Fuck me, it’s been a minute, so I basically have to start all over again with the counting…. Day 29 is when we are. Where are we today? Another fine question. We departed from the (now defunct) KI Sawyer Air Force Base in (shocking) Sawyer, MI, and are lazing the day away in Gwinn, MI, so I can receive a package from General Delivery at the post office here. Amongst the lazing, we’re also spending some QT at the launderette here. My sheets smell pretty bad because prior to yesterday, I hadn’t showered in approximately 5-6 days (don’t worry; we’ll get to that in a bit), and I’m not into the dirty sheets bit, no matter what my lifestyle. It doesn’t help that’s Gatsby’s bedding sits atop my bedding while we’re in motion, and while I love him to death, he’s pretty gross. In case you’re contemplating van life, I’d like to tell you in advance: bring quarters. Laundromats in podunk towns don’t accept credit cards like they do in the city.
The last week has been, well, rough. Which is probably why I haven’t been blogging. Of course, not having any power and being unable to charge up the computer does play a role in that as well. But there have been a series of unfortunate events that have made it hard to both maintain my shit, my patience, and my sense of humor. Although I do bitch about a lot of things in g̶e̶n̶e̶r̶a̶l̶ my writings, I daresay that nobody wants to read about anybody just complaining; it needs to at least be infused with some funnies here and there. Just like why would you eat a plain gummy worm when you can get one from a dispensary with reefer in it? That seems like a no brainer to me. Unless the OG gummy worms are topping a dirt cake, in which case I say BRING IT ON. But you know what could make even that situation better? Weed gummies. I digress.
It was all fun and games for a couple of nights (Days 22 & 23), which were spent at a vineyard and a ski resortm respectively. While the vineyard was quite picturesque, I favored the ski resort. There was wayyyyyy more room to spread out (ie. stay the fuck away from other dogs since Gatsby is a total and complete dickish nightmare as far as others are concerned), and the sunset was spectacular. Yes, I managed to stay up for a sunset, which at this time of year and this far north is NO small feat for me, since it greatly alters my 9pm bedtime. Also, at the vineyard, there was a dog running loose at random times, which equates for a very stressful experience for both me and my dick dog. Good thing he’s cute. And decent with humans.
Along with providing a spectacular sunset and the appearance of the Aurora Borealis (which I was absolutely NOT able to stay awake for), there was also a pool, hot tub, sauna, and shower, all for the bargain price of $10. Now, I was not able to partake in those festivities because it was rather warm that day, and safety always comes first with me, so I do not leave Gatsby van-bound since the AC still isn’t operable. Maybe if he weren’t such a dick, and could be trusted not to jump out the gullwing panels if another dog meandered by, we could all stay a little cooler, and mumsy could go do fun things like sit her ass in a hot tub, take a long luxurious shower, etc., but that’s just not the way his biscuit is buttered.
Oh, also on Day 23, I had quite the learning experience! In the Upper Peninsula (UP), Michigan has basically no highways. Or interstates, rather. So they don’t seem to have what one (I) would consider ordinary rest stops or truck stops, they have these quaint little 'Roadside Parks,' every so often. As I was driving by one of them, I saw myself a water spigot! Now, you know how I feel about trying to procure water, so I got so stinking excited, thinking that I was never going to have to worry about where my next water top off was coming from, since the Roadside Parks are littering the UP. Remembering that when I’d filled up at the souvenir shop in WI, the guy had said something about the water being slightly rusty (which I’d brushed off thinking I had my handy little Camco filter, and then subsequently realized while making coffee with copper-colored water that morning (sorry Annie – I know you’re cringing reading this, but if it makes you feel any better, I’ve never let the dill dip sit out in the hot sun for more than a half hour after I’ve had my cucumber & dill afternoon snack) that my filter was inadequate for the task), I pulled over at the next Roadside Park. I dumped out my (full) tank of rusty water, decided that I’d rather use my to-go soup container than endure the scent of the pit toilet, and filled up my three one-gallon milk cartons. Finally, I was ready for some fresh water! Except that the spigots at Roadside Parks aren’t threaded. So you can’t hook a hose up to it. Via traditional methods, anyway. I tried every tactic I could to try and get water from that spigot through the hose and into my tank. I mean, I personally got soaked, but none of that made it into my tank. So I filled my one-gallon carton 4 times, and poured it through the world’s shittiest funnel into my tank, just so it wasn’t bone dry. Probably about 2 gallons of water made it in. About one gallon got dumped on the ground, and another in the gear-age. So that was that. I have since ordered something called a Water Bandit, which is supposed to attach your hose to any kind of spigot, threaded or not. I’ll keep you posted once I receive it in my General Delivery today.
