Revisiting Brighton Rec Area

Our first of three Michigan campgrounds was Brighton Rec Area, where we spent some of November and all of December last year. It feels familiar, but it’s much different in the summer. On summer weekends it is so busy, every spot is occupied, and everyone is outside having campfires and hanging out. One big difference we’ve noticed between campgrounds in Michigan compared to out west is that out west, the attractions are outside the campground, and the campgrounds themselves are pretty utilitarian. Here in Michigan the campground is the attraction!

Our time at Brighton was so busy that we didn’t set up camp and join our fellow campers in enjoying the campground. We scheduled doctors’ appointments and dentist appointments, and saw friends, and spent time preparing for and enjoying the two main events that we scheduled this trip around, Brian’s brother-in-law’s 40th birthday surprise party, and my nephew’s 8th birthday party. Both events were a lot of fun! 

We also made it to our nephew’s baseball game and our niece’s gymnastics show. It was fun to see what they’ve been up to while we’ve been away.

The nearly two weeks that we spent in Brighton went by in a blur. The only free time we had, was spent planning for the next part of our trip. After our visit to Michigan we are traveling to North Carolina to see family, but after that we had no plans. It was making me uncomfortable to not know where we were going next. At first I thought it was just because I didn’t like answering “I have no idea!” when people asked, but I think it’s really because being home feels so normal, that our travels almost seem like a dream. Without future plans, it kind of feels like it’s ending. So, we talked through some ideas, and the tentative plan is to visit Yellowstone and the surrounding attractions in August and September!

We also visited our favorite restaurants while we were home! The two must-eat things in metro Detroit (in my opinion) are Middle Eastern food, and Detroit pizza. So, we got chicken schwarma wraps and hummus from Hamido in Dearborn, and visited Buddy’s Pizza! We also visited our favorite happy hour spot, the Sardine Room in Plymouth for buck-a-shuck oysters.

Day 271| Mile 27,601

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Moochdocking in Macomb

When we arrived in Michigan, we parked at Brian’s parents, Peggy and Oskar’s house. Oskar installed a 30 amp outlet in the garage, so this was luxury moochdocking! Honestly, electricity was necessary due to the 90 degree heat we had for a few days after we arrived.

We will be in Michigan for nearly a month, but we already have a lot of plans during that time. Brian and I sometimes have trouble agreeing on how much time should be spent on work vs. time with friends and family. So, to try and make us both happy, we added a couple days in the beginning of the trip to get some things done. One of the first things we did after we arrived was write up a very ambitious To Do list for all the chores, errands, and improvements we have been meaning to do, but haven’t gotten to on the road. 

We spent the first few days decluttering the trailer and storing things in Peggy and Oskar’s basement and washing and waxing the truck and trailer. It’s amazing how much stuff we accumulated during four months on the road. 

Brian may have gotten a little enthusiastic with the power washer, because we had a little incident.

After our hard work, Trucky and the Airs Ream look as good as new!

Day 257 | Mile 26,383

The Way Back Home

We had plans to be in Michigan by mid-June, and even though there was a lot more to see in Colorado/Utah, we decided to start heading back, and leave time to make stops on the way. 

The first stop was Pueblo, Colorado to see my Aunt Peggy and cousins Lynn and Tom. The drive from Mesa Verde across Colorado went up into the mountains. We climbed to around 11,000 feet (which I know thanks to a fun altimeter app), and got to the snow in the snow-capped mountains!

We camped for a couple nights at Lake Pueblo State Park, which features the reservoir that Aunt Peggy has told us so much about. The campground we stayed in had a nice view of the boats at the Marina. We went to lunch with Aunt Peggy in downtown Pueblo at the Riverwalk area, and walked around it after. Then we had dinner with Lynn and Tom too. It was great to see family that we don’t get to see often. This trip is the first time I’ve been to Colorado, so we hadn’t visited before!

Next we drove to Wahoo, Nebraska to see our friends Jeff and Virginia and their three  kids. Again there was a convenient state park for us to camp at, Lake Wanahoo State Park. We spent four days there and had a great time. Jeff and Virginia and the kids came to the campground and we cooked and played and went to the park and made s’mores! A heat wave came to town and brought temperatures in the 90s that followed us all the way back to Michigan.

