In May of 2013 the Minnesota state legislature passed, and the
governor signed, a law allowing marriage equality. On August 23 of
that year my
sister, Linda Estel and her partner, Anne Tellett, after a 26-year
committed relationship, were married at Hawk Ridge in Duluth. I was
delighted to be there, and of course, the journey and all that
happened must be recorded in one of my seemingly endless series of
The Joy of Flying: I do not fear flying, but I don't enjoy
it, especially long distance flights. Cramped seating, long waits in
air terminals, long waits in the plane before it starts to move,
long periods of taxiing
to the runway, difficulty moving around planes, and the ever-present
possibility of delays or lost luggage make "getting there"
NONE of the fun.
of my trips have been OK, and with other obligations at home, I did
not have time to do a motor home trip this summer, so I booked
my flight to Duluth and crossed my fingers. The first part of the
trip was fine, especially since a mid-day departure meant I did not
have to get up early. All was well on the flight from Fresno to Denver,
but when I got off the plane, I immediately saw that my flight to
Chicago was running 30 minutes late.
With a 45 minute
layover in Chicago it would be tight but probably OK, but then it became 45
minute delay and
my hope of getting to Duluth that evening diminished. As we boarded,
gate staff told us that a lightning storm was approaching, and to
please hurry so we could get away before it was too late. Once on
board, our pilot
announced that they had taken on extra fuel so they could go faster,
but it was just not enough. We landed in Chicago as the plane for Duluth was
staff had already identified those of us who missed our connection,
and prepared boarding passes for the next flight (8:47 the next
morning in my case), as well as vouchers for hotel and meals. We
were met by an agent who handed out the documents and directed us to
the shuttle that would take us to the hotel.
problem for me was that I had brought nothing in my carry-on for
overnight use, so I made do with the same clothing I wore when
leaving Fresno. I was dressed for summer in Fresno, but I was OK
walking to the shuttle and in the hotel. The hotel at least was able to provide
There was a
brisk breeze the next morning (Windy City, remember?), but I had
only a short wait outside, and got on the shuttle at 7:15, arrived at the airport, and went
through the security check without problems. The plane left and
arrived on time, and Linda picked me up about 10:30 a.m. Central
The wedding was the next day, and planning had reached its final
stages, with everyone busy dealing with what they dubbed "the
last minute minutia." This included a stop for gas and plans to
get the Toyota Forerunner washed. Linda was annoyed to find that the
station's car wash was closed, but we moved on to the next task,
getting some photos printed and others scanned at a nearby
Walgreen's. They were setting up a memorial table with photos of our
parents and Anne's dad, all deceased.
She got the
picture of Mother printed, but the photo of Dave Tellett was too
small to enlarge, and the photo of our dad was not on the memory
stick. She also had a bunch of photos to scan for a slide show, but
decided to postpone this, and we headed for their house, which sits
on 40 acres of woods about ten miles from downtown Duluth,
outside the city limits.
On the way
we stopped at the wedding location, Hawk Ridge.
You can read details by clicking on the link, but briefly, this is a
location where tens of thousands of raptors and other birds fly over
during their migration south each fall. A number of birds are
captured and banded, and Linda volunteers there several days a week
during this activity. It is a beautiful location, surrounded by
hardwoods and shrubs, with views of Lake Superior and the Duluth
Harbor. There is a viewing platform where observers use spotting
scopes to observe and count the birds. Nearby is a clearing with
benches which is used for educational talks, and this would be the
after we got to their house, Susie, their friend and volunteer
wedding planner arrived, along with her little dog Maggie, an
unusually well-behaved representative of that species. Susie made sure that everyone had an
assignment, and mine was to return to Walgreen's and finish getting
the photos. We had found the photo of Dad, and Anne made
arrangements with her sister Nancy to bring a good picture of their
the photo of Dad, and scanned about 25 snapshots covering the years
Linda and Anne have been together. It would
be about a half hour before the disk and print would be ready, so I decided to take
the Toyota and get it washed at a gas station across the street.
