St. Ignace, Michigan
St. Ignace KOA
September 3rd through September 6th, 2010
Friday, September 3rd, 2010 - 68/52°, Rainy
Tara & I took the day off from work today with the hope of getting an early start to our day. By the time we finished our last minute packing and Tara made a trip to town to stop at the bank and fill up & hose down the truck, we didn’t get off to the start that we hoped. I was planning to hit the road by 9:00am, but it was closer to 10:45am by the time we finally managed to leave the house.
We had a nice drive north, without too much traffic slowing us down. We wound up stopping in West Branch for lunch, sometime around 1:30pm (which was way later than the kids wished we would have stopped). We chose this stop because they had a Taco Bell, and both Tara and I thought that sounded good. It turned out to be a fortuitous choice, as they also had a KFC attached to the Taco Bell, and right next door was a Wendy’s. Conveniently enough there was even a parking area out back for trucks/trailers, providing us with a perfect spot to park while we went in to order. There was even a stop light at the end of the driveway, making it easy to make the left hand turn without trying to dodge traffic. Tyler, Drew, and Jayden all wound up eating at Wendy’s, while Samantha opted for chicken from KFC. Tara and I ate at our original destination, Taco Bell. Once we had our bags of food, we climbed back in to the truck to continue our trek.
Our only other stop on our way to St. Ignace was in Gaylord, to fill up the truck once again. Dad & Mom had suggested stopping at a station in Indian River (which is where they wound up filling up for a few cents less per gallon), but I felt like we would have been pushing the limits of our range a bit too much if we had done so (I would have had about 10 miles of range left according to the trip computer on the truck).
As we approached the Mackinac Bridge I saw a sign saying to tune in to the bridge authority broadcast on the radio. What I heard was that there were high wind conditions on the bridge and that we would need to be escorted across. This was a first for me in all of the times that we have been across. As we approached the bridge we were flagged down and told to pull off to the side to wait for an escort vehicle. I assumed that each vehicle would take one car/truck/camper across the bridge at a time, so I wasn’t sure when I should leave. Once the escort vehicle left with the three cars in front of us Tara figured that I better head out too. We were told not to exceed 20mph, but our escort vehicle was doing closer to 35mph, so we did too. Although it was indeed windy, I didn’t notice any movement from behind the wheel of either the truck or the trailer.
We managed to pull in to the campground at 4:30pm, which was about an hour later than we hoped to arrive (at least based upon our departure time). We were assigned site 33 and Dad & Mom had site 32, but we knew we could switch sites if we needed to. Site 33 had more trees on it, which would make it difficult to get all of Dad & Mom’s slides out, so we decided to stay on it. We managed to wedge the camper in between the trees and get it situated in a spot where the steps weren’t located in a puddle of water. Aside from that puddle and the flooded fire pit, we did run in to one other potentially major issue when setting up. As I attempted to plug in to the electrical box I realized that there was no 30amp plug available. Every campground that I have ever been to that had 50amp service (as this KOA lists) also had a 30amp plug right next to it. Not here! Our choices were to either plug in to 120volt service or buy a 50amp to 30amp adaptor. We chose option B, the plug. We did have one other complaint about our site that we didn’t bother bringing up with the office – the back of our site was littered with dog crap, at least 4 or 5 piles of it. That is always a pleasant thing to have to take care of when setting up.
Just after we had finished setting up outside and had headed inside, Dad & Mom arrived. It had started to all-out rain by this time, instead of the fine mist that we had set up in. I headed outside to give them a hand in getting parked and set up so that the entire process could be sped up just a bit. Their site was fairly wide open, so aside from determining the most level spot there wasn’t too much trouble getting the trailer parked.
Since it was raining outside we had to settle for cooking and eating dinner inside. We wound up making hot dogs and mac-n-cheese in Dad & Mom’s camper, even though none of us remembered to bring any buns with us. I made the trek up to the office to buy some and was pleasantly surprised at how reasonably they were priced (we’ve paid more in a real grocery store near home in desperate times).
After eating we sat around and socialized for a while about our drives up and our plans for the rest of the weekend. As 10:00pm neared we began to tire, so we slipped our shoes on and walked back to our trailer. We folded out the couch for Tyler and Sam to sleep on and everyone climbed in to bed. We allowed them to watch TV for a while (this campground has cable, and actually has quite a good selection of channels available – way more than most that offer cable). A couple of the kids passed out with the TV’s on and the rest of us fell asleep after Tara & I shut off all of the TV’s around 10:30pm.
