Cruising Lake Superior with the Lakers

Day 106

LOCATION:  Duluth, Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Lakehead Boat Basin
WEATHER:  Mostly overcast.  Some rain.  Cool.  High 64

The set-up here is so nice with the Fairfield/Marriott Hotel providing a beautiful bathroom/shower and laundry for us RVers.  Wanting to take advantage of their laundry, I got up early and had all the laundry washed, dried, and put away by 7:30 AM!

With that out of the way, we were ready to have a great day exploring Duluth.

First we drove to the Lincoln Arts District of Duluth.  This is a really up-and-coming area with new condos, lots of cider shops, breweries, and art galleries.  We went to Two Loons, an art gallery and gift shop, that is owned by the brother of one of the people we housesat for.  It is a cute shop.  George bought a rain hat.

Then, we dropped off the car at the RV park, and walked down to Canal Street.  We hit Hoops Brewing to get out of the rain,  and then lunch in a Mexican restaurant.  As always, I ate way too many chips and salsa. 

The highlight of the day was a ride on the tour boat. 

We went under the bridge out into Lake Michigan.  It was quite choppy!  We were lucky to get up close to some lakers (lake freighters) that were about to go under the bridge into the harbor.

Our captain turned around to go back to the harbor, too, due to the high waves.

So, we followed the laker under the bridge!

Once in the harbor, we saw about 8 lakers loading or unloading. 

We passed in front of the marina where we are camping.  You can almost see Joy from afar.

We stopped by Vikre, a small distillery, on our walking trip home. In its off hours, it rents space/equipment to my friend’s nephew who makes  “Ooofdah” vodka there.  Cool place!

Whew!  What a day!  Time to relax in Joy.

DINNER:  Orzo wiwth Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Cook 1 cup orzo per package directions.  Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water.  Toss the orzo with 2 cups baby arugula (chopped), 1/4 cup  chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and 1/4 cup parmesan, 2 T butter, 1 Tsp lemon zest, salt and pepper.

Side was sauteed mushrooms and onions, with a chopped up smoked weiner (just for George). All good!

A day around Duluth

Day 105

LOCATION:  Duluth, Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Lakehead Boat Basin
WEATHER:  Rain overnight.  Sunny and beautiful today.  High 78

We could spend all day just watching the boat activity in front of our campsite.  This HUGE freighter passed by this morning.  They blow their horns to alert the lift bridge they are coming, and for other boats to get out of their way.  It is hard to see the boat in this photo, but it takes up the entire frame!

Today was a fun day with a friend Becky who lives in Retama Village in the winter and outside of Duluth in the summer.  She was our tour guide!

Duluth is very hilly.  I can’t imagine driving those streets in the ice and snow.  Some are straight up and down.  She took us up to an observatory, one of the highest points in Duluth.  You can (almost) see our campground/marina from there, to the right of the lift bridge…..

She showed us this beautiful rose garden along the lake…

Then, after our afternoon of sightseeing, we stopped at Canal Brewing Company for drinks…

It is so nice to meet up with friends as we travel.

DINNER:  Paninis.  I used some of the salami that we had bought in a Harvest Host smokeshop and leftover gorgonzola cheese.  I toasted a ciabatta roll and assembled the sandwich.  Side was salad with nice summer tomatoes. 

Glad to be back in our home state of Minnesota!

Day 104

LOCATION:  Duluth, Minnesota
CAMPGOUND:  Lakehead Boat Basin.  This is a parking lot along the boat docks.  Wide and level spaces, since it is paved.  We can walk to the lift bridge and Canal Street.  Water and electricity.  Superb bathrooms/shower and laundry inside the adjacent Fairfield/Marriott Hotel for RVers’ use.  $46/night. Good wifi and great TV reception. 4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Overcast.  Rain in the evening.  High 80
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  1.5 hour

The sorry campground where we stayed last night came to life a bit this morning. (During the day, we were about the only ones here.)   The campers must spend all day on the lake fishing, returning late in the evening.  We talked with our neighbor who was making a walleye & egg lunch.  He is a fisherman and bear hunter.  Interesting.

