Boulder Co Around Lake Superior And Back

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by zigyphoto, Aug 21, 2009.

  1. zigyphoto

    zigyphoto PAY ATTENTION Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Oddometer:
    1,590
    Location:
    Boulder CO
    LAKE SUPERIOR RIDE REPORT, 2 – 17 AUG, 2009

    ***

    DISTANCE: 3689 MILES, BOULDER CO AROUND NORTH SHORE LAKE SUPERIOR, THRU NEBRASKA, MINNESOTA, WISCONSIN, ONTARIO, MICHIGAN, WISCONSIN, IOWA, NEBRASKA -- AND BACK.


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    ***

    Needed some miles and a small adventure, and even though I live in the Rockies &#8211; where it is beautifully cool and dry anyway &#8211; wanted to go someplace new (enough times in BC and across the West) but not someplace hot, foul and flat. So started the Great Lake Superior Tour idea; my Texas riding partner, Dan, had two weeks available from his job (not sure what that is, but sounds dreadful) and it was a completely new riding destination for both of us. A local inmate was generous with his great experience and suggestions about the area, and so Dan and I met in Holyoke, CO on the evening of 2 August to begin our new joint adventure (we've also ridden to Alaska and, appropriately enough, been together to Nutville, NM)

    Synopsis: the following proves the value of going someplace you'd never normally even consider (too far, too hot, too flat, etc). On the return leg, we both vowed to get to the Upper Penninsula again, but hopefully not by riding thru heat and lots of flat stuff to get there -- but that's another report another day.

    We had weather from perfectly clear to miserably, flat white hot (but dry) in the countryside, to dirty hot in the city, to mist, deep fog, and hot again, as well as a final, profoundly attention-getting, evil-looking storm for me in my last hours before getting home (you'll have to read thru to find the pic).

    Food was mostly typical lousy road food, and coffee, other than what I made in our motel rooms, was predictably miserable.

    WARNING TO THE FAINT OF HEART AND TOO KIND OF SPIRIT: THIS REPORT CONTAINS EXPLICIT FOOD AND PEOPLE PHOTOS (SORRY, NO NUDITY, PORN OR OTHERWISE BANNED IMAGERY) AS WELL AS EXTREMELY OPINIONATED, VASTLY OVER-GENERALIZED AND TOTALLY SUBJECTIVE AND UN-P.C. OBSERVATIONS.

    ***

    AUG 2-3 : BOULDER CO TO HOLYOKE CO TO VALENTINE NB

    Riding east from Boulder: this is a country of rows, of geometric alignments; they organize the eye&#8217;s understanding of size and geographic relationships; rows of anachronistic wooden telephone poles, lines of small pines perhaps left from a homestead, metal power lines stretch diagonally away to the horizon, following their own course, traced by a rutted road for work crews. Occasionally a line of cattle wanders across the crest of a grassy wave, and the mailboxes along the highway remind me of life and families somewhere over the hill.

    Riding NE up hwy 76, I run between two worlds. To the west is the evidence of years of hard work: jade-green cultivated fields, identified only by their rich perfumes like waves, through which I ride: alfalfa, a field of blue flowers, from this distance, reminiscent of lavender. Suddenly slapped by a wall of the dense sickly-sweet smell of manure, I&#8217;m reminded that this was and still is cattle country, even though I seldom see any.

    To the east is what must have felt to the pioneers as overwhelming spaces of rolling ocean-like golden prairie, each crest showing more beyond, to the limits of my sight. At first I think the land is so untouched that it is not even fenced off from the highway until I notice the low fence line almost hidden in the tall grasses as if to conceal the enormous changes here in less than 150 years. The original tallgrass prairie is gone, but here it seems that nothing has changed since the 19th century besides the disappearance of the great herds of buffalo that this land knew, and the people whose lives depended on them.

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    Now running east on Hwy 6 from Sterling, corn replaces the unturned prairie:

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    and the small towns name their values and heritages, clustering around their grain silos like medieval villages in the protective shadows of their castles. The silo complexes rise above the land, visible from a distance, forewarning of a town and slower speed limits.

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    Merino (former sheep country?) and Paoli (at least one Italian was here once) are small and almost lost in the great expanses of grasslands. Fleming has two operating businesses: an incongruous &#8220;Alaskan Seafood&#8221; and a dead motel are the only buildings left other than the great silos.

