Short-staffed, limited hours, two hour wait @ Sven and Ole’sOriginally published by DK on October 3, 2020 at 11:15 pm
Awe on today’s hikeOriginally published by DK on October 2, 2020 at 10:33 pm
Superior Hiking Trail @ Devil’s KettleOriginally published by DK on October 2, 2020 at 6:06 pm
Thanks, Grand Portage (gave it all back)Originally published by DK on October 2, 2020 at 6:03 pm
Mmm…buttered breadOriginally published by DK on October 1, 2020 at 11:19 pm
Don’t see that every dayOriginally published by DK on October 1, 2020 at 11:12 pm
Mac and cheese taco?Originally published by DK on October 1, 2020 at 11:07 pm
World’s Best + no linesOriginally published by DK on October 1, 2020 at 11:04 pm
Fall in Duluth 🍁Originally published by DK on September 30, 2020 at 1:04 pm
I miss MelOriginally published by DK on September 30, 2020 at 12:35 pm
So long, Dacha BatinichOriginally published by DK on September 25, 2020 at 10:55 pm
Approach to nine green, peak color, The Wilderness at Fortune Bay #nofilterOriginally published by DK on September 25, 2020 at 10:53 pm
Top notch food at Fortune BayOriginally published by DK on September 25, 2020 at 10:48 pm
Jamaica in GilbertOriginally published by DK on September 24, 2020 at 10:16 pm
Gold Mine Trail 🍁Originally published by DK on September 23, 2020 at 9:25 pm
Masks now required at the VCOriginally published by DK on September 23, 2020 at 9:21 pm
Thanks for another great season, GordyOriginally published by DK on September 23, 2020 at 9:13 pm
Originally published by DK on September 6, 2020 at 11:45 am
Originally published by DK on August 26, 2020 at 10:24 am
Sample from when I was eight – Hawaii trip recapOriginally published by DK on August 9, 2020 at 8:16 pm
They added nine holes and changed the name to Stones Throw Golf CourseOriginally published by DK on July 25, 2020 at 2:44 pm
I’ve been fortunate to continue working through the pandemic, but it’s been tough to take time away (especially since I’m the only IT person left). Thanks to the support of my boss and one of our awesome game day staffers, I was able to take a week off without looking at work email once. We originally intended to spend the week on Isle Royale National Park, but the ferry and Rock Harbor Lodge decided to scrap the whole 2020 season and our reservations were cancelled.
Plan B was to stay the first half of the week at Lutsen Resort and the Fourth of July weekend on Lake Vermilion (at Fortune Bay). Those plans changed as the temperatures kept rising – it was even hot along the usually cool shoreline of Lake Superior and we discovered upon check-in that Lutsen Resort does not have air conditioning. They were accommodating by offering us a full refund, but there were really no other options in Lutsen or the surrounding spots (Grand Marais, Tofte, Grand Portage). Fortune Bay could get us in early, so we set off on highway 1 through Ely and decided to spend the whole week on Vermilion.
Fortune Bay has done a nice job with COVID safety and procedures. They had temperature checks set up on the entry road, mandatory face masks and lots of signage, plexiglass and hand sanitizer. The casino floor had basically every other machine turned off, but they kindly turned on my favorite game for the week (big thanks to EJ). I think I made it worth their hassle, though, while still getting a lot of quality playing time. They had Frozen-themed giveaways on Thursday and Friday for 100 points earned (an Olaf waffle maker on day one and an Olaf snow cone maker on day two), so I spread my playing time out accordingly. Marisa really, really wanted these, so I was happy for the solid play-through.
Food options during the week were a little limited, but what was open was solid. We stopped at the Ely Steakhouse on the way over from Lutsen and they were following all of the state orders for in-person dining. On the other end of the spectrum, the Vermilion Club was following just about none of the rules, which blew us away (maybe “VC” really stands for Virus Central). We still ate there twice in-person and had take-out a third day, because Poor Gary’s pizza and the bleu cheese and chicken wings are Northland classics (hopefully we were personally careful enough).
Back at Fortune Bay, I hit the Wilderness Grill four times, having great experiences each time. The new chef used to work at Alma in Minneapolis and I really liked all of the sandwiches I tried (pulled chicken, walleye, porchetta and cheeseburger). Their new fries are reminiscent of the state fair classics. In the casino proper, we had a wonderful dinner at the Sunset Steakhouse and stopped several times at the Gold Mine Grill, which is getting better with service and staffing (they’ve always had great coffeeshop-style food options). The Tamarack Buffet was closed for service, but was the room was being used for socially-distanced overflow seating.
