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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Lake Michigan Recreation Area / Lake Michigan at Manistee, Michigan

August 2016, Weekend, 2-nights, Orchid Loop Site 43

Sunset over Lake Michigan at LMRA
This was our first overnight stay at Lake Michigan Recreation Area. I was a bit confused when I made our campsite reservation, because the government reservation site lists the name of the campground a tad differently. The reservation site has the name as Lake Michigan at Manistee, MI

Advance reservations

Not considering the group campsites, there are four loops in the campground, and two of them have sites that can be reserved: Oak and Orchid loops. I thought it was difficult to choose a site, as we had never camped there before. Many of the fire pits on the sites are located behind the tar pad or on the right side, which would not be a good location, if you are camping in an RV (like we were) and need to back in. The fire pit is not visible in the photos of some of the sites, and the site dimensions are not provided; only the length of the tar pad. I thought the camping cost was high, considering there is no electricity, no shower facility, and no dump station. It was $21 night, plus a $9 transaction fee. We have a trip planned to Mammoth Cave Campground; the rate is similar, $1 less per night, and they have a dump station. We'll see how that National Park compares to this one after that stay.  

Arrival and check-in

This campground has self-registration with locked deposit boxes like the State of Michigan forest campgrounds for campers who do not have a reservation. Our site had a reserved tag on it with our name and the dates of our stay.

Orchid Loop Site 43

Site 43 has a 44' tar pad, and it says it can accommodate an RV up to 44'. Our 5th wheel is 30', and it was tricky for us to back into this site. It is on the corner, which made backing in a bit more difficult. The corner was sharp enough that we had to watch out for the numbered site pole on our lot, and the one across the street. Additionally, there was a large tree located next to the road at the start of the driveway. The tree was located on the east side of the pad on site 43. All of these obstructions were considerations when we backed in, and when we departed. This was one of the few times I needed to stay outside the truck to watch when we departed, until our RV was completely on the road. Fortunately, my husband is experienced with backing up and towing many kinds of equipment!

Site 43
There were wooden posts in the ground at the end of the pad on this site, so we could not back in as far as we would have liked. I can understand that they want to keep tires on the pavement; however, the back of our 5th wheel extends several feet beyond the tires. If we could have backed up a couple more feet, we would have had more room to park our truck on the pavement in front of the 5th wheel. Most of the sites had similar posts at the end of the pads, although I observed a few sites without posts.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Portage, Michigan / Homewood Suites by Hilton Kalamazoo-Portage

Weekday, 1-night, Kind studio suite 423


View to the east from front entrance

Arrival and status perks

The entrance at this Homewood Suites was beautiful. The hotel had been open less than a year at the time of my stay. It is located next to a newer Marriott Courtyard near I-94. 

The check-in process was efficient. I was initially assigned guestroom 325. Naturally, I inquired if this was a room on the top floor away from the elevator and activity. After looking at the computer a moment, the agent said she could reassign me suite 423 on the top floor. This was across from the elevator at the back of the building; however, so was suite 325. I said that would be fine. The front desk agent did not verbally recognize my status, although she must have seen it on my reservation. She said she saw I had bonus points chosen for my on-property benefit. She then offered me a bottle of water, which I gladly accepted.
View from living room window in suite 423;
creek visible when looking straight down

Suite 423

Suite 423 is a corner room located at the back of the building. It is about the same distance from the elevator as suite 325. There was a nice view of the trees and West Fork Portage Creek behind the property.
View from living room/sitting area

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fort Wayne, Indiana / Homewood Suites by Hilton

August 2016, Weekday, 2-nights, King Studio Suite #502


A few days before this stay, I was reviewing the map more closely and realized I had stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn next to this Homewood Suites in 2014. I was glad I had double-checked my directions, because although the address for both properties is on Highway 24, the entrance is from Ellison Road. I usually have Gold status with Hilton; however, I recently took advantage of a promotion Hilton was offering, and my status had been upgraded to Diamond before this stay.

Arrival and status perks

I did pre-check-in on the Hilton site and chose my room before my arrival. I do not understand why the app does not show a Diamond member choice rooms or upgrades. My profile says high floor, away from elevator. I also enter preferences for top floor and corner room in my comments. The room chosen for me when I started the check-in process was 301. Suite 301 is a corner room; however, this hotel has six floors. I did not check to see how many floors were in the hotel when I checked in. I was able to bring up room choices as high as floor five, and I mistakenly assumed that was the top floor. 

When I arrived around 5:30 p.m., I asked the front desk agent if the room I had chosen was a good choice. I told her I liked to have a room in a quiet area away from activity. She said it was as good as any, and then she added that she could not guarantee anything about the quietness. Wow, really?! I do not expect hotels to guarantee quietness; however, that unnecessary remark from her made me feel like an unvalued guest from the start. Usually, when I inquire about a room in a quiet area, the employee makes sure the guestroom does not have a connecting room door, is away from the elevator, and sometimes he or she tells me to let them know if I hear anything disturbing, and they will take care of it. 

