A 15 Hour Vacation
Twenty days ago, My brother, his wife and I, headed up to Lake Superior. Making a day of wandering along the northern coast. I had never been up there in the winter months and was quite curious about what much of it would look like. We started by chasing waterfalls. Figuring we would go to the most northerly destination first and make our way south from there. We arrived at stop number one and proceeded to be very underwhelmed, the falls were a mass of ice without any detail, or interesting ice formations at all. Ok, that’s fine, let’s hit My favorite waterfall next! A ten minute drive and a short hike later, we arrived! But, it was also a bit of a let down… The ice was not very photogenic. Realizing that the best Ice shots were probably to be had early in the winter, as opposed to our venture near winter’s end, we wandered back towards the car. Instead of taking the trail, we walked on the river. Which turned out to be very memorable! All was well for the first half of the stroll, but then we started encountering some pretty thin sounding ice. My sister in law being pregnant and carrying five thousand dollars in camera gear myself, we departed from the river walk and scrambled back up the hill to the trail. It was pretty rad walking on water though, even if it led to much anxiousness and a bit of fear..
After that, we made our way back towards the south. Pausing for a quick view of this rock beach that I had visited with a friend last year. It is actually private property, but I was a bit suprised to see that there was no sign of humans there. Clearly, this place was actually owned by deer. Who had left plenty of tracks in the snow… There were some pretty cool frozen rock walls, held together by ice. Some spots had a four or five foot overhang. It was pretty neat, especially because of the icey build up on the southern point in this miniature bay.
Then, we stopped at Tettegouche State Park. The crown jewel of the state parks system here in Minnesota. Opting not to bother with the hike inland to the falls, we stayed along the coast and were dazzled by the ice built up around the shore line. Many pictures were taken, much time passed by and just like My previous visits to this park, I did not want to leave…
We did leave this wintery wonderland though. The pregnant one among us was getting pretty tired. So we stopped at Palisade Head, where I took a lonely walk up to the the high ground. Pausing to take a shot of the communication tower piercing through the bold sun dog above, I made it to the overlook. What a view! You can see the southern quarter of the rolling hills to the north and the endless glitter of Lake Superior to the south. It was by far the easiest hike of the day and yielded one of the most spectacular perspectives on the north shore…
Continuing south towards Duluth, we made one more stop. So I could take some pictures of the light house at Split Rock. Unlike anywhere to the north, the bay was mostly iced over. Having walked down a river of ice a few hours earlier, I started My way out to the edge of the bay, walking on the lake… There is an island a couple hundred yards out. I noticed some people were on the island and also made note of the many lines of foot prints in the thin snow all around the bay. The ice was pretty thick, so I was quite confident as I wandered towards the spot where one can take a picture with the island and light house together. About a third of the way there however, there was a cracking sound and the ice shifted under My feet. Not by much, maybe an inch and a half, but I watched a crack form, a foot or so to the side of Me that stretched all the way out to open water. Heartbeat increasing to a rapid pace, I hopped over the crack. Which was inbetween Me and solid ground and hurried off the ice.. I then snapped a couple shots of the light house and neglected to make it out to the planned location of shooting. Adrenaline flowing, I walked the path back to where My brother and his wife were waiting and we departed.
We made a pit stop in Duluth to fill our bellies. Then decided there was still time for another stop. My brother and I were both curious to see Jay Cooke state park. We had camped there a few years ago, but wanted to see what it looked like now. The reason for this curiousity is that two years ago, a damm just up stream from the park broke. Sending a gnarly torrent of flooding southward in to the park. It washed away the bridge that is the only real access to the camp sites and many miles of hiking trails. The water was super low compared to our previous visit and there was a spiffy new bridge over the river. If there were any other real differences, they were hiding under ice and snow..
With the sun sinking in the sky and home being over two hundred miles away, we hopped back in the car and made our way south toward the Twin Cities. Quite the successful day trip! We even got to enjoy a pretty lovely sunset as we cruised down the interstate, on our way home…
ClubFR came up with a truly great event, which promises to be the continent’s most beloved annual drift spectacle. Teams from coast to coast, north to south, gathered in a small town in rural Wisconsin. Unlike most drift events, this was a battle of teams, as opposed to individual drivers. The stage was set at My favorite track, USA International Raceway, known to most as UsaIR. A hilly, winding cart track located just outside of the town of Shawano. To those of us from the midwest drifting comunity, this place is also called the rollercoaster of love. Now, the love has been shared with a selection of crews from far beyond our region. I hope they all enjoyed it and come back for more next year!
