Life on the Open Road

Life on the Open Road

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Some Thoughts on Travel, Happiness, and Living 

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." Saint Augustine
"Birds flying high, you know how I feel..." lyrics that come to mind with this photo.
I follow a fair number of RV related people and businesses online and often see quotes like this. While I love traveling, I don't feel they apply to everyone or that travel is truly necessary like they often suggest. I don't believe anything is essential for everyone to experience. Each is unique and entirely individual so, while I sometimes like seeing these quotes, I don't really agree with them.
I recently met a sales rep who commented how some towns he drives through he knows little about and asked me if there is really something to see or do in every town. I said yes. This came about as I was explaining that I like to go from town to town VS taking the highway because I want to SEE the country. I'm not just driving through it. It reminded me of a woman I spoke with in Bloomington, MN this Summer who talked with me about all sorts of places she or her family had visited yet drew a blank on what to see in the area. Being that she was from there, she hadn't explored it in the same way. Yet I recall the driving instructor I practiced with during driver's education as a teen had lived his whole life in a town and seemed so thrilled with it, knowing the history and sharing with such enthusiasm. (Funny enough I remember he didn't feel it was necessary to practice or learn parallel parking because I'd never need to in the area... I insisted as I was in a nearby city often and even in my own town at the time, there was some parallel parking. Also, seriously, I wanted to know how to drive including parking... I digress. :))
One of the most interesting and like-minded people I've met yet was a 20 something of age skater in Florida earlier this year. I mentioned him previously in Starting and Joining Conversations as a Solo Traveler. He came to the USA from Vietnam as a young child and had hardly traveled more than maybe an hour or so away from his home. That amazed me, yet he seemed so happy in the small town, making his life his own, living how he pleased, knowing lots of people in it. In fact, it was partly that he didn't recognize me that drew him over to say hi. We live so differently still share such similar mindsets and approaches to life. He eats when he is hungry, and sleeps when he is tired, for example. Something so natural as that may seem crazy to many.
Some people have commented on how they are loving seeing pictures and hearing about my travels. For some, it's a neat idea they'd likely not actually want to do themselves. For others, it gives an example that it CAN be done. And others still may be inspired just to get out more in their own area and say yes more when opportunities come. Again, each person is different and will vary, those are just a few responses. I'm convinced that a person traveling is not necessary - I or someone like myself or some other resource, can come to you and we can share in our differences the joys we have in common. That can bring about similar or greater personal expansion and you don't even need to leave your home for it.
"Well traveled" is like "well read." Doesn't how and why and where you travel make a difference as what you read does? I'm not interested in glorifying either. I'm also not really interested in judging your reading material. (One of my favorite books is by Crayola titled, "This is the Moon or Is It?" A great book, geared to children, however, I love it and got it as an adult. It is filled with pictures of what might look like one thing and becomes something else and something else... love it.)
There is also this somewhat common theme of an idea about people in businesses with offices and 9-5 type jobs being unhappy and longing for travel. This is not true! Not for everyone. There are people who have jobs like that who love it. They love their office, the people they are working with, the stability and flow of the job. At one point, I was one of them. If you love your job, wanderlust and travel may not even be on your mind other than an occasional vacation. There can be excitement in your days whether you are traveling or not. For what it is worth, not everyone who travels a lot enjoys it. This is not a one size fits all world nor would we really want it to be. The diversity is vast and fun and amazing.
I love this idea I came across one day:
and so does 8+1 and 7+2 and 3+6. Different can also be "right." There is more than one way to create 9 and there is more than one way to live a happy life and nothing says that just because you're enjoying how you are living now (or not) you can't change things and enjoy a different way later. And again and again and again. It is not what you do, it is how you FEEL as you are doing it.
If you're happy, I don't care what you are doing or where you are located or whether you travel much (or read books - we read so much in this society, without any books needed!) or anything else. If you're happy, I'm happy for you and perhaps our lives will cross paths. We each have something in common with everyone - yes, everyone- and rendezvousing with a variety of people and experiences can happen with or without traveling, reading, or whatever else.  I personally love traveling and maybe I'll be that visitor who comes to you, as amazed and enthused about learning about your life, however you are living, as you are intrigued and curious about mine. That would be fun.
These are some thoughts I woke with this morning and a picture of a slightly cut off illustration I've had for years. It'd do us wonders if we'd shift from "right and wrong" as definitive for everyone and instead just focus on our own choices and desires, leaving the freedom to choose to each individual and the judgement of others' choices for themselves out of it. Live and let live, if you will.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Following the Mural Brick Road and My Favorite Kind of Campground (WI)

