Day 1 – June 28, 2019, Friday – Waupaca, WI to Marquette, MI
It’s official – the Durst-Kolinski family will be the epitome of class after this trip! Yes, it’s true. We are heading to another country! Admittedly one that is only a few hours away, but after it took 4 trips to Walgreens to get a passable photo of Zoe, we are using those passports, dammit.
We are big Lake Superior geeks (yes, there are geeks for everything), and have always wanted to do the Lake Superior circle tour. This is the year we will be going counter clockwise around the Lake! (Unfortunately the Lake Superior magazine guide that Sarah’s mom got her and is serving as the basis for this entire trip (because we are too cheap to buy anything else) goes in a clockwise fashion).
Sarah finished work early on Friday, and soon we were in the car screaming out of town around 6 pm. We headed through Appleton, and after intense negotiations, stopped at Culvers for supper. We headed up highway 41, killing many many bugs on our windshield in the process. We could barely stay awake, with the rumble strips keeping Matt’s driving honest on the way up there. We forgot we were jumping time zones (great) – so we arrived in Marquette, MI around 11:30 pm. We stayed at a Comfort Suites that was only notable because it was the smallest “suite” we had ever been in. The plan was to get up at 7 am and be out by 8 am, and hit numerous sites along the southern Lake Superior shore between Marquette to Munising to Sault Ste. Marie.
Beer drank: Upper Hand UPA from Escanaba, MI. It was beer.
Day 2 – June 29, 2019, Saturday – Marquette, MI to CANADA!! (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario)
We all slept in. Let’s be honest, we were exhausted from our drive (and jet lagged from the one hour time zone change). We kind of crawled out of bed around 8 am. Everyone staggered down to the continental breakfast, which was okay. Not great, but edible. At least we don’t have 6 kids like the one family, they looked more exhausted than us. We were okay with less sights and more sleep today.
We packed up the car:
- Car fairy came and brought all the kids new headphones for their iPads. Wow, a present for the kids AND us.
- Sarah noticed that we had broken our windshield on the drive up and there is a new large (>1 foot) crack across the driver’s side. The Subaru people previously questioned why we got the windshield insurance policy. Ha! The only question is, do we get it fixed before our trip later this summer, knowing we will crack it again later? Actually, one more question, why does this keep happening to us?!?!
Off we went. Sarah was pretty convinced due to our late start, the parking lots and highways would be filled with thousands of vacationers swarming Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, our destination. Good news: the only thing swarming were the black flies. Yah. We drove on abandoned beautiful highway 28 to Munising, which is the same awesome town we remember visiting with the kids before in 2015 and 2013.
So the thing with the Lake Superior Circle Tour is that there are two different options for obtaining certificates for completing it. Yes, Matt devoted research to finding out how we can get a certificate for something we would have done for no reason at all. There is one certificate you can earn from sending in a trip log (they won’t know what hit them when we send in this bad boy). The other certificate involves getting stamps at various checkpoints. We spent our time looking for the Chamber of Commerce in Algier County in Munising so we could get our goddamn map and have it stamped. Apparently Matt tried to print the map that gets stamped off the internet and it printed out all tiny. He figured they would have spare maps. So we find the Chamber of Commerce and it is exclusively a 9-5 M-F situation. So he took a photo of the CLOSED chamber of commerce, determined to prove we had been there and get the certificate.
We motored on and hit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We got our NP passports stamped and headed up to Munising Falls for a quick hike. We then drove to Miner’s Castle look out. The Lakeshore is amazingly beautiful. The water is aquamarine and if it wasn’t so cold that it might kill you, this could be the premiere water frolicking destination. It was a perfectly calm day on the water, the area punctuated by our screams as we ran away from the hoards of black flies (remember them?).
We did go back to Munising to grab some lunch at Muldoon’s, the best pasty place ever. We (Sarah) had been dreaming of this place for the past 4 years. The kids were willing to try the pasties but let’s be honest, they devoured some Uncrustables. Hey, it’s vacation, let them eat some PBJ while we enjoy succulent pasties. We then motored on through Newberry, on our way to Sault Ste Marie.
Sarah desperately wanted to go to the Log Slide (near Grand Marais) but we figured it would add on an extra 90 min and decided since we had been there multiple times before, we might need to skip it. It is a 500 foot sand dune that you can slide down, and then spend 2 hours climbing back up. Matt got to do it as a kid. Sometimes people cannot make it up and need to be rescued. We’ll come back when the kids are older (over the edge you go, heh). The other thing we highly recommend that we skipped was Taquemanon Falls – one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. It’s really pretty (and we still drink out of their brewery’s glasses from the last time we visited there), but again, we wanted to see some new things this time.
