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Three days in Duluth

August 2, 2020
Todd, Susanna, Cyrus, Roland and two rats live in Duluth.

August 1, 2020

Returned Friday from traveling to Duluth and back.  P. and me, and our granddaughter, Olivia.  She’s a peach, 13 years old.  I love her more than life itself.  She got her cousins Cyrus and Roland to stand with her in a row and stare blankly at me as I parked the RV.  Anyway, they were teasing me, overtly, and I had an emotion.  Olivia gave me a hug.  Awww.

We left several days ago from Billings, stopped at Miles City for food.  Fast-food from a drive through.  That’s the trouble with traveling with a 13-year-old. She has opinions about the drive throughs.

Stopped again in North Dakota, at the Painted Rocks Overlook.  We always stop there.  High nature, low commercialism.  Gunther likes to romp around.  Oops.  I forgot to mention we took Gunther.  Saw no charismatic animals.  Saw no non-charismatic animals either.  Except Gunther.

I love Eastern Montana.  People were good to us.  I also love North Dakota.  People were good to us there, too.

We’ve gotten to know a few places.  This time we stopped at a Good Sam RV park at Jamestown, ND.  P. didn’t like it because the toilets were closed and it was near noisy I-94.  We had electricity and water, also sewage dump.  No toilets, no showers.  I liked the proprietor, because he rode his bicycle around his park to lead us to the camping spot.  We had no fireplace, however.  (I wasn’t about to build a fire anyway.)  Olivia and P. cooked hot dogs over our Coleman stove flame.  Because I was busy trying to test our electrical connection, P. cooked two for me.  Bugs were starting to get fierce.  P. said she never wanted to stay there again.  Olivia said the man fell off his bike twice.  I liked the man, who wore a mask.  In making decisions, Olivia and P. formed a voting bloc to defeat me.

The man had a pair of lawn chairs situated at the edge of his park, overlooking a field of soybeans. He encouraged us to watch the sun set.

Next day we roared through North Dakota and Minnesota to Duluth to the arms of our son, Todd, his wife and two boys.  I misstated. I walked up to Todd and I asked him if he’d been exposed to Covid. “Every day!” he replied. We touched elbows. Todd works in a hospital ER.

We immediately drove to one of the many creeks that trickles through Duluth to Lake Superior.  Todd, the children, and I swam in a great pool that was brown from tannins that got in the water from the hardwood trees, I presume.  Cyrus and Roland swung from a rope to drop 10-15 feet into a deep pool.  The water was pleasantly cool.  Olivia is a good swimmer like Cyrus and Roland.  Todd noted that people have been getting hurt there for thousands of years.  Other youths also jumped into the pool from a variety of rocky ledges.

We emptied the water out of our ears, Gunther jogged up the steep hillside.  In my worried haste to climb up the rocks and to help Gunther I left my wet swimsuit and bag of gear.  I didn’t remember until we had returned to the cars.  Grandson Cyrus jogged back for those.

An amazing coincidence occurred.

A man and woman walking by noticed the license plate on our RV.  “Billings Montana?”  He said.

“Yes,” I replied.  “How did you know?”  

“Saw your ‘3’ license plate.  We lived in Missoula 11 years.”

“I’m from Missoula, originally,” I said.

“I taught at the University of Montana,” he said.  “Pharmacy.”

“I am a retired pharmacist,” I said.

“Where did you retire from?”

“Mostly Lame Deer, I was with the Indian Health Service.”

“I’ve done pharmacy in Lame Deer,” he said.  “In fact, I did TDY at the new clinic there one Summer.”

He said his name was Tim Stratton.  I remember he filled in for me when I attended our daughter’s wedding in Southern California.  He remembered that I had people’s photographs on my walls in my office in Lame Deer.  I didn’t meet him then, because he arrived after I left and he departed before I returned, so we wouldn’t recognize each other.

Tim left Missoula and now teaches pharmacy at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

We marveled at the coincidence, keeping socially distanced. I honked at him and his wife as we pulled away from the parking place.

Back at Todd’s, Olivia, Cyrus, and Roland played with Roland’s two pet rats. That night we slept soundly, like the rats.  

Next day we all went East along the Lake Superior North Shore to somewhere where we could join the hiking trail.  We hiked 3.5 miles to Bear Lake. I was soaked with sweat because it was 80 degrees and humid.  We also climbed about 1,300 feet elevation.  P. was concerned because I wrung a few cups of sweat from my shirt.  However, we all swam, except Todd’s wife Susanna.  She didn’t need to swim.  She was cool about hiking.

I thought it was a “death march.”  Everyone else thought it was a pleasant walk.

We slept well again.  Especially Gunther, I noticed.  The next day Gunther napped most of the day.  So did I.  However we came alive in the evening and went swimming in Lake Superior.  Not me, but most everyone else, including Gunther.  I think he swims.  I’m not quite sure.  Dog paddles.  We ate sandwiches Todd bought.  We drank some kind of carbonated beverage.  It was mostly water, but delicious.

That night we shared wine.  Well, I didn’t have much.  The women shared most of it.  The kids had none, of course.  We ate left over pizza.  The three cousins played with the rats again, that were getting kind of stinky in their dirty cage.  We didn’t allow Gunther to menace the rats.  Or for them to menace Gunther, either.

Friday P., Olivia, and I got up early to drive back to Billings in one day.

Because Todd said he was disappointed we left Duluth so soon, he threw eggs at our RV.  One struck the hinge on the back door.  The other hit the window behind the driver’s seat.  In the morning I used a toilet bowl brush to scrub off the egg white and yolk.

Todd said he threw the eggs, but I’m not sure.  Cyrus might have been the thrower.  Roland would be more apt to do it, then blame Cyrus.

We drove all day through Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana.  We got a lot of bugs on our windshield.  I love the route, the people we met.  I like those folks.

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