8/29-9/4/2021: Upper Peninsula to Milwaukee

We arrived in Manistique on Sunday – another small town that sits on top of Lake Michigan. We camped at Indian Lake State Park, and had a nice pull-thru site with a great view of the Lake. This was the first park we didn’t have water hook-ups and we forgot to fill our tank on the way in, which cost us several hours off our day. If you are not someone familiar with RV camping, I will go ahead and explain a little more about that.

So, our RV has a freshwater tank and we mostly leave it on almost empty. For sites that have water hookup, we never fill it because we can use the water that is being provided. If you do not have water at your site, you will need to fill your fresh water tank and turn the water pump on to utilize it. You can get water at truck stops, gas stations, many of the parks have it available at their dump stations, etc. We can carry 83 gallons of water which would weigh roughly 691 pounds and we do not have that much wiggle room before becoming overweight. A lot fellow RV owners carry portable water tanks so they can fetch it with their vehicle and transfer to their RV. We have a set up like that for emptying our black tanks when we don’t have sewer (known as a blue boy). When I was planning the trip it seemed far more common not to have sewer than water so we prioritized dealing with that first. We are now researching water pumps, tanks, bladders, etc, so we can be more independent in the future.

So, we had two options: We could pack up everything again, put the slides in, unhook the electric, hitch up and go back to the dump station. Then have to turn around and get the camper back in it’s spot, unhitch, level the camper, put the slides back out, unpack. You get the idea, not the most desirable thing to do. On the edge of our spot was a spigot on a water fountain. It would mean one of us would have to keep the handle turned until we could get filled up. Ed got it our hose hooked up with the clamps but missed a step that caused the water to back up and we got really wet!

Luckily, our neighbors saw us, probably had a big laugh and came over and said they would fill up their portables and get us situated. We had a nice chat and got to learn about their times spent at Quartzite, AR. If you saw the movie Nomadland, you may know that in the winter, they get about two million RV visitors. Some staying a whole season, some coming for the rally there in January, and everything in between. We haven’t encountered many full-timers and this couple was friendly and so nice to help.

We still found a perfect amount of time to head over to Kitch-iti-kipi (an Obijwa word for “Big Spring”). Palm Book State Park maintains a hand-operated viewing raft that allows folks to traverse across 200 foot spring and there are no fees associated with visiting. I had heard there is often a line there but we lucked up on our timing perhaps due to getting there so late on a Sunday afternoon. We got on immediately with just two other couples. It was amazing to watch the water bubbling up through the spring (it pumps 10,000 gallons of water a minute!), but my favorite was seeing the huge trout below us.

I knew what we were getting ready to see, but Ed was a bit in the dark about it. I do most of the travel planning so it’s neat when he is pleasantly surprised by one of our excursions. I had read and seen pictures, but even I wasn’t prepared for the size of the fish or the heart-achingly beauty of the spring!

Another evening we decided to do an after dinner walk at the boardwalk in Manistique. It was a nice evening and many were out flying kites, walking, enjoying the sights and 70 degree weather.

On Tuesday it was time to move on. On our way to Milwaukee we had a quick 2 day stopover in Two Rivers, Wisconsin to visit our niece who moved there in February. I am proud to say I drove the 3.5 hours there! We stayed at Point Beach State Forest, a gorgeous park with a woodsy area to camp in but with the beach of Lake Michigan just a quick walk from about any site. With Ed working, we didn’t have much time to explore the park. It had many inviting bike and hiking trails and were busy and well used.

We had a heck of a time getting our RV into a site there (we traded driving spots for that). With all the trees, it was not friendly to our turning radius angles. It took us almost an hour to get parked as we got too close to a tree with our awnings and we had a devil of a time working our way from it. It was a test of patience to say the least, but we passed. Each time we learn some new things and we sharpen our skills. The camp host and rangers were very helpful and they even sent maintenance down to trim some branches from our site so they wouldn’t be in our way when it was time to leave.

