Truthfully, a bit of a blur. After so many years of rambles around the world, how can I not have the infrastructure of every trip down pat? In fact I seem to get the details a little more wrong each time…consider winding down you say…Oh.Shut.Up. Fortunately Patricia planned all of the good stuff, where to go, main attractions, and even a list of gluten-free eating in the neighborhood. I, on the other hand, planned the bad flight times and missed all the crucial checking in details for our rather strange hotel/airbnb/highrise overnight adventure in Montreal. All of this is just to say I feel tired and a little discouraged. Anyway here we are in our historic hotel in history-laden Quebec City in the historical center of the province of history-rich Quebec, Canada. It’s morning, we’ve finally had a long night’s sleep and soon we’re off for more crepes…gluten be damned…and a history walk.
The journey so far. Albuquerque to QC. Best I can do since life keeps feeling ever so slightly OFF.
Train Montreal to Quebec City.
Checking in at the Hotel Manoir d’Auteuil. History, expensive, friendly, so comfortable with an extra bed put in for us. Except Patricia like it colder and I prefer that warm and muggy summer environment.
A touch of history.
Patricia and I are ‘getting the heck out of Dodge’ for a week. Montreal and Quebec City. We’re recreating Patricia’s 16th birthday trip to Paris ten years ago. Well not quite, Montreal doesn’t exactly have the same vibes as ‘the city of lights’ but it’s way closer than Albuquerque. I’m posting this lame little entry for tonight primarily to get back in the habit of blogging while traveling… So unfortunately no pretty pictures or clever insights or even major complaints, just me trying to stay awake until 9pm. ‘So sad’ our faux-leader would say. I wrote on the plane for awhile…it was early and I was anxious and tired and attributed my despondency to the sleazy one. Writing it down helped… so last mention of this for the entire trip I promise. Here on in it’s all about Canada and granddaughter and grandmother hanging out in the world.
I am always amazed at what excellent travel buddies all of my grandchildren are…well except for Sara on trains. Patricia for example is a great organizer/manager…exudes the kind of confidence I badly need when I’m tired and confused which happens more often than I will ever admit out loud.
Anyway today went like this. Airport at 4am gross scrambled eggs and potatoes at the Denver airport (Denver Central Market-avoid) sleepy so P. got fat new neck pillows for us booking.com messed up our hotel reservations because it turned out to be an airbnb kind of apartment that had intricate check-in instructions but now we’re in and we’ve been to the deli. Yeah, P. says, that’s about it. I had gluten-free crackers and cheddar cheese for dinner, P. has a salad in the frig. Dear Diary, on my summer vacation…
Train to QC tomorrow and an historic luxury hotel for two days. Pictures…many pictures.
MACROSTIE ART CENTER, GRAND RAPIDS MN
BOB DYLAN HOUSE AND SCHOOL, HIBBING MN (where he grew up…although he almost never admits it)
GREYHOUND BUS MUSEUM, HIBBING MN
HULL-RUST-MAHONING OPEN PIT MINE, HIBBING MN
This was, surprisingly to me, a remarkable site and sight. I’ve never seen an open pit mine of this size before, and for some reason I find heavy duty mining, drilling, industrial equipment oddly beautiful. (Thinking of the Petroleum Museum in Stavanger, Norway). It also prompts one to think of what the business of extracting the earth’s riches means in positive terms: work, (dirty dangerous, hard work it’s true), for millions all over the planet for centuries; and industrialization bringing us most of the comforts and ills of today. It is complicated indeed.
When I was a kid we went visiting. Over to the neighbors, over to the friends, maybe further away to visit the cousins. Visiting consisted firstly of serious amounts of coffee and ‘lunch.’ Usually the latter included sandwiches (white bread, luncheon meat, cheese, butter, jam), sauce (home canned fruits of many kinds), cookies, and cake (the cake having been quickly put together and into the oven after the company arrived) and pots of the blackest of coffee. The other visiting component was talk, as much of that as there was coffee. Talk talk talk, the men in the front room, the women in the kitchen, the kids all over outside. No tea, beer, or wine (maybe Kool-aid in the summer). No TV, no smart phones, no music. Just talk talk talk laugh laugh laugh.
Yes, I am as old as I sound in that paragraph. And I am sentimentalizing my rural childhood! Now, introverted urban dweller me, I would not want to return to those days of unannounced ‘company’ with the women relegated to kitchen while the table’s set and the cake bakes, but every year when I’m home we partially recreate that old art of visiting for at least one drive out to the Week’s.
