28 August 2016

Waterfalls of the North Shore

Minnesota's North Shore

Minnesota’s North Shore, which runs along the northern banks of Lake Superior has more than it’s fair share of waterfalls, I think the state has about 200 of them.

Upper Falls - Gooseberry Falls State Park

The campgrounds in the State Parks here during the weekends are booked out months ahead as there aren’t many sites and unlike us, most people know when they want to go there. We had to book two different sites at Gooseberry State Park and the first one which we were supposed to be in for two nights was impossible to get into. The website had said it was alright for a 35’ fifth wheel, but the office had it down as only an RV site. When you are backing into a site, we are a lot longer than 35’ as our overall length is 52’, and even though Lindsay is a master backer, he just couldn’t get around a tree on the road in and the site number post at the edge of the driveway. Where would we go if they had no sites? We went back to the office and luckily they did have another site which we could have for one night. Then we could move to our second location which had not been available when I booked. Both of these were a lot easier to back into and the second one was right outside the restrooms which was very convenient for using the showers. There are no hookups in these parks, so if they have decent showers we use theirs and conserve our onboard water. Apparently moving our sites around crashed their servers. 

Lake Superior shoreline at our campground

From the campground you can walk to Lake Superior. The largest of the five lakes up here. The five lakes hold 20% of the world’s fresh water and Lake Superior itself holds 10%! To say it’s enormous is an understatement.

Using the macro lens on the 1DX, and a steady hand - a match made in heaven

While we were at Gooseberry State Park we could also visit Tettegouche State Park and the Lighthouse at Split Rock State Park.

Gooseberry Falls State Park

At Gooseberry there are five waterfalls. The upper falls, middle which they count as two and the lower falls. Then the aptly named Fifth Falls which we visited on our second stay.

Gooseberry High Falls after overnight rain
Middle Falls - Gooseberry Falls State Park before the rain
Middle Falls after rain, you can't get in front of them without getting wet
Gooseberry Middle Falls - both tiers after rain 
Gooseberry Lower Falls after overnight rain
Gooseberry's Fifth Falls (lower section)

Split Rock State Park

This was our only early morning photo session. The lighthouse has a museum which allows you entry into the lighthouse itself and it’s grounds. But we weren’t interested in the inside. We didn’t know if we could get to the base of the lighthouse without paying their entry fee. They told us we could go through the state park entrance but of course we must pay the entry fee. No problem, we had an annual state parks pass. We found the path which took us out onto the lava flow rocks and then went further up the track to come out below it’s base. This one actually linked up to the one the people from the museum came down to. We took a few photos just to see what looked good as we were planning a sunrise expedition later on. It rained that night and the morning was completely overcast. The next night I didn’t sleep as it was quite hot and I couldn’t face getting up an hour before sunrise. It’s was a 20min drive to the park and then we had to find our way in the dark to where we wanted to shoot from. On the third morning as we were driving down we could see magnificent colour on the horizon and I thought that maybe we had our times wrong. Would we be too late? While we had seen great light from the highway, down in the park it was pitch black and our memories of which path to take were still asleep. After a few wrong turns we found the lava flow area which would give us lots of sky to capture the magnificent colour. I had read that using my neutral density filter would enhance the colours so I tried that. What it actually did was capture the colour as we saw it.

Split Rock Lighthouse during the day
Split Rock Lighthouse just before sunrise
Morning Breaks

Tettegouche State Park

View from Shovel Point
Tettegouche was actually my favourite for walking. We did a number of walks – out to Shovel Point, Two Steps Falls, High Falls and the Cascades. There were 200 steps down to Two Steps, so named as it has two tiers. We climbed up the bottom waterfall as there was no trail, to photograph the top tier. There were steps coming down on the other side but we don’t where that trail came from. Walking back up those 200 steps were a killer as it was still humid. Each night it would rain and the process would start all over again. 

