Our First Trip Away During a Global Pandemic: A Weekend in Ely, Minnesota

March 13, 2020, is a day I will never forget. It is the last day that my children went to school and was a few days before life as we have known it had dramatically changed. The rapid shutdown of our state, our country, and the world began shortly thereafter as the venomous reach of the coronavirus pandemic struck the United States like a match in a dry forest waiting to burn.

Never in our wildest dreams could we have anticipated or even imagined such a devastating, life-changing global pandemic could take place and rock the world. Now over three months later, after canceled plans and completely rearranged lives, we have all settled into the new “normal”. A life of social-distancing, working at home, wearing a mask when out in public, not traveling or doing much of anything outside of the home except our daily walks, and wondering when on earth our lives will ever be the same.

Then just as we were finally beginning to accept our unsettled lives in the midst of the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd happened less than three miles away from our Minneapolis home setting off angst, rage, a few days of absolute lawlessness, fear, rioting, looting, pain, and destruction. When our city finally regained control and the massive clean up began, our hearts were broken. It was devastating and traumatizing on so many levels that it is hard to explain. We needed to get out.

George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

After three long, challenging months of fear, anxiety, isolation, and sadness, it was time to break free and leave home. We booked a weekend away, our first trip since the pandemic began, to Ely, Minnesota, a remote town on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe and Wildnerness Area, four hours north of Minneapolis. It was time for a change of scenery and a mental break.

We decided to rent a cabin at a small remote resort that we had stayed at a few times before, called the Northernair Lodge. We knew that it was isolated enough to safely socially-distance and since we could drive there we would not have to worry about traveling by plane.  Ely is a small town of only a couple thousand people so we were more concerned with potentially bringing COVID-19 there (where they have few reported cases) than actually catching it ourselves.

As we left the city, and slowly headed north I could feel the tension in my back and shoulders dissipate. For a woman who loves to travel, this was the first time I had left a ten-mile radius of my house in the city in over three months. It was liberating. Yet it also made me feel sad for all that has been lost in these past three months. I was hoping that the pure, untouched beauty of northern Minnesota would ease some of the sorrow and pain.

George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

We made two stops along the way to use the restroom and even that felt strange. None of the typical restroom stops were open save the gas stations and we were almost the only ones wearing our masks (it is required in our city to wear a face mask indoors so it has become normal for us). The further north we went, the less it felt that COVID was real until we arrived in Ely.  The harsh impact on the economy in such a small town was evident by the boarded up shops and stores. The big tourist draws such as the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center were still closed due to the pandemic (Both have reopened since we were there). Yet of course being outside and enjoying nature was not canceled. Nor was sitting by a campfire, kayaking on a pristine lake or listening to the melodic cry of the loon at sunset.

Three days relaxing and restoring some of our faith in mankind would be helpful.

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Mount Rushmore

The Great American Road Trip: Mount Rushmore

A family road trip to South Dakota is the real deal and nothing can be more honored or treasured than a visit to Mount Rushmore, an iconic symbol of American freedom and democracy. Inspired and built during the age of the automobile, Mount Rushmore was the brainchild of two men, Doane Robinson, the visionary and Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor.

Robinson had fallen in love with the beautiful grassy plains, rolling hills and epic beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota. He was also passionate about South Dakota’s history and eventually left his law practice to work as the state historian. Wanting to draw more tourists to South Dakota, Robinson came up with the idea of creating a major tourist attraction in the heart of the Black Hills that would draw people from all over the United States to come visit. What seemed like a far-fetched fantasy soon became a reality when Robinson met  renown sculptor Gutzon Borglum who had studied in Europe and was a true genius.

Partnering with Borglum, work on Mount Rushmore began in 1927 and lasted 14 years until Borglum’s death. A team of over 400 workers under the watchful eye and direction of Borglum helped carve the 60-feet high faces of four of America’s most beloved presidents, our founding fathers: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Mount Rushmore

First glimpse of Mount Rushmore

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Road trip out in the wild west: Albuquerque to Taos New Mexico

Yesterday my five-year-old daughter Sophia and I left for our first three-generational ski trip. My father, me and Sophia headed west to test out the slopes in Taos, New Mexico.

The last time I’d been to Taos was at least fifteen years ago, when my family and I took the ten-hour drive from Tucson to Taos in the “purple people-eater” minivan. (Don’t have any idea where the name came from but it stuck). Over the years, Taos has become quite an interesting albeit historic town known for its flavorful mix of art culture, gay community and Bohemianism. If that isn’t enough to bring you there, Taos’ world class skiing should (without the insane crowds as trendy venues like Vail and Telluride). When my dad proposed taking our annual weekend ski trip out west, Taos instantly came to mind as a place to revisit.

Getting to Taos is pretty much equivalent to going to Colorado as it requires a two and a half hour flight followed by a two to three-hour drive. But the main difference between the two is size. Colorado ski areas are huge and Taos is just one little resort tucked away and isolated in the mountains.

Adventure Travel New Mexico