Table Rock Lake

Spending a week on the clear, warm waters of Table Rock Lake at Port of Kimberling in Missouri with Julie & Brad, Rachael & Roman. We convoyed up here Sunday and have gotten pretty good at doing pretty little. Nice campground, although the site I’m in was a bear to get settled into; it is just a mismatch of trees & slides placements. But after a reset, all is good. Just chillaxing today after running up & down the lake yesterday and searing some skin in the sun Monday—and getting bit by a fish. It’s actually kinda cool today with thunderstorms thinking about making some noise.

I tried to find a brewery in Branson Monday afternoon but, sadly, struck out. Branson seems to be more of a Cracker Barrel and buffet kinda place… not so much into the world of craft brews. That’s okay; my few weeks in Michigan will give me plenty of opps to visit their breweries! The terrain around Branson is pretty. The town itself you can keep.

What the Port of Kimberling does have, is fire flies! These are the instant-on/instant-off strobe light kinda flies. Very cool to watch! Welp, that’s it for now. Gotta fix a skirting brace on the trailer and it’s nearly Modelo time. Cheers!

A Snug Site & A Failed Flop

After watching 121 Live Sunday morning (despite many weather-related video dropouts) I left Port of Kimberling heading northeast to Mark Twain National Forest, specifically Red Bluffs Recreation Area. ‘Twas a nice drive through the Missouri mountains (ahhh, let’s call them hills) with periodic light rain. I was just fine with the showers, as the forecast predicted strong thunderstorms. Upon arrival at the campground I was tempted to keep moving as it seemed deserted. LOL, the area I first drove into actually was deserted—I guess kinda an overflow area because it looked like the river had recently flooded it.

Red Bluff Recreation Area
Red Bluff Recreation Area
The Rig
The Rig

On the other loop I met a young family who was just setting up and they kindly offered me the site they had reserved next to the non-reservable site they preferred for “kid running room.” I squeezed into the short site for a snug fit but while setting things up my favorite Teva flops gave out on me. They’d been super-glued before and this blowout was more severe so I decided to give them a proper burial. Now I gotta break in a new pair of Sanuks.

In the morning I quickly broke camp (didn’t set up much the night before) and headed toward St. Louis. My map didn’t provide any detail of the remote area I was in and I was out of cell range so my phone app was worthless, so I made course decisions based on only the dash compass. Saw some pretty scenery; probably more than I needed to! No worries, since I was only headed to St. Louis, just a few hours away. Now am sitting at the local KOA fussing with the %#*+^$(&# Dish satellite system. It almost never works. Gonna call them tomorrow and insist on a new dish antenna.

Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Road

Nat Geo’s Guide to Scenic Highways & Byways recommends the 45-mile riverside road that runs from North St. Louis to Kampsville, IL. So I took it and am glad I did! Beautiful views of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Holy moly, that’s a lotta water! You kinda get that when you cross the Ole Miss on interstate highway bridges but driving alongside the river is an experience. There are a few small towns along the way, like Grafton, which would be cool to hang out in for a while. I passed through fairly early and they hadn’t really woken up yet (if they actually do!).

Once I got to Kampsville I realized the way back over the Illinois river was via ferry. While it was uneventful, it was cool to get the check in the box that I’d been on the water. Highway 108 headed east toward Springfield was a cool drive through corn forests and other crops this agriculture-illiterate guy didn’t recognize.

After I settled in at the tucked-away KOA south of Springfield (featuring a sad or just plain crabby owner a little obsessed with her trash bins, but that’s another story!) I headed into town to grab a brew at Engrained Brewery where I really enjoyed their German Helles Lager. Dude, these northern breweries seem to have a way with German style beers!

Back at camp I wrestled the original mattress outta the bedroom and the new mattress I’d had delivered to the KOA into its place. The stock lightweight mattress just wasn’t gonna cut it much longer. Since the new mattress needed 48 hours to decompress I bedded down on the jack-knife sofa. I already have pity for any guests who have to use  it and am beginning to see the value of a bunkhouse floor plan!

Headed back into Springfield today to visit Abe’s museum, home and other cool places (Buzz Bomb, Anvil & Forge Brewery & Distillery, etc.) More on that later!

Abe’s Town

Springfield, Illinois is a nice town. I see why Abe Lincoln liked it. There’s really nothing spectacular about it; it just seems like a nice place to live as long as you’re willing to trade mountains or beach for corn fields. Really, though, the downtown was kinda cool in a not-overly-touristy-way and the suburb southeast of town surrounding Springfield Lake has some beautiful properties and homes.

