Pembroke – Canada

September 7, 2010

The drive from Sudbury to Pembroke was nice, but something bad happend.

I ran out of Econtalk podcasts..

Despite the name, the Econtalk podcasts are interesting, easy to follow, and cover a fairly wide range of topics. In general, the conversations highlight the effectiveness of ideas and solutions that emerge on their own, as opposed to ones which are centrally designed and imposed.

So I’m going to download more …

The corner store

A dock along the way

Sudbury – Canada

September 6, 2010

Sudbury. It’s a mining town.

For most of the 20th century, Sudbury produced 90% of the world’s nickel. Because nickel is used to make stainless steel, Sudbury was critical for the West’s war efforts and for the subsequent boom in stainless steel stuff.

Question: for what items has the most stainless steel been used?

Hint: they are often not included with everything else.

But let me back up.

I quite enjoyed my drive from the Soo to Sudbury. I was in a good mood to start with, and it only helped when I ran across a store the size of Walmart that specialized in Italian Sausage. Further down the road we stopped to run around on a Lake Huron beach and walk through a quaint town called Thessalon.

We stayed at a motel in Sudbury, and the next morning I did what any self-respecting Sudsbury tourist would do …

I went into a mine.

A place called Dynamic Earth conducts a tour down in a real mine where they show how mining has been done from 100 years ago until now.

It was pretty interesting.

The answer is kitchen sinks.

Wasn't expecting this

Like a Panther, Kettle is.

We’ve been tailed!
He doesn’t like water, but loves bridges and docks.

My fellow miners

Miner Me

One of the world's only underground mailboxes.

This got rolled around the mine.

The Big Nickel

My last post was all about Kettle and nothing about Sault Ste. Marie.

I just didn’t feel comfortable talking about a place I didn’t know how to pronounce.

I was initially pronouncing it (in my head) “Salt Saint Marie.” But then I saw that the town had a nickname of “Soo” – clearly a clue for people like me. But I wasn’t sure how to pronounce “Soo.”  I was guessing “So Saint Marie”.

But then I heard the guy on the radio. It’s pronounced “Sue Saint Marie.”

Having established its pronunciation, I have chosen 3 additional things to tell you about Sault Ste. Marie.

1. Half the city is the U.S. and half is in Canada. The two sides are divided by the St. Mary’s river and connected by the International Bridge. I believe they pronounce the city’s name the same way on both sides.

2. Sault Ste. Marie has locks. Lake Superior is a bit higher than the other Great Lakes, and the adjustment takes place along a stretch of rapids at Saulte Ste. Marie. (“Saultes de St. Marie” is old French for St. Mary’s Rapids.) Locks are cool. You’d think that the process of moving a ship from a body of water at one level to a body of water at a different level would require something really complicated. But locks are actually quite simple. Unfortunately, if I were to try to describe how they work, they would sound complicated. So I will just tell you that the locks at Sault Ste. Marie are called “The Soo Locks” and that they are the busiest canal in the world, as measured by tonnage.

3. Sault Ste. Marie has an unfortunate structure called the Tower of History. It was created with some religious goal in mind, but it looks like we let the Soviets build us a tower to watch over Canada. Despite all that, I paid the $6 and took the elevator to the viewing area. It’s fun to look across a river into a different country.

There’s more I could tell you about Sault Ste. Marie, but  that would be more than three things.

On the logistics side, Kettle and I spent two nights at a motel (it rained most of the time), and we did some provisioning. For produce, I had to settle for a normal supermarket, but I was able to stock up on nuts and dried fruits at a cool little health food store.

See you in Canada.

The Soo Locks

Across the street from the Soo Locks

Oh, Canada

Oh God, protect us from Canada

Fruit Stand

Sault Ste. Marie – Michigan

September 4, 2010

I had to take Kettle to the vet.

Don’t panic.

I had to take him because, in order to bring him into Canada, I needed proof that he had had his rabies shots. I didn’t have that paperwork with me, and he was due for his shots anyway, so we were off to the vet.

Unfortunately it was the Friday morning before Labor Day weekend, and the vets kept saying they were booked until Tuesday. I started calling places in Roger’s City, where I was, and kept calling further north along my route to Sault Ste. Marie.

I was having no luck until, finally, with only a few miles to go before Canada, I found a vet that could take us. They were in Sault Ste. Marie and had a 3:40 opening. I had just enough time to get there.

Everything went fine. In addition to his shots, they tested for worms and other stuff, and it wall all negative.

There was one surprise, though …

I got Kettle about a year ago from Rocket Dog Rescue. I saw an ad on Craigslist pleading for someone to foster him because his current foster home could no longer keep him. Scoop had died several months before, and I was ready for a new dog, so I volunteered – knowing that I would probably be taking him forever.

The thing was, he looked a lot smaller in the picture, and I was quite surprised when I saw how big he was. I live in a condo with no yard, and a 70 pound dog would be a bit much. So my plan was to introduce him to my friends with yards.

