Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What Should We Name This Place? C eh N eh D eh Part 2

For part one, see here.

By the time DM and I reached the Minnesotan/Canadian border, it was dark and few cars were on the road. It was close to 11 PM our time and it seemed that Ontario is in the Eastern Standard Time Zone, so it was almost Wednesday there.

We had brought our passports as identification for the border, even though they are not required until 2007 (or so I've heard). No stamps were added to our little blue books, however we did have an interesting discussion with the border patrol man. Since the purpose of our trip was to go bowling in Canada, we had decided that the reason we should give the man was for entertainment. I chickened out (mainly because I was tired and wanted to find a hotel/motel as quickly as possible to crash) and just left it at that.

He asked for our names, which we gave along with the passports, and then asked us if we knew anyone in Canada. Figuring that he's meaning people we're actually going to visit (because there are a few bloggers and this Moldovan woman who stayed at our house when I was in college that I barely remember), I told him, "I don't think so." I turned to DM and she echoed my response. Then I told him, "I know someone who used to live in Canada!" At that point, he waived us by with that look of, "Stupid Americans." I don't think was that interested in the fact that I work with two people who were Canadian citizens at one point in time.

Welcome to OntarioWelcome to Ontario - More to Discover

We were back on the road, headed for Thunder Bay, about a forty minute drive.
My first impressions of Canada were not what one would call impressive. Do you know that there are not many streetlights along Canadian highways? At least in this part of Canada this is a fact. We would pass the occasional Night Danger! sign and random truck filled with lumber. I kept repeating that, "Canada is dark." Which for the sleep deprived, it quite funny.

We finally found a hotel along the road, a nice, safe looking Best Western. Happiness washed over the both of us as we contemplated the thought of cushy beds and a solid night of sleep. Walking in, we find the desk and there is a very nice woman on the phone, talking to a future guest who had the good idea to plan ahead. She ends the conversation, "We'll see you then," and turns to us.

VNC (Very Nice Canadian): "Checking in?"
B (that's me!): "Hopefully. Do you have any open rooms?"
VNC: "Oh, sorry, but we are full. Actually, all of Thunder Bay is full *because Canada must be extemely popular in May - what?!?*. There is a room left in Kakabeka Falls." (Pronounced Kecka, not ka-ka.)
B & D: Kaka-wha?
VNC: *Smiling* Go back to the road, drive north four lights to Arthur street (just past the airport) and turn left. It's about 25 minutes away.
B: Okay. Thanks.

Back in the car, we are shaking our heads trying to determine if there is a large bowling convention in Thunder Bay and wondering what the heck a Kakabeka Fall really is. We (meaning I) drive north and DM comments about how long we've been going without finding any lights. She says, "Four lights. Am I missing something or is this 'light' she describes different from what I know? I'm a foreigner. I don't speak this language!"

I laugh over the fact that it is the same language and eventually we do find the stop lights the lady was describing (it was a distance). We are on the road to Kakabeka Falls (side note: Kakabeka is now one of my absolute favorite words. Say it. It's fun.) As we drive, we continue to comment repetitvely about how dark it is and how we are now in Canada. Eventually, we pull into Kakabeka Falls to find a "hotel".

First impressions of Kakabeka Falls is that the town is rather small. There is a bait shop (the Bite Me bait shop, none-the-less!) and three motels. One has a room left open and that is how DM and I ended up staying at the TelStar Motel. It was because the rest of Canada was closed.

We walk into the office to find a nice looking man playing poker ont the computer. We're in luck and so is he. We get a room and he can put up the No Vacancy sign and go to bed. As we check in, DM asks him a question I thought we'd figured out already.

DM: One question, um, electricity?
Clerk: Yeah *oh jeez, who does she think we are?* We got it.
DM: Oh, no. Um, I meant do we need adapters?
Clerk: *total guy snort* No.

We check into room 3. I think the motel had 6 rooms total. We settle into the room that is not much protection against serial killer moose and decide to head outside for some dark picture taking.

Motel Signs (1)
Room 3

We went back inside and decided to unwind a little before bed. I hooked up the laptop to give us the joy of iTunes and I could also upload pictures from our memory cards to the hard drive. I decided to play a few games of Boggle while DM read her book. Here are some of the conversations we had (you'll notice a theme):

B: This is the weirdest thing we've ever done.
D: We're sitting in Canada. You're playing Boggle. I'm reading a book about death. Pause that. Write this down. Yesterday we met a guy with a shruken head. We're in Canada. Why are we in Canada?
B: We want to go bowling. And we're crazy.

