Roadtripping with Mario #2

So after our adventure to Toronto, Mario wanted to go to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. I'm sure some of you weren't ever aware there was such a place.

Well, there was.

Yes, that's the proper usage of the past tense of the verb "to be."

Because it closed.

On May 12th, USAHockey announced it was closing the hall in Eveleth, Minnesota, the birth place of hockey in America, and moving the exhibits somewhere else. Like Minneapolis. Or maybe even somewhere that people live.

That's not Eveleth, Minnesota.

I've been there.

With Mario.

Which is why today's Eric Broz Rerun or Blogging up The Past is Roadtripping With Mario, Part II The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

In Eveleth, Minnesota.

Which is a long-ass drive from Warren, Ohio.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was a long-ass time to be in a car. Even longer when you have stops along the way that take you off the suggested AAA TripTik route.

We left heading out west, to Detroit, because Mario wanted to get some Detroit Junior Whalers merchandise. And we stopped in Toledo for me to get some Toledo Storm stuff. Like a new hat.

This trip was before internet shopping was perfected. Before you could buy anything, from anywhere, at any time, with a few mouse clicks. And we made it through Detroit without getting shot. Then again, we're not rappers, and nobody back then was really targeting overweight white boys for sport shooting.

We made it through Detroit, and Ohio, into Indiana. And Illinois. And drove past O'Hare International Airport. Now if you've never been to Chicago, and never driven past O'Hare, it's quite a site.

O'Hare is the busiest airport in the continental United States. It averages one take-off or landing every thirty seconds. The air is full of low-flying planes coming seemingly from all angles. Actually, there are well-known approach and departure vectors, and the men and women who manage the air traffic for that airport are fucking amazing.

Kara don't ever go anywhere near there. Trust me.

(Kara hates low-flying aircraft that appear to just hover there in the sky)

So we get past that and approach the Wisconsin line. And see the most amazing site just over the line. It was the largest adult emporium we'd ever seen. I'm talking Barnes & Noble sized. Right next door to a cheese shop. And a beer distributor. That, as my friend Kym who lived in Milwaukee said, sums up all you need to know about live in Wisconsin save hunting and fishing: Beer, Porn and Cheese.

So between the beer/cheese/porn emporium and Milwaukee, lies the Bong Recreation Area.

True fucking place.

And Mario being the stoner he was, we had to stop.

So we stop, piss, grab some snacks and we're back on the road. Driving through an August thunderstorm in Wisconsin's cow country reminded me a whole lot of the scene in "Twister" where they saw a flying cow. And another flying cow. "Nope, same cow."

Anyway no flying cows. Just us. And we're driving and we're tired. So we stop and spend the night in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Not Claire Danes, who I'd love to spend a night, or at least an hour in. Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

That's all I have to say about that.

We got up early the next morning, like when the rooster crows early, figuring we were still about six or seven hours from Eveleth, barring any traffic in Minneapolis ... and our motel was having a big-ass farmer's breakfast that all the townsfolk from Eau Claire loved and visited daily.

We were told this at check in by the blonde girl. Who had that midwest cuteness that makeup can't match.

So we get up before 7 a.m. and make the kind of "hey we're tourists" entrance that two fat pale white guys from Ohio make while trying to blend in with the farmers in August in Wisconsin between my allergies and his total lack of pigmentation, everyone could tell, to quote Drew Hastings, just by looking at us, we were farmers. "Kitty stay.")

And in talking to one of the locals, she told us that if we went north on Route 53 we'd knock three hours off the trip by not having to go to and through Minneapolis. We would be there by noon if we left at 8, because there were no real speed limits, and no cops between Eau Claire and Duluth. That bit was added by the sheriff who was having breakfast with us.

So that's exactly we did. Hauled ass out of Eau Claire, and averaged between 80 and 90 driving up Wisconsin Route 53.

And saw two of the most amazing things I've ever seen in my life.

First was a bald eagle eating some road kill. From a distance, I thought it was a small bear. It was that big. As the car got closer, it took off. I nearly wrecked the car watching that sucker fly.

Now if you've only ever seen a bald eagle at a zoo, sitting on a branch, with its wings tucked, you might have wondered "Why the hell is that our national bird. It's not that impressive."