I checked out the town’s historic sites:

  • Abe Lincoln Home
    Abe Lincoln Home
    Abe Lincoln Neighborhood
    Abe Lincoln Neighborhood

    Abe’s & Mary’s home in a renovated neighborhood in the center of town. The National Park Service has done a nice job making this look like life in the mid 1800s. Their house was bigger than I expected (not sure why).

  • The old train station, now a special museum exhibit on the Hollywood movie about Abe, didn’t hold my interest. Would’ve been better just left as a simple historic place without the clutter.
  • The Abraham Lincoln Museum, which did draw me in for a  couple hours. The hologram presentation was especially good. The museum has several exhibits that are worth checking out; it’s a good place for a survey course on who was one of our best presidents. (They almost sold me a “I Miss Abe” t-shirt!)
  • Finally, the Old Courthouse. Great architecture, good displays, very interesting first-person account of the winding down of the Civil War by General Grant. Was kinda cool to walk the hardwood floors and sit at the tables where Lincoln himself practiced law.

The following morning I steadied myself for the 300 mile Interstate slog to Fort Wayne. I’ve said before how I enjoy the old US and state highways more—and I’ll post about one of those soon. Anyway, the trip from Springfield to Bluffton, Indiana (south of Fort Wayne) was uneventful. I enjoyed a great time visiting friends in Ft. Wayne: good food+good friends=good times. I even scored a care package for the road! Glad we were able to visit! Next up: Michigan for the month of July!

… past houses, farms & fields …

I’ve become pretty comfortable with the lady (sometimes she’s a different pronoun) in my maps app to give me good directions. There was that time in South Carolina where I was about to lock the hubs because the roads were so small & remote I fired her (alternate pronoun), but we’ve made up since then. She (the nice pronoun) made me happy yesterday.

Indiana State Highway 5 is a joy! I was making my way from south of Fort Wayne to Van Buren State Park on the Lake Michigan shore. My lady (see how fickle she can be?) directed me from Huntington to Larwill on IN-5, a short 20-25 mile stretch of American Highway. It’s a easy winding country highway that dissects fields of green plants and interacts with a few towns along its path. I loved passing the small restaurants, hardware stores, independent gas stations, homes, parks, and I even liked navigating a few quirky turns as the road made its way through a few towns. I especially loved the display of Americana. Lots of flags. This is America.

Good morning, America, how are ya?

Michigan in July

Here’s what July looks like at 30,000 feet. If any of you Mitteners (is that a good term?) know of special places I should visit please lemme know in the comments!

7/1 to 7/2Fort Custer Recreation Area
7/3 to 7/5Ionia Recreation Area
7/6 to 7/7Muskegon KOA
7/8 to 7/10Hoffmaster State Park
7/11 to 7/12Traverse City State Park (Sleeping Bear Dunes!)
7/1 3to 7/14Orchard Beach State Park
7/15 to 7/17Aloha State Park
7/18 to 7/24Petosky KOA (a day to Mackinac and an overnight to Chicago)
7/25Straits State Park
7/26Tahquamenon Falls State Park
7/28 to 7/29Pictured Rocks KOA
7/30Lake Gogebic State Park
7/31Dunno yet! Will be outbound to Ontario!

Dune Ridge & Devils Kitchen

Acting on Sarah’s suggestion, I headed over to Muskegon State Park to hike the Devils Kitchen trail. I added the Dune Ridge trail on as an extended loop by connecting the two trails via the walkway along the ship channel connecting Muskegon Lake & Lake Michigan (why is “lake” sometimes before and sometimes after the name?). Great Hike! The dunes are awesome. Here’s the trail descriptions from the park map:

Dune Ridge
This trail is for the heartiest of hikers and not recommended for those with heart or respiratory problems. The trail leads you through open and wooded dunes with views of Muskegon Lake, Lake Michigan, interdunal ponds, and the Channel with its lighthouses.

Devils Kitchen
This trail connects Snug Harbor with the Channel Campground boat launch, following the Muskegon Lake shoreline. When the earth and air temperatures are just right, and the right amount of humidity mixes in, a cloud of fog that looks just like smoke is created, hence the name Devil’s Kitchen. Wildflowers,  a dune climb, marshlands, and a view of Muskegon Lake from atop the dune ridge are some of the sights you will see.