At the Indianhead Lodge where I was overnighting in Wakefield, MI, I ran into some fellow van-lifers, who shared with me that the lodge had a (non-rusty-water) spigot. Thank goodness too, because my sphincter had been starting to clench with worry, wondering where I’d be able to load up before our Day 24 foray into the wilds.
Day 24 is where things started to fall apart. I felt ready to do some real boondocking, out in National Forest land, and off we traipsed into the Ottawa NF. I was super ready for it, since I very much enjoy being able to pop a squat in nature, regardless that I pee on my feet slightly more frequently than when I’m in the van. We found a nice spot down by a river and set up camp. I mean, really set up. While my permanent awning still resides inside the van instead of on the roof rack, I also have a smaller, portable MoonShade, which I set up, minus the guy lines. Not only could I not quite figure out where exactly the rope was supposed to attach on the pole (look man, sometimes I put my blonde wig on too tightly), the ground was not amenable to having anything hammered more than about 2 centimeters into it. Also, I didn’t have a hammer. It wasn’t windy that first day, so I didn’t really think it mattered. As I was setting up Gatsby’s dining area, I noticed that my brand-new tank of water was still spewing out brown water. In fact, it was worse than it had been with the good old-fashioned rusty water. Now, when I was emptying the tank at the Roadside Park, I did run the faucet at the same time to rid myself of all the doodoo water. I thought. I thought that it might need to just run some more, and my BW friend Jim (remember him from Joliet, IL?!) agreed. He also agreed that if it stays like this after about 10 more gallons to shock the system with bleach. At that point, I resigned myself to the fact that I was likely not going to be out in the Ottawa NF wilderness as long as I’d anticipated or would have liked (the plan was to be there for 5-6 nights), because at this point, Gatsby and I only had 3 gallons of drinking water to share between the two of us. Although I’m sure he wouldn’t mind doodoo water, I didn’t want to be actively involved in accidently killing him. At least, I thought to myself, I can use this fine rust water to finally do some laundry. I have this little hand crank portable washer called a Wonder Wash, which I had anticipated using daily, and up to that point had sat there collecting dust. I was thrilled after doing several loads of laundry to find that the water was once again clear, and whatever had been gunking it up (I didn’t photograph it, but believe me, it was beyond just rust in the water) seemed to have gone away. I thought we were GOLDEN. I was also lamenting the fact that I’d had enough willpower to say no to the Little Debbie’s at the store, and made up for it by eating most of my box of Cheez-Its that I ridiculously thought were a safer alternative. I at least dumped the remaining Cheez-Its in Gatsby’s treat bin. He does enjoy them, and I’m happy to supply anything that’ll tempt him to be less of a jerk.
