A Cannon(ada)Ride Around Lake Superior

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Jun 10, 2012.

  1. Blue Mule

    Blue Mule Persistent Slacker

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    Excellent timing Cannon!

    I was gonna try a trip out west this year, but life circumstances have me looking at a Superior circle as well.

    I'll be really interested in the falls and nature photos. Also any info on mileage of trip and gas stops that require a bit of extra planning for. camping spots...well...ok...I'm In as well! :lurk

    Side note- I've seen the Ryerson in either Green Bay or Sturgeon Bay, when fishing....likely hauling or getting worked on.
    #21
  2. playharder

    playharder Just a rider

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    Subscribed.

    Looking forward to more of your great photography and your well researched and inciteful commentary.

    John
    #22
  3. Lutz

    Lutz Killer Rabbit

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    I love it, looking forward to more! I like how it's starting off so close to home for me...I've spent almost my entire life in relatively near vicinity to and with strong family ties in Superior//Duluth. And yet, there's so much here that I've yet to see. Let alone the rest of the circle tour (which I have not done yet).

    My guess (only somewhat educated) as to the reason for conversion to conveyors over trains is ship loading speed. It takes a long time to get trains on and off of docks and it takes several trains to load an ore boat. A conveyor system on the other hand can load continuously, along with loading only specific bins, if needed.
    #23
  4. dsy

    dsy Adventurer

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    Thanks Cannonshot! My wife and I are leaving from Ohio July 21st to make the same trip so the timing here is perfect. Looking forward to the gpx tracks. Only thing undecided for us is which direction around the lake to take. We have two weeks to make it around so plenty of time to poke around exploring. Have been back and forth across the lake many times as a deck hand on the ore freighters in the late 70's but have never been away from the docks. Cant wait to get back up there.
    Doug
    #24
  5. Rogdog

    Rogdog Adventurer

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    Thanks for sharing your ride... can't wait until you get to the north shore... one of the few places in the world that makes me home sick. Some of the most beautiful camping in my life was waking up (cold) on the north shore!!

    Keep it coming. Love the detail in your report. Good reading.
    #25
  6. ZZR_Ron

    ZZR_Ron Looking up

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    Good stuff! I recognize almost all of your opening pictures! Unfortunately, it's snowing up at the mining camp right now :huh
    #26
  7. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Hi Thomas! I hope you find this useful in your own planning.

    Hi Tim! I hope you guys get to take your time when you make this trip. Lots to see and enjoy. I hope that the report and GPX will serve you well.

    The Ryerson was probably hauling coal if you saw it in Green Bay. I visited quite a few falls as I was trying to add more entiries to this waterfall report. I'll be posting more in that thread as I process the pix from this trip. No fuel constraints and I have plenty of camping opportunities waypointed as well. A good tip is to check out the township, county, and city campgrounds as they are usually inexpensive and often have great facilities.

    Thanks John! I hope you find this entertaining. I had fun gathering the information.

    Hi Doug! I had this ride reaqdy to pull the trigger on for quite a while as it was my intent to get it done early in the season so that others that find it interesting might be able to get a trip in yet this season. I wanted to get out last month as I hoped to find the rivers running more than they do in summer. As it was, I was still pretty early in the season as far as finding things open. I read a book about being a deck hand on the Great Lakes and found it was pretty interesting. Long season to be on a boat though - for me anyway. :D

    Thanks Rogdog! The north shore is sure beautiful. Lots to take in along that part of the route.

    Well, I'm not too smart on this ore dock thing myself. I did a little more research about ore dock operations and I guess I captured some of the issue with not having to rely on trains. I guess it is a pretty tight schedule getting cars to the mines and sometimes there are interruptions in production at the mines that upset the schedule as well.

    Typically a dock has four tracks on the top. Two sections of cars can be unloaded into a line of bins each of which holds four carloads. This means it takes two iterations of cars on the docks to completely fill the bins. It is also possible to spot another train on top to add to the load as the bins get emptied.

