Kathy & I are spending a few days in International Falls, MN in order to visit Voyageurs National Park and get to the Northernmost Point of the Contiguous United States. We went to the Northernmost Point today.
Getting to Northwest Angle, MN involves a 300 mile round trip drive from I-Falls (as the locals call it), across the border into Canada in Warroad, MN then about 40 miles of sand & gravel washboard road in order to get to Angle Inlet. Enroute it is necessary to communicate with Customs 4 times – once upon entry to Canada via a traditional Canadian border officer, then upon crossing back into the US, a stop at a kiosk with a tablet where you enter your appropriate information to be submitted for approval. The return trip requires a phone call (with in our case a 30-minute hold time) with a Canadian customs agent prior to departing Angle Inlet, then crossing back into the US is another stop at a traditional customs station and a US customs agent. Not as bad as it sounds, other than the 30 minute hold for the return trip.
The bartender at Jerry’s Bar, the one bar in Angle Inlet, told us that on 4th of July weekend, Jimmy Buffet had tweeted about the Southernmost Point and mentioned “don’t forget about the Northernmost Point!” They were deluged with tourists that weekend, and the wait for a customs officer was over 2 hours! And what happens if you don’t call? If you get caught, a $1000 fine (according to the bartender) and they take your car!
Technically, Angle Inlet is the farthest north you can drive in the US. But that’s where the monument is, which is good enough for us!
So we’ve now been to the Southernmost Point in Key West, the Easternmost Point in Quoddy Head, Maine, and now the Northernmost Point in Angle Inlet, Minnesota! The Westernmost Point is evidently a little harder to get, but be sure we will work on that in the near future!
And one more thing: we have been experiencing excellent weather and temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s. Quite a relief from the heat at home that we will soon be experiencing!
I had the perfect opportunity to photograph the sunset behind the Portage Canal Lift Bridge in Houghton (pronounced HOE-tun) Michigan. Once again the clouds cooperated, and even though there were a few raindrops around, it was a pretty nice scene.
I mentioned in an earlier post that Kathy & I had recently visited Bardstown, Kentucky. We met friends Jim & Lisa there, as it is roughly equidistant for them and for us. Kathy & I arrived a day early, visiting Bardstown Bourbon Company and Heaven Hill Distillery before meeting up with Jim & Lisa that afternoon.
The following day, the four of us visited the Kentucky Cooperage (no photos permitted) to see how barrels are made (a fascinating process), then Limestone Branch Distillery and Maker’s Mark.
The following day we visited Kentucky horse park for a whole different set of smells. 😉 Photos from that day will come later.
For those who wish to see more, a gallery of photos from our trip are posted on my Adobe Portfolio website.
I just bought myself a new toy tool. It’s hard to believe it was over a year ago, but I had written in March 2022 about having rented the Peak Design Travel Tripod. I liked it a lot but couldn’t justify spending $600 (at the time – it’s now $650) on a part-time tripod. And I wasn’t sure it was good enough to be an only tripod, so I had lots of excuses to not buy one.
There aren’t too many cases where I really want a compact, highly portable tripod. I had a Gitzo, that while wasn’t designed for travel was sort of portable – it would fit in a large suitcase with the center column detached, but just barely. My only tripod lately has my big and beefy RRS TVC-33 with the matching BH-55 ballhead. An excellent and steady base, but really overkill for my relatively light Fuji equipment. While it is great for car travel, it’s just a little too tough to jam into a suitcase. It was just the thing when I was shooting with the big-a$$ Canon equipment. Of course a too-big tripod to a photographer is sort of like a too-big diamond to a lovely partner. No such thing, right? But I had been looking for a suitable travel candidate, albeit not too hard. I had done a little research and identified a few likely candidates, but the ones I thought would do the job were still a little pricey for comfort.
A couple of days ago I saw a post on a Fuji Rumors site that B&H was having a MEGA DEAL ZONE – 100s OF DEALS TOO GOOD TO LAST! sale. Included in the sale was a “Benro MeFoto GlobeTrotter Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod Kit” on sale for $175, marked down from $365. The ad indicated that it was $300 off, which is a bit overstated, but it is still half the regular price. It was one of the “finalists” that I had on my Wish List, the price was too good to pass up, so I pulled the trigger.
FedEx delivered the package on Thursday, and while I haven’t had a chance to use it extensively, my initial impression is that it is quite a worthy tripod. The build quality appears to be excellent, and I have to say that it appears quite sturdy. Compared to the RRS model I have to wonder why they are so expensive in comparison. The specs indicate that it is designed to hold 26 pounds. I don’t know about that, but even my heaviest lens won’t come close to testing it. I won’t know how good until I have a chance to use it IRL (‘In Real Life’ as the kids say) but I have an opportunity coming up that should let me put it through its paces.
Sunrises without clouds can be boring, even at the beach. So after watching the sun come up into a clear sky, I happened to see this angle on the building and realized that it made for a pretty graphic image. Just another angle on sunrise!
After our stop on Bonaire, we sailed to the island of Curacao. Like Bonaire, we had visited previously but it was a number of years ago. Things hadn’t changed a lot, but there were a few obvious differences from our prior visit.
The cruise port on Curacao is the capital city of Willemstad. The colorful waterfront and the Queen Emma floating bridge are two of the main symbols of this beautiful island. Downtown Willemstad is an easy walk from the cruise terminal. Although we made the walk three times, and it got a little longer each time!
