When last we checked in, we had just finished up touring the Upper Peninsula and Western Shore of Michigan. All and all, both were fabulous experiences with relative social isolation. As much as we love visiting friends and making new ones, we just sometimes need a break to be out on our own.
Us introverts do have to recharge sometime, afterall.
After turning east, that ended our touring in solitude and we were most eagerly ready to go right back into social mode!
While we were touring around up north, we got a message from a long time follower in central-ish Michigan who sent us an invitation offering the following:
- A place to park the bus with power
- Access to their organic vegetable garden (with a plead to please take some with us)
- A gift of a day of his labor & workshop helping with bus projects
- Possibly home brew beer
How would you respond to that offer?
Bus parking with an opportunity to meet new people is usually enough to get our attention if its already somewhat on route. Toss in veggies, a workshop and beer – that’ll put the stop on our route. And once we found out about the bus rally near Flint, that made it a perfect stopping spot.
We were warmly greeted by the whole family and got the bus situated. We converged on making dinner together, with Chris creating one of his epic homemade salsas out of veggies picked from their garden.
We had a delightful evening sharing stories and getting a peak into each other’s lives. They homebase in Michigan part of the year, and then spend the winters heading south in their pimped out 5th wheel with a bunk room modified for their 2 young boys. It’s a great mix of having a home base and being nomadic that allows them ample quality time with family, and time out exploring and showing their boys the world.
The next morning we learned the true generosity of the gift of labor offered. Phil is a master trim carpenter with 25 years experience, and runs his own business called One Eye Square.
We pointed out a few of the projects we had pending on our list, and let him pick whatever we felt called to help with.
First, he very wisely chose a project off Kiki’s list, who will soon blog about what she requested.
When he finished that one, he humbled us by starting to tackle another item on our list.
Ask most any RVer what their biggest organizing hassle is, and I guarantee you – shoes – is somewhere on the top 10 list. Probably near the top. Except for some very rare RVs, somewhere to easily access and store shoes is usually left off the design features. Even on our Oliver we ended up hanging a shoe organzer under the kitchen table.
Our bus’ interior was pretty well thought out, and has some ingenious features. The fella who did the original conversion back in 1989 did a wonderful job, and we thank him every day for the high quality woodwork he did. But our bus has lacked a place to store shoes. As a result, we usually end up with a pile of shoes at the foot of our bed or under our desks.
Now, it’s not like we own a lot of shoes. We each have a pair of sneakers for running/walking, a couple pairs of Vibram Five Fingers, a pair of ‘can pass as dressy shoes’ and a pair or two of summer casual shoes. But in a small space, a couple of them tossed on the floor becomes a tripping hazard, not to mention – looks cluttered. And storing them in the closet behind the bed is just too inconvenient to be practical.
I’ve had an idea for a while now that I’d like a pair of shoe racks in the front corners of our bedroom. Phil quickly created some mock-ups of some of my ideas, and then his 25 years of experience kicked in. He suggested a magazine rack style shelving unit so that we wouldn’t have shoes flying off the rack while underway, and within moments he had a mock-up made to show us. It was *perfect* and better than anything I could have dreamed up. It’s awesome working with a builder who is also a RVer!
We finalized the measurements by the very scientific process of measuring our shoes, and he went to work. Within a couple hours he came back with a pair of beautifully constructed masterpieces and installed them. We’ve been absolutely loving them! They take up a minimal amount of space, don’t get in the way at all, but yet are highly functional.
While Phil was working, he offered me space in his workshop – which I utilized to continue refinishing the wood in the bus. It’s 23 years old now and showing lots of drying out and cracking – so some sanding and varnishing is doing wonders to really update the interior! One day I’ll finish the whole bus, hopefully before it needs to all be redone again. I’ve even perfected staining new wood to match the old, and will finish the shoe racks soon.
Amazingly, he finished everything in plenty of time for us to take them out for a nice dinner. Afterwards, he suggested a campfire – so I got out my fire gear and treated them to a fire dance.
We thoroughly enjoyed this stop over – and not just because Phil bribed us with amazing additions to our bus. Making new friends is what our journey is all about! (And seriously, if you’re in Mid Michigan and need high quality trim work done, or want a shoe rack like ours – Phil is your man!)