Shovel Point
Lots of boardwalks to keep you on the straight and narrow

The High Falls had three separate falls and to get all three you needed to be right in front of them, which of course was where the river was. You need to get it from out there Lindsay said. I decided it was better to tell him how to take the photo than for me to get my feet wet. The water was freezing and he had to use the tripod as a walking stick as the rocks were slippery, so what would have I used? I think you will agree, he did an excellent job.

High Falls at Tettegouche State Park
Lindsay braving the cold water in the name of a good photo
What the High Falls look like if you don't want to get your feet wet
Cascades in Tettegouche SP
Trails in Tettegouche SP
Palisade Head near Tettegouche SP

Just outside the park is Palisade Head, a shear rock face on a point.

Tip: If you ever get charged for more than one booking fee for a single stay at a campground, ask for a refund of the extra fees.

Gooseberry State Park Campground

23 August 2016

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

23 August 2016

Sleeping Bear Dunes lies on the western side of Michigan next to Michigan Lake and comprises of three areas, like it was an afterthought and they couldn't get all the land. The national parks campgrounds were fully booked out so I found a county campground in Empire that had sites nestled under the pine trees, it was so private we didn’t think there was anyone else there besides our immediate neighbour.

Lake Michigan

We got some ideas from the park visitor centre and our camp host as to the must do’s in the park.

Most of the dunes are covered in vegetation

The one way Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive has a number of spots to stop on the way, but really it’s nothing special and by the time we got to stop number 9, Lindsay didn’t want to stop any more. It turned out to be the main stop of course and we had to go back and do it again. Number 9 is the very steep sand dune that goes down to the water. There is a sign that warns you that if you go down, it may take you two hours to get back again! There is a platform that takes you over the edge but it's hard to get a perspective photograph.

the mother of all dunes

The Dune climb is not just one dune but a number of dunes. I walked up to what I thought was the top only to be confronted by more dunes. I could just see the water in the distance but couldn’t really tell how many dunes I could need to cross to get to the waters edge.

the Dune climb, I thought I was fitter than I felt

The Empire Cliffs is a pretty walk through a forest that leads you out to high cliffs that overlook Lake Michigan. We’ve never seen such a large lake and were surprised that it had beaches and waves just like the sea. Except that of course it’s fresh water.

The Empire Cliffs trail
Not the end of the trail, but the prettiest picture

Pyramid Point was a little difficult to find. Trying to read the parks maps isn’t easy and I’m not a very good map reader anyway. Eventually we found the trail’s carpark after driving down a narrow, nearly 4WD track, surprise surprise - it wasn’t the main road in! The trail to the point was simple enough but then it got interesting. On the way up there had been two tracks so we assumed that it was a loop but trying to find the way back was very confusing and we got lost. We had been speaking to Ashley, Kamila and Brett in the carpark and again at the point and we could hear them close by so called out. Brett was a local so he knew how to get out of there and took us through the jungle (there is just no other way to describe it) and up onto a sand dune overlooking the water. Ashley and Lindsay continued their conversation of people they both know from Black Rock and Sandringham sailing clubs at home (it’s that 6° of separation thing again). Down through the jungle again and safely back to the carpark.

The jungle
Ashley, Kamila & Brett

We had our second day of all day rain during this trip which gave us a chance to do some cooking such as bolognese sauce for easy pasta dinners and for me to catch up on some photo editing.

It was humid during the day and at night we had some fantastic thunderstorms, but it was just too overcast to get any shots.

Just outside the campground there were a few hop farms near our campground. My brother-in-law has always wanted to make his own beer but I think he is waiting for Lindsay to come home to help put the poles up. We will be visiting in October next year Guy, so get ready!

Hops nearly ready for harvest
Mackinaw Bridge, the longest bridge we have been on
The Mackinaw bridge is the only way to drive from the bottom of Michigan to the top. I had read that the toll for the bridge was exe, so I had a look online but couldn't really understand what we would be charged. It turns out that whatever the lead vehicle is, that is what the rate is based on. As our lead vehicle is a truck we had to pay $4 for that, then only $4 for the trailer. RV's on the other hand, I think, have to pay a special rate per axle and if they have a toad, this rate applies to that too. I was pretty happy with our $8 toll.

