For our last full week in Grand Marais we made some slight adjustments to the schedule that we came up with the previous week. We left for Marquette earlier on Friday with Loki loaded up for the market, stopped by the Ojibwa Casino to enter a drawing, and then hit the two major thrift stores in town. We tried to do our “big city errands” on Friday so that once we completed the Saturday market we could snag groceries and head back to Grand Marais a bit earlier. We checked into the same hotel on points, and were once again upgraded to a junior suite based on still having a tiny bit of elite status with this chain left over from my business travel days. Milk it while we can!
Whereas last week the trip had a frenetic, mildly disorganized quality, this week we had things wired for efficiency and relaxation. Another Friday night meal at Hong Kong Buffet, and then the pool, hot tub, bath (in a real tub!) and TV. Most of those are things we don’t get to enjoy often with our RV lifestyle, so we reveled in it.
The next morning it was off to the Downtown Marquette Market, our fourth time participating this year. While we have had some rainy days during our UP stay, we lucked out again with beautiful weather for the event, which brought out the crowds. We have learned that the pattern for this market involves a limited number of serious fruit and veggie shoppers in the morning who have no time for anything else, and then a lunch time rush filled with more casual shoppers willing to linger and look over everyone’s wares. So we don’t panic when we sell almost nothing the first hour or two; it’s that late morning and early afternoon group that works for us. Sure enough, we ended up breaking our old sales record, which we set at this place just two weeks earlier. Fantastic.
We packed up as temperatures pushed towards 90 degrees and headed to Walmart for resupply. On the way home we stopped in Munising, about half way between Marquette and Grand Marais. We had two reasons for the delay: fish dip and a Moose Lodge. In 2015 we were routinely buying white fish dip from a local fisherman in Grand Marais. He is not selling this year, and no one seems to know why. During one of our trips to or from Marquette we spotted a sign for white fish dip as we passed through Munising, and hoping it would be as good we resolved to stop. So we pulled into Cap’n Ron’s and scored some fantastic dip, which we will be getting more of, and learned that it was his brother from whom we had been buying in GM! Small peninsula.
We had passed by the Munising Moose Lodge the previous week on our run to Marquette, but before it was open for the day. This trip our timing was better, so we pulled in if for no other reason than to finally visit another Moose. Hard to believe that this is only the second one we have been to all year. The west half of the country has a lot fewer of them than in the east. This Lodge seems to have a pretty active membership; though the bar was nearly empty the social room had at least a dozen men playing Texas Hold’em. One of the members bought our first drink, something we have found is pretty common for out of towners making their first visit to a new lodge. We made plans to come back for the Friday evening fish fry if we could work it into our schedule.
Once back in Grand Marais we enjoyed a few more days of decent weather mixed with others full of wind and rain. It’s fascinating to see the shore of Lake Superior in such varied conditions: with but the slightest ripples one day, and crashing white tops pounding the shore the next. During this week Rosemarie finally found her first Lake Superior agate, one of the things the region is known for. Every morning, even in foul weather, you can see locals and tourists alike marching along the shore, heads down, often with their custom rock scooping stick in hand, scouring the rocky beach for agates and other interesting rocks.
The women that owns the agate museum across the street from the county RV park will identify one rock for free per visit, and tells people that bring in what she calls “second cousins to agates” i.e., not an agate, that when you find one you’ll know it; they are that distinct. That turned out to be the case for Rosemarie, we were nearly certain once she found it, and the museum owner confirmed it later that week.
We celebrated my birthday with a late morning trip to the only restaurant we had not yet tried: The West Bay Diner. It is an old 1950’s style diner building, apparently from New Jersey, full restored and connected to a more traditional and larger structure. The place has a bit of a reputation that might remind some of a classic Seinfeld episode. Our understanding is that the head cook works at his own pace, sometimes doesn’t feel like making one of your choices so you get something else, and if that doesn’t work for you you’re welcome to eat elsewhere.
The important thing is to know all this going in so you are in the right state of mind. Fortunately, we were forwarned by locals and reviews, and were further advised by our waitress that it might be up to an hour wait for our food (despite whatever idiosyncrasies the place has, it is busy on the weekends.) No problem, we waited, enjoyed the never ending pot of fresh coffee, and once it arrived the food was a hefty serving of awesome. If you can handle the wait we rate this as the best restaurant of the three in town, though we will have to give the Grand Marais Tavern another try next visit to confirm.
Rosemarie also stumbled across a yoga studio across the street from the RV park. We had passed the building dozens of times without knowing what it was. Offering very affordable one hour sessions at various times throughout the week, she was disappointed to discover it so late in our stay, but made the best of it with a morning stretch class ($5!) and later in the week an evening traditional yoga class for $10. Next visit we will be more prepared to enjoy all Grand Marais has to offer.
We closed out our last day in Grand Marais with our third week of participation at the local market. The limited number of shoppers really drove home how the tourist season is coming to an end; we ended up with less than a third of what we made the previous two Thursday’s. But while there we finally got to meet Carol and Mike, fellow travel RVers who Rosemarie has followed on Instagram for years, and who first recommended we visit the UP and Grand Marais back in 2015.
We also got in on the discussion among the other vendors about moving the day and time for next year. Several of the vendors feel that Thursday is too early in the week; the weekend tourists and ATV enthusiasts have not fully arrived. They seem to have settled on doing it Friday evening as the main day with Saturday morning as sort of secondary event for those that did not sell out the previous evening. (The vast majority of the vendors are selling perishable food, especially baked goods.) We are not sure that will work for us when we return considering our Saturday Marquette event, but we shall see.
Next post: we try a different part of the U.P. on for size.