Minnesota: Eats and Treats

Northern Lights Restaurant
Two Harbors

When we first checked into the Two Harbors Lighthouse B&B, Rose gave us a stack of restaurant menus to look through for the area and a few suggestions based on her knowledge of the choices. After reading through the menus we decided on a place just a ways down the road. Northern Lights. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but had a wonderful view of Lake Superior and a lovely garden out back.

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We perused the menu while Oldies (real oldies – 50’s and 60’s) played on the radio. Oldies always make me smile and sing along. I ordered the creamy wild rice soup and the Swedish meatballs. Sriram ordered the Hunter’s Pie (This delicious Northern Lights Chef’s version of English Sheppard’s Pie consists of Elk, slow cooked in a special broth featuring rich brown ale. The Elk is then incorporated into a rich gravy including Peas, Carrots, Onions, Wild Rice, and Mushrooms, then served in a bed of our Homemade Irish Baked Potatoes, covered with Shredded Monterey Jack/Cheddar Cheese and baked til bubbly golden and topped off with a sprig of Rosemary and two Garlic-Herbed Breadsticks).

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The soup was very good (they take their wild rice very seriously here in Minnesota), as was the rest of my meal. Sriram’s Hunter’s Pie was outstanding. For dessert, we had the Norwegian Fruit Soup (served with a slice of Lefse – Made from dried fruits, fresh citrus, spiced with Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Cloves and Brown Sugar). It was unexpectedly wonderful. Northern Lights is definitely worth stopping in. Good down-home type cooking in a lovely atmosphere. Definitely four thumbs up!

Voyagaire Lodge
Crane Lake

After we came back into port with our houseboat in Voyageurs National Park, we stopped in at the Voyagaire Lodge for lunch before moving on to other sight-seeing activities. We decided to give cheese curds a second try (after a disappointing first attempt back in Wisconsin), ordering the Jalapeno Cheese Curd appetizer. These definitely lived up to the reputation. They were lighter and cheesier than our last attempt, and the addition of jalapeno inside certainly didn’t hurt. They were served with a side of ranch and were quite tasty.

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For lunch, Sriram ordered the Walleye Fingers and I ordered the Pulled Pork sandwich.

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The pulled pork was as tangy and delicious as it looks, and I got it with the fruit cup instead of fries, to minimize the impact of the cheese curds. The walleye fingers (which I gave a try) weren’t half bad either. Not a bad stop for our first meal on land in a couple days.

Porter and Frye, Hotel Ivy

Over our three days at Hotel Ivy, Porter and Frye became a quick favorite. We dined there on our first evening in town and then had each of our breakfasts there as that was what was included in our stay. Each meal was wonderful (and the staff were fantastic), but our first dinner was simply amazing.

For appetizers, Sriram ordered the Scorpian Shrimp (Cumcumber sour cream, hot pickles and sweet corn relish), while I ordered the Tomato Basil Soup (with mini grilled goat cheese sandwich). Sriram very much enjoyed the Scorpian Shrimp, and my tomato soup was light and frothy, and definitely hit the spot. The small grilled cheese was delicious, and the goat cheese added just the right flare (I’m a late-in-life convert to goat cheese, but now it ranks right up there with my favorites).

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Our dinners were equally lovely. Looking for something a bit on the lighter side, Sriram ordered the Hidden Streams Pork Shoulder Ramen (Yellow Miso, White Soy, Ginger, Lemongrass, Jalapeno, Cilantro, Tomato, Avocado and Rice Noodles), while I ordered the Hidden Streams Pork Chop (Chargrilled Black Peppercorn, Jalapeno Cheddar Grits, and Sweet Corn). Sriram thought his Ramen was excellent, but in need of hot sauce (which is the case 90% of the time). My pork chop was really big, but delicious. It was perfectly cooked and the grits were so creamy you could mistake them for mashed potatoes. And while it seems a funny thing to rave about, the corn was phenomenal. I don’t know what it was tossed in but it added a wonderful flavor to the entire dish. Well done, Porter and Frye.