    The big thing I didn't realize is that ore comes in multiple grades and that the ships must be loaded with the grade ordered by the mill. Some mines produce multiple grades of ore depending on where it came from in the mine. This sorting can be done using rail cars. It can also be done in a taconite sorting facility and then conveyored to the bins on the dock in the appropriate grade.

    Some facilities actually uncouple a car and rotate it to dump it onto a conveyor that leads to the dock. A modern facility like one further up the north shore can unload trains without the train even stopping.

    Kind of interesting and I can see where making these operations work from mine to mill could get pretty involved. :D

    Hi Ron! Gotta love that weather. Another reason I was glad to go in early June instead of trying to make this run earlier in May. :D
    #27
  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    When in Duluth, one must stop at the 'stich.
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    For those that have not yet been there, the showroom is great because you can try on the various sizes to get the right fit.
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    Ore cars full of stone.
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    There is an excursion train operating out of Duluth. Picture from their web site.
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    No sign of any excursion train while I was there.
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    Riverside was a ship building town. It is now a neighborhood in Duluth. The company came in and built the town for their workers. The outfit closed in 1945. This building was the company store, school, and offices.
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    This building was the company hospital. Remarkably it has been refurbished and is now a care facility.
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    The next town south is Morgan Park. It was a planned community by US Steel. In the early 1900s US Steel wanted a mill here. This is Lake View Store and is America's first indoor shopping mall. Downtown had the mall, bank, commons, and community center. The 1916 Lake View Store had a pharmacy, department store, butcher, clothing store, hardware store, furniture store, and a general store. The second floor had a bank, dentist, barber, hair salon, billiard room, and auditorium.
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    This steel town had better buildings that were made of block instead of wood.
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    The idea behind this mill was to get steel production up here. Iron ore could be brought directly to the mill from the mines. Limestone and coal could be brought up on bulk carriers that would otherwise be empty on their return trip after hauling ore to mills further south. They thought Duluth would become a huge manufacturing center. They made rails, billet wire, nails, fence posts, steel wool, and welded wire for concrete roads. Also stuff for missile silos.
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    It was a good idea but the mill still only got to about 20% production capacity. It closed in 1972 putting 2,500 people out of work. There is nothing left at the site now.
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    This is a view of the town from the ridge. It was well laid out and very pleasant. The mill would have been to the right of the picture. The big building in the middle is the school.
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    I run you down to a historic area where explorers landed and stuff like that. The waypoints are on the track.
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    Coming back north we ride through a training center for aircraft fires. Pretty hot set-up.
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    Some other old town buildings. This is a combo police and fire station. Must have been great at the time. This was in a commuter town for US Steel.
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    Al old telephone exchange building. In the background is the replacement facility that has a lot more capacity in a lot less space.
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    Looking north toward the mouth of the harbor.
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    Be sure to ride the Skyline Drive. The southern most end is gravel but nice.
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    You'll pass through the Spirit Mountain Adventure Area. In summer you can ride one of these down the ski hill.
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    Minnesota's only seaport. But . . . they do have access to the Mississippi River which gets them to world ports as well.
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    The Skyline Drive runs the scenic contours of some ancient beaches along the high ridges above Duluth. Very scenic ride.
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    Major Bong's memorial bridge. The climbing curves remind me of his being a fighter pilot.
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    Ship loading at the DMIR ore dock.
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    Early 1900s doing the same thing.
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    Enger Tower. Climb it for a nice view.
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    Overlooking Rice's Point from the Skyline Drive. This point separates the inner and outer harbors. You can see the sandbar which also hosts an airport.
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    The natural harbor entrance.
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    Rice's Point.
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    Inner harbor DMIR ore docks.
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    Lift bridge we'll visit later on.
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    Antenna farm on the Skyline Drive.
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    This concrete street was constructed over 100 years ago. It is the oldest concrete road in Minnesota. It is in great shape.
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    Whatever they did back then they did right.
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    Years ago some guy wanted a scenic drive. He ran a road down a waterway and crossed the river seven times with some elegant wooden bridges.
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    The wooden bridges blew out with floods and after the city got the property (donated) they put in stone bridges. A nice twisting and descending ride down the waterway in Seven Bridges Park.
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    In 1920 three black circus workers were lynched by an angry mob in Duluth based on a rumor that six blacks raped a teenage girl. A medical exam revealed no assault. The police chief lined up 150 circus workers and the two young people making the assault claim picked out six. A mob of 5-10K formed up outside the jail, broke down the doors, grabbed these guys, beat them, and after a quick phony trial hung them from a pole across the street from this memorial. Some people in the area already had ill-will about blacks coming north to get jobs (like at US Steel). The National Guard came to town the next day to restore order. Previously a Finnish immigrant had been lynched for dodging the draft during WWI. He was found dead in a park after being tarred and feathered. Ugly history for this town.
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    #28
  9. Bud Tugly