When you see one of them take off and fly away, or if you're lucky enough to see one in the wild, as I did when I was in the military, you realize you're looking at a bird with a wingspan of 4-6 feet, razor sharp talons and a beak that can pluck your eye out. In flight. Very impressive.

Eventually, we neared the Wisconsin/Minnesota state line. We knew this because the road signs kept saying "Duluth" and the miles next to Duluth kept decreasing. decreasing. And I know Duluth is in Minnesota.

So as I wonder how much further we have until Duluth, and why we have yet to see as much as a suburb of this impressive city, we drove over the Bong Bridge.

It was one of those bridges that appears out of nowhere. And you can't see what's on the other side. You're going up. And up. And up.

And then, we reached the top.

And it was absolutely fucking beautiful.

Lake Superior, which is said to never give up her dead when the skies of November turn gloomy (Shout out my Canadian Brother Gordon Lightfoot. Eh?), exploded on the right hand side. Like there was nothing but bridge one minute, the next was a big lake that encompassed everything as far as you could see.

With a town built up into the mountains behind it.

That's Duluth, Minnesota. It's beautiful.

That view was so amazing we turned around once we got over the bridge, drove back into Wisconsin, and drove back over the Bong Bridge to see it again.

And it was just as nice the second time.

I've got to get back there with Cammi.

So after that, in about 35 minutes, we make our way to Eveleth. And the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. After all, that's why we were in Minnesota. Since stalking Bob Mould wasn't on Mario's agenda.

And we arrived. Excited. Anxious. And, as we pulled onto Hat Trick Lane, we saw a restaurant and immediately looked forward to having dinner after a full day of exploring the history of hockey in America at the Stanley Cup Café which was located right next door. The Hockey Hall of Fame in Canada featured dinner at Gretzky's. The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame will feature dinner at the Stanley Cup Café.

We pull in just after noon and park. The woman at breakfast was right. Like 4 hours on the road, not counting the 15 minutes to make the bridge crossing twice.

And since it was a Thursday, there were not too many other cars there. Like two. Cool. No crowds. (Turns out there were never crowds. The place averaged about 10,000 a year. It needed 30,000 a year to survive.)

Anyway, we walk up, plunk down our $6 and walk in.

And 45 minutes later we were back where we started.

Back at the beginning.

We blinked.

This is a dream, right?

We obviously missed something, right?

A lot of somethings, right?

So we walk through again, map in hand, making sure we see all that there is to see regarding the history of hockey in America.

And in 30 minutes realize, nope, that first trip through - we had seen it all.

And it's not quite 1:30 p.m.

Twenty-four hours in a car. For a 75 minute visit. And we saw all there was to see.


At the aptly instantly renamed "U. S. Hockey Hallway of Fame and Attached Garage Turned into a Museum."

Alrighty then.

So to say we're feeling let down is an understatement.

We felt hoodwinked.


(Oh, sorry. Was turning into an angry black man quoting Malcolm X. My bad. Pale white boy is back).

We figured we could at least salvage the day at Stanley Cup Café.

So we pull out, go back down Hat Trick Lane, and pull into a very empty parking lot at the Stanley Cup Café.

Walk up the steps.

Gaze through the window at the dark, empty restaurant.

And notice the sign on the door that says they open at 4 p.m.

On Friday and Saturday.

And right then, as we stood on the deck, it was Thursday.

At 1:35 p.m.

So we walked back to the car.

And paused there. In the parking lot.

A thousand miles from home.



And pissed off.

How pissed? We got in the car, said "Fuck it, let's just go home."

And we did.

Driving straight through, 20 hours. Back to my Ohio (see, I got an Swig Tooth lyric in there. HA! Back to my Ohio is from "August is a Blessing." And Swig Tooth is playing Wednesday in Pittsburgh and Friday in Columbus at Andyman's Treehouse. Come out. Get your face rocked off.)

Arriving around 11 a.m.

Vowing to tell everyone what an amazing time we had and how wonderful it was and how great a trip it was.

And that, boys and girls, is the story of our visit to the U.S. Hockey Hallway of Fame and Attached Garage turned Museum.

Stay tuned for the next Eric Broz Rerun ... Blogging the Past - Roadtripping with Mario for Part III Hershey, Pennsylvania for the American Hockey League's All Star Game.

Where we met Barry Melrose.

And (as I start getting hated on by Kerry in 5,4,3,2,1 ) touched his hair.

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