Anyway, we hit up Sault Ste Marie, MI. We exited as fast as we could before getting on the International Bridge to Canada, as we had tons of contraband to ditch before we went through customs. We had heard you cannot bring produce across the border, and we had a 5 pound clamshell of blueberries from Costco (why?) and carrots and apples. We wolfed down handfuls of it all at the Welcome to Michigan visitor center, feeling like criminals. Then we were like, let’s go get some Canadian money, which we did at a nearby gas station. You can see through it! At least the lady TOLD us we were getting Canadian currency and took $50 from Matt. Then we drove around the American side for a while. We did stop at our second tour certificate stop. The people at the Soo Lock Boat Tours told us that no maps had been mailed out this year, and stamped one of their promotional brochures and gave it to us. This is the saddest way to earn a certificate ever.
Sault Ste Marie is a really interesting town if you are interested in Great Lakes shipping history or freighters, which of course we are (sadly not kidding). We first made sure to find Matt’s dad’s house that he used to live in and snap a photo (while all the neighbors outside watched us suspiciously), then we drove down to a ship called SS Valley Camp. This is one of only two freighters that are museums (but not dry docked) on the Great Lakes (the other being the William Irvin which used to be in Duluth but is being repaired at the shipyards in Superior as of now) (repeat, we are nerds).
We went on the self guided tour – it was very cool to see the entire inside of the freighter. They had all the crew rooms made up to look authentic, and all kinds of informational signs/exhibits. They strangely enough had a random freshwater fish aquarium inside it (who are we to judge) which Braden loved. The freighter did lose power twice briefly while we were in it (only a little scary as we were in the bottom of the boat). The most interesting part was the exhibit on the wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald, which lives in infamy in the Gordon Lightfoot song. This is one of the most well known parts of Lake Superior history and the SS Valley Camp has 1 ½ of the life boats from the ship. Little known fact? Sarah and the boat share the same birthday. Also little known fact? Matt’s dad stole a piece of paint from one of the life boats decades ago, in a seemingly premeditated crime that Matt has remembered forever.
After emerging from the ship, we then drove downtown and got coffee at Crepes and Coffee (yes the area along the locks is all cute and gentrified) and went to go watch a boat at the locks. Lake Superior is the highest in elevation and in order for boats to be able to get to Lake Huron, they have to go through a series of locks which essentially change the water levels for the boats. You are able to watch by entering some kind of government controlled park (there is a guard) and they have a huge three story viewing platform – we could see the water level in the canal changing for the sailboat that was waiting to go from Lake Huron to Lake Superior. It was pretty cool. The kids were so done by this point and may not have thought it was that cool.
We then crossed the International Bridge into Canada, and went through customs. Matt had made us throw away the carrots we had left over as he swore they would search our car and take all our food. After waiting in line, the disinterested guard asked us where we were from (Wisconsin), and then where we were going (around Lake Superior). He took our passports and started to ask us if we had anything to declare, but then received a phone call and kind of just handed us our passports back and said we were good. Errr… okay? Welcome to Canada, bitches!
That’s when our cell phones all switched from Verizon to three separate plans between the three phones we had (TELUS, ROGERS and BELL) and we lost our data service. Then we realized we had no idea how to get to the hotel. We just drove around for a while, figuring in a city of 66k people we would find it. And we did, because we kick ass. We made our way to the Fairfield Inn/Suites and upon getting out, B found an amethyst in the parking lot! Wow! Or quartz, there is tons of that crap around (note, amethyst is a type of quartz (yes, we are rock nerds, too)).
We played in the pool and got delicious take out from Farelli’s, an Italian place across from us recommended by the front desk (and Trip Advisor). The take out was excellent – we had pizza, Greek salad, and tortellini. And Matt got poutine, because Canada. Matt also stopped by a local beer emporium and purchased 14 different cans of beer from Ontario breweries because he felt that we wouldn’t have time the next couple days to pick any more up. We all laid around and watched TV, then eventually called it a night. Although because it is Canada, it is still light out despite being 10 pm.
Beers drank: Boneshaker IPA & Space Invader IPA – Amsterdam Brewing Company, Toronto, ON
Tomorrow? On to Thunder Bay! Only 703 kilometers away… (or 438 freedom units for you Americans)