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Week Seven of our 7-Week Trip
SEP 30 BAY DE NOC AND ESCANABA
Fortunately, we broke camp yesterday evening just before the monsoons commenced. This morning, even our site was a muddy quagmire. But, it was just hitch-‘n-go, which after a lazy morning, we finally got around to hitching up at 10:30 am.
The drive to Little Bay de Noc National Campground was only a 45-minute drive away. Little Bay de Noc consists of three loops of a dozen sites/loop. The first loop was spectacular, with tons of private wooded green space. The second loop was already closed for winter. The third loop was the beach loop and nearly half full.
We returned to the first loop (top right loop), located just a stone’s throw from the waterfront and picked out a site with the most solar possibility . I love national campgrounds.
V-Jer (our T@B 400 Camper) was unhitched and positioned while the weather gave us a break in the morning before deteriorating once again. We drove into Escanaba to visit the black hole, walking out after spending another $141. Jeez, I just wanted to get a bunch of extra AA batteries for boondocking lights, ultimately saving our house-batteries.
I have only been to Escanaba once that I can remember, and not since I was a kid, playing in bands. I have already mentioned earlier about Gary Van Zeeland’s booking agency’s penchant for sending us to Timbuktu to play gigs.
I was 15 when Van Zee sent us to Skinny’s Bar in Escanaba for a $250 Friday and Saturday night stint. Skinnies was aptly named. It was shaped like a single-lane bowling alley. I played the organ at the time. Frank Stanislawski and Andy Erickson were the guitar players. Both had those huge pleated Kustom coffin-shaped amplifiers with the built-in fuzz tone, two 15-inch speakers, and an ear-piercing 15-inch horn. If anything, they were loud. I remember Mr. Skinny kept telling us to turn down. You never told Andy Ericson to turn down. He passive-aggressively turned up.
On this return engagement to Escanaba, the sky opened up pouring rain in earnest. After breaking free of the black-hole-of-Walmart, all we could accomplish was visit the library for their WiFi.
The library had a one-hour time limit to restrict the number of people in their indoor space as a COVID precaution. OK, I can live with that. However, when our hour was up and we were gently-but-firmly kicked out, I looked around - we were the only patrons in the place. I know, rules are rules, and policies are made to be enforced. We quietly slipped out the door, but not before I passive-aggressively extended my stay by going to the bathroom before leaving. I thought of Andy as I did so.
When we returned to camp, I got my guitar, practice amp, and iPod out. It was warm and dry in V-Jer (our T@B 400 Camper), so I grabbed my guitar and started wailing away the time, playing with my music tracks.
OCT 1 FAYETTE STATE PARK
Today was another grey day with alternating sprinkles, and fleeting peeks of the sun. Wanda loves living museums. She wanted to return to Fayette State Park to see if the crowds, with the aid of this tiresome stretch of crappy weather, had thinned out - they had. The parking lot was nearly empty.
Fayette used to be a small industrial town in the 1800s, featuring a pig-iron furnace fueled by charcoal. The declining market for the inferior brittle pig-Iron, and the depletion of the forest, which eliminated the cheap charcoal fuel, forced the smelting operation to close in 1891. The town declined into oblivion.
In 1959, Michigan inherited the remains of the village of Fayette and turned it into a park, restored 20 buildings, and created a living museum called the Fayette Historic State Park.
I will say that Michigan does an excellent job of presenting their living museums. Like Fort Wilkins, the restored buildings contained wonderfully recreated displays of living quarters, offices, and workspaces.
As the weather did its alternating sprinkle-then-sunshine thing, the frigid wind just howled off Lake Michigan. My sweatshirt and fleece jacket were no match. With her hooded winter coat, Wanda just smiled at me - she can be so smug sometimes.
Some of the restored buildings are shown in the photo below. The big grey building on the left was the town’s hotel. The roofless stone structure on the right, was the company store. It was the only store in town. The residents called it the “pluck me” store due to its high prices.
The two pig-Iron smelters, the heart of the town, produced low quality pig-iron from 1867 to 1891.
Fayette’s doctor’s house. It was unclear if he practiced out of his house.
The hotel on the left. Beds were 10 cents a night for a single cot, and 15 cents for a double bed. I think that was for a dormitory situation. I don’t know what an actual room would cost.
The submerged posts are all that is left of the town’s dock. Notice the limestone cliffs. Limestone was used in the pig-iron smelting process. Charcoal, also produced right in Fayette, provided the fuel for the twin furnaces. The pollution must have been stifling.
A row of middle class houses. Fayette was a company town. These houses were company provided.
These houses were in varying states of restoration. So far 20 buildings have been restored. A crew was working on another. I believe the plan is to continue to restore more buildings.
These are some of the meticulously recreated scenes in the houses and buildings. It was difficult to shoot through the protective glass with the glare problem. I did the best I could.
