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Monday, June 13, 2016

NC to Michigan Family Visit

A new baby in the family was cause for a trip north to Michigan.

Heading north, we stopped overnight at Rocky Fork Ranch Resort in Kimbolton, Ohio. Beth had won 30 days of free camping from Travel Resorts of America at the Hershey RV Show last fall. We paid for it by sitting through a time-share sales pitch at their Gettysburg resort in October. This was the first time we had a chance to use a free night and it was a different experience.  We checked in at the office, then drove up a steep, rutted, steep hill to the campground. Our first site was next to a cabin and the electric had reversed polarity. We walked around the campsite and found a couple of vacant sites and tested their electric service before calling the office. When we called, they were fine with us moving to another site.  Checking out the campground we found old stand-alone restrooms that weren't in good shape. Exploring the clubhouse and pool area the facilities were much nicer and in better repair.

Our Second Site at Rocky Fork Ranch
Unfortunately, the horse stables weren't open on Sunday or Monday so we didn't get to take advantage of the ranch opportunities.  Overall, we were glad we had not purchased a membership as this isn't our style of camping.

Heading to the pool complex for a morning shower, I was surprised to see a horse stopped at the gate while an Amish gentleman keyed in the combination from his seat atop a fully laden wagon. Not sure what they were delivering, but I was impressed that a single horse pulled the wagon full of large sacks up the hill.
Hilltop Garden at Rocky Fork Ranch

Leaving the ranch, we chose to travel diagonally across Ohio on route 250 instead of taking the turnpikes. The route passed through small towns and pretty farmland. Road shoulders are wider than in NC so they can accommodate horses and wagons. Even so, I don't envy them being passed by large trucks traveling 55+ mph. We tried to give them plenty of room when there wasn't oncoming traffic. 

Noticing a bright red roofed building, we pulled in to see what we might find. Red Tomato Market in Dundee had a little bit of everything, including Whoopie Pies, something we haven't found much outside of Maine.  Dundee is in the heart of Ohio Amish country and the market accommodated Amish clientelle by having a hitching rail alongside the building for horses.

Route 250, 20 and 23 avoided Toledo and Detroit traffic and we arrived in SE Michigan with no problems.

Beth got her baby fix with grand-nephew David and we caught-up with family and friends from our Michigan days.

Bringing your own bedroom (BYOB) worked out well as the van even fit inside the fence at proud parents Danielle & Brandon's new house.

One visit led us to Michigan State University's dairy store. The ice cream is made on campus and flavors reflect the big 10 team names. Rumor has it that it has a higher fat content than allowed by law, so can't be sold off campus. No wonder it tastes so good!

Beth did her undergraduate degree work at MSU and had fun showing Noah and I around campus.

After a few days of baby time, we headed north for a visit with Beth's sister and brother-in-law at their cottage outside of Gaylord. They have a class A motor coach which, when we parked behind it, made us look tiny.  The little lake was a great place to relax and putter around with a few outdoor projects.

A day trip to Petoskey was a treat with Judy and Gary as tour guides. We took the Sprinter van as it was the only vehicle that would hold all of us.

A warm day called for a stop at the Perry Hotel garden for ice tea.  The hotel opened in 1899 and continues to be a delightful spot with a great view of Lake Michigan.
Petoskey has a vibrant arts community. This old church has been repurposed as the Leaning Tree Community Arts Center. Walking through the free exhibit galleries was enhanced by the sounds of a community jazz ensemble rehearsing.
After humoring us with a few gallery stops, Noah walked a couple of miles in downtown Petoskey to find a game store. He met up with us again in this nice park by a waterfall.
Bay Harbor Village was a good spot for dinner. Overlooking a marina, "Knot Just A Bar" served large portions of lightly fried shrimp and good burgers.
Totally protected from Lake Michigan, Bay Harbor is a reclaimed limestone quarry. A passage was blasted into the larger lake and now homes are being built in the 3-4 million dollar range. This one with the dual attached boat house was our favorite.

Back in a more reasonably priced area, we enjoyed downtown Gaylord. The local Elk's Club held a surprise. The Elk's Park, next door, actually contained a small herd of elk including this big male.
After a week of enjoying the climate at 45 degrees north latitude, it was time to head home. We stopped in the Detroit area for a quick visit with cousins, then continued driving south until we started to get tired. Beth used Allstays to find the New London County Reservoir Park for $27. No one was at the office, so we drove around in the park and noticed a few empty sites on this Sunday evening. It appeared to be a summer place where people leave their campers. Several folks had built-out porches and screen rooms, so they didn't look like they would be moving any time soon. We were on our way out but noticed the office manager had returned. We caught her just as she was closing up and did manage to get a site.
Now I'm a person who likes trains, but be warned that this campground is very close to an active double-track mainline. I counted at least ten trains passing through during our overnight stay. The sad part was a woodland barrier prevented the railfan in me from seeing any of them!

Driving south through West Virginia we ran into some heavy rainstorms. This photo is from the barbershop where we pulled over to wait out a particularly heavy thunderstorm. West Virginia has been inundated with rain and surely didn't need any additional flooding.
We made it through the rain and pulled into the driveway as the sun was setting. The difference in lattitude made for a shorter day here as compared to northern Michigan. The sun set almost an hour earlier in Durham than in Gaylord.

The three of us had a good time covering 1,366 miles over two weeks with several relaxing visits. The van performed perfectly and averaged 19.1 mpg.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Improved Thermostat

The Atwood thermostat that controls our propane heat was a pain to turn on, difficult to read, and cycled through a large temperature range. Someone posted on the Pleasure-way group that it is easy to switch out the analog thermostat for a digital one, so we ordered one and installed it today. If you know who it was, let me know so I can give him or her credit. The new thermostat is a Honeywell Pro 1000 and cost $26.52 on Amazon.

Here are some photos and instructions for anyone interested in doing a similar modification. I'm not a professional electrician or RV technician, so follow these procedures at your own risk.

Simple hand tools are all we used. Like most items in the PW, you need an S1 bit for the screws. You will also want a phillips screwdriver, wire cutters, wire strippers, and a small slotted screwdriver.

It would be appropriate to turn off the DC power before proceeding with this project. The old Atwood thermostat is removed by pulling off the faceplate, then loosening it from the wall by removing the two S1 screws.

Once the screws are removed, you can get to the back of the thermostat. Remove the two wires, being careful not to let them slip into the hole in the wall, and the old thermostat can be set aside as a spare.

Cut the lugs off the end of each wire because they won't fit in the new thermostat.

Stip 3/8 of an inch off each wire. Now push a wire into the "R" terminal and attach it by tightening the screw with a small flat screwdriver.  Repeat the procedure with the other wire in the "W" terminal. 

Once the two wires are firmly attached, you can screw the plate to the wall. It requires two new holes, but the plate covers the old holes so you won't see them.

Since we didn't have a wire to connect to the "C" terminal, you will need to install the two AA batteries that came with the unit. You might want to put a note on your calendar to check these every  6 months so they don't end up leaking and doing any damage to the unit.

Finally, attach the unit to the faceplate by pushing the top in first, then gently swinging the unit down until everything clicks in place. Turn the power back on and give it a test. The on-off switch is much easier than the old one and the digital display is much easier to read than the bulb thermometer.  Enjoy your new thermostat!

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