Thought I would play a lot of golf during the week, but the temperatures were warm and I just didn’t feel like going every day. I did drive down to Coleraine to play Eagle Ridge with the Millers and got in a twilight round on The Wilderness with John, Cathy and Bonnie. The whole region needs rain badly, so there were some near-dead areas on both courses (especially in the roughs). The Wilderness also has a lot of behind the scenes changes: the contract with KemperSports was not renewed and former golf GM Tom Beaudry and superintendent Vince Dodge have both moved on to the state of cheese. Still love that course, though, and it continues to be the one I’ve played the most.
It was also great to hang out at Dacha Batinich on Birch Point again with Mary and the crew. Big thanks to John and Cathy for taking us out on the boat for a pizza picnic (and for taking Sasha and Marisa out again later in the week). Skip-Bo games and great conversations make that little cabin a very special place indeed.Originally published by DK on July 5, 2020 at 5:09 pm
Super One Foods, Virginia, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on July 5, 2020 at 1:44 pm
Fortune Bay’s Gold Mine GrillOriginally published by DK on July 4, 2020 at 7:12 pm
Can’t believe this game added the $50 level to my prizeOriginally published by DK on July 4, 2020 at 7:09 pm
Wilderness Grill: chicken, walleye, cheeseburger and porchettaOriginally published by DK on July 4, 2020 at 7:07 pm
Casino promos (100 points each)Originally published by DK on July 3, 2020 at 8:17 pm
Free canoe for resort guests (still)Originally published by DK on July 3, 2020 at 6:41 pm
Bay muffin at the Gold Mine GrillOriginally published by DK on July 3, 2020 at 6:05 pm
The Wilderness at Fortune BayOriginally published by DK on July 3, 2020 at 12:14 am
And I’m still down (but got my waffle maker)Originally published by DK on July 2, 2020 at 12:20 pm
Thanks John and CathyOriginally published by DK on July 2, 2020 at 9:20 am
Totally worth the priceOriginally published by DK on July 1, 2020 at 9:49 am
Fortune Bay Resort CasinoOriginally published by DK on June 29, 2020 at 10:14 pm
Interesting times in the NorthlandOriginally published by DK on June 29, 2020 at 10:08 pm
Walleye and steak, Ely SteakhouseOriginally published by DK on June 29, 2020 at 12:31 am
Great! Lakes Candy CompanyOriginally published by DK on June 29, 2020 at 12:26 am
Cross River, Schroeder, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on June 29, 2020 at 12:21 am
Deluxe biscuits and gravy with eggsOriginally published by DK on June 28, 2020 at 1:31 pm
Last visit with Armon before the adventure beginsOriginally published by DK on June 24, 2020 at 7:31 pm
Lakeside BarOriginally published by DK on June 24, 2020 at 7:26 pm
Quick, fun stop at Grand CasinoOriginally published by DK on June 9, 2020 at 8:35 pm
Duluth Grill biscuits and gravy with fried chicken and eggsOriginally published by DK on June 9, 2020 at 8:27 pm
Devil’s Track River, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on June 8, 2020 at 8:07 pm
Grand Marais mini golfOriginally published by DK on June 8, 2020 at 8:00 pm
The Beaver HouseOriginally published by DK on June 8, 2020 at 1:53 pm
Inside harbor walk, Grand Marais, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on June 7, 2020 at 1:24 pm
First time seeing this complex – looks coolOriginally published by DK on June 7, 2020 at 1:20 pm
Just learned what “tombolo” means this trip tooOriginally published by DK on June 7, 2020 at 1:17 pm
Sven and Ole’s, Grand Marais, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on June 6, 2020 at 7:23 pm
Well done, Grand Casino – more fun than Mystic right nowOriginally published by DK on June 5, 2020 at 10:05 pm
Pretty spot on the ski hill roadOriginally published by DK on June 5, 2020 at 9:59 pm
As solid as everOriginally published by DK on June 5, 2020 at 9:55 pm
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welsh_3000sOriginally published by DK on May 24, 2020 at 10:17 pm
Dave’s Bar, San Francisco, CaliforniaOriginally published by DK on May 8, 2020 at 12:15 pm
Tom and Sarah Bricker’s excellent Disney Tourist Blog just published a post with their ranking of all 94 attractions at Walt Disney World. I’m really missing the Disney parks these days and haven’t seen any of the new Star Wars rides in California or Florida, so it was really fun reading this (and all of their posts, to be honest). Here are my personal top seven in Florida:
- Expedition Everest – Great theming throughout (and I love all things about the real Everest).
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – The original and still the best. Also has killer theming throughout.
- Test Track – I like Radiator Springs Racers in California better, but this OG made the other one possible.
