– International Falls, Minnesota to Houghton, Michigan –

We had to do some backtracking today, which you might recognize as being terribly boring. The day began with a 5am wakeup call and a run along the main road from International Falls down to the small town of Ranier, where we stopped in front of the giant statue of the voyageur. It was about 5 miles down and back, give or take.

I don’t think I mentioned this yesterday, but most of International Falls is given over to the various forms of logging. The largest of the companies appears to be a paper mill. It makes a lot of noise, and the equipment in really interesting-looking. We ran underneath some pipes this morning that seemed to be transferring wood pulp somewhere. We couldn’t tell which direction when we were standing below.

Starbucks unsweet green tea and iced coffee
Starbucks unsweet green tea and iced coffee

Our little town didn’t have a satisfactory source of unsweet tea, so after our hotel breakfast, we drove back to Virginia to once again stop at the Starbucks in the local Target. Vicki and I got unsweet teas, and Mark had an iced coffee. We also had to buy random stuff at Target, because who ever makes it out of there without something they didn’t need?

The backtracking ended just past Canyon, where we continued down 53 into Duluth, which we missed yesterday. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that Duluth isn’t anything special. It’s just another small city on a lake. Arguably, the only remarkable thing about it is just how cold the place gets (and stays!) in the winter. International Falls is considered marginally colder, although Houghton (where we are tonight) is a close third. It’s not actually cold here now, mind you, it just gets that way later in the year.

Ripley and the pillow again, but today she looked stoned
Ripley and the pillow again, but today she looked stoned

Our first stop in Duluth was the Whole Food Co-op, which is not a part of the Whole Foods Market that you see around the country. It is its own little thing. It has a lot of the same items, but it is much smaller. I guess there was a bit of an argument when the real Whole Foods tried to move into Duluth. We were told a little story about it. At any rate, we didn’t really find anything we wanted to eat there, so we drove about 15 more minutes through to the other side of the city.

Lunch ended up being at Big Apple Bagels, which does not have bagels that in any way resemble a New York bagel. I’d guess that many of the people around here haven’t ever had one, so they don’t know the difference. We all did. Regardless, they weren’t bad, the name was just a bit misleading. Our sandwiches turned out alright, too. They came with dill pickles, which can make up for many shortcomings.

Mark's bagel sandwich
Mark’s bagel sandwich

Mark and I took a picture across from a gas station in Ashton to complete the state. We technically got Michigan today, too, which was the last of our 49 states, but we won’t have a really good picture of us in it until tomorrow in Isle Royale, and Ripley won’t get hers until Thursday.

Mark and Kristy's Wisconsin photo
Mark and Kristy’s Wisconsin photo

The time changed when we drove out of Wisconsin and past the first bit of Michigan. That meant we lost an hour, and we were already cutting it pretty close to get Ripley to her kennel on time. We stopped one more time in Topaz, I think it was, which was pretty small. The gas station only had one bathroom. That’s the sort of place where you feel really bad if you use their facilities and don’t buy something, so of course we made a purchase. We still had roughly an hour and a half to go, and it was now around 4pm, so we were really pushing our time. Ripley had to be at the kennel by 6.

Ashland City Hall
Ashland City Hall

We did make it in time, and I was heart-broken to leave my poor baby locked in a cage while I walked away. She looked really sad while Mark and I were leaving. I feel incredibly guilty about it. We’ve only left her overnight with my parents or at the vet one time, when she was spayed. She’s had 3 day visits to kennels, but we’ve never left her overnight. I’m trying hard not to think about the betrayal on her little face.

Once we’d dropped her off, we drove up to our hotel: Julie’s Motor Inn. It’s small and cute, and it seems like it will work well for the two days we’ll be here. The woman working at the desk asked about our puppy, since we were registered with a pet, and she was disappointed to hear that she was at a kennel for the night. Maybe we will take Ripley by to meet her tomorrow.

The famous, flavorless, collapsing quinoa burger
The famous, flavorless, collapsing quinoa burger

With all of our stuff unpacked, we headed up to Houghton to look around and get some dinner. We ended up eating at a brew pub, which is amusing since none of us wanted beer. It was called The Library, and John joked with the waitress about getting a discount since he and Vicki are retired librarians and Mark is a current one. She didn’t seem impressed.

I wasn’t either. It took more than half an hour for our food to come after we ordered, and when it arrived, by food was something in the neighborhood of terrible. It was a quinoa burger, which sounds fine, but it wasn’t. They basically cooked quinoa and then put a scoop of it on a hamburger bun with some pasta sauce and an unmelted slice of gouda. The quinoa didn’t stay on the burger longer that it took me to pick it up once. Beyond that, it had absolutely no taste whatsoever. I joked with Mark that we’re never going back to that place. Somehow, I bet that turns out to be true.

Houghton County Courthouse
Houghton County Courthouse

When “dinner” was over, we checked out a couple of bookstores in the center of town, looking for an extra Tony Hillerman book. I brought 3, but we’ve already finished the second one, and it’s only day 4. We have one more, obviously, but that won’t last the entire rest of the trip. We didn’t find the next one in the series, but we have a couple of more days, so I’m sure we’ll come across a few more used bookstores.

Mark took us to Walgreens as well. He’s coming down with a cold, and his throat is hurting, so we stopped in for some medication. I told him not to kiss on me anymore. I don’t want to catch it.

Julie's Motor Inn
Julie’s Motor Inn

Tomorrow morning we’re going to drive an hour up to Copper Harbor to catch our boat at 7:30, so we’ll be getting up at 5 and leaving by 6 or so. I’m going to be wearing a sea-sickness patch, which I’m hoping will keep me from falling asleep or feeling terrible on the boat. John gets sea sick too, but he doesn’t have a patch. I’ll be bringing my dramamine along for him just in case.

I’m more excited about getting my dog back than getting on the boat. John and I kept telling everyone we’d be more than happy to stay on the shore with Ripley tomorrow, but Mark wasn’t having it.

– Trip Total : 1,807 miles

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