Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Duluth in a day

We arrived from the hillside above the town.  We were speechless seeing Lake Superior.  It looks as big as an ocean.  You just see endless water.  Amazing!

Duluth MN


What to do first, well no doubt there, take a boat tour on Lake Superior. The first thing that happens as you move out to the lake is that the Aerial Lift Bridge rises for you to pass thru the channel from the harbor out to the lake.  It doesn't rise as two sections, rather the whole span of the bridge rises.  It is apparently modeled on a bridge that had been in Rouen France.  That bridge was destroyed by the Germans in WWII.   It is really quite fun to go under this special bridge.
Aerial Lift Bridge

 The lake not only looks big, it feels like you are out on the ocean.  It can be a dangerous lake since it  is capable of having major waves, sometimes up to 30ft, in storms.  There is a long history of many boats sinking in the lake during the big storms that have plagued the lake.  At its deepest, it is 1,334feet deep.

Lake Superior facts
The boat trip included a harbor tour, which gave us a view of the many working docks.  We learned that Duluth is really about getting ore, cement, granite and grain moving in and out of the harbor.   Though our first impression was that this was a dying town, we came to understand that it will continue since it is a busy international harbor.  Many of the jobs are gone due to automation of the unloading and loading of the big ships coming here.  That has obviously taken a toll on the people and businesses here.


Nearby we then toured the William A Irvin Ore Boat Museum.  This was a boat built in 1938 and used until 1975.  It was built by US Steel Company.  This was an working ore ship, but it also included beautiful cabins and lounge for up to 4 couples as special guests.  Wood paneling, a refrigerator, drinks and food any time the guests wanted.  The crew quarters were also well done, since it was understood that the crew needed to be well taken care of too.  The crew were well fed , in addition to full meals three times a day, there were snacks and left overs to be had at will.  The chef had an incredible budget of $10,000 a month. This in 1938 remember.


Next on our agenda was to visit the Corps of Engineers Museum, located right by the Aeriel Lift Bridge.  Lots and lots of history about the Lake and the boats that worked in and out of this area.  Packed full of info and its free.  What was not to like!

A short walk on the boardwalk of the Lakeside Walk.  Fred had to test the water, since we had been told that it is a pretty constant 39 degrees.  it was cold.  This past winter was so bad, that 98% of Lake Superior froze.  The ice was not thick, but so what, that's COLD!!!

A good dinner in the Canal Park area, walleye for me and special brat for Fred.  We then hopped on a tourist trolley to get us to within a few blocks of our hotel.  A successful day in Duluth that had been filled with clouds and rain.
Tonight we are watching the baseball Home Run Derby.
Stay tuned for more adventures.
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

The Biggest.......

Jamestown ND is home of the biggest buffalo.  It is enormous and stands on a small hillside by itself, so can easily be seen by the road.  A tourist "pioneer village" is scattered around it if you want to stop. The most interesting part of this stop is the small herd of real buffalo, including a white buffalo.  While we were there, we spotted a baby buffalo nursing, which is not something we have seen before.  The pioneer village and large buffalo are free, although donations are accepted.

the real thing

The worlds biggest Smokey the Bear is located in International Falls MN.  It is in a small park in the center of town. Smokey was the idea of a business man out of Minneapolis to promote education about fire prevention. It is 26 feet tall and was unveiled here in Oct 1954. It is pretty cute.

The biggest Walleye fish, is in Baudette MN, the gateway to the Lake in the Woods.  A really nice looking "fish" in a cute little town.  Seems the town voted to name it Willie, but we thought he should have been Wally...oh well, no one asked us.  It was worth the 75 miles round trip to see Willie.

Stay tuned out as we hunt out more unusual things on the road.
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Stay tuned as we hunt out more bigs.
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Voyageurs National Park and surrounding area

Voyageurs National Park, never heard of it you say, well neither did we until now.  This is the big area of waterways, going from Montreal into the Northwest Territories.  It is the waterway that separates and is shared by the US and Canada. While we were visiting the water was high and many areas flooding.  It had not been this high in 60 years.

Voyageurs National Park


We spent a day at the Rainy Visitor Center in the Voyageurs Nat'l Park, which only became a park in 1975. Voyageurs were French Canadians working for companies wanting more and more beaver fur in the 18th and 19th centuries. The men would travel by canoes to the outlying Indian camps, bringing trade goods to exchange for beaver fur.  The fur was turned into beaver hats, which were all the rage in Europe. As the beaver started to disappear in an area, the voyageurs were forced to head further and further into the interior, a 3,000 mile journey for the Voyageurs.
 I did sample the Voyageurs mosquito repellent, bear grease mixed with skunk oil.  Okay, so it was gross, but hey it was part of experiencing their  ordeal and I did not get any mosquito bites on my hands or arms for the rest of the day.  Fred says that I was really stinky for most of the day, until I was able to get a shower in the evening.  

cloth, tea, ax heads, copper pots and wool blankets were some of the trade items
We took a 2.5hr boat tour on the waters, which included a ranger talk.  Gold was found up here on Little American Island.  Gold brought many up here, but not for long since it was too difficult to keep the water out of the mines, which started out at water level and then went below the water.  It was also expensive to move the gold from the island to mainland.  Shortly after gold was found here, the Klondike gold rush became news, so miners moved there at a run.

mine entrance


We are staying in International Falls, which is located on Rainy Lake,  as we sight see about the area.  International Falls labels itself the "icebox of the lower 48".  Folks pride themselves on living in the coldest part of the continental US. Watch the national weather reports this winter and you will see what they mean.  The park rangers talk about plowing the snow off the frozen river, once it gets to 18-22 inches of ice, to set up a parking lot and letting folks use the Rainy River for winter sports. Lots of ice fishing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing on and around the river during the winter.  Guys pull a little one room hut out on to the ice, drill a hole and start fishing.  The hut has heat and lights, so they are quite comfy we were told.  Brrrrr

Bronko Nagurski was from International Falls

Icebox of the nation


We are in a small RV park on the edge of town, with lots of motorcyclists.  Seems the Christian Motorcycle Association is having a rally in town the whole time we are here, July 9-12.
July 12- today we decided to walk over the Rainy River, to visit Fort Frances Ontario.  Walked up and down the main street, but not much going on there.  No restaurants open even, quite odd for a Saturday we thought.  We did walk to the Rainy River on that side and looked back at the US.  Quite a ho-hum trip across the border.

Fort Frances

Stay tuned for more adventures, as we head to Duluth.
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!