Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Heading East

We are east coast bound! It's getting kind of exciting knowing we're heading towards Cape Cod and will see many friends and favorite places in September.  And then down to NJ to visit more friends and family!

Since we left the beautiful Lions Club park in Gilman, WI, we have cruised through Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,  and into Pennsylvania.

As I write,  we are staying in a Cracker Barrel restaurant parking lot for the night (Tuesday,  8/30) in Erie.

We have slept in the parking lots of outdoor outfitter stores Gander Mountain and Cabela's, along with one Walmart in Illinois.   We are happier staying overnight at the other stores versus Walmart.  We just feel more comfortable overall.   It's great that these retailers, this restaurant, (and Walmart) allow RV'ers to do this.  Typically, we are looking for a place just to sleep and then move on, so a free campsite at one of these locations is welcomed!

Once we depart Erie, tomorrow  (Wednesday), we plan to head further east to the Allegheny National Forest here in PA, or to another spot that calls out to us!  We will look for free, or what is called "dispersed" campsites, which are
permitted in national forests.  If we find a nice spot, we'll  stay a few days.

The last several days of driving took us by an endless stream of farms.  Rolling green farms of corn, soy bean, and other crops flew by with beautiful shades of greens and gold.  It really has driven home the immensity of the farm industry and the sense we have been in America's heartland.  Very impressive!

Bird-wise we have seen more sandhill cranes, along with turkey vultures, assorted unidentified hawks, plus sharp-shinned, broad-winged and red-tailed hawks.  Lots of blackbirds are on the move and are still seeing migrating monarch butterflies.  Love the changes and activity that comes with summer transitioning to fall.

We only had a quick peek at Lake Erie, but want to visit the Great Lakes next spring.  We have a tentative plan going forward into 2017.  After NJ this September,  we'll head down the east coast to Florida, then to Quartzsite, AZ for a HUGE RV gathering that we have been told about, and that we need to attend at least one time!  From AZ we will book it back to Livingston, Texas where we have been hired as "work campers" at the Escapees' Rainbow's End campground for the months of February,  March,  and April.

Work camping is very popular with full-time RV'ers as a way to supplement monthly incomes.  In our case, we won't earn a salary, but instead will get a free site with hook-ups (water, electric,  and sewer).  This will allow us to sock away some money, give the car and POD a break from wear & tear, and save on fuel.  All we need to do is work a combined 20 hours a week!  Michael will be cooking three meals a week, and I will work in the office registering campers and taking reservations.  And I will help Michael out as needed.  And when we aren't working, we will bird all around Texas!

Come May, we are planning a trip back to Michigan to look for a Kirtland's warbler, found primarily in one spot in MI that has stands of Jack pines, required by these birds for food and habitat.  Then up to the UP, and then to the northwest (and maybe Canada) for the summer.  We'll be planning in more detail once we are closer in.  Boy, are having fun!  And are we blessed!

Chicago skyline

Nevelle scopes out all patches of grass!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


On Wednesday, August 17, we switched our campsite to a drier site at Chequamegon National Forest.  We had a few rain storms that left the site we were in wet with puddles.  This new site is brighter, which helps with the solar and with bringing birds in!

We just saw a rose-breasted grosbeak and although the bright pink triangle on his breast was mottled, he was a pretty bird nonetheless.

Several hummingbirds frequented our nectar feeder in the old site, and one scoped out our new site already!  Look closely to see the hummers:

Hummingbird on right side.

We are surrounded by beauty:

After a few days at the forest, we headed to Gilman,  a small town nearby.  We discovered a lovely little park created by the Lions Club.   What a little slice of heaven!

We haven't left this spot since we got here on Sunday, the 21st.  Although not a formal campground,  we haven't been asked to leave.  There aren't signs saying "no overnight stays", so we have felt fine here. 

The park sits on the Chequamegon Flowage, and the water we see here leads to a fishing pier.  It comes in from a big body of water to the south and it hosts lots of birds.  