D: Do you think they have Super Canadas? [We have gas stations here called Super America.]
B: Well, I wonder what they'd be called. Do you think it would be Super Canada?

I mistype something on the Word document. I comment about it.
D: Who worries about grammar in Canada? [Side note: I do.]

Out of nowhere, iTunes starts playing, “One Fine Day.” We both just pause. Then the giggles start. This was right after the last question of, “Do I have this song?” when “Look Away,” by Chicago was playing. Why do I have these songs?

Playing Boggle again:
B: What is "viewier"? [sees definition: comparative of viewy] Yeah.
D: I'm so confused.

We head to bed and I hope to get some actual sleep. DM sets up her C-Pap machine and after two hours of hearing her snore (sorry DM) and listening to this machine that was so quiet and made her sleep better in Portugal whine a high pitched whistle sound, I woke DM up (not cheerfully either) and told her to put water in the machine. Believe me, I was not pleased. I was especially not pleased when I was able to get only 3 hours of sleep and knew that I would be doing all of the driving the next day.

In the morning, our odd conversations continued before we packed up and shipped out.

D: Hello.
B: Hello.
D: I'm communing with Hippo [her stuffed animal. Mine is Elwood and Ellen gave me him years and years ago. He goes everywhere with me still. He has a brother named Jake. Ellen has him still (I think).] I'm sharing thoughts with him. Those thoughts are, "Why are we in Canada?"

DM looks out the window.
D: Oh!
B: Why did you do that?
D: I don't know.
B: Is it icky out?
D: No. It appears to be blue skies, sunlight...and a live bait shop.

Elwood and Hippo posed for their mandatory pictures and we packed up to get on the road. I opened the curtains to find a maid walking by. She said, "Oh, are you going to be out soon?" That's when I realized that the window was open all night and the chain to keep the Night Danger - Moose! out would have been little assistance. We let her know we were on our way out and grabbed our stuff.

Elwood and Hippo (1)

The entire purpose of the trip was to go bowling in Canada. This bright, chipper morning we were faced with the question of what to do. Should we stick to our plans, head to Thunder Bay, find a bowling alley and go bowling or should we wing in, drive west into Canada and see what there is to see?

Adventure took over and we turned right instead of left taking us further into Canada. A sign notated that Upsala was 171 KM away and we figured we'd eat there. The sky was brilliant, full of clouds, the temperature was decent, and we just drove. We laughed at signs, found certain things really fun, and our stomachs begged us for the promised great food of Upsala, Ontario.

Finally, we pulled into the little town of Upsala. Want to know what is there? Are you sure you want to know? I'll tell you:

A gas station/truck stop with a really ugly fish stuck to a pole outside.

Here's the fish. His name is Waldo. We found him.
Waldo the fish in Upsala

What I can say about Upsala is what they lacked in city life, they made up in decent food, nice people, and good feelings. We ate at the truck stop. I had a delicious BLT and DM had an egg sandwich with bacon. The drive was really pleasant and I do like the fact we went. Would I recommend a trip to Upsala? Probably not. There's not too much to do there.

DM bought a couple of candy bars at the stop and we got back in the car and headed back east towards Kakabeka Falls. Both ways, we kept seeing signs for the Beaver Post and the signs boasted the day the store would open for summer. Somehow, luck was on our side, and the Beaver Post opened THAT DAY. It was destiny. Who can pass up a store that advertises Gifts! Jewelry! and Tackle!

As much as we joked about the Beaver Post, we finally figured we had to stop and we were both glad to spend a bit of time here. The shop is really quaint and full of wonderful Canadian souveniers. I bought a t-shirt with a moose on it (because I had to - don't you understand? It had a pull over me like crack does to certain addicts). I bought a couple of necklaces and bracelets, along with three postcards (two have moose on them!). DM bought some fun stuff too. She got Keem a gift (I covered Char) and I think she bought herself some fun jewelry. We both bought these cards that are very pretty and it helped fulfill the tradition of our holidays of my buying artwork. I didn't get any boots and I am a bit disappointed in myself for that.

The folk at the Beaver Post were very nice and super friendly. DM asked if they call Canadian geese, "Canadian geese or just geese." The answer: Canadian geese. They learned our names quickly, probably because we kept talking to each other throughout the shop. We spoke to them about the size of Ontario and how it really could be Minnesota's sister in certain aspects. The state bird in Minnesota is the loon and it is also the bird of Ontario. If you are passing through this part of Canada, take the time to stop into the Beaver Post. You'll like it.

