Few would argue Michigan residents have the privilege of living in one of the most beautiful states in the country. From its stately pine and deciduous forests, to its gleaming, sugar-sand beaches, Michigan has something to appeal to most every taste.
Top that off with a seemingly endless series of summer, fall and winter festivals, farmer’s markets, wine tours and metro excursions and it quickly becomes apparent there’s little reason to venture outside the state for the vacation of your dreams. There is a destination for everyone.
For those who feel getting there is half the fun, there’s no better way to travel than by recreational vehicle, or, as many know them by, “RV.” Despite exorbitant fuel prices, an RV can still make sense for your vacation plans. It’s all in how you look at it.
Though somewhat costly to operate, RVs save money in hotel expenses while providing users a place to prepare home-cooked meals, a savings over dining out.
The fall color tour season — a time when it’s generally getting too cold for traditional tent camping — is when RV camping really comes into its own.
An RV provides a chance for Calvin Weeks, an RV owner from Hesperia,a chance to see the countryside without having to worry about details such as where you’ll sleep at the end of the day.
“I travel the state a lot,” Weeks said. “This past weekend I was camping near the Croton-Hardy Dam. My girlfriend, Shirley, and I use it whenever we can, especially for camping on a river or lake. We’ve seen some pretty interesting places.”
Weeks’ RV is a larger model, referred to by manufacturers as a “Class A” RV. The living room-sized, wrap-around windshield provides an unimpaired view of the scenery while allowing the driver to easily keep track of nearby traffic.
Though Weeks plans out most of his autumn excursions, he usually does so only loosely, leaving plenty of room for last-minute changes.
“We try to treat it as an adventure,” Weeks said. “The traveling part of it is really important to me. That’s why we went with a Class A, rather than a Class C, which is more like driving a van.”
Though there are a few smaller campgrounds that can’t handle larger RVs, most can. On those rare occasions he simply can’t find a suitable park, many large retailers, such as Walmart, allow campers to rest overnight in their parking lots.
“I only get about seven miles per gallon,” Weeks said. “But it’s still cheaper than a motel. I figure if you’re going somewhere, you’re going to have to drive or fly anyway, which is going to cost you in fuel. Then when you get there, you have to rent a hotel room. So driving and camping in the RV really isn’t that terribly expensive. It only costs me about $50 to travel from Grand Rapids to Croton and back again.”
Weeks, who works as an independent contractor who frequents the Montcalm and Ionia County areas, also uses the RV on the job site in order to avoid the commute back and forth every day.
As temperatures cool, Michigan outdoor fun heats up
According to Kelly McGrail, director of marketing for the West Michigan Tourist Association, color tours are just half the fun available statewide in October. Most state campgrounds remain open throughout November hunting season, though some have reduced amenities as the season’s end nears.
Also, late October Halloween-themed festivals and events abound throughout the state.
“Between creative costumes and piles of ghoulish goodies, it’s no mystery why this oh-so-haunting holiday brings out the excitement and imagination in kids of all ages,” McGrail said.
Some of this fall’s best offerings include the Halloween Spooktacular Weekends at South Haven Family Campground in South Haven. Geared toward families with children, the campground features child-friendly activities such as scarecrow making, pumpkin carving, games, crafts and a costume contest.
Yore Place Resort & Campground in Lawrence goes even further with hayrides, a “witches stew,” bonfires and a magic show.
The John Ball Park Zoo in Grand Rapids is presenting its “Zoo Goes Boo” festivities, featuring various kids activities, trick-or-treating, crafts and other activities.
The list of fun fall happenings, color tours and other RV-centered activities is a long one and is available online at www.wmta.org.
As long as there are open roads and those who enjoy a little adventure in their lives, Michigan’s RV camping will continue to offer an appeal found nowhere else.