The Mural Brick Road is a series of murals in the towns of Ashland County, Wisconsin. While it starts in LaPointe (heading North to South as I was), I began following it in Ashland and continued after I left the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It worked out wonderfully that a campground location I wanted to go to was in one of the towns. It is my favorite kind of campsite, too! Things came together beautifully and I love traveling down the older roads and driving through downtowns even when I am not stopping to explore so following the mural brick road was perfect at this time. I didn't take a picture of all of them or even see all of them. I saw many and am sharing what I have here. (Ashland has many murals; click the link above to see those in my other post.)
North to South it goes LaPointe, Ashland, Marengo, Mellen, Glidden, and Butternut. There are two in a visitor's center as well. I'm actually wondering if I didn't go to Marengo or if it was a passing through and I simply didn't take any photos. Oh well. Check out if you want to see all of them.
Overexposed because it shows the color and mural better than the other shot I took. Click to enlarge the picture for more details if you want to.
Not one of the murals, I just wanted to include this.
Not one of the murals, I just wanted to include this.
This led to a enclosed bear that had been hunted and stuffed.
This led to an enclosed bear that had been hunted and stuffed.
And my favorite kind of camping is in free town parks like this:
Please note that I took the "no pets" to mean out and about and figured in my RV was ok.
I got here so late at night and it was very dark that I was not quite sure where actual sites were. There was another RV pulling in a spot on the other side of some trees. I figured I had either found one or was making my own for the night and, if that was a problem, someone would alert me around sun up.
It was dark. A spiderweb had traveled with us.
It was dark. A spiderweb had traveled with us.
I woke up and am not sure I really was in a site or not, however, where I was parked seemed totally fine and was a lovely spot. I walked around the park and saw sites that were more clearly defined, too. Some appeared better for tent camping. This is a nice park!
They were preparing for an event during the weekend and, at this time at least, I was super glad I was only spending one night. I'll explain why I decided that in another post soon. As I was leaving my phone went into no service. I took my best guess and ended up at some water(a lake? pond? I don't recall the name) where, after a while and a try, I turned around and back tracked completely. Good thing too because it was North and I'm pretty sure a dead-end... Anyhow, I made my way back and figured it out.
Next I went to Butternut where I saw three or four of the murals and apparently just took a picture of this one:
I love butternut squash and I think this is the first time I've been in a town named Butternut so far.
That wraps up the Mural Brick Road. It's a neat idea, great way to support the artists who created them, and it'd be cool to see projects like this in more places(I bet there are more and I bet I will discover them along the way!) While I can't say I'd make a trip out for this, it was a fun addition to the drive.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Michigan's Upper Peninsula: Marenisco, Bessemer, and Ironwood

When I was in Wakefield, I saw this sign about a heritage days festival at the visitor's center. Looking online, it advertised a huge flea market, farmers market, parade, music, and events. This sounded really cool so I decided to attend. Well...this is a very small town and maybe for them this was in fact a big event. I got there and wasn't quite sure where the parade was. I'm used to some sort of road blocks or crowds or indications of some sort. I drove around and parked on the street in front of what looked like the town hall and started to notice some folks coming out. There were only a few booths set up selling things and the roads never were cleared or anything for the parade in any way I've seen before. About 10 vehicles came down, people threw candy to kids(there were really not many people at this event at this point) and then they came around again... I did see Smokey the Bear...
I stayed in the RV during this, watching from the back window.
Next, I decided to walk around. I saw this:
I heard what sounded like a rehearsal and walked over to see some chairs set up and, indeed, a rehearsal of a band (I believe a German band and I'll note it was really nice to see such a mix of ages in it) out on the grass. I saw some logging things set up yet didn't know what they were. There was a "strongest" contest that afternoon and perhaps that had something to do with it. I saw someone try to toss something. No one was with it when I walked around, or I might have tried it for myself. (I was not familiar with the things to do it alone.)
There was a pig roast and I saw an area set up for folks to eat under a pavilion.
Honestly, it was a bit weird. I stayed until after 11am or so, from what I recall, and then decided not to stay to watch the contest at 1pm or show later on. I'm not sure if it ever picked up and I didn't see anyone who looked like they were running it or even anyone to ask. The few people I did interact with were nice.
At this point I decided I'd rather do something else. I had learned of the Copper Peak Chippewa Hill in Bessemer and figured I would check it out. It was high and this picture hardly depicts that. The sign pictured below tells you more. It had been used for ski competitions and folks could go really high off of it. I didn't go in for a ticket to the top despite feeling as though I'd get a discounted one that day(which I believe a TripAdvisor review later confirmed- the lift was broken so you'd go up in the elevator, I think.) As I drove by it, especially on the way back, it was a pretty neat sight to see way up there amongst the trees... I didn't get a picture as I drove then. It was cool in the moment.
Not far from there were some waterfalls I wanted to see. I went in flip-flops and some of the paths were really steep. There are five waterfalls here and pretty easy access to them. This was the first time I saw live fish jumping to get upstream and what a cool sight that was to see as well! I noticed someone fishing at the bottom of one of the waterfalls, too.
Next I went to the harbor:
I crossed a bridge and went to the beach. I love walking beaches with my feet in the water. I sat for a while, enjoying it, and recalled something I'd read before. Recently I found it and snapped a picture to share here:
As I sat there that day, relaxing, happily taking it in, and appreciating where I was, the nature, the sounds, the feelings and textures, the emotions and thoughts... I thought to myself, "I do. I want to make butt prints in the sands of time." Seriously though. And I smiled as I stood up and walked again.
This was a very nice area and I recommend a visit if you're around these parts and like being in nature. I walked a bit of a trail, too. There's a campground yet I didn't opt to stay there.
I walked around Bessemer's downtown some, too.
After all this and more(I'm just summing things up), I went back to Ironwood to take the Stormy Kromer factory tour. I wasn't really familiar with this hat or story or the products, however, I had just recently seen a piece on an RV site about it and I saw on TripAdvisor it was free and had good reviews. I will say, I loved this tour! They not only make hats, they make cat furniture, special order products for all sorts of sewn products, clothes, and more! It's not just Stormy Kromer, it is other brands made there as well. I liked seeing the different stations and workers and learning not only about the famous hat but the process of all these different things.
To sum up, Stormy Kromer hats were developed when George Kromer, who worked with trains and was also a baseball player, kept loosing his hats when he'd look out of the train window. His wife made a 6 paneled hat that would stay on. It became increasingly popular and they are really built to last. In the early 2000s, after nearly 100 years of production, they were going to stop being made, however, someone bought them and the legend lives on. They now sell a variety of them. There is also a store at the factory and some photos and history. Well worth a visit, free, and fun. The website shows a nice history, too. (I'm not linking here, but feel free to check it out!)
This is a marker that's on a main road, not far from the factory where the tour is. It shows the hat well.
You can get an idea of the design here.
You can get an idea of the design here.
This concluded my visit to the UP in Michigan. It was a shorter visit, maybe a week or bit less in the area, still a nice one and a longer visit to MI in the future to explore more would be a lot of fun.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Michigan's Upper Peninsula: Ironwood and Wakefield

