And so off we headed to Madeline Island on a chilly, rainy weekend (it's our thing) to get away and take in the local Fall Fest. Also, excuse the obnoxious amount of pictures - I can't seem to help myself... and this is only a small portion that I actually took.
We decided to head through Duluth partly because of a Facebook post of a friend of ours. She talked up a place called Northern Waters Smokehaus so much that I was dying to eat there. It was well worth the stop - in fact we stopped on our way back as well. I've spent plenty of time in this area of Duluth so I am a little embarrassed that I didn't discover this sooner.
|The Salmon Garden - soooooo delish. Also tried the Italinsk which was tasty.|
|Floored that Riley agreed to this picture. I thought she would freak out.|
From Duluth we headed into Wisconsin. A couple years a go I spent a girls weekend in Bayfield and we intended to go to Madeline Island, but it never happened. This time we didn't spend much time in Bayfield, but it brought back such great memories of the time I was here. I already want to go back!
We headed right to the ferry and got in line for the boat after a little confusion (or perhaps disagreement) over what our plan was. We were going to park and walk around town since we arrived 45 minutes before the ferry was to leave, but when we bought our ferry ticket the lady acted like there was no schedule and that the ferry leaves when it leaves. Oh smaller towns - you are so different than what I am used to. I'm always torn about if I would like that or not.
Even though the wait wasn't long we were able to get out of the car for a bit and enjoy the nicer than expected weather. My little hambone was all about giving me the goofy and the happy faces for pictures. I laugh each time I see this silly face picture - I feel like she is about to attack me.
We were packed tight on the boat and were barely able to squeeze out of the car to head up top for a view. I wasn't sure how Riley would like this since she's sometimes skittish about new things, but she loved the ferry.
|The leaves were actually more vibrant than I expected this time of year.|
Once on the island we headed to the hotel's main office and checked in. It's off season so a number of places were closed down and many were winding down this weekend. We were there for the Madeline Island Fall Fest which I think really meant that all the businesses were closing and hoping to clear out their inventory with big sales.
We stayed at the Island Inn - a small 5 unit place that was centrally located. We were the only unit that had a queen bed and a pull out couch so all the other unit seemed to be occupied by couples. This was a bonus for us (middle aged couples without kids are remarkably quiet), and I hope we weren't too loud and annoying for the other vacationers.
Once settled into our hotel we decided to explore the island by foot.
|This just seemed crazy to me.|
|See? Fall Fest stuff.|
Madeline Island is no North Shore with it's rock beaches, but we found a few rocks to throw in the water - one of Riley's favorite vacation things to do.
It wasn't quite dinner time, but we wanted to get in from the cold. Naturally, we got ice cream and like usual, Riley only ate a small part of it.
After ice cream and a stop at an art store in which Jesse bought a 'wine chalice' we headed down the road to The Pub. We had eyed the menu earlier and heard that they were closing the next day so the items to select from might be limited, but we wanted to give it a try.
Riley wanted to stop at every store and house along the way and got a little fussy with this four block walk. As with our Grand Marais trip in the spring she referred to our hotel as our "different home" and requested to go back there multiple times. At some point she sat down on someone's front steps and tried to look mad.
We urged her on and at some point she sat down and Jesse jumped over her. I actually have no idea how this transpired, but know that this became a theme of the weekend and Jesse got quite the workout from it.
|Best dad ever... as long as he doesn't land on our kid.|
We finally got to the restaurant and discovered that they didn't open for 45 minutes so we walked all the way back to our hotel and drove down once they opened. They were out of all their fish items which was disappointing, but they had a select list of bottles of wine that was half off. It just made more sense to each get a bottle of wine and bring what we didn't drink back to the hotel.
After The Pub we headed back to our room and settled in for the night. We pulled out the coach for Riley to sleep on and realized that we didn't have a blanket for her. We called the main office, but there was no answer as it was after 5 pm. There was an 'urgent' line, but I wasn't sure if 'no blanket' was considered urgent. Jesse drove down to the office, but didn't find anyone so I called the urgent line and left a message. Luckily, it seemed to get warmer in our room (we had no control over the temperature) and I thought I might be able to throw some towels over her if needed. Jesse fell asleep around 7:30 so I got into bed with Riley and read books before turning out the light.
I turned my back to Riley because it was more comfortable in her lumpy bed, but she crawled over me and snuggled in next to me. I could feel her eye lashes fluttering against my neck and my heart swelled by a gazillion. At some point she turn over and spooned up against me, turned her head back to me and stated "mom, put your arm around me". Just the sweetest thing ever.
