From the Yoopers to the Glaciers

Mackinac Island and Environs
The ferry to Mackinac Island, after a cold front moved in (50s but serious wind chill sitting on the top deck of the hydro ferry. Made the dog very nervous. We moved back inside on the return trip--MUCH better and MUCH warmer!).

The island was beautiful, and the flowers (especially the lilacs) were lovely.


Pity we couldn't visit the Grand Hotel for a $10 each fee. The Republican Leadership Conference on Economic Development was going on (see navy blazer-ed fellas in this photo), and tourists weren't allowed. Seeing this hotel has been on my bucket list since I was a little girl. I guess we'll have to come back another day to sip a cool drink on the world's longest porch.... (And guess I better dress properly!)

 The Mackinaw Bridge--same construction as the Golden Gate, but longer. It is #12 in length in the world, and "At 8,614 feet (2,626 m), the Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge with two towers between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere." Here are the views from the RV and from the Straits State Park campground. Pretty bridge, but have to say that we're partial to the Golden Gate....

And if you're curious about the different spellings (and the pronunciation), here's the simple rule.

Since we only spent 2 hours on the island (it was literally overrun with hordes of running/screaming children), we had extra time that afternoon to make a jaunt up to Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced Soo Saint Marie) to see the enormous ships going through the Soo Locks. We weren't sure how interesting it was going to be (plus it was soooo chilly), but everyone said it was a must. They were right. Photos don't do it justice. Watching an enormous tanker sink rapidly right next to you as it goes from Lake Superior to the 21' lower Lake Huron is rather impressive. The other cool thing is that it's all gravity--no pumps.

The Upper Peninsula

Then it was off into the Upper Peninsula, which we found terribly delightful and so easy to travel through. (The folks who warned us about "desolate stretches" and hard to find fuel have clearly never traveled in the West. The UP was a piece of cake!)

We had to try the ubiquitous UP pasties, which (bless their hearts) the Yoopers think they invented. (Cornish pasties from U.K., anyone?) Pretty darn good--but hardly pocket pies as originally designed. These were truly American football-sized, fork-and-knife pies. With potatoes, not "rootybageys" as the lady with the darling accent explained....

We then trucked on west, deviating from US 2 to go north to Lake Superior to take in the most gorgeous Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Who knew that the entire town of Munising is full of waterfalls? This trip sure has an unintended theme--freshwater!

We stayed at a rather unusual county park in Iron Mountain, which had a fixation against dogs. Five different kinds of No Dogs signs (no dogs in park [playground], in pavilion, on beach, on grass, in office) just blanketed the place. The "dog park" they advertised (and why we went there) was an unfenced area along a busy road outside the park boundaries. We suspect that they've had legal issues with dogs.... But, good thing Bago is such a good boy. We were able to start practicing with his new Frisbee. And the sunset over Lake Antoine was lovely.

What really sticks with us--after all the gorgeous natural scenery--is how very nice the people were. Across the UP (and Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota), there is no prepayment requirement at the pump. "Oh, yah, noo. Ya don't hafta do that, eh? Just fill 'er up and come back in, okee?"

Then it was off across the leafy northern part of Wisconsin on U.S. 2. We got to Superior, Wisconsin early enough in the afternoon to get our massive amount of dirty laundry washed in the world's most expensive laundromat. And then go 1 mile down the street and snag a Roadfood find: the Anchor Bar. As with so many Roadfood recommendations of late, the hype was not fulfilled. Interesting place. Funny menu. Great prices ($3.50 for a burger and only a couple of bucks for a good, ice cold beer), but bland food.

We stayed here, about 12 miles south of the industrial city and a world away, and took in the raging falls (they'd just had a week of torrential rain, which we were grateful to have missed):

Bago does walk softly and carry a big stick....

