St. Ignace, Michigan
St. Ignace KOA
August 31st through September 3rd, 2012
Friday, August 31st, 2012 - 80/62°, Mostly Sunny
Being on second shift has screwed up a lot of things so far, but thankfully we were able to work things out so that it didn’t screw up this trip too. At the beginning of each year we are required to fill out a list of all the vacation days we’d like throughout the year. I didn’t choose to take the Friday before Labor Day off, because, being on first shift at the time, I just figured we’d leave after work. Now that I am on second shift, that would have meant leaving at midnight! There is a stupid “rule” that says only a certain percentage of employees from an area can have vacation days at a given time, but since the schedule for my machine had been met for the week (and well into the next week also) I was able to work it out with my boss to get this day off. Thank goodness – I didn’t want to arrive in St. Ignace at 4:30am!
Time quickly passed by as we worked on finishing our packing in the morning. Tara had to run some errands before we left, and by the time she returned it was almost noon. We decided that we might as well eat lunch at home, and since we didn’t want to make a mess cooking a meal Tara opted to bring McDonald’s home for us.
We climbed into the truck and pulled out of the driveway a little after 1:00pm. This was later than I had envisioned, but still 11 hours better than it could have been! The kids quickly settled in, watching movies and playing games on their iPods, which helps Tara & I keep our sanity. We made a couple of stops along the way – once for gas in Grayling, and again later for a snack and something to quench our thirst at McDonalds.
Shortly after crossing the Mackinac Bridge, we arrived at the St. Ignace KOA and the sight of the familiar Ford Mustang with the “SIMIKOA” license plate at around 6:00pm. Dad & Mom (and Steve) had arrived a little earlier than we did (they didn’t stop as often as we did, or for as long apparently) and their site was more or less set up when we got there. They helped us back into our tight campsite (had to avoid a tree and the sewer outlet on one side, the water post at the back, and another tree on the opposite side). After that it was up to Tara & I to set up the campsite. I must admit that I really screwed up the side to side leveling – the camper definitely had a lean to one side and the doors tended to swing open if not latched properly! Nobody seemed to notice, and we were all able to sleep ok despite my major mistake.
With the campsites more or less set up for the weekend, it was time to work on dinner. We had planned most of our meals in advance, and for tonight Mom had brought up some perch from home. Dad & I set up our turkey fryers and got the oil heating up. We cooked the perch, as well as french fries and some thin potato chip-type things. It was nearly dark by the time we finished eating, but the food hit the spot and was delicious!
We had a long day of packing, driving, unpacking, and setting up, so we decided to call it a night around 10:30pm. Tara & I tucked the kids in for the night before heading that way ourselves.
Saturday, September 1st, 2012 - 77/58°, Sunny
We got a chance to sleep in a bit this morning, with everyone waking up between 9:00 and 10:00am. We slowly got ourselves moving, but the cinnamon rolls that Mom brought over for us got our morning jump started. A couple of the kids munched on some cereal as well, but the rolls were enough for me!
We spent the morning taking turns showering and getting dressed. Once the kids were ready to go, they headed outside to ride bikes and play at the playground.
The next step for the day was to get ready for lunch. Today we were making one of my all-time favorite camping meals – pie-iron pizzas! Dad and I got some charcoal going in the fire pit while Mom and Tara got everything ready to make the pizzas. This meal is difficult to cook without constantly checking to make sure it doesn’t burn, but today we did a good job. We also managed to keep enough pizzas cooking so that everyone got a chance to eat as much as they wanted without long waits in between. I would say, based on the pizzas I ate, that this meal was an unqualified success! I can’t wait until our next camping trip so that we can do it again!
Once lunch was over and cleaned up we piled into our trucks to head towards town. Our first stop was at the Bridge View Park to take pictures in front of the bridge, something we have done on every visit since 2003! Once we took our pictures, we headed to the fish market to check out the price of perch. From there we were off to downtown St. Ignace for the annual Arts & Crafts Dockside craft show. While we were in town we had to pick up a couple of cheap t-shirts for Drew to wear, since he somehow neglected to pack enough shirts to make it through the weekend! Kids… have to do everything for them!
