Friday, September 7, 2012

Figment – 08-20/21-12 WY/Canada Trip –Merriam, KS to OKC to HOME!
I must tell you, after the Mamas had their last visit, it was all about getting home. There was definitely a drought in Kansas and northern Oklahoma was not much better. Once we got to southern OK and into TX, it was much greener.
I’m filthy, I’m tired, I’ve got bugs on my face, but I am so happy to be home! The Mamas promised to clean me all up before I have to go away to storage. You know I don’t like that part, but I don’t think it’ll be long before we go on another adventure.

Mary – 08-19-12 WY/Canada Trip – Waukee, IA to Merriam, KS (Kansas City)

We were in 3 states today - IA, MO, and KS. In Kansas City, we crossed the Missouri River and the Kansas River. It is always easy to tell when the trip is coming to a close -- the state's Thank You and Welcome signs seem to come faster and faster.

Today was another very special day. We were able to spend the night just south of Kansas City, KS and have dinner with our very dear friend Brad. We first met and worked with Brad when the three of us were working on a TDY (temporary dudy) assignment in Puerto Rico. Many of you have probably heard the 'OMG, there is a drought here' stories from Puerto Rico. If you haven't, let me simply say it was a real bonding experience when everyone knew everyone else's personal hygiene habits. Brad even took a shower in our condo because there was no water at his for 48 hour spans. Anyway, Brad is a wonderful, kind, funny and inspirational person we are proud to call our friend. We love you Bradster!


Figment – 08-18-12 WY/Canada Trip – Woodbury, MN to Waukee, IA
First thing today, I got to step into Wisconsin for a little bit. We went across the St Croix River and it was really wide. Such a beautiful setting. There was a large marina in Hudson where we could see lots and lots of sail boats. In just a few miles it empties into the Mississippi River. I could spend some time here, but Mama Conni just wanted Mama Mary and me to see where she had taken Gully to get cleaned up. It was so pretty that she wanted to share and I’m glad she did.

A little later we backtracked back to I35 and crossed the Mississippi River. It took me a long time to learn how to spell that. Mama Conni had to keep correcting me. Anyway, I was really surprised to see that the Mississippi here was not as wide or pretty as the St Croix River.

Also, we crossed into Iowa today and I just thought I had seen corn fields before!! I mean mile after mile. I can see now how America also feeds other countries.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mary – 08-17-12 WY/Canada Trip – Woodbury, MN (St Paul)
Today was fabulous. I was able to meet one of my Lupie Facebook friends in person. Theresa lives in a small Wisconsin town just across the border from St. Paul, MN. As soon as I realized we would be heading east to Ontario before heading south towards home, I sent her a note to see if she was available and would like to meet. It all came together and we, along with Conni, met for lunch. We recognized each other immediately and gave each other huge hugs in true Lupus sisterhood fashion. The bond formed by people with a shared chronic illness is amazing and wonderful.  Theresa is just as sweet and delightful as I knew she would be from following her and her blog. We talked and shared and questioned and talked some more ... non-stop for two hours. None of us wanted the lunch to end. Unfortunately, we had to part but remembered to get a couple of pictures to remember the day. I think if I was smiling any harder I'd cause permanent damage to my face. Conni and I both wish Theresa lived closer - I know she'd love the Lupie Sisters I'm blessed to have near me at home. We parted agreeing to virtual coffee breaks, which I'm very much looking forward to in the future. Love you girl!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Figment – 08-16-12 WY/Canada Trip – Ely to Woodbury, MN (St Paul)
I don’t really know what happened today, but it seemed to be a day from hell. Yep, I know, I shouldn’t talk like that, but I really had a rough day and I have to rant just a little. Not long after we started out for the day, we had a detour. This turned out to be a very lengthy detour and took us quite a way from where we were headed. At one point, the pavement just stopped! Yep, dirt and gravel. One good thing I will say for it is that it was much smoother than the previous paved roads that day. Well, we drove and drove on this 2 lane dirt road for a long way. Then, we finally saw some guys working on the road and Mama Conni asked them how much further on the dirt. They kinda grinned and said “oh, about 8 more miles”. Yikes! Did I say it was also wet? So, I was getting really filthy and you couldn’t even believe how dirty poor Gully Jumper was getting.