This proved to be one of the most inefficient car washes I have ever
seen, and it didn't do a good job on the large vehicle, but at least
the worst of the dirt was gone. We have a drive-through wash in
that can do a better job for less money on three cars in the time
the one in Duluth took to do one.
back home with the completed photos and disk, and managed to avoid
any further duties that day, with one limited exception.
wedding planners, in charge of the reception venue, were Pam
and Kim, who have been together for 27 years, have two grown children,
and were getting married a week later. Several days earlier they had
given Anne and Linda a very special wedding gift - an offer
to bring over dinner Thursday night, when there would be seven or
eight people to be fed.
included the brides to be, one of the two
attendants, long-time friend Adriana, Anne's mother Lucille (Lu) and
sister Nancy, Susie and myself, and of course, Pam and Kim.
about 6:30 with an ice chest and several boxes, which I helped carry
in. They had already prepared several dishes which just needed to be
zapped in the microwave, and had marinated chicken in tequila and
lemon juice overnight. This went on the propane barbecue, and barely
a half hour after they arrived we were sitting down to a delicious
was still used to Pacific time (two hours earlier), at a reasonable
hour I headed for Linda and Anne's trailer, which was set up
and fully operational to be my bedroom.
Day: Realizing that there would be a number of guests to be fed,
but with her mind totally occupied elsewhere, Linda had purchased a
large box of Special K. The previous day Susie had taken one look at
this, and vowed to provide something better, and we enjoyed a
breakfast of coffee cake, bagels, and fruit (in some cases mixed into a bowl
of the cereal). Lu and Nancy, who had been offered the use of a
house, joined us.
say there were plenty of last minute or at least last day tasks to
be accomplished, but everything went smoothly. A rehearsal was
scheduled for 3 p.m., with the wedding at 6:00. With Susie keeping
everything on track, the early preparations went well. Linda and
Anne were sent off to take care of whatever brides do before the
wedding, while Lu and Nancy left to meet her husband Jeff. Susie
and I loaded four shiny new metal chairs and two folding chairs into
the Toyota. There was also a metal arch that would be set up with
artificial flower garlands, which we partially assembled and put in
Susie's car, along with assorted real flowers.
after 2:00 Susie headed for Hawk Ridge with me following. Once we
arrived, we had
some help from her husband David as well as others, carrying
everything up the short path to the wedding location. Anne's mother and sister
had made foam pads covered with fabric to be tied to the wooden
benches, and this simple touch converted a rather Spartan venue into
real hitch was the
arch. We finished putting it together, and
Susie's plan was to drill holes into the dirt, place short pieces of
irrigation pipe in the holes, and insert the legs of the arch. The
only drawback was the fact that "dirt" was in short
supply, while rocks were plentiful. This area is known as the Canadian
Shield, and consists of rock left behind by glaciers.
Trying to make a hole, first by pounding the pipe in, then by
digging with a screwdriver, and finally be scratching with the legs
of the arch, all proved fruitless. If you could get past one rock,
there was another rock beneath it. Finally we carried several large
rocks that were used to line the path and the clearing, and placed
them around the legs of the arch.
It looked as
if it would hold, provided a wind did not come up, but even this
method was not foolproof. In the middle of the rehearsal, which was
touching and funny, everyone got a good laugh as a gust of wind
brought the arch down on the unsuspecting brides. Their attendants,
who had been instructed to catch the arch if it did fall, were
engrossed in the the practice ceremony and failed utterly in this
duty. A number of
us began piling more rocks around the legs of the arch,
and with about 500 pounds of rock around each leg, we finally achieved stability, and it held up to the end.
Once the rehearsal was completed everyone left to get dressed, while
I stayed behind to keep an eye on things. I had my iPad with the
Kindle app, so I had 20 or so books available to read. I was still
working on the Roosevelt
biography that I had started before my trip
to a bluegrass festival two weeks earlier.
