Thursday, December 30, 2010

Autumn: The Traveler

As autumn was slowly losing its grasp, the cold winds made their presence known in the north country. I packed up my automotive for the journey ahead. My intentions were pointed west as I mounted the open road. It was time for me to explore my future education as doctor and I was out to tour residency programs. My first destination was that of Billings, MT where I was to spend four weeks getting to know the residency.

Snowfields looking up to Red Lodge

I arrived at the house owned by the local medical school (for med students to stay in while on rotation) and stepping out of my car to see my new roommates carrying a climbing rope and I smiled knowing I was amongst good company. I was not mistaken. Over the four weeks, I came to make numerous and deep friendships. The town of Billings opened her arms to me and I found myself going to open mics weekly, climbing in town sandstone bluffs, and (when the snow fell) skiing amongst some early season powder. In a short month, I had found a community to call my own. I felt at home and I felt fortunate to have come to know the place. I left Billings in the cover of darkness saying my goodbyes and drove away. The time in Billings had felt too short and could not shake the feeling there was more waiting for me there. 

I drove 13 hours home to Duluth through night and arrived with a slight tremor of caffeine and lack of sleep. I slept for 10 hours after arriving home and left at four the next morning to catch a flight to my next destination. By morning, I found myself in the airport waiting for my flight to Burlington, VT. I was soon to become a regular of the airport traveling culture, which demands an almost zen-like patience to flow with the ever changing and frustrating environment. I arrived in Burlington, picked up my rental car, and went to the hotel to crash. After some needed rest, I went about familiarizing myself with the environment. My first stop in any town is the climbing gym and the local gear shop… always a good place to get a feel for the outdoor adventure community. Burlington was a charming town that felt full of life and with a wholesome culture about it. As the traveler, I slowly became accustomed to coffee shops and dinners alone, and the short-lived conversations with strangers were medicine for the moments of loneliness. People watching became a normal pastime. After a daylong interview with the VT residency, I quickly bought a couple New England maps and took to road again. 
 Look onto the Atlantic in Acadia

I was expected to be in Bangor, ME to interview the next morning. The road sped through quaint New England towns nestled in the crooks of the Appalachian Mountains. The snow fell thick in the night as I sped through New Hampshire speeding for the shores of the Atlantic. I arrived in the cover of night and again settled into my sterile hotel room. I spent the next day in interviews and cruising about Bangor exploring the tidal flows of the Penobscot River and filling my belly with fresh clam chowder. The next day I had to myself to explore for the day and drive back to Burlington for my next flight. I drove 45 minute over to Acadia National Park to see what beauty it might hold. 

 Looking out at the immensity of the Atlantic in Acadia NP
I arrive in Bar Harbor anxious to see the ocean. I was surprise to find that much of the oceans immensity was blocked by beautiful rocky islands that litter the coastline. I took the time to hike onto a rocky overlook to finally see the horizon of the ocean before me. I drove back to Burlington only to find warnings of a massive snowstorm to clobber the Midwest…. I knew I would not be going home for the weekend. Having friends of friends offer me the generosity and kindness of their abode, I elected to stay in Burlington for the weekend rather being forced to spent it stuck in the airport in Detroit. Having the entire weekend in Burlington, I boots found a local tele-demo and skied the over-price slopes known as Stowe. I enjoyed my day on teleskis and dodging the east coast harem of skiers as the runs were choked with the multitudes. The following day I slept late and went to the local climbing gym for a quick workout and had meals at Burlington’s finest.

Enjoying tele-demos
The culture of the East coast was new to me; much of Burlington spent its time being the anti-metropolitan. On many occasions it felt as if wore a veil of granola attempting to hide the culture and attitude from its nearby neighbors of New York and Massachusetts. And yet there was an acceptance and tolerance to all was Burlington's true charm... the inviting sense of home that was extended to all. However, amongst my travels I grew an aversion to New Yorkers. They are the antithesis of all that known as “Minnesota Nice”, and have an air of demanding entitlement that rubs a simplistic and conscientious northern Minnesotan in the wrong way. 

The next morning I was back in the air for a brutal flying day with three transfers. By the time I had arrived in Grand Junction, CO for my next interview I was spent, tired, and ornery... flying had finally gotten the best of me. My bag was lost, my cell phone had busted, and I was in debt for sleep. After finishing interviews and getting to see the sights in Grand Junction, I got a phone call from a friend back in Billings inviting me to go to Big Sky for some skiing. I was more than excited about the opportunity and changed flights.

Arriving back in Billings I reconnected with friends and felt at home. We drove out to Big Sky and skied three wonderful days with good conditions to be had. I managed to take a few spectacular falls at high speed and bushed up on my tele technique. And by the end of the three days my legs were so sore I could scarcely walk straight... but I was smiling. I flew home finally after all my adventures and spent the week in Duluth, only to again find myself with a car packed to the brim as I move down to the cities for a month long medical rotation.

 The majesty that is Big Sky

It was a long couple of months on the road and in the air. I had my eyes opened to the possibilities in places afar from my home of Duluth. For the first time in a long time, I felt unsure of where I was supposed to be. It marks a transition in my future to come and I look to it as both exciting and consuming.