Niles, MI

Disclaimer: This blog was written at a significant delay (November 2018). As in, the delay was so significant, that I don’t feel that I can accurately represent our time at this location in story form. So, I am just going to post photos I captured here and then ramble about some of my clear memories of the place via some bullet points.

How did I get so far behind? Well, there was a summer visit from a nephew, and also a giant party in Rochester that needed to be planned for. But, also, if it comes down to blog writing or sleep – I will always choose sleep. So anyways, back on the blog game. But in abbreviated form until I catch up to the present day.


Niles, Michigan is a little town near the larger towns of South Bend, IN and Elkhart, IN. Niles is clearly superior to these areas based on the fact that Mike Pence is not from Michigan, but *is* from Indiana (not a fan of Mike Pence my dudes), and Niles Michigan is home to Spaulding Lake Campground, which is possibly the cutest little family campground we’ve been to yet. It doesn’t actually have a lake, so the name is misleading, but if your imagination is big, and your heart is kind, you could consider the three on property ponds to be a lake if they were all combined.

Our stay in Niles was extensive. We ditched Dyna in Niles for 3 weeks while we traveled to NY and NC to surprise various people we love. When we got back to Dyna late in the evening on June 7th, Lucy greeted us with vocalizations of love and concern, but was clearly well cared for by Emily, Jake’s younger sister, who occupied Dyna and loved on Lucy for the three weeks of our absence. We then spent 3ish weeks working, doing a little bit of exploring in the area, and prepping for the impending of arrival of our nephew Dexter, and my brother, Andy, who we had invited to travel with us as we slowly meander our way back to Rochester, NY (target date of early August).

Pre-Dexter Notes:

  • We worked. A lot.
    • Lucy spent a week proclaiming Jake’s office chair as her own, refusing to move out of the office chair even if he sat in it.
  • We continued wedding planning. Because shit’s starting to get real on that front.
    • Lucy was very helpful, as per usual.
  • We met the owners of Spaulding Lake Campground, and their committed employees – who ranged in age between 70-90 years old. They love their campground and it shows. We enjoyed mingling with them, their friendly chatter, and ‘Just Jim’s’ ever present cheerleading of any athletic endeavor (i.e. upon return from morning runs).
  • We check out the RV Hall of Fame, which is a neat place if you’re into RVs. I think it would not be so neat if you’re not into RVs. We found a magazine that had Monaco on the front from 2001, but it wasn’t Dyna.
  • We ventured downtown to South Bend several times to eat at the Chocolate Cafe, check out their (very small, but very prideful) Pride Fest and an arts fest, and to walk around. Jake found a giant chess set, where he coerced me into playing giant chess with him by giving me pitiful puppy eyes. Later that very same day, we wandered into a brewery where, surprise! they had more chess. At least there was beer involved. I hate chess. Jake LOVES chess.
  • We spent a Saturday at Silver Beach on Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan beaches are nice! But the water is cold. We also joined in on a protest to support children and families who had been separated at the border by shitty people associated with shitty Mike Pence who then tried to blame said separation policies on people that are not nearly as shitty as they are.
  • We got a lead from an acquaintance we met on the road that we should visit Rise N’ Roll Bakery and eat an Amish Crack donut. And we did. And it was a very good tip and maybe one of the best donuts I’ve ever had in the ‘holy dessert I’m going into a sugar coma any moment now’ category.
  • Bob and Janice rolled into Spaulding Lake Campground for an evening on a trip to go get their windshield repaired. We ordered pizza and spent a few hours together, then they rolled out early the next morning.

Then Dexter and Andy arrived. By Amtrak. And our quiet RV lives switched gears to ‘Dexter RV lives.’

Dexter is very comfortable in the RV. He has spent a lot of time rolling around the US with us, and we love having him – and his dad. They take the bedroom and we enjoy sleeping on the pullout couch, which is surprisingly comfortable when topped with a mattress topper. Plus it has ‘the crack’, which is a literal crack in the couch when you pull it out which hugs your body as it falls into it’s snuggly depth each night.

  • Dexter rolled up with his posse of stuffed animals (his ‘crew’) ready to party. So we did.
  • We spent an evening at the county fair, where we¬†finally got to witness monster trucks doing monster truck shit. Andy and I decided that this is the ‘summer of dreams’, where we would fulfill the dreams that we had as children, but never got to partake in. Like having a trampoline (check – we got one for Andy’s house), and going to a monster trucks show (check).
  • We spent several afternoons allowing Dexter to roam freely with the pack of campground children which grew and shrank in size depending on who was at the park at the moment. This was really freeing, as Dexter is usually ‘stuck’ hanging out with the three of us adults. But the campground is contained in a way that it would be hard to wander far and there are plenty of ‘responsible’ parties who keep an eye on underaged beings roaming in packs doing who knows what. There were a few ‘moments’ that required adult involvement, but for the most part, it was really nice to let Dexter be his own person and sort out his own feelings and thoughts amongst similarly aged peers. It was also really nice to have time to relax outside, work, and make my brother play chess against Jake so I didn’t have to.
  • While we had planned to head to Silver Beach for the 4th of July, an overnight toothache from hell in the mouth of one of our adult crew members instigated a 2am ER visit early on the morning of the 4th, which lead to us all being a bit lethargic the next day. So, we slept in and hung out at the campground ‘lake’ (POND) where we swam and fished and napped on a floatie shaped like french fries.
  • Dex, Andy and I did make it to Silver Beach on the Saturday after the 4th, but by then Jake had caught an illness and spent his day napping with Lucy. Silver Beach is really kid friendly and has a lovely beach, playground on the beach, and giant water gushing apparatus in case the beach is not enough water for you.
  • It was very warm and muggy during our time in Niles, so most weekday afternoons were spent searching out one of the many ‘water playgrounds’ which are apparently a thing in the area. I’m not sad that they are a thing, because they are really great for entertaining 7 year olds and not breaking your bank.
  • We introduced Andy and Dexter to Crack Donuts. Andy and Dexter approved.
  • An ice cream truck came to the campground and we did not let the opportunity for overpriced ice cream from a creepy van slip away! Another childhood dream fulfilled. There were not ice cream trucks or creepy vans where my brother and I grew up.
  • I taught Dex the basics of grilling things on the grill, which was one of my better decisions this summer. For the remainder of the summer I enjoyed the help of a tiny grill master, who in turn earned no money, but did work on his patience and safety skills.

We spent what seemed like forever, and also seemed like no time at all in what felt like the ‘middle of nowhere’ and the ‘crossroads of a shit ton of cool places’ – Niles, MI. If you are ever in the area, we highly recommend Spaulding Lake Campground and Crack Donuts.

One comment on Niles, MI

  • Leanne Hankey

    Fabulous read, as usual Liz. Happy travels…

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