Sweetie (nee’ Donner) and I needed a vacation badly, just a few days, anything, just to get the hell out of town, away from the house and jobs in particular. Sweetie, being a practical woman, did not waste time waiting for paleo to plan, or think, or even agree, and just went ahead and set it up. (And she was, as is frequently the case, completely right. I adore my wife, I really do – it was only a few days ago, after a dreadful work weekend, that I even fully got on board. And holy dammit am I happy!)
Teh Gathering Storm (Literaterally)
The forecast on Wunderground.com was brightly, hypnotically colored, therefore ominous. (I know, wever. I wouldn’t be able to put the site together, so more power to ‘em. I myself envision lots of greys, blacks, paisleys…) paleo, having completely bought in and taken credit for the whole idea, looked at the map and laughed, LAUGHED, I tells ya. We needed this, and so I made a contingency plan.
Loading up the 4WD instead of her far more comfortable lady-chariot, I set several goals. If we made it to Blaine, we stayed in Blaine. To Forest Lake? Forest Lake. Grand Casino in Hinckley, Black Bear Casino in Nowhere, and Duluth were the continuing goals before our endpoint, Two Harbors on the North Shore. (I prayed to every god I’d ever heard of to have it not be teh casinos – I ain’t’nt a gambler, not a bit.) We had an appointment in Forest Lake and while it was not a fun drive, we made it. Well, late. Well, quite late, but everyone else had cancelled for the morning, so it was merely annoying. Having finished our appointment, we fueled up, gas and caffeine, some temperature had been introduced into the situation and the roads had cleared. Right past Hinckley, right into
The glimpses of trees on my right and left, and occasional taste of rumble-strip, vaguely defined the interstate. Blowing snow reduced the vision to anywhere between about a quarter mile and a negative integer. We were not the only deeply, deeply wrong people on the road, which was a problem – I had complete faith in my pick’em’up truck, I have NO faith in anyone else on the roads, a lack of faith justified by those attempting to pass me on the undefined lane, and the CROCKSOAKING IDJITS driving WHITE GODDAM CARS WITHOUT RUNNING LIGHTS ON in A BLEEDIN’ WHITEOUT.
I considered stopping at Black Bear, but the roads themselves were not horrible, there was grip for the tires, and as I said, I totally trust my truck, and I never saw the damn place anyhow and missed the exit. It was only 20 miles (55 minutes) to Duluth and I have been known to be stubborn. Once. Errr, a bit.
My kidneys had fashioned a white flag and planted it in my forebrain, so we stopped in Duluth for some relief. Blessedly, Duluth city had sand and had apparently decided not to store it over the summer, and for the first time in hours we were driving the speed limit (never having seen a change in our actual speed – hell, for one short stretch we were speeding. Rebellion, anarchy now! Duluth, by the way, is a damn cool city, very pretty, 20degF colder than anywhere else on the planet no matter the time of year, lots of cool shit! You go now.)
The Final Leg – To Orodruin
The roads between Duluth and Two Harbors were fine and we got to town in 35 minutes. Yeah, anticlimactic. Bugger off. We stopped for groceries and directions and drove to the resort. On arrival, paleo did have a need to get his blood pressure back under control.
The Stone Gate
The Stonegate resort, right on the North Shore – our cabin is 30 feet from Lake Superior-induced hypothermia, and the storm and seas have been raging since our arrival, it is honestly perfect. To an extent, I am a storm junkie. Many years ago, I had the fortune to stay in a similar location, on the North Shore, during a helluva blow, spray to the cabin windows, the arrhythmic pounding of surf and whistling of wind that counter-intuitively lulls you, when in a warm cabin, admittedly, into a deep feeling of peace. I’ve wanted to experience that again very badly.
I got it. I got it.
Sweetie and I are in heaven on earth.
Before she went to bed (I was already out), sweetie went outside for a couple minutes.
