The Lakewalk Along the Shores of Gitche Gumee

Not a lover of cold weather, I do not want to be in Duluth, Minnesota, in the winter.  The website 24 / 7 Wall St. lists Duluth as the fifth coldest city in our nation. The lowest recorded temperature is -39 degrees.  Brrrr!

The Lakewalk 

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The Lakewalk, Duluth

Traveling to Duluth in the summer instead of the winter changes that “Brrrr” to a “Bravo!” My morning started pleasantly at Canal Park where my husband and I explored the Lakewalk, a pedestrian and biking path that meanders 7.25 miles along the shore of Lake Superior, otherwise immortalized by Henry Longsworth Longfellow as Lake Gitche Gumee, The comfortable 71-degree weather was partly cloudy with a slight breeze and not a shiver in sight.

Aerial Lift Bridge

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Aerial Lift Bridge at Canal Park

Our research on the walk suggested that we start at either Canal Park or at Leif Erickson Park and the Rose Garden.  We chose the former, mainly because it was closest to our hotel.  We are glad we did because that site allowed us to view Duluth’s iconic landmark, the Aerial Lift Bridge. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see this massive structure actually rise up to allow ships to sail beneath it. Fortunately, we can turn to YouTube, to see this magic of 20th century technology happen.

The Lighthouse

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Duluth Harbor North Pier Lighthouse

Also of 20th century technology, but not massive yet impressive never-the-less, is the 36-foot tall Duluth Harbor North Pier Lighthouse. Built in 1910, this working lighthouse guards the entrance to the Duluth Shipping Canal. Visitors who walk from the Lakewalk to the lighthouse pier and up the steps can see the lock on the door facing the lake. Unfortunately, no weathered lighthouse keeper greets them.  The last one served from 1928 to 1940; today, the lighthouse is fully automated.

Sights Along the Walk

There is never a dull moment on this walk.  In addition to the natural beauty of  Lake Superior, there is a series of  ancient anchors in repose along the shore.

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One of several anchors along the shore

In addition, if you can’t find the banned locks of love on Paris’s bridges any more, you can find them on Duluth’s pier posts.

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Locks of love

Sculptures also enliven the area.  Some are in front of shops,  a few blocks from the Lakewalk,

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A sculpture celebrating family fun in the great outdoors

while others require you to exit the Lakewalk on strategically placed steps.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore this option.  If we had exited at Lake Place, we would have found Sister City Park and Enger Park and the sculptures gifted by Duluth’s Sister Cities. At the former park, there is The Green Bear from Petrozavodsk, Russia, and The Stone from Växjö, Sweden.  At Enger Park, we would have heard the mellow tones  of The Peace Bell, a gift from Ohara Isumi-City, Japan.

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Exiti the park at Lake Place to find the Sister Cities’ sculptures.

We retraced our steps 1.5 miles back to the car, which we parked in one of the many lots in Canal Park, an area that prior to 1985 was a rusting industrialized area whose waterfront was shut off to the public.  Visionaries have revitalized Canal Park into a vibrant venue that attracts nature lovers, sports enthusiasts, gourmets, and art afficiandos.

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The walk back to Canal Park

We relunctantly left the Lakewalk, but the serendipity continued. My favorite find was a fanciful fountain that spouted a lively spray on a sliding water nymph.

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A fountain of fun

Another surpise was a brick wall that heralded the work of sailors, past and present, reminding us of the influence of the maritime industry on Duluth’s cultural heritage.

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If walls could talk, what would these mariners say?

‘There are ample opportunities to both walk and shop until you drop. The revitalized waterfront also hosts a bevy of restaurants and shops from the familiar, like Cold Stone,  to the unfamiliar, like Antique Boutique.

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Just a few of the myriad of shops in the Canal Park area

Arriving back at our car, I noted that according to my Fitbit,  I had walked three miles roundtrip, which leaves almost six miles of the walk yet to explore. There is nothing left to say except the obvious:  “Bravo to Duluth!” We will return.

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A Requiem for Really, Life?’s Name

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Photography by Keith Britton

Dearly Beloved, we are here today to bury the original name of my blog.

Really, Life?, dust you never were, but dust you must now be. You were a good ole name, steadfast, but unfortunately not true to my musings. I needed a name which captures more clearly what the blog is about–comments about my travels with an occasional “detour” to other topics.

Please understand, Really, Life?, that you did nothing wrong. I chose you; you didn’t choose me. Now I am your executioner, and I take full responsibility for your death. As a former composition teacher, I understand the importance of brainstorming, of writing and re-writing until you get “it” right.  In this case, “it” wasn’t just the words I needed to get right; “it” was also the concept. I found myself writing far more about the serendipity found in my travels rather than about the serendipity and foibles of Life. Once I understood this truth, your demise was inevitable.

