Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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What am I doing?

I’m off on a grand adventure. Well. An adventure of some sort anyway.

My adventure land for the first two nights.

Have you ever wondered what people do all day when they’re camping? Since I grew up camping I never considered that a question. It’s always been obvious to me. You do stuff.

Mostly what I’ve been doing.

On my current adventure I’ve been reading. And entertaining this guy who tried to climb into my lap on several occasions.

I think he’s had plenty of snacks already.

I haven’t gone exploring or walked the trails. I’ve been here before, many times, usually with Katie. At this exact site. So I spent a lot of time staring up into the sky and talking to her.

Hey girlie, remember all the times we spent here together?

And crying of course. Because I miss her so much. She was definitely with me these last couple of days at site #43.

Katie’s just around that next bend. I’m sure of it.

But mostly what I have been doing is waiting for it to get dark. And hoping that the sky will remain clear. So I can do this.

Maybe I was overrun by aliens. Or shooting stars. Or not.

Well, not exactly this….on this shot the center pole decided to slowly sink and swing the camera around in the middle of the 15 second shot. Still, it’s cool.

No, I was working more toward this.

This was one of the first shots, just to figure out where the Milky Way was.

But not exactly this either. I took a lot more, and I’ve only processed a couple of the images from that first night under the stars.

Actually there’s only been one night under the stars. Because the second day it poured rain.

In between the downpours I ventured into town to get gas.

And when it wasn’t raining I sat and worked on the images from the night before.

Wishing it would stop raining.

I thought about where I’d be going next. I knew it was across the bridge.

Beautiful even in the rain.

I’d never been to the state park I was headed to over there before so I was kind of excited. Not so excited that I wanted to drive across the bridge in the pouring rain though.

So I waited.

On a rainy afternoon might as well go for a hotdog. Actually, no I didn’t.

And waited. And waited But the rain never stopped so eventually I took a deep breath and slowly drove across the bridge to the Upper Peninsula. Where it was raining.

It will clear up soon. I’m sure.

So what happened next? I can’t tell you because I need to take a shower and check out of my hotel room.

Stay tuned.

There might be a barn or two involved.


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On the way from here to there

I took myself off for a camping adventure this week. First stop was a park Katie and I have visited several times. Most of the time we end up in site 43.

Turns out four years ago yesterday Katie and I were at this very site, packing up, heading for home.

Four years ago at site 43. I don’t want to leave, mama!

But first I took her up to the Mackinaw Bridge, because she had never seen it. She wasn’t all that impressed. And the ride home was extra long because we went north before we went south. But she was a trooper and never complained. Much.

Best rest stop ever, mama!

This trip I stopped at a rest stop just before my exit, because it’s one of Katie’s favorite rest stops. Turns out there was a commercial truck inspection going on. All trucks were mandated to pull off the freeway at the rest stop so commercial vehicle inspectors could check their rigs and their hours of service.

Thank you to Michigan’s State Police Commercial Vehicle Inspection team.

I walked over to the table at the front of the inspection line and thanked the two officers there. I told them the truth, that whenever I saw them and a commercial truck pulled over I give them a thumbs up and that it was nice to be able to do that in person.

Then I gave them my Truck Safety Card, thanked them again, and went on my way feeling better about our roads knowing the state police are working on it.

Next month I’ll be in DC again, along with many other families and victims of truck crashes. We’ll be voicing our objections to some things going on (teen truckers) and asking for more changes, (increased minimum insurance, automatic emergency braking on ALL trucks) many of the same changes we’ve been asking ever since I started this journey almost 18 years ago.

Our last press conference, 2019

Change is hard.


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And Day Three

Here it is already a week since we drove home from our UP adventure and I still have more to show you. Maybe I should stop talking and just let you look.

Oh! I almost forgot! I had whitefish tacos with pickled onions for lunch, our first day, in Paradise Michigan!

On our third and last day in the UP we got headed west toward Grand Marais where I assured my friend we’d find more stones.

If you stop at the little places along the way you’re liable to find the most amazing things.

But along the way we drove up to Deer Park, north of Newberry, and then along Lake Superior’s coast and stopped at a delightful little beach with the prettiest stones!

Just a little stretch of perfect beach.

I don’t think I found any flat white ones, but my friend found quite a few beautiful souvenirs.

They’re even prettier when they’re wet.

And we left a souvenir for someone else to find too.

I hope this doggie has a new forever home now!

And then we headed over to Grand Marais.

A walk to the beach.

Many people searching this beach are looking for agates. I wouldn’t know an agate from a rubber duck, so I just looked for flat white stones to paint. I didn’t find many of those either.

