Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Higgins Lake

After a few nights at Petoskey State Park, we packed up and drove south, towards Hartland, and ended up at South Higgins Lake State Park.  It was Sunday night, so it was pretty empty.

We were only here for two nights, but we took a few bike rides and just sorta hung out around the park.  My dad got one of the windsurfers down and went out paddling on the lake.  It's nice biking around here, once we got off the big road, we were just riding on a little county road along the lake, through the woods, past a bunch of cabins.

We didn't really take any pictures while we were here, but there was a pretty cool sunset one night.

Higgins Lake is really pretty!

My dad had to be at work the next day, so after two nights, we packed up and drove back to Hartland.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Budget? What Budget?

What does it cost to roam around the US with an inconspicuous travel trailer for a year?   Gee, has it been 52 weeks?  Should we really stop?

You'll make your own choices of course, it could cost whatever you want it to.  For us, I think we were relatively low budget.  I'm sure some spend less, and I'll bet 95% of people spend more.

First you should start with the idea to try a boat, so that'll cost you.  But then most of the family may revolt following a couple of local Great Lakes sailing trips.  The boat is really great, the pictures we have are all cheery and peaceful, but, ...   the camera doesn't represent the thunderstorms, some motion sickness and constant fear of sinking that people without gills may have.

Later that fall, after Annie's offhand comment that something with wheels attached (not a boat on a trailer) could be tolerable, after a week or so with craigslist, we had The Transporter,  a 1999 Dutchmen travel trailer in the driveway, making the boat nervous.  We won't talk about the boat cost here, yet.  But costwise, a boat would have to be more, unless it's substantially miniaturized....
musical toys in the driveway, which will go first?
2800 Purchase price
265 camper mirrors for truck
383 reg, tax, title
115 propane tank
257 2 6v batteries
213 12 converter / charger
54 surge suppressor
25 misc
400 generator
75 500w inverter, switches
50 led lights
75 ubiquiti wifi
4712 total before summer trip

94 replace tire
395 tires, mounting
44 water accumulator
99 trailer 12v wiring breaker / junction
25 grounded cat5 wifi cable
50 100A 12v DC breaker
5419 total before leaving on year trip

65 propane tank
875 solar system
35 propane regulator
100 2000w inverter
6494 total camper cost

As we were firming up our decision to take off for a year, we took a 3 week trip, mostly to see if we could get along together.  (and keep everyone's arms and legs inside the vehicle while moving)   This also allowed us to see what we'd spend, roughly.  We drove a lot more than we'd prefer, but that's what happens with a relatively shorter trip and having a far off destination.  So fuel cost was more than we'd expect, actually half of the total cost (about $1800).  Groceries are next largest, and we probably would spend even more than this on a year trip, since we started out packed to the gills and used up some things by the end.
Based roughly on that trip, and what we might get away with for a whole year, we had a goal of $600 a week.  We were able to keep within that on average for the whole year, the average week was $537.  We had a couple high weeks in Florida (go see Harry Potter, and install solar panels), and a few low weeks (boondocking for free, or nowhere to buy groceries).

It's interesting to look at by category.  First let's talk about averages. 
About $75 a week on gas, because we generally took our time and didn't go too far each day.  Groceries were our largest cost, average $250 a week, similar or less than what we spend at home.   Camping averaged only $62 a week, that's equivalent cost to 2 typical state park nights.  This was possible since we spent many nights at free places (boondockers, public lands and at least 2 months total with family), and a lot of city or county parks.

Looking at the maximum amounts by category brings back some fun times.  Usually we didn't spend much on entertainment or eating out.  We did once have  a real nice dinner out with all of us, for our 50th day anniversary on the trip, near here.  Tolls we usually avoided, except a ticket for swerving off the highway to catch the library in Yuma, AZ.  Capital expenditure on the trip was primarily the solar panels installed over the holidays in Florida.  Groceries were sometimes more, especially when we stocked up on peanut butter at Trader Joe's.  There were a couple of weeks where we stayed mostly in state parks, which can get to $200 a week.

So that's it!  There's your budget, you are authorized to take off from work and bum around!  Go For it!

Fine print:  Many additional costs are not included.  We already had a good pickup truck, and already were paying for insurance, health care, etc.  Other than taking Annie's car off the road, and renting our house for the year, those costs were similar to before.  Opportunity cost of not working for a year is ignored, but at least that can't get taxed!  What a conundrum, how much to spend taking a year off work, we are very fortunate to have been able to do this.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Little Traverse Wheel Way (Part 2)

Okay, so now for part two. We started out around seven a.m. and had a nice calm little ride into Harbor Springs, the little, well, not so little town at the other end of the bike path. That side is only about fourteen, or thirteen miles round trip. It's peaceful, quiet, and right on the highway. Yep, you ride about ten feet from the cars, all going about seventy (Okay, maybe only about forty-five.) For one thing, it makes you go really fast, at least in my case, on the other hand, your nerves are pretty much shot by the time you get home.

That's part of the trail, most of it's the same distance from the highway as a sidewalk from your average road, about five, ten feet. So overall, there's about ten or fifteen feet between you and the cars. For me, that's a good distance. At the end of the trail, if you ride into town, there are some truly stunning views, and some fantastic Victorian houses. However, do keep in mind the hill... It's long, steep, and ends on a corner. So yeah, I hope you've got good brakes. Coming back up is hard, but it's also kind of fun. By this point I was sort of giddy, I hadn't made it all the way up and down the trail before, so it was a fairly big deal for me.

