Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tuesday, July 21

#1 A different kind of water lily
#2 Our path in through the grass and weeds at the headwaters of the MS River

#3 Dunking my feet in the "mighty" Mississippi
#4 A loon on the lake
#5 A view of Lake Itasca
#6 Jerry and his sidekick Kudzu
#7 Our intrepid boat
#8 The skateboard ride at Mall of America

Up early and made coffee, then decided to head back to headwaters but stopped by the boat rental place first…weather maybe a bit iffy, but there was blue sky showing and the lake was calm when we got to the boat launch so we rented a small aluminum skiff w/ a 9 horse motor on the back. We immediately set out for the headwaters end of the lake and as it was all grassy and lily pads for about 100’ from lake to shore, Jerry rowed us in. We got out and waded in the headwaters pool again and really enjoyed it.

After that we cruised the lake shore for over an hour or so. It was most enjoyable…we saw a couple of deer, lots of loons and ducks and a few otters that poked their heads up in the weeds. Lake Itasca is beautiful and of course we always enjoy time on the water.

There is a most generous check out time of 4 p.m. at the state park. We got away around noonish I think, and arrived in Minneapolis (actually a campground in Savage, just outside Minneapolis) around 4 p.m. On the way we drove through heavy rains in places but eventually got ahead of the storm and looking back the clouds were unbelievably black and threatening. We found the campground and proceeded to set up. The site was a drive through and very tight. We pulled in and did some of the preliminary stuff to setting up and were very surprised to find hanging on the back support strut of the camper a HUGE fishing lure!!!!!!! It was a major lure for big fish, complete with glitter and all kinds of feathery stuff. We have absolutely NO idea where it came from or how it attached itself to us, but we plan on finding a place of honor in the RV for it.

From there on out, everything went haywire! I guess we should have known when Jerry went inside Rover at a gas stop and discovered that I had not stowed the utensil holder I keep on the table and it had flown off the table and dumped a multitude of plastic utensils, paper plates, napkins and salt and pepper shakers on the floor. He picked up the salt and pepper and a couple of the other things and put it on the couch. I found out later when we got to the campsite that he had dumped the salt shaker (open, of course) upside down so there was a pile of salt on the couch where he put the carrier and another one on the table where I moved it from the couch!

Proceeding to set up, we discovered the site was not level side to side so Jerry had to get out the boards, back up and drive one side up on the boards…almost perfect! (Did I mention that it was rather a pain to get the RV in place to begin with, even though it was a drive through….?) So after achieving level status (very necessary for proper use of the propane tanks) we proceeded with the rest of the hook up. That means putting down the front struts, raising the trailer high enough to clear the hitch in the back of the truck, pulling out the truck, hooking up the water line, the electric line, putting wheel chocks in place and lowering the back struts for stability. Jerry always saves the sewer for last, so he got out the sewer hose to connect it and we were too far away from the connection - by about a foot! There was no place to park the truck and the site was not long enough to leave the truck in front of the RV so we had already moved the picnic table and very gingerly backed the truck in, dodging a tree w/ the mirror on one side and Rover on the other. So, there was nothing else to do except to hook everything back up, raise the struts and take up the wheel chocks and back up about 2 ft. !! Fortunately Jerry had put enough boards down to make up that length.

HOWEVER, before we hooked up the sewer, he decided to make sure it would be long enough so he hooked it to Rover only when he opened the valve, it had not totally drained from this morning so we spilled a bit of the black water…he hat given me the other end of the hose to hold up so it wouldn’t come out the end of the hose so I held my end up while he connected w/ the trailer. Then he came over to put the other end into the sewer hole and could not get the cover off as it had been screwed in too tight. I got to hold the hose some more while he got the pliers to get the cover off, then he had to take off a fitting and screw it into the hole, then attach the hose….what a comedy of errors!!! There is a reason that sewer line duty is Jerry’s!!!

All the while the weather is threatening (the rain storm we had managed to outrun was catching up and intensifying) and our goal when we first pulled in was to get set up before the weather hit. Since they were predicting hail, we had decided not to let the slides out until the weather had passed. By the time we got all connected, the weather had pretty much gone around us so we got the slides out and the dogs were much happier. It is a tight fit with the slides in, especially with all 4 of us inside.

