Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Forest Hills

Since my previous last-minute adventure was so much fun, I decided to try it again. Same type of trip, working two weekends with the week available to do whatever I wanted. I had a couple more days to plan for it. This time, however, I'd be doing the trip alone.

I decided to try Forest Hills Nudist Club and Campground. They are a smaller 45-acre co-op. Honestly, I prefer co-ops because I know they are not profit-driven. Any money that I spend there I know is going back into the campground somehow. They even have scheduled fundraisers where they specify what they intend to improve with the money. I like this.

The place looks nice on the website. They have a large pool, hot tub, cafe, lunch stand, pavilion, clubhouse, several games, and rental cottages. All I need for my stay is a place to sleep, water, food, and internet. What about internet?

Their 2010 brochure on the main page lists free wireless internet. But, I didn't see that at first, so I sent an email asking if wifi was available since I'd need to be able to work all week. The reply was "No sorry at this time WI-Fi is only available to members." This change in policy was to protect the privacy of the members.

I spent a moment thinking about that... I was prepared to stay in the cottage for five weekdays, which is a good chunk of income for them when it otherwise wouldn't be rented, but only if wifi was available. And it was available to members. Were they really going to turn me away? I asked them to reconsider. They did, and they decided to allow me to use it since I was staying an extended time and needed it. There were conditions though: All the obvious stuff, and I could only use it in the cottage since many laptops have cameras and they were concerned about privacy. No problem, I'd prefer working from the cabin anyway.

When I called to book the reservation, a different member informed me that the wifi does not work from the cabins. I had to use it from the clubhouse. I suppose I could do this -- the clubhouse looks cozy and there wouldn't be many people around to distract me.

Afterwords, I took a closer look at the facilities to see how challenging the week would be. Going through my list...

A place to sleep is easy, the cottage advertises a nice bed, nightstand, table and chairs, heater, and small refrigerator. The table and chairs appear to be a cheap set made for the patio. No big deal, since I'll be using the table and chairs in the clubhouse where wifi is available anyway.

Next on my list is water, which is also mentioned on the ad: "Our cabins are not equipped with bathrooms or running water, but these facilities are available in the clubhouse nearby." So I need to get dressed (if it's cold out) and walk to the bathroom? This is exactly what I do while tenting, so I guess I'm used to it.

Last is food. Both the cafe and the lunch stand are closed during the week, so I would need to bring my own food. What do I have available to store, prepare, and eat my food? A small fridge. There is no microwave or cooktop, and no dishes. This limits my food selection to sandwiches and snack bars unless I brought stuff. I packed my dishes for camping. Upon arrival, if there really was no microwave available, I was thinking of buying a cheap one for the cottage and telling them it's a donation.

As the days got closer, I checked the weather forecast. It would be in the 60's and rainy for a large portion of the week. Their pool and hot tub are both outdoors. If I used them, I would freeze as soon as I left the water. Everyone else at the campground would probably be dressed due to the cool weather.

Faced with an expensive trip to a rural location, being the only naked guy who hangs out in the clubhouse on a laptop most of the day, starving and fending for food, and having a challenging stay in a cottage, I decided to cancel my reservation. In all fairness, if there was warm weather and an event going on with food available, staying would be far easier and more enjoyable.

So why did I decide to write about a place I never went to? I wanted to illustrate a point. A lot of nudist venues are completely geared towards people with RVs. Most people under 30 cannot afford a RV. Without my own kitchen, bathroom, and basic house, I need to rely on what is available from the venue. Is a bed, water, food, and internet too much to ask for? Most cheap motels even provide these things. Staying at a smaller nudist venue is often more challenging than staying at a cheap motel, which is discouraging for the younger non-RV generation.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Turtle Lake

I'm starting to specialize in last-minute adventures. An opportunity came along that was too good to pass up. As part of my current job, I need to be in Michigan on some weekends. The most efficient way is to work two weekends in a row and find my own place to stay during the week. On a Thursday evening, I learned that I would need to work the next two weekends. Percilla's work was slow so she was able to take the next week off. The weather forecast looked surprisingly perfect. The next morning, we headed East and made reservations at Turtle Lake Resort on the way.

Keep in mind that this was probably the first week that was nice enough to be nude outdoors. I was fully expecting the resort to be in "recovery mode" from winter, and to be a ghost town. It was. The resort owns 163 acres, all of which seem to get used somehow. There were at most 20 people at the resort during our stay.

Monday afternoon we checked in to our Mirror Lake suite. We got the obligatory newbie tour around the resort in a minivan, since the golf cart had a flat tire from sitting all winter. She did a great job with the tour and told us everything we needed to know for our stay. Some of the bathhouses and the conversation pool were still closed. Most striking to me was that she pointed out the tire spikes at the exit, and noted that we shouldn't worry because the go down as we exit the premises. I'm in a company vehicle and will be driving over tire spikes with no repair shops nearby. That thought concerned me.

