Sunday, July 29, 2018

Our First International Travels

July 23-28, 2018
Neys - WaWa, Ontario, Canada

Even when you've taken every precaution to make sure your border crossing will be flawless, it's still nerve-raking! Just like in the Jeep, our crossing into Canada in the motorhome goes smoothly. Still, I breathe more easily once we're done.

Minnesota's Hwy 61 becomes Ontario's Hwy 17. MPH become KM/H. Road signs are different, but clear. Our GPS immediately knows we're in Canada and makes "following the rules" easy. The road is a pleasure to drive at 90 KM/H (just over 55 MPH) with more than enough passing lanes, but only one rest stop.

Our 200 mile drive is very pretty. Some of it we drove the day before in the Jeep, all of it is trees and glimpses of water on both sides. 

The entrance road into Neys Provincial Park is horrible - narrow, winding, potholes - it's a mess. We're in Area 2 (Area 1 is pull-throughs for larger rigs) that should have a warning for RVs but doesn't. While a long trailer would be fine, our taller RV hits numerous overhead branches on top and on the sides. Backing into #79 I have to "snug up" to a pine to get turned tight enough. Once straight, we do have plenty of room lengthwise, but if we didn't have a pair of lopers on board we wouldn't have been able to put out all the slides. 

We get "almost" level and plug in to 30 amp. No water or sewer hookups.

After all that we're amazed when our satellite connects quickly!!

I didn't set up temporary WiFi or cell for our few days in Canada so we're cut off while at this park. It's a very weird feeling.

Tuesday we head into the little (very) town of Marathon, Ontario, in search of Internet so I can download a couple books. The cute little Happy Cafe serves a decent breakfast, and let's us use their WiFi. We're able to check email and messages, but no love on the books :-(  

We drive around a bit and then drive all the way back to Terrace Bay looking for a grocery store. They have a small one but they can't take credit cards today so we'll make due with what we have. 

Fortunately we find water access and walk along the pretty beach for a bit before returning home. 

I was interested to see signs in Marathon for a curling club. Sadly, just the paint was curling at this closed building.

Our only wildlife in Canada - this mama and baby. Grouse? Guinea Fowl? Ruffed Grouse - thanks Diana B!

Following signs to the site of a historic trading post takes us here. I forgot the lesson about "ruins vs site". 

Lots of Fire Weed. Here it dresses up an abandoned house.

Yep, has to be a foreign country.

Tiny falls at Terrace Bay.

In certain places you really have to remind yourself it's a lake.

Has to be the most uniform surf I've ever seen!

A gaggle of locals has made it home.

So clear!
When we were in Grand Portage the mosquitos had their way with me. There are some here as well so I'm not loving being outside. There's not a lot to see or do here unless you hike (we don't), so Wednesday we stay home and clean house. Bill scrubs the windshield clean of bugs. Naps are taken.

Given our activities of the previous day it's not surprising that we wake to rain. It stays with us all the way to our next stop on Hwy 17 - WaWa, Ontario. The rain is only heavy in a few places, and with few other vehicles on the road, it's a nice 130 mile drive to WaWa RV Resort.

After our last stop, the handful of potholes on the entrance road are no big deal. The interior roads are in great shape. Dirt and grass level site with water and 30 amp, and the owner makes sure we have open sky for satellite. The park fills up each night, but by noon they've all moved on. Best of all, the park WiFi is consistently fast!

Nice trees without being "all" trees.

Rain on Lake WaWa

When in Canada.....
Friday is cold and cloudy - we love it - and we explore the area around the little town. After we pick up a few groceries (Campbell's soup cans labeled in French is interesting), we spend a rainy afternoon snuggled up at home.

Overlooking Hwy 17 is what TripAdvisor lists as the number one thing to do in WaWa. More than just a recognizable Canada Goose, this site marks the location of the completion of the TransCanada Highway in September, 1960. 

For the isolated citizens of WaWa, the highway marked a major change in their life style.

The visitors' center combines education and whimsy. 

Perfect mid-day temps.

I imagine someone keeping busy in the garage during rough winters.
There's so much water here.
I sleep late on Saturday, and it's noon when we head out. Good breakfast at the Embassy Restaurant where we learn that here, what we know as Canadian Bacon is Peameal bacon - sort of.

A road to the Michipicoten (mitchee-cotton) First Nation looks promising, and turns out to be our favorite place in our short Canada visit.

Falls along a creek running into Lake Superior.

One thing that makes Superior such a gorgeous body of water are all the small rock islands just off shore.