Saturday, September 4th, 2010 - 57/48°, Rainy
For some reason Tyler felt it was necessary to turn the TV on at 7:30am when we awoke this morning as opposed to rolling over and going back to sleep (or at least laying there silently until others woke up). At least he had the common sense to keep the volume down low. Unfortunately Samantha couldn’t sleep through the noise, so the two of them were up nice and early today. The rest of us did manage to make it almost another hour before we began to stir.
We hadn’t made any plans for breakfast with my parents, so we decided to dine in our trailer this morning. The kids ate an assortment of items, including yogurt, cereal, and waffles. Tara was also nice enough to make cinnamon rolls, which everyone ate with the exception of Jayden, who claimed that she didn’t like them for some reason or another.
After everyone had eaten and gotten dressed for the day we made plans with Dad & Mom to go into St. Ignace for the annual craft show and then to drive south across the bridge to wander through downtown Mackinaw City to do some window shopping (usually we do this after the bridge walk, but we didn’t want to allot the time to that this year since we were hauling our camper back with us and we needed to get back at a decent hour to unload the stuff and get the kids in bed for school the following Tuesday). By the time we settled on the day’s agenda it was already 11:30am, so we decided that it would be best to eat lunch before heading in to town to save us from constant complaints of hunger from the kids. Mom fried up some Spam (one of my favorites, and something the kids actually eat as well – ok, not Tyler) for the majority of us to eat and we made peanut butter & jelly for those who chose to eat that instead.
Once we were certain that everyone had filled their bellies we climbed in to our truck for the drive in to town. We parked in our usual lot behind the bank (across from the hardware store) and walked to the craft show, stopping at a few stores on our way to quickly look for shoes for Jayden (she had “forgot” to pack tennis shoes and only had flip-flops to wear – not good in this cold weather). The craft show was much smaller this year, likely due to the poor weather that we were experiencing (windy and rainy). There really wasn’t much new and exciting to see, either, although Tara & I did like some yard sculptures that were made out of household items (forks, old propane tanks, etc.) but even those were a lot more money than I would want to spend on an item like that.
Once we had perused the entire craft show we stopped at the Mackinac Straits Fish Company to check on the price of perch and whitefish (for Dad & Mom’s camping trip the following week). After we had gotten the required information we made the trek across the bridge. Safely in Mackinac City, we stopped at three more fish places for pricing information before finally buying 2 ½ pounds of perch for tonight’s dinner at Big Stone Bay Fishery.
Our next stop was at the Mackinaw Mill Creek campground. Normally we don’t like this campground because their sites are amazingly tiny and close together, but they are supposed to have some new “larger” sites that we were hoping to be able to get a look at. Conveniently enough a couple that Tara went to school with happened to be camping there, so we were hoping that we could go in to “visit” them and check out the sites. Unfortunately things didn’t quite go as planned, as the campground does not allow visitors on holiday weekends. I guess if we want to stay there next summer during our possible trip to Mackinac Island we will have to go in blind and hope for the best!
Stymied in our campground tour attempt we made our way in to town to wander through the “mall.” We ended up parking outside of the Bass Pro outdoors store, which was just fine with Tyler. Although I’m sure he found lots of items that we would have liked to buy, he didn’t really have enough money for any of them (plus at this time of year he doesn’t even have the time to use the things he would have bought). We wandered in and out of a lot of shops without finding too much that screamed “Got to have” to us, and even less so in our price range. Once we had tired of walking around aimlessly, we headed back to St. Ignace.
We made one quick stop before returning to the campground. Mom and I ran in to the Glen’s supermarket to pick up a few items for dinner. Tara took Jayden over to the Dollar Store (which is right next door) to try and get some shoes. Thankfully they managed to find some cute black shoes that Jay was thrilled with for only $5.00.