We had a nice, easy drive along Lake Superior and then stopped in the town of Superior for lunch – at Thirsty Pagan brewpub.  We shared a yummy rueben roll-up. 

On to Duluth where we had to drive right through the main drag which is full of tourists.  Downtown Duluth has done such a nice job turning old factory and warehouse buildings into restaurants, shops, and hotels.  We had to wait a bit for a boat to pass, in order to cross the lift bridge.

Our site is perfect!  We are right on the waterfront just a few feet from the docks. This is the view from our dining room table…

In this photo, you can see Joy and our pick-up peaking through the sailboat masts…

We walked around the docks and watched a big freighter come through.

DINNER:  I am scraping the bottom of the barrel with my back-up food box until we go shopping tomorrow.  I made tuna burgers – a mix of canned tuna, an egg, flour, oatmeal, dill, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  I made patties and grilled them on the stove.  Side was Asian vegetables (frozen) that I jazzed up with onion, garlic, and ginger.  All pretty tasty! 

Deep in the Wisconsin woods

Day 103

LOCATION:  Port Wing, Wisconsin – about an hour east of Duluth, MN
CAMPGROUND:  Bark N Beavers.  Quite unique – about 10 RVs here, some derelict.  No office.  Unpleasant bathrooms.  Nice shaded site with electricity and water.  George is delighted with a stand-up grill.  $33/night (cash).  2 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Sunny and hot.  84
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  1 hour

We had a slow, pleasant morning at Apostle Islands Area Campground in Bayfield, then hit the road.  We drove west along Lake Superior.  Lots of undeveloped land here as well as Indian reservations. 

We stopped in the quaint town of Cornucopia.  What a great name!  It probably was named this, in part because of the shape of its bay, but also because of the bounty they captured from the lake – 3 million pounds of fish per year.  The harbor is still a busy one.

George bought some pickled whitefish, to give it a try.  There are a few shops like this one that used to be fish processing houses….

The beach is very nice and there were quite a few people swimming and sunbathing.  The land across the bay is northern Minnesota.

We walked back through the dunes to have a picnic in Joy….

Then on to our campground.  We had a premonition that it would be a little sketchy.  It was a 2.5 mile stretch on gravel road from the highway.  Pretty remote…

This is Saturday night, and due to my mistake with Ashland, Oregon instead of Ashland, Wisconsin, it was about the only thing last-minute I could find.

Over the phone, the lady said that there isn’t an office, but she would “find us” to pay.  Ummmm.  No credit cards; cash only.  Ummmm.  She also told us that a big dog would come to greet us.  He did. 

This is our neighbor….doesn’t look like it has been used in a long time…..

As we were setting up, a few biting black flies found us.  So, we spent most of the afternoon inside.  George watched golf on TV (great reception) and I read, all in air-conditioned comfort.  Actually, a nice quiet rest.

DINNER:  George scrounged enough wood to make a good fire on the stand-up grill.  He cooked some of our spinach/feta brats in an iron skillet over the fire.   Side was sweet corn.

On to Wisconsin!

Day 102

LOCATION:  Bayfield, Wisconsin
CAMPGROUND:  Apostle Islands Area RV Park.  Full hook-up on gravel site.  Not too level.  Good bathrooms and laundry.  Poor wifi.  New area with swimming pond.  $48/night.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 74
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  1 hour

We had a good overnight at Island View, the Harvest Host fish resort, then left mid-morning.  Our battery was getting a little low, and we wanted to rev it up. 

We stopped at Ashland, Wisconsin for lunch at a Lake Superior beach park.  Very nice.  Then, on to Bayfield

We stayed at this RV park last year, when we visited the  Apostle Islands.  They have added a new section, tripling it in size.  We could only get one night here so we did not unhook. 

One of the nice things about this RV park is that it is within walking distance to a cool brewery/athletic gear shop.  It is the kind of place where bikers and hikers come in, sweating and parched for a beer.  Cool vibes.