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    Between these scattered reminders of a once-rich small town life, only the road, corn and pickup trucks.

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    Dan and I each arrive in Holyoke, where again, hulking silos are the skyline, within ten minutes of each other.

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    He&#8217;s ridden in from Lubbock, suffering all the just punishment of a long weekend attending his high school reunion there, and I from Boulder, rested after only a few hours riding. Finding an appropriately named motel, we settle down with our maps to find a route that promises interest across what we both expect will be a long and boring ride until we hit northern Minnesota.

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    Aug 3 Holyoke to Valentine NB
    Dan is REALLY excited to get on the road again:
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    We are both a bit frightened by signs warning of the imminent imposition of NORMAL hours again (this town allowed ABNORMAL hours for a while?)

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    However, much to my relief, when i asked if the abnormal hours were much different from the normal ones, i'm told, "no, they were about the same...." in what i like to imagine is the voice of disappointment.

    We want to get out of here as fast as possible, but first a bit of local folk / tech art and breakfast to prepare us for our break to the northern border

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    I continue to encounter signs that confuse and worry me; perhaps this part of America has been taken over by aliens only disguised as normal folks and they did not familiarize themselves well enough with our writing before landing in some empty field? I see

    "TANK EMPTY? BLADDER FULL?"

    Is this a trick question?

    and a reminder that

    BINGO PICKLES
    SAT NITE


    Is this a special sale of pickles specific to playing bingo, or a local band with a very creative name or&#8230;?

    Its getting hot, so we take a break, each in our own way

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    My motorcycle decides to take a break.... aren't these beasts supposed to be less troublesome than horses?

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    Now in Nebraska, continuing north on 61, east on 2 and again north on 97, the gorgeous landscape of the Nebraska Sandhills spreads around us: long sweeping curves run between hills formed by ancient dunes, now covered with rich grasses and purple flowers from the wet summer

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    its getting hotter, and the roads are filled with the roar of Harleys on the way to Sturgis. Since they are known for their attention to safety gear and colorful clothing, we are a surprise to them in our full Aerostiches, but at least Dan is in a color they recognize: BLACK &#8230;.
    What they think about me in Hi-Viz i cannot imagine; mostly they try not to blind themselves by staring at me as I ride by, bright as a bee.

    And as usual, we get the inevitable question: "Aren't you guys HOT in all that gear?"

    We explain, over and over, the Amazing! New! concept of evaporative cooling and keeping the sun off your skin, but&#8230;. this guy, like so many others, was dubious.

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    However, they are friendly and the hordes in their formations, passing us, heading west and shaking the earth with mechanical eagerness, mostly return our salutes.

    I always carry my own food &#8211; usually cans of tuna, wheat crackers and an onion, with fruit (dried or fresh), which allows me to find a shady spot and lounge, not to mention eat something other than the usual road crap of stupor-inducing meat and grease, white sponge bread, or iceberg lettuce and industrial dressing (not a single bottle of extra virgin olive oil to be found out here)&#8230;some good coffee made the night before in my motel and carried in a small thermos and I am all set for a satisfying repast on the road. Today, the steps of a closed school in another dying small town:

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    So much of the the landscape of the American West seems to be littered with atrophying or dead, once-busy farm towns and the abandoned remains of their former residents&#8217; lives: now closed, decomposing buildings , lifeless local schools like the one where we have lunch, old vehicles scavenged by human hyenas, and the inevitable furiously-barking dogs of the few last holdouts who cannot or will not move. It feels like the "Grapes of Wrath" all over again out here, and I can't ignore the tragedy as we ride thru on $30,000 worth of German machinery. In many of these places, that amount would probably buy a house with room for a garden and children&#8230;.but the people have moved on and they won&#8217;t be replaced by a new generation.

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    I&#8217;m struck by the reality that these towns, if they had an operating infrastructure and local businesses, could be great places for the millions of urban retirees looking for connection and community as their children grow up and often move away; however, there is nothing out here but space and quiet. All the daily necessities are far away, and without a car, life here is impossible.

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    In Valentine, &#8220;The Heart City&#8221;, we at last find a thriving community: all over town, the sidewalks have big red hearts painted on them and all the signposts have heart-shaped info.