OK, we finally got thru that detour and were on our way again. Even though we had the detour, it was absolutely beautiful. Tall, tall evergreen forests, with lakes scattered about. Anyway, back to our route we go. It wasn’t long until we hit construction work and then we hit it again and again and again. At one point, both directions of traffic came to a complete stop for about 15-20 minutes while some gravel trucks unloaded.
Finally, we got to a highway that hugged the coast of Lake Superior for miles. The wind was blowing again, so neither I nor Mama Conni got to catch too many glances that way.

Oh, oh, did I tell you? When we got kinda close to the Minneapolis/St Paul area, we got on the beginning of Interstate 35. Oh, I thought we were almost home. Then the Mamas explained to me where we really were. I still felt pretty good about it because I knew that from there it was just straight home. So, when we finally do get home, I will have been on the beginning of Interstate 35 all the way from MN to past San Antonio! Wow!

Anyway, Mama Conni said it was her worst ever driving day and I feel bad about that. But, I did feel the same way. Exhausted, we both went to bed early.

Mary – 08-15-12 WY/Canada Trip –Ely, MN
Figment and Conni have covered most of the Ely sites and activities but I couldn't resist including a note about food. In addition to the best hamburger ever, I had the best frozen custard ever. What we call frozen custard in the south doesn't hold a candle to Red Cabin Custard in Ely, MN.

The description on their Facebook page says it all: Frozen Custard is a gourmet ice cream. It's kind of like the difference between making ice cream with skim milk versus making it with eggnog. Frozen Custard has approximately 3 to 4 times the butterfat content than soft serve ice milk or ice cream, and contains egg yolks which are not present in the others. It also has virtually zero air pumped into it, known as overrun. Soft serve and ice cream are at least 50% air.
And, they make it fresh every single day. I had a turtle. Oh so yummy.

Decisions, decisions .....

The Turtle

Conni – 08-15-12 WY/Canada Trip – Ely, MN
Today we went to town to do a little sweatshirt/t-shirt shopping. We visited many shops. One thing we noticed right away was how friendly everyone was. It was really nice and made you feel at home.
We had a bacon cheeseburger at Boathouse Restaurant & Brewpub and Mary claimed it to be the best she had ever had. I think I have to agree with her.

As we were leaving town, I spotted a bird on the road. I immediately pulled over and watched in horror as 3 cars straddled it and went on their way. The last one’s wheels were so close that the wind turned it upside down. I ran out in the street and grabbed it and ran back to the car. It was a woodpecker. Neither of us knew if it would live or not, but decided to put it back across the street next to some trees. I had just gotten back in Gully when I spied a cat about 30 ft. away heading that direction. So, back out of the Jeep, across the road, snatched it up, and back again. It had its beak open the whole time, so we gave it a tiny drink of water from a bottle cap. It seemed to like it and it seemed to help a little. So now we try to figure out where to take it. As we drove, it didn’t seem to get any better, so we drove back into town looking for a vet. Well, you can hope? This apparently was long enough for shock to be over and for it to recuperate a little. It started trying to get out of Mary’s lap. So, decision time again. It’s trying to fly in the Jeep. We find yet another spot to release it. Mary takes it this time over to some trees. She actually put it on a limb and it was able to stay. Well, for a minute. Then it flew away. We watched until it was out of sight. Pretty nice save, I think.

Conni – 08-13-12 WY/Canada Trip – Ely, MN
Spotting a wolf in the wild is usually a rare event, but visitors to the
International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, easily enjoy viewing the center's resident wolf pack while learning more about this reclusive and often misunderstood animal.
The center celebrates its 25th anniversary this year as it continues to fulfill its mission to educate people about wolves and their relationship to the wild, as well as exploring what role humans will play in the wolves' future.

Controversy about wolves often arises as the advance of civilization further encroaches into wild lands, creating an ever-shrinking habitat for the wolves. Staff of the International Wolf Center sees accurate and objective education about the wolves, their place as predators in the ecosystem, and the need for them to reclaim at least a small portion of their former habitat as keys to making informed decisions about the real or perceived issues surrounding the wolves, their interaction with human civilization, and the survival of the species.

