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Following the winds of curiosity around the Great lakes

| Updated Nov 6, 2021

It’s taken us a few years to develop our traveling style but, with more than 100,000 miles now under our wheels, I can now say I’m finally comfortable with the way me move around North America.

Essentially, we follow the winds of our curiosity.

It seems natural to us. Not so for others. For example, one time a couple of years ago some folks, reading our daily blog posts about a 3,500 mile tour we were taking of the Great Lakes U.S. shoreline, tried to catch up with us in upstate New York.

Every time they arrived where they thought we’d be, we had moved on.

“Where ARE you,” one of them finally messaged me on Facebook. “You’re not here!”

No, I thought to myself, we packed up and headed to a new here.

Specifically, that new “here” happened to be in the tiny town of Le Roy, NY where we heard there was a Jell-O Museum.

Jello sign-1Indeed there was, an absolutely fascinating place that that chronicles the amazing success of the gelatinous concoction from its invention in 1845 by a local carpenter, who sold rights to it for $450, to its iconic status today as America’s most famous desert.

We had no intention of visiting the Le Roy, NY. But when the camping attendant at the Lakeview State Park on Lake Erie told us about the museum, that was all we needed. So off we went, probably passing the readers who were on their way to meet us at back at the park campground.

Don’t take this wrong way, because we absolutely love meeting folks who read of our adventures and discoveries. I always share our whereabouts and known stops on social media and the blog for just such opportunities. It’s just that we tend to move fast, especially when undertaking a project like the Great Lakes shoreline tour.

Because we had plans for another tour – tracing the Lewis and Clark expedition and the Oregon Trail west to Oregon – we only had a month to squeeze in the Great Lakes tour.

The tour was a perfect example of that serendipity way of traveling we have embraced. It’s something I had wanted to do for a long time. Actually, my dream was to do it on a bicycle. I had planned out each leg, averaging 50-75 miles a day, with a couple days off every week. I wanted to pedal it, with Jennifer following in our motorhome. It would have taken close to three months.

But when I actually picked up sponsors for the tour – Verizon Wireless and the Pure Michigan travel group – we decided on 10 stories encompassing 10 different legs of the shoreline over a month’s time.

We wouldn’t do every inch of every mile, but we could drive the most scenic sections. – 3,500 miles across eight states touching the shoreline of all five Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Shoreline Tour: Lakes Ontario and ErieSo we set off from the Lake Ontario shoreline near Otswego, NY, and then made our way to Lake Erie and Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan; continuing to Michigan along the shorelines of Lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan, and also visiting Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois where Lake Michigan also shapes a vibrant coastline lifestyle.

The cool thing about this was, other than a general route that took as close to the Great lakes shorelines as we can get, we had no plans, no schedules, no firm appointments.

Just like we do when on every motorhome trip.

We stop whenever something catches our eye, talk to people, learn about the places we visit and try to document the scenic beauty, recreational opportunities, lifestyle and historical significance of the areas we visit.

shorelinechartThe significance of the Great Lakes is staggering. According to the Great Lakes Information Network, an informational clearinghouse on the Great Lakes group supported by U.S. and Canadian governmental agencies and various civic-minded organizations, the five lakes contain:

  • One-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water (only the polar ice caps and Lake Baikal in Siberia contain more); 95 percent of the U.S. supply; 84 percent of the surface water supply in North America. Spread evenly across the continental U.S., the Great Lakes would submerge the country under about 9.5 feet of water.
  • More than 94,000 square mile of water (larger than the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire combined, or about 23 percent of the province of Ontario). About 295,000 square miles in the watershed (the area where all the rivers and streams drain into the lakes).
  • The Great Lakes shoreline is equal to almost 44 percent of the circumference of the earth, and Michigan’s Great Lakes coast totals 3,288 mi more coastline than any state but Alaska.

See why we wanted to experience the whole shoreline?

The first thing we do in planning a trip is pretty much the last thing. We agree on a route. And that’s about it.

Shhh! Michigan’s Sunrise Side is the best-kept secret of the Great LakesI generally have an idea where I’d like to end the day but more often than not, we don’t make a reservation. This really upsets a lot of the detail-oriented people. But because those winds of curiosity I described often lead us to the unexpected, we often find that we are not where I thought we’d be to spend the night.

We’ve forfeited way too many overnight reservation fees that had to be paid in advance because of such things.

So instead of the stress of having to be somewhere at a certain time, we go with the flow and stop when we want to stop, where we want to stop. At the worst, if all the local campgrounds are filled, there’s always a Walmart or Cracker Barrel or some other such business that welcomes overnight parking by RVers.

We also try to take state or county roads instead of four-lane highways or the interstates. That’s where all the good stuff is, off on those back roads. We’ve learned to watch the welcome signs in the little towns and villages as we pass them. Usually, as in Le Roy, NY and that Jell-O museum, town fathers boast about whatever it is they are most proud of and attach it to the city limits sign.

Great Lakes Shoreline Tour: Superior’s North ShoreWe talk to the locals at restaurants and gas stations and campgrounds, usually saying “what should we see while we’re in the area?”

We also pick up the guidebooks tourist agencies distribute at campgrounds and restaurants.

Thanks to technology and us always being wired as we travel, our greatest source of info is the Internet. As I drive, Jennifer does a search on the town ahead or the area we’re in.

So how does that wlll work out? If you’re interested, here is a list of the stories we covered, with lots of photos and videos:

Mike Wendland

Published on 2016-02-06

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.

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