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    Besides hearts, animal art flourishes here. The First National Bank has an enormous and powerful relief of a cattle drive running the entire length of the building&#8217;s red brick facade,

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    </left>

    but right next door, here in the admittedly self-named "HEART CITY", the very urban (= brick) pocket park has a large sign warning anyone tired or desperate enough to attempt a few minutes rest in this sun-baked, south-facing enclosure that "This Area Under 24 HR Camera Surveillance", should there be any evildoers skulking around just waiting for an opportunity to steal the concrete eagle or graffiti-ize this bizarre monument to civic pride

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    Later, I am told &#8211; very seriously &#8211; by some locals that there is a "crime problem" in town. Glad we're only here for one night.

    The huge parking lot of our enormous motor lodge (as they like to call them out here -- I guess &#8220;lodge&#8221; means two stories and more rooms than the local population can fill) is soon full of black-clad riders on their way to Sturgis; towing trailers (what do they carry in those??), jacket and handlebar fringe flapping, their motorcycles' exhaust noise exhausting me, the earlier arrivals carefully clean their road-soiled beasts. I&#8217;ve seen Harley riders do this each evening (and sometimes morning, too) all over the country, not just heading for Sturgis, and am always amazed at the energy and obvious pride they take in their motorcycles. But cleaning them every day? and yes, I know &#8211; this is not an HD:

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    However, I do have to note that in my experience (two trips to Sturgis on &#8211; yes &#8211; my BMW), Harley riders are vastly more fun and friendly than most other riders, including, I am sorry to say, BMW riders. Harley riders seem to be interested in having fun and belonging, while BMW riders seem to have an engineer&#8217;s mentality and sense of humor &#8211; for them, earnestness seems to rank far above &#8220;just having fun.&#8221;

    Harley riders, waving beers, howl: "SHOW US YOUR TITS!"
    BMW rider, very seriously: "HOW MUCH MEMORY IN YOUR GPS?"


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    Dan makes friends; i believe he was curious about the leather hotpants as an alternative to his British Army WWII shorts.....

    (Ah, is there anything easier than vastly over-generalizing potshots at those you know and love?)

    Sweaty and dehydrated, but looking wonderfully Martian-like in our Aerostich riding gear, we wade thru a field of black t-shirts, black chaps, black gloves, and (a very few) black helmets of the Harley riders, and stagger over to the beer garden next door, where the local food

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    is almost improved by the local aesthetic: beer-bottle-top art and American flags are a combination hard to beat.

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    Dan, true to his genteel Texas roots, considers his mom&#8217;s etiquette lessons -- and promptly dismisses them.

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    more from today's ride:

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    (to be continued)

    Want to have as much fun as we do and come back with the pix to prove it? Come hear my presentations at the next HORIZONS UNLIMITED meeting in Gunnison CO 27-30 August:

    1. Packing light
    2. "Travel photography without making yourself insane", or ITS ONLY SILICON.
    #1
  2. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    69,939
    :super
    :lurk
    #2
  3. Cariboostrom

    Cariboostrom Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2008
    Oddometer:
    654
    Location:
    Quesnel, B.C. Canada
    I'm in!:clap :clap Waiting for more!
    #3
  4. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
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    Location:
    right here on my thermarest
    :lurk
    #4
  5. Centerhorse

    Centerhorse Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2009
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    The Motor City
    Dan here. I'm new to advrider and I don't even ride! At least not yet. But I am saving my pennies here in Detroit Mi.
    Wondered how the ride was going or had gone? I'm at the end of the first page and wondered when you'd be out of farm country?
    Me, my wife and daughter just were there in Iowa late July and then in mid August on our way back from a 3 week tour of the west in a minivan.
    All I talked about was getting a duel-sport bike and going on a tour.
    Just wanted to see what was in my back yard about 12 hours up state Mi. from your post.
    Keep'em coming! Take care!
    ~Dan
    #5
  6. zigyphoto

    zigyphoto PAY ATTENTION Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
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    Boulder CO
    dan and all others, i / we ARE home and i have been busy with other work -- including prepping presentations for HORIZONS UNLIMITED meeting in Gunnison CO this coming weekend.

    my apologies for the dearth of followups so far. will get some more up tonight, i promise, if only pix to keep your appetites up.

