(Merry Belated Christmas! I'm terrible at deadlines, which is why this post is weeks late. Better late than never!)
In my last entry I wrote about how stifled I've felt and how much I need time with friends. So, when my friend D asked me, half-jokingly, if I wanted to accompany her for a short trip to Ontario, I jumped at the opportunity.
Bright and early, Monday morning, we loaded up D's Jeep and headed north. Between the two of us, our "essential" luggage took up the entire Jeep, which is hilarious since both of us have lived abroad and should know how to pack light. Anyway, among clothes, toiletries, and laptops, we had snack food and audiobooks. And let me just say: I was pumped for this road trip. Ever since I came home from my summer abroad, I've been itching to travel again. Sure, Ontario isn't all that exotic, but it's the first chance I've had to visit Canada since the passport laws made it impossible for me to visit. (Up to this point, my Canadian experience had been rolled up into two summer days of a family road trip when I was thirteen. The water in our motel's pool totaled six inches and was coated with algae, while the walls of the pool house were lined with broken box springs. At Niagara Falls the next day, my mom told me to get out of the car and stand in a parking spot. Within five minutes, a French-speaking couple nearly ran me down with their vehicle. It was also the 4th of July, which didn't matter in the slightest to the parking spot thieves). In other words, when D and I departed on our wintery adventure, I sought a better impression of the vast, mysterious country to the north.
The air outside the car was excruciatingly cold, but the skies were clear for us as we headed up 35. Black ice was really the last thing on my mind, but out of nowhere, the everything started spinning. The scene before the car spun twice, impossibly fast, yet somehow it was almost slow, graceful. Then, as suddenly as it began, it stopped.
Thankfully we'd had sweet potato chips to gorge ourselves on for comfort as we waited for the tow truck. Apparently being ditched in the median is more dangerous than being stuck on the side of the expressway, so the tow truck arrived less than an hour after our mishap. I suppose at that point, any rescuer would be a glorious site to us, but D and I agreed that we lucked out on our young, chivalrous, farm-boy handy-man of a savior. (Man, did he know how to rock a pair of wranglers! We considered asking him for a photo together, but decided against it for the safety of the other cars on the road. Sadly).
After a pit stop at the gas station for a bathroom and the loading up of Nut Goodies, we were safely back on the road. D and I continued our girl-gab, gushing over our rescuer and lamenting that we would never have that picture together. D opted to drive considerably below the speed limit to avoid other ice patches. We didn't stop again until Duluth, where we mildly tortured ourselves by walking outside in the freezing air before getting a bite to eat. The hours went by and we found ourselves buying gas across the road from the Beaver Bay Mini-Mall. Classy.
By the time we reached Grand Marais, we were both hungry for an actual meal. Food could wait, though, because the sunset over Lake Superior was too sublime not to photograph.
|The sheets of ice kept shifting in the powerful current as I took this photo.|
|My fingers froze in the winter air, but I think this picture was worth the pain.|
Since the sun had set back in Grand Marais, the last stretch of our drive was in the dark. As we approached the border, D and I dug our passports out for inspection and she assured me that the checkpoint was all a formality. Recalling the endless border agent protocols in Eastern Europe, I was pleased to hear this. Unfortunately, the Canadian border patrol proved to be more trouble than any of the officers I had encountered abroad. He regarded us suspiciously from the moment we gave him his passports, rattling off questions that only became more pointed as the list went on:
What is the purpose of your trip?
Whose family friends?
What are their names?
What is his occupation?
How do you know a member of Parliament?
Where are you staying? At his house?
Do you have any firearms in your vehicle? (He didn't trust our simple "no" but elaborated).
No automatic or semi-automatic weapons, hunting rifles, shotguns, handguns, mace, or knives? (I was surprised that he failed to ask about throwing stars, blunderbuss, or bear spray).
|But what about my Bear Spray? Is that allowed, Mr. Border Agent?|
We finally made it to our hosts' house, but not before getting lost and facing mild despair. They were relieved to find us safe and intact, feeding us hearty Canadian food before showing us to our basement rooms. Mine was the bigger, windowed room, complete with a temperature of arctic proportions. I shivered on my bed, waiting for the shower as I turned the space heater full blast on the nightstand. I was occupied with chatting to my mom online when out of nowhere, everything but my computer screen went dark. In the bathroom, D's blowdryer went silent. For a few stunned seconds I sat in the dark, disoriented by the shock of cold air that now smothered me in the absence of my heater. Freezing, I jumped up to find D and learn what had just happened. The combination of the hairdryer and my space heater had apparently shorted the circuit in the bathroom and my room. Since our hosts had already gone to bed, D and I decided to share her room, which was smaller, windowless and, most importantly, had power. Between several layers of wool blankets, the space heater, and shared body warmth, the cold wasn't unbearable.
D had some business at the local college for a good chunk of the next day, so I settled in to the campus library, surreptitiously people-watching while pretending to read. Most of the students near me seemed to be finishing their term projects for finals week, which made me terribly nostalgic. Oh, how I miss the campus life. Sadly, I didn't find an opportune moment to actually talk to anyone, thwarting my ulterior motive for the trip.
|Unfortunately, I didn't get to bring home the souvenir I wanted. Boo.|
|Frostbite is a small price to pay for a stunning winter portrait.|
When we got back to the house, we had another full meal and played board games with our hostess into the wee hours of the night. D and I both packed our things so we could load the car quickly in the morning and get started on the long drive back. We also wanted to leave early to get a few sunrise photos.
|Sunlight over cattails|
|The quintessential parka pose|
|Me and D at Split Rock Lighthouse|