Our Cross-Country Odysseyy: Day 13 – 18 (Minneapolis area to Niagara Falls, ON) July 9 through 14, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 13: Minneapolis to Yellow Lake, WI

After being up late blogging and doing laundry, we slept in and left late from Dana’s house (what a surprise!). We took the long way to her cabin, through Brainerd, MN. The high point of our day was finally going into a Taco John’s. We had seen the signs for this fast- food staple during several states and decided that it was the easiest lunch option and we had to try it eventually. It was recommended that we try the special super nachos made with “potato ole’s.” When pressed, the employees told us these were tater tots. Nachos made with tater tots. The mind boggles. We were, of course, obligated to try them. They were, in fact, better than they had any right to be, thus proving once again that it’s all about fat and salt. James mystified the employees by asking about the “soda machine.” It’s “pop” in Minnesota.

Continued on through northern Minnesota and into Wisconsin through lots of little towns and along tons of lakes. One of the things we noticed here was that every town has a water tower. It led us to a discussion of water and its storage. We don’t really see water towers everywhere in California.

We made it to the cabin on Yellow lake in time for happy hour and yummy chicken and venison kabobs. Dana and I concurred that food is love in our family and dana is one of the most loving ones around! Wow! What a spread! We sat out on the deck, chatting and drinking wine late into the night, trying not to get eaten alive by the mosquitos. It was really lovely.

Day 14: Yellow Lake

A nice, relaxing day by the lake until Gwen got herself injured…. James went out on the boat with Ron and the kids and I stayed at the cabin, lounged for a while on the sofa and eventually went down to the lake after Gwen whimpered at me for long enough. She chased her favorite bright yellow water toy for a long time, even getting good at jumping off the dock. James came back and Dianne Graveson, my mother’s cousin and Dana’s mother, came by. We went up to connect with Dianne and James noticed that Gwen had managed to cut her face just below the right eye. Well, James and Dianne got to go to the local vet while i “thankfully) got a nap on the couch. After sedation and 5 stitches, Gwen came home with pills for the next 2 weeks and a mean look in her eye.

Dana and Ron headed off for the demolition derby (not kidding) with the kids (Dana’s daughter Ashley and Ashley’s boyfriend Josh) and we went over to Dianne’s for dinner and catching up. We shared our photos of family in South Dakota and had a lovely dinner on the patio and then Dianne brought out the treasure trove of family photos. Her mother, Helen, was the eldest of the 7 sisters who grew up on the farm in the Vermillion, SD area, and apparently she got the bulk of the photos. There were some amazing ones of our ancestors on the Lumberg side of the family- my (mother’s mother). Many of the photos were ones I had seen before, but there were quite a few I hadn’t. Dianne was kind enough to give me some that had multiple copies and James scanned in dozens of photos. The biggest treasure was a very, very old photo, with 2 oval pictures of a man and a woman. Written on it was”My mother’s grandfolks – Frank.” We interpret this to mean Frank Lumberg (my mother’s mother’s father’s) mother’s grandparents. That’s pretty far back! I also saw a photo of my grandmother as a baby, which I hadn’t seen before. Most of the photos with her in them were of the seven sisters and since my grandmother was in the middle, she was usually at least ten by the time the photo was taken. There were also photos of the sisters in pairs (Helen and Vivian, the two eldest, Edna and Dorothy, the next two, and so forth). What fun! Thanks, Dianne!

Day 15: Yello Lake to Thunder Bay, Ontario

We, of course, didnt’ get out very early, what with staying up late chatting, sleeping in and all…. but we eventually headed out of the cabin for Canada. Northern Wisconsin is a lot of trees and lonely highway. We headed up to Duluth and then along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Not sure why they call it the North Shore, since it’s really more like the Western Shore, but whatever. Dana had recommended Two Harbors, a little town with good coffee, and, sure enough, we found 3 cafes in a row. *sigh* Wish we had that yesterday! Continued on up through beautiful scenery to the Canadian border. That was uneventful. (Always good) and we went on to Thunder Bay. We de cided to go ahead and get dinner in Thunder Bay, since it was getting late. What a challenge! Our little map from the AAA Ontario map was NOT helpful. It was weird- like the map was for some other town or something. Once we got into town, everything was closed. Thunder Bay at 7:00 p.m. on a Sunday was completely deserted. We eventually found a restaurant and had a very nice meal of chicken breast stuffed with parmesan cheese and wrappe din bacon. Yum.

