Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lake Superior Circle Tour -- Day 7

While staying at a very cheap hotel in Superior, I realized something that became a repeated theme of the trip: if you're staying in a dump, don't ask the staff to recommend a restaurant or they will recommend a food dump.

So true. Proven repeatedly.

**B.E. wants you to know he liked the dumpy restaurant in Superior, where he got two eggs and toast, which he said were good, and cost a mere $2. My food was not as impressive, and I'm sorry, but I just cannot get comfortable and eat in a place that has 25 tables and only one, not separated, designated for non-smokers. It was like eating in a bar, and the smell of smoke would not come off me for hours. I thought it was rank. B.E. liked the prices. I guess it's a question of priorities.

The original plan was to depart early for Duluth, MN and visit the zoo. The plans changed the evening before when Boyfriend Extraordinaire was reading the local newspaper during his coffee break and the cover story was about how the star of the Lake Superior Zoo, a polar bear named Bubba died that day. A dead polar bear?! I was distraught! There would be no visit to the zoo! Particularly when I read on about the trouble the zoo as having, how it lost its accreditation, etc. No, I think we should visit the Great Lake Aquarium again!

Which we did -- and it was fun!

As always, the fish were cool, but only the mammals, birds and reptiles can hold my attention.

One of the most beautiful creatures: a male wood duck.

Swimming with the wood ducks were another pair of ducks (or are they loons?), who were less shy. This pretty girl had the most striking eyes!

The ducks shared an enclosure with the plovers, who screamed nonstop. Seriously. I was starting to wonder if they needed to be muzzled.

Truly, the highlight of visiting this aquarium is the opportunity to pet stingrays, and when we're lucky, we also time it right so we can see the stingray feeding, which is great.

This is me petting a stingray. They are bumpier and rougher than I thought, and only smooth and soft on the edges of their "wings".

It never fails. Whenever the public views a stingray, no matter how long it's been, someone in the group has to mention Steve Irwin, which I think is a disservice to stingrays and to Mr. Irwin. I could stand around crocodiles all day and never hear anyone mention his name, but 15 seconds around a stingray tank, and some bozo is telling everyone that these guys killed Steve Irwin. Inevitably, a staff member explains that the barbs on the pettable stingrays have been removed for everyone's safety, but only the children (and me... and B.E.) will pet them. Sad.

Thus, this is B.E. petting a stingray. The only thing cooler would be the opportunity to swim with them!

There was also a tank with pettable sturgeon, which are B.E.'s favorite fish, so he was happy to pet one.

Normally, the otters are the most fun and it's impossible to contain giggles when they're out and about, but today, the napping otter was not so funny. Cute! But he made me want to nap too.

Luck isn't normally on my side, but we were so fortunate to have done the circle tour and landed in Duluth at this time, because the aquarium had a special temporary exhibit of sea horses! I LOVE SEA HORSES! LOVE!!! And I've never seen one up close, so I spent a LOT of time with these guys.

The coolest thing is that they use their tails as anchors. You could look into the tanks and think they were empty, then realize that all the trees and shrubs in the tank were full of sea horses, with their tails wrapped around branches holding them in place.

My pictures are dark, but you can kinda see the round white bellies of the Potbelly Sea Horses in the plant, and the sea horses at the bottom, eating brine shrimp.

Boyfriend Extraordinaire took the following two photos. His camera cooperates more in dark settings. My camera requires a lot more light and most of my pictures were unrecognizable. Notice how when there are no trees to wrap tails around, they connect their tails to each other. They're so weird!

After an eternity at the aquarium and a brief visit to the gift shop where I bought myself a stuffed sea horse and B.E. a pair of bear boxer shorts (his first boxer shorts ever), we left.

Blues Fest was going on in Duluth that weekend, and being a big blues fan, B.E. insisted on sitting in the shade of a tree outside of the aquarium to listen to the live blues music blasting from nearby Canal Park. I sat there patiently for as long as I could, but I don't really like blues that much, nor do I like being outdoors when the weather is in the 90s. However, I could take no more when I started getting bit by a green bug I'd never seen before and I stomped off to the car. Despite my mini tantrum, B.E. was satisfied with the 20 or 30 minutes of listening he got in and we set off to find our hotel.

Folks, sometimes cheap isn't the most important thing.

It turns out (after getting lost and having to ask directions) I made a reservation at a motel in West Duluth, and not only was it one scary-looking place, but the people who ran it were scary-looking. We checked in and immediately left the room, debating what to do now that the room was paid for and there were few, if any, available rooms in the entire city, thanks to the Blues Fest. So, we tried to put it out of our head and went to Hawk Ridge.

Skyline Parkway was closed! Under construction! GAH! B.E. convinced me to drive up the street anyway, which I did, and we made it to Hawk Ridge. We waited a while, but it was so hot out and the wrong time of year for viewing big predatory birds, so we left fairly quickly.

I did take this picture of a large ore ship leaving the harbor. The view at Hawk Ridge is indescribable!

I had this idea that we could approach from the east and maybe Skyline Parkway would be accessible from there, so we could see Seven Bridges Road. CLOSED! They tore the whole street up! Well, we did what everyone else was doing, drove around the barriers, parked, and walked to Lester River.

There were two groups of teens swimming far below the last remaining bridge, and I couldn't help but watch them dive off the rocks into the river below. They had to have found the only deep area of water on the entire river, because it was so dry that it was barely flowing. And they jumped from HIGH up on the rocks!

This is a picture B.E. took facing the kids. The trickle on the left is the river and the tiny glint of water at the bottom is the pool they jumped into. That had to be a 20-foot drop with 10 feet of rocks that you had to jump away from to hit the water. Nuts!

I was high above them on a bridge and I shot this video of them all taking a final dive before calling it a day. As scary as it looked, they clearly had fun.

Knowing how ugly and gross our motel room was, we dawdled and did everything we could to waste time so we wouldn't have to return to it. We had a long and languid dinner at a sub place, which was DELISH! I'd had a terrible craving for a deli pickle everyday of the trip and was finally able to satisfy that hunger at this wonderful deli. Finally, we dragged ourselves out of the building and resigned ourselves to returning to our terrible room for the night. The only good thing was it had air conditioning.

When we got back to the room, perhaps because of all the activities of the day or the lack of daylight, the room didn't seem so awful. We did barricade the doors and windows and debate whether to sleep under the covers at all, but it wasn't as bad as we thought. However, we did not shower in that horrible bathroom and spent as little time as possible in there. We did sleep like babies, though. I guess the trick is to wear yourselves out so that you just don't care about the motel room.

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