Water received at check-in
The front desk agent recognized my Diamond status as an afterthought at the end of the check-in process, and she offered me bottled water. The guest who had checked in before me must have been a regular because he seemed to know the front desk agent well, and she had given him a special bag and bottles of water. The bag he received was not one of the on-property amenity bags with water and a snack, it was a special larger bag that the agent had gotten from the back room. It is possible she offered me the water because she knew I had observed the activity before me.

Suite 502

I loved the layout and location of this suite, although the room did not smell fresh. I could not tell if the scent was from cheap air freshener trying to mask odors, or what it was from. Fortunately, it was tolerable. The ceiling fan was on, and I left it on, along with the bathroom fan, for my entire stay, in an attempt to circulate and freshen the air. The windows did not open.
View from entrance
Things I liked about the suite layout: there was a kitchen table with two chairs, along with a desk and chair (some studio suites have a combination with only one desk/table), the bed was around the corner from the entrance door (away from activity in the hall outside the door), there was no connecting room door, and the bathroom contained a large walk-in shower.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Manistee, Michigan / Orchard Beach State Park

August 2016, Weekend, 2-nights, Site #10

View from the path behind site 10
This was our first visit to Orchard Beach State Park, and there were not many campsites available when we decided to camp in this campground. In June 2015, we had reservations on three of the better sites with friends (#s 42, 40, and 38); however, the state of Michigan called us to cancel our reservations a few weeks before that trip. Apparently, the campground was undergoing renovations, and our sites were not going to be open.

Check-in and arrival

Our site was available when we arrived in the afternoon, and it did not take us long to check-in. I asked if any other sites had become available, because the weather forecast called for rain, and the description for site 10 says: Unlevel Site, Poor Drainage, will hold water when rains. There was not anything available for both nights, and site 10 did not turn out to be any worse than any of the other sites in this area. Many sites in this park had the same description as site 10.

View from in front of our camper on site 10
before campers arrived on site 12

Site 10

There was not much room to maneuver and back into site 10, nor was there for most of the sites in this campground. The roads were not very wide, and the sites were definitely not any larger than the sizes stated. Many people had their RVs parked lengthwise along the road, right next to the road, which contributed to the close quarters. Fortunately for us, the two sites across the road from us were empty when we arrived, as we needed the room to back into site 10. It was not a problem making the sharp turn onto the road to leave when we exited.

Fire pit located on the hill slope

Monday, August 15, 2016

Luther, Michigan / Silver Creek State Forest Campground

August 2016, Weekday, 1-night, Site 3


Views of Pine River from the back of site 15 -
taken during a previous visit
From site 15











We had camped in Silver Creek State Forest Campground a few times with our pickup camper; however, this was the first time in our 5th wheel. We were familiar with the park, and figured we had a couple of options for site choices near the entrance. We would not be able to make the loop at the back end of the park for sites in that area, as many of the tree branches are low hanging, and our 5th wheel is too tall. We had hoped to find something available on the river on a Thursday evening.

Arrival

We arrived around 4:00 p.m. The weather was mildly unsettled, and the forecast called for storms overnight. We were surprised to see that all of the larger riverfront sites near the entrance appeared to be taken. We observed campers on sites 19 and 16, and a canopy was set up on site 15. Later, we noticed a different tent on site 15 and the canopy was gone. Campers on sites 15 and 16 appeared to know each other. We assumed the campers on site 16, who had arrived earlier, had been saving the site for the people who arrived later. We did not check the paper on the site, nor did we ask. We chose site 3 across the road, which is a large secluded site. Riverfront sites 17 and 18 were open when we arrived; however, they are smaller sites.

Site 3

We have a 30' 5th wheel, and site 3 was long enough to park our RV and truck end-to-end. The site butts up to the hillside, and there were trees around the perimeter.


Site 3 from the road

Site 3 - photo taken from back of truck











Thursday, August 4, 2016

Montague and Whitehall, Michigan / Trailway Campground, Car Show, Hart-Montague Trail, Downtown

July 2016, Weekend, 2-nights

Beautiful bouquet for our camper from a friend's garden


Trailway Campground arrival and check-in

We arrived at Trailway Campground via Dowling Street/Business 31 from the south. The campground sign was easily visible; however, we misjudged which drive went into the campground. When arriving from the south, the drive directly in front of the sign goes into the campground, and the drive after the sign goes into the parking lot for Montague Foods. We had arrived a bit early that Friday morning, and another camper was on our site. We were able to complete the check-in process, and park in the overflow area of the campground until the other guests departed.

Site 39 in Trailway Campground

Site 39 is a pull-through site near the back of the campground. It has a cement pad (for the table; not to park on), and full hook up. The site was grassy with a couple of trees. The site was nearly level; we had to put down one set of leveling blocks under the driver's side wheels.
Looking toward site 39 from the front