Back On the Road

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We left Kentucky on Wednesday, July 30th to officially begin our adventure.

Here's a quick rundown of events:

Spent two nights in Chicago, visiting with friends and family. Headed out on Friday morning after a solid nights sleep in the first real bed we'd slept in in almost 2 months. Drove north to Michigan. Stopped for a mid day beer in Holland. Camped at Newaygo State Park

Relieved to be back on the road.

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Took a scenic route to Mackinaw City and stopped along the way to pick up some sweet cherries and sweet corn.

Spent a few extra dollars to stay at a KOA in an attempt at catching some free wifi, but none of our devices had enough juice and the electrical outlet at our campsite required a fancy plug adapter that we do not possess. One of these days, we'll be prepared. Shower. Laundry. Back on the road.

We cross the bridge to the Upper Peninsula, this is where the trip really starts. (not the first time we’ve said this) We stopped in Saint Ignace for groceries and head directly for Drummond Island for some great off-road driving and wilderness camping.

The ferry was neat. Carley's first.

Picked up an ORV map and a 12pk of PBR at a gas station boldly advertising their selection of Michigan craft brews. U.S. cell phone plans aren't exactly null and void here in this Canadian American middle ground, but the up-charges for phone calls and data usage are outrageous so the iphone is now reduced to a fancy time piece. Anyway, it's nice to step away from technology for a while. Sat on the shore of Lake Huron and read for a bit while the sun descended behind the trees Found a campsite off a dirt road, right on the shoreline, that would be considered downright dreamy by anyone's standards. Sat around a giant fire pit and drank wine and listened to the waves roll in through the night.

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Drove all over the entire place the next day, and around noon we stop at a local bar & grill for a chicken bite and some free wifi. Gotta check the news. Gaza blown to bits, Floods in California. Sports in who-cares-where.

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Stayed for another night of free camping on Drummond Island at that dreamy campsite. Gotta make that ferry ride fare worth it. Made camp earlier than usual (no travel time) collected firewood for the evening… tried to swim (too cold)…read on the beach…built a small cairn to accompany the others on the shore… now what? More reading maybe, then a game of scrabble to frustrate Brian… Is it nine yet? (the unofficial hour of ‘open the wine and start the fire’) not quite, oh well, who's keeping time?

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Wake up. Make coffee and read a bit before heading back to the ferry.

Make phone calls to loved ones who weren't warned of our pause in communication.

Drive to Sault Saint Marie “The Soo”, had a coffee and wifi at a Cup of the Day. Very accommodating coffee shop/hair salon.

Found the last spot on a lakeside campground just outside of the Bay Mills Indian reservation. Walked along the beach in silence. No questions to the other wondering how far south we may make it. No chatter about the rocks we found in the sand. Just the waves crashing on the shore.

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The next day we planned an off road route to Grand Marais, a small lakeside town with, according to Brian, an amazing breakfast spot where they bake their own bread and pastries, and make their own jam. We’re excited!

The trail map we acquired at a gas stop was in black and white and had been copied many times and the lines were faded and blacked out. Adventure!

We headed down Seven Mile Fire Lane Road and got a little turned around. Ended up deep into ORV trails without proper licensing. We aren’t sure of the penalties, and don’t intend to find out.

High-tailed it off of that trail and bounced around through the sand.

Once back on the main road, we realized that the jeep had gone into Limp Mode, AGAIN, for no apparent reason. The last time this happened, cycling the engine off and then on again reset the computer to operational mode (of course this was only a temporary fix, and in the end the Jeep ended up laid up at a dealership for a total of more than two weeks). No such luck this time. WHAT. THE. F&@K.

As we cruise at a seriously uncool 40mph, past everything that we wanted to see - Grand Marais, and it’s amazing breakfast spot, Pictured Rocks, Log Slide, Sable Dunes etc - looking for a place to camp for the night. Hoping that if we turn her off for a while, give 'er a rest, she'll wake up in the morning and everything will be fine again. Once again, no such luck. Every campground is full up.

Drive 90 miles in second gear to the closest dealer just past Marquette. This gives us plenty of time to remember why we wanted to buy a Toyota, or build an older more “mechanical” vehicle for the trip.

Get a room at a cheap roadside motel. Get pizza and a couple high alcohol content beers. Worry ourselves to death that this might be it. Our great adventure ends in the UP of Michigan. Less than 700 miles from home. We have lost whatever faith we had left in the Jeep. In little more than 4,000 miles of travel, we have taken the Jeep to the shop for major transmission malfunction 3 times, and an additional 2 times for other diagnostic error codes. If we get stranded in some of the more remote sections of our trip, we could be 200 miles or better from civilization. It could prove fatal.

In the morning, we take the jeep to the dealer. They do some quick fix, unplug some things and plug them back in, literally, and send us packing. They basically say “This will get you to the next place that you’re sure to get stranded, when that happens, the parts (a transmission speed sensor and hydraulic valve body) will need to be ordered and you will have to sit for a few days.”

Within 5 miles of leaving the dealer the transmission is shifting erratically, but with no check engine light coming on, the dealer can’t help.

So here we are, at a campground near Houghton, MI. Jeep is running fine, for now. We plan to put it through the paces over the next couple of days. Running ORV trails in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Hoping to get it to malfunction again and give us a ‘check engine’ light so we can get it fixed (for real, this time).

Turtles rescued - 30

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