This was my favourite day of the whole drive, I think. And not just because Lucy met a donkey and I got on the news--twice.
Okay, so I needed a mental health day. My near nervous breakdown the night before when trying to decide between an Arby's and a Perkins for dinner more or less hammered that point home. I'd been on the road for five days, and the grind was starting to wear on me, and Lucy, too.
And anyway, it was a beautiful, sunny day in Duluth, and I wanted to see more of the area. And my friend Rengo who works for the railroad had a line on a rare locomotive he was scheduled to be running nearby, and I wanted to chase him. So we stuck around.
I've always been partial to Lake Superior. My mom grew up in nearby Thunder Bay, Ontario, and I must have inherited an appreciation for that vast, inland lake, and the soulful homogeneity of the trees and bare rock on its shore. It just does something to me.
So Lucy and I set out to see the harbour and the lakefront.
It was unseasonably warm. We'd expected temperatures well below zero Celsius, and maybe even zero Fahrenheit, but we'd lucked out, and there were more than a few native Duluthians (?) out enjoying the weather, too.
Including a woman with a donkey. Being interviewed by the news.
We spotted the donkey as we walked along the Lakewalk, and I immediately steered Lucy clear. I'd never seen her around a donkey before, and I certainly didn't want to screw up the woman's interview.
But the woman spotted us, and called over.
"She's great with dogs," she said.
"Yeah, but I'm not sure how mine is with donkeys," I replied, but it was too late. The camera had turned in my direction, and now the whole circus was headed my way.
It turned out the donkey was a therapy donkey named Jane, and the owner liked to bring her around Duluth to brighten peoples' days.
Jane certainly brightened Lucy's; my pup was super intrigued and curious, and Jane handled the sniffing and tail wagging like aplomb. A true professional.
We posed for a picture, and then the news crew asked if they could interview me about the therapy donkey and Lucy.
We bid Jane and her owner and the camera crew adieu, and headed back to the truck, but not before we were stopped by another camera crew, this one from the local Fox affiliate doing a bit about the beautiful weather.
So we did another interview, this one less memorable, and then I piled Lucy in the truck and we drove up the Superior shore to the town of Two Harbors, where I hoped to find Rengo's train.
The CN yard in Two Harbors was not particularly accessible, so Lucy and I spent some time down by the lakeshore photographing the crazy ice sculptures created by waves blowing up against the rocks. It was bitterly cold on the water, but the ice was amazing.
We never did find Rengo's train. I screwed up my navigating as he pulled out of the yard, and fell behind him and never was able to make up the ground. At one point, I could see him and his crew switching cars a couple hundred yards from the highway, but there was no closer vantage point, and no hope in chasing any further.
I was frustrated, but not heartbroken. We'd met a donkey after all. And as I sat there contemplating our next move, Fate dealt us a consolation prize: a southbound train in the Golden Hour, three classic locomotives and a long string of taconite jennies, their loads still steaming from the 2400 degree (F) bake they'd endured before being loaded.
It was a classic Iron Range sight, impossible to duplicate anywhere else, and it definitely took some of the sting out of missing Rengo's train.
With that train behind us, the sun set and the day was done, and we motored back into Duluth. I checked us into a Motel 6, grabbed a couple of cans of Surly's "Overrated" IPA, and ate a pretty good meal at the Duluth Grill.
And we went to bed happy, with more highway waiting for us in the east in the morning.