Chapter 1: Lilypad was born

Date: 26-Apr-2020

Najifa: “When I tell people I LOVE camping they are always so surprised. I never understood why it was shocking because as much as I love my luxuries at home, I love nature even more. Even as a kid, my mom couldn’t keep me inside. I would always want to go swim in the pond outside our house, climb rooftops to pick mangos, or simply go explore.
Now we can explore the whole country with our new camper. And the best part is that we don’t need to stay at hotels anymore and can avoid coming into contact with yucky germs.
Also, props to my car Zozo because she was a beast and pulled this camper like a pro. P.S her name is LilyPad.
If you are into camping let me know what your favorite camp site or national park. 🌻🏕🌳

“the boy who lived”

Fun Fact: Bought at first sight, Covid pandemic had just struck seller had masks on – didn’t see the faces of people that sold us this beauty. Drove around the block couple of times to learn how to tow a camper first. Next stop – back to Michigan, home

But first..

‘Sn1Ep3: Wives of Campergonia’

Chapter 2: Crystal rock campground, Sandusky Ohio

Date: 23-May to 25-May-2020

‘trailguide of my life’ ^

Fun Fact: With majority of campgrounds closed in the country, Najifa was blessed with a powerful nose to sniff an open site in neighboring state. Trip marked the tradition of watching Harry Potter movies on camping trips. Our first time in Put-in-Bay (not bad, Ohio) and first outdoor restaurant dine-in since Covid struck. 

Chapter 3: LAKE LEELANAU RV Park, Michigan

Date: 31-May to 2-Jun-2020

“children of the forest”

Fun Fact: Sleeping Bear Dune’s scenic drive was closed for vehicles, so we completed the full route walking, followed by the traditional climb (ofc). Moomer’s (the best ice cream shop in Michigan) was hit back-to-back both days by the squad. 

Thanks to our awesome friends, Natalia Tayson & Andrea- who made it alive after my fishing attempt on Pontoon going at 45mph (when done, couldn’t jump out of the boat as the pointy fish hook had pierced thru my pants together)

We almost enrolled in the long-term resident living program once we saw staff cutting campsite grass and daily garbage pickup (like.. what?)

When she says “Let’s go climb the Sleeping Bear Dune – one more time!”

Chapter 4: port crescent state part, port austin MI

Date: 3-Jul to 5-Jul-2020

Cause babyyoure a firework

Fun Fact: Our newfound love city of Port Crescent & Port Austin (to which we would come back 2 more times later the year) was conceived on this trip. Port Austin displays phenomenal 4th of July fireworks. Saturday’s Farmers Market makes trip worth it. Doritos can be used to start a bonfire (credits to Malak – Mona’s sapling). ‘The Farm’ is hands down one of the best restaurants in Michigan.

Bornfire stories (with little to no logic to them), GenZ dabbing/face shielding if pictures taken after dark, Mona’s hand made twerk fan – and ofc S’mores!

Mama Bear poses while keeping an eye on the squad (Natalia, Lisa, Natalie, Mona, Malak, Najia, InstaHusband that took this picture)

When pandemic is upon you and you haven’t gone to the barbershop, so you lean on one you trust and ‘she’ bundles all the hair she could keep in her fist, makes first few incisions and says ‘Oops’ (zoom in to see the missing sheep wool like patches)

Chapter 5: North higgins lake state park, Michigan

Date: 17-Jul to 19-Jul-2020

“day we bought the tubes and learned to light coal to cook”

Fun Fact: Yemeni tea is probably the best thing to have your breakfast with (credits: Hannan, Mona). We bought tubes from local store and tube’d the entire beach day (with how loud & fascinated we were with them, people probably identified us as the rescued victims that made it ashore, from 1913 Titanic guest-list). We learned how to cook over coal in the park (once it got started with some help from people that pitied with our attempts of exhausting 1 bottle of lighter fluid). There is the ‘Civilian Conservation Corp Museum’ right across from the campgrounds, which was worth checking out.

Ran into another ‘R-pod good Samaritan’ across our campsite, opened our eyes (and mount – see next pic of me) with how to maintain color-coded, alphabetized, detailed journal/log of every campsite & trip they’ve been on.

Yup.. that’s the one! It was in that moment I realized I will forever be compared to get to this level rest of my camping life.

Chapter 6: KOA CAmpgrounds, Indianapolis, Indiana

Date: 1-Aug to 2-Aug-2020

“Took my freda to the viDa, CELEBRATing our 6 year anniversary”

Fun Fact: With Eid celebrations, Najifa mixed up the anniversary day and had something planned for me for the special day (still has not told me what it was) -which she didn’t realize was the next morning. I had a work trip planned and at 11pm  (an hour before the anniversary) decided to sweep her off with me in traditional outfits hitching/towing our camper to Indianapolis, Indiana.

Realized how much we love/prefer state parks with plethora of tress, after staying at one of KOA campgrounds (meh)

Figured how to pronounce ‘Indianapolis’ the right way (thanks to my wife who made sure I get it right after 2hrs of forced repetition).

Topping the work/leisure trip was 5-course anniversary dinner at Vida, with ingredients straight outta their hydroponic garden wall.

Explored the Fort Harrison State Park hikes and beauty.

KOA Campground site did not impress us, plus it rained night before so was swampy. Can see the Happy Anniversary balloon ducked under like a wet dog!

Tip: Make sure to double check the attachment for the black tank (poop one) before draining out. There may be a scenario where shit gets on you, and you end up covering it up like a dog with sand & gravel before fleeing the scene.

