It was an interesting trip. Mostly good, some bad, but mostly good.
Isn't that wonderful!
Jon and I have always been very excited about "windies" (as we call them) and it seems that western Iowa is going windie crazy!
We drove all the way to Duluth that night and arrived at our hotel close to 2am. The woman at the front desk was very nice about us coming in so late. We of course were the last people with a reservation to show up that day. We got a few hours of sleep in our super large king bed and set off early the next morning for Canada.
Our plan was to drive along 61 which follows Lake Superior until we reached Canada when 61 jogs westward inland and north to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Since I had driven the ENTIRE 7+ hours from Omaha to Duluth, Jon offered to drive this leg of the trip while I enjoyed the wonderful Ikea 2009 catalog. As you know my car is a manual transmission and Jon doesn't necessarily have a good handle on how to drive those, so I was a little nervous. But he did a wonderful job with this part of the journey (there will be more later though).
When we reached the Canadian border we were of course stopped by an American border patrol agent who was quite scary. Much more scary than the Canadian agent we talked to a few minutes later. I didn't see any AK-47s or anything but I would not have been surprised. Of course he wanted to know where we were going and why, if we were meeting anyone in Canada, what we planned to buy, etc. And you know, we really didn't have any good answers for those questions. We weren't really doing anything in Canada. The plan was to go to Thunder Bay, eat lunch, and come back. Now, that seems pretty normal to you and me but to a border patrol agent going to Canada "just because" isn't really a good reason. But they let us through the American check point anyway. We then drove on through the Canadian check point. Again no AK-47s but I think I would have been surprised to see them there. My general impression of the border crossing is that the American agents cared A LOT more about what we were doing than the Canadians. In fact the Americans stopped us on the way in and on the way out but the Canadians only stopped us on the way in. I suppose its all 9/11 and terrorists. But really, did they have to make me feel so bad about wanting to go to Canada?
Well anyway, they let us in after promising not to blow anything up or buy copious amounts of prescription drugs. :)
Just inside the border there was an Ontario welcome and travel information building. We decided not to stop which at the time seemed ok. This mistake however ended up being our undoing for out entire jaunt into Canada.
We made it to Thunder Bay and drove to what we though was a downtown area to find something to eat. Turns out though because it was Sunday, absolutely nothing was open except for the casino. Now, as you can imagine this is where the trip took a turn for the worse. After exhausting out options in the supposed downtown area we drove up a hill which Jon thought looked promising but only led us out of town. I promptly turned around and we pretty much drove willynilly all over town. Obvously this did not make me very happy. I HATE driving in towns I don't know anyway but Jon really did not have any idea where he was going so that made me even more mad. And of course being mad, I was screaming and pitching a fit the whole time...
We finally decided to stop and eat at the most American of institutions, McDonalds. Yes...I know...it was completely shameful. I felt bad about it. We went to Canada to specifically eat somewhere local and we ended up at McDonalds.
But I have to say, it was just about my best trip to McDonalds ever. Their menu is completely different and they had this lovely chicken sandwich on a ciabatta bun. It was very similar to the Wendy's spicy chicken which I love without the spice and on a wonderful roll. You know I feel very bad about going to McDonalds but it ended up being really not that bad at all.
After McDonalds I was feeling much better about the whole driving around situation and we headed back for Duluth and America. Before we crossed the border we decided to stop at that lovely Onatario tourism place and have a look around. I found the most adorable moose doll and Jon got a lapel pin of the Canadian flag. I think what he really wanted was a patch or small flag on a stick kind of thing but they didn't have any of that there, so the pin had to do. We also pickup a Ontario travel guide while we were there in which we found numerous local resturants we could have stopped at in Thunder Bay. Yeah, we really should have stopped there right when we entered Cananda. It really would have saved a lot of heartbreak and fighting.
So it was back through the border where we were quizzed agian by the American border patrol and back down 61 toward Duluth.
The plan on the way back was to stop at some of the state parks that dot 61 in this area. The first place we stopped on the way back though wasn't a state park but the wonderful little town of Grand Marais. It was pretty touristy, as you can see from their website http://www.grandmarais.com/ but it was a very cute town.
I put my feet in the Lake.
Grand Marais is a wonderful place. I hope that we can go back some day and spend a week in one of the hundreds of locally owned cabins or hotels in the area. It really seems like a wonderful place to waste a week at the end of the summer.
After Grand Marais we drove a ways down 61 to Split Rock Lighthouse. We arrived 5 mintues to close which seems to have been a good plan.If we had arrived earlier we would have had to pay an entrance fee but since we arrived so close to closing we only had to wait a few minutes and we were let in for free. Now, we didn't get to go into any of the historic buildings or into the lighthouse itself. That is what the entrance fee covers but we did get to see the lighthouse from outside and enjoy the wonderful view of the lake for free.
We met this really nice couple and Jon took a picture for them and they took one for us.
Aren't we cute. That would make a great postcard!
After the lighthouse we stopped at another state park (although I have no idea what its name was) that had the most wonderful waterfalls.
They had lucky bamboo for $1.99 a peice and we had to get one.
All in all we had a wonderful time at Ikea...I can't wait to go back!
So, other than my freaking out over driving in weird places, it was a great trip.