Hell’s Kitchen

We wandered over to Hell’s Kitchen the afternoon that housekeeping subtly booted us from our room at the Hotel Ivy (they were surprising us with a welcome package on our first city trip in weeks). Sriram had been to Hell’s Kitchen before and recommended it as a fun place for snacks. They have fun with the Hell jokes, in much the same way the Hoover Dam has fun with the Dam jokes (Move down the hall and get on the Dam Elevator, which will take you down into the Dam Exhibits, etc.)

I immediately liked Hell’s Kitchen. From the decor (dark, underground, lots of reds and blacks) to the unique menu descriptions, this was definitely my kind of place. A few of my menu favorites:

Hell’s take on the Juicy Lucy

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And Hell’s take on the Bloody Mary

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I was also amused by the Fromage-a-Trois (a variety of artisan cheeses with toasted baguette slices, and our [highly-addictive] Maple Bacon Chutney). In retrospect, I can’t for the life of me figure out why we didn’t order that. Oh well, perhaps next time. So what did we order? Junk! Delicious junk. Round three of cheese curds (State Fair Cheese Curds) and Buffalo Tots (tater tots tossed in buffalo sauce and served with blue cheese dressing).

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The snacks hit the spot, but I’d have to say that Voyagaire is still our favorite curd supplier. Still, Hell’s Kitchen is a fun stop.

Red Wing Brewery
Red Wing

The Red Wing Brewery was recommended to us as a really great place to get pizza so we decided to give it a shot. We had trouble finding it at first, but when we finally did, we were certainly glad we stopped in.

We ordered up breadsticks and the pizza that was on special that day, the Barbecue Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza (Pizza drizzled with Buchanan’s Sizzlin’ BBQ Sauce, cheddar cheese, crumbled beef, bacon and onions). Sriram also got a beer sampler, while I got Red Wing’s own rootbeer.

The pizza was fantastic (as were the drinks). We were actually surprised at how good the pizza was.

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But for me, it was the breadsticks that stood out. With apologies to the RWB (as some may not consider this a compliment), I’ll say they were as close as I’ve ever tasted to the original Pizza Hut bread stick. The Pizza Hut breadstick as it existed when I was in high school, which tastes nothing like the breadstick they serve today.

Everything about the breadsticks, from the flavor of the stick itself, to the dipping sauce, brought me back in time. Back to when Pizza Hut was a routine trip for me and my friends Jenn and Stacie for pepperoni pizza, salad bar, and breadsticks. Oh how I have missed those breadsticks. So thanks Red Wing! Misplaced nostalgia aside, if you ever find yourself in Red Wing, the Red Wing Brewery is a must.

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That’s it for the latest edition of “Eats and Treats” – we’re on our way to Iowa next! Ever been? Let me know if there’s someplace we should check out.


The Big, the Bad and the Kitschy

Our final voyage out of Minnesota included an accidental NPS stop and a couple of fun recommendations from our trusted Road Trip USA.

As we were driving along the Great River Road (GRR), one of America’s Scenic Byway, we happened upon the Great River Road Visitor’s Center. The NPS partner site contains the GRR Visitor and Learning Center, and both the National Park Service Mississippi River and Recreation Area and St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

We visited the center, exploring the exhibits and the views out the back along the river. We chatted with the volunteer on duty about our trip and our upcoming travels. When we asked for a lunch recommendation, she recommended a place in nearby Red Wing. Since we had business in Red Wing anyway, we headed that way.

Our designated stop was to the Red Wing Shoe Company for a little bit of shopping, and to tour their very small museum (basically a history of the company with some fun movie and celebrity facts thrown in).

The big attraction (and I do mean big) at Red Wing is their giant boot. The World’s largest. The boot, size 638D, is 16 feet tall, 20 feet long and weighs 2,300 pounds. It was created for the company’s 100th anniversary. It is an exact (and giant) replica of their 877 Classic Workboot.

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Further down the road, (across the border in Lacrosse, Wisconsin) we find another “World’s Largest…” this time, a Six Pack of Beer. Yep, that’s right. The 6 “cans” at the City Brewery hold 688,200 gallons of beer – enough beer to fill 7,340,796 cans. A sign at the base of the six-pack indicates such stats, as well as the fact that the towers would provide one person a six-pack a day for 3,351 days. Cheers!

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That’s about it for this installment of fun on the road! So, tell me – what’s the goofiest tourist attraction you’ve visited?

