We Have Arrived in Michigan to Begin our Summer Trip – Campground Crowding

We are currently in northern Michigan’s Traverse City, having finished a 19 day stay near Howell Michigan, 50 miles west of Detroit. We had a wonderful time visiting Karen’s sister, brother-in-law and her mother. It was nice to go back to our own home, parked at two different state recreation areas during the course of the visit. Then just drive a few miles to visit family. Karen was able to spend quality time with her mom. What a benefit this lifestyle is when it comes to family time. Our daughter happened to schedule a trip in the area. She is a runner and participated in a race up north, having spent a few nights at her grandmother’s where we all sat around visiting and having meals together.

Our anticipated route for this years summer trip. 2800 miles beginning in central Michigan, across the upper peninsula and west to Montana. The final leg will be south through Wyoming, clipping the corner of Colorado and on to Kansas City Missouri where we have a spot booked beginning September 7th, just after labor day when the public’s camping season starts to wrap up.

My next blog post will cover our time touring Traverse City and getting with our friends, Ray and Charlotte whom we met last winter in St. Augustine Florida. They don’t want me to brag on the area too much as it’s already a Michigan vacation hotspot 🙂 I know another full-time RVer and blogger 30 miles up north but don’t want to invite myself to see the progress as they build their cabin. Hope they catch the post and comment 🙂 Settling down to a cabin or smaller home is one of many exit plans Karen and I have discussed after we finish roaming the earth. Unfortunately we narrowly missed Steve and Debbie of Down the Road Blog as they were weeks behind us on their way to Indiana. If there was a way to reschedule the many campgrounds ahead of our own trip, to allow time to turn around, we would have done it to meet up with the couple. They and others are amazing having really helped with our migration to fulltime RVing.

If you have been researching living in an RV and read about how you will meet new friends – believe it! The memories we have made beside our friends on this journey will forever be a highlight of our lives. Speaking for myself, these new friends have done wonders to help me leave the old life behind and heal the emotional scars after dealing with so many bad people in my past job. I’m so lucky to be able to live this lifestyle where the rough times are way overshadowed by the joyful experiences that jump out at every turn in the road.

We are approaching our two year anniversary on the road. Still learning lessons, making adjustments and looking forward to the future. Recently I read an article regarding the best days of the week to travel. In the past we have used Sunday as our preferred day to move between campgrounds, especially as the highway traffic through large cities was expected to be lighter. I’ll have to agree that now the preferred day may be Wednesday or secondly on a Tuesday. Especially in the summer when families are vacationing with their children whom are out of school. Seems like during the rest of the worlds summer vacations, they tend to move into campgrounds on a Thursday afternoon, when in the past we could expect them on a Friday after working hours. They tend to leave public campgrounds on a Monday. We want to avoid the herd. City traffic on a Sunday can no longer be counted on as being minimal. From my experience by the afternoon on Sunday the roads are packed – depending on what area of the country one happens to be in.

Yes, things are still changing with the pandemic coming to an end. I’m predicting that people will have to return to a normal life in terms of work schedules, even if they think working at home or hauling the kids around in a camper will be the norm. Employers, for the most part, are not going to allow people to work at home. There are reports of this across the country. So eventually they will put their kids in school, return to the office and get the heck out of our way:) Here in Michigan, things are way different than what we read about during the pandemic. I’ve yet to meet anyone who likes their Governor, often sighting her strict and unlawful tactics during the pandemic lockdowns. But we have been in rural areas for the most part. The city folks may think differently. For sure, everyone here are returning to the campgrounds in a big way and leaving their masks behind.

Both our campgrounds in the Howell Michigan area were public campgrounds. Folks around here call them state parks. I say if they knew what a real state park campground looks like they would not be that impressed with these two. But then again, they are on vacation and I can respect just getting out with family is important. Judging by the dealership stickers on cars and talking to campers, most everyone were locals with a few coming from northwestern Ohio around Toledo. My brother-in-law says area campgrounds are setup for locals to spend a weekend and not really geared towards travelers coming through the area. The rural roads, although paved, need much improvement such as the shoulders that are collapsing or the trees that are not trimmed until the big RVs or trucks break off the branches. No worries, we figured it out and are better off with the experience. That aside, I want to draw your attention to the topic of “campground etiquette”. I’m not complaining; just helping educate. And also doing my best to set realistic expectations for those who might be considering a life in an RV.

