– Houghton, Michigan to Blind River, Ontario –
Well, I’ve got my baby back. We got up at 6am, with plans to get her by 7:30, as soon as the kennel opened. We were supposed to have time to run today, but since we were down a member of our crew, we had to scrap that plan in favor of rescuing Ripley as soon as possible.
She was incredibly happy to see us. It was almost uncomfortable how upset she was. When the woman working at the kennel let little Ripley out of her pen, she ran down the hallway to Mark and I and body-slammed me, crying the whole while. She seemed almost traumatized by the fact that we’d left her over night. That wasn’t the end of her panic, however. For the first half hour or so of our drive, she made this high-pitched sound that’s a combination of panting and whining that we like to call her “monkey noises.” I should’ve made a video.
Ripley normally has a minor amount of separation anxiety, but I think we’ve managed to flip some sort of switch that kicked it into overdrive. She was not a happy camper for most of the day, although she did manage to calm down a bit later. She’s been very clingy all day though.
Our first stop today was at a tiny truck stop on the road, where we bought ice for the cooler and pulled the puppy out of the car for an attempt at a bathroom break. She was still a little upset, though, so we made a bigger stop an hour or so later at Marquette Tourist Park. We thought it had a fenced dog park, but that turned out to be somewhat misleading, as far as I can tell. We never found one.
We are all adults, I swear, but I think the photographs that follow might make you believe that we’re not. The park had a playground, and campsites, and it was right on the Dead River. We got Ripley out to do her business and get some exercise. We immediately noticed another Brittany in the park, which we never see at home. It seems like almost no one in Texas has Brittanys. He disappeared with his master into the woods, though, so Ripley and I wandered around while the rest of the Phillips clan explored the playground.
When Ripley had finished, I wandered back over to join the rest of the family, and I found them on the swings, and the slides, and on a toy excavator. Mark seemed quite successful at digging a hole, although it seemed to take him quite a bit of hand-eye coordination. I’m not sure if he was bad at it, or if it’s just hard for kids to do. He was a little big for it, and for the slide, but he was having fun. Vicki tried out the swings, too.
With everyone else on the playground equipment, Ripley and I went over to check out the beach and it’s little lifeguard shed. She really seemed to enjoy it. It must’ve smelled particularly interesting, because she found the whole thing fascinating. All I got out of the deal was sandy shoes. Vented sneakers are nice when your feet are hot while you run, but they are terrible at keeping the dirt out.
The other Brittany owner spotted us while we were on the beach, and he stopped to chat with Mark. I brought Ripley over shortly after, and she met the man’s older male Brittany. You can’t really tell from this picture, but he had a great deal more hair than Ripley does. She’s a little late for her regular shave, which we do about every 6 weeks, so she seems hairy to us, but she’s nowhere near as fluffy as she would be if we stopped shaving her altogether.
Our Brittany friend left, so we went back to find John and Vicki on the playground. Mark climbed onto a sort of see-saw on a spring, and John joined him. It had four seats and a worn spot in the middle which was obviously frequently inhabited by a fifth person (read: child). They rocked it back and forth for a few minutes before they decided what a fantastic idea it would be for Vicki and I to join them.
Pretty soon, all four of us were on this thing, and Mark and John were rocking it back and fourth while Vicki and I tried to hang on. I was terrified it was going to break. We aren’t exactly child-sized. The pictures of all of us on it aren’t as good, since you can only see one of us at a time, but trust me when I say it was hilarious. Ripley thought we were crazy, and I can only imagine what the other adults at the park must’ve thought. Crazy people, right?
For our final act at the park, Mark tried to crawl through a tunnel. May I remind you that the tunnel was designed for children? And may I also remind you that Mark is 6’4, weighs more than 200 pounds, and has big shoulders? What I’m getting at it, it was a terrible mistake. But oh, it was a funny one. He was determined to crawl in, and he had to angle his shoulders just to get past the entrance, which should’ve been a clue that it was a bad idea.
Mark didn’t heed the warning. He crawled halfway in before he realized how tightly he fit. And he couldn’t make it out the side. I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe, and Mark was turning red with the effort to extricate himself from the predicament he was in. He did eventually make it out, and I documented the entire embarrassing ordeal for him. I’m sure he appreciated it. To be fair, he did find it pretty funny himself. At least half of the redness was from laughing so hard. Remember what I said. We’re adults, I swear.
In any event, we ended up getting some exercise for the morning, and Ripley was feeling quite a bit better about life in general, so mission accomplished. We stopped one more time in Marquette, where we picked a beach and drove over to grab Mark some sand from Lake Superior for his collection. To his (slight) disappointment, the beach turned out to be made of pebbles, but he dutifully scooped some up, anyway. He’s starting referring to his collection as “scientific,” which is pretty funny. He told me to be careful not to contaminate his samples. I made the crazy eyes at him in reply.
