe Lock on the right is the lock used for the largest vessels.The vessels pictured below were in the locks and are now coming out.

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    It’s finally our turn!  We entered the lock with a tugboat and pleasure boat.  The water level had to be raised 21 feet to reach the level of Lake Superior. This takes 10 million gallons of water  on the smaller MacArthur Lock that we were in.

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    Here comes one of our lock companions.

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     We are now level with Lake Superior and the gates are starting to open.

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    Coming back through the Canadian Locks we dropped 21 feet and were ready to enter the St. Marys River once again.

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    International Railroad Bridge

    Here is a picture of some of the International Bridge with the International Railroad Bridge in the background. Both bridges are much wider than this picture, but the railroad bridge is especially interesting. It is one of only a few bridges in America to have more than one type of movable span. Not that I know what each of these types are, but here are the names of the various types of spans contained in this bridge:  plate girder overpass span, vertical lift span, bascule span, camelback truss spans, swing span and plate girder span.  Very interesting to see!  The overall length of all these spans is 5,580 feet.

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    Beautiful sunset from campground

    Trip Statistics

    • We've driven 3,798 miles - 2,623 in Big Hat and 1,175 in the car
    • We’ve spent $1,268.36 on gas or an average of $22.31 per day
    • Soo Locks Campground was $32 per night.  We’ve spent $1,268.36 on campgrounds, or an average of $37.30 per night
    • We only walked 2.2 miles today and bicycled 4.5 miles

     

     

  • Mackinac Island, MI - Day 32

    This morning we rode our bicycles one mile to the Sheplers Ferry Terminal and boarded (along with our bicycles) the ferry to Mackinac Island.  The ride was 30 minutes with a slight detour under the Mackinac Bridge, a 5 mile long suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan.

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    Mackinac bridge

    Mackinac Island

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    Mackinac Island sits in Lake Huron in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.  We stayed in St. Ignace and the ferry ride directly there was only about 15 minutes. Motorized vehicles have been prohibited  on the island since 1898 with the exception of snowmobiles, and the only way to get there is by ferry or by small plane. Transportation on the island is by foot, bicycle, horse drawn carriages and horseback.  In the winter brave people actually ride snow mobiles across the Great Lake Huron on a natural ice bridge to get to land on the other side!

    As of the 2010 census there were 492 people who lived on the island.The K-12 school on the island has 80 students.The elementary school two grades in each classroom.  The middle/high school contains grades 7-12 and the average class size is about six, with a high of 10 and a low of 2.  All students get to school by either walking or riding their bicycles. In the winter many arrive by snowmobile.

    Fort Mackinac

    Fort Mackinac was first built by the British in 1780-81.  It was relinquished to the Americans thirteen years after the Revolutionary War.  At the outbreak of the War of 1812 the British seized the island before the Americans realized the war had begun.

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    Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

    Construction began on the Grand Hotel in 1886 and it opened on July 10, 1887. At its opening, nightly rates at the hotel ranged from $3 to $5 a night (equivalent to $85.37–142.28 in 2019).   I looked on the internet today and a one night stay ranges from $598 to over $1,000!

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       Guests arriving by horse and buggy

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    Riding bicycles around the island and the sites we saw

    It’s 8.2 miles to ride all the way around the island.  Because of high waters this year, part of the perimeter road was closed for repairs.  We spent the day riding as far as we could on the perimeter road and then turning and riding some of the interior roads.  Between our ride to the ferry and back and our rides on the island, we rode 14 miles today.

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    Horses pulling the garbage cart

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    Biking on Mac

    Biking along Lake Huron 

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    A jet ferry

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    One of two lighthouses we saw on the island (the other is very small in the background

    Trip Statistics:

    • We have driven 3,720 miles in total - 2,571 in Big Hat and 1,149 in the car
    • We are stayed Tiki RV Park which is a Passport America Park for $26 a night.  Total Campgrounds $1,204.36 or an average of $37.64 a night.
    • It cost $74.66 to ride the ferry today and take our bicycles to the island.

     

     

     

     

  • St. Ignace, Michgiran - Day 31

    Mystery Spot

    We started the day by driving from Empire, MI to the Tiki RV Campground in St. Ignace, Michigan.  After we plugged Big Hat into power and put out the slides, we first headed to the Mystery Spot ($12 per person), an interesting tourist trap in this area.   

