Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Duluth, Minnesota

August 9 - 12, 2017:

An hour ride south on route 61 to route 35 and through Duluth to route 23 brings us to the Fond du Lac Campground.  It is located on the St. Louis River which flows into Lake Superior at Duluth.  It’s an old RV park in a scenic setting with fishing and canoeing about 15 miles from downtown Duluth. The St Louis River is the boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin and Superior Wisconsin is only about 8 miles away.

A great campground to get on the river

Reading the Duluth visitors guide book, I discovered that Bob Dylan was born and lived in Duluth to age 5 or 6.  The guide made it sound like the house was an attraction not to be missed.  The city has even named a 1.8 mile section of Superior Street, the old US highway 61, as “Bob Dylan Way”.  However when we drove to the house it was not open to the public, there was not even a sign in front and it appears to be a private residence.  As his family moved from Duluth to Hibbing, Minnesota when he only was six years old, I don’t see where he has much of a connection with Duluth.  
A few weeks ago back in Ely, Minnesota  I met a woman in the campground from Hibbing, Minnesota who knew school classmates of Bob Dylan.  She told me how in a school talent contest the school principal, upset with the content or volume of his music, had pulled the plug on his guitar.  According to her, since he left town years ago, he hasn’t returned.

The early home

Must be weird to have manhole covers named for you ?

Now I understand Highway 61

On our first ride into Duluth we took a tour of the US Steel Ore Boat, the S.S. William A. Irvin, built in 1938.  This was the flagship of the US Steel fleet in it’s day and one of the largest ships on the Great Lakes.  However, as ship sizes increased through the years, it was eventually retired in 1978 because it was became too small. The ship is moored in the harbor area of downtown Duluth across from the Duluth Entertainment & Convention Center.  This tour involved many steep narrow stairways and the group ahead of ours was slow due to several elderly women who had trouble with the steps.
It looks plenty big from the sidewalk

From the side also

A harbor view

Inside the engine room

Looking down at all the hatch covers

Our next day was cloudy and rainy so we went to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth’s Union Depot which includes the immigrant waiting room, a veterans memorial hall, two art galleries and four museums.  The Depot was completed in 1892 and is considered one of the finest examples of French Norman architecture in the US.  The Depot in its heyday served seven different railroads with 50 trains arriving and departing daily.  They all ended service by 1969 but a successful excursion train operation runs from the depot today.  They have an amazing collection of rail equipment here and the presentation is excellant.  There was a  “Thomas the Train” children's activity and train ride event going on.  The massive Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railroad (DM&IR) # 227 Steam Locomotive which sort of came to life once each hour with it's wheels and drivers rotating, running lights illuminating, and accompanying sound effects was really cool !  I have been to many Railroad museums and this is definitely one of the very best ! 

Duluth Union Depot 

Lots of equipment out in the yard to see also

The St Paul & Pacific Railroad, William Crooks Locomotive
built by New Jersey Locomotive and Machine in Patterson
NJ in 1861.  It was the first Steam Locomotive to run in Minnesota

Twinkles loved the Locomotive 227 display 

Which valve to turn ?
A rare snow plow

An absolutely amazing Locomotive model

Reconstructed Lincoln Funeral car, the original burnt in a fire

We learned that Duluth was a huge immigrant destination in the early 1900’s with thousands arriving by train and a special waiting room established for them. The exhibits explaining this were very well done with several personal stories.

This 1892 bicycle was brought from Sweden by immigrant Anton Nelson
to Brooklyn, NY, who then took it back to Sweden, then returned
back to NY and eventually to Duluth.

August Fitger was an immigrant who did very well

How true

Duluth is a very scenic and bustling city, we were very surprised and impressed by what we saw.  I didn’t get chance to explore the dregs as much as I like to, but spent a couple of hours wandering around the harbor and rail yard areas.  I also found an area on Superior Street around the Broken Oar Brewery which just might be the next trendy area.