We checked out the local Nebraska delicacies, and Brian instantly became obsessed with Runza. Runza is a local fast food restaurant whose specialty is a bun stuffed with beef and cabbage, made with a secret recipe! They are tasty, and remind Brian of a pasty from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. When we left Nebraska, we had a freezer full of frozen Runzas.

We visited a Nebraska winery, Soaring Wings Vineyard. We tasted some of their many wines and beers, and then enjoyed a couple bottles outside on the porch. I liked their sweeter wines, Ice Falcon and Sunset Red. 

It was sad to leave our friends in Nebraska, but, just like always, we were looking forward to our next stop! After a boring drive through Iowa and Illinois, we stopped in Indianapolis.  We camped at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, which was a utilitarian campground, but close to our friends Ann and Tom, and their daughter. It was great to see them, and we enjoyed drinking Tom’s delicious home brew beer. Unfortunately, Brian got sick and missed out on a day of hanging out with them. Ann and I had lunch and ate delicious popsicles. It was the longest Brian and I had been apart in a long while! 

Traveling has been so fun, but it does get lonely sometimes. It was great to family-and-friend-hop our way across the country!

Day 255| Mile 26,383

Mesa Verde National Park

We moved about 3 hours east to Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park. We had cell service again! We moved on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, so the first road we looked for boondocking sites on was full. We tried another place and found a spot, after accidentally going a bit too high up a mountain with the trailer, and finding a place to turn around. We ended up camping at about 8,100 feet, and it got into the 30s at night! The elevation caused our propane-fueled furnace, fridge, and water heater to struggle, so we may try to avoid boondocking so high up in the future. If we were plugged into electricity, we could run these appliances with electricity instead of propane.

Mesa Verde National Park protects “the works of man” and includes thousands of archeological sites and hundreds of cliff dwellings. Ancestral Puebloan people lived on the mesa for centuries. They built pueblos on top of the mesa starting in 650 CE, and moved down into the cliffs around 1200 CE. They left less than a hundred years later and moved south into New Mexico and Arizona.

We bought tickets to tour all three of the cliff dwellings that currently have guided tours, which are Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House (each tour was $5 per person). When we bought the tickets, we were warned that the tours are rather strenuous and involve ladders, uneven stairs, and hiking up and downhill at 7,000 feet elevation. The tours weren’t that difficult, I think they just wanted everyone to be prepared.

Cliff Palace is so impressive. It is the biggest cliff dwelling that has been found at Mesa Verde. It was amazing to be able to walk through it and see the construction up close. It made us think about what it would have been like to live there. They climbed up and down the cliffs using hand and toe hold trails. It was hard enough using stairs and ladders! 

Balcony House is the most adventurous tour, and includes climbing a 32 foot ladder and crawling through a 15 inch wide tunnel. We both crawled through the sample tunnel at the visitor center to make sure we would fit! The obstacles made it more fun. 

The Long House tour was twice as long, and involved more walking to the house. It was a good tour, but I think we found it a bit less interesting because we had already done the other two tours.

We did a self-guided tour of Step House. It was the only dwelling found with steps down the cliff, so it’s definitely the one I would’ve wanted to live in.

Spruce House was closed due to rock falls, but we were able to view it from an overlook near the museum. 

It was really interesting to learn about the people that lived here. They farmed corn, beans, and squash on top of the mesa and made check dams to create usable soil. They got water from seep springs at the back of the caves, and seasonal rains and springs. They made beautiful pottery, with black and white designs. They didn’t have written language, but they decorated their dwellings with pictures and designs. They built round underground rooms called Kivas for religious ceremonies. 

About 70% of the park has been burned in forest fires caused by lightning since its creation in 1906. Many other parks have a “let it burn” policy, but in Mesa Verde they work to contain and suppress fires, to protect the archeological sites. They have even had to spray cliff dwellings with flame retardant in the past. Some fires have damaged sites, while others have burned away vegetation and revealed check dams that were previously undiscovered. While we were walking through an area that had previously burned, we saw some feral horses that snuck into the park from the Ute Reservation next to it.

Mesa Verde is different than many other National Parks, by focusing on human cultural history rather than nature. We found it really enlightening, and a great change of pace.

Day 245 | Mile 24,308