And Twin Two

Before leaving the area we were sure to check out the other half of the Twin Cities – neighboring St. Paul. We drove over to the downtown area and lucked into a great parking spot. Off we went to explore the neighborhood on foot. Our first stop turned out to be Mears Park where the Concrete and Grass Lowertown Music Festival was taking place.

Food trucks lined the outer edges of the park, while a stage and vendor booths lined the front. A fairly large crowd had gathered on the lawn. People had also found spots on benches or any other place that looked comfy, including back in the lush landscape behind the main lawn.

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Deciding to stick around for a bit to take in some of the entertainment, we waited through a short break for the music to start back up again. When it resumed a few singers from the Minnesota Opera presented a series of songs from a variety of Operas (including one piece from the Marriage of Figaro, which holds special meaning for us, as another piece from that opera was featured at our wedding).

We stayed for four songs and enjoyed every one of them. The performers all had wonderful voices and the crowd seemed very appreciative. Of course, it seems there is always one person who insists on talking through the whole thing. In this case a gentleman who was speaking with a couple nearby, mentioning how he’d seen some opera on TV and didn’t care for it much. But the beauty of an outdoor venue with no assigned seating was it made it really easy to move away from him, so we did.

Once we left the park, we headed up to the Capitol Building to explore the grounds and the monuments. The grounds held all of the cities war monuments. I always find the monuments sobering (and sometimes even chilling), and this case was no different. But it was the final monument that truly drew me in – a lone soldier on this particular section of lawn, with hands outstretched.

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Entitled Monument to the Living, it was dedicated in 1982 to the Veterans of Minnesota, with the simple question, “Why do you forget us?” inscribed on it’s plaque. I can’t recall ever seeing such a piece in the many memorial parks I have visited. It was a good reminder that while it’s important to remember and pay tribute to those who have died defending our country, it is equally important to remember those who return.

Twin One

We arrived in Minneapolis to the lovely Hotel Ivy. It marks our first view of skyscrapers since we left Niagara. The area of the city that we are in is pretty deserted upon our arrival and it’s on the late side, so we opt to eat at the hotel’s restaurant, Porter and Frye rather than going out for the evening. We’ll be here for a few days so we have plenty of time. And we plan to make the most of our time here – culture, spa visits, good food, and perhaps even a ballgame await.

In the morning we touch base with the front desk about a few items – particularly laundry (the dreaded road trip must), a running route for Sriram, and some activities in the area. We speak with Manager Tee Phan. She asks us to give her a few minutes to pull some information together with the concierge and tells us she will get back to us. In the meantime, we head up to the spa to book some appointments – a massage for Sriram and a (long-overdue) pedicure for me.

We return downstairs and meet with Joseph, concierge-extraordinaire. Truthfully, in all of my travels it is not often that I have found a concierge helpful. Most don’t (or won’t) do anything more than what you could have googled yourself. But Joseph was super helpful. At the direction of Tee, he had a lot of information already pulled together for us, including running routes for Sriram, a variety of laundry options, and lots of things to keep us busy in the city. With an outline of our plans at hand, we head out.

It’s a nice walk over to the Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center. We decide to skip the museum itself, but enjoy the grounds and the variety of different sculptures, including the famous Cherry on a Spoon (which we were very disappointed did not come in sticker form for our roof box).

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Some of the sculptures were interesting, others left us scratching our heads. But the fun really began when we happened upon the artist-designed mini-golf course at the museum. Each hole was more unique than the last, with the designs ranging from a tilting maze to garden gnome foosball to a pool table where you use the back of your club to try to pocket the ball pool style (around obstacles, of course).

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I think my favorite hole was the one that encouraged players to stand on foot pads on the course to block their opponent’s shots. We played 18 holes (two 9-hole courses), and had a lot of fun. It was actually the first time we’d ever played mini-golf together. Somehow we’d made it through 2 years of dating and 4 years of marriage without ever partaking in this quintessential date-night activity.

When we got back to our room (with the intent to nap), housekeeping had just arrived and did not seem to want to take the hint that we didn’t need them, so we left and headed for a late afternoon lunch instead. I was a little annoyed at a essentially being booted from my room, but was amused when we returned to find a note from the staff as well as a welcome package that included a flip-flop magnet, some fun Minneapolis postcards, and comfy hotel slippers.

