Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Northern Road Trip, Day 6: Introduction to Duluth.

The first time I can recall seeing a timber wolf, it wasn't Kevin Love cleaning the boards. Rather, it was a real wolf, bounding across a highway that looked like this ...

 ... and missing the car by a few feet. It was that close, and shocked me so badly that later, I was compelled to drink beer at Fitger's.

At any rate, we made the two-hour drive from Minneapolis to Duluth on Wednesday morning, July 30, having elected to navigate the back roads rather than the interstate. It was uneventful apart from the close encounter with a timber wolf. For those interested in Northwoods history, outdoor recreation, honest food and great beer, Duluth and adjoining Superior, Wisconsin have much to offer.

Around the year 1900, Duluth had more millionaires per capita than any other American city. The reason was shipping. There was iron ore and timber to be sent across Lake Superior to fuel the Gilded Age, and the middlemen and ship owners made considerable bank. Their homes and commercial buildings remain largely intact. Today Duluth is more than a lake port; it's a bona fide seaport, because ocean-going vessels can reach it via the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Appropriately, we boarded the Vista Star for an afternoon tour of the harbor, and learned that last winter's harshness as yet is causing delays to Great Lakes shipping schedules, as the catch-up game continues into August.

Our airbnb hosts noted that while 30-below days always are to be expected in Duluth, the past winter featured day after day of bitter cold, making the city's 3.5 miles of climate-controlled skywalks even more essential. Our hosts were young and delightful, and a Bengal cat named Leo to die for.

Like other ports from Vladivostok to San Francisco, Duluth clings to a ridge facing the water. It is a long and narrow city. on the north side of downtown, easily walked from Canal Park via the lakeside pedway, is the old Fitger's brewery building. Think of it as the Falls City of Duluth, and like Louisville's Falls City, there also is a newer, exemplary Fitger's brewing company. It operates on multiple levels of the 19th-century premises, which also contains shops and a hotel. Of the following images, the lakefront panorama of the Fitger's building and the label are borrowed images.

That's right: Buy a pre-filled growler of Fitger's beer, but first, you must decide whether you'd like glass, plastic or aluminum. We returned to Fitger's later, and my salad of greens, Minnesota wild rice and smoked local trout was superb.

On Thursday, we planned to leave the car at our residence and go walking. It turned out to be quite a lot of steps.

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