We drove into Duluth, MN on Saturday. Every time I think about Duluth, I’m reminded of a joke we heard when we lived in Minnesota some 35 years ago. It’s a Scandinavian joke ( like Polish, Italian, Irish, etc. jokes in other parts of the country) and many of them involve Sven, Ole, or Lena. Take you pick for this one when they ask the bus driver the question in the title. The punch line is “No, it goes beep-beep.” Lol. No? It loses something when you write it down. It needs to be done with a Norwegian accent and it gets a little funnier, doncha ya know!. Everything has a place on the internet and so do Minnesota jokes at Minnesota Jokes by Ole (www.minnesotabound.com). I can’t believe I remember a joke from 35 years ago, but can’t remember one from last week.
We spent the afternoon in the Canal Park area of Duluth. Lots of restaurants, entertainment venues, museums, and strolling on the lake front and along the harbor to watch pleasure boats and commercial boat traffic enter and leave the harbor. The Aerial Lift Bridge, built in 1905, is kind of the centerpiece of the area and Lake Ave, runs across the bridge. It was originally what is called a transporter bridge that moved people and wagons across the canal in a gondola. The gondola could carry 350 people plus wagons, streetcars or automobiles. In 1929 it was converted into its current configuration as a lift bridge because the traffic outstripped the capacity of the old gondola design. Now when a boat that is taller than the deck wants to enter or leave the harbor, the deck needs to be raised 135 ft into the air. This happens some 5,000 times a year. As ships pass, there is a customary horn-blowing sequence that is copied back by the bridge's "horn" which is a locomotive horn. Long-short-long-short means to raise the bridge, and Long-short-short is a friendly salute between the bridge and the passing ship. It makes for a lot of noise on a busy day like Saturday.
The Great Lakes Aquarium is small compared to some we’ve visited over the years, but it is well done and provides a diversity of exhibitions. The best are those that represent the fish populations of northern US and Canada. There is a large tank in the center that has just about every large lake fish in the upper Great Lakes -salmon, lake trout, sturgeon, and others cold water species. Smaller tanks hold cool water fish from the inland freshwater lakes such as muskelunge, northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, burbot (freshwater cod), sculpins, and others. It’s a great place for kids with a lot of touch and feel aquaria and other participatory exhibits like a giant model of the Great Lakes navigation system complete with workable locks and small boats the kids can sail through the system.
Next to the Aquarium is the Amsoil Arena and Convention Center, home of the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs Men’s Ice Hockey Team. The Bulldogs were the NCAA Division I National Ice Hockey champions in 2018. No hockey today, but some event was taking place as people all dressed up were going into the convention center part.
After the Aquarium, we decided to have dinner in the Canal Park area. We picked an Italian restaurant, Bellisio’s. It turned out to be expensive and just average quality except for the Creme Brûlée which was among the best I’ve ever had. We ate outside and by the time dinner was done, I was freezing as the lake front is probably 10 degrees cooler than inland. Of course I didn’t bring a jacket. Even though the sun was out most of the afternoon, it was obscured by a yellow haze of fine particulates that apparently have originated in the forest fires in British Columbia, Alberta, and western Ontario. It seems like the fires in western US and Canada are causing air quality problems in many areas of the midwest and northeast. A friend of mine who lives in east central Washington has sent me some pictures of the area where there is thick ground level smoke from local fires near his house. Hopefully they’ll get some significant rain soon to clear the air and retard the fires.
We’ll be heading along the north shore of Lake Superior on Monday traveling as far Grand Marais near the Canadian border. We supposed to meet up with a couple of fellow Escapees who are working this summer at the Grand Portage National Monument. Grand Marais will be the turn around point for our 2018 Great Lakes Tour and we will be heading toward home with the goal of being back by 9/11. Stay tuned.