Friday, August 17, 2012

Final Couple of days at the Soo

On Wednesday we left DA PAD early for us and gassed up DA TOAD at $4.03/gal.  We have heard the high prices for gasoline in Michigan is because of a gas line leak coming from Canada. We couldn’t believe that we would be paying more for gasoline here than they are paying in Fresno, California.  We were taking a day trip  to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Paradise, Michigan.  This is about 1 1/2 hours around Whitefish Bay to the very tip of Whitefish Point. 

On our way we stopped at the Point Iroquois Lighthouse.  There are currently 28 lighthouses around Lake Superior. This is a beautifully restored lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s home.



We took a walk down to the beach along a wooden boardwalk. We found the stones along the beach so interesting.  There were waves like on the ocean and even sand like along the Atlantic and Pacific beaches, but rocks?  They extend way out into the Lake and there are many rock walls utilizing these abundant rocks.  If you look closely in the wave at the left you can see these rocks.



We continued on Lakeshore Drive through Paradise on to Whitefish Point Lighthouse and  Shipwreck Museum.  This was Lake Superior’s first lighthouse authorized by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861.  There are five separate buildings that comprise this museum, but we could only visit 4. Our first visit was to the light keeper's station and home.

P1070984We saw an excellent movie on the Edmund Fitzgerald that brought tears to many eyes including mine.  We then walked over to the Whitefish Point USCG Lifeboat Station.  We were fortunate to arrive just as the Historical Society staff person began his talk on these incredible Coast Guard surfmen.  Before there was anyway to know if a ship had run aground or was in trouble electronically, these men walked the shore listening and looking for those ships and men in trouble.  This was in the worst kinds of weather: –60 degrees, 30 foot waves, rain, fog, sleet and snow.  There was a Lifeboat station every 10 miles around the lake.  Every 2 hours 2 men would start in opposite directions, meet the next station’s surfman, exchange marker coins to verify they had walked the entire coast, then return to their station.  This was done all night and all day if the visibility was bad.   If they spotted a ship in trouble they would fire a flare and 8 Coast Guard would launch this kink of boat and row up to 5 miles to rescue the seamen.  If the water was too rough they would run down the beach in this wagon, shoot a canon with a rope to the ship, secure a line between the beach and the ship and haul each seaman in a sling back to the beach.  They saved over 10,000 seamen in the time the Coast Guard served Lake Superior.

The Shipwreck Museum was our next stop.  There were many ships that have been researched by the Shipwreck Society featured in this museum. 




The most well know sinking was that of the Edmund Fitzgerald on November 10, 1975. The song by Gordon Lightfoot was a history lesson about the perils of sailors on Lake Superior, that the Chippewa Indians called “Gitche Gumee”. There remains today a mystery as to why the “Fitz” sank. 

We had seen the Anderson come through the Soo Locks just days before and the Captain of our Tour boat told us about Captain Cooper who was still at the helm of the Anderson.  So when we saw this information in the museum we were even happier to have seen the Anderson.





In 1995 the families of the lost “Fitz” crew asked that the bell of the “Fitz” be brought up and put on display as a memorial to their lost loved ones.  Another bell with all the names of the sailors engraved on it was lowered in the original bell’s place.  This is the original bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald.



We started back to Sault Ste. Marie and stopped for a picnic on the beach, called the Shallows.  Leftover Elks Fried Chicken, cold slaw, peanut butter celery, apple juice and a little of the Fudge that we bought at the Museum Store. There were kids that were walking out at least 1/4 mile and were still not up to their knees.  I didn’t get any pictures because our camera was having ‘problems’.  We will be heading to Costco soon to hopefully resolve that.

When we got back to the Soo Locks, we took our chairs to the park and an amazing concert. 


Thursday, my birthday, we went to dinner at Karl’s Cuisine. it was perfect, a window seat, maple planked white fish, pecan rice, a delicious medley of vegetables, bread stick and raspberry chocolate cheesecake & raspberry chocolate port for desert.  Tom had sirloin steak, potatoes with mushroom gravy, vegetables and we shared desert.


Today we planned on leaving the Elks in Sault Ste. Marie.  Last night the wind blew and blew. The topper awning over our bed slide flapped and flopped all night.  When we tried to get the slide closed this morning the wind just inflated it like a giant balloon.  Tom began the job of removing the roller and fabric.  Easier said than done as the wind was gusting 35+ mph.  Tom thought he was going to be blown off the ladder a couple of times. He was up and down many times getting tools and moving the ladder from one end of the slide to the other.  After bandaging his bleeding fingers and checking the scuffs of his shins from the ladder, the work was finally done. The awning was stored in the bay and the slide was retracted.  We made a quick trip to Clyde’s Drive-In just down the street with the best fish sandwich I ever had and Tom’s favorite hamburger and onion rings.


