Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Michigan Woods

I wasn't sure how to focus this essay but in the end  I decided I just want to show a few pretty pictures of a place we spent five days wandering around: a sort of rectangular circle approximately an hour from Traverse City. A lunch stop:
We were a hundred yards from the main road down what they label as an "unmaintained seasonal road."
It dead ended into a National park Service Gate so we turned in the circle in front of the gate, threw-pen the doors and took up our chores...Layne made lunch and I walked the hound with my camera.
I have made an effort to show the interior of the van as it is, our crumpled bed, a king sized sheet on the bottom tucked in all round and another sheet on top designed to catch dog hairs and dust.  Rusty will only stretch out here when we aren't driving. Consequently he is ending each day in a coma of exhaustion. 
Lunch at our front seats spun round to face backwards with our tables deployed. I have a small desk that folds out behind the driver's seat while the passenger seat swivels so Layne can use the kitchen extension leaf that folds up. Under her feet she has a custom made footstool that slides how so her feet don't dangle. Custom Coach loves paying attention to the details.
Photography can be a giant pain in the ass frankly. I have heard it said and I have found it to be true that traveling and taking pictures is a mass of conflicts. There are so many demands on your time and attention that it takes dedication to find time to be alone with the camera. At home Rusty knows his own trails but here he is tugging hither and yon chasing new scents. And I have no time to compose my own pictures and there is so much to look at and think about and enjoy.
We tested ourselves and our furniture driving dirt roads. we did get slightly stuck once, spinning our road tires in an accidental mud hole. I took my foot off the accelerator and let the Promaster walk us out of the mud. Four wheel drive will not be needed. I carry a tire inflator in case we need to deflate the tires temporarily to get across soft ground, though we found none of that on this trip.
It was great to see new light, new scenes and even new trees.
Rusty got better the farther we went, enjoying the stops but much more ready to come back to the new space we called home.
Dew was also an enjoyable thing to see each morning even if it soaked my sneakers. 
The flexibility of the road with your own home is always a revelation. Here we pulled over and did some clean up and maintenance. We vacuumed, dusted and polished and then I checked tire pressure,  which turned out not to be necessary. Then my wife organized her timer and we did some discreet roadside exercises.
A woodpecker not cooperating with the rising sun:
A sunflower or something like that:
Silver birch (I think):
Cattails, that you don't see in the Keys:
Michigan's pure blue skies not mucked up by clouds and things:
Home is where you park it, even for a short while:
We put the carpet we bought in market in Istanbul out to air. We got the runner shape deliberately for our planned van purchase at some point in the future.  That was in summer 2017 and here it is, in use as envisioned:
Rusty relaxed after his walk while we worked. As we exercised a few cars went by and a couple of bicycles until a power walking white man about our age with a gray flat top and piercing blue eyes stared at us as he strode past and his look was so disapproving and his face was creased in such a scowl we talked it over, admitted we both got a strong negative vibe and decided to get going right away.
I am very sensitive to the idea of not screwing things up for others who might come after us, so beyond leaving no trace I also want to leave no pissed off residents in our wake. I see it all the time at work in Key West where people who live in houses are always on the look out for nomads wrecking their zen. I didn't much want the Gauleiter of Glen Arbor bringing code compliance crashing down with a No Parking sign on this inoffensive little pull out. We scooted with our tails between our legs sitting on our towels to absorb the seat from our tabada.  
It was a lovely cool sunny morning which made the indoor outdoor living easy. Its true though that van living is very weather dependent. Later we found ourselves parked and listening to rain pouring down. It was snug all right but not conducive o the indoor/outdoor living you see here. I walked Rusty between downpours and we retreated to the tiny cabin as the rain returned.
Our routines are forming and we have to remember to filter water from the tank for our drinking bottles stored in the fridge.  Our trash can is tiny and needs frequent emptying. And that involves at the can recycling separation pulling the few cans and few recyclables from the small container. Oh, and then the porta-potty needs its own emptying routines. 
But then you get a front row fridge when local supplies are for salmon the honor system. Traverse City is the capital of cherry production I believe. If not, it should be as they are delicious.
How much time could I spend with a camera gawping at the scenery in these northern fields and towns and woods?
Long straight roads undulating across all this greenery:
My sailor buddy Webb likes life on the ocean, the open spaces of salt water but for a mere van driver like me the colors of the Great Lakes and the wooded shorelines and indentations make for great views. 