Back at our campsite, George got a roaring fire going (sort of)…..It kept going out.  He got it hot enough to grill our dinner.

DINNER:  In an iron skillet (inside), I sauted onion, garlic, and scallions in butter.  Then, I placed the iron skillet on the campfire to cook the shrimp. Meanwhile, I made some orzo to go on the side.  I cooked some frozen spinach and topped it with leftover gorgonzola.  That made a tasty combo! 

BOOK:  “Bridge of Scarlet Leaves” by Kristina McMorris.  This is historical fiction, based on true accounts of Japanese-Americans families living in California during WWII.  It is really heartbreaking to read about the shameful treatment of them by our government.  Based on the mountain of tear-soaked Kleenex I used, I rate this a strong 5 star out of 5.  One of the best books I’ve read in a while. 

Good-bye, Michigan!

Day 101

LOCATION:  Mercer, Wisconsin
CAMPGROUND:  Island View Resort, a Harvest Host site.  This is a typical “Up North”  fishing resort with 9 cabins and a bar & grill.  Room for 2 small RVs.  Extremely hospitable  owners.  Very remote, but road to the resort was paved.  Parked on grass near cabins.  Great, friendly bar/grill.  5 stars out of 5.
WEATHER:  Cool and overcast.  High 66
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  1 hour

This morning was our last day in Michigan.  We were in the Lower peninsula and Upper peninsula for a total of 75 days, a great way to spend the summer.  Except for one day, we had no issues with bugs, and have had superb weather.  Other than Alaska, Michigan has been the only cool spot in the USA this summer, I think. 

Out of the 67 breweries/brewpubs in Northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, we hit 55, many more than once! 

Now on to Wisconsin, Minnesota, and then back to Texas. 

The ski resort was very peaceful overnight.  Not in any hurry, we hung around in the morning.  I took a “power walk” on the road down to the highway, all downhill.  Uh-oh, then I had to turn around and walk up the steep ski mountain road. 

We said good-bye to this good overnight stop, and headed south and west.

We drove to Mercer to get our bearings on how to find the resort. It is a cute town.  We parked in front of the community gardens.

Then, on to the resort, about 10 miles out of town.  Mid-way, we were stopped by some tree workers.  One guy was cutting down a big, dead tree while another was pushing it over into the woods with a forklift.  Interesting!

On to Island View.  We met the young couple who now own and run this place.  They are delightful.  They bought it 3 years ago when it was really run-down and a “ghost town”.  Now it is hopping, and their cabins are full all summer long.  The couple like to camp, too, and get away for a month or so in the spring and fall, and then return for their busiest season…..winter. 

We parked in front of the owners’ RV.

This is the view from our front door – overlooking some cabins and Fisher Lake.

It is called Island View, as this is the view of the little island from the bar.

If you dare swim in the cold lake, you can take your beer out to this raft and enjoy….

Bingo was the main draw this evening in the bar and grill. 

Guests in the cabins and locals all packed in for the fun and for beers and dinner.  The owner said it is always their biggest night.  We played 3 games, but alas did not win anything.  The little boy next to us won the first game.  He was so excited!

DINNER:  We munched on their French fries while playing bingo and took a delicious mushroom burger back to Joy. 

What a fun place!

Sleeping on a ski slope!

Day 100

LOCATION:  Wakefield, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Big Snow Ski Resort on Indianhead Mountain.  A Harvest Host site. They have a gigantic parking lot, so it is nice and level and super easy to park.  This is our second time here.  Unfortunately, their restaurant was closed today, so we could not spend any money here!  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Cloudy in the AM, sunny in early PM, then rain in late PM.  High 72
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  2 hours

We talked with our schoolbus/motorhome neighbor Ryan who gave us a tour of his tiny house on wheels.  He did all the work himself – gutting it, designing it, then building it based on his needs.  He works from there so has a fantastic work station with lots of computers and printers.  Really interesting.

Since we will be leaving the Lake Superior area today, we made one last trip to a fish market to buy some smoked whitefish spread.  This shop came with high ratings.

