Rednecks Do Minneapolis

Hotel in MN lobby

WisconsinThis post is a continuation of our 18-day RV road trip.  If you want to read how a bunch of rednecks ended up in a high end hotel in Minneapolis, start here.

Since we were on a time-line to get to Mister’s work event in Minneapolis, we had to drive straight through Wisconsin.  So, all I can tell you is that Wisconsin (a) is beautiful with it’s picturesque farmhouses and barns, (b) doesn’t have as many Holsteins as I expected, and (c) doesn’t seem to have many Wal-Marts or large truck stops near the highway.  After many miles of looking, we pulled into a Wal-Mart and settled in amongst a few trucks in the far corner of the parking lot. 


After a good night’s sleep, we drove on to Minneapolis.  Mister’s company had reservations for us at a hoity-toity hotel at The Mall Of America.  After circling the area several times, we called the hotel and asked where we could park.  They gave us directions to the correct entrance and told us there would be someone there to take care of us. 

Well, was there ever!  When we pulled up, we were approached by a valet.  As the drop-off area filled with the sound and smell of a diesel truck, Mister spoke with him briefly.  We were directed to the bus parking area on the other side of the mall and told that someone would come and pick us up.  For some reason, the valet didn’t seem to want to drive our rig.  😉 

I realized that the RV was going to be very far away, so I had hopped in to gather our things when there was a knock at the door.  It was a bellhop complete with a luggage cart.  He asked for our luggage.  At that point, I realized that I didn’t have any luggage.  I had packed the RV for the trip and never thought about our overnight hotel stay.  So, I did what any good redneck would do.  I found my stash of Wal-Mart bags and started packing.  🙂 

The bellhop waited patiently and loaded our “luggage” onto his cart.  I gathered my 4 kids and followed him (and his cart) toward the hotel entrance while Mister went to park.  By the time we got to the door, I had stopped my kids (who were busting with energy from 2 days of travel and the excitement of staying in a hotel) from trying to “help” him push the cart. 

As I approached the revolving door, I suddenly heard squeals of delight and “Oh, cool Mom!  Look!”  Apparently, my kids hadn’t seen a revolving door before.  One was afraid to go through it and the others wanted to “do it again”, but as we entered the lobby, they found other interests. 

Hotel in MN lobby

The lobby of the hotel at Mall of America.


The lobby sitting area wall boasted a long row of flames.  I stopped them as they tried to rush to the fire, my oldest exclaiming, “Wow!  Mom, is that real fire?”  I promised them that we would look at the fire later and made our way past the group of very well-dressed business men and women to catch up with the bellhop (who was waiting and watching with lightly-veiled amusement).  Our entourage moved forward briefly until my youngest boy stopped, pointed dramatically and declared, “I want to ride THAT.”   I turned in the direction that he was pointing to discover… an escalator.  Oh my!  We must get out more.  I promised plenty of escalator rides later, and we continued on.  The bellhop pointed me toward the guest elevators and headed to the freight elevator with his cart. 


We piled into the elevator and waited for the door to close.  And waited.  And waited.  I hit the close button.  Nothing.  I pushed our floor number.  Still Nothing.  At this point, I decided that the elevator must be broken.  So, out we went to wait for another elevator.  It came pretty quickly, and we loaded up again.  And, again, the door wouldn’t close.  We were joined by a younger gentleman in a suit.  He reached past us, scanned his room key, and we were off!  I had no clue!  You have to scan your room key to get to the rooms!  I’m pretty sure he had no clue if we were actually supposed to be there.

We exited the elevator, and I called Mister to warn him about the elevators.  He said he knew!  I asked if they told him when he got the keys.  He said he just knew.  Seriously.  Who knows that?

To our room we went, and after multiple attempts, I decided that our door key didn’t work.  I pulled out the little envelope it came in and discovered that we were at the wrong room.  We quickly found our room, and we were in! 

By this point, I was pretty much exhausted, so I plopped down on the bed and waited for our luggage to arrive.  Our luggage!  We had given the bellhop the wrong room number!  I ran out the door and smack into him.  He ever-so-kindy retrieved our luggage.  At last, Mister arrived and we settled in.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how you write an entire blog post about checking into a hotel.  Overall, the rest of the evening was pretty uneventful.  Well, except for the game of charades I played with the non-English speaking maid to find out where the cement pond… um, I mean, swimming pool… was.

