Tag Archive: duluth


A Day out with Thomas 2011

…or our mini-Trip to Duluth

Let’s start this out… I’m debating about letting you all view our photo album…

Day 1:

We take our time getting to get out… now I say that because The Worlds was on and I was trying to watch online [Android ftw with the flash support — ps I called Field Marshal winning after I heard their MSR — and after hearing I&D I should have put them in my 6].  Getting ready involves me making a dash out to Canadian Tire to get some anti-ant stuff too.

We eventually are on the road around noon, and it’s a nice leisurely drive.  Dean isn’t too bad.  He starts to get a little bored and resolves this by painting his nails with the markers we let him have (btw – Mandy invested in this crafts table, tha’s like a lap table and it totally fits over his car seat… good job Mandy).

I’m a bit of a jerk and don’t make as many stops as we could have [Temperance Falls, Lighthouse on the Rock, etc…] but we are cruising along and I just get in my groove and go.  We eventually stop in Two Harbors for a bite to eat at Culvers [where else does our family go?].  Things are going okay after it’s taken forever to get our food [can’t believe how busy that place is].  Dean isn’t really eating and then says his tummy is sore and wants to go to the potty, in trying to get out by going under the table he emerges after he’s left a sizable amount of ‘sick-up’ under the table.  I rush him off to the washroom to clean up while Mandy gets to inform some unlucky sap of his next 15 minutes of torture.

The next few miles are definitely fraught with a little tension as any little sound from Dean could mean an unpleasant car ride.  We decide to do something we haven’t done before, but kept meaning to.  We stopped at the Sinclair before Duluth.  We’ve always seen the dinosaur, but never really stopped in for a photo opp.  Seeing as Dean missed out on his Culvers meal we figure it’ll be a good chance for him to go potty, maybe grab a snack and then there’s the photo opp as well.

Turns out Sinclair is one of those ‘unmanned’ gas stations … there’s barely even a port-a-potty there.  Well at least we got photos.

We get into Duluth and decide to plow on through to our hotel (who knows how long Dean’s got this safe streak in him).  We do make a quick stop at the SuperOne foods for some healthier snacks.  There are some weird people in the USofA.  The conversation we heard outside the doors was particularly telling of the times.  I didn’t catch much, but I caught:  police, paper. they got it wrong, gun, chasing, wanted to blow up something (or burn something down) etc…  definitely interesting.

Now here’s a funny thing.  If you punch in “Black Bear Casino” into the GPS, apparently there’s several options, but only shows you that exact result.  Follow it and it will take you to a reverse “Field of Dreams” as  it’s a bare field hoping for people to come to it before anything’s built… at least that’s the joke we had in our heads.  We realize our mistake add in the “& Resort” to the GPS and we find it further up 35 than where we turned off.

Black Bear Casino & Resort – not that impressive from the perspective of a family guy… nothing ‘wow’ for me.  If anything a little ostentatious  for my liking.  There’s only the one way to get into the hotel, through the main lobby which means the noise and the valet staff [funny story, walking in the one valet says to a person “hello son… err… I mean ma’am” and looks a little embarassed – i get into the hotel and this ‘ma’am’ is complaining to the staff inside pointing at the valet].

The room is really nice – I’ll give it that, but the rest of the hotel is nothing exciting.  The pool was hard to find, ice machines are only every 2nd floor, very poor internet [I couldn’t even watch youtube or the Worlds], etc…  And the pool.. .not that great.  Was very busy and loud and no towels.  Twice I saw a staffer walk around and pick up towels … never brought any out.  Once brought what looked like a bin of towels, but was just an extra dirty towel bin as I guess he was getting tired of picking up the dirty ones on the ground.

Also, there were some extra crazies at this pool.  Again, the great dichotomy of the USofA.  What really did it was the horseplay of a couple of kids left un-checked — not only by the lack of any parents for these kids whatsoever, but by the staff even.  Several times you could see the hotel security walk by but then do nothing.  When I left was when these kids would literally run full out along the pool side then slide along their knees and bash into whatever was their misfortune to be in front of them (walls, pool chairs, etc…).

After that I was ready for bed.  Read some about the Worlds results, and we looked up the next day for Thomas and ended up falling asleep [kept meaning to order the tickets, but as we had to share a bed with Dean and he took a while to fall asleep i was pretty zonked by the end myself]

Day 2

We start carting our stuff to the car and are on the road by almost 11.  Not bad.  We had ordered the Thomas tickets for 2pm, figuring that gives us plenty of time. So we go to Target.

Ah, tar-jay, as they say.  Shopping is not one of my fortes, but we go and find Dean a new shirt [after he got sick on one of them the previous day], and Mandy looks for a bathing suit [as she’d forgotten hers].   $100 later we decide to eat at the Pizza Hut that’s right there before heading to Thomas [save time].  This turns out to be more interesting conversation.

As we’re sitting down (a brief synopsis):

Random Stranger:  Does he like passenger trains?  Amtrak used to come through here.  This country is going to hell in a handbasket… blah blah blah

Mandy:  We’re from Canada, so we wouldn’t know

RS:  Canada – I hear you guys don’t get as much say about your government as we do here.

Me:  We’re a democracy, just like you.

RS:  What’s a tablet?  Why do they have to have so many tablets, why can’t they just have one tablet?

