Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Toronto, More Fun Family Time

We had a great and busy visit with my niece Shelby, her husband Dan and their three kids. Of course I think they're all adorable and we enjoy spending time with them. The twins, Wallace and Linnea, are eight months old.

Their brother Sam will be four in August.

Shelby and Dan are certainly kept busy with the kids and everything else going on in their lives, but they just seem to roll with it. We tried to help out where we could but could tell we don't have the energy we used to. 
We went to the Toronto Zoo one afternoon and were pretty impressed by the way Shelby had all the kids organized. We called it her traveling roadshow.

It was a fun day and nice outing. I think the kids enjoyed the big sandbox most of all.


June 13, Sault St Marie to Sudbury, ON Canada, 197 miles
June 14, Sudbury to Glen Rouge Park, Toronto, 246 miles

The Soo

When we left Minnesota we headed for Toronto where my niece, her husband and three children live. Our route took us across the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan, a new place for us. The drive was very scenic with lots of land and few people. An interesting fact is that the Upper Peninsula contains 29% of the land area of Michigan but just 3% of its total population. The residents are frequently called Yoopers (derived from 'U.P.-ers')
The U.P. is connected to the rest of Michigan by the Mackinac Bridge. We didn't think we would have an opportunity to go over the bridge but we did. A bracket on our front window shades broke and we had the replacement part overnighted to Sault St Marie.  Unfortunately it ended up in Alpena, 150 miles away. We got in the car and made a mad dash to pick it up. Since we had commitments in Toronto we really didn't have much choice - nice to go over the bridge but not the best of circumstances. All worked out well, though.

We stayed a few nights at the Elks Lodge in Sault St Marie, or The Soo, which was close to our border crossing into Canada. We had a great spot where we could watch the huge ships coming and going with their cargo. Of course this led us into learning about the Soo Locks (especially Brian, who is always inquisitive regarding these things). Over one million people visit the Locks every year.

The Soo Locks connect Lake Superior and Lake Huron. The first State Lock was built in 1855. Up until then, explorers, fur traders, and Native Americans portaged their canoes and cargo around the rapids of the St. Marys River, the only water connection between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes. There is a section of the river known as the St. Marys Rapids where the water falls about 21 feet from the level of Lake Superior to the level of the lower lakes. This natural barrier to navigation resulted in the construction of the locks in a project known as the St. Marys Falls Canal. 
In the photo below the rapids can be seen on the left, the Locks on the right.

There are now two locks which are operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. New locks are planned to be built and have been approved by Congress but funds haven't been allocated yet.
Each year there are approximately 10,000 'lockages' hauling 86 million tons of cargo. The main cargoes that move through the Soo Locks are taconite (iron ore) and coal going from Western Lake Superior to ports on the lower lakes.  Other common cargoes are grain, limestone, and salt. Occasionally there are foreign ships bringing in windmill parts headed for ports on Lake Superior. Some other examples of Great Lakes shipping through the Soo are iron from the western Superior Iron Range in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Canada to steel mills in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, and coal from Pennsylvania and Ohio going to the steel mill in Sault St Marie, Ontario from Duluth for Detroit Edison.

The Locks can be seen in the above photo. Both locks operate in both directions and can either raise or lower boats.  The size of the boat determines which lock it will use.  Boats larger than 730 feet long and 76 feet wide are too big for the MacArthur Lock (on the left) and must use the Poe Lock. Boats heading into Lake Superior from the lower Lake Huron Level are described as being upbound and will have to be raised up 21 feet at the Locks.  Boats going the other way, from the higher Lake Superior level going towards Lake Huron must be lowered down 21 feet at the Locks and are described as being downbound. The locks are closed from January to March each year while boats are in port. At this time repairs and maintenance are done on the locks.
There is a lot more information along with a webcam on the following website maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers

Some of the ships we saw were really huge. The largest boat on the Great Lakes is the Paul R. Tregurtha which is 1014 feet long and 105 feet wide, longer than three football fields. The Tregurtha's capacity is 68,000 long tons of iron ore or 63,616 long tons of coal. It has a discharge boom that can be swung 100 degrees to port or starboard. It's capable of unloading at a rate of 10,000 long tons of iron ore per hour, or 6,000 net tons of coal per hour  
It's amazing how quickly they move the ships through the Locks. From the time a ship approaches the Lock until the time it leaves takes between 40-60 minutes.  Once it is secured inside the lock it takes 15-20 minutes to raise or lower the boat 21 feet (just over a foot a minute).

