And then there was light

Harry Drabik

My recent Twin Ports trip began in gray gloom and rain. I have to drive nearly the entire shore to reach the Ports so the trip went along as if I were driving in a foggy rain tunnel. (The pair of real tunnels were actually brighter inside than the outdoors.) Over the years I’ve driv the drive many times. Years of weekly early AM commutes from my end of the shore to UMD were memorable for the challenge of the pre-tunnel cliff edge curve where poor visibility and even a dust of snow made navigating the long arc of pavement especially invigorating done on too little sleep. (My Polish grandmother could not travel the face of Silver Creek Cliff without holding onto her young grandson’s arm and praying for all she was worth that death not reach up to tear us down minus the proper Sacraments.) I remember the drive coming back late from a weekend away trying to stay awake with head out the window and music cranked to full volume. That combo barely worked for me but it did work to bring me back from the nod-offs that came from nowhere. I found them especially maddening because I’d try pulling over for a nap and was never (I’m sure the correct word is never) able to sleep when safely parked. Giving that up after fifteen minutes of attempt the first mini-doze would hit five miles down the road. You’d have thought a vehicle as non-body friendly as my 65 Land Rover would force a driver to stay fully awake. But no, not even that stiff sprung torture rack could keep the eyes of this driver from shutting. Luckily there wasn’t much chance I’d get far too off the road (except at the death-drop cliffs) or do too much damage in a machine that struggled to attain 55. (With an engine seemed most content keeping a speed of 48 to 50 I wasn’t in danger of being ticketed for speeding. Causing a public nuisance was a possible charge, but not speeding. On a moderate uphill the Highway Patrol could have apprehended me on foot.)
If you’ve lived or traveled up the North Shore in past decades you are bound to have sharp recollections of both the drive and the road. This is so because unless a traveler wanted to spend a lot of added time behind the wheel following County and Forest Roads following Highway 61 along the shore was the only way. The highway was our best shot. Some will remember earlier days when the paved ribbon was fairly narrow by today’s standard but the roadway itself was broad as the contemporary road. Many others will remember the eras when vegetation largely filled in the ditches and grew to the guard rail edge. To some of them that is the “scenic” route they mourn, though a one-bound leap from cover onto the pavement by a deer is too much scenery for me. Deer were easier to avoid in the earlier days not only because we drove slower on poorer roads, but deer were easily visible on road fringes left clear by construction. As a youngster I was curious about the very many slogans saying Jesus Saves that were painted clearly on every rock cut of substance all the way up the shore to the border. In the naivety of childhood I wondered what bank Jesus used for his savings. That was before I found about another form of saving I thought of as a bit too fussy and rigorous for a boy itching to get out and run until exhaustion set me down where fate willed. As a ten year old I believed religion could wait or catch up with me later when I slowed down.

Reminiscing about Highway 61 serves several purposes. One lets me tell readers the scene of light breaking out clear and strong as I hit the outskirts of the Twin Ports last week. It was glorious and much appreciated. I felt honored, as if I should go direct to Leif Eriksson Park and stand for the statute that will never be made. A second purpose was a reminder of the connection between the Ports and the North Shore that was once primarily handled by package boats and is now carried by reliable 61. Much has changed along the highway as much is different in the Ports and along the shore communities, but the connection remains. We are bound and bounded by a surface of what was once called bitumen.

Another cause for reminiscing attempts to answer complaints about my faltering humor and some content. Can’t be funny all the time; some things like ISIS are not amusing, not even as gross caricatures of what some call belief. Negative feedback is good for making me assess what and why. I don’t write to be loved, popular, or agreed with. (People who’ve known me way back are nodding bobble-head over that one.) As any reader, I have a perspective and a background that shapes my views. Whatever my views are they do not need to be shaped by outside approval to be of value. People who need to be agreed with can go happily on talking to themselves and leave me out of it. I’ll even thank them for it because there’s little point pretending dialog when the ingredients are missing. The analogy of coming out of fog and rain into clear skies applies to dialog. Without the ingredients a person is rather in the dark expecting agreement and insisting on cloudy rules that please their foggy fancies. If someone says you are close-minded, narrow, and bigoted, and they will have no more to do with you I’d put the closed-mind bigot tag on the one closing the door and not the one challenging expectations and being called names for it. Dialog is like a journey along a road. Conditions change; the way changes. There is no more forward movement when a driver pulls off the road and shuts the ignition so snow to pile up and bury them in their own drifts of contended agreement.

This Thanksgiving I’ll recall the value of disagreement.