    zigy
    #6
  7. zigyphoto

    zigyphoto PAY ATTENTION Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
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    1,590
    Location:
    Boulder CO
    LAKE SUPERIOR RIDE REPORT, PART 2

    VALENTINE NB TO DULUTH MN


    We&#8217;re going to make a quick run (on this electronic paper at least) to Duluth and the Aerostich Mothership, but there are a few in-between points and observations to be noted:

    First, I am always intrigued by local language, words or phrases I&#8217;ve not seen before; the grocery store in Valentine offers a packaged food size I had never heard of:

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    BUNKHOUSE SIZES? Does that refer to the consumer or the consumed?

    and has a fine cowboy/folksy name for the booze section:
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    and it is so wonderfully serendipitous that the owner&#8217;s name is appropriate for this business
    (after thousands of miles on this country&#8217;s back roads, note to Tom Hanks: a film called &#8220;The Secret of the Apostrophe&#8221; might be a big hit in these parts)

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    More glorious roads as we continue east on hwys 30 and 60:
    <center>
    <a href="http://s54.photobucket.com/albums/g102/zigyphoto/LAKE%20SUPERIOR%20TOUR/LST%20Part%202/?action=view&current=d.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i54.photobucket.com/albums/g102/zigyphoto/LAKE%20SUPERIOR%20TOUR/LST%20Part%202/d.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a><br /><br />Hey look! I&#8217;m in a photo! Thanks Dan!

    This is a great spot for a break and dan takes yet another opportunity to appreciate the view in his own, uniquely personal way:

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    as he lets his SOLID BLACK 'STICH WARM UP....

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    I&#8217;m always touched by the easy friendliness of people we meet &#8211; of course, this week, the introductory question always was, &#8220;going to Sturgis?&#8221; Besides asking if they might have noted that we are riding EAST and not WEST toward Sturgis, another part of me wants to ask,
    DO WE LOOK LIKE THE STURGIS RIDERS YOU'VE SEEN PASSING?
    NOTE WE&#8217;RE WEARING HELMETS AND BODY ARMOR!!!!!

    But I don&#8217;t &#8211; I know they're being welcoming...​

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    On the other hand, it IS hard when confronted with casual local racism. Telling us about the deep winter snow, one guy assured us that when it gets deep, &#8220;we get a native american to scoop it.&#8221;
    I use the lower case because I imagine that&#8217;s how he would have visualized it

    Thanks to the Service Dept at Leo&#8217;s South, the BMW dealer just south of the Twin Cities: not only do they have great tire prices and changed Dan&#8217;s tires while we waited, they pulled my bash plate and tightened my loose oil filter for less than $30. I can&#8217;t imagine another dealer doing that for less than a hour&#8217;s flat rate.
    And, they&#8217;re open SEVEN days a week: http://bmw.leossouth.com/home_bmw.asp

    Crossing the wide St. Croix River puts us back into WI, and we begin to ride north again on Hwy 35 along the river. The small towns with their freshly-painted Victorian houses and clean appearances give way to smaller and smaller towns, set farther and farther apart, as the trees get larger and the towns get smaller&#8230;. The forest gets closer to the road until the road is just a line thru dense woods; it feels like Alaska. This is one of the northern extensions of the US, where the farming gives way to logging and towns become remote and rare. More and more, they&#8217;re only few houses named &#8220;unincorporated,&#8221;occupying a clearing in the dense woods.

    However, &#8220;Moose Junction&#8221; sounds promising, and with name like that, we look forward &#8211; yes, despite my expressed doubt -- to some local food, including fresh fruit pies, served by a waitress named Betty who chews gum and asks, &#8220;whaddyawant, dear?&#8221;

    Not so fast, there, bub:
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    Moose Junction - pretty much all of it.

    Other than a house offering a wide variety of opinions about the value of Jesus in the owners' (and, I assume they believe, the readers&#8217;) lives, this is the only place around &#8211; and it is closed. Too bad; looks pretty interesting. We discuss hanging about for the big party they advertise -- only two weeks away, but reluctantly decide to push on to Duluth and chance to spend some serious money at The MotherShip.

    At last, Duluth; I&#8217;ve always wondered about that name, assuming it was a bastardization of the name of a local tribe. At last the info: it&#8217;s named for Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, the first known European explorer of the area.