The sky was almost as mesmerizing as the water.

But the weather was beautiful with big fluffs of white clouds dressing up the sky and we had a great time wandering.

There were lots of rock hunters out on such a beautiful day.

We didn’t stay long, we were hungry and still had miles to go to get to Munising, our next stop. But we left a painted treasure for someone to find before we left.

A fish and his food wait for his person to find him.

It’s kind of a long way to go for a sandwich, but we enjoyed the glimpses of Lake Superior that we found along the way. We were hoping to stop at a couple of waterfalls in Munising before heading back to Whitefish Point for the sunset.

Do you see the surprise?

We ate at Subway, noting exotic, but filling. And of course we stopped for a visit with Munising’s Bigfoot, where we left another treasure.

The traffic was terrible in Munising, backed up for miles coming into town from 3 directions. We decided to nix the idea of getting in line to get out to one of the waterfalls, and headed to one that was on the way out of town, Wagner Falls.

The wildflowers, Joe Pye, goldenrod and queen anne’s lace were so beautiful this trip.

There’s a short mostly flat boardwalk back to the falls, and we were lucky that there weren’t many people stopping for a visit.

We took a few pictures…

The roots were pretty too, but I wish people would be kinder to nature.

…and then hid our treasure and were on our way back toward Whitefish Point.

Hidden in plain sight.

We had a long drive to get there before sunset, but we arrived early enough to appreciate the golden light on all the driftwood, and the clouds streaking the sky. This could turn out to be a stunning sunset!

The light was like this for only a few moments.

We wandered the beach, noticing how pretty everything was in the evening light…

Black ‘sand’ filled the crevices in the lighter sand. Art created by nature.

… and how the beach moves and changes every day.

A little bit of art in the middle of nature’s art.

We found a couple of places to hide more treasure and then waited for the sun to settle down and set.

Is the sky going to get prettier? Or is this it for the evening?

Most people left the beach once the sun was below the horizon, but we were out there for the long haul (and to find Yooper Lights) so we waited in the cooling air to see what would happen next.

An eagle appeared at the horizon.

And we were rewarded by intense color and beautiful shapes. It just kept getting better until it finally died into grey. The sun was done for the day, but we weren’t.

The last of the sunset and the beginning of the search.

After the sun was down we looked for Yooper Lights (stones that glow in inferred light) along with a few other late night stone addicts.

Nothing under here.

Though we didn’t find any that night, the night before, on a cold windy evening, we witnessed a young boy and his dad find a stone that glowed. The boy was soooo excited, jumping up and down in the cold Superior waves. We got him and his dad to show us what the stone looked like, and in the midst of the conversation the boy turned and looked at us, his eyes wide and said:

“I really wish I was wearing long pants!”

We roared in laughter, in all the excitement he’d been running in and out of the water of the coldest lake around without a care. Until he stopped to talk to us.

Saying goodbye to Whitefish Point. We’ll be back!

And that’s kind of the way our whole trip was. We didn’t always find what we set out to see, the perfect rock, the perfect view, the perfect sunset.

Trying to get capture that moon.

But the excitement of the whole experience kept us motivated to continue the adventure regardless. And though there were moments we wished we were wearing long pants, on the whole, it was a perfect summer trip. Mosquitoes and all.

Hoping to be noticed.

And just think, there are all those treasures out there just waiting to be found.


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So, as I was saying…

Let’s see, before Katie decided you needed a Katie fix I was about to take you over the Mackinaw Bridge and on into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My friend, who was in the passenger seat, got some really cool shots of the bridge as we drove over it. I should ask her to share them here…but meanwhile let’s go see what we saw once we left downstate behind.

On our way to a lighthouse.

You might think that the UP (short for Upper Peninsula) is nothing but trees and lakes and mosquitos. You would, of course, be wrong. Thought not far wrong…there’s plenty of all that too.

For example there’s the lighthouses. Did you know Michigan has more lighthouses than Maine? Yea…I forgot, I told you that factoid a few years ago when we were traveling in Maine.

This one is in Mackinaw City, at the Southern end of the big bridge.

We visited one of them on our first full day in the UP. It’s a lighthouse that’s not easy to get to, and they tell you on their website and in their literature not to try to find it using GPS.

Trust me, they know what they’re talking about.

Only 6.5 more miles to go!

There’s no GPS or any kind of service out there, and you get dropped while you’re still miles away in the middle of the middle of nowhere. You need to follow sandy, sometimes two track roads. But the route is mostly well-marked (except for one very important corner where I had a 50/50 chance of guessing right but went left) so if you pay attention and follow the signs you will eventually get to Crisp Point Lighthouse.

