Road Trip 2010: Winging it

After a very enjoyable night at the Comfort Inn of East Fargo, it was time to hit the road for our third day of driving. You know you’re staying in a classy joint when one of the patrons arrives at the ‘complimentary’ breakfast…without any shoes on his feet.

In true Johnson form we had gone back and forth a thousand times on which direction our journey should take. Via Duluth, across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? Or via the Twin Cities and around Chicago?

The professor has a real bee in his bonnet about driving through Chicago, so he’ll pick almost any route besides that one. I was also inclined to vote for Michigan since I knew we’d be going back to Calgary via Chicago. So roughly an hour before we got in the car for day number three we decided to drive through the upper part of Michigan. On a whim, I sent a friend living in Duluth an email telling her we’d be swinging through town….in as long as it takes to drive from Fargo to Duluth with three children. I told her we’d love to see her and her family. But realized, of course, that it might not work out due to the very last minute nature of the note.

I sent the email and we drove off. And I had to spend several hours wondering if, indeed, I would get to see my friend. Because we do not have 21st century gadgets like iphones or blackberries with the internet but a click away. No, the only way for us to access the internet is to pull our laptop from its bag and find an off-highway place that offers wireless internet. Like McDonald’s (when it works).

Or…..the Comfort Inn.

Yes, it’s true we’re the equivalent of 21st century highway pirates; frequently found hiding in Comfort Inn parking lots trying to use their wireless internet. But in our defense, it’s not that we’re opposed to paying for internet service. It’s that places like Starbucks are a rarity in these un-densely populated parts of the world. And, sometimes, huddling in a Comfort Inn parking lot is the only way for us to get driving directions from Google Maps. Or email messages from Facebook.

We arrived in Duluth around 1 or 2 local time. I figured it would be easy to find a place that offered internet access. And maybe it is. But there’s a ton of road construction in Duluth. And if there are a lot of easily accessible coffee shops with wireless, I didn’t see any. So before we knew it, we were sitting in a Comfort Inn parking lot in Canal Park. Trying to log on to Facebook.

We really must get an iphone.

My friend had emailed to say they’d be thrilled to see us, too, and sent me her address. And phone number. But of course I couldn’t find our little cell phone, so I had to send her an email saying we’d just drive to her house because I couldn’t find our cell phone and couldn’t call her.

Seriously pathetic.

Well my friend was still at work, it being 2 o’clock on a Friday and all. Funny how we Johnsons forget that other people have these daily 8-5 obligations called jobs. But in spite of our ignorance, she left work early. And called her neighbor to let us in her house. And her neighbor gave us lemonade and cookies. And showed us around his garden and teahouse.

I was locked out of our Calgary house – with the three boys – a week ago. I felt guilty asking my unknown-to-me-neighbor if I could borrow her iphone to make a two-second phone call to the professor to beg him to come and rescue us. She let me use it, but she certainly didn’t offer me any cookies or lemonade.

Back in Duluth, our intention had been to visit with our friends for a couple of hours, and then make our way to Marquette, Michigan. Wherever that is. But our friends are fun. And they asked us to stay for dinner. And invited us to spend the night. And we hemmed and hawed. Staying would be fun, but it would mean a long twelve hour drive the next day. Plus we’d have to get up at 4.30am just to make it to Holland, Michigan at a decent time.

So we stayed. And the kids played. And we ate steak and chicken. And my friend packed us sandwiches for the next day. And gave me a stack of magazines to read in the car.

Sometimes ‘winging it’ is a good thing.

3 thoughts on “Road Trip 2010: Winging it

  1. What a saintly friend you found! I would love to feed someone cookies if they came to my door saying they locked their family out…sadly, the only person who shows up at my door is the guy who delivers chinese food to the boy living in the basement…every. freaking. time.

  2. I love this story. And I hope you made it to Marquette, MI which is a stunningly beautiful place. Jason grew up there, and I only wish his parents still lived there, because I miss going up there regularly.


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