Destination Training

What’s better than doing a training ride?  A ride with a destination!

My husband and I have initiated Saturday training rides together, as part of our preparation for our cycling vacation this summer.  Today we set our sites on Mocha Moose, a funky coffee shop up the North Shore just before Two Harbors.  It would make a nice 34 mile ride round trip – not bad for our early season training.

Never mind that it was 40 degrees and cloudy.  Never mind that there was going to be a headwind on the way back.  Never mind that “real athletes” never stop.  It was warm and friendly inside Mocha Moose.  The decor was eclectic, as required for a true coffee haven, and the offerings were tempting.  Having done our homework, we’d originally set our sites on the sinful cinnamon rolls.  But when confronted with the bakery case, it was the breakfast turnovers that called to us – layers of flaky pastry surrounding ham, cheese and egg.  We’ve earned these, right?

Owner Patti lived up to her vivacious reputation, and kept us entertained while we lingered.  She was a bountiful source of local flavor, including tales of other cyclists who are regulars at her place.  And she was just as easily absorbed in the details for our upcoming cycling trip, which will pass by her door.  We just might have to make it a stop on our tour!

The Miracle of Life

There is nothing like the birth of a baby, especially when it is your grandchild.  With our first, we cherished holding our little bundle, just hours old, in the normal confines of the hospital room.  But this second one had a different plan!

I was the designated grandparent to come stay with big brother, should the trip to the hospital require leaving in the middle of the night.  Sure enough, I got the 3:00am call asking me to come.  I jumped in the car and raced down the highway for the half-hour trip, little suspecting the drama that was unfolding.  I arrived to find two police cars in the street with lights flashing…  Inside, I was met by my son-in-law, Matt, who informed me that baby Mya had already been born!  Less than 10 minutes before, the baby had made her abruptMya footprints entrance into the world, on the bathroom floor attended only by her parents – before any help could arrive!  By then, the police were cheerfully assisting and the EMTs soon joined them.  It was a scene of joyful chaos, as baby and mother were both doing well, and it was just a matter of preparing them for the trip to the hospital.

How privileged I felt to be present.  To see baby Mya, just minutes old, still white with mucous but already gaining a pink glow.  To hug Matt, still fresh from the shock of delivering his own daughter, impressed with his level-headedness through it all.  To see my own daughter, Karen, radiant with joy as they strapped her into a chair to take her downstairs.  Relief and happiness were written all over their faces.  They were precious moments, that will remain with me forever.

When the assembled multitudes finally left the house, and the street returned to darkness, it was unbelievably quiet.  Big brother Ben had slept through it all!  The adrenaline was still pumping through my body, and I could hardly wait for dawn to come so I could take Ben to the hospital and hold that little bundle – cleaned up and wrapped in hospital blankets, as expected.

Click here for Karen’s personal account of Mya’s arrival.

Click here for pictures of the event.

Lunch with a View

It’s all in the perspective.  I had lunch with a friend recently.  It had been a couple years since we’d gotten together, and in the meantime she has fallen in love with the North Shore.  While she had always been a year-round runner, and did some cross-country skiing, she didn’t consider herself an outdoors person.  But that has changed!  I was amazed to hear her excitement over camping in the early spring and late fall, hiking the trails and staying in a remote cabin mid-winter.  She’s already anxious to get up there again.

It made me reflect on my own love affair with the North Shore.  Some of my earliest memories include picnicking on “The Rocks” and dipping our toes into the chilly water.  My family’s interaction with the shore was more limited to car trips to visit parks or ski at Lutsen.  It took my high school girlfriend to introduce me to camping at Gooseberry Falls before I really engaged with the outdoors.  But that was a wonderful beginning.  From there, I embraced hiking, backpacking, canoeing and cross-country skiing.  I learned to get closer to nature and experience the shore first-hand.  I expanded the seasons for my visits and discovered the many different faces of Lake Superior’s shoreline during the freezing months.

Hearing my friend’s enthusiasm made me realize what a rich cache of experiences I have with the North Shore.  We are so fortunate to have this rich wilderness area right in our back yard.  Sometimes it takes hearing it from someone else’s point of view to help us remember that.


The best birthday present

“What is that?” my husband asked skeptically.  “A mother/daughter journal”, I replied.  He was clearly not impressed.  To him it was just a hard-bound blank book, probably a last-minute purchase for a birthday present from my daughter.  But I knew better.

Inside was the start of something wonderful.  It was an entry by my daughter, complete with pictures of when she was little and filled with words about what I meant to her.  She captured moments and recounted memories that filled me with warmth.  But the next step was up to me – I was to write back.  Since that day, the cycle has repeated itself many times, as the journal has been passed between us for many years.  Sometimes the exchanges have been in rapid succession; others occurred with months lapsing in between.  But each return fills me with anticipation.  Reading it requires the right time and place – surprisingly, days may go by before I find time to sequester myself for my private read.  But I am always rewarded.

That first entry was in her senior year of high school.  The journal has seen us through her college years, figuring out that her best friend was meant to be her husband, launching her teaching career, wedding planning, and the joy of her first child.  I’ve traversed maneuvering through a job change, easing into empty nesting, performing in a church musical, watching my mom slip away into Alzheimer’s and ultimately her loss.  We’re well into volume 2 with no end in sight.  Just recently I handed it back to her, and can’t wait for her to read my entry and respond.

