As the summer wound down and my graduate classes came to a conclusion, we found ourselves with six days to hit the road in search of fresh breezes to fill my kite. Our plan was to head north to Holland for a night, then work our way all the way north along the lakeshore to Wilderness State Park for couple days, and then dip toes into Lake Superior before rushing back south before my first day of school. But to quote my favorite Robert Burns poem, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”…
The trip north started out pleasantly enough, solid winds were forecast to blow during our stop in Holland State Park with decent freshwater waves forecast for the following morning. If the forecast held true, I would be able to kite upon arrival and then wake up to surf. It promised to be an epic trip…And that is where the fun parts of the trip ended…
We arrived to Holland State Park to find it windless, yet threatening thunderstorms. It ended up briefly raining on the afternoon of our first day. After the rain blew through, a light wind followed and was forecast to freshen before sunset. I skated down to the beach after dinner with my 12m Ozone and Naish (light wind board), thinking to get a couple runs in. I managed to launch my kite, but the wind was too light to ride. I ended up going out to practice my body drags and just flew my kite into the water. It wasn’t epic, but I was satiated.
I made it back to the camper just before the storm unleashed on the coast. Thunder, lightening, winds…we got it all. The storm didn’t let up all night and ended up being one of the strongest storms of the summer. I read on the news that there were some of the highest recorded waves on the lake that weekend. At some point in the night, both girls came down with fevers and kept us up all night.
The following morning, as the morning rose, our camper continued to shake with 30-40mph winds. After coffee (which I had to run out for, because I had left it on the kitchen counter), Justine decided to drive the girls home to recuperate. We had fortunately driven separately and she encouraged me to continue with the trip, because my kite-time would be severely restricted with the start of the school year. I drove north through the rain squalls and was buffeted by the winds. The drive north through the central part of the state was beautiful.
I had high hopes for the remainder of the trip until the camper died in Charlevoix, at sunset, in pouring rain. I limped the camper into a gas station and popped the hood. I’m no expert mechanic, but after a call to my older brother I managed to troubleshoot the problem back to the fuel injection system or moisture in the distributor. Regardless of the situation, I emptied a can of “SeaFoam” engine cleaner into the fuel tank and topped off the camper with Premium fuel. I let her run a few minutes and then pulled into a nearby campground for the night.
Sparky and I spent the night in a strange urban campground on the edge of a golf course. As the sun set and the rain let up for a few minutes. I took Sparky over to the empty golf course to stretch his legs and put some fear into the local squirrel population. Early the next morning I drove to the only mechanic open on Saturday. They went over the engine and took the camper out for a long test drive. She ran like a champ and we decided she was fine to drive.
With all the hassles and two sick kids at home (and no wind forecasted), I made the responsible decision to head back south. I knocked out the long drive in a couple long stretches (with stops at breweries along the way) and the camper performed great…until I hit the Indiana state line and lost the tread of a front tire. The noise scared the crap out of me and Sparky, but fortunately it all happened by a nice pull-off. After swigging a beer with a nice Amish fellow that pulled his buggy over, I changed the tire quickly and got back onto the road.
I ended my summer of trips on a decidedly low note, but I’m determined to keep chasing the wind and progressing as a kiteboarder. From the whole process, I’ve learned a variety of lessons. The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that there is definitely a reason why the Midwest is not a kiteboarding hotspot. There are pockets of awesomeness along Lake Michigan, but none have held a candle to our first trip out to the Outer Banks where we experienced ideal wind and waves for a week straight. In planning for fall adventures, we are keeping an eye on the weather and looking towards our next trip to the water.
Until then, stay tuned…On a side-note, we are looking into selling our camper (if anyone is interested)…She’s dialed in and runs great. We are selling because we don’t foresee using her much for the next two summers and it’s a shame for her to sit. We did all the work, all you have to do is fork over $5K and go camping.