Except for a
visit by a hummingbird, which quickly realized the flowers on the
arch were fake, it was an uneventful wait. About 5:30 I went down to the car to
put on my good shirt and shoes, and got comfortable in my chair as
the guests began to arrive.
ceremony was everything you could hope for, with many touching and
also humorous moments. Music was performed by Terrol &
with numbers by Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and Glenn Miller (in
other words, music with a tune and intelligent words). Priscilla and
Don, members of the
Ojibwa nation and PhD professors at the University of Minnesota
Duluth (UMD) sang
"Four Directions Love Song" in their native language. The
officiant, Ellie Schoenfeld, read one of her
poems, "Forever." (I highly recommend her work, like
the ceremony it's either touching or funny or both.)
concluded with the exchange of vows, written by the brides, exchange
of rings, and the declaration of marriage. The plan was for Linda
and Anne to walk down the path to the singing of Van Morrison's
"Crazy Love," but they spontaneously began
danced their way out of the clearing, to greet their guests at the
bottom of the path. Having achieved a goal they had wanted for
decades, they had huge smiles that would remain throughout the day.
If this were
a newspaper account of a wedding from the 1960s, at this point there
would be a detailed description of what the bride(s) wore, what
their mother(s) wore, what the attendants wore, everything but what
any men involved wore. But it's not, so I will just say that the
wedding party looked delightful, and the guests were dressed
appropriately, even me.
number of photos by the road, with the expanse of Lake Superior as a
background, we all headed for downtown Duluth and the reception at Midi
Restaurant on Superior Street. This is located in Fitger's
Hotel, which includes several restaurants, shops, and the hotel
where Linda and Anne would stay overnight.
Jane played for a while as guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d'oeuvres.
Anne and Linda danced and seemingly would continue indefinitely.
Susie finally told them, "your guests are getting hungry, and
they can't eat till you do. Stop dancing!"
enjoyed an excellent buffet, which included salmon,
chicken and many other goodies. I sat with Nancy and Jeff, Susie and
David, Sandy, a woman who had worked for Linda
at New Moon Publishing, and her
husband Joel Smith. We had a great time,
sharing stories and general conversation. When Linda made the rounds
and stopped at our table, I could not resist revealing her history
as the operator of a turtle racing stable in southern California
many years earlier --
history that was known to Anne, but to few others in Minnesota.
Linda then provided the details for the guests.
viewed the slide show that had been set up on a laptop at the side,
as well as the photos of Bob and Hazel Estel and Dave Tellett, now
nicely framed and displayed on a "memorial table."
visit to the dessert table, where I could not resist a full piece of
cheese cake and a small sample of some other decadently delicious chocolate delicacy, I
said my goodbyes to the people I knew, and headed back to the
back at the house started with a small adventure. Maggie had been
left in the mudroom,
and it was clear as I unlocked the door that she wanted to go OUT
RIGHT NOW. I put on her leash and she led me down the driveway
toward the main road, which had been her normal walking route with
Susie. We had just got started when Susie and David came driving up,
which of course caused Maggie great excitement. She slipped out of
her collar and ran in front of the car. I yelled, David hit the
brakes, and all was well, or at least till we discovered that Maggie
had expressed her displeasure at being left alone by getting into a
bag of bird seed and spreading it around the floor. A brief
"morning after" illness the next morning revealed that she
had also eaten some.
Hawk Ridge: On
Saturday Ann and some of her family went to a memorial service for Dr.
Arthur Aufderheide. He had been a professor at UMD, served
in the army medical corps, wrote textbooks and many scholarly
articles, and participated in
several expeditions to the arctic. His
wife attended nursing school with Lu back in the 1940s.
Linda had to
return some traffic cones to Hawk Ridge that had been set up in the parking area
at the wedding, so she asked if I wanted to ride along. We unloaded
them near the viewing platform, then Linda asked if I wanted to see
the banding station. This sounded interesting, so she called Frank
Nicoletti, who was on duty with a new volunteer, to see if it would
be OK. Normally access is not allowed, or is limited to scheduled
We walked a
brief trail into the woods where we found Frank on duty in a small
wooden building facing a fair sized clearing. He explained how the
capture process works, which is as follows: Several small birds are
tied to cords that run into the building. If the spotters at the
viewing platform see a hawk or other predatory bird approaching, they notify
the person in the station (known as a bander) by
walkie-talkie. He then begins pulling on the cords, causing the bait
birds to fly up briefly, looking as if they are injured and
therefore easy pray. They call this "fishing." If a hawk
(or eagle, falcon, etc) dives, it is caught in a mist
net, and the people working then rush out to free it and bring
it into the building. Don't try this at home - they know how to
handle unhappy predatory birds safely, avoiding the sharp talons.
