Road Trip in Michigan, July-August 2012
A window in Tom's universe.
This is more than a website of photos, it is a place to
share photos, adventures, stories, opinions, and
information. I hope you enjoy the time you spend here.
2012.... Road Trip in Michigan! At this time, this is a work in progress, but should be completed soon. Between July
23 and August 07, my photo buddy and I toured the state of Michigan. Now back, I am sharing the adventure
through stories and photos from the road. The trip progressed too fast for me to write all the stories, edit all the
images, then share it all from the road.  But, now, I am getting the reports together and sharing them here.
If you have been to Michigan, my road reports my serve as a reminder of your adventure. If you have not been
there, you might be encouraged to go. I only got to see and experience a small part of the state, so what you will
see here is but a small sample.. Hope you enjoy the reports!
Report on July 27, 2012
Last weekend, I sent out a note telling all the people on the list that I was headed up to Michigan to drive dune
buggie(s) in the sand near Ludington.. Actually I think the town name is Mears...
I truly expected to have the time and energy to send out the road stories and photos, as I traveled, somewhat like
what I have done before. However, I left St. Louis on Monday morning with my buddy Ralph, and we headed north,
but have had almost no time to sit down and share the stories from the road.. Right now it is 12:30 AM, local time,
on Friday morning.. I still have to get to bed and get some sleep, but I am here to tell you, this has been one of the
most challenging trips I have been on.. I thought driving to Alaska was a challenge!!! It does not compare to
exploring Michigan!!!!!!!!! Michigan must be the most popular place on earth for the rich and famous!!!!!!!!!!
We have had nothing but problems trying to find rooms!! And, when we do, they are expensive!!!!!! The room I am
in right now, we barely were able to get, and got it only because someone canceled, while we were in the
lobby!!!!!!!!!!!! Ralph had called ahead to this hotel, asked for a room, the lady took his name, phone number, and
credit card number, etc... Told him all he had to do was show up and present his card... We drove into Ludington,
the base town that that we would be doing our buggie drive from... We came to the Days Inn, went in to get the
reserved room, only to find there was no record of us reserving a room!!!!!!!!! After a loooong chat with some
management, and a hotel that was FULL, the phone rang.... Someone called in and canceled a higher priced room,
which we were able to get!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The next day, Wednesday, we drove south to Mears, where there are dune buggies for rent.. After researching the
options for buggie rides, we first took a tour bus ride of some of the dune area.. Then, we went to a rental place
and rented a dune buggie for 2 hours! Went to the Silver Lake Dune Buggie Rental.... Rental for two hours was 200
dollars... We were delivered to the dunes with our buggie and started our adventure on the sand at 3 PM.. We
were to be back at 5 PM... We took off and was going like wild men, having a lot of fun driving the buggie on the
sand dunes!! We switched drives every 30 minutes or so.
At 4:15, I ended my 30 minutes and we switched drivers.. Now Ralph is driving again.. He takes off for the sand
that goes up and into the trees and brush.. At 4:20 PM, he hits a tree and breaks the tie rod on our buggie!!!!!!!!
WE are done for.. We still have nearly and hour to go and our buggie is broke! WE call for help, which for some
reason, takes over and hour.. A 4x4 comes and finds us, hooks on to us and drags us out of the dunes and to the
parking area from where we started... The rental company hauled us and the buggie back to the shop, charged
Ralph a small fee for the broken part and we left!!!!!!!!!
We were covered in sand, and Ralph was more concerned about the sand on him than the buggie or the lost time,
etc.. When we left Mears, we headed straight back to this room and Ralph ran to the shower!!!!!!! He had had it
with the sand experience!!!!!!!!!!!!! To appreciate all this, Ralph drove cars for a living for the Ford Motor
Company!!! But in a dune buggie, things did not go as well.. This is what we came up here for!!! And a pine tree
brought it all to an early end!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thursday was milder. We did a three hour canoe trip on the local lake, then walked 4 miles. This was to see a light
house that was two miles from the parking lot! Neat place.... I have gotten some neat photos while here, but have
not had time to share....
Another challenge here is not being able to find good fast food.. One night we did not get back from doing photo
work until late! Late being 10 PM.. At this time of day, there was only one place to eat still open, Applebees.. WE
ate there, and it was pretty good! The next night we ate at Bigboys, which was real nasty!!!!!! Had to send both
food and beverage back for replacement!!!!!!!!!! This town is one of those places where everything closes at 10
Tonight, we were super tired after the paddle and the hike, so we did one of the local Subways, which turned out to
be very good!!! But, then we had to return to the hotel and find another place(hotel) further north to stay Friday and
Saturday night! I would never have guessed that northern Michigan was soooooo popular!~ I really do not know
what is here that draws a crowd, but they are here! Or at least they will be this weekend... We needed a room for
Friday and Saturday nights, and since I have a credit card that offers travel help, I called them to find a room for us
for the next two days! The people at the travel service worked from 11 PM til 12:15 AM trying to find a place north
of here for us.. Nearly everything in Northern part of Michigan is full for the weekend, and the few rooms that are
available, are well over 300 dollars per night! These prices were not in our budget!!!!!! Finally, after a lot of hard
work, the agent found a room in our price range, in Saginaw!!! Which is on the other side of the state from where I
am now in Ludington.. We reserved a room in Saginaw for two nights! We will head there in when the sun comes
up! Not sure what we will find, but it was the only place in the north part of Michigan that was not full or over
priced... If there is a money issue in the United States of America, you would not know it by being in Michigan!!!!!!!
These people are spending money like they owned printing presses!!!!!!!!!!!!! I never expected in a million years that
this place would be soooooo packed with people.. Never seen anything like it in my life!!!!!!!!!
If you are planning to vacation in Michigan, you best plan way ahead, and be prepared to spend a fortune to stay
here!!!!!!! This has to be the playground of the rich and famous!!!!!!!!!!! And there is a lot of them!
I do have some neat photos to share, when I get time.. It is now 1 AM, and I need to get some sleep... We have a
long drive in the wrong direction tomorrow.. We planned to move north, but all the north area is full of people, at
least the hotels are full of people!!!!!!!!!!!! Stay tuned for more stories and some photos, I hope!!!!!!!!! I am guessing
that even the campgrounds are full.. Camping has been a lot easier for me that doing hotels, which I am learning
can be a real pain.. There is no freedom in being a hotel person.. You have to know a year in advance what you
want to do!!!!!!!! That is not freedom to explore!!!!!
Stay tuned.. We are on the road, but where we are headed is almost a mystery!!!!!!!!!!!!
Report for Day 01, July 23, 2012

