Monday, September 5, 2011

A visit to Grand Marais and author Ellen Airgood's Diner

Whitefish Point
On Wednesday of our trip, August 31, we traveled to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum on Whitefish Point of Lake Superior.  Russ has wanted to see this museum for many years, ever since the Edmund Fitzgerald ship’s bell was placed here.  The Edmund Fitzgerald went down in this section of Lake Superior, an area known for its dangerous storms and many shipwrecks.  I was surprised to learn that several of the shipwrecks in the late 1800s were actually the result of collisions.  It seems that the Great Lakes were very busy then and ships ran into each other quite often!  Over the years we have visited multiple lighthouses but this one is unique.  Lincoln was president when it was built and the lighthouse records show Lincoln's specifications as to how the lighthouse should be built   Also the lighthouse keeper’s house that is attached is actually a duplex meant to house the keeper’s family as well as the assistant keeper’s family.  Both have been restored according to detailed written records left by one woman whose father was the keeper for many years.  We were able to tour the duplex, but the tower was closed for sandblasting.  Whitefish Point is a beautiful window onto an equally beautiful, but deadly, section of Lake Superior.  After viewing the museum and grounds, we left to find Grand Marais, the small community on the edge of Lake Superior’s Pictured Rock shoreline.  Our gazetteer indicated a “major connector” road between Deer Park and Grand Marais, perhaps twenty five miles.  Yooper translation, this road is a washboard rough gravel road with no clear indication that civilization is nearby.  We were sure we had wandered off H58 onto something else, but we finally met a truck and asked the driver if we were on the road to Grand Marais.  He laughed, told us to make sure we had a full tank of gas and to enjoy the view, that we would eventually make it to the town.  Not a mile later, we turned a corner onto the most scenic views of Lake Superior just a few feet from the road.  We parked our van, took a short walk down to the beach edge and then took pictures of our filthy car.
Our dusty car with Lake Superior beyond the trees

  A mile or so later, we saw some wonderful campsites right on the shores.  What lucky campers those families were.  And finally the road  became paved and we finally descended into the harbor of Grand Marais.  Tourism appears to be the mainstay of this weather beaten little town.  Although we got to town well after six pm, the grocery/hardware store was still open, as was the gas station, local brewery pub, and the West Bay Diner Deli.  We found a room at one of the three motels which I guess was a good thing since we were tired of driving.  All I’ll say is that the room made me wish we still had a camper or a tent and that we were one of those lucky families roughing it along Lake Superior.   Our supper at the diner was superb, the biggest fish sandwiches of fresh LS whitefish I’ve ever seen, and before we’d finished our meal, author and diner owner Ellen Airgood came into the diner to start her baking for the next morning.  I blogged a couple weeks ago about her book and I actually got a chance to talk to her.  Nervous me, I completely forgot to tell her that I’d blogged about her book and had also reviewed it on Barnes and Noble.  She was very down to earth, probably a reason why the book resonates with warmth.  Her fictional small town on the shores of Lake Superior is probably more entertaining than the real Grand Marais, but it does make one wonder what stories are hidden in the store fronts, living rooms, and backyards of all our communities.   After our meal, Russ and I walked around the marina where we saw a small recreational boat being towed back in by another boat.  On the disabled boat (engine trouble) was a mom, dad, two young kids, and the family dog.  Glad to say that their story had a safe ending.  Russ talked to a guy who was moored at the marina on his 30 ft, two-masted sailboat.  This guy travels alone.  According to Russ really needs a crew of three people to sail easily, but this guy is living on it alone for the summer and is sailing it around.  Not a young guy, either!!

Standing outside the diner in Grand Marais

All in all, this was a great vacation day filled with small experiences enjoyed together.  Who could ask for more?  Oh yeah, there was a stop in Paradise (another small town) for a fish chowder lunch and a visit to one of the only quilt shops in the UP. 
Ellen's diner had stacks of books for people to read and buy, and of course, she had copies of her new novel for sale.

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