The ~2¼ mile hike went by quickly, even with the slow slides up many sand dunes. Had a great time and followed it up with a perch sandwich at Bear Lake Tavern. The weather was perfect, the sights were beautiful. Although kinda short, had a great day in the park.

Michigan Breweries — South

I’m a week or so in (to Michigan) and figured I should get my thoughts on the past few breweries I’ve visited down on pixels, before they start blending together. Read what you will into the post’s title. Michigan has lotsa breweries!

I decided to drag the trailer through downtown Jackson to visit Grand River Brewery. The B in the map app tried to lead me under a 10′ clearance bridge a block away from the brewery. (I hated her right then!) but saw through her evil ways and circled the block. This is more a BJs restaurant than a brewery but since they do brew I guess they qualify. Their Reuben appetizer is great; the session IPA & straight-up IPA were 3.5 pointers on my Untappd app. Hauling the trailer, I wrapped up and headed to my camp at Waterloo Rec Area.

Territorial Brewing Company on the skirts of Battle Creek was a nice lunch stop a couple days later on my way from Fort Custer Rec Area to Ionia Rec Area, both located in the then-hot & humid inland woods. At Territorial I went for the flight of the Helles, the German Pils, the Wanted Dead and Alive Vienna lager and the one-off caffeine Pils. I liked the Kenny Helles, an easy drinking beer. The olive burger (reportedly its a Michigan thing) was also very good. Cool brewhouse near the ANG base. Enjoyed the flyby of five yellow vintage planes… Don’t ask me what they were; I’m clueless. But cool to watch.

A couple days later I walked into Steele Street Brewing in the small farming town of Ionia. Many of the breweries in Michigan seem to be large operations with full kitchens, some are parts of larger conglomerates for cryin’ out loud. I just prefer the honest-to-local small breweries, which this is. Time for another flight: the FOCUS cream ale, Mousetrap Quad IPA, Morrison Lake IPA, Michigan Three Hop IPA & Arland’s Sozo Smooth golden ale. All decent beers, nice finds in the middle of nowhere!

The weekend found me in Muskegon on the lakeshore again. Beautiful day! Low 80s, no water in the air, lotsa choices here downtown. Specifically, the weekend has found me at Unruly Brewing Co in downtown Muskegon. Fun, friendly place with decent beers, music, games, touristas. I tasted through their menu, except for a couple outliers, with a flight of six 4 ouncers, Dang it … the farmhouse ale caught my palate. I loved it. What’s happening to me?! Tell me IPAs still rule! 😳

Welp, yep, they tend to rule at Pigeon Hill Brewing Company just down the street. They’ve got a pretty extensive menu so I just asked the beer tender to set me up with a flight of Pales & Indians. Solid brews: Limp Tail,Shifting Sands, Renny & No Diggnity. Renny and his kid brother (Lil’ Renny, a session IPA) were my and the staffs’ favorites. I felt kinda sorry for the old, annoying drunk fool who staggered in and asked for something like a Busch Lite. He settled for their Walter Blondale and bitched about the $4 cost of a pint.

Monday was gonna be a fixit day on the trailer (always something loose or needing adjustment) and I’d had it with the reefer door swinging open while in transit. I was gonna fix it or break it worse. Fixing it won the battle! And every fixit day with at least one success deserves a brewery break so I headed up the road to Fetch Brewing in Whitehall. Just had a couple IPAs here: the Ryptide (a rye IPA in case you miss the nuance) and the Angry Sky. Decent enough beers in a very cool old bank building: a good asset to a pretty town on the water. Fetch has that great local feel everyone loves, and is also friendly to outtatowners. Definitely worth a visit.

The next day I headed a few miles south, starting with lunch at Old Boys Brewhouse. Super cool brew pub on Spring Lake. Nice deck on the water. Good beers—especially the farmhouse ale (I dunno what’s happening to my palate) and the Michigan Heritage IPA. The albacore tuna melt sandwich was also very, very good. If I lived here this would likely be my favorite hangout.

Next I headed over to Odd Side Ales (or Odd Sides All-less as the B in the map app says it). This good brewery has a pub in uber cool Grand Haven, a block from the channel linking Lake Michigan to the inland waters. I tasted through a flight of their unique beers, enjoying (I know … I’m confused myself!) the Wheatermelon wheat and the Tangerine Dank Juice. I could session that wheat beer all day and, while at 7% the Dank Juice ain’t sessionable, it’s a very tasty beer.

