Day 67 Cloquet to Duluth, Minnesota: Mordor to a Street Party Just for Us via Lothlorien - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

July 6, 2011

Day 67 Cloquet to Duluth, Minnesota: Mordor to a Street Party Just for Us via Lothlorien

The St. Louis river side park was really nice, despite the surrounding power plants and highway. But as we left the protection of the park we could see the true gritty industrial nature of the place. On the other hand, after a short pedal to the town of Carlton it all changed.

Mordor I
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Mordor II
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For a year we had dreamt about the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, the longest paved bike trail on the continent, at 73 miles. When we got on it and rode it, it was great, and was enhanced by all the anticipation.

But now in Carlton we joined the Willard Munger trail. At 70 miles it is definitely in the mega trail league! What's more, the last 15 miles - the bit we had hopped on- is both scenic (with bridges over the St. Louis gorge and the Forbay Canal)and all downhill. In places we could do 18 kph without pedalling!

Willard Munger Trail (Lothlorien)
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A view from the trail
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We love this sort of thing!
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The trail rather abruptly dumped us out at the Willard Munger Inn. We learned later that Willard Munger was a Minnesota legislator who mainly concentrated on trails and environmental preservation. The Inn is owned by his family (he died in 1999). The Inn is also across the street from the Superior Zoo, which was the reason we came to Duluth (vs veering off to Superior). Also, down the road is the Indian Point campground, which happens to be administered by the Munger Inn.

Administration by the Munger family did not trnslate into cheap rates. We had to pay $28 for our site. Admittedly it is quite nice and the showers are free. We put up our tent, stashed a lot of stuff in it, disconnected the BoBs and took off for the zoo.

We had not eaten much yet and were counting on the zoo's Safari Café. The advertising said they had everything from snacks up to entrees. Unfortunately, the most substantial entrée turned out to be a microwaved cheeseburger. Hummpph.

The zoo itself had quite reasonable enclosures for the animals, but often had only one of a kind or two of the same sex. So it is definitely not a conservation/breeding operation. On the other hand, neither is it a roadside menagerie.

The sun was blazing hot, making it hard for us, and also encouraging most animals to seek out cool corners for napping. Still, we saw our favourite superstars: tiger, lions, grizzly bear (just paws, rest was napping out of sight), polar bear, etc. We also liked the poison arrow frog, the only favourite without fur and that we did not want to take home and pet. Here is a bit of what we saw:

Tiger!
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Lemur
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We forgot the name of this one
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Goofy Alpaca
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Peacock blue!
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I'm beat!
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Big problems?
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Need an aspirin?
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Lion
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Black swan
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Despite the heat, we set off for downtown, where we had spotted an area called Canal Park.

Duluth - pretty gritty
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This seemed to us like the tourist stroll around, find restaurant area and in fact we were right. There was a lift bridge with sailboats going back and forth, a lighthouse, a maritime museum, and best of all, Grandma's Restaurant. After the Safari Café, the walk in the zoo and the cycle to downtown we really needed food. Grandma's was like The Keg in Canada or maybe Outback, in the US. That is, oak tables, old warehouse type décor, and good desserts. We both chose entrees that came on beds of wild rice, a local speciality. And we chose $6 desserts that were worth it!

Part of downtown. It's quite a big city.
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Yum
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Us at Lake Superior
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The lift bridge
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A sailboat skoots under the lifting bridge
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Giant tugboat engine in the marine museum
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To cycle from the West end into Canal Park we had unwisely followed 'bike route' signs. Everybody with a 'bike route', whether Google Maps, a GPS, or a set of roadside signs seems to choose obscure broken pavement back streets that we think are ultimately less safe than the main street. So to get home we just boldly headed for main street, which here is Superior Ave.

Whoa! We found Superior Ave. all right. It turns out this is the first day of a three day street festival that closes perhaps 2 km of the street in the downtown and fills it with classic cars, motorcycles, bands, street food, and some craft vendors. We wheeled our bikes up one side and down the other of this whole extravaganza. While Canal Park had had a semi reasonable number of people around, Superior Ave. was packed with folks in a party mood. We had missed any and all July 4 fun, and were ready for a party too. In fact, this surprise seemed made just for us.

As we moved through the crowd, even without the BoBs, we naturally attracted attention, and answered UQs left and right. Everyone was impressed and supportive on hearing our tale, and we received two invitations to come and stay with people we talked to.

We had come through some pretty gritty areas on our way downtown, and were thinking of Duluth as just a dull mill town. Those areas were still there on our cycle back to the tent, but we now had a good feeling about all the people having fun in the street. Here is some of what we saw and did:

Dodie appears to give the cop a ticket
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The people of Duluth filled the street for us
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We have many shots of 2 km of classic cars
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Steve's dad had one of these (Studebaker Lark)
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Motorbike heaven
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Vintage rockers. One band like this on each of many blocks
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High style
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Our favourite
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Really high style
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Style detail
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It's a BMW!
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We were part of the scene
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Today's ride: 61 km (38 miles)
Total: 3,925 km (2,437 miles)

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