“There’s nothing like returning to a place that’s unchanged to find ways in which you yourself have changed.”
Friday: the day before
Just finished packing the car with everything I’ll need for my drive to Minnesota. Besides clothes and toiletries, I’ve packed work essentials, my sewing machine, coffee grinder, Bonavita coffee maker, and some grocery goods to get me started on my solo adventure to the North Shore. Since I’m pretty particular about eggs and coffee creamer, I bought a Yeti cooler in the hopes of being able to refrigerate these items during transport. Crossing my fingers this cooler is as good as they say it is!
My phone has three audiobooks downloaded, and I’m packing my lunch so I don’t have to drive thru for fast food. (It’s official. I’ve turned into my parents!)
The drive to Two Harbors, Minnesota is about 16 hours. I’ll be heading out around eight o’clock tomorrow morning, and driving all the way to Des Moines, Iowa– roughly eleven hours, not counting stops. On Sunday I’ll only have about five hours left, and I know I’ll be glad that I got as far as I did, rather than dividing the drive time evenly between two days.
I’m off to finish up some last minute chores before I focus on spending time with my family. I won’t see the kiddos for about three weeks, so I’m going to soak up every moment I can tonight…assuming they are in the mood for it because #teenagers. Haha!
Saturday and Sunday: travel days
The drive from the Dallas area to Two Harbors, Minnesota is a little over 16 hours. I borrowed four audiobooks to make the trip a little less mundane, and this is my strongest recommendation for solo road trips! Audiobooks make the time fly by.
I backed out of my driveway at 7:30 AM on Saturday, drove through Starbucks and hit I35 going North before the roads got busy. My only stops along the way were for food and gas, and I pulled into Johnson, Iowa right at 7:00 PM. I had booked a room at Stoney Creek Hotel for a very reasonable price, and was really pleased with my accommodations. The room had a small fridge with a freezer, microwave, K-cup coffee maker and was really spacious and clean. Hotel staff were helpful, and suggested B-Bop’s as a tasty option for some fast food. I absolutely recommend the Sloppy Joe sliders! So. Delicious.
Early Sunday, I got up, packed my things and loaded up the car. Before I left the hotel, I checked the Yeti, so see if I needed to refresh the ice, and I did not. Really only about a fourth of the ice had melted, so I was feeling pretty good about my Yeti purchase.
If Iowa is where the beauty kicks in on the drive, Minnesota seals the deal. Beautiful woods and lakes line the highway, and about every third car has kayaks or a canoe strapped to its top.
So I have to tell you that Duluth blew my mind. I came over the hill, and couldn’t figure out what I was looking at, with the city stretched out in front of me. Large areas of brown, flecked with white, oozed out into the city, and it all looked like it was moving. Turns out, it was Lake Superior, with white capped waves, undulating along the city’s edge. I didn’t remember the lake being so reddish brown, and I’m curious enough to want to find out why that part of the lake is a different color from the rest of it.
Getting settled in my AirBnB took a while, since I brought so much with me. When I finally unpacked the Yeti, only about about a third of the ice had melted! Color me impressed. Very impressed.
When I was just about finished getting set up, I called in an order to Betty’s Pies for dinner, and drove the eight minutes to pick it up. I hadn’t eaten a lot the last two days, so the hearty meat and potato pasty with gravy and coleslaw really hit the spot. Of course I ordered a slice of pie, and in honor of my arrival to Minnesota, I choose blueberry.
Monday and Tuesday:
I spent most of the day on Monday looking at houses, and getting to know the town of Two Harbors. Our realtor set up appointments to see all of the houses that fit our parameters, and two are possible retirement homes.
Afterward, I drove down to the lake and took a walk out to the lighthouse. The sun was out but the wind was chilly- glad I had a sweatshirt. The shore along the bay is rocky, and I picked my way out to a washed-up log to sit and watch the water.
There is only one grocery store in Two Harbors, and it carries just about everything our grocery store at home does. I ran through and grabbed some necessities, and ended up staying in for dinner.
Tuesday morning I had a bit of work to do before lunch, but as soon as I was done, I headed over to Vanilla Bean. Since restaurants are still closed to dine in, I scored a table on the patio, and ordered a mimosa straight away. Their menu is amazing, and it was hard to choose, but I settled on a cup of chicken and wild rice soup, and the haddock cakes. Everything was absolutely delicious.
Feeling fortified, I went back to the house and packed a small backpack for a hike at Gooseberry Falls. About an hour later, I drove North out of town on Highway 61 to Gooseberry Falls State Park.
I’ve settled into a routine; working in the morning, going out to grab a bite for lunch, and exploring this wonderful town in the afternoon. It was cloudy this morning, but lucky for me, the sun broke through around 2, and the day warmed up.
Two Harbors has huge ore docks where enormous barges are loaded up with iron ore to carry across the lake. The docks are really interesting to look at, and it’s neat to see the barges maneuver into the bay and up to the docks to be loaded. Here’s a video showing that process.
One of the things I really like about this town is that thee are quite a few places to walk around along the water. I parked by the ore docks and walked toward the lighthouse. Along the way, I saw several families of Canada geese swimming around with their goslings. So cute.
Getting outside for a walk and some fresh air is a great way to spend a couple of hours. As I was walking back to my car, it began to rain big, fat raindrops so I drove home to curl up with a cup of coffee and a good book.
I worked most of the morning, and by 11:30 I was hungry for lunch. Blackwoods is right along the main drag of Two Harbors, so I thought I would give it a try. Since it was mostly sunny, I decided to ask for a table on the patio, even though it was a tad windy. I ordered the chicken pot pie, which they make from scratch, and it was dee-li-cious!
When we were in Two Harbors five years ago, we took a day trip to Ely, Minnesota. Along the way we saw a beautiful little lake, and I set out today to find it again. I drove along, following the same drive we made before, looking for the turn out to the lake we saw. About six minutes after entering an old growth forest, I saw a dirt road that ended in a flash of water. After making a U-turn, I drove down the dirt road to the edge of a good size Minnesota lake.
The lake was desolate, and the only sounds were the lapping of the waves, the creak of the dock, and an occasional bird. I stayed for quite a while, reading in the warm sun. With all that has gone on the last three months, it’s been a gift to be able to pause and follow the gentle meander of hours and thoughts I have when I’m not going at break-neck speed. (I think it’s Greenwood Lake, but can’t be sure.)
I took a walk through the woods around the lake to stretch my legs before packing up my cooler and backpack and heading back to Two Harbors.
Today is my last day alone in Two Harbors, so I decided to do minimal work and spend most of the day outside. I started my day driving North on 61 to Beaver Bay. For lunch I had fish and chips at Camp 61, and prowled around a few of the shops nearby. After a bit, I jumped back in the car and headed south to West Split Rock River, where I climbed down the hill to walk along the rocky beach. It’s a really beautiful area, and while I was there, I saw a bald eagle soar across the valley and into the trees.
All of the sun and fresh air made me hungry, so I stopped by Do North Pizza for dinner. They were not serving dine-in, so I got my everything pizza (minus the cheese because I’m just that odd) to go. The crust was thin and crispy, and with all of the delicious toppings, I was in pizza heaven!
It was a glorious day, and I enjoyed every moment by the water. If I had doubts about buying a home here for retirement, they are evaporated. The people of Minnesota are warm and friendly, with a direct and no-nonsense manner that I find so endearing. I would be so lucky to call this place my home.