Category Archives: Cross-Countries

September 15: In which I run into a couple of old friends. Very old friends.

I saw this on my way out of Bismarck.  Made me wonder if there were transplanted Roswell, NM, residents here.
I saw this on my way out of Bismarck. Made me wonder if there were transplanted Roswell, NM, residents here.

It rained a bit during the night, but had cleared up by this morning. The weather prediction was for it to be overcast most of the day, with a few scattered showers, and I believed it. More fool me.

To be fair, it didn’t do much more than spit as I drove north from Bismarck towards Fort Mandan, where Lewis and Clark built their home for the winter of 1804-05. There they stayed from October till April, waiting for the temperatures to warm up from the minus forty it hit several times that winter, and for the ice to melt on the Missouri River before they headed on upriver to the Pacific Coast – eventually.

It was funny how much the reproduction (the original is under the shifted Missouri River somewhere) fort looks like the reproduction Fort Clatsop in Oregon, where the Corps of Discovery spent their second winter. Or maybe not. Anyway, it reminded me of home, in an odd way, hence the subject header of today’s post. Not that I’ve ever lived in a hand-built log fort or anything…

I love this quote, for obvious reasons.
I love this quote, for obvious reasons.
The front of Fort Mandan.
The front of Fort Mandan.
One of the pierced tin lanterns, lit up.
One of the pierced tin lanterns, lit up.
Inside Fort Mandan.
Inside Fort Mandan.
A blunderbuss.  I'd read about them, but I'd never seen one in person before.  The guide let me try to lift it -- it's *heavy*!
A blunderbuss. I’d read about them, but I’d never seen one in person before. The guide let me try to lift it — it’s *heavy*!
The obligatory statue of Seaman, Lewis's Newfoundland dog.  I'm pretty sure every L&C site I've ever been to has had one.
The obligatory statue of Seaman, Lewis’s Newfoundland dog. I’m pretty sure every L&C site I’ve ever been to has had one.

It had started raining again by the time I left Fort Mandan, and was coming down fairly well by the time I got to the North Dakota Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center a few miles back down the road. It’s a very nice museum, dealing with both L&C as well as North Dakota agricultural history, which is more interesting than it sounds, especially as the first farmers in what later became North Dakota were the Mandan Indians. Apparently a fair number of our commercial corn and bean varieties are descended from those the Mandans grew, including my favorite dry bean, the Great Northern. I’ll never look at taco soup the same way again [g].

Double life-size statues of L&C and the local Mandan chief in front of the L&C interpretive center, just down the road from Fort Mandan.
Double life-size statues of L&C and the local Mandan chief in front of the L&C interpretive center, just down the road from Fort Mandan.
Nifty bison statues at the interpretive center.
Nifty bison statues at the interpretive center.
The Missouri River near Fort Mandan.
The Missouri River near Fort Mandan.

The rain did not stop. Oh, it slowed down a little, but when I arrived at the Knife River Villages National Historic Site a few miles to the west, it was too wet to go hiking out to see more earth lodges. But there was a fellow in the visitor center who played a wicked Native American flute (I wish I could have recorded him – he was that good), and a very helpful ranger who gave me the phone number of the ranger station at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s North Unit.

See, the last time I was in this part of the world, in 2012, the road into the North Unit had been closed because the land underneath it had slumped. Slumping is the primary way the badlands of the western Dakotas are formed, so it’s nothing unusual, but I had been rather disappointed at the time. So I wanted to see if the road was open again before I drove out of my way to go see it. And yes, it is. And the campground is still open this late in the season, too.

The beginning of the Badlands.
The beginning of the Badlands.

So on westward I went, through the rain and about twenty miles of unpaved road construction (dear godlings, was that not fun), and finally made it here to TRNP’s north unit, where I’m ensconced in a campsite, listening to the rain pound down on Merlin’s metal roof (I’m always glad I’m not tent camping, but I’m really glad tonight).

It’s supposed to clear up tomorrow, and it darned well better. I have a drive I want to make [g].

September 14: A Really Big Bison, and more history (are you tired of that yet? I’m not)

I found the World’s Biggest Bison this morning before I left Jamestown. It is a big bison, I’ll give it credit, but I saw the skull of an extinct bison this afternoon that I bet was bigger than that.

