Madison to Michigan

Juan was invited to speak at Michigan State in East Lansing so we all went along in the RV. 

First, we drove through Chicago right at rush hour. We took the 290 around and it wasn’t really that bad. It just took a while.

The next stop was the new Indiana Dunes National Park. We stayed overnight in the Indiana Dunes State Park, which is actually inside of the National Park.

The campground and park were lovely. The state park is very well kept and clean. It was mostly empty, which was also nice.

The National Park Visitor Center, however, was disappointing. I had hoped to learn more about the formation of the dunes and interact with the rangers. There were about 5 rangers at the center and we were the only visitors. Despite this, they didn’t speak to us at all. Even the National Park Passport stamp was self service – when I asked about it they just pointed me to an ink pad. It was weird.

The following day we drove over to Lansing. We dropped Juan off for a work dinner and went to the camp ground. We stayed at the Sleepy Hollow State Park, which is about 20 minutes from campus. Benny helped me back the rig in.

We spent the following day exploring Lansing while Juan was giving his seminar. The first stop was the Potter Park Zoo. This was our favorite place in Lansing. The zoo has several endangered species, including a black rhino. We were the only visitors at the zoo, with the exception of a bunch of school kids who never left the visitor center.

The next stop was the state capitol. It is currently under renovation but still open to the public. The rotunda is dedicated to the Civil War veterans. There are flags and plaques for all the different units. It was interesting to see that disease killed far more soldiers than combat (see the picture below).

Once Juan was finished with his seminar, we picked him up drove around town. Lansing and East Lansing have some interesting architecture and murals.

Things I learned:

  1. Don’t menu plan and food prep so much. I know a lot of people swear by this and Pinterest is full of recipes.  However, there are two reasons this didn’t work out for us.  First, we tend to be spontaneous and unpredictable. We ate out instead of fixing the meals I prepared.  Second, our fridge went out and we had to throw away a bunch of stuff. Next time I’ll bring more dry goods, like beans, rice, pancake mix instead of badder, cereal, coffee etc. We can always stop at a grocery store on the way and as long as we have staples we should be fine.
  2. We need to eat before hitting the road. We stopped to eat twice, spending about 3 hours total and making a 6 hour trip into 9 hours.
  3. Michigan has the worst roads I’ve ever driven on.  As soon as we crossed the state line, there was a clear difference. We took 94 over and then 69 up to Lansing. On the way back we took 96 over to Grand Rapids and 196 down to 94, which was better in terms of traffic, but still full of potholes.
  4. The Allstays Ap is great for a lot more than just finding a place to park overnight.  We used it to find a gas station where we could refill our propane.  This was the first time we bought propane for the rig.  It was really easy.  You just go in the store and ask them to fill you up and a certified employee will do it for you.
  5. Here’s a big one that I learned before we left for the trip:  don’t ever operate your slide when you are not level!!   I opened it up in the driveway to show the rig off to our friends Carol and Toby.  When I put it away, I noticed the bathroom door wouldn’t close.  On closer inspection, one of the door hinges was bent, pushing the door out from the frame.  I think I crunched it when I put the slide back in.  I took the hinge off and went to the Ace Hardware for a new one, but they didn’t have the right size.  The store owner said that most RV parts are irregular and I wouldn’t find them in a hardware store.  Instead, he took the hinge in the back and pounded it flat for me.  We went home and reinstalled it and it worked like new.

Well, that’s it for this time around. We are hoping to get out to a local stage park for an actual camping trip within the next month or so. Hopefully the refrigerator will be fixed by then!

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