The Forest of Lost Dreams–The Story of the Dunstan Chestnut

It was a normal morning of feeding animals, doing math, and washing dishes when Mister called to tell me about the trees that his co-worker bought.  There is a limited supply of this particular tree, and they are only shipped out to certain stores across the U.S. once a year.  Fascinated by their story, I began to do some research on the Dunstan Chestnut tree.

plant dunstan chestnut trees

The American Chestnut Tree has been called the most important tree in American history.  Residing in the Eastern Hardwood forest, every part was valuable in early America.  It’s plentiful, high carbohydrate nuts provided food for North American settlers and wildlife alike.  It’s wood is rot-resistant, which made it a popular choice for everything from fence posts to furniture.  And, its tannin was used in the tanning industry.

Sadly, in 1904, a bark fungus (which causes chestnut blight) was accidentally introduced from the Orient, and, over the next few decades, up to 3 billion American Chestnut Trees succumbed to the disease.  The American Chestnut Tree seemed to be lost forever.  However, in the 1950s, a blight-free chestnut tree was found amongst a grove of infected trees.  Through grafting and cross-pollination, plant breeder, Dr. Robert T. Dunstan, was able to breed a blight-resistant chestnut tree–the Dunstan Chestnut.  These trees have now been growing and producing nuts every year for over 50 years and are the first chestnut trees to receive U.S. Plant Patents.  Every year, when they arrive in stores, there is a waiting list, or they are gone within a couple of days.  And, yes, by the way, I now have 5 of these beauties! (Bucket List #45–Grow some sort of orchard.)  Oh, and special thanks to my mom for loading them in her car in a torrential downpour because her hometown was the only place that had any within 3 hours of me.

As I spent my Saturday afternoon on the business end of our post hole diggers, I couldn’t help but think about that healthy American Chestnut tree hopelessly lost in a forest of death.  So much time had passed that no one even looked for it anymore.  Tragically, our dreams are often the same way–lost and dying in a forest of stress, fear, the trials of life, and monotony.  But, there is hope. 

The American Chestnut was found and shaped into something stronger than it ever could have been without going through trials and almost certain death.  In the same way, we can let the pain, heartache, and rejections we have experienced force our dreams into extinction.  Or, we can rise above and allow our hard experiences to propel us forward with more passion, drive, tenacity, and hustle than ever before. 

Myles Munroe said it like this:  “The wealthiest places in the world are not gold mines, oil fields, diamond mines or banks.  The wealthiest place is the cemetery.  There lies companies that were never started, masterpieces that were never painted…  In the cemetery there is buried the greatest treasure of untapped potential.  There is a treasure within you that must come out.  Don’t go to the grave with your treasure still within YOU.”

Shared on:  Homestead Blog Hop

The Truck Is Fixed… Basically

pictured rocks at lake superior

pictured rocks at lake superiorThis truck breakdown was part of our summer RV Road Trip.  If you’re just joining us, start at the beginning.

Bright and early the next morning, we piled into the rental car, headed back across the Mackinac Bridge, and picked up our truck.  However, somewhere between picking up the truck and dropping off the rental car, the truck began to miss, hinting at a bad injector.  We had just paid to have three of the eight injectors replaced!  We all groaned as it stuttered at the stop light and decided to go back to the repair shop while it was close. 

Mister stepped inside and asked to speak to a mechanic.  However, all of the mechanics were gone on a camping trip.  After explaining our situation, the receptionist made a call and they agreed to send someone to the shop to talk to us.  Thirty minutes later a young guy arrived to four impatient kids, an increasingly frantic lady, and a man who was basically calm and trying to keep everyone else that way. 

He hooked his scanner to our truck and explained that one of the injectors wasn’t great, but it would be okay for a while.  Now, since I’d heard that story before, I wasn’t quite convinced.  The poor guy was very patient in repetitively reassuring the now-crying crazy lady that we could make it back home without any problems.  