    According to our tour guide, in the early 1950s a few surveyors were exploring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and one day  they realized that none of their equipment was working properly. The problems, they discovered after some testing, were only apparent in a circle about 150 feet in diameter. The birth of the Mystery Spot!

    Supposedly, millions of visitors have stopped at the Mystery Spot over the years to experience a place where “gravity does strange things” (or more accurately, your brain does strange things as it tries to make sense of contradictory input).  Tom and I took our boys to a place like this in South Dakota where they were young.  Makes for a fun stop!  In addition, the place had two zip lines (that we couldn’t do because of the COVID restriction), but we were able to also play a round of miniature golf.IMG 2206

    Ben defying gravity

    Castle Rock

    Our next stop was another touristy stop called Castle Rock ($1.00 per person).  Castle Rock is a natural limestone tower rising almost 200’ above lake level  of Lake Huron.  We walked up 170 steps to see a panoramic view of Lake Huron.

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    Here’s our next short hike up to the top

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    View of Castle Rock from the highway

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    One set of the 170 steps

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    Tom almost reaching the top

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    I don’t know the significance of Paul Bunyan at this spot, but as you can see, we are both wearing our masks!

    Ice Cream!

    After dinner we walked one mile from the campground to get some ice cream.  Tom had a flavor called Michigan Pot Hole which was delicious!  Moose Tracks wasn’t bad either.

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    Trip Statistics

    • We’ve driven a total of 3,716 miles - 2,571 in Big Hat and and 1,145 in the car.
    • Our tourist expense for today was $39 for a trip total of $812.2
    • Tiki campground cost was $26 per night.  Total $1,168.36 or an average of $37.64

     

     

  • Gaylord, Michigan KOA

    We spent two days relaxing at the Gaylord KOA in Gaylord, Michigan.  It was the first place in Michigan where the pool water was actually warm enough for me to go in the water.  I spent almost two hours in the pool which is the first swim since leaving Louisiana at the end of May.  Tom and I walked around the park several times and just spent the rest of the time relaxing (and, of course, playing canasta and phase 10 in the evening)

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    This park was a very nice park for families because there was so much for kids to do!  This device is built on a rectangular trampoline and has two basketball goals inside.  So, on this device a person can jump AND practice basketball skills—plus, they can dunk the ball where they usually aren’t able to do that on a solid surface.

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    Ben reported only “little kids” would get much bounce on this device.

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    Ben really enjoyed riding on this crazy bicycle!

    There was also a Putt Putt course, basketball court, swing set, spider web to climb and two hiking paths and some nice cabins to rent.  Great place!

    Trip Statistics

    • We’ve driven 3,604 miles since leaving home - 2,544d in Big Hat and 1,108 in the car.
    • Last gas fill up was $1.95 a gallon totaling $111.89 in Big Hat.  This time we got a whooping 7.0mpg!  Gas total is $758.37 or an average of $26.15 per day.
    • Gaylord Campground was $50 per night.  Our campground total is $1,152.36 or an average of $39.74.

  • Empire, Michigan -Day 28

    Empire Bluff Trail

    This morning we drove to the Empire Bluffs trailhead and hiked 1.5 miles roundtrip to see another beautiful view of Lake Michigan from a high bluff.

    Most of the trail was a wide path through a poplar forest, but towards the bluff a boardwalk was added to the trail.

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    A beautiful view of Lake Michigan from the top

    Indigo Bluffs RV Park

    When we got back from our first hike of the day and ate lunch, I did the laundry while Ben and Tom went to the pool.  The water was much too cold for Tom and me, but Ben swam a little.  We walked through the resort several different times in the afternoon and evening because the resort was nicely shaded and the weather was a perfect 70 degrees with blue skies.  This park is very unique in that it is divided into two sides:  Our side of the park was very shaded and had concrete patios. The other side has stamped concrete spots with beautiful landscaping and a pond with slight waterfall. We talked to a person who rents one of the resort sites for 6 months a year and then stays in St. Augustine for the other 6 months.  He pays $6100 (or only $35 a night) to spend 6 months here.  If we ever decide to stay in one place for very long, this would be the place!

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    Trip Statistics

    • We have driven a total of 3,486 miles: 2391 in Big Hat and 1,095 in the car.
    • We hiked 5.03 miles today for a total of 128.28 miles
    • Our campsite was $70.50 per night at Indigo Bluffs.  Total is 1,049 or an average of $37.46 per night
    • We did not buy any gas today, but have spent a total of $647 on gas so far.