    Bud Tugly Gnarly old curmudgeon

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    #29
  10. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Pushing loaded ore cars out onto a dock.
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    1902 sandstone and brick Carnegie library building.
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    High school. No longer in use as of last year. When this was built in 1892 it was considered the finest high school in the world. It had wide halls, sweeping stairways, iron bannisters, large chandeliers, beautiful statuary, and a huge clock tower.
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    Union Depot. Built in 1890. By 1910 it was seeing 50 trains per day from seven different railroads.
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    Amsoil (synthetic oil) headquarters is in town. Hence the naming rights on this.
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    You can tour the ore boat Bill Irvin if you like. This boat was launched in 1937 at a cost of $1.3M. It is 610' long and 60' wide. Each hatch cover weighs 5.5 tons. It was retired in 1978 because it is too small (14K tons versus 28K tons today). It burned 2,400 pounds of coal per hour. Nine officers and 32 crewmen.
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    This part of town is kind of a entertainment district. When you ride past the restaurants the pleasant cooking smells get your attention.
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    Ran across some reserve component soldiers taking a physical training test on the sandbar. Good place for the two mile run. Nice and cool too.
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    An old firehouse out on the sandbar.
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    Airport with seaplane ramp out here as well.
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    The Corps of Engineers has a nice exhibit in this building by the bridge.
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    Back in 1870 they cut a channel through the sandbar here. In 1892 they had a contest to figure out an island access solution. The high lift bridge idea won but the war department killed it. Instead they built a transfer bridge with a gondola that could carry 350 people plus wagons and stuff that would take one minute to cross. In 1929 they ditched the gondola and made it a lift bridge.
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    Nice exhibits in the park near the bridge.
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    In 1967 some teenagers were messing around on this structure with ten to fifteen foot waves breaking on it. One was swept away. Three coast guardsmen went to rescue the boys and one of the coasties was swept away and died.
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    Fitgers brewed stuff around here for about 115 years. During prohibition they switched over to soda and candy bars. In 1972 they called it quits. Now the complex is a hotel, restaurant, shopping type set-up.
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    Back in the day.
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    I was looking for a bakery that was in an 1875 wooden building and found it was out of business. This interesting place was next door.
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    We are embarking on the North Shore Scenic Drive as we head toward the edge of town.
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    Very exclusive Kitchi Gammi Club organized in 1883.
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    If you like big mansions, you can tour this one. The Glensheen Estate is a 39 room manison that was built in 1908 for about $854K.
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    This 1890 federal fish hatchery is being refurbished by the University of Minnesota. In the past it produced whitefish, perch, and lake trout.
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    That takes to the edge of town and next we head up the scenic north shore.
    #30
  11. swaneez

    swaneez swaneez

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    WOW, nice coverage of my neighborhood. I live in Duluth and get to enjoy all that your pictures show, (KLR650). You even included the Portland Malt Shop, which, if you visit too much will give you a bigger "footprint" on your saddle! I'm looking forward to your coverage of the rest of the Circle Tour, especially the North Shore from Duluth to Thunder Bay. there is so much to see if you can get off the pavement and ride the back roads using a county map. I spent 8 hours and 180 miles in the saddle last Sunday and only covered a small part of the area north of Lutsen. Preachin' to the choir I guess. :wink:
    #31
  12. EmmEff

    EmmEff Long timer

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    Great ride report and informative, too! :clap

    Another one for my "bucket list"...
    #32
  13. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface 30-125

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    :lurk
    #33
  14. Zaboo65

    Zaboo65 Been here awhile

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    Madison, WI
    :lurk Subscribed!