Never have I seen enough people to be called a crowd of spectators at this track, until now. They certainly got to see what they came for. Two days of tire shredding, wall riding and relentless attempts to get right up on the door of each other, the drivers in attendance left nothing on the table. The judges for the event were three heavy hitters, though one is more a regional legend, they were a good choice of respectable drifters. They narrowed down the field to four teams and after another run from each, made the verdict. Fourth place was taken by ShaDynasty, a crew from Washington State. In My opinion, the cars driven by these guys were the most interesting collection there. Third place was handed to regional heavy weights, Risky Devil, from Chicago. Second place went to the Hot Boyz, hailing from Alberta, Canada. They were outshining just about everyone on the first day, but a concrete barrier decided to intervene and change things up. The winners of the first annual Final Bout, team drift battle? High Fade, also from the Chicago area. They were very consistent all weekend. It looked to Me like they had been practicing team driving more than anyone else. Before launching for each run, the lead car would rev it’s engine twice and wait. The last car in line would then rev it’s engine once, signalling everyone was ready and off they went. Most of the crews ended up spreading out during their runs, but High Fade stayed together every time. Some may argue otherwise, but these guys earned the win for sure!
I was not on the media roster for this event, so this is not a complete coverage kind of post. In fact I spent half of the weekend working the entry gate, so I did miss an awful lot of the action. However, for Me, there is no such thing as going on a road trip and not taking a ton of pictures. Happily, the ClubFR family are friends of mine, so they thanked Me for helping out and let Me go do My photo geek thing for a while. Phill, Maggie, Simba, Ilia and the rest of the crew, thanks a bunch for coming up with the idea for this event and making it into reality! I had a great time and I’ll see You when I see You, hopefully that will be soon.
Wandering the North Shore
My friend Ryan and I headed up to lake Superior for the weekend, on yet another one night camping excursion. Before checking in to our camp site at Tettegouche State Park, we headed farther north to check out some water falls. First we stopped at Temperance State Park and hiked the rocky trails along the river. The park is laden with age worn steps, some carved into the rock, others stacked from loose stones. The abundance of trees shed plenty of shade over the various paths and trails. The shallow depth of the soil leaves the roots of many trees visible, snaking around the rocky surface, giving a majestic feel to the already sublime surroundings. With it’s long series of short falls, carving deeper into the bedrock, the Temperance river is a beautiful place to go and spend some time. Clear skies and the bright sun did not make for great photographic conditions though.
After a couple of hours wandering the river side, we departed and stopped at a place Ryan’s friend had told him to go. Driving by it on the main road, You would never guess what was lingering just inland from the shore. Nor would You think that You would find anything particularly special once You parked in the small ten car lot. It was another small river, trickling over the rocks in a nearly deserted valley. Such is the way of this part of Minnesota. Every couple of miles is yet another river, stream, or creek, feeding into the vast lake to the south. This particular one however, is a gem among the parks up here. Somehow, it was also the least travelled of the places we went. All of the other parks and falls had tons of people buzzing around the crowded parking lots and river sides. We saw eight people on our hike up this stream. One was panning for gold in the lower part of the river, He told us it was wise to keep going up the path nearby, “so long as we didn’t mind the 158 stairs.” Unsure about what was to come, we hiked up the trail. It went up above the river pretty quickly, after only ten minutes or so, we were at least 75 feet above the valley floor. Then, after a little more hiking, we rounded a bend. The sound was unmistakable. Waterfall. Shortly after hearing it in the distance, the path split, one way went up, the other down. We chose the downward option, discovering a long meandering set of stairs. “This must be what that guy told us about.” Was the thought that passed through My head. At the end of the steps, flowed a gorgeous falls. Pouring into a calm pool, surrounded by a rocky beach and towering cliffs. We stayed for quite a while. Ryan went for a swim while I soaked My feet in the cool water and snapped a ton of pictures. This was My favorite part of the trip… We couldn’t even see the whole falls, because it made a bend or two as it went down. Nor did we hike up to the top, because we lingered so long at it’s base, we had to rush farther south to check in to our camp for the night.
Our camp site was at Tettegouche State Park. Having not planned this trip, I simply booked the lone site available on the entire north shore. I could see right away why it was the only site available on the hundreds of miles of coast. This site was ten feet from the trail down to the shore and sadly, most of the people who came up from the shore, walked right through our site, instead of the trail. So it was a high traffic home! My goals for the weekend were to shoot the full moon rising over the lake, shoot some time lapse of the stars at night and some time lapse of something, anything during the day. After mostly clear skies all day, the moon managed to hide behind clouds when it came up. Once Luna was up in the sky, the clouds moved out, but the moon was so bright, it blotted out the stars. It was no darker than an ordinary overcast day, except it was night time. I did manage to shoot a time lapsable sequence during the day, but it was spoiled by people walking by, a lot. So I managed to succeed in none of My goals for the wekend. It was a great time though!! In the end, I just want to move farther north. I’ve been saying this for half of My life time, maybe I should just act on it soon? Clear water, endless forest, massive rock formations, cliffs and rolling hills, waterfalls and an abundance of wild life. The north shore is marvellous. I will be back there as soon as possible.
