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August 21, 2020

Rules of Camping


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As we sit within Murphy listening to the rumble of thunder and watch the rain pour down, I decided to skip the optimism and just write down the unwritten rules of camping:
Everything spills: forget carpeting and fabric lined walls; from your most expensive wine to your can of Ginger Ale developing a small hole in the aluminum...everything ends up where it should not linger. Purchase more paper towels than you think you could use in a year.
Delays always happen: sinks will drain slower when you are in hurry, traffic jams and other campers may incite a vague sort of road rage for camping sites that are first come first serve. Remember that National Forests will always have a place for you to park.
Someone will get sick: poop bags should be purchased in bulk. Imodium and rice should always be a camping staple
Potable water is a necessity: always travel with 3/4 tank of water because the solar pump and spigot that looks good from a distance may only deliver tea colored water. Keep your tanks topped off whenever possible.
Campfires are a bonus and not a necessity: the wood you find within the campground has probably been discarded from previous occupants due to its water content. Trying to light this wood is like trying to light a wet sponge. Campfires I remember from my youth employed dry wood from home and lots of lighter fluid.
Bad weather will occur: ensure you have raingear, games, conversations, or plenty of alcohol to pass the time.
Sand and dirt are a way of life: if you have never eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without grit, consider yourself lucky. Easy access to whisk brooms and paper towels are required.
Question shortcuts: that road the GPS says will save you 10 minutes may in fact cost you a front end alignment or at least a coffee pot falling out of an upper cabinet. Never ever destroy your coffee pot. It is your small oasis of sanity in a crazy world.
Question cleanliness: if that shirt doesn't stand by itself, go ahead and wear it. Buy biodegradable soap because Covid closed many showers and lakes are bathing opportunities. Just don't bring your dog cause you will end up with more sand and dirt than you started with.
Don't believe everything the local Chamber of Commerce publishes: Madeline Island...hotbed of tourist activities or just a creative map of some tiny shops. Enjoy the ferry ride, but don't get too excited about the actual island content.
The perfect campsite is a myth: from local grumpy camp hosts, neighbors that show up at inconvenient times, not enough blocks to level, swarms of mosquitoes that block the sun, and a myriad of other problems. Enjoy the spot you got, it's only a night or 2.

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 07:11 Archived in USA Comments (0)

August 22, 2020

Coon Fork Lake, WI to Chain O Lakes, IL


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Intense storms throughout the night. I remember one bolt lit up the camper like it was daytime. The dogs made it all night without a peep. Their morning poops were a little irregular; Sera had a tiny one, but we only fed her a little rice in the evening. Bodie had 2 poops, and they were gray. Somewhat different, but not terrifying.

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Our campsite was right on Coon Fork Lake so we took the Pygmy off the trailer and both Eric and I took turns touring around the lake. As it was still raining, the lake was quiet and still. There is something deeply peaceful and relaxing about being out on the water with only birds as company. I got to see a Bald Eagle and a Heron? (Big and sort of blue) The price for such an enjoyable interlude was about a pint of blood sucked out by the murderous mosquitoes when we had to load the kayaks. After that sacrifice, we just threw everything wet in the van and took off. We had to detour a few times as US12 east had some serious problems. On one of the detours, I checked the tandem and something seemed WRONG. Turns out, one of our J brackets broke. We tried to get back on US12 before the end of the detour, but no luck so we ended up in Neillsville and picked up some ratchet straps to fix the tandem situation. There we sat in the parking lot of Advanced Auto with kayak trailer parts all over. We were finally to get onto 94 and our next stop is Chain O Lakes in Illinois. The dogs are pretty quiet as they received light breakfasts with rice. The rest of the afternoon was spent on interstates until we got close to Illinois.
Pulled into Chain O Lakes and found Honeysuckle loop to be sites stacked up on each other to take advantage of the view of Turner Lake. We actually parked the Sprinter sideways and gave ourselves complete privacy and a nice view of the lake. We walked around and determined that the non water sites were much bigger and more private, but the view was quite soothing from our site. Always find the best qualities of the site you chose or you will go nuts. Both of us tired so we are struggling to stay awake and watch a movie inside as the bugs rule the night and my ankles are wall to wall bug bites from our stolen kayak moments this morning.

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 07:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

August 23, 2020

Chain O Lakes, IL to Pokagon, IN

While we made the best of a congested site area that had lake access, we both longed for a bit of privacy and a lake that wasn't choked with weeds. When morning rolled around, we headed for Chicago and hoped that traffic would be manageable. It was pretty easy as it was 9:00 on a Sunday and I enjoyed seeing all the street exits that I remembered from my V.I. Warshawski detective novels.

We decided to investigate Indiana Dunes National Park so we slide around the south side of Chicago into Gary Indiana. Not a very prosperous place from the looks of it. We hit the park as it was really starting to fill up and parked at the West Beach Park and took the Dune Succession Hike. The trail was very well maintained and the views were pretty interesting, especially seeing the city of Chicago across the water. The park was created when the steel industry was trying to place a large plant on 1200 acres on the banks of Lake Michigan. They wanted a port built and would trade land (national park) for a federally funded port. And thus, Indiana Dunes NP was created. Unfortunately, the hike ended on a very crowded beach. We took deep breaths, put on our masks and hustled through the beach goers. We started out on the next Dune Succession Hike, but the sand was too hot for the dogs, and we were pretty warm as well, so back to the van. We drove to the Visitor Center and picked up a Jr. Ranger program and headed out to Pokagon State Park in Indiana.
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The van needed DEF so we stopped in a nearby town and decided to pick up some pipe insulation for the tandem to rest on. I finally got to stop by a Menards. It was like a Lowes and Tractor Supply all in one. I didn't have a whole lot of positive expectations regarding our site after last night, but our site was on a cul de sac with steps down to the James Upper Basin. It was still pretty warm so we rolled out the awning and went for a beach hike with the dogs. The lake bottom was a little muddy, but the dogs (and ourselves) enjoyed the cool breezes and water. What is it about water that speaks to my soul. Was I a fish in a past Life? The lake was pretty busy on one of the final days of summer, but that was expected. However, there was one boater that definitely had hearing issues, if not now...2 days from now. The lake finally got silent around dusk and the sunset took a slight edge off of the heat. Tomorrow we head home...yippee! Sometimes the best part of a vacation is realizing that home is a pretty spectacular place with some very special people.

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Posted by LifeWithMurphy 07:13 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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