Lake Superior 1989

Spring 1989. We mark our 3 year anniversary. Our one year anniversary as home-owners, having bought 1235 E 20th Ave, a small three story old-timer, in the heart of East Vancouver, a stone’s throw from Kingsway. A low basement that is more cellar than suite, but we make the best of it, turning it into a 2 bedroom income helper.

Our friends in Toronto, Donna & Ron, suggest a VW van rendezvous in north eastern Minnesota. Land of a thousand lakes. We drive through Montana and South Dakota to get there. The Rockies, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands. We hit them all.

We camp on the shores of Lake Yellowstone, the largest freshwater lake at altitude. It is the year following the fire. The animals are easier to see. We watch Old Faithful erupt for the gazillionth time.

Find a campground in a small bowl on a high wide plain in South Dakota. Set up camp. Quaff cold beer while building a fire. A can of beans. Cheap smokies from the campground store. Horses at one of the other camp spots. Milling about. They get restless and we all take note. A herd of buffalo on the hill a few hundred yards away moves our way. The horses are herded into their transport vans. The other campers, who are all in tents, gather closer together and to their fires. We do the same. The herd moves through our bowl, paying no attention to us, eating the new June grass. It’s magical.

We drive through a campground in south eastern South Dakota, sense a redneck vibe and drive right out. Big trucks, big white men, and their big white families, their pit bulls, their guns, their beer. Their stares as we drive by in our VW camper van with our red yuppie canoe on top and foreign license plates. No way we we stay with this lot. Move on down the road hoping for something a bit less Republican.

Leave another a campground after just one hour. Long enough for caterpillars to start to cover our van. The entire outside wall of the bath building is covered in them. We can hear them eating in the trees above us. No wonder the campground is empty. We hightail it out.

We somehow have rendezvous information in the way of a date and campground. This is 1989. No computers. No world wide web. No email. No cell phones. No texting. How do we manage?

I don’t remember who arrives first. Donna & Ron have maybe had a mechanical glitch with their van on the way. Or a problem on the ferry? Some drama. Nevertheless we meet at the right place on the right day.

Where we camp for a few days. Do some canoeing. Some hiking. Drive to a historical lighthouse on the shore of Lake Superior. Donna & I take a long walk in the fog.

One day as we are leaving the campground, Donna stops to talk with the campground hostess about a pay phone. When she is taking much longer than would be expected and Craig asks what the F is taking so long, Ron says something to the effect of Donna is likely telling the woman her life story. Craig & I share a look. It says Ron knows about Donna’s verbosity. They’ve only been together a few years, but of course it wound not have taken Ron long at all to appreciate Donna’s social abilities.

They return to Toronto and we head west through Winnipeg, and then on to Clear Lake, where my family has a cottage for a week. We arrive for Canada Day. My nieces are still little. It’s fun, down on a beach all day, fireworks at night.

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