Mid Michigan Bus Rally
I had noticed in the bus forums that there was a rally happening near Flint. At first, it looked too late in the month for us to make. But once we decided to slow down a bit, it fit right in. And then all it took was the prompting of another long time reader telling us about the great community to convince us to go. And almost as soon as we announced it, we had a couple other readers contacting us telling us they were looking forward to meeting us.
From the moment we pulled in, we felt a warm welcome and inclusion to this long term community. There were folks there we had met earlier in the year at the Arcadia Rally who rushed up to greet us, and then we quickly started making new friends. It was fun to get the bus parked, and have a group of bus nuts come over to look at our engine (even before introducing themselves).
There were about 30+ coaches at the rally – and we somehow got parked amongst several other GM buses. There were also a couple Flxibles, MCIs, Prevosts, one Eagle and a Skoolie there (I have to mention that, because I *know* some of you bus nuts are just salivating to know!).
We really enjoyed this rally – it was incredibly well run and smooth. But yet, not overly organized. It’s planned around the Back to Bricks car show and races, so there’s a lot of flexibility to allow folks to go out and explore. This lead to a lot of time to just chill with new friends. There was a breakfast every morning (not that these night owl nomads ever made) and a dinner in the evening, and only one round table discussion on Friday.
It so happened the discussion was on electrical systems, and word quickly got around that we have a Lithium Ion battery setup and a kick-butt boosting inverter. Before we knew it, the group talk moved to our bus for show-n-tell. We love being able to contribute some of our knowledge to this community that has helped us so much in coming up to speed on 2-stroke engines and buses. (Oh.. since we’re approaching the 1 year anniversary of installing our lithium bank, I have tasked Chris with writing a 1-year progress report. Please help me in poking him!)
Later that evening we were strolling around, and got talking with another couple at the rally who are trying to sell their home to full time. They invited us in for drinks, and before we knew it – we had a party! They started a campfire, so I decided to bring out my fire dance gear. We were up until after midnight partying with a whole group of bus nut night owls.
The next morning we were hearing things like ‘that’s a night we’ll talk about for years!’. Wow. There was a repeat party Saturday night that went on well past our bedtime, if you can believe that! I tell ya, some of these bus nuts sure can outlast us!
We had a fantastically awesome time at the rally. We made so many wonderful new friends, and have new homeports established throughout Michigan and Ontario.
After the bus rally broke up, it was time to end our visit to Michigan. But there was one last Great Lake in Michigan, and we just had to visit it. We found Sterling State Park just north of Toledo on Lake Erie and headed that way.
The campground itself is a huge open circle with 256 well spaced spots. But on a Monday night it was mostly empty. Arriving early afternoon we were able to snag a beautiful beachfront spot for the night. We eyed the numerous trails in the park, and set out for a walk. 7 miles later, many gorgeous beach and marsh views – we returned with slightly blistered feet.
It’s a beautiful park and we enjoyed the water view. Now, the neon green water washing up on shore and the numerous nuclear reactor cooling towers in view… let’s just say we opted not to take a swim.
We had originally set intentions of spending a week meandering down to Chattanooga, TN – where we’ll get annual maintenance caught up on the bus.
Hah, but we all know how nomads and intentions go.
We learned that the Mid Michigan Bus Rally was actually a pre-rally to the pre-rally for the FMCA Family Reunion in Indianapolis. The converted coaches pre-rally starts on Wednesday in New Paris, OH – and then the group caravans for official pre-entry to the FMCA rally in Indianapolis, which we can join in with if we want.
Since many of our new friends are going, and many new potential friends are heading that way – we decided to at least sign up for the New Paris pre-rally later this week. So we’re inbound there now.
We’re leaving the option open of heading on to the FMCA rally on Saturday, as we’ve never experienced a RV specific rally of that size before. The downside to going is that we have purchased tickets to Dragon*Con (huge sci-fi convention) in Atlanta over Labor Day Weekend. And we do want to still stop in at Choo Choo Express Garage on the way. So this would make for a very rushed trip, even if we departed FMCA early. We’re not sure if we’re up for that or not.
Have you ever attended the FMCA rally? Are you planning to attend this year? Is it worth a stop while we’re in the area? We’ve heard it described as a big trade show – which actually sounds kinda fun. We love getting caught up on what is the latest and greatest in RV tech, lifestyles and options.