After we toured the show (we didn’t see any must-haves, and the big attraction in past years – the hippie juggler – wasn’t even there) we headed back to the campground. Although we have been staying at this campground for many years now, we have never once utilized the swimming pool. This was the kids’ lucky year! Tara ok’d a trip to the pool to swim, keeping an eye on the kids while I stayed behind to get the campfire going to cook dinner.
The plan for tonight’s menu wasn’t one of my favorites, but the kids were sure to enjoy it. Hot dogs, brats, and macaroni and cheese were on the agenda. It isn’t that I don’t like this particular meal, but after baseball season and all of the quick hot dog nights I just prefer to avoid it if I can. After dinner we decided to keep the campfire going for a while, giving us a chance to hang out and relax.
Earlier, while we were in town for the craft show, we learned that there were fireworks in St. Ignace every Saturday night, with tonight’s show being the last of the season. Tara & I decided to take the kids into town to watch them, stopping at a park to enjoy the show. We got there a bit early, thinking that we might have a bit of a crowd to fight, but that turned out to be unnecessary. We had lots of room where we were – which admittedly was a tad far from the show, but the view was still good. My favorite view was of the moon high over Mackinac Island, shimmering on the water below… too bad I didn’t bring a tripod with me on this trip, or maybe I could have gotten a better picture.
While we were waiting Tara took some time to search for houses in the area, finding one on Mackinac Island that we would like to own. It just so happens to be the one that we questioned during our visit to the island last summer! Too bad the price tag was $1.8 million or so, and that it probably needs a lot of work on top of that. Maybe someday…
Once the fireworks show had ended it was time to head back to the camper. Since it was already 10:00pm when the fireworks began, we headed straight inside when we got back to call it a night. Once again Tara & I put the kids to bed before heading there ourselves, tired from another long and busy day.
Sunday, September 2nd, 2012 - 71/57°, Mostly Sunny
We woke up relatively early this morning (I don’t recall the exact time – when you get used to going to bed at 2:00am any time before 9:30-10:00am seems too early!) with making the drive to Tahquamenon Falls on our agenda. While this isn’t something Tara was looking forward to, largely because of the cost of fuel to drive there and back, the kids and I laid a big enough guilt trip on her that she decided it would be ok if we went.
We had some things to take care of before leaving, however. One of those things was to eat! Today we made what I refer to as a “big breakfast” – french toast, eggs, bacon, and all the fixings. Even though I know I shouldn’t be eating most of this stuff, it is just too tasty to pass up, especially early in the morning! And it smells oh, so good!
With breakfast consumed and the dishes cleared, it was time to pack for our drive into the U.P. Tara worked on packing lunches while I helped the kids get ready and the truck loaded. Shortly after, we were on our way! We had smooth driving throughout our trip, although we did stop at a small-town gas station to fuel up the truck, and believe it or not the prices were cheaper here in the middle of nowhere than they were in St. Ignace. The only thing odd about this station is that there was a sign near the pumps offering parking for $5.00. I can’t imagine why you’d want to park there, let alone pay for the privilege!
When we arrived at the lower falls area we were greeted with a lot of traffic. I was really starting to doubt if this trip was a good idea, but once we got to the front of the line – where we had to wait for an open parking space to be radioed in to the park ranger holding us up – it was all good. We wound up with a parking space right at the front entrance, which made our picnic lunch a snap. We grabbed up our cooler bag full of food and found an open picnic table and settled in to eat. We packed a fairly simple lunch – mainly sandwiches and drinks as well as a few chips to go with it – so it didn’t take long for us to eat and be on our way. We dropped our stuff off back in the truck and started down the trail to the falls!
Once we reached our destination (at the same spot we always stop at during our visits here) we decided to head right in. Since Tara was the only one here without a swimsuit, she opted to stay behind with all of our belongings while I took Tyler, Samantha, Drew, and Jayden down the falls. We made our way across the river in two passes – me with Tyler and Sam first, leaving them on the other side while I headed back and brought Drew and Jay across with me on my second crossing. Unfortunately I had to head back across a third time as the battery for our little waterproof camera had died before I even got started (I guess that is a good thing, although I am thinking that it might be time to replace this camera with a new model that will take better photos). After someone volunteered to take a family photo for us, we were on our way down the river…
There isn’t much to report on our trek up and down the river, as nothing overly exciting happened to us. The biggest excitement came when Tyler, Sam, and Drew waded into and behind one of the taller falls.