- Avatar Flight of Passage – Not a huge fan of the movie and the wait times are usually crazy long, but it’s worth the wait.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – One Florida ride that is equal to almost all the others in the world (with the exception of Paris).
- Pirates of the Caribbean – Disneyland will always have the best version in my opinion, but this one is strong too.
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster – the theming might not appeal to “the kids” these days, but I love the whole pre-show, loading area, soundtrack, coaster layout and finish. Long live rock ‘n’ roll!
I’m sure some of the new rides I’ve haven’t seen might impact this list. Looking forward to our next visit…Originally published by DK on May 4, 2020 at 3:24 pm
Disneyland Hotel postcard, circa 1983Originally published by DK on April 8, 2020 at 9:45 pm
Seriously, he was the only one being dropped off at Terminal 2Originally published by DK on April 6, 2020 at 12:26 pm
“Sleep at the Fairmont Banff Springs” has been item #34 on my bucket list for quite a long time. As we looked to conclude the year of milestone birthday trips, Marisa and I decided we would make ours a combined ski trip (and invite Colleen and Sasha to tag along). SkiBig3 had some good sales after Thanksgiving, so we picked the week between our two birthdays and made reservations. Airfare between MSP and Calgary wasn’t too terrible on the Delta nonstops and I reserved my normal Emerald Aisle rental with National.
We planned to fly on Monday and Friday, with ski days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The drive from the airport to downtown Banff only takes about 90 minutes and we purchased the required park passes ahead of time, so we didn’t have to stop at the park entrance. Sasha and Marisa brought their own skis with, so we had one large ski bag, four large suitcases and a bunch of carry-ons. Thankfully, National had a Mazda SUV for us that really held up all week with the extreme winter conditions (heated steering wheels are awesome).
Speaking of conditions, the Canadian equivalent of the National Weather Service warned: “Temperatures will plummet to values not seen in years.” Air temp was -30C (-22F) during the early part of the week, closing two of the three ski areas completely on Tuesday. That was the day Marisa and I got to experience the Canadian health system with a morning visit to Banff Mineral Springs Hospital. She had flu symptoms the night before and they did a great job helping get her back in shape for skiing the last two days. Everything was pre-pay for service, so we are now working with our regular insurance to get reimbursed for the hospital and doctor fees (which weren’t outrageous).
What can I say about the hotel? The Fairmont Banff Springs is one of the most iconic hotels in the world, built as part of the Canadian Pacific Railway network in 1888. The “Castle in the Rockies” was just perfect – historic, great amenities and flawless customer service. It’s not cheap, but in the overall scheme of world-class hotels, very competitive. Tipping was included for most services, so that was different (and convenient, since I didn’t exchange for any Canadian currency this time). The valet was wonderful all week – we’d just call down to the concierge (“How is the Kingsbury Family doing today?”) and they would pull our warmed up car to the front entrance. The bellmen were great – somehow loading up everything at the end of the trip back into the SUV. Maid service also went the extra mile to line up shoes, organize things on the desk and generally pick up after our daily mess.
The hotel has at least three known ghost stories. Our favorite was the Ghost Bride, who was commemorated with a postage stamp and coin by the Canadian government in 2014. Sasha and I spent one night searching for the staircase, where the hotel has a picture hanging (along with the stamp and coin). The ghost of Sam the Bellman and the alleged murder-suicide in room 873 are tales that added an extra element of suspense every time the lights by the elevator would flicker when the doors opened. There was a cool museum-style area off of the lobby that was loaded with historical pictures and artifacts. The old pictures of the golf course and visits from Queen Elizabeth and Marilyn Monroe were highlights for me.
We ate at two of the twelve hotel restaurants: Castello Italiana and the Swiss-themed Waldhaus Pub & Biergarten. Both were high quality with great service. I think the Waldhaus might have been the original golf course clubhouse, as it was set down a hill from the main hotel along the river (and near the current 15th hole). Colleen and Sasha both enjoyed time in the Willow Stream Spa, which included the semi-spooky indoor pool. There were also outdoor pools that amazingly had people in them, despite the extremely frigid temperatures (how exactly did they get out there?). The hotel also had several very nice stores, a free ski storage room (with overnight boot heaters) and a uniquely Canadian five pin bowling alley (which is really difficult to master).