    Duluth: filled with beautiful and powerful buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, now seems a dying city. The results of change. However, at the end of the nineteenth century, Duluth was a thriving city and home to more millionaires per capita than any other city in the world. It had become a favorite summer playground for the rich and the famous of the day. At the turn of the century, the city's port passed New York City and Chicago in gross tonnage handled, elevating it to the leading port in the United States.
    By 1960 it was all downhill for the city&#8217;s shipping business; to quote Kurt Vonnegut, &#8220;and so it goes...&#8221;

    By the time Dan&#8217;s GPS skills &#8211; yes, east X St. and west X St. are not the same &#8211; gets us to Mothership Aerostich, we're sweaty, tired, and have seen no shortage of hookers and dubious street life around. My clutch hand is sore from starting off from uphill stop-signed intersections. However, it's going to be worth it all at the Mothership: I've again let my imagination run wild, envisioning a secured parking lot, a warm reception, maybe even a photo of us in our Aerostich gear for their &#8220;Wall of Fame&#8221; &#8211; along with all the other riders who had made the pilgrimage in their gear -- maybe an espresso, and special &#8220;visiting rider&#8221; employees to make us feel at home&#8230;.

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    Well, I am definitely NOT a one trial learner; the solid industrial building where we finally locate the source of our desires is a typical 19th century dark brick hulk with a modest sign on the door, and parking on the street. After seeing the locals offering their many illegal wares, i am not comfortable leaving my GS with tankbag, panniers and camping gear on it just sitting on the street. However, there's another bike, and we figure that if it were as bad as it appeared, Andy would have provided something to protect our bikes. -- And, i am pleased to note, everything is still on the bikes when we return later.

    The showroom, small by my greatly exaggerated expectations, is gloriously STUFFED with examples of all the imagination-stirring gear Andy has found for us. One of each &#8211; including each size offered &#8211; was available for hands-on inspection. Want something? The man on duty is absolutely pleased to hand it over for thorough examination, and when we make our selections he quietly writes them down and disappears into the treasure rooms below to get them for us.

    I apologize for not shooting an image of the rack of extremely customized jackets and pants; red with orange ballistics, blue with white, and every possible combination that mad bikers had come up with. You mathematicians can calculate the numbers possible, but let&#8217;s say that for me, the only limit would be visual nausea&#8230;.
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    Dan tries the Highly Technical Riding Gear Fitting Apparatus, or, as our motorcycles would put it:
    Der sehr technischer fahrender Gang passend Apparat.


    Since they refuse to sell us their legendary &#8220;Great Road Finder&#8221; or -- my favorite hoped-for imaginary tool, the &#8220;Portable Italian Gelateria&#8221; &#8211;- claiming that the devices were in process of being "refined", I settle for some orange day-glo raingloves and a Scotsche iPod remote control. This really is a fabulous device: I velcro it inside my left handguard and for the first time can control my iPod remotely as i ride.

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    As we ride out of Duluth, little do I suspect...... that I would soon be longing for the genuine gelato and espresso that my imaginary "Portable Italian Gelateria" promised&#8230; and so we proceed into what I would soon be calling the Great Uncaffeinated North Shore of Lake Superior.

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    </center>


    ... to be continued........
    #7
  8. GSdiablo

    GSdiablo cubical farmer

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    713
    Location:
    On the wrong side of the river
    I've done the boulder to mpls ride/drive so many times I've lost count. Love the humor, keep it up.
    #8
  9. zigyphoto

    zigyphoto PAY ATTENTION Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Oddometer:
    1,590
    Location:
    Boulder CO
    thanks! glad to know SOMEONE is appreciating it. more to come.....

    you know you have a base here in Boulder if this way...

    z
    #9
  10. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    121,276
    Location:
    right here on my thermarest
    What's next? :D
    #10
  11. zigyphoto

    zigyphoto PAY ATTENTION Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Oddometer:
    1,590
    Location:
    Boulder CO
    Stay tuned! surprises aplenty.
    patience, lads, i am off to Gunnison for the Horizons Unlimited Travellers' meeting and will continue our exciting adventures next week as we
    move into the Land of Lousy Coffee but lots and lots of BIG water and great roads along it.

    promise.

    z
    #11
  12. FINNDIAN

    FINNDIAN Mine goes to 11

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,888
    Location:
    Wawa, ont, Canada
    Tuned in, waiting to see pics of my area :ear
    #12
  13. dirtphoenix

    dirtphoenix from the ashes...