Your first glimpse of Crisp Point Lighthouse makes you smile.

It’s definitely worth the multi-mile drive through the woods on roads filled with deep holes and standing water. Actually, the roads are one of the reasons I love it so. There are fewer people (but not NO people!) out there. You definitely won’t want to take your RV on those roads, and there’s nowhere to turn around, but if you have a car with a bit of clearance you’ll be fine.

Anyway, once you’re finally there, and have breathed your sigh of relief, you’ll be able to climb the tower if volunteers are on duty to open it up. We were lucky and got to enjoy the view from the top.

From inside the tower you can see forever.

And then, since my friend is into rock picking, we walked the beach looking for perfect stones. Though to be honest they all looked like perfect stones to me.

Take your pick, you can’t go wrong!

She’s a rock painter, someone who paints rocks with cute colors and pictures and than hides them for people, often kids, to find. It’s a thing. And I found out how fun it is to hide her painted stones as we left more than a dozen behind during the three days we were out exploring, tucked into crevices across the UP.

Wonder who found this painted turtle?

So I looked for smooth, white rocks that would be good for painting, and she looked for specific types of stones, like quartz (we both found some of that) and granite (lots of it!) and pudding stones (maybe!) and all sorts of others. I don’t remember most of it, but I was pretty good at finding smooth white stones.

Eventually we had to leave this perfect place and find our way back to the world of paved roads. We intended to spend the evening at Whitefish Point, several miles up the Lake Superior shoreline. Maybe there would be a sunset. Maybe there would be stars.

Waiting on the sun.

Maybe…just maybe we’d get to see the last super moon rise up from Lake Superior. And, of course, there’s a lighthouse there too.

An entirely different kind of lighthouse at Whitefish Point.

Well, it turns out there wasn’t much sunset, though it was still beautiful.

The cloudless sky turned orange and the most interesting part were the people watching it set.

And the moon obliterated most of the stars…so we didn’t stay real late, and we made it back to the hotel in Sault Ste. Marie shortly before midnight.

It was amazing.

Just in time to get a good night’s sleep in order to get up and do it all over again in the morning!

Do you see the hidden treasure?

Were should we go next?


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Now where was I…

Yep, I’ve been gone again. Just a few days in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula which, of course, created a couple hundred images for me to sort through. It’s so beautiful up there that it would be impossible not to take a few hundred images. A day.

Ahem.

The light was beautiful. Hard NOT to take a few pictures.

A friend and I drove north on Wednesday, our goal to make it to our hotel in Sault Ste. Marie by late afternoon. Since it’s only about a five hour drive to the bridge (that’s the Mackinaw Bridge for those of you not quite up to speed on Michigan geography) and then less than an hour to the Soo (short for Sault Ste Marie) we had lots of time to meander on our way.

We meandered here during our driving break.

Which is, you have to admit, the best way to travel.

So we stopped at one of my favorite parks, about 3 hours into our trip. Hartwick Pines is a place Katie and I have camped many times.

The logging museum reflects how things were back in the day.

Visiting without her by my side was hard, but it was fun to show it to someone who hadn’t been there before. We ate our lunch under tall white pines and then walked the path back to the logging museum.

A perfect place for lunch.

Along the way we stopped at the chapel. I remember Katie and I doing that walk early one morning only a couple of years ago.

Everywhere I looked I could see her.

A peaceful place to remember my girl.

After our walk we headed north again until we came to the tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula where we stopped to spend some time admiring the Mackinaw Bridge from the shore.

The clouds added a nice touch to the beautiful span.

There’s a lovely little park that allows you to walk right under the bridge. You have to do that, I think it’s some kind of unwritten rule that everyone needs to see the underside of the bridge at least once.

Good to see everything looks ship shape.

I’ve seen it more times than I can count, starting when I was a kid and my folks took us exploring. I think of them every time I stand under that bridge.

I remember my dad taking us out on the water in his homemade canoe, telling us that we were paddling all the way from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan which turned out to be a short paddle under the bridge that bisects the two Great Lakes.

A ship much bigger than our canoe heads from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan.

I still grin over that, all these decades later.

Then it was time to get going, up and over the bridge (where I don’t have images for you because I was driving) and into the Soo. We figured we’d buzz up to the Sault Locks where huge ships traveling the Great Lakes are raised or lowered depending on which direction they’re going.

It was so fun to watch these ‘little’ boats in the lock!