Luckily, someone from the hotel called and then showed up with two blankets, but in the end the room was so hot that we didn't need either of them. Go figure.
The next morning we headed next door to Ella's Island Cafe for breakfast before heading out for the day. Most of the Fall Fest activities were happening today, but it was supposed to rain at some point so we determined that we would check out the museum first and then drive out to the Big Bay State Park and Town Park while it was still dry.
The museum was a mixed experience as there were a few scary items that Riley wanted nothing to do with. There was a scavenger hunt of sorts and we did part of it so she still qualified to get a free post card of her choosing. She proudly selected one with ducks on it.
After the museum we drove to the state park but decided to keep driving and ended up at the town park. Riley started to have a breakdown here asking to go back to the 'different home'. I'm fairly certain she just wanted to watch the Disney Channel - something we do not have at home. We finally convinced her to keep walking although Jesse had to carry her a couple times to stop the whining.
|Our traditional 'feet' photo. PS. Loving my new Sketchers.|
After getting back to town we stopped for lunch and it was at this time that it started to rain. Since Riley didn't nap the previous day, and didn't get as much sleep as usual the night before we knew that her whiny behavior was likely because she needed some sleep. We headed back to the hotel after eating and both Riley and I crashed. My head and eyes had been bothering me more than usual for a few days so this was needed for me too.
Once we woke the rain also stopped. It was still gloomy, but it was better than being trapped for the rest of the day in the hotel. We headed out and checked out some of the sales/events going on around town. Riley really wanted a balloon and the best we could find was this scary clown named 'Flumper' that made balloon animals. Riley wanted nothing to do with her, but finally agreed as long as daddy stood next to the clown while she and I stood at a distance.
|Monkey Balloon brings big smiles|
We walked back down to the dock to throw some rocks before dinner time. This was such a nice, non-scheduled type of vacation. Sometimes not having a schedule drives me nuts (I like to have a plan) and I did want some structure, but this worked for me since Jesse and I were mostly in the same mindset.
We wanted to check out Tom's Burned Down Cafe, but since it was essentially an open deck with a tarp as a roof we decided to skip it for a warmer place and headed to Cafe Seiche. It was spendy and didn't have any options for kids, but it was so worth it. I can't remember what was all in my dish, but I remember thinking it was a weird combo of food. Shrimp, rice, leeks, apples, and a bunch of other things. Soooooo good. We then ordered desert to go and ate that back at our room with our wine from the evening before.
We've made these long weekend trips enough to know what we need to bring and one of those things is extra food for Riley. We've realized that not every restaurant we go to has items she'll eat so we make sure to have things that she can eat back in our room or that I even bring with to the restaurant (veggie packs are great for this).
When we first made these trips I would only bring what I thought I would use as I was used to plane travel or camping where you haul everything in so you want to keep it minimal, but now I've realized to bring extra. We have the space in the car and it's worth it to know that we have that extra coat even if it never gets worn. After this trip I am now adding nightlight and family games to the list.
Jesse and I spent most of our time reading our books, I spent some time on the iPad, and Riley either read her books or watched cartoons while in our room. Riley only asked for the iPad once this trip (and we weren't in a spot that she could have it) which was amazing to me. I feel like it's another sign that she's getting older and can entertain herself more. In fact, in the car she spent a lot of time just looking out the window or making up songs and singing them. It was great.
Sunday morning we had a quick breakfast at a local coffee shop. Another experience of small town living as a 10 year old girl came in and just started rearranging the soda fridge, a local who was reading her paper talked with everyone that came in, and a pile of cash was left unattended on the counter. The lady reading her paper shared with us that her son and his family just left the island, but forgot their dog. Apparently, that's likely to happen if you have three kids. Once we were done eating we jumped on the ferry back to Bayfield.
|See I was on this trip - I sort of hogged the camera from Jesse until the last day.|
As I mentioned earlier, we stopped At Northern Waters for lunch on the way home and then headed back to the cities. There was snow in the forecast which seemed a little ridiculous for mid October, but something that happens in Minnesota from time to time. At one point it was really coming down hard and we had to deal with the snow and all the other people who went on vacation this weekend (apparently, it was MEA weekend so lots of people went up North).
By the time we got home the roads were clear and we were all grateful to be in the comfort of our own home. I would totally recommend checking out Madeline Island and look forward to maybe going back during a slightly busier and warmer time of year. It may have been cold, rainy, and the off season, but we also didn't have to fight crowds and were able to still have plenty to do. And one day, we'll actually do some kayaking... but in the mean time I look forward to more of these adventures.