The Beaver Post

Maybe I'm a total geek, wait, strike that. I am a total geek. I'll admit it. Whie we were driving back to Kakabeka Falls, we saw a sign for the Atlantic/Artic watersheds. This is the point where all streams/rivers/creeks flow into the Atlantic or Artic oceans. Since there were no cars/truck hauling logs or cops for kilometers away, I stopped in the middle of the highway to get pictures! (Yes, this was wrong. I know. But I'm a geek. Didn't I cover that already?)

Atlantic Watershed
Artic Watershed

We kept driving until we were back in Kakabeka Falls. Did you know it's not just a clever name? There are actually falls in Kakabeka Falls. (Okay, no clue where the name Kakabeka came from. I'd imagine it has some type of history.) We paid the fee to park (1 Canadian dollar. This is $0.89 American) and wandered towards the falls, wondering what we're going to see. The signs advertised that Kakabeka Falls were the Niagra of the North (which seemed a little odd since Niagra is north, but I guess it is north-east).

It started to downpour! Both of us wanted pictures of the falls and we kept the cameras going, getting droplets on the lenses and wiping them away frequently. The rain only continued for about 5 minutes, but it was long enough for us both to get soaked.

I had never heard of Kakabeka Falls prior to discovering them in this town. The same can be said for DM and most people we've spoken to since. I will say that I was amazed to visit this place, I want to go back, and it was truly beautiful. We both took a ton of pictures and I even used my tripod to get a couple of pictures of the two of us here.

Beth and Dana at Falls (1)
Kakabeka Falls (3)
Kakabeka Falls (44)
Kakabeka Falls (64)
Kakabeka Falls (98)
Kakabeka Falls (146)
Kakabeka Falls in Rain (18)(in the rain)

We stayed our hour and headed back to the car. I got out the laptop and we cleared our memory cards again. While we were uploading pictures, DM explored and communed with one of her favorite things. She started to hug trees. Seriously folks. She is a literal tree hugger.

Dana the tree hugger (6)
Dana the tree hugger (4)She is even saddened by having to part ways from the tree.

At this point, we got back in the car, settled in for a bit of a drive and headed towards Thunder Bay, decided once and all to skip bowling (yes, we know. It's rather funny that we went to go bowling and it is the one thing we ignored completely. Laugh. Everyone else does), and headed back south to Minnesota. We took more pictures from the car and made it to the border long before sundown.

The rest of our adventure will be told in part three and I hope to have it completed by the weekend.
For all the pictures of Ontario that I took, visit here.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

What Should We Name This Place? Well, let's see. C, eh, N, eh, D, eh. Part One.

****Disclaimer: If you need to use the bathroom, now is the time. This post discusses and had many a picture of water. You've been warned.****

Three years ago, months away from my birthday, DM sent me a card. It was a birthday card and the wonderful card makers at Hallmark spawned an idea. The card was fairly simple, a circle with a picture of bowling pins on the front and it stated, "Remember that time we went bowling in Canada?" I believe the inside said, "That was fun." There may have been more to it, but the part we enjoyed was the idea of going to Canada to go bowling.

DM has been to Canada before, probably around 23 years ago. I had never experienced the Great North (Superior by Nature - according to the sign in Ontario) and so it was decided that with a week away from the hustle and bustle of banking for each of us, we'd drive (I'd drive, she'd sit and try not to sleep (not overly successful at times)) and take this trip without much planning. Our objective: find a hotel/motel and go bowling.

The best part of the trip was the drive. We took a path up through north eastern Minnesota, being able to visit the majority of the North Shore of Lake Superior which is absolutely stunning. Straight through, the drive from the Twin Cities to Thunder Bay should be about 8 hours (according to While we didn't drive straight through, I doubt it would have been this lenghty of a drive. But we did make plenty of stops, had many laughs along the way, and took quite a few pictures. Actually, in two days we took over 3,000 pictures. We managed to snap at a higher rate than when we visited Johnny in Portugal. Yikes!

The drive took us up through Duluth, Minnesota. Duluth is a nice town, but both of us have visited it frequently. It is only about 2 hours north of the Cities and the Sheepsheadians have even taken a day trip to this destination. The purpose of that road trip was to take pictures of the changing leaves. I have a scrapbook full of pictures from that day, but pictures are a bit harder to post (pre-digital camera days for any of us). While we no longer converse with two of the people who went with us, I still remember moments of that day quite fondly and the scenery was pretty. Duluth is a harbor town, complete with an arial bridge that rises to allow passage of ships in and out of the harbor. There's a nice train depot in the city as well as vast views of Lake Superior (the largest of the Great Lakes, not sure of the size in comparison with other lakes in the world. I believe it is one of the largest.) Iron ore is big business in the north and many barges and tankers run through the waters of the Great Lakes, so Duluth is prime ground to watch these ships move along and you can even tour one of these boats in the harbor (extremely boring tour - I actually remember this one from my childhood and the mocking that ensued from my parents of our tour guide - her name was Stacy! And she was happy! Perky! Like her eyes were glued open creating a frozen look of surprise that air exists!)