The world's biggest bison.  See the picnic table for scale?
The world’s biggest bison. See the picnic table for scale?
That sky looks like a just-rolled-out package of quilt batting.
That sky looks like a just-rolled-out package of quilt batting.
I find it amusingly practical that since they have to mow between the highway and the fence, anyway, why not bale it, too?
I find it amusingly practical that since they have to mow between the highway and the fence, anyway, why not bale it, too?
Another cute rest area, done up as an old-fashioned gas station.
Another cute rest area, done up as an old-fashioned gas station.

This was at the North Dakota Heritage Center, which is another name for state history museum [g]. After driving the hundred miles, give or take, to Bismarck, North Dakota, the cute little state capitol, population a bit over 67,000, so it’s actually bigger than Olympia, my state capitol, which is just under 50,000. The difference, of course, is that Bismarck is the second largest city in North Dakota, and Olympia – isn’t.

Anyway, I think I lost control of my sentence there, and I’m not going to fix it. I’m just going to say that after lunch I spent over two hours at the museum, which was just renovated completely a couple of years ago, and the shiny new is wonderful. There’s a whole huge room on the pre-man history, dinosaurs and glaciers and all, and a whole huge room on the dozen or so tribes of Native Americans, with these neat audios of people speaking in their own languages, and a huge room on the history since the Europeans showed up. Which they did way earlier than I thought – a French explorer made it to what’s now North Dakota in the 1730s, although the story really didn’t pick up till Lewis and Clark in the first decade of the 1800s, and after that didn’t get real steam till after the Civil War.

Interesting stuff, though. Lots of stuff about homesteading and the railroads, among other things, and populism and farmers vs. the big city and so forth.

Woolly mammoth skeleton in the lobby of the North Dakota Heritage Center.
Woolly mammoth skeleton in the lobby of the North Dakota Heritage Center.
That's one nasty looking fish, and the turtle to its right is *fifteen feet* long.
That’s one nasty looking fish, and the turtle to its right is *fifteen feet* long.
These are two extinct bison skulls (center and left) and a Bison bison (the scientific name) to skull to the right.
These are two extinct bison skulls (center and left) and a Bison bison (the scientific name) to skull to the right.
This is a wedding dress from just about the same year that Charley and Eliza got married in Repeating History, and the dress matches the description amazingly well except for the color.  Eliza's was more golden brown.
This is a wedding dress from just about the same year that Charley and Eliza got married in Repeating History, and the dress matches the description amazingly well except for the color. Eliza’s was more golden brown.
It never dawned on me that Montana and the Dakotas all became states the same year Washington did.
It never dawned on me that Montana and the Dakotas all became states the same year Washington did.
A lefse roller and lifter, just like the ones Karin used in True Gold!
A lefse roller and lifter, just like the ones Karin used in True Gold!

After I finally dragged myself out of there, I drove past the strangest-looking state capitol I’ve ever seen. It looks like a condo building from LA or something, and its nickname is the Skyscraper of the Plains (it’s by far the tallest building in Bismarck, I’ll give it credit for that). Then I drove seven miles south of the town of Mandan (sort of Moorhead to Bismarck’s Fargo, except Mandan’s on the west side of the river) to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.

The Skyscraper of the Plains, aka why does that state capitol building look like Cockroach Central? (that's a Vorkosigan reference, for those who don't know)
The Skyscraper of the Plains, aka why does that state capitol building look like Cockroach Central? (that’s a Vorkosigan reference, for those who don’t know)

Fort Lincoln was George Armstrong Custer’s last post before he headed off to the Little Bighorn and got himself and a bunch of his troops killed. It’s where his wife was when she found out he was dead, too. They’ve reconstructed his house there, but really, the most interesting part of Fort Lincoln State Park is the partial reconstruction of a 500-year-old Mandan Indian village. Five round houses (as opposed to tipis) on a slope near the Missouri River, two of which have exhibits inside them. The village was abandoned in the 17th century after the first of a number of smallpox epidemics basically wiped out 4/5ths of the population.

The houses are made of the same log and sod construction that the early pioneers built their houses from. Only the shape is different.

Oh, and there’s a wonderful, built-in-the-30s-by-the-CCC visitor center, too, with good exhibits.

The reproduction of Custer's house at Fort Lincoln.
The reproduction of Custer’s house at Fort Lincoln.
A Mandan earth lodge.
A Mandan earth lodge.
Inside a Mandan earth lodge.
Inside a Mandan earth lodge.

By that point it was getting late, and I needed to find a place to sleep and hit a grocery store. I thought about camping at Fort Lincoln, but I hadn’t gone to the grocery store first, and it was awfully windy out there, too.

