Serendipity Travel: Following the Winds of Curiosity

It’s taken us the past five years to develop our traveling style but, with more than 130,,000 miles now under our wheels, I can now say I’m finally comfortable with the way me move around North America.

Essentially, we follow the winds of our curiosity and move, or stop, often on a whim. We call it serendipity style

We used to post a little map on the blog each day that showed where we expected to be at the end of the day. That ended a couple of years ago when some folks, reading our daily blog posts about tge 3,500 mile tour of the Great Lakes shoreline we were then doing, tried to catch up with us in upstate New York.

Every time they arrived where they thought we’d be, we had moved on.

“Where ARE you,” one of them finally messaged me on Facebook. “You’re not here!”

No,  I  thought to myself, we’re in new here.

Specifically on that day, that new “here” happened to be in the tiny town of Le Roy, NY where we heard there was a Jell-O Museum.

Indeed there was, an absolutely fascinating place that that chronicles the amazing success of the gelatinous concoction from its invention in 1845 by a local carpenter, who sold rights to it for $450, to its iconic status today as America’s most famous desert.

The Jello Museum in LeRoy, NY

We had no intention of visiting  Le Roy, NY. But when the camping attendant at the Lakeview State Park on Lake Erie told us about the museum, that was all we needed. So off we went, probably passing the readers who were on their way to meet us at back at the park campground.

Don’t take this wrong way, because we absolutely love meeting folks who read of our adventures and discoveries.  It’s just that we tend to move fast, especially when undertaking a project like our Great Lakes shoreline tour.

Because we had plans for another tour that year – tracing the Lewis and Clark expedition and the Oregon Trail west to Oregon – we only had a month to squeeze in the Great Lakes tour.

The tour is a perfect example of that serendipity way of traveling we have embraced. It’s something I had wanted to do for a long time. Actually, my dream was to do it on a bicycle. I had planned out each leg, averaging 50-75 miles a day, with a couple days off every week. I wanted to pedal it, with Jennifer following in our motorhome. It would have taken close to three months.

A roundtrip to Bois Blanc Island cost $96 for two adults and the Roadtrek

So we set off from the Lake Ontario shoreline near Otswego, NY, and then made our way to Lake Erie and Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan; continuing  to Michigan along the shorelines of Lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan, and also visiting Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois where Lake Michigan also shapes a vibrant coastline lifestyle.

We crossed bridges, visited lighthouses, toured museums, loaded our RV on two ferryboats, explored islands, hiked sand dunes, ate lots of regional food specialties, sampled from wineries and strolled up and down main streets in lots of friendly small towns. Everything was discovered by serenity.

 

The city of Two Rivers, WI bills itself as the place where the ice cream sundae was invented in 1881. They have a museum and we got a sundae.

The cool thing about this serendipity style of travel for that Great Lakes trip was that, other than a general route that will take as close to the Great lakes shorelines on the U.S. side as we can get, we had no plans, no schedules, no firm appointments.

And hat’s our general rule: We stop whenever something catches our eye, talk to people, learn about the places we visit and try to document the scenic beauty, recreational opportunities, lifestyle and historical significance of the areas we visit.

Because of technology  I am totally wired and connected the entire route, able to post pretty much from wherever we are, no matter how isolated or remote.

Sunsets like this one along Lake Huron at the tip of the Michigan mitt stopped us every time

The only real preparation comes in during a short phase of preliminary research.  What we found for that tour was that the significance of the Great Lakes is staggering. According to the Great Lakes Information Network, an informational clearinghouse on the Great Lakes group supported by U.S. and Canadian governmental agencies and various civic-minded organizations, the five lakes contain:

  • One-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water (only the polar ice caps and Lake Baikal in Siberia contain more); 95 percent of the U.S. supply; 84 percent of the surface water supply in North America. Spread evenly across the continental U.S., the Great Lakes would submerge the country under about 9.5 feet of water.
  • More than 94,000 square mile of water (larger than the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire combined, or about 23 percent of the province of Ontario). About 295,000 square miles in the watershed (the area where all the rivers and streams drain into the lakes).
  • The Great Lakes shoreline is equal to almost 44 percent of the circumference of the earth, and Michigan’s Great Lakes coast totals 3,288 mi more coastline than any state but Alaska.

See why we wanted to experience the whole shoreline?

After the preliminary research convinces us to visit an area or region, it’s time for the planning phase. It’s a very short process. That’s because the first thing we do in planning a trip is pretty much the last thing. We agree on a route. And that’s about it.

The Chicago skyline seed from Lake Michigan’s Indiana shore

I generally have an idea where I’d like to end the day but more often than not, we don’t make a reservation. This really upsets a lot of the detail-oriented people. But because those winds of curiosity often lead us to the unexpected, we often find that we are not where I thought we’d be to spend the night.

We’ve forfeited way too many overnight reservation fees that had to be paid in advance because of such things.

So instead of the stress of having to be somewhere at a certain time, we go with the flow and stop when we want to stop, where we want to stop. At the worst, if all the local campgrounds are filled, there’s always a Walmart or Cracker Barrel or some other such business that welcomes overnight parking by RVers. Or a state or national forest where we can boondock in dispersed camping areas.

We also try to take state or county roads instead of four-laned highways or the interstates.  That’s where all the good stuff is, off on those back roads.  We’ve learned to watch the welcome signs in the little towns and villages as we pass them.  Usually, as in Le Roy, NY and that Jell-O museum, town fathers boast about whatever it is they are most proud of and attach it to the city limits sign.

Fog keeps a sailing ship harbor bound on the Minnesota North Shore of Lake Superior

We talk to the locals at restaurants and gas stations and campgrounds, usually saying “what should we see while we’re in the area?”

We also pick up the guidebooks tourist agencies distribute at campgrounds and restaurants.

Thanks to technology and us always being wired as we travel, our greatest source of info is the Internet. As I drive, Jennifer does a search on the town ahead or the area we’re in.

As we drove through Erie, PA the other day, her net search revealed there was an epic “Battle of Lake Erie” in the War of 1812 where Oliver Hazard Perry of the U.S. Navy and his crew of 557 brave patriots defeated the British fleet. That detoured us to the town’s amazing Presque Isle State Park, a huge peninsula that juts out to the lake and boasts, besides numerous beaches and picnic spots, a monument to Perry, who built his fleet in Erie.

So that’s our serendipity travel style: Free and Easy, and always subject to change. It works for us.

 

If you want to see how that trip played out, here’s a link to my YouTube videos of the Great Lakes Shoreline Tour.

 

 

 




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