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Northern Midwest
August 31 - September 15, 1999

What's New

BIG NEWS!

I'm home! Yes, I know it is a bit early.

You see, I was sitting there on Isle Royale enjoying the scenery. I saw this squirrel running up and down this cedar tree right next to our campsite. He was very busy, running up the tree, and back to his nest with a bunch of branch ends in his mouth... looked like he was battening down the hatches for the upcoming harsh Northwoods winter. Basically, he was tending to his home. As corny as it sounds, I started thinking about my home, my goals in life, and how the trip was going. It seemed to me that such simple things such as camping and cooking by camp stove, which should be fun, were becoming a chore. Even hiking started to seem a little boring and I found it hard to motivate myself... My "get up and go" basically got up and went. This definitely seemed like a signal to return home. We've all heard the phrase "a rolling stone gathers no moss". I decided I need some grounding... some time to reconnect with my friends and family and feel the relative (and familiar) security of knowing I can come home to a roof over my head every night. And I've also become somewhat desensitized to natural beauty. As my friend put it, going from the "astoundingly amazing to mind bogglingly beautiful" has taken a toll on my senses. I need a break so I can appreciate these natural beauties for the wonders they are. But most importantly, my instinct, my gut, told me this decision was right... basically, a feeling of peace washed over me... and these feelings, as I've learned time and time again, are not to be ignored. So big thanks to the little squirrel in Huginnin Cove Campsite #1!

I do have some regrets... didn't get to see much of New England... but that can be saved for another trip.

Rig Update: The rig went in for its 82,500 service in the Twin Cities at the Apple Valley Isuzu Dealer, and also got some new rear brakes and rotors at the Apple Valley Midas.  My steering wheel was making funny noises too whenever I turned it past 90 degrees.  Each 90 degree rotation produced an ugly click.  The folks at the Apple Valley Isuzu dealer said it was the clock spring and not to worry.  Nothing major.  I'll get this fixed when I'm in Atlanta for a while. 

I've also learned the rig is not mosquito proof.  At least not when we open the windows for ventilation.  The mosquitoes found us and made us miserable in the Northwoods of Minnesota, even in the pouring rain.  We had to seal the car a few times, turn the vents on recycle mode to avoid choking on the fumes, and sleep with the car running and A/C going.  One night, we just set up the tent which leaked a little bit on us in the pouring rain, but at least we didn't have incessant buzzing in our ears!

Update

August 31 - We awoke with a fairly long drive ahead of us.  We decided to break it up with a stop at the Pipestone National Monument.  Here lies the sacred grounds of the Sioux where they dug up Catlinite (pipestone) for carving effigies and making pipes.  The quarries were somewhat ugly... the typical scars in the earth.  But the whole area had a certain vibe to it.  You could just tell that this area was very sacred to the Sioux.  The land itself was a typical South Dakota/Minnesota Prarie, but there was a nice little stream with a waterfall flowing nearby, which they destroyed by putting a bridge right in front of it.  There is also a really neat formation they call the oracle.  I even picked up some pipestone on my way out of town.

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Pipestone Quarry
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Pipestone Falls
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"The Oracle"

The Twin Cities of Minnesota.  We did our second hotel stay so we could take the rig in early the next morning for its overdue service/oil change.  We awoke early, took the car in to the dealer followed by Midas for rear brake work...  We ended up spending most of our day getting the car taken care of.   But there was a highlight at the end of the day as we left Minneapolis.  The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices!  Yes it does exist and as you can tell by the link, there is even a website!  This was one of the most fun places we had the privilege to visit.  We were also fortunate to catch the owner, Robert McCoy, who has achieved somewhat of a celebrity status.  He's been on David Letterman, Barbara Walters, among others.  We walked in as he was demonstrating a breast enlargement machine.  Unfortunately, Cathy's fairly well endowed so we couldn't verify the phenomenal claims of the breast enarger, which was simply a vacuum cleaner attached to a bowl-shaped suction cup.  We were also introduced to the radioactive exhibits where the owner took out Geiger counter and talked about some of the fantastic claims made by the manufacturers.  He saved the best for last though.  Both Cathy and I sat down in the phrenology machine.  This sucker looked like one of those full-head hair dryers you find in beauty salons.  You sit down, and the device actually takes measurements of your head and out pops a roll of paper which gives you a complete personality profile.  It should put shrinks out of business!  You can even see my Phrenology reading.  

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Cathy trying out the breast enlarger
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Me in the Phrenology Machine
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Cathy needed to get her head examined!

He also had some articles available for the taking regarding some of the fallacies in modern medicine.  I agreed mostly with his findings, but I found a few articles that played down the role the mind plays in causing the body to be ill.   (The article in question was about Dr. Andrew Weil.)  Hundreds of people with chronic pain have reported a reduction in pain from meditation, one of Dr. Weil's recommendations for healthy daily living, but this connection is only beginning to be explored by modern medicine and the article I read shows a severe lack of understanding of the mental processes involved when someone gets ill. (I'm referring to non contagious illnesses where no "bug" is involved).  For example, people with chronic depression not only are depressed mentally, but the immune system is also "depressed."  Plenty of studies to back that one up!  Although some of Dr. Weil's findings might require more testing, some have already been proven.

September 1 - 3 - A couple of boring and depressing days.  During this time, we experienced non stop rain, non stop mosquitoes, and bad moods, all of which created some friction between Cathy and I.  We were going to head off into Voyagers National Park via canoe for a night or two, but the rain kept us out of the canoes and on the relatively dry land.  At the beginning of our trip, I think we would have gladly paddled the waters in the rain, but it seemed our "get up and go" got up and went.  We even took a hotel for a night.  On September 3rd, we traveled to Grand Marais and actually hit some sunlight on the way... maybe things would look up?

