Monday, May 25, 2009

Midwest Roadtrip '09: Minnesota

Tuesday it was pretty warm when I left the motel, probably about 75 degrees at 7am, but once I headed north and got into St. Paul proper, the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees. I stopped at the capitol, still expecting the day to eventually warm up. However, after about a half hour and starting to get cold, I stopped and put on my chaps. It kept getting colder as I headed north, to the point where I saw a sign reading 40 degrees in Duluth. I finally stopped again just outside of town for gas and drank a hot chocolate to try to warm up. I continued north, but it didn't get any warmer, and I was feeling pretty whiny and miserable until I finally stopped at a restaurant along the shore of Lake Superior for some lunch and hot tea. It was pretty tough getting back on the bike and going another hour to Grand Portage, where my original plan was to camp for the night. To add insult to being freezing cold, it started raining on the way. I quickly ditched the plan to camp and decided to stay at the casino hotel instead. When I got there around 3, I was still thinking I would make a run across the Canadian border, but it was still raining and that was the deal-breaker. I warmed up a bit by taking the stairs to my room, but that backfired when I tripped and banged my knee. I changed into my swim trunks and went to really warm up in the sauna. There was a Canadian guy in there, and we talked some. As is customary, I was super heated after a while and jumped in the pool to swim for a bit. I took a shower and changed and went for dinner at the restaurant, which was okay but nothing great. After dinner, I went to check out the casino (Grand Portage is an Indian reservation), which is all electronic games. I never figured out how to use my "free" $5, but my $1 lasted a while. It got to where I was almost hypnotized, and my brain shut off. I was hoping to either get to $5 and cash out or go bust and go to bed. When my luck turned and it seemed like I wasn't going up, I started betting a quarter at a time and before too long I busted and went to bed.

I woke up early Wednesday and repacked the bike. Since the kitchen didn't open until 7, I picked up some snacks at a gas station on the way to the marina. There were a bunch of people already there waiting to board. I had to rearrange some things on the bike, then went down to get my stuff and myself onboard. The two hour ride to Isle Royale was a bit boring. I did talk with one couple a bit, but half the people were asleep. I started reading some park information that was on the boat, but because it was pitching and rolling in the rough water, it wasn't long before I started feeling motion sick. I wanted to get to the back of the boat to get air and to see the horizon, but a guy had started talking to me about his trip. I felt better eventually, and then a short time later we entered the harbor that was our destination. I registered, then went to find a shelter to stay in. I selected the most secluded one on the end, not that there were many people there to make much difference. While it had been cold on the mainland and the ride over, it was beautiful and about 65 degrees, feeling pretty warm. I went for a pretty easy hike to an overlook, 3 miles away. The hike was nice, and I took my sweet time, stopping almost any time I started getting sweaty or winded to read my book. On the way back my right knee started hurting pretty bad, kind of ironic considering I had banged my left knee. It sucked and took forever, but I made my way back to camp. Ibuprofen and a nap helped my knees, at least until I stood up again.

Thursday morning, I didn't do much. I slept late (at least by this trip's standards), but it was raining in the morning, after an overnight thunderstorm. I cooked my breakfast inside the shelter, sitting on my little camp stool. After packing up I had a bunch of time to kill, so I did some reading and walked along the short nature walk around the visitors center. At 11:30, a ranger gave a talk on moose ticks until the boat came to pick us up. We got an earlier start than expected and made it back at 2. It took me a while to repack my bike and get away. I crossed into Canada and went to the Harley shop in Thunder Bay. Afterward I got some dinner at some place called Montana's. Whereas the Canadian border guard only wanted to know my plans and didn't even look at my ID, the American guard must not have liked my answers, because she waved me aside and I had to sit for a while while they did whatever, then asked me some more questions and let me go. I went south and found a motel for the night in Grand Marais.

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