Saturday, September 20, 2008

For Old Time's Sake

Sept 18, 2008

We are definitely heading toward home now—tonight we are at a campground which probably the less said about it, the better. I chose it because it was the closest campground to get to at 5:30-6:00ish, but by the time we got here, it was a lot later than expected, due to a detour. I only wish I’d chosen a more upscale sounding place a little further down the road. Come to think of it, it’s probably not too late—I’m tempted!

OTOH, we have a view of the Portage River directly out our window—that was the other reason I chose this place, because the ad said it was “right on the river.” It *is* indeed on the river, and I should try to focus on that for the next 10 minutes or so, until it will be too dark to tell where we are. [Morning addendum: here is a photo of our view in the morning--pretty, even though the rest of the place is a dump!]

So yesterday we left St. Ignace (and our beautiful KOA campsite) and headed down the center of the lower peninsula of Michigan toward Chesaning, the little town where Paula, my college roommate, lives. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the drive until Mo pulled another inexplicable engine incident. The situation was similar to our other, presumed vapor-lock, incidents, except there was no backfiring. We ended up waiting on the side of the road for about 2 hours before Mo decided it was time for us to continue our trip. No big harm done, except we really can NOT figure out what is causing this, and it’s very annoying. OTOH, it is pretty comfortable to be stranded for 2 hours in an RV. We had some lunch, read our books, had a bathroom handy…. And eventually the engine DID turn over. So we got to Paula’s house at 5 pm instead of 3:30.

We had a lovely visit! Paula owns 20 acres of property, including the house which she built herself, woods surrounding it on all sides, a nice field at one end, and a pond. Roxy was in absolutely heaven, because we let her off the leash and she could run and chase squirrels and drink from the pond and just general be a happy dog. We pulled Mo in around the pond and up near the house, next to Paula’s boat. She has lots of motorized toys, including 5 motorcycles of various sizes. In fact, as we pulled into the driveway, she came zooming up to us on one of the bikes. Pretty soon Joey and I were trying them out, including the little 3 wheeler. Paula said that her daughter Kristy had ridden that 3 wheeler when she was about 3 years old, and Casey, her younger daughter, had actually driven it into the pond! Paula is the person who turned Joe and I onto motorcycles in the first place, and I suspect him of contacting her in advance to try to get me hooked again. I have to admit, it WAS a lot of fun zooming around on the moped, and maybe if we did more RV-ing, it would be better to have scooters than to tow a car. A decision for the future!

After we played on the bikes, we went for a walk through the woods. It was really beautiful, and I can imagine the girls growing up with their own motocross track through the trees and over the sand (the back part of the property has a lot of sand because it is part of a right of way underneath power lines.) We saw deer tracks and turkey tracks everywhere—Paula was telling us about the animals which regularly visit her yard. Roxy was in olfactory heaven, and did some chasing off into the woods as we walked and talked.
Roxy, Debbie and Paula

As it was getting dark, we went inside for some dinner with Casey. She and Joe went to sleep early (he had done all the driving again, and his eyes were tired), but Paula and I sat up until almost midnight catching up on the past 26 years since we last saw each other. We’ve exchanged holiday cards through the years, so we weren’t completely out of touch, but it was nice to see her again. She, too, loves to travel and has visited all the lower 48 states. Maybe if she comes through NJ again, she will call me!

Roxy alerted us to Paula’s departure early in the morning (she is a special education teacher in Saginaw) and we woke up again around 8:00. Joe took Roxy out for another run in the woods as her morning walkies, and then we carefully backed Mo out of our parking space and followed the long driveway through the woods and back to the road. Our next destination was East Lansing, about 45 minutes away.

The last time we were in East Lansing was in 1999, almost exactly 9 years ago. Things had changed a lot then since we’d lived there from 1970-1973. We drove down Grand River Avenue, the main street through town which looked a lot like Main Street in Newark, DE, where Beth went to school. A lot of the same chain restaurants, for instance, and a Barnes & Noble. Michigan State University is, however, really more like a small city—the student population is about 43,000 or something like that. So there were a LOT of places to eat, shop, etc. We parked Mo, had some breakfast at Cosi’s, and then walked around campus for about 2 hours.

Some things are just the same—Beaumont Tower chimed 11 a.m. just as we walked past, and the Red Cedar River, while apparently quite swollen from the recent rains, was still as lovely as ever, with the same ducks paddling in the side eddies, and students sitting on the banks reading or relaxing, just like we used to do. Although Joe did point out, no one was on a cell phone back in our day! We walked through the center of campus, then toward the east campus where we lived during our freshman year. I was struck with how huge the dorms were…. They really dwarf almost everything at Rutgers or at UD. I was also kind of dismayed at how much I did NOT remember… I am so good with maps and directions, but I was constantly getting confused about exactly where we were on the campus. Of course, there are a lot of new buildings since 1973, also. So perhaps that contributed to it.

Joe in front of Holmes Hall, his old dorm.

However we decided we still think that the MSU campus is the most beautiful campus we’ve ever seen. The large natural area behind Holmes Hall (Joey’s old home) is beautiful, the center of the main campus is fabulous, and overall we just love the entire place.

We went back to Mo, fed the parking meter some more quarters, and then went to Bell’s Greek Pizza place for lunch—we used to really love their pizza. Joey decided the recipe is not the same, but it is still really good and definitely a bit different from Italian pizza. Then he went back to Mo, and I indulged in about 30 minutes at the Spartan Spirit Shop section in the Student Book Store. It is ridiculous how many items you can get with Michigan State logos. I knew I wouldn’t get out empty handed—but I actually NEED license plate frames (I must get rid of the dreaded dealership not-to-be-named plate frames on my car.) I left unpurchased everything from MSU keychains, clothing, mugs, pens, and backpacks to MSU baby clothes, toys, dog collars and leashes, scrapbook supplies, clocks, housewares, mailbox covers, hammers and screwdrivers, footwear, artwork, and jewelry.

After that there was nothing left to do but chart a course for home. We took a few unexpected turns, first because I fell asleep and Magellan is clueless about avoiding Detroit at rush hour; and second when we hit a detour on the way to this campground. On the plus side, we found a Dunkin Donuts, and we found that people in Michigan are just looking for opportunities to be helpful. We pulled into a parking lot to route our way out of the Detroit-suburbs traffic and construction, and as we sat there, a man drove up and asked if we needed help, because he saw we were looking at a map. Someone else pulled up next to us at a red light to tell us one of our brake lights was out (Joe fixed that in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot while I got the coffee.)

So all in all, it was a nice day, and tomorrow we plan to add one more Great Lake to our collection for this vacation before finding our way back to the interstate toward home. Of course, we’ll have to find a wifi spot also…. Needless to say, this campground is SERIOUSLY not near ANYTHING. Although as Joe says, one thing we’ve learned from our travels is that MOST of the U.S. is “the middle of nowhere.”

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