  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore -Day 28

    We left Holland, MI this morning at 11:00 and drove174 miles to Empire, MI, home of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We are staying in the Indigo Bluffs RV Resort which is a beautiful park with lots of trees for shade.  The red dot on the map below is where we are today.

    IMG 2107As soon as we got Big Hat set up in our spot, we jumped into the car and headed for Sleeping Bear.  We were here once before in 2015 and walked two or three of the dunes, but this time I was determined to hike all the way to Lake Michigan.  The sand dunes are quite steep going up and then coming back down the other side and the sand is deep and loose the whole way.

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    Here’s Tom walking up the first dune, but after our strenuous hike in Indiana Dunes National Park two days ago, his knee is hurting.

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    The round-trip hike was 3.8 miles.

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    Ben was walking much faster that I was and got to Lake Michigan way before me.   He had walked back two sand dunes on the way to the car when I got up to him.  He waited there for me while I continued on to the lake and got back to this spot.

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    Almost there!

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    I made it - Beautiful Lake Michigan

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    Now comes the hard part.  I’ve walked 1.9 miles to get here and now I have to start the climb all over in the opposite direction.

     

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    Met back up with Ben and we are on our way back.

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    Final stretch before the parking lot.  The small lake in that direction Is Glen Lake.

    Trip Statistics:

    • Indigo Bluffs RV Resort is $70.50 per night for a total of $1,049 in campgrounds or and average of $40.35 per night
    • Today we drove 173 miles in Big Hat for a total of 2,486. We’ve drove 16 miles in the car for  a total of 1,081 miles
    • We didn’t buy gas today but the total so far is $646.48 or any average of $24.86 per day
    • I hiked and walked a total of 6 miles today for a trip total of 123.3 miles

  • Holland State Park, Michigan Days 24-26

    We drove to Holland, Michigan from Lansing, Michigan and stayed in the Holland State Park.  We were on the Lake Macatawa side with a small beach across the street, but the nicer beach was on Lake Michigan, about one mile away.  The town had bicycle paths on both sides of the road, so it was very easy to walk or ride our bicycles to the beach.  The beach was huge, but the water temperature was only 65 degrees.  Ben thought the water felt fine, but Tom and I just walked along the water.

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    Iconic Big Red lighthouse to guide the ships entering the waterway between Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa.

    Mt. Piscah

    There was a huge sand dune called Mt. Piscah right beside our campground that.  The entrance was a boardwalk that had 239 steps that allowed us to climb to the top where we had broad views of Lake Macatawa, marinas, Lake Michigan and Big Red. Instead of coming back down the steps, we hiked the back of the sand dune on a wooded trail.

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    Trip Statistics

    • We’ve driven 3,226 miles so far — 2,104 in Big Hat and 1,033 in the car.
    • We haven’t purchased gas while we were here, but have spent $624 or an average of $24 a day.
    • Holland State Park is $36 per night. We have spent a total of $908, or an average of $34.92 per night on campgrounds.
    • We walked 6 miles today and have now walked a total of 117 miles on this trip.

  • Indiana Dunes National Park

    Today we drove from Holland, Michigan to our 33rd National Park - Indiana Dunes National Park and Indiana Dunes State Park which is located inside the national park.  The park runs almost 25 miles along Lake Michigan and is filled with beautiful vistas and amazing trails over sand dunes.  We hiked almost 5 miles on trail #9 which was over huge sand dunes to see amazing views of Lake Michigan.  At one point in our hike we could look across Lake Michigan and see downtown Chicago! (Probably at least 100 miles away)IMG 2039

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    Downtown Chicago across Lake Michigan

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    It’s hard hiking across the sand!IMG 2068

    Even in the woods we were hiking in loose sand!

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    This is called Devil’s Slide.  The picture doesn’t do it justice because it is very steep!

    Anyone for Baskin Robbins Ice Cream???

    We drove into Illinois basically to add a state to Ben’s travels (and we were only 30 miles from the state line) and also to get some ice cream.  Fortunately for Tom and Ben the BR had flavors they like.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have my favorite - peanut butter and chocolate, so I didn’t get any.  On the way back to Holland I found a Baskin Robbins and was able to get my ice cream.

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    …and back to Michigan!

