Up North

by  M. Urban

Chapter 1

"Don't look down!"I yelled. Van looked at me perplexed. The tram ride had just started its' ascent from Sawtooth Mountain to the spectacular view of Lake Superior in Luntsen, Minnesota.

"What are you talking about; we are only 2 feet off the ground,"Van shouted back.

I held my head down and glanced sideways to check her next reaction and I said, "Oh, ah, sorry, I get creeped-out because I am afraid of heights."

"Kari, I wish you would have told me sooner. You need to close your eyes and I will tell you when we reach the top,"Van said shaking her head and grinning.

Kari Jurvan, what were you thinking about agreeing to go on that tran ride? I wanted to show Van Purry, my new friend, that I was a cool chick and not a zero.

Earlier in the year, Julie, my concerned co-worker at 4Gs often looked out for me. "Kari, I know of a nice vacation spot where you could rest and spend your time looking at the beautiful scenery of the North Shore."

"Well, normally I would say no, however, I am so exhausted with 12 hour days and I think I need a nice break. Give me your vacation pamphlets and I will call them before I leave work tonight."Sighing, I stared back at my computer screen to work on my next project that was only 3 days overdue. Little did I know that soon my life would never be the same again.

I remember when I first saw her. Was it only 3 days ago? Today was Thursday, July 12th. I had arrived earlier in the week on a Sunday night. The caretakers at the Bours Resort opened Cabin #1 up for me. I brought in my 2 suitcases and my 3 bags of junk food and quickly put everything away. Then, I decided to go to sleep, as it had been a long and tiring journey for my weary bones.

On Monday morning, I made myself 2 red hots tamale breakfast sandwiches. They were really good and spicy. Hopefully, I wouldn't have indigestion later on. Then, after cleaning up the kitchen and giving myself a quick wash up, I ventured out side in the clear, crisp, sunny day and sat down to read.

I heard a car door pull up to the cabin next door. I looked up as a woman was getting out of a gray Honda Accord. I wonder if she is friendly or keeps to herself? Should, I be neighborly and ask her if she could use my help? Nah, I really don't want to entertain anyone. Looking a little closer I saw the sun shine on her golden tresses. They were curly and long. It seemed to fit her perky face. Huh?! What was that all about?

The golden-haired woman looked up from retrieving her bags and then stared directly at me, smiled and said, "Hello there, can you help me with my bags? I think I packed enough food for an army."

"Sure,"I squeaked out. I would be glad to."S o much for keeping to myself.

"Thanks,"she chuckles.

I picked up her 2 bright purple suitcases and followed her into Cabin #2. The cabins in this resort looked similar from the outside with dirty white planks of wood adorning the exterior instead of nice white siding.

"You can put the suitcases in the bedroom over there to the right, if you don't mind? Van said as she went towards the kitchen to put her groceries away.

"No problem."I said grinning ear to ear. I decided to take a quick peek around to see if her cabin had the same old-fashioned designs as mine did. Her living room was similar except she had a nice cozy fireplace. And the token stuffed deer on the wall with its' cold black eyes stared off into the distance. It went well with the Black Bear rug that lay on the floor next to the fireplace.

In the bedroom, there was a flowered patchwork quilt on the medium sized bed. The tall wooden pine dresser had square knobs the same as mine. Who makes these corny relics?

Just then, I turned around and looked into a pair of beautiful sky-blue eyes. It looked like they were twinkling. "Say, I never introduced myself. My name if Van Purry,"She held out her hand in greeting.

I took her small thin hands in mine and said, "My name is Kari Jurvan at your service."

"It was very nice of you to help me out. Would you like something to eat? I have been on the road for over 3 hours and I could eat a snack. How about it?"

I smiled and with my 2 dimples showing, I said, "I would love to. Point me to the kitchen my fair lady."Boy I was sure acting strange, even for me?

"The menu choices are soup and salad or a quick sandwich."

With my mouth salivating, I said, "I would love a sandwich. Carrying those bags made me hungry."

Van turned around quickly, but not before I noticed a look of pain cross her face. I wonder what that is all about? Well, maybe she will tell me later. I really shouldn't push it since I just met her.

Changing the subject, Van asked, "How did you like that rocky road through the last 5 miles it took to get to the Bours Resort?"

"Well, I have a Saturn Vue, and I hardly ever notice any rough roads. I take it your drive was less than smooth?"

