I love road trips. One of the best road trips I ever went on was with my husband, Greg. We drove to Grand Marais, Minnesota for his 94 year-old grandmother’s funeral — 1830.01 miles each way — 3 full, 12-hour days on the road from Olympia, Washington, and another three days for the trip back home.
The first night out, we stayed in Bozeman, Montana. We didn’t have a lot of time for sight-seeing, but we did stop in the Badlands on the western border between North Dakota and Montana, as there is an amazing and dangerous feeling to the landscape, and we shot a lot of pictures on the cheap digital camera we bought when we realized we had left the good one at home. (More on how that turned out later).
Of course, the Badlands were created by the Yellowstone Supervolcano, but at the time I didn’t know that. The second night we stayed in Bismark North Dakota. On the third afternoon, we checked into our hotel and met up with Greg’s sister, Eileen.We tootled around town, and had a great time. The funeral was scheduled for 1:00 p.m. the next day.
We ate the free breakfast at the Best Western, and to kill time until the funeral, we hiked around the shore of Lake Superior all morning. It was the second week of May, and there was still snow in the shady places. We had a great time, trying to keep our then twelve-year-old nephew, Sam-the-dare-devil, from falling into Lake Superior and drowning.
After a leisurely lunch, we walked up to Bethlehem Lutheran Church where the service was scheduled. The church there is the same as any other Lutheran church in America–from the inside it looks like an upside-down viking-longship and the comparison is intentional, a traditional style of architecture in ELCA Lutheran Churches. It’s a comforting place with an air of Lutheran prosperity but not too ornate.
Yes, it was comforting—but empty.
Really, really empty.
Apparently the funeral actually took place at 10:00 a.m., and the email we Pacific Northwesterners had all received had teensy little typo–just one small digit. 1:00 or 10:00 not really that large a mistake when you look at it, but it’s quantum physics we’re talking here. Just one teensy atom, more or less, changes everything.
It was quite upsetting, but how can you be angry at an 85 year old lady who very kindly tried to notify you a loved one had passed on? She had done her best to let us know, and we should have checked in with the church when we arrived in town. We missed seeing the cousins from South Dakota by two hours–but we now have their phone numbers, just in case they ever want to do a road trip with us.
The irony of having driven well over 1800 miles to accidentally blow-off a loved-one’s funeral was not lost on us. It’s a good thing that sort of thing doesn’t happen in books.
“Wait–where’s the rest of the story? You were supposed to meet the Evil Minion of the Bull God! What do you mean your prophets got the time wrong and you missed him by three hours, so oh, well, sorry…!”
So about all the lovely pictures we shot on the way to and from Grand Marais – The little thing didn’t have a viewing window, so we had no idea what our photos looked like. Also, apparently the capacity for storing images on the cheepo camera was 20 shots – anything over that deletes the previous ones. All we had to show for our trip was 20 wonderful shots of our nephew Paul’s high-school graduation, which we had made it home in time to attend.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to tell who was in the photos, or what they were actually depicting, so I found this image on the City College of San Francisco website, which I think totally commemorates the experience.