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,264
    Location:
    the land of mountains and cows
    :lurk
    #13
  14. Cariboostrom

    Cariboostrom Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2008
    Oddometer:
    654
    Location:
    Quesnel, B.C. Canada
    So where's the rest of it Zigy?:cry
    #14
  15. zigyphoto

    zigyphoto PAY ATTENTION Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Oddometer:
    1,590
    Location:
    Boulder CO
    to the many eager fans of this RR, apologies and more in the works at this very moment. waited until winter set in so you would all appreciate the warm weather pix even more..... (= lazy)..

    stay tuned!

    z
    #15
  16. Thorne

    Thorne Sherpa-ing around

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,206
    Location:
    Lone Pine, ON, Canada
    The snow is on the ground....................:D
    #16
  17. FotoTEX

    FotoTEX Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,012
    Location:
    Granbury Texas
    I have spent the past 4 summers enjoying the great weather and beautiful town of Grand Marais,MN. You rode right by me on the way into town. Is that Cowboy Dan Cohen you rode with. Tell him Donovan said howdy. Weather is excellent around here, how about Boulder???
    #17
  18. zigyphoto

    zigyphoto PAY ATTENTION Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Oddometer:
    1,590
    Location:
    Boulder CO
    8-07-2009

    North(east) from Duluth and on toward Canada -- but not before some more deliciously bizarre experiences and visual treats!

    We had settled on and splurged in a high-rise Holiday Inn in downtown Duluth after what seemed like hours of fruitless searching for a warm and cozy place downtown (we were first directed &#8211; by a local motorcyclist!&#8212;to what was surely a combo crack house, flop house and den of financially and physically ruinous sexual offerings). After a day of clutch-burning riding up -- do all the streets in Duluth only go uphill? -- too many downtown streets, the long afternoon finally ended with a half-hour Iditarod-like trudge to our room, hauling all our gear on the standard absurdly brass-plated luggage cart. Oh well, once sweaty, stay sweaty.

    Next morning, after a bizarre bathroom experience,

    [​IMG]
    (note to Holiday Inn architects: besides paying too much for a room with a window that doesn't open, there&#8217;s nothing I enjoy more than being locked in a small closet-like space with REALLY BAD wallpaper next to a defecating stranger)


    and a miserable reminder that America has STILL not really changed that much,

    [​IMG]

    we escaped the post-industrial darkness of downtown Duluth and easily found our way out onto Hwy 61 toward Canada. It was a visual relief: lined on both sides with gorgeous and sometimes extravagant 19th-century mansions, trophy houses of those whose fortunes were made when Duluth was roaring with energy, work, and shipping. I wondered: when Duluth began its economic slide, did the original owners experience the same disillusioning surprise as so many homeowners have across America in the past year, or had they wisely paid cash for these beauties?

    Passing the last of the great houses, under an enormous sky the water suddenly stretched to our right; we were at last riding out along our destination: Lake Superior.

    [​IMG]


    Just to be sure, I checked the postcards on sale:

    [​IMG]


    The largest of the Great Lakes, and the deepest body of water in North America, the great wet stretched toward the morning sun; it wasn&#8217;t difficult to imagine that we were riding along the sea.

    As you know by now, when on the road, there is (almost) nothing more intriguing to me than local food. I have what some of the less-culinary among us have, for some reason, condescendingly termed an obsession:

    [​IMG]

    that I imagine fresh and steaming from the oven, and no matter how recently I&#8217;ve eaten, their siren call of sweet treasure overcomes my (minimal) resistance.

    So when signs, spaced as closely as the ones for Burma Shave used to be, began to appear for

    [​IMG]


    I was suddenly hungry again.

    WOW! a local place, and with a name like BETTY'S FAMOUS PIES, I was again seduced into the archaic realms of my gustatory imagination: friendly gum-chewing waitresses, formica-topped tables, grizzled and garrulous local characters sitting at the &#8220;liar&#8217;s table&#8221;, their beat-up old fishing hats punctured by their well-used flies, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes &#8230;..