Lots of wildflowers along the road, this is a new one for me. Bladder Campion - more thanks to Diana B!
The dirt road becomes an overgrown two-track that eventually ends at one of the several closed mines in the area.

On our way back we stop for a pick-up to turn in front of us. The woman in the passenger side sticks her head out and asks if we've "ever been here before?". When we tell her we haven't, she suggests we follow them down closer to the water. Well alrighty!!

The family is from Sault St. Marie, Ontario, and come up to visit this area to dig for artifacts. The history they share with us includes photos on her phone that show the cabins and working mine. They foster four special needs kids who are with them. Two are not ambulatory, and they have fostered the oldest for fourteen years. These are really amazing people, and we enjoy our short time together. 

"Off-road" in Canada.

Four years ago a massive flood washed under this home, destroying 2/3's of it in minutes. The owners were sleeping, but got out with their two dogs and made it to the tribal center up the road. Of course we'd have never known without our chance encounter.

These deteriorating pylons once held the tracks for the mine cars that loaded onto ships.

Fire Weed where the mining company housing once stood.
The same area in 1943.
The other side of the bay on First Nation land.

Fluffy lake pup.

We wondered if you (not us) could walk to the island.

The kids answered the question. They were screaming but none of them quit in the very cold water.

How fun to have an island to play on!

A still life of blossoms, berries and boulders.

Silver Falls - below the upper.

Above the lower.

Always good to know where you are.
We agree that this part of Canada is very pretty, but not very diverse. Lots, and lots, and lots of trees. In addition to the ocean-looking lake to the south, there are dozens and dozens of small lakes along the highway. Many moose signs, no moose.

Sunday we'll complete Hwy 17 and cross back into the US to our 33rd state - Michigan! Looking forward to catching up with good friends and slowing down for a bit.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Holy Buckets! Minnesota 'ey!

July 16-22, 2018
Bemidji - Duluth - Grand Portage, Minnesota

Although our friends are out of state, we still have lots to get done in Bemidji, Minnesota. A stop at the Social Security office is the priority for both of us. The small, local office takes care of everything quickly, are very friendly, and we have that important paperwork checked off our list!

Since my battery hasn't been holding a charge on my six year old cell phone, we stop and get a new one at the AT&T store. Another quick and friendly errand complete. It's fun when people see we're from California and have lots of questions. The extreme difference in winter weather is the main topic "up here"!

Oil change, car wash, groceries and maybe other stuff I've forgotten, all get done and we enjoy that "aaahhhh" feeling when the whole "to do" list is crossed off. 

Tuesday is our day to play and we get out the door fairly early. We also have to "redo" two of yesterday's stops. I entered incorrect info on one of Bill's social security forms and they called to let us know - so he's in and out in a few minutes. Then we have to go back to the oil change place because the engine has been cutting out since yesterday's change. They don't hesitate to pull the Jeep back in the bay and figure out that although both the manual and the computer say six quarts, it really only takes five. Sure enough, as soon as they put the right amount in, it runs just fine. Good customer service is not about always getting it right, it's how they handle it when they get it wrong. High marks for Willie and Hannah at the Valvoline in Bemidji!

Now we can go see the Mississippi River Headwaters!

It soon becomes apparent that Itasca State Park is very much a forest - and not much more. We make the scenic loop drive, and stop at the very popular headwaters.

The hardwood forest is healthy and thick here.

Caretaker Woman releases a clutch of baby turtles into the river, renewing the seasons and continuing the waters of life.

Pretty maids all in a row....

The joyful sound of laughing children, blessing the water as it begins its long journey to the gulf.

Humble beginnings for the "Misiziibi" (Great River).

A glimpse at little Lake Josephine

Keeping watch.

A narrow loop road winds through the forest.
Back in Bemidji we make a most necessary stop - to see the curling stone at the visitor's center. Our nimble curling fan assures me it's a "must-see" while here :-)

It's a life-changing experience, don't miss it!

Those who don't know better, stop here just to see these 81 year old icons.

The end of our Bemidji visit.....
Wednesday morning we continue east on Hwy 2 into the city of Duluth, Minnesota. We're really looking forward to seeing this pretty city on the water - and even more so, seeing our good friends Steven and Linda (The Chouters)!

In one of those happy coincidences, both Linda and I booked stops at the Lakehead Boat Basin a couple months back, and two of the nights are the same. Thankfully she sent me a message with the "correct" directions, so although the drive from Hwy 35 to the marina is very tight and congested, we avoid the mess our GPS would have taken us through!