Maybe tomorrow night at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. If I get that far. I’m going about thirty miles north of here to Fort Mandan and the Knife River Indian Village National Historic Site first, because that’s where Lewis and Clark spent their first winter on the road (so to speak) and I’m curious.

The road inside Fort Lincoln state park, with trees beginning to turn.
The road inside Fort Lincoln state park, with trees beginning to turn.

September 13: Would you like some lutefisk with that, Thor?

What a pretty day. Seriously. My first stop of the day was at Detroit Lake, which is the centerpiece of the eponymously named town of Detroit Lakes (no, I didn’t see the other lakes, but that’s okay).

I’m still seeing wildflowers even in September in this climate, too, which makes me happy.

Sunflowers and asters at Detroit Lakes.
Sunflowers and asters at Detroit Lakes.
Across far western Minnesota.
Across far western Minnesota.

I reached Moorhead, Minnesota, on the North Dakota line, around noon, and went looking for [googles to get the spelling right] the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center, which is nominally the local historical society, but in fact is the home of two enormous fascinating artifacts. The first is a sort of Thor-Heyerdahl-in-reverse authentic Viking ship reproduction that was built nearby, then sailed from Duluth, Minnesota, to Oslo, Norway, back in the early 1980s. I was a fan of Heyerdahl when I was a kid, so the story of Robert Asp and his dream becoming a reality was fascinating to me, and the ship was impressive, if difficult to photograph.

The outside of the museum.
The outside of the museum.

The viking ship, and now you see why the odd roof [g].
The viking ship, and now you see why the odd roof [g].
The other huge artifact is a reproduction stave (pronounced, to my surprise, as STAHV, not STAYV) church. It’s an exact copy, made by another local man, Guy Paulsen, of the Hopperstad Stave Church, built during the 12th and 13th centuries in the backwoods of Norway. I’d always wanted to see a stave church, after seeing pictures and film of them, and since I’ll be lucky if I ever get to any part of Scandinavia in this lifetime, well, I jumped at the chance to see this one.

The stave church.
The stave church.
The front door.  Look at all that beautiful hand-carved wood.
The front door. Look at all that beautiful hand-carved wood.
It smells like my father's workshop in there.  They do use the building as a wedding venue.  Can you imagine a cooler place to get married?
It smells like my father’s workshop in there. They do use the building as a wedding venue. Can you imagine a cooler place to get married?
Looking up at the inside of the ceiling.
Looking up at the inside of the ceiling.

The museum has the usual local history exhibits, too, but aside from the church and the ship, the temporary exhibits were what caught my eye. One was a traveling exhibit about the history of the education of the blind, and the other was about the history of liquor in the area. Apparently because North Dakota’s liquor laws were much stricter than Minnesota’s, and due to its proximity to non-Prohibitioned Canada, Moorhead was a very exciting place to be in the early decades of this century [g].

This is probably the most amusing image from the liquor exhibit, a guy dressed up as a can of beer.
This is probably the most amusing image from the liquor exhibit, a guy dressed up as a can of beer.

The museum’s café sells a mean bowl of vegetable beef soup with homemade noodles, too. No lutefisk, though, thank goodness.

Crossing the Red River of the North from Minnesota to North Dakota, and from Moorhead to Fargo.
Crossing the Red River of the North from Minnesota to North Dakota, and from Moorhead to Fargo.

There wasn’t really anything I wanted to see in Fargo itself (as opposed to Moorhead), so I drove on through and out onto the Great Plains. I’m back in, “Oh, god, don’t anything step on my van! It’s really not a bug even though it looks as small as one!” country, and I am so happy about that. Oh, my gosh, I love the prairies. They’re so gorgeous.

And I got an interesting history lesson when I stopped at a rest area on my way to my stop for the night in Jamestown, too. I knew a little about tree claims, from reading my Laura Ingalls Wilder, but not this much. Too cool.

I don't normally take photos of rest areas, but these cottonwoods were part of a tree claim.
I don’t normally take photos of rest areas, but these cottonwoods were part of a tree claim.
Self-explanatory [g].  Interesting, huh?
Self-explanatory [g]. Interesting, huh?
I loved these clouds,.  They almost look like they're whirling, but they're not.  And look at the size of that *sky.*
I loved these clouds,. They almost look like they’re whirling, but they’re not. And look at the size of that *sky.*

Jamestown’s claim to fame is the world’s largest statue of a bison. I’ll go see if I can find it tomorrow morning.

September 12: Frost? Really? Already?

