RV Trip West Journal: Crossing Mid-America
We left Baltimore and headed west towards Pittsburgh, then to Cleveland. We wanted to stop and visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but wondered about parking the RV in downtown Cleveland. Since it was Sunday we felt our chances of finding parking might be better than on a weekday. The GPS took us straight to the Hall of Fame and the parking lot beside it. But RVs were not allowed in that lot. The parking attendant waived us around to the local airport parking lot behind his lot. It was nearly vacant on a Sunday, and still within a block of the Hall of Fame. He told us to park on the curb at the end of the building. Perfect! A quick walk to the iconic plaza and we were soon walking around the first floor exhibits.
The first floor of the Hall is filled with memorabilia, video, costumes, and music clips. Kind of a walk down the rock and roll timeline. But, there didn't seem to be any particular organization of the memorabilia. I felt like I was wandering from Rap to early rockers to Country to heavy metal to Blues and I began to feel a little disoriented! I suspect it may be arranged according to when each musician was inducted. Regardless of the "disorganization" I was delighted to see so many exhibits about the people and groups who influenced the formation of rock and roll. It told the bigger story of how music evolves. Rock and Roll didn't just "appear" - it had roots.
We left Cleveland behind and headed for Toledo where we spent the night at Maumee Bay State Park. The Park is situated on the shores of Lake Erie. The campground was well maintained and we found our campsite was manicured - as if the lawn service had just left! Nicely situated in light woods with a grass lawn and picnic table. The park beach was wide and clean, but then we saw the sign: "No Contact with the Water Allowed" - toxic algae growth prohibited swimming or wading, which would explain the empty beach in mid-summer.
In the morning we moved on to Traverse City, Michigan. This was something of an unplanned detour. We had a few days before our reservation in Iowa, so we decided to explore the upper peninsula. Mackinac Island was our first stop. We planned to take the ferry over and rent bikes for the day. There are no motorized vehicles on the island, so bikes are the best way to get around. And around is what we did, making the eight mile loop around the island to take in spectacular views of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
The beaches were filled with stones instead of sand and the water was surprisingly clear. Worn out by our bike ride, we plopped down on the rocks at the water's edge and dangled our feet in the clear, cool water. We learned the reason it is so clear is something of a problem. Zebra mussels brought in on the hulls of international ships have invaded the Great Lake.
Their ability to filter the water is admirable on the one hand - giving the lake the clearest water its has had in 20 years. But not at all good on the other hand - it filters out all the nutrients that other, native species need. The Zebra mussels number in the trillions and coat the piers, water intakes, and ship anchors. It is a problem without an immediate solution.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore was just a short drive from our campsite in Traverse City, so we made the trek along with lots of other summer visitors. The views along the loop road were lovely, but parking was something of a game at each overlook. A car would leave and we would slip in, then we leave and another is right behind us.
We had wanted to at least try to climb the 400 foot dune, but we couldn't find a parking spot! Instead, we navigated to a far less crowded area of the park with an historic town on a sandy beach. We walked along the shore and got our feet wet while viewing the "Sleeping Bear" dune from a different angle.
In all Michigan's upper peninsula is pretty wonderful. We drove through so many lovely harbor towns, cherry tree orchards, neat farms and manicured neighborhoods. A little town named Charlevoix was exceptionally charming with flower baskets hung along the main street for miles - not just a few blocks. It had a lovely marina with shops and restaurants overlooking the water. It seemed every home had a lawn brimming with flowers. Truly a postcard place.
Leaving Michigan we vowed to make a return trip and stay longer. For now, though, we were headed for the RV Museum in Elkhart, Indiana. I had read about the museum in a magazine and thought it might be a fun stop. It was! The history of RVing was on display in full scale. From the early examples based on a Model A to a refurbished unit from the late 70's the array of RVs was fascinating. We stepped in many of the models and peeked into those too fragile to withstand foot traffic. It was a quick stop but well worth the time.
Moving one state closer, we planned a stop in Chicago but traffic boxed us out, so we continued on to Iowa for a visit with Antique Archaeology - the location for the TV show, "American Pickers". Although the stars of the show (Mike, Frank, and Danielle) were not there, the place was fun to tour. Some of the items featured on the show were on display, and enough of a variety of logo items to satisfy any fan. The store sits across the street from the Mississippi River, so we took a walk to the water to see this true american icon.
One more state to traverse to get to our first real "western" stop. We only grazed the southern border of Minnesota through so many farms and wind turbines. Their huge size made them a fixture on the horizon fading into the bright morning sky. We finally crossed the boarder of South Dakota and headed for Sioux Falls. This was a surprisingly great town! There really is a falls in Sioux Falls and a lovely park to go with it.
A stop for the night, a cup of coffee in the morning, a few photos of our walk to the falls and we were back on the road - destination: Badlands National Park.