Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We're Headed for the Soo and Canada

We woke up this morning and realized we had to leave today.  It was kind of sad.  As I was getting ready to get in the shower, I took a look at my leg.  It's pretty dry, but the bruise is pretty apparent.  This is 3 days after it happened, so it actually looks somewhat better.

Once we got all packed and ready to go, we called for the luggage porter.  That was the last time we would see our luggage until we disembarked from the ferry in St. Ignace.

We decided to try the breakfast buffet again at the Round Island restaurant.  Yeah, bad decision.  We finally got to sit outside on the patio, but even though there were a number of empty tables with umbrellas, the hostess sat us at a table with no umbrella, no silverware, and right up against the windows reflecting the hot sun onto us. 

After getting our food, we finally just moved to a different table out of the sun.  We ended up taking the silverware off of another table, but still had to wait quite a long time for someone to take our drink order and actually bring them to us. 

There was another couple next to us who waited for 30 minutes for their waiter to come back and bring them their bill.  They finally just got up and left.  It was quite funny to watch the host and waiter try to figure out what happened to them.  Had they only come out and asked us what happened, we would have told them that they got up and left after waiting forever.  Finally, our waitress brought our check and we paid and left. 

We went to the front desk to check out and the girl that helped us asked how everything was.  I let loose.  Horrible service, both times at breakfast.  Horrible room upgrade.  Just not a great experience there.  She "apologized" and offered a whole whopping $40 credit off our bill.  Hello, $40 when our nightly rate was $265?  Whatever.  Yeah, we will not be staying at the Mission Point Resort again.  I certainly hope they send us a survey or something when we get home!

We headed downtown in a taxi and boarded our ferry.  Apparently, we were the only two people who wanted to go to St. Ignace today since we were the only folks on the ferry other than the captain and the crew.  As we sat there waiting for anyone else who wanted to join us, I grabbed some last shots of the memories we had. 

The bike rentals...which we never did get to do...


...The Mennonite families...

The Main Street Inn and of the hotels I'd like to stay at the next time we go to Mackinac Island.  It's right in the heart of downtown.

The waterfront...

More waterfront living as we began to pull out of the harbor...

Soon, we saw the Mighty Mac in the distance.  Our time on the island was over.  I felt like I was returning to "the real world."  Sadly, that's how it seemed.  For three days, I'd lived in on an island, with no cars, but yet with the daily luxuries of electricity (thank goodness!), hair dryers, restaurants, and cell phone service.  But somehow, it seemed all too far away from regular life on the mainland.

The water was super choppy and the ferry was haulin' butt over the waves.  The spray caught me once and although it felt "refreshing", I screamed out and the captain turned around and looked at me as if I'd fallen overboard or something.  It was hard to believe it took us the full 20 minutes to get back to the ferry dock.  It seemed like maybe 10 minutes, if that.

It was SO windy out on the water.  Check out my hair!

Melon Man looks so cute with his hat on backwards.  The wind was blowing so hard and I didn't want him to lose his new Mac hat, so he put it on backwards.

We disembarked, waited for our car to be brought from the parking lot, and then left on our way.  Not too far down the road was Castle Rock.  Melon Man wanted us to climb Castle Rock, but I had kept telling him I would just stay at the bottom so I could take his picture.  He didn't like that idea and really wanted me to climb it with him.  I just didn't feel like it with my bum leg.  So, instead of stopping so he could climb it or so we could take better pictures, he just kept driving.

As we sped past, I noticed the Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox statues.  Now I was really kind of ticked because I had wanted to take pictures of us with them.  When I asked Melon Man if he hadn't stopped because I didn't want to climb Castle Rock, he told me no, he hadn't stopped because they'd jacked up the price to a WHOLE DOLLAR from twenty-five cents to climb it.  Eh?  A whole dollar?  He wouldn't stop because of that?  Puh-leaze.  We just spent $265 a night for a tiny hotel room with absolutely no view and you won't stop to climb Castle Rock because you're upset that the price has gone up seventy-five cents in 45 years?  Whateva.

So, we kept driving and what did we soon see?  Yep, more forest and trees.  And you know what?  I was just plum tickled pink with that.  We were now 350 miles from the southern border of Michigan.

Soon we saw this sign for Sault (soo) Ste (saint) Marie (marie).  Yeah, don't ask me how you get soo out of sault or saint out of ste, but at least Marie is the same in either English or French.