Me:  A tablet is a computer – why do they have so many different cars?

RS:  Do you know what CRT is?

RS:  Why are there so many people from Thunder Bay here?  I hear it’s because of the mall.  Do they not have malls where you live?  You should build some.

Mandy:  Canada has the LARGEST mall in the world.

RS:  You should build one there in Thunder Bay then.  Maybe if everybody were to chip in a couple of dollars each you could build one.  Because it’s a long drive to get to Duluth I hear.

Seriously, that synopsis does very little in shedding light on the crazy.  It was unreal.  But like most Canadians we were trying to be polite, but not engaging.  Eventually some Target staffer said something to him and he walked away “Thank you for answering my questions”.

Then it was time for Thomas.  Parking was difficult, but easy in the end, just not clearly stated.  This Day out with Thomas seemed a little more ‘ghetto’ than the last one.  The one in Lakefield was in the middle of nowhere at a train station.  This one was right by the high way… and was all fenced in.  Weird part was you could just walk in at any time – the only time they checked your ticket was for the train ride.   Oh, and the train ride – we learned our lesson.  This time we were getting there early.  So we go and get in line properly and are like the 5th family in line.  The guy taking our ticket even says “wow, you could probably even ride right up near Thomas”.  10 minutes go by and then they start waving us down to the end of the fence.  Again, we’re thinking we’re awesome as we’re at the head of the line… 10 more minutes reveal that we’re at the head of the line for the line that’s at the end of the train.  Dumb move – pissed a lot of us off.  Here we are getting there early to get a good seat, but they move us on up[back] to the end of the train and those that came last got the spots near the front.  Mandy and I were steaming on the inside trying not to get spew obscenities like the one mommy we saw/heard.

Then the train left and Dean was ok this time.  Only one annoying person on the train [and it wasn’t me].  Literally you could hear every word she said the entire time.  She had no ‘inside voice’.

After we visited all the sections, we got our prize.  They didn’t chince out this time, decent prize for doing all the stations this time.  We then went and visited the rest of the museum.  Very cool how this actually was a train museum for this event.  Got to go in old trains and see models, etc…  We did get our picture taken with Thomas this time [it was our vow] and we paid for the photo even.

I was good and tired after all the play – so it was time to find our hotel.  Dean fell asleep on the way there, and I zonked out myself.  Eventually we woke up and Dean realized he was in a different place and was upset.  Getting him out to go for dinner was a challenge.

We decided on the Duluth Grill, not only as a recommendation from a friend, but it was close.  Dean only settled down after he learned he could have a peanut butter and jam sandwich.  The plate of fruit he got came with an edible flower (according to the waitress, not, however, Mandy).  Dean got to cross paths with 2 levels of law enforcement at this establishment.  He was in awe of the policemen who sat near us, but wouldn’t say anything – even after they gave Dean a fancy sticker.  Then he saw some state troopers who said hi and he ran and hid.  Hoep this isn’t early foreshadowing of a long history with law enforcement.

That done we decide to go grocery shopping [after a tip from Mandy’s coworker that groceries are cheaper in the states].  After some fun with the GPS we decide to go to Superior to the WalMart there.  (I was tired).  Luckily it wasn’t closed, but everything else was – we almost didn’t go.  We found some neato things, and some interesting people for sure.  I got some s’mores cereal and my PB&J in a jar.  Then it was time for hotel.

We made it in enough time to go for a quick dip in the pool (nobody kicked us out after the family time was over and it was ‘adult’ time).  Then we slept.

I never sleep easy in hotels.  Something about the air – but I tossed about like crazy in this room.  My back is still sore and my legs still cramped.  Couple that with my crazy allergies I’ve been having all trip and I’m having a fun time.

Day 3

So we wake up and fight our way through the breakfast line to get Dean a blueberry waffle (I still am baffled at how busy those things are in the hotels – it’s like nobody’s had a waffle before in their life).  A few consumables and then we’re off on the road.  Mandy had the brilliant idea of buying some lunchables for road.  Dean wasn’t too bad on this drive either – no nap however.  Did let us know when he needed a potty break – albeit a couple were just false alarms – we’re just not ready to chance it tho’ [on the ride down we put him in a pull-up — but on the ride back he refused].

And now we’re home.  My head is still stuffy, jaw is sore from sniffling and legs feel cramped.  Still in the throes of unpacking – not looking forward to work tomorrow.

You know how the 4 day weeks are the busiest?  Well this is my 3 day week… it’s going to be hell.

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It feels weird having a Saturday/Sunday and not being on the road or getting ready to go. I’m sitting here on a Sunday and actually had the opportunity to be somewhat productive. Feels good after the week I had. It wasn’t dull… Never is at the Chamber. But there was a lot of communication outwards and then some waiting for a communication return.

Anyways, week was good and next should be as well. No more piping responsibilities for a while. And it looks like we’ll be able to get away for a quick family trip this weekend. It’s the Day Out With Thomas in Duluth. Just there’s no cheap hotel rooms around there, so it might just be a day trip.

Not much else to report on. Need to follow up with the City for my cheque from the gig the other day. I should make it a rule, cash up front. I like when Ed was able to pay me right away on Friday. Makes it so much less awkward.

Oh, if you haven’t tried yet, go get the Steak and Spuds from the Wayland on Fridays… $8 well spent.