Friday, August 29, 2014

Survival of the Fittest

I have been pondering the whole concept of survival lately. I was fishing the other day and I hooked a big perch. It was the biggest perch I have ever caught. I had it out of the water and, as I grabbed the line to pull it close and unhook it, the fish wiggled itself free and fell back into the water. A woman, who had been standing on the beach behind me, said, in a Russian accent, "That is why he is big fish. He good at surviving."

My family and I went on a guided hike and learned about wolves. This past year there was a big controversy in Michigan because the DNR allowed wolf hunting for the first time. They set a limit of 40(ish) wolves and the hunters were to call in their kills immediately so they could keep a real time kill count. As I learned about this wolf hunt and this amazing animal I couldn't help but think of how presumptuous humans really are. We think that because we have guns and camouflage, we need to set a limit on the number of wolves we intend to kill. They are among the BEST hunters on earth. Their weakest hunter is still 1000x better than our strongest hunter. In the end, we barely put a dent in that quota. 

I think this has been on my mind so much because it's starting to become real to me. We have never been on the road this long before and we no longer own a home. We are officially nomadic. Just us and the world. While I am extremely excited about the possibilities in front of us, I am well aware of the fact that I am responsible for the survival of this pack. 
The view from the top of Brockway Mountain in Copper Harbor. 

We have spent the last two weeks in Copper Harbor, MI. I spent 5 minutes trying to think of a word that describes how awesome this place is and I gave up. Just know that it is special and if you are a mountain biker, and you haven't been here, you need to get on that right away. 

We arrived here last Monday and Jessica's aunt and uncle were already set-up on the campsite next to us. We knew they were going to be here already but it was originally a coincidence that we booked at the same park at the same time. They changed their site to be near us and so began a great week. 

The first three days here were foggy and wet. The way you would expect a skinny peninsula in the middle of Lake Superior to be but I assure you, that is not normally the case. We did some hiking, bike riding, berry picking and beer drinking. The fog was so dense that when you were walking right along the lake shore you couldn't even see the water. I would stare into it and try to pretend it was the edge of the earth. A few times I really started to freak myself out. Even though the weather was weird, we made the best of it and enjoyed ourselves. 
Sammy didn't catch any fish but he stayed busy with that fishing pole for an hour. The fog was the most eerie at dusk. 

Things started to get warm and sunny by midweek and we did some fishing. I mean LOTS of fishing. Jessica's Uncle Dennis brought a canoe with him and he is quite the experienced angler. His father in-law lives in the Upper Peninsula and taught him a great deal about fishing. I was honored to have some of that knowledge passed on to me. What's that saying about teaching a man to fish vs giving a man a fish? 
Uncle Dennis and his bass. He likes catching sport fish. I like catching food. 

I bought me a new Swedish fillet knife and learned how to properly clean fish. We had a fish fry that featured walleye and perch and I felt awesome knowing that I possess the knowledge to be able to recreate such an event on my own. 

I went back to the lake alone the other day and caught a cooler full of perch that I promptly cleaned and put in the freezer. It's going to feel awesome to eat a great lakes perch dinner while sitting around a fire somewhere out west or down south. 

In addition to catching some of our meals from the lake, we have been gathering wild berries. The Keweenaw Peninsula is loaded with a variety of juicy morsels. Jessica is an experienced berry hunter and she obsesses about it the way I obsess about going fishing. We hike past a blueberry bush and she has to stop and pick it clean before moving on. I have to admit, I like doing it too. Who doesn't want to eat a bush full of surprise berries while hiking in the woods? 
Noah going in after a blueberry bush. 

The western U.P. also features a unique berry called the thimbleberry. I don't know the specifics but I do know that there aren't many other places where this berry grows (so uncommon that the Google spell check has a red line under the word). It's like a raspberry but it is bigger and it looks like a little thimble when it is pulled from the plant. The boys LOVE thimbleberries and they are proficient in identifying them. We used to tell them to check with a grown-up before eating berries but we are comfortable in their identification skills and let them grab them whenever they want. Just today, Sammy was standing a few campsites over having a thimbleberry feast all by himself. He came back with red juice all over his lips and told us all about his find.