Only 36 more miles to go!

I had made arrangements for us to take a Soo Locks boat tour and dinner cruise, so I was excited when I saw this sign.

More lovely forest and fields....

We started coming closer and closer to SSM and Melon Man tells me to look out ahead...

We're here, we're here!

Since we don't have passports yet, we made sure not to continue straight through...that would have been a problem...

So, we exited to SSM.  Melon Man wanted to find the boat tour place first, before finding our hotel so we would be able to drive right back to it later in the day when it was time to go on our cruise.  So, we drove through town and showed me the sights.  I never knew that he had gone to college in SSM, so he showed me the school.  He showed me a place to get a good pasty.  But, did we stop there to get one?  No!  Finally, we found the boat tour place and we went in looked around in the gift shop.  We found a few little thiings to buy and then I headed outside to the back of the shop where there was this little bench.  It had been raining since we got off the exit into SSM so the bench was wet, but I didn't care.  I sat down and just enjoyed the view and cool air.

As I sat there and looked across the St. Mary's River, this big ship came floating by.  It was awesome!

I watched it head down river.  It had just come through the locks.  I didn't really realize though, until I saw the waving flag, that just across the river was Canada.  Yes, we were this close to Canada...just a short swim across some very cold water.

We finished up at the gift shop and went to find the "actual" location of where the dinner cruise boat would be parting from - about 2 miles down river.  Then, we went to check into our hotel...the Holiday Inn Express.

Thankfully, we were able to use a friend's corporate discount for our hotel stay in SSM, so we were able to get a nice hotel room with a huge jacuzzi overlooking the International Bridge for just $80 a night...with free breakfast AND free Wi-Fi!  I was in heaven!  While Melon Man took a little nap, I checked my work email and cleaned it out a bit so it wouldn't bounce stuff back and then blogged a little bit.  It had stopped drizzling outside when we went to leave for the cruise a little bit later and the sun was actually trying to peak out from behind the clouds.

We headed to the dinner cruise dock and all of a sudden, a bus of tourists pulls up and a ton of medium-old to ancient-old people get off and head inside the gift shop/ticket office building.  Oh no, we thought...we're going on a cruise with a bunch of old folks...lovely.  And "lovely" they were.  They were kind of rude - butting in and all.  They just looked at us as if we were not supposed to be there.  But, we just stepped aside and let them in.  We were almost the last ones to board, but luckily, we had reserved seating up near the bow of the boat.  Just a little table for two.

Just as we were starting to pull away from the dock, the clouds came in again and it started to drizzle.  Not too bad, we thought.  We'd still be able to go up top and enjoy the tour.  Within just a couple of minutes, this was the view we had out of our window.  This was not looking like it was going to turn out well.  Bummer!

We tried to make the best of it though, so we took pictures of us enjoying our lemonade and the little ride down river on the Lake Huron side of the locks.

Ew....gag.  Um, yeah, not a good picture of me.

We got to the spot down river where we turned around and soon they called our number for our turn to go get our food.  It was a total "gum-chomper" dinner - way overcooked vegetables, soft foods, etc., but it wasn't horrible.  It was just "okay".

We finished eating and decided to try heading up top since we had seen some other folks head up a few minutes earlier and it seemed that the rain was finally letting up.  We got some interesting pictures of the sites along the trip up river....

Some homes on the Canadian banks...I would love to live on the water and have a little boat dock with my own boat parked there!

The "PP" (Provincial Police) checked us (the cruise boat) out, to make sure we were legit.  Wouldn't want any terrorists trying to sneak into Canada from the gum-chomper is the "SP" (State Police) making sure no terrorists are trying to get into the U.S.?

A campground on the U.S. side of the river.  That would be a fun place to camp and watch all the freighters come through the locks and up or down the river!

I'm not quite sure what this building is...a church or school or what, but I liked it.  It, too, is on the Canadian side of the river.  The interesting thing we noticed is that the U.S. side of the river is really run down and the Canadian side is mostly nice.  That's kind of like a neighbor with a two-story house having to look down into their neighbor's messy backyard and see the junk piled up, but knowing you really can't do anything about it.

As we headed up river even more, the rain just started pouring down.  I was kind of getting bummed out about it.  But, I persevered on trying to take pictures of interesting things...such as this pile of rocks in the center of the river.  Yes, this is how close we were to them...I did NOT zoom in.  This is the international border in the middle of the river.  We were literally 20-25 feet away from Canada.