Empire City Campground

19 August 2016

The Ford Trifecta

 The Henry Ford, Dearborn Michigan

19-21 August 2016

We spent a couple of days visiting the factory, the museum and the living museum.

The Ford Rogue Factory Tour

With some help from the technical magazines he read, Henry Ford worked on cars in his spare time. His first car was the Ford Quadricycle Runabout which he built in 1896 with the help of his like minded friends.

The Ford Quadricycle in Henry's shed. He had to knock a hole in the wall to get it out as it didn't fit through the door.

Henry’s vision was that he would make a car that everyone could afford that was robust and reliable.

After his first company failed he rebuilt his reputation with a race car. Henry won the ten mile race at Grosse Pointe, Michigan in the 1901 Ford Sweepstakes race car.

Henry's race car
Model T

In the beginning cars were made by craftsmen, a group of men would work on one part of the car and then move onto the next car.

When Henry Ford first started making his Model-T it took 24 hours to build and cost $875. He wanted to make a car that was available to the masses, so it had to be made more cheaply. He noticed two industries that were working on a production line – meat processors and the textile baling. This gave him an idea that instead of the people going to the car, let the car come to them. He used conveyer belts to move the production around the factory at the same speed. It was the first of it’s kind in the world and changed production forever. They could now roll a car off the production line every 54 minutes. The Model-T had come down in price to $260.

By 1919 there were 6.6 million cars registered in the USA, nearly half of those were Model T’s. By 1929 every state and the District of Columbia had implemented a gas tax to pay for improvement of the roads.

one of the later models that had colour

He would often have to employ 4 people for every one person he needed because they wouldn’t last. Working on the production line was hard work. So in 1914 he offered people more than double the normal wage - $5 a day. So when they thought of quitting, they usually didn’t. The other car manufacturers were not happy that Ford’s employees were being paid more than theirs. The extra wages helped those people afford to buy the car they made. The extra wages came with a codicil – Henry had departments that would make sure you had assimilated to the American way of life and had learned English, if not, you didn’t get the extra pay. Thousands of people came from all over the country and world to apply for a job. He employed people for the person they were, not what their history was and he employed all races without prejudice. Detroit is one of the few cities that has enclaves of different nationalities and you can get any type of food in the world there.

Not only did Firestone Tires benefit from Ford as they were put on every car they sold, they used their production system to make their tyres more profitable too.

He managed to buy some land in Detroit not far from home that was on swamp land that was very cheap.

From the observation deck, this is the roof of the factory

There was a huge uproar when his workers wanted to join a union. Henry Ford’s opinion was that he had looked after his workers and couldn’t understand why he had to give them more. He was actually talking of shutting down the business but his wife said that if he ruined the family business, she would leave him. He backed down and the workforce was able to join the unions.

Henry didn’t want to be dependent on any other suppliers, so he had all the raw materials delivered to his factory and everything was made from scratch.

The Factory Tour

A bus takes you 20 minutes away to the factory. There are 6 sections to this tour. The first section is short movie on the history of the Ford Motor Company. The second was a hi-tech video on the making of the F-150 made by the production company that makes Disney films. There were 7 screens around the room, music that made the floor vibrate but it didn’t hurt your ears. It was pretty captivating.

The third section led you to an observation area so that you could read about their eco practices. They used to have the largest green roof in industry. They are happy that they have slipped down the list as this means more companies are using this innovative technology to make the workplaces cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

The fourth section was what we had come for. They make the F-150 here. Our F-250 is made down in Kentucky. Unfortunately owning a Ford didn’t get us free parking. We were able to see a number of the items being fitted or put together – windscreens, back windows, headlining, sunroofs, doors being assembled, tailgates fitted, and the robots doing the final check. You don’t get to see the seats or the engine being installed.