    BACK TO REALITY:
    below a brand new Betty&#8217;s building I pulled into a large parking lot, filled with -- yes -- SUV&#8217;s. I had a bad feeling about the place, and that feeling was only reinforced when I saw the herd of good ol&#8217; Midwestern-sized Americans inside crowded around the take-away window. These people were BIG; they were FAT; they thought they were hungry! The only other place I had previously seen such a volume of apparently insatiably ravenous humans in one place was a Sunday-morning Shoney&#8217;s buffet in a dismal Mississippi town.

    Never taking their eyes off the take-away window, they were as attentive as a pride of lions lurking by a waterhole, knowing dinner would sooner or later wander by, and all they had to do was wait&#8230;.. These people all seemed to lean toward the window while patiently awaiting their pies. The obviously brand new &#8220;north woods&#8221; knotty pine paneled interior, complete with cutsy signs

    [​IMG]


    only reinforced my growing doubt. However, I was here, I had waited in line to order and so I requested a piece of apple pie: &#8220;not heated, thanks. no ice cream, thanks. no whipped cream, thanks. no gravy&#8230;..&#8221; just kidding; no gravy available &#8211; but by the looks of them, I was among some solid eaters who might have taken their pie with whatever extra calories were available.

    While waiting I looked into the prep area, and saw a stainless steel version of a veritable Santa&#8217;s Workshop: energetic women stuffing boxes with pies, pies and more pies. The production lines never stopped, the women never paused, and as I passed the time hoping for a Charlie-Chaplinesque &#8220;Modern Times&#8221; catastrophe, the process smoothly continued. It was so consistent, and the workers so tireless, that I began to wonder if I were watching a super hi-def video screen.

    After a good half-hour wait, during which my ever-patient partner Dan kindly entertained himself by counting waves on Lake Superior,

    [​IMG]


    <center>
    [​IMG]

    Dan after counting too many waves...........
    </center>

    At last, I was called to The Window, the very Altar of my desires, where I received my slice of pie in a discouraging clear plastic wedge-shaped takeaway container. Walking out, I imagined those still waiting -- the new arrivals never stopped &#8211; considering whether it was worth it to jump me for one measly piece of pie; since I was allowed to leave, I can only assume they chose to wait for their whole pies.

    For some reason -- perhaps the single-minded pilgrim&#8217;s endurance of the others I saw waiting? -- my pie, in its clear container, suddenly reminded me of a saint&#8217;s relic; not an appetizing image, is it? Brushing that and my other dubiosities aside, I walked over to the lake shore, and seated on the rocks, at last felt physically connected to the great presence of the Lake. As the waves rolled in, I prepared to feast on my piece of this famous pie.

    FAITHFUL TRAVEL COMPANIONS, is there a moment more disheartening and quietly embarrassing than the one at which you say to yourself, &#8220;Why didn&#8217;t I listen to that little warning voice in my head&#8230;..?" If there were, I couldn&#8217;t imagine one more distressing at the moment when I bit into my first piece of this (imagined) Holy Pie. When such disappointment involves not only the promise of a long-anticipated delicacy but also the memory of the weary wait, I can think of no word more appropriate than &#8220;heartbreaking.&#8221;​

    The pie was&#8230;ah&#8230; edible at best. Maybe two stars out of five, maybe I&#8216;ve forgotten the first cloying taste of the heavy crust, maybe I&#8217;m trying to be kind to dear old Betty (who, by the way, is a real person who started baking in the glory days of real food: http://www.bettyspies.com/aboutbettys.htm). It did seem that the pieces of apple were fresh. In any case, I leave you with this:

    [​IMG]

    I ate the entire thing.

    However, I will pass on to you another of the great lessons of the search for the Eldorado of pie: don&#8217;t be lulled into rapturous expectations by the words &#8220;home made&#8221; or &#8220;fresh baked&#8221; on the menu when seeking pie on the road.

    Colleagues of the Way, after long and after Moses-like patience wandering in the despiriting deserts of pastry, I have at last discovered the Secret Code (sorry, Dan Brown) necessary to identify real &#8211; that is, non-industrial -- pie. These Secret Code words, if judiciously and consistently applied in even the most honest-appearing of dining establishments -- no matter how much you desperately desire sweetness and want to trust the cute waitress -- MAY spare you the moral conflicts between truth and politeness I have too frequently suffered when asked by the waitress, &#8220;so, how was the pie?&#8221;

    Those magic words are &#8220;fresh fruit&#8221;
    as in &#8220;are your pies fresh fruit pies?&#8221;​

    &#8220;Fresh&#8221; implies the pie did not arrive frozen on a truck from a land far away, is not made from a mix, with canned, frozen or otherwise preserved fruit, , and that the fruit, to be fresh, will be reasonably local.

