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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Late summer adventures and road trips

Scarlet Stone
Posted 9/13/23

It’s 6 p.m. on a Monday evening and I’ve been sitting on the couch following a dinner of barbecued country ribs with green beans and red potatoes that I fixed in my Ninja Foodi. I always …

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Late summer adventures and road trips


It’s 6 p.m. on a Monday evening and I’ve been sitting on the couch following a dinner of barbecued country ribs with green beans and red potatoes that I fixed in my Ninja Foodi. I always get a little nervous when I use the pressure cooker setting, ever since my mother told me about a fellow schoolteacher whose pressure cooker exploded leaving her with no injuries, but she had to clean the entire kitchen following the ordeal.
What a scary thought and a waste of cooking efforts followed by a messy cleaning project. I prefer ordinary cleaning projects involving no grease or bathrooms but instead just calm, unchallenging household dust. It’s just a quiet constant in life along with cat hair, a random dirty sock, and cookie crumbs and to think any other way about these minor things in life is a waste of otherwise joyous moments.
Speaking of such moments, I had one this past week in the upstairs bathroom when the water was once again turned on with no sputtering, spraying, or soaking occurring anywhere. Hats off to my handy friend, “The Horse Whisperer” who made it happen. I, too, contributed my efforts to the project and with just a bit of trim work left I can cross that one off the list.
A couple weeks ago, I took a little get-away drive to the south shore of Lake Superior with my son Keaton and his fiance Ashley. We’d all had our noses to the grindstone all summer working our various jobs, so a day trip was welcomed. I thought it was going to be hot, so I wore a sweatband, visor, sleeveless tie-dye top, denim shorts and some hippie jewelry with athletic shoes in case I had to walk further than a block. The kids picked me up at my Soudan house along with my large striped L.L. Bean tote filled with a pillow, light jacket, blankie, and water bottle. These are the staples for this senior’s best backseat day-trip along with snacks that were picked up here and there along the merry way.
Keaton came inside my house to use the bathroom, took one look at me and said, “You aren’t wearing that are you? You look over-done and your flabby, hairy little knees are showing!” I burst out laughing! “Back off kiddo, leg hair quit on me a decade ago and flabby knees are gravity’s fault!”
We left Soudan with Keaton driving, made a drive-through breakfast stop in Virginia, and headed south. At my request, being the keeper of an aging bladder, he pulled into the Anchor Lake rest stop.  As I exited the car I said comically, “Now don’t make fun of my knees,” then casually flipped him off knowing he’d be chuckling at me as I stiffly walked away from the car. It was all in good fun.
The two of them navigated through Duluth perfectly, “Great job guys, I exclaimed!”  Moms do that, even when our knees take the brunt of a few jokes. We eased right through lots of construction where they are sure to add plenty of off-ramps, under-passes and at least one of those annoying roundabouts I’d bet. Time will tell.
Speaking of annoying round-abouts, a couple weeks ago I rode with my friend Jack in his Jeep to an 86th birthday party in Grand Rapids for a mutual friend of ours. On our way back through Hibbing, Jack encountered the new round-about at the junction of Highways 37 and 169.
First of all, nobody in any vehicle should ever swirl around those things like fast water going down a drain, but they do. It was just one narrow lane and Jack got confused and eased to the right a bit then I quickly corrected him to stay left.
Suddenly, the loud horn sounding from behind was nearly enough to topple the small plate of birthday cake I was about to enjoy right off my lap. A truck aggressively pulled up alongside me and I looked over to see a man’s large, square face hollering “You Mother F’er!”
I was happy-go-lucky, simply twiddled my fingers in a hello gesture and gave a quick perky smile. He looked like a cartoon character with the large round blue sucker he was holding in his left hand. I mean really, “Calm yourself pal,” I thought, it’s not worth dropping your sucker or ejecting my birthday cake from eager hands and down onto gritty floor mats.
I can’t believe roundabouts don’t contribute to more accidents than they do but MnDOT claims they show an 86-percent decrease in fatal crashes....but what about cake casualties? I’m sure many slabs of birthday cake have hit the floor as a result of them. Dreadful.
As we continued to follow the angry truck-dude through Hibbing I encouraged Jack to hang back in case the guy leaped out with an assault rifle or something at the upcoming stoplight. These days one never knows. Hot summer temperatures and challenging driving situations have been a part of my summer.
Let’s not forget the messed up crossing south of Cook by the Angora post office where Highway 1 joins Highway 53. Every time I encounter that I shake my head because you can’t cross the road. The powers that be insist you take a right and drive north a bit, ease into a left lane, turn around and then come south in order to go west at the intersection.
It used to be the case of just using your eyes, making a judgement call based on learning to drive when we were all sixteen and making your strategic move to simply drive straight across. 
Ah, there is so much babysitting occurring with rules and regulations these days it makes me wonder how I have lived to be in my mid-sixties. For the most part, I leave concerns over stuff like this for others.
On our day trip, all the way down and back, I was in the back seat where aging mothers go (not the trunk), and was sometimes feeling like the upholstery, or just some needed maternal fixture in the background. They laughed, chatting back and forth with my occasional comments often unheard or not responded to.
I thought, “Do they even remember I am here? Just wait until we stop for lunch, then they’ll be excited when my wallet flies open.”  
I’m glad they are capable, independent adults and am happy to take a nap, eat snacks, and sightsee. We drove to Ashland, Wis., and over to Ironwood, Mich.
I enjoyed visiting some favorite places like The Black Cat Coffee House in Ashland that I used to visit on sales trips north from Hayward where I worked for WOJB Public Radio on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation back in 2002. Plus, we stopped in at Rigoni’s Bakery in Ironwood, where the clock seems to jump back to the 1960s with industrious baker-ladies in hair nets, work dresses and aprons creating savory original Cornish Pasties.
There were stops at some other cute shops and opportunities to spend time looking at Lake Superior. Anytime I can go across the bridge to points beyond Duluth is a good time and in this case, the perfect start to fall. I know there are plenty of household and work projects on the horizon.

Until October...enjoy these beautiful fall days.