The note read: Thank you for choosing Hotel Ivy, Minneapolis as your hotel choice as you are doing your cross country! Thought you could use these MN souvenirs. ~ Tee Phan, Joseph, and All Hotel Staff.

It was very sweet. A very nice welcome indeed.

Twins Time

Checking out the weather, we decide it was our best night during our stay for a ballgame, so we head over to Target Field and select some seats right over home plate.

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The Twins are playing the Angels, so we don’t have much riding on the game, but we’re both baseball fans, and I love checking out different parks. We spend a bit of time exploring the park. There’s not a ton of interesting stuff to see, but a few player statues and such, but it’s nice park, still pretty new and shiny. We find our seats and settle in for some baseball. It’s not looking good for the Twins pretty early on. We end up leaving in the 6th inning or so. It’s cold and since we’re not much interested in the outcome, we can’t be bothered staying. We walk back to the hotel and another day is over.

The Spa

Our second morning we head to the spa for our varying services. I’m excited about my pedicure. I’ve booked the “Peaceful Pedicure” (Lay back, relax and unwind in our zero gravity chair while you experience a luxurious pedicure in a quiet treatment room. Begin with a soothing eye pillow followed by a calming neck wrap and be transported into a state of bliss while your toes are beautified. Each pedicure begins with a foot bath containing essential oils to protect and hydrate the feet, followed by an indulgent foot mask, leg and foot massage and polish), and it truly lives up.

It is quite different than any pedicure I’ve ever had. The first noteworthy difference is that it is in a private room. No loud salon with chatting and music. I begin seated in a lounge chair that is upright. A basin of warm water is placed at my feet (no typical spa chair here) for soaking. Once the soaking is done and my color has been selected (a fun raspberry called Between the Sheets), the basin is moved away, my chair is reclined, and the relaxation begins. Soothing music plays in the background (think new-agey massage music), a warm compress is placed over my eyes. A blanket is tucked over me, and I could very easily fall asleep. The usual prep work happens (I apologize for my road-trip feet), and then lotions, and warm towel wraps before my toes get painted. It’s all heavenly.

Once completed I return to the spa lounge area and with a glass of water and a magazine, sit by the fire in my comfy robe while letting my nails dry. Sriram returns from his massage (routine by comparison to my treatment) and his trip to the sauna and after freshening up, we head out for the afternoon.

Minnesota’s biggest attraction awaits.

The Mall of America

Curiosity is the driving force here, more than any need for what the Mall offers. We arrive and enter through one wing of the mall. I look around. I’m not seeing what all the fuss is about. It looks like a mall to me, big, sure, but nothing special. I note the Verizon Store and plan to stop in to up my data limit on my gadgets (I’m using far more data on this trip than I do in “real life”). As I’m about to call the mall a wasted trip, we round a corner and I get my first glimpse of the real Mall of America – the part that makes it unique, makes it stand out, makes it a vacation spot in its own right.

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Three different roller coasters wind their way through the center of the mall in a section known as the Nickelodeon Universe. Other rides (carousel, swings, Ninja Turtles Shell Shock, among others) are spread throughout. An Aquarium and stores like Lego Land and the Barbie Dream House Experience are nearby. Restaurant choices are aplenty. It’s teaming with kids and families. I’m tempted to try out the log flume ride until I see a few of its previous riders. They’re pretty soaked and I’m not particularly thrilled with the idea of walking through the mall with wet clothes, so I pass. I feel compelled to ride something but I’m an amusement park wimp and most of the rides aren’t my style. We end up just taking it all in and enjoying the people watching. It’s definitely a unique place and well worth the visit. And I can see why families from more rural areas might consider it a one stop trip for shopping and amusements.

Mary Tyler Moore

On our final morning we are in search of some souvenirs – a Christmas Ornament, a bumper sticker and a few more postcards. In our travels we came across this fun Mary Tyler Moore statue.

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Dedicated in 2002, the statue commemorates the ground-breaking character and television series which ran from 1970 – 1977. A fun final stop before we heading back to our hotel to check out and leave town. For our final walk back we used the famous 8-mile long Minneapolis Skyway. The weather is pleasant enough to walk outdoors, but we can’t resist the opportunity to use the linking pedestrian bridges between buildings. I’m sure the system comes in real handy during those cold Minneapolis winters.

