Saturday, August 20, 2005

You know that vacation I needed?


We’re doing the Lake Superior Circle Tour. We did this 10 years ago, for our honeymoon and decided it would be fun to do it again. We bought a little popup camper, sleeps 6, picked up 2 additional kids (our friend’s daughters from Chicago, ages 7 and nearly 5 and off we went.

Day 1:

Got the camper loaded, got the car loaded, got the kids in the car, went to start the car and … the battery is dead. Great. Called around, and finally my brother-in-law George came and gave us a jump. We figured it was because the doors had been open for hours loading.

We ran around and got the license plate, gave my daughter money, etc, and set out on our great adventure at 2:00 in the afternoon.

We have a book, Off the Beaten Path in MI. There was a blurb about Canyon Falls in Baraga county, not that far from us. So we figured we’d hike back into the falls to get the kids settled down. It was beautiful, and a lot of fun. We spent 2 hours there. By 5:00 we were 45 minutes from home on the path of our great adventure.

We’re not on a schedule, although we have to be home in 10 days. We have time built into the schedule we can lose… We drove to Au Train, when the children were threatening to resort to cannibalism if we didn’t stop, and made salami sandwiches for dinner because we can’t figure out how the stove works.

I’ve discovered that I’ve lost all instinct for backing up a camper. It’s bad. I can’t even get it to go straight.

Day 2:

We’re in a rustic site, so no showers, no bathrooms, no electricity. NO COFFEE. ARGH. LET’S GET OUT OF HERE. We get the kids up, feed them muffins and pack up and find… a flat tire, a low tire and a dead battery. Great. Change the flat tire, get a jump from the nice man and drive into Munising. The nice man seems to have led us astray when it comes to “People in Munising who won’t cheat you.” And we drive back and forth for a couple of times looking for a particular auto shop. Never mind, the nice man at the Chamber of Commerce directed us to Nelson’s Shell on the main street. “45 minutes before we can look at it” the man there tells me. So we walked down the street to the Navigator for lunch.

45 minutes later we go back to Nelsons. Not only did we have a hole in the front tire, but there is a screw in the back tire. They assure me that the battery problem seems to be dirty terminals, however. $23 dollars later and we’re off.

We drove to Tequamenon State Park Falls Camp ground and it was full… oh well, there are more. Onward to White Fish Point and the Shipwreck museum there. The kids get to swim for a couple hours, and pick up rocks. Mom gets to take pictures of beautiful scenery, dad gets to cool off in the lake. A nice afternoon all around.

We figured we’d have to do salami sandwiches again, as we were probably going to have to drive into the Soo to find a campground. Instead we got the VERY LAST SPOT at the River Mouth State Park. Beautiful site, electricity, showers, flush toilets, maybe we could just stay here for the next few days. There were a group of reenactors here, it took us all night to figure out they were Voyageurs, reenacting the French Fur traders… no women, no children… must be.

Day 3:

The car starts…. The tires are all up, and the electricity works so I can make coffee! Life is good. We spent the morning putzing around, still no gas to the stove, but Andy cooks in the cast iron on the woodfire, and it’s still good… even the burnt bacon tastes good. We pack up and we’re off for the Soo.

We drove along “Scenic Lake Shore Drive” from Paradise to Brimley. There’s a fishery down that way and we talked about the baby fishies to the kids for an hour… We pulled in, and made a circle in the parking lot so I don’t have to back up, and … everything is closed… it’s Sunday. Darn. Hey! Wait! There’s someone! But he’s just finishing up, so we don’t get to see the baby fishies… everyone in the car!

As we pulled out, a guard rail I failed to see found the passengerside back door… much swearing later and my husband, trying to be helpful says “Shall I drive?” No. If you wreck the car I’ll be really mad at you. Thus far I’m only really mad at me.

We got in about 2 and stopped at one of my two favorite spots to eat in the Soo. West Pier Drive In. The best subs in the world, by far. We ate and watched a freighter move thru, then went to the camp ground.

We found a spot at the Soo Locks Campground. Freighters pass right in front of us bound downriver. It’s a nice camp ground with power, showers and a Laundry! Cool!
There’s even a swing set.

Andy and the kids set up and I ran down and got tickets for the Soo Locks Boat tour and ice.

The tour was nice, we’ve been on it a couple of times, but the kids hadn’t. We came back and had pork steak and noodles for dinner, the kids played on the swing set and Andy and I read until dark. There is a fountain down in the Locks Park that used to do a light show to music after dark.

9/11 has stopped access to the Park after 8, however. So we took the kids for ice cream instead.

We ran up to Walmart to replenish our diminished supplies (Juice boxes, water, fruit snacks) and I grabbed a propane stove and converter so we can cook. We were all in bed by 11 and sound asleep.

Day 4:

Up at 8 and got a shower. There is no outside 110 power available at this campground, so Andy plugs the coffee pot into the spot the fridge plugs into… no power… I pull the cord inside and plug in there… no power… hum… got out the laptop and plugged the converter into the extension cord… no power… into the plug… there’s power… the extension cord is bad, get out another.. nope… finally we find a plug, extension cord combo which works and we have coffee… only to be told by the neighbor “Oh, there’s coffee in the office, just take your cup and walk up.”

