Minnesota

Driving across I90 through both South Dakota and Minnesota looks about the same. It is just rolling prairie land with large corn fields in the distance. As we drove across southern Minnesota, I kept wondering where are the lakes were. I figured with over 10,000 lakes that they should be spread out everywhere, but the farmland just stretched out in front of us. But with I90 running only 15 miles above the Iowa border, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

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We’d talked to a few Minnesotans before we made it into the state that recommended we skip the Twin Cities and head up north to Duluth. My dad is not a city person, so we took the recommendation. Fortunately, we still had to drive through Minneapolis to go north, and we were passing through at rush hour, which there is no better time to stop and eat dinner. While in Ogden, I got a recommendation from Kase Johnston and his brother that I had to eat either of the bars where the Juicy Lucy was served. I’m so glad I listened.

The Juicy Lucy can be found at Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis or Club 58 in St. Paul. This burger is not the massive 1/2 lbs burgers found at a lot of restaurants today. It still had the manageable size like a good old-school restaurant, but the fries were out of control. The server comes up to take our order, and we go with two Juicy Lucy burgers and a 1/2 order of fries. She asks if we want the Lucy with onions, and of course the answer is, Yes!

As we wait for the Juicy Lucy to make their way to our table, Dad starts to check out the art with pictures of notable visitors. The large picture behind us is the most interesting. There is our server hugging President Obama with the rest of the staff circled around for group photo. The President is grinning like he’s just eaten the best damn burger of his life! We ask our server what it was like to meet the President, all she can say is “I still can’t believe that happened in my lifetime!”

The burgers arrive wrapped in papers to contain their bubbling goodness. The burgers were still super hot, so the cheese stuffed in the middle just oozed out. This damn burger was a greasy glorious mess. I thought I had an addiction to the burgers and Telegraph Beergarden in Oakland, but If I lived in the Twin Cities it would be serious trouble!

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After experiencing the Juicy Lucy, my dad said we had to head to the Mall of America just to say we saw it. Guess what, it looks just like a huge mall with massive parking structures surrounding it. I can understand why a mall like this exists in Minnesota. With the cold ass winters and humid hot summers, where else are you going to escape! Neither dad or I are mall people or shoppers, so we just circled the mall and headed north.

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We pulled into Duluth around 9 p.m. and started to look for cheap campground. We drove out into the middle of nowhere and they wanted us to pay $20 camp in a field with not amenities. Dad and I agreed this was a ripoff and decided to take advantage of Walmart’s policy to let people camp in their parking lots. We pulled up behind a semi and a 5th wheel already set up in the parking lot.  Camping in a Walmart parking lot is a really strange experience. The parking lot lights stay on, but it was really quite. Definitely very different from all the other camping I’ve ever done before. However, in more urban areas we’d already planned to use Walmart and Church parking lots as we travelled.

Duluth is a gorgeous town that sits on Lake Superior. The wind was blowing straight of the lake, which made for a very cold day. So the first stop to get warm and wake up was the Duluth Coffee Company. They roast in house and were currently roasting, so the cafe smelled so toasty! A local architecture firm was paying for everyone’s coffee for the morning, which was a super nice treat. This cafe felt like they new coffee, so rather than going with the safety of a drip coffee I got my beloved cappuccino. This was the first cafe so far on this trip that I had latte art in my drink, and it was a very well made drink. They spun vinyl to complete the warm and comfortable atmosphere. So I hopped on the wifi and got caught up on publishing a few blogs that were sitting on my laptop.

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After getting warmed out, we headed out into the cold to walk along the lakefront to check out the old 1909 lighthouse that used to guide ships into the Duluth canal. This is a very peaceful walk, and there were still a lot of people out enjoying the path in the middle of cold weekday. The lighthouse is beautiful but no longer in operation, since there is now a newer model on the other side of the canal.

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At the mouth of the canal entering into the Port, the Army Corp of Engineers has build a marvel of a bridge. The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge, can rise to let huge lake tankers enter into port and then lower down to allow cars to drive into Superior. With all the hydraulics and and metal supports, the bridge is stunning. We walked across the bridge to be able to see all the angles.

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Then we headed back into the lake area of town, which has taken old industrial warehouses and turned them into lovely businesses for locals and tourists. We walked into a Gin Distillery and an Olive Oil store, but it was still early so didn’t try any. But the old warehouses were incredible.

Finally, we were both cold and hungry, so we went to Fitger’s Brewery for lunch. Fitger’s is a super old brewery that has been making beer for over 100 years. They’ve expanded the building a bit to include shops and a hotel. Even though Fitger’s is definitely a tourist spot, the food and drink is fantastic. We had fish tacos and vegetarian chili, and there was not a crumb left on the plate. As for the beer, I had the English Brown Ale on nitrous. It was creamy, smooth, with great flavor!

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After, spending most of the day exploring Duluth, I really loved the town and would want to come back to get to see the city in more details. The old buildings around the lake are super charming, and town is very inviting. I wasn’t expecting a mid-west town so far north, to be so lovely!

After our lunch, we headed south into Wisconsin hoping it would be a bit warmer when we arrived in Madison.

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