We are safe and sound in beautiful Biwabik, MN at the Giants Ridge Lodge. Everyone has held up extremely well after a very early 5AM start and lots of travel hours in close quarters. Our flight was uneventful except for Mr. "Skipper" Graham getting a vigorous Newark TSA "pat down" and luggage disection (I hadn't guessed him to be a hearts-covered silk boxers kind of guy...)
Our Econoline rental van was in another timezone when we arrived and could not be found so the boys kept themselves entertained by dodging traffic in the Arrivals lane (kidding Lili, just kidding...)
Once we got on the road we made good time (for about 28 minutes) before the back of the van unanimously voted that it was time for lunch. We had an extremely healthy meal at Chilis and worked on our "Duty to God" patch by saying the official Northern Tier grace led by the real Luke Graham (not that guy impersonating him back at EWR). There are five stanzas (at least the way we broke it up) and each boy would say their line in sequence...
For food, for raiment, (Luke)
For life and opportunity, (Winston)
For sun and rain, (Tommy)
For water and portage trails, (Conor)
For friendship and fellowship, (Ethan)
We thank thee, O'Lord (Everyone)
Note: we had to look up "raiment" - it means "clothes". Our waitress-in-training (Emily) thought we were adorable. She thought the kids were cute too!
Then we got back on the road and made real-progress (this time for at least 45 minutes) until we heard that there was 20 minutes left in the U.S. World Cup game and it was all tied at 1-1. So we caught the end of the game at a food establishment (unfortunately we lost in the final minutes). The stop was not a complete loss though because after $62 worth of attempts at the Skill Crane game I was able to rescue our new (stuffed) Mascot from the torment of life in a glass box with a metal claw poking him in the head all day long. Stay tuned for the boys' final decision on a name...
Back on the road we finally arrived at our interim accommodations somewhere more than halfway to Ely around 6PM. Giants Ridge is a very nice pseudo-resort with dorm-style rooms, an indoor pool and movies in the common room. We ate dinner at the grill down the street overlooking a gorgeous lake.
Only the lake was actually an old quarry that had, unfortunately, dug too deep, hitting an underground river that flooded the entire quarry leaving all the digging equipment under 450 feet of crystal-clear spring water.
We had pasta, salad, bread sticks, more breadsticks... and pitchers of "Minnesoda" (sorry, I've been listening to the "Colonel's" jokes all day and it seems to be rubbing off on me :)
We came back to the Lodge, took a swim and a dip in the hot tub, and are now turning-in so we can be at our best for our final leg to Ely tomorrow morning.