We loaded back up, drove the hour back to the campground (complete with yet another bridge crossing), and started preparing the RV for our departure.  As I was securing the stuff in the cabinets, there was a knock at our door.  I stepped outside to meet a sweet older couple that I hadn’t seen before.  The woman handed me some rolled up cash, wished me well in Jesus’ name, and informed me that another camper had told them our story, and they wanted to help.  The poor couple seemed a little shocked as crying crazy lady returned, hugging them and thanking them profusely.  We spoke briefly, they wished us well, and we returned to our preparations. 

We made our way to the dump station…because after four days in an RV with six people, it was past time to empty our sewage.  As Mister worked, one of the workers came to wish us well and exchange information.  As we talked, I felt a little conflicted.  For days I had longed to get on with our trip, but a piece of me had grown to love this little campground on the lake and it’s people.  But, as we rolled away, I was excited to see what else lied ahead.

Since we had lost a few days to the breakdown, we decided to only visit Pictured Rocks, then head through Wisconsin towards Minneapolis.  I was sad to scratch meeting up with some friends that were traveling through Wisconsin and kayaking at the Apostle Islands (Bucket List item) from our agenda, but Mister promised that we would return someday soon. 

pictured rocks mi


When we arrived at Pictured Rocks, it was cold and rainy.  But, we didn’t let that stop us.  We walked a few trails, watched some chipmunks scurry around, and enjoyed the gorgeous blue-green waters of Lake Superior.  Before long, the kids tired of walking–and pictures–so we made our way back to the RV and enjoyed the scenic drive through the rest of the U.P. 



UP pastyAs we rolled through the last “big” town before Wisconsin, I saw a sign advertising “PASTIES” (pronounced with a short a).  Since, we’d been seeing these signs for miles, we decided to investigate.  The manager was super nice and served us even though they were about to close.  As we ate, she told us about the history of the pasty.  The Upper Peninsula had an early settlement of Swedes and Finns (among others) that migrated to work in the mining and logging industries.  Women wrapped meat and vegetables in a thin crust to send to work with the men.  They were portable and easy to warm up in a shovel held over a head-lamp candle.  But, most of all, they were delicious.  Seriously, I’m not aware of anywhere else that you can get these pockets of goodness.  I decided that I’m either going to have to learn to make them or visit the U.P. often…

But, for the time being, we had to say good-bye to Michigan.  Next up, Wisconsin!  (And, how NOT to check into a hotel.)

Our Fear Of Strangers

our fear of strangers

our fear of strangersI was a 70s baby in America, which meant I grew up in a world with a tv in every living room.  And, those tvs were always on.  Through those tvs, we watched Scooby Do, Saved By The Bell, and Beverly Hills 90210.  We also learned about stranger danger, kidnappings, and cold-blooded killings.  We were told to never talk to strangers because you never knew who was waiting for the opportunity to snatch you up and take you far, far away, never to be seen again.  At 7 years old, I was actually afraid of our local “Waiting Child” spokesman.  I mean, he was always coming on tv trying to find new homes for kids.  He must be stealing them and selling them for money, right?

 Fast forward 20 years, and the world is even crazier.  We learn about every kidnapping, freak accident, and epidemic within minutes.  We watch shows about cold cases and people disappearing without a trace.  It’s enough to make any parent refuse to ever let their children out of the house again.  When it comes to my kids, everyone is considered guilty until proven innocent.

But, last summer, during our RV road trip, our truck broke down 938 miles from home, leaving us stranded in an RV park.  During those four short days, I met a lot of strangers.  And, I learned that strangers aren’t so bad after all.  In fact, one of those strangers called the tow company and convinced them to not only tow our truck and RV off of the Mackinac Bridge where we broke down, but to take our RV to an RV park four miles out of town.  Another stranger used his personal truck to take our RV down the narrow park roads.  Yet another stranger spent her time making phone calls to help us find a mechanic.  A kind older stranger loaned us his truck so we could go to the grocery store and get milk for the kids.  A family of strangers shared their campfire, s’mores, and good conversation on a chilly night.  A couple of strangers knocked on our door after hearing our story and blessed us with money to help with repairs.  Countless other strangers sympathized with us, made suggestions, and wished us well.  No, strangers are not all shady characters waiting to harm us.  Actually, most strangers are pretty awesome people that will do what they can to help. 

