Part 1
My Daughter and I



My 1994 Trip Around the US

Part 2
All By Myself

I got an tuneup and oil change on my trusty little pickup. It was loaded to the gills, but just kept chugging along for me. It was a very nice pickup and with my aluminum shell on the back I could move my things aside and sleep there. It had a very short bed and I could just stretch out and I'm only 5'4".

After the festivities, I said goodby to my son as he finished packing the moving truck getting ready to head for California. I dropped my daughter at the airport as she had to get back to work and headed back to Lake Michigan to follow the coastline as closely as I could up to Milwaukee. I drove tree lined roads that curved past gorgeous houses set back among trees and spreading lawn. Such a wonderful place to live. I envisioned men with stiff collars and women in long, lacy, white cotton dresses relaxing by the houses, looking across the lake. The road curved around a naval training station at one point. I drove through some interesting lake towns and stopped to walk out on some of the beaches. They didn't seem very busy, but this was during the week. The way older roads wind through towns is always interesting. You sometimes wonder why they don't just go straight through like roads do now, but the winding is more interesting. I often drove with a map in one hand, that was clutching the steering wheel and shifting with the other hand. I was extremely lucky I did not have an accident.

In Milwaukee I wound around till I found the hostel which was in a red barn. It was a little damp, but very nice and so much fun. As there was still time left, I went to a festival that I had seen advertised at Boerner Botanical Gardens. Umm! The delicious smell of roses and the park was lovely. There were dances and the Society for Creative Anachronisms had sword fights, and, of course, I ate some German/Polish food. I'm not real clear on the difference between them. They both seem to involve a lot of sausages. Whatever, it was good.

From Milwaukee I drove north on WI-57, away from the coast, to Cedarburg, where I stopped for a volkswalk. I walked through an lovely historic town, passing several artist studios and through some parks. After the walk I was ready to drive on up through Wisconsin. A short jog on WI-143 to WI-60 and then I went west to US-41/US-45 which I took to the north end of Lake Winnebago, passing Oshkosh, the b'gosh town, and saw the signs on how to get to Green Bay. It's always fun when travelling to see signs to places you have only heard of. US-41 left here and went east while I continued north on US-45. I'm driving through little towns and national forests. The pine trees are huge and seem to close in on me at times. I stop the night at a campground in the Nicolet National Forest, just south of the Michigan border. I'm the only one at my area but there are some people a little way down the little stream that runs by my campsite.

I stay there a couple of days getting used to being alone. I haven't really been alone for well over 20 years. First there was my husband, now ex, and then my children. Except for brief periods when my children were visiting their father, I haven't been alone except for the odd weekend or so. Now I'm going to be alone for weeks and I'm not even sure where I'm going. I'm just wandering.

I went on a long walk along what look like logging roads. It was very peaceful and quiet. Pine forests give me a very similar feeling to cathedrals. I love just walking and sitting in both, though I wouldn't want to spend very much time in either. Although there were always people camped near enough to see, there was enough space that I rarely heard them and spent a lot of time just sitting in my campsite and reading or watching the water go by. I felt the tension draining out of me after the months of planning and wondering if it would work out and then the excitement of my sons' graduation and getting to see him again. I could feel myself relaxing

Feeling quite rested and eager to go, I continue on US-45 into Michigan, then east on MI-28. The road multiplexed with US-41 from just west of Covington to Marquette. At Munising I tried to drive over to see the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore on MI-H58, but they were doing major road work, so I finally gave up. Between Marquette and Munising I caught glimpses of Lake Superior but now I headed back inland, still on MI-28 to MI-77 which I took down to US-2 which ran along lake Michigan turned east toward St Ignace and the Mackinac bridge. It was always nice to see the lakes as it got a little depressing to be never be able to see beyond the thick line of pine trees closing in on the highways.

I stopped at St Ignace Mackinac Island Koa at St Ignace and found myself in one of the last sites and surrounded by old cars. It seems there was a large vintage car convention starting the next day and I was lucky to get a place to camp as they were booked solid for the next few days. It was great to walk around the campgrounds and see all the old cars pulled into the campsites. It almost seemed like I had gone back several decades.

I got on I-75 the next morning and headed across the Mackinac bridge. Wow! This is such a great bridge only I was scared all the way across. Not only is it high but there's holes in it! The surface is metal with holes to help keep from getting blown away with the wind, from what I understand. One day I would like to walk across it on the one day a year (Labor Day?) when thousands of people walk across .

Soon after leaving the upper peninsula, I made a left onto US-31 and drove south to Petoskey where I was once again on Lake Michigan. I saw small towns and glimpses of the lake as I curved down toward Traverse City. This is still pine country and sandy soil. The poor soil was left by the glaciers but was enough for the pines.

At Traverse City I took MI-72 east to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. After stopping at the visitor center I went on to the campgrounds where I stayed for two nights. It was cool and damp under the trees but there were quite a few people there. I found a nice space where I could back up the truck and had a little nook all to myself. I put up the tarp and felt prepared for anything.

