Oh, Canada

A last stop near the end of HW-2 in the U. P., Mackinaw Bridge. Mackinaw Bridge

Then north to Canada.

Sault Sainte Marie was worth a few pictures, but I was intent on avoiding a thunderstorm and kept driving. Once past the Canadian Sault Sainte Marie (yes, there actually is a Michigan version), if you’re headed to Ottawa there is pretty much only one road, which winds through small communities in Northern Ontario. You’ll pass Bruce Mines, which boasts tours of Canada’s first copper mine, and Thessalon, which offers decent waterfront camping and good food at Carolyn’s Beach Inn.

Also notable on the drive was the graffiti on a railway bridge, “This is Indian land.”

This was followed surprisingly quickly by a celebration of the twenty-fifth birthday of the Loonie. The coin was apparently designed by a local artist, Robert-Ralph Carmichael, and so the locals decided to install the world’s largest such coin. The sign proudly claims “and most visitors agree that Algoma Country’s big loonie has 20 times the value of Sudbury’s big nickel”. So in light of that, Sudbury, I guess your nickel really isn’t worth stopping for.Loonie


You’ll also pass by many trading posts,Trading Post

so a mission to find moccasins was launched and fairly easily accomplished. Harder to find was fresh fudge, since apparently many of the signs outside trading posts advertising “FRESH FUDGE!” are no longer valid.No Fudge Here

But there are still phone booths.Hello, Bell.

If you’re paying attention, you can cavort with a unicorn and a mermaid,Unicorn and Mermaid

or perhaps hug a bear.Bear


But if you’re passing through Sturgeon Falls, stop and eat at the diner car, right on the main drag.Diner car

They have homemade toast and friendly service.Fellow cryptographer

My fellow cryptographer enjoyed his French toast and bacon.Delicious french toast

Plus, it’s really a diner car,Diner car

so who can complain about that?Sexism in diner car


Coffee shops are a bit hard to find on ON-17, but Cobden has a surprisingly decent one for a town of fewer than 1,000 people. It’s busy and I think frequented mostly by locals, based on the curious stares received.The (Little) Coffee Shop


South of Ottawa, Kemptville is a nice town with at least one decent restaurant and a bakery.Kemptville

Iron country

You pass through iron country if you follow HW-2 into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Many of the towns boast iron in the name, the rest stops are advertised with a metal sign in the shape of a miner, and you can take tours of an old iron mine along the way.

Main Street Cafe in Iron River is a nice place to stop.Main Street Cafe

There are still plenty of Lutheran churches in this part of the country.Lutheran Church

The furniture store has ghosts and plenty of American spirit.Ghosts and American Spirit

And the jewelry store owner has a sense of humor.Diamonds and spurs

Across from the mostly unimpressive WPA-era post office is the old village hall. It sits for sale.Village Hall


After the mining towns, you make it to the shores of Lake Michigan and the iron ore port of Escanaba.Escanaba

Replete with lighthouse.Escanaba Lighthouse

And a single rudder from a wooden bulk freighter that was destroyed by fire in 1897; two crew members burned to death. The rudder sat in the bottom of the harbor until 1985, when it was raised by local divers.Rudder

Escanaba has a decent downtown stretch,downtown Escanaba

but it’s mostly still a working port town. The tourists generally swarm along the northern shore of the U.P.Escanaba harbor view

There is a hotel, but if you get there on a weekend you had better already have a reservation.House of Ludington


Gladstone, farther east along the coast, seems mostly able to support bars.bar in Gladstone

And a hardware store.Swanson Hardware

And its denizens choose religious vandalism.Religious vandalism

Maybe they ran out of money for letters.Tired Letter Hanger

Ashland, WI

Sometimes unplanned stops in downpours lead to nice experiences the next morning, like the best coffee since Portland.Black Cat

The menu was impressive.Black Cat menu

Usually my experience in a coffee shop goes something like this:

–“I’ll have a small cappuccino, please.”

–“The twelve ounce or the sixteen ounce?”

