Tag Archives: Tin Can Tourists

Port Sanilac

30 Oct

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Michigan’s thumb coast is often overlooked, underappreciated and ignored by potential tourists residing in southeast Michigan. Meanwhile generations of families have built or maintained cottages along the St. Clair River and Lake Huron, enjoying the deep blue water, numerous beaches, quaint towns, ice cream shops, restaurants and camping… not to mention the availability of bait on nearly every street corner in town. The thumb has its own unique culture. Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley recently gushed to readers about her visit to Marine City; with so much to offer, why don’t more Detroiter’s take advantage of  the close proximity of this water-wonderland? Today we’re headed about mid-way up the thumb coast.

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The Village of Port Sanilac sits snugly on the shores of Lake Huron. About 90 minutes northeast of downtown Detroit, it was originally a lumberjack settlement; the village is home to restaurants, beaches, marinas, the Port Sanilac Lighthouse (1886) and the oldest, continuously operating hardware store in Michigan, Raymond Hardware (since 1850). We’re in town for the Antique Boat Show and Vintage Festival. Old cars, boats and trailers fill Main Street, the harbor and the park. A steady stream of sandal-wearing pedestrians gravitate toward the activity; live music is playing in the distance, the aroma of food fills the air.

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Classic cars are parked on both sides of Main St. I follow Kris’s lead and walk over to the 1961 Dodge Phoenix, this one is white with a fire engine red interior, lots of chrome, glass and push buttons, great upholstery too.  The late 1950’s Galaxie Skyliner has a retractable top, it looks great in powder blue and white. Vehicles span the decades, there’s a beautiful Model A, I like the yellow wire wheels, the 1976 black Trans Am is a limited edition celebrating Pontiac’s 50th Anniversary. The metallic orange paint on the custom Chevy truck glows in the sunlight, the mid-60’s Ford Ranchero is pretty cool too.

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We walk directly down to the water, the lake is gorgeous today, people mill about checking out the antique boats. As usual, I like to read all the names; Chrissy, Alibi, Tight Lines, oh and a boat I think is stunning, Tiger Lily. We’ve been to a lot of these antique boat shows, many of the them have become familiar but I never get tired of looking. Chris Craft seems to rule the water in this area, all of that lovely wood, simple interiors, they truly are classics.

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I have lost Kris for the moment, then I see him on a dock, City Slicker has caught his attention. The long, black off-shore is a Stinger by Chris Craft; graphics in shades of red hug the sides, loop the arch and come to a point on the ‘hood’, not to be left out, bold stripes continue across the white upholstery, slick indeed… We pass more wooden beauties, larger cabin boats are further down in the marina, they have a nice turn out today, the weather is perfect too. Tables are set up by one of the buildings, model boats are on display; I can’t get over the detail! Replicas of boats from African Queen and Jaws get a lot of attention, I think they’re all pretty amazing.

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Members of Tin Can Tourists are set up in Harbor Park, not only are the trailers kitschy-cool, the owners let you go inside–I love that. Airstream, Shasta, Trotwood, just a few of the brands present today. Generally speaking, people who have vintage trailers seem to enjoy all things vintage; bicycles, furnishings, accessories, linens, electronics, they do a great job assembling items and incorporating them into their home-on-wheels.

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Many of the trailers have beautifully restored wood paneling, along with original features people add modern conveniences and their own personal touch. One of my favorites looks like a family room out of a 1950’s home decorating magazine. Mid-Century decor is probably the most prevalent. Theme’s are always popular too, the western one with the desert mural or the 70’s style with shag carpet.  Here’s something different, a newer motor-home (relatively speaking) with the original interior; dark wood, hammered copper tabletops, back splash and accents, stained glass inserts in the cabinet doors. I really like the leaf pattern on the couch and the tropical bedspread. The couple lives in the motor-home full-time, they travel from place to place like the wind.

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We drive over to The Portly Pig for lunch. The restaurant is located in a pretty blue house trimmed in white with orange accents. There’s a definite animal theme inside; meat, of course, is the main attraction. We order at the counter then have a seat near the large front windows, teal-colored walls remind me we’re right off Lake Huron. Large quantities of food arrive, I can’t wait to dig in. The Pork Stack is a generous heap of flavorful pulled pork resting on an amazing cornbread pancake topped with coleslaw and bbq sauce, every forkful is spectacularly delicious. Sharing table space is a side of fries and coleslaw, both excellent. They have full ice cream service too; cones, cups, malts, sundaes, not possible after the lunch we just had..

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At the public beach we park the car and take a walk on the pier, the scalloped edges are unique. It feels like we’re far out into Lake Huron; we watch sailboats and pleasure boats out for a cruise, wooden boats from the show are out enjoying the lake too. Swimmers, sunbathers and beachcombers are caught up in their surroundings, waves are rolling in, sunlight sparkles off the water, it’s like a picture in tourism brochure. You don’t have to drive all day and spend a lot of money for a trip to be a vacation, in Michigan you just follow the water.

