Thursday, August 25, 2022

August 26A

So to kick off this over the road extravaganza, as mentioned in the debut post, we were going to meet my Duluth, Minnesota internet friends Joy and Andy for the first time in person. The seeds of this friendship began in 2003-04 by way of an old school internet message board centered around the erstwhile Replacements frontman and reclusive solo artist,  
Paul Westerberg. It might seem a little perilous to meet and stay with people you've known only by way of social media/text, but I had met enough of the Westerberg crew over the last twenty years to know it was going to be okay.

 At nine-hundred-fifty miles the road to Duluth was going to take two days from Buffalo and we had a couple of different options. The fastest way, clocking in at just under fifteen hours, was 90W through Chicago. But we didn't want speed, we wanted beauty and we wanted experience. So we decided to go through Canada on the 400 around the perimeter of Lake Huron to Sault Ste Marie, which would eat up a little over half the distance to Duluth. We were hoping to run into old Sabres coach Ted Nolan in Sault Ste Marie and maybe buy him a cruller and a double double at Tim Horton's. But alas, it wasn't to be.

As we're going north on the 400 there's was a big accident of some kind up ahead (circled on the map) which bought traffic almost to a standstill. Though we were only a couple of hours into our trek, I had been noticing a lot of traffic backed up in this densely populated part of Canada. 

Also, I don't what it is—some undefined bad karma I'm working off maybe— but after inching along trying to transcend this traffic problem for like forty-five minutes, just as we're being routed off the 400 my wife Donna launches into a work story while the GPS is recalculating. Now, when Donna tells a work story it's pretty involved. You get details about the principals—length of service, who they report to, the division, the portfolio they manage. Nothing personal, just history and the issue she's dealing with at the moment. Under the best of circumstances when she tells these stories they become a jumble of nonsense to me almost instantly. But here, at this moment, there's a certain poignance to them when the GPS is redirecting you down some bum-fuck dirt road just as you're getting into wide open unfamiliar area of Canada.

Information overload quickly follows as I try to listen to the story and figure out where we're going—I'm not Zen enough to deal with this in a positive way and snap at Donna, "Why are you telling me this now? I don't care. 

She claps back, "You don't have to be a jerk about it."

We've had this conversation before—a million times before over almost thirty years and I'm always a jerk about it. For the most part I've always been able to box up what happens at work and set it out at the curb with the trash. All my jobs were a means to an end, not much more. I gave good effort and was competent but never really cared that much the way some people do—the way Donna does and thus . . . I'm a jerk.  

This passes quicky like it has nine-hundred-ninety-nine-thousand-nine-hundred-ninety-nine times before as we're re-routed to the 403 going toward Sarnia and 69 W with approximately the same destination time minus what we lost because of the accident. What I don't realize since I am not master of my domain and can't really roll with contingencies, is 69 W takes us back in the U.S. toward Flint, Michigan. There goes our beauty, there goes our experience. As any rudimentary Zen koan will tell you to be a master of your domain you have to roll with the contingencies.

We lose another thirty minutes and $12 passing back into the U.S. over the Blue Water Bridge but it hardly matters—69 W takes us to 75 N and past Saginaw it's an open shot for 244 miles though the heart of heart of central Michigan at 75mph. The van performs nicely and though I have an International Plan with Verizon my cell service is no longer spotty like it was in Canada. We find a nice little spot at a scenic rest area off 75 N just outside of Mackinaw City to spend the night. With only 7.5 hours left to Duluth we have made our time goal. We have a couple of sandwiches, pita crackers, drinks and call it a day. 

Oh, and for the record, guys with big eight-cylinder Silverados, F150s and Rams in Michigan climb up you butt like they want to get to know you in a sodimistic way if you're going one tick below 80mph just like the assholes in New York.


  1. Enjoying the ride. Pretty sure I’d love Donna’s work stories! - jeanne

  2. I've driven to Saginaw more times than I can count. Not the most scenic route but at least you made it halfway to your destination. Linda

  3. So you got into a fight 20 minutes into your trip? Haha. Sounds right to me. You better learn the “nod” and “uh huh” look like today!! Or this trip is going to be as long as waiting for the Sabres to win the cup!!

  4. Paul - I’m sure you know this but Bob Dylan and Sinclair Lewis are both famous Duluthians. Might be some cool stuff about them to see in town.

  5. Another map please 😂

  6. Cracking up. I've heard some of these stories from Donna. They often include her boss and her boss's boss, at which point I lose track. But you should have the characters down by now Paul.