We were just going to find out the visiting hours, we didn’t intend to stay, but we were pleased to see a giant ore boat in the biggest lock. We hurried up to the visitor gallery and saw that the lock closest to us was filled with a tugboat, a tour boat and a sailboat.

Off to get some work done on a Wednesday afternoon.

So we stayed and watched both locks lower their boats. We figured that was that, but then we were surprised to see another huge ship maneuver into the lock closest to us just after it was emptied of the original three smaller boats!

Well, where did YOU come from? We hadn’t seen this ship hiding over near the shore!

So, because the larger ship was just beginning to move out, we were able to watch both locks working at the same time.

The white tall ‘building’ in the second lock is the back of the larger ore boat pulling out.

The one closest to us was now raising the red ship in preparation of it moving west…and the huge lock behind it was filled with a huge ship being lowered so that it could continue on to the east.

I thought this was kind of like walking a dog…only a really BIG dog…

It was fascinating! We couldn’t have timed it better. I’ve been to the locks a couple of times and never saw a big ship in the lock closest to the viewing area.

“The food is pretty good!”

There was a guy on the close ship who was talking to people near us up in the viewing stand. They were asking questions about how the food was, what his hours were, how his family felt about him being gone for weeks at a time. He answered, with a wonderful accent, maybe Australian, with good humor and honest facts. I couldn’t hear much because it was so windy that day, but the bits I heard were interesting.

So it turns out that one of our main objectives for the trip, visiting the locks, was accomplished before we even had dinner on our first day!

Riding high on her way west.

We ate, that evening, at a restaurant called Antlers in the Soo…which is an interesting place filled with…well….antlers. I had a really good burger and decent onion rings and then, stuffed, tired and happy we headed back to the hotel to dream of our next adventure.

Don’t you wonder where we’re going next?

I remember Katie-girl sitting right between those two trees on a trip to this park years ago.


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First time camping

No, not me silly, you all know I’ve been camping enough to wear out a couple tents. But my sister was up from the South, visiting us here in Michigan, and one of the things she wanted to do was camp in her brand new tent.

Her new tent, before we introduced sand to the inside.

She bought it a few years ago anticipating a vacation like this, but then Covid happened. And she was busy teaching and working on her house and time slipped away and the tent stayed in it’s packaging and summers came and went and we always said ‘next summer.’

Finally she got to retire and go on a real vacation and we scored a campsite with a view of Green Lake up in Interlochen, near Traverse City.

Our little compound.

So exciting!

I had piles of camping equipment that we packed into the car, much more stuff than you really need for two nights, but you never know, right? And as we were both girl scouts once upon a time, (OK, I was a girl scout for only about 8 weeks) we were trained to be prepared for anything.

For the record none of the bad things we prepared for occurred. Like torrential rain or thunderstorms flooding the tents, or nighttime temperatures plummeting below freezing. We actually had beautiful weather every day. We should have stayed longer, but that would have been tempting fate, as it was threatening to rain the morning we were packing up to come home.

Her view.

Still, though our time there was short, we had so much fun and did so much exploring. From visiting a bagpipe store near Traverse City, to picking rocks up near Northport we covered a lot of territory.

Would you like to see what we saw? Well come on!

There was a bird up there. Or maybe rain coming.

Before we even got to our campsite we stopped at Pt. Betsie where we walked the beach looking for pretty stones. It was the first time my sister had visited this lighthouse, though it was a favorite place for our parents and is now a favorite spot of mine.

I am always awed by the color of Lake Michigan’s water.

I don’t think I’ve ever been there in mid-summer when there were people laying on the sand. I’ve been there in all kinds of weather, but never when it was actually a busy beach. That was sort of fun to see.

A busy place.

I noticed an older couple trying to take a selfie with the lighthouse in the background, so I offered to take their picture. They were celebrating a wedding anniversary, I don’t remember the number, but it was over 50. They reminded me so much of my own parents, and I told them that and we all smiled. I got a lovely image of them grinning at each other.

The fog horn was not needed on this beautiful day.

We have a grainy picture of mom and dad standing in pretty much the same spot that they took during an October 50th wedding anniversary trip. Dad must have had the camera propped up on something, he looks worried about whether the shutter will go off. Mom just looks cold.

Makes me smile every time I see it.

Looking for special stones.

After our time at Pt. Betsie we headed over to our campsite. We were lucky to get a spot at Interlochen State Park because we didn’t need electricity and there were a few sites open in the rustic loop. The vault bathrooms weren’t really fun, but we didn’t spend much time at the campsite anyway.

