The Long Way Home 4.12.24

Anyone who knows me knows that driving much west of Lutsen sends quivers through a particular sphincter. For months, I knew I’d be driving to Rochester last week. I’d cancel, though, if the winter weather were threatened.

Last fall, I was in Duluth for a PET scan. The reader of the scans called the results equivocal and recommended another scan in six months. The doc who referred me was alarmed, as the equivocal spot was near a vital organ. Since I was once again more “complicated” than his practice wanted, he strongly referred me to Mayo for treatment options. 

Mayo called in November and offered appointments for lab work and a PET scan on April 2, and a consultation on the morning of April 3. I hate winter driving, so I figured the weather would be good in April. 

Book it.

As the last weekend in March dragged on, weather reports were positive for the drive. I didn’t even pack long underwear or a winter jacket. On April Fools Day, I left Cook County and headed to Carlton for a night with my family. My first appointment was at 10 a.m. the following day in Rochester, so I entered I-35 at 6:15. I’d planned a leisurely 3-hour drive, a walk around downtown, and being early for my appointment.

Then, about ten miles south of Carlton, snow began falling and didn’t stop. A rush hour through St. Paul is always a pain, especially with falling snow. Despite the snow and the traffic, I made it to Rochester with time to spare. I searched for an open parking space. After two ramps indicated “Full,” I turned onto a side street and spotted an open meter.  

The meter did not accept nickels, dimes, or quarters. It needed a phone app called “Park Mobile.” 

So, on a windy, cold morning in Rochester, I struggled to download the app and figure out how to pay for three hours of parking. Not exactly sure where I was, I looked at my watch and took off to find the hospital. I arrived at the lab at exactly 10 a.m., a bit out of breath and worried because I forgot to lock Miss Daisy (the Chevy). 

The late morning scan went smoothly, and I headed out to find the car. 

I pride myself on knowing where I am and what direction to go. When my cousin and I were kids, our grandad took us out into the woods for a little walk. After covering some ground, he stopped and asked, “Do you know how to return to the house?” Then he left us. 

We finally got back to the house some 48 hours later. After that, I learned always to know where I start so I can return without the discomfort of being lost in the woods or downtown Rochester.  

Increasingly frantic texts from Park Mobile said my time was running low, and my meter had expired, so I struggled to find Miss Daisy. Before giving up the search and finding a friendly cop, I bought a three-dollar coffee at Caribou, got my bearings with the map on the Park Mobile app, and finally found her. 

Though I forgot to lock the car, Rochester is Minnesota Nice. No one stole my suitcase.

For my 7:45 consult the next day, I got downtown just before seven and parked in one of the many ramps. I knew the Gonda Building well—I’d been there many times before—but I wasn’t sure how to get there from the ramp I was at.

With time to spare, I decided to walk outside to smoke a pipe instead of taking the skyway.

With 15 minutes to spare, I was breathing easy when I got to the Gonda Building, my destination. I strode through a metal detector. My pocket knife and leatherman, always with me, aren’t allowed in the building, so security gave me two options: bring them back to the car or he would throw them away. 

The problem: I had no idea how to return to where I parked and get back in 15 minutes. But I tried. Frantically searching for a way into the skyway, I eventually found the car, dropped off the offending tools, and hurried back to Gonda--just in time for my appointment.

Dr. Kwon was as new to me as I was to him. After reviewing my medical history and the scans from the day before, he thought we could watch and wait for four months and do the whole PET scan and blood test thing in August. 

I agree. There shouldn’t be a chance of snow between Grand Marais and Rochester in August, right?

Getting lost, on the other hand…