Pulled into Sleeping Giant Provincial Park quite late and registered just before they closed at 9:00 p.m. We were SO tired we just set up the tent and collapsed. Nice facility- good showers and quiet.

Day 16: Sleeping Giant Provincial Park to Lake Superior PP

This was our “gorgeous views, running late and looking for coffee” day. We got up at a decent hour and left the campsite by 10, but went for a hike and blew the morning. I think it was worth it, but we ended up getting in quite late at night. The hike was to the end of the peninsula, with a great view of the Sleeping Giant formation and a little rock called Seal Rock. Gwen swam in the crystal-clear water and James and I soaked up the beauty. It was really idyllic. The lake was lovely and the rocks and trees just seemed exactly right. Then we drove and drove and drove. We finally pulled into Lake Superior PP at 9:00 p.m. again, but this time without having eaten dinner. Part of what took us so long was a fruitless search for a cup of coffee. Of course, when we say “coffee,” we mean decaf mocha. So it was a challenge. One little town had one restaurant with an expresso machine, but was out of coffee for it. The next one had a cafe that closed 1/2 hour before we got there. *sigh* Oh well. The good news was that the campsite was my favorite yet. The lakeshore here is going north-south and is a pebble/sand beach. Our campsite was ON the beach. We watched the sunset as we set up the tent and cooked dinner and ate dinner to the lingering colors and the twilight. It was sweet going to sleep to the sound of the lapping waves (and the occasional truck on the highway). Unfortunately, another late night.

Day 17: Lake Superior PP to Fairbank PP

We prioritized leaving early and heading out of Dodge, … Stopped at an “Indian crafts” stop because we were driving on fumes and picked up some smoked trout and Canadian wine for dinner. Had a picnic lunch in Sault Sainte Marie and got COFFEE at Starbucks! (How do they get “soo” from “sault?”) We are now continuing east along the Saint Mary’s River and driving through little towns. I finally decided to blog in the car. It’s tough, but there is jus tno time at night. We are doing too many miles each day (or kilometers, here in Canada) to get any time in the evening. It’s not the most comfortable arrangement, but it works. James noticed really big barns. 7 or 8 story high barns. Hm. Also saw a “caution- horse and buggy” sign a little while after seeing some Mennonite or Amish farmers pulled up at a little town selling their produce from a farm wagon.

We had a heck of a time finding the park. We ended up actually knocking on the door of a farmhouse. A wiry old guy who really needed a bath with a very crazy dog came out and told us very nicely in a thick Scottish brogue that we were not the first people to knock on his door and ask how to get there from here. We eventually found the park. It was gorgeous! We paid the extra $6.25 for a campsite by the lake and really enjoyed the lovely view. Gwen swam, James took some pix and we had a very nice dinner including our smoked trout and Canadian wine. It was nice to get in with time to relax!

Day 18: Fairbank Provincial Park to Niagara Falls

Have you ever travelled through the west and visited lots of quiet, beautiful places and then arrived in Las Vegas? That’s how we felt today. We left the serene beauty of the Canadian wilderness and ended up in Niagara Falls. The drive was not so impressive today, although we did score some freshly-picked blueberries from a nice lady by the side of the road and DID get coffee today in Sudbury. We had a nice picnic in Parry Sound and motored on down towards Toronto. Got off the highway during rush hour traffic in Burlington to change out a broken headlamp and had a very nice Japanese meal. We arrived in Niagara Falls at 9:30, hoping to see the falls at night. The clerk at the desk of the Best Western informed us that the fireworks were at 10. Well, we rushed down there and found the multitudes. The whole world seemed to be in Niagara Falls tonight. Of course, the loud neon adds to the whole Vegas feeling, not to mention the casinos… Anyway, the fireworks were nice, but the steamy smoky air made it all a little surreal and then walking towards the falls and getting wetter and wetter was a little weird, too. It’s so humid that you don’t really dry, either… I guess we’ll see them in the morning.

Town we least want to live in: Le Sueur, MN (pronounced Le Sewer) Most mystifying street names: Xebec and Xylite Streets, Lino Lakes, MN

Best people sighted: a couple on a motorcycle with a chainsaw in a fluorescent orange case strapped to the back – Rt. 10 N in MN

(Odd) Twilight Taters restaurant in Twilight, near Montreal River Harbour, ON

Best euphemism: The restrooms/showers in Canadian Provincial Parks are called “Comfort Stations”

Another “huh?” – “Deli Fresh Dog Food” – Sault Ste. marie, ON

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