2018 – Bear Cave Thousand Trails – Buchanan, MI

Bear Cave Thousand Trails is just north of South Bend, Indiana in the southwestern corner of Michigan. The campground is situated along the St. Joseph River and there are several sites along the river. Most of these sites are a bit smaller and all are 30 amp/water sites. Campers with smaller rigs will enjoy these sites. There are several FHU 50 amp sites but many of these are sold to seasonal residents. Still, there were vacant FHU sites while we were at the campground. Most of the available FHU sites are large sites on or around a field rather than in the wooded areas beside the river. Not only would we have not fit in the river or playground sites, we wouldn’t have been able to get a satellite TV signal so we were satisfied with our back in site along the perimeter of the field sites.

The road into the campground is a bit of a concern. It is gravel and just barely wide enough for two RV’s to meet. “Just barely” may even be a bit optimistic depending on how close to the edge the drivers are willing to get. This isn’t a huge deal because the road in is fairly short, but it is something people might want to know.

Our Verizon signal was barely there even using a cradle booster. We had internet but it was only fair at best and sometimes unusable. Compounding the problem is the fact that there is no WiFi anywhere in the campground – not at the Activity Center and not for pay. I think Jackie and I both went through a bit of Internet withdrawal – not necessarily a bad thing.

The campground has a big pool (too cold for us in early June – but well-used by the kids) and a big Activity Center.  The spa was out of service. These are a ways from the FHU section of the campground.

During our visit the cave itself was closed due to winter flooding. Work was being done on it and on the nice river walkway that was also damaged. The nicest feature of the campground, in my opinion, was a pretty waterfall that is right at the heart of the campground. In fact, there are some campsites that overlook the waterfall. I imagine that with the sound of the water that tenting in those sites must be great for sleeping!

Really, I think there’s a lot to like about this campground. It is a bit tired and in need of some corporate financial TLC but really, this is a pretty good Thousand Trails.

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2018 – Sightseeing Northwestern Indiana and Southwestern Michigan


Being close to South Bend, Indiana and having heard of Notre Dame University all my life we decided to drive down and tour of the campus. I was impressed with beautiful well kept grounds. The famous Gold Dome and statue Of The Virgin Mary on top is a well known landmark. We toured the bookstore and saw the many items ranging from text books to Fighting Irish themed clothings. We took a walking tour with a friendly young lady who is a sophomore at the University. She said they have about 16 female dorms and 17 male dorms. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is a beautiful ornate place of worship with the stained glass windows first installed In 1893. Our final stop was The Hesburgh Library featuring Jesus depicted in a famous mural as the “Word of Life” facing Notre Dame Stadium. This giant mural is better known as “Touchdown Jesus”. There is much more to see on campus should you decide to visit.

Here’s another review of this area.
Here’s yet another review of this area.

We also enjoyed our day in St. Joseph, Michigan. This city is at the mouth the St. Joseph River on Lake Michigan. Many people were enjoying the Silver Beach County Park. This park offers wide beaches with playgrounds for kids of all ages. There were several volleyball nets. We saw lots of children playing in the water at the Whirlpool Compass Fountain. They were having a blast being sprayed with with water shooting up from the floor for them to run through and stand under and huge water cannons shooting across the park on timers. There is also a paved trail above the shoreline with benches to sit on and enjoy lake view.

From the river walkway we could see the two lighthouses called Range lights at the mouth of the St.Joseph River. They were built in 1907 when the pier was lengthened.

A major attraction of the Park is the Silver Beach Carousel open year around and along with unique handmade horses. It features a rocking peacock and sea serpent benches that are wheelchair accessible.

This is a great area to visit and I know there is much more to see. In fact, I’ll have another review of the area as we continue our visit in the vicinity at a different campground next week.

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2017 Project: Bigfoot Leveling System

We really like our Hitchhiker II LS 5th wheel. However, we’re missing a few extras that the newer rigs have. A couple of months ago we decided that for the foreseeable future we’d like to make a few upgrades and keep our current 5th wheel. The biggest upgrade for us was adding a power leveling system. We found that the Bigfoot Leveling System by Quadra was highly regarded by most everyone. This is a powerful hydraulic system. They make a fully automatic system – just push the button and it figures out what is level by itself. We opted to save nearly $900 and install a single pump, manual, four jack system. With this system you have a remote control and using the bubble levels already mounted on the camper you level the camper. The guys at the factory told me our 5th wheel was a bigger project than many and it took a day and a half to do the install. The good folks at Quadra were nothing but helpful and professional. They even let us sleep in the camper while it was parked overnight inside their facility. This is a new system for us, but we found ourselves on a rather un-level site our first night out with it. It took just a minute or so to bring the camper perfectly level. Jackie and I were both all smiles watching it work!

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2015 – Reflections on our 2015 Adventure

We enjoyed our 2015 Adventure very much! It took us to the northern Midwest with an emphasis on Wisconsin and Michigan and included some great stops along the way, both coming and going.

In 2015 we decided to try out volunteering at the San Jacinto Monument Texas State Historical park in the Houston, TX area. We spent the first months of the year there, helping out at both the Monument and on the Battleship Texas which is on the same property. In return for volunteering 25 hours a week we were given “free parking” there. We enjoyed the experience enough that we signed up for another stay in the new year. For us, this is a great win: it is interesting and fun, close to family and many friends, and a real money saver. We also enjoyed being part of the community of volunteers and staff. That’s not to say there are no negatives, but overall, it’s a positive experience.

