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Archive for the ‘vacation’ Category

It took the 11 years and four treks, but I’ve made friends with the North Shore of Minnesota – a stretch of Lake Superior shoreline, highway, infamous landmarks, and seasonal resorts.

Up until now, my travels that direction epitomized the word miserable. Few other places in the country boast about bad weather to attract tourists, but for those in Duluth and points north along the treacherous northwest shore of Lake Superior, bad weather is a piece of nearly every historical moment worth noting. For me, one late summer trip several years ago featured horizontal rain and high winds for two straight days. A second venture resulted in a foot of snow and high winds. The third trip, a late April getaway, included some sun, but the wind blew so fierce it might as well have been the Antarctic. This pattern seems to be the norm.

The vistas and opportunities to hike, bike and relax in the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota are too numerous to ignore…and so away we went on Saturday to kick off Labor Day weekend 2010.

And brother, we hit the weather jackpot.

Two full days of “sunny and mid- to upper-60s farenheit” ruled our short getaway. On Day One, the lofty cotton-ball-esque dotted skies served as a personal tour guide as we hiked miles and miles of the Superior Hiking Trail – enough steps to make our feet, calves, knees and thighs tell us “enough.” If you haven’t stepped onto a piece of the 270-plus miles of this trail, add it to your bucket list. And while you’re at it, make sure to take the Lookout Mountain trail section for a scene unlike any other you’ll find in Minnesota.

That evening we ate and slept in Grand Marais. Our dinner bell rang at The Crooked Spoon, a crowded cafe on Wisconsin Street where the chef served up a wicked lamb tenderloin and the most beautiful leafy green salad I’ve ever seen. And while very much a tourist town, for a Saturday night, Grand Marais seemed very quaint and quiet overlooking a calm Lake Superior.

On a cloudless Day Two, Cheri and I biked the Pincushion Mountain trail, just a couple miles from Grand Marais off the Gunflint Trail highway. Leaving the town, this highway rises over 1,000 feet in just 2.5 miles or so. After completely wasting our legs peddling the mountain bike trail, I coasted back in to Grand Marais – nearing 40 mph on two wheels and barely turning the crank.

Another hike on the Superior Hiking Trail to take in Devil’s Kettle gave new meaning to late summer in Northern Minnesota. As we sat on the rocks of the Brule River watching the falls the color was unbelievable. From the rocks to the sharp dark walls of the river’s gorge to the green chlorophyl-laden shrubs and trees to a clear blue sky. Now that’s what being outdoors is suppose to be about.

Lesson learned. The North Shore may be unforgiving at times with its wind, driving rain and lake effect snows, but pick your moment and place and you can be pleasantly surprised by the gift of such a place. And you may, like me, make friends with a piece of America that you had for awhile given up on.

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A quick scroll of the page tells you the writing bug inside me went into hibernation as the cooler months began to envelop Minneapolis. What’s with the lack of posts, you ask?

Good question.

Without making excuses, I’ll just say the past few months have been good to me. My oldest made it through her freshman year of college with nearly a 4.0 gpa. My youngest, a freshman in high school, continues to mature and become an amazing young man (wondering where he gets it from ;)).  All this, plus I’m in a new home – living with an incredible woman who contributes to my life every day in ways I never even imagined. Throw in Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years celebrations, learning to cross country ski, and planning a trip to Mexico, and there you have it.

So much fodder for writing. And yet, writing has been the last thing on my list. I’m not even resolving to try to write more in 2010. It’s. Just. Not. That. Important. Right. Now.  Like Lennon when he left the Beatles, I’ve left my writing and the myth that I am one of the great writers to gather dust while other things in my life get my attention.

When my muse returns, it will likely do so with a vengence. Til then, I’ll poke around, observe and devleop thoughts for reference at a later date.

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A few photos from my recent trip to Lausanne, Switzerland where I spent a Saturday acting like a tourist.

Lausanne Rooftops

This photo overlooks the rooftops of Lausanne. It’s a view from the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which sits about halfway up the hill the city sits on. In the distance is Lake Geneva and beyond that the French Alps.

Gargoyle

A gargoyle sits atop the Museum of History building. Speaking of history, Napolean stayed in Lausanne and Mozart played two concerts at a theater in the city.

Lausanne Market

The market on Saturday filled with both locals speaking Swiss French, German and Italian – and tourists like me speaking any of a dozen other languages.

TourdeSuisse

The Tour de Suisse whipped through Lausanne, with the breakaway owning a four minute lead on the peloton, followed by a caravan of team and support vehicles that must have been a mile long all by itself.

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Blue Heaven, Key West

There’s a popular little outdoor restaurant in Key West that all tourists must find – at least that’s what we were told by nearly everyone who offered advice on “definitely do.”

So on Day Two out on the island, we walked to Blue Heaven. While neither of us ordered the famed lobster eggs benedict, we did have an awesome avocado omelette and a blueberry pancake.  No Bloody Mary’s before Noon, unfortunately. Still, Blue Heaven served as a great reminder to those of us in the upper Midwest: There’s something about breakfast outdoors that amplifies the flavor of all foods.

key-west-cheri_chuckHere we are waiting patiently for our table at Blue Heaven’s bar (no drinking before Noon on Sundays). Who looks hungover?

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Key West Sun Sets

In Key West, the tourists travel to see the sunset. Apparently the sun setting on the Gulf of Mexico is unlike any other. I’ll attest to the fact that it dropped swiftly into the sea to the applause of several hundred onlookers on Mallory Square. And once dusk arrived, we returned promptly to our drinking.

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