“On the road again,” and we found ourselves “on the shores of Gitche Gumee,” Longfellow’s rendition of the Native American Ojibwe name for Lake Superior.
To begin our Midwest adventure, we landed in Minneapolis and then drove to Duluth, Minnesota–a first-time visit for us–along roads bordered by green trees, pink and purple lupine, and lilacs in full bloom–a soft early-summer landscape. I heard myself taking deep breaths and resting into the ease of driving on roads with fewer and slower moving cars than we are used to in our California life.
Once in Duluth, we went to one of the city’s go-to sights, the Aerial Lift Bridge which spans the canal between Duluth Port and Lake Superior. The vertical lift bridge has a 180 foot clearance when it is completely raised. When we approached it, the light flashed red; we stopped, watched the mid-section of the bridge rise in one horizontal piece like an elevator, and then saw thirty to forty tall sail boats float under the raised bridge, out the canal toward the lighthouse and Lake Superior beyond.
When we reached our nearby hotel, the young men checking us in gave us a Gazette listing the hotel’s amenities, breakfast and happy hour times, shuttle service and weather reports, AND the schedule for large ship departures and arrivals. We chose our ship and time for the next morning and then headed out for dinner.
We drove about 20 minutes north along the Lake Superior shoreline to a restaurant friends had recommended–The New Scenic Cafe, in existence for 20 years plus. A circle of Adirondack chairs around a fire pit in front of a lean, clean wooden Scandinavian-vibe building greeted us. We were seated by a window facing the lake in a room that had small birch tree trunks and branches gracing the corners.
Our waitress was friendly and knowledgeable, and patiently described all the details of our food options. We knew we wanted some local fresh fish. Herring was it. We shared both a baked herring sandwich on ciabatta bread, and a ratatouille lasagna. The lasagna was unique, with quinoa cooked in vegetable broth with currants providing the bottom layer. On top of that came asparagus, pureed leeks, sliced yellow tomatoes, sliced zucchini, goat cheese and a balsamic reduction. With our meal, I had my first-ever Slovenian wine, a Kobal white. We ended with a seasonally appropriate rhubarb tart. Oh, yes–my midwest husband was happy.
A final unique touch was the bill arriving inside a leather bound guest book, in which guests could write their immediate reflections about their meal. We wrote a note, paid our bill, and were so thankful to have experienced this little northern U.S. gem.
The next morning we got up early for a posted 7:30 a.m. departure of a 997 foot ship carrying iron ore. We walked the short 10 minutes to the bridge and waited. And waited. It never came. When we checked the on-line schedule, we saw that the departure had suddenly changed to December 31. We were disappointed; we had wanted to see that large ship up close and personal, but it was just not meant to be. A next time perhaps….
In all, the time in and around Duluth reminded me of the gift of being in a new place–an opportunity to see new ways of being and living.
Tune in next weekend for more big and little Midwest wonders!