Always carry 2x red bulls stocked in the camper, specially if you’re driving after celebrating & eating Eid dinners (courtesy: Zulhaj, Shelina) at midnight from Michigan to Indiana, with an hour notice & planning 🙂

Chapter 7: THE BIG U.P. roadkill

Manistique/Porcupine Mountains/Ontonogon/Marquette/Munising

Date: 7-Aug to 15-Aug-2020

Fun Fact: There’s going to be a lot of Yooper-ing as you scroll down, hang tight, we’ll be towing around..

Kitch-iti-kipi

Manistique

Night pit stop campground – Indian Lake. Can you tell where the sky meets the still lake? Headed first thing next morning to visit the snouty-trouty’s retirement home.

Trout Long Term living & wellness center: No words can describe the experience.

ottawa national forest, ontonogon & Porcupine Mountains state park

Fun Fact: Our good neighbors called the site & sunset, a ‘Million Dollar View’. Hard to shake those jamming nights listening to them play folk music, and us playing a lot of Bealtes (ofc) by the campfire.

20min drive to the Porcupine Mountains State Park

Our site facing the ‘Million Dollar View’

Lines had to be drawn, rules reiterated & bets place –  things get pretty aggressive (sources: spectating camping neighbors). Badminton at the Beach.

3 days well spent exploring the Porkies!

Lost somewhere in the deep Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Trying to practice what I learned through informative 20sec commercials – bottled straight out of the spring waters.

Lake of the Clouds <3

Adventure Mines, Greenland.

Tried to suppress my hunger and not eat the bats in there (it’s their year, remember?) while climbing down 2 levels inside the mines.

Marquette, Upper Peninsula, MI

Najifa: “Sugarloaf Mountain was one of my favorite hikes! The view at the top was something else.”

Think I said it out loud ” Babe, throw yourself – don’t throw up”. Guy in the water took that as his cue to start swimming the other direction.

Lived to tell – we survived BlackRock (yup, that includes the guy in back)

munising, Upper Peninsula, MI

Having covered traditional Pictured Rocks area before, wanted to continue exploring other jewels in this beautiful place.

In this photogenic moment, Queen ‘Latifa’ poses, jokes going to be her flip-flops are swimming away to Gulliver’s Island.

I tried passing the true test of love, and went into the water to find her flip-flops that sailed, only to realize I dont know how to swim well, told her I’d buy her the best one’s from Costco when we’re back.

Luckily she ‘found’.. ahem ‘found’ someone’s size 11’s on the beach, and I happily walked back with my partner ‘Big Foot’.

Chapter 8: Chocolay River RV & Campground,  marquette, upper peninsula, michigan

Date: 28-Aug to 6-Sep-2020

“kites rise highest against the wind – not with it” ~ode to najifa’s ambitions

Fun Fact: Halfway thru and 4hr drive still ahead of us to destination, the Choudhury fam (mother, sister-in-law, wife) made a pit stop in the middle of a stormy night at the closest available ‘scenic view’ opening – only to wake up next morning to grand view of Mackinaw bridge (and bunch of tourists that were confused why we were boon-docking there).

Queen B’s heart was set at Marquette – and wanted to explore every campground in the area – which turned this into a field research trip on owning/operating of a campground. 

Owner of Chocolay park was kind to host the Choudhury family for a week – getting chance to experience the casinos, activities, events in the area – along with the plan to come back to stay at the magical ‘Rippling River’ resort (can’t wait..2021!!)

Our legendary ‘Ms Holmes’ stayed back for rest of the week (after my depart over weekend) exploring the area with her side kick sis, continuing their adventures.

Discovered the ‘secret beach’ (per the locals). About a mile past Sugarloft Mountain and hike and earn magnificent view of  60 feet bluffs!

‘Ms. Croft’ stumbled upon these caves – lots of steep slopes, moving rocks, glass on the ground, and no one around for miles. Some blessed locals showed around the area, best part of camping trips – friends we gather <3

Hosted by the campground owner, the Choudhury family got to ride the 1953 Ford Customline. Mother-in-law went to the McDonald’s drive-thru with this (Fries were crack).

Chapter 9: Sleeper state part, port austin, MIchigan

Date: 25-Sep to 27-Sep-2020

“can’t you tell the fall is here ?!”

Fun Fact: Reading and binge-ing Harry Potter DVDs has become the norm on these close-by trips.

Much as we cook and bring hot meals with us, always a pleasure to find jewels like: The TapRoom at Bird Creek Farms.

Exploring and catching up with vendors at the Saturday Farmer’s market has become our fav thing to do when camping in the area.

This one wouldn’t miss her abs-core workout day even on vacation camping in the wild.

As much as I love the ‘French press’ and breakfast setup in the camper – nothing beats a coffee & smoothie station – at the campground!

Chapter 10: port CRESCENT state park, MI

Date: 16-Oct to 18-Oct-2020

“the last supper”

Fun Fact: To close our camping trips for the year, the ritual had to be performed at our favorite – ‘The Farm’ restaurant. Lucky that we found seating as everything was supposed to be reserved for ‘Sweetest Day’ (which the staff reminded it was – our focus & priorities stayed with the entree menu for that week), may Lord of Light bless the couple that broke up before their intimate dinner. We solemnly swore to eat portions on their behalf as well. Fascinating, 2 folks (staff said maybe Royal Oak, MI residents) flew out on their helicopter (farm’s got lot of land for helipad) after their meal – hope they don’t need to ‘take an exit’ to stop for restroom break.

..and this, my friends, is exactly how I made it thru all of the above. The sounds of nature, trails that desire to be tread, observing & soaking wildlife where no two are ever same – we don’t need to close our eyes to find peace inside, we just need to open them to what’s really outside!

Farewell

1-Nov-2020 Winterized

until Spring 2021..

Created this LilyPad 2020 Camping Adventures page to gift my beautiful wife as her 2nd Clue for her 28th Birthday! Glad you enjoyed 🙂

~ Z.T