We were pretty sad to leave this very special town.  We will be back… don’t know when, but this is definitely an area we want to spend more time.


The wind was pretty strong until we got over the Mackinac Bridge. Pictures do not do justice to how high and long this bridge is.  We were only allowed to drive 20 mph in the right lane only with at least 500 feet behind another truck. Fortunately it was very lightly traveled on this windy day.


We are staying tonight at the Moose Lodge in Cadillac, MI.  We had their ‘all you can eat’ fish dinner at the Moose.  Again, delicious!  Tomorrow we head south and hope to get to Elkhart and our Nick and Terry Russell fix.  I have to put in a plug for Nick’s new book, Crazy Days in Big Lake.  I downloaded it to my Droid and in the cloud to read on my computer and it is hard to put down.  It’s so funny!!!  Another winner for Nick.

One last picture.  Call me crazy, but I take a picture of our bed after I make it EVERY day.  Most of the time I make the bed around Pansy.  So I’ll say good night from Tom, Barbara and Pansy.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Sault St. Marie, Day 3

So what did we do today?  First, a confession.  We slept in until 11:00.  Why, why, why?  We blame it on DirecTV.  We get the west coast feed on our DirecTV.  We have asked to change that to the east coast feed while we are in this eastern time zone, but DirecTV will not change us.  We may have to change to Dish.   What does that fact have to do with our sleeping in until 11?  Olympics Closing Ceremony.  We finally turned the TV off, turned over, and closed our eyes at 3 AM this morning.

We finally got going after Tom brought me coffee, banana, and cinnamon melba toast in bed.  This is a little different from my normal biscotti, but we tried a new-to-us Trenary Toast from Wal-mart and it is pretty good. Doubt we will find it outside of Michigan though.  After reading our favorite blogs, emails and Facebook, and having a bowl of cereal for lunch, we were ready to explore Sault St. Marie.  (This retirement is really great Laughing out loud)

Dock #1 is right next door from the Elks, in fact we can see the Tour Boats from our couch window.  We had decided to take the dinner tour so we drove over and bought our tickets.  The decision was not real easy.  There was a storm brewing and threatening to spoil the tour.  After we checked 3 weather sites on our Droids, we said lets just do it!  We liked the menu, roast beef, turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy, green beans, and 3 kinds of salads sounded better than the pork chops and chicken on Wednesday. 

We had a couple of hours before we had to check in for the tour, so we went caching.  #1 was easy, one we had seen many times.  The hint was “the end of the fence”.  You cachers know what that one was.  In order to get the well-made cache, Tom had to use the ‘chimpanzee method’ – a rock to pry it loose.

2012-08-13_16-44-47_173#2 became #3 because when we parked nearby there was a Border Patrol car parked right next to us.  It was raining quite hard so we didn’t mind waiting.  When the rain stopped the Border Patrol car did not move.  We waited.  No movement by the Border Patrol car.  We left to find #2, named “The Gnome”.  It was quite close to the Elks and we had to stop by and pick up Tom’s cell phone that he had left in DA PAD.  This is what we saw when we stopped near the cache, right by the street.  There was a gnome inside the Dutch doors.  This was one of the cutest cache hides we’ve seen in a long time. 

Then back to #3.  The Border Patrol car was just pulling out of the parking lot.  This cache, Red Pine, was an easy find even though it was rated D3.5 for difficulty.  We then drove back to Dock #1 to get ready for the tour of the Soo Locks and dinner.  This is so close we can see DA PAD from the ramp to the boat.


A tour bus of seniors were among those boarding with us.  There were 42 passengers on board for the dinner.


We were seated with a delightful couple, Susan and Andy, from about 40 miles from Elkhart, IN.  They were camping about an hour away.  We talked non-stop all through dinner then moved to the upper deck to get some pictures of the locks.  The ship that was coming through the Poe Lock was the Arthur M Anderson.  This was the ship that was following the Edmund Fitzgerald in that horrific storm in which the Fitz was lost.  The Anderson’s Captain was guiding the Fitz by radio because the Fitz’s radar was lost.  The Anderson lost all contact and notified the Coast Guard.  The Anderson arrived safely to its port, then the Anderson’s captain, with the full support of his crew, went back in the storm to try to find survivors, but all were lost.  Our captain was very knowledgeable about that accident.