Noah must be able to sense that it is getting close to September because he has been asking us when he is going to start doing school work. In response to this, Jessica has been teaching the boys how to do tasks around the campsite. She has also been very responsive to their curiosity when we are out hiking and exploring. She researches things that they express an interest in and creates small lessons to help them understand better. Kids have a certain glow in their eyes when they are locked in and learning something. It's an amazing sight and I have seen both of my boys with that glow on many occasions over the last month. 
Sammy doing 'dish washing' as presented to him by his mother, the Montessori teacher. 

Noah and I making thimbleberry jam. It tastes amazing. 

In 5 days, we are leaving Copper Harbor which is sort of bittersweet. On one hand, we are starting the journey west to see parts of the country that we have never seen before. On the other hand, this is a piece of paradise that we hate to leave behind. If they didn't get 300 inches of snow every year, we would probably never leave. 

After 30 days of living in the RV we are all still in good spirits. Learning, loving, and surviving.  

- We love blogging about our adventure and we will update our blog as often as possible. For an up-to-the-minute view of our trip, follow us on Instagram @yumfam. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.

There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.
~ Calvin Coolidge

As I write this I am listening to the waves of Lake Superior crash on the rocks just steps from my door. The same rocks that, during the day, Noah and Sam run and play on for hours while we watch and sip coffee. It really is a special place we have found and it's going to be hard to find a campsite that tops this. It's not just this site either. It's this park and it's the Upper Peninsula in general. It's one of those places that you come to and you immediately feel connected. Fellow Michiganders, if you have never explored north of the bridge you are doing it wrong. 

Last Sunday we packed up everything and headed north. Our first stop was to visit my Uncle Bob and Aunt Dianne (the boys call her Uncle Dianne, a name that Noah gave her when he was a baby that just kind of stuck). They have a great place on the Thunder Bay River in Hillman, MI. Once you arrive at their house you immediately feel comfortable and relaxed and it's really hard to leave. 

The English Cottage is like a resort!

We parked the RV at a campground upstream from them and they came and picked us up for dinner on the pontoon boat! The boys thought this was really cool and I have to admit, I was pumped about it too. We ate, had some laughs and then got some shut-eye. 

Sammy loves his Hannah and his Uncle Dianne.

The next day I had to do some work so I took advantage of their WiFi while Jessica, Aunt Diane and the boys spent the day trying to make tents for the boys. My aunt had some fabric that she found at a vintage shop and has been excited about doing this for months now. They took a trip to the lumber store to get frame material and tried laying out the project several times before deciding it was too big of a job to complete in one afternoon. Lucky for them, while they were running around town gathering materials and getting wood cut, they came across a neighbor who just happened to have a teepee in her attic that she was looking to give away. So, the boys got a new tent out of the deal but the homemade tents will have to wait for another day. 

Late in the afternoon we said goodbye and headed off to Tahquamenon Falls State Park. We setup camp in the dark and slept in late the next day. 

She literally said, "Take a picture of me while I wave goodbye and put it in your blog."

I woke up with a splitting headache and a stuffy nose. I knew immediately that I had caught the cold that we have been passing around the camper for the last two weeks. Taking long trips in an RV is great but when someone gets sick it's a real problem. A few years ago we took a trip to Disney World and we kept passing a flu bug around. I caught it twice in a matter of 3 weeks. We called it 'Mickey Mouse's Revenge' and it was not fun. So, armed with a virus and a bad attitude, I sought to take on the splendors of Tahquamenon Falls. 

Beautiful! (and the waterfall is nice too)

We did a few short hikes and saw some sights. We also took a trip to town to do laundry and grab some groceries. We made friends with some fellow full-timers. Randy and Karen are the hosts at the state park there and they are wonderful people. They heard me playing my guitar and came over to listen. See, in the real world I am a mediocre guitarist but in the camping world I am like Jimmy Page. We sat and talked around the fire and they massaged my ego with compliments about my guitar playing. They just started full-timing this summer as well so it was nice to have people who we could really relate to. 