The downtown is worth a stroll.
Port town mural


The alley

Make sure to go toward the lake.Bank

The harbor

And stop by the historical marker on the way out of town.William D Leahy

Entering Wisconsin

Historical detour along the way to Bayfield, heading along the south shore of Lake Superior.Davidson Mill

I guess you can drive on the lawn if you have a disability?Picnic or Parking

Note the decrepit land bridge to the right of the immaculate homestead .Homestead and Bridge

It is Wisconsin’s last Queen-Post bridge, moved to its present location by members of the Old Brule Heritage Society, who, I think, have hopes to restore and preserve it.
Wisconsin's Last Queen-Post Bridge

Because old farm equipment is always a good lawn decoration.Old farm equipment

Off to Duluth

Minnesota is the land of Paul Bunyan. Although I did see at least one place in the U.P. attempt to claim him, Minnesota wins by sheer number.
Paul Bunyan

Perhaps the best stop on the way to Duluth was at a lovely park. Lovely park

In case you don’t like the Star Wars angle of the historical marker (not my doing, I assure you), the caption reads:

When a federal marshall with
about 100 troops of the 3rd
infantry tried to arrest the
Chippewa chief Bugonaygeshig
at Sugar Point opposite here
on the northeast shore of the
lake a sharp fight occured
October 5, 1898. The Whites lost
7 killed and 16 wounded and the
arrest was never accomplished.

In Duluth, I saw tall ships.Old and new

Including a small one before the larger ships and tourists arrived.Mists of Avalon

There was also the world’s largest rubber duck, but she seemed to be something of a fraud.

If you’re looking for food in Duluth, stop at Northern Waters Smokehaus. Outside you can see yet more egregious displays of plentiful potable water.Fountain or Water leak?

If you want coffee and baked goods, stop by the Duluth Coffee Company, though the latter seems to arrive quietly at variable times in the morning and in rather small quantities. There is also the Lake Superior Bakehouse, but my experience there was somewhat mixed.

Oh, and make sure to walk down to the public beaches and swim. There are no pictures; I was too busy enjoying the water and the company of a new friend.

Little Yellowstone

Before leaving North Dakota, I followed a scenic drive down to the Fort Ransom and “Little Yellowstone” area. This started with another grain elevator in Kathryn.Kathryn

And provided stops at old Lutheran churches. In North Dakota you can’t really avoid Lutheran churches.Cemetery

Or golden fields of hay.Sample Golden Field of Hay

Or Vikings, for that matter.Hill Viking

They seem to crop up everywhere.Bar Viking

Jamestown, ND

Having veered from HW-2 due to its four-lane nature, I ventured down to Jamestown, birthplace of Louis L’amour. On the way, I passed this old pullman car. Pullman cars were made famous by Lincoln’s funeral train; this particular car was transported with great effort, I’m told, something involving getting stuck in one of the ubiquitous North Dakotan bogs and having to use stakes to painstakingly walk it to drier land, but the details escape me. An old man lived in it for many years, but clearly it has since been allowed to fall into ruin. Something of a pity, since the interior was done in hardwood.Old Pullman car

Harvey has a nice little park you can pull into and rest for a bit (or stay overnight). You can also enjoy some trains and grain elevators; grain elevators dot the North Dakotan landscape at regular intervals.Harvey, ND

The drive down to Jamestown was quite peaceful.Carrington, ND

In Jamestown, the buffalo at the National Buffalo Museum either graze near I-94, or gaze at you sadly from their position on mounts or the floor. Buffalo Museum

Albino buffalo are apparently a big deal, and there used to be one here until she was allowed to retire to her home ranch and die of natural causes. It’s unclear how this particular albino buffalo died, however, since non-albino buffalo can typically live at least a couple of decades in captivity, and her informational plate reads:

THIS WHITE BUFFALO (Albino) was born in 2011 on the SHIREK BUFFALO RANCH. Her Father was DAKOTA THUNDER, son of WHITE CLOUD. Mount done by: James R. Benson, East Grand Forks, MN

Albino Buffalo

The museum curator must have decided that if you were to sit in the golden buffalo horn chair, perhaps you wouldn’t wish to constantly stare at the face of your carpet.Someone's idea of a living room

If you enter the last room of the museum, you’ll find that they mostly ran out of buffalo paraphernalia, so you’ll observe guns (presumably used to kill buffalo), a bear, and the heads of an elk and a deer.

