Road Trip Summer 2003: Miles 1-1663.2

Last Friday morning, bright and early, I caught a flight to Baltimore to start on the massive undertaking that this summer's vacation has become. Friday night was fairly chill, just hanging out with the family of my partner in crime and getting the car packed up. Saturday morning we were to attack at dawn.

Saturday, June 21: Baltimore to Buffalo
The first day's driving took us north from Baltimore, across surprisingly lush central Pennsylvania (the exact highway numbers escape me for now, but I'll get them from my notebook later). We made our first impulsive stop at Clyde's Reptiland, just along the highway; it was interesting, but nothing terribly special. We continued north into New York, stopping briefly in Corning to visit the Corning Museum of Glass. Sadly, the $12 admission was a little steep for us, and we were forced to travel on. We made it up to US-20 in the early afternoon, and 20 carried us most of the way to Buffalo; we quickly picked up the highway towards Niagara.

Niagara Falls are intense, and are certainly best viewed from the Canadian side -- in Canada, there are more shops, more people, a better view of the falls, and a generally more lively and collegial atmosphere than on the US side. The falls themselves are breathtaking -- it is a wonderful experience to just stand in front of them and watch the millions of gallons of water pour out before you. It was well worth spending an afternoon there.

Around 5 PM, we decided to head back to Buffalo for the evening. I have rarely seen a city so deserted on a Saturday evening, but between 6 and 9 PM, there was nobody on the streets except for a few panhandlers. We checked in at the clean but overpriced Buffalo hostel and proceeded to explore the city on foot. We walked to the stadium, where Buffalo's AAA ball team was wrapping up the second game of a doubleheader; we were able to walk on in and catch the last two innings. From there we asked an usher where we could get some good wings, and we were directed to the Anchor Bar, where Buffalo wings were invented some 40 years ago. The wings were excellent. By that point, it was getting on into the evening, so with our bellies full, we headed back to the hostel to snack further and hopefully socialize with some of the other people staying. Sadly, the people were not as social as we had hoped, and we ended up turning in early.

Day 2: Buffalo to the Michigan Upper Peninsula
The second day's drive took us into Canada via the Peace Bridge and across Ontario to Detroit, MI. The water under the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, is as blue as I have ever seen; I'm amazed that it's not more polluted. Detroit is not a place I'd like to spend much time, but we did stop at 8 Mile Road for some pictures by a sign, and we were suitably amused by Exit 69 on I-75, which is for Big Beaver Road. We took 75 north into the Upper Peninsula and crossed part of it on US-2 to overnight at Indian Lake campground. Indian Lake is a well-equipped campground, with RV hookups, hot showers, and plentiful company. Justin and I got some pictures at our first campsite, and briefly discussed our plans for the drive to Alaska with a Michigan native who was scheming along the same lines for the following summer. All in all, the campground was fairly peaceful and pleasant, and we spent a good, restful night there.

Day 3: The Michigan Upper Peninsula
For our third day on the road, we decided to stay in the UP, moving about 60 miles to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and staying at Twelvemile Beach Campground. Lake Superior, at least in the area of Pictured Rocks, is one of the most serene and beautiful places I have ever seen. The mosquitoes were relentless in the vicinity of the campsites, but along the shore, there was enough wind that one could easily sit and watch the water for hours. We took a few brief hikes, one to the lighthouse at Au Sable Point, another to some falls in the other direction, and the third along a 2-mile loop that showed off a lovely birch forest. I was probably most impressed by the birch; in the Northeast, birch are plentiful but scattered, and a stand of birch is something I had simply never seen. For the remainder of the afternoon, I sat by the shore, reading a book, getting a bit of a sunburn, and throwing handfuls of rocks into the water. I highly recommend this last activity; the rocks make a very satisfying "glorp!" sound when they hit the water close together. As the sun went down, we took a few more pictures, cooked dinner, and retreated to the relatively bug-free environment of our tent.

Day 4: Michigan UP to St. Cloud, MN
After a quick breakfast down at the lakeshore, we packed up and were on the road by 9 this morning. The day's drive took us on Michigan Highway 28 to near the Wisconsin border, where we rejoined US-2 for the drive across Wisconsin. The highlight of the Wisconsin segment of the day was a stop at a "Tourist Trap," where we took some pictures with a 35-foot wooden chainsaw called "Big Gus." Our yen for the tacky having been duly satisfied, we continued to Duluth.

Duluth is a lovely town, and Justin at this point expressed his desire to live there someday, if he could find suitable work in the area. We had lunch there, wandered around downtown a bit, and took the interstate south to connect with Minnesota Highway 37, which took us to St. Cloud. We are now in St. Cloud, enjoying the hospitality of a friend from Dartmouth and resting up for our continued journey west. We played a round of Frisbee golf, and hung out with our friend's friends. It is an excellent place to rest and relax.

Coming Soon:
South Dakota, Yellowstone, Glacier, Banff, and Edmonton, from which city I hope to make my next update in 6 days or so. I still can't believe we're actually doing this.