Sunday, August 19, 2018

Special Day for Our 37th Anniversary!

After only two stops in Wisconsin, we're already crossing into a new-to-us state. Welcome to Pure Michigan!

This is an unusual travel day for us. After an hour's drive to Ironwood, Michigan, we parked the motor home at the grocery store parking lot, and unhitched the car for some local touring. We drove the car down Black River Road to Copper Peak. On a special day like a 37th wedding anniversary, Mark has some unusual stops planned for us. To start with, we're going up the only ski flying hill outside of Europe. We got a two-for-one ticket deal because it was our anniversary. As we pulled into the parking lot, this didn't look like the world's largest artificial ski jump.

The ride up that very steep chair lift is only the first step of our adventure today.

That 810-foot chair lift ride rises us 365 feet to the crest of the hill. Then we could see the rest of the ski jump.

The next part of our journey upward is an 18-story elevator ride to the next level of the ski jump.

The last part of the journey is the walk to the top on steps that allow you to see straight down--not for the faint of heart.

Their brochure describes the last section by saying, "the truly fearless can walk an additional eight stories to the top starting gate." With the wind blowing, it did make some people turn back. Even Mark is holding on to the gate at the very top.

We are now 1180 feet above Lake Superior, with the highest unobstructed 360-degree vista in the Midwest. On a clear day you can see 40 miles in every direction--into three states and even Canada.

But more importantly, you can see down the jump where crazy skiers can fly straight down the course.

While many people will take the elevator back down, of course we wanted to try the steps on the right hand side of the ramp.

From here we can see that the sides of the ramp are showing signs of age. This facility was built in 1970, and hosted the world cup in 1981. But because of too much wind and too little snow, it closed to skiers in 1994. Now it's a summer attraction instead.

After we walked to the bottom, we took a picture to the top.

Coming off that ramp, the skiers could then fly down that flowery field to make their landing. The owners are now repurposing this hill and ramp into an uphill run. The Red Bull 400 was held here this summer, where participants are vying for the fastest time they can run up this steep hill and part of the ramp.

The winners' podium is still at the bottom of the ramp, where we got an anniversary picture after tackling Copper Peak.

We don't usually do selfies, but that is our only alternative while sitting in a chair lift. We could still see the top of the jump as we made our way down the mountain.

For those courageous souls that make it to the top, bumper stickers and tshirts can be purchased at the gift shop.

Our next stop of the day was down Black River Road to do a little waterfall sight-seeing. There are five falls down this road, but we only had time for one. We chose the hike down to Potawatomi Falls.

We only have time for one waterfall because Mark had another planned activity. He knows how much Denisa likes a good factory tour, and he found one in Ironwood. We are visiting the Stormy Kromer factory. Those from the north recognize these caps that were originally designed in 1903 by the wife of a railroad engineer who often lost his cap in the wind. That extra flap around the crown can be tied tighter, and also pulls down over the ears in the coldest weather.

This company thinks big, outfitting a large Michigan snowman with his own Stormy Kromer cap.

In the factory, we saw the computerized cutter getting the maximum pieces out of each stack of fabric. Mark liked the fact that such a sophisticated machine was held together with duck tape.

At least one piece of each garment is monogrammed with the company name, and we got a close-up look at that machine.

That Stormy Kromer name comes with a life-time warranty. Those hats are expensive, but it could be the last cap you buy.

Denisa has sewn all her life, so she was fascinated with the speed and accuracy these ladies were sewing those perfect curves.

This woman is adding the trademark extra flap that makes their caps unique.

Anyone that has done any sewing would be impressed by watching this woman assembling a heavy wool coat--another part of the Stormy Kromer line.

Their clothing lines include vests, coats, and shirts that seem to be heavy on plaids.

Besides Stormy Kromer clothing items, the parent company, Jacquart, has contracts to produce several other lines. We watched as these women began the process for assembling Dometic RV awnings. We have some of those on our motor home!

Jacquart also has the contract with the Doctors Foster and Smith company to assemble their very popular pet beds. This worker was filling the inner bags with recycled plastic, while another was stuffing them into the bed liner that was sewn here.

We also saw another portion of the factory working on the awnings used for this company's playground equipment.

We posed for another anniversary picture under one of those giant Stormy Kromer caps that will go to stores making sizable purchases this year. It's been a great day, and a great 37 years wandering God's wonders together!

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Apostle Islands With New Friends

Yesterday we met two of the friendliest people in all of Kansas--and they were in Wisconsin at the time! Doug and Marilyn live in Kansas, but they spend much of their summer months on the Great Lakes. Their house boat is at home in Pikes Bay Marina in Bayfield, Wisconsin. Minutes after we met them, we asked them about the best way to see the Apostle Islands. Doug quickly responded, "On our boat." We had no idea what a blessing that would be.

They gave us their card and directions to the marina, and we met them there on a beautiful afternoon. They live on their house boat for weeks at a time, and the marina is their "campground."

We got a tour of their home, which looked just like an RV on the inside. Just like us, they have all the comforts of home as they travel.

Unlike us, they can steer the boat from the living room downstairs, or from the deck up top.

Or Doug can steer it from the back while holding that little black remote control steering device in his hand. We really can't do that!

On the life ring, we see the name of their boat, "Chequemegon." We recognize that as the name of the bay where we are camped, but we don't even pretend to know how to pronounce it.

Just getting a glimpse of their home on the water would have been an adventure in itself, but now they're taking us to see the Apostle Islands! We head out onto the clear water of Lake Superior on a beautiful afternoon.

Just a couple miles from the marina, we pass the cute little town of Bayfield. We have plans to return here later.

This is the harbor where the tour ships and the ferry boats depart. For most people, this is the only option to see Apostle Islands. This area is way too big to tackle on our kayaks.

As we get into open water, we see more and more islands on the horizon. We pass Madeline, Basswood, Hermit, Oak . . . Doug and Marilyn know all the names, but they all look alike to us.

We are out in the deep water, venturing where we couldn't go in our kayak and seeing things we couldn't see on our own. It's nice to see the Coast Guard is patrolling the waters out here.

Not all the boats are big, as this Hobie Sailboat is using the light winds to its advantage.

This must be the ugliest boat on the lake. Doug explains this is a fishing boat, and they are cleaning today's catch as they head into port. The seagulls are chasing them, waiting for the chum they threw out the window as we were watching.

Our final island of the day is Raspberry Island, one of the apostles that houses a lighthouse.

It's a really good day when we get to see a lighthouse . . . from the water . . . aboard a house boat . . . with new friends!

As we head back towards home, Doug is in charge of the ropes while Marilyn is the driver.

They are a great team, as we watched them get their 32-foot boat into a space at the Bayfield Marina.

The Chequamegon is now parked, while we do some exploring of this cute little lake town.

We had ice cream cones first, then pizza at Maggie's (home of the pink flamingos). That got us back to the harbor for a little live music at the waterside park.

The sunset was turning the skies into beautiful pink cotton candy clouds as we made the last ride back to their home marina. We were in awe of the parking job Doug and Marilyn teamed up to get their home backed into its slip. It's been a day we'll never forget, with new friends that we can never thank enough as we wandered into more wonders today!