(Editor’s note: A busy month of moving from our rental in the Lakeside neighborhood of Duluth to our new home in Chester Park caused a Nick Up North blackout. The start of summer also might have played a factor.)
Things I’ll miss about living in Lakeside:
- Sammy’s Pizza. The pizza in Maine was terrible: Thick, doughy crusts, an unforgivable lack of cheese. Tasteless sausage. The complete absence of grease. It was a three-hour drive to Portland, home of Otto Pizza, the only good pizza parlor in Maine. Sammy’s Pizza is thin crust goodness, an avalanche of cheese, spicy sausage and glorious grease. It was at the end of our street. Three minutes away.
- The secret Lake Superior beach. Take a five-minute walk down to London Road. Crossover into a vague parking area, hike down a short root-filled trail and jump over a small creek. You’re there: On the shore of Lake Superior. Rocky beaches. Boulders the size of Volkswagens. Piles of driftwood. Fresh water that’s too cold for swimming 11 months out of the year. Perfect.
- The Lester Park Bike Trail. Lester Park sits at the east end of Lakeside, the same way California sits at the western end of the United States. It’s big. It’s beautiful and it’s a wonderful playground for outdoor enthusiasts. My favorite part is the mountain bike trail. If you’re strong enough to ride to the top of Seven Bridges Road, you’re crazy enough to bomb down the Lester Trail. It’s a 22-minute rollercoaster of ups, mostly downs, switchbacks and bridges, almost all of it with a roaring river off your left shoulder. Just don’t look down.
- Saturday mornings at Johnson Bakery. “If you have to live in Duluth, you better live in Lakeside,” said a 20-something dude in front of me buying sweets. He was talking to the disinterested red-haired woman behind the counter. She was another 20-something. They had gone to high school together. They didn’t really know each other. But this morning they both shared in that Lakeside Pride – if just for a moment. It was moment that delayed – for all of five seconds – the purchase and consumption of an amazing cinnamon sugar donut.
- The great neighbors. Dave is an ink-stained wretch like me who could charge $100 a day as a mountain bike trail guide. He does it for free. His wife Amy cooks up a mean bowl of chilli and their dog Toes fearlessly barks at bears on TV. Their backyard bonfires are the best. Pam and Teresa have a trio of little dogs that form a Lakeside welcoming committee; Pastor Terry has the sweetest sounding truck in Duluth and yard full of bonsai trees. I’m not even going to try to describe Eddy in the next block – just read his book.
Things I won’t miss about Lakeside:
- Shortchanged sidewalks. Apparently in Duluth one neighborhood crank can shut down half a block of sidewalk. That neighborhood crank lived on our block. So off we trudged into the street for our evening constitutional. Kids getting off the bus? Off they go running down the middle of the street. At least I didn’t have to shovel in front of the house.
- No booze. So when Duluth annexed Lakeside more than a century ago it agreed to keep the neighborhood dry. Blame it on a leftover chunk of prohibition-era politics and a fear of the “Bowery” moving east on Superior Street. After decades of fighting, the law was repealed last month at both the state and city level. Too late for me. I was never able to get a Hamm’s with a slice of my Sammy’s pizza.
- The 40th Street stop light on London Road. When I-35 hits its northern edge in Duluth it turns into London Road. That means leftover interstate highway traffic passes through Lakeside. Throw in a tricky turn to create a blind intersection and you have a t-bone collision just waiting to happen. And don’t even think about making a right on red during summer tourist season.
- Trapped behind a school bus. Every Tuesday morning I volunteered at an elementary school across town. Every Tuesday morning I got caught behind a junior high school bus making its way up the hill. Eight stops. 10 minutes. There’s no other way up the hill.
- Bursting water mains and reckless city truck drivers. Ever wake up in the morning to Old Faithful doing its thing at the end of your front sidewalk? Don’t worry the Duluth Water Department is here to save the day. “I better move my truck,” I tell them. Before I can lace my boots, a utility truck gets backed into the front end of my Toyota. “I’m really sorry,” says the Duluth Water Department “driver.” Only the body shop winds up happy.