Friday, September 13, 2013

Manitowoc, WI and Ferry Across Lake Michigan

Tuesday night we stayed at a wonderful little RV park in Manitowoc, WI--it's operated by the Village Inn Motel, and is basically in the grassy area between the two buildings containing the motel rooms.  They only have about 15 sites, but it's right across Memorial Drive from Lake Michigan and it's really very nice.  It was not full and we got a site right at the end of the row, kind of tucked in behind one of the buildings and in a corner of the fence, so we had a lot of privacy.  It was also good to be in a park that was not crowded, since I needed to do laundry and didn't have to worry about a line in the laundry room!  A very pleasant evening, and we even had the soothing sounds of some rain on the roof as we were falling asleep!

Wednesday morning was another glorious morning, and we decided to hit the Mariners Trail, a wonderful paved bike trail along the shores of Lake Michigan, between Manitowoc and Two Rivers.  So, as we rode along this beautiful trail, we began to notice all these lovely small flower gardens along the trail, each with a little sign explaining how that particular garden was planted to honor someone who died and each garden is maintained by the relatives of that person.  It made the whole trail so beautiful, and quite meaningful, especially on this day, 9/11/2013, the anniversary of that horrible tragedy in our country.  We also noticed that many of the businesses had flags flying at half staff, in honor of those who died.  At one point we passed the Chamber of Commerce and noticed that their flag was not at half staff, so Trisha decided to stop and go inside to mention it to the folks there.  As we suspected, the person who had raised the flag that morning had just forgotten what day it was, and they were so embarrassed when they realized what they had done.  But they also were very appreciative of Trisha's taking time to stop and go in and mention it to them.  Someone immediately came outside and fixed that, and thanked Trisha profusely, expressing amazement that anyone would take the time to stop and tell them about it.  She just didn't know Trisha!!  Anyway, we decided to ride 11 miles in honor of this day, and it was a wonderful ride.

Then back to the RV to get cleaned up and get out to run some errands before it was time to be at the ferry.  For those who've been following this blog, you may remember that, back in July when we were in Fullerton, CA, I had gone to Capri Shoes to get measured for some custom Santa boots, and finally they arrived!  They had said that sometimes they have to make adjustments to get the fit just right, but I was so excited to try them on and see that they fit perfectly, and I don't have to send them back!  It will be so wonderful this Santa season to have these real leather boots that fit so well--ever since I've been dong Santa, I've just used some faux leather boots ordered from a costume shop, and since they only came in small, medium and large sizes, I had to use extra inserts and wear extra socks to make them come anywhere close to fitting.  So can't wait to use these boots in just a couple of months!!  Woohooo--I mean woo-HOHOHO!

Anyway, got all our errands done and made it on time to the ferry.  This is the SS Badger that runs between Manitowoc, WI and Ludington, MI.  It was originally used to haul railroad cars loaded with freight across the lake, but now carries passengers, cars, and some unbelievably huge trailers.  We were unaccustomed to a ferry where you didn't drive your own vehicle onto the boat, but here, they have you  get out and their drivers load the vehicles--and they back them in, since this ferry only loads and unloads from one end of the ship, as opposed to the smaller ferries we've taken up to now, where you drive on from one end and drive off from the other.  This means that they have to back all the vehicles in, and to see them put these oversized loads on these humongous trailers on the boat, backing up, was quite impressive.  They don't allow you access to your vehicle on board, so you just leave your keys in it and walk onto the ship.  It's almost 500 feet long, and one of the only coal powered steam engine driven ferries still running.  So, we watched from the upper deck as this guy got into the RV to drive it on--gave us no small amount of concern when we saw that he was having trouble figuring out how to get it into gear and had to ask for help!  Then, after he turned it around and was backing it toward the ferry, another driver in a car cut across behind the RV and they came so close to crashing, it just about gave us heart failure!  Fortunately they avoided a collision, but not by much.

We sat outside on one of the decks and enjoyed a simply fabulous 3 and a half hour cruise across Lake Michigan.  Trisha knitted and I read, or we just enjoyed the scenery as we pulled out of Manitowoc harbor and across the lake.  There was not much wind, so it was very pleasant to sit outside and the water was calm.  We met a couple from Raleigh, NC who were headed to a beach on the Michigan side where they've been going for a week every year for over 20 years.  It was fun to talk to them, as they had just taken their daughter to start college at Carleton, in Minnesota.

Since they only run one ferry a day after Labor Day, it was after 6:00 PM by the time we got off and headed into Ludington, plus we're now back in the Eastern Time Zone, so it was actually 7:00.  We had thought about going to a county park campground we had seen online, but as we passed the Walmart we noticed a couple of RVs already set up there for the night, and since we were getting hungry by this time, just decided to stay there for the night.  Quite a nice night, as the temperature was definitely getting cooler, so we had the windows open for pleasant sleeping weather, which was a nice change from some of the unusually hot temps we'd had in Chicago.

A number of shots from along the Mariners Trail, with all these flower beds along the way

A selfie, as the wind was whipping Santa's beard!!

Flags at half staff outside a bank

Gorgeous flower landscaping with glass sculptures in a yard across the road from where we were

 Finally saw a loon in the water!

Iron sculpture along the trail

Amazing detail in this iron sculpture of an eagle, complete with eggs in the nest!

This is part of a formal gardens between the trail and the lake, and the next several shots were taken as we rode through the grounds

Now we're approaching the driveway to a gorgeous private home

Pretty nice view in this house, huh?  Plus there was this lovely grove of hemlocks in the large grounds between the road and the house

Flag flying at half staff at the Two Rivers town limit sign

This gigantic turbine was being loaded onto the ferry--backing up!

 Took this from the ferry deck as we were leaving Manitowoc--this looks kind of like a submarine in the back, but I've never seen a sub with this shape on the front, so not sure

Big pile of coal by the ferry dock

 Marina in Manitowoc

 Passing the lighthouse as we leave the harbor

 Looking down on the churning wake
 Beautiful sights as we head across the lake
 Speaking of beautiful sights on the boat!!!!!

Our friends from North Carolina took these

 Passing the lighthouse in Ludington, MI as we pull into the harbor
 Coast Guard station in Ludington--boy we've seen some lovely Coast Guard stations on our trip--they sure do have prettier duty stations than the places I was stationed in the Army!!

Interesting sculpture in a park along the harbor

 Some boats out in the harbor as we were coming into the dock

 Quite a maneuver for the captain to back this behemoth into the dock--another big ferry alongside, for when they ran two a day

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