Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Arlington Heights

Peter and I had such a great time with Linda and Tom in Arlington Heights! They treated us so well and showed us great hospitality and delicious Chicago food.

We had such a unique experience. Tom owns a horse at Arlington Race Track, Freefighter, and what a beauty he is!

Here's a couple pictures from the race track.

Tom, my cousin Linda in the middle and Peter enjoying the sunny but windy day at Arlington!

We even got to have our picture taken at the winner's circle because Tom's owner's horse won the second race of the day. What a treat!

Staying with family is the best way to travel! Thanks to Tom and Linda!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Local Foods

So I'd thought I'd make a quick list of local foods we've eaten at various locations along the way.  I'll add to this as time goes by, but it's a good beginning.

Juicy Lucys - Twin Cities, Minnesota
Local cheese- Wisconsin
Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale-Munising Michigan (U.P)
Whitefish, fried- Munising Michigan (U.P)
Fudge (?)- Mackinaw Island
Cherry Stout, Cherry Mead, Cherry Wine- Leelenau Peninsula, Michigan (Cherry Capital of the World, apparently)
Chicago-style hot dogs and pizza- Chicago! (Outside of Chicago there is a state called Illinois)
Italian beef-dunked in juices!- Chicago
Garrett's Chicago Mix Popcorn

Delicious Lou Malnati's traditional Chicago deep dish pizza! So good!

Matt's Bar Jucy Lucy. Look at all that yummy melted cheese!

Looking forward to some more Chicago food, and then hitting up some great seafood in the N.E.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mackinac Island and more Michigan Adventures!

Michigan is seriously one of the coolest states! So much to see, eat and do. We had such a great day at Mackinac Island. The island was once the center for fur trading in the 1800s and has now become the Martha's Vineyard of the Northern Midwest. You can only get to the island by ferry or plane, and in the winter the lake freezes over so thick that the 500 some full time residents can snowmobile back to the mainland.

Here's a video about the unique aspects of Mackinac Island.

Cars are not allowed on the island and the only transportation is horse and bicycle. Here are some pictures from our great day.

The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Isl. premiere and oldest hotel

Horse drawn carriages were everywhere, as was their s**t :)

Giving a quick smooch to my best honey

The best thing we did the whole time was rent this awesome tandem bike and bike
around the whole island. 8 miles in under an hour!

People built little rock cairns all over the island coast. You can see
the bridge in the background.

We then headed down to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore which is on the Leelanau Peninsula. It was a nice place to chill for three nights. It's right near Traverse City which is a great college town where we had great food (Mackinac Brewing Co. and Cousin Jenny's pasties), a free movie at The State Theater, and did some wine tasting at a couple great wineries. Michigan specializes in growing cherries so we tried some great cherry stout, cherry wine, and cherry mead.

Just to give you some scale as to how big these dunes are. 

Close up of some vegetation on the dunes.
We are in Chicago right now and just stayed with my second cousin Linda and her husband Tom. They were such great hosts and showed us a real great time with amazing Chicago food and a unique look into the Arlington Race Track. More photos to come as we spend some time with my cousin Kelly, her husband Chris and their two boys Will and Owen.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

South Shore of Superior

     We have driven through Wisconsin and for a few days were "Yoopers," the name given to those who live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. (U.P.ers...get it?)  Wisconsin was short and rainy.  We had one day of sun that we took the kayaks out a bit by the Apostle Islands, Wisconsin, but a NNW wind prevented us from seeing the sea caves on the western shoreline.  We found some good cheese at a local food co-op, some crumbly Parmesan type with a cheddar like smooth finish, some creamy brick cheese, and some plain cheddar.

It was very brisk and we bundled up in several layers!

     The water was so beautiful-speckled greens and blues, clear enough to see twenty, thirty feet to the lake floor-that we decided we definitely want to come back in the warmer, calmer months of June and July to do kayak-specific trips and some overnighters on the outlying islands.

     In the U.P. we stayed mostly in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  Here, again, heavy winds from the wrong direction prevented us from doing the premier kayaking trips, but we found a great campsite by an inland lake and saw some loons there.  We caught a glimpse of the "pictured" rocks, cliffs hundreds of feet high with colored striations, via hiking trails.

This is Chapel Rock, typical of weather-created rock formations at Pictured Rocks.

