‘Nobody ever visits the Thumb!’ said the manager at the Lighthouse County Park Campground. That’s why we’re here.
When we first started talking about this trip, many people suggested their favorite places in Michigan to visit. We put them all on a map and noticed suggestions for everywhere except the Thumb. (Look at a map and it’ll be obvious. Or ask anyone from MI and they’ll start pointing at the back of their left hand.) Our wish list included most of the suggestions, visits with a few friends and a couple of concerts. To make it all work, we had an open week, and it included the 4th of July.
We opted to head for the Thumb, see what there was to see, and take some time to figure out what to do for the 4th.
About twenty-five years ago I joined a research project to develop a computational methodology for predicting the metallurgical phase changes, dimensional changes, and stresses that occur during the heat treatment of steel. This was a joint project, coordinated by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences in Ann Arbor, MI, with about 10 partners including the bearing manufacturer I worked for, a couple of the big auto manufacturers, a handful of national laboratories and university research labs, and a small consulting firm located near Cleveland. A core group of us worked together closely for the next several years developing a computer-aided engineering tool that has now evolved into a software package for heat treatment simulation called Dante.
Members of this core group got to know each other pretty well and formed some close friendships that lasted well past the culmination of the project. I continued to work with Dante and my Cleveland friends after I left my corporate job and started out on my own. Although we’ve stayed in touch since then, I hadn’t seen my friend Lynn in more than 12 years. Happily, we were able to fix that last week. In fact, when Lynn called me back to let me know this get-together could work, and I heard his voice saying, “Hi Doug, it’s Lynn calling” (exactly the same greeting as every phone call I ever had from him), those 12 years just kind of fell away.
Lynn and his wife Ethnea showed Sue and me some of the amazing county parks they have near their house (the Cleveland Metroparks), and a national park, too – the Cuyahoga Valley NP (I was a little disappointed that there was no entry fee, because otherwise my Senior Pass would’ve let us all in for free). We also got a tour of downtown Cleveland and dinner in the Tremont neighborhood at a classic, off-the-beaten-path pub called the Prosperity Social Club (certainly one of the coolest names for a pub that I’ve ever heard), with great food and (of course) excellent beer.
From Cleveland, we headed to a state park campground in Lakeside-Marblehead, OH. They had a few walk-in sites set aside for the weekend and we were able to snag one of those. This was undoubtedly the densest campground we’ve been in, and because it was a sunny, hot weekend the place was pretty full. But it’s in a beautiful area, with great views of the Great Lake (that’s Lake Erie, for my New Englander friends) so it turned out to be a great place to wander from. We found a bike ride that would take us to the ferry to Kelleys Island, a destination which was highly recommended by Lynn and Ethnea.
That recommendation turned out to be completely justified. There’s not much traffic on Kelleys Island since the only access is by boat – mostly golf carts and bicycles among the few automobiles – so we did a little walking and a little riding. We hung out at the Kelleys Island Brewery for a while (great beer, great sandwiches), wandered back into the center of town where there was a music festival going on (really good music, and a little more beer), and biked up to the north side of the island where there is a geological feature called Glacial Grooves, said to be the best known example of the scored and scraped granite made by the advancing glaciers that formed the Great Lakes, the Appalachians, and all the rest.
Special bonus feature, this post only – TWO sunset photos (both by Sue):
No tour of the Great Lakes would be complete without seeing Niagara Falls, especially for someone (say, Doug) who’s never been there before. Neither words nor photos can convey the beauty and power of a waterfall that drops 750,000 gallons of water per second. We’ll try anyway…
The Tibbets Point Lighthouse in Cape Vincent NY is at the start of the St. Lawrence River and the outflow of Lake Ontario, so for us it marks the true beginning of the Great Lakes portion of our journey.
Well, it’s not really true… There’re actually 1,864 islands (this year) within a 50-mile stretch of the St. Lawrence River between Ontario and New York State. The border zigs and zags among the islands, intentionally keeping each island wholly within either the US or Canada. Although there is a greater number of islands in Canada, several in the US are larger, rendering the total acreage of all the islands about even. The count changes periodically since there are rules to qualify as an island. Each land mass must have at least one square foot of land above water level year-round and support at least two living trees. Some of the smaller islands come and go.
Doug and I lived in the Albany area when we were first married, 30 years ago. We were quite active with the cycling community back then. As we drove out of Albany, we had a rush of memories as we recognized familiar roads we’d biked so many times, so many years ago. We both suddenly remembered that the greater Albany area was simply awesome for bicycling.
Today we are near Albany NY and – for the first time – west of our starting point! Wonderful to touch base with our old friend Albin, whom we first met at the 1986 Eastern Tandem Rally – almost exactly 30 years ago. We spent a very relaxing evening with Al, both reminiscing and talking about the future, also listening to music and enjoying a fantastic, home-cooked meal (I’d like to say, “…and helping Al in the kitchen,” but it was more us watching Al in the kitchen). Thanks, Al!
We’re now through the third of our scheduled stops and our third week on the road.
From Lewiston, ME we headed over to West Gardiner for a drive-by jam session with my friend Wilbur (aka “Cowboy”) from Blues Guitar Unleashed. This was the inaugural music stop on the trip and the first field test of the suitcase drum kit. We’re calling it an unmitigated success. Wilbur and Naomi are also RV’ers, so we had a lot of (non-musical) notes to compare, as well. We all had a great time, and Sue and I very much enjoyed getting to know Naomi and Wilbur in a closer and quieter setting than the big jam sessions where we’ve met before.
We didn’t get any photos (still working on developing effective travel-blogging routines and habits!), but Wilbur got a couple of us:
There is a beauty in Acadia National Park that is special and naturally lifts the spirit. Mountains rise dramatically from the sea and host a number of ponds and lakes, rivers, trails, rock formations, and a wide variety of gorgeous, natural landscape arrangements all over the island. We were fortunate to spend four delightful days in the Park in advance of the full tourist season.