Alright, I get it, I'll find you some pictures now.

So we saw this last year, and I really truly didn't remember it. But now... Well, I put my fingers in the cage...

 Elliot and I fell for it...
 Here we are, down by the docks in Harbor Springs, eating...
 Here's a nice picture over the harbor from the top of the hill.
  And here we are, from last year! There's Elliot, without hair spilling out of his helmet, my mom, looking like she's having fun, and I look like I'm going to start screaming at people. Well... at least I enjoyed it this year.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Little Traverse Wheel Way (Part 1)

Today we rode from Petoskey State Park, all the way down to Charlevoix, and in Charlevoix, there is a Cherry Republic. Overall, that's thirty-eight miles, round trip. That distance is over twice as much as my personal longest ride. So yeah, I'm tired, still hungry, and a little crabby. It was really, really fun. It's certainly going down as one of the best days of my life.

Okay, so this morning, we were riding by seven, and on the actual bike trail by 7:05 a.m. The Little Traverse Wheel Way goes along Lake Michigan for pretty much the entire time, so you get pretty spectacular views for the whole ride. I, personally, didn't look around very much on the way there, mostly focusing on getting there. I really like my chocolate covered cherries, okay? Anyway, the first stop we had was the MDOT Overlook, about halfway or so to Charlevoix. We sat on the beach for a while, just enjoying the view. Our second stop was on the other side of around three miles, the other MDOT Park. However, this one had bathrooms and water, oh, yeah, and a map. The maps along the trail are great, because each stretch was labeled with how long it was (1.8 miles, 3.0 miles, etc.) And at this point, they haven't faded at all.

When we got to Charlevoix it was around ten, so the roads were mostly clear, and some of the shops were still closed. Luckily, there was a Farmers Market, and for me and Elliot, a great, old fashioned toy store. The two of us like the logic puzzles and such. Cherry Republic was fantastic, lots of free samples. I can personally recommend the dark chocolate covered cherries, but they have plenty of other things for those of you who prefer savory over sweet. I am not in that category.

The way back was hard. It really was, but only for the first few miles, after that, you forget you're biking. My favorite part of this trail is the fact that it's flat. Properly flat, not “flat” but real flat. For me, that's important, I wouldn't last halfway around Canandaigua Lake, that's forty two miles, and very, very, hilly. So yeah, I loved it, and will certainly do it again next year, and would recommend it to any of you bikers.

Elliot and I in the MDOT Park, my favorite spot along trail to stop. It's right by the water, and very pretty.

This one is overlooking the harbor, after we dragged ourselves up this huge hill.

And here's my dad wind surfing off into the sunset.
By the way, this is Alice, not Dale.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Au Gres

After we got all our stuff done in Hartland, we headed up north to see our friends at their cabin on Lake Huron, just outside of a little town called Au Gres.  It was great seeing them again after a year, we had lots of fun windsurfing and swimming and sailing.

I had never been on a catamaran before, it's a lot less tippy than a monohull!  I'm still not sure if I'd wanna live on a boat, but...

This was also my firs time playing tetherball, it was fun!
We had a lot of fun playing with this little sailboat (and taking on lots of water!)

One of the afternoons was pretty rainy, but this puzzle kept us busy for a few hours
We went for a swim around 11 at night, and we kept getting blinded by camera flashes!

This water was REALLY cold, I only lasted 5 or 10 minutes

We had a great time hanging out with everyone here, but we all had to move on after a few days.  We still have about a week and a half until we have to be back for good, so we headed up towards Northern Michigan.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


After hanging out with our cousins at Allegany for a couple of (really fun!) days, we packed up and hit the road pretty early in the morning heading for Hartland.
Hitting the road

We drove through Cleveland, and added that to the list of big cities that we've taken the trailer through. (including NYC, Boston, Charleston, Sacramento, Reno, and Salt Lake City) We even went right past the Quicken Loans Arena, where they had the RNC!

It took us most of the day, but late in the afternoon we pulled into our driveway and set up for a few days. We didn't really take any pictures while we were here, because we didn't do anything really interesting. (Alice saw some friends, my dad checked back in with his boss, we all had eye exams, etc) I had some tests to take for school, which went OK, and it seems like I'll be on track to re-enter the system and be all caught up this fall.

We still have almost two weeks before we need to be back to stay for work and school, so after two days, we packed up and went up to hang out with our friends (that we haven't seen in a year!) up on Saginaw Bay.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


We left Kanakadea and drove over to the west side of New York, to Allegany State Park to hang out with our cousins for a few days.
I dunno what the girls are doing here...
It was kinda rainy while we were here, but we did get out to play at the lake, where we did a lot of swimming and windsurfing and sailing.  We also went over to the "Thunder Rocks," which are these huge rocks out in the woods that you can climb around on.  (That was really fun, it's been a while since we've been anywhere where we could scramble around!)

This was a big one!

While we would've loved to stay longer, we had some things to do back in Hartland, so after a couple days we packed up and hit the road again.