There’s a series of amusing but unsuccessful images before we got this one…you can imagine them yourselves.

Our site was on Green Lake, and that first night we went down to the very narrow beach to watch the sun set. With high clouds striping the sky we knew to stay after the sun dropped below the horizon just in case those clouds lit up.

Can’t stop smiling.

And we were right. It turned into the most amazing sunset.

Worth the wait.

Then we headed to bed with alarms set for around midnight when we returned to the beach to see if the Milky Way was visible. Turns out it was…sort of. There were still wispy clouds obscuring some of the stars, and a bit of a wind blowing to keep us chilled.

Still, it was very cool to be out there together under the stars.

Still pretty.

My sister plays the bagpipes and one of her pipe sets needed some work, so she was eager to stop at a bagpipe store and talk to an expert. So the next morning I sat out in the car reading a book while they discussed what needed to be done to fix her pipes. She got so much good advice at Henderson Imports she kept grinning and saying “I’m so HAPPY about my pipes!” the rest of our trip.

Ok, so maybe it’s not typical of my camping trips to visit a bagpipe retailer, but the rest of our trip was Pure Michigan. Getting our steps in during this vacation was never a problem.

Worth the climb.

After the bagpipe experience we drove up to Northport and visited a friend in her bookstore, then went out to Peterson Park to look for more stones. Peterson Park is known for it’s stony beach, and we were not disappointed.

There’s gotta be a Petosky stone in here somewhere!

It’s such a pretty place, well worth the long flight of stairs from the parking lot down to the beach. And the seemingly longer flight of stairs back up to the car when you’re usually laden down with special rocks. It has been documented that it is impossible to visit this park without picking up at least one stone to take home.

Easier on the way down.

After Peterson Park we drove south to Sleeping Bear National Park where we stopped for a quick dune climb. I have the lifetime national park pass, so it cost us nothing more to pull in and climb. We haven’t done that since we were much younger, but I have to say we did just fine.

Ready to climb?

We only climbed to the first summit, it’s possible to keep going for miles eventually arriving on the shore of Lake Michigan. I’ve done that twice and don’t need to ever do it again. It’s a cool walk, but it’s HOT and sandy and it takes FOREVER and once you get to the lake you turn around and do it again. No footwear is ever the right footwear to walk miles in shifting sand. Just saying.

We made it!

And after the dune climb we drove out to Barr Lake which is a small inland lake that connects to Lake Michigan. We trekked from the parking lot out to the big lake and spent some time lounging on the beach people watching, then did the requisite beach rock looking for stones. Neither of us took a camera out there, which I regretted once we got out there, but it was freeing not to lug the camera up and down the beach. So just imagine a beautiful white sandy beach, with people kite surfing out on the waves, and building sand castles on the shoreline and throwing frisbees and laughing and sunbathing.

There. Now don’t you feel relaxed? We did too.

So, slightly sunburned and covered in sand we headed back to the campsite where we made dinner and settled in for a nap before our planned walk back down to the beach to try for the Milky Way on our last night.

It’s right up there!

My alarm was set for midnight and I when I poked my head out of my tent I could see lots of stars, and the Milky Way right above us. Neighbors in the site next to us had a dog that barked at every noise so I tried to be quiet as I woke my sister but she is infamous for sleeping like a rock and I couldn’t get her up by shining my red flashlight into her tent or whispering her name, so I went down to the beach by myself.

Amazing.

The sky was clear on this, our second night, and I shot a few images of the Milky Way out over the lake. There was still significant light pollution, and a party going on across the lake compete with bright lights, but in general I was pleased.

The breeze was warm and there weren’t any bugs, the stars were bright and I was standing in a beautiful place. It was all good except I should have tried harder to wake my sister up. She was disappointed when I got back and she woke up as I was climbing back into bed. She was ready for a night time adventure and all I did was tell her to go back to sleep.

But we saw other pretty stuff, like this orchard under the clouds.

In retrospect I should have gone back to the beach with her so she could see the Milky Way. Sometimes, as Katie always said, I can be a little dense.

In the morning the sky was dark and the air felt damp and the radar on my phone predicted rain. We hurried up to get the tents down while they were still dry. We skipped breakfast and packed everything up as fast as we could finishing just as sprinkles began to dampen the sand.

Tearing down isn’t as much fun as setting up.

But we took the long way home, stopping at a farm market north of Ludington for some more wonderful fruit. And, of course, I stopped later for a photogenic barn.

Green barn under navy summer skies.

Because, after all, what’s a trip north without a barn?