Into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
August 16, 2012
During the previous day’s drive into the cheese state of Wisconsin, it was quickly apparent that I hadn’t gotten all the wires correctly lined-up from the RV to the car and the Brake Buddy. The map of the KOA we stayed in that night had an RV repair ad. I called the guy and he send Brian over “First thing in the morning.” Well, actually it was about 9 AM in the morning, not exactly “first thing.” It took Brian a bit of doing to get our “toad’s” brake lights to come on when the pedal is pushed in the RV. But he finally got that done, and we pulled out of the KOA and filled-up the RV at the nearby travel plaza-- $3.89 for 89 “proof.” And I thought gas was going to go down in price in the mid-west. NOT!
We drove toward Green Bay, Wisconsin, of NFL fame. But. The theme of the day was “Detours.” While approaching a fairly good sized town west of Green Bay—“good sized” for that area, signs alongside the road said, “Emergency Event Ahead.” Within a couple of blocks we were detouring through residential parts of that town. Then on the east side of that same town, about a dozen miles later on the highway, we saw the same kind of signs. That time we had to make a 5-6 mile detour through the countryside before returning to Highway 21. As we got back on the highway, we could see the accident.
Somewhere along the way we saw a flock of wild turkeys along the highway. They were herding some of their young ‘uns along. Scenic wildlife!
And finally. About an hour later, that same Highway 21 was “Open only for local traffic 23 miles ahead.” We took Highway 49 North, a good scenic roadway, up to Highway 10, a freeway, and into Oshkosh and Appleton. Nope. There weren’t any more detours this day.
We ended the day in a lovely little campground near Manistique, Michigan. As I write this, our motor-home is facing Lake Michigan. We can hear the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore. There was a beautiful sunset, enhanced by gorgeous billowing clouds over the lake. This is the first time I’ve seen Lake Michigan, and obviously, the first time to camp on its shore.
Sault Ste. Marie & Locks
August 17, 2012
Because we’d gotten a day ahead of “schedule” going Estes Park to Winnebago-land, we were able to take a half-day “out of the way” and go up to where Lake Superior and Lake Huron meet—at Sault Ste. Marie. Sault Sainte-Marie translates from French as "the Rapids of Saint Mary". The Saint Mary's River runs from Lake Superior to Lake Huron, separating the twin border cities. We saw a lot of businesses with the spelling of “Soo,” reflecting the pronunciation of Sault. And finally, about the town, it’s the third oldest city in the country west of the Appalachian’s.
There’s a 21’ elevation difference between the two lakes. Saint Mary’s River is rapids. Thus canals and locks were put into place in the late 1800’s to get ships from one lake to the other.
The National Park system has a visitor center describing the locks. We went onto the three-level viewing platform and watched a couple of huge ships go through the two locks in front of us. Viewing the ships go through the locks has been described as a one-of-a-kind experience and can’t be seen anywhere else in the United States.
A couple of days later, when we were in Niagara Falls, we crossed over the twenty-six mile Welland Canal that was built to bypass Niagara Falls. But the maximum size vessel there is 740’ long and 78’ wide. The locks at the Soo hold the huge 1000’ freighters used on the Great Lakes.
When ships get to the western shores of Lake Superior, they’re two hundred miles closer to Portland, Oregon, than they are to the Atlantic Ocean.
On the other side of the river, crossed by the International Bridge, is Ontario.
The two ships we saw going through the locks are called “Lakers.” If they’d been going the other direction, they’d have been “Salties” (ocean-going vessels) traveling toward the Atlantic. At any rate, we watched two ships rise 21 feet between the levels of St. Mary’s River. In the upper viewing area we were able to look down on the nearest ship. It seemed as though we were almost close enough to touch it.
Cargo carried by the ships include iron ore (usually taconite pellets) limestone, coal, grain, cement, salt or sand
When we first saw the two ships entering their respective locks, they didn’t seem very large. But by the time they’d closed the lock gates, the ships started looking bigger. By the time the lock closest to us was filled, we were looking up at a huge ship!
We enjoyed our couple of hours in Sault Ste Marie, watching the ships go through the locks!
Then it was south on I-76. An hour later we were going 20 mph while crossing the Mackinac Bridge.
Some facts. It’s the third longest total suspension bridge in the world. Opened in 1957, it’s the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere. With the lead-ups at each end, the total bridge is five miles long. The bridge connects the non-contiguous upper and lower peninsulas of the state of Michigan.
A couple of days earlier, at the KOA we stayed at in Wisconsin, a fellow camping in a site nearby told me about his trip over the bridge. He said the wind was strong. A Michigan State Trooper told him to follow in convoy, and to stay in the same path. Because of the strong side-winds, while crossing the suspension part of the bridge, this guy said he could see the bridge moving side-to-side at times! The fellow said it was quite a unique ride! For us, however, the ride was exciting because of the view—we were quite a ways (about two hundred feet) above the water on a gorgeously sunny day!