Posted on September 2nd, 2014 by Brenda
You know when you find a nice place and you just happened to be passing through for a couple nights and you end up staying a month? Well, that’s what happened to us when we came upon River Ridge RV Resort in Stanwood, Michigan. Located in the western region of Michigan, about 45 minutes north of Grand Rapids.
River Ridge RV Resort is one of those gems that you find in the middle of nowhere. By that, I mean, it’s in the Manistee National Forest, near the Newaygo State Park on the Muskegon River. However it’s only 2 miles from Interstate 131 and shopping and restaurants are just one exit up in Big Rapids, MI. Which is just a quick 10-minute drive.
Being out in the forest though Internet, cable and cell signal can be spotty. We have Verizon and without our booster we only had 1 bar, maybe. In the booster we were able to get 4 bars. So that’s doable for us. Someone with AT&T said they were fine with their signal.
As far as Internet, the park does have wi-fi hotspots in their office and the community center. However, upon talking with the park management, being where they are located, they are only able to get 3 Mbps into the park, two T-1 lines. That’s it. Now add in that they run their office off of that same 3 Mbps. Now you can understand why only the hot spots. Needless to say we ran off of our unlimited data phones.
We were excited to learn that a local company will be putting in a WISP tower just up the road. So next season, if all goes as planned with the tower going up, they are going to plan on having park wide wi-fi. Which in a resort of this caliber, you would come to expect. They went as far to even ask David to advise on the design. That then lead to asking us to come back in the spring to do the programming and over see the install of the system. We told them that it would all depend on when they could get more data coming into the park.
They do offer cable at every site, however, that is provided by a DirecTV distribution center in the office. So it’s essentially down converted to standard def. Not ideal but hey, you are here for the resort, not TV. Right? Good thing our satellite dish worked just fine.
It was very peaceful there. No trains. No planes. No traffic noise.
Cement fire pits and large plastic picnic tables at every site.
The pull thru sites are really long and wide and as you can see, cement. Most of the resort actually has cement pads. Plenty of room to fully set up our 45-foot Tiffin Allegro Bus and have lots of room for our tow vehicle and then some. Some of the back in sites would have been a little tighter for a big rig. However I did see some maneuver into a back in when needed. For a big rig the pull thru would definitely be the way to go. In my humble opinion.
This is a park where you can get a seasonal site, however there is a waiting list. The owner’s and the management are working on improving some of the sites and making more of them seasonal but don’t let that stop you from visiting. There are still plenty of transient sites available. And the seasonal sites are very well maintained to keep up with the resort landscaping. So no worries there.
There is a good-sized marina on the premises. So bringing your boat or personal watercraft along for your stay is encouraged. They also have an excellent store with all your essentials and a really good grill and ice cream shop that makes some really good chocolate malt shakes. Not that I would know anything about that.
There were some gorgeous evenings when the sky just lit up. One moment it was orange and the next it was purple. Simply breathtaking. (Non-retouched photos.)
The new management has really improved this resort in the last couple of years. We have not been here before but from what we had heard from other guests, it was more of a party place. Now they have truly raised the bar to make it more of the resort that it should be.
David had an opportunity to fly his quadcopter and produced an outstanding video of the resort. I think it’s one of my favorite videos of a RV Park that he has done thus far.
Posted on August 31st, 2014 by Brenda
So I just wanted to take this opportunity to show you these two amazing pictures of our coach as we are so very proud of how it all came out. (Yes, we know it has been six months.)
I know…I know…You can’t get enough of us talking about our coach. (Ok, so maybe you can.)
But then again, either can we. (Ok, so maybe we are “slightly” bias.)
When we had our coach built and thus painted, we had different Tiffin colors applied in a different order never used before. In fact one of the colors is usually used as a stripe color and we used it as a base color. (This made for it’s own issues…ah the memories.) Doing this was very nerving to say the least, as you really do not know how it would really look until it was done. After all, the rendering on paper is surely not the actual paint colors. So we needed to go on faith that what we came up with would all flow together and give us the desired result that we had envisioned in our heads. We even named it… “Solar Storm”.
We were very proud of the look in the end to say the least. But to get to that point it took a lot of work. We, and of course Tiffin, went above and beyond for our paint process to get our coach looking as good as it does. (And yes, paid for in end, as this was no small task. Please do not ask.)
When people see the coach in person, it seems as if they get lost in it. It truly looks like glass. But what really makes the coach stand out, and why they seem to keep looking as they walk by, is because of what it looks like at not only in different lights of the day, but also at different angles as you walk.