I’d heard you could get buffalo cookie cutters at the museum, but they sold out and evidently decided that selling out was not a sign they should stock more. The attendant suggested I try online, since that would be cheaper anyway. Correct, of course, but somewhat disappointing when what you really want is a Buffalo-cookie-cutter road-trip souvenir, not a Buffalo cookie cutter. Oh well.

Wandering outside the museum is moderately entertaining. I guess they don’t work too hard to clean up graffiti.Graffiti

And least not Buffalo ball graffiti.Colossal Buffalo

Also by the museum is Frontier Village, which has free admission. North Dakotans do not seem to like to destroy their old buildings, which is to be admired, but they do seem to like move old buildings and situate them in sardine-like rows separated by blacktop. My favorite was the sheriff’s office two feet away from the saloon.Policing the Bar

I guess they wanted to pay tribute to the fact that Louis L’amour was born in Jamestown, but it was unclear to me how dedicating a “shack” to him in their rather monstrous conglomeration of old buildings was a compliment.L'amour Shack

Fargo’s version is a more honest tourist trap, naming its sandwiching of transported buildings “Bonanzaville” and then charging admission. Bonanzaville


North Dakota and a Town called Towner

HW-2 becomes disappointing quite quickly in North Dakota, as it has been widened to four lanes and bypasses almost all of the nearby communities — some historically, some not.

If you’re camping in North Dakota, be sure to pick a site well back from any dirt roads, regardless of the posted speed limit. North Dakotans don’t pay attention to pesky speed limits and are quite happy to have you eat their dust. That said, North Dakota is the kind of place you can find free camping in many of the small towns; even the ones with signs that post fees seem to be more suggestions than anything else. You may have to wander through the small town to find the camping, though, so if you’re towing a trailer, try your best to not wander out of town as you may find yourself on a dirt road with no room to turn around for miles. And miles.

Towner, population optimistically placed at 600, is a good place to stop, even offering free 30A electrical hookups in a lovely “city” park. I passed two very pleasant days there, and left with a lot of bounty, as people kept very kindly giving me food. It was appreciated, as grocery stores are somewhat sparse in that area.North Dakotan Bounty

It’s also the sort of place people will regularly leave their cars running on the street while they take care of errands. I’m told North Dakota is quite safe apart from the oil towns. The Bakken Formation was ignored until relatively recently, when technological advances meant that large quantities of oils could be recovered, and this has resulted in a huge population and crime boom. Human trafficking is apparently quite a problem in North Dakota today.

In Towner, I volunteered for a bit at an old church that used to house the town’s museum. Objects in the museum sat untouched for thirty years before some enterprising locals decided it was time everything was packed away properly.The Old Museum Church

The downtown was accurately described as “just down the street, but pay attention or you’ll bike right through it”, but offers a tiny park with a gazebo and murals in an empty lot,Tiny park

as well as an excellent court house building. Towner Court House

Towner, it turns out, is the county seat as well as the “cattle capital of North Dakota”.Cattle Capital of North Dakota

Which was not enough to save City Hall from becoming well, whatever it was after it was City Hall and before it was vacant. It sits next to a bar that specializes in Bud Light and appears to be trying to change its name from “The Longhorn Bar” to “The Bearded Moose”. The choice of names seemed to confuse the locals and firmly placed the new owners of the bar as out-of-towners. The bar currently has both names posted.City Hall

Someone in Towner likes farm-themed decorative windmills, Weather vane

which is fitting for the area. Before I left, I got to see part of a Ranch Rodeo, which is a rodeo in which contestants take part in timed ranch-inspired activities, like milking cows. Unfortunately I missed this event, but did see a relay race.

First you load your horses into a trailer. Then, when time is called, the first runner unloads his horse and take a turn around the grounds while holding a baton (either in hand or mouth).Relay

Meanwhile the next fellow in line unloads his horse and attempts to mount. Sometimes the horse gets excited and makes this difficult.Mount the horse

Hopefully you’re mounted in time to get the baton when it arrives.Baton pass.

After your round, you have to dismount, load your horse back into the trailer, and run and place your hands on the hood of your truck. When the last person is done, you have to lock the trailer, too.Trailer locked

And we’re done.Finished

I also did get to see some children chase some bored looking cows around the stadium. All of the cows seemed hot and peeved that they were involved in a rodeo.Bored cows