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RVing into the heart of the arctic vortex in Michigan’s UP

| Updated Jan 24, 2014

I'm not going to lie to you. We didn't sleep in the Roadtrek eTrek last night.

We spent the night in a motel in Escanaba, at the far western end of the Lower Peninsula's northern Lake Michigan shoreline. I suppose if I looked around long enough I would have found a place to camp. But all the state and federal forests where we normally boondock up here in the UP were all but inaccessible because of unplowed roads. Somebody told me there was an Indian casino a dozen miles out of town but they were unsure whether they allowed overnight RV camping.

So when we saw a nice looking Budget 8 that was dog-friendly and had reasonable rates, hey, we took it.

Along US 2 on the northern shoreline of Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula

But while we were in our room, we kept the eTrek's diesel-powered Webasto heater running all night, so our food and water inside it wouldn't freeze. And when I opened it up this morning to re-load the stuff we took into our motel room, it was a very comfortable 60 degrees in the eTrek.

That's pretty good, considering the outside temperature dropped to -12F/-24C overnight. But that's nothing compared to where we're going, north of Duluth, MN where, Monday morning from about 3AM until noon, I'll be volunteering as an amateur radio operator providing communications for the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. At the crossing I'll be stationed at near Finland, MN, the predicted temperature at that time will be -26F/-32C. I will be in the eTrek, as will Jennifer and Tai. So this brief motel lollygagging won't last once the race starts Sunday afternoon in Duluth.

Our drive to Escanaba was about 428 miles and took more about nine hours. Roads were slick and messy downstate and the air was so cold the washer solvent kept freezing on the windshield. All the extreme cold has made for lots of potholes in Michigan and one of them dislodged a hubcap from my passenger side dualies. It was lost somewhere back along the snow banks that line the interstate.

But it was a beautiful day for RVing with clear blue skies for almost the entire trip. Crossing the Mackinac Bridge offered spectacular views of the frozen Straits of Mackinac where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron. Just as darkness set in a couple hours later, snow squalls started up. We found a great restaurant, Buck's Inn, just on the edge of Escanaba and after a nice dinner, we were ready to call it a night.

It is frightfully cold. Even Tai didn't want to linger last night when I took him out to make yellow snow. I saw a grove of pine trees and some woods that I thought would be a good spot for his other functions but, no way, he wasn't having any part of it. Back to the warmth he tugged me on his leash.

I lost a hubcap from one of Michigan's nefarious potholes

During the drive up, I used Google Glass as a reporting tool to record my point of view and a windshield-mounted Go Pro Hero 3+ to get Jennifer and I inside the Roadtrek. Hope the audio isn't too bad. I think I can improve that in future reports.

But it was fun to shoot this video…taking you along as we rushed north into the embrace of the arctic vortex.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2014-01-24

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

23 Responses to “RVing into the heart of the arctic vortex in Michigan’s UP”

January 26, 2014at6:49 pm, Rachel said:

I have to disagree with you. Illinois has THE WORST roads in the nation! Potholes everywhere! And it’s not nearly as pretty here!

January 25, 2014at10:58 am, Arl Williams said:

Whoa, I’m really surprised that the defroster is not keeping the windshield & wipers from icing. Next Sprinter you need the heated windshield and front seats option for travels like this! Great posts.

January 24, 2014at10:21 pm, dfrazier said:

love the video. half the fun is getting there, so keep up videos like this cause I enjoy seeing how you get there

January 24, 2014at4:50 pm, Jennifer Wendland said:

Thanks for the bridge closing information. Mike has always wanted to live in the UP. I hope this isn’t his dream come true. I’m sure if Tai could speak he would vote to live in the UP as well.

January 24, 2014at3:21 pm, Teresa Carr said:

Great video. Today the bridge is closed along with hwy 2. Safe travels.

January 24, 2014at3:20 pm, Teresa carr said:

See you crossed the bridge on the 23rd. As of this morning the 24th the bridge is closed along with hwy 2. Safe travels and loved the video. I may be making that drive alot to Houghton lake as our grandson may be going to college this fall there. This past year we stayed at JW Wells State Park in the UP on Green Bay. Beautiful campground.

January 24, 2014at2:35 pm, Beatrice Spatto Spears said:

what color did you order?

January 24, 2014at1:09 pm, Alphee Spurles said:

my twenty eight feet of majestic does me just fine

January 24, 2014at11:02 am, Dana McKittrick said:

This must be what makes locals so friendly and kind. The UP is a beautiful area to visit…in the summer! The people are wondetful. We loved every minute and will be back for more.

January 24, 2014at10:53 am, Stu said:

SGreat video, I know I will nevert see anything like this so I appreciate this very much, keep shooting and ill keep following your journeys , miss you both.

January 24, 2014at10:25 am, Kiki Dunigan said:

How fun to be able to follow along with you! I am so excited for your videos from Minnesota. Great way to film the road trip, keep ’em coming!

January 24, 2014at9:17 am, Vaughn Minter said:

Also commonly known as winter!

January 24, 2014at9:16 am, Maureen said:

Great video Mike and Jennifer….felt as if I was travelling along with you. It was nice to see the vision through the eTrek when you are driving. What a great testament to Roadtrek that your heater kept things warm overnight in the eTrek. I’ve been in that kind of weather, safe in a condo, and I didn’t like it then so probably won’t put this on my bucket list. Love and pats to Tai!

January 24, 2014at9:15 am, Mark Handler said:

Good ‘ol co-pilot Tai. Loves trekking with his humans. 🙂

January 24, 2014at8:21 am, Linda Chang said:

I would be concerned about salt and sand damage on underbody? Do you wash often?

January 24, 2014at8:12 am, Nancy Kirby said:

Wow, not the best place to rv in the winter

January 24, 2014at8:02 am, Muriel Moore said:

Lol im a Michigander too but with this cold l want to be at home brrrrr

January 24, 2014at8:00 am, Roadtreking said:

One again and all during this trip, I’ll be live photo blogging via twitter at

January 24, 2014at7:56 am, Mark Hughes said:

I’m a Michigander so I experience this every day…

January 24, 2014at7:54 am, John Millward said:

Keep that heater cranked! 🙂

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