Showing posts with label duluth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label duluth. Show all posts

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What I Did On My Birthday Vacation

 Sometimes I just like to post pretty pictures.

As you know, if you've been reading my ramblings, I celebrated my fifty-seventh birthday on the shores of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota.

It's funny, the places that draw you in.  We all have a kinship for certain places.  We can't define it, but we know it when we feel it.

The first time I experienced Lake Superior, I was traveling with my parents, my sister, my nephew, and most of all, my two-year-old son and the son who nobody but me knew was on the way.

My parents had visited Superior's shores before, and they kept telling me how nice it was.  A "lake", to me, was like Maple Lake in northwestern Minnesota; a place we'd sometimes go on Sunday afternoons, where my friend and I would swim and visit the concession stand, and my mom and dad would sit at a picnic table in the shade, and eat, and try to keep a handle on the whereabouts of my toddler brother and sister.

This lake was not like that.  This lake was VAST.  It was an ocean of a lake.  As my dad maneuvered the big old Ford down the steep hill leading into Duluth, I caught my first glimpse.  The aerial bridge.  The ships in the harbor.  And I smelled the air.  That was different, too.

My dad turned the car to the right, down Canal Park Drive.  We pulled into a parking lot, and the first jolt to my senses was the wave of hungry seagulls, there in the maritime park; diving and chattering, and walking right up to people, fearlessly, demanding to be fed.

There was a big old iron anchor secured to the ground, there, on the lakeshore.  To the right was the maritime museum and observatory.  We all made our way over to the museum, ostensibly to use the restrooms (it had been a long drive), but then we walked along through the museum, up the sloping pathways, past all the old pictures and the iron ore freighter exhibits.  And every single time, since that first time, that I stepped inside that museum, Gordon Lightfoot nestled inside my brain, and for the rest of the trip, everywhere I went, I heard, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

To this day, that song gives me chills.

My first sight of an iron ore freighter skimming slowly along into the harbor, hearing the aerial lift bridge sound its horn to let pedestrians know that it was time to skedaddle.  The ship, too, sounding its horn, three times, and the lift operator responding in kind, was utterly mesmerizing. The long ringing bell, as the bridge slowly lifted to full height, to allow the ship to pass under.

There was a meandering walkway beside the lake, filled with tourists scurrying up to the breaker wall with their cameras when the ships passed through; otherwise only semi-populated with walkers and roller bladers.  A nice concrete bench called to me.  I sat with pen and paper, there in the sun, and just breathed.

To visit Duluth, then, was to visit the harbor.  The harbor was Duluth's calling card.  Things have changed a lot in those intervening years.  New tourist attractions are now clustered about the harbor.  I liked how it was back then.  Duluth is not a "theme park".  It's a real live miracle of nature.  The restaurant that used to be nestled there on the harbor, where my dad always ordered frog legs, because he thought it was cool (and he always made the same tired joke ~ "They taste like chicken!") has now been replaced with some type of cold concrete auditorium.  One can't even enjoy the entirety of the lake walk, without detouring around concrete barriers.

We would take a cruise around the harbor on one of those Vista Lake boats.  It was exhilarating.  Always cold out on the water, even in the middle of July.  One could prop oneself on a bench there on the side of the boat, and gaze out upon the lake and not have to think at all.  My mom always got my dad to take her inside, to buy a cup of coffee, but I would stay glued to my perch .

Sometimes we would stray from Canal Park; drive up to London Road, where there was a nice family restaurant, called the Lemon Drop.  One could get the absolute best walleye there.  My parents loved it, and so did I.  Alas, the Lemon Drop is no more, so I don't even venture down London Road anymore.

The North Shore Drive, also known as Highway 61 (revisited ~ yes, this is the Highway 61 that Dylan wrote about), is the scenic route up along the shore of Lake Superior, all the way to the Canadian border.  Along 61 is the Split Rock Lighthouse, and Gooseberry Falls.  And who can forget Betty's Pies?