We only had a 2-hour drive today, and gained an hour going west.  Not wanting to get to the ski resort too early, we stopped in Iron River to check out a brewery.  Are you surprised?

Sadly, and somewhat unusual for a brewery, the bartender was grumpy, so we didn’t have a great experience. 

We arrived and checked in easily at the ski resort.  From this photo, you can see how large the parking lot is. 

We walked around the ski resort property.  This area is famous for its Olympic ski jump training. 

DINNER:  Since I thought we were going to eat here, I hadn’t planned anything, so pulled a casserole of orzo/diced chicken out of the freezer.  Side was sauteed carrots in butter and dill.  Not too shabby for an unexpected meal. 

A plus here is that we get superb PBS reception, so we enjoyed watching the news and some nature shows.  The inverter works great for this, even though we are not hooked up to electricity.

Up through the Keweenaw Peninsula

Day 99

LOCATION:  Hancock, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  City of Hancock Municipal Campground
WEATHER: Very nice.  High 79

We are enjoying the views from our campsite.  Some kayakers peacefully made their way down the lake in front of us.

Then, The Ranger III came whizzing by, transporting people to Isle Royale National Park.

Today’s plan was a trip up to the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.  Our first stop was the Jam Pot, a very popular bakery/jam shop run by monks.  Several people had recommended this.  We stopped and bought a piece of fruit cake, strongly preserved in rum, and several jars of jam to use as gifts.

This is a bustling business for these monks.  There was a long line to enter the shop.

It is nice to see that the monks have a sense of humor…

On to Copper Harbor, the end of the road.  Sadly, the brewery was closed “due to illness” so we had lunch in an uninteresting restaurant. 

The drive was really nice, following the coast of Lake Superior. We passed by a lot of defunct copper mines.  Copper was really king here.

We stopped in Calumet, one town that used to be a bustling copper community.  George wanted to check out another brewery.  While he was drinking his beer, I was using the bar’s wifi.  I had an email confirmation for the RV park where we are staying this weekend.  As I looked at it, I realized with horror that it was for Ashland, Oregon!!!!  (Not Ashland, Wisconsin).  So, I had to call and cancel.    Not only did we lose $40 on the deal, since it is the weekend, I now have to scramble to find Plan B.  I feel so stupid!

When we arrived back to our campsite, we found that we have new neighbors….

The owner is a young engineer who lost his job at Disney and told us he then decided to buy and refurbish a school bus.  He might give us a tour tomorrow.  He works remotely and has a lot of technical gear. 

DINNER:  George made another great fire and grilled us some stuffed jalapeno poppers.  Yum!

Main course were hot dogs covered with chili on a ciabatta bun. 

Watefront trail in Houghton

Day 98

LOCATION:  Hancock, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  City of Hancock Municipal Campground
WEATHER:  Cool in the AM, warming to 73.  Sunny

The campground here has a laundry, so I took advantage of that and did a load this morning.  The lady behind me had about 5 loads as they had just returned from tent camping on Isle Royale National Park…in the rain.  With only one washer and one dryer, the poor woman was going to be there all day!

I walked around the campground.  The upper part seems a bit crowded, but there are only a few sites where we are, right next to the boat ramp.  Since it is mid-week, there aren’t many boats, so we have an unobstructed view of the water.

We went to Houghton, which is right across Portage Lake from us.  It seems to be much more up and coming than Hancock.  We read that Houghton, like many communities around here, boomed with the copper industry about 100 years ago.  When that era ended, the city became derelict.  The waterfront was empty, ugly old factories.  But, the city put a lot of money in downtown development, and now it is quite vibrant.  We walked part of a long “rails to trails” bike and hiking path that follows the water.  We started out at the bridge.

The trail has lots of flowers and informative signs.  It then led to a waterfront park.  You can see the ski slopes on the other side of the water.

Farther down the trail, we walked through part of Michigan Tech University campus.  We sneaked a peak inside their research center.  I think they do a lot of marine studies.  Then, back to town.  We got in about 4 miles. 