Hey Gang,

As most all of you know, I am on another road trip, and when I do road trips, I most often take a lot of photos, then
share these and the stories that go with then. I have been trying to learn how to just do a blog, but so far, I am not
doing so well. People tell me a blog is a better way to share road trips.. When I have the blog skills, I will go that
way! For now, it is just emails and updates to my website when I have time.

This adventure actually started in February of 2012 while Ralph and I were doing a back to back cruise in the
Caribbean. The second week of our two cruises is the one that presented us with two new friends from Royal Oak,
Michigan. As happens many times, when you are on a cruise, you make friends that stay friends for a long time
after the cruise is over. This is what happened on our second week of cruising! We met two really neat ladies from
Royal Oak, we exchanged email addresses, etc, at the end of our cruise, and more or less left it at that.. But, as
luck would have it, we met them again at the airport when we were leaving San Juan.. We had some time to visit
again before our planes zipped us off to your home states.

As luck would have it, I have stayed in touch with the ladies ever since!! Maybe we have made new friends for life!!
Who knows about such things, but we have been staying in touch!!!!!!!! And, not toooooo long ago, I got a funny and
excited message from these ladies.. They told of having just returned from Mears, Michigan, where they had rented
Dune Buggies from a place named Silver Lake Dune Buggie Rental. They told of having rented a buggie for 1.5
hours, had great fun, and planned to go back and rent one for two hours next time.. They more or less hinted that
we might be interested in coming up and sharing the experience, but they did insist that we should go try it, no
matter what.. I read the email to Ralph, he got excited, said YES, he was interested, and so the planning for the trip
was started.. The ladies were not able to return and share the excitement doing the dune buggies at the time Ralph
wanted to go, so we would be doing this buggie thing as a solo deal!

When Ralph said yes, we would go, I explained to him that we needed something else to do other than just go drive
a dune buggie!!!!!!!!!! He listened! A couple of days later, he showed up with a plan that would take us all the way to
Canada, and involve some two weeks of travel and exploring! I agreed to his plan and on July 23, after more than a
week of delays, we were on the road!! At 0900, we left his home and headed north. We had no reservations, or
anything! We would be winging it!!!!!!!!!!
That in itself sounds pretty good, but little did we know how things were going to be as we moved along! We left at
0900, with plans to drive to Michigan City, IN. Grab a room and some food, then move on! When we arrived in
Michigan City, we drove to a hotel that was in our travel book.. We arrived and were informed that the hotel was
full!!!!!!!!! On a Monday, full, are you serious!!!!!!!!! No hotel is full on a Monday!!!!!!!! But, this one was!!!!!!! We
were not sure what to do, and more or less were faced with going off to search for an empty room! But, then, I
remembered that one of my credit cards had a concierge service. I called them, and within a few minutes, they had
found a room at a fair price. It was a Super 8, and it was less than a block away!!!!!!!!!!!!! We headed over..

Once inside, we asked for our room.. The nice young lady behind the counter, Amanda, said that we did not yet
have a room!!! No room, we just reserved it.. She asked if we had make the reservation via an outside service.. We
said yes. She said it could take up to one half hour for the reservation to arrive on her computer!!!!! Given that is
was dinner time, and that we were hungry, we ask her for a reference to a good place to eat.. Without hesitation,
she said the Texas Corral, next door! Really, that close!!!! Yep, next door.. So, off we went to do dinner next door!
Per the large sign outside, they had 75 cent draft beer!!!!!!!! Sure, this stuff would have to take like rot-gut! But, we
go in, we look at the menu, and we see that there are some neat items on the menu. We also noticed there were a
lot of peanut shells on the floor!!!!!!!! Are they just messy, or is this something neat that we do not know about!
Looks clean, but what is the deal with the hulls!!!!!!!!! We were a bit shy about eating here, until a family of locals
came in.. The implied was that this place was good!!!!!!!!!!! OK, we tell the hostess that we will try it.. We are
seated in a booth.. At this point, the peanut hull mystery is solved.. Each table has a bucket of peanuts on it.. The
idea is to eat the peanuts from the bucket, and throw the shells in the floor! This is how it is done!!!!!!!!!!!!

Once seated, we are soon visited by our waitress to be, Leah!!!!!! Turns out, she is great.. She ask what we would
like to drink, and she informs us that we can get 75 cent draft beers! Are you serious, this stuff has to be awful!!!!!!!
So, I ask about the brands. Turns out, they have all the popular brands available. The waitress suggests we go with
Killian's, as it was good beer at a super price! I am not convinced, as I do not remember having consumed this
particular brand!!!!!!! But, the solution is simple, at this price!! Get one brand that I like, and know, and also get the
Killian's. I do. Leah brings both! After two sips, the contest is over, Killian's is the winner. I had ordered one Miller
Lite, and one Killian's...