Enter Day 25. Sigh. One of the first things I like to do in the morning is check how much battery power I have. Especially with it not charging as it should, I just like to know where we’re starting off our day. I don’t remember the specific starting number on Day 25, but it was under 50%. I was not worried about it at the time, because it was a bright and sunny day, and we were in a clearing, so I got out my little ladder to get up on the roof to clean my panels, packed up the dog after training a client (it was fantastic having service in nature so I can still work!), and whisked him away to play in the nearby river. I came back to camp sunburnt, and expecting a full (or thereabouts) charge, but to my chagrin, that bitch was down to 31%! What. The. Fuck?! For some extra tom-foolery, the wind decided around that time to pick up my MoonShade like it was about to go to Oz and crush Nessarose. It sailed about 50 yards away, turned inside-out like an umbrella, and came to rest. At that point, I was still able to appreciate the humor in the situation, but I also started getting concerned about the power. It’s one thing not to charge very much; it’s another thing to not charge at all. When you don’t have power, you can’t do basic things. Like brush your teeth with running water. Or wash your hands. Or drink the magical elixir we call coffee. Or shower. At this point, I’d like to explain the (lack of) showering thing. You see, I’d had that lovely shower at the North Shore Golf Club, and had planned on the next one being at Indianhead. When that day was too warm, then the next opportunity was shit on by the brown water situation, followed by the lack of power. So now you understand that I’m not just a dirty hippie (yeah, yeah, not washing my hair frequently is one thing; living with dirt crusted in between my toes is another), I was in a real bind. By the time I went to bed that night, my battery was at 24%, but since absolutely nothing other than the refrigerator was pulling power, I thought we’d be fine until morning.
I was wrong. I woke up early the next morning to the silence of the fridge shutting down. No, actually that’s not entirely accurate. I woke up the first time to some birds chirping at 4am. Can someone please explain to me why birds are so fucking chipper at 4am? It seems very inappropriate. I strongly and thoroughly dislike birds. I distinctly remember moving the pillow my head was on to putting it over my open ear, which is why later when the fridge shut down and I woke up (the sequel), my neck was jacked. At this point, there was absolutely nothing to do except pack up camp and hit the road, to try and amass some power through driving. Let me tell you, that mother forking Yeti was having itself a real tantrum on Day 26. I drove for 5 hours, and that damn thing only went up to 19%. Oh, yeah, it was also bright and sunny, once again, but never did it charge via solar. Not for one second did it opt to intake anything. Day 26 was hands-down my worst day so far. I’d initially decided that we were going to go to a campground on Lake Superior that advertised having electric available. That was a bold lie, that advertisement, and after driving down roads that could most politely be described as utterly decrepit, I was a swell combination of frustrated and livid. And PMS-y. If you’re a dude and just read that and was like, “OMG, why’d she have to tell us that?” I’m here to tell you – Get Over It. I tell you about nearly shitting my pants, and what’s going on with my Laveo Dry Flush, so if the fact that I have hormones that play a role in my mood is what pushes you over the edge – peace out. Hmmm, apparently I’m still pretty crabby today.
The UP does not have very many Harvest Host locations or Boondocker’s Welcome (and from what I’ve personally experienced, the BW people up here do not keep their calendars any kind of up-to-date….I’ve put in four requests, and had two of them completely ignored, and two of them say they are unable to accommodate me on those dates. Okay, cool; if you’re not available those dates, how about you cross them off the calendar so it SHOWS you’re not available? Asshole. Yeah, I’m a dick, too; Gatsby must get it from me.) locations, so it makes it a little more difficult to find an overnight location. I lucked across one in Lake Linden, just north of Houghton, MI at the Historical Museum. At that point, I wanted absolutely nothing more than to have a G&T the size of my head and watch an episode of All American. Except that I had no power with which to charge my computer to watch All American. Also, I needed to stop in Houghton at the post office, because remember those brackets that hadn’t arrived in St. Paul on time? They were supposed to be forwarded to General Delivery in Houghton, and for the love of God, if something could possibly salvage this day, it would be getting that mother forking awning out of my van. Only they weren’t there. I sent my friend a text asking if he’d shipped them, and on Day 26, they were still sitting in his car. Soon after, I found myself at the Houghton Historical Museum in Lake Linden, drowning my sorrows in a pack of Sour Patch Kids. And a bag of M&Ms. And a box of Hot Tamales. And, if I’m being honest here, also the leftover Cheez-Its that I’d put in Gatsby’s treat bin. I texted my van man, Oliver, and told him that I’d like to revisit having him fly out for a fix (remember (or not, if I didn’t actually write about that earlier) he’d initially offered, but I thought we’d be able to get by this trip; that was also when I was getting some sun input to the battery). I also called my friend Karen and snotted to her about what a shit day it had been. She’s a client of mine, and I already see her a few times a week, so she’s always updated on the trials and tribulations, and I didn’t feel like having to explain the nitty gritty of the solar to anyone. I just wanted to cry. I washed all that down at a bar called the Loading Zone II. They didn’t have a vessel the size of my head as I’d hoped, but it was Happy Hour, so I enjoyed two G&Ts (enjoyed might be a bit of a stretch on this occasion, but I drank them all the same) to the tune of $3.50. If that doesn’t turn a day around, I don’t know what will. A (cannabis) gummy and an extra early bedtime helped, too.