Once we got back to the campground it was time to get the dinner cooking process underway. Tara sliced potatoes to make French fries while Mom worked on making the fish. Dad and I fired up the fryers to get the grease good and hot. Of course, after a day without rain, it had to start lightly sprinkling just as the grease was warming up. We managed to make good use out of the pine/fir trees that were all over our lot by moving the fryers under them. That provided enough shelter to keep us dry and the grease from splattering from the raindrops. We were even able to watch the Michigan game on TV from under the trees – on Dad’s TV in his outside hatch! We were able to successfully cook the food without getting wet as well as let the grease stay outside to cool, all thanks to the trees that I cursed out when parking the campers!
We ate dinner inside Dad & Mom’s camper once again. It was too wet, and frankly too cold, to eat outside again today. Although Mom was a little worried that we weren’t going to have enough fish, it turned out to be just the right amount. We didn’t have any left over, and nobody over ate. An excellent meal to end an excellent day (well, except for the weather – that could have been better).
After we finished our meal and helped clean up, Drew & I went on a short bike ride through the front of the campground and around the first loop in the back part. It was getting close to dark by this time, so we decided to return to the campsites. At this time Tyler wanted to go watch a movie, so he, Tara, and Samantha headed over to our camper to watch “Jaws.” The rest of us stayed at Dad & Mom’s to watch the “Simpsons Movie” (on TV) and part of “Cars” (on DVD) before we decided we ought to head home. We managed to get the kids in bed by 10:30pm, but Tara & I somehow lasted until closer to 11:30pm before calling it a day.
Sunday, September 5th, 2010 - 63/52°, Partly Sunny
We woke up around 8:30am this morning (we all did, after a warning to Tyler not to get up and turn the TV on early this morning). We worked on getting ourselves dressed and taking turns showering before making breakfast. We designated today as “big breakfast day,” so we planned a menu of bacon and Mom’s “egg’s in a bag.” Without discussing it with each other, Tara and Mom also each made a pan of cinnamon rolls. Dad fried the bacon, while I cooked the eggs in a pot of boiling water on the turkey fryer that everyone made for themselves. [For those of you wondering, the eggs are scrambled in a bowl and then put into a zip-loc type bag along with toppings if desired – bacon, peppers, onions, etc – and then boiled in a pot of water. You keep squeezing the bag until no more raw egg can be found, and then you can take it out of the water and empty the bag on to a plate before enjoying!]
After breakfast I went with Drew and Jayden on a bike ride. We made our way to the back section of the campground before circling around through the middle row. We then headed back around the front loop before returning to the campsite. While we were gone on our ride Dad & Mom decided that they should head in to town to order some fish to take on their next camping trip with their friends (this is the group that normally camps up here at the state park, but this year they decided to camp at the Lake Huron Campground on the Tuesday following Labor Day through the next weekend instead). Before they left we all agreed that Tara & I would leave a few moments after them and meet up with them at the Bridge View Park to take our yearly family pictures on the rocks.
We spent quite a bit of time this year taking pictures. This was by far the best day of our weekend so far, although it was still a little windy, so we wanted to enjoy it as much as we could. We took family pictures, individual photos, and pictures of the kids playing around climbing all over the rocks along the shore.
Once we were finished at the park, Tara went with Mom in to St. Ignace to check out the new Douds Market grocery store. There is a Douds on Mackinac Island, and apparently they have opened a store “on the mainland” now as well. Both Tara and Mom seemed fairly impressed with the store (Tara thought it was much nicer than the Glen’s store, but she hadn’t gone in there this year – it has been rearranged somewhat since our last visit). While they were off shopping, Dad and I took the kids to the Father Marquette National Memorial (which is just down the road from the park). There isn’t really much to see or do at the memorial, but there is a walking trail that provides a couple of views of the bridge. We made our way around the trail before climbing back in to the truck to head back to the campground.
After we got back to the campers I went inside with Jayden to lay her down for a well deserved nap. I do have to give her a ton of credit for not throwing a hissy fit about this nap. She went in and laid down without a single peep of complaint. Great job, Jay!
Just as I was finishing putting Jay down for to rest Tara and Mom returned from their grocery store excursion. We all headed over to Dad & Mom’s trailer to have a snack-style lunch of chips & dip, cheese & pepperoni, and crackers & cheese dip.