With the beer contest over, it was time to do the food.. True to form, when I am in a new area, I just go for the
burger! This is what I did this time, and it turned out awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!... Once full of beer, and burgers, I was
ready to head off to my room.. I checked with Ralph, he too was ready to go.. He too had sampled several of the
brews and was quite happy... Actually, Ralph, had gone with the filet steak!! Said it was good!! So, if you are ever
in Michigan City, hunt this place up and treat yourself right! The food is great for normal people like me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Back at the front desk, we learn that our reservation is now in the local computer and we can move it... So far so
good, but then I made a serious boo-boo. After unloading the car, I was passing through the lobby when I learned
that they had some hot coffee available.. I took half a cup, just for taste!!! I had some computer work to do, and a
little caffeine might help.. I drank the coffee, did my chores, and went to bed!!!!!!! About 5 minutes after I went to
bed, the full effects of the coffee hit me.. My eyes popped wide open, and there they stayed the rest of the
night!!!!!!!!!! I could find nothing to stop the effects of the coffee.. I was wide awake!!!!!!!!!! That stuff must have
been super octane coffee.. Never had this much of an issue before!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was awake all night!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
WRONG!!! I had things to do the next day, I needed sleep, but it was not to be !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really goofed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think I finally got to sleep a few minutes before the alarm went off, but!!!!!!!!! The next day was a loooooong

I have a few photos to share, and the link to them is shared below!!!!!!!!!!

Note... This was written July 28, 2012.. I am behind on getting out my road stories.
For 2012-07-24

Hey Gang,

By now you have read about my first day on the road for this adventure, and about how we got a room the first night
and the great food we had!! Well, the story this time is going to be even better, for day two!!! We wanted an
adventure, we got it!

Before I get very far into this story, I want to mention that my travel buddy, Ralph, called ahead yesterday, and
reserved a room for us in Ludington for two nights at the Days Inn. Remember this fact, it will be important later in
this story!

Ralph and I were up early, consumed a few bites of food from the continental breakfast area, did the shower thing,
packed and left! We did some tourist things along the way, but sometime in the afternoon, we arrived in the town of
Muskegon.. Stay awake for this fact, Ralph has been here before! So, he thinks he remembers how to get to the
submarine museum that we want to see.. We start out by trying to use his memory as the GPS for finding the
museum. You are probably smiling, as you know there is going to problems here! You are correct! Ralph's memory
is useless! I have to get my cheap little Garmin GPS out, find the Submarine Museum on it, and use the GPS to find
the museum.. Ralph had us a looong ways from where we needed to be! Of course he had some useless excuses
for why his memory was not adequate for finding the museum.. No matter, we used my GPS, found the museum,
parked, went inside, and asked about pricing..

I guess there is a flaw in our character!! When Ralph found out there was “senior” pricing, he asked for “two” senior
tickets!!!! Now here is the deal, senior started at 62!!! He paid for two seniors!!!!!!! I think the entry price for seniors
was 12.50. The price for non-seniors was 15.00... We cheated them out of 2.50... I guess we really are bad.. But,
in 1.5 years, I would be a senior, by their standards... This senior thing is soooo confusing to me.. At 55, I can get
senior coffee at McDonalds!!! And I use the privilege!!!!! The cost of senior coffee is generally around 50 cents per
cup.. I give them a dollar and put the change in the McDonalds House donation box. Senior to the US government is
62!!! That is when you can get your lifetime card for entry into the national parks!!!!!! I am only 1.5 years away from
that privilege.. So, what is a senior!!! Really.. Some places say you have to be 65!!! Ah, what the hell, I am going
with the minimum, 55!! All this other stuff is just ??????, you know what I mean, but, Ralph and I may go to hell for
cheating the museum out of 2.50 dollars! But then, maybe not... Depends on ?????

Ok, we did the museum, and the self-guided tour of the submarine and the Coast Guard boat parked near the sub!
In my shared photos, I did not label the different parts of the sub that we saw.. Why, because I did not know what
they were! However, I supposed that for my readers who are interested in such things, they would know what they
were looking at, the rest of us can just call them nice pictures! The thing I do know about the sub is, I am glad I
never worked in one!!!!! I do not have what it takes to live in a tube!!!!!!!!! No way!!!

OK, we finished the tour, just as the museum was closing.. In fact, we may have been the last ones out! From here,
we headed north to Ludington and the room we had reserved at the Days Inn.. We found Ludington and we found
the front of the Days Inn.. We parked, went in, and ask for our room!!!!! NO ROOM!!! The lady behind the desk
informed Ralph that she did not have a reservation for us, and there was NO RECORD of him having made any
reservation~!! And, to make matters worse, all rooms in the hotel were filled, or reserved! The lady behind the desk
could not help us!!!!!!!! WE tried everything we could think of to help the hotel do find the solution to the issue.. Like
wrong spelling of the name, wrongly entered phone number, etc... NOTHING... The lady who took the so called
reservation had taken Ralph's cell phone number, his email address, and his credit card number!!!!!!!! She informed
him that all he had to do was show up and present his credit card!!!!!!!! He did, but nothing... He requested the
chains home office number. He called it.. He was getting little help, so I took over and politely had a chat with one of
the upper managers that I was able to get a hold of... I explained the criminal action that had taken place by his
employ taking a person's credit card number, then not using it for reserving the room that was promised!!!!! This
went on and on, as I explained to the person that there was going to be hell to pay if they did not do something to
find us a room.. If not here, somewhere in town... We came here with the understanding that we had a room, and
one of their employees had Ralph's credit card number!!!!!!!!!

Well, as luck would have it, the lady behind the desk came to where Ralph and I were having the phone chat with the
upper management.. It would seem that someone had just called in and canceled a room.. We could have have it,
but for a few dollars more than our original price.. We chatted, then we took it, as it met our needs... So, we had a
room after all!!!!!!!!!!

Once moved into our new room, which came with a jacuzzi tub, we took off to check out the town. Ralph had been
here and knew there was a lighthouse on the beach! But, we also needed to eat.. The lady at the desk
recommended a place called Sportsman's.. We took off to find it. We found it, and ordered a beer to sip on while
we checked out the menu! About the time I ordered a beer, I got a call back from my brother-in-law.. I had called
him earlier to express my condolences for the loss of his mom, who had passed away this morning, after a fight for
her life against cancer.. I had gotten an email from my sister earlier this day, informing me that my brother-in-law
had lost his mom this morning.. I called his cell phone, but got his voice mail. He was returning my call.. We had a
nice chat as he drove home from his parents home, where his mother had passed away around 0530 this morning.
He informed me that he was with her as her life here on earth ended.. He described it as a very peaceful passing. I
am sure she would be very happy to know he was there with her as she passed on into the next cycle of life! I
understand she lived a full and wonderful life. If only everyone could be so lucky!!!

