I’ve never been to Vegas. It seems like a good thing to do this year, the year being the one where I turn 30 and forget how much fun I used to be. Bright lights, fancy shows, impressive martini-like cocktails. Yes. Vegas would do.
And I’ve never been to Boston. It seems like a good thing to do this year, the year being the one where I turn 30 and forget how good exploring feels. Deeply historic, yet quirky and modern, comforting pints of nut-brown lager. Yes. Boston would do.
But when I was out-of-town this last week, I found myself on a much different trip than either of the two listed above. It didn’t include any overly eager TSA agents. No resetting of internal clocks to another time zone. No wandering a city that smelled brand new and was mysteriously shrouded in its offerings.
Rather, Dex and I headed up to the North Shore, and this trip was more about doing old favorites than discovering the unknown. For him, this meant a beer at Fitger’s in Duluth. For me, this meant climbing around Gooseberry Falls outside of Two Harbors.
And we spent the hours in between doing exactly as we pleased. We found a Duluth smokehouse/sandwich joint fresh off the fame of a Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives episode and impolitely inhaled corned beef and smoked turkey and an amazing mustard-mayo-hybrid-sauce something that I unabashedly licked off my fingers.
Dex tried patiently to teach me how to skip rocks along the shoreline, until I let go of one before I expected to and hit him square in the back. (“Fucking city girls”, I think I would have seen flash across his face if he had a mean bone in his body, and really, at that point, who would’ve blamed him.)
At Fitger’s, I learned that apricot beer is the new BESTTHINGEVER and HELLYESYOUDO need to buy a growler of it. This, naturally, led to marinating on our hotel porch that was mere feet from Lake Superior.
And by marinating, I am referring to that weird limbo your body is in when the beer is warming your insides but the wind off the lake is freezing your face off. That weird limbo where, after about 20 minutes, you’ll find yourself wrestling for a little more than half your share of the blanket. That weird limbo where, another 20 minutes after that, if you aren’t running tactical scenes from the Hunger Games through your head, scenes in which you begin to believe that you could prevail with ALLOFTHEBLANKET, then congratulations. You officially love each other.
We stood atop a lighthouse, and read historical tidbits, and talked to real live people outfitted in early 1900’s style clothing, who were pretending to be the original lighthouse keepers. (Which I am happy to report that Dex seemed pretty unterrorized by, which is quite the accomplishment on his part after considering I dragged him to a day of Fort Snelling reenactments on the hottest day in the history of the world this last summer.)
We wandered way too many small town gift shops where Dex, likely horrified by my enthusiasm, bought me the GREATEST PRESENT IN ALL OF THE LAND: kid-sized fingerless gloves THAT LOOK LIKE SKELETON HANDS. And yes, they glow in the dark. Obviously. *swoon*
Also, speaking of small town gift shops, and in the spirit of full nerd disclosure, I also bought moose socks. Which, as you can see, come in roughly a two-inch by one inch package, small enough to fit in my Post-it note holder, and you have to put them in water for them to expand to full size. Dex is ridiculously excited about this. (I get historical leeway. He gets science leeway. See?)
Okay. Sorry. Back on point here.
And so after the beers, the historical pit stops, the gift shops, the photo snapping, and the sandwich inhaling, we were also left a lot of time to just be. To “be” in a way that you do not have time for in a new city. At least, I don’t. I am always wondering: What is behind the next corner? Did we see enough? What else should we plan on doing? What else can we squeeze in before our flight home? In that sense, I am awesome to travel to new cities with. If you want to SEE a city, I promise you, we will see the city. And in that same vein, I am not awesome to travel to new cities with. I want to go, go, GO, and if you want to relax, and breathe, and take it all in, I’m absolutely going to drive you insane.
That’s how I would have been in Vegas. That’s how I would have been in Boston. And, while I looked briefly at taking one of these two trips this fall, I knew that the North Shore, right now, was much more what I needed. What we needed, when I realized that Dex was going to be able to come with.
We finally didn’t have a schedule, which, for us, is huge. Yes, every couple has a schedule, but not many couples have schedules that are the complete opposite. We NEVER, EVER have even one day a week, even one day a month, that we are both well rested and relaxed. He works on my weekends, I work on his weekends. While he’s running around in the mornings, I’m crawling into bed. While he’s fighting sleep at 9:30 pm, I’m just hitting my prime. We officially have built a relationship on running at half steam. And now, we finally had a few days where we were both running full caliber, and not drinking coffee 12 hours apart, and not having to plan quiet time around the other person taking a nap.
And so we were able to wander, and take in the sights, and talk long after we had covered the routine, quick “check-up conversations” that relationships of every kind tend to fall into. We laughed, we unplugged, and we actually, finally relaxed. And any other trip would not have had this result.
And therein lies the magic of the North Shore. Yes, the scenery is beautiful. Yes, the small towns along the way are charming. But they only kill so much time. The magic lies in realizing that you better really like who you are enjoying the North Shore with, whether it’s yourself or someone else. Because, suddenly, all the other people, sounds, and situations of the city aren’t there to distract you. Instead, the silence envelopes you, the slow pace restrains you, and you have to choose if you are in a place of relaxation, or panic.
So Vegas is still waiting for me. And so is Boston.
And I’ll commit to them the same as I always have before, and simply say
“Maybe next time.”