The Queen Emma Bridge is a floating bridge, hinged on one end with an engine and propulsion unit on the other end that allows the bridge to open, allowing ship traffic to pass in St Anna Bay. We were fortunate to be able to see the bridge open several times throughout the day, and from both sides of the water. When there is a lot of ship traffic and the bridge needs to stay open for more than a few minutes, there is a free ferry that will take pedestrians from one side to the other. We only saw that happen once, as a large cargo ship was escorted out of the bay, and the bridge stayed open long enough for the tugs to return. And yes, it is possible to stay on the bridge when it opens for a long time, and it is possible to get off, but only on one end. So be careful if you have somewhere to be (like the ship?)!
When our ship first arrived in Curacao, Kathy & I walked into town and spent several hours walking around. We walked all over, including through the New Market, a public market offering all kinds of items, from clothing to produce and beyond. The best part for me was all the color there and in the town. It made for some interesting photography, for sure!
After our walkabout we headed back toward the cruise dock, stopping for lunch at the “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar.” Yeah, it was a tourist trap, but it was close to where we needed to meet our tour, which was scheduled for that afternoon.
Our tour took us back into town, where we retraced a number of the steps from earlier in the day. This time we had a guide and narration, however, so we learned a bit more about the town, its history and architecture. After our walk, we boarded a bus for a tour through the city and a stop at the Curacao Liqueur Distillery. Curacao liqueur is a bitter orange liqueur that can be enjoyed on its own, or used as flavoring in numerous cocktails.
After our distillery visit we were taken to a local restaurant, where we were served local cuisine, including baked chicken, plantain and rice & peas. Except for the fact that we weren’t too hungry after a big lunch, it was a yummy experience.
Our tour brought us back to the cruise dock in the late afternoon, and we debated whether or not to return to the ship. I really wanted to head back into town in order to photograph the bridge and the waterfront at dusk. We decided that if we went back to the ship we would likely not leave again, so despite being tired and thirsty we headed back into town. We found some bottled water and a place to chill while we waited the hour or so before twilight.
Our efforts were rewarded, as we not only got to witness another bridge opening, but we were treated to some really gorgeous light on the buildings as the sun set. Soon after, the lights came on on the bridge and I was able to capture the photos I had hoped for. We then walked back to the ship one last time, grabbed a quick shower and headed for drinks and dinner. My Garmin tracker recorded 15,672 steps for the day, so those drinks and dinner were well deserved!
Our stop in Martinique was our first visit to this lovely island, so we made the best of it by taking an all-day ship tour. Over the course of 8 hours we visited: the ruins from a 1902 volcanic eruption, a rum distillery, a local restaurant for authentic Creole-influenced island cuisine, a botanical garden, and to balance off the rum distillery, a church.
For length, I have divided the photo highlights from Martinique over 3 posts. The first one covers our approach to the island and our visit to the ruins and the Musée Frank A. Perret, memorial to the Catastrophe of 1902 in St-Pierre.
We don’t usually get too excited about Cozumel, because we have been there a number of times and have done most of the touristy things. We don’t go to the beach, so that leaves out a lot of activities.
On this recent cruise, Cozumel ended up being our only stop, so we decided to at least get off the ship and have a drink or two. Thanks to The Google, I located a bar and restaurant called The Thirsty Cougar which was a short walk from the cruise dock.
My usual Mexican libation is a Paloma instead of the traditional Margarita. A Paloma is made with tequila and grapefruit soda, and I like the combination. The Thirsty Cougar also does an awesome Margarita, as I was assured by our friends who sampled some. They also do a mean Nacho platter!
When visiting Cozumel on a Norwegian ship, it docks in the downtown area where a lot of the restaurants are. Many of the other lines dock at a different terminal about 3 miles away. There are restaurants there, too. But in my mind The Thirsty Cougar might just be worth the taxi fare! 🙂
Because there are so many cruise ships sailing these days, the cruise lines have been looking for more places to stop. And because cruise passengers like to spend money in ports, more and more countries have been trying to attract cruise ships. In some cases, ports are being “invented” where there haven’t previously been cruise ports. Often, these ports are being developed in conjunction with, and most likely significant investment from, the major cruise lines. One of these is Puerto Plata, in the Dominican Republic.
We visited the Dominican Republic once previously, on a Carnival ship that docked in Amber Cove, which is another recently developed port just up the coast from Puerto Plata. Amber Cove is frequented by ships in the Carnival family, namely Carnival, Princess and Holland America. We did an island tour on that cruise, so we had seen most of what we wanted to see. Highlight for me was a visit to the Brugal rum distillery, but since I can buy their products at home, we didn’t think a follow up visit was needed. 😉
The port area in Puerto Plata is called Taino Bay, and it contains the requisite spending opportunities. Taino Bay is still in the development stages, but there are plenty of shops, many of which offer locally made crafts and other wares. We picked up a couple of souvenirs, but mostly used it as a way to get off the ship, stretch our legs and take a few photos.
What I enjoyed most about Puerto Plata was that the shop owners and workers were very polite. They seemed happy to see us and were not pushy or aggressive like in other ports. It was a welcome change, and I hope it stays that way!
We were sitting at breakfast one morning, waiting for our food. I was looking up at the dining room ceiling and decided to take a few pictures. A really nice man at the table next to me turned and asked, “could I see what you were taking pictures of?” I showed him the screen on my camera, and I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something like “fascinating” or “interesting” or “excuse me I need to go now.” Just kidding about the last one. 😉