Sunday, October 9, 2011

Minnesota Trip -- Post 1

After packing up my booth in Eagle River, my friend, Jill, and I headed to Ironwood, MI. There is a small motel there with great owners (Classic Motor Inn). We left very early the next morning to head to Minnesota, hoping to have plenty of time to agate hunt. I have been so busy all summer that I have not had more than a few minutes here or there to hunt the elusive Lake Superior agate.

Things went well until I was driving over the bridge between Superior, WI and Duluth, MN. The construction on I35 makes the already scary drive over the bridge a bit more challenging. The exit to I35 south is blocked, so you have to drive up into the city, get off an exit, and then turn left and circle back onto the highway. For most of the summer my car has been acting up. It always happens when the car has been running and is hot, especially in warm weather. I have brought the car in on several occasions. Since there are no codes showing in the diagnostic computer, no one has been able to determine what should be done. We even tried to duplicate the problem, which of course didn't happen when a mechanic was watching. What occurs is that all of a sudden while driving down the road the car will either hesitate and not respond, or worse yet -- just stop. Last Monday morning I was working through the one-lane construction zone with cement barriers inches away from both sides of my car and the engine died. When you have no power steering, no power brakes, and no ability to accelerate -- all you can do is just coast to a stop. There was traffic coming up behind me and I had no where to go. Finally, I spotted a small merging lane on my left (I think for construction trucks) and I was able to coast into the tiny space. Once you turn off the key, the car in most cases restarts. It did that time, thankfully. I was able to continue and sputter down to the next exit, where I immediately got off the highway. I parked at a motel and went in, still shaking, to ask about places to get the car fixed. I decided that no matter what all the mechanics say, I wanted a new fuel pump.

All of the dealers and other car repair places we called said they would not be able to get me in until the end of the week. Thanks to Jill who suggested that we call one of our friends, and to that friend, Andy, I secured an appointment for the next day. Since the mechanic was renting a building right next to one Andy's family's old gravel pits, Jill and I were forced to agate hunt the whole next day. Although it was an old pit, they dumped a load of newly sorted gravel collected at one of their other pits right next to where my car was being repaired. We found a lot of agate in that pile. They were small, but it was fun.  A big thanks goes out to Jill for her suggestions and patience, to Andy for making the referral, and to Jason for fixing my car.  The problem has not re-occurred so it must have been the fuel pump.

After the car died and then cooled off a bit, we continued down to Carlton County.  Here is a shot of us at a pull-off overlook.  We decided to stop for a while to let the car cool off a bit more.  Here is a set-up shot of us looking dejected and stranded.

From the overlook there is a path down to the St. Louis River.

Along the river there is a four-wheel track.  We walked down a mile or so to see if we could locate any gravel bars.  We did not, unfortunately, but it was a nice walk.

During our adventures in Minnesota, we spotted a family of pheasants.  Here are a couple of shots of one of the males, as well as a picture of the less colorful female.

The Ring-necked Pheasant is the name used for the species as a whole in North America.  The word pheasant is derived from the ancient town of Phasis, the predecessor of modern Poti in Western Georgia.

It is a well-known game bird, perhaps the most widespread in the world. The Common Pheasant is one of the world's most hunted birds.  It has been introduced in many regions. Ring-necked Pheasants in particular are commonly bred and were introduced to many parts of the world. The Ring-necked Pheasant is the state bird of South Dakota, one of only three US state birds that is not a species native to the United States.

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