Once our appetites were fulfilled Tara & I opted to take Tyler, Sam, and Drew to Castle Rock for the long climb to the top (I don’t remember the exact number, but I think that they said there was somewhere around 170 steps to the plateau). Unfortunately for Jayden, she was still asleep and didn’t get the opportunity to go with us. Thankfully for us, Dad & Mom were willing to stay behind to keep an eye on her – not to mention that they probably needed a moment of peace from the noise that the kids make when they are awake! We also did some browsing through the gift shop so the kids could spend the money that was burning a hole in their pockets, but only Sam decided to buy anything. She wound up buying a Mackinac area charm bracelet. The boys decided to wait until we checked out some other stores before buying any souvenirs. On our way back to the KOA we decided to stop at the Curio Shop, which we affectionately call the “tower store” because of the viewing tower that is attached to it. Normally we ride our bikes up to this store from the campground, but it was already getting kind of late so we thought that it would be better to just go now to avoid having dinner in the dark. It was here where the boys each bought a set of toy guns to play with.
Once we returned to the campground we started making hobo dinners. For us a hobo dinner consists of a hamburger, cubed potatoes, and carrots all wrapped together in aluminum foil and cooked over charcoal in the fire pit (thankfully one of ours dried out enough to use today!). Mom had already had the potatoes cut when we arrived, so we just helped with forming the burger patties and putting everything together. Dad and I went outside to cook the meals while Mom and Tara worked on the finishing touches inside. We finally sat down to eat at 6:00pm.
After we finished eating, but while the coals were still hot, Tyler decided that we should make some pies in the pie-irons. He followed the recipe that we sampled at Camp Tamarak during last year’s school trip. We used bread as a crust, and lemon or cherry pie filling inside of them. Mom also made up a glaze to put on them once they were done cooking. Everyone braved a sample (except me – neither filling is what I would consider a favorite) and most everyone seemed to enjoy them. Overall it was a simple and easy dessert to make on a cool evening.
By the time we had cleaned up from dessert and spent a few minutes socializing and discussing the plans for tomorrow it was getting close to bed time. We knew we had an early morning and a long day overall coming up, so there would be no late night tonight! In bed before 10:00pm was the plan and we were sticking to it.
Monday, September 6th, 2010 - 72/57°, Partly Sunny
Sniff. Sniff. What is that smell? It’s lasting way longer than any dog fart should last, so it’s got to be bad news. Cracking the door ajar confirms it’s not coming from the bathroom. Stepping down the steps brings on an overwhelming smell, confirming the fact that the source was getting closer. Turning on the flashlight and searching the living room area nails down the offender – a big steaming pile of pooh underneath the pull out sofa that Tyler and Jayden were sleeping on. This was not the way that Tara & I wanted to be woken up on the day of bridge walk, at 6:00am. After a thrilling cleanup followed by a few sprays of air freshener (and then a few more sprays) we were able to get back in bed for a little extra sleep before we had to get up and get ready to go.
The alarm officially went off at 7:00am, which was much too early considering what we had already dealt with this morning. We hit the snooze button in a futile attempt for another 5 minutes of peaceful sleep. We managed to get everyone up, moving, and dressed by 8:15am, which was much later than we (by we I mean Dad and I) wanted to be up and moving. We had really hoped to be out of the campground at 8:00am.
We finally left for the bridge walk, and Dad, Tara, Tyler, Drew, and I officially started at 8:40am. Samantha was really heartbroken that she couldn’t join us, but with her sprained foot/ankle (suffered the prior Tuesday after landing awkwardly on the neighbor’s trampoline and requiring a trip to the ER) we didn’t think that it would be a good idea for her to walk on it that long. She has been walking on ok for the most part after a couple of days of rest and some serious limping, but any extended exercise leads to soreness and some additional limping. While we wished we could have let her join us, we wanted her to miss as little soccer as possible and that starts next Saturday.
Somehow, in the past, we have always managed to spot our driver going south across the bridge to pick us up (lately it has been Mom and Jayden, but as I said earlier Sam unfortunately had to be included this time) or they have spotted us and honked. This year nobody in the truck saw us, but Drew somehow spotted them driving by. He was the only one to see them before pointing them out to me.
The five of us made the walk in an hour and 35 minutes, but it could have been much, much quicker. Drew was lagging behind a little bit with tired legs, so we made sure to stay with him. Another thing that hurt our time was when they opened up one of the northbound lanes to vehicular traffic. This happens every year to us, and as the crowd squeezes into a single lane the pace definitely slows drastically.