After speaking with my brother-in-law, and looking at the menu, I learned that this place was not serving real food
after 9 PM.. Just bar snacks, so we left!!!!!!!!!! I do not remember the proper order of things, but shortly after
leaving the Sportsman's, we found ourselves down by the water, looking at the lighthouse! There we met a lady who
was doing lighthouse photos.. Looked like fun, so we got our cameras and got in on the fun.. The lighthouse looked
really neat in the setting light of the day! We started shooting the lighthouse, and continued on as the light faded to
near zero light. As the light became too low for the lighthouse, we noticed some young people playing in the water
between us and the setting sun.. We aimed our cameras on this action and continued to shoot until the light was
gone! Note, the lady that was shooting the lighthouse photos was with her hubby, and both said we had to go into
town and see the awesome photos that were for sale by a shop called “Todd and Brad Reed Photography”.. They
are supposed to be great local photographers!~ Remember this, I will tell you more in a later report! Also,
remember the lighthouse in this set, as it will be important to my story about the local photographers!

Once ALL the light was gone for the day, Ralph and I started looking for food again.. It was now 10:15 PM.. Every
place we checked was closed. They had closed at 10 PM..!!!!!!!!!!! So, we called our hotel and asked where there
was food this time of night.. Turns out, Applebee's was the only place that would be open this late, so off we went!
We found it, we were seated, and we ordered food. Appetizers were half price, and the server said the dip and
chips was the best deal in town! So, I ordered it.. Thought Ralph would split it with me.. Wrong, he had a couple of
nibbles and he was finished.. I had to eat the rest of it myself!!! :-))) And, there is more. To make matters worse, I
ordered a large burger, with the extras!!!!!! Now, I have to eat the treat, then my burger!! I got it done, but I was
over stuffed, big time!!!!!!!! I was hurting! Felt like a Christmas Turkey, or the person that ate the whole thing!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now we have eaten, we are super full, and we are back at the hotel! It is time for bed, but I want a shower.. So off I
go.. Problem is, I see that jacuzzi and I think, why not!!!! I fill it three quarters of the way with hot water, hit the go
button and I am in heaven!!!!!!!!! Was GREAT! Note. This thing was so large that I thought it would take two days to
fill it, but, I found that the faucet for the tub was supplied with high pressure water.. Took on a couple of minutes to
fill the tub!!!!!!!!!!!! Tis funny that there were signs asking us to conserve water by reusing our sheets and our towels,
etc, but not the jacuzzi!!!!!!!!!!! Use all the water you want!!!!!!!!! Can you imagine how much laundry you could do
with the water I used to fill that tub!!!!!!!!!!!!

For this day I am sharing a link below to my memory images. You will notice I have not labeled a lot of them, as I
was not sure what to put on them. The lighthouse photos should be self explaining.. There are too many for normal
people, but several of my readers are photographers, so all the EXTRA shots are for them!!

Hope you enjoy the stroll through the sub and the last rays of light at and near the lighthouse in Ludington, Michigan.
2012-07-25, Day 3 of the Michigan Road Trip Adventure!

Hey Gang,

Here I am again with another story and more memory images. This time it is for DAY 3 of our road trip in Michigan!!
This was to be our big day, this was going to be day that we would do the adventure that brought us to this state in
the first place. We came here to drive the dune buggies on the sand dunes at Mears, Michigan!!!

In case you missed it, here is a bit of a review! While Ralph and I were doing a cruise in the Caribbean this past
February, we met a couple of really neat ladies from Royal Oaks, MI. For those who do not recognize the town
name, it is near the famous town of Detroit.. These two ladies were seated at our table on the ship, the second
week of our two week cruise. Ralph and I had gone for two back to back weeks of cruising.. The ladies were with
us the second week..

I meet a lot of neat people as I travel and as I have said before, I always remember the people longer than I
remember the places.. I just have to go to the places to meet the people! A lot of the people do not stay in touch
after the shared adventure, some stay in touch for awhile, others seem to stay long enough to become family and
share all the years since we met!!! Now back to the ladies, Maureen and Claudia, who are on a quest to enjoy life,
wherever they find it.. Well, it would seem they found some great fun on an adventure in their home state, after
returning from their cruise with us!!! I got an email from them, in which they shared a story of great fun in Mears,
Michigan, where they had gone for a few days. While there, they discovered the dunes and the rental dune
buggies!!! I was not told the whole story, yet, butYep, they rented one and were turned loose on the dunes!!! Must
have been a hoot for them, per Maureen's message to me.. It would seem they rented the buggy for 1.5 hours,
which cost 165 dollars.. After sharing the story of how much fun they had, which included the sand bath they got
when one of them jumped the buggy over the edge of a bank and into a hole, or something like that! No matter,
they had so much fun, they planned to return and rent a buggy again, but for two hours the next time~! Two hours
only brings the rental price up to 200 dollars.

After Maureen shared the story of the dune buggy fun, she said she thought it was something Ralph and I would
really enjoy.. And, that they might be interested in meeting us in the Mears and sharing the excitement of doing the
buggy ride again.... I contacted Ralph, read Maureen's message to him.. He got excited and say yep, he was all for
it!!!!!! So, we started making plans to go, right away!! Two things came out of the planning.. Ralph was all set to
drive up, drive the buggy and return home.. I said that was too much driving for a couple hours of sand buggy
driving.. We needed more things to do to make it worth while.. Two days later he contacted me with a two week
plan to see the whole state!!!!!!!!!! I was not sure we could see the whole state, but we could hit some of the
highlights and we could meet the ladies, do the buggy ride, and I could meet up with some friends in the state that I
had met earlier on cruises in the Caribbean... Being in a singles club, we got started doing cruises together some
years back. Somewhere in time, our travel agent started combining our singles group with other singles groups, and
formed one cruise group.. Worked out great.. Made a lot of good friends!

