Manitoba    Minnesota    Wisconsin   

In July 2019 I drove a nice loop through Minnesota and Wisconsin to get to Manitoba Canada for 7 days. The main purpose was to spend some time in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I had not been to Manitoba for a long time, and this 4th of July and Canada Day week was the perfect opportunity. But you know sometimes, things don't always go smoothly. Even though I left after work on Friday, the first opportunity to write anything didn't happen until almost 03:00 a.m. when I got to my first night's hotel. Make sure you have some popcorn for this one...

I had planned to drive about 450 miles (725 kilometers) into Minnesota and spend Friday night at my first night's hotel, expecting to arrive about 09:00 p.m. I left work early and started driving through Wisconsin, only to be caught in a major toxic spill and a complete stoppage of the traffic on the interstate, with no way to get off. I was stuck on the interstate for 5 hours, 20 miles (32 kilometers) from home. I can't begin to explain how they handled the routing of the traffic once they started directing traffic off the highway. Needless to say, my downfall was that they would not let anyone turn off of the roads they wanted you to drive on. It was only after I got away from the highway, that I was finally able to turn around and, basically, return home and start the trip over again. No, really. That's how bad the traffic was. When I did almost get home, rather than driving north I drove straight west for a long time, before then heading north into Wisconsin. They didn't make it sound on the radio as bad as it really was, the news radio was just talking about the semi overturned and nothing about the traffic. So, the first day, Friday, I didn't get to my hotel until almost 03:00 a.m. in the morning, technically it was Saturday. Needless to say, I didn't get any pictures or see any sites on my first day.

That got me off to a late start the next morning. I finished crossing Minnesota and crossed into North Dakota near Fargo. After stopping for a brief lunch, torrential storms came through the area. There were 65-80 mile per hour (105-130 kilometer) wind gusts, with rain, causing driving to be near impossible. I was listening to the radio weather after I had pulled over on an off-ramp of the interstate and it was all over the news. If you know South Dakota, there is no place to go for cover, just flat. After about 30 minutes, it appeared to be slightly better, and I was hearing on the radio that if I could get further north it would clear up. They were talking about a second wave of storms coming through right after this first one. As I started driving further north, hail started coming down, but I was fortunate enough to get find an overpass that protected my car (along with 2 other cars that were also able to stop). After that ended, I drove until it got better and stopped for gas. Fortunately, no damage to my car. But, with all the rain and wind, it was very slow going. As I got closer to the Canadian border, sunshine!

Did I mention sunshine! Not for long, doom and gloom coming soon. I was still hoping to get to the hotel in Winnipeg early enough to get a nice dinner, relax, and maybe even go in the hotel pool or whirlpool. But, this next bit of news won't be on the news, I was 'detained' at the border. Apparently, when I told the Canadian border guard, I had been in Canada a while ago, but I couldn't remember the exact time when I was there, he stated that since there's no stamp in the passport he was going to pass me to the people inside for questioning. Needless to say, border and customs in real life is not as exciting as they make it on TV. I waited for over 2 hours before they called me up for questioning. I thought they were doing some sort of serious background checks or something because of all the stamps I have in my passport, as well as maybe finding out when I had been in Canada prior. All they did was ask me about my job, why I was going into Canada, a couple questions about my finances, whether I knew people who lived in Winnipeg, and that was about it. Nothing really more than what the guard had asked me before, and as far as I can tell they took this all on my word. I did mention, since I had two hours to think about it, that I believe it was in 2017 when I rode the motorcycle across the border into Ontario. Maybe that helped, or maybe it was my boyish good looks and charms, since the second border agent was female, she let me pass without any more issues. Yay, in Manitoba!

But the bad news doesn't end there. So, I finally got to Winnipeg. Just down the street from my hotel in downtown Winnipeg is a Boston Pizza. I even mapped it out ahead of time so I would know where it was. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the 2 best pizzas in Canada. So, despite the last 2 days (really, has it only been two days?), I was looking forward to a Boston Pizza. But, that was not to happen. Since they are downtown, they closed at 07:00 p.m., so I missed my pizza. So sad. So, all I could do was plan on going down to the pool and whirlpool now. With my luck, they'll be closed for cleaning (no, they were open - happy, happy, joy, joy). I've traveled halfway around the world numerous times and had less issues then I had driving the 850 miles (1,368 kilometers) to Winnipeg. Now I think I know why I travel to Europe, it's a lot easier...