When it’s cloudy, the coach looks muted but yet still classy as such a Tiffin product should. It takes on a dark look. It’s different. It stands out. Which is what we were going for.
Now when the sun shines down on it or based on your angle of view and thus how the light hits it, it really comes alive and stands out.
So below I present to you two pictures. One of our coach when the sun was behind clouds and one when the sun was out, shining full on, and a slight change of angle.
Be amazed by what paint can do…
Same coach? You be the judge. :) At Sunrise or at sunset is the best time to view the coach in our humble opinion.
We truly thank the team at Tiffin who helped to make this happen. From not only the sales directors and reps, but also the management at the paint plant. (They surely had their reservations as to our choice and had to believe in us. After all, it is a Tiffin’s name on the coach.) But also of course to the employees who worked to make it happen. Thanks guys, and gals, we are still in awe over it. And Mr. Tiffin, we will never forget you walking up behind us as we admired the work and saying “That is one fine looking motor home.” But again, I think he also may be just “a little” bias.
Here is a quick one minute flyby video to see the Solar Storm paint taken at two different RV Resorts. Note how the stripes reveal themselves as you move by the coach. At some angles, the coach looks almost black.
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Posted on August 23rd, 2014 by Brenda
Frankenmuth, Michigan is a little town that claims to be the “Little Bavaria” of Michigan. And when we stopped there for a few nights, we discovered that it is, sort of.
I was expecting some older, more original buildings from the 1800′s (kind of like Fredericksburg, TX which we just adore, or the Amana Colonies in Iowa) from when the early immigrants started settling in this area. You can read all about their history here.
What we believe we actually saw was more of a “model” of Bavaria to bring the tourists and their money in to this sleepy little town. Full of sausage, cheese and bread shops (all with some kind of Bavarian roots) with the traditional touristy t-shirt, popcorn and fudge shops mixed in. Now don’t get me wrong. I am glad that we stopped for a few nights. It was really cute, however, one day really would have been enough to see everything.
Our first stop was to Bronner’s Christmas Shop. If you enjoy Christmas and decorating for the holidays, then I am sure you have heard of Bronner’s in some fashion or perhaps you receive their yearly catalog.
They claim to be the largest Christmas store in the world. What we found and explored was giant. Actually, I don’t think “giant” really describes it well. Bronner’s actually sits on 27 acres with both indoor and outdoor decorations. Outside they have a 1/2 mile long Christmas Lane that is lit up with over 100,000 lights, every night. The store itself is 5.5 football fields and full from top to bottom with everything you could imagine. You know you’re in trouble when they have employees at the doors handing out maps of the store.
Maps? Yes, you can easily get lost in there. The Christmas shop has undergone several expansions and includes a customization area, snack bar, a Silent Night Memorial Chapel and a historical viewing gallery, just to name a few. They even give group tours! Their is plenty of parking with the over 1000 parking spaces and 50 spaces just for motor coaches. So if you find yourself passing through this area and you feel the hankering to go Christmas shopping in the middle of summer, or whenever, feel free to stop by with your motor home. Their is plenty of parking for you to come check it out and spend some money. Just don’t go on Christmas day as they are closed for the holiday. Am I the only one that finds this kind of funny?
And yes, I do believe them when they say they are the largest Christmas shop in the world. They have my vote.
Our next stop, just up the road, was the Riverplace Shops. It’s exactly how it sounds. Shops along the river. The buildings were cute. Made up like Bavarian shops, or what I would imagine Bavaria would look like, as I have never been there.
The shops were typical touristy shops. A cupcake shop (nothing wrong with that one) and t-shirts and Michigan logo wear stuff. Nothing really I feel the need to go back to. We did end up buying some artisan oils and vinegars from the Great Lakes Olive Oil Company. Those were great and we’ve been enjoying them ever since. They deliver too! So when we run out, we can just order more online. Yay!
It was lovely just walking around. This is also the place you would catch one of the tour boats to explore a little bit of the river. We did not do this, however there were quite a few people on the boat when we saw it.
Next up was the downtown area of Frankenmuth. It was a cute town with again lots of Bavarian styled shops and such.
The buildings were nicely done. Lots and lots of flowers everywhere. Ivy growing up the buildings. Very plush with plant-life. Very cute. I actually kept commenting on how many flowers and plants they have and how alive and well-taken care of they were. Then I saw that the light poles that the hanging flower baskets were on had automatic watering systems. Upon further inspection, all the ground plant-life and flowers also were watered automatically. Nice.