Ralph and I started making plans for a fast exit out of town, but first, I had to get some new eye glasses.. And,
Ralph needed to get a sleep study done, because he snores, loud... And, he was having a lot of sleepy days!!!!!!!! I
worked hard to get the eye glass thing taken care of, but could not make it happen! I have always worn glass lens,
and this time the office I went to tried hard to get me into the plastic type lens.. Tried several combinations of lens,
but nothing worked.. Was driving me nuts!!!! Finally, a manager came to me aid and said we were going back to
glass, which is much sharper and gives much better acuity! These lens had to be ordered and would not be back
before I left... In the meantime, I told Ralph that he has to finally throw in the towel, get the sleep study, get the
CPAP, and get everything he needed for the CPAP, before we could leave! He frowned a bit, but jumped on the ball
and got a study lined up.. Took a week to get the first one done, and he failed it!!!!! Can you believe that, he failed
a sleep study~ Anyway, we had to wait again until he could be retested.. On Wednesday, he was tested again, got
good data on this test, got set up with a new CPAP. He was given the wrong one, and had to change it, but the
second one seems to have gotten the issue taken care of~! Now, he is ready to leave, but, we have found out that
the ladies in Royal Oaks would not be able to join us for this adventure.. They would like to meet us, but said it
could not be arranged until Labor Day weekend.. Bottom line, Ralph and I would have to go do the dune buggies
without the ladies.

We are now in Ludington and today is our big day!!!!!!! We are up early, we do the continental breakfast supplied
by the hotel. We clean up, get all of our stuff together, load the car, and we are off. We are staying in Ludington,
and will be driving about 30 miles back south to Mears to do the buggy ride. In emails from the ladies, we learned
that they chose the Silver Lake Dune Buggy Rental company for their adventure.. So, we would be focused on this
company, but still open to other options.. As we drove into town, the first dune buggy rental we came to was Wild
Bill's, I think.. We stopped and talked to them, looked at their buggies and their hourly rates, which was around 90
dollars per hour. They had some buggies available, and earlier Ralph and I had talked, and decided we would get
one buggy each... However, on this day, and at this time, the wind was blowing really hard and rain looked to be
headed our way.. We chose to wait on the rental thing until we learned more about the town, the rental agencies,
the weather, etc.. We left this shop and went down about a block to the Silver Lake rental people.. Talked to them,
talked about the weather, etc... They too had buggies, but said they could not promise the rain would stay away.. I
told Ralph we should go look around and see what happened with the weather.. We might have to let the ride go
this day, and return the next day... So, off we went to look around.. Our drive took us to the staging area where all
the dune buggies start from.. There is a big parking lot there, and a couple of inspection stations, to check the
buggies for safety, and for booze~~!! We got some info, parked the car and tried to walk up on the dunes to an
overlook where we could see the people driving the buggies.. Did not work out... Wind was blowing hard..... So
back to the car we went... However, I decided to try again, but this time I left the camera in the car and took a
different path.. This time I was able to see more and get a better idea of what the dunes had to offer a buggy
driver!! Looked pretty fun, so back to the car I went to the car to tell Ralph the good news... Back at the parking
lot, we once again spoke to a park employee who gave us more local info, to include the fact that a few miles south
was a business call Mac Woods. This business has some open-air bus things that take people out the dunes for an
introduction tour. This is not the same area of the dunes where the buggies play, but gives a person and idea as to
what is on the dunes... Ralph and I checked it out, thought why not, and so we did. We needed to kill a little more
time waiting for the weather to improve. It cost each of us 17 dollars for the tour. The tour lasted 40 minutes and
was approximately 7 miles in length, per the driver. Was a good tour.. I can recommend it. OH, and I even joined
the kids in climbing to the top of the highest sand dune on the tour.. Was not easy, but was fun.. To get up, one had
to use both the hands and feet..

Once back from the orientation tour, we judged the weather to be good enough for a buggy trip, even though the
wind was blowing really hard! After talking to several local people, we determined that in fact, Silver Lake Dune
Buggy Rental was the company to go with. They had been in the business the longest, were the best known,
seemed to have the best service, etc, etc.. So, we went back to them to see it they had a buggy for rent.. We had
talked this over and changed our mind about getting two buggies.. We would just get one and share the cost and
the driving time!

We arrived at the office, went in, talked to the lady who does the renting. Yes, they had buddies for rent this day..
So, we paid for two hours and started getting ready.. Ralph had brought some goggles things to wear, which are
needed!!!!!!!!! And we left all of the non-essential items in the car.. We did have to take a drivers license, which is
required, on the dunes!!!!!!! We are assigned to buggy number 00.. But when it came back from the dunes, it had a
flat tire, so we were changed to buggy number 12.. This is the one that the people hauled with us to the dunes.. In
the memory photos, you will see how they carry these little buggies on the back of a transporter bus. Is a nice
setup they have! You and the buggy go to the dunes together... Once at the dunes, the man asked about our
height, etc.. Given that I am six feet tall, he suggested we try a newer buggy they had at the staging area. This
buggy might have been a tad bigger, and had a better gear ratio, plus the headroom was higher.. We tried number
16, it fit us, they gassed it up to the top, buckled us in and told us we had two hours to go play.. It was nearing 3
PM, so he said to be back at 5 PM... Given that Ralph likes to drive, I insisted that he take the first turn. To get on
the dunes, we had to drive to an entry point, have our flag height checked!!! This is an important thing to have right
on the dunes.. Every sand toy on the dunes has to have a legal flag that sticks up about 10 feet above the
GROUND.. This is a safely thing, and it works.. To check the height as you are entering the dune area, there is a
bar across the road at the entry station. Your flag has to touch that bar as you drive in, or they stop you and you
have solve your problem.. No problem for us, we had about an extra foot of flag height.

