We headed north to Duluth; which is a port city on Lake Superior; which is the “hugest” of all the Great Lakes. The plan is to begin here and to stick my toes in each of the Great Lakes, as we make our way around them. We planned for a 3-day stay in the area, but as we’ve come to know, plans are tricky things!
We completed our check in at the office of the Buffalo House RV & Camping, Restaurant, Bar, Banquet Facility, Shuttle Service and Sports Complex (somehow this name reminds me of the Regent Park, Golf, Practice Facility and Conference Center – Dan) just a few miles outside of the city. We made our way down to our camping spot (the last one they had) where we were hoping to once again have access to satellite TV. Sadly we quickly discover that space 29 is both long and narrow, and is sheltered on both sides by mature trees, complete with full summer tree canopies. So alas, TV will remain delegated to the weak 6 local channels that feature continuous reruns of every 50s, 60s and 70s sitcom that ever aired; “woe is me” (so says Wm. Shakespeare). The nearness of the trees presents challenges for not only our satellite reception but also the passenger side mirror (the tree wins over the mirror) and with opening of the dining slide (the tie down strap wins over the tree branches that now look like a tightly wrapped bunch of carrots).
Shortly after the mirror met the tree, Carol hopped out to make sure the trailer was in off the road and as she turned to check, she ran into the arms of our “real friendly” new neighbor Alan, who inquired: “Are you our new noisy neighbors?” as he embraced her in a large bear hug and welcomed her as “Debbie”. Only when she corrected him, that her name was Carol, did he retreat back to his campsite, looking a little bewildered. Upon reentering the RV she told Dan that the people here are “real friendly”!
A few minutes later, Alan came back over and explained the error of his ways, mixing us up with some friends of theirs from their internet motorcycle club “The Venturers”. Alan was expecting Malcolm and his wife (Debbie) whom he’d never had the opportunity to meet before. To balance the tables, Alan’s wife, Kathleen gave Dan a great big welcome hug too! We had a great laugh and we were both sure we’d just made some new friends with this fun loving couple! As it turns out, Alan’s motorcycle club just so happened to be headed off to see the Apostle Islands on Monday (which was also, so conveniently on our bucket list for this stop) and he invited us to join his group at the informational meeting on Sunday night and for the club’s two rides planned for Monday and Tuesday. The club was founded around the Yamaha Venture motorcycle, but the club doesn’t restrict participation based on what you ride, so the group welcomed us and the “other woman” (Dan’s Harley) into the planned first day of the ride.
Once we completed our camp set up, we grabbed Finnegan and took a quick drive into Duluth to catch our first glimpse of the Great Lake Superior and to get a lay of the land. The lake is GA-NORMOUS and the city is clearly built around the working port area.
Canal Park is “tourist central” and the place was packed with tourists doing all the touristy things they do. We showed Finnegan the great statue of the “Determined Sailor” steering his ship in a storm, we watched the aerial bridge raise for a sightseeing cruise ship and checked out all the exhibits at the Visitor’s Center (located adjacent to the bridge). There are a bunch of local (and chain) restaurants and hotels in the area. Plenty of things for everyone to do in this small 6 block area.
Upon our return to the campgrounds, we decided to stop in at the Buffalo House (et al), where we ordered a Bloody Mary cocktail. And it is here in the story that our main characters learn that here in Minn-EE-so-ta, things are a little different that elsewhere in the country. You see, a Blood Mary here is served with a “snit” of beer, just a little glass for the taste. The patron has the option to a) opt out of the snit; b) drink the beer before, with, or after the Bloody Mary or; c) add the beer TO the Bloody Mary (which was the bartender’s recommendation). So we did “c” and you know what – it was great! We’re going to have to school our bartender friend, Matt with this new found information on our next visit to our favorite tavern in South Carolina!
The following day we took a drive up North Shore of Lake Superior, opting for the little road that followed the lake instead of the expressway for about 20 miles. Along our drive we took in the beautiful homes and views and we eventually ended up in the town of Two Harbors where we enjoyed lunch, a walk through the chalk art sidewalk gallery and then we visited the lighthouse and breakwall before winding our way back home.
Monday morning dawned (damn) early as we had to be “kickstands up” by 6:45 AM (that’s even before God wakes up, when you’re retired) so we could make the 90 mile ride to the pier at Bayfield Harbor in Wisconsin in time to make the boat! Five bikes left the Buffalo House and two exits up the road. We met up with the rest of the group and all in all fourteen bikes took off just after 7am across what could be the country’s shortest interstate I-535 (2.78 miles) with our sites set on an island cruise (a 3 hour cruise – just so you can get your mind going for the next blog post :)).