The Locks are truly an incredible engineering feat and one we just stumbled upon. Love it when that happens.

June 10, Mystic Lake, MN to Oconto, WI, 304 miles
June 11, Oconto, WI to Sault St Marie, MI 254 miles

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Minnesota, Family Time

We had a very nice visit with my family in Minnesota. I have 3 brothers and 1 sister who live in the Minneapolis area, where I grew up. It’s always a nice stop, somewhat hectic trying to spend time with everyone, but enjoyable. Apologies to family members who were left out - I didn't get good pictures of everyone.

My sister Nancy and nephew Jack
My brother Chris, sister-in-law Barb, and niece Suzie
We had a few lucky things happen while we were in Minnesota. The first one happened when Brian and I attended an event for a group called Hunger Solutions which is tackling the problem of hunger in Minnesota. My brother Chris is treasurer of the group and invited us to come as his guests to an event that he was hosting. Nice restaurant, good food and drinks. When we went to the registration table I put my name in for the door prize, which was 4 bottles of wine. Never expected to win. When the winner was announced (by my brother) it was pretty funny that it turned out to be me. Surprised us all.

We attended a family brunch at a place that has some history for our family. My great-uncle Victor Bacon owned a pharmacy in Excelsior, MN called Bacon Drug. Uncle Vic was always fun to be around – lots of joking and laughs. One of my best memories with Uncle Vic happened when I was in junior high school. He called my dad and asked if I would like 4 tickets to see the Beatles. Well, that was a no brainer. So I got 4 tickets, 6th row center, to see the Beatles on their first tour of the United States. Pretty special!
As it turns out my uncle was a good friend of the promoter bringing bands in to play in the area. In 1964 his friend promoted a concert for the Rolling Stones at the Danceland Ballroom at Excelsior Amusement Park. The story is that Mick Jagger was at Bacon Drug the next day getting a prescription filled when he met a local character standing next to him named Mr. Jimmy Hutmaker.  Mr. Jimmy complained to Jagger that he had ordered a Cherry Coke but got a regular Coke instead, then said “You can’t always get what you want.” Five years later the Stones released the song ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ and it has references to Mr. Jimmy, a cherry soda, and a prescription. According to my Aunt Laurel, who was around at the time, this is a true story.

Left to right - my brothers Dave and Chris, me, the owner of Victor's Restaurant, my twin cousins Kim and Kelly, seated - cousin Cindy, my Aunt Laurel, and my sister Nancy
Back to the family brunch. The building that Bacon Drug was in is still standing in Excelsior. The new owners have named it Victor’s in memory of my Uncle Vic. The family, including my Aunt Laurel and my cousins, met there for a lovely brunch. We were treated royally and really enjoyed having a mini-reunion in Uncle Vic’s honor.

1941 Lincoln Continental
Our second piece of good luck came after we left the brunch. Brian and I saw signs for a car and boat show down on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, about a block away from Victors. As we were walking down to the docks, a couple guys pulled up in a convertible and asked if we were going to the car show. I replied that we were just wandering around, and they gave us 2 tickets to the show. Turns out it was a big event called the 10,000 Lakes Concours d’Elegance and the tickets were worth $35 each. So we went in and walked around, took some fun pictures. Pretty interesting day and an elegant setting for the Concours.

1905 Stevens Duryea R, never saw one of these before

1953 Jaguar XK120
1960 Heli-bout Flying Boat, one of a kind prototype

Not sure about this one - there were some beautiful older Chris-Craft and Hacker Craft boats
Map of our June 21 route from Sioux Falls to Mystic Lake RV Park, 208 miles