"Yes, it was challenging. I almost spilled coffee on my shirt. Here is your sandwich."Van said as she took a bite.

I could hardly get my mouth around the sandwich because it was so huge. After I had chewed some of my food, I said to Van, "Wow, this sandwich is very chunky. I like mine extra thick and with a great crunch to it. You are a very good cook my dear."I ate the rest in silence, as I was about to let out a moan of pleasure.

"Thanks, I love to try out new recipes. This sandwich has salami, cheddar cheese, lettuce, pickles, mayo and a slice of sweet red pepper."Van said as she polished off the rest of her sandwich.

Moments later, Van tried to stifle a huge yawn. I decided then to leave so that she could rest. "Thanks for the great sandwich. I need to go back to my book and maybe take a nap. After all, vacations are meant for resting and relaxing, I hear."

"Oh, I am sorry that you have to go so soon. I can't seem to keep my eyes open after that long drive. I guess I might take a nap too."She crinkled her face a bit and asked; "Would you like to go on a shopping spree with me tomorrow early afternoon, say 2pm?"

"I would love to Van, do you mind if I drive?"

"Sounds great Kari, see you tomorrow."

"Bye Van."I left for my cabin and thought of the woman next door. I think it will be fun shopping with her. I decided to take it easy myself tonight and get to bed at a decent hour so that I will be ready and raring to go. I have a feeling I will have trouble keeping up with her.

Chapter 2

Tuesday morning, I woke up fresh and decided to see what I could make out of the food that I brought with me. I opened the gold colored fridge that looked like it was made in the 1950's and decided to take a big hunk of Velveeta cheese and mix it with some eggs. A half-hour later after eating breakfast and washing up the dishes, I decided to take a peek through my curtains to see if my friend Van was up. I held aside the lacy and worn beige curtains and looked for signs of life in Cabin #2. I couldn't see much but every once in awhile her curtains fluttered so I figured she was up.

"Caw, Caw", squawked the 2 black crows outside of my window.

"What are you 2 creatures looking at? I can look next door if I want too. I put the curtains back to where they were but not before I stuck out my tongue at those noisy birds. Well, It's about time that I start to get ready for our adventure. I went to take a shower and I had to hurry because the hot water did not last long. I checked my watch and it was almost time to leave.

Across the way in Cabin #2, Van had been thinking about what fun she would have with Kari. I think she is a nice person and those dimples are so cute! Well, it's time to get ready. I don't want to be late. Van went to change into some comfy clothes and then off to meet her new friend.

At the stroke of 2pm, both women exited their perspective cabins and walked towards each other. They each wore blue jeans and light colored tops.

"Hey there Kari, have you had a good day so far?"

"Yes, I have Van. How about you?"

"It was wonderful and relaxing. I am beginning to like it here in the North woods."Van said as she looked into my aqua-colored eyes. "Are you sure you don't mind driving?"

"No, I don't mind."As I held open the passenger door for her. She buckled herself in and I went to my side smiling that silly grin again. "Off we go,"I said and put the Saturn in gear. "Do we know where we are going shopping?"

"Well, it says here in the brochure that was left in my cabin that Grand Marais is only 12 miles north of here. It says that there are plenty of country-style gift shops to browse through."

"Grand Marais it is then."

For the short drive we each kept to our own thoughts. I was looking at the road making sure that I would not come across any deer or other animals. Van was looking at the scenery. It wasn't long before we came across the town.

"It says here that we should take a right on 5th avenue and then a left on Sunset street for the best fudge in town at Beth's Fudge and Gift shop. Do you feel like going there first Kari?"

"Yum, I love fudge."I followed her directions and parked on the street just outside of the store. "Look at their sign. It says that they make 50 kinds of fudge."

"Hurry up slo poke. I want to see all of those concoctions."Van jumped from my van and practically ran into the store.

"I'm coming already."It almost seemed like we have known each other for a long time, not just a few days. I climbed out of my van and off to the wonderful world of fudge. The shop had many more items besides fudge. There were candles, music, jewelry, t-shirts, sweatshirts and assorted trinkets with lighthouses and seagulls on them.

"Hey Van, what type of fudge did you decide on?"

Van showed me her stash, "Well, it was a difficult choice between lots of flavors. There was maple, chocolate, vanilla, amaretto, mint and many more, but since I am a chocoholic, I bought 2 lbs of chocolate."