As you can see we had a good 2015 Adventure and, yes, we’re already working on the 2016 Adventure. We plan to head for the Rocky Mountains – Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and then across to the Black Hills of South Dakota!

Campground Review: St Clair, MI Thousand Trails

The campground is near lots of shopping and eating places. We especially enjoyed driving to St. Clair and watching the big ships on the river, traveling between Lake Erie and Lake Huron. Detroit is less than an hour away and Canada is just a short drive away. I had a cell signal that fluctuated between 3G and 4G. Campground WiFi is available and works if you are a very patient person.

I can’t give this Thousand Trails a great score. I’d come back because, as members, it’s a great deal financially for us. Still, some of the issues I’ve mentioned really need to be addressed.

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Sightseeing Review: The Henry Ford Museum – Port Huron, MI and area

In addition to visiting the museum we enjoyed time in nearby in Port Huron where we visited the Great Lakes Maritime Center. It is an excellent place to watch large ships on the St. Clair River. The Blue Water River Walk there is a popular walking and bike path. I was very pleased to see another Little Free Library on the walking trail making books easily available to everyone. I also recommend the Blue Water trolley as a fun way to see the primary sites of Port Huron – with a fare of just ten cents you can’t go wrong! Just to the south of Port Huron is St. Clair which is another great place to walk a nice boardwalk and enjoy the river.

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Campground Review: Finn Road Campground – Essexville, MI

The water hookups are a bit strange.  Four sites share a four hookup water spigot.  In our case our water hookup was on the wrong side of the camper and fairly distant from it.  I pieced a few spare hoses together to reach it, so no worries.  However, I can imagine a person coming in and not having enough hose to reach.  It would probably be wise to have some extra hose along.

The campground has good WiFi and a heated bath house.  I had good Verizon 4G and was able to get a satellite signal with no problem.  A big Krogers and lots of other shopping is nearby.  There are several seasonal residents at Finn Road and I can see why they like it.  This campground gets a thumbs up from us.

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Sightseeing Review: Bay City and Frankenmuth, MI

The other highlight for us was a tour the USS Edson, DD-946 in Bay City, MI at the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum. Since we volunteered at the Battleship Texas last winter (and plan to do it again this coming winter) we found a visit to this ship especially interesting. Upon admission we were given a walking tour flyer that explained the highlights of the ship. There are many well documented displays providing lots of information on the ship and the places it served. We saw where the enlisted sailors lived, ate, got medical care, and got haircuts. We saw where the officers spent their leisure time and saw their sleeping quarters. The engine area was a bit overwhelming for me, but Scott liked looking around. I especially liked the pilot house and combined information center which controlled all communications. This is an excellent tour for those interested in 1950’s-80’s Navel history. It does require walking up steps, including going up and down steep, narrow ladders. Still, I think it was well worth the effort.

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Campground Review: Tiki RV Park – St Ignace, MI

Tiki RV Park is in St Ignace, MI – a primary launching point for visits to Mackinac Island. The park is just minutes from the ferry docks and downtown St Ignace and near the northern end of Mackinaw Bridge. There are a variety of campsites, ranging from full hookup, 50 amp, pull-throughs down to tent sites nestled in the woods. Most of the sites are gravel, although there is a popular no-sewer, grassy area near the restrooms. Many, but not all, of the back in sites have grassy strips between the campsites but the pull-throughs are a generally a bit tighter. We were given an “end site” that resulted in our having a larger front yard. Our neighbor to the driver’s side, though, was faced in the opposite direction of us and was within just a few feet of us.

The interior roads are all good gravel and the sites are fairly level with the exception of a few that would be challenging. Lake Huron is easily visible from the road in front of the campground entrance but only a very few campsites would offer any sort of lake view at all.

There are some big trees in the campground but we were able to get satellite TV after moving the dish around some to find a “hole in the sky.” My 4G Verizon was pretty good and the campground WiFi was solid. The restrooms were kept reasonably clean and there are individual shower rooms as well as a laundry on site.

They honor Passport America, Escapees, and other discounts and I was allowed to combine them, giving me a nice discount for 6 of the 7 nights we stayed. Obviously, the discounts offered, plus the location results in lots of overnight visitors who are just passing through. I don’t think we would have done any better for the price at any campground in the area.

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Sightseeing Review: Mackinac Island, MI and vicinity

As we planned our 2015 Adventure we included a visit to historic Mackinac Island, MI as a highlight of our trip. It did not disappoint.

Once we arrived at Mackinac Island we took a horse drawn carriage tour of the island. Really, there are too many historic homes and buildings to see in one day. I especially enjoyed touring Fort Mackinac. Many of the buildings there are furnished with period items and sound effects give a feel for what it might have been like to have lived at the fort. We were entertained by the close order drill that included many of the audience. There was also a noisy and interesting rifle firing demonstration. After the Fort we walked over to the Grand Hotel. We were disappointed that they charge $10 admission to even walk into the foyer! Having already paid for the ferry, the carriage, and the fort – and still planning on buying a few souvenirs we decided to head to the main shopping areas rather than entering the famous hotel. As we walked, we were impressed by the beautiful flowers in the yards along the way. We bought a few things, but my favorite was some of the world famous island fudge! It will come as no surprise to my friends that I especially enjoyed visiting the public library which has some terrific outside seating overlooking the water – what a great place to relax and read a good book!

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