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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The North Shore’s Split Rock Lighthouse is a gem. Dating to 1910, this Minnesota Historical Society property (which is surrounded by Split Rock Lighthouse State Park) is one of the best kept lighthouses in America. Plus, it offers killer views of Lake Superior. Aug. 7 is National Lighthouse Day, which makes a fitting time to learn about the importance of Split Rock and other lighthouses around the country. Need another reason to go? The readers of Lake Superior magazine recently named Split Rock one of the best public places to view the lake. Visitors can tour the lighthouse, fog-signal building and the keeper’s dwelling, restored to its 1920s appearance. The site is 20 miles northeast of Two Harbors on Hwy. 61. Entrance fee tops out at $9 for adults; more info at 218-226-6372.
It was supposed to be a short jaunt on Lake Vermilion. "Pontoons are the mini-vans of the lake," our host said. We would have no problems, he reassured us. So, map in hand, we headed out into the vast, island-dotted Lake Vermilion, small boat on a big lake. And our 20-minute joy ride turned into a hour-long dramatic (and grumpy) comedy. Our novice eyes couldn't tell an island from the mainland; we couldn't judge scale, the map vs. landscape. Finally, we spotted a fisherman on his dock, asked for directions, and puttered back.
When I returned to the office, a colleague who had kayaked another one of Minnesota's stunning and large lakes, Burntside, and found her way back to her rented cabin gave me a sympathetic look. And then she told me her her secret: She carried a Bushnell Backtrack GPS device in her pocket. Click it when you leave the cabin and when you're ready to return, the arrow on its small screen literally points you in the right direction. At $60, it makes a nifty way to find your way home. Or to your car in the parking lot of the Mall of America, for that matter.
When I take off for road trips Up North, coffee is my friend. Since I generally load the car and drive away in the morning, a cup-to-go is my standard sidekick. Which means I'm rolling along, alert and happy, until just shy of Duluth -- when I need a break. Badly. Thanks to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, one is always nearby as I roar north up I-35. In my numerous stops, I've grown partial to one: Culken, between milepost 225 and 226. Likemost, it is neat and clean, but this one stands out because it is situated on a bucolic piece of land with a pond. If driving with argumentative teens or whining toddlers is making you a tad tense, just go out back, sit on a bench, and watch the Red-winged Blackbirds flit around the bushes. That always settles the nerves.
Pretty scenery is just one benefit of a stop, but not the most important, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. "Rest areas are essential safety features on the highway system that help address driver fatigue, a major cause of serious accidents," according to their Web site. "Their basic service is crash prevention. Studies reveal that a 15 to 20 minute break improves individual performance, even among sleep-deprived people."
Next time you're on a long drive, remember to enjoy the journey as well as the destination. If that means gazing at pretty scenery, having a picnic or playing catch with fido (many stops have designated dog areas), find a DOT rest stop along your route. Check out the rest stops along your route, including where to find them and what amenities they might have here.
I've been to Paris but once, alas, and I found the residents to be quite cordial, if not downright polite. On our first day, at one restaurant with non-English-speaking proprietors two fellow customers saw our befuddlement and helped us navigate the menu. Other acts of kidness ensued over the next week, sullied only by a ripoff-artist cab driver.
But I don't doubt that some of the city's reputation for rudeness came the old-fashioned way, often abetted by tourists who didn't try to speak the language or comport themsleves admirably, either. So I was not surprised to see this story about a concerted effort to promote optimum etiquette.
The 30,000 copies of "Do you speak Touriste?" being dispensed to waiters and sales clerks includes sundry greetings and cultural advice. To wit: While the Chinese are "fervent shoppers," we Amercians want to be reassured about prices.
-- Bill Ward
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