At our last post we were leaving the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada. Back on the road again, we headed north until we reached the St. Lawrence Seaway. We camped at Park National Du Bic in Quebec walking trails and exploring the seashore. Only one lonely sailboat was anchored in the bay, clearly the sailors were thinning out the further north we traveled.
We turned east at the St. Lawrence and made it to Ottawa where we visited our friends Laura and Graeme from Sweet Chariot Too. Coincidently, they were the first cruisers we met when our trip started and they were now our last cruising friends to visit before we headed home. Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is a beautiful city with bike paths everywhere and many exceptional museums as well.
We took a tour of parliament and went back one night to watch a phenomenal light show projected onto the parliament building that told the history of Canada.
Our visit with Graeme and Laura drew to a close, and as much as I begged and pleaded with the family to keep heading north, I was vetoed by the majority. Everyone was ready to go home. School had already started in Boise and the boys didn’t want to miss more than the first week of classes.
Years ago I had driven semi along the great lakes and had seen where iron ore was loaded onto ships destined for the steel mills near Chicago. More recently I gave a speech for toastmasters on the subject while still working at Micron. So, knowing a little about the process, I took the first opportunity I saw near Duluth, Minnesota to visit one of the piers used to load the ore called taconite into ships.
As we drove down towards the docks we were greeted by a by a strikingly tall man wearing a pair of well worn overhauls. He listened to our quest, took about five steps to a bucket he had sitting next to the dock and produced a handful of musket ball sized iron marbles. “Is this what you’re looking for?” he said. Years ago taconite, which is once processed iron ore, was loaded on this very dock. He told us that while the dock was no longer used for that purpose, the area had just set an all time record for production of iron ore. Not being in too much of a rush, he invited us all to see his tugboat which was built in 1903. Drawing 9 ft he said he occasionally has run aground with such a deep draft but never lacked for enough thrust to get himself back off again.
The wheel took 24 rotations to move the rudder from stop to stop. The reduction gears in the steering mechanism looked like a bulletproof system of gears connecting to chains that disappeared into the hull, somehow finding their way to the rudder. In addition to the tour of his tugboat we were also given a short history of shipping on the great lakes and a handful of taconite souvenirs before going on our way.
Back in the car we continued on towards South Dakota, crossing the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, making it all the way to the badlands before calling it a day. We knew we had arrived back in the west when we were serenaded to sleep by several coyotes that evening.
At first light we broke camp and enjoyed the sunrise over the badlands and ate our Cheerios out of a bowl on the side of the road. Next stop Mt. Rushmore. It was a good experience to see Mt. Rushmore, and an even better one, because we had just visited the homes of Washington and Jefferson. Lincoln was familiar because of his involvement in the civil war sites we had also driven past. What we didn’t know was that Roosevelt had declared our next stop the United States first national monument. Any guesses? It’s Devil’s Tower, WY. We circumnavigated the tower on foot before moving on again for what the boys were beginning to call a little night truckin’.
The next day we crossed the Idaho state line with a hip-hip-hurray and by 7pm were pulling into our friends driveway, The Reynolds, back home in Boise. We had been gone 365 days to the day, and what a year it has been! Ironically, these friends were the last people we saw when we left Idaho too.
Thank you for following our journey and for all of the positive comments and encouragement along the way. I’m sure Christine will have her own final comments to make about our trip as well, but for this my final post I would like to leave you with a few of my favorite lines from “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.