Wednesday, September 3, 2008

There and back again

So we have returned safely from our trip to the great North. I know, I was last week..but hey give me a break. I needed a few days (or a whole week) off before I could really come up with something meaningful to say about the whole trip.

We left on Saturday after I got off work and came back Monday.
It was an interesting trip. Mostly good, some bad, but mostly good.

The trip began on an auspicious note with this beautiful view as we drove through Iowa...(please excuse the dead bugs on the window which made it into the middle of the picture)

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 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 but it was a very cute town.

They had a pebble beach that Jon and I stopped at and

I put my feet in the Lake.

We sat there for a few minutes and skipped stones across the lake while enjoying the beautiful view and listening to the waves wash up on the shore. It was such a great sound I had to make a video of it.

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.

This place was really wonderful. I took off my shoes and rolled up my jeans and Jon and I crossed the river on large stones to stand almost directly in the path of the waterfall. There were a lot of other people there at the time; a lot of kids in swimsuits standing under the waterfall and enjoying the wonderful day. I don't really think that swimming was allowed there in general but there were plenty of people doing it. It was really beautiful.
There were these really interesting pine trees there that grew almost directly out of the rocks. Their roots were really something special.And I loved the texture of this log so much I asked Jon if i could take the whole thing home. Of course I could not. It was smooth and weathered and wonderful.After the waterfalls we drove the rest of the way back to Duluth where we had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant recommended by Wine Spectator. The wine list was huge. Jon thought it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 different wines. So we opted for wine flights of four different wines. That way at least Jon could get his reds and I could get my sweet whites. It was wonderful. I had linguine and clams. I absolutely love clams!
Then we went back to the hotel and fell asleep.
The next morning we set off early for Minneapolis and Mecca...oh...I mean Ikea.

When we reached Minneapolis we headed toward downtown to take in the awesomeness that we though was the most wonderful two-story Target. At the time Jon was driving again. He did great from Duluth to Minneapolis but once we got into the city and started driving on regular city streets it was just too much for me. When he killed it coming off a freeway ramp and had the car behind us honking its brains out and then we ended up driving through the University of Minnesota campus, I had really had enough. Of course I wasn't very nice about the whole thing but very angry indeed. I think Jon is really starting to get it though. He knows that I hate driving in very large cities that we have never been in before and finally he is starting to realize that even though he wants to drive right down the middle of town to "experience" it...its just not worth my anger.

We finally after all of that end up at Target. Turns out though that its just a regular Target with an escalator in the middle. Though, it does have a cart escalator which was pretty cool. It kind of works like a ski lift.
After downtown we headed toward Ikea. Now this was the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most. I had so much fun at Ikea. The kitchens, the bedrooms, the lamps, the gadgets, the pillows, oh I was in heaven!
We got this lamp for me (which I promply broke the second we got home that night. Oh well. I guess that just means that we have to take another trip up there). And these for Jon. And these cute tins (which now house my coffee and sugar). And these boxes for our stuff (black and green).

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!

After Ikea we hit up the Mall of America right across the street, rode a roller coster, Jon had some Taco Bell, and we headed home.

So, other than my freaking out over driving in weird places, it was a great trip.

1 comment:

warneker said...

Geez, now I want to road trip to Canada to eat at one of their McDonald's. I've been to Split Rock and the view from the top of the lighthouse is awesome. I also stole a rock, even though there were signs about not taking rocks, from somewhere in the general vicinity to take back to Nebraska and put in my turtle's tank