Lunch was at a bagel shop in Munising, and nobody got a bagel. The shop was called Bay Furnace Bagels, and it had at least 5 vegetarian sandwiches, which is unheard of, I have to say. I ended up with what amounted to a caprese sandwich, and Mark had something with mushrooms. To be fair, he did order it on a bagel, but they made a mistake and he ended up with a sub sandwich like the rest of us. He was sad, but not sad enough to send it back.
The weather was nice, only a little warm, so we ate outside with Ripley tied to a fence post. She spent an enjoyable half hour trying to eat the flies that were bothering us while we ate. She’s helpful like that, I guess. Also, and this is a more disturbing something, but the women’s restroom was occupied by the same woman for our entire visit. I tried the door 3 different times during the half hour, assuming that she’d finally left, but no. She never did. She always said something snotty when I checked the door. I guess she had a reason to be cranky, since she’d been in the bathroom for 30 minutes.
I did get to use the restroom in the gas station next door, when we went over to refuel, in case you were worried. Before we left Munising, we stopped by Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and got a stamp for our national park passport. The whole area is surrounded by parks: state parks, national parks, national forest. The whole map is a sea of green when you look at it. It is a lovely area, I have to say.
About two hours later, we made it to Sault Ste. Marie, which is a Canadian border town. The city is famous for the Soo Locks, which is where boats transition from Lake Superior to Lake Huron, which have a 21-foot difference in water level. I’ve seen locks before, but never such large ones. The city has a large park on the American side, where you can watch ships traverse the locks. Only one lock is in Canada.
Ripley wasn’t allowed inside, so we took turns waiting outside the park with her. During our visit, a 1,000 ft. freighter called the ‘Walter J. McCarthy, Jr.’ made it’s way slowly across one of the locks. It was really neat. Mark took several videos of the ship moving, and the water levels going up and down. We watched a little sailboat move through, as well. It went quite a lot faster than the freighter, as you might expect. If you’re interested in how the locks work, there’s a neat little graphic here. Note that it works by gravity, not pumps.
I was surprised by the sheer number of people watching the locks. The town itself is very touristy, and it’s full of gift shops and restaurants for visitors. It was a bit warmer there, so we didn’t stay or visit any of the stores, since we couldn’t leave Ripley. And speaking of leaving Ripley, I got an earful when I left her outside the Soo Locks park with Vicki. When I came back, she howled and fussed at me for leaving her, and jumped on me yet again. I guess she’s still not over the kennel thing.
Canada let Mark and I in again, in case you were worried. We crossed the border there in Sault Ste. Marie, and bought ourselves some ketchup chips immediately after they let us through. We got some Cadbury eggs, too. Did you know that they package theirs in little cups, instead of just wrapping them in foil? It feels much more civilized, somehow.
Our final destination for the night was Blind River, Ontario. Our hotel was cute and right on the water. Our room even had a view. We weren’t too interested in it at first, since we were starving, so we put Ripley in her crate and drove into the little town, looking for some chow.
It was surprisingly difficult to find something that would work. We ended up getting veggie wraps and french fries at a little restaurant attached to a motel. John ordered fish and chips, and seemed surprised when they offered to serve it with gravy. It seems like to me that half of Canadian food is covered in brown gravy. Popular stuff.
Back at our hotel, we met another male Brittany. Who knew they were so popular up here? Ripley tried valiantly to get this one to play with her, but he wasn’t interested. He was a little more than twice her age, so I’m not particularly surprised. In my opinion, Ripley is quite a bit prettier than the two friends she made today. It’s interesting how different they look, even ignoring the difference in coat length. I may be biased, though. What parent doesn’t think their kid is the prettiest and smartest one around?
Our hotel had a little park at the end, and we enjoyed it immensely. Ripley, in particular, had a good time. She met a few other dogs, and checked out a little dock, and frolicked in the soft grass. From what I understand, our hotel was the only one in the area that allowed dogs, and we saw perhaps a dozen of them staying with us. One gentleman had 3 whippets, which looked like quite a handful. Whippets are such interesting looking creatures.
Mark went back out at sunset to take some photos of our scenery. It wasn’t bad, I have to say. I guess I didn’t mention it earlier, but the hotel is called the Old Mill Motel, and it is quite nice. John and Vicki went for a walk around the town while Mark took pictures, and I gave little Ripley a bath. The kennel definitely left her smelling a bit too much like dog.
Tomorrow we are taking another boat across Luke Huron from Manitoulin Island, which is the largest freshwater lake island in the world. The boat’s a ferry, and it should be pretty big, so I’m hoping I won’t have any issues with seasickness. The ferry only crosses 4 times each way per day, and we’ve already booked our crossing for 1:30, so we are on a tight schedule. We should still have time to run in the morning, though.
– Trip Total : 2,296 miles –