After months and weeks of counting down the days, we finally hit Friday, September 26. The day we had reserved a room at Lutsen back in April. Then the job changes threw our summer plans into limbo. We didn’t know what would happen once September came.
Becky quickly landed another contract position that has held for more than a month after its scheduled end date. She also stumbled on a good part time position she could do from home that would finance the trip to the North Shore. Still we waited until Tuesday to fully call it on.
We were a go.
Thursday night came, and we pretty much collapsed big time after work, leaving the packing to the next morning. This set back pushed our leave time about a half hour. I also had to stop at the gas station to put air in the tires since I forgot to do that the night before when I filled the car.
On our way out, we stopped at the nearby Brugger’s Bagels for some to go breakfast. We ordered bagels that needed eggs, and though we were the only ones in line, the beleaguered bagel artist’s pace was held up by this egg shortage. She made more while we waited, somewhat impatiently.
“Hey, where to we need to be,” I said. “We’re on vacation time now. No worries.”
Eventually we got our bagels, paid, and Becky was filling her ice coffee with cream and such when a stranger comes up to me.
“I know your face,” she said.
I looked at her, trying to place her, but I couldn’t, so my immediate thoughts went to the typical “Oh shit, am I in trouble?”
She explained she was Karifur, an internet friend from Twitter. To be fair to my inability to recognize her, she wasn’t wearing a dwarf beard or covered in mud from a mud run at the time (which are the main online photos I’ve seen). We’d never met in person, but her support over the years as Becky and I went through trial after trial has meant so much. You can follow one of her blogs here. In fact, if I could have chosen any internet friend to meet that I didn’t know in real life, Kari and her husband would have been at the top of that list.
Becky heard this, turned around and immediately bear hugged Kari while starting to cry. (She can come on strong sometimes, but it’s one of the things I love most about her – the ability to shed any pretense and just connect on a deep emotional level with new people.)
They were on their way from Fargo to a wedding in Bloomington and just happened to stop at the Brugger’s Bagels, not their ordinary stop even.
It’s incredible to think of all the small things that had to go wrong in order to reach this very right and welcome event. Falling asleep, packing in the morning, taking out the trash and recyclables, the eggs, the tires and checking oil, even having to run to the other car to grab some CDs we’d bought for the trip but forgot to pack. (Is there any better music for the North Shore than folk music? Nope. There is not.)
It’s so encouraging to see some things come from so many setbacks – it helps me to believe that all the rejections are steps on the way to a perfect job for Becky.
We all gathered around a table with Kari, her husband (also an internet friend) and their two awesome kiddos. Becky did her gushing thing – how much they mean to us, how awesome and beautiful they are, how wonderful it was to finally meet them, how hard it’s been and how they have been a lifeline without even knowing how much. They seemed so together, so happy to meet us, fellow Doctor Who fans. Between them, they work six jobs. It’s like meeting comrades in arms in the trenches during a brief respite from the life bombs.
All of this happened before we had even been on our trip for 20 minutes.
All of this was the kick off to the first and most magical day of our vacation.
In a short couple hours we were in Duluth, stopping near the lift bridge to visit our first smoked fish store, two chocolate shops and a bakery.
Fish store: Brie cheese, smoked Lake Superior trout, bison pastrami.
First chocolate store: 8 of the biggest truffles I’ve seen.
Bakery: A bag of bread ends because for weird reasons the lady wouldn’t sell us an actual loaf of bread.
Other chocolate store: two chocolate covered caramels and four caramel apples with various coverings (cashews, apple pie stuff, peanut butter and chocolate chips)
We zipped up the highway between Duluth and Two Harbors, where there was an art event going on at seven various locations. We managed to hit two of them. At the first, we got some snazzy coasters made of lilac wood by Doug Jackson. At the second, we didn’t get anything, but across the street was an amazing looking Norwegian Stabbur where silversmith, Brad Nelson, lives and creates jewelry along with various other gift items on display. Becky fell in love with a piece and gabbed up the owner and offered her web services (“you can pay be in jewelry”) with a professional pitch that was smoothly inserted into the conversation so well that the guy actually said “I love you,” to her. We also got a Norwegian folk tales book and a 3-pound bag of wild rice.
We also stopped at our second fish store, Russ Kendall’s Smokehouse. We stopped at this place on our first trip on the sage and spot on advice of a travel guide. It had a fire in May, but is gloriously open again and selling amazing by the pound. We got some whitefish, a bag of cheese curds, crackers and cheese spread. Pro tip: Bring a cooler with ice!
Did I say Becky had made enough at her second job that for the first time in our vacation history, we wouldn’t have to keep an air tight lid on our budget? Yeah, that is awesome.
We continued through Two Harbors and stopped at Betty’s Pies to pick up the pie Becky ordered the week before and that we had been dreaming about ever since we were there two years ago. This thing has, according to their website, “A delicious combination of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries topped with our famous oatmeal and brown sugar crunch.” However, we are convinced it also contains unicorn sparkles and angel dreams. It’s that good.
We also had lunch there, but their lunch doesn’t hold a candle to the pies. Go for the pies. Stop reading now and just go order one.
We then zipped along as fast as the road construction on the one road through the region would allow, stopping for gas and some local beers, and got to Lutsen Resort by about 6. The sun was getting low, the shadows long as we unloaded in our nice Poplar River Condo room with king bed, spa tub, fireplace and balcony, which was an upgrade from what Becky ordered because she was so nice. It was our intention not to be out after dark because there are so many “Deer for next X miles” signs up there, they might as well read “Deer crossing, pretty much forever.”
Lutsen resort is the picturesque place you think of if you think of a resort on Lake Superior. It’s got Adirondack chairs on the stony beach, a covered bridge, a waterfall and a lodge.
The water for the first few days of our trip was still. So still and so reflective of the sky that it was impossible to tell where the water ended and the sky began. It all faded into whiteness and humidity that played a trick on your eyes in the same way trying to peer into pitch black darkness can, as if all you had to do was walk out on the water, and you would be able to see what was in the next world. Becky found it all rather unnerving, too close to our own lives right now, full of uncertainty. She hardly looked at the lake until our third day when the gray clouds and waves added some clear definition.
We’ll conclude this trip on the next post – including night screaming, weird Canadian road signs, amethyst, spa day, and more fish.