Then it was off to MinneSOEtah. Some of my favorite roadside signs advertised Walleye Wednesday, fish house storage, and wild rice (3 lbs for $8-9). Our favorite surprise was another Roadfood-recommended stop in Duluth, MN, just over the border from Superior: the Northern Waters Smokehaus. OMG. We discovered it was also a DDD stop. Check out this video. We got a ton of things to try, since our fridge was empty: smoked pork loin (two dinners out of this), the smoked Lake Superior whitefish shown in the video, some smoked salmon dip with Saltines of course, bison pastrami (we WILL be mail ordering this), and bacon (still haven't tried this yet). And then we got takeout sandwiches for later that day. I tried the Hedonist's Delight (country pate, cornichons, onions, and the most delicious mustard) and Lisa got salmon sandwich that had, unfortunately, too much wasabi for her tastes. Mine was eye-rolling-ly delicious. And the neighborhood where this shop was was darling: Canal Park. We could have hung out there all day.

Then we arrived at one of our favorite stops: Itasca State Park, where the headwaters of the Mississippi arise (and what our Itasca-branded motorhome is named for). We loved this place. Tons to do (we must come back and rent boats), great trails (we did a 4-5 mile walk from the campground to the headwaters), and fun campers. Bago and these boys played together all evening....

This is what we call "doggie TV." When the weather is nice enough, but we don't want to be outside (usually because of mosquitoes!), Bago gets to watch the world.

Then it was time to start bidding farewell to the green leafy Midwest and hello to the Great Plains. We made it to Turtle River State Park, and then to Lake Sakakawea State Park before our planned arrival at our friend's home in Williston. However, the trip got delayed another day (and we bagged another state park--Little Missouri) because North Dakota's notoriously high winds threatened to push us off the road. Winds were sustained 30-40 with huge gusts over 50. Better safe than sorry.

Moonrise over Lake Sakakawea and the dam, from our front window.

We also toured a decommissioned missile site, riding the elevator down 50-feet to the control room. Very creepy, but so interesting to learn about all the redundancies and security features. We had stopped one time at another one of these sites in South Dakota, but were only able to see the actual missile in the silo--tours were booked solid because that site was right next to Badlands National Park. This site was in the middle of nowhere. No problem just taking a tour.

The "breaks" at Little Missouri. You turn your head west and see these badlands; turn east and see tall grass prairies. No guessing about why they're called "breaks."

Then it was time for Williston. There's so much to say about this place. Suffice it to say, we had a wonderful time visiting our sorority sister on her ranch, but were just blown away by the oil boom craziness. The non-stop, 24/7 huge semi-truck parade all over the area. Must be experienced to be believed. Since we were here in 2008, the little town of 13,000 has tripled in size (without any corresponding infrastructure/zoning), $60k little houses now go for $300k, hotels are being built all over the place and go for $150/night, sprawling "man camps" are everywhere. These are, for example, units for sale in the Walmart parking lot. 2-bunks, an A/C, TV, and microwave. No windows. No bathrooms. 8x6. For two grown men to live in. Yikes. Prostitution, gambling, and all the associated ills of an oil boom (which is not unlike a gold rush). Very sad.

Much better to be at the ranch:

Bago loved the leash-free 700 acres, including mud puddles and an old Elmo doll that he adored shaking the heck out of. He would've done that same thing to the darn jackrabbit he chased forever on those hills.....

We were only able to stay one night, but we had a great time. Then it was off to Montana. We are definitely in the West now. Of course, summer is always road work season. But they kick it up a whole 'nother notch in Montana. There IS no road. We drove 20 miles over gravel while they BUILT the road. Have never seen anything like it. We (well, Lisa) almost couldn't get all that mud washed off the holding tank drain cover to get it open. Now, that would've been a problem....

But then we were rewarded by scenes like this as we continued across Montana.

Spent the rainy afternoon in Columbia Falls, MT, without going into Glacier NP because of the cold, rainy weather. Boo-hoo. I think we'll be back up this way again, though. Gotta go up into Alberta to Banff/Lake Louise in the RV some day....

Now we are off to Idaho to boondock on our CA friend's 40-acre spread in Sandpoint. Maybe we'll see a moose.....

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