According to the weather forecaster on a local Fargo, North Dakota, newscast (I’m almost 70 miles southeast of there tonight), the average first frost date is September 18th. And the forecast is for frost over the next couple of nights, with a high in the fifties F tomorrow. My word.  According to the Geyser Gazers FB group, it’s snowing in Yellowstone.  I’m starting to feel the need to get back over the Rockies soon, for some strange reason…

Oh, and I didn’t get a photo of it, but my habit of reading road signs the way I used to read cereal boxes and mayonnaise jars as a kid (when I ran out of any other reading material) paid off today. An adopt-a-highway sign was claimed by Wreck-A-Mended, a car collision repair company [g].

I got a late start this morning, and after a couple of errands that included picking up maps at AAA for my revised route, finally left Duluth a bit berfore eleven. It was interesting watching the thick forest gradually change to prairie with the only trees at low spots and along waterways, the farther west I went across Minnesota.

Other than that, and hitting a patch of mizzle (to use a Pacific Northwest term for a combination of mist and drizzle) this afternoon, that was pretty much the day. Well, and passing lake after lake after lake. This is Minnesota, the land of ten thousand lakes, after all. Although the AAA book says it’s more like fifteen thousand, and I have no problem believing that.

It was gray gloomy all day, which was fine (I didn’t have to fight my sunglasses [wry g]), and I stopped for the night here in the small town of Perham, Minnesota. A small town with an enormous quilt shop, actually, so that was fun. I suspect they do at least 75% of their business online, because Perham itself is only about 2500 people, and even if they attract a regional customer base, it’s still pretty huge for a place like this. I was good and bought only one fabric panel, a two-thirds yard-sized photo-like image of a double row of fall-foliaged trees.

Speaking of fall foliage, I saw a lot of birches just beginning to turn yellow today.

As of yesterday, Merlin has 14,000 miles on him, and I’ve been on the road for three and a half months. I suspect I’ll be home about the time I hit four months.

And the cold is improving. Or rather, I am. I’ve even got most of my voice back!

If this is a water tower, which I suspect it is, I need to add it to my collection of odd water tower photos. Too bad I can't remember which small town it belongs to.
If this is a water tower, which I suspect it is, I need to add it to my collection of odd water tower photos from this trip. Too bad I can’t remember which small town it belongs to.  ETA:  I’m told it’s in Brainerd, and that it is indeed a water tower.  Thanks, pmrabble (from LJ).
The last time I saw the Mississippi River, I was in St. Louis, Missouri, over two months ago.
The last time I saw the Mississippi River, I was in St. Louis, Missouri, over two months ago.
The river itself.
The river itself.
Heading out onto the prairie. I'll be on the Great Plains until I hit the Rockies in western Montana.
Heading out onto the prairie. I’ll be on the Great Plains until I hit the Rockies in western Montana.
Yet another Cool Sky Photo [tm].
Yet another Cool Sky Photo [tm].

September 8-11: Catching up

It does occur to me that I should bring this up to speed, being sick aside [wry g].

I woke up on Manitoulin Island the morning of the 8th to a misty, moisty morning. It rained on me off and on as I drove north to the swinging bridge, which is the only other way, aside from the ferry, off the island. It’s called the swinging bridge because that’s what it does to let boat traffic through. Not a drawbridge, but a swinging bridge, which supposedly is closed for fifteen minutes every hour on the hour for this very purpose, but I got there right on the hour, and it wasn’t closed. Then again, there weren’t any boats in the passage, either, and it would have been silly of them to open it if no one was waiting.

Rocks and trees and trees and rocks [g]. At least three different people described the scenery in western Ontario to me using this phrase, and I have to admit they’re right. It’s still pretty, though, and I stopped to enjoy a little cascade called the Serpent River Falls, and to note the glacial marks on the rocks nearby.

The cascade of Serpent River Falls north of the Lake Huron shore.
The cascade of Serpent River Falls north of the Lake Huron shore.
There's a term for this sort of glacial etching, but I forget what it is.
There’s a term for this sort of glacial etching, but I forget what it is.  ETA:  Thnidu from LJ suggested striations, and that’s exactly the word I was looking for.  Thanks!

I was getting tired much sooner than normal by the time I reached Sault Ste. Marie, so I found a motel and holed up for the rest of the afternoon. The following morning was worse, so I paid for a second night, and the only time I got out that day was to go get food and hit a drug store for some meds and vitamin C and more tissue.

