Showing posts with label highway 61. Show all posts
Showing posts with label highway 61. 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.



Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Lakewalk along Lake Superior, Tofte, MN ~ May 19, 2012

I woke up on my fifty-seventh birthday to the sunrise over Lake Superior. 

We were spending our free weekend at Bluefin Bay.   Free, because I was the-e-e grand prize winner of the "Tell Us Your Bluefin Bay Story" video contest.  Here is what got us our fabulous weekend at a lakeside condo:

It was 5:30 a.m., so Josie and I tiptoed out to the kitchen, and I put on a pot of coffee and gave J her breakfast.  

Then we settled in on the patio, me with a hot mug, and I whispered to Josie, "Happy Birthday!"  She perked up and became all squirmy, because she was remembering her birthday on the eleventh of May, during which we said, "Happy Birthday!" a lot, so she knew that meant something good. 

This was our view from the patio:

We'd been to Bluefin Bay many times, but I had never before seen so many monarch butterflies.  In fact, I don't remember seeing any.  This time, they were everywhere, and there were couples; or at least it seemed like couples, because they were zipping along in twos.  I wonder if seeing butterflies on your birthday is a good omen.

When my husband got up, we decided to take Josie to Temperance River State Park, which was about 4 miles down the road.  We were the only ones there....heaven.  We managed to hoist ourselves (and Josie) up along several trails and what seemed like miles of stone steps, until we got to the iron bridge that crossed the Temperance River.  From there, we gazed down upon the waterfalls.  And that's when I realized, heights are not my friends.  It was time to go.  

My camera battery chose just that moment in time to die, but I did find a pine cone, so I kept it.

 Temperance River pine cone

Funny how I always take pictures to remember the good times, but that pine cone will always remind me of hiking with my husband and Josie at Temperance River.

Once back from the park, my husband settled in to do some reading (napping), and since I wasn't in the mood to sleep, I played awhile with rearranging the word blocks on the fireplace mantle.  Yes, I have yet to grow up completely, apparently.

Random Boredness

Then it was time to drive to Grand Marais for lunch and "birthday shopping".  The temperature gauge in the car read fifty-seven degrees.  I would have snapped a picture of that, but as I said.....

The only clear radio station we could get was the North Shore public radio station, which we like anyway (90.7 on the dial), because it plays all manner of weird music that we've mostly never heard before.  But, on the way to Grand Marais, the first song we heard was Hank Williams and Long Gone Lonesome Blues.  For some reason, that made me happy.  I do not know why.

Highway 61 (revisited) is a nice scenic route, but, frankly, if you've traveled it eight zillion times, and you just want to get somewhere, it can be a bit annoying at times.  There are several "slowdowns" along one's way, little so-called "towns" that are not much more than a souvenir shop and an outbuilding of some sort; or pull-offs to roadside state parks.  We were getting a little annoyed by "Valerie", who we were following, because she over-compensated for the posted speed limits.  If the sign said, 40 mph, Valerie would slow to 25.  I wouldn't have known it was Valerie, of course, had her license plate not told me.  Soon enough, however, Valerie slowed down and pulled off onto one of the state park resting areas.  I said to my husband, "Valerie is a bit too adherent to the rules, isn't she?  Oh, never mind; she's from Ontario, and then I chuckled.  North Dakota people like me are just like that ~ real stringent rule-followers. 

As for shopping, well, I am a horrible shopper.  I'm one of those people whose gaze is captured by shiny objects.  I do not comparison shop.  Hence, to go with my theme of little tiny things (like little tiny pine cones), I picked out:

 Little tiny Minnesota loon (and baby loon)

Little tiny Lily of the Valley "cafe soap"!  (the birth flower of May)

And now I am happy......with my pine cone, my loons, and my tiny bar of Lily of the Valley soap.  Ta-DA!

Once back from lunch, my husband needed to do more "reading", so I took out my digital camera (that one still worked!) and walked around and just snapped random pictures, most of which I knew would not turn out, but I did it simply for fun.

Later that night, we pulled out the sofa bed in the living room, and my husband started a fire in the fireplace.  We opened the windows on the lake, watched a movie with Josie curled up with us on the blankets, had some snacks.

It was a lovely birthday.  The loveliest birthday I can remember having.  Butterflies, tiny gifts, my husband, snuggling, Josie, Hank Williams on the radio, pine cones, and the waves.  

And I'm writing this, two days after, because I don't want to forget it.