Friday, August 15, 2014

The Way Home

Here's our (much-delayed) final post...

We said our goodbyes to Colorado after a nice night with James and Maureen, and set off to the east across the great plains. It felt good to be on our way back home. By the time we reached Iowa the landscape seemed positively lush, with big leafy trees breaking up bright green fields. Iowa was somewhat less flat than I had expected. We turned north and meandered our way to Minneapolis, stopping along the way to play tennis and try some local food, which turned out to be standard greasy diner fare. Minneapolis itself was lovely, especially near the river downtown. The softly setting sun lit up the skyline above the water, and there were lots of happy-seeming young people running and biking across the river bridges.

Looking down at the mighty Mississippi in Minneapolis. The falls were impressive.
We continued east, traversing Packer-country in northern Wisconsin, and arrived in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which we explored for several days. It is a strikingly isolated place, with plenty of natural beauty, local pride, and very very cold water. 

Residents of the U.P proudly refer to themselves as "Yoopers". They even put the name on a chocolate bar.
The highlight of Yooper cuisine is the pastie (see below). They're kind of like empanadas, but have lots of potatoes in the filling and have less flavor.

We spent a day in the Porcupine Mountains, or "Porkies", which are a small range on the southern shore of Lake Superior. They looked like tiny hills compared to the peaks we had just left in Colorado, but it was really a nice change of pace. We hadn't seen rolling hills with unbroken forests of deciduous trees in far too long :)

An overlook above Cloud Lake. This place really could be a National Park.
A sight for sore eyes. 
We had a nice campsite by Lake Superior. The UP is actually at the extreme western edge of the eastern time zone, so the sun didn't set until 10. 
After leaving the Porkies we continued east along the shore of Lake Superior. The highlight in this area was the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We explored a beautiful green forest and found a stretch of white-sand beach that stretched for miles with not a single person there. This area is really a hidden gem. 

White sand and crystal-clear water with nobody else around. But the water was absolutely freezing.
The view to the west...
... and to the East.
As we left the UP the pull to get back home became stronger. We definitely had some travel fatigue after weeks on the road.

We cut across Ontario to avoid setting foot in Ohio, and stopped at a bar to watch the US play Ghana in the world cup. The bar was quite empty and we were the only ones watching the game, so my exuberant celebration after the late US goal really shocked the bartender. 

Back in the US we found a calm campsite on the shore of Lake Ontario. At this point we were really pros at car camping. The key is to arrive a bit early as the sun is setting, and then to have a nice fire, a beer or two, and a good book to read. The next day we saw Niagara Falls, the Buffalo Zoo, and Nellie's childhood home in Rochester. It was a bit sad to see the animals in the zoo, which definitely isn't as nice as the San Diego wild animal park. 

We spent our last night on Lake Oneida, and were hit with a crazy thunderstorm. We crossed into Vermont near Bennington the next morning. It was great to be home.

Grilling sausages over our fire near Lake Ontario. 
Niagara Falls! It was huge, but not my favorite attraction. 
And Nellie's childhood home in Rochester.

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