Now, I will still do my due diligence, especially when it comes to the safety of my kids.  But, let’s not get so caught up in the bad in this world that we forget all about the good.  Because, most people–even strangers–are good.

Kind Strangers, Lake Huron, Introspection and an S-10 Truck

lake huron st ignace

lake huron st ignaceThis post is a continuation of the story of our RV Road Trip.  If you’re just now joining us, start at the beginning.  🙂

As we returned to the campground from Castle Rock, another camper approached Mister and asked him if we needed anything from the grocery store.  Mister said that we could use some milk.  His response left me speechless!  (Shocking, I know.)  He handed us his truck keys.  Just like that, a total stranger gave us his truck!  His generosity both humbled and overwhelmed me. 

The last couple of days had given me plenty of opportunities for introspection.  In addition to the kind stranger, our friends back home were collaborating to get our truck back to Oklahoma if needed and researching our options in the area through their connections.  One of the camp hosts brought me a list of businesses that could possibly help us–everything from mobile diesel repair to rental cars. 

I’m probably the girl that, if injured, would drive myself to the hospital instead of relying on an ambulance.  My blood pressure rises slightly if someone leaves me at the grocery store and runs to get gas while I shop.  I frequently spend hours trying to figure something out before I ask for help.  I strive to be able to deal with or get out of any situation myself. 

Some of it’s a necessary mindset when you don’t live 5 minutes from stores and emergency services.  Some of it’s learned when you deal with 100 living creatures daily.  You don’t take a $10 chicken to the vet and acquire a $75 bill.  You deal with sickness, injuries and death.  You research.  You do the best you can with what you have. 

So, being in a strange place without transportation was a huge stretch for me.  Self-reliance is a good thing, but there is a point where it leads to pride.  There’s nothing like being in a situation where you have to rely on others to keep you humble and remind you that no matter how much you plan, God is sovereign.  On the other hand, I’m blessed with so much, but I’m not nearly as open-handed and trusting as the kind gentleman with the S-10 truck.  At that moment, I vowed to trust a little more, be a little less suspicious and open my hand a little wider.

We piled into the truck and had a lovely afternoon in town buying groceries, exploring, shopping and trying some delicious pretzel burgers at a local restaurant.  And, for the moment, nothing else mattered.  My heart was full. St. Ignace MichiganTo be continued…

Shared at:  Live Free Thursday

Do Your Kids Need A Bucket List?

Find out how having a bucket list can help your kids achieve great things in adulthood! #bucketlist

One of the most sobering things about being a parent is the realization of how much our kids imitate us. We’ve all had that proud moment when we secretly witness our older child comfort a younger sibling in the same way they’ve seen us do it.  We’ve also hung our heads in shame as we saw a 35 pound version of ourselves yell at that same sibling for a perceived wrong.

I came to that realization again several months ago when I started my bucket list.  I walked into the living room to find my two oldest boys working diligently at something.  When I asked what they were doing, they informed me that they were writing their bucket lists.

bucket list

Because they had seen me prioritize making a bucket list and checking items off of it, my boys, who hate to write, deemed it important also.  But, the coolest thing about their bucket lists was seeing how they dream with reckless abandon.

Fire the cannon on a tank? Sure.
Buy a BMW? Why not.
Publish a book? No problem.
Skydive with a LEGO MINIFIGURE? I’ve got this.

The thing about kids is they usually don’t have the life experience to know that something is dangerous, extremely hard, or even impossible.  They don’t consider that their dream job doesn’t pay well (or at all), or the fact that their chances of making it as a rock star or into the NFL are slim to none.

As adults, we know this.  So, we pat them on the head, give them a “that’s nice, honey”, and exchange a knowing glance with any other adults within earshot.  We know that they’ll learn someday.  Someday they’ll have a house with a mortgage, student loans, babies screaming, and a leaky hot water tank.  Then, they’ll trade in that dream job for whatever pays the bills and spend all of that skydiving time and money on their kids’ little league games.