Do not despair, Really, Life?, for there is hope as seen in Henry Wadswoth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life“:  “Life is real! (That’s you!)  / Life is earnest! /  And the grave is not its goal; /  Dust thou art, to dust returnest, /  Was not spoken of the soul.” While it is true that your name is buried forever, the writing itself, your soul, is resurrected and represented by the new name, Flying  to Adventure–with Detours.

Rest in peace, Really, Life?, for I embrace your reincarnation. Take solace knowing your soul and I now begin our journey together forever and ever. Amen.

 

 

Slovenia: Navigating the Challenges to Experience the Beautiful Bounty

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NAVIGATING BUMPS AND CURVES TO FIND APOLONIA GUEST HOUSE

Looking for lovely verdant mountains, beautiful red flowers and fragrant purple lavender, rainbow sherbet sunsets, surprising wine finds, and friendly, helpful people? Go to Sežana, Slovenia, and experience  all of this and even more. We checked in to Apolonia Guest House to enjoy comfortable beds; large, spacious, well-appointed rooms; and  bountiful five-star meals.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Finding Apolonia was our first quest.  As most people know, GPS is helpful, but while it gets you to the right neighborhood, it doesn’t always get you to the right address, especially when the houses are not numbered in sequential order. In this case, the GPS had us turn about one-fourth of a mile early, and we found our hefty Peugeot station wagon (the “gun boat”) navigating up a steep hill on a narrow lane, only to arrive at a dead-end. Then we had to turn around (full left rudder, full reverse thrust) without scraping someone’s front porch, car, or fence, proceed up another lane, only to find ourselves boxed into another dead end.   We repeated this process again . . . and again . . . and again.  We finally crept to a house without a number, thinking we had found our destination, so we stopped.

A spry, elderly woman came running our of her house, shaking her head with a grin, and saying,”Apolonia? Apolonia?”  With her gestures and simple English words sprinkled with Slovenian words, we ascertained we were in the wrong place, but we could drive on a grass lane on the side of her house that led to Apolonia’s back yard.  Unfortunately, the neighbor on the other side didn’t seem so happy about this solution.  She also was in her yard with her two German shepherds, who were furiously barking. She, not smiling, was loudly speaking Slovenian to the nice neighbor, about what we could only surmise:  she didn’t want us driving on the grass lane that also ran directly in front of her house. But why?  It had rained, so was she worried that we were going to get stuck in the mud?  Or was she concerned that we would leave ruts in her yard? Was everything okay, or had we started an international incident? Not understanding Slovenian, we didn’t have a clue.

The battle had already begun, it was too late to retreat, so with full speed ahead,  we turned the gun boat around (again) and started down the lane. We avoided the soggy areas, but the uneven terrain bumped us like white-capped waves. The dogs incessantly barked as we bobbed and bounced to our parking place at Apolonia’s back entrance.  Hearing the cacophony, our gracious hostess, Marissa, came outside and greeted us warmly in English and then spoke kindly to her two neighbors in Slovenian, soothing the one’s concerns. The battle, therefore, never escalated into full war.

With some embarrassment, we learned that if we had ignored the GPS and stayed on the main paved road for another couple of minutes, we would have seen Apolonia’s sign and parking lot.  We would have missed out on some great local color though.

If we had never found Apolonia, we would have also missed out of some of the best meals of our entire trip.  We arranged for talented Marissa and her equally talented daughter, Manuella, to cook for us the night of our arrival.  We started the evening with drinks on the patio to  watch the glorious sunset.

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WHERE ARE THE LIQUOR STORES IN SLOVENIA?

We supplied the spirits, but finding liquor and ice in Slovenia proved to be an education.  Grocery stores and gas stations sell liquor, but in limited qualities; they don’t sell bagged ice at all. Schnapps and other flavored liquors are easy to find, but gin is very difficult.  The smaller the market, the less the selection, and the selection is never very large.

In fact, we gave our GPS another chance, this time to find us a market, and we were taken to the little town of Dutovlje, population of 517, about 8 km. away.  In the centre of this charming village is the picturesque church of St. Jurij from the 15th century, which was a stronghold of the Knights Templar. Dutovlje also had a tiny market and a delicatessen selling gourmet cheeses and meats.

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In the market, the liquor selection was also tiny, but we did find Jim Beam Black Label, which made one of us happy.  We then left town and stopped at a gas station on the way back to Apolonia, but there still was no gin, so we bought vodka made in France: Jelzin. Supposedly, this vodka is named after Boris Jelzin (Yeltsin), the first president of the Russian Federation, a politician with a checkered reputation.  I can say the same thing about this vodka, which three of us drank garnished with lemon slices.  I love Absolut Citron, so how bad could this vodka creation be?  Pretty bad, actually, when you are hankering for Absolut Citron. Pretty bad, actually, when the only ice you have is what your innkeeper gives you from her limited supply: eight small cubes for four people.

