Day 10: Grand Rapids, MN

Yes, that’s Grand Rapids, Minnesota – not Michigan. I still haven’t been to Michigan, but I had an opportunity today. I could have pulled over by the side of the road and spat on it, were I so inclined. But I have no reason to hock a loogie on the state (yet), and there were cops around (though you have to wonder if it’s in Wisconsin’s jurisdiction if the spit lands in Michigan).

Anyway, you can see the point where I was almost, but not quite, in Michigan on today’s route map – the route nearly touches Michigan near the town of Ironwood, in Hurley, WI:

And so today, I crossed the Mississippi. Grand Rapids is named for a stretch of that river, not far from its headwaters, which marked the original head of navigation of the river. Of course, someone dammed the river since then, so the rapids are long gone, but the town name remains. The Mississippi’s headwaters, incidentally, are about 80 miles west of here, at a pond named Lake Itasca.

“Itasca,” I should note, is not a Native American name, despite its sound. Some dude, when searching for the head of the Big Muddy, found this lake surrounded by swamps (and, presumably, ice – it’s damn cold up here), and named it after Latin words for “true head”: veritas caput.

Naturally, it’s probably not the actual headwaters, since there are several streams flowing into it, and plus, what really matters on a river is its total watershed.

But I digress – I tend to see the world in terms of watersheds. I’m sure you’d rather see today’s pictures.

First of all, a bit of Lake Superior, because U.S. 2 swings just past one of its western bays:

Gichigami? Gitchee Gummee? Le Lac Superieur? Oh, screw it - Lake Superior.


Speaking of U.S. 2, I traveled a portion of it through New England, and only picked it up again today. I think I’ll be spending quite a bit more time on this road, as it stretches from here to Washington, near Seattle. U.S. 2 is unique in that it was designed in two sections: the part in New England, and the part out here west of the Great Lakes, though rumor has it that Canadian roads connect the two stretches.

Just past that view of Lake Superior, in the town of Ashland, Wisconsin, I stopped at a car wash – see, when I stepped out of the car to take the above picture, I noticed that my car was encased in nearly solid road salt, because as I drove north from Merrill, there were snow flurries, causing Wisconsin to dump an entire ocean’s worth of salt on the roads – and got this picture of a pretty cool mural:

Right side cropped off because Walgreen's added nothing to the picture.


A while later, I whizzed by this sign at about 65 miles an hour. After glimpsing it, I had to make a couple of U-turns to make sure that a) I saw what I thought I saw and b) if (a), get a picture. So here’s the picture:

An airplane-? I guess you can make one out of anything!


And I would have totally stopped at the place it advertised, but I couldn’t make out the faded directions.

One final word about Grand Rapids: its biggest fame claim is that one Frances Ethel Gumm – better known as Judy Garland – was born here. I am, in fact, staying in a hotel immediately adjacent to the town’s Judy Garland museum, not far from her birthplace.

Just don't ask me to explain the rubbish bins at the end of the rainbow.

I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned Oz in yesterday’s post.

Well, tomorrow promises to be extraordinarily long, especially if it keeps on snowing. We shall see…


About Waltz

An international man of mystery, Waltz is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. Kind of a puzzle burrito, actually. With conundrum cheese and secret sauce. And a side of Riddle Rice.

Posted on November 27, 2011, in Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. hahaha bong memorial.

    (That is apparently all I got out of this entry. Sorry. But haha, bong memorial.)

  2. Bong memorial. Bong memorial.

    Ohmygosh. Bong memorial. That’s… that’s… awesome.

    Sorry I didn’t check the blog sooner, but glad to see you posted the picture of the wheelchair train. LOL.

  3. Holy crap, you got pretty far over the weekend. Bong’s a State recreation area too. If you’re curious – Major Richard I. Bong, was a Poplar, Wisconsin native who was America’s leading air ace during World War II.

    Drive safely…damn that snow.

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