The Voyage Continues

Waking up on the water is magical. Our view is spectacular, as is the peace and quiet. We wake to the sound of two loon calls, which turn out to be the Voyagaire morning radio show. It’s 8am and we listen in for the weather and some park history. Today’s topic is the Kettle Falls Hotel – timely as that will be our destination today. The broadcast ends with a “thought for the day” – today’s thought, the word politics – poli meaning many, tics meaning blood suckers. I chuckle and then start up the boat for charging.

We call into base to let them know we’ve figured things out (it’s not so much just pressing the button, it’s finding the small button under the large button that really puts it in idle), and to ask the hospitality service, “Simon Says,” to bring us some hot chocolate and potato chips on their delivery run. I’ve woken up cold, and have a sore throat. I’m feeling run down and figure warm beverages are a good thing. The chips are just cause we’re out. We won’t see Simon til much later in the day, and he’ll find us wherever we go, so we decided to head up to the Falls for the day.

Getting out of our spot turns out to be trickier than getting in. It’s difficult to keep the boat in place so that Sriram can get on after untying us. The wind is working against us, but he gets aboard and we go on our way. We “drive” for hours – following our navigational markers along the way. Many of them are hard to spot (the greens in particular), and we long for a pair of binoculars. We came straight from the lighthouse so didn’t have much prep time. Binoculars were on the suggested items to pack list, but as it’s not noted that it’s suggested for navigational reasons, I wouldn’t have thought of it as such. Still, my 200 mm lens on my camera turns out to be a decent backup, and I often take long range photos of the markers and then zoom in close in the view screen to verify numbers and locations. It works out ok.

I’m also improving my eagle scouting and photography.

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Radio calls throughout the day make it clear that we will NOT find houseboat parking up near Kettle Falls so we’ll have to find parking elsewhere and then make our way up to the Falls in our small motor boat. The fun begins again as we attempt to find a place to land. We call in our location for some advice. Jim, from base mentions looking for spots where they have marked the black dots on the map. I again find myself wishing that the islands had corresponding black dots on them. Jim mentions several beautiful beaches in the area we are boating – we have seen none. We eventually ask him to clarify what he means by beaches, as perhaps he has a different definition than we do. Nope – he means a nice sandy beach. We eventually see one or two, but other houseboats are already parked in the spots, and it’s one houseboat per spot. But in the end we never really did see anything we considered a “beautiful beach.”

We eventually end up simply “inventing” a spot, as we have no clue what to do otherwise. It was frustrating. We’re on rocks again, and without benefit of a sign we don’t know if we’re ok where we are. But we tie up best we can, get in the small boat and head up to the Falls and the old Hotel.

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The hotel is not what I expected. We were told it would be “like stepping back into time.” It was, but in an outdated way. A few cool period pieces were sprinkled throughout (old cash register, fire pit, sewing machine), but none of it presented in a way that made it seem like it belonged there. We stayed long enough to have lunch (and read the National Park trivia cards at our table) and take a stroll before the journey back to our boat (which I wasn’t 100% convinced we’d find).

Simon Says dropped by after our return and verified that our spot is ay-ok – that some of the best spots are “made-up” spots. We’re grateful for the confirmation, particularly when heavy rain and thunderstorms roll in over night tossing our boat repeatedly against the rocky shoreline.

We wake up to a beautiful fog the next day.

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S’mores greet us for breakfast (and by “greet us” I mean, that’s what I made for breakfast). A basket of supplies had been left on the boat as a welcome – and heck, we’re on vacation – there are no rules on vacation. They were a tasty start to our day. The weather report on the morning show mentioned that the evening and following morning would once again have thunderstorms. Opting to not have to search for parking and then deal with the rain in the morning we decided to spend our final night on the boat docked back at home base. But, first we need to make the few hour journey back, which gives us plenty of time to enjoy the view.

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When we got close enough, we radioed in for a pilot and came in to explore a bit of the park on land. We took a drive out to one of the visitor’s centers, walked a few trails, and saw some of the beautiful land-based sights in the park. In the evening we retired to the top deck of our houseboat (which also has a water slide – air and water temps were not suitable for use) and just enjoyed the peaceful night in the harbor.