Finally, Winnipeg! Let the good times begin. A lot less eventful today. My hotel is right in downtown Winnipeg and from my window I can see the grand Manitoba's Legislative Building. This location provided for a number of things to do all within walking distance. Winnipeg is where the Red River and the Assiniboine River merge, they call this area The Forks. I walked along their Riverwalk to The Forks area. This area has a lot of shopping, restaurants, several museums, and there was a pavilion where musicians were performing most of the day. They also had a river tour, and a tower you could climb to get a panorama view of Winnipeg and the rivers. This is also where their 1st of July, Canada Day, festivities and fireworks will be taking place tomorrow.

Happy Canada Day! 1st of July is Canada Day here, their Independence Day. I walked back to The Forks around Noon and had lunch. Lots of food booths setup, and they had entertainment performing in several different areas. Nearby, I crossed the Esplanade Riel Bridge. Just across the river on the bridge is an area known as Saint Boniface. It's a French influenced area, with French type architecture. I spent some time there, but there was more to see later. I spent most of the day in the forks area and had something to eat (a bison dog), listened to some music, and went through shops. Since it doesn't get dark here until very late, it was not until 11:00 p.m. that the fireworks started. I had a great view of the fireworks, which were just across the river. It was a very late night, but it was worth staying for the fireworks. Very cool!

I had a private tour of the Manitoba Legislative Building. Well, private in the sense that no one else was there interested in taking a tour. The current building was built in 1920. This building is equivalent to a state capitol, where all of the provincial government takes place. The rest of the day I spent walking through the town of St. Boniface, just across the Red River from Winnipeg. As I mentioned before, it has French influence. There are a number of nice Parisian Style buildings there, including their City Hall, Post Office, and the Cathedral. In the Cathedral cemetery is where Louis Riel is buried. Who's he you ask? He is considered the father of Manitoba and helped to unify all the groups that were living in the region into the unified Manitoba. Also, nearby on the Red River is Fort Gibraltar built in 1809, as one of the North West Company trading posts (competition to Hudson's Bay Company). Lots of history in this area.

My last full day in Manitoba started with a tour of the Winnipeg Royal Canadian Mint, on the outskirts of the city. In addition to minting all of the Canadian coins here, they also do coins for dozens of other countries. The paper currency for Canada is printed at an undisclosed location in Ottawa. Amazingly, they have a gold bar on display worth almost $1,000,000, of course that's Canadian dollars. They allow you to walk up, touch it, and take a picture with it. These Canadians are so trustworthy. But they didn't allow any photos of the actual minting process. Afterwards, I went back to the city and walked to the Manitoba Museum. This Museum talks about the history of the province, the different indigenous people across the province, and also describes all of the differences of the natural areas across the province. There's also a lot of natural resources which caused the province to grow and businesses to be created. Lastly, I walked around a historic district of downtown Winnipeg called The Exchange District. This has a whole bunch of stone and brick buildings built around 1880. Today, while the buildings still stand, they house current businesses. So, it's a little bit of a shame to see a Starbucks on the corner of a beautiful old building.

Happy 4th of July! I'll be driving back across the border to the U.S., but first a couple detours. I had to go back to the Royal Canadian Mint. I found out yesterday during my tour that today they were offering an exchange program of their $2 coin for a new D-Day $2 special commemorative coin. I was able to get five of them, kind of cool. Just outside of Winnipeg, is the Longitudinal Centre of Canada. Pretty much a destination you can't help but not miss, just drive east of Winnipeg. This is the halfway division between east and west Canada. Photo op!

I then crossed back into the U.S. and fortunately, had an uneventful border crossing with the U.S. Customs. I spent several hours driving to Duluth and got there late in the afternoon, and walked around the Bay Front Festival Park, where all the festivities were taking place for the 4th of July celebration. The park is located right on the shores of Lake Superior. They had food vendors, gift stalls, amusement rides, a large band stand with music, and of course the waterfront. At 10:00 p.m. I went to their fireworks display, pretty neat. Kind of an uneventful day... Uh oh, spoke too soon. After I returned to my room after the fireworks, the hotel lost power for about 10 minutes. It's a large Radisson Hotel in downtown Duluth. Because people were coming back from the fireworks, I guarantee you there were people stuck in the elevator for a short while. The hotel Wi-Fi got disconnected, and it took a while for it to boot up. As far as the lights going out in my room, not a big deal, but I did need the air conditioning.

