Checks and balances. May 9, 2016

Today I woke up in a very quiet Wisconsin RV park. I saw no one, which is not uncommon for these places, and the office was empty and locked. I curled up in the van and ate a quart of van-made sauerkraut while editing photos of the beautiful Lake Superior I had visited yesterday. If the office of this place wasn’t open in another hour, I’d have to be on my way, but wasn’t sure how I’d pay.

I spent the morning reminiscing over the last few days in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in wide-eyed, raise-browed awe of the birch-pine forests and the deepest blue waters. Lake Superior, both spectacular and settling for a girl as worried about our limited fresh water supply as I am, welcomed me back. I spent the night on the shores of an off-season and un-manned campsite (free!) with a few other folks scattered throughout various campsites. We’d acknowledge each other with a nod in our passings, quiet, well-mannered neighbors, those willing to sleep outside in the freezing cold. No generators.

I had no service and no company at last night’s Michigan campground , so I made a lot of tea and dove back into Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins, a gift from my older brother. I slept deep and had horrifying dreams which didn’t wake me but sat with me at breakfast. I stalled in my attempts to start the van, I always do. Cold mornings are not easy for the diesel engine, it’s as if she’s pressing the snooze button on me, and I approach the moment with patience. After a few spaced out, unsatisfying attempts, the loudest of rumbles echoed through the trees and rocked us down the dirt road. Heading west, towards Munising, I begin a 10-mile hike through Pictured Rocks, for which I packed too much food and too many layers. I took a similar hike six years ago at an equally transitional time of my life, only I was accompanied by a bunch of goofy farm kids, all barefoot, eating wild blueberries and thimbleberries on our way to the beach.

 Views from the hike: Northern_michigan-2016-65
So many creatures explored the trails with me. Including a Porcupine who didn’t care about me at all.Northern_michigan-2016-66
I kept scanning the shores of this monster lake looking for dolphins and whales –  spend a little time near the ocean and it’s hard to turn off when visiting ocean-like lakes.

 After this overdue one on one time with my most impressive lake yesterday, I stood at a new and unwelcoming campsite close to Marquette. I loitered outside the office, appalled by the twenty dollars a night tent-camping fee, and decided I’d go to Wisconsin. It was 5pm and I still had 4 hours of daylight so I knew I could make it somewhere, and it would beautiful. That’s how I ended up here, at this dark RV park void of humans, nervous I would wake all the neighbors. I parked and quickly fell asleep.

In the morning, after four failed attempts to get into the locked office and pay their overpriced charges, I sat in the roaring van, wondering what to do. I hadn’t seen anyone and the rumbling diesel engine could leave no one asleep. With no mailboxes, envelopes, or information available, it felt unfair to make paying so difficult! I considered sliding my wrinkled twenty under the thick door but there was hardly space enough to squeeze it through and I was unsure about this plan. I recalled the other campsite which was off-season and therefor, free… could it be?

Eventually, I had to continue on my way and felt guilty as I slowly approached the exit. I drove slowly through the back roads and noticed the Sheriff behind me at a stop sign. As I turned left towards Steven’s Point, WI, his lights came on and I pulled over, feeling very prepared this time (for my second cop-stopping of my life). A young red-headed, seemingly bored man approached my spacious window. He took my Michigan license and seemed reassured that it didn’t match the California plates. He referenced the RV park I had just departed from and the mentioned that the owner was concerned because I showed up late the night before, and, was I traveling alone? I explained the dilemma I had found myself in attempts to pay, so we drove back to the RV park together to meet and pay Ted.

Ted was on the phone, so we stood in the cold a while before I could introduce myself and pay him for his camping space. He asked if I was traveling, and if so, why was I doing so alone? As if I were being punished. I reassured him that it was purposeful, and the men looked inquisitively at each other as I left the money in his hands. Feeling freed of my guilty conscience, I drove onwards to Steven’s Point, where parking was easy and I felt rewarded for the morning I’d had.
Steven’s Point was adorable, and I reconnected with a few new friends I’d met at Snaggy Mountain in North Carolina. They generously hosted, and we drank Spotted Cow on draft at the Elbow Room for the Tuesday night song swap. Just two nights in the beautiful Wisconsin before meeting the Mississippi River and Iowa.
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