As always, we met our ride at the donut shop/bakery in Mackinaw City. While Tara & I are still disappointed in the actual donuts, it is better than nothing. Plus, I think that stopping here is the kids’ favorite part of making the walk. If we didn’t dangle this little carrot in front of them I don’t think that they would bother joining us!
Instead of walking around town after we finished our donuts, this year we headed straight for the truck to get back in line for the drive back across the bridge, getting to the U.P. sometime around 11:30am.
Once we returned to the campground we started putting things away inside and outside of the camper for the long drive back home. Tara took a peaceful moment to shower while I worked on some of the outside items and the kids were off playing. After she finished, she worked on cleaning up the mess that we left behind this morning.
While we were busy packing, Mom was slaving away in her kitchen making lunch for everybody. We sat down to eat tacos fairly close to 12:45pm. We owe Mom a big “Thank You” for cooking lunch to allow us to get ready so that we could get home in time to get the kids all ready for their big day of school tomorrow!
After lunch we picked up the last few items that were remaining outside (such as the rug – the ground was still too muddy to pick it up any earlier than at the last minute) to get ready to go. We hooked the truck up to the camper and said our goodbyes. As we were preparing to leave Dad was working on running in his slides and putting up his jacks when one of the power jacks in the back broke (the hex end snapped right off of the power motor). I stuck around long enough to make sure that he could get the motor off and the jack up before we finally climbed in to our truck to get ready drive home.
We left St. Ignace at around 3:15pm, but quickly made a stop in Mackinac City at Big Stone Bay Fishery to buy some fish. We bought 15 pounds of perch to split between us and Dad & Mom. We also picked up a couple of pounds of walleye per Tyler’s request. The remainder of our drive was fairly uneventful. We had a couple of slowdowns, but nothing that was unexpected for the last big holiday weekend of the summer season.
We did make a few stops along the way. One was a fuel stop. We also returned to the KFC/Taco Bell/Wendy’s restaurants in West Branch for dinner. Dad & Mom managed to catch up with us after we made our stops, and they also stopped here for dinner and fuel. We each chose to eat on the road, so we didn’t eat together, but the kids did think it was cool to see them already. Overall, after all of our stops, we lost about an hour of travel time (at least according to the GPS E.T.A.).
We pulled in the driveway about 8:15pm and sent the kids inside to work on getting ready for their first day of school tomorrow. Tara & I turned the camper around in the back yard and got it parked before we went to work on unloading some of the things that we would need tonight (pillows, bathroom accessories, etc.).
We finally managed to head inside to sit down and start sorting through the kid’s school supplies (this should have been done before we left, but our busy schedule sometimes gets the best of us). We managed to get the kids in bed sometime around 9:30pm, which was much later than what will be their usual bedtime schedule (hopefully!). Tyler certainly cannot continue going to bed this late, as his 6:00am wakeup time will come around awfully early.
I really don’t have any major complaints about this trip. We had a good time and got to do a fair amount of things, although the weather certainly could have been better. Warmer and dryer would have been nice, that’s for sure!
I have always enjoyed staying at the St. Ignace KOA, but those feelings may have changed quite a bit this time around. For campsites that cost around $50 per night I fail to see what benefit I am gaining over a site at any cheaper park. Sure, I get full hookup and cable TV, but the sites are fairly small (unless you get a pull-thru site) and are nowhere near level. Our site didn’t even have a gravel section large enough for our 30’ camper to park on! It would have been perfect for parking a pop-up on. While I appreciate (and really prefer) some trees on or near my site, the location of the trees on our site certainly made it difficult to park the camper. We were also more than frustrated by the electrical box situation. No 30amp hookup at all (unless we moved sites, of course)? Maybe it isn’t as uncommon as I think, but I have yet to run across that situation at any other campground.
If I had any say in the campground, I would make a few changes: 1) I would standardize the location of the electrical box, water, and cable hookups, and the sewer. They were located in all kinds of spots on the various sites, and some of them interfered with prime parking locations. Of course I would have offered multiple electrical hookups too. 2) I would have a large, level gravel area to park the campers on. 3) I would attempt to have the trees trimmed and cleared out of the parking areas.
Since everyone truly enjoys the area and participating in the bridge walk I am sure that we will be back sometime in the future. The only real question is where will we be staying? The state park? Another campground? Mackinac City? Only time will tell!