Friday, June 08, 2007

Travel Journal Day 3 & Day 4

Here is an important life lesson. If you find yourself staying in a hotel alone, it is still not a good idea to take a shower with the bathroom door open. The deadbolt and metal arm lock will keep Anthony Perkins out, but the steam from the shower will actually set off the smoke detector in your room. At this point, you will be wet and naked trying to figure out what that awful noise is and then quickly decide what to do. Do you 1) run out into the hallway towards safety screaming "Fire!" or do you 2) forgo safety to dry yourself off and get dressed after quickly surveying your room to find no actual fire? I chose option 2. It was nice that the alarm only went off in my room.

Day three of my vacation was rather uneventful. When I got up, I packed up the car again and headed north this time to Park Rapids, Minnesota. The drive is around three and a half hours so I listened to quite a bit of music and got lost in thought. The day was overcast, so I didn't stop at any rest stops or wayside stations along the route. I only made one stop and that was for food in a city called Motley. Craving a butterscotch dip cone from Dairy Queen, I stopped where the Hot Eats & Cool Treats are advertised. The burger I had was decent and I do really like DQ's fries. Which is odd, since I rarely like French Fries.

I was going to get a cone before getting back on the road, but then these men came in. One of them gave me a double take with a slimy smile. While I appreciate the fact I was checked out, it somewhat frightened me because there was just something creepy about the smile.

So back on the road I went. I found the hotel and checked in. And surprisingly, I stayed in the hotel all night long until I checked out the next morning. I watched a little bit of "Planet Earth" and then a movie on my laptop. Not an overly exciting day.

The next morning, Thursday now for those keeping track, I drove 20 miles to Itasca State Park. Itasca State Park is the first state park for Minnesota and is the second largest. It boasts Lake Itasca, the source of the fourth longest river in the world, the Mississippi. I don't know what it is about the Mississippi, probably has something to do with the fact I've lived near it most of my life, but I am fascinated by it. As others who live near oceans feel a pull to the water, I feel comforted by the river. It's always there.

When I arrived at the park, I was looking for the north entrance. I passed the southern and eastern entrances to find the one closest to the headwaters, but never found it. When I was halfway to Bemidji, I turned around and entered the park at the east entrance. It was only $5 to get in (which is insanely cheap in my opinion. It cost $10 to look at the potholes in Wisconsin.) Once inside, I drove the main road to the headwaters. I was about two and a half hours early for the boat ride, which was a good thing as it turned out.

I meant to walk across the Mississippi's start. I would have, but there were 8,000 800 80 about 25 kids running around. It was enough to try and get a picture without some child in it screaming. I wanted to yell at this grandmother. Oh, she made me so mad. This little girl was running towards the shoreline, without shoes on, she'd been in the water up to her knees already, and her grandmother reached out and pulled her back by the hood of her sweatshirt. She pulled hard. The little girl started screaming in tears while her grandmother hushed her so she could take a picture. Grandmothers are not supposed to choke their grandchildren. Grandmas are supposed to be nice. This made me so mad. Besides choking the little girl, she just ignored her tears.

The headwaters are cool. I really liked seeing the source of the Mississippi - the lake is actually the source, but the headwaters are where the river becomes a stream. The scenery is beautiful and would be peaceful sans 8 million screaming children. (There will be 80 million tomorrow when I tell the story. Children multiply by annoyance factor.)

After spending about a half hour at the headwaters, I headed to the gift shop I picked up some postcards, a couple of flat rocks (for scrapbooking), and a magnet for myself. I also bought sunscreen. Which now has a permanent place in my camera bag. The only time I'm in the sun would be when I have my camera, so it is a logical location for it. I also purchased a few gifts for DM and one for my mom.

I still had some time before the boat tour, so I stopped at Peace Pipe Vista and walked the path to see a panoramic view of Lake Itasca. Along the path, I saw a big, icky spider that creeped me out. I took pictures of it. Surprise.

It was getting closer to the time of launch, so I headed to the boat tour pier. I parked by the lodge, as indicated on the website. Then I walked down to the dock. I should have driven all the way down, but I didn't realize there was parking at the dock.

While waiting for the ride to start, a nice woman named Ann started chatting with me. Her sister, Sherry, joined in. They were both recent grandmas and on vacation together without the rest of the family. When I boarded the boat, I sat in the back with them, overlooking the water. This lasted until the family from the headwaters appeared. It wasn't all of the kids from the headwaters (there must have been 3-4 families there), but this was the family that all the brothers and sisters decided to go on vacation together and bring each of their 3-4 kids. Argh! The kids wanted to sit in the back. Soon, the four chairs (three occupied by Ann, Sherry, and myself) were overrun with 9 children, three mothers, a grandmother, and two babies. Sherry, Ann, and I moved inside to "give them some room."

The tour is a two hour trip following the Schoolcraft journey to the headwaters of the Mississippi. There were a couple of bald eagle sightings, but both were on the side of the boat I wasn't on. Bummer. I did get to see the Minnesota state bird, the common loon. I may have a couple of pictures from the sighting worthwhile. We'll see when I finally go through them all.

The light kept fading as the sky grew darker. About the time we reached the headwaters, it was down pouring and everyone moved to the bottom deck of the boat. Soon, grape sized hailstones were falling to the bottom deck via the stairwells. The last hour of the trip was spent a bit scared and awed by Mother Nature. We saw lightning and heard loud thunder claps. There was a tornado watch for the area (watch is when conditions are right to produce a tornado, warning is when there has been one spotted).

The rain let up to a drizzle by the time we were back at the dock. Ann and Sherry were very nice and offered me a lift back to my car. While I know I should never accept a ride from strangers, I did accept. Another man joined us so that he could bring his vehicle back to his party. I was grateful for the lift and thanked the two women. I really enjoyed their company on the boat.

With the weather, I decided it was time to head home. In about 30 minutes, I was ahead of the storm and kept on going. James asked at karaoke why I didn't stop at a great little unknown restaurant on the way home and the answer was simple. I wanted to be back in the Cities before the rain was.

When I got home, I loaded pictures onto the computer and uploaded them to Flickr. Then it was off to karaoke with DM. By the time I got home from karaoke, I was exhausted and crashed.

I'm meeting DM and Keem at the Como Zoo conservatory in a little over an hour. Afterwards, we're going to my mom's for dinner and may see a movie tonight. DM is going to come over and scrapbook tonight and we're going to scrap all day tomorrow. On Sunday, we're going to drive to Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis before karaoke.

Vacation has been nice so far. I was apprehensive about taking a trip by myself, but have really enjoyed it. I've done a lot of thinking and lot of relaxing. I can't remember a time when I felt so at ease.

One picture for you - the headwaters of the Mississippi. The rocks are not naturally there - they were placed by the people who are credited with the discovery of the source.

More headwaters (55)