Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lake Superior Circle Tour -- Day 9

Two Harbors is a great town! We had breakfast at the wonderful yet trendy Vanilla Bean Cafe, where businessmen in their late twenties, wearing cargo shorts and sandals, sat at tiny tables eating their Vanilla Bean's signature omelets and discussed the future of US economics. I learned that Portland is bunking the trend of the nation and is responsible for making Oregon the only state that is making economic improvements. Or so one fella said. Another talked about when he would be ready to buy his own company to run -- you know, when he's in his thirties. He was considering what type of business he wanted to take on. I laughed. What's really nice about being a librarian is that when you go on vacation, you don't sit with other librarians in trendy cafes in remote towns and discuss the future of libraries and their impact on the country, with the naive and self-righteous sense of your importance in the world and when you're going to take over and make things better. Okay, maybe some librarians do. I'm just glad I don't vacation with any of them. Whew!

After breakfast, we wandered around a street fair, where crafters, artists and the like had booths to showcase their work. Most of the artists were friendly. Some looked as if they hated their customers almost as much as they hated their own lives. And, of course, we somehow found the one really friendly, really chatty photographer, who we yakked away the minutes with because he shot some easily recognizable photos of Pictured Rocks. He said folks on the North Shore of Minnesota looked at pictures of Pictured Rocks and marveled that they had beige sandstone, as their sandstone is a deep red. Funny how different things are with so little distance between them. He recommended some places to go for good photos and we finally left thinking that photographers are the best people around. And they are.

A visit to the rock shop in town illustrated that we have been passing up some agates that we thought were worthless rocks and we vowed to pay closer attention to the rocks without the obvious stripes.

As we drove out of town, Boyfriend Extraordinaire noticed another business that seemed to combine two unlikely services. I wonder how they do this.

(Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire)

Off to Silver Bay we were! And through the Silver Creek Cliff tunnel!

(Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire)

(Photo taken by Boyfriend Extraordinaire)

Having had our fair share of tourists, we decided to skip Gooseberry Falls, which we'd been warned by the friendly photographer would be nothing but a trickle. Hardly worth the effort. We also chose to skip the typical tour of Split Rock Lighthouse, instead getting a park permit and visiting the campground to the south of the lighthouse. I'd read that the view is fabulous and the water is warm. Exactly what we were looking for!

My map wasn't exactly accurate and we found ourselves at a section of the shoreline way off the bay where we were aiming for. The walk was nice and these flowers (which I used to remember the name for, but now it escapes me) were everywhere.

When we arrived at the wrong spot, we discovered a pair of rock sculptures greeting us. Suddenly, I felt very near the Canadian border. Inukshuks they weren't, but they certainly could have been cousins.

Purists might disagree, but I really think the far-off view of Split Rock Lighthouse is superior to anything close up.

Down at the bay, the water was calm enough to swim in, but due to its protected state, it was slimy and gross. B.E. began his boat-making again. This is one proud boat-maker.

And these boats had just the right amount of wind, going in the right direction, because they took off around the island in no time and were never seen again. How cute are these guys!

I think he launched Numbers 5, 6, and 7 from this spot, and they all were heading straight for Canada.

Since we were in much more civilized country, people gathered around and watched him launch, encouraging him and asking about how he made his boats. Could anything have pleased him more? I think not. A British family stopped and chatted with us for a while and they seemed to really appreciate his boats, wanting to know how he got started and such. It was rather amusing getting to listen to him talk about his craft. And then we all watched the little boats race out into open water, laughing and cheering them on. It felt much like I was living in a Peanuts strip.

On the way back to the car, I encountered a pretty bumblebee with an orange stripe on his/her butt. Perhaps I've seen the orange-striped butts before, but I couldn't remember ever seeing it. Look at the saddlebags of pollen collected on his thighs. How cool!

We made it to Silver Bay, checked in at the Mariner Motel, which is a really nice place, and then headed back to their bay to check on the scenery.

B.E. has a coffee break at around 5:00 everyday, no matter where we are or what we're doing. You can count on it more than the sun rising and setting. And his coffee break usually consists of him drinking gas station coffee, eating stale cookies, and reading some novel he's dragged along with us. When we settled in at the bay, he drifted off into his book while I watched the water and beat the flies out of the car. He was not appreciating the scenery at all, so when I saw something in the water far down the pier, I did what any self-respecting girlfriend being ignored would do. I got his attention the only way I knew how.

No, I didn't flash him.

I said, "Hey, there's these things in the water up there, and you're not even looking! They could be otters!" And the little black things moving in the water at the end of the rocks probably COULD have been otters, but the odds were not good.

Didn't matter.

Magic words.

B.E. from California jumps at the chance to see these things, as there aren't too many otters swimming around by his house. Without applying much thought or logic, he leaped out of the car and started hustling down the pier. He beckoned to me, but I decided to keep watching. There was no point breaking a sweat for something that might be, if miracles do take place, a pair of otters, which he would surely scare off in his haste. I watched for a few more moments and suddenly the "otters" appeared more clearly.

Are those oxygen tanks on their backs? Do otters need oxygen tanks?

The really funny thing was that B.E. leaped onto the rocks with such zeal that he didn't navigate his footing very well. He didn't fall, but after he realized that the otters were actually divers, he found he wasn't able to easily descend these massive boulders he had climbed. Others had the same problem. I stood on the pier watching person after person climb the rocks eagerly and then have no clue how to get down. One woman scooted on her butt, which looked awkward and painful, so much so that I could hardly watch. When the rest of the crowd had disappeared, B.E. found a way down that didn't require him to scoot or fear death. It did take a while to find the right way down, though. All for some fake otters. Heehee!

We went to a delightful restaurant called the Northern Lights Roadhouse & Pub and had a good meal with a fantastic view of their garden and the water. While we were dining there, we saw the friendly photographer from Two Harbors stop in and speak with the proprietors. They were selling his pictures in their gift shop! How cool!

With a full day behind us, we slept well that night with thoughts of the next day's adventures making us giddy. Oooh, the fun to come in Ely, Minnesota ...!

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