Moderate waves along the Superior coastline, one of the few beaches interspersed between miles of high cliffs.

A ranger told us that a week earlier a storm had created 20 foot swells on the lake.  Glad we weren't kayaking then!

Kinda hard to see, but a woodland stream runs down to the beach and into the lake, dark brown from the tannic acid created from forest decay.

  Above, our campsite.  The two nights we stayed there, we heard coyotes howling.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quick Tour of the North Shore

     We got up to northern Minnesota for one afternoon and one night.  This morning, drizzle forced us to change plans (we were going hiking) and head south and east to Wisconsin.  Turned out to be a pretty quiet day, but it was a good reminder that being on a road trip is not about doing one thing after another, but it's about being...opening ourselves to the land we travel through and whatever may come our way.  Before the rain set in, we had a great moment of reflection as the sun rose through streaks of blue clouds over the lake.

The rocky shoreline and the blue waters of the lake meet in tumbled chaos at the north shore.  The coast is evidence of long-ago volcanic activity, and every few miles it seems another river or creek runs channels, often small gorges, through the rock to flow into the lake.  There are many waterfalls, of which we caught only glimpses due to rain, and some fall straight into Superior over small cliffs.  We are told whitewater kayakers will sometimes ride the rivers and the falls, as well.

To end, a quote:

But every one of us are descended from the restless ones, the wayward ones who were not content to stay at home.
                  -John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley  (Speaking about Americans descended from Europeans)

Megan, giving a tree some love.

Split Rock Light House. America's most visited lighthouse.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Minneapolis, MN

Wow what a great trip it's been so far. We left Blue Springs on Thursday September 9th, which was also Peter's 24th birthday! Here's a short video clip from before we took off.

We stopped for lunch in Des Moines, IA and ate at the sculpture park. Here are a few photos.

We finally arrived in Minneapolis with my Uncle Rod and Aunt Sue at their lovely home.

We had a fantastic dinner and crashed after a long day of travelling. On Friday we bought some stuff at REI for our outdoor kayaking trips up North. We then hooked up with Sue who took us to a fantastic apple orchard called Pine Hill. We sampled some delicious apples and bought some Sweet Tango's which were developed at this orchard and were the best tasting apples I think we've ever had. Here are a few pics.

We also went to a free zoo in Como and then had real Minneapolis eating adventure. We went to both restaurants that claim to have the original and best Juicy/Jucy Lucy burger. If you haven't seen it featured on Man vs Food it's two hamburger patties with cheese on the inside so that it is hot and melty when you bite into it. We first went to the 58 club and the four of us ordered different types of Juicy Lucy's with different chesses, seasonings, and toppings. We then shared each other's and compared to see which we preferred. I got the original with American cheese and Peter and I both thought it was the favorite compared with the other flavor combinations. We then went just down aways to Matt's Bar and ordered their Jucy Lucy. It was filled with young and old, and the cook was huddled over the hot tiny grill while everyone waited for their order. Matt's Bar does not give you cheese or topping options, strictly American cheese only.

After eating both burgers from both places we all agreed that we preferred the 58 Club's Juciy Lucy! We liked the taste and quality of the beef more, the cheese and options more, and overall experience more. We can see why Matt's is so popular especially for the bar crowd, we just thought the meat was a bit overcooked and the cheese all melted out without leaving much flavor. But don't take our word for it, try each yourself and form your opinion. 

This post is getting a bit long so I'll just summarize the rest of our time. We loved all the free museums and stuff to do in Minneapolis and just how many lakes and nature areas there are to explore. It's been a great way to start the trip and we just love our hosts to death.

Rod and Sue with their therapy dog, Samson, at the St. Croix river shore.

There was a big bash Sat. night for the birthdays of Sue's parents, and since Peter's birthday was recent, he got to blow the candles too :)

Sunday we spent visiting a couple of small towns along the St. Croix River, north east of the Twin Cities.

An old timey draw bridge over the St. Croix. Wisconsin is on the other side of the bridge.

At Taylors Falls there are a lot of rock formations and "glacial potholes," cylindrical holes drilled down into igneous rock by glacial movement over the topography.

Some glacial potholes are up to sixty feet deep!

Next up: camping along Lake Superior, Wisconsin (and hopefully some cheese!) and then more camping in Michigan!  Pray for good weather!