After a good stiff drink, some cheese and crackers, we left for Mall of the Americas. What a place that is! As Jerry commented, "It can’t make up it’s mind whether it is a mall, an amusement park, or restaurant row!" If you have never been, it is a huge 4 story mall that surrounds an amusement park with at least 4 roller coasters, a log flume ride, a really scary looking giant skateboard ride, a carousel and I don’t know how many more rides in the center of the mall. There are some unique one however. It is all enclosed. There is a Lego store and kids can build legos and play with them on tables outside the store, an American Girl doll store (which is complete with American Girl beauty salon so you can get your doll’s hair done), and a wedding chapel….and I haven’t even begun to hit all of that. Restaurants were numerous, from traditional food court fast food places to Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory, Kokomo’s, ad infinitem! Then there is the aquarium, the movie theaters and a dinosaur exhibit. The stores in the mall are typical of mall stores everywhere, but there is so much under one roof. This is the biggest mall in the U.S., but the biggest one in the world is in Ontario, Canada.

We picked up a meal from some Asian fast food place in the food court, got a table on the edge of the food court overlooking all this madness and watched it all from the third floor level. We were back to Rover around 10 or so.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday, July 20

#1 If this small leaf in the parking lot in July is any indication, fall colors up here are fantastic!
#2 One of the many wildflowers that are so prolific up here.
#3 Paul Bunyan, Babe, Jerry, Linda, Gabby & Kudzu
#4 A display of the VERY large personal items Paul Bunyan would need!
#5 At the laundromat - yuck!
#6 A few miles from the headwaters...still not mighty!

Woke up to very cloudy skies and soon it was raining. Kind of put a damper on our plans to rent a boat and head out on the lake today. Tossing over ideas, we decided to take the scenic drive through the park here and we made a couple of stops along the way…one to see the largest white pine in the park and the other to see the record red pine in the state. It was a pretty drive and by the end, it had cleared up so we drove to the boat house to check into rentals, but the lake was rough as it was very windy and with only a 9 horse motor on the power boats, we thought better of getting out on the water. So, we went back to the campsite and gathered the laundry then headed for Bemidji.

After about a 40 mile drive we arrived in Bemidji and headed to see Paul Bunyan and Babe, the blue ox. Feeling much like tourists, we enjoyed the area and took several pictures. Picked up a few post cards and took the dogs to a pavilion on the lakefront while we wrote them. Then Jerry dropped me at a local bookstore while he went on to the Post Office to pick up some stamps.

Had a quick lunch at McDonald’s as it was close to the laundromat. After lunch we did our laundry so now we have a new supply of clean clothes…yea!!! While in McDonalds, the sky clouded up and heavy black clouds moved in. By the time we finished the laundry it was raining again. On the way out of town we stopped at a super Wal Mart and I stocked up on some fresh things and a few other necessities. While I was doing that, Jerry took the truck to get the oil changed.

Then it was back to camp and on the way stopped at a bridge over the Mississippi River - quite a different river at this end!!!

Back at the rv, I fixed dinner of salmon, fresh corn and salad and then we spent the evening watching a move and I took the time to get completely caught up on the blog. We leave tomorrow for Minneapolis tomorrow. Will try to do the boat thing early in the a.m. depending on the weather again

Sunday, July 19

#1 Jerry at the Headwaters signpost
#2 The beginning of the mighty Mississippi River
#3 Not the might muddy at this end...water is clear and shallow! AND COLD!
#4 Jerry in the headwaters
#5 Getting the gravel and pebbles out of my water shoes
#6 The humble beginnings of a big river!
#7 Bob and Don at the concert at the lodge

Our time in Duluth is at an end. After packing up we headed out for Lake Itasca and the headwaters of the MS River. We were able to secure a campsite in the state park, but it took a bit of jockeying to get Rover in the slot….the trees were a bit close, so Jerry did some trimming and we finally got set up. After that, we headed to the headwaters. Jerry was here many years ago and says it is nothing like he remembers. Of course things do change in the course of several decades!!! At any rate, water flows out of Lake Itasca over some rocks and into a stream which is the Mississippi River - not an impressive river at this end.