During the day, the sun's been shining through clear blue skies.  It's been breezy making the warm weather perfectly tolerable.  The tall grasses in the water blow north in the breeze and harbor some ducks we believe are female northern shovelers.

This morning, the 23rd, we watched a hundred or so red-winged blackbirds take wing from last night's roost among the grasses.

The evening, though, is really spectacular!  The colors are golden as the sun gets lower and the birdlife gets active!  A few at a time, hundreds of sandhill cranes come in to roost south of us.  We can't see the roost area very well, but their bubbly calls travel on the wind to us. 

At least 2,000 blackbirds have gathered each evening and last night we saw over 60 common nighthawks, a rare sighting to see so many at one time!

Fall migration is starting to occur and not only are the birds staging for this, we have seen many monarch butterflies fluttering by on their way south.

And we have two young and one adult bald eagles soaring above us and then, talons forward, head down for a fish.  Really cool to watch.

Our plans have changed once again!  Instead of heading north to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, we are saving that for next spring.  Instead, we will depart Wednesday morning,  8/24 and head east.

We'll travel through Ohio, a bit of PA,  and into NY, where we will check out the Finger Lakes and head into Ithaca to visit the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.   Looking forward to that!

From there we will go through western MA and onward to Cape Cod for a 9/11 arrival.  Our friends Sandra and Rick are letting us park our trailer on their property for our time on the Cape.  Then onto NJ to visit family and friends. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Minnesota Hike & More!

Our two week visit with Alan and Charlene came to an end July 30th. It amazes us that we can meet strangers on the road and end up good friends.  The hospitality shown to us has been beyond generous.  And meeting their family was a highlight!

Took a great hike through Lebanon Hills park, a wooded location with quite a few lakes and ponds.

About two hours after leaving Rosemount, we arrived in Eau Claire, WI at the University of Wisconsin for the annual World Flute Society convention.   Although several days long, I only attended on Saturday.

The convention wasn't very big, as I had expected.  Nonetheless, there was a vendor area, performances, and workshops.  The highlights of my day...a flute lesson with a fantastic flutist, Jonny Lipford and the purchase of a beautiful Native American style flute (NAF) by Tree of Life Designs flute in the key of low C.

The NAF community is very friendly and supportive.  It has been a wonderful journey so far!

Jonny Lipford 

On Sunday, the last day of July (time flies by!) we left Eau Claire for four nights in the Chippewa campground in the Chequamegon National Forest. Only $6 a night with my pass.

Enroute we passed through beautiful fields of corn and soybeans, dotted with picturesque and tumbling barns!

In the town of Thorp, we came upon a cheese-making facility called Marieke Gouda.  There was a really nice store that sold wonderful and delicious varieties of award-winning gouda, plus other cheeses, meats, candy and more, imported from the owner's homeland, the Netherlands.

We bought several different flavors of gouda cheese and had one with the spice of foenegreek, delicious on a hearty country sourdough bread we also bought!  The dairy cows are treated with care, utilizing open stalls so they can move around.  With a sprinkler system, fans, and even a back-scratcher, the cows are kept comfortable. The calves are in these in separate little "houses".  We watched the cheese making process as well.

Awoke Monday to a beautiful August day and took a walk down to the lake.  Our campsite actually has a view of the water through the trees.  We went to the water's edge and sat for awhile loving the view and delicious breeze!

Everyday, I am thankful to be doing what we are doing.  But in the evening, when I went down to the water to watch the sunset, the thought excitedly came to me...I can't believe that we are really doing this!!  What a privilege!

We sat by a fire into the night.  We were lucky that the previous campers left a lot of wood for us!  There's loads of mosquitoes here so the smoke helped keep them away for awhile.

Enroute to the small town of Medford for fuel and groceries, we saw:

Chainsaw art!

Beautiful gardens!

Nevelle fixated on hundreds of ring-necked pheasants at a local game farm!  The birds are bred here and then sent all over the country to stock game for hunting. 

Ring-necked pheasant. 

Heading north to another district of this national forest for the weekend!   It is camping among many lakes, not too far from Lake Superior.