Enjoy an Outing at Watkins Lake State Park and County Preserve

On a mid July Sunday, I drove our camper van to Watkins Lake State Park near Brooklyn Michigan (between Ann Arbor and Jackson and south). It was a warm day with fluffy clouds and a nice breeze. The drive near the park is on paved back roads, except for the park’s gravel road. The park road goes through the lake and there are areas on the right with rustic park fences and no obvious parking spaces.

The location designated as the park address on the electronic map only has a closed gate with a field behind it. I continue driving to see what shows up. A small parking lot appears on the right with the park sign. I park. There are no directions.

Barb and I follow the wide path mowed up a gentle hill. An empty flag pole on the right is next to a path leading in the direction of Watkins Lake.

It is a short distance to the crest of a hill with a large rectangle mowed in the grass. The space has a good view of the lake. We absorb the beauty and take pictures.

A path to the right (again) takes us to one of the fenced areas by the road. The area is grassy and shaded with artifacts of a water project of some kind. Other people approach, so we walk along the road back to the parking lot.

I was somewhat disappointed by the sparseness of information and improvements at the park. But, I enjoyed nature, the quiet country sounds and the lack of city sounds. The day, as I said, was beautiful; we had a pleasant visit.

I drove through the small towns of Manchester and Chelsea to see what they are like. Both towns have been around for many years, with Chelsea having newer growth. The afternoon drive refreshed us and lifted our spirits.

First 2020 Camp Adventure

Our first camping trip in the 2016 Airstream Interstate Grand Tour EXT Twin starts the last Sunday afternoon in June. We head northwest on I-96 to Lansing, south on Lansing Rd, then west on Vermontville Hwy. We continue to Hastings, then follow directions to Yankee Springs State Recreation Area.

Our camping site is 143, fairly close to Gun Lake. It has 30A electrical service and a picnic table. Our outdoor furniture is our two REI camp chairs and GCI folding table.

The weather is warm, so we are inside part of the time with air conditioning running. We take walks to the lake front and beach and around the camping area.

Our camper is out of fresh water Monday morning. I pack up the camper, which is quickly folding and stowing the table and chairs and stowing the electrical cable. I fill the fresh water tank, we check out some of the places around the park and return for lunch.

Tuesday, our grey waste tank registers full, so we are again careful with water. After lunch I empty the waste tanks, refill the fresh water tank, and drive all the way around Gun Lake and further. I suspect the water had been inadvertently left running in the kitchen sink while the cover was closed. I had heard gurgling while we ate outside. And after that, we were out of the fresh water. We will be more careful with our water supply and will continue carrying an extra water container.

The campers next to us on the lake side move out Tuesday, so we enjoy even better lake views and many hours outdoors. The next day, Wednesday, is our last day at the campground.

I break camp after lunch. It is a relative breeze with this camper. I like our newer camper so far. We sleep well in it. It is much easier to drive. It is cozy, yet we can have most items we like to carry. Important for 2020 is traveling with a self-contained unit with our own eating, sleeping, and restroom facilities.

I choose to travel a different route home. We explore parts of Grand Ledge on the way, electing to stay in our vehicle due to the very hot afternoon. We are both refreshed and relaxed by our trip, while fulfilling our goal of using our camper for a few nights to learn how to best use it.

Small 2020 Adventure

Barb (my wife) and I planned ahead on the day in June we traded in our old truck and camper for our new (to us) Adventuremobile. We packed a picnic lunch. Our plan is to move from small adventures to larger and longer ones as learn how we and the new RV fit together and which items we most want to have with us.

We arose early in the morning with much to do. We had cleaned out the camper and truck in previous days and were out at the RV storage earlier than we often have breakfast. We hitched up the camper and checked everything a final time.

Employees met us outside the dealer to help with the transfer. We inspected our new RV and were trained in its operation. After going through the paperwork, we moved items to the new RV and drove.

I drove to Island Lake State Park for our first small adventure. The beautiful sunshine-filled day included clouds decorating the sky and birds singing in the parkland. I parked in a relatively empty lot overlooking Kent Lake. I opened up the camper with screens in place and we proceeded to enjoy our picnic lunch in the camper. The drive home completed our first small adventure in our new Adventuremobile.

Adventuremobile 2020

The Michigan lockdown had been lifted. Eager to travel, I drove with my wife to explore nearby state park and recreation areas. I soon realized our exploration would be cut short if we did not want to use public restroom facilities.

The next realization was we would need a self contained traveling unit in order to travel most safely more than a few tens of miles.

The ideal travel unit is small on the outside, yet big on the inside. The real world requires compromise. A class B RV, also known as a camper van, looks like the best compromise for the two of us. The dealer has a 22-foot Coachmen in stock that looks perfect after many hours of research. We meet our salesperson outside the building, use masks, and practice social distancing.

We soon see the RV. The outside is attractive. The inside feels smaller than shown in advertising pictures. The front seats are comfortable, but there is not enough room between my seat and the center console for me to get my legs around it to get to the rest of the van. The main point of getting a camper van for us is being self contained and being able to freely move about. The RV will not work for us. Disappointing.

Our salesperson asks if we would consider a used RV. Yes. She drives a 2016 Airstream Interstate Grand Tour to us. It is built with a Mercedes Sprinter chassis. The outside is attractive. The inside is attractive. There is much more space inside. It has nice features. It is relatively easy to get from the front seats to the rest of the coach. This one could work.

We check out other class Bs. The selection is limited during this part of 2020, so it only takes a few minutes. We take literature home and study our options for a few days.

Ultimately we trade in my Sierra 1500 and our 2015 Coachmen Freedom Express 246RKS for the Airstream. It is easier to drive than the two older vehicles together. It is much easier to back into camping spaces. Setting up camp can be as simple as plugging into electrical power. It looks good for us.

Find the Right External Keyboard

My MacBook Pro (15-inch, late 2016, with Touch Bar) is a very nice computer. The one thing that has somewhat bothered me is its keyboard with flat and closely spaced keys. I suspect it works well for hunt-and-peck typists. It is not a bad keyboard; it just is not the best for me for extensive typing. (I learned touch typing in school.) Typing on the computer’s keyboard has been slower and less accurate than I could type on my 2012 MacBook Pro. So, I have been looking for an external keyboard.

I have a very nice old Matias TactilePro keyboard. It works well with my new Mac when connected. Its qualities serve as a baseline for desired keyboard characteristics. However it is wired and requires a dongle to connect to the new computer. And, its weight and lack of bluetooth make it unsuitable for portable devices. A keyboard similar to it would be a good place to start.

Good keyboard sources are Matias as well as Logitech. Their websites provide keyboard models and specifications, while retail websites provide models carried and (sometimes) local stock. Websites and personal experience give me desired keyboard characteristics, such as keys working well that have locations easy to feel, bluetooth connectivity, numeric keypad, and backlit keys.

Ultimately, the best way to choose a keyboard is to type on it. I headed to local retailer Micro Center because they have a good selection of Matias and Logitech keyboards in stock and have helpful salespeople. I looked at, typed on, and felt several keyboards before I selected Matias Wireless Aluminum Keyboard with Backlight.

The keyboard types very well. It has the key combinations and special keys normal for a Mac keyboard. It connects easily with my Mac and stays connected. There have been no missed keypresses or delays in typing. My accuracy with it is very good. It has one button pairing with up to four devices. I really like the keyboard.