The last time I was in Michigan was when I first bought my current RV and was heading back east(have I mentioned I bought my RV in Wisconsin? Probably.) Somehow I ended up on 84 instead of 80. I saw a sign I was in Michigan and pondered if I had driven through it to get there. Hmm. No. There was rain, hail, sleet, and snow during this drive and my GPS and phone GPS were telling me different things so I made a phone call for help with directions. There was another road to take that would bring me back and it ended up being a short and pleasant drive with hardly anyone else on the road with me. This was perfect for me to practice driving, using the cruise control, moving from lane to lane, getting a feel for the vehicle on the open road at a good speed with ease. It was also great having such diverse weather during this drive as I got to practice in that as well. All in all, a good trip!
My first view from my dash picture in this RV!
My first view from my dash picture in this RV!
This Summer, I was close enough that I made the decision to visit the Upper Peninsula. I’m really glad I did. Seeing all 50 states is on my list and, though I’ve been to MI before, this was more of a real visit. Albeit a bit of a short one, still a really nice experience. While I usually go mostly in order of events, I’m lumping things together since I was in and out of areas and this is just easier.
Ironwood is just over the border(as I discovered driving around a different route than I’d entered and felt like I wanted to go a certain direction, under the bridge… and promptly found myself back in Wisconsin! LOL. So very me and as it is quite clear, I love Wisconsin. :) I did head back to MI after a bit.)
I went around the downtown, shopped at Ben Franklin’s, tried a pasty from Joe’s pasty shop (when in Rome! A pasty is sort of like a handheld pot pie. I got the classic kind since I hadn’t even heard of this before and wanted to try it. Very good!) and walked at a park. That time I ended up back in Wisconsin was when I was looking for the large Indian statue (OK, where I am from we say Native American. I have found that the midwest still largely uses the term Indian. This is considered by some to be the largest Indian statue in the world.) The sign was unclear and I wasn’t finding an actual address. So, if you are in town, go through it sort of up a hill and the statue is there, overlooking the land. Ha, if that’s helpful. :p :)
I found a free campsite on Sunday Lake in Wakefield that was perfect. I got a site with an electric hookup and filled my fresh tank, too. I walked around the lake and read a book that is on posts around it. What a neat idea!
I went into the downtown for a little walk and bought something to break a larger bill to leave a donation in the box for the free site.
Small downtown. I liked the mural here.
Small downtown. I liked the mural here.
The welcome center was right by the lake and closed when I first went by. I got some info from the signs posted and visited the Indian head statue here. At least they did have the vending machine with live bait, just in case I needed it. Phew.
When I next went by, it was open and I stopped in and chatted with the woman there. I learned about "Yoopers" and “trolls” (what they refer to themselves and the folks in MI under the bridge… Trolls is not a term those who don’t live here would likely use…) and snowfall and the roads and how “We really should be part of Wisconsin” and mailing coconuts from Hawaii to the mainland just as is, not boxed up, and the Indian head statues having been uniquely made in every state, and more. I got some brochures, a map, and a postcard. There were waterfalls and a heritage days festival and more I wanted to check out. 
For the sake of having this shorter and with fewer photos per post, I will be sharing more on the UP in at least one other post. It was a beautiful setting. Oh! I also learned that a tornado had passed through about a month prior. Until I walked around, I hadn't noticed the storage place I parked at on Sunday Lake had lost its roof. I saw some trees were uprooted too. Looking at the picture here, you'd not guess it. Gorgeous lake.