Conni – 08-12-12 WY/Canada Trip –Ely, MN
Ely(E-lee) is the largest "jumping off" town for the BWCAW “Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness”, with extensive outfitting and other services. It can credibly be claimed to do the most wilderness canoe outfitting of any town or city in the world.

The BWCAW is a 2 million acre federal preserve that may be the best place in the lower 48 to heed the call of the wild.

Within its borders are endless forests and more than 2000 lakes, but no roads, homes, stores, motorboats, telephone cables or power lines. In other words, it’s nature in its purest form.

Not surprisingly, this great natural expanse has attracted some noted outdoorsmen to Ely. Perhaps the best known is the late Charles Kuralt, who so loved the town that he bought a radio station here.

“Ely appears to be the end of the road for people who love the wilderness, beauty and solitude, “ Mr. Kuralt wrote. “On the contrary, it’s the center of the world.”
That’s a large tribute to a small town.

This was one of our favorite stops of the whole trip. We’re already talking about coming back.

Figment – 08-12-12 WY/Canada Trip – Dryden, ON to Ely, MN
Most of the drive today was on two lane roads thru beautiful forest. I went about two hours or so and saw no numbered crossroads, houses, or businesses, etc. We probably saw no more than 20-30 other vehicles the entire time.
A while after traveling thru the forest, we crossed the border back into the U.S. at International Falls, MN.  In preparation, the Mamas took stock of how much liquor we had on board (not much left J) and what fresh foods we had. Mama Conni dutifully gave them all the information. Of course, this couldn’t be as easy as entering Canada. No jokes about our party time of drinks, etc. this time. They were very interested in our food, so we had to pull into a different area so someone could come on board and check everything out.

A lady officer came aboard and asked about 20 questions concerning what we had. We were told to just sit in our seats and to hold Sadie while she looked in the refrigerator and cabinets where Sadie’s food and treats were stored. It really wasn’t bad, as all she took was our tomato, bell pepper, and garlic. We were able to keep other things, including our B.C. cherries. The whole thing only took about 10 minutes or so.
I was ready to head out as soon as she left. But, guess what? Another officer had pulled over an 18-wheeler that didn’t have all the correct paperwork. He had him park where he blocked the exit. He didn’t seem to be concerned at all that we would have to wait. Luckily, another officer from the original building came out and was concerned about our situation. He said that the trucker might be finished up in about 30 minutes or so. So, the Mamas told him they’d just fix some lunch and eat and then see if we could get out. After lunch was finished, they were told that the trucker would be there a while longer. So, the Mamas got out and unhitched Gully, I backed up, they re-hitched, and we left by the original route. Bet not many people have had lunch on the border or had to un-hitch to get out of there.

The rest of the day was uneventful, but a beautiful drive. I went past lake after lake after lake. And, to top it off, Mama Mary got us a campsite right on the edge of a lake. If you could see me, you’d see me smiling.

Waiting in line at the US border crossing

Our spot on the lake in Ely

My own private dock on the water

View from the dock

Figment – 08-10/11-12 WY/Canada Trip – Dryden, ON
These days were “down” days for the Mamas as they only went out a couple of times and that was to eat. So, we all got a little rest before hitting the road again. I enjoyed the beautiful sunset from my campsite. 

Mary – 08-9-12 WY/Canada Trip – Portage La Prairie, MN to Dryden, ON
We flew through Winnepeg, anxious to get to the northern Ontario lake region. We've never seen so many lakes so close together. There were lots of islands, some with a home or two, on many. We especially love how the trees go right down to the shores. We took a lot of pictures -- most out the window --  as we drove to Dryden where we plan to stay for a few days of rest.

Northwest Ontario's lakes are evident on this map!
Dryden is located at the top of the map. We decided to take
Hwy 502 south to Minnesota rather than the route
highlighted on this map.

The lakes were all so lovely, I couldn't resist showing quite a few pictures. Double click to enlarge any you'd like to see better.