Support the Timberjay by making a donation.

Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Gondolas, grapes, and grumbles...

Scarlet Stone
Posted 10/4/23

Two weekends ago, after my son threatened for three years to get me on Lutsen’s Summit Express Gondola for a ride up to the top of Moose Mountain, his wish came true. He, his fiance Ashley, …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Gondolas, grapes, and grumbles...


Two weekends ago, after my son threatened for three years to get me on Lutsen’s Summit Express Gondola for a ride up to the top of Moose Mountain, his wish came true. He, his fiance Ashley, myself, and my friend “The Horse Whisperer”, drove down Highway 1 to the North Shore to enjoy the fall colors even though we couldn’t see much because of the heavy fog and drizzle that day. I had packed us sub sandwiches as a last-minute idea, but forgot to buy the meat; however, the cheeses, veggies, and Dorothy Lynch (a family-favorite condiment), did raise them to a very acceptable level. 
We munched on the sandwiches, chips, and sweet, juicy grapes in the car because the thought of plopping onto a wet picnic bench had no draw. After finally finding a parking spot at Lutsen, we waited in line for about an hour to board, then rode up in a steamy, water-streaked gondola that made for substandard viewing. This experience was a bit sketchy for me with my fear of heights, but I figured since I hadn’t heard any past reports of the cable snapping, it’d probably hold for my journey. I vocalized a bit with sounds of trepidation during the ride and avoided looking down at times, but it was an accomplishment for me none the less. The things we do for our kids!
The heavy fog probably eased my nerves because the awareness of height and distance were limited. I counseled myself as I have done with my fear of flying overseas. “Scarlet darling, if ya won’t board the plane, ya won’t see the castle....your excitement will end seeing the Duluth Kohl’s sign on the horizon.” It works every time, and I go forth and conquer. Heroics aside, we got cold and wet waiting in line to board going both directions. Sleet was blowing off the roof of the boarding platform up on top and despite rain jackets, our backs and pants got very wet. I was glad I wasn’t the young twenty-year old girl in a t-shirt and short-shorts, even if she did have an admirable set of legs. 
We had fun regardless of the weather and decided to make yet another attempt (because it’s been a life-long goal), to stop at Betty’s Pies further down the shore. Hopes were dashed, saliva glands shut down, when long waiting lines at Betty’s door and a jammed parking lot sent us skittering down the road to Duluth.
One day I will get there and by that time it will probably have switched owners and become another rock or driftwood shop. 
The four of us had a great day partially because “The Horse Whisperer” rarely leaves Kugler Township so we were excited to get him to the North Shore. At one point I exclaimed, “Look, there’s Lake Superior with some pretty big waves!” He replied dryly, “I could have seen that on Lake Vermilion.” I think the tunnels interested him, but it’s hard to tell with H.W. as he leans heavily to the reserved side and is not prone to gleeful expression.
This past weekend started with a trip down to Cotton on Friday afternoon to retrieve my Viking sewing machine from my friend’s husband Mark, who used to fix them professionally. I hauled my deceased mother’s portable Viking machine to have that tuned too, but ended up changing my mind and gifting it to them for their granddaughter’s use when she is old enough. I certainly don’t need two Viking sewing machines.
It was a great visit back in the woods once I got off the pulverizing washboard gravel of the Bug Creek Road to their property with the handcrafted home and assorted outbuildings and gardens. It’s such an idyllic peaceful setting. Mark also worked as a mechanic for St. Luke’s then advanced after he taught himself to become a certified electrician. He also learned to fly airplanes and has one of his own including his own airstrip on their property. It’s quite fascinating! They are highly unique and intelligent people who also homeschooled all four of their daughters with one becoming an accomplished Airforce pilot flying high-level missions. 
Lately, piloting my 2005 Jeep has felt like a low-level mission with so many dashboard lights coming off and on for no apparent reason. On the way down to Cotton last Friday, I stopped in Virginia to get an oil change. My check engine light had been on again and also my air bag light had started going off and on that day with a “ding” alert about every two minutes. How annoying is that? The technicians at the Valvoline store were not able to assist, so they told me to head over to an auto parts store nearby because they had a code reader that they could use to diagnose these issues.
The young man at the auto store said that he could not pull up any code from my Jeep on his device, so he couldn’t help. He told me to go over to a local dealership to get help with the “dinging” airbag sensor light.
Well, I took his advice and called the dealership first and a short-tempered woman said I would have to bring the vehicle in for diagnostics first, then a repair. “Another large bill,” I concluded. Well, I just sort of think that at this point I’m just gonna let it “ding.” Maybe it will burn out or just miraculously stop. I’m not eager to spend $500 on a “ding”!
Back in June, I was notified with a letter from my bank that my house payment had shot up $300 a month due to my house insurance rates going up. The loan officer at my bank told me I should pay the $950 escrow shortage by the end of the month to get it back on track. I ended up panicking and quickly getting cheaper homeowner’s insurance, but with other bills I had to catch up on this summer, I finally got the escrow shortage paid this past Monday. I did not get consistent information from my bank in regard to escrow, and that sort of thing is annoying to me, but I will let it go. I try not to let these things consume me anymore. It’s just life stuff. 
When my errands were finished, I took some back roads home from Virginia as I headed north, just to get off the beaten path and relax. Highway 26 gave way to a left turn onto Wiseman Road with its brilliant colors against the blue sky. The breeze was shaking and shimmering bright gold poplar leaves like coins on a belly dancer’s costume. Dark tree shadows reached across the pavement in front of me like long outstretched fingers clinging to the far side of the road, hesitant to let autumn fade to winter. The dark shadows were broken only by patchy reflections of the gold from the trees causing a striping pattern on the dark pavement.
I drifted, for the first time, onto the Rivers Road where a favorite scent of warm pine needles wafted through my open window launching a deep smile across my face. “It’s a good life,” I thought. “Ding,” went my sensor light.
I passed a large, fenced garden that had been harvested. Visions of industrious ladies in cotton aprons came to mind and I thought about their sore feet, sweaty foreheads and tired hands from hours and days spent preparing wonderful food in kitchens for their families and friends. How nice, how extraordinarily cozy, how generous and delicious. I was one of those ladies once I remembered.
“Ding” once again…as if to acknowledge in agreement. I finished munching my Caribou Coffee sandwich and admitted to myself that I prefer the mental visions of these things instead of actually doing them on a daily basis anymore. It would be wonderful if Oprah Winfrey’s chef could just move in and whip up the culinary wonders for me, I thought, because I don’t care to cook much anymore. After arriving home and taking a wee nap, I still squeezed in what could be the last bike ride of the season.  
Off I rode on my RAD electric-helper bike to zoom through yet more gold leaves and fall foliage wonder. Later that night, I took candles out on the deck and sat in the warm breeze looking up at the stars and the sky. I felt gratitude for much....except the “ding.”  
There is nothing however, that could ruin my fun fall experiences. I hope you had some too.