    Here endeth the Lesson in Pie

    And the only places I have found such treasures are Alaska (Tok and Haines Junction), the Bookends Café in Boulder (how convenient: that&#8217;s where I live!), the Plaza Restaurant in Santa Fe, and across Arkansas. As for almost everyplace else, forget it.

    Perhaps someone wants to start a pie thread, using the above criteria?

    A few more visual adventures along the road:

    [​IMG]

    The Sacred Stump? I&#8217;m stumped.

    Besides food, I admit to a fascination with odd bathrooms:

    [​IMG]
    this is a hell of a lot more ... ah... conducive to a comfortable experience than the Holiday Inn&#8230;​

    Continuing our odyssey along Hwy 61, more culinary prospects appeared: signs for Sven and Ole&#8217;s Pizza in upcoming Grand Marais promised something -- though I wasn&#8217;t sure what it was -- I didn&#8217;t think I could resist. Grand Marais (marais is French for bog, marsh, swamp, morass &#8211; encouraging, non?) is a former fishing village now transforming itself into a &#8220;tourist destination&#8221; (oh frightening phrase!), but in a wonderfully simple way: the stores are local, the food is local, and even the tourists seem to be locals. Not a single Land Rover or Hummer presented itself for our sneers, and people were actually walking around and checking out the few local stores.

    Conveniently parking right in front of Sven and Ole&#8217;s Pizza, I plunged in, still wearing in my hi-viz &#8216;stich and scarf, and watched the lumpy tourists melt away, clearing a path to the counter as if I smelled even worse than I had expected the pizza would. They were obviously not fans of l&#8217;eau de cologne de la route even though it had arrived on a BMW (maybe I should call it Straßenparfüm?). I don't need none of Andy Aerostich's Insta Manly-Man (http://www.aerostich.com/sundry/genuine-nonsense/insta-manly-man.html)

    Despite my worst pizzacious imaginings&#8212;a foul topping involving dried fish?-- about this Swedish pizza, it was just another normally boring slice o&#8217; pizza, but at least served up by two sweet characters behind the walk-up counter. They were so impressed by my humor and olfactory manliness that they offered me their store window sign if I removed myself immediately

    [​IMG]

    but following the obligatory photo, I had to decline&#8230;

    However, Grand Marais offered a number of other points of interest, and we were reassured to note that besides local pizza, there were

    [​IMG]


    and a rich architectural heritage​

    [​IMG]


    and so we bid a fond farewell to GM&#8217;s culinary opportunities.

    Continuing toward Canada,we found a great cabin on the water, and after bumming beers from two kind folks from Texas, we settled in to our homey nook,

    <center>
    <a href="http://s54.photobucket.com/albums/g102/zigyphoto/LAKE%20SUPERIOR%20TOUR/LST%20Part%203/?action=view&current=IMG_4126-1.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i54.photobucket.com/albums/g102/zigyphoto/LAKE%20SUPERIOR%20TOUR/LST%20Part%203/IMG_4126-1.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a><br /><br />
    </center>

    [/CENTER]
    Dan did the dishes among drying laundry (i keep reminding him to bring his apron!), and we went to sleep, dreaming of freshly caught, delicately sauteed Lake Trout and red-fleshed Salmon washed down with strong-brewed local beer along the fabled and mystical North Shore of Lake Superior.

    [​IMG]


    Next installment: O Canada!
    #18
  19. zigyphoto

    zigyphoto PAY ATTENTION Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Oddometer:
    1,590
    Location:
    Boulder CO
    d,

    Cowboy Dan is the Man. you'll find a fresh new pic of him on the new post!
    so we rode right by you? what were you riding? i have vague memory of that but of course i was completely focused on Sven & Ole's lutfisk pizza to be had!

    snow here yesterday. just cold and grey now.

    z
    #19
  20. Cariboostrom

    Cariboostrom Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2008
    Oddometer:
    654
    Location:
    Quesnel, B.C. Canada
    very entertaining Zigy....now bring on the GOOD part (about Canada!):clap
    #20