On the way up, we actually did not stop in Duluth. We drove through the town, snapping pictures out the car windows and catching a glimpse of the bridge. 05 Bridge in Duluth (1)(Not a great picture, but you get the point from it.)

Our first real stop of the trip was at a little rest stop just north of Duluth. We'd been in the car for over two hours at this point and now we could start to enjoy the beauty of Lake Gitche-Gumee*. We didn't stay at this stop very long, but we each snapped a few shots of the view while the rain started to drip on us. It was refreshing and I have to say the rain was welcomed. Since it was an easy drive (not many people on the road, restful and relaxing) the rain made us feel cleaner and I appreciated the fact each time the windshield truly filled with suicidal bugs the rain would rinse guts away. (Because, face it, windshield wipers do not do it well enough.)

Here are a couple of pictures from that rest stop:
04 Lake Superior (1)02 Lake Superior

We hopped back in the car, armed with a map, simple directions (head north for a looooooong time), and points of interest designated by one of my bankers from work. She is an avid fan of the North Shore and to help us out, she gave us directions complete with her own thoughts and suggestions for places to visit along the way. (This was so helpful and gave the entire trip a nice personal touch.) After about another half hour on the road, we were in Two Harbors, Minnesota.

As we approached the scenic part of Two Harbors, I spotted a sign for McDonald's. This sign boasted that this particular McDonald's was a "proud member of the Two Harbors Community since 1994." The fact this town and merchant was proud of 12 years of business just added to the feeling of getting away. It made me laugh quite a bit and realize that this was going to be a fun trip.

In Two Harbors, we made two stops. The first was just a bit away from the actual pier, but had a little gazeboo next to the shore with some information about the Edna G, a tug boat used to bring iron ore ships in and out of the Iron Docks. It started to rain again while we were at this stop and we each had taken a few pictures of the tug boat, the rain on the lake, and the iron docks. We saw the pier off to our left and decided to drive over to walk out on the water.

While I should have gone back to the main road to find the side street leading to the pier, I saw a patch of land that resembled a dirt road. Resembled being the key word here. This is when I truly realized that my 2005 Toyota Corrolla really is not an off road vehicle. We did not get stuck, but the mud patterns just didn't match the shiny silver of my sweet, special automobile.

Once at the pier, we got out to wander towards the lake, stopping to capture images of a lighthouse, the rocky shoreline, and a passing barge. There were other tourists at the spot. A family wandered back and forth along the pier. The mother and father each had a hand of their son and would pick him up at each crack in the cement pier and he would exclaim in glee. An older couple slowly walked, hand-in-hand breathing in the crisp, clean air. We saw gulls in the parking lot and flying overhead.

Here are some pictures of Two Harbors:
04 Stop in Two Harbors (1)The Gazeboo
12 Edna GThe Edna G
16 Rain Falling on Lake Superior (2)Rain on the Lake
Two Harbors PierTwo Harbors Pier
Two Harbors Lighthouse (1)The lighthouse
Rocks (2)Rocky Shore
Iron DocksIron Docks
Family on the PierThe family on the pier
Barge on the LakeThe barge
Mud on the Car (3)Mud Spatter

Our next stop on the drive was at Silver Bay. Never having stopped, I wondered if the bay would actually be silver. Sure enough, it was! This stop was a nice one and allowed us to explore quite a bit. We saw a few boats in the bay and one even sailing around. We both climbed the rocks to get better views of the lake and I stunned quite a few with the recanting of the tale when they realized that I was wearing the heels I am comfortable in (I swear, I cannot walk in flats. I've become so accustomed to heels that I just wear them all the time.) I was able to get a great picture of DM at this stop and was even able to try out my photography on a spider web (which makes me shudder).