But, what if we expected more for our kids?  What if, instead of placating them, we helped them make a plan for achieving their goals?  Now, I’m not saying you can coach your 5’2″, 100 pound 18-year-old into the NFL.  But, there are things on their list that you CAN help them achieve.  Writing a book is a big undertaking, but it’s doable.  Give them the time and space to write, help them with brainstorming and editing, research self-publishing along with them, and use your contacts to find someone that has published a book and would be willing to encourage them along the way.

If you can help them achieve a big goal now, before life beats them up a little, they will learn that it’s okay to dream big because with perseverance, a little ingenuity, and a lot of hard work, they can accomplish great things.

And, don’t worry.  The NFL thing will work itself out.

goal setting for kids

photo credit: Imagining via photopin (license)

Do you or your kids have a bucket list?  If not, I recommend checking out the Live Your List show.  It’s family friendly, entertaining and inspirational.  Plus, it’ll get you started on your bucket list.  🙂

Need some motivation to check some items off of your list?  Check out this post!
photo credit: Weinlese via photopin (license)

photo credit: Weinlese via photopin (license)

Waiting… (Mackinac Island and Castle Rock)

Mackinac Island State Park

ferry to mackinac islandThis post is part of a series about our summer RV road trip.  If you’re just hopping on board, start at the beginning!  🙂

So, we went to bed with no transportation in an RV park four miles outside of the nearest town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, an area completely unfamiliar to us, and the only people we knew in the entire state were across the bridge and 300 miles away.

The next morning (a Saturday), we received a call from the mechanic.  It wasn’t the news we were hoping for…  He wasn’t confident working on our vehicle and suggested we find a Ford dealer and have the truck towed there.  While we appreciated his honesty, we were now stuck in the RV park for 2 more days plus whatever time the repair took.

After talking with one of the camp hosts, we decided to visit Mackinac Island.  It hadn’t been one of our top choices in the area, but ferry tickets to the island included free shuttle pick-up.  A quick shuttle ride and a ferry across Lake Huron later, we disembarked.  And we were so glad to be there. 

Mackinac Island State Park


No vehicles are allowed on Mackinac Island, so everyone travels via bicycle or horse!  The main street had it’s share of typical tourist-y shops, but the historical buildings nearby and the fact that everyone was traveling via bike or horse and wagon made it more interesting.  We regretted not bringing our bikes, but decided to forgo renting bikes and hike some trails instead.  (I was getting a little stressed about the breakdown‘s effect on our pocketbook at this point.)


Getting out in nature and watching the kids run was good for our souls and the nerd in me enjoyed reading the historical markers.

Mackinac Island Trails

After enjoying a pizza buffet back on the main street, we boarded the ferry and returned to St. Ignace.  But, instead of getting on the shuttle, we explored the town for a few hours and enjoyed talking to the locals.

We took the last shuttle home then walked around the campground, spent time visiting with campers that we had met through our atypical arrival the day before, hung out around their campfire and chatted late into the night.

The next morning, I headed off to the laundromat while everyone else walked to the lake (Lake Huron).  The kids enjoyed playing on the beach and swimming, which was insane even in July since the Great Lakes are formed from glacier run-off.  We could see Castle Rock from the campground entrance, so it was the logical choice for the day’s adventure.  Never mind the 4 lane highway with weedy intersections and fences we had to cross.

Views at Castle Rock


Castle Rock is a limestone stack that rises 195 feet above Lake Huron.  After climbing the 170 steep stairs (guarded by none other than Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox), we were rewarded with amazing views of Lake Huron, Mackinac Island, and the infamous (to us) Mackinac Bridge. 





And, just as I was thinking the bridge wasn’t so bad from that angle, I saw this.

bucket list blogging


And, I was reminded that no matter what our circumstances, we can all still be awesome for today.

To be continued…

Towed Across the Mackinac Bridge

Tow truck headerThis post is part of a series on our RV Road Trip.  If you haven’t been following along, start here.

We rode along as our little train crossed the remaining 4 3/4 miles of the Mackinac Bridge. As we passed through St. Ignace, Mister suggested that I call the RV park and give them a heads up that we would be arriving via tow truck. They weren’t surprised since the bridge security guy had already called.