I must admit that I am amazed at the amount of people wading around the river in their blue jeans or even dressier clothes. Seems crazy to me, but maybe this was their once in a lifetime opportunity for an experience like this. I took a lot of pictures of the kids on various falls and rocks before deciding that we had enough fun for today (plus Jayden was getting cold by this point of our journey). Tara took a ton of photos from the shore as well, although we didn’t really realize that she was doing so for most of our trek!
After drying off during our walk back to the truck it was time to head out once again. We were heading straight for the campground, but passed a picnic area called the Whitefish Point Picnic Area where lots of people seemed to be congregating (we had talked about this spot briefly on our way to the falls but it kind of slipped our overstimulated minds on the way back). After passing it and turning around, we found a spot to park and began exploring. This semi-hidden Eden is located on Whitefish Bay, near Tahquamenon Bay on Lake Superior. It is a beautiful spot for a swim and a picnic, as the shallow water extends far out into the lake and there is ample space to eat. Maybe next time we will stop here to eat instead of dining at the falls? The Canadian island Ile Parisienne is clearly visible from shore, and for a while it seems as though you could walk all the way there! The six of us waded out quite a ways before the water even reached waist deep (probably over 1,000 feet from shore), so it would be a great spot for the kids to spend some time playing.
It was getting late and we knew that we had to be getting back to the campground, so we once again piled in to the truck for the drive back south to St. Ignace. We returned to the campsite around 6:30pm, and Dad & Mom were already working on dinner. The campfire was going and the potatoes were being prepared. All we had to do was help set up the tables, get a few side dishes ready, and help prepare the steak on the over-the-fire grill. Before we knew it we were sitting down to a delicious meal!
We took a little time to clean up from dinner and then
settled in to relax around the campfire. After another long and busy day, it
felt good to just sit back and do nothing. Of course the kids were still full of
energy, so they did more bike riding as well as played a few games, including
the Velcro-catch game. Later in the evening we broke out the marshmallows and
the kids made s’mores. As I am not a huge fan of roasted marshmallows (or plain
ones, for that matter), so I instead opted to roast pepperoni, another of my
Monday, September 3rd, 2012 - 76/61°, Mostly Sunny
We had to get a head start this morning (at least in comparison to the past few days), so we set our alarms for 7:30am so that we could get up and be ready to head out to the 55th annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk by 8:30am. Of course that was our plan… reality was a tad different. Because we were out later last night than normal, we were a little bit tired this morning when the alarm went off. A couple of hits of the snooze button pushed us back a few minutes, and getting the kids moving pushed us back a few more minutes, and once we were ready to go we had to wait for Mom to finish getting Steve situated (he didn’t walk, nor did he go with us to the drop-off point, but you can’t just leave him without some direction), so there was a few more minutes.
We did manage to get out of the campground before 9:00am, so we weren’t too late. By the time Mom dropped us off and we made our way to the bridge, it was 9:09am when we “officially” started (I put that in quotes because I am not sure where the official starting point is – I just know that I looked at my watch at that time where I assumed it to be). We had a smooth walk, with only Jayden’s little legs slowing us down. She complained a bit from the walking too, so she got to ride a fair share of the walk on my shoulders. We all managed to spend quite a bit of time walking on the grating this year, even Drew, who is normally a little nervous in that lane. Jay spent some time walking on the grating as well – when her feet were on the ground, that is!
We finished our walk around 11:00am this year, which is a longer time than we usually have. I am not sure how to explain our relative slowness this year, except that, to me anyways, it seemed a little more crowded this year than it had been in the past few years. Of course Jayden’s short steps didn’t help our time any either!
After we crossed the finish line we headed straight to the donut shop where we have gathered since our very first bridge walk to reward ourselves. We each picked out a donut (except for Tara, who shared Drew’s massive Danish with him) and a drink and sat down to rest our feet and enjoy the benefits of our hard work.
