Week 14 – Benton Harbor, MI

Hello from our first week in Eastern Standard Time! Another wonderful week has come to an end as we hit 100 days of living on the road! It’s small milestones like this that make us look back and reflect on what a journey it’s been so far…the things we love about this lifestyle, the challenges, the surprises, and the wonderful memories we’re making. Overall, we are finding this to be a rewarding and fulfilling way of life; the longer we’re on the road, the longer we want to stay on the road.

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This week started out with us still at Jim’s folks’ cabin up in Minnesota. We spent the first few days of the week getting ready for our departure – cleaning the inside and outside of Bertha (she’s NEVER been as clean as she was the day we pulled away from the cabin), washing every single item of clothing and linens we own (thanks for the washer and dryer Sheila!), and fixing as many little items on Bertha as possible. Jim and his dad spent hours in the garage and in and under Bertha getting things fixed up…our main side door had been broken for ages and wouldn’t shut properly, the closet rack had fallen down, etc etc etc. Jim Sr was able cut new wood pieces to help fix those items and also built us a custom sink cover (see pic to the left) to give us more counter space in the kitchen. PLUS, 20160809_132341the news from the transmission shop came back best case scenario – all the issues we were having were simply a product of some frayed wiring, both from age as well as from the recent brake fire. So it wasn’t too costly to get her fixed at the end of the day and she was better than new as we pulled out of Minnesota on Thursday morning.

We did have to go “into town”, meaning into Duluth, in order to get her fixed, so Tuesday we spent the day exploring the surprisingly cool city of Duluth with Jim Sr and Sheila. They took us to their favorite brewery (which had some awesome IPA!) and for a wander 20160809_220701down the boardwalk to see the lighthouse and the aerial lift bridge for when ships come into harbor. We spent the last couple evenings with them just enjoying our time together, drinking scotch, and playing another game of Joker’s Pursuit…which we won, leaving the overall score tied and to be continued another day.

As we pulled away on Thursday morning, we felt thankful for the past 2 and a half weeks with Jim’s family and sad to be leaving. The cabin is such a wonderful place to really get away from it all, while still having a lot of ways to stay busy and have a lot of fun. We’ll miss the evenings in the sauna, the swims in 20160809_204449_012_01the lake, the delicious home cooked food, and of course, the company.

We left on Thursday with a mission – to get to Michigan as quickly as possible for our next Half Ironman! Thursday was a big day of driving as we drove the length of northern to southern Minnesota, all the way through Wisconsin (they don’t have good roadside signs 20160811_211646there), and into Illinois. As the sun started setting, we settled in a glamorous Walmart parking lot in Rockford, IL. Ok, it was not at all glamorous and was in fact, probably the worst parking lot we’ve slept in to date. That’s ok though, we got a new battery-operated fan to keep us cool as we slept that night to the sound of the rain pounding on the roof.

20160812_130146Friday morning we had just under 200 miles left to go until our destination. Unfortunately, the combination of a torrential downpour that never ended and construction around Chicago made the journey take much longer than we had planned. But we made it through Indiana and pulled into Benton Harbor around 1pm, leaving plenty of time to have lunch at a nice local cafe, wander around Ironman Village, dip our feet into Lake Michigan, and check in for Sunday’s race. It continued to rain into the evening, making us a little nervous as to what race day might have in store.IMG_20160812_181830

Thankfully, Ironman had blocked off a few large parking lots near the starting line where we were able to park Bertha and sleep on both Friday and Saturday nights. We woke up Saturday to spend the day preparing for the race. This meant organizing our gear, cleaning and inspecting the bikes then checking them in, and driving the entire 56 mile bike course on the motorcycle in order to see what was ahead. It was a pretty low key day, ending with a nice dinner and a later than planned bedtime.

Screenshot 2017-04-05 at 3.29.15 PMSunday was race day! Up at 5:00am, we had a nice breakfast of bagels with peanut butter, a banana, and coffee while we got our game faces ready. We went from having all the time in the world to being rushed to get to the transition area that morning as we had to take the shuttle in from the parking lot…not the fastest process in the world. But we made it before cutoff and Jim was set to start the swim at 7:04, Heather at 7:52 (the wave start is nice but it’s sure a bummer to wait so long before getting started, especially knowing the day is warming up the later it gets, making the run more challenging at the end). It was an absolutely gorgeous morning, warm and with a beautiful sunrise over Lake Michigan. As of Friday, the water temperature was still calling for a wetsuit legal swim, but by Sunday morning the temperature had risen to just above the Screenshot 2017-04-05 at 3.27.57 PMcutoff. So we left the wetsuits in our bags and enjoyed a wonderfully clear and warm 1.2 mile swim. It was the best of both worlds – the fresh water of a lake with the clarity of an ocean. It was a bit wavy and choppy though, which did make it a slower and more challenging swim, but it was quite enjoyable. After the swim came Heather’s favorite bike course yet, it was a relatively flat 56 mile course through green fields, wineries, and farms. We both had our bike PR and Heather came in under 3 hours for the first time! All was going well and Heather was on pace for an overall PR…until the run portion. It was IMG_20160814_165309also mostly flat and beautiful (3 short but tough hills had to be climbed), running through a golf course, but it was hot and humid with almost no breeze. Jim beat Heather for the first time on the run and almost finished with an overall 70.3 PR – he killed it! Heather came in 24 minutes behind him with a total time of just over 6 hours. The best part of the race was the finish line, however, mainly because of the fact it was right on the lake. We both peeled off our shoes and medals and waded into the cooling water…nothing feels better after 70 miles of sweat and heat! Oh, and Pizza Hut is a sponsor at this particular race, which meant after our cooling swim we shoved our faces with all the pizza we could eat before retiring to Bertha for a nap and a relaxing evening.

20160815_143053We woke up on Monday in the same parking lot as the night before, only now it was a workplace…oops. The parking lot filled with perplexed employees wondering why a couple was living in an RV at their office. So we packed up quickly and got out of there, heading to grab some groceries before checking into an RV park for the day. What a lovely day we had, the park itself was green, shaded, and quiet. We put out the awning and the hammock before laying down with a couple of beers and having an outdoor nap. It had started raining again in the afternoon and didn’t stop for the rest of the day and into the evening. That was fine with us though, as we loved the sound of the rain coming down on the roof. After our nap, we rolled out our yoga mats for some restorative 20160815_193617stretching under the awning and in the rain. It felt amazing. We were both relaxed, happy, and mostly recovered from the race. We had a nice healthy dinner and spent the rest of the evening just enjoying each other’s company and relaxing…it was the perfect recovery day!

Another week has come and gone, stay with us as we head north through Michigan to explore the Upper Peninsula this week. We’re looking forward to seeing what our next 100 days of RV life will bring, thanks for reading as always. Much love to you all!

Total RV Trip Miles: 6,458

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