Minutes later, we pulled up to the front office… and quite the welcoming committee–a truck, a golf cart, 4 men and a young boy. At that point, it occurred to me that our truck was going who-knows-where for who-knows-how-long, so I frantically started unloading our boatload of stuff from the truck and throwing it into the RV. Meanwhile, the guys and Shawn unhitched the RV from our truck and re-hitched it to the other truck that had been waiting for us. I later found out that it belonged to another guest who had volunteered to take our RV to our spot and help us get settled in.

Before taking the kids into the front office to check in, I watched the tow truck pull away, dragging our truck behind.  The young boy, who was the guest’s grandson, accompanied us inside and played board games with my kids as I got checked in. The lady at the front desk had already blocked out our spot for several days, so we didn’t have to worry about moving our RV until our truck was repaired. She also kindly suggested some activities that we could get to without transportation.

Finally, the kids and I walked to the camping spot that would be our home for a while.  I sat up camp and cooked dinner while Mister crawled on the RV roof and attempted to repair the tear from the trees in Kentucky oh-so-long ago.  As we ate dinner, Mister told me that the repair shop was going to have a mechanic come work on our truck in the morning, a Saturday.  We had planned on two nights in St. Ignace.  So worst case scenario, we may have to wait until Monday morning to get a part from the Ford Dealership, putting us in St. Ignace an extra day.

However, I didn’t plan on a worse than worst case scenario


The Bridge

Waiting to cross the bridge!


If you haven’t been taking this awesome RV journey with us, start here.  🙂

With the EGR unplugged and the assurance that it would be fine until we got home, we hit the road again.  The smoke didn’t seem too bad once we got up to speed on the highway, so we made up for lost time until we had to stop for fuel in Gaylord, MI.  After fueling up, however, the truck wouldn’t start.  I found a trucker filling up nearby with a Michigan tag and asked if there was a diesel repair shop nearby.  He gave me the name and number of a shop.  Unfortunately, it was Friday afternoon, and there was no answer at that number or the local Ford Dealership.

In the mean time, Mister called our mechanics again.  They advised us to remove the radiator cap before shutting off the engine.  A minor inconvenience, but it would get us down the road, so no big deal.  We decided our best option was to get to our campground and decide if any other action needed to be taken.  After sitting for a bit, the truck started (accompanied with lots of cheers), and we were off…

I could tell from my trusty atlas (Hey, don’t judge.  I’m of the grew-up-pre-gps-in-every-car-that-also-refuses-to-pay-for-an-iphone persuasion.) that we were within an hour of a large bridge that would take us to our long-awaited destination.  What I DIDN’T know was the monstrosity that IS the Mackinac Bridge.

Waiting to cross the bridge!

Waiting to cross the bridge!


Now, there are some landmarks that don’t even require their name.  Everyone just knows what you’re talking about.  The Mackinac Bridge is one such landmark.  You could go to anyone in the surrounding area and say, “I broke down on THE BRIDGE,” and they would know EXACTLY what bridge you were talking about.  Just short of 5 miles long, it is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere (5th longest in the world), and connects lower Michigan (the hand) to the Upper Peninsula, or U.P. (the strip of Michigan separated from the rest of the state by Lakes Michigan and Huron).


Anyway, remember that example about breaking down on the bridge?  Well… We did just that–a quarter of a mile into our 5 mile crossing.  And, after several minutes of groaning, praying, talking to the truck,  and Mister stepping out of the truck only to discover that the only thing that separated him from the water almost 200 feet below was metal grating, bridge security rolled up.

The first words out of his mouth were, “You outta gas?”  He said it in such a way that I was pretty sure we would be in a lot of trouble if we were.  Fortunately–or unfortunately–we had 3/4 of a tank.  We explained that our truck had died and wouldn’t start.  He paused, then said, “Well, the only thing I can do is call a wrecker.”  And, back to his truck he went.

After a few minutes, he returned and said they were on their way and asked were we were heading.  We told him we had reservations at the Castle Rock Campark in St. Ignace.  He responded, “My cousin runs that campground.  It’s only 4 miles outside of town.  I’ll call George at the tow company and see if they can take you all the way there, leave your trailer, and take your truck to their repair shop.”  Oh happy day!  A wrecker company with a repair shop!  And they were heading our way!