I woke up on Day 27 with multiple things wrong. First off, I’m at the age where sleeping wrong for a couple of hours can really fuck you up for days/weeks, so my neck and shoulders were on absolute fire from the bird fiasco the morning prior. I do have a very valid reason for disliking birds with such vehemence, but that’s a story for a different day. Okay, so limited neck rotation, fire shoulders, a severe sugar hangover, and general grogginess from once again not having coffee (because getting up to 19% battery during the day will not keep you in business overnight). Once again, there seemed to be nothing to do but drive, so we made our way to the top of Brockway Mountain. It was really early, so we beat every tourist and got a good parking area. I figured on top of a mountain was the best place for me to sleep off my sugar hangover, and for my panels to catch some rays. It was good for one, and not the other. Before I drifted off, I found a masseuse in Gwinn, MI (our next stop on the map, since that’s the post office I chose to now have the brackets forwarded to. I hope. + Water Bandit.) and jotted a quick text to see if she had any availability to help out with my neck. I’m normally a bit particular with what I look for in a massage therapist (I like them to say things like sports massage/medical massage, or at the very least deep tissue), but I figured anything that would help get some rotation back to my neck would be beneficial to my already dubious van driving skills. Just kidding – I am way better at it than I was 4 weeks ago. I’d planned on overnighting on Brockway, but in the late afternoon, I got word that there was a massage table with my name on it at 9:30 the following morning. Meaning I needed to 1) get closer in proximity to Gwinn, and 2) drive for a while to charge up enough to take a freaking shower. Or at least find a lake to jump in. I wouldn’t possibly be so rude as to have anyone near my body as I was.
We stopped for the night at a little pull-off by Three Lakes, MI. Since hair washing is a special occasion, and I really like to earn it, I had a nice workout (fueled by both my nap and probably the sugar from the night before), and was perked up with the knowledge that Oliver is flying out early next week to fix this stressful problem. We’ve decided to rendezvous in Milwaukee. If you’re asking, ‘Wait, didn’t you just come from Wisconsin, Keeks?’ the answer is yes. Yes, I did. What an absolute SHAME though, to go back to the state I’ve favored out of all of them so far. Rats, I’ll have to have some more cheese curds and delicious burgers, and drive on those really nice roads again. I’ll get to go to the chiropractor again. Oh, and stay TWO MORE TIMES at my favorite HH, North Shore Golf Club (because naturally I’ll have one overnight there on the way down, and then of course on my way back up). Darn. Phooey. What a hardship this backtracking will be.
So here I am, with clean hair and shaved legs, better in spirit, at a park in Gwinn, waiting for my laundry to finish up and my goods to arrive at the post office. Tuesday. Tuesday is out D-Day. In the meantime, both my spirit and the Goal Zero (yes, today it’s decided it’d like to work a bit, for a while at any rate….who can say if it won’t take the afternoon off), are being bolstered by the sunshine. Please send us the fingers-crossed vibes. I’ll keep you posted. Until then!