The next morning, September 10th, I was feeling enough better (and stir crazy) that I wanted to go ahead, so I crossed the border back into the States, where the only thing the pleasant customs officer asked me was if I’d bought anything to bring home over the past month. I told him about the cross-stitch patterns and the quilt fabric and the kitchen magnets and the three prints, and he smiled and waved me on through. Which was a good thing because getting the receipts out would have slowed things down considerably, since they were stowed away in one of the bins under my bed in the back.

It’s actually sort of a relief to be back in the land of miles and Fahrenheit again, if only because now I don’t have to peer down at my speedometer (I can’t read the kilometer part without taking my sunglasses off, which has been really annoying), and, more importantly, do all these calculations in my head all the time (exchange rate, too — I can’t seem to help myself [wry g]). I love Canada, but it is just enough of an uncanny valley for me that I don’t feel quite “right” there – I’m not explaining it well, but anyway. Like I said, I probably should have done it as the first part of the trip, when I wasn’t so worn out.

Crossing over into the U.S. on a very large bridge.
Crossing over into the U.S. on a very large bridge.
Doesn't this look like mountains behind clouds? Or maybe I'm just homesick for mountains, I don't know.
Doesn’t this look like mountains behind clouds? Or maybe I’m just homesick for mountains, I don’t know.
"The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down Of the big lake they called 'gitche gumee'" Lake Superior from just east of Marquette, Michigan.
“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘gitche gumee'”
Lake Superior from just east of Marquette, Michigan.
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead When the skies of November turn gloomy" Well, skies of September, anyway.
“The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy”
Well, skies of September, anyway.  The lyrics are from Gordon Lightfoot’s song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, about a famous shipwreck on Lake Superior in 1975.

Anyway. I drove about halfway across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the absolutely pouring rain yesterday. I actually had to pull over once because the windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with it and I couldn’t see where I was going. Fortunately, the really hard rain didn’t last long, but it did rain all day long.

I spent the night just outside of Marquette, Michigan, in the little, rather oddly-named town of Ishpeming. I’ve been through this part of Michigan before, which was why I had originally had my heart set on driving up and around through western Ontario in spite of the drive being longer, but oh, well. I ate a pasty for dinner. I had vividly good memories of one I’d eaten in Marquette the last time I was here, but this one wasn’t as good, alas. A pasty is a meat pocket (hand-held) pie, filled with beef and potatoes, and, I think, turnips, and they can be delicious. This one wasn’t bad, just not as good as I remembered.

I actually overslept this morning, which was wonderful since I hadn’t really slept all that well for a few nights, and I am feeling better, although I still don’t have my voice back (why, oh, why do I always get laryngitis when I catch a cold???). Which is great fun when you have to communicate, especially with strangers. “Why are you whispering? What did you say?”  Laryngitis isn’t painful, at least not for me, but it’s really annoying.

Yup, it's going on towards fall, and here are the asters to prove it. There are some leaves around and about to prove it, too, but I didn't get any good photos of them.
Yup, it’s going on towards fall, and here are the asters to prove it. There are some leaves around and about to prove it, too, but I didn’t get any good photos of them.
This fellow was in front of the casino on the Bad River Indian Reservation, and what I'd really like to know is what kind of shenanigans that river pulled to get a name like that.
This fellow was in front of the casino on the Bad River Indian Reservation, and what I’d really like to know is what kind of shenanigans that river pulled to get a name like that.
I have a lot of cloud formation photos this week, just because there's not been a whole lot else to take photos of, but this one in particular was kind of cool.
I have a lot of cloud formation photos this week, just because there’s not been a whole lot else to take photos of, but this one in particular was kind of cool.

Anyway, I drove the rest of the way across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and all the way across the top of Wisconsin to Duluth, which is just across the river in Minnesota. Not really as far as it sounds, maybe 150 miles? I got here in time to watch my Seattle Seahawks (actual Jeopardy question from a few years ago: What’s the only NFL team whose name starts with the same three letters as their city?) win their season opener against the Miami Dolphins at the last moment by the skin of their teeth (final score: 12-10).

I still don’t know exactly what I’m going to do tomorrow, or for the rest of the trip, for that matter. I guess I’ll see how I feel in the morning, but I suspect I’m back in the States for good. We’ll see.

September 10: a change of plans

One of the weirdest and most unpredicted (at least by me) things about blogging this trip has been that I’ve felt reluctant to change my plans for fear of disappointing people, which is really stupid.  About the only really big change I’ve made so far was to not go to Newfoundland, and even then I felt like I had to explain why [wry g].