The actual town of Banff is a short ride or walk from the hotel, across the Bow River. It was a wonderful little mountain town, full of shops and restaurants and surrounded by the most amazing mountain vistas. On our arrival on Monday, we picked up my rental skis at the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub and had lunch at Tommy’s Neighbourhood Pub. Other stops over the course of the week included a great dinner at the Maple Leaf Grill (with the bison tenderloin recommended by my friend Chuck), poutine at the local McDonald’s, shopping at Roots and Hudson’s Bay and a visit to the largest rock store I’ve ever seen in my life. I also wanted to try out the famous Beaver Tails, but they didn’t really have any indoor seating and it was just too cold to stand around outside for any length of time.
As far as skiing goes, there are three different resorts near Banff: Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort. Norquay is the closest to town, but we elected to skip that one when we found out we could only ski two days. We decided to go to Sunshine Village on Wednesday, as several people told us that Sunshine sometimes gets temperature inversions that make it warmer there compared to town. The other unique thing about Sunshine is that the base area is just a parking lot in front of a building with a gondola. A long ride takes you up to the actual resort (with one stop in the middle for Goat’s Eye Mountain). We didn’t have great visibility that day and had difficulty finding easier, groomed runs to ease back into skiing shape. Groomed runs don’t seem to be as big a thing in the Canadian Rockies as they are at home, so we were initially a little uncomfortable (and I was extra cautious this trip anyways, for obvious reasons). We did find a few runs off the Strawberry Express chair, which is marketed as their beginner chair (sigh). We also skied the Wawa lift, but that was about it. I would love to try it again with warmer temps, clear skies and more confidence in my skiing ability.
On Thursday, we went to Lake Louise. By the second day, we were more comfortable with the bus shuttle system: all three resorts have nice coach-style busses that pick up right in front of the hotel. Schedules varied, but there were usually 5-6 departures and returns each day to each one. The Fairmont was the first stop in the mornings and the last to drop off on the return, with 2-3 stops at various spots in town. Lake Louise is the farthest resort from Banff, but it took less than an hour to get there on the Trans-Canada Highway. The town of Lake Louise is a few minutes away from the ski resort and is home to a couple of other cool hotels, including the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the Post Hotel. I thought about the hotel package that let you split your time between the castle and the chateau, but I’m glad we did what we did. It would’ve been cool (literally) to see the ice sculptures on the lake for their Ice Magic competition, but that just wasn’t in the cards this time.
We loved the skiing and atmosphere at Lake Louise. The bus dropped us off right in front of the Lodge of the Ten Peaks and one of the friendly information guides told us that the breakfast buffet at the Northface Bistro was the spot to go for pre-skiing food. After a great meal, we discovered there are only two choices from that spot: the Glacier Express chair and the Grizzly Express gondola. We started with the chair and took two great runs on nice intermediate cruisers that really tired us out. After another stop in the chalet (and a visit to the nice ski shop), we tried the gondola. It’s not the highest lift there, but I felt like I was on the top of the world when we exited (and honestly, a little frightened at how everything dropped off from that point). Lake Louise prides itself on having green, blue and black runs from every lift, but the cat track we took down from there was scary just for the fact that the runs that crossed it were very steep. But once we got down below the tree line, it turned into our favorite run of the trip.
One of the things that I still find magical about skiing in the big mountains are the moments of complete silence you sometimes find among the trees in the back country. Since our week was so cold, none of the locals really wanted to be out, so it was nice and uncrowded all over. I let the girls ski ahead of me on that long, green cruiser and at one point I just stopped and soaked in the silence. That trail crossed in front of another favorite thing of mine, the mid-mountain chalet with sun deck and greasy mountain cafeteria food. The Temple Lodge made me think of the great times I used to have with my Uncle Greg at the Outback Inn in Idaho. He would’ve loved this trip… ❤️
The toffee is good tooOriginally published by DK on January 17, 2020 at 9:08 pm
Hanging near the five pin bowling alleyOriginally published by DK on January 17, 2020 at 6:35 pm
“Boy with Apple” is used as the concierge of the year award at the Fairmont Banff Springs HotelOriginally published by DK on January 17, 2020 at 6:33 pm
Spoil ’em? Just a little…Originally published by DK on January 16, 2020 at 10:02 pm
He would’ve totally loved this tripOriginally published by DK on January 16, 2020 at 6:44 pm
Pop > SodaOriginally published by DK on January 15, 2020 at 10:49 pm
This town is really somethingOriginally published by DK on January 15, 2020 at 8:54 pm
Off with his head!Originally published by DK on January 14, 2020 at 10:47 pm
The Ghost Bride @ Fairmont Banff SpringsOriginally published by DK on January 14, 2020 at 10:17 pm
Old shot of the Banff Springs courseOriginally published by DK on January 13, 2020 at 8:27 pm
Feels colder in C vs. FOriginally published by DK on January 13, 2020 at 3:47 pm