MINNEAPOLIS — Life looks a lot different in 2020 than anyone imagined, but not everything is hitting pause. For the last several months, people have been re-imagining ways to celebrate big life milestones. Minnesota couple A.J. and Stacey Steinbring are one of those couples thinking outside the box.
The couple had been planning their wedding for two years. They had the venue, the caterers and a guest list that reached 200, but when COVID hit everything was up in the air. Stacey says they had two choices: postpone or adapt. “We ended up having a 10-guest wedding, plus a photographer, on top of the C-ramp overlooking Target Field.”
A.J. and Stacey are huge Twins fans so the location suited them just fine, but travel restrictions put the kibosh on a European honeymoon. The couple wanted a way to celebrate their marriage, so A.J. started to brainstorm. “I thought, why don’t we drive around the perimeter and visit all the extreme geography locations in our state?”
They rented a car, packed up their dog Kirby, a tribute to Twins standout Kirby Puckett, and pulled out of their Minnetonka driveway. The 2,000 mile drive included overnight stays in Grand Portage, Ely, Roseau, Noyes, Brown Valley, Hills, Lanesboro, Red Wing and finally back home to Minnetonka. If you trace it on a map, it follows the Minnesota border. “Day by day we kind of picked and chose where we were going to stop, what parks we were going to stop at, what tourist attractions we’re going to stop at.”
A connection was found in many places off the beaten path, places the couple would probably not have ended up in if it wasn’t for the pandemic. A.J. had a soft spot for Noyes. “It’s the most North West town and it use to be a border crossing and the old border crossing building is still there," A.J said.
Stacey was taken in by the many different landscapes. “The trees up north, and then you have the prairie areas in the west and the bluffs in the southeast area, it really is more beautiful than anybody realizes.”
Time on the road cemented the family bond between A.J., Stacey and Kirby, who was only adopted six weeks before the trip. As the couple began to learn all her little quirks, likes and aversions, A.J. realized the state was opening its arms to the new family. “What’s really beautiful is the people. As a young gay couple when you travel the state, you’re kind of like, 'Do we need to be extra careful?' And everywhere we went we were very welcomed.”
One day the couple looks forward to going to Europe, but A.J. says the way things turned