Anyway.  I’m not feeling a whole lot better today, and when I took my temperature early this morning (I have a thermometer in my first aid kit), I was running a slight temperature.  Which seems to have gone down since then, thank goodness, but still.That said, the last time I had symptoms like this, they got worse and worse instead of better (thanks to a nurse practitioner who insisted I was just getting over a cold) and I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia (just about two years ago, actually).  The other thing is that as an American, going to the doctor in Canada is an expensive proposition, even with travel insurance.  And the other thing is, I’m at the last border crossing where there’s a city on both sides of the border for a long, long way.  As in over 1000 miles, at least.  The next border crossing, period, is at Thunder Bay, which is almost 450 miles away on the other end of Lake Superior.  Also, from Sault Ste. Marie to Kenora, ON, on my original route, is actually a few miles shorter going through Michigan than around through Ontario.

Also, I’m starting to get to the point (and was, before I got sick) where I’m ready to start heading home.  If there’s one thing I regret about this trip, it’s that I didn’t start it in Canada and come back home across the U.S. (I’ve been saying that practically since I hit California, alas).  But there’s not much to be done about it now.  On the bright side, my passport is good for eight more years and my Canadian national parks pass is good until August 2018 [g].

Anyway, I’m going to cross the border this morning, go across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and see how I feel about the time I get to Duluth, Minnesota.  That way, if I need a doctor, I can hit a doc-in-the-box (aka urgent care) and get antibiotics before it gets worse.  If I’m feeling better and ready to explore more, then I’ll cross back over in Minnesota, head for Kenora, and continue on with my original plans.  If not, then I’ll head on home.

Hey, at least I haven’t rolled my car.  Yet.

I hate being sick on the road.

 

September 7: My third ferry of the trip, believe it or not.

I’ve ridden ferries in Virginia, Maryland, and now Ontario. This one was by far the longest ride, though, almost two hours.

I got a late start this morning, and was eating breakfast at the picnic table at my campsite when I heard a soft rat-a-tat-a-tat. I looked up, and saw a woodpecker. Bigger than a downy, considerably smaller than a pileated, I’m assuming he’s a hairy woodpecker, but I’d love confirmation (hint, hint, Katrina [g]). Anyway, he was a brave little fellow, and just looked back at me as I walked over to get a better look at him. A nice way to start the day.

A friendly neighbor this morning.
A friendly neighbor this morning.

I went back to Tobermory, looking for somewhere to go out of the humidity, and also looking for wifi because I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up somewhere that had it tonight. The librarians at the Tobermory library were very nice about letting me charge my computer and use their wifi, so I sat and scribbled for a while, then uploaded blog posts. Then I walked over to the local bookstore just around the corner, and bought another fridge magnet as well as perusing the books.

By that point it was time to get in line for the ferry. There were rather a lot of us crossing over to Manitoulin Island. The ferry holds 143 vehicles and I’m pretty sure it was full. The boarding process was smooth, if a bit slow, and we pulled away pretty much on time.

The beginning and end of the ride are dotted with islands, but for at least an hour the view is nothing but lake. I am told it can get pretty interesting during a storm, but today the ferry was gliding across still water, which made me very happy. And the views, even when it was just water, were so pretty.

The first of four lighthouses I saw on my ferry ride today.
The first of four lighthouses I saw on my ferry ride today.
Looking back at the Tobermory ferry landing.
Looking back at the Tobermory ferry landing.
Islands on the Bruce Peninsula side.
Islands on the Bruce Peninsula side.
The second lighthouse of the day,
The second lighthouse of the day,
At times, because of the humidity, it was hard to tell where the lake stopped and the sky began.
At times, because of the humidity, it was hard to tell where the lake stopped and the sky began.
The last two lighthouses of the day, on Manitoulin Island.
The last two lighthouses of the day, on Manitoulin Island.
The South Baymouth ferry landing on Manitoulin Island.
The South Baymouth ferry landing on Manitoulin Island.

We arrived on Manitoulin Island right on time, unloaded much more quickly than we loaded, and off I went up Highway 6 towards the tiny hamlet of Manitowaning, where I found a motel room for the night. Showers and wifi and TV [g]. The desk clerk/owner directed me to the only place serving cooked food in town, a place called Loco Beans, which mostly serves coffee, but which served me a chicken veggie wrap and a butter tart, so I’ve now eaten one (they’re pretty tasty, and not as much like a pecan-less pecan pie than I thought they’d be) and can officially cross the border into Manitoba when I get there without getting in trouble [g].

