So let's pick up where I left off. I arrived at Ross' place around 7:35 a.m. on Saturday. Way too early for me on my day off, but it was necessary if we wanted to get to Duluth at a reasonable enough hour to visit my friend Dave before having to head to the hotel and then the Wards reunion.
Ross chose to go the route that took us to the Twin Cities and then north on I-35. The trip was uneventful for most part. It drizzled a little, but nothing earth-shattering. I noticed that closer to Duluth, there were some signs that would point out travel time to places such as Cloquet or Duluth. So that made the last leg of the trip go faster.
And once I saw the outskirts of Duluth, kind of an industrial sprawl beside the lake, I was excited. I thought about going to Dave's first and on Google Maps, I figured the exit for 21st Avenue West would be the way to go. But of course I didn't know where to go from there. I had been 11 years since I've driven around Duluth. I somehow managed to guide Ross to Superior Street to Canal Park Drive, figuring we could find a place to eat lunch. We were a little irritated at each other, but we calmed down and stumbled across a Thai restaurant that was in Canal Park. Ross had curry with duck while I had beef and zucchini starry (well the place was out of zucchini, so broccoli had to be substituted). Oh well, they're all green, right?
After getting directions from Dave to his place (which involved going up one of Duluth's famous hills), we arrived at his house. Boy does he live in the boonies of rural Duluth. But he wouldn't have it any other way. He has a huge unattached garage that has his truck, two snowmobiles and countless other things. He also has a garage attached to the house as well. He's also gotten into gardening as he now has two acres to play with. So he has several flowerbeds around the house. Inside, he has three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, dining area and two cats - one skittish black and white cat named Oreo and a big, fluffy orange cat named Cody. It was a nice visit albeit too short. But around 4:25ish we still had to make our way to Proctor by 5 p.m. Luckily the hotel we were staying at is attached to the restaurant the reunion was at.
Even though I've never traveled the wilds of Proctor often, if ever, we found our way there from Dave's. After a quick change of clothes, we make our way to the Blackwoods restaurant. It was as if I stepped into the past. I saw a few people I worked with and a couple of surprises (let's just say I'd never expect a couple of these people to be at a Wards reunion). There was Rick who worked in furniture when I was there. He trained and raced sled dogs - apparently he's even sort of featured in a documentary "Sun Dogs" about the Jamaican dogsled team. I started watching it on Hulu, still have to see his role in this. There were definitely some people I did not recognize, mainly because they had left in the '80s. Some had even worked in the downtown Duluth location before it came to the mall. Ross actually fit right in chatting with folks, mainly a couple of guys who worked in Wards' Electric Avenue. The store manager when I was there was in attendance with his wife and surprisingly was glad to see me. Remember, I wasn't one of Wards' outstanding employees. Another gal, who worked in apparel, even scrounged up her old nametag and wore it for the occasion. All in all, it was a decent gathering and I'm glad I went.
So onto Sunday. We decided to do the touristy thing and stick with Canal Park. First stop, the William A. Irvin ship. I've been on it - when it was decked out for Halloween for the annual haunted ship tours. So it was nice to see it during the daylight. The tour guide Bill was very informative - I'm sure he's been doing this for years and it was great to learn the history of the ship. It carried iron or and coal to Great Lakes ports for more than four decades. It wasn't just a working ship, it did transport guests - mainly ones on behalf of U.S. Steel.
Then we hit the Lakewalk for a quick stroll to the lighthouse. Yeah, it was cold and Ross regretted not having gloves. He had to get a photo of me in front of the Lift Bridge (and the Irvin as well). I had missed the gaggles of seagulls in Canal Park. And they were out in full force in front of our next stop, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center. It's free and it's about the shipping industry mainly. I think Ross was more into things than I was.
After that was lunch at one of the newer Italian restaurants in Duluth - Bellisio's. Now I thought it was gonna be spendy, but the lunch prices were reasonable. Ross had a panino, while I had what was translated to "angry spaghetti." It had a little kick to it. And both were really good. We hit one of the marketplaces in Canal Park - I ended up getting candy at one of the shops that at the time was overrun by 11-year-old girls (I think they were in town for a dance competition).
The last point of interest was the Great Lakes Aquarium. It was built around the time I had left Duluth. It's an all freshwater aquarium with fish, turtles, birds and other creatures. It's fascinating to see so much under one roof, but Ross and I think we expected more.
Then it came time to head back. We both had to work the next morning. I got him to stop at the mecca of bakeries, Tobies in Hinckley. We definitely weren't the only ones to have the idea. I don't know what it is about the place, but the doughnuts are nirvana - I got both a lemon-filled bismarck and a chocolate glazed doughnut, along with a couple of cookies. Apparently, according to the bakery's website, it's been a "traveler's tradition" since 1948 - Minnesota's famous half way stop (well between the Twin Cities and Duluth mostly). And in perusing the site, I see that baked goods can be shippedhmmthere's an idea.
So that's my journey to Duluth. Hope it doesn't take another seven years before I go there again.