Now that we are certified for proper gear, we are off.. We have to drive about one half mile down a sandy lane to
get on the dunes, then we were free to go!!!!!!!! Ralph had not driven anything like this, so he was challenged at
first.. To keep from getting stuck in the sand, especially on the hills, we had to travel at full throttle, using the
momentum of the car to get us over humps, etc... Wasn't too long until Ralph got suck on a hill.. So, we pile out,
pull the buggy around and I think it is at this time that I get in and start driving.. I drove for awhile, then turned it over
to Ralph.. He drove for awhile and got stuck again.. This time I took back over, I think, drove for one half hour.. At
the end of my half hour, I drove to a flat area, we changed drivers, and off we went, with Ralph driving. Less than
five minutes later, he decided to go up into a tree area of the dunes. At the top of the dune in the area, he chose to
go right, and down we went, but we had to make a left turn to avoid going into a hole and being stuck again, we
missed the hole, but the turn to the left put the buggy in some deep sand ruts. As Ralph tried to get out of the ruts,
the buggy shifted left rather quickly and he was unable to bring it back under control before it hit a small pine tree
on the left side of the trail we were on.. A few more inches either way and we might have been okay, but the
buggy's left front tire just missed the tree, allowing the tree to skim past it and hit the tie rod. Snapped it!!!!!!!!!!!!
We are done for! It is now 4:15 PM.. At first, I thought there was not problem, but Ralph saw the problem right
away and told me it was all over!!!!!!!!!

Before leaving the office, we were given a map of the dunes and a phone number to call in case we had problems..
Well, we had a problem!!! Ralph grabbed his trusty phone and called the number.. He got a live person on line, and
he was told they would send someone to help us... This would be a good time to add some more info on why we
chose Silver Lake Buggy Rental. This company has a rescue person driving around the dunes to help people when
they get in trouble. We had seen this person a couple of times earlier this day, so we knew they were out there.. In
fact they had stopped once to check on us when we stopped to talk to someone.. We were okay, and they went on
their way, but now we needed them and they were not there! If they had come recovered us in a fast manner, we
could have gotten another buggy and continued our ride, but that did not happen.. After about a reasonable amount
of time, Ralph called the number again.. Got an answering machine this time. ... We continue to wait... And we
wait, and we wait.. I think Ralph called two or three more times.. No response.. We did have several people stop
by to help, but we were too broken down to be helped by people with good intentions.. But, something did happen
to make us feel better about our issue.. One nice fellow in a big 4x4 new pickup stopped to see if he could help us..
After a nice chat, he got back in his truck and headed on up the hill in front of him, which was his original goal.. He
traveled about 30 yards us the hill, and started sliding the the right into s hole next to some bushes!! The more he
tried to free him truck, the worse it became stuck!! Several people stopped to help him, only to leave with well
wishes! One of the laws of the dunes is that you always stop and help a fellow duner is they they are stuck!! This
one they could not help... For all I know, he is still stuck in that sand bank! I am telling you this truck was as stuck
and stuck can get!!!!!!!! The next step would be to just cover it with sand, hiding it forever, then walk to your nearest
agent and claim it as a total loss on your insurance! Truth is, I think there were wench trucks with huge tires and big
wenches that would reach down from the top of the hill and pull him out! At one point, there must have been 20
people there trying to get this man's truck out of the sand!!! You have to admire them for trying! Some of these
people had some big rigs themselves, but could not help...

I had to laugh while we waited, and as Ralph's patience grew thinner by the minute.. He had had all the sand he
wanted for the rest of his life, I think.. We are broke down, and he is pacing back and forth beside the buggy
complaining about all the sand on his body.. I forget exactly how he described it, but he proclaimed to the world that
he had sand in his hair, on his face, on his arm, in his socks, in his shoes, in his pockets, etc, etc,.. And, at more
that one point he announced that he had sand in every orifice of his body!!! This included his eyes and ears!! :-)))
Our dune buggy riding might be over because of the breakage, but I think Ralph had already consumed as much of
this adventure as he cared for.. Time to shelve this one, say I been there, done that, and move on!!!

As luck would have it, just over an hour after we called for help, the Green John Deere Gator arrived to rescue us..
It was a very welcome sight.. The man driving it was smiling from ear to ear!! Not sure why, but I guess he thought
we looked funny, at least we had that goofy look on our face to secure our place in the world of the those who have
screwed up via some “should know better” act!!

I did not have a camera with me to record this history making event! I did have a phone in my pocket, and the
phone had a camera function, but in all the excitement, the thought of using it never crossed my mind.. As a cell
phone user of some 7 years now, I think I have taken less than 10 photos with a phone!!! I had give thought earlier
to bringing a camera on the buggy ride, but earlier in the day when I tried to sneak out on the dunes and get a peek
at the action there, the blowing sand was hitting me like needles, and it took only few seconds for me to turn tail
and head for the car, where I could find a safe place to hide the camera from the destructive effects of of the
blowing sand.. Seems that when you get anywhere close to the sand, it rushes to you as if you were a sand
magnet!! Later, after our ride, we would find sand in place you would never think!

The smiling man with the Gator pulled up, hopped out and came to see what we had brought us to the tragic end!!
We showed him the broken tie rod end! I do not remember what he said, but it seemed to indicate that he was still
very amused at our predicament.. Guess that if I were in his place, I would too!! To everyone's advantage is the
fact that the Gator had been perfectly outfitted to retrieve little bunged up buggies like this one! The Gator was new
and had a new gizmo on it that made quick work of getting us our of the mess. Because these little buggies get
towed a lot, they have a built in place for a tow bar to be attached to them.. Actually it is a length of square pipe
with a 2? inch tow ball-cup on it.. This pipe is inserted into the nose of the buggy, secured with a pin, then this is
secured to a ball on the buggy. Then, the man cranks the nose of the buggy up in the air!!! All we got to do is put
the little Gator in gear and head to the lot!!! Only problem is, the Gator only has room for two people in it. The
driver is one, then there is one seat for a passenger!!! You guessed it, I got the passenger seat.. The only safe and
appropriate way to get Ralph back is to let him sit in the drivers seat of the buggy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He looked real good
being dragged along in the broken buggy, with it nose up in the air and being towed by a Green Gator!!!!!!!!!! Too
bad we did not have proper photos of this historic event!!!!!!!!!

