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

Trout Lake 2 – Michigan

August 31, 2010

My nomadic and solitary life of salad eating came skidding to a stop. For the next 4 days, I was a sedentary and social eater of meats.

Eddie and Brenda, and their friends Joe and Patty, were fabulous hosts. Eddie’s prowess with a fire pit and grill was repeatedly on display. Following the pork tenderloins, we had fish, roast beef, sausages, and elk burgers. Plus a bunch of abalone that my brother John had “caughten” in California. To accompany the above meats, Brenda and Patty provided a steady stream of appetizers and salads.

This was only my second time to the Midwest. (The first time was for a Greek wedding in Cleveland, which was a total blast.)

One thing I knew about the Midwest was that they play a card game called Euchre. I knew this because Euchre was one of the first games we put on When I asked, “Why are we doing a game I’ve never heard of?” the answer was, “They play it a lot in the Midwest.”

I must have turned up my nose at that because I never did end up playing Euchre on pogo.

Brenda and Eddie’s house is in the upper peninsula of Northern Michigan … on a lake. So it’s impossible not to think of the currently popular Kid Rock song about summertime in Northern Michigan – the one where he’s “smoking funny things” and “making love out by the lake.”

I didn’t smoke funny things.

I didn’t make love out by the lake.

But I did play one heck of a lot of Euchre.

John and I were partners. Eddie and Mike were our opponents. Brenda and Sara were annoyed. (We played a bit too much.)

Other activities included boat rides, fishing with JoJo, bocci on the lawn, teaching JoJo how to shoot a pellet gun, beer pong, and the wearing of funny hats. There was also a tinge of drinking.

One day Sara spent the entire day taking pictures of Desaree for her high school senior picture. They did photo shoots on the grass, the beach, the hammock, and various other places throughout the yard. I know that they spent the whole day doing this because I could see them in the corner of my eye while I was playing Euchre.

Mr. K had a great time and was well-behaved.

Mr. K was Brenda’s name for Kettle.

Kettle was not the only dog. The Breddies have a German Shorthaired Pointer named Daisy who would spend roughly 8 hours a day tromping through the lake looking for fish. They also have a Shitzu named Gerdy who sits around and looks fancy. In fact they call her “Fancy” more than “Gerdy.”

Kettle didn’t search for fish – alas, he wouldn’t even go in the lake. And he never looked fancy – quite the opposite, he could usually be found lying in a hole he dug in the sand to keep cool. But he enjoyed being around people he knew, especially Mike, and the large sloping grass backyard made for a great play area.

Joe and Patty had just completed their home at the neighboring lake, after working on it for 4 years. Joe drove me over with his quad and gave me a tour of the house and the area.

Located just 40 miles south of Canada, this wooded area with several small lakes used to be a vacation spot for the car industry big wigs in Detroit. Joe and Patty’s house was impressive. It was built using SIP construction. That stands for Structural Insulated Panels. The walls are made with panels that are about a foot thick and filled with foam, so the house is super insulated. Half logs were then put on the outside so the house looks like a log cabin. Joe and Patty did all the finish work themselves.

Joe was so friendly and proud of his home that I had the warm fuzzies throughout the tour.

And the brunch that Patty served us all at their house the next morning took the warm fuzzy thing to a whole new level.

On the last day, Eddie and Brenda took us to Miner’s Castle for a picnic lunch. Miner’s Castle is a dramatic rock formation that juts into Lake Superior. After lunch the gang would be heading to the airport.

But Kettle and I aren’t using airplanes this trip. Just the Mini. So we said our goodbyes and hit road.

Going southeast.

Oh, and one more thing …

I love Euchre!

The Breddie's backyard

Run, Kettle, Run!

Patty-Joe-John-Desaree-Eddie (Brenda playing pool)

JoJo and Daisy

JoJo and Daisy

John preparing his abalone

Mike and Cap'n John in deep waters

Sara and Patty driving too fast

Eddie, the role model

Mike and Kettle at play.

Mike at work

JoJo's catch

The tour

Joe the tour guide

BroJoe-Mike-John-Eddie-Me. Guess what we're playing.

Haircut from Brenda

Sunset at the Breddies

Trout Lake – Michigan

August 27, 2010

Wausau has a wonderful downtown. There was some sort of festival going on, so there were lots of people and kids. Kettle got much attention. Everyone was super friendly. And the weather was perfect.

We found another great market where we plopped ourselves for lunch and blogging.

On the walk back to the car, something very important happened. Kettle pooped a healthy poop.

I was happy. But Kettle was ecstatic. He was jumping and running around in celebration.

I’d like officially recognize that moment as the conclusion of the first phase of our journey.

The 6 hour drive from Wausau to Trout Lake was fabulous. It was all backcountry roads. We were behind schedule, so I didn’t stop to take a picture of the sign that said: “Welcome to Nutterville.”

Trout Lake is a remote town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My iPhone GPS got me to the town, but failed miserably in getting me to the house. So I went the local bar in town, called, and they came to get me.

“They” meant: Eddie & Brenda and their daughter Desaree and their friend Patti, Mike & Sara and their son JoJo, Sara’s brother Joe, and my brother John. They all pulled up in a mini-van.

Hooting and hollering and cheering my name.

Which kinda freaked out Kettle.

Apparently they had just spent quite a bit of time at the very bar where I was waiting. But not with me, so we all went back inside for a drink.

After a quick stop at another friend’s, we went home to the Breddie’s, located right on the lake. Eddie and Joe cooked pork tenderloins over the fire-pit on the beach, and we had dinner at 2am.