I’m of the mindset that assholes are assholes, both when living next to neighbors in a conventional home or parking next to someone in a small public campground. Seldom will they adjust to giving a crap about others. Most of us in the campground, I am certain, are just folks trying to leave the chaos of life behind and letting our hair down while enjoying the free time. Some are just not aware of certain etiquette because they lack experience. Just know if you decide to RV then you may have to live with a few inconsiderations be they intentional or not. It’s not worth the time in court should one decide to take a club to the neighbor’s body:)

Karen and I lived on a few acres in the country before this journey. Had someone entered our property and not been wanted, I could lawfully great them in a hostile way. That’s not the case in this lifestyle. You will give up a degree of privacy and at times, peaceful enjoyment of your surroundings. Frankly, these last couple of crowded campgrounds in Michigan have tasked my patients. None the less was the asshole who was upset at one of only two places at the campground (at the dump dump station) where you could fill your fresh water tank. I decided to let it go when he got out of his truck, walked briskly towards me and asked what was taking so long. I simply said unfortunately this was the only place to fill tanks with fresh water. I hope his day improved. I trust had we been parked next to each other we could have become friends over time. For some reason this was just a bad time for him and fortunately a good day for me. I suspect in the years to come, there will be more people who sense no danger when approaching others with a negative attitude because they lack discipline (from parents and someday from law enforcement if the public does not allow it). We can talk about this over a campfire someday but not on a blog.

Examples of poor campground etiquette are easy to find if you Google search the topic. Not to minimize the topic, but following is an example you will never find mentioned within those articles. Where one parks their truck or extra vehicle is important! Both our recent campgrounds incorporated tent sites within RV sites which included all those that decided to bring two vehicles or allow guests to park randomly. The places looked like an auto factory.

This is actually a more clear roadway than a few other areas in the park. The photo just depicts how busy the campground is. Michigan has a shorter camping season. I met two at the dump station who asked how to de-winterize their rigs. Several in the park had temporary tags on their RVs and new camping equipment to go with it. Although it’s possible they bought all new hoses with their replacement trailers. Talking to people around the campground revealed for sure many were new to the world of Rving, many having bought a rig during the pandemic but just now are taking them out for extended stays. Especially in Michigan where it snows nearly 450 days a year.

View out our front door. Three tents to the site and cars to match. Privately owned RV Parks are generally not as lenient as state parks. Don’t enter or leave state parks on a Saturday if you hope for the road to be clear, as this is the busiest day of the week.
A couple days during the week, sites were not packed with campers so I got this photo. Can you see the area circled in yellow. Those are tracks where RVs turn the corner and go off the pavement as they sometimes don’t make the corner. Don’t park in those tracks on the corners at any time unless you want your vehicle hit by an RV entering the campground at night.
Same corner as above. Those are heavy tire tracks. Over time the corners of the pavement have also been broken down. Everyone is willing to move their vehicle to allow trailers to park or drive through the campground. But what if you are the one with the car and are not at your site at the time? Park as far off the road, especially on corners, as you can. Even a foot makes a difference. This is not about RVs parking in tent areas. The campground reservation system clearly lists what sites are for RVs by size. Man, you would expect for $35 a night with 30 amp electric, no water and no sewer, these campgrounds would have sites spread out a little better:)

Enough of the negative. We did find time to enjoy time at the park. Especially our dog Wyatt catching his Frisbee when during two days of the week the park was nearly vacant. We tie a loose rope on his collar so he feels he cannot run off – that’s a dog training trick.. Although he has grown up around camping and does not wonder off. Yup, we broke the rules also by allowing him to run off leash, even the 30 feet it takes to catch his toy.

Takes an SLR camera to catch these action photos while the dog is in motion. I focus ahead of him and push the shutter button taking multiple photos in rapid succession. Then go back and save the photo that happened to catch the action.
His sun goggles. Karen thinks Wyatt stays in the shade during walks because his eyes are sensitive to sunlight. These goggles have a strap that goes over the head and under the chin. She had him wear it for short periods and then for longer periods of time. He hangs his head out the truck, feeling the wind while wearing them. He can even catch a Frisbee while wearing them. Guess we are officially crazy dog people.

We had to drive through Hell to get here. Howell/Pinckney Michigan is just outside an area of land called Hell Michigan. Not officially a town but a wide spot in the road.

One of two campgrounds. This one was further from family but more spread-out with designated camper and tent spaces. There are small lakes everywhere in this part of the country. Not sure why other than the landscape is scarred by glaciers and maybe these lakes were a by-product.

Michigan is actually two peninsulas with unique topography. This part of the trip is spent in lower Michigan. You drive over a five mile bridge to the upper peninsula or come in from the west via Wisconsin. The upper peninsula is 30% of the states landmass with 3% of the population. That is where we are eventually heading. I urge everyone to visit the northern parts of the state. The trees are amazing…. My brother-in-law took me north to mow his property. The next night it was in the upper 30’s while it was much warmer further south.