Once back at the lot, the buggy hauler was there waiting for us.. It had a wench on it, and the men working there
had surely done this many times before, as they pulled out a wench line, hooked onto the buggy and with some help
in guiding the broken front wheel, and with a remote control on the wench, broken buggy number 16 was soon
loaded onto the lift and secured with a “seat belt” strap!! Now, we are off to the shop to see if we are going to have
to forfeit our 500 dollar damage deposit!!! The young men back the buggy up to the shop door, dropped the buggy
lift, and rolled the buggy off onto the ground in front of the shop... Some older man who appeared to be the owner
came out and inspected the damage!! He asked what happened!! Someone told him the driver hit a tree.. He
commented that it would seem the trees must have been put in the wrong place today!! Then he said that
yesterday, the trees were too close together!!! Then he smiled.. He said something to the effect that Yep, it is
broken alright!! Looks like it is gonna cost ya!!! Then about ten seconds later he smiled again and said, that should
be about 10 dollars, if I got the part.. And off he went.. In a couple of minutes he returned with the replacement
part, a tie rood end.. This time he said it would be 9 dollars plus some change or something like that~~ And, that he
would put it on for free! Since it was the end of the day and he did not have other work to do.. Don't know how long
the repair would take, probably a few minutes, but there was big sign on the door that said labor was 80 bucks per
hour!!! OK, we dodged a bullet.. We are going to avoid the 500 dollar repair bill!! We said thanks to the men, went
inside, Ralph paid for the part, we got our paperwork finished up and we were out of there, and none too soon for
Ralph.. He had had all the sand he wanted for a looooong time!!!!!!! He kept telling me all the places he was sure
where there was sand on or in his body!! Some of the places would be left for him to verify!

We raced back to the hotel. Ralph jumped out of his car, headed directly for the room, all the while he was
muttering about the issues with the sand! I guess you had to have been there to have appreciated it, but hopefully
you can visualize enough of it to get the proper feeling for the moment! Once inside the room, Ralph started
shucking his shoes, etc.. Still muttering about the sand.. I hollered across the room and told him to be very careful
about removing shoes etc, and that if he got sand in the carpet, it would then get on his feet and then it would get
tracked into his bed.. About the time I finished my warning, I heard “damn, I just dumped sand in the floor, it was in
my sock!!!”... Yep, Ralph had found more sand, a bunch of it. It was hiding in his sock!! He is not happy!!!!!!! He
went outside to take off the other sock, empty pockets, etc!!! This time when he came in, he was de-sanded, to a
point.. He was now ready for a shower!

Of course, the fun did not end with Ralph taking off to the shower, almost in a run.. When he exited the bathroom,
he was still sputtering about how much sand had been on him.. He commenced to tell me about how he had to
wash, and rewash, etc, trying to rid himself of the sand he had collected at the dunes! He was a prime collector of
sand on this day! Not a position he was proud to hold.. However, once out of the shower, he told me how much
sand was still in the shower tub!!! Guess it was hard to flush down the pipe!!!

OK, Ralph is clean, and now he is hungry. Wants to eat! So, off we go. I will shower later.. What sand I have on
me is not a bother at the moment, except the sand that is in my left eye.. It will be three days later before that
comes out!! Last night we had ended up at Applebees, so tonight we are going to try another local favorite, Big
Boy!!! This should be a great place to get a Big Hamburger.. The key word here is “should”.. We went in, were
promptly seated, and after a lot of looking at the menu, and the photos in the menus, we were ready to order, well,
sort of.. I had to ask the waitress for help.. She very pleasantly answered my questions about the size of the
burgers and what would be on them, such as pickle, lettuce, tomato, etc... With her help and promise that the
burger would be big and well dressed for the occasion, I ordered the biggest burger, and I order the “fresh brewed”
tea!! Yep, that is what the menu said.. When I got it, the flavor was a carbon copy of the ole instant tea I had drank
for years when I was young.. Did not care for it then and even less tonight!!!!!! When the lady returned, we talked
about.. She assured me it was fresh brewed, but it was in fact the brand I had as a young person, but it was
brewed tea, whatever that means.. She offered to change my drink, I took it.. Got a Root Beer!!!!!!! Was much

The food finally came, and wouldn't you know, something just did not seem right.. I thought this was going to be a
huge burger, one piece of meat, well dressed, etc.. What I got was a “thing” with two patties of meat, if you could
call it meat. Each pattie might have been one one eight inch thick, if you were generous with your ruler! I called the
lady back, we had a talk about what a real burger was.. She apologized, and said she would get the matter
corrected.. She left with the “thing”.. I drank my root beer and watched Ralph inhale something that he ordered.. I
think it too was a burger, but he was so happy to get it, that he could have cared less about the quality!

Finally the replacement burger arrived. It had one piece of meat and a few dressing items, but was long from being
the sort of thing you would serve to guests in your home, assuming you wanted to impress them! I took to eating
this thing and the fries that came with it. Good thing I was getting lots of Rootbeer refills to wash it all down with..

Once fed, we were out of there, and off to the beach to see the sunset at the lighthouse.. Truthfully, I did not see
anything at first that interested me, but I finally grabbed a camera and tagged along behind Ralph as he headed for
the the beach.. And, as luck would have it, I found a few items of interest to take some memory shots of.. One shot
lead to another, and things got rolling.. To add to the fun, one of the lake ferrys came by for some photos... Once it
was gone, I elected to walk out to the lighthouse and try my luck there.. I thought Ralph was going with me, but he
got involved a heavy conversation about something, so I left him behind to chat while I went to the lighthouse.. This
proved to be a really nice walk. Tis hard to say what I saw, so I hope the photos I am sharing will give you a
glimpse of the walk.. Two things that stand out, was the storm that rolled in while I was out there.. You will see the
waves and the strange cloud in the photos, and second, the kids playing in the waves that were crashing on the
rocks! They were just having too much fun!!! I think you will see what I mean when you see the photos.. There are a
lot of images that are nearly alike in this set, but when you have finished viewing them, I think you will understand
why they are all there! The storm that I watched got much stronger further north.. We learned later that it blew
windows out of the Big Sable Lighthouse that we would visit later!