Kettle loves it here. He runs and jumps around in the big, sloping yard. The yard goes right to the lake, so it’s a perfect opportunity for him to swim. We’ll see.

I think the next few days will require my complete attention. And connecting to the Internet here is quite difficult. So I may not post for a while. But I’ll catch everyone up once we’re back on the road!

Wausau market

Wausau – Wisconsin

August 26, 2010

The city of St. Paul is on the eastern edge Minnesota.

We went there for Japanese food.

Udon soup and steamed rice again. Kettle ate without any hesitation.

His new diet has had the desired effect. Now we’re just waiting for a poop. Any poop. It’s been a couple days.

We also visited the St. Paul cathedral. I found it impressive, but Kettle seemed more impressed with the soup.

From St. Paul we went to Wausau, Wisconsin. It’s pronounced Waw-saw.

We stayed in a motel. Sleeping in a bed for the first time in 5 days was nice. And it meant that I got to wake up in the morning to Kettle’s face staring at me.

Mmmm, Udon!

St. Paul's in St. Paul

Good morning!

The city of Sioux Falls is on the eastern edge of South Dakota.

We went there for Japanese food.

Chicken Udon soup and steamed rice. I gave Kettle the rice, the broth, and half the chicken. He was still a bit tentative, but he ate it without much fuss. He seemed to like it.

We then visited the falls of Sioux Falls. Quite nice. I recommend visiting them. If you’re ever in Sioux Falls.

Minnesota was next. Not far into the state I saw a sign for Blue Mounds State Park. I had no idea what it was, but they had camping, and it was about to get dark, so we veered off.

Now that I’ve been there, I can tell you about it.

Let me rephrase that. Now that I’ve been there, and picked up a brochure, I can tell you about it:

“The park’s approximately 1,500 acres of prairie and grassland preserves a wide array of rare and common plants and wildlife. A small bison herd grazes peacefully on a portion of this praire. Most of the park’s prairie sits atop a mssive outcrop of rock known as Sioux quartzite.”

Our camp site was nice. We were close to a river and the bison range.

That night Kettle got his appetite back. He ate a healthy portion of dog food, his first non soup/rice meal in 3 days.

The next morning we went for a short walk on which Kettle met two new forms of life:

The Buffalo and The Frog.

The frog came first. We were walking through high grass when I saw Kettle lunging at something. It was a frog jumping around, and Kettle was going after it like it was a ball. The frog then decided to freeze. I was thinking this was a bad idea, as Kettle was staring at it from two inches away, but Kettle then lost interest and moved on. Smart frog.

We then went to the bison range. From the fence we saw the herd about 200 yards out. I wondered, “What are the odds of them coming this way?”  Then they all (close to a 100 of them) started coming this way.


It was a bit intimidating. But when they were about 50 yards away they hung a left, and I noticed that they were being called in for something (breakfast?) by a bisonboy who was letting them into a different area through a gate.

It was like they did the whole thing for just Kettle and me.

We like Minnesota.

But we can’t stay long. The gang has already arrived at Brenda and Eddie’s (the Breddies) in Northern Michigan. So Kettle and I have got to keep moving – we’re late!

Stopping to smell the corn

Missouri River

A different angle

Sioux Falls 1

Sioux Falls 2

River near camp

Bison Herd

Bison going by

Midland – South Dakota

August 24, 2010


Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument (in progress), and the Badlands.

All very good.

But about Kettle …

The dehydration scare has subsided, and he has most of his energy back. But he’s still very irregular, and he’s eating and drinking about a third of his usual.

So after a quick stop at Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore, we drove into Rapid City, found a Hunan restaurant, ordered sizzling rice soup and a large steamed rice, and went across the street to the park. I blogged while Kettle stared at his soup/rice/water mixture. He finally ate it.

We then did the Badlands.

We then hurled ourself deep into South Dakota, ending up at a KOA  campground in a town called Midland.

The site was a half mile from the highway, there was lots of grass, it was surrounded by fields, and it was along side a wide irrigation canal. The campground did not have a fence, so you could walk endlessly out into the fields. The smell and general feel of the place reminded me of the duck club that my dad belongs to in Los Banos, where I occasionally attempt to hunt with my dad or my friend Tom.

The duck club, though, doesn’t have a Doggy Heaven play area.

It got cold that night. Kettle still didn’t want to go in the tent, so he stayed outside wearing his coat. (I didn’t think putting him in the car would be a good idea with his current “issues”.)

I woke up in the middle of the night and peeked out the tent. Kettle immediately stuck his nose in and let me know that he needed to GO! I didn’t take the time to get dressed, just threw on my tongs. Kettle proceeded to haul me to the edge of the camp site.

That was fine, but then he kept going.

With his current condition, he has a lot of trouble deciding where to go. He was moving fast, with his nose to the ground, so he clearly had to go bad. But for some reason he felt like he should be as far away from the camp as possible.

I can respect that.

But I was cold!

I was wearing tongs, boxer shorts, and a long sleeve shirt. My feet were wet from the dew. And I was in the dark somewhere in South Dakota being dragged by my dog to some other part of South Dakota.

Hopefully not towards an irrigation canal.

I finally forced him to stop and turn around, at which point he picked a spot and went.

The result, once again, was disappointing.

For me, anyway. Kettle seemed happy with the placement.

No, we can't get closer - they won't let you on the bus.

A ways to go yet.


Sculptor - Tourist

Eat it.

Where'd you take me again?

Pretty cool, though.

Looking good in the Badlands.

I'm ready to go now.

No pooping zone