I knew it.  It was the best birthday present ever.

An Invitation to Dinner

I’ve always been an organizer.  So it probably was no accident that soon after we moved back to Minnesota in 1985, I started up a “Gourmet Dinner Club.”  It seemed an unlikely group, with three other couples whose only common bond was their connection to me and an invitation to a trial dinner at our house.  But somehow it all worked.

Before going any further, I should quickly dispel any notions that this was a high-brow, strictly silver palate group.  The concept was simple: The host chose the theme, planned the main course and provided the wine.  The other accompanying dishes were provided by the guests.  Sometimes assignments were made, occasionally recipes were provided (by those who required control!), and at times it was left up to participants to choose.  Most often the meals were delicious.  A few were marathon sessions of overly rich foods.  Occasionally a dish was a complete flop.  Once we even took ourselves out to dinner.

We’ve seen plenty of change over the years.  In the early stages, dinners often required a trip to the library to research ethnic recipes.  Themes were sometimes elaborate – remember those “Mystery Dinner” games?  Yes, we did them in full costume.  Then children came along, and recipe selections were based on what could be prepared between a soccer game and driving carpool to music lessons.  Since then the internet has simplified everything.

And here we are, 27 years later and still going strong!  We’ve seen each other through raising children, weddings and now grandchildren.  We’ve shared the loss of parents, and the stress of job changes.  We’ve marveled at tales of exotic travel, and agreed on the simple pleasures of going Up North.  We came together for the food, but we’ve stayed together for the friendship.

Ah, Memories!

What kind of memories do you take away from an experience?  Do you remember the sights, the sounds and the smells of the places you visit?  I think I retain visual snapshots of certain scenes, probably reinforced by the real photographs I take with my camera.  But none of this compares to my friend who has “food memories!”

Name any trip, and she can tell you her favorite restaurants and what she ordered.  Name any gathering of friends, and she can remember what was served.  We’ve been going on annual cross-country ski trips for the last 20 winters, and she can recall the specialty dish from each bed and breakfast where we have stayed!

I will admit to a certain degree of food-centricity in my life, so I rather enjoy these food memories of hers.  We entertained ourselves for a good portion of the long drive home from the North Shore on one of our recent winter trips, recounting all those breakfasts together.  In fact, on the strength of that exercise, we added a new category to our trip journal to go with our notes on kilometers skied, weather, equipment failures and B&B ratings – you guessed it, food memories!

What will you remember from your next adventure?

Cycling Novice

I’m a runner.  I thrive on long runs, training for marathons and getting out early in the morning before the rest of the world wakes up.  Why cycling?

My husband, Rich, took up cycling several years ago and is now hooked.  He thinks nothing of coming home from work late-afternoon and cycling 27 miles before dinner.  That’s a medium distance bike ride for him.  He’s done several multiple-day bike trips, including a Father/Son 350 mile trip through Northern Minnesota.  And now he wants me to go on a bike trip with him…

Change is good, right?  What will it hurt to miss a marathon this summer and gear up for cycling instead?  I’ve agreed to the challenge, and even started my training rides, thanks to our early spring.  Admittedly, my initial excursions into the countryside have been a lot of fun!  Besides, I have a shiny new high performance bicycle, so I can’t back out now.

Classic or Skate Ski?

To me, they are two different sports.

Classic is for the woods, preferably on the North Shore.  Narrow trails, lined with trees whose branches are heavily laden with snow.  Out in the middle of nowhere, with no sounds other than the swish of my skis and the plant of my poles.  This is where I can lose myself in my thoughts, as the rhythm of my movements propels me along the trail.  I can explore all sorts of topics in my mind and still take in the beauty of nature around me.  Classic skiing is good for sharing time outdoors with others.  It’s not about the speed or the distance, it’s about enjoying winter, the snow and the scenery.  Classic is for the woods.

Skate skiing is a workout!  It’s great exercise and there is constantly room for improvement.  Better hill climbing, mastering V-2 technique, tucking on the downhills, cornering effectively, powering my poles with my abs.  There is so much to get right, and it feels so good in those occasional periods when it all comes together.  It’s also my chosen technique for ski races.  I’m an endurance person, so it’s the long distance ski races that appeal to me.  And skate skiing is my chosen option for completing 35 to 50k in a race.  Skate skiing is a workout!

It’s not a bad thing to view them so differently.  One sport, two vastly different experiences.  I rather like that!

You’re moving where?

At a time of life when most people are looking to go south for the winter, our chosen direction is a bit unusual…  Up North.  Rather than flee winter’s cold and snow, we embrace it.  It’s no accident that our new home in Duluth is right across from the Lester/Amity ski trails.  What better way to start a sparkling, sunny winter morning than striding or skating along the trails?  And at the finish, a mug of steaming hot chocolate is only a short walk away.

This snow-starved winter, our backyard trails were sadly of no use.  But Duluth was still a great starting point in our quest for snowy trails.  Weekends found us driving up the shore, where the Onion River Road became a staple for our ski workouts, and later on the After Hours trails in Brule, WI garnished enough snow for good ski conditions.  Many thanks and kudos to those who carefully tended those trails to keep them skiable for the winter enthusiasts like us!