There were many interesting exhibits at the visitor’s center and we enjoyed that very much. There were lots of people here from all over the world. Kids especially enjoyed playing in the water. We both waded in and got pictures and walked over the first "bridge" over the river - a split log wide enough to walk across. It is very shallow with kind of a rough sandy bottom. It is amazing to think what the river is at the other end from such a humble beginning. We decided to return here early in the morning to maybe avoid the crowds.

Next stop was the boat rental place and we plan to rent a small motorboat to cruise the lake tomorrow morning and wanted to be sure boats were available. Back to camp and I actually cooked dinner tonite - well sort of. We re-heated the rest of my meal from Friday night and I cooked some of the fresh corn and some fresh spinach. It really hit the spot.

After dinner we attended a concert here in the park. One of the singers, Bob Bilden, performed songs he had written throughout his life and he is a prolific songwriter/singer. The songs are folk songs and ballads, some about his family and others about different places. The other performer, Don Fradenburgh had a great voice and, although not a songwriter, did sing many Gene Autry and John Denver songs. Both men had wonderful voices and it was a really good time. If anyone plans to come to this area, a good time might be the Lake Itasca Pioneer Farmers Show. Lots of entertainment and antique farm equipment, etc. Bob and
Don will be part of the entertainment at this fair….

Jerry trying again to finish Fiddler tonite, but it is not working tonite either…..this is only the 5th night he has tried to watch it. He was snoring a minute ago! No surprise there.

Saturday July 18

#1 The highlight of the supposedly "scenic" train ride" unhooking the engine and re-attaching it to the other end!
#2 The Omnimax - scene of "the movie" part of the big birthday!
#3 The kite flyer using his spool of string and his DeWalt drill.
#4 On board the Vista King - a great cruise!
#5 Looking down the channel to the bridge
#6 A row of tugboats
#7 The highway bridge connecting Superior Wisconsin and Duluth Minnesota
#8 A 1000' freighter coming through the channel at dusk
#9 The freighter at the end of the channel
#10 A last look at a fun place

Well, the day dawned cloudy, but not rainy and supposed to break up and begin clearing today. Jerry went to find a bakery recommended by Bev and Jim and came back with a cinnamon roll which he served complete with a birthday candle and a birthday card to celebrate my birthday today.

If you remember the movie, "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles", we did the Pelly version today - "Boats, Trains, Truck and a Movie!" Being as we are celebrating my birthday we are going to be Tommy and Tammy Tourist. We started the day with a train ride on the Northern Scenic RR to Lester River. We decided that the day could only get better after that! It was NOT a scenic ride. The train did not even get out of town - just went down the track several miles and then back to the station. There were lots of kids on board and they enjoyed the trip, but there was absolutely nothing spectacular about it. However, the time schedule fit in with the rest of our plans for the day.

Next on the itinerary was the IMAX movie, "Mysteries of Lake Superior". It, too was not what we expected, but it was enjoyable. It was mostly about re-introducing and preserving sturgeon in Lake Superior.

Walking the dogs down by the Maritime Visitors Center on the waterfront we noticed a rather disreputable looking guy flying a kite out over the channel. The most unusual part of this is that he was using his DeWalt drill to fly the kite! He had rigged a spool of fishing line to the drill so he could let out the string and then retrieve his kite. He had about 2000' of string out to fly this 8' kite. It was a novel idea.

After that, we booked a cruise on the Vista Fleet Cruise lines for a harbor cruise at 5:30. We shopped for an hour or so until we could board the boat. That was a MOST interesting cruise. We went out under the aerial bridge which had to rise partially for us to clear it. We also came back through after a short distance up the North Shore. The rest of the cruise was around the harbor and we saw hugs freighters that were being loaded with grain and coal. General Mills has huge grain elevators in the harbor here. There are dry docks for ships and a large ship repair facility. We went under the large bridge connecting the town of Superior Wisconsin with Duluth. It was a most interesting trip and lasted about 1 ½ hours.

After the cruise we went to Little Angie’s Cantina and Grill for a shrimp fajita dinner. When dinner was over, there was another freighter coming through the channel so we grabbed the dogs and rushed down to the bridge to watch it pass through. It was a huge freighter (one of the 1000+’ long lake freighters) and it was fun to watch it come under the bridge.