The shops themselves were ok. More sausage shops, cheese shops, wine shops, eateries, touristy t-shirt shops and such.
There was a small museum, which we did not go into but I’m sure was lovely. And there were some other historical buildings around.
One of which we were told we must go to, Zehnder’s, and eat their famous fried chicken dinner. Now, we enjoy a good fried chicken dinner as we have visited some other places in the past, the Amana Colonies in Iowa, Das Dutch Eissenhaus, in Middlebury, Indiana and our favorite Po Po’s in Boerne, Texas. So our expectations were high. After all, Zehnder’s has been serving their fried chicken dinners since they opened as a hotel and restaurant in 1856!
And yes, they are one of the few buildings in town that has some original rooms to it. Although it has been added onto several times, the original dining room is still used today. It has however been remodeled a few times, but that’s understandable.
So there chicken dinner? Well…it wasn’t terrible but it really wasn’t one of our favorites either. I would have to rank them at the bottom of our list. So we were disappointed with the hype that we had heard about this place. Oh well. We can’t win them all.
Now, Zehnder’s also has a bakery and gift shop attached to the restaurant. Let’s just say that we were glad we ate first. Everything looked really good and we wanted to take it all home with us. However with our bellies full, we weren’t temped as much. We walked out with only pictures.
Some of you may be wondering where we stayed when we were there. Well, there really are only a couple places to park your rig. One is a Jellystone campground right in town, which we prefer not to frequent as we do not have kids and they are generally more money. The other is just a couple miles outside of town called Pine Ridge RV Park in Birch Run, MI.
Their spaces were super long, which was nice, however they were not level by any means. There are lots of trees which, made navigation in and out of spaces interesting and sometimes difficult. Most were trimmed back and tall enough to fit under. However a few were not. Our spot, although it may look lovely, what you don’t see is the tree right next to the turn we must make to leave. Every site had one, so there was no option there to move sites. We actually ended up backing out of our spot and then hooking up.
So Frankenmuth, Michigan was a nice place to visit and I’m glad that we went and explored. However, I see no need to return.
Posted on August 18th, 2014 by David Bott
So you may have often wondered if you are secure when doing you’re banking on-line when connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot like at and RV park or campground. I seem to have had this question a lot during our time traveling when someone finds out I am a “techie”. Well, let me try to put your fears to rest.
In a word…YES. You are secure when you are using a banks website even if you are using an open Wi-Fi network like many campgrounds offer.
The reason… Something called a secure socket layer. (SSL) Go to your bank online… Look up at the browser bar where the URL (website) is shown. Do you see the HTTPS:// ? At the end of the HTTP that S stands for SECURE. (You may also see a little padlock icon or something depending on the browser you may use.) This is telling you that your connection, from your computer to the bank’s server and back to you, is all secured using encryption.
In fact any site you may use, such as G-mail or even Facebook, you see with HTTPS is secure. What that means is that the information sent and received is protected by a “key” that your browser and their server setup between each other before anything else is sent between them.
So yes, you are secure when using your bank or other services even on an open Wi-Fi network as long as the site is HTTP’S’. I bring this up for people sometimes mistakenly think that Wi-Fi security is the protection. This is not the case. Wi-Fi security is only to protect the Wi-Fi connection between the computer and the access point or router. If a password is used to get on the park Wi-Fi, that password is only used to be able to connect to the Wi-Fi network, like a key giving you access through a door. It also does encrypt the data in the air, but ONLY between you and the access point you are connecting to. After that, and surely not on the Internet, it is not encrypted. However that is where HTTPS talked about above comes into play. HTTPS is fully encrypted from your computer on out and back. So, you are secure.
With that said, being on an open Wi-Fi network does come with a small risk of someone using a wireless “sniffer” to try to gather all the data packets you are sending to read no matter whatever it is you may being transmitting. But even with that, any time you are on an HTTPS website, even that “sniffed” data cannot be read.
Now all bets are off if you have gotten yourself a virus, malware, or spyware somehow on your computer, then not even HTTPS can help if someone is tracking your keystrokes. So please be sure your use computer is protected using some sort of anti male-ware or spyware program.
Care for someone else’s word on it? See this video provided by Google about HTTPS:
For how to have better Wi-Fi and Internet in your RV, see RV internet and RV Dedicated Wi-Fi