Good morning from Barrington, Illinois just north and west of Chicago, Illinois. Melanie and I have been at the home of Ellen and Ric Lindeen for the past few days. Melanie spoke Thursday past at St. Michael's in Barrington, the parish of Ellen and Rick. Ellen is a board member of Episcopal Peace Fellowship.
We leave tomorrow morning heading south again. We have a stop in St. Louis for some minor warranty work on Miranda, then it's on the Birmingham, Alabama, with a few stops in between to see friends and family, for events including a pilgrimage to The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, The Legacy Museum, and the annual Jonathan Myrick Daniels Pilgrimage in Hayneville, Alabama.
Before arriving in the Chicago area we were in Traverse City, Michigan where Melanie preached at Grace Episcopal Church. Traverse City is situated on Grand Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan. We enjoyed great food and fellowship with the folks at Grace Episcopal Church.
We were also graciously invited to meet up and have lunch with Gary Moore and his wife Kathy who live Fairhope, Alabama. Gary is a representative of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast and co-sponsor of the upcoming Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage. Gary and Kathy summer, in part, in Charlevoix, Michigan, about an hour's drive away from Traverse, City. Melanie and I were honored they traveled our way to have lunch.
While we were in Traverse City, I was able to get out on Red Ranger one morning (Melanie rode with me another morning) and took a trip north towards Suttons Bay on the Leelanau Trail. Aside from morning temperatures in the 50's, Leelanau is one of the finest bike/waking trails I've experienced on our travels.
The 16.6 mile trail is well maintained and the asphalt surface is nearly flawless. One experiences lakes, farms and vineyards along the way with minimal road crossings. My only regret is not having enough time to make the entire trip to Suttons Bay. Next time. Highly recommended.
Leaving Traverse City, we headed south. Our first evening was spent in rural Mecosta, Michigan with our Boondockers Welcome hosts, Pat and Ray. They shared a spot they'd created for their close friends from Tennessee whom they'd met when they traveled extensively in their travel trailer. Aside from the very quiet rural site, they also offer us 30 amp electric hookup and water, something not required by Boondockers, but definitely appreciated from us. It didn't hurt that the low overnight was in the low 50's.
Next morning we drove towards South Bend, Indiana to another Boondockers site. On the way we made a short stop at Equalizer Systems to have a minor problem with our 4 point leveling system taken care of. I can't say enough good things about Equalizer. They took us in on short notice and had us fixed in less than an hour's time.
We spent the night in South Bend on the street in front of Tom and Miranda's (same name, different chick) home. We had a nice time getting to know them as they had dinner in their nice backyard. Miranda works at Notre Dame. We mentioned the possibility of checking out the campus and Tom graciously followed up with places of interest we might want to check out. We did.
We owe a great debt of gratitude to Ellen and Ric. They insisted we stay in a guest room in their historic home (1888) in Barrington, fed us, took us out for lunch and to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. They also insisted we remain at their home after they left to meet family for a vacation trip to Wisconsin Saturday past. We thank them profusely and will see them again when we are back through.
Melanie and I traveled into Chicago this past Saturday for the day. We took the train in from Barrington, where we had a Dim Sum lunch in China Town, spent a great afternoon at Art Institute of Chicago, then had dinner at the Rick Bayless Restaurant, Leña Brava. Chicago, what a great city.
Good afternoon from Ludington, Michigan. It's cloudy here, a bit rainy off and on, and it's 73 degrees. Later Melanie and I will ride the bicycles to the shores of Lake Michigan in hopes of seeing some high wave activity. There's a local weather alert predicting high waves and dangerous swimming conditions. I plan on drinking craft beer too. Jus' sayin'.
We've been in Michigan since the 8th of July and it has been glorious, if a bit warmer than I would have expected or desired at this latitude. The locals think it's too warm too. They also don't like the humidity just like we southerners don't. Yes, there's been humidity, but not like we experience in summer in the south. Nobody's dripping here.
We've been in a variety of settings and places since arriving in Michigan. We began in Monroe, Michigan when we left Cleveland. Then White Lake, Manchester, Kalamazoo, Grand Haven, and now Ludington. We were able to catch up with our niece, Isabel, in Adrian, Michigan and had dinner with her there. We'll head north to Traverse City on Saturday.
We spent the better part of a day in Detroit when we left Cleveland. Visiting the Episcopal Cathedral, then walking down the street to D.I.A. The Cathedral Church of Saint Paul is a magnificent structure well-worth the visit. The Detroit Institute of Art is also located in a great building and we enjoyed a number of nice exhibits.
The best part of Detroit, however, was getting a chance to meet up with our friend Keith from Birmingham. He was gracious enough to travel out of his way to meet us in White Lake where we were parked in the driveway of our Boondockers Welcome hosts, David and Joy. We had dinner together and then Joy and David took us out on their boat for a sunset cruise.
