Two weekends ago marked the beginning of my travels. I don’t know how long I will stay in the States but I haven’t seen much in the 11 months that I’ve been here. That goes for across the country or in New York itself. New York is so close to so many places around the States buy bus and train but also by plane, so my choices really were endless. I knew, though, Minnesota was first on my list. I first met Hannah in college when we were living in the same house. We got on like a house on fire and did so for the next four months. We saw each other again two years later for a weekend and then an agonizing two and a half year wait elapsed before this trip. As she is one of my favourite people I thought it was a great idea to go to the searing cold North in February! Good man, Cian!
On Friday we went to her parent’s house near Sugar Lake. It was a twenty minute drive from the town of Annandale and about an hour drive from Minneapolis. Sugar Lake was the jewel in the crown that was the Minnesotan countryside. The drive to the lake was something reminiscent of the Irish countryside. The roads were long and winding, sparsely populated by grand houses, fields and lakes. Hannah’s parents house was right on the edge of this impressive, frozen lake.
Her family were obviously extremely nice and welcoming and we spent the first night getting drunk, playing shuffleboard and virtual golf (losing at virtual golf, in my experience). The next morning and afternoon were spent out on the frozen lake. Her Dad, Jeff brought me out first on the back of a quadbike to show me that the ice was solid and pointed out various places of interest. I clung for life for the initial part of the journey but managed to calm down after a while and stop looking like I was his girlfriend out for a drive.
We fished for ice and didn’t catch anything but all had a good time doing so. I did two of the manliest things I have ever done in my life so far; I drilled a hole in the ice; and I drove the quadbike myself over the frozen lake… I’m a pretty big deal now.
I was glad to be seeing more of Minnesota over the weekend but I was sort of sad to leave the icy refuge of Sugar Lake.
We drove to Minneapolis, where Hannah lives, on Saturday evening. The Hamilton soundtrack played for the first of many times that weekend. That night I met Hannah’s roommates and friends in one of the local breweries. There are plenty of breweries around Minneapolis and Minnesota to keep a fair weather craft beer drinker like myself content for a few days. I think that I am going to have to revisit my Lenten promise to drink less next Lent because I am fully set to fill myself to the brim with lagers aged in a barrel of whiskey for another ten months.
Sunday was probably my favourite day of the trip. We went to the Mall of America, America’s largest mall, in the morning and in the afternoon saw the ice castles in Stillwater. These ice castles were man made and are a tourist destination in Minnesota. Families, couples and groups of friends alike all enjoyed this amazing feat of human architecture. After the snow and ice had turned my Vans into little boats we went to one of the local breweries, a great end to a great day.
Monday, my last day, was a surreal day for me. We drove to Duluth, Hannah’s college town, in freezing weather. Literally freezing as we had to stop on the way to allow Hannah to scrape the ice off the windshield while I sat snugly inside. It was an emotionally heavy day as it was my last. I hadn’t seen Hannah in almost three years at this stage and I didn’t know when I was going to see her again. The trip had made me realise I missed her more than I knew and that I missed some friends at home more than I let myself believe. However, as we talked about old times and memories and plans for the future I knew that it was just a part of growing. I had struggled in the past few years since college with the fact that good times end and you don’t get to hang out with people 24/7 the way you’re used to.
But onwards and upwards. More trips to plan and more posts to write. More nights to work.