Impressive police station

Nice architecture on Superior Street

Trolley coming down Superior Street

Headquarters of Broke Oar Brewing with Brewery down the street

The Bedrock Bar 

The Miss Laura Tug

Ship being loaded

On the waterfront

Many grain elevators

The freight yard is still active

The Fitgers Brewery is an old historic Brewery in Duluth started in 1881.  It went through several ups and downs and in 1972 was on the verge of demolition.  It was saved, restored and expanded into a hotel and shopping complex and brew pub by forward thinking business people.  It is located right on Lake Superior with great views and shopping.  We had driven to and parked at the Fitger’s Complex as it was a convenient place to get on the Lakewalk for the scenic walk to Canal Park and the aerial lift bridge area.  The North Shore Scenic Railroad was running their special “Day out with Thomas” excursion train which happened to pass next to us.  It was loaded with children and parents all waving out the windows.

Fitgers Brewery with many original building

Old Fitger's calender 

Looking down onto the Lakewalk

The Thomas Train is a big attraction

Duluth & Iron Range Railroad's Endion station built in 1899
adjacent to the Lakewalk

View from the Lakewalk

The 7 1/2 mile Duluth Lakewalk has been developed nicely with several parks and terminates at the Duluth harbor Canal Park area with an aquarium, the Maritime Center, the Entertainment and Convention Center and several restaurants.  The centerpiece is the aerial lift bridge over the canal and the lighthouses.  Everyone loves to see the bridge open as one of the huge ore boats pass through into the harbor.  While we were there people were asking when a ship would pass through and were being told there wouldn’t be one until from 7 to 9 PM.  By chance after a nearby lunch at “Grandma’s Saloon and Grille” as we were walking back to the canal a large ore boat came through.  
The Army Corp of Engineers’s headquarters building houses the Maritime Center with excellent exhibits.  It gives a clear understanding and appreciation for what the Corp of Engineers does and of their extensive history.  This branch of military has done remarkable things which mainly go unnoticed by the general public.

Vista cruise boat going through the canal under the lift bridge

Lighthouse at the end of the canal

Tug boat display in front of the Maritime Center

Lighthouse on opposite of canal

Freighter going through the canal

Everyone was waving and it powered past

Inside Gandma's Saloon and Grille

Twinkles doing a sampler

Duluth is built on the side of a hillside, it is a fairly a steep climb in places and the views at the top of the Lake and harbor areas are spectacular.  We rode to the 5 story Enger Tower on a ridge top with a 360 degree view in all directions for the view.

View from the tower

In another direction

Duluth has lots of live music action and especially this week with the 29th annual Bayfront Blues Festival taking place. I went to see one of the performers, "Reverend Raven and the chain smoking alter boys", at “Rosco’s Pioneer Bar”.  I arrived before the band started and shortly afterwards a steady stream of patrons started piling in.  I had never of this band before and was wondering what all the fuss was about.  They sort of looked old, but blues musicians and fans tend to be older.  This is the serious problem facing the blues music genre, it’s gotten old and there aren’t enough young players or fans.  Anyhow, these guys were all great but I was especially impressed with the harmonica player. 

I made it to the Bayfront Blues Festival on Saturday although I’m not a big festival fan, they usually don’t live up to the expectations and I'm pretty cheap.  In the case of Blues, it’s also an old crowd, mostly parked in their chairs, not much action.  Also half the blues bands are’t playing the kind of blues I like.  But, there is usually one performer that I like and on on this day it was Mark Cameron who put on an amazing show.  It was a perfect weather day and with the concert grounds being right on the lake, it's beautiful.  My only complaint is the system of using tokens to buy food, which is an OK concept, but I was a little taken back when I had to buy tokens in $24 increments.

An impressive stage

The Cory Stevens Band

Mark Cameron

The Paul Barry Trio

A band called Crow who seemed to be renowned local Rockers

Look at all the old farts on their phones and asleep !

View from the fringe where the dancing people hang out

We have had a large group of Asian people in the campground, seems like a family reunion or something.  There are about 30 people in several tents with a electric refrigerator, large cook pots and lots of weird music.  They haven’t caused any trouble but we’ve never seen so many people or stuff brought into a campsite like this anywhere before. 

We are struggling to locate campsites where we want to be, weekends being mostly reserved, can’t wait for the height of the tourist season to end in a few weeks.    

The next stop is Ashland, Wisconsin;
Twinkles and Slick

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