Marina parks are favorites for us and this one is a gem. The sounds and smells and beautiful boats all make for a unique front yard. Level asphalt with 50 amp and water hookups, we're tucked in next to Scoopy.

Glorious view across the marina to the hills of Duluth.

Scoopy and Half Shell - last together in Quartzsite, Arizona!
Set up done and Linda back from town, we all get caught up during happy hour outside, enjoying the view. Dinner on the patio at Little Angie's Cantina in the very cute historic waterfront district is "okay", but the margaritas and company are great! Even with blogs and Facebook in-between, we always have lots to fill-in when we get together.

I swear I'm just as as happy as the other three!
With only one day in the area we must start the day at the "famous underwear" store - Duluth Trading Company! Tessa shares her seat in the Jeep with Linda and Steven for our big adventure.

While Bill picks up a pair of "buck-naked", I'm thrilled to find the Keene sandals I've wanted for over a year. Success! 

"a coup de crotch" LOL!

Few family-friendly places have this much fun with underwear!
We're all up for taking in some sights so we make a day of seeing what we can see. It's fun to share beautiful places with good friends! I'm really sorry I didn't give us more time here - there's a lot to see and do. 

Enger Tower

Wonderful views of the waterways and shipping yard.

Steven and Linda - with our homes in the back left.

See! There's home :-)
When the Aerial Lift Bridge is up we can see it from our front window. I tried not to watch Steven get so close to the cliff edge!
Leaving Duluth, we head northeast on Hwy 61. Lunch at Two Harbors, then on to the historic Split Rock Lighthouse. The view of the point from the highway is amazing. We peruse the visitors' center, enjoy the views from the grounds, and visit the out-buildings. Construction began on the light in 1906, after nearly 30 ships were wrecked off this point in November, 1905. The film on the building, the keepers and their families, and the brutal storms, tells a story of a life and an environment I can't imagine.

Split Rock Lighthouse (photo from Google)

Lego replica - not available in the gift shop :-)
Headed back home, we stop and walk out to Goose Berry Falls. There are three options to upper, middle and lower falls. We bypass the stairs down, and continue up the path to the upper falls. Lots of water, powerful music.

Goose Berry Upper Falls

Aggressive trees around here!

Damp and dark entrance to a small cave.

Made me laugh - "Aren't we all here to look at the same thing?"
It was "lit" for all four of us!

Love the pink water.
Too soon our time in Duluth is over and it's hugs and good-bye-for-now. Fortunately we'll see Linda and Steven in Michigan in a couple weeks :-)

One last stop in Minnesota - we arrive at the Grand Portage Casino early Friday afternoon. There is a sign for the RV park, but none for where to register. After parking the motorhome in the park, and checking at the casino, I finally find the office at the little marina. Another sweet view, we set up on the very large dirt and grass site with 50 amp FHUs. 

Saturday the skies are overcast. We take our time getting out the door for a short drive. More forest, wildflowers, and another pretty little lake.

Take me home, country roads.....

When you're in the north-north.

A tranquil spot along the road.

A small farm among the trees.

Delicate orange dots.
Poplar Haus - yummy eats!

Pretty Poplar Lake patio.
After lunch we visit the cute little town of Grand Marais and return home along Lake Superior.

The small bay at Grand Marais.

Since we've never been to Canada, on Sunday we drive over the border to make sure we're prepared to take the motorhome. We're the only ones crossing and are pulled for random background checks. Oh well, gives us the chance to ask questions. Tessa pulls out all the fluffy cuteness and improves international relations while we wait. All the officers are friendly and helpful and soon we're on our way.

I make a bad decision to see Sleeping Giant Island which turns out to be way too long to drive, and mostly just more trees. The island is large, but the access road is in the middle, and the only water views are at the very end. It's a very long day, and it's late when we finally make it back to Thunder Bay to find a place to eat.

Silver Islet

Fisherman and his two pugs :-)

A short dirt and rock road takes us to Thunder Bay Overlook. Two young maintenance workers see our California plates and join us for a short time. Fun conversation, nice guys.

Beautiful views!

On the cliffs 100 feet above the water.

Luckily I can take pics without going to the point of the overlook - because I cannot make my feet walk out there!

The last of the "road" is across solid rock.
Our border crossing back into Minnesota is just as easy. Answer a few questions and we're through. We fill the Jeep up with gas when we get back to Grand Portage. After seeing the prices in Canada we'll fill up the motorhome before we leave in the morning too!!

Monday we become international travelers. Stay tuned!