The road cuts were unusual and pretty along the highway.
The road cuts were unusual and pretty along the highway.
What most of the drive to Manitowaning looked like.
What most of the drive to Manitowaning looked like.

I haven’t decided how much dawdling I want to do here, vs. heading on west. We’ll have to see how I feel about it in the morning.

September 6: Full fathom five thy father lies

Otherwise known as a national park named after a Shakespeare quote (it’s from The Tempest), which has got to be one of the coolest things ever. Unlike the weather. The whole time I was at the Forbers’, the weather was relatively cool and dry and lovely. Today we’re back to heat and humidity, but not nearly as bad as some of what I’ve been through on this trip, at least.

This morning I drove down to the Bruce Peninsula/ Full Fathom Five National Parks visitor center, which had one of the best national park visitor center museums I’ve seen in a while. Too bad I wasn’t here in June to see the forty different kinds of orchids that grow here, but I did get to learn more about the Niagara Escarpment, which is a huge land formation that runs from Wisconsin way up into Ontario and then back down to New York State. Niagara Falls is a result of that escarpment. Also, the Bruce Trail, the oldest long-distance trail in Canada, follows the top of it from that visitor center to within a few miles of Niagara Falls, almost 600 miles long.

See, Christine?  The Bruce Trail *does* end rather than terminate at Niagara [g].
See, Christine? The Bruce Trail *does* end rather than terminate at Niagara [g].
The skull on the right is a normal-sized beaver.  The one on the left is of the extinct giant beaver.    Makes you wonder how big a tree *he* could have felled.
The skull on the right is a normal-sized beaver. The one on the left is of the extinct giant beaver. Makes you wonder how big a tree *he* could have felled.
I just liked this.  A lot.
I just liked this. A lot.

I also learned that the fisher is the only real predator of porcupines, and that the way they catch them is to bite them in the face and flip them over so that they can eat from the spineless stomach and avoid a mouthful of quills.

The ferry landing at Tobermory where I'll be leaving tomorrow.
The ferry landing at Tobermory where I’ll be leaving tomorrow.

After that I went into the tiny town of Tobermory on the very tip of the peninsula to find lunch – which was basically a choice between fish and chips or fish and chips, but that was okay. Then I went back to the visitor center and walked a trail to the water’s edge, which was lovely. Heavily wooded all the way to the end, and a nice little deck above the water with the obligatory Adirondack/Muskoka chairs (Ross, I was told in the Maritimes that calling them Muskoka chairs is an Ontario-centric thing).

The trail from the visitor center to the water.
The trail from the visitor center to the water.
The view from the end of the trail.
The view from the end of the trail.
I finally let someone take my picture in one of the ubiquitous Adirondack/Muskoka chairs that are in every Canadian national park.
I finally let someone take my picture in one of the ubiquitous Adirondack/Muskoka chairs that are in every Canadian national park.
I've never seen cedar berries like those before.
I’ve never seen cedar berries like those before.

I also went to a place called the Singing Sands, which was a lovely little beach, but the sand didn’t sing today, at least not so that I could hear it.

This was at Singing Sands.  Not where I was expecting to run into Mr. Muir, but I don't know why I was surprised.  That man got around.
This was at Singing Sands. Not where I was expecting to run into Mr. Muir, but I don’t know why I was surprised. That man got around.
The pretty little beach at Singing Sands.
The pretty little beach at Singing Sands.

Then I came back to the campground and kicked back for the evening, and here I am.

Tomorrow is a two-hour ferry ride! And the biggest freshwater island in the world, apparently, with at least one lake on the island that has islands of its own.

September 5: Following the Niagara Escarpment

This morning I left Christine’s, after a wonderful four days of visiting and sightseeing, (and a chance to catch up with practical stuff before heading on, which was also much appreciated). Thank you for a great time, all four Forbers. I hope that you, like the other folks who have been so hospitable towards me on this trip, get a chance to come out to Washington so I can show you around!

There are two ways to get to the top of the Great Lakes in order to continue west. Well, the third one is to duck down into the U.S., which would have been going through territory I covered pretty well on my last Long Trip, so that wasn’t going to happen. First, you can drive due north and go around the east side of Georgian Bay on Lake Huron, or second, you can drive northwest to and up the Bruce Peninsula to the very tip, then take a ferry ride across the mouth of Georgian Bay (a bay that’s probably half the size of Lake Huron proper) to Manitoulin Island, from which there’s a bridge to the north shore of the lake. Having decided to do the latter several days ago, I’d gone online to make reservations for the ferry. They’re for Wednesday afternoon (today’s Monday) to give me plenty of time to explore on the way.