September 4 - Cathy and I decided to summit the highest peak in Minnesota, Eagle Mountain.  We knew it would be a daunting task.  The intimidating flat trail lay in front of us.  Obstacles such as dirt, rocks and trees.  I swore I saw skeletons of those who had attempted this trail before... or maybe it was just some tree fungus!  In any case, we managed to reach the summit of Eagle Mountain, 2301 feet after a grueling 3 mile hike.

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Entering the wilderness
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A beautiful lake on the way to the summit
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Summit of Eagle Mountain

September 5 - We headed out from Grand Marais on Lake Superior towards the Canadian border and the Boundary Waters.  Rain or not, Cathy and I wanted to get out into the Boundary Waters.  The Boundary Waters, it turns out, consist of a huge network of lakes, some of which form the boundary of US and Canada.  We headed out into Seagull Lake... it was extremely beautiful, but extremely confusing.  Cathy managed to direct us through the lakes to a nice lunch spot.  After lunch, I took over and got us lost in a few minutes!  This was not the first time this has happened.  I apparently lose all sense of direction when I head out on water.  The cloudy sky didn't help either.  We happened upon some people who sort of knew where they were, and we figured it out from there.  Cathy guided us back to the outfitter safely.  We didn't make it to our destination, but we had a fantastic float... we arrived just in time to return the canoe before the outfitter closed.

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The Boundary Waters
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Getting us lost
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Small Island

September 6 - 8 - Off to Isle Royale!  Isle Royale is the least visited National Park in the US.  It's about a three hour ferry ride from Grand Portage Minnesota and a 6 hour ride from Houghton Michigan, where the mainland park headquarters is located.  It is more remote and larger than Cumberland Island National Seashore.  It also costs more to visit and has 
"better" facilities on it, including a store, hot showers, and shelters at many of the campsites.  On the other hand, we heard stories about people hiking the heart of the island without seeing anyone for days.  However, our trip only lasted two nights as we decided to cut our visit short.  After a single night in the Hugginin Cove campsite, we decided to cut our trip short.  After a wonderful sunrise, I kicked back in the tent and watched this squirrel running up and down this cedar tree right next to our campsite. He was very busy, running up the tree, and back to his nest with a bunch of branch ends in his mouth... looked like he was battening down the hatches for the upcoming harsh Northwoods winter. Basically, he was tending to his home. As corny as it sounds, I started thinking about my home, my goals in life, and how the trip was going. It seemed to me that such simple things such as camping and cooking by camp stove, which should be fun, were becoming a chore. Even hiking started to seem a little boring and I found it hard to motivate myself... My "get up and go" basically got up and went. This definitely seemed like a signal to return home. We've all heard the phrase "a rolling stone gathers no moss". I decided I need some grounding... some time to reconnect with my friends and family and feel the relative (and familiar) security of knowing I can come home to a roof over my head every night. And I've also become somewhat desensitized to natural beauty. As my friend put it, going from the "astoundingly amazing to mind bogglingly beautiful" has taken a toll on my senses. I need a break so I can appreciate these natural beauties for the wonders they are. But most importantly, my instinct, my gut, told me this decision was right... basically, a feeling of peace washed over me... and these feelings, as I've learned time and time again, are not to be ignored. So big thanks to the little squirrel in Huginnin Cove Campsite #1!

However, the scariest moment of the entire trip occurred on our ride back to the mainland.  Lake Superior had turned into a huge wave pool.  I had no idea how large waves could get in an inland lake, but the wind was kickin' and these waves were the largest I think I'd ever been on a boat in.  Waves towered over the Wanona, our sturdy craft.  She managed to plunge over them as people hugged the side of her whilst they tossed their cookies over the side.  A friendly passenger gave us some Dramamine to prevent motion sickness.  It didn't work.  Cathy lied on her back and I headed over to the side of the boat to keep my eyes on the horizon.  Neither of us puked, but we both were glad to hit solid ground.

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Isle Royale Cove
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Island Resident
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Sunrise on Isle Royale

September 9-10 - Since our trip was basically over, we stayed in hotels or with friends the rest of the trip.  In Eu Claire, we checked out the Leinenkugel brewery:

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Cheers
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The Bottling Plant
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Cathy just can't get enough Leinies!

And in Wisconsin, we stopped at the "most beautiful place in all of Wisconsin... The Wisconsin Dells.  Beautiful?  Well, if you like neon, family "getaway" tourist traps!  We took a ride in a World War II Duck, an amphibious craft that performs as poorly on land as it does in the water.  Nonetheless, the seeing the old craft work was probably the more interesting part of the trip, but the limited scenery was nice.  Much time was spent on roads and in developed lakes and rivers.

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Sandstone Islands in the Dells
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Da Dells
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Cathy enjoying the touristy duck!
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The Wedding Bell in the Dells

September 10-15 - Homeward bound!  Nothing much to write about here.  We visited with friends along the way and got home around 3pm on September 15th.  Whew!  What a trip!  I plan on finishing up a Trip Summary and Wrap-up to summarize the trip.  Stay tuned!

Oddities From the Road

  • Minnesota highways have signs on them reading "Extraordinary Enforcement Ahead," especially around the construction areas.  What lies beyond?   "Extraordinarily mediocre enforcement?"

Coming Next...

Trip Summary and Wrap-up

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See ya next time!

My E-Mail address is: andrew(at)koransky.com

Copyright (C) 1996-2008 Andrew Koransky

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