Helen Week, mom and dad’s only living friend turned 97 while I was in Minnesota. She was the youngest grown-up of the two Weeks’ families that were my folks’ best friends. So of course, Robert, Marsha and I went visiting and, it so happens, Helen had just baked a ginger molasses cake earlier in the day. Three of Helen’s kids were home so old stories got told and we laughed and consumed coffee in respectable Minnesota proportions. Helen’s not quite her boisterous and jokey younger self…but she’s not so far off either.
It is harder to leave each visit with our Week’s family-friends. Helen’s age makes us fearful of not seeing her again while our ages (Robert, Marsha and me) make us only too aware that our freedom to visit scattered family and friends will soon be compromised. We can’t quite foresee all of the ways but the signs (called birthdays!) are impossible to ignore—whether for reasons of strength, health, economics, or worse, desire. I am almost more frightened of not wanting to ‘go’ as I please than of being unable to do so. But that’s not yet…when we drove away I vowed to see Helen and Barb and Kathy and Norm again next year.
Vaca is nearly over. This has been an authentic vacation—as in doing as little as possible and then only the most pleasant of activities. I’ve started sleeping again which was a touch-and-go proposition for awhile before leaving Albuquerque. I’ve read and read and read. Visited—as in sitting around talking to people you haven’t seen for awhile—and if in Minnesota, drinking coffee and eating cake. In other words, slothing (an act of just lazying around, an act of indolence , moving around clumsily or lazily.-says Urban Dictionary) So here’s a small slothing album.
The Food Section: Part of ‘vacationing’ is eating food other people have cooked and/or eating things you ordinarily wouldn’t. I’ve been totally meat free (working toward vegetarianism, seafood- free as well…but not yet) all year. Made my only 2019 exception by taking Dried Beef sandwiches up to the Old Place for our day of reminiscences. Mom always made them for excursions because they tasted the same on Day #3 as on the first day! Maybe not a recommendation but never mind that…I will always love them.
The house I grew up in and I are disintegrating at about the same rate. Actually the old house may be even more wrecked than me but its dilapidation is far more interesting to behold.
To me it is beautiful here, where I grew up, just as it is: overgrown, collapsing, old timber and stucco buildings reverting to woods. The welcome wagon meets us on the road and then we just walk around and listen to our young voices echoing through the treetops.
Marsha’s toe became calcified—or something like that. Doctor said ‘it must go.’ So it was chopped off. It’s a bit more complicated than that but there’s apparently nothing life- or even gait-threatening so we all feel free to poke fun at Marsha’s Toe Story. I thought it should enter cyberspace for the sake of posterity.
Family really is what it’s all about isn’t it?
But now for the ROAD TRIP.
Life in Minnesota moves along just as it should. Sleeping again, visiting cousins, stocking up on moose and walleye sweatshirts and enough new shoes for all the abs classes and walking marathons of next year. And a road trip. Granted it was not of the fifteen-hundred-miles-plus kind I enjoyed so much in the past—still it did stir some slumbering road-trip genes awake. This is good since Scott, Teresa and I are road tripping across Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in the near future.
My Minnesota road trip took me west on US 2 (in times past the main east-west routed in the northern US) from Grand Rapids to Deer River, up Highways 46 to Northome, 1 and 72 to Baudette, 11 to Roseau, 89 to Red Lake and on down to Bemidji and finally US 2 back to Grand Rapids. About 400 miles. It’s not the most spectacular route—no mountains, oceans, grand cities or historical monuments but there are enough aspen, spruce, balsam, and birch for my annual/biannual tree fix. Between Roseau and Bemidji the grand sweep of Red Lake keeps me occupied and the first visit in 20+ years to Lake Bemidji and Paul Bunyan and his loyal companion, Babe the Blue Ox makes me happy. Mom and Dad were married 81 years ago on the shores of Lake Bemidji.
I’ve made road trips of over 4,000 miles in the past, often by myself, and loved every dusty or rainy or ragged or scenic mile and almost every second-rate motel. The Albuquerque to Grand Rapids trip of a couple of years ago finished off that lifelong passion and, while it makes me a little sad and a little nostalgic to say that…it’s time I suppose. My first long trip was when my family moved briefly to Portland, Oregon when I was sixteen and I wound up driving much of the way, especially through anything resembling an urban area. My dad had never driven in a bigger metropolis than Bemidji and he wasn’t about to start then. The car was a maroon 47 Chevy (Robert remembered) and since the trip was in ‘55 it was a newer model than we usually owned. I lost the car in (to me) a huge Portland parking lot our first week or so there and my mom and I had to take a bus downtown and spend most of a day searching for it. Northome (300 pop.) had not prepared us well for city life.
Back to yesterday.