Our final morning, we woke to this. A beautiful conclusion to the visit.

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Overall, I think I’d only recommend the park to boaters and fishermen. We saw so many fishing boats out, and there seemed to be plenty of great spots for all. House boating turned out to be more work than we felt it was worth. Perhaps with a larger group, so we wouldn’t always have to be driving and/or navigating, it would have been easier, but the lack of easily recognizable parking made the outings more stressful than they should have been. But it was an interesting experience, and I’m glad we did it.

Bon Voyage

Red, right, return. Jeff, our boat “trainer” repeats it over and over again, being sure to drill the information home before setting us loose in Voyageurs National Park. We’ve rented a houseboat from Voyagaire Lodge and Houseboats for a couple days and after a brief tutorial will be on our way into the park, alone. The red, right, return speech is familiar. Jeff says, “It’s the ‘saying’ here at Voyageurs,” but truth is, it’s just the rules of the road in boating. When you are returning to port, you keep red buoys/markers to your right (which means on the way out, they will be on your left). It’s how you navigate your way around rocks and such. Sriram has been sailing for more than a decade – and I’ve been married to him for 4 years – it’s familiar to us both. Nothing else is.

As Jeff advises us to “beach” our boat – giving it just a little more throttle after it hits land, I can see Sriram’s confusion. Over and over again, their recommendations fly in the face of everything he (we) know from sailing. But this is their boat, so we’ll follow their guidance while in the park. We go through the checklist for the boat (and our smaller day-trip boat that’s attached) and ask any questions as they come up. We’ve already loaded our belongings on board, and stopped into the lodge store for last minute provisions – mostly beverages. They didn’t have much in the store, so we asked if there was somewhere else that we could pick up supplies. We were only looking for a couple of onions and potatoes. That was easy enough – they grabbed them from the restaurant kitchen and would just add them to our bill.

With our supplies all set we headed back onto our houseboat, Knot A Care), and headed out. A small motor boat trails us as we head out of the main harbor – Jeff is piloting our boat. Guests are not allowed to man the craft until a certain point outside the harbor. Jeff will “jump ship” and off we’ll go. We’ve been given details about where our best travel points are as we head into the park, as we only have a half day and must be tied up one hour before sunset. Once he leaves us, we follow his advice and head toward a section of the park known as Grassy Pointe.

The drive is beautiful. It is the first lake we’ve been in where we are surrounded by shoreline. It’s both secluded and inviting. We see few travelers as we navigate our way through small narrows and open water, but feel a certain solidarity with those we do see.

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The “house” handles well, and things are looking good. We get turned around a couple times, but discover some beautiful places along the way. All is well – until we look for a place to go and “beach” our boat for the night, and then the fun begins. We see nothing that looks like a beach. We’re supposed to tie up to trees on the shore after bringing her in, but there’s no obvious place to do that. Our map (for any sailors/boaters reading – it was in fact a map, not a chart), indicates spots where the house boaters are allowed to “park.” Big black dots, that probably represent a wide stretch of shoreline that has no corresponding black dot to help you out.

We radio into Voyagaire Base. The operator is super friendly and helpful. No beaches in that area, but we’ll see a dot marked on our map of a spot we can settle in for the night. We’re near a series of cliffs and right around the bend is a houseboat spot. We thank her for the info and mention that we’ll get back to her if we can’t find it.

We find the spot, but it’s rocks. Pretty much all rocks. To park the boat, we will essentially slow down and “beach” the boat on a bed of rocks. It’s a mind-blowing prospect. But the sign says to park there. Base has confirmed it. So we do it. I nudge the boat into place and Sriram jumps off and begins to tie up. We get the boat tied up with time to spare before our “curfew.” We try to explore the mini island at Leach Bay where we have landed, but the paths don’t really lead anywhere and the bugs are out in full force, so we retreat back to the boat. But not before taking a picture of our traveling home.

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A few housekeeping tasks await us, anyway. Each night we are supposed to idle the motor for three hours, at approximately 1,800rpms. This will charge the batteries so that all of our systems will operate. We’re supposed to do the same each A.M. Jeff had given us a lesson on how to do this. I can’t make it happen. No matter what I do, I can’t get the boat to idle, and as I try to increase the rpms, the boat lurches forward into more rock. Not good.

