July 4, 2016


“Everything’s Riding on It.”  Spartan Chassis Motto

Carol writes:  Our summer destination was the state of Michigan for the opportunity to attend the very popular weeklong Spartan Academy sponsored by Spartan Motors in Charlotte, Michigan, the folks who manufactured the chassis of our Entegra motorhome.  We had been driving our 23-ton diesel powerhouse for over 15 months, so we were way overdue in verifying correct tire pressures, checking axle weights of our fully loaded coach, and learning a little about the mechanical systems of our chassis in addition to routine maintenance chores.


We arrived in Michigan two weeks before the start of our scheduled week at Spartan Academy and decided to hang out in Hopkins.  From our base in Hopkins we had an easy drive to visit the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids.  In addition, Hopkins was only a couple of hours’ drive for my brother and his wife from Toledo, and they wanted to pay us a visit!

The Ford museum had recently undergone a huge renovation and had just reopened a few days ago, so our timing couldn’t have been better.

In loving fashion, the museum chronicled President Gerald Ford’s long and compelling life story from his challenging start as a child being raised by a single mother, to his successful academic and athletic days at the University of Michigan where he showed his progressive thinking about race relations when a southern university refused to play in a football game if Michigan played an African American athlete on its team.

As always, the re-creation of the Oval Office from a particular president’s time in history was captivating, as was the actual table and chairs from the Ford Cabinet Room.

Ford Presidency Cabinet Room

There were many stirring tributes to wife Betty Ford, who along with her husband led a remarkable life in spite of immense challenges from breast cancer and drug addiction.


One of the most fascinating exhibits to me was the actual piece of paper on White House letterhead with the simple one sentence Richard Nixon wrote when he resigned the presidency in August 1974.

What became increasingly clear as we moved throughout the museum exhibits was that Gerald Ford was God’s gift to America at a time when our nation needed great healing after Richard Nixon resigned the presidency.  President Ford’s subsequent pardon of President Nixon probably cost him reelection, but therein lies his greatness:  he unquestionably demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice personal gain for the good of his country.

The burial site on the museum grounds was simple, yet appropriate.

An additional benefit of visiting Grand Rapids was the chance to visit a home built by legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. 

The architectural details, indoor wood paneling and furniture of this more than 100-year-old Prairie style Meyer May House, designed by a master, were stunning…

the windows

the dining room with its unique Wright-designed table and chairs

and the foyer with its wraparound pastel mural of hollyhocks.

The opportunity to visit another presidential museum, along with a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house, made for a very wonderful day in Grand Rapids…

It is always a special time for us when we have visitors!  We were delighted to introduce my brother and his wife to our life on the road.  We had a great evening together with lots of laughter and catching up.  A delightful day-trip the next day along Lake Michigan to the city of Holland couldn’t have been more perfect!  It was great to share lunch and a walk to the lighthouse.  Looking forward to lots more time together with these two in August!

We had read about the sand dunes along the shore of Lake Michigan, but nothing prepared us for how beautifully natural the beach area was with its grass-covered dunes at Oval Beach in Saugatuck.  No California-style multistory condos or hotels here!


Our weeklong class at the Spartan Academy lived up to its great reputation.  Our Entegra-specific class had 11 students, and as a group we had our own specially reserved section in the lot where we stayed in our motorhomes each night.  We were part of a mighty fine row of Entegra RVs!

What fun it was sharing delicious Spartan Academy catered meals together while we traded invaluable experiences and stories with other Entegra owners. 

Big Mike

Class days were conducted by Big Mike, in addition to several other presenters, who stuffed our brains full of very useful information on every aspect of our Spartan chassis—the air system, braking system, electrical system, suggested maintenance, and information on many Entegra-specific features of our motorhome.  We gained renewed respect for quality Spartan chassis construction when we toured the production line. 

For the first time, I got a chance to drive our diesel pusher on the neighboring streets and country roads of Charlotte.  My driving instructor seemed to have more confidence in me than I felt, but I did get an hour of driving under my belt with no mishaps and only one close call along a fence.


Now that “summer school” was over, we headed out for the shores of Lake Michigan to embrace a couple of summer months of “Pure Michigan.”  Our first stop was Ludington, Michigan, where nearby Ludington State Park had the reputation of being one of the top state parks in all of Michigan.  We certainly found that to be a well-deserved accolade as we discovered its scenic sand dunes, picture-perfect beaches, lakes, forests, and large campgrounds. 

Known for its trail system, one of the best hikes in Ludington State Park was the  1-1/2-mile trail to picturesque Big Sable Point Lighthouse, where there was a million-dollar view of Lake Michigan.

What a perfect lunch spot…

Even the outhouses had a touch of class.

The hike back along the lake revealed a pristine natural shoreline.

When we hit a spell of cloudless sunny days with light winds, we decided to do some kayaking on the crystal clear waters of Lake Hamlin at Ludington State Park.

It was an easy paddle through the shallow waters along the shoreline of connecting Lost Lake… through cattails and grasses and around large growths of lily pads.

A hike around Lost Lake the next day gave us yet another beautiful perspective of one of the many picturesque lakes that are a part of the Michigan lake scene.

The tiny city of Ludington played a major part in the busy commerce history of Lake Michigan back in the days when a busy ferry system transported lumber and railroad cars across Lake Michigan.  Today it is the transport of tourists and automobiles that keeps this long-running ferry tradition humming along.  No stay in Ludington would be complete without a walk down the jetty to the lighthouse… just in time to see the SS Badger set off on her evening voyage across the lake to Manitowoc, Wisconsin,

followed by the great naval tradition of watching the sun go down over the water.

We have noticed that the people in Michigan really like ice cream.  In addition to boating and fishing, eating ice cream would seem to be a favorite summer pastime.  In Ludington there is no place like the famous House of Flavors, which has been making and selling ice cream for over 66 years.

Yes, after lunch we definitely tried some House of Flavors ice cream, homemade just across the street to the tune of 25 million gallons a year, and it was delicious!

We had a great week in Ludington!  From our point of view, we agreed with the ranger who told us that Michigan State Parks represent the gold standard of what a state park should be.  We are heading up the west coast of Michigan to Frankfort, where we plan to enjoy fireworks on the Fourth along with much more of that small-town lake scene.

“If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” English translation (from Latin) of the Michigan State Motto

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