As we were sailing toward our lock, the only Canadian Lock, we saw the US Flag and the Canadian Flag marking the border on the high bridge spanning the two Sault St. Maries, Michigan and Canada.


We sailed into the lock on the Huron side which is 21 feet lower than the Superior side.  We were told that 21 feet does not seem like that much difference, but Lake Superior is the second largest fresh water lake in the world, if the gates were opened, the states of Michigan, Indiana, and part of Ohio would be flooded.

We sailed by the Canadian Algoma Steel Plant and saw them loading taconite.



During WWII 85 percent of the iron for ships, tanks and guns went through the Soo Locks.  As a result this was the most guarded inland section of North America.  Only after WWII ended were the locks open to tourists. 

We circled around and re-entered the Lake Huron side through the McArthur Lock.   This time we entered high, the gates were closed behind us, the water was drained and we were in a very deep trough.  This lock is 800 feet long and accommodates the long ships.  Our ship, the Holiday is 65 feet long.  We were sure small in this big lock.  There is no fee for any ship to sail through the locks. 


On our way back to the Dock #1 we passed the amazing Edison Sault Power plant, completed in 1902.  It is the longest power plant in the world.


We saw several little boats with fishermen fishing at the tail races.  Maybe the fishing is better there. 


We again passed DA PAD on the way back to the Dock and I think I spot Pansy laying in the window on the driver’s side.


We didn’t get to the Tower of History, but tomorrow looks like it will not be rainy like today.  We will probably get a better view. 

We may even check out some more caches.  Until our next blog, cache on.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On to Sault St. Marie

Our drive from Marquette, MI, along Lake Superior was everything we heard it was…. beautiful. 


We drove through many small quaint towns right on the lake.


When we left Marquette diesel was running $4.09, so when we saw the $3.96 we decided it was time to fill up.  This was one of the first times in a long time we saw that diesel was lower than regular gas.


We arrived in Sault St. Marie late in the afternoon.


We stopped first at the Soo RV Park, just 1/4 mile from the Elks Lodge, to dump our tanks.  This is one of the necessities of RV’ing and we must do this chore about every 2 weeks.  I guess I have to admit, this is a ‘blue’ job, meaning Tom does it.  This is what we saw when we pulled into the Elks Lodge and parked, our first Long Ship.


Then another sailed by that was even longer.


When we walked up to the lodge we discovered they were hosting a wedding.  We met the bride and even offered to give her some tips on maintaining a good marriage; she laughed and congratulated us.  Laughing out loud  We then went to dinner at a local restaurant recommended by the Elks’ bartender.  It was a steak and Mexican restaurant.  Sounded good.  Unfortunately neither of us were very hungry, so it was Queso with flour and corn tortillas, BBQ quesadilla, and a Rubin for Tom.  We did have a toast of our Margueritas. We came back to the RV and watched the sun set, the lights across the water begin to sparkle and disappear when a ship sailed by.

This morning we watched Sunday Morning and the news and I fixed breakfast of leftover quesidillas mixed in scrambled eggs, sour cream and queso sauce on top, refried beans, and toast.  Not bad if I do say so myself.

We drove the very short distance into the cute town of Sault St. Marie.  We went to see the locks up close.  We went first to the visitor center and saw 4 videos on the Great Lakes System managed by the US Corp of Engineers.  These lakes and the St Lawrence Seaway constitute 1/5 of the world’s supply of fresh water.  Sault St. Marie is the 3rd oldest city in the United States following St. Augustine, FL, and Santa Fe, NM, that has been continuously inhabited.  We saw a model of the first lock, The Old State Lock, from 1855.  Since then locks have been added, expanded, and lengthened several times.  Today the locks look like this.


We walked up onto the viewing platform and watch as this ‘big lady’ very slowly exited the locks. 



We walked across the street to do a little shopping.  I found this cute jacket with lighthouses that would be perfect for my birthday.  But since I pay all the bills, it kinda seems like I would be buying my own present.  So we decided to take a picture appreciate the memory.  Anyway the “one in one out” rule would mean I would have to get rid of my Monaco or Beaudry jacket.  NOT!


We finished our shopping walk with a stop at the Ice Cream Shop.  I tested the vanilla and decided it was pretty darn good so I ordered a single dish of vanilla with Macanaw fudge swirls. It was delicious!  Tom had a root beer float; he said you can’t go wrong with a float.

The sum was setting as we returned to DA PAD.



I guess that’s the end for today.


Tomorrow we plan to visit the Tower of History and maybe take a boat tour.