RV’ing-Does it make sense for you? Days 11, 12, 13 Mackinac Island, MI

So today I’m driving up to Michigan with a nearly full bilge tank sloshing around in the belly of my 5’er.  The plan is to drop it along the way before I arrive at my friend’s house, because I don’t want the first words after “Hello” to be, “Where can I dump my crap in your yard?”

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I have a lot of false stops along the way.  I know I need plenty of room to maneuver 45 feet of articulated machinery, so I choose truck stops for my diesel refuels just like the big rigs. This requires a bit of patience, though, because many semi drivers think nothing of swanning over to the convenience store to stock up on a month’s worth of provisions and take their badly needed weekly shower while they thoughtfully leave their trucks blocking the pump.

Anyway, we cover about 400 miles of Interstate driving at a blistering pace, at least for Conestogas, and arrive at my friend’s house in Michigan only 9 hours later.  Unfortunately, I blunder again, and fail to fill the water tank before I arrive, so when I ask my buddy where to hook up he gives me that ‘deer in the headlights’ look that universally means “You’re screwed”, so for the next few days I get to carry 5 gallon buckets out to my trailer like a pioneer bringing in supplies from the ‘crick’ to the wagon.  

That isn’t as big a problem, though, as the electrical supply, which consists of two cords that extend about 100 feet and have to go through a 30 amp conversion plug to reach the trailer.  What this means in practice is that I am not getting enough juice to power up a cell phone, let alone such luxuries as lights or even the propane warning system.

I know this because in the middle of the night I hear a beeping sound eerily similar to that dreaded noise a smoke alarm makes when the battery is low.  After quite a bit of unnecessary stupidity, which consists in part of trying to disable the system by yanking it from the wall, I’m able to quiet it by hooking up the battery charger to it.  However, this effort has laid to rest any idea of a good night’s sleep.

That said, Michigan is a beautiful place, and I’m lucky to get a chance to see it in rare form under blue skies and mostly sunny days.  Here’s what I’d recommend seeing:

Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw)-If you have delusions of stepping back in time to find your long lost sweetheart, the Grand Hotel may be the elixir you’re looking for.  But there’s also a nicely restored fort and some magnificent seafront “cottages” you can gawk at as well.  Just be ready to walk or ride a bike, because no motor vehicles are allowed on the island.  Oh, and don’t pay the rip-off $10pp charge just to see the Grand.  It isn’t worth half of that, and you get your best photo off-property anyway.

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Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse-this building is steeped in the maritime history, much of it tragic, that surrounds the Great Lakes like a shroud.  if you’re lucky, you can climb to the top to take a look from the lens room in the cupola.

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Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland-Frankenmuth, Michigan, is like a midwest version of Helen, Georgia.  Sure it’s touristy, but that ain’t all bad, and the height of kitsch is this landmark business that bills itself as the world’s largest Christmas store.  Wonder through acres of displays catering to every yuletide interest, from a 16 foot tall, $4900 artificial tree to a loveseat made in the shape of a polar bear.  Just bring your wallet, because they’re quite proud of their wares.

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Take a boat ride out on the one of the Lakes, or, as a minimum, hit the beach here, where dunes soar hundreds of feet above the Western shore!

Take a turn at beekeeping as I did.  Michigan is home to a fairly substantial cottage industry of apiarists, and I helped manage a hive myself.  I’m told that getting stung is a kind of right of passage, so it’s a bit bittersweet to report that I remain completely unscathed by the experience.

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They don’t call it the “Sportsman’s paradise” for nuttin’, so take some time to enjoy just communing with nature, or, as many people do, killing stuff

Oh, I almost forgot the damage.  Here’s the RV expenses for this leg:

  • Fuel                        $201
  • Dump station fee   $10
  • Restaurants           $167
  • Park fees                $26
  • Groceries               $50
  • Ferry                       $40
  • Gifts                        $78

Total                            $572

You’ll notice this is a whole lot less than usual because I was staying with friends and had no campground fees.  

I’ve decided to dispense with the estimated car travel expenses because by now, if you’ve been reading, you know from previous posts it’s pretty obvious that it costs quite a bit more to travel that way.  I’m not convinced that RV travel is cheaper overall, though: quite the opposite.  By the time you figure in what you’re bound to lose on the sale of your vehicle you’re going to be way cheaper traveling by car, so with that, I’ll summarize a few new key pointers:

  • It’s cheaper to travel to equivalent destinations by car, staying in reasonable accommodations, than in an RV
  • I saw 3 deer while sitting on my friend’s property from the window of my RV.  Sure, if I had stayed in his house I probably would have also seen them, but if in a hotel?  Doubtful.
  • Primitive camping in an RV takes a lot of patience and a strong back.

OK, so next trip is down to old Virginia.  See you there!

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