Parched, we stopped at The Library, a cool restaurant/brewery. 

Downtown has quite a few shops and restaurants.  George tried a few beers at the Keenawau Brewery, and then we returned home.

DINNER:  I saw this on a menu and thought I would try it, using the very fresh yellow beans that I bought at the farmers’ market on Saturday….

GREEN BEANS WITH GORGONZOLA

Green beans (or yellow)
Gogonzola
Oil and vinegar salad dressing
1 T lemon or lime juice

Blanch and cool the beans.  Let them sit in the salad dressing/lime juice mix for about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle chunks of gorgonzola on top.  It was a really good combination!

We warmed up the leftover chicken wings on the campfire to go with the beans. 






Meeting up with friends

Day 97

LOCATION:  Hancock, Michigan – near Houghton
CAMPGROUND:  City of Hancock Campground.  Some sites (like ours) are right on the water.  Ours is gravel, fairly flat, with a picnic table and fire pit.  $25/night with electricity.  Water and dump station on site. Poor TV, but great wifi.   5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  A bit chilly and windy.  High 69
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  10 miles!

We had a nice, quiet night in the parking lot of the Houghton County Historical Society, compliments of Harvest Host. George made his traditional Sunday morning breakfast – grits, eggs, and bacon. It was especially tasty this week as he used some of the superb bacon we had bought at the farmers’ market.

We have friends from Iowa that are visiting Lake Linden for a week.  We realized that we would be here at the same time, so planned a get-together.  We met them at Dreamland Bar and Grill, dropped off Joy and our truck, and went with them to their nearby AirB&B on the lake.  We had a great conversation.  They are friends of mine from high school.  We love reuniting with people as we travel. 

We returned to Dreamland for lunch.  I ordered a Bloody Mary.  The waiter asked if I wanted it “loaded”.  I said “Sure!”  It came with practically a meal on top – huge pickle, olives, and……. a cheese and bacon sandwich! 

The bar has been in operation for more than 100 years.  The back bar is really beautiful.

Then, on to Hancock.  We were pleasantly surprised to get such a nice site.  It started to rain as we were setting up, but cleared up enough to make a camp fire. 

DINNER:  A Japanese feast!  First was Nasu Dengaku, grilled eggplant with miso.  It is not difficult to make, especially if you have a fire going.

NASU DENGAKU

1 eggplant (or 2 Japanese small eggplants)
2 T miso paste
1 T sesame oil
1 T sake’
Sesame seeds

Combine the miso, oil, and sake.  Slice, but do not pierce, the eggplant flesh..  Spread on a coat of the  miso mix.  Cook until the eggplant is quite well-cooked on one side.  Turn, paste the other side, and finish the cooking.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve.

I found this recipe the other day that calls for smoked trout. Since smoked fish is common here, I bought some  the other day at a fish market so I could make this dish.  Then, I was lucky to find some beautiful shiitake mushrooms at Saturday’s Farmers’ Market.  So, I gave this a go….

SOBA NOODLE BOWL WITH SMOKED TROUT

8 oz soba
1 tsp sesame oil
1 bunch spinach, stemmed
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 carrots, sliced
One 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
12 oz sliced stemmed shiitake mushrooms
1/3 cup soy sauce
8 oz smoked trout, skin removed, flaked
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 Fresno chile pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (could sub other hot pepper)

1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the noodles and cook as label directs.  Remove the noodles to a colander using tongs and rinse under cold water; toss with the sesame oill and set aside.  Add spinach to the boiling water, cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold water.  Squeeze dry and set aside.
2.  Rinse out the pot.  Add 6 cups of water, carrots, garlic, and ginger.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook over medium heat about 8 minutes.  Stir in mushrooms and soy sauce, and cook 2 more minutes.
3.  Divide the noodles and spinach among bowls.  Ladle the broth and veg into the bowls.  Top each serving with the trout, scallions, and chile pepper. 

Note – I halved this recipe, but still had leftovers.  We paired this with some Japanese sake’.  Yum!