Across the rolling countryside of southern Ontario.
Across the rolling countryside of southern Ontario.
A hint of fall color.  Eep.
A hint of fall color. Eep.

So I drove northwest across southern Ontario, and wound up in the town of Owen Sound, on the southern shore of Huron, at lunchtime. I like Owen Sound. Yes, there’s a body of water called Owen Sound, too, but it’s not very big. The town itself is small, used to be much bigger, and, according to the local historical museum (which was great fun), was once a hotbed of vice and iniquity [g]. Bootlegging and counterfeiting and prostitution, among other things. The museum also has a couple of nifty outdoor exhibits, and is right along a very pretty waterfront walking trail.

Calling William Murdoch (actually, the panel talks about a cop who reminded me very much of Detective Murdoch [g]).
Calling William Murdoch (actually, the panel talks about a cop who reminded me very much of Detective Murdoch [g]).
The museum had a train car and a caboose that they were restoring.  The caboose used to be part of the local McDonalds playplace, which was funny.
The museum had a train car and a caboose that they were restoring. The caboose used to be part of the local McDonalds playplace, which was funny.
Looking down Owen Sound's harbor towards Lake Huron, from the walking trail.
Looking down Owen Sound’s harbor towards Lake Huron, from the walking trail.

I decided, after I left Owen Sound, to drive north along the lakeshore rather than take the direct highway to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. This turned out to be a good idea, as there were quite a few water views, and the inland part was pretty, too. The drive met back up with the highway about halfway up the peninsula, and I drove on to the Bruce Peninsula and Full Fathom Five National Parks (they appear to be joint the way Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks in California are). The Bruce Peninsula sort of reminds me of Cape Cod, only without all the crowds, which was really nice, and the national park has a terrific (and reasonably priced, for once) campground. I’m settled in for the evening, knowing that I have all day tomorrow to explore the parks before I catch the ferry on Wednesday.

I think that's part of the Niagara Escarpment, but I wouldn't swear to it.  From the lakeshore drive.
I think that’s part of the Niagara Escarpment, but I wouldn’t swear to it. From the lakeshore drive.
Bruce Peninsula National Park, where I'm camped.
Bruce Peninsula National Park, where I’m camped.

September 4: Of all the days to forget my camera…

It was in the van, and Christine drove us. Anyway, this morning, Christine and I went to the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, which had been on her “I want to get there” list and which, especially after the Turquoise Mountain exhibit in DC, sounded right up my alley. It’s a museum of Arabic art, with a heavy dose of history to help interpret it, and it was one of those things that I’d never have seen on my own because I’d not have known it existed (it only opened a couple of years ago, and it’s not in any of my guidebooks – I checked). The art was gobsmacking. Even the lobby art – which was this huge gold-on-red rug-looking thing that was hanging from the ceiling. It looked very finely stitched, and Christine and I were both admiring it, when the fellow who took our tickets said, go around and look at the backside. It wasn’t stitched. Each one of those thousands of “stitches” was a tiny brass straight pin, and the backside looked like it was furry, there were so many pins so close together. It was incredible. And gorgeous.

Then we went inside to the exhibits, which were full of antique pottery and metalwork and painting and stitchery and all sorts of gorgeous things, including pictures of animals that were like those paintings of clouds or mountains or trees, which, when you look at them closely, have faces in them. These animals were filled with other animals. Huge rugs, and candlesticks that must have had six-inch diameter candles in them, and at the very beginning of the exhibit, a film projection on the wall sort of like the credits at the beginning of the movie Mulan, where the art is being drawn in front of your eyes. Which made it so much more interesting to look at the art itself.

And then there was the history that went right along with it, Iranian and Egyptian and Moorish and all the others, giving the art context. That’s my kind of art museum. The kind that actually tells the stories, and doesn’t just hang the pieces up to admire.

Wow, do I wish I’d had my camera. Go poke around their website, though. Amazing, amazing stuff.  https://www.agakhanmuseum.org/

The rest of the day was part resting and part practicalities — grocery shopping, among other things, since Monday is a federal holiday in Canada (Labour Day, just like the U.S., except that they actually close all their stores down). And chatting, and enjoying the company of all four Forbers, which I did, very much.