I’m writing my last post for Mark in Maine and my first post for Nick Up North as a slow-moving thunderstorm rolls off Lake Superior and drops maybe an inch or two of rain on our quiet Duluth neighborhood.
I kind of missed thunderstorms.
Maine doesn’t really get thunderstorms. Sure, they get rain, wind and plenty of rough weather, but we rarely heard any thunder and saw no lightning during our three years in Bangor. Hey, if you gotta have a wet and rainy day, why not add a little drama with loud explosions and a crazy light show, right?
But this post isn’t about missing the midwest.
Or maybe it is.
On Tuesday night, we drove across town to a coffee shop called Beaners in West Duluth. The place was hosting a week of live music and Jen knew one of the performers, a singer/songwriter named Emily Haavik. After the show, we chatted with Emily as people filed out the door and headed home.
“So are you going to miss Maine?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said. “We made a lot of friends there and it was such a great place to explore. So beautiful. The ocean. Acadia. All the little towns. We loved it.”
Emily said she had never been to Maine, but wanted to visit someday – a common response from people I meet in the Northland. Maybe because the two places are very similar: Rugged, mostly empty timber lands cling to the rocky cliffs over a massive, foreboding body of water. Hearty, independent people who know how to hunt for food and drive a snow plow.
Yes, Minnesotans appreciate Maine and might want to visit the place someday but when it’s time for a winter vacation, most forget about lobster and book tickets to the beach in San Diego.
Which is why Jen and I feel fortunate about our Maine experience. A job took us to Vacationland. We weren’t tourists passing through on a sightseeing bus. We had to shovel out after a snow storm. We bought milk at a corner grocery. We paid water bills and could drive to the Bass Harbor lighthouse without consulting a map. Sometimes it felt like we were ex-pats living in Paris circa 1927 – except we had to eat bland sausage pizza instead of confit de canard.
Yes, we got to climb Cadillac Mountain, hike the Gulf of Maine shoreline, eat seafood right off the boat, ski the carriage trails AND we got to sleep in our own bed at night.
But Maine is a long way from home: 1,800 miles to be exact. After awhile you miss the midwest. You miss the birthday parties, the home team, the corn on the cob, the Grain Belt. Our last three Thanksgivings have been in New York, Montreal and Boston. I’m not complaining. It’s just time for a turkey dinner.
Duluth has a little bit of that Conde Nast Traveler allure to it, as well. The city is undergoing a transformation from gritty rust belt town to regional vacation mecca. The steep mountain bike trails, the shoreline strolls, the ocean-going ore boats, the craft beer tap rooms and, of course, that vast, ever-changing, fresh water wonder called Superior. I’m looking forward to exploring the north shore with my favorite person in the whole world, my smart and lovely wife, Jen.
Bring on the thunder.