"Wow, I guess it is my turn for some goodies."I said to Van as she turned towards me.

"I am going to look around at all of the pretty items they have to sell, so take your time, Kari."At that moment, Van started towards the jewelry department and put her hand to her head. It looked like she was in pain again. I hope it is nothing serious. I sure do enjoy her company.

A half-hour later and much lighter on both of our pocket books, we decided to exit this shop and put our bags in the van before venturing on.

Across the street from the fudge shop was a Northwoods store. It looked huge from the outside. Just at that exact moment a small child rushed past me and started to go into the street. There was a station wagon backing up and I didn't think that they saw the small child. I yelled, "Hey there little one, be careful, I think that car is backing up."He stopped then and looked up at me a little startled.

The child's mother had witnessed the close encounter. She was almost hysterical. "Oh, Henry, you know better than to run into the street like that."

Meekly, the boy said, "Yes, mama."

After she calmed down a bit, she said to me, "Thank you miss you are a life saver. I am glad that you said something to my son, in the nick of time."

"Your welcome, Mam. Little ones like that are so fast and they usually don't look where they are going."

Van saw the whole thing play out in front of her. It looked like she had a few tears in her eyes. "You are a hero, Kari. I am so proud of you."

"Ah, well, anyone could have done it."I said and then led her across the street safely.

Grinning widely, Van said, "perhaps, but you were the one that did."

The Northwoods store had the feel of an old weathered log cabin with at least 2 stories high. From the outside, it was a dingy black color. I opened the door for Van and we walked inside. Both of us looked in awe at the sights before us. The place was crowded with tourists. Everywhere you looked there were people shopping. All available space was put to good use with each hook holding precious merchandise.

"Isn't this store something else?"I said as I tried to move forward. "I wish there were less people in here so that we could look around."

"Well, I did see a malt shop on that brochure, so we could try that if you would like?"

"Van, you are precious."Smiling widely, I continued to say, "Let's go, I guess I could go for a malt myself."I lead her out of the crowded store and down the street to Leng's malt shop.

The malt shop was just as quaint as the rest of the stores we had seen so far. The outside was ok, but when we opened the doors we were transported back to the 1950's. They had the old fashioned Coke signs on the walls. The floors were checkered with black and white squares. The stools looked like they swiveled and the counter tops went on in the shape of an S so that it could seat many people. We sat down at 2 vacant stools. The waitress came up to us and asked, "What will ya have goils?"We both looked at each other and grinned.

"I'll have a chocolate malt with some fries."

"That sounds good Kari, I will have the same thing."The waitress nodded and put our orders in her little pad and off she went.

We both looked around the small store. It sold candy, magazines and other trinkets. Off towards the back it looked like there was a jukebox. I jumped off the stool and went to see what I could choose to play. Looking at the choices, I thought that was a lot of symphony pieces. I really just wanted some easy tunes. I selected some Patsy Cline songs and went back to Van.

"She is a great artist that you picked to play. I love her songs."Van said. "Well here comes our order."The waitress gave us 2 plates over flowing with crisp golden fries and then she went to get our malts. These came in 2 large metal containers as she poured our thick, delicious chocolate malts into our glasses and still there was some left in the containers.

"MMMM good,"I said with a mouthful of fries with gobs of ketchup on them. As we ate more of our fries I noticed that the plates were covered in dots. They had blue, green, yellow, red and purple dots. "Look at these colorful plates, Van. Aren't they something from the 1960's? I guess it fits with the rest of the old stuff that they have in here."

"Yep, I am starting to see dots in myself. It is cute in an old fashioned sense."

I had been thinking of what we could do after we left this shop. I said "Say, Van, my friend Julie mentioned that there was a huge Christmas store with lots of fancy, homemade items about 10 miles up on the Gunflint Trail. Would you like to try that instead of trying to get into the other store?"

Van slurped on her malt and then turned towards me with a smile, "Actually, I think I would love to take that drive with you. Let's go after we finish here. We might want to find a bathroom, however, because I wouldn't want to have to go in the woods,"giggled Van.

"I agree."

We left full and content and used the bathroom on the way out. What an adventure this has turned out to be so far, I pondered.

"I think we are all set to go. Let's get the Saturn and if I am not mistaken we can take that road to the right. It has a sign that reads to the Gunflint Trail."

"I am right there with ya, Kari. This has been a fun day."Van said as she buckled herself in.