After finishing the photos and walking back to the car, I found Ralph out under some street lights, still trying to get a
good memory photo, but for me it was over.. Time for me to go shower and rid myself of the sand that was still all
over my body, in my hair, in my pockets and almost every other place you can think of.. Over all it was a long day..
I guess I can say it was a great day.. It was certainly an adventure! And yes, when I get in the shower, I too felt
like I removed a ton of sand from my body and my clothes!!!!!!!!!!

Hope you enjoy the memory shots I am sharing.. You can access them via the link provided below.
2012-07-27, Day 5 report of the Road Trip in Michigan

Disclosure: This is being written on 08-10-12, because I did not have time to do so on the road!

NOTE: Mystery Solved, or so I think, Thanks to a new friend and new reader of my road reports, Sheryl Fields.
You will meet her later.
....................... I am going to save the answer to the mystery until later.. Would not work to share the answer with
you now!

Assuming you have had time to read my earlier reports from the road trip in Michigan, you will be aware that I ran
into issues of finding hotel rooms in the state!!!!!! For all the days I have been in the state, I have been aware that
rooms in the upper part of Michigan are really hard to come by, unless you are willing to pay any price to have a
room.. That was not the case with me. Guess I am too cheap to go that route. Actually, before getting too far into
the trip itself, my buddy and I had set a goal of 45-85 dollars per night for hotel rooms. That is far from the price I
have paid or what many of my readers might pay, but for a simple clean room, two beds, towels, etc, our range
should work. We did not need the glamor of the high end products, just a simple place to clean up and rest.

In the earlier part of our trip, we had already been challenged to find a room in our price range, now as we come
into the weekend, we find that we are faced with real issues when it comes to renting a room.. We would never
have guessed it to be so difficult! I should also tell you that for chasing down rooms for this trip, I have been and will
be using a concierge service provided by my Visa Credit Card company. Works really well in case anyone is
interested! Thursday afternoon , Ralph asked the people at the front desk if we could keep our room rented one
more night, meaning Friday night. The answer was no, all the rooms were full, booked, etc... It was almost as if
there was a lock-down on the town!!! Thursday night, I called my concierge service and ask for help getting a room
further up the coast, north of Ludington, which was the direction of travel we wanted.. The poor person on the
phone with me looked everywhere, or so it would seem, for a room even remotely close to our price range..
Nothing. At over 300 dollars per night, we could stay in the Traverse City area. Anywhere outside this town, even
100 miles away, was 150 per night or more! Not the thing we wanted to hear.. But, we did not want to leave the
state, so I ask the man to keep widening the search circle.. Finally, something was found. It was almost in
Saginaw, Michigan, over 100 miles away. Actually it was in a little town named Auburn.. So, on Friday we would be
crossing from the west side of the state to the east side, just to find a room!!! That is wild!... If you will remember I
sent out an email sharing most of this story while I was still in Ludington. Now, I am back to tell you how it all
worked out, and just so you know, crossing over to the west side turned out to be an awesome thing to have

Friday morning, I think it was, I got an email from a friend I had met on a singles cruise several years ago. A really
neat lady named Gloria is on my mailing list. Friday morning she read my message, saw that I would be driving right
by her home, and she rushed a message to me, telling me I had to stop by and visit on my way to the Saginaw
area.. Actually she lived approximately 35 miles from our would be hotel. I was quite surprised to hear from her.. I
knew she lived in the eastern part of the state, but nothing more.. So, yes, I would love to stop and visit if it was
possible.. I called her, chatted a bit, got her address, and said I would see her soon.. As Ralph and I were
checking out of the room, he just happened to ask about how full the hotel was here. It was full. He asked if there
would be different rate for our room on the weekend. The said was yes, our room rented for 89 dollars during the
week and nearly 200 on the weekends!!!! Go figure! With that, we were in the car and gone.. Plugged in Gloria's
address and off we went! Now it may be dry as a bone in the lower part of the USA, but not in Michigan!!! Rained a
lot, and it was raining when we left Ludington.

Several hours after leaving Ludington, we were nearing Gloria's home, and she confirmed that we were on the right
path. About 20 minutes later, and in a light rain, we arrived in Gloria's driveway! We had made it. She rushed out to
greet us, gave us hugs and invited us to come sit in a new addition that was being added to her sun deck, etc.. The
room was under construction, but just perfect for sitting, visiting, and watching the rain. I had not seen her in several
years, so of course I wanted memory photos! I pressed Ralph into being the photographer for this reunion of
friends! At the end of this note, I will be sharing the memory photos of Gloria and me.

After a nice visit, and a tour of her home in the country, it was time for Ralph and I to get back on the road. We
said goodbye, and off we went. We found our hotel and found it to be quiet nice. I think the price was 62 dollars per
night! And, it served a continental breakfast in the mornings! Once we were settled in, we went off running around
and found a place to eat, Subway!! Was good! The hotel manager had suggested a mom and pop place nearby,
but we opted for the Subway, which is always a good choice!!

For photos, this was a slow day, but we did have a nice drive across the state, visited with a friend and settled in to
a comfy place for the night! Then, more nice surprises start to take place. Earlier I had talked to a friend that lived
in the Detroit area. They had given me suggestions for what I could see and do in the area where I was staying..
So, I had a short list I could work with over the weekend! Then, the phone rings. It is Gloria, she has learned that
she has the next day, Saturday, free, and would like to join Ralph and me again for more visiting if that would be
okay.. Yes, of course, that would be great fun. Not sure what we would do, but would love to have her come join
us, and maybe be our tour guide for the day.. And with that, it was time to call it a night. Gloria would come meet
us in the morning..

If you would like to meet my friend Gloria, click on the link below:
Tom Ballard Photography