The campground was a bit rustic, unattended and solitary, as the season is winding down there. There seemed to only be two employees working the campground, or at least that is all we saw there. However, it had very nice campsites surrounded by lush landscape and was situated along the bank of the winding St. Joseph River which empties out into Lake Michigan at the city of St. Joseph, which we also visited along with its pretty lighthouse. We had lunch at Culver’s, which is a chain of diners that only uses fresh, Mid-Western beef and makes “custard” fresh daily. Most of us would call the custard soft-serve ice cream, but they add various fruits, nuts, chocolate and caramel to come up with each day’s Flavor of the Day. YUMMY!!!
We explored the southwest Michigan area visiting such places as the Sarett Nature Center, nature trails and a delightful butterfly garden (which butterflies they buy from Florida), went to Ft. Wayne (shopping), drove through the Blue Star and Red Star Hwys, Bill got to experience a Michigan Left turn (see photo), and discovered Lowery’s Meat Market, which had great prices (such as $0.25/dozen medium eggs) and delicious Brats in many flavors for just $2.99/lb. We had Beer, Apple and Cheddar Brats, and then got an additional 7 lbs to take home with us.
The Fall foliage was starting to change colors, but still needed about another 2-3 weeks to fully develop. The weather was nice and we managed to do a lot of outside grilling and TV watching outside.
Another interesting item was the vineyards and the grapes. There were vineyards all over the place, one of the most prominent being 12 Corners Vineyards in Benton Harbor. We passed a vineyard and noticed just how robust the grapes were on the vine, as if ready to be harvested. So we just had to stop the car and go take a close up photo or two. OMG!! As we got up close (3 feet) from the vines we were overwhelmed with the aroma. It was like someone had just opened a large bottle of Welch's Grape Juice, you know... that grapey sweet smell that makes you instantly thirsty for some grape juice, or better a sweet wine. Here are some photos of these vineyards and grapes on the vine.
The only real negative of that stay was the Halyomorpha halys otherwise known as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, which were all over the place and seemed to have found a way into the motor home through one of the openings we would be going to the Fleetwood Service Center in IN for. These stink bugs originated from China, Japan and Taiwan (Asia) but were apparently accidentally introduced into Eastern Pennsylvania around 1995, though the first sampling was in Allentown PA in 1998. Since then they have spread and as of this date have been also reported in reproducing quantities in CA, CT, DE, IN, KY, MD, MA, MI, NY, NC, OH, OR, RI, TN, VA, WA, and WV. In FL, as in AL, AZ, GA, ID, IL, IA, KS, MA, MN, MS, MO, NE, NM, SC, TX, UT, VT, and WI. They are considered pests that can ruin fruit crops by sucking the juice from the fruit and leaving the fruit “cat-faced” (spotted/bruised), with soft, discolored spots and rotted under its skin, making it unmarketable as a fresh fruit. As to apples this makes the fruit a detriment to sell for eating, so it then has to be used for apple juice or cider only. It has been known to damage apples, peaches, figs, mulberries, black berries, sweet corn and field corn, tomatoes, lima beans, green peppers, citrus fruits and persimmons, but has also been reported damaging ornamental plants, weeds, soybeans and beans for human consumption. Generally they offer no direct danger to humans, but have been known to produce allergic reaction (rhinitis and conjunctivitis) is some sensitive individuals. They are called “stink bugs” due to the smell they produce from an enzyme released from their throats when they are touched or otherwise feel they are in danger. They do not reproduce within structures but will seek the warmth of a structure in the Fall/Winter, which explains why they were constantly trying to come into the motor home.
At the Sarett Nature Center in Benton Harbor we hiked the rustic trails. There was not much of any wildlife, but a lot of foliage with changing Fall colors. In the Butterfly Center there were numerous species of butterflies, and it was interesting to find out that they get their butterflies from FLORIDA.
This guy was just sitting on a rock as if posing to be photographed.
Zebra Longwing Butterfly
Florida Malachite Butterflies
The day we drove up to Grand Rapids to meet with our Financial Advisor, we also took in a couple of local traditions. First, we had lunch at Russ’s Diner, which is a small West Michigan chain. Then, once our appointment we finished, we drove out to Robinette’s Apple Haus (Orchard). It is maybe 10 miles from Downtown GR. Bill got to watch apple cider being made. The apples are chopped into a mash, then put into a machine in layers. Once the layers all of the layers have been filled, a press is lowered onto the top layer and pressure applied. As the juice come out, it is captured in a large container. Once all of the juice is extracted, UV light is used to pasteurize it. After it is pasteurized, the cider is pumped into gallon and half gallon jugs, priced and placed is a cooler for sale. Total time from whole apples to cider in the cooler was less than 30 minutes. Now that’s FRESH!!!
That's all for Our Michigan visit. On October 16th we transferred to the Fleetwood Factory Service Center (for Warranty repairs) in Decatur IN. In our next post we will address that segment of our travels.