Mike Orhanen and Georgeanne Nikula left Friday night so they are probably seeing the sites of Helsinki by now, almost half a world away.
The journey has begun. . .but I can't help but think back to how it actually started.
How did 9 people say "Yes" to this crazy adventure, anyway?
Never underestimate the power of girlfriends.
Last March seven of us were at Stokely Creek north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, on a girls' cross-country ski trip. We went to ski the annual Wabos Loppet (coming up Sunday, March 9). After the long ski we were gathered around the dinner table swapping stories when a friend from Manistique, Lynn Olson, joined us and shared her experience skiing the Rajalta Rajalle Hiihto in 2005.
The movie started making as I was listening to her. I was hoping the rest of my friends could picture themselves on that wintry blue and white set too.
Adventure is contagious, especially with those women. 5 of them were already leaving to bike Ireland in September. Timing was right for Amy Michaels and Jo Samuelson to add Finland to their travel plans too. Momentum was building. I just had to sell my husband.
I didn't waste any time when I got home. "You know Ron," I asked, "we've been skiing our whole lives and we've never cross country skied."
That comment got his attention. He turned to me shaking his head, "Whaddaya mean?" (We got x-c skis for Christmas in 1975 and have been skinny skiing ever since.)
"Oh sure we Nordic ski," I replied. "But we've never crossed a country." That's when he gave me that side-ways look. You know the kind, if you could hear it, it would sound like a semi truck grinding gears up a steep hill.
But once I shared Lynn's tale and passed along that our dear friends Dr. Don and Georgie Hurst had also skied it, he sat down at his computer and started googling information. He was in.
I'm not sure the tactics Amy used to convince her husband Lyle, but when work schedules allow, those two are like horses in harness mountain biking and skiing the back country together. He wasn't going to miss this fun.
Watching Jo ski you'll swear she's dancing on snow. Without a doubt her spirit was packed and on board too. Jo is an Intensive Care Nurse at Marquette General Hospital and I know skiing is her winter time tonic for job stress.
Mike has been our dentist for decades. Years back when I needed my first root canal I begged him, "Can't you do open heart surgery instead?" I am a wimp. But to ease my anxiety during the procedure, he employed an effective anaesthetic--adventure stories--and told me about riding a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. He's also a Finn and we used to take language classes together, no way could we go to his family homeland without him.
Last summer life changed for Georgeanne. In fact, she'll admit she's put the left turn signal on and left the pavement for the "road less traveled." "I'm 50, fearless and Finn," she says with a grin. With that attitude it didn't take much convincing when we met by chance last fall in the post office.
Results posted on cross-country races in the Midwest, ususaly have Kelly Stahl and Jeff Shipkey at the top. Kelly also ranks one of the top mountain bikers in the region. Like Amy and Jo, she's also a nurse and Jeff works in health care too. I'm not sure who convinced who about taking part in the trip but the talk all started in a yoga class.
So there you have how this group began, less than a year ago. Now to see where it all leads in the next week.
When Ron and I married 32 years ago we had a line in our vows to "Keep alive spontaneity."
I think we're still good on that promise.