Thursday, July 07, 2005

Two Harbors, Minnesota


Downtown Duluth, MN from Enger Tower, Lake Superior stretching to the horizon.


(Almost midnight)

I'm camped just inside the gate of a jam-packed RV park, whose name I don't even know. Landed here after scouting campgrounds up the road for 20 miles and finding everything else full. This one is too, but another camper, Robert Penner, seeing me pull in, said I could share his space (on the entrance lawn!) He's a photographer of lighthouses and there are a number of them along Superior's north shore that he's here to shoot.

***

Back in Wisconsin the morning, I slept until 10:00 a.m. Whoa! What’s up with that? Body achy from being twisted up in a sleeping bag on the ground. The garbage truck came through the campground, emptying dumpsters, one several feet from my tent. Then the lawnmower arrived to do the large lawn nearby. Numerous park vehicles, different shapes and sizes, made the rounds, picking up recycling, spraying the dumpster, checking on campsites. No wonder this campground is so expensive ($22)!

Caught up on logging the past week's expenses. On the road after noon. Emerging from the forested campground, out onto the highway, I was surprised to find I was on a hill, the Duluth skyline in the distance. In Superior, Wisconsin I came upon the library and turned in. No place to hook up my laptop, but they had two “express” computers available for 15-minute intervals, and some others in back that were all occupied, but could be reserved for an hour starting at 2:30. (it was just after 1:00). I said I’d wait for an "express". After a while, one of the librarians said a computer opened up in back, and let me into their computer room. I was surprised to see about 8 terminals, the room full of activity. She let me have a terminal until 2:30. Used the time to look up "Aerostich’s" location in Duluth (the supplier of much of my motorcycling "gear"), check e-mail, work on the blog a bit, look up the words to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," and transcribe journal entries from my pocket notebook. Worked until nearly 4:00, thanking the librarian for letting me overstay my welcome.

On to Duluth. Seeing Lake Superior for the first time stirred some emotion. Such a broad expanse stretching to the horizon, and the water a steely blue. A cold northeast wind blowing off the lake. It reminded me of my own need to be near water. The emotion overpowered any negativity associated with industrial pollution, despoiling of the earth and all that stuff. The grain elevators, ore and coal piles, freighters, warehouses – it all looked beautiful.

Entered into the city, but it was soon obvious I should have turned south rather than north. Backtracked and easily found the "Aerostich" headquarters in a funky 3-story brick building. They have a small cluttered showroom and a bustling shipping warehouse, but with an improvised "homegrown" feel.

I stopped in primarily because I was passing through, but I wanted to buy some more quick-release straps, and the "Aerostich Roper" gloves had a seam coming undone. They re-sewed it on the spot. “You owe the person a dinner,” I was informed.

They couldn’t help with the Touratech "Chala light" problem (it doesn't charge). They don't understand the thing either! Hung around for a while. Not sure what I expected. Called Jeff from their lunch room to see if he needed anything (10% discount + free shipping for walk-ins!) He was in Canada, and surprised to hear from me. He's been receiving suggestions on places for us to visit once I make it to Vermont.

Duluth has more character and charm than I expected. I guess I anticipated a grimy, industrial town. I wandered some of the neighborhoods, surprised by the substantial hills the city backs up against. It reminds me in ways of San Francisco.

The DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace at Canal Park, along the waterfront was bustling with activity. I was drawn into "Grandma’s Saloon and Grill" for dinner. Apparently, a Duluth original, this restaurant and bar is completely cluttered with old signage, recalling the first sixty or so years of the 20th Century. The menu claims they serve more wild rice dishes than any other restaurant in the nation. I tried the chicken and mushroom wild rice, which was delicious.

After dinner, wandered up to Skyline Parkway for a view of the city. High atop a hill, climbed Enger Tower and snapped a few wide-angle shots of the harbor and downtown.



Duluth's Inner Harbor. The black piers in the center are where "taconite" (iron ore pellets) are loaded for shipment off to steel mills in such places as Gary, IN.




Duluth's Outer Harbor, with huge grain elevators. Across the bridge is Superior, Wisconsin.


No concrete plan for the next leg of this journey, I decided to find a camp along the shore north of Duluth. Drove about 40 miles, surprised at the popularity of this area as a vacation destination. Campgrounds were full, as were many resorts and cabins.

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