About four years ago, My Brother’s Wife introduced Me to what rapidly became one of My favorite places to eat. The Uni Deli, inside the United Noodles Grocery store. In the time since, They have had a small, but reasonably consistent menu. Tonkatsu/Tonkotsu Ramen being the gem of the line-up. The afore stated bowl of deliciousness has, without question, been the single best bowl of soup in the Twin Cities for years now. I have told dozens of people to head that way, with statements such as “It’s just amazing,” “You won’t be disapointed,” or “simply the best” ringing in their ears. Nearly everyone has agreed with My assessment. My sister-in-law has sent even more people that way, as she has been shopping at the grocery store aspect of the place her whole life. This past winter, a group of us made a weekly ritual of tonkatsufying ourselves, but no longer.
This year, particularly the last four months, things have changed DRAMATICALLY! The Uni Deli seems to have lost focus. In early May, I went there three days in a row, taste buds anticipating the wonderful thick tonkatsu stock flowing in to My belly. However, I was thwarted each time. Monday has become experimental day, okay, that’s fine, You’ve got to test new ground. Their label for this has been “4 unique ramen varieties every monday.” Which is a lie, since one and often two of the offerings aren’t even ramen. Soba, udon and other things are fine and dandy, but don’t lie about what You’re offering! Saturdays lately have been their “Asian Grill” experimental day. Again, I’ve no isue with testing different things and seeing how customers respond, but how many days a week are You going to stop offering that which got You where You are? Keep the experimental stuff to one day a week, or less. Try once every other week!!!
I have gone over all My receipts from January 1st of this year, up til now. I have gone there and ordered food 37 times this year, nearly every time with friends, often their first encounter with said deli. There is only one thing I want! TONKOTSU RAMEN!!! In the realm of ranking food, it has been a consistent 9/10. There is nothing else on the menu which ranks better than 6/10, that is an honest truth.. In those 37 visits I had tonkatsu 28 times. Sometimes trying other things to remind Myself why I don’t get them more often, other times because their experimental days mean they simply do not offer the regular menu. Sadly, I can also tell You that in the same time period, I have gone there EIGHT TIMES, only to find them closing early, thus getting NOTHING AT ALL. I know sometimes there are technical difficulties, such as the record rains this year made a hole in the roof, or electrical issues preventing people from swiping their debit/credit cards. By all means, close shop and fix the roof, I won’t complain, but when the electro payment is not working, don’t close like You did. We were there as a group of six people, perfectly happy to go find an atm and pay in cash. We watched 50% of the people entering the grocery store, turn around and leave without getting anything, because they came for the Uni Deli. Clearly, somebody cares nothing for their customers, even those who drum up more business for You…
Which brings Me to another failing that the Uni Deli has undergone recently. The prices went up by $1 per bowl of soup, PLUS if You want it spicy, it is now an extra 50 cents. They use to put plenty of chili oil on top, but now that You have to pay for it, they give You half as much. On top of that, the quality of the food has gone down. I’ve had different noodles, bland tasting broth and 45 minute waits in the last couple months. I AM OKAY PAYING MORE TO KEEP THE QUALITY LEVEL WHERE IT IS, BUT PAYING MORE FOR A LESSER BOWL OF SOUP IS NOT ACCEPTABLE ! ! ! If You are going to skimp on the supplies, don’t raise the price. If You want to keep the same supply, but it’s costing You more, then raise the Price. Pick one, not both! The waiting would make sense if they didn’t have 6, 8, or more orders sitting on the counter, ready for customers, but not getting to customers. So it isn’t like the kitchen was that far behind.. More than once I have walked up and taken My food, without them calling the number on My receipt, wondering why they can’t just grab the microphone and call it out. It isn’t that hard to look at the order tickets and see which ones are the oldest and thus should be filled first is it? The lowest number is the top priority, right?
I do not like leaving negative reviews, particularly when it involves a place that I am, or in this case HAVE BEEN, a fan of, but You deserve it Uni Deli! Get Your act together and stop this two, or three day a week experimental crap! It is hurting Your reputation. I know all these hipsters have finally discovered You, but that is not a liscense to turn Your back on those who have poured thousands of dollars into Your register over the years. Keep the menu small and simple, You do not need to cater to everyone. You have a niche that until recently, only You did well. Now that You are sleeping at the wheel, others are under-cutting Your position. Now if You’ll excuse Me, I am going to have some Tonkatsu Ramen, at Fuji Ya(Someone named Michael has stepped up the game). Which is where I shall tell other people to go, unless You can stop Your madness and stick to what You’re actually good at. What a shame. .. …
I went back to the Uni Deli this past weekend. Having gone there so many times, I couldn’t actually stay away.. Unlike the last couple of times, the tonkotsu was up to par with what I’ve been use to getting from them. My brother ordered the shoyu ramen, which was a little different than in the past, but still a pretty average bowl of soup in My opinion. His wife ordered the black tonkatsu, which is on the regular menu now. It was about the same as the first time I had it there, but the times inbetween were far less flavorful. There was a distinct garlicy flavor that wasn’t so pronounced the last two times, they also salted it more, which was a good thing. Hopefully they don’t toy around with the regular tonkotsu recipe anymore!