The weather report was far from encouraging. Saner souls stayed home. But we had planned to take the Roadtrek camping this past weekend and since weekend commitments for the next few weeks made it our only opportunity for some time, we decided to take our chances.
Off we went.
Gone was the 90 degree Michigan early summer weather that had us all sweating a couple weeks ago. Instead, we needed winter parkas. The temps were in the 50's.
We headed north to the tip of the Michigan Mitt's Thumb, where two popular state parks lie just a dozen or so miles apart on the shores of Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay – the Albert Sleeper State Park near Caseville, and the Port Crescent State Park near Port Austin.
Besides the cold, there was on and off rain and a stiff northwest wind. But still we drove on. Newbies are too dumb to know when to stay warm and dry.
That said, the good news was few others were camping this weekend. That meant we'd get good spaces.
And, indeed, before the weekend ended, we got this gorgeous campsite at Port Crescent:
We made our way to Port Crescent Sunday morning, a trip of just a dozen miles from our Saturday night stay at the Albert Sleeper State Park, a half dozen miles east of the tourist town of Caseville. We got to Sleeper Saturday afternoon and the 723 acre park was all but deserted. Only about 30 of the 223 campsites were occupied. We picked a large site nestled against the oak, birch and pine forest that surrounds the park.
All the sites have large, handicap-accessible picnic tables and deep, steel-rimmed fire circles. Sleeper also has free Wi-Fi, as long as you are fairly close to the ranger station, something I was able to use to run an online worship service for my church on Sunday morning as Jennifer cooked pancakes and bacon next to me on the picnic table.
We hiked some of the nature trails at Sleeper and made our way across M-25 to the sandy Lake Huron Beach. But it was a pretty miserable day and after a half-hearted attempt to burn the wet firewood we retreated to the cozy inside of the Roadtrek and hoped for a better day Sunday.
Sunday was cloudy but the lingering showers came to an end after we packed up and headed east on M-25 to the nearby Port Crescent State Park. We asked the ranger at check-in station if we could scout out a spot first and she agreed. Again, the weather had kept the crowds away. We counted about 20 of the 133 sites occupied. The sites are divided along both sides of three access roads with the northernmost being right smack dab on the beach. As we headed there, we spotted a couple from Manchester, MI in a Roadtrek Agile SS. They were just leaving and although their site had a great view, they parked in sand and they advised that they almost got stuck.
So we went looking for another spot. A quarter mile down the road we found a paved beachside site vacant. That's the one we took – the one you see as the first of my pictures up above. The site was yards from the beach, with a narrow path carved through the seagrasses leading the way to the water's edge.
The sun broke through about 2 p.m. Sunday and the temperature climbed to a more tolerable 62 degrees by sunset. The only worrisome note came as a Class C Jamboree pulled in just before dark. Three women piled out, each carrying open beer bottles, and set up in a site directly across from ours. Jen and I nervously exchanged glances. But once settled in, that was the last we heard of them and the only noise was the wind across the seagrass out our back window.
We spent a lot of time reading. The firewood was still wet but we managed to get a blaze going anyway. The park is about 600 acres in size. There's a large day use area an public beach, a half mile or so further to the west. The campground has a smaller swimming beach but a nice shoreline to walk.
We did a lot of walking around the campground. Tai, or Norwegian Elkhound, longingly eyed the beach, firmly off limits to pets. About the third time round the campground he was clearly bored and, since he was on a rope or leash and couldn't go where he wanted, refused to budge again, laying outside the Roadtrek. Sulking, as only dogs can do.
This was our first pure camping shakedown trip for the Roadtrek. We realized we needed a couple of items… like a tarp or ground cover for outside the rig and a portable grill. But we were pleasantly surprised by how much food we got in the fridge and how the Roadtrek really has a lot of storage. We were also disappointed to find that a silverware drawer had jammed shut, after a can opener somehow ended up being lodged tight inside the drawer. We might have to remove the cooktop above to get access to the drawer.
Besides the SS Agile we saw when we checked in to Port Crescent, we got a glimpse of a 190 Popular. We walked down and saw it parked in a spot with no one around. I also noticed it appeared to have a ham radio antenna mounted at the top of the left rear door. Since I'm also an amateur radio operator (K8ZRH) and would like to mount a transceiver inside our Roadtrek, I hoped to meet to owner and see how they did it. But alas, when we went back an hour or so later to see of the owners had returned, the 190 was gone.
We didn't meet anyone at Sleeper. The rain had most folks hunkered down, except for one couple we saw strolling the campground between showers carrying empty long-stemmed wine glasses. They looked like they were in search of a winery.
At Port Crescent, people were on the move as the weather improved. Several stopped and asked about our Roadtrek. A couple across from our site towed a 19 foot travel trailer. They had started out in a Class A. “That class A cost me $1,000 a year for insurance,” the bearded husband said. “That one” – he pointed at the trailer – “costs $60 a year for insurance. My Class A had to be stored in the winter. That was $55 a month. This one sits in my driveway. I got 10 miles an hour with the Class A. My Dodge Ram pulls the trailer and gets me 15-16. That's why we stepped down. We did the math.”
I patiently waited for him to ask the inevitable question. Eventually, it came.
“Watchya get with that?” he asked, pointing at our Roadtrek.
I told him. Almost 22 miles a gallon to and from Florida. “Up here to the Thumb on two lane state roads,” I said, “it's reading 20.5.”
“Damn,” he allowed.
It's silly, isn't it, to be proud of an RV. But proud I was.
On the other side of us at Port Crescent was a couple from Flushing, near Flint. He drove a Fleetwood Class C and towed a little MG sportscar. Both were from England. They were camping with a mixed pit pull named Abbey. When her owner brought Abbey to our site to say hello, Tai suddenly got over his sulk and perked up noticeably as he came over to sniff noses and other parts.
“We also brought the birds,” she said.
Huh? She pointed. Sure enough, through the window in the front of her rig I could see a birdcage with what appeared to be two good-sized parrots or cockatiels.
The woman allowed how she wanted to come back to Port Crescent later this summer. She had her husband had walked the campground and made note of every site they liked in hopes of future reservations.
This trip was the first time we brought our own meals. Except for Saturday night, when we ate at a little cafe in Caseville, and Monday on the way home when we stopped at a breakfast place in Port Austin, Jennifer prepared breakfast, lunch and Sunday night dinner in the Roadtrek and we ate at the campsite.
We drove back home late Monday morning.
As we headed back down M-53 to our Oakland County home, we realized that not until next fall will we ever see Michigan State parks so empty. The peacefulness of the weekend was wonderful, despite the rain. And the beauty of the small little sand dunes around Port Crescent, with the seagrass waving in the wind like farmer's wheat, was stunning.
If it only hadn't been so wet and cold.
But then it would have been crowded.
We got back home about 1 p.m. and, after unloading, Jennifer decided to clean the Roadtrek from the weekend's use. We vacuumed, shook out the rugs, emptied the fridge, washed down the countertops. Jen even washed our bedding, sealed it up in a plastic bag and put it back in one of the rear storage cabinets.
Truth told, I'm a little depressed the trip is over. I would like to take off again tomorrow. But my wife is the silent type. I wasn't sure how she felt after our first dedicated camping trip.
But as we finished cleaning and I was shutting the doors she said something.
“What's that?” I asked, not sure I heard correctly.
“We're good to go again. Its all set. I can't wait,” she said.
That's what I'm talking about…