On the way back to the campground we stopped at a Dairy Queen and in lieu of birthday cake, I had a tropical blizzard.

It was a great birthday and we were both exhausted when it was over.

Friday, July 17

#1 The very large docks for loading iron ore
#2 A loon on the water
#3 The light at Split Rock Lighthouse
#4 The lens at Split Rock
#5 Split Rock Lighthouse
#6 One of the many scenic points along the north shore drive
#7 The Hull-Rust Mahoning Mine

Jerry connected with a friend from his working days who lives up here….Jim and wife Bev would exhibit at trade shows and they became friends. Somehow, I managed to miss out on meeting them until now. At any rate, the plan is to meet them for dinner tonight in Carlton, but he gave us some suggestions for things to do today.

After breakfast, we headed back into town and up the North Shore. We stopped at Two Harbors Lighthouse which is a bed and breakfast and walked a bit of the way out on the breakwater. Most interesting there were the big loading docks which had been used for loading taconite. Taconite pellets are iron ore pellets that are used in making steel. Mining iron ore and shipping it to steel mills has been one of the major industries in the lake states. With this economy, not much is being done right now.

Back on the road we stopped at a farmer’s roadside stand and I got a couple of tomatoes and some fresh corn. The next stop was at Split Rock Lighthouse. Run by the historical society, it is a lighthouse restored to the early 1920’s, complete with costumed staff. It was a great stop with beautiful views of Lake Superior. The lighthouse sits high on a rocky cliff and we climbed to the top for the view and a look at the lens. The light is kept turning by a 200 lb weight that needed to be re-wound every 2 hours. It was a most interesting stop and wish we had more time.

The next destination was Hibbing - which was about a 60 - 70 mile drive. Hibbing is the site of one of the largest open pit mines in the world - the Hull-Rust Mahoning Mine. The pit is 3 miles long and 2 miles wide and 600 feet deep. Unfortunately it was a cloudy, misty day, so we did not get the panoramic views we had hoped for, but it was an impressive sight nonetheless. The observation tower closed at 5 and we did not get there until well after 4, so our time was somewhat limited. Jerry learned a lot from a retired miner who had worked the mines for over 30 years. Opened in 1895, it has mined over 1 billion tons of ore!

We then traveled south for about 60 more miles to meet Bev and Jim Whorton for dinner at the Cozy CafĂ©, a landmark restaurant for that town. I enjoyed meeting them and we had a great time with them. We just happened to catch them in MN, as they have moved back to MO. They have a Christmas tree farm and were up here for the week trimming trees. Of course we now have plans to get together with them in MO…although they live in the far NW corner of the state. After dinner, we returned to the campground and bed. Poor dogs, they have been cooped up in the truck all day, with only a few breaks.

After some discussion and a recommendation NOT to go to International Falls, we decided to spend an extra night here and do some more things in Duluth. There is really a lot to do here.

Thursday, July 16

#1 Leinenkugel Brewery
#2 The brewhouse and other buildings
#3 Jerry walking across the aerial bridge
#4 Lighthouse at the end of the channel
#5 Freighter coming through and the roadbed on the bridge raised
#6 What to do with an old boat...Crabby Bill's fast food on the shores of the downtown area.

Before leaving this morning, we decided to take a tour of the Leinenkugel Brewery. It was a most interesting tour and not a huge brewery, in fact, still small enough so they mix some of their varieties by hand. It was statted in 1867 and is still family owned and run by 5th generation family. Tours start at Leinie Lodge where there is a gift shop as well as several displays. The 45 minute tour was most interesting. The brewery produces approximately a dozen varieties of beers, with several selections being seasonal brews. The same family member who is the huge Packer fan, is also a Leinie fan, so, David, (favorite and only son-in-law) the past two days have been in your honor!!! It was a good stop, and even I enjoyed the tasting part (I am not usually a beer fan). I especially like the Honey Weiss.

On the road again, heading for Duluth. Found a campground about 15 miles out of town (Ogston’s) and it was a nice enough place, but a bit far out. Once we got set up, we decided to drive back into town. Jerry has been here before at a meeting when he was working at Forestry Suppliers so he was a bit familiar with the waterfront area.