During the day I went for a hike along the dunes. It was beautiful walking through the sand but hard on the ankles. There was a wedding party on the wooden overlook but they looked like they were about to be blown away. The wind coming in from Lake Michigan was quite brisk. There were showers off and on but when the sun came out I took off my jacket as the hiking was hard enough to keep me warm.

After another night at the campground I took MI-22 in a curve around Crystal Lake till I got on MI-115 which went southeast till it hit US-27. I took US-27 south to Lansing where it curved southwest and I got on US-127 into Ohio.

In Ohio I took US-127 just to US-20 where I jogged east just a bit to OH-66 which I took down to Defiance with just a short distance on US-6 during another jog.

Defiance is a very midwestern town and is at the meeting of the Maumee River, the Tiffin River and the Auglaize River. I headed east along a scenic drive on OH-424 that went northeast toward Toledo, along the river. It was a fun, winding drive and I enjoyed myself. I considered stopping at a state park but it was a little early and I hoped to get to a hostel in Bowling Green. I headed east on US-6 just past Napoleon.

I wound around a bit looking for the hostel and when I found it, there was no one there. I hadn't realized that several of the midwestern hostels were closing because Americans don't use them very much and Europeons have too many other places to see and don't come to the out of the way places like this. I decided to head north on I-75 to Toledo.

By the time I reached the Big Sandy KOA in Swanton, OH, near Toledo, I was ready to relax, take a shower and spend the night. It was sprinkling and my campsite was under the trees and everything seemed dark and gloomy. I was glad to take a good shower and curl up in my truck to sleep.

It was raining when I got up. A quick breakfast and I was off. I had planned to take my time and drive along the lakeshore but it was raining so hard by the time I started that I got on I-90 east and it went downhill from there. It poured so hard that I could barely see the road. It wasn't a day for sightseeing so I just crawled along the interstate trying to see where I was going. A couple of times I got off and waited since the rain was coming down so hard.

The rain had slowed when I followed I-90 into New York but everything was still wet and chilly. This was amazing to me after spending too many Junes in Tucson. I wasn't really used to having to bundle up in the summer.

I swung around Buffalo on I-290 and I-190 and crossed a couple long bridges and Grand Island into Niagara Falls. I drove to the hostel and found it to be a big old house with wood paneling and a diverse group of people as this is one of the tourist places that everyone wants to see.

I spent a couple of days visiting the Niagara Falls, going down to the bottom on an elevator with a yellow slicker and taking the boat to the bottom of the falls. I went down to the power plant which is a ways downstream and took a tour through it. It was fascinating. They pipe the water to the power plant from well behind the falls so that the tourist attaction won't be affected. I love huge public works things.. They show such an optimistic view of what is possible. They can also be very ugly but they are still impressive.

Niagara Falls is the subject of jokes but I enjoyed myself. The falls are awesome. They may be in a tacky tourist town but they meet every superlative that's been applied to them. The thunder when you are down below in a boat is scary. I loved it.

I then curved through upstate New York following Erie Canal part of the way and enjoyed watching the boats lock through. Of course most are pleasure or tour boats now but it's amazing that this comparatively narrow canal carried thousands and thousands west to the frontier of what is now Indiana and Illinois. I don't recall which roads I followed till I got to I-87 the next day as I wandered and didn't keep track of where I went.

I spent the night at a New York state park, right on Lake Ontario. It was a calm change from Niagara but I got one of the last campsites and was told I could only have it one night as people had reserved it for the 4th of July weekend. I'd forgotten what date it was but decided to move on the next day since I couldn't stay there.

I went east through the Adirondacks till I hit I-87. It was great driving through the wooded mountains, past the rustic homes and vacation villages but they were starting to fill up already and it was only July 2nd. I headed south on I-87 and north of Albany there was already bumper to bumper traffic heading north. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Later I was told they were from New York City and heading north for a long weekend. In Arizona we just don't have that kind of traffic in the middle of nowhere. It was going to take a while to get used to how heavily populated the east is.

At Albany I got back on the I-90 and entered Massachusetts, still on I-90, driving towards Boston on the turnpike. I figured I might as well spend the 4th of July weekend in a 4th of July city. I passed under the Appalachain Trail which has an overpass over the interstate. I was all excited since I've wanted to hike the trail.

I stopped at a reststop and got a great rate at a motel just outside Boston for the night (the following nights would have been much higher) since the hostel was already full. I loved that I could get a reservation at the reststop, and at such a nice come on rate. It was a long drive that day but I felt pushed to get to Boston and was glad when I finally reached the motel. It was nice to have the privacy of a motel. I enjoy camping and hostels but I always enjoy the privacy of a motel since even with strangers I feel like I have to behave myself.

Very early the next morning I was heading into Boston to, hopefully, get a bed at the hostel. I sat in the lobby till 10:00 and did get a bed. I was relieved since Boston would have been expensive if I had stayed at a hotel. This is one of the major gateway hostels and is run more like a hotel than some of the smaller hostels. There's 24 hour access, though you do have to show that you have a bed there to get buzzed in. They have two kitchens and several floors. I was in a room with seven other women so it was a little busy at night when some of them would come in late from partying, but it was nice.

To be continued
Yes, I do plan to finish it one of these days.

©Rachel Aschmann 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001
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