We decided not to over extend our supply line (great military jargon) especially in light of our recent bike trailer problems so we stopped short for the day. The stop was imperative anyway as we needed air mattresses before we did any more camping and Aitkin was the last outpost with any infrastructure between here and Duluth.

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The new plan was to finish our bike ride to Duluth, gather new intel (not so great) and then possibly bike further north following the north shore of Lake Superior in the direction of the Minnesota gateway to Isle Royale. Our only guide is a state map and what we can glean from internet searches, connectivity permitting, so rightly or wrongly we do our planning and decision making on a day to day basis. As such we have no information at present about Duluth; except that it is to the east 85 miles away. We don’t know what the roads are like (hilly, flat, shoulders?), proximity/availability of grocery stores (problem for Day 1-5), or what the bug problems will/won’t be. And something like a serious black fly infestation further upcountry could very well be a deal killer.

The Isle Royale National Park website says that there are only 3 portals to it; two lie in Michigan in and around the Houghton Hancock peninsula and the third is about 100 miles or so up the north shore of Lake Superior on the Minnesota side.

Isle Royale National Park is one of the two least visited national parks in the US National Park system; the other is Big Bend National Park down on the Texas/Mexican border. The two get the least visited status for one reason; remoteness. And remote means things like: no crowds, fewer signs (or posted rules/warnings), fewer ropes and fences, fewer pre-canned expectations. And the remoteness which in every sense of the word implies things like vast areas of wilderness that haven’t been groomed, glommed over or experientially homogenized by the tiny little minds of the bureaucrats in the BLM, United States Park Service, or other similarly minded organizations that are entrusted with protecting and managing the assets of ‘we the people’.

And for me the knowledge of having visited a place like Big Bend (twice) is the kind of a memory that I hold close; it’s the kind of experience that never makes a list, but you just know deep down that you were there. (And besides, Isle Royale has wolves and moose so how cool is that?)

I am still trying to teach the kid how to shoot pool. You’d think that someone with such a big science background including [physics] statics and dynamics would intuitively grasp the mechanical principles behind something as simple as one ball smacking into another. Nope. You’d think the idea of keeping one’s pool cue relatively level and moving in a straight piston like motion would also be intuitive. Nope. It made me wince every time I saw her lining up a shot and then pumping her arm like she was sawing wood. But she’s getting better.

We had a pitcher of beer ($7) last night in a pub and shot a couple of games. We had a mostly one sided conversation with one of the local intellectual assets who used the word ‘sweet’ a lot and who mid-way into the conversation suggested that ‘you traveling must be really cool because you get to meet lots of really interesting people’, he paused for only a second before continuing, ‘like me’. I about swallowed my tongue. I stood back and looked at the short, skinny, bespeckled twerp again and saw, yup, he was serious. I’m thinking, ‘I have underwear that has traveled further than you. And there are African Grey Parrots who have larger vocabularies’. I was thunderstruck at the sheer magnitude of the preposterousness and so much that it had to have been one of the singularly most preposterously absurd statements I have ever heard. And I was a little bit angry that I would now have to remember it along with ‘It’s exactly like that but…different’ (meeting, Intel Corp), ‘I don’t like going to a place I’ve never been before’ (overheard street conversation, Washington, DC), or ‘he was seriously killed’ (radio announcer, North Carolina).