I put the Saturn in gear and we took the road that would lead to yet another adventure. But neither of us thought that we would meet this creature on the road. Both of us were content to think about the day and look at the scenery around us. I was concentrating on the road since I was not familiar with it.

About 5 miles down the road Van asked me a question. "Kari, have you ever gotten the feeling that you have known someone all your life? I mean, take us for example. It's like we have been going on vacations for years. We get along very well, don't you think?"

"Yeah, I do. I was thinking about that when we ordered the same thing in the malt shop. I feel very comfortable with you. Does that scare you in any way?"I looked at her hesitantly.

Van smiled and said, "No, it just fits like pieces to a puzzle."

Suddenly, I had to look twice to see if I really saw that huge mammoth in the middle of the road. It was brown, and had a large rack of horns on its head. I turned to Van, "Do you see what I see?"

"You mean that large, giant creature that is staring at us with his big, bulging, bulls eyes? I think he wants to eat us for lunch."

"How do you figure that he is hungry?"I asked.

"Well, Kari, I see mounds of manure in the vicinity of his rear end, so I think he just got rid of something."

"Oh, gross!!! It looks like he is moving towards us. I think we better turn around pronto and forget the store with all of the Christmas stuff."

"Yeah, he doesn't look happy. Let's head back and you can come over to my place for supper tonight, if you would like?"Van said expectantly, hoping that I would say yes.

"It sounds like a plan, Van. Only if I can bring the refreshments."

"Ok, you're on."

"Onward mighty Saturn."I was starting to act goofier the more I was with her.

I turned on the radio as we headed back to the cabins. I found a station with cool tunes. I commented, "Boy this pop rocks, don't ya think?"

"This is a very old song and I remember dancing wildly to this music. Yeah, it does rock."Van said as she tapped her feet and clapped her hands to the music.

We listened to some more tunes on the way back and enjoyed each other's company. I turned down our street and parked in between the two cabins. "What time do you want me to come over?"

"Let's see, it is 5 now. How about 6pm? I should have the salads made and started the rest. I also want to freshen up after that close encounter with the monster in the woods."Van chuckled.

"That sounds great, kiddo. I am not sure if he wasn't more afraid of us? I certainly could freshen a bit myself. I will see you at 6, Van."I looked her way and smiled. She certainly is fun to be with, I thought.

Chapter 3

Van was working frantically trying to get the supper ready for when Kari was coming over. She chopped onions and tomatoes for the salads; seasoned the T-bone steaks with spices and poked the potatoes for baking. I hope she likes what I am fixing even though it is nothing fancy. I like her and want to impress her.

At a few minutes to 6, I checked my watch and was pacing back and forth. I don't want to be too early. I want to make a good impression that I am responsible. I took my light jacket with me along with the wine coolers and headed over to Van's cabin. I knocked on the door and waited for her to let me in.

"Come in Kari,"Van yelled from the kitchen.

"MMMMM, what smells so good?"I said as I walked to where Van was putting the finishing touches on the meal and put the wine coolers on the counter.

"Well, it's steaks, baked potatoes and 2 green salads. Would you mind setting the table for me?"

"Sure, I don't mind."I took out the fancy plates, cups and bowls and with the silverware; I placed everything on the table.

Van and I sat and ate the delicious meal and spoke of our work, family and hobbies. It was a wonderful time spent together. We found that we have a lot in common. Van is the only child and so am I. Van works on the computer all day processing payments for her company and I handle special projects on the computer. Our hobbies were reading. Van liked adventure and mystery and I liked romance.

After supper, I cleaned the kitchen and Van went into the living room to light the fireplace. I joined her on the coach when I was done.

"It is nice and warm by the fire don't you think Kari?"

"Yes, it is Van. I love how the fire races across the logs and then there are all of those beautiful red and orange colors."I stared into the flames and felt the warmth of the fire and the gentleness of the person sitting next to me on the couch.

We looked into each other's eyes and knew that we had the beginnings of a good friendship. In some ways, It felt like it was much more than a friendship. I did not know how Van felt.

Van smiled as she looked into my eyes. She was thinking how wonderful it was to find a friend; especially at a time like this in her life. She wasn't quite ready to share all of her secrets though. Maybe before, I go home to Mapletree, I will confide in her?

It was so nice sitting there that I really did not want to break the spell that we were in. I knew that it was getting late and I wanted to see if we would be getting together again. This was becoming a need to share adventures with each other.

"Well, Van. I think it is time that I went back to my cabin. We had quite a day today with the fudge shop, malt shop and the moose spotting."

Van grinned and said, "I loved every minute of it too. I was wondering if you would like to try the tram ride to view the sights of Lake Superior?"

"That would be great. I enjoy spending time with you. What time do you think would be good for us to go? I said pleased with myself.

"Let's see, how about 10 am and I will bring along a picnic lunch for when we get hungry."

"You take excellent care of me, my dear, and 10 sounds just fine to me Van. Am I driving again? I don't mind."

"That would be great Kari. I like the way your Saturn handles all of the curves from these Minnesota roads."

"Ok, see ya tomorrow. Bye Van."

"Bye, Kari."

Chapter 4

After a good nights rest for both of us, we were ready to have some more fun.

"Hi Van. Did you sleep well last night?"

"I did sleep well, but I waited until the fire went out before I went off to bed."Van said, as she looked a little bit sad.

"Well, off we go again. Your chariot awaits you."I was really enjoying myself.

"Thanks, Kari. Are you my knight in shining armor?

I didn't answer her maybe I was her knight? I put the Saturn in gear. The road kept going up and up and up. I wondered where exactly that we would end up?

"You better hold on Van if we keep going upwards we might land in heaven."

"Actually Kari, I already am in heaven."

I pondered that over in my mind and still kept driving. A few more minutes and we were at what looked like a lodge. This place had newer log cabins and yet more shops to look at.

"Well here we are Van. Let's check out that store to the right."

"Sounds good to me."

We climbed the fifty-plus steps and I opened the door for her. Inside there were bear rugs and leather coats and other assorted items.

"Whoa take a look at some of these prices. I would need a whole payday just to afford that black leather coat."

"You're right these prices are way out of my league too."Van gently put down the item she was holding. "Would you like to take that tram ride now?"

"Ok, let's get out of here before I knock over something expensive."I said as I put my hands in my pocket and we both left the store a little discouraged.

"It looks like we pay over there in that booth. I would like to treat you because you have been chauffeuring me around."

"You really don't have to do that Van, but I accept your generous offer."

Moments later we were put into a tram. This tram was only closed in halfway around. There was still a lot of opening to it. Then it took off with and started to climb. I panicked.

"I didn't know we were going up to the sky?"I was afraid, but I did not want to show how much I was afraid.

"Kari, it will be fine. Why don't you look at me and we won't look down. It will be just fine. You'll see."Van smiled was as sweet as an angel.

"Well, I guess it will be ok, what is the worst that could happen?"I was feeling a little bit sick to my stomach. I really did not want to vomit in front of her. I started to sweat a little. Then, I looked into her eyes and I felt safe.

"Screech, screech, screech!!!

"What the hell was that? We both shouted"Now, Van looked upset. She looked back over her left side and it looked like one of the trams was stuck.

"Oh great. I knew this would happen, I just knew it."What little bit of my resolve that I had left was leaving rapidly.

Then as quick as it happened the tram started up again.

"Whew, that was something I would rather not have happen again."My heart was still beating rapidly from that experience.

"You got that right, Kari. Are you really ok?"Van looked at me with a strange look on her face.

"Yeah, actually, I am really ok. Especially, with you by my side."

Finally we approached the top and got off of the tram. This was truly a beautiful sight. We were able to see from miles around. There were many people milling about.

"Do you think that you could eat something?"Van asked as she lay down the small lunch basket.

"Well believe it or not I guess I am hungry."Just then my stomach growled and we both laughed.

Van put the sandwich and chips and soda out for us to share. The view was gorgeous and I mean all of the view, especially looking back at my angel sitting in front of me. We finished up and both went to pick up the basket. Our heads were very close and I was starting to wish that we would share a kiss. She must have been thinking the same thing because ever so gently our lips met. Wow! I never thought a kiss could feel like this. I have to see if she feels the same.

"Van, was that ok. You aren't offended are you?"

"No Kari, I wanted to do that as much as you did. I think though we should get up and out of plain sight in case we want to try that again."

"Yes, Van, I would like that a lot. I also give great hugs by the way."I was still delirious from that kiss.

"Let's see what other adventures that we can see on this mountain. I am sure we will have plenty of fun checking things out, don't you Kari?

"Oh, yeah."I put my hands in hers and we walked and talked and shared future dreams with each other.

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