Sweetie – “It was scary – you couldn’t really see the lake unless you really stared. But it sounded like sitting next to the tracks in a tunnel as an unseen train went by, it was horrible.”
The Stonegate has a number of cabins, three of which are on the water, but all are really nice – modern conveniences (I’m getting too old to winter camp – bbllfftt!), gas fireplaces, there is a (currently iced over) observation deck. A ton of windows and space, but placed and built for privacy. Kusarigama. The manager is a militantly bubbly young woman named Anne who we found very friendly and helpful, can’t say enough good about Anne and the whole place. To be ever so briefly serious (moi?), this place is awesome, if you are looking for a great vacation spot I recommend it highly.
B. (Brad) E. Nelson Scandinavian (primarily Swedish according to Sweetie, but other stuff too - a bodhran which I would have ended up with until I found out it was not for sale and remembered I ain't got rhythm) Crafts. Sweetie rediscovered the 'magic of Visa, but she is also getting into crafts herself (yay! - early retirement), and the gentleman spent a generous amount of time with her giving tips and showing thingies - if he had a website I'd direct you there, but his business plan has yet to fully come to fruition. And he had this! Which I shall be acquiring.
I am a big fan of small town hardware stores, as they must serve everyone, had to buy a box of left handed Veeblefetzer Grblems for Mrs. Tookalefse. In 1973. They still have 4. And then there is this.
At a coffee shop on Scenic 61, we came across this, which convinces me we left too soon - hey, smelt don't eat themselves...
Oh, and smoked fish! Can't forget the smoked salmon and lake trout for paleo - I couldn't find the shop that I remembered (shockers!
What was I saying?)
But we ended up at Russ Kendall's, rather highly regarded, however, I had not yet been there. Fixxored! I have had smoked fish for lunch two days in a row, thereby making my tummy happy and annoying the shit out of my co-workers.
Our last night Sweetie and I cooked - grilled spare ribs, baked potatoes (lingonberry butter! - not my taste of tea but Sweetheart thought it was good). And, we finally got some nice weather.
Of course, it snowed and sleeted like a bastard on the way home...
A Note On Travel Writing
I’m not a travel blogger, which should be obvious based on my travel blogging. I’ve only done a couple other pieces, one of dubious truthiness, and a couple properer trip blogs of great little trips and fantastic places that I wanted to share. This post is a properer trip blog as well, this is a cool resort, and I genuinely want everyone to get to the North Shore, it is that neat.
I want to share this stuff because most travel writers ignore the real treasures in the world, in favor of Paris, or London, any place in the Michelin guide. Fuck Michelin. I’ve been to London – it’s perfectly good, a slightly more interesting big city, but fundamentally it is just a big city. I’ve been to Paris. Ummm.
Every twenty years or so, for a couple centuries, Viking would sail the Seine to Paris and burn it to the ground. Some people think that this indicates the violent culture of barbarians, or, a culture with the foresight to realize that their horned hat get-up would eventually become the logo of a sub-mediocre NFL teams owned by a Sopranos cosplayer. Both theories are wrong. The Vikings were trendsetters, and we should get on the train. And don’t accuse me of Francophobia, most of France is quite lovely, but Paris is squalor defined, the people as rude as advertised, (the roaches are better behaved), and I never understood the attraction until I went there, at which point I realized the attraction is because of rampant insanity amongst the percentage of the population that likes Paris.
I wonder if small portion of a travel writer’s brain ever goes back to that day when, fresh out of J-school, maybe even Columbia, and with dreams of taking down a President, or at least pointing out repeatedly that the President is a black man with a dangerously exotic name and working for Fox, the editor of the Snappertown Daily Wossname assigned the young writer the assignment of covering the opening of the new Denny’s. And dies a little.
So professional travel writers? Take your ‘101 Cool Things To Do In Tokyo On Your Publication’s Dime’ guide and beat it senseless with something heavy, and get out and actually see things, real things. Please?