We had a nice time visiting our niece Taylor and her boyfriend Justin. We ate in the larger town over called Manitowoc at Courtside Pub. They are a brewery and they make their own Rootbeer. Justin and I sampled that while Ed and Taylor scrunched their noses at us – it was their loss! Afterwards, Justin took us to an ice cream place that serves in a conut- an ice cream cone made from a cinnamon sugar donut. I had the blueberry ice cream and made a dent in it just enough to get to taste a bit of the donut. Way too much to finish, but delicious!

And we were off to Milwaukee! Not a bad drive from this point, about an hour and a half. It was easy to do that early in the morning before Ed was due to work. Unfortunately, our site wasn’t available that morning so we hung out for the day in the Walmart parking lot up the street until he was done. It wasn’t bad, we have solar so we had air conditioning and I was able to make lunch. I took advantage of our location and stocked our groceries. When we finally moved and got set up, we were tickled to find out that the shuttles the city runs to Summerfest had a post right beside our campgrounds.

Summerfest made the rule you have to show your vaccination card or a negative COVID test to enter the venue. I am just stating this informationally, not to bring in controversy. The way Summerfest works is they have a lot of “included” concerts with their gate passes. For $100 each we got gate passes for all 9 days. They have 12 stages along Lake Michigan with the Milwaukee skyline in the backdrop. There are about a dozen or so “special performances” throughout the festival that the tickets are sold separately. Some of the stages have magic, comedy, or a high-end DJ but they are mostly all bands and performers of all different genres.

It’s worth noting that the festival usually starts the last Wednesday of June. It was cancelled last year like most other public gatherings and delayed this year due to COVID. I don’t know if they will move it back, but the weather is perfect right now with days in the mid 70’s.

An overall euphoric feeling is amplified having not gone to any concerts or many public events at all in almost two years. Seeing people out enjoying themselves, sitting and watching people sing and dance and enjoy, it was all surreal after so long without. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it and I think part of what was feeding my bliss was it was a shared feeling amongst the entire crowd. People are just thankful and happy to be there and able to experience live music and comradery again. Things that we used to take somewhat for granted are now given new appreciation and respect. Wouldn’t that be a nice thing if it lasts?

A highlight the first night was in a tent-style night club (JoJo’s martini bar). They had an 80’s cover band with 3 leading ladies called The Cougars. They had everyone eating out of the palm of their hands and the keyboard player had mad moves that accelerated the hype! We bounced around the stages throughout the evening and then we had a hard time committing to which headliner to watch. We chose REO Speedwagon on the first night and there was a world-class firework show just before.

The second night we got there later and didn’t take in as many acts. I did catch Men in Hats doing The Safety Dance and was quite amused when they followed that by an encore touting it was their “new release”. Nope, it was a different take on The Safety Dance! (Slowed down and almost like it was being covered by The Cure) Who cares, that song is worth playing twice and the joke made me smile!

The headliner we chose that night was a revelation! I had barely heard of Chris Janson. I knew he was a country music artist, and we both kind of hoped he wasn’t the pop kind. That man was no pop singer, and he put on a heck of a show. He had narrowed his band to a 3 piece – with no electronic tracks, and they sounded great! He would do these harmonica riffs that you couldn’t help but get up and move with. There was a reggae tangent in the middle of his hit “Good Vibes” that had everyone smiling and dancing. We also enjoyed that later in the show they set up his 7 year old son’s drum set and he was teasing him about drumming in his crocs. That kid was serious! Great show, I am now definitely a fan! The last night we took in a 90’s hair cover band, and they had a lot of options for headliners so we bounced around and saw Styx, Shaggy, Flo-Rida, and Rise Against.

I have to say we have been to many music festivals in the past and by nightfall they are usually crazy. So far this crowd has been very respectful and good spirited. Just enough rowdy to be fun, but not too much rowdy where they are ruining it for everyone else. I didn’t see many overserved, which is unusual from my past experiences but I think attendance is definitely down. Absolutely loved the grounds and set up. The city gets my kudos for having so many clean shuttle systems in place and the quality and upkeep of the grounds to make an outstanding experience that much better. The shuttle is a bit expensive for as many days as we will go but I didn’t pay for parking, I didn’t have to wait in any traffic, I didn’t have to walk a mile to get back to my transportation. The food options are diverse and reasonably priced. No stress, good vibes only!

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