And if you're in a. van they sometimes even welcome you. How about that?

Walking My Camera

I posted some of my pictures from this Harvest Host in LeRoy Michigan called Harvest Village.
I have the habit, like it or not, of waking up early. Rusty likes it while at home, however traveling by van tires him and he hasn't been as eager to meet me on the trail at dawn...
Its been a great vacation and finally I really do think we can do this van life thing long term....how long? As long as it's fun which is a quotation much to my surprise from the Pardeys, cruising sailors from half a century ago who sold themselves so well on their small wooden boat they made a living from it. 
When I took these pictures in central Michigan we were about to start back to Key West which was busy ignoring me while trying to avoid a small determined hurricane, run a three candidate mayoral election while counting sick and dead from the coronavirus epidemic in the Keys.  1400 infected and eleven dead at last count. 
I was under orders to protect the farm's sheep so Rusty was leashed but the sunrise was lovely and very welcome in 54 degrees.
Forgive me my enthusiasm but it was fun to see the light from a new angle. I wasn't even close to sweating and the grass was dew covered and bright gold in the low angle light. 
Not a mangrove in sight. But this time I was ready for the evil early morning dew and I had my Crocs on, no sneakers to soak, no socks to ruin, I was ready for Michigan's wilderness, I thought.
The photography took a dive at that point as Rusty found a scent that very much appealed to him. Nose down he was off into the undergrowth. Let's not forget my orders were to keep  him on a leash so I was along for the ride. I can say with some conviction that red mangroves are much harder to negotiate than this stuff but at the same time it wasn't easy. Rusty was very patient as he followed the trail of some exciting wild creature, hopefully not a large bear with a family, and I trailed along 16 feet behind pulling aside branches and bending saplings. We found a field with wet grass that came up to my knees and made them cold and wet but I was dragged into the wet whether I liked it or not.  This giving my dog his time to exercise went on for half an hour until he found our way back to the road. I got two splinters and a bloody scratch. Rusty got one tick on his throat. Luckily our ordeal was all organic so that was something.
Mark Cool is challenging the Sheriff of this county in the middle of nowhere. I know nothing but he has my vote based on his name alone. Probably not a criterion I would suggest to any nearby voters but I was in a. good mood so it seemed a good idea at the time. 
There is a lot of stuff going on along these back roads. In a country where TV dinners and pizza were staples of earlier generations there is a giant movement of small businesses offering us food that is good for us and tastes good and hearkens back to locally produced days. Don't get me wrong as I love Mac and Cheese as any red blooded American should, but fresh farm eggs? Home grown zucchini? No contest.
As much as I love the tropics with coconuts and astonishing sunsets and iguanas, I am ready to see more of this:
I am grateful to my wife who is an enthusiastic traveler and to my dog who loves me enough to try new things with reasonably good grace. I'm grateful to people who keep these scenes alive:
Rusty loves long grass and he's quite fond of short grass too even though he puts up with pea rock at home. He'll happily sit outside the Promaster watching the world go by wherever we stop. We pause for lunch, throw the side door open and immediately he goes out and lays down and watches the world with his nose twitching. 
We really do get these views out the back of our van even though we don't fit any known description for van lifers. At the push of a button the couches come together and of an evening I set out the sheets (my job while she cooks) and we have a queen sized bed. I am having a blast.
After I came out of the hospital I could nearly manage three hours in the passenger seat of the car when my wife drove me to doctor's appointments in Miami. It was so tough for me, not to mention my wife handling my wheelchair, we spent the night in a hotel. I was I admit freaked out at the thought I might never be strong enough to do a road trip.  I was the guy who rode a scooter to Buffalo in 32 hours from Key West! But just like my physical therapist said I got my strength back as I learned to walk again. Nowadays I find driving the van for twelve hours is no problem at all.I read the comments on the Promaster Forum and people complain all the time about the seats and seating position. Mine works great. 
Look closely at the picture above, a car hovering to try to find the nerve to pass while up front there is hardly. vehicle in sight. There's a lot of that in Michigan. I miss the  long passing zones, the thick woods and the farms and fields.  What is wrong with me?