    Always look forward to your ride reports. :thumb Great pictures and history! I have ridden around the lake twice and am planning on doing it again this year around the 4th of July. We have been talking about stopping more and seeing the sites. Your timing is perfect! :clap:clap
    #34
  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    For this segment I head out on Congdon Boulevard and follow Old Highway 61 along the shore. The North Shore Scenic Drive has evolved from a foot path to a dog path, to a primitive cart track, to a county dirt road, to a paved international highway. Much of the work involved the WPA in the 1930s. It was pretty much the only land artery up the north shore.

    Early stages of international highway.
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    There is a story about a guy named Chet Congdon talking the City of Duluth into paying for the Lester River bridge and the road all the way to the county line back in 1922.
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    The EPA has an ecology lab just outside Duluth. They focus on the ecological effecs of toxic chemicals, genetically modified organisms, nutrients, habitat alterations, and global climate change. They contributed to the restoration of Lake Erie. They use 100M gallons of Lake Superior water each year for research and cooling.
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    This park shelter was constructed by the CCC (love that program). I thought it was a great design.
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    A nice warm fireplace shielded from the cold winds off the lake.
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    In the 1890s the Duluth water supply was a top issue. Typhoid deaths topped all others in the city. The Director of Public Works named Truelson was opposed to spending $2M on buying a water plant. There was a big political stink and they named the guy "Typhoid Truelson" for his opposition to the plant. By the way, Truelson's father died from falling into a brewing kettle full of boiling water. In the end they got the plant. There is a 1976 version across the street from this one.
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    Many of these safe harbors along the shore. The lake can be a dangerous place and it takes all that rock armor to make these harbors safe.
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    This stream is at a MN coldwater hatchery that spawns kamloop and steelhead strains of trout. The fish are only here in April in May if you are interested in a visit.
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    This is the Palmer Chapel. It has been around for a lot of years and served as a community center as well. From the looks of things now, it is no longer being maintained. Too bad.
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    This logging camp place is a tourist attraction with ice cream and such.
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    Even so, it is the site of an old camp that some might find interesting to explore.
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    As I mentioned, I routed the tracks along the shore. Sometimes this takes us onto gravel roads. If something isn't very good for travel, I'll mention it was we go along.
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    Just so you don't bother trying to figure out this marker, it is the site of what once was Buchanan. The town was laid out in 1855, named after President Buchanan, and once had the US Land Office for the region. Once the land office left the settlement closed up.
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    There are lots of places to get smoked fish as you circle the lake - even more when the fish houses are active.
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    This joint has sugar cured trout, wild rice, cheese, syrup, and different kinds of jerky.
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    Before there was a road up along the shore, travel and commerce was done by ships that ran regular routes. This old dock is what is left of a dock the steamer America used to use. With ice and storms, keeping docks usable is a real challenge on this lake.
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    This 185 foot boat hauled supplies, mail, cargo, immigrants, and whatever else was needed. It started up in the 1880s and foundered of Isle Royale in 1928. By then highways were starting to come into being so ships weren't relied upon as much.
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    Nicely preserved Larsmont School. It is the oldest remaining schoolhouse on the north shore. This one roomer was built in 1914, had a teaching staff of one (until 1932), and covered grades 1-7.
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    Looking around Two Harbors. TH is essentially the trail head for the rest of the north shore. It was built on lumber, fishing, and ore shipping. Largest of the north shore cities north of Duluth. Iron ore was discovered near here in 1868 and in 1884 they were shipping out of here via a six story steel and concrete dock. It was both a harbor town and a railroad town.
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    Old railroad workers hotel.
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    Another Carnegie Library. This one cost $15K and is a 1909 design. Andy Carnegie was a rich businessman who donated over 2,500 libraires in various countries. Almost 1,700 were built in the US. A town could apply for a grant, and if they agreed to Andy's terms they got a library. This man did a lot of good with his philanthropy. Towns had to match funds, provide a building site, provide 10% of the cost of construction each year to support the library, and provide a free service to all. At one time nearly half of the libraries in the US were Carnegie libraries.
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    This old fishing boat is built of oak and cypress and was built in 1939.
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    There is a well preserved wreck in the harbor. The Ely was a 200 foot 1869 sailing ship that had been converted to a tow barge. In 1896 she got caught in a storm and was driven on the rocks. The ship sank at about 3AM and the crew clung to the rigging and mast. A tug drifted a small sailboat back and forth to the wreck and rescued the crew. Lake Superior wrecks are well preserved and make for excellent diving.
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    Ship loading at the ore dock.
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    Man those ships are big.
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    It is difficult to capture the size of this huge ore hauling locomotive. At full power this thing can consume 10-12 tons of coal per hour and convert 12,000 gallons of water to steam per hour. Loomotives like this were built during WWII (at a higher priority than tanks or ships) to haul iron ore from the mines.
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    The small wheels produced great power at slow speeds.
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    The tender held 25,000 gallons of water and 26 tons of coal. Working steam pressure was 240 psi producing a 140,000 pound tractive effort. The whole shebang weighed in at just short of a million pounds. One of these locomotives could pull a train that requires four of today's diesel locomotives.
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    There were valves and gauges all over this thing, not just in the cab.
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    Old railroad building. Sorry to see it wasted.
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    The old roundhouse.
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    After the roundhouse was abandoned in 1964, some company moved in with a contract to manufacture three wheeled postal vehicles.
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    Here is some video I found on youtube of a gravity load at Two Harbors. By the way, the Artie Anderson is the ship that was 15 miles away from the Edmund Fitzgerald when she sank in a storm.
    <IFRAME height=315 src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/6uu2ssQK9x0" frameBorder=0 width=420 allowfullscreen></IFRAME>