I may or may not have bribed him into hugging his brother for this picture. 

Where yoopers go to clean their flannel shirts

After three short days we packed it in again and headed west for copper country. After a brief stop for lunch and some business in Marquette we arrived at the amazing campsite that I described earlier. We have done a lot of hiking and swimming and the boys are getting a lot of recreation and fresh air. Another perk of this campground is we have 4G wireless access which enables me to do things like write this blog and rot my brain with Facebook. 

Noah learning about wolves on a nature hike. 

Mom and Sammy enjoying their own private waterfall. A short two hour hike along the trail. 

Hannah loves being outdoors too. Pound for pound she is the best hiker on the planet. 

In a couple days we are heading north to the Keweenaw Peninsula where we are camping with Jessica's aunt and uncle. Her uncle is bringing a boat so hopefully we can catch some fish. The campground is right next to some of the most amazing mountain bike trails in Michigan so I will probably go out and get injured at some point. 

Most of our friends and family back home are picking up the pieces after a massive flash flood. I have seen pictures and heard stories but I really can't wrap my mind around it. I have never seen flooding of this magnitude in all my years of living in the Detroit area so it is really shocking to me. Friends, family, Mom, Katie and Paul, Shelly and Jeff, Christina and Shelly, Zac, Steve W and anyone else effected by the storm, we are thinking about you. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

There Goes the Neighborhood

We have been living in the RV for over a week now. We are staying about 35 miles away from our house so we make trips to that side of town regularly for various reasons. My office is also near the house so I have been going there to work every couple of days. It almost feels like we have a safety net. Don't get me wrong, we have been putting a lot of work and thought into this transition. It just feels like, until we close on the house, we have an umbilical cord that keeps us tied to our stationary lives. In a couple of days that is all going to change as we are unhooking and heading off to start our adventure.

The time we've spent here at the park on our RV has been great. We have had lots of friends and family come out to visit us. Some of them stay for a few hours, some stay the entire weekend. Our campsite is nestled next to a playground so the boys get plenty of exercise and they are making new friends every day. It's good for me and the wife too because when they start driving us crazy we can just send them to the playground for a while.
Noah and Sam playing together in their Lego tent. 
There is plenty of recreation here at the park. We have paved bike paths, mountain bike trails, a disc golf course, geocaching, a beach and activities on the weekends. We have taken advantage of all of these things at some point or another and we love having lots of options each day. Come on out and see us and we will let you pick an activity!

Evening Geocaching along the trail with the Ahrens family. 

In our downtime we have been working on various life hacks for the RV. We hung some hooks here and there, invested in some water filters and organized all of our stuff. I am really surprised with how well it has gone. I have to admit, I didn't think Jessica would be able to condense her things enough to take this trip. She has a LOT of stuff and she is a total pack rat. I gotta hand it to her though, her desire to be an adventure seeking RV mom has shined through. She might be a princess on the surface but deep down she is a badass.
Our portable washing machine
...and our clothes dryer

It seems we got out of the house just in time. We went there the other day to do a final cleaning and there are construction barrels, excavators and hard hats all over the place. They started by replacing all of the gas lines on the street which was a huge nuisance. They are currently cutting down all of the old oak trees on the street to make way for the sewer crew. It's pretty sad because these trees are 50-60 years old and they really gave the neighborhood character. After they replace the sewers they are going to completely tear up the road and repave it. If my timeline is correct, the new owner is going to be moving into the house while the road is being worked on which should prove to be a giant pain in the ass.

These pictures don't tell the whole story. Not pictured: Lazy workers on smartphones, porta potties, cement pipes and vehicles that have no apparent use that are parked sideways and blocking the road. 

The whole thing just seems like fate to me. We got an offer on the house the same day they started marking our street with flags and paint and now we are moving out just as they are changing the look and feel of our street. Years from now someone might say, "This place just hasn't been the same since the Yums left."

...and they wouldn't be exaggerating at all.