DanaDana at the Bay
Silver Bay (41)Boat on the water
Spider Web (2)Spider Web

On the road again (oh, Willie Nelson, how you destroyed my childhood), we drove for a bit of time thinking our next destination would be Cascade Falls and restaurant. While on the road, we passed a sign for the Temperance River and as we drove by, the car came to a quick stop, quick parking job, and we were out again. We each picked different viewpoints for our starting points of discovering this raging river and became separated quickly. I was enjoying the path along the river and then headed to the other side of the road to see where the river emptied into Lake Superior. I saw DM crossing the road and figured she was aware of my destination, but no such luck. She actually started to wonder if a serial killer had picked me off and that she may have been stuck in Northern Minnesota with the spare keys to the my car (which she couldn't drive anyhow) locked in the trunk of said car. In fact, I was not dead (proof is the fact I'm writing this post), but was exploring a bridge and hiking up a hill for an optimal view. All along, even passing the sinister looking young man (okay, he wasn't sinister at all. Can't I exaggerate a little? Jeez), I kept thinking about what type of picture I could get from these different spots. The Temperance River was a stunning sight and a nice surprise along the way.

Temperance River (8)The Temperance River
Temperance River (38)Emptying
Temperance River (24)
Temperance River (22)

Back on the road and knowing our stomachs were grumbling, we looked forward to finding the Cascade Restaurant, designated as a favorite place to eat by Joy, the banker who was so sweet to write up spots to stop for us. The restaurant was darling, quaint and full of north woods artifacts. There is something to be said for sitting by a window admiring Lake Superior to your right and looking left into the restaurant and seeing a moose head on the wall. Starving, we did not hold back on what we wanted. Well, DM did hold back a tad and may have regretted it. The restaurant has a bleu cheese stuffed sirloin but since she is allergic to bleu cheese, she figured the trip to a hospital wouldn't fit in to our travel plans and opted against the steak. Instead, we started with appetizers of mozzarella sticks (bland) and mushrooms sautéed in garlic and teriyaki (excellent - even if you do not typically enjoy a good mushroom). We both ordered the char-broiled cajun porkchop with chipotle sauce on top.

First about the porkchop: juicy, thick, and brilliantly cooked.
Second about the porkchop: think fiery death.
I was good for about three bites. Then the cajun was sufficiently caked to the back of my throat and I wanted to die. The flavor was excellent, but neither of us made it far into the meat. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone traveling along the North Shore, however if you have any qualms about heat, and even if you don't, be prepared for only a few bites of this delicious meal. Here are pictures of the food and view:

Cascade Restaurant
Inside Cascade Restaurant (7)
Garlic and Teriyaki Mushrooms
Cajun Porkchop aka fiery death

After eating (and no, we didn't drink all the water in Lake Superior to cool off our throats, tongues, and cheeks but don't think the idea didn't cross our minds), we headed back outside and wanted to stop at Cascade Falls (down the block) before pushing through to Canada. The rain had recently stopped again and we were given the view of a brilliant rainbow. The cameras, barely tucked away, were taken out again for more pictures. We also found where to park near the falls and acquired many more shots of the lake before hiking into the state park. The falls were amazing and we both kept the cameras clicking until the light was almost gone. I adventured out on the rocks to get a better view of the river, hoping that I wouldn't slip off the edge into the rapids. I was not so worried about myself but the fact I'm pretty sure my camera is not water/crushing death proof.

Here are pictures of the rainbow, the lake, and the falls. There are a couple of random pictures of the surroundings of the Cascade River here too.

Rainbow from Cascade (7)
View from Cascade (3)
ReflectionReflection in a pool of rain water on the rocks
Cascade Falls (74)
Cascade Falls (1)
Night Falls at Cascade (14)

Our plan at this point was to keep heading north until we reached the Canadian/Minnesotan border and then into Canada with the mission to find a hotel/motel and get some rest. The sky was getting dimmer and dimmer and while the road was sparse with motorists, I did not revel in the promise of driving along wooded areas full of happy deer ready to get caught in my headlights. We were pushing through and needed to find a nice place for DM to stop and use facilities. That's when we stumbled upon a wayside park called, "Cutface Creek." We never did discover the actual creek, but wondered aloud and at great length about the origin of the name, "Cutface." Since we had passed "Knife River," we did wonder if the two were connected.

It was getting dark and spooky** and the name didn't appease our growing unease. I wandered towards the lake, a bit ahead of DM to find a flat rock with what appeared to be an altar for a ritual sacrifice. There were rocks lining the edge of the altar and sticks were laid on either side of stones in the center. We quickly took a couple pictures, used the facility (think toilet without the tank and a large hole in the ground. There was nothing other than TP and the fancified hole inside the bathroom), and then skedaddled out of there. Our next stop was the border***.

Cutface Creek (19)
*The name for Lake Superior given by the Native Americans from the area.
**I cannot use or hear the phrase "dark and spooky" without thinking back to my pool hall days when a friend stated, "It is dark and spooky in here," to which another friend replied, "Broken poopy?" It still makes me smile.
***Part Two of the Adventure to come soon. This should be a trilogy when I am completed.