When we visit the North Shore now, we travel another 80 miles past Duluth, but we always stop on the outskirts, at a little roadside park; get out of the car and stumble down the hill to visit the lakeshore.

Clear blue waters of Lake Superior at Duluth
It's not just the ambience of Superior.  It's the instantaneous changes of nature.  One moment, the waves are merrily rolling toward the shore; the next minute, a heavy fog muscles its way in, and the waves become angry and gray. 

It's life.
The cold spray splashing your face.  The waves that sound just like thunder, as they claim the rocks.
When the lake is calm and the sky is sunny, it can seem just like any other place in the world.  Lovers stroll the paths.  Kids squeal and throw stones into the water.  It could be anywhere.
It's when Lake Superior puts on its BIG SHOW that one feels alive.
The lake changes all the time.  Here are some of my vacation photos to prove it:
I just like this.  I call it the "shaky tree".

And, this has nothing to do with the lake, per se, but I thought you might want to see our traveling companions.

Josie on the "fairy bridge"

Most people don't take their cats on vacation.  But we take Bob.

We don't travel many places.  If I could, I would take a European river cruise.  I don't see that happening anytime soon, however.  Because they probably (likely) wouldn't accept Josie and Bob.  

But I'm happy with my lake. 

And it is mine, by the way.  I have claimed it.



Friday, August 1, 2008

The Lake

I couldn't tell you how many times I've been to Lake Superior. But it's a LOT.

I started going there with my mom and dad and my little sister and, at times, various nephews, and later, with my own kids.

It sort of got to be a joke with my kids. "Oh, we're going to Duluth again. Yay."

I remember 1978, my dad driving the Lincoln (ANOTHER big boat, if there ever was one). I think there were way too many people along on that trip than would normally fit in one car, even a Lincoln. There was my mom, of course, and there was me, and my then-husband, and my soon-to-be two-year-old, Chris, and my nephew, Tim. And my sister, Lissa. We got bored on the long drive (and it WAS a long drive from Bismarck, North Dakota - over 600 miles). So, Lissa and I started to sing along with the radio, lounge-lizard style, singing "After The Lovin'", by Engelbert Humperdinck, and "Midnight Blue", by Melissa Manchester.

We could always crack each other up, because we had the same sense of humor. My mom was asleep in the back, and everyone else was just gazing out the window or something. My dad was driving, and here's the two of us, in the front seat, acting like idiots, and my dad is doing his best to ignore us. Ahh, good times.

But anyway, we finally got to Duluth, and all I wanted to do was sit on a bench on the waterfront, and just BE. I could have sat there for hours, but they all got hungry, so we had to go eat at a place I think was called "The Lemon Drop" or "The Lemon Tree" or something like that. The place had great fresh-caught walleye, so we always ate there every time we landed in Duluth.

I have a picture of my dad and my nephew, Tim, and my son, Chris, gathered around a water fountain on our way to Duluth, and my dad was getting such a kick out of Chris trying to get a drink. I love that picture.

So, henceforth, we made a lot of trips to Duluth.

Basically, the places we went for vacation were either The Black Hills of South Dakota or Duluth, Minnesota, with a meandering to Yellowstone National Park one year.

I have lots of pictures of Duluth, Minnesota. Probably too many. But I just never could get that lake out of my psyche. About 50% of my pictures are of Duluth.

We'd always go to the maritime museum when we were there. They had lots of old pictures. And every dang time I went to Duluth, I got this song stuck in my mind:  

It never failed.

In recent years, we've vacationed on Lake Superior many, many times. Not at Duluth, mind you, but still on the Big Lake. Somehow, it just keeps drawing me back. There's something about That Lake.

We were going to drive up to see the Tall Sailing Ships. That's something I've never seen before. Alas, plans changed.

But just between you and me, sailing ships be damned. All I want is just want to be on that waterfront again.