My last stretch of the trip was mostly a scenic drive through Northern Wisconsin, including a section of driving along Lake Superior. Since it was a short distance drive day, I took the opportunity to stop in a couple towns along the way and see them. In Wisconsin, I stopped in Ashland and Minocqua. I took a slight detour to Ironwood, Michigan. All 3 of these towns have a nice older Main Street. Ashland has a couple nice parks along Lake Superior where you can stop and see the water. If it's big, you know I'll get a picture of it. The town of Woodruff, Wisconsin is home to the world's largest penny. Long story short, a doctor there back in the 1950s was trying to raise money, unsuccessfully, for a hospital in the area. She appeared on the television show 'This is Your Life', and requested a penny from people to help with this. Needless to say, they raised more than enough money (1.7 million pennies) to build the hospital. They created this memorial for her. You can't tell by the picture I took, but it is actually 15 feet (4.5 meters) across...

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Manitoba - Not sure I'm really in Canada. No sign of a Tim Hortons yet.


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Morris, Manitoba - Morris is Home of the Manitoba Stampede. I guess they forgot to tell anyone (or they're all at Tim Hortons).


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Winnipeg, Manitoba - First stop, Tim Hortons for anything/everything covered in maple.


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Winnipeg, Manitoba - The Forks is located at the confluence of the Red River and the Assiniboine River, and hosts a number of activities and food choices.


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Winnipeg, Manitoba - Opened in 2014, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights promotes the understanding of human rights and respect to others.


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Winnipeg, Manitoba - The Esplanade Riel bridge spans the Red River and connects Winnipeg with St. Boniface. Lucky Winnipeg.


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Winnipeg, Manitoba - Canada Day, July 1st, had a great fireworks display over the Red River.


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Winnipeg, Manitoba - The Manitoba Legislative Building has tours throughout the day and is where the Manitoba government is hard at work.


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Saint Boniface, Manitoba - Fort Gibralter in Whittier Park was built in 1810 as a North West Company trading post to complete with Hudson's Bay Company.


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Saint Boniface, Manitoba - The City Hall, St. Bonaface was established in 1818 and designated a city in 1908.


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Saint Boniface, Manitoba - The St. Bonaface Cathedral includes Louis Riel in their cemetery. You remember that name from the bridge? He is the founder of Manitoba. See, it all comes together...


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Winnipeg, Manitoba - The Royal Canadian Mint has produced billions in coins. No free samples.


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Winnipeg, Manitoba - At The Mint, those trusting Canadians let me touch a gold bar worth almost $1,000,000. But, of course, that's Canadian dollars.


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Winnipeg, Manitoba - Named after their native born son, The Burton Cummings Theatre, they call it The Burt. I had to 'Stand Tall' to get this picture.


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Winnipeg, Manitoba - The Manitoba Museum chronicles the evolution of man in Manitoba.


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Winnipeg, Manitoba - Winnipeg's Exchange District is a historical neighborhood in Winnipeg. Ironic to me, it is nicknamed the 'Chicago of the North'.


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Longitudinal Centre of Canada, Manitoba - Gee, if only they had a nicer landmark to indicate where I am.


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Longitudinal Centre of Canada, Manitoba - But I thought it was over there?


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Steinbach, Manitoba - The highlight of the town, a Boston Pizza. Yum!


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Duluth, Minnesota - Bayfront Festival Park on the shores of Lake Superior held Forth Fest which included food, fun, and festivities.


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Duluth, Minnesota - The city's 4th of July fireworks.


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Duluth, Minnesota - With a small downtown, most of it was taken up by government buildings.


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Duluth, Minnesota - Appropriately named the Duluth Street Clock, it not only told you the time but also where you are.


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Duluth, Minnesota - A scenic view of downtown, with my hotel just over my left shoulder.


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Ashland, Wisconsin - The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center provides educational and historical information about the area.


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Ashland, Wisconsin - From the observation tower of the visitor center, the view of the surrounding area with interpretive nature trails.


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Ashland, Wisconsin - This small scenic town is located on the southern shores of Lake Superior.


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Minocqua, Wisconsin - Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty has great family style dining, and that's no bull. Technically, it's an ox.


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Minocqua, Wisconsin - The small center of town has a host of niche shops for some ice cream and candy to enjoy by the lake.


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Minocqua, Wisconsin - Torpy Park is a nice place to relax on the shores of Minocqua Lake. Now I have to go back and get some ice cream and candy.


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Woodruff, Wisconsin - The World's Largest Penny, dated 1953. I could give you my opinion of what I think, but I don't think you want my two-cents.