Great Lakes Trip

Rather than incorporate our last big trip into a book, I have decided to share it in a series of blogs.  (Translation:  There hasn’t been much happening around here and I’ve run out of things to write about!).


Throughout last year we had been making small trips in Wanda—rarely more than three or four nights on the road and mostly within the Carolinas.  We were craving a longer adventure and decided upon a trip to the Great Lakes. 


Why the Great Lakes?  Well, it would check off two states that neither Wanda (the van) nor Annie (the dog) had ever visited (because, you know, it was important to them) plus it offered another chance to visit Canada.  Hopefully we would remember our passports and not botch it like we had the last time we reached the border!  Where were we going?  We weren’t really sure.  Several friends told us how beautiful the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was so we knew we wanted to see that as well as Indiana Dunes National Park.  I had also read about a wolf center in Minnesota that wouldn’t be too far out of the way if we were going to Voyageur National Park so that was on the list for the time being.  We made no reservations and had no idea how long we would stay in each area.


Life was kind of hectic in the last few days leading up to our planned departure.  I was chasing my tail with insurance and pharmacies trying to get an ample supply of a new heart medication and had church commitments as well.  Our planned departure was Monday, August 28th.  I’m still not sure how we managed to get Wanda packed on the last night, other than Jenni doing much of it while I was at an evening church meeting. 


But we got it done and pulled out of our driveway Monday morning at 9 AM.   Anytime we travel west from our home, unless we are going to Texas, we have to cross the Appalachian Mountains.  We took I-40 west from Asheville and Jenni busied herself counting halves of manufactured homes being hauled east.  They were generally in matching pairs but at some point the count was at seventeen and we wondered what someone would do with only half a house.


Our first stop was a new Buc-ee’s outside Sevierville, TN.  For the two Northerners not aware, Buc-ee’s is a chain of gas station/convenience store/mall/restaurant with the cleanest, and most plentiful, restrooms on the road.  This one actually has a red light/green light above each bathroom stall to let you know if it is occupied—it saves you from having to jiggle each door or stoop down to look for shoes.  It also affords the occupant a little more alone-time.  At the time of our visit this location was the largest of their stores, but they always seem to be building bigger and better.  We have often found a stop at Buc-ee’s to be overwhelming—so many people, so much retail merchandise, and so loud!  But the offset to all that is extremely clean restrooms and usually the cheapest gas around.  That was certainly the case with this stop where we paid $3.09 per gallon for unleaded gasoline.  (Later in our trip we paid as much as $4.99 per gallon).  After filling the tank, we moved over to the retail store.  Jenni remarked that this had to be the only time she had ever seen someone use a grocery cart in a gas station! We purchased a sliced brisket sandwich and a smoked turkey sandwich for our lunch (but only shared the turkey) and some lemon crisp cookies that had been recommended to me by a friend.  She was right to do so!


Outside of Chattanooga, TN we turned north on I-75 toward Lexington, KY.  Rain and fog made it tough to see.  In Lexington we turned west on I-64 and stopped in Frankfort to check another state capital off our list.  (Okay, not really trying to see all the capitals but if we are fairly close it is usually a nice stop to see how close we can get a big white van next to the capitol building!).  In this case, the building was covered in scaffolding so we let Annie run through some thick green grass—I told her it was Kentucky Blue Grass but she was not impressed—and then we continued west.


In Louisville we crossed the Ohio River into Indiana and started moving north toward Indianapolis.  By then, Jenni had found a couple possible campsites for the night.  Plan A was a campground in Clark State Forest near Henryville, IN.  It was self-pay and only $15.  When we picked our spot there was only a motorcyclist a couple sites away.  He made his way over to us for a chat, sharing with us that he was a chef at a Christian camp a few miles away and he likes to come here to unwind on his day off.  He offered us a tiki torch he had picked up on his litter patrol but we knew we would not use it so we declined.  He seemed genuinely disappointed.  Later, he doused his fire and left; he did not return.  In the morning, we saw that one other camper with a larger rig had joined us during the night. That made two campers in an area with almost forty sites.


In a bold experiment, we had forced Annie to sleep on the floor that night which proved to be a bad decision.  She was very noisy walking around and shaking her collar.  It looked like she would be joining us in the bed the rest of the trip!


As I drove out of the campground, I wanted to drop some trash in a dumpster.  I opened the lid to a practically empty dumpster and was startled by movement!  In the shadows I could see a young raccoon in the corner.  Jenni said I had to do something to help him because there was no way he could get out on his own. I flipped one lid open and then found a large tree limb I could put in the dumpster that would reach from the floor to the top so he could climb out.  The rest was up to him.


From there, we were headed to Indianapolis.


If you enjoy my writing style, please consider reading my books, 
describing adventures in our self-built campervan,
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