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    We arrived back at our campground in Holland State Park around 6:00.  While I cooked dinner, Ben bicycled down to the beach (one mile away) for a quick evening swim in 65 degree Lake Michigan!

    Trip Statistics:

    • Today we drove the car 280 miles while Big Hat stayed put in the campground.
    • We are staying three nights in Holland State Park Campground @ $36 per night.  We have a very nice campsite with 30 amp power, but no water or sewage. Luckily we have 80 tanks so that’s not a problem.
    • We hiked 5.3 miles today for a trip total of 111.

     

     

     

     

  • Day 20 - Cuyahoga Valley National Park

    We spent last night in the Cracker Barrel parking lot in Twinsburg, OH.   At 9:00  we left the parking lot and drove about eleven miles to our 32nd National Park – Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  

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    The Ohio and Erie Canal starts at Lake Erie and runs south into Ohio for 84 miles.  From 1827 to 1913 mules pulled boats loaded with goods and passengers along the towpath.The boats could not be longer or wider than the smallest lock, so the boats were no longer than 75’ and no wider than 14’.

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    A postcard of the canal that I saw in the Great Lakes Museum

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    This marker is showing a boat in one of the locks.

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    Tom and Ben in the deepest lock

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    After riding the towpath we drove to the  Brandywine Falls path.

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    A nice little walk in the park to Brandywine Falls, down 60 steps and back up to see the view from the top.

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    After bicycle riding and hiking in the park, we drove to Sandusky, OH and spent the night at Camp Sandusky.

    Trip Statistics

    • We’ve spent $489 in gas between the car and motorhome
    • We’ve driven 1905 miles in Big Hat and 689 miles in the CRV for a total of  2,594 miles.
    • Camp Sandusky cost $34 a night and our total campground cost is $657

  • Days 15-17 Wild, Wonderful West Virginia

    When we left Pikeville, KY we decided to take a little detour and drive through Virginia on our way to West Virginia.  

    Welcome to VA

    We stayed at the Ace Adventure Resort near Oak Hill, WV.  It is a huge recreational facility, but built on the side of a mountain.  To get to the resort we drove 3.5 miles on a narrow winding road (Minden Road) that we thought that was pretty bad.  In fact, one of the worst roads we’ve driven in the country with the motorhome, but the final road from the registration building to our campsite was HORRIBLE!  It was only 1 ½ lanes, very steep with a blind sharp curve.   

    In good weather and without COVID-19 restrictions, this camp would be a really fun place for the outdoor enthusiasts!  It has a wonderful water park area, many levels of cabins and tents to rent, whitewater rafting on either the Gauley River or the New River, a mud obstacle course, frisbee golf, miles of hiking trails, etc.  However, we chose to stay there to whitewater raft on the New River.  Because of the COVID restrictions we were not able to raft.  The restriction was that you had to ARRIVE with a minimum of four people to be able whitewater and we were only a party of three.  So….no whitewater rafting for us.

    On Sunday morning Ben played at the waterpark ($21 per person) while I went into Oak Hill to do our laundry.

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    Ben sling slide

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    New River Bridge Catwalk

    I booked an adventure for Ben and me to walk the catwalk (usually $125 per person, but for some reason I got it ½ price) under the New River Gorge Bridge for Sunday afternoon.  Driving there we got caught in the worst hailstorm I’ve ever seen.  I stopped on the side of the road and waited for a while before turning around and heading back to the campground.  When we got to the Minden Road to get back to the campground, the water was too deep to go through.  A whitewater bus was right behind me and once I stopped, the driver walked up to the car and told me he was going to try and turn the bus around and I could follow him to the back entrance of the resort.  Meanwhile, ten miles later I finally got back to our campsite.

    The Minden Road was impassable the rest of the time we were there.  In fact, the resort staff used rafts to rescue people from their homes along the Minden Road.  We were told that a bridge washed out to some homes that were off the Minden Road.

    Monday morning at ten we were able to take the catwalk tour under the New River Gorge Bridge. Once again because of the COVID restrictions, Ben and I were the only ones with the tour guide.  That part was great. At time of construction, the New River Gorge Bridge’s arch made it the longest steel arch bridge in the world, a title it held until 2003 with the construction of China’s Shanghai’s Lupu Bridge. It is currently the longest single-span steel arch bridge in the United States and the third highest bridge in the country. 

