We’re often asked how we choose destinations and plan our route. Usually, we choose based on a desire to see a new place or a particular national park. Our ‘Summerpalooza21’ plan was to travel down the coast of the Great Lakes, starting with Superior, then Huron and finally Michigan. Over the years it’s become our habit that when we have our route set, we locate nearby family and/or friends and make arrangements to see them. Often those stopovers become highlights of our travels.
Our first destination was Two Harbors, Minnesota. Two Harbors is about a half hour north of Duluth. When we settled on the location, I contacted my friend Richard who had lived in Duluth but now lives in Minneapolis. I let him know we were up in Minnesota and suggested we meet in Duluth. It’s a long drive from Minneapolis to Duluth, and I expected his reply to be ‘thanks, but I can’t make it.’ Much to my delight, he agreed to meet us. Richard is one of those friends that even though we rarely see each other when we are together, we pick up where we left off.
Richard and I are sign language interpreters. We knew of each other from years of working in the field, but we weren’t close friends until one day when fate brought us together. Years ago, Richard and I were among a few people newly elected to positions on the board of directors of our professional association, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. We quickly learned that we were kindred spirits in that we laughed too easily at the most inappropriate moment. Someone would say something unintentionally funny or ironic during one of the too-many-hours-long meetings we endured as board members, and I’d pass him a note. He would smirk—which made me snort, and we all know how contagious that is. That was the start of a friendship that has lasted 27 years…and counting. To this day we have a hard time keeping a straight face when we’re together.
We drove to Duluth and met Richard at a restaurant. I don’t know how long it had been since we’d seen each other in person—several years, but to me it was as easy talking to him as if I’d seen him yesterday. Ben had never met Richard and was quiet until Richard mentioned that he was considering a motor home. From that moment on all they talked about was motor home options, and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I’ll bet Richard learned more about motor homes than he ever cared to ask.
We lingered at the table, but Richard had a long drive ahead and it was time to go. I thanked him again for coming so far to see me, and he shared that he’d been meaning to come back to Duluth to see some special friends, and my call spurred him to make arrangements for a visit. He’d spent the morning touching base with others before meeting us for dinner. I hugged him hard as we left—who knows when we’ll be together again? Ben took our picture–it’s turned out to be one of my favorites of the two of us.
As we drove off, Ben said “That was fun. Richard’s a really good person.” Richard is a really good person; kind, thoughtful, an excellent interpreter, a good dancer and to this day he remains a snappy dresser. He’s retired this year and his friends started a Facebook tribute page to commemorate the event. It is packed with sincere loving tributes. I’m sure he’s touched and somewhat embarrassed at the outpouring of love.
Younger people are blessed (maybe it’s a curse?) with the innocent notion that there will always be a future and there is plenty of time to live life. The years fly by in a blip, and before you know it opportunities are lost. One of the great gifts travel presents is the opportunity to reconnect with those who are separated by distance and time. Any time you leave home, whether it’s one mile or thousands of miles, stop somewhere along the way and say hi to someone you know. You’ll be glad you did.