After a couple days of more excitement than we needed, a swamped canoe and an encounter with a passing car in our lane that required us to take the shoulder to avoid a head on collision, we slowed everything down and were ready to relax. Oddly enough, it ended up to be a day that stepped back in time.
We drove into Two Harbors. The Minnesota Street Rod Association (MRSA) had a car show. The street was lined with old cars, most in impeccable condition. There was something about seeing an open trunk with an old suitcase in the back that captured my attention. Back in the days of that car, they liked to travel too. There was an old police car, trucks and cars of all years and makes and people gathered on the sidewalks sitting in their portable chairs, talking. Vendors on the street were selling hot dogs and hamburgers.
One Big Boat
We walked to the harbor and watched the Joseph L. Block, a huge ore freighter, maneuver its large steel body into dock. It had come to discharge limestone and load iron ore pellets we’d read later in the Duluth Shipping News. We sat at the end of the break water with a few others, watching her come in. It was a thrill to hear the ships talk to one another in the language we imagined meant, “I see you.”
A Small Town Diner
We ate lunch at Louise’s Place. It was a small, casual cafe that sold the creations of local residents. There were quilts, cards, pot holders, a wide variety of salt and pepper shakers for the collector, bracelets and earrings, aprons, bags, CD’s and one thing that caught my eye – hot chocolate. Jamaican hot chocolate made with nutmeg, vanilla and habanero peppers.
We had a couple of the specials for lunch and then a luscious and generous, small cup of ice cream. The ice cream was a thrill for three reasons, the small cup was not small, heaping with more than two regular scoops. We could mix flavors, and it tasted absolutely delicious.
Louise’s place was also a thrill because of the staff. The main cashier/waitress was the kind of person I wanted to breathe in. She was attentive, present, and kind. She kept at her job, but never appeared to be in a rush or hurrying. She was happy and centered and was radiating those qualities in her work.
A Steam Engine
We left just as the train came in. There was a buzz in the air, a little magical feeling, magnetic.
Passengers hung out of the window drunk on the thrill of riding an old train from Duluth to Two Harbors. They posed for pictures on the last rail car, the Northland, which had been taken out for a special occasion by the Lake Superior Railroad Museum.
It was the steam train that made this train ride special. One of the passengers described his thrill of riding in an old-fashioned train pulled by an old-fashioned engine with soot from the coal-powered engine blowing in his face. The train porters were dressed all in black with white shirts and a black bow ties as they helped passengers dismount. A crowd gathered. The crowd dispersed. They would have two hours in Two Harbors to do as they pleased before the train returned to Duluth.
Tom and I, on our mission to relax, went back to our place at the Larsmont Cottages and took a nap. The train would be passing back that way sometime after 3pm. We’d go and watch it if we weren’t still sleeping.
I woke from the nap exactly at 3pm. Should we go see the train? Yes. Let’s. So we hurried across the parking lot out across the road to the Larsmont Cottages/Ledge Rock Grille train stop. Yes, they had their own train stop and in the summer, you can take the train from this stop into Two Harbors and back again.
We waited sitting in the white booth with the stop’s name on each side. We looked north watching the golden rod blowing in the wind. We waited and waited. Twenty minutes passed, and we were still waiting. Tom called his parents while we waited. I was certain we missed the train, so I got up and walked around taking pictures of things I found to be interesting and beautiful—different perspectives and came back to sit down on the bench. The only reason we were still there was because Tom was on the phone.
The next thing I noticed was someone standing at the next intersection looking north, too. Hope crept back in. He had a camera. It was not long after that that she came. First I saw the steam, then heard the whistle and finally saw the light on the engine. There she was the North Shore Scenic Railway steam train.
You can hear our excitement. It is the excitement of waiting for something that we thought would never come. Tom is giving a narrative to his mom which ends up being a nice narrative for the video. As the train passes, the passengers are still giddy. They shout and wave to us as they pass.
If you’d like to take the train from Duluth to Two Harbors, click here. If you’re staying at the Larsmont Cottages and would like to take the train from there into Two Harbors and back, inquire at the front desk for tickets. It’s a step back in time, a chance to slow things down, relax and breathe.
Thrills come from the unexpected. What was your last small unexpected pleasure?