We then saw a number of other interesting items on the Canada side...a bushplane museum...

...this nifty fountain...

...the ship Yankcanuck in dock for some repairs...

...this moose statue (doesn't he look a little thin to you?)...

...the ship Norgoma just parked right up almost next to a, yeah, I wonder who drove their ship to work today.  Dang...they parked in my spot again.

The local mall....

The Canadian flag just flappin' in the wind...

The boat took us up closer to the Canadian locks...

You could see the International Bridge pretty well, except for the rain falling down impeding the view...

Soon, we made it over to the American locks and headed to get into position to go into the locks.

After we went into the lock, the doors behind us closed, we tied up next to the wall on the port side of the boat, and we waited for the lock to begin to fill with water.  Lake Superior is about 21 feet higher than the St. Mary's River, so it took about 10 minutes for the lock to fill up.

Once the lock was filled, the doors on the Lake Superior end opened up and we motored out of the lock onto the river end of the lake.  We got to go under the International Bridge...

In the distance, we could see this huge ship coming down river toward the locks.  We wondered which ship it was and if we'd get to see it up close.

They are in the process of building a wider and deeper lock right now.  So, all the dirt and stuff that they dredge up out of the new lock area is being moved to this little man-made island that is about a mile up river.  I thought the sun shining through the clouds onto this little island was beautiful.

Next, they took us to Canada! 

We moved over in the water to the Canadian side and went a little "from the water" tour of this mill.  It was kind of hard to hear what the tour guide was saying about everything so I'm sure I'll get it wrong if I try to capture any of it.  I thought it was a steel mill, but it sure didn't smell like the Geneva Steel Mill that used to be in Utah when I was a child!  Plus, there were these really cool piles of stuff outside that certainly didn't look like anything you'd see at a steel mill.  I guess I'll have to ask Melon Man to remind me about all of this and then post an update.

Once we were done at the mill, we moved back over to the American side of the water, radioed in that we were out of Canadian waters, and then we got closer to the ship that we'd seen in the distance after we came through the locks.  It was the Philip R. Clarke.

The captain of our little tour boat radioed in to the lock master and explained that we wanted to take a closer look at the ship and asked if we could be a little late coming back through the lock.  He was given clearance to do so.  Then he radioed to the Clarke and asked if we could approach the ship so we could see it up close.  He was given clearance to do so as well.  So, that's what we did!

We got close enough to see the crew and they were very nice to wave at us.  As we were passing by, Melon Man yelled out to them, "See you in Toledo!" and they laughed and waved back.

After rounding the ship, we began to head back to the locks.  As we did, we got close enough to the International Bridge to see the two flags of the United States and Canada.  They are right in the middle of the bridge, where the two country borders meet.

We also learned that twice a day, this piece of this railroad bridge is lowered into place so a train can cross the water.  The rest of the time, the section of the track is in the upper position so ships can cross under it.

A view of the International Bridge from the underside...

As we headed into the lock, we learned about this ram bar.  It stays up until a boat or ship comes into the lock.  Then, it is lowered into place.  It is there to help protect the lock doors so in case a boat or ship becomes loose, it can't directly ram into the lock doors and damage them.

We began to head into the lock...

The ram bar is down, into place (behind the words in the picture below)...

This seagull sat right on the edge of the lock wall and watched us...

A close-up of one of the lock buildings...

As we were waiting for the lock to empty, we noticed this crew from a naval ship come walking across the way and they eventually crossed the lock.

The water is beginning to recede.  Watch in the next few pictures how it drops...

See where the ram bar is now?  Way above the water!

The lock doors are now beginning to open!

We've dropped the 21 feet from Lake Superior level to Lake Huron level.  The ram bar is beginning to lift.

And, out we go!

We're almost to the end of our boat tour now, but not before getting a close-up look at the Edison power plant.  This building was phenomenal!  It was an all brick building that the water runs through and helps power areas of Michigan.

I loved that the bricks were used to simulate the various lighthouses on the Great Lakes onto the sides of the building.

We were soon finished with our tour, but we had to capture these last few pictures of us on our ride.  The rain had finally stopped about halfway through the ride but the moisture in the air was enough to drive my hair crazy!

We headed back to our hotel for the evening and sat in the jacuzzi in our room to get warm. 
It was a lovely little day in the Soo, even though it had rained most of the day and had been quite chilly.

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