But no one bit.

The people at Rocket Dog Rescue had told me that if I wasn’t going to keep him that I should bring him to their adoption events on Sundays and help find him a home. When Sunday rolled around, I convinced myself that it would be best to find him an owner with more space. It was hard – he was such a good boy – but I didn’t feel like Kettle was particularly happy with me. He did whatever I wanted, but he was not expressive or playful, and he never made a sound. Not one.

(Since then, I’ve learned that it takes a dog about 3 months to feel comfortable with a new home, and that their personality gradually comes out over that time.)

So we went to the adoption event. On the way there, while stopped at a red light, I was startled by a loud, deep “Woof! Woof!” from the passenger seat.

I then saw that there was another dog on the corner. Kettle was barking at it. It wasn’t a vicious bark, but it was formidable. He was clearly telling the other dog, “This is MY car.”

Kettle was starting to feel at home.

I almost turned around right there.

But I forced myself to keep going, to find someone who wanted a big dog. So we joined the Rocket Dog staff, the other foster parents, and all the dogs on a street corner in the Castro. People would stop by, and we would talk about the dogs.

The problem for me was that I was fighting back tears the entire time.

And not always successfully.

I kept having to take Kettle for a walk to compose myself. Finally, I made my decision, and I walked him back to the Mini.

And here we are.

But where were we?

Oh yeah, the surprise at the vet.

I turns out that my 70 pound dog is now 96 pounds!

96 pounds!

Apparently he wasn’t done growing.

If he grows any more, I’m going to have to get a different car.

Back to the Mack

Our Vet

Like it or not, we're going in.

Let's go - this guy isn't going to show.

What are you going to do to me?

Please make him stop.

If someone were to ask me my favorite place, I would probably say that it’s my family’s cabin in the mountains. So when Eddie told me that his favorite place was his family cabin on the lake, I could relate. And when he told me that it was in the direction I was going (which was Washington D.C., by the way) and that he’d be honored if I stayed there on my way through, I was both touched the gesture and excited by the opportunity.

Their place is located near Eddie’s hometown of Roger’s City, on Grand Lake, about a mile from Lake Huron. Grand Lake isn’t exactly tiny, it’s a few miles across, but “Grand Lake” seems like an odd name given that it is right next to the 5th largest freshwater lake in the world. Then again, Trout Lake, where I just came from, doesn’t have any trout in it. I think people around here like to mess with travelers … kinda like the Iceland/Greenland thing.

Anyway, to get to Grand Lake, we drove south across the Mackinac Bridge, which meant that we were officially leaving the Upper Peninsula (“the U.P.”) of Michigan. Eddie says that you need to live in the U.P. for 8 years to officially be an Uuuuper – pronounced Ewper. I only have 8 years less 4 days to go!

We arrived at the cottage. Sometimes Eddie and Brenda would call it a cabin, sometimes a cottage. Now that I’ve been there, I can say for sure that it’s a cottage. It was small and low to the ground, it had a sagging roof, and, here’s the clincher, it was red.

The inside was quaint and comfortable, the outside pleasant and picturesque. The porch looked out onto to the lake and a little dock. I loved it so much. It was storybook.

For the first time this trip, I wished that Kettle was a girl.

(and human)

(and not named Kettle)

But that wasn’t going to happen, so at night I did yoga on the porch and got all hot and sweaty that way.

I spent two days at the cottage getting caught up on work. (When I say work, I should really say “work” because I’m developing a computer game with my friend, Bill, and there’s very little that’s work-like about it.) On the first day, Kettle and I watched ducks. On the second day, we watched the weather change.

I did take a bit of time to play tourist and visit the nearby Lake Huron lighthouses and the county fair. My hope was that, by doing so, I would have something interesting to tell you about.

It didn’t work.

So let’s get back to the cottage.

While at the cottage I received emails from my friends in Houston and D.C., both politely waving me off for a week. So instead of having a week to get to D.C., I now have two weeks.

Then, completely coincidently, I got an Instant Message from Bill, who had been viewing my Michigan location on Google Latitude.

“You should go to Montreal.”

Bill is not just my friend and programmer – he’s also my quasi travel agent. He says he likes seeing my picture on the map and trying to make it move a particular direction.

“Great idea,” I said. I pulled up a map. The shortest route to Montreal would be to keep going down towards Detroit, then cut across past Toronto.

But Bill was on a roll …

“You should go through Sudbury.”

This would instead mean going north and crossing the border up at Sault St. Marie. Although that path would entail some backtracking, it did look like a nicer drive, and it was not much longer, and I wanted to let Bill move me around …

So, as it turns out, the cottage wasn’t in the right direction after all.

But it was totally worth it.

Even though I went with a dog.

Pondering the Mackinac Bridge

Now that's a cottage.

Our arrival

My porch

Kettle's dock

A lighthouse with a real house.

Alpena County Fair

AK and the Outlaws

Not so sure about the purple sky.

Storm Watch