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    Hiking the Long Point Trail 

    After walking the catwalk, I drove back to the campground to get Tom and we hiked the 2.9 mile Long Point trail above the gorge to see a magnificent view of the bridge and gorge from a different perspective.

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    When we got back to Ace Adventure Resort, Ben spent 5 hours swimming at the water park while the outside temperature dropped from 64 to 57 degrees!  Although I thought it was very cold, he had a great time because he was able to do all the stuff over and over without having to wait in long lines!

    Montgomery

    After leaving Oak Hill we drove down to see some friends in Montgomery and to walk though the town.  The town is very hard for me to go back to since it is nothing like the town I grew up in.  I have several good friends who still live there and it was great to see them.  Driving down Rt.61 in the motorhome is no picnic.  We decided not to town the car so I drove it separately.

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    Here we are with Lou Ann & Gary Bowen

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    We also had a short visit with Beach Vickers

    Trip Statistics

    • We’ve driven a total of 1,997 miles - 1,516 in Big Hat and 481 in the CRV.
    • Total campground costs: $493.36. Ace Adventure Resort $51.94 per night
    • While in WV we hiked 10.7 miles.  Our total since we left 66.16 miles

  • Pikeville, KY and Matewan, WV. Days 13 & 14

    We were pleasantly surprised by how clean and nice the town of Pikeville, KY is.  We stayed at the Bob Amos RV Park which is part of the city recreational area.  There was a huge playground, YMCA, Soccer/Baseball fields.  The park looked fairly new and was very well maintained. A very nice place to stay for only $25 a night.

    The first afternoon we arrived we walked the town and took pictures of the painted bears that were on display. IMG 1768

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    We had hoped to see the Hatfield-McCoy memorabilia at the Big Sandy Heritage Center, but it was closed due to Covid-19.

    On Thursday we started out following the Hatfield historical markers from Pikeville to West Virginia.  We started following historical markers in that area of Kentucky and ended in Matewan, WV before turning around and returning to Pikeville.  Other than historical markers, there wasn’t much to see, and quite honestly, we didn’t think driving on those roads was worth the journey.

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    The Randall McCoy well is what is left of the site where the Hatfields burned the home and three people were killed. 

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    This is the site of the infamous Hatfield/McCoy Hog Trial.  In the fall of 1878, Randolph McCoy brought charges against Floyd Hatfield for stealing one of his hogs.  The resulting trail was held here and was presided over by the local justice of the peace, Preacher Anderson Hatfield.  Preacher Anderson was Devil Anse Hatfield’s cousin and did not want to appear biased, so he gathered a jury of six Hatfields and six McCoys to hear the case.  When the jury reached its verdict Selkirk McCoy sided with the Hatfields in favor of Floyd.  The McCoys felt betrayed and open hostilities erupted between the families.  And the rest is history….

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    We crossed into my home state of WV at the town of Matewan.  There is a beautiful flood wall built along the Tug River that depicts the Hatfield-McCoy feud.Matewan today has a population of 499.  People mostly come to that area for mountain culture and  dirt riding.  IMG 1643

    Matewan is primarily remembered for the 1920 Battle of Matewan (Matewan Massacre). Albert Felts, who was connected to the Baldwin-Feldes detectives and was also sheriff of Mingo Co. and eleven of his men were murdered while trying to  leave town by train after they attempted to evict families who were unlawfully holding possession of  property owned by the Stone Mountain Coal Corporation.  The murders were led by Sid Hatfield and members of the United Mine Workers.

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    Downtown Matewan today — notice the sign for Hatfield McCoy RESORT Inn!

    Trip Statistics

    Miles Driven:  1,288 in Big Hat and 176 in the CRV

    Campground:  Bob Amos RV Park in Pikeville for $25 each night. Total  campground cost so far- $395.54

     

     

     

  • Natural Bridge State Park, Slade, KY. Day 12

    Today we drove from Frankfort to Slade, KY.  After parking Big Hat in the 4 Guys Campground in Slade, KY, we drove to Natural Bridge State Park. We hiked up to the top of the mountain to the natural bridge and then a little higher so we could walk on top of the bridge. The top elevation was only 1,290’, much lower than what we are used to in the western part of the US, but a magnificent view just the same.

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    Trip Statistics

    • We drove 80 miles in Big Hat  today for a trip total of 1200 miles.
    • We drove 10 miles in the CRV for a trip  total of 249 miles.
    • We are staying at the 4 Guys Campground for $39.

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