On Returning to Your Old City, Pastimes, and Habits. Also, The Death of a Camera.
06/05/2011 65 °F
I’ve finally found time to relax. I’ve had two weeks of “downtime” at my disposal and I decided to spend them rambling around my old stomping grounds near Duluth, Minnesota. It’s weird to come back to a city you used to know intimately. It’s almost like revisiting an old friend you haven’t talked to in a while, it could be really good, or perhaps not. Sometimes it’s best to leave some cities to the good memories you have instead of trying to relive them. Ultimately, I had some business to take care of in the area, and so I decided to spend a week. I wanted to visit some friends, practice some of my old pastimes including: getting my van back together, bouldering, slack lining, and taking a culinary cruise through some of my favorite restaurants.
It took a week to get my van back from the repair shop. I had planned ahead, but apparently I hadn’t planned far enough in advance (everyone likes a good mechanic) and so I had to wait for it to get ready before I could hit the road. A week of downtime is equivalent to a prison sentence to me. I was a bad customer, and kept calling them everyday. I couldn’t help it. When my vacation is winding away, I get impatient.
In truth, it was probably good for me to be grounded for a bit. I have a tendency to keep moving, without taking time or making time for things that are just as important to me as my vagabond lifestyle. Namely, my family. I’m not a great brother. I don’t call enough, I don’t visit enough, and I don’t write enough. I hope y’all can forgive me for me rascality. I’ve made some sacrifices to make this lifestyle possible, and unfortunately, my family bears the brunt of these sacrifices. The good news is they take it well enough, humoring themselves as they attempt to answer questions about my whereabouts.
“So where’s Thom these days?” asks some yawning distant relative.
“Well, he spent the winter in Mexico, but he just got off of the boat in Alaska, and he was in California for a bit, but now I think he went to West Virginia for the weekend to go rock climbing. Come to think of it he just got back, but left again, now he’s in Minnesota spending some time on the North Shore before he flies out to Alaska in a week.”
I like to think of my life as entertaining if nothing else. I’m just a squirrel trying to get a nut, just like everyone else. I happen to prefer to migrate instead of hibernating. The jury is still out on how I’ll turn out; I’m putting my money on “happy.”
Random Photos From My Sojourn
This is some of the coolest graffiti I've seen.
I visited an old graveyard and was struck by the dilapidation and the green of the place. It was peaceful.
It’s taken a bit of an adjustment to get back into this idle lifestyle after seven months at sea. The first night I slept out in my van, I felt alone for the first time in a long time. When I woke up to a beautiful morning of blue skies, white gold sunlight streaming though my windows, and all the lush greens of late spring in the Midwest, I felt at peace once again, and was reminded of why I love my van. Go to sleep with a view, that’s what I say. Who doesn’t like waking up to a gorgeous morning view?
I’ve been getting reunited with the parks of the area. I stayed a couple of nights in Jay Cooke State Park. I went climbing along the shore just northeast of Duluth, solving one problem that I’ve been trying to solve since 2003. This reinforces the fact that I’m in the best shape of my life, at 30. I’ve slack lined at Brighton Beach, and also in Enger Park. Brighton beach is in east Duluth, and is a pleasant place to chill out on the lake and spend an afternoon balancing on your slack line. Enger Park is high up on the hill in west central Duluth. You can see it’s location from almost anywhere in Duluth, by looking at the high stone tower that stands high above the skyline. It is a pleasant park, full of cultivated flowers, a peace bell from Duluth’s sister city in Japan, that makes a rich metallic song when struck with the wood chime that resonates nicely through the park. There is also a beautiful little copse of mature hardwood trees. I really like the trees.
I also spent two nights up at Temperance River State park, a mile south of Tofte. The Temperance River is an awesome example of the cutting power of water. The river descends down from the hills and has cut its way through a very narrow rock canyon. The river empties into Lake Superior, after coursing over a series of waterfalls. It’s a very cool park with a lot to offer the energetic vagabond. There is great hiking, long boarding, or biking, bouldering, swimming, and slack lining. The usual suspects…
Temperance River was also where I dispatched my camera to a finale. In other words, I killed it. I didn’t mean to of course, but these things happen. I had set up yet another self portrait at a secret spot of mine, and was in mid pose when I heard a “CRACK” and looked up in time to see my camera and tripod slide down the incline of a rock into a small pool of water. It had completely submerged itself, as if to reiterate the fact that it was dead. As I ran to it, I wondered if the last picture would turn out, I imagined some low angled shot of myself with a surprised look on my face, my mouth open in a tragic, “NOOOOOOOOO!”
I took out the battery and memory card, shook it, turned it on, and it briefly revived. Then nothing. I laughed. I honestly did. What can you do? It was my own fault, and I’m not one to dwell on things I can’t do anything about, so I laughed. It was a fitting end. I had taken well over 12,500 pictures with that camera, so it wasn’t like I didn’t use it. It had given me many great photos, and I’ll remember my first digital camera fondly. R.I.P.
Besides, now I have a new camera… :-D
This is a picture of my friend Joe. He wanted some pictures of him on his motorcycle, and so he gets the honor of the first subject for my new camera.
One week to go, before I return to Alaska for two months. For now, Bon Voyage!
Post Script: On Food
Where to eat should you find yourself in the Duluth area.
Gordy’s Hi-Hat in Cloquet, MN. Classic Diner, great burgers.
Vintage Italian Pizza, in Duluth.
Texas Roadhouse in Duluth. Dynamite Steaks.
New London Café in Duluth. Cinnamon Strudel French Toast, aka Heaven on a plate.
Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake. Great Sandwiches.
I offer this list as a good place to start, and nowhere near comprehensive. These restaurants just happen to be my favorites.