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DISCOVERING DINING NIRVANA

So-so cocktails were followed by a most memorable dinner.  The first course was the best ravioli we ever had.  The homemade pasta was stuffed with mild goat cheese, covered with a silky rich sauce, and garnished with crispy prosciutto, and chives and basil from Apolonia’s garden.

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This course could have been a meal in itself, but the second course was a not-to-be-missed harbinger to autumn.  Wild local boar glazed with a wine sauce was complimented by crispy baby potatoes, home-grown roasted zucchini and carrots, and a drizzle of dense balsamic vinegar. A  perfect repast deserves a perfect drink to accompany it:  in this case a nice bottle of Slovenian red wine.   Ahhh!

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The dessert, a coffee mousse, floating in a decadent coffee-based sauce, was the last course, a perfect last course–one that transcended us into dining nirvana. Feeling happily enlightened, but not lightened, we said our good nights, retreated to our rooms, and dreamt of Sweet Slovenia.

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Lake Como: Soaring Seaplanes Since 1913

Aero Club Como, 1913

The Wright Brothers flew the first powered controlled flight in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North, Carolina.  A scant 10 years later, the first seaplane base in the world was founded at Lake, Como. Aero Club Como is still flying high, training pilots in its seaplane school, which is the largest in Europe and the oldest in the world. In addition, Aero Club Como is operating the only seaplane base in Italy.  In fact, the only other seaplane bases in all of Europe are in Scandinavia.

Seaplanes: Lords of Lake Como:

Lake Como is a Y-shaped lake encompassing about 56 square miles and plunging to a depth of about 1500 feet. Sailing vessels from the sublime to the ordinary skim across the lake’s surface: yachts, ferries, sailboats, windsurfers, kitesurfers, and paddleboats. Villas and palaces hang precariously off the sides of the mountains, which welcome both bold- blue and whispy-smoky skies. Overhead, seaplanes lord over all, surveying their kingdom, knowing all is good on Lake Como.

Day #6: Last Call for Fun at AirVenture 2016

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SITES AT THE SEAPLANE BASE

Come see what I saw on our last day at AirVenture 2016.  We checked out of our delightful B & B and headed a few miles down the road to the Seaplane Base.  People from all over the world visited the site and marked their hometowns on the map below.

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We found the Seaplane Base to be an idyllic location, one that you could fly to and then camp at if you wanted. Many people took that option, but what was the big draw this year?  What attracted so many, from so far away?

THE MARTIN MARS

Answer:  The Monster of All Flying Boats–The Mighty Martin Mars!  This behemoth, owned by the Coulson Group, is the world’s largest flying boat to be flown operationally. This aircraft, one of five built at the end of the World War II, first served as a troop transport by the U.S. Navy for several years. One of the aircraft was destroyed in a fire, and the other four were then sold in 1959 to a British Columbia forest consortium and converted to fire tankers. Two out of the original four planes had long stints fighting forest fires. The other two had accidents that permanently grounded them.

PRIVATE COLLECTOR KERMIN WEEKS

Kermit Weeks, the owner of Fantasy of Flight Museum in Florida and the largest private collector of aircraft in the world, was part of the crew flying the Martin Mars from Vancouver Island to Oshkosh’s Lake Winnebago.  Weeks felt that the aircraft is so special that he told the local news station that he “. . . believe(d) I’m being part of history” especially since he had his “doubts on whether the airplane will continue flying.” Weeks put his money where his heart is because the local news also reported that he bought his seat on the flight deck by paying the $40,000 fuel bill for the eight-hour flight. Like Weeks, Martin Mars fans came great distances to view this massive machine.

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PROBLEM ON THE LAKE

Some flew close to the aircraft to get an up close and personal view, while others on the shore were artistically inspired. We all looked forward to the promised tours of this historical flying boat.  One problem: Where were the boats taking fans out to the Martin Mars?

Oops! The flight crew had an engine issue when taking off on the lake. They made a cautionary landing in shallow water, which poked a hole in the hull.  No tours today!

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HANDSOME IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

We then found other things to do.  My favorite was the meet and greet session with the  pilots from the Canadian Geese Flying Team. These handsome guys were straight out of central casting:  drop-your-jaw gorgeous.  (Or maybe I was just tired of looking at airplanes all week!)  My husband obviously didn’t share my sentiments about needing a change of scenery because here he is admiring a Searey.

HUMOR AT THE BASE

We noticed we had other options for entertainment too as we strolled by “Naka Beach.” Everyone else strolled on by too, so nothing scandalous to report here.

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I will report that seaplane pilots obviously have a sense of humor.

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WHICH WAY TO GO?

Our time is finished at AirVenture 2016, and in case we hadn’t gotten our aviation fix, the sign post below points to other aviation sites to explore.  We are sated, so we don’t take a detour.  Instead, we are off to Milwaukee to catch our flight home.  We had a fun time playing with airplanes, but that fact didn’t hold true for the trip home. We got stuck in Atlanta overnight, but I am not going to share those details. Why end a happy story with a horrific conclusion?

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