I walked around Grand Haven, enjoying the waterfront and village stores. A container ship was heading down channel toward the big lake. When it blew 2 longs and 3 shorts I was pretty proud to have it signal me just standing there on the wharf … until I realized the horn signal was paying respects to the Coast Guard station down the wharf. Dangit!

Next stop: Holland. Under-impressed by New Holland Brewing’s glitzy pub in 8th Avenue, I ducked out quickly and then into Our Brewing Company, another cool (maybe my newest favorite brewery!) joint. Just had a couple tasters there but the Saison (again!) was pretty solid. Cool patio, great karma feel here. Wish it was closer to the campground.

To round out the day I felt compelled to check out Saugatuck Brewing. Their flight included a coffee-infused red ale (sounded different to me and was dang good) and the excellent Paled It! pale ale was a nice wrap to the southern Michigan tour.

Next up: breweries from central Michigan, followed by those I find in the Upper Peninsula toward the end of the month. Cheers my friends!

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Beautiful. Rough. Expansive. Sandy. Excellent. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is an awe-inspiring piece of land. The dunes are just so massive, creating incredible vistas, sheltering delicate flora, changing over time.  I drove the very pretty Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive with its overlooks of Sleeping Bear, Lake Michigan, and heavy forests and sweeping dunes. Spent about 90 minutes enjoying the 7.4 mile loop road. One of the best roads anywhere.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

 

From there I headed up to Glen Haven Village, which the NPS website describes as a “visit to Glen Haven, the small village on the Lake Michigan shoreline, is a step back to a time when small villages and docks supplied fuel to steamers along the Great Lakes. Glen Haven is the best preserved cord wood station on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and perhaps the entire Great Lakes. Glen Haven was a company town and eventually diversified into farming, canning of fruit, and tourism.” Spent some time chatting with Patrick, a college professor during the winter and national park volunteer during the summer. Cool to get a couple background stories on the area.

Next I headed over to Sleeping Bear Point and trekked out on the dunes loop trail, a short but strenuous 2.8 mile trail that traverses several dunes and forested areas. Walking in sand that swallows your ankles is tiring! And since the sand is always moving, at times you follow the trail only by finding the next blue-topped marker post. I was sure to keep at least one post in view all the time. The workout was worth it, as I got to experience great views, ghost forests (part of ongoing environmental changes in the dune landscape), and fields of ferns (and some poison ivy which I was able to avoid). Great hike for an afternoon that was quickly turning late. Enjoy the slideshows!

Sleeping Bear Point

North in the Southern Peninsula

Been bouncing around upstate Michigan, below the Upper Peninsula, for the past week. It’s not real clear to me what to refer to this part of the state as. The Michigan State Parks website calls it Central but seems everyone I talk with says it’s north. Shelly, I know you know!?…

Anyway, once I wore out my welcome in southern Michigan (that designation is clear) I headed north a few hours to Traverse City where the wooded state park is right in town. Cozy, tight sites but very nice. Lots to see in & around Grand Traverse Bay (see the post on Sleeping Bear).

Then came Young State Park on Lake Charlevoix near Boyne City. Beautiful beaches and views of the lake and I enjoyed walking around “Boink” City as it held the Boyne Thunder poker run. A few miles away the next day I found Burt Lake and it’s awesome, Caribbean-esque beaches. Unreal, warm, clear, golden water that’s waist deep a few hundred yards from shore. Michiganders probably wouldn’t even consider getting in the sludge of Lake Lewisville. These inland lakes up here are really a treasure. I had no idea.

My next stop, this time for a lazy three days was Aloha State Park on Mullett Lake, just down the road from Cheboygan. More warm, clear water. What’s not to love? Except that the third day the air temps dropped a bunch and it was a little cool to be splashing around in the water.

On a day trip to Ocqueoc (Ah-key-awk) Falls and Lake Huron I found the water, let’s call it, less warm. Nevertheless, the big lake is gorgeous and expansive views (if not the water temps) also mimic the Caribbean! Walking on the very cool shipwreck ruins at Forty Mile Point Lighthouse was an unexpected and fun roadside stop.

Enjoyed a great prime rib at Hack-Ma-Tack Inn on my last night in the Cheboygan area. I’m headed back west a few miles to Petoskey Wednesday to hang for a week, visiting Charlevoix, Harbor Springs, Mackinac Island and, who knows, maybe a couple breweries along the way. Until then! 🍻