Driving into Duluth, you cross over the river via a HUGE bridge from Superior, Wisconsin. It was an overcast, threatening day, but it was a great view of Duluth which is built up on the hills. Lots and lots of grain elevators and both the towns are about shipping. When we got into town, we went to the maritime visitor’s center which is right down by the aerial lift bridge. There were some interesting exhibits, but even more exciting, the bridge was rising to let a tour boat through. We walked around and then across the bridge and out to the lighthouse on the other side. Walking back across, we noticed a freighter coming in the distance so we waited for it and watched it come through the channel. It was really neat.

After that we were hungry so we went into "Grandma’s" Pub and Grill right down on the riverfront. There was an upstairs w/ tables by the window so we could watch the activity around the channel. We split a chicken ceasar salad and a bowl of chicken wild rice soup that was delicious!! Then back to rv and tried again to watch the movie, "Fiddler On the Roof" - this was only the 3rd night we have tried to stay awake and watch it. I made it all the way through tonite, but Jerry still has yet to see it in its entirety. We did watch it on TV with Bud and Jean when we were still living in Hawaii. Needless to say, we have forgotten much of it.

Wednesday, July 15

#1 Lambeau Field
#2 Takes 4 guys to put their heads together to maintain the grass!!!
#3 THE Tunnel!!!!
#4 Through the goal posts!
#5 A few accolades posted on the stadium walls.
#6 One of many fan directives posted at the entrances to the seats.
#7 Sitting in the end zone!
#8 The $40 burger offer
#9 The menu at Curly's Pub in the atrium of the stadium

Well, Jerry wanted to get and early start so we did….would you believe we were on the road by 7:30? I can’t believe I was out of bed by then, but I had not looked at the clock until we were ready to leave….did get a good night’s sleep though. Wound up driving all the way into Green Bay before we stopped for breakfast (about 9 s.m), then to Petco to get dog food and Wal Mart for a few groceries before heading to Lambeau Field for a tour. Got there in time for 10:45 a.m tour. It was GREAT!!! We had an awesome tour and learned a lot…the latest renovation to Lambeau was in 2003 and they really did it right…it is set up like a convention center and they use it all the time for special events, etc. Our guide was well versed in the history and tradition of the stadium and the Packers. We were able to go into a sky box which was really nice and then we went downstairs and got to walk out the tunnel that the team enters the stadium through for each game.

We were not allowed on the field which is 97% natural grass…the other 3 % is individually placed tufts of artificial grass that go deeper into the ground and the natural grass roots grow around them and this supposedly helps to keep the field from getting so torn up during muddy/wet games. There were 4 groundskeepers that were going over the field with a fine tooth comb (almost literally) - at one point all 4 of them were on their hands and knees with their heads together examining something on the field.

When we were in the tunnel the dressing room was off to the right, but we could not go in there b/c the players use it year round. He told us that there were classrooms in there for each position on the team, weight rooms, game rooms, a barber shop, study rooms, film rooms, a player’s cafeteria…..they are really pampered!!! At the end of the tunnel was a big garage type door…at one spot in the tunnel the players are standing on 3 large concrete and brick sections that were part of the original stadium.

The Packers are an unusual franchise in that they do not have one owner…they have stockholders and occasionally they offer more stock for sale….no benefits except to say you are part owner of the Green Bay Packers! It is a wonderful stadium and well worth the visit even if you are not a football fan.

The Packer Hall of Fame is a 25,000 sq ft. facility in the lower level. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit it b/c I spent too much time shopping for a particularly rabid Packer fan that I know who also happens to be family!!! Hope to return here someday.

After shopping completed went to Curly’s for lunch. Jerry and I split a very good hamburger w/ sauerkraut and a link sausage on it. Note: there was a $40 hamburger on the menu....2 1/2 lbs of meat!! WOW!!! However in reading the fine print, it does come with 4 plates and 4 drinks! It was a good lunch, but took a long time to get our food.

Leaving there we headed west and stayed the night at Chippewa Falls, home of the Leinenkugel Brewery.
We went into town for ice cream and stopped at Olsen’s - voted #1 in Eau Claire/Chippewa Falls area. Good ice cream and LOTS of it…Jerry could not finish his, but of course I managed mine…however he did have more in his cup than I did.

Back to RV park and time to turn in! Long day and late stop.