    TH docks back in the beginning.
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    1970 view of things.
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    For three years, the town of Agate Bay existed here along the shore on the bay. It was known as "Whiskey Row" and "Hell's Four Acres". The place had 22 saloons, a couple of hotels, and some other stuff. The railroad got hold of the land and shut down the town. Some of the buildings were moved inland a bit and became Two Harbors.
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    The railroad bought this coal fired tug in 1896 for $35K. It retired in 1981. Not much tug work for modern ships with thrusters. It was involved in a few rescues along the way as well.
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    Beautiful depot.
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    This bandshell is a 1937 WPA project. The railroad had a band and I guess they really rocked. There was a WPA project school in town as well. When I went to the school site I found that it had been recently torn down.
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    The school I was looking for.
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    Required artillery picture . . . although this looks a little more like a mortar than a cannon.
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    You can take a tour of this interesting courthouse. I guess they have some remarkable murals, skylights, and stained glass inside.
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    This is where 3M started. Even though we all know that Romy and Michelle invented Post-Its, 3M did manage to come up with scotch tape and some other products. There is a museum here that tells the story.
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    #35
  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Thanks! What an interesting place it is where you live. Lots of history and beautiful scenery.

    Thanks! Glad you find it interesting.

    Hi John!

    Thanks! Glad to see you joining in and I appreciate your interest. I know what you mean about stopping more to see the sites. :D
    #36
  17. No False Enthusiasm

    No False Enthusiasm a quiet adventurer

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    I'm along for the ride... thanks for including us. We're looking forward to your return to Texas... plenty to visit.

    NFE
    #37
  18. GasMich

    GasMich Been here awhile

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    Looks to be a great ride. Always wondered what it was like out there. Thanks for the great write up, and keep it coming. Oh, by the way get busy on the next Cannontrek :roflthe recruits are in the waiting.
    #38
  19. 07wee

    07wee Adventurer

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    Great ride reports guys!
    #39
  20. bigdon

    bigdon Long timer

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    Dec 12, 2005
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    You must do tons of research before you start on of your rides.
    The reports show the work that goes into it. I for one appreciate it greatly. :clap

    ps Please get the bike in at least one shot. :D
    #40