We drove to the cottage and checked out the room. All of the Mirror Lake cottages are nice rooms with a full kitchen, dishes and cookware, full-size fridge, microwave, and propane cook-top. We had three complaints though. First was that the propane room heater roared while it ran. It's the loudest room heater I've ever heard even though I kept it on the lowest setting. We ended up shutting it off at night so we could sleep. (With that off, all we heard was frogs and other critters outside.) Second was that the bathroom sink was plugged and mostly full of water. It's likely that the problem was from last fall and communication broke down between housekeeping and maintenance to get it fixed. No big deal, they let us switch rooms. The third issue was water. The water had a horrible smell, and it concerned us so much that we didn't use it all week. (This was our first of three challenges today.) Per recommendations from the staff, we should've turned the tub full-on and left for a couple of hours to purge the old water. We'll leave it to housekeeping to do that. We filled up some bottles at the clubhouse for our use.

The room switch was certainly an upgrade! Two suites face Turtle Lake, which is somewhat distant and the view you get is mostly grass and trees. The other two suites face Mirror Lake, which gave us a week-long view of the small lake with ducks, geese, and a swan. My recommendation is to get the suite by the parking lot that faces Mirror Lake if it's available.

The next challenge for us was internet. Since this was a work-vacation, it was critical that I could log on. I got a username and password from the office, but it didn't work. The office was closed by the time I knew it was having problems, and nobody looked young enough to be tech-savvy. We called the only person we knew who has used the internet here -- Bob -- who stayed here three years ago and had to plug directly into the ethernet at the office. Since then, they upgraded to wifi. Their system is outsourced similar to most hotels, but it seems more flaky than the hotel wifi that I've used. If your user/pass doesn't work, bad things happen. Tuesday morning, after a couple hours in the office, we finally got it working. I was able to work from the suite. Signal is strong in all of the common areas.

The final challenge for Monday was food. We were hoping that the Sunnier Buns Cafe would have some weekday hours, but they didn't. The kitchen was closed and there doesn't appear to be a community kitchen. If we were tent camping, like we usually do, this would present a big problem. The suite was fully capable of storing and preparing food, but we needed to put on clothes and brave the spikes to get some.

Union City, with a population of less than 2,000, isn't actually a city. It certainly has the small town flavor. Everyone knew each-other by name. We stopped at a family restaurant on the way which had ginormous and delicious sandwiches, then went in to town to the small grocery store. We stocked up enough to survive for the rest of the week.

After we got settled in we really did start to enjoy the resort. I worked in the mornings and evenings when it was a bit chilly to be naked outside. The whole time, I was enjoying the view of the lake and the abundant wildlife making use of it. Percilla would usually do a morning swim and walk around the resort. When the moment was right for me, we would both venture out for a swim. We played mini-putt, pool, ping-pong, shuffleboard, and air hockey. There weren't enough for volleyball, and we skipped tennis, badminton, horseshoes, and bocce ball. The resort has several frisbee golf holes, but they don't have a map yet. If I had the time, I would've drawn up a map for them while finding and playing each of the holes.

Two of the days we spent a lot of time in the paddle-boats. We cruised all around the clothing-optional area in the regular paddle-boats, and bravely covered up and ventured out on to the main lake for a while. The second day, we tried out the more challenging boats. They are a big tricycle with floating wheels. They were twice the work so we didn't get too far. We enjoyed it all.

Most nights, we went for a "late night swim" as I jokingly called it. (The intent was late night, but it ended up being around 9:00 since the clubhouse closes at 10.) The clubhouse is quite nice. It has a big recreation area for games and dances, a kids room, locker rooms (mens, womens, and two co-ed), a decent sized pool that is geared for water volleyball, and a decent sized hot tub. The air jets on the hot tub were another thing that didn't work yet, but we still enjoyed soaking and watching the sun set through the big windows late in the evening.

We met a few other guests, but not enough for me to report any conclusive demographics. There were a few of each gender. There were also kids present from two different families, but all wore clothes while their parents went naked. Everyone we met in the office also wore clothes -- we never saw them naked either in the office or elsewhere around the resort. Regulars wore clothes a lot too, even on days that were warm enough to be naked. Since this was a big AANR resort, and most were wearing clothes, we wondered if AANR people just enjoy clothing more. Percilla was a little uncomfortable walking around the resort alone when most others were dressed despite good weather.

All-in-all, we had a wonderful quiet stay at this huge resort. I'd love to attend a summer event, since I'm sure the place would be rockin'. All the problems and challenges we had this week would disappear. We won't need the heater, food and water would be available, and there would be plenty of naked guests to chat with and play games against. I would highly recommend this resort for both first-timers and seasoned naturists.