After eating we headed to the truck to make the drive back across the bridge. Normally we would wander through the shops in the outdoor mall in Mackinaw City, but since we never buy anything anyway it seemed kind of pointless to spend all that time doing more walking. Besides, we had to pack up and get ready for the long drive home this afternoon, as much as we were dreading the return to everyday life!
We made our way to the expressway in the pickup, with me in the bed with all of the kids. While riding in the bed of a pickup is technically illegal in Michigan, it tends to be one of those overlooked things on the bridge walk day. The drive was smooth enough back there since the speeds were low, and we even got some cheers as we approached the crowd. I’d like to believe that they were cheering for us…
One of the yells that we heard was a half-joking plea for a ride back across the bridge. At least I assume it was meant as a joke, but when Tara offered to give one of their group a ride the joke ceased. Thankfully the lady who climbed into the back of the truck was pleasant, and not some mad ax-wielding murderer! It turns out that the lady was from Sault Ste. Marie, and she was participating in her first ever bridge walk. She was tired from the walk and didn’t want to walk another half mile or whatever it is to the bus stop to pay for a ride back to her car. Since we offered her a quicker return she was going to drive back down and pick up the rest of her friends. She even offered to let us use her bridge pass to pay for our trip across, but since we were going anyway I politely declined her offer.
Along the way the kids discovered that they could sit on the walkers’ side of the truck and reach out and give people high-fives. Despite some pretty forceful hits, they kept this up for the entire trip across the bridge. Jayden even got in on the act, screaming out “Free high-fives! Get your free high fives!” for most of the ride.
Once we had arrived in the Upper Peninsula it was time to drop off our extra passenger. We stopped at the Welcome Center to drop her off near her car, and then we headed towards St. Ignace to stop at the Mackinac Straights Fish Company to buy perch and walleye to take home with us. Then it was time to make the short drive back to the campsite.
We had decided to make tacos for lunch today. We did our best at multi-tasking this afternoon – working on making dinner while also trying to get things packed up to get ready to go, even though I don’t think anyone really wanted to. Packing actually went pretty smoothly today, and we were able to sit down and enjoy a delicious meal before it was time to go.
It was 3:00pm when we pulled off of our site, heading home so that the kids could get ready for their first day of school tomorrow. We had a smooth drive, but with several stops involved. First Jay had to go to the bathroom. There weren’t any rest areas or even restaurants nearby, so I pulled off at an exit and let her into the camper to do her business (thankfully Tara & I are planning one last trip out for our anniversary this year). We later stopped at a rest area so that the rest of us could relieve ourselves – except for iron-bladder Tara, that is. By the time we got to Gaylord we decided that we better fuel up (and diesel hadn’t yet reached $4.29 here like we had seen at some other stations). We made one last stop, this time at McDonalds for dinner. Ironically enough it was the same McDonalds we stopped at on the way up, although we didn’t know it until we pulled off the expressway!
We made it home around 8:00pm, which gave us enough time to get the kids through the showers while we unpacked the bare necessities. Because nobody was really used to getting up early in the morning for any reason, we made sure we weren’t up too late tonight. With dreams of school floating around in their minds, the kids drifted off to sleep. While I am normally excited about the beginning of school (it gives the kids something to do besides video games), I have mixed feelings this year – I am now officially a “weekend dad” thanks to my work situation. Well, we can all hope for better days ahead as the start of a new school year offers all kinds of opportunities.
After taking a year off from this trip I really gained a new appreciation for it this year. It is nice to get away from home to familiar surroundings and just relax and enjoy life. While some of the things that we do are getting to be old hat (such as the craft show, which most of us probably would have preferred to skip this year anyway), there are still many new adventures to be had.
Since the campground hadn’t been drenched with rain prior to our arrival our site didn’t seem as bad as the last time we were here. Our fire pit was dry, anyway! The site that we have complements Dad & Mom’s site nicely, and the trees provide a canopy for eating under so that the sunlight doesn’t torture us. There is also plenty of room around their fire-pit for all of us to gather. While the hookups are all over the map, we can accommodate them with extra electrical cords easily enough. Now, if only I could figure out how to level the camper!
I know that I am looking forward to next year more than ever!