Not long after, a young guy in a BIG tow truck arrived and began hooking up to our truck.  We asked if he could take us to our campground.  He hesitated, just as the bridge security guy got off of his phone and informed him that George said he would take us to the campground.  So, it was settled.  After he finished hooking up, he looked into our truck at the 2 adults and 4 kids in car seats, and mused, “I only have two seats in my truck.  I guess you’ll just have to ride in there.  Just make sure you’re buckled up.”

So, off we went–a tow truck, pulling a 1-ton diesel truck, pulling a 1995 fifth wheel RV–across the 5-mile Mackinac Bridge.

What most people see when crossing Mackinac Bridge.

What most people see when crossing Mackinac Bridge.


What we saw when crossing the Mackinac Bridge.

What we saw when crossing the Mackinac Bridge.









I couldn’t help but wonder how much this was going to cost… or what waited for us on the other side of the bridge.

Letting The Smoke Out

This post is part of a series on our RV Road Trip.  To read the whole story, start here.

Off we went toward Lake Ontario… and away from ourLake Ontario Collage campground. After a relatively short drive and navigating through a quaint little town, we found Fort Niagara State Park and Historic Site.   It didn’t take long to find the water, and I got right to sticking my feet in that lake (#bucketlist)!  The boys, on the the other hand, had a grand time learning how to skip rocks with dad.  Farm boy declared his bucket list challenge to be gathering sticks from everywhere that we went.

It was a great area with a lot of history, but for this trip, we had to move on down the road.  We had a campground waiting for us in Pennsylvania!

We arrived at Presque Isle RV Park in Erie, Pennsylvania, got everything hooked up (in the daylight this time), and settled in for the evening.  The next morning, Mister and the kids took advantage of the campground’s (very cold) swimming pool while I did something I had yet to do on this trip–laundry.  I hauled the last load back to the RV 30 minutes before checkout time and we did the frantic dance of getting the kids dressed, me insisting on a real shower in the bath house, Mister hooking the RV back to the truck as I dried/flat-ironed my hair and prepared everything for travel, loading everyone up and pulling out of our site just in time to visit the dump site on the way out.  Now, if you’re not familiar with RVs, one of the less pleasant factors is being constantly aware of and emptying your own sewage, but we have yet to have any “mishaps” and dumping it beats the alternative.

Lake Erie CollageWe hit the road and decided to drive the 8 miles to Lake Erie and get my Bucket List picture.  An hour later, we arrived at the shoreline.  I’m still not really sure how that happened, but we got to see a lot of neat farmhouses and part of another area that we’d like to visit again someday.

After a few too many pictures, we were on the road to Michigan!  We were blessed to be able to stay overnight with some friends in Ann Arbor, and, even though our visit was short, it was wonderful.  Catching up, meeting new family members, chatting too late into the night, cooking together, and sharing meals brings a connection you just can’t get with Facebook.  Hopefully, we can do it again soon.  We left the next evening in order to cover a little ground before we needed to find a place to sleep.  We drove north toward the Upper Peninsula until we got tired, crashed at a truck stop in Flint, MI, then hit the road again the next day.

We needed to get some material to repair the RV roof from the one-way-road-with-low-hanging-trees incident in Kentucky, so we decided to find an RV dealership.  We located a Camping World and hopped off the interstate.  Then, somewhere along Highway 55, IT happened.  Smoke.  Lots and lots of smoke pouring from our tail pipe.  We called a mechanic back home, and he suggested the EGR and said cleaning it might help.  We putted along to the dealership, but by the time we pulled into their parking lot, the truck was smoking so badly that two guys ran out of the mechanic shop with fire extinguishers!  Fortunately, Mister was able to stop them before they doused us.

Michigan Breakdown #1The kids and I found a pizza place to hang out at while Mister moved the rig to an nearby auto parts store and got to work.  Finally, we fired up the truck with our freshly cleaned EGR (thanks in part to my vacuum cleaner), and we had…..  SMOKE.  After another call to the mechanic, we just unplugged the thing and moved on without it.  Theoretically, we should have been able to get along just fine until we got home to have it repaired.  Theoretically…  In reality, the memories just kept getting better.