Sunday, July 23, 2006

Finally, I've got the first day of the vacation up! I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, June 19th 2006

At 1am, I am finally ready to wind down. After getting a late start, I filled up at the SA and went down to my first stop in Ashland, Wisconsin. I decided to take the long way (a phrase to get used to) to Duluth - a popular vacation route considering the steady amount of traffic going back south.

First song of the trip: Fernando Ortega - The Traveler

Stopping at a rest stop north of Hinkley, I called my grandfather for Father's Day. He was just finished up watching the Twins win, and listening to a few polka CDs my sister and I got him. He's 81, and I am blessed.

The next stop was Duluth, which is always an amazing trip up the hill right as you look ahead and see the first glance of the town and Lake Superior. I'm sure people who live there are used to it, but I don't know how. When I lived in Bristol Bay, I'd usually take a drive out to the bay a few times a week.

I stopped for a few seconds a rest area, but finding it closed, I crossed over to Wisconsin. Superior, WI – like Duluth is built along the river. This means that the speed limit is set at 30 miles an hour through town, and with a Minnesota license plate I wasn't going to test this limit. After the long drive through town and a few detours later, I found the exit to the “Scenic” route along the lake shore.

The first part of this special route was rather dry, with most of the signs telling us that we couldn't use farmer's private driveways to access the lake. After a few miles and a little bit of rain later, I saw a sign for the Brule River State Forest and mouth of the Brule River. The road to the mouth was 4 miles of unkept, ruddy gravel road. I got out about halfway though the ride to check my tires out, since most everything in the car was shaking. They were fine, but I'm sure I took a few months off of their lives. Poor things.

The scene and the end of the road was worth it. There were a few other people on the beach, most of whom were just walking around and picnicking, but a few were trying their luck at the fishing. While it was cloudy, it had stopped raining for the moment. After wandering around the beach and scaring off some seagulls, the sun came out the clouds for just long enough to brighten up the sky. I pulled out my camera, and tried to take a picture. My digital picture does strange things when pointed at the sun, so I thought I've give it a chance anyway. Here is the result. I actually kind of like it, and doctored it a little later on. If I can upload it later, I will.

The beach reminded me a lot of Bristol Bay in Alaska on a cloudy day...the waves were gray and cold, and the clouds obscured the shoreline on the other side. There were also a few ships with their lights on out in the lake, which was one of those scenes from Alaska that I'll always remember.

Back on the road, I next stopped at a little village called Port Wing. It's a small tourist town, one that seems to come alive in the summer and sleeps during the winter. There was one open store that I found at 7:50pm when I pulled in, a gas station. Like all other gas stations in the rural midwest, it has gas, a small amount of groceries, tourist information, fishing and hunting license sales, a deli, VHS tapes and a few DVDs for rent, and a high school student who looked forward to the closing time in just 10 minutes. I used the restroom and grabbed some soda and jerky, and that was the last open store I saw for the next hour and a half.

The rest of the trip that day was filled with small towns and roads that lead to the Apostle Islands (most of which was visited on the way back). However, I did stop a few times when I had a chance to walk out to the shoreline. At least once, I was greeted with a sign telling people of the potential for bears on the shore. I didn't see one on the shore the whole trip, but at least I saw one the next day. After driving through the Red Cliff Indian Reservation, a spotting a deer crossing the road just a soon as a crossed the boarder, I turned south and passed through Bayfield, a tourist town built around the Apostle Islands.

Eventually, I made it to Ashland, a nicely sized town on the side of Superior. At 9:20 I pulled into my Motel. The lady who checked me in said that I was the last person she expected that night, and with that she closed up and went home. I was still wide awake, so I went out for a short walk along the shoreline, since my Motel was right on the lake. After battling with the bugs, I conceded defeat and went out to McDonald's to find a salad for supper....all while watching the little but of light still out of the lake at 10pm.

Not bad for a first day. For me, traveling is a nice mix of conquering long treks of road, followed by deciding to take an unmarked road just to see where it goes, along with pulling off and viewing the scenery for as long as I want. That usually serves me well on a trip.The next day would include heading up to Michigan, watching the second best sunset ever, and seeing a black bear wander in the woods before tourists scare him off.


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