We’re planning on doing the Soo Train Tour and eating at my other favorite place, Clydes Drive In today. The laptop is charging, the camper is cleaned, so we’re off.

No car wrecks today, which is something. We did the tourist rendition of the Soo. We went on the Tour Train, which seriously needs some adjusting. Their schpele isn’t very good and the roads are horrible so everything is bumpy. It would be a good thing if all the tourist attractions in the Soo got together and did a bracelete or something so it didn’t cost $30 to $50 for each thing. We’ve ridden the Locks Boats, which was cool, but over $50 for the 4 kids and us, then the train, $30. Then the Valley Camp Museum tour, another $30. Yish! I’ve been $30 to death.

Oh yes, lunch at Clydes $27. I’m afraid to count my money. But… the kids had a good time. It’s really warm today.

Tomorrow we head into Canada. Yippee. I swear, with the coffee and power fiasco this morning, Andy was ready to go home. If we have ANY trouble getting into Canada, we’re turning around and heading home to spend the rest of my vacation at McLains. There’ll be swimming, hiking, and no more $80 days.

Day Whatever, I think Tuesday.

We made 50 miles into Canada before stopping at Pancake River park. Nice park, pretty. Too close to the highway. We managed to make camp before the rain hit. We taught the bigger kids to play Cribbage and played 2 games. I won one, Nicki won the other. The sun was coming out by the time we packed up, but the camper was wet. I had to buy a battery before we left the Soo. We’re being very careful to start the car before loading or cleaning. I have no idea. Gas in Canada is about the same or a little less… of course it also seems to be watered, as the Check Engine Light came on until we filled up again.

The most notable thing about crossing the border was no trouble at all. We handed the nice kid all the birth certificates, the state ID’s, Andy’s passport, my drivers license, and the permission from Kris and Michelle to take the girls across the border and… no problems at all.


We packed up a very wet camper, and away we went. We lost Lake Superior for a long time today, and … Althought Andy and the car both claim a Kilometer is shorter than a mile, there were a LOT of them today… all up and down… beautiful, but a LOT of hills. I’ve discovered that my cruise control kicks off if you hit 15 miles below its setting going up hill. We had dinner late at a lovely little place in Wawa called the Viking. VERY SLOW service and very high prices… otoh, the waitress was personable. SLOW but personable.

We made Rainbow Falls Provincial Park tonight. And I figured we’d do a bon fire. Except the only level place in the site we could reach the plug was right over the fire pit. Dammit.

Note: We need a propane lantern, we need a tarp, we need tiedowns, we need a colindar, and a coffee pot not dependant on electricity.

Stopped at an Amethyst mine outside Thunder Bay... we got about 10 lbs between us. I kept telling the kids they could have a "handfull". The bigger kids figured out that that meant one or two bigger chunks and a whole bunch of litte ones. The little kids weren't that subtle. Got into MN today and camped in Grand Marais. Nice municipal camp ground, met some nice ppl from Grand Rapids MI who have two kids who graduated from the Chem Eng department at MTU. They also had a beautiful Siamese Cat, which is what broke the ice.
Had a serious Mandy tantrum. She peed in her pants in the playground and WOULD NOT share the swing. She finally got forceably put into her pajamas, and put to bed. Oy. Boys are easier. I've finally decided.

Got to Duluth today, after spending a good chunk of the day climbing around Gooseberry Falls. I fell again. That meant the kids could get soaked, of course. We're staying in a campground outside Superior. There is a swimming pool, so the kids are happy.

I lost a day somewhere. I have no idea where. It's Saturday, and we're in Duluth. I'm too tired to figure out where the missing day went. We went to the childrens museum today, which is also a part of the railroad museum. Thomas The Tank Engine (who is a Really Useful Engine) was there. The kids had a blast, even though tickets to ride Thomas have been sold out for a month. Patrick was amazed that the band which was playing knew "our song". That is, I've been working on the Rail Road. I think he thinks I make up all this stuff I sing.

Had a little Nicki snit tonight. She was annoyed when I told her that Kate did it better and that I didn't believe her acting abilities. She does need work. Sobbing, she told me, "I'm trying not to cry but I really miss my mom." Which had nothing whatsoever to do with eating one whole green bean. Kate used to try to get out of something by saying "I miss my grandma!" I felt guilty the first time. It gets old after a while. And it doesn't work the second child around. She did eat the green bean without "throwing up". Mandy was happy to not be the one in trouble. She kept telling me "I like them"!

Long trip today, probably the longest driving day we've done, but we're home. 1469.9 miles, 5 Mandy Tantrums, 2 Nicki Tantrums, a Zillion snits between Mike and Pat, 3 dead batteries, 2 flat tires, miles and miles of amazing scenery, 850 pictures which we might have sorted out by Christmas. I will be so happy to go back to work on Tuesday and deal with grown up snits again.

The good thing we did was have the girls with us. The car riding was amazingly easy with Nicki and Mike entertaining each other (15 for TWO!) and Pat and Mandy entertaining each other (basically trading Leapsters).

Next year we're planning on doing Lake Huron. I'm thinking, though, that it'll be a trip down thru Canada, with a week stay in Stratford and the Shakespearian Festival, then back up thru MI. Not 10 days of straight travelling. We need more than a couple of days in the same place. And Shakespeare should make both the grownups happy.


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