Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.
Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.
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Last year, Duluth celebrated its designation as “Best Town Ever” by Outside magazine. The splashy cover image and write-up of the port city in the September issue sparked interest in the mountain-biking, beer-brewing hometown of Trampled by Turtles.
Now Grand Marais — that other best town on Lake Superior — may take a turn on a glossy magazine cover soon.
Budget Travel has launched a contest to determine “America’s coolest small towns,” and Grand Marais is in the running. Competition is keen. There’s Pismo Beach, Calif., along the Pacific Coast; Blanco, Texas, in pretty Texas Hill Country; Berkeley Springs, W.V., where Thomas Jefferson was known to take to the waters; Chincoteague, Va., and others.
But what’s “cooler” than Grand Marais? As I write this, thermometers up there are registering 7 degrees.
Of course we know there’s so much more than wintry weather: the rocky shoreline perfect for skipping rocks, the world’s best doughnuts (in season), hikes to Artists’ Point, interesting shops such as the Inuit-focused Sivertson Gallery, delicious restaurants like the Crooked Spoon.
If you’re a fan of Grand Marais — and don’t mind sharing the secret jewel with the nation — vote for the town at http://bit.ly/1KbVL8X. You can vote once a day through February 25.
Tour company the Duluth Experience and Visit Duluth, the city's convention and visitor's bureau, are teaming up to introduce Duluth at biking and hiking expos in Amsterdam and Antwerp.
The two-year-old tour company has given Twin Citians, Iron Rangers and Canadians a deeper appreciation of Duluth with its history tours of the port city, mountain and road bike tours, kayak experiences in Lake Superior and brewery tours. Most of its customers come from the region, and some are from Duluth itself. By exhibiting at the two expos, they hope to bring in another crowd: adventure-seeking Europeans.
The two expos are expected to draw a combined 35,000 people.
"We're looking forward to showing off Duluth on an international stage," said Dave Grandmaison, of Duluth Experience.
Grandmaison's company is creating a new tour to entice Europeans interested in biking and visiting our unique patch of the United States. Called the "7-day Lake Superior Bicycle Adventure Package," it includes a cycling trip along the North Shore from Duluth to Grand Marais, stays in cabins and a tour of Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors.
Minnesotans are welcome, too. More info here.
The largest passenger steamboat in the world, the American Queen, is returning Friday to St. Paul, where it will board passengers who will mosey down the river to St. Louis. And I, the travel editor, will be among the lucky passengers.
Sure, the paddle-wheeler has been plying Mississippi waters for months now (It took its inaugural sail out of New Orleans in mid-April; Priscilla Presley smashed it with a champagne bottle in Memphis for its christening on April 28). But I had my reasons for waiting: I wanted to launch from a home port and, after all, time cures all glitches. I like sailing on a boat and with a crew that has a few miles under its belt.
The American Queen, built in 1995, sailed the Mississippi for the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. Bankruptcy grounded the boat, until the newly formed Great American Steamboat Co. came to her rescue. Since it purchased the paddle-wheeler last fall, the company has put $6.5 million into refurbishing her. The Victorian ambiance hasn't changed, albeit with new carpet and mattress.
I'm all in. I suspect you'll find me gazing at the egrets from what's called The Front Porch of America, sipping tea on the Main Deck Lounge, fueling my imagination in the Engine Room Bar and working off last night's dinner in the small fitness room. I am under the impression that a Mark Twain impersonator will aboard, and that I can follow our progress in the Chart Room. Whatever I encounter, I'll let you know. I'll be blogging about my experience every day. I hope you'll follow along.
From his computer screen in Fresno, Calif., retired teacher Patt Dodds is embarking on quite a trek: He's visiting all 87 Minnesota counties for his new blog, everycounty.org.
The blog is lovely, with nice photos, fun facts and maps -- all culled from the Internet.
"It takes me about three hours of on-line research per county and I'm doing this every Monday, Wednesday and Friday so it should take me about seven months to get from Kittson County in the northwest to Houston County in the southeast," Dodds, 62, tells Escape Artists.
Why is a Fresno guy who grew up and worked at two newspapers in Iowa so obsessed with Minnesota?
About eight years ago, in the pre-blog era, he and his son visited all 99 counties in Iowa. He'd been to the Twin Cities and Rainy Lake and "thought it would be fun to virtually get to know the state better. It's frustrating to only hit the highlights so I'm digging a little deeper."
To wit: He points out that Baudette was rebuilt after a 1910 fire and the Northwest Angle that juts up into Canada ended up in Minnesota because of confusion about the Mississippi River's origins during 1783 Treaty of Paris talks.
He's three counties into his tour with 84 to go, but Dodds is looking ahead.
"Texas has 254 counties," he said.
It's been a wilder summer than usual at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota. First up, a wildfire that came within half a mile of the center. Then a different kind of tension: On July 30, the introduced two wolf pups, Luna and Boltz, to the so-called exhibit pack, Aiden and Denali. All four wolves now roam the 1 1/4-acre main enclosure at the center. The young female, Luna, caused a stir when she temporarily refused to submit. You may cheer her feistiness, but that kind of rebelliousness can cause trouble for a new, young thing. Fortunately, she settled in, coaxed into submission by Aiden, who stood over her, nipped at her and put a leg on her back. She's a pro by now at submissive greetings, meaning that she'll roll on her back and look up at a more dominant wolf, but she'll growl if another threatens to take her food. That's my kind of wolf.
The pup's names, by the way, are the result of public opinion. After a naming contest, the staff chose four names per pup, which the public then voted on.
Knowing that not everyone can make it to Ely, the staff does everything in its power to enhance a virtual visit. Go to their site for diaries of each wolf, live cams and videos, including a detailed look at the day the pups were introduced.
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