The fifth section was a display of the historic vehicles. The highlights were the Thunderbird and the Mustang. The sixth was to do with the green roof but we skipped this.

Henry Ford Museum

This museum has many areas, a number of them had something to do with the Ford Company; while others obviously meant something to Henry. 

All the models are here

Henry had three companies. The first one failed after three years. The second the Henry Ford Company, failed after three months due to a dispute between him and his financiers. Henry then produced a race car to attract attention and publicity. He then started the Ford Motor Company, which still survives today.

Henry's first building for the third company


As you would expect there is an incredible range of vintage and cars through the ages. They have a Model T that they take apart each day and let visitors put back together. So I got to screw on a front fender.

Building a Model T

Anything with an engine

Henry Ford also made airplanes, trucks, farm machinery such as tractors, sponsored people to travel to the north and south poles.

Ford Tractor

Automobile clubs started for drivers to share tips and socialize. In 1902 a number of clubs joined together and formed the AAA.

The 1901 Columbia was an electric car that looked like a carriage – it only had a 20-30 mile range between charges.

Traffic Signals

Illuminated traffic signals started out with only red and green. A Detroit traffic officer William Potts added amber to warn motorists when the signals were about the change. This became standard by the 1930’s.


Henry Ford’s air division never turned a profit, losing over $5.5m. It was only in operation between 1925-1932. Henry stopped producing small planes when his favourite test pilot Harry Brooks was killed in a Flivver crash. Henry patented the “radio range beacon” which was installed in airports so that pilots didn’t have to delay their flights because of bad weather.

Greenfield Village

We spent about 5½ hours at this living museum and were exhausted by the end of it.

This must have been the science lab at the school but used to be Edison's Lab
Henry built a school on the land given to him by his in-laws which became Greenfield Village. He wanted his students to have a hands-on approach. I think it was started in the 30’s and the last student graduated in the 50’s but the school didn’t actually close down until 1969. They have just reopened schooling for years 9-12 again.

The actual bicycle shop, Henry just bought things and had them transported.
The Wright Brother’s original bicycle shop where they built their planes and their house. We watched a short play between Orville, Wilbur and Catherine their sister, which was excellent and just added to what we have learned about these brothers.

The Wright Brothers re-enactment
Another play we watched were some slaves at a plantation house, which was also very good.

Visitors can ride one of the villages steam engine trains. Each train is in service for two weeks and then put back in the shed via a hand propelled turntable. It is then serviced and one of the other three trains is put in it’s place.

One of the three steam trains
Other modes of transport you can take are a horse drawn bus/carriage. Many Model-T’s and a few other models.

The Model T

The 1931 Bugatti it was $43,000 in it's day - not all the cars here are Fords
The Jeep

In the Liberty Craftworks section is a printing office where they show you how a printing press works, tin shop where he made up a duck biscuit/cookie cutter out of tin. A carding mill which had particular interest to me as my grandfather used to make blankets, so they probably had a few of these at the mill – certainly a lot quicker than using thistles or carding paddles. Plus a lot more which I won’t bore you with.

The light bulb from Thomas Edison. He never did anything by accident, it came from hard work. His goal was to create a major invention every six months and a minor one every ten days.
The amazing thing is that a lot of these buildings and items (there are a lot of machines here) were purchased when the owners were alive and they were able to come and see what Henry did with their workshop (Edison) or house.

One of the first Airstream campers, with the advent of campers, motels, diners and tourism sprung up
We have never met any Australians on our travels over here in the past four years. This year we have met four couples from Oz and also a number of people who have been to our country and love it. At the campground here near Detroit, we were invited to drinks with three couples who are travelling together. One of which has Australian friends that they visit on a regular basis. It was very amusing to hear them come out with the Australian sayings and talk about our country from an outsider’s point of view. 


Wayne County RV Park and Fairgrounds, Belleville, MI