On December 28th, still less than a week ago, I was in the Bay Area for Christmas with my family. While there, during a short trip to Santa Cruz to watch my niece and nephew play in the sand, a cadre of comfortably dressed folks rolled up with instrument cases and sheet music. Then this happened:
The Ukelele Club of Santa Cruz playing “Sweet Georgia Brown” on the beach in late December. Where I’m sitting at the moment, in a tiny studio apartment on the edge of downtown Duluth, that beach feels more than a million miles away (it’s actually about 1,564, as the crow flies).
One day after Santa Cruz, I flew back to Milwaukee and less than 24 hours later, I drove down to Indiana, just outside of Chicago, to spend New Years Eve with friends. On the morning of January 1st I was back on the road, this time to Duluth (finally), with two close friends who live/work here. Whew.
We drove through Gary and Chicago (Gary’s looking more the ‘hog butcher’ these days, if you ask me), pitstopped in Milwaukee, skirted Madison, breezed through the Dells, Tomah (‘it’s not a Tomah!’), Eau Claire, and then a long, quiet stretch of northwestern Wisconsin in the dark. Our route was like a band’s first tour. Or semi-pro indoor soccer team’s road schedule.
The drive was mostly blustery and grey — we drove through snake after snake of that flailing, wind-blown powder snow. Over the speakers, we did Maria Bamford’s Unwanted Thought Syndrome (‘Hi Marilyn, it’s the Baby Jesus…’) and then some uptempo Charlie Parr, which gave us plenty to whistle and snap along to. For most of the trip, I sat in the passenger seat, picking at my beard, coughing, and thinking about Duluth. Bleary-minded and somewhat impatient with the road, my thoughts really went something like “Duluth. Duluth. Duluth… Duluth.”
When we finally saw a soft yellow glow breaking the darkness straight ahead of us, I sat forward in my seat. I got out my camera, which had been broken and repaired just a few days earlier, and tried to capture these first lights from the moving car. The old Canon s90 wasn’t terribly cooperative, but you might get the idea:
During this last stretch, my friend/car-mate Jamie, who grew up and currently lives in Duluth, remembered a story from his childhood about a groggy return home after a trip to the Cities.
“You have the big lake, and all the antennas, and the roads — they’re so bumpy.”
We breezed through Superior, as quickly as the lights would let us, and over the Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge. I was incredibly excited. The lake was big, there were plenty of antennas, and the road seemed pretty smooth. Again, my camera did it’s very modest best to capture the moment:
I’d been to Duluth before, and we were all pretty tired after the drive, so the grand tour was spared for a later date. We did, however, stop at one vista before capping off the trip. This is the view from First United Methodist — the Coppertop church:
And finally, because it’s always worth checking behind you when you’re at a vista, this is the view of the church:
Hello Duluth — look forward to getting to know you.