MILFORD: Gettin’ Campy

10 Jun

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It’s no secret that Kris and I are into all things vintage; although this event is definitely a little out of the ordinary, I believe most people would find it fun.  About a year ago Kris was out Milford way and stopped in at Camp Dearborn to check out the gathering of the Tin Can Tourists, when he got home he was so excited I wondered how he squeezed in a breath between sentences. This is one of the largest events of its kind and not the sort of thing you see everyday. It was so awesome he has been looking forward to the 2012 event ever since! Camp Dearborn, owned and operated by the city of Dearborn is actually located about 35 miles away in Milford. Celebrating its 60th anniversary it consists of 626 acres of rolling hills, lakes for fishing and swimming, a miniature golf course and lots of activities for campers, making it an ideal location for the annual Tin Can Tourists summer gathering. What is a Tin Can Tourist you ask? They are an all make and model vintage trailer and motor coach club. Members get together to share their love of these vintage RV’s, they share their knowledge and experience in the restoration and preservation of these amazing homes on wheels.

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Kris had told me so much about them I couldn’t wait to get  there and see for myself.  We arrived just as the open house began, yes, open house as in: the door is open come on in! We walked up the hill from the parking area and there they were, like we had gone back in time or wandered onto a Hollywood movie sound-stage; rows as long as I could see of trailers. From travel trailers to pick up cabs, Airstreams and Avions to Shasta and Winnebago’s, I wanted to see each and every one. Not only are the campers vintage, but many of the tow vehicles are too. Outside, owners have set up their “camp”; awnings extend from trailers outward creating a shaded area. People go all out; white picket fences with flower pots, picnic tables set with old-style dishes and linens, lawn chairs with side tables, even a Tiki Bar complete with grass roof! Miniature lights in fun shapes and colors are strung from awnings; it must be absolutely charming at night. Owners are friendly and welcoming, encouraging folks to have a look around. I have seen pictures of old trailers, and been inside new ones, but I just wasn’t prepared for how darling these little homes away from home would be. It’s like being a little girl playing in a doll house; miniature stoves and fridges, tables that fold down and beds that pop up. Tiny little bathrooms with little-bitty sinks, diminutive rooms, but all the comforts of home. Restored to original with honey colored wood, era correct curtains and upholstery, vintage accessories such as radios, dishes and fans, the interiors are over the top! From the Cuban look of the 40’s to Art Deco, 1950’s turquoise or the orange and avocado of the 60’s and 70’s we liked them all. Some folks gut the place and start from scratch making it uniquely their own, those were cool too! One couple created their own Starlight Lounge, now I know where everyone goes after dark.

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I really knew nothing about travel trailers before we came, one thing I learned is that Michigan had to be the RV manufacturing capital of the US, I counted over 75 manufacturers in the state! Here are some you may recognize: Avion, Aladdin, Hiawatha, Travco and Vagabond. As a matter of fact, Ray Frank who is credited with coining the phrase “motor home” built his Frank Motor Homes in Brown City. Built on a bare Dodge truck chassis they were later known as Dodge Frank Motor Homes, eventually Frank sold his company to Travco who continued to build them here. Airstreams are extremely popular; we saw a 1955 Wally Byam Holiday model that was absolutely amazing. Up and down the rows, in and out of Bee Lines, Coachmans and Serro Scotty Sportsmans, each one a reflection of the people who spend their days and nights inside. It was interesting to see the evolution of these tin can wonders. The original Tin Can Tourists Club was organized in 1919, I can only imagine what camping must have been like in those days…..by the 1980’s the club was no longer in existence. Then in 1998 the club was renewed as an all make and model club, you don’t even have to own a trailer to be a member. Their first event was held right here at Camp Dearborn. It is easy to see the appeal of this lifestyle; people getting together in beautiful places to share a common interest, make new friends and have a good time.

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More Cool Campers HERE

When we exited the last trailer we were famished so we drove into downtown Milford for some lunch. Luckily we saw a new place called Le Rendez Vous and decided to give it a try. Two steps in the door and I knew I would love this place! There are two sections, the dining room and the bakery; the bakery is filled with delectable items like scones, muffins and cookies. On the counter are loaves of freshly baked bread with samples of each to try. After about 3 chunks of the chocolate bread (yes, deep dark chocolate) I just asked for a loaf to go. We were seated at a table and given menus to look over. The owner is from France, she trained there as a pastry chef so the place is a combination French bakery and Crepe Cafe, what more could you ask for? We placed our order and sipped on fresh squeezed lemonade and listened to French music as we waited for the meal to arrive; one of the bonuses of crepes is they can be made quickly. In no time our plates arrived; a savory crepe filled with egg, ham, cheese and spinach was absolutely delicious. The crepe itself was lightly browned and tender, inside, the cheese was melted and clung to the rest of the fillings. We like to have one savory and one sweet and split them, it makes a wonderful combination! The sweet one was out of this world, the same tender crepe filled with a warm nutella filling, smothered in fresh strawberries, whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, YUM!! What a great find.

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