Kalamazoo may be our biggest surprise in Michigan though. The county park at which we stayed Markin Glen, a small campground just north of downtown, is a nice spot and well-maintained. The Kalamazoo River Valley Trail runs along the eastern side of the park and easily connects the campground to downtown Kalamazoo. We made numerous trips into town on our bikes to restaurants and a brewery.
The median age in Kalamazoo is 26.2. Couple that with the new cannabis legalization law and you've got potential for the makings of an interesting and progressive place to live and work. We found the same new construction going on in downtown Kalamazoo that we've seen in other similar-sized cities. Again, people seem to be moving back into cities to live and work.
Grand Haven and Ludington are both lakeside communities and tourist havens. They seem similar in size to Fairhope, Alabama. They may to some extent be bedroom communities to Grand Rapids, places where people summer and come to sail Lake Michigan. We've enjoyed both.
The best, however, may be yet to come. Traverse City, Michigan. Across the board when we've mentioned we're traveling there at the end of the week, people have had nothing but great things to say about it.
Good morning from Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland, Ohio where we've been graciously allowed to stay for the past three days. Before you start with the wondering about why Cleveland, aside from surmising we're probably here for a reason connected to Melanie's EPF work, stop. I have to admit when Melanie suggested we'd go to Cleveland so she could meet with an EPF Chapter here, I was, of course, on board, but hoping beyond hope there was something there that might also interest the collective us. Is there a there there?
I've not been disappointed. Like many mid-sized cities we've encountered along the way, a good deal of construction is going on in downtown. People appear to be moving back into the city to live. The baseball All-Star Game begins festivities today.
Cleveland has a number of great attractions including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a very nice Museum of Art, Botanical Gardens, and good restaurants. That's the short list.
Downtown Cleveland is also pretty bike friendly. Melanie and I were able to get out on several occasions and ride around downtown with ease. The path following Martin Luther King Boulevard takes you through the Cleveland Cultural Gardens and leads down to Lake Erie. The ride along the lake is stellar. We've made new friends and we'll definitely be back to visit.
Yesterday marks our sixth month on the road. When we were in Asheville, I mentioned we were approaching this punctation in our journey and was hoping to give you, dear reader, a list of the pros and cons of full-time RV travel. After giving the idea more thought over the past few weeks and reading a bit of what others have to say, I have to admit I've got nothing that would, at least to my thinking, be of value to anyone pondering this life-style or otherwise explain what the hell possessed us to get out here.
Melanie would say one of the cons is she misses having our cats. I too, at times, miss having them around, but alternatively we've been able to spend time with them vicariously via the internet. The upside of that is no cat box in a small space and we don't have to worry about their welfare when we're away from Miranda. I loved having our cats. They are not, however, like our children and, besides, they have great homes now.
There's a Facebook group for those who own Leisure Travel Vans. We are members for, among other things, gaining continuing insight into this kind of travel and into potential problems and the solutions to those problems. But there are also posts from people who are considering purchase of a Leisure Travel Van for various reasons, downsizing from larger Class A motorhomes, those who are retiring and think travel sounds appealing etc. They generally have various concerns for which they seek answers from the forum.
Please don't misunderstand me, I take no small pleasure in stating that many (maybe most) of the their concerns sound like first-world whining and seem to be about retaining creature comforts many of us take for granted in stationary homes. By getting into the minutia, for example, will there be enough power for my coffee maker to work when I'm unplugged, people want to be reassured they will have all the comforts and benefits of a bricks and sticks home while rolling down America's highways. They seem to be saying please reassure me that life won't be too hard and I won't suffer too much should I do this.
Underlying all these questions and concerns is the element of risk. How risk averse are you? Are you willing to do the due diligence necessary on the front end of the travel experience such that once you've made the decision to live in a small space on the road, the quality of life remains good. Like stationary life, there are simply no guarantees. But, if you are too risk averse, if you are worried about creature comforts, my advice is, stay home.
Melanie and I anticipate the travel life will throw us curves, you know, just like those you have in a stationary home. So we plan, as best we can, for all the contingencies we can anticipate. Some things will likely fall through the cracks, just like they do when your home is located at 111 Ideal Lane.
At this juncture, my take on six months on the road is I could not have dreamed it any better. The experience has been much better than I anticipated and I anticipated it would be great.
Melanie and I make a great team. We have a good division of labor that makes traveling easy for us. We love our home. We love the new friends we make and the new experiences we continue to have while traveling. In the future, I'm sure there will be days when we may struggle a bit, but hopefully those days won't be too adverse or happen with such frequency they dampen an otherwise great experience.
And, with the Gods on our side, it's quite possible, Everything [Won't] Be Awful.
A few photographs from around Washington, DC
Steven and Melanie