These were the common laborer’s cabins. They look quaint all restored to tip-top condition. The Info plaques paint a far more squalid picture of a boatload of filthy kids, free range farm animals, and garbage strewn about since there was no garbage pickup or landfills.
These remains of foundations reminds me of the Roman ruins we saw in Europe and the Mayan ruins in the Yucatán. We’d look at a pile of rubble and archeologists had a full run-down on what the original structures looked like. So, let me try my hand at it. OK, I see a billiard parlor, a jacuzzi and steam room, a kitchen with a pizza oven, a bathroom with a separate shower....... Heinrich, do you want to give it shot?
For the rest of the day, we meandered the back roads through the Hiawatha National Forest, mostly following the Sturgeon River. We checked out the tiny Flowing Well National Campground right on the Sturgeon River. The nine sites were empty today but all sites were reserved for the weekend. That blew my Lake-front theory. Little Bay de Noc Campground, right on Lake Michigan, is not reserved for the weekend, unlike inland Flowing Well Campground. Just when you think you have the universe figured out, it throws you a mischievous curveball.
OCT 2 PENINSULA POINT LIGHTHOUSE
A high of 46 degrees with a savage wind and an endless series of black rain cells have limited our exploration once again. Yet, our lazy morning was fun-filled as I played my guitar. To keep cabin fever at bay, we got off our asses at 1:30 pm and drove to the Peninsula Point Lighthouse.
For the final mile or two of Highway 513, the paved road gives way to a single-lane, limestone covered, pot-holed, cedar lined, tree-tunneled path. At the very tip of the point is a small and pristine park with a decommissioned lighthouse. The Lighthouse is open to walk up the spiral staircase to a vista platform at the top, enhanced by a sky filled with dark rain cells creeping across the horizon.
The Lighthouse was constructed in 1865. In 1936 it was deactivated and replaced by a light on a rock shoal a mile off the point. I wonder, in this age of GPS and autopilot, if lighthouses, in general, are obsolete? I know when we got a GPS in our airplane, it made that whole goofy VOR radio navigational system a joke. Hmmm, yet cruise ships still have a surprisingly large number of accidents. I am just wondering.
We learned that Monarch Butterflies use this peninsula as a navigational aid at the park, pointing the way across Lake Michigan. There is supposed to be a gathering of Monarchs in the fall at the Lighthouse during late August and the month of September.
After visiting the point, we wandered around the back roads of the peninsula. It was a pleasant drive. Backroads are almost always relaxing and lovely.
Well, that was it. We returned to camp and made a giant batch of spaghetti, which I overate.
OCT 3 Our Last Day
Weather on our final full day on the road alternated between sunny-but-chili and grey-with-light-precipitation. By 11 am, the light rain stopped.
We were determined to get at least 5 miles of walking, starting with the campground's three miles of park trails. Interpretive signs along the trail informed us we were walking on memories of a hotel and resort grounds constructed by a railroad to promote ridership to the Escanaba area. There was a short heyday around 1900 to the 1920s when trains from Chicago transported tourists to Escanaba, hopped on a streetcar to Gladstone, and finally boarded a ferry to cross the Little Bay de Noc for the Maywood resort. For a lover of public transportation as I am, that all sounds wonderful.
The draw, besides the Lake Michigan coast, were the big hemlock trees. Several stands of the grand trees escaped logging and are still standing tall today. One sign boasted that the hemlocks were up to 200 years old. Well, these are barely out of adolescence. We walked among 400-year hemlocks in the Keweenaw Peninsula just last month. Still, the trail is beautiful, as is the entire park. Wanda's fitness app pegged our walk at 3.75 miles. That made a nice dent in our 5-mile minimum goal.
We drove into Escanaba for a second attempt to visit while it was not raining. This time, we parked at one end of downtown, walked the two miles to the end of town and back. Downtown Escanaba is very long with a couple of decaying theaters that must have been pretty darn cool in their day, a few murals, but no grand turn-of-the-century stone buildings.
During our lakeshore drive, we found a pleasant little harbor and marina. Babs mentioned Grams, a take-out restaurant in Escanaba, serves the pasties voted "the best pasties" for eleven years. Grams is here. Yes, we indulged and ordered two award winners. They were as good as most Michigan pasties we enjoyed on this trip.
Back at camp, we started packing just as the light rain returned. It was with heavy hearts that we packed up for the last time.
OCT 5 Going Home
Not much to report. We hit the road around 8:30 am. We knew that we'd gain an hour when we crossed into Wisconsin and the Central Time Zone.
It took 2 hours to reach Daisy for a quick check before returning to the road home. The yard was filling up with leaves, but there were tons still hanging on in the trees. We'll be back in a couple to blow the roof and yard clean before winter arrives.
We arrived home at 3 pm and began the long unpacking procedure.
Final Thouohts: We thoroughly enjoyed being on the road. I love our home-in-the-woods by the Plover River, and I love the future roaming our T@B 400 home promises.