Base is once again a brief call away. I radio in, and first take a moment to thank her for the previous help and verify that we should indeed be up on the rocks. She gives us confirmation that our parking job is just fine and I move onto my question about the charging. She hands off the radio to someone with better knowledge and they attempt to walk me through the procedure again. I’m doing everything they are telling me, but it just won’t catch in idle. Finally I’m told to give up, that my batteries (which were replaced just before we set off) should be fine, and if they can they’ll send someone out in the morning. OK.

It’s a beautiful night, so we load up on bug spray and sit outside and pretty soon I spot a beaver on the opposite shore. We watch it for a bit, and just as it’s about to exit the water for the shore so that I can get a better picture, a motor boat comes through. It heads over to our boat and it’s Chuck from base, come to check in on our charging situation. He hops on board and gets it to idle in one try. He walks me through it again and I get it to idle on my first try, too. I tell him that I swear I’d done exactly what I’d just done 150 times with no luck. He replies, “151st is the charm,” and off he goes.

We quickly discover that we were better off before we could figure out how to do it, as the running motor intrudes on what was just moments ago a beautifully serene location. The thought of leaving it running for three hours is depressing. The thought of doing it again come morning, even more so. When it’s time for bed we lock up for the night and shut down.

An interesting first day in the park. Stayed tuned for more of our house-boating adventure.

Two Harbors Light

Connecting our journey between National Parks (Apostle Islands and the upcoming Voyageurs) was a quick stop-over at the Two Harbors Lighthouse B&B in Minnesota.

The Two Harbors Light Station is the oldest operating lighthouse in the state of Minnesota, dating back to 1892. The B&B opened in 1999 to help fund the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings and grounds. They also run a small gift shop on the grounds to help funding as well.

In addition to the light tower, which has exhibits chronicling the history of the lighthouse, there are also exhibits in the Assistant Lightkeeper’s house, which has been restored to look as it would have in the late 1800’s, and in the Steamship Frontenac’s pilot house, which sits on the lawn, overlooking the lake. The Frontenac ran aground in 1979 on Pellet Island after encountering a sudden snow squall in Lake Superior, ending its career after 56 years in operation.

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We arrived shortly before 5pm and were greeted by our hostess, Rose. We were given a tour of the house, including our cozy room.

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Rose then gave us all the information we needed for our stay, and was on her way until morning. We explored the house a bit more on our own. In the main parlor New Kids on the Block crooned “Please Don’t Go Girl,” out of an old fashioned radio playing the American Top 40 from the late 1980’s. A mystery.

After settling in, we walked around the grounds for a bit, checking out the information in the lighthouse itself as well as the pilot house. The gift shop was closed, and it was getting late, so we headed down the road for dinner. By the end of our meal a lightning storm was starting in the distance. No rain or thunder yet, but large bolts of lightning. We decided it was time to head back.

Upon our return to the property 7 deer greeted us. They observed us as we passed, but otherwise paid us no mind. With the storm still raging on the horizon, we slipped down to the pilot house overlooking the lake. Though it never did rain, and we never heard a single boom of thunder, the storm put on quite the light show. We came back in and sat in the main parlor where we enjoyed cheese (from Benoit Cheese Company) and wine (from Trius Winery) before retiring for the evening.

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Breakfast the next morning was wonderful. It consisted of wild rice quiche (wild rice is apparently a local specialty), a frosted raspberry muffin, sausage, sugared grapes, and fruit salad (plus juice and coffee).

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Two other couples joined us. A couple we’d spoken to briefly the night before and another couple we were just meeting for the first time. The second couple (Stephanie and Ron, I think) were such fans of the B&B that they usually came each year on each of their birthdays, and sometimes on Valentine’s Day as well. High praise.

We all chatted over breakfast about our travels and Rose told some ghost tales about the B&B (there’s a journal in the living room where people have apparently written about various “incidents” – I opted not to read it).

At the end of the meal there were plenty of leftovers. Rose said we were welcome to take anything we wanted, and as we were heading to 3 days on a traveling houseboat, we opted to take her up on it. Loaded up with a bunch of muffins and some quiche, we checked out of the B&B to make our way to Voyageurs National Park. What a fun place to stay.