Friday, July 27, 2007
Up the Shore
After a good night's sleep, we packed up and headed up Minnesota's North Shore. There are scads of state parks along Lake Superior. I read about them and other spots before we set out, but with the day upon us, it was time to choose. We stopped at Gooseberry Falls first.
Gooseberry Falls had a visitor center with wonderfully large and clean toilets, an education center, and, naturally, a gift shop where you could buy stuffed animals of Minnesota's wildlife that were made in China. The walks were easy; not a lot of stairs, not long, wide. There were not a lot of people there when we showed up in the morning, but by lunch time, the parking lot was absolutely jammed.
We started off on a path toward the falls. We ended up on a large bridge that overlooked them and the people playing in the water. The bridge took you across the river and had another bridge below the road to take you across the highway. No one else was going this way, which was good reason to us to continue. We wandered and pointed and played and scrambled around on rocks and in water and over falls and next to falls and below falls. It was fun. Eric was worried about his balance and hurting himself or someone else if he fell on them and damaging the camera. We let him trail behind. His sore belly and lack of happy drugs were keeping him down a little. Kelsey was happy to play, but Kayleigh definitely wanted to be moving along more quickly.
We found a necklace in the water and turned it in to the lost and found. It didn't have any dirt on it at all. It must have been very recently lost. It was a silvery metal, in the shape of a shark tooth, with the name Devon on it.
I caught a minnow in a shallow part of the river. Kelsey seemed impressed. Kayleigh asked how I did it. Such miracles mothers are capable of.
We went down to the beach for some lunch and a dip in the cold Superior water. The beach was called Agate Beach. Apparently agate hunting is quite a past-time. It was a lovely view. Kayleigh wouldn't so much as dip a toe in the water, of course, so she sat on the beach asking when we were going to go.
There was a little pebbly dune where the river washed into the lake. You had to get in the water about two feet to get across to it, so Kelsey and I did. She didn't stay long, but I wanted to wander. It hurt. The rocks were hot, and some were sharp. It was not a very pleasant walk, but at least I had bragging rights.
Kelsey managed to attract about two dozen leeches while she was in the water. She was about as freaked out as she ever gets. I didn't find any on me. We called it Leech Beach after that little episode. She was not amused.
We managed to spend the entire day there. We hadn't intended to. But by the time we left, we were tired. Kelsey had a case of leechy heebie-jeebies and a slight sunburn. We decided to go find our motel in Grand Marais and get some dinner. So off we went.
We stayed at the Grand Marais Inn. It was one of the cheaper places around. The photos on the Web didn't impress me much, but it had a fridge and a microwave, two beds and a toilet. Unless the place was an absolute hole, it would be worth it.
It was not a hole. It turned out to be just fine. Our nonsmoking room had a cigarette burn in the carpet, but it didn't smell and it was clean. The proprietor was from Wales. He's been here a while, making his accent most peculiar.
My editor recommended pizza at Sven & Ole's. It sounded like a good idea. The kids will eat it, and it would probably be cheaper than anywhere else. It was good pizza. It had very fluffy, soft crust. The kids did, in fact, like it, but it was not cheap. At least we got a free bumper sticker. No, we're not putting it on our car.
Next came the Ben Franklin that Laurie had recommended. It was her favorite store in the world, she said. Well, who can miss that? It was about 30 feet from Sven & Ole's and open for another 20 minutes. It was good it wasn't open longer than that, or the kids would have bought out the store. They have anything you need and quite a lot you don't need but might want anyway. A wool Norwegian sweater? Yours for $325. Whoopie Cushion? Lay down your dollar. Bazooka Joe gum? Fillet knife? Scrapbook paper? Swimming pool? Plastic poop? Hairbrush? Ski pants? Moccasins? Water shoes? Rain boots? Snow boots? Cowboy boots? Fake Crocs? Flip-flops? No problem. They even have your size. Believe me. This store was absolutely jam-packed full of stuff. Not exactly barrier-free for all the narrow aisles and assorted merchandise falling off the capacity shelves. It was a scream. I'd've lived there when I was a kid. As I say, thank goodness they were closing in 20 minutes. We had to drag the kids out as it was. Kayleigh bought three airplanes; two balsa wood planes and one foam one which she later said was "really crappy." She and Kelsey had fun playing with them in the nearly empty parking lot of our motel.
After Ben Franklin, we wandered across the street to the little harbor in town. It was another rocky beach with some young gulls squawking and peeping. And was it cold. Ugh. UGH! It was cold. Bleh--it was cold. Very conveniently, a coffee shop was open on the corner, where we ordered three decaf mochas and a hot chocolate. There was a slight misunderstanding, and Kelsey ended up with a full-caffeine mocha. We figured it out before she got past her whipped cream, thankfully, and they made her a new one with decaf. Stimulants are one thing that child absolutely does not need. We walked around downtown Grand Marais--it doesn't take long--and headed back to our WiFi-less motel.
I read "We Are All Welcome Here," by Elizabeth Berg. She writes chick novels. I like them. My favorite of hers is still "Talk Before Sleep," about a woman and some friends caring for their mutual, dying friend. "We Are All Welcome Here" is about a girl at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement and her paralyzed mother who lives in an iron lung. It didn't sound like it would be very good, but it made me cry and made me think and made me wish she'd done a little better with it.