We stopped at Clare Michigan for doughnuts. I’d not be caught dead in the place while in my police uniform. Cops and Doughnuts now has four locations around the state. Wonderful donuts with inside dining. The building is home to a continuously operated bakery since 1896. Facing closure, the towns nine cops bought the building to preserve the historical business.

We are currently stopped at Northwestern Michigan Fair Grounds, outside Traverse City. We extended our stay to deal with a first time ever road emergency which is trailer brake related. More on that in the next post along with wonderful stories of friendship and most likely getting lucky to be here for two days of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Campers are arriving as I type this which are vendors going to the festival. The guy next door runs an ice cream tent. Got to go make friends with him.

8 thoughts on “We Have Arrived in Michigan to Begin our Summer Trip – Campground Crowding

  1. We are heading that way in reverse! We will be in Montana July 7-11, then heading to the U.P. and then down through Traverse City and along the west coast of the mitten before finally settling near family on the east side. With any luck we could cross paths!

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  2. Always fun to visit with family! Sure wish we could’ve met up again. I think I said this already but we’ll be in a few areas of KS the last week of July or early Aug. When will you be there? We stayed at one of those crazy busy campgrounds in FL. A busy state park with multiple folks on one site and several vehicles parked along the already narrow roads. It was a miracle we got in and out easily. Wyatt is s great frisbee dog. Hurley likes it too. You’re so lucky to hit part of the Cherry Blossom Festival! I love all things Cherry’

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  3. Looks like a great itinerary. We’ll be heading into the UP in mid-August including an overnight at a B&B on Mackinac Island. BTW … I wrote some posts on Ashland WI and Duluth MN the past two summers in case you’re looking for ideas. I don’t think I ever got around to writing about our boat tour around the Apostle Islands from Bayfield, but I would recommend it if you have the weather window. Mark and Joodie (Judy) over at the blog ‘Chasing Dirt’ are currently working at the Great Lakes Visitor Center near Ashland and can probably be a wealth of info. We’ll be meeting up with them soon. Safe travels!

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  4. It’s funny – some of the state parks are really well controlled with rules enforced while others are a bit of the wild west mentality. I think a lot comes down to whether there are park rangers on duty or if it’s mostly volunteer camphosts. For the most part, we’ve had good experiences, even in crowded campgrounds, but it definitely makes it tough for bigger rigs to get set up when there are cars and trucks parked in places they’re not supposed to be. Summer is definitely a challenge – especially this year. I’ll be interested to see if your theory is correct about people going back to the office. Whatever happens, I think it’s gonna be busy out there for the foreseeable future. Mid-week moves are definitely the way to go.

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    • Friend from Florida called about a week ago and said Colorado State has already come up with a new rule impacting working remotely. Believe it has to do with making it mandatory to post salary for jobs to avoid gender pay issues. He claims these new rules will prevent employers from hiring remote workers. Years ago, in another life, I was the Manager of Facilities for Sprint. We tried to get management to go along with remote work and they would not, claiming productivity is impacted. Time will tell where the market goes in terms of what companies have to do to attract new employees.

      If memory services me correctly, you guys work remotely as attorneys. This automatically means we thing alike. Logically and putting emotions aside for example.

      I have also been following remote work trends on a more personal note, with my sister who works in the insurance industry. Myself, I have a part time job with a small company doing office work ( I was a business major) but have no fears of that changing as the employer is an ex-employee who I sold the company to about 12 years ago. He is thankful to have me. Customers don’t even know I work remotely because they never meet me face to face anyway.

      Totally agree that state parks with no rangers are the worst in terms of rule breakers. Law enforcement officers have no problem stopping and telling people they are out of bounds. Campground host or just park employees are less likely to correct anyone.

      Wish I would have gotten to know your blog two years ago. Really appreciate the writing style.

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  5. We call them Richard Craniums, and they are one of the reasons we hope to have our site changed to a more private one. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen such an increase in lack of campground etiquette, we’ve had kids playing hide and seek around our truck and camper, they are running through people’s sites and riding bikes through our site. I think they are the ones whose parents are leaving the sites full of trash. Dave and I now try to pick up litter in empty sites a couple of times a week, every time we are picking up 2-4 grocery bags of garbge each time. Our rangers are good about making sure the roads are clear, but we only see them a couple of times a day, the gate attendants will address the issue if they know about it.

    Our Christmas trees come from the Traverse City area, beautiful trees.

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