The bait birds are well cared for, never get eaten, and Linda said
they work fewer hours than she does.
then placed in a can head first. For a smaller hawk, Pringles cans
are used. The birds seem to recognize the futility of struggle and
usually wait patiently for their release. Before this happens they
are banded, weighed, and measured. This information, as well as the
age, sex, date, time and band number are recorded. One or two small chest
feathers are collected to be tested for mercury, and the bird is
then set free.
here starts August 15, but the major migration does not start until
mid-September, and they have been seeing few birds, so I did not
expect to witness a capture. Instead two sharp-shinned
hawks arrived almost simultaneously, and Frank's intern went
out to get the first one, while Frank went after the other. He had
his inside the shed in short order, but the bander was having trouble,
so Frank went out and together they brought in the other one.
banding process, I was allowed to release one of the
involves carefully receiving the bird from the bander, handling it by
gently gripping the lower body, tail and legs. When larger birds are
released, such as eagles and red tailed hawks, they are given a boost, and
released in the open area. With the smaller hawks, all you need to
do is let go. When I did this, he flew directly toward the thick woods, and I thought
he would land in a tree and get his bearings, but instead he went
into the woods, swerving and dodging expertly, and was out of sight
in seconds. I learned that they are forest dwellers, living and
feeding there, so the they have excellent maneuverability. These
two were determined to have hatched in May.
experience was unexpected and needless to say, was the number two highlight of
my visit after the wedding.
after we returned to the house, Anne and the family members who had
gone to the memorial returned. Also around this time Anne's other
sister, Carol and her daughter Laura arrived. Nancy, Jeff and Lu
were heading back to Minneapolis-St. Paul, so they said their
goodbyes. Then the rest of us went to the closest restaurant, the Breeze
Inn, for a very good dinner.
evening Adriana came over, and we built a
fire in the outside fire pit (NOT for warmth). We had a nice
time talking and sipping our drinks. After a brisk wind came up,
Anne doused the fire with a hose, Adriana took her leave, and the
rest of us headed for bed.
Day: Carol and Laura spent the night, and after breakfast we
headed for the Duluth-Superior
Harbor to take the
cruise that is offered several times each day. This took about
two hours, and included an informative narration regarding ship
traffic and landmarks visible from the largest and busiest harbor on the Great Lakes.
We sailed out under the unique lift
bridge into the lake itself, then back in and around the perimeter
of the Duluth section of the twin harbors.
There were a
number of ships at various docks, loading or unloading grain, coal, taconite
(an iron ore product), and other cargo. We also had outstanding
views of the waterfront, downtown
Duluth, and the hills above it. Outside the harbor was a Polish
ship, awaiting the arrival of its cargo before entering the harbor.
A check of the shipping news
web site revealed that it had been anchored there since August 15,
and was scheduled to enter the harbor the next day.
After we got back on
land, we went to the Duluth
Grill, a restaurant that had been featured on the Food Network's
Drive-ins and Dives. Others have reported that every place they
tried that was recommended by this program met expectations, and our
experience was no different. They make a point of using mostly
local, fresh ingredients, so even the most ordinary dish was
excellent, including my BLT sandwich.
Carol and Laura had
brought their own car, and said goodbye after lunch, heading for the
Twin Cities. Linda, Anne and I drove to Pam and Kim's home to
present a thank-you gift for their help with the wedding, and to
discuss plans for their own ceremony.
Then we took Skyline
Parkway Scenic Byway, which winds through the hills above town,
roughly parallel to the lake shore. From a rest stop/information
center we had a great view
of the harbor and areas we had traveled by boat. A little farther
north we stopped at
Enger Tower, which
offers another great view of the area, then drove through the UMD
campus, where Anne teaches and where Linda obtained her degree. We
also went by two houses where Linda and Anne had lived before they bought
their country place about 20 years ago.
agreed that we did not want dinner, but I had been without ice cream
for the whole trip, so we made a quick stop for that and a few other
items and started for home. Although the weather through Friday had
been ideal, the temperature Sunday was a very unusual 95 or so,
with a lot of humidity. Their house has a basement that is open on
one side, but underground on the other, so it stays cooler, and we
enjoyed the cocktail hour down there.
About 7 p.m.
Linda and I went upstairs to get ice cream, and sat out on the
porch. By this time a thunder storm had come in, making it a bit
cooler. We had very little thunder and only a few drops of rain at
first, but from that time till about 3 a.m. there was never a time
when I could not see lightning flashes. The few drops of rain
suddenly turned to a downpour, forcing us back under the porch roof
overhang, and this continued off and on till after I went to bed.
For the first 20 minutes or so the rain on the roof of the trailer
was incredibly loud, preventing sleep, but it slacked off before
long. I went out once during the night and could see the moon, stars
and lightning all at the same time.
On My Way
Home: In the morning Linda and Anne finished the last crumbs of
the coffee cake, while I had the other half of my BLT sandwich that
I had brought home from the Duluth Grill. The crowd had thinned out
to the point that I was the last one left, with my plane set to
leave at 3:20. It was back to school for Anne, although she didn't
go in until early afternoon.
Linda and I
left for the airport a little before 2:00, and said our goodbyes at
the terminal door. I got checked in and through security very
quickly in the city's small airport, and was getting ready to get
out my iPad and settle down for reading when I was paged to the
wondering about the lock on your suitcase," I was told. I
explained that I had traveled from Fresno to Buffalo and back, and
from Fresno to Duluth with it locked, and no complaint from anyone.
Nevertheless, I had to hand over the key, which was returned within
15 minutes, with no explanation of what they saw in the scanner. Or
perhaps they just select a random number of bags to be opened. No
one can fathom the mystery that is TSA.
the only airport without a full body scanner, just an old fashioned
metal detector arch, and they didn't pat down my suspenders as
happened at every other airport (can't take 'em off or my pants will
fall down, and no one wants that).
from Duluth to Chicago is quick, less than an hour actual flying
time, and I enjoyed views of farmland and
small towns most of the
way until we flew over Lake Michigan into O'Hare. As soon as I
checked the monitor, I found that the plane to Los Angeles would be
delayed, but only about 30 minutes. This was not a problem since I
had nearly a 90-minute layover in LA. As it turned out, we left 40
minutes late, but still landed only 10 minutes late, and the wait
for my final flight to Fresno seemed longer than the hour or so it
We landed in Fresno about 11:20, and had a long wait for luggage,
but I finally headed for my truck, paid the ransom, and arrived home
close to midnight, very glad that I had made the trip.
A Few Final Comments:
Ellie Schoenfeld read at the ceremony, "Forever," is found
in the book The Dark Honey. Another shorter volume, Screaming Red Gladiolus!,
contains a number of very funny poems about Barbie dolls, none of
which would be appreciated by the Mattel Corporation, where Linda
worked briefly when she lived in southern California.
predatory birds encountered at Hawk Ridge are divided into several
(goshawks, sharp-shinned hawks, and Cooper's hawks) are relatively
small; Cooper's are common in the west; the others are seen only in
the east. The larger hawks are buteos,
and the other categories are eagles, falcons, vultures and harriers.
to my former work colleagues, many of the people I met are or were
social workers or in related professions. The musician Terrol has
written and issued a CD of "social work songs." Several
others are professors or administrators at UMD.
The aerial lift
bridge was built in 1908 and upgraded in 1929-30. The new
portion was built inside the old. The bridge must be raised for any
vessel taller than 14 feet, but it only goes up to its full height
for the big cargo ships. Clearance at full height is 180 feet, and
the span length is 386 feet. Limited horsepower is needed to raise the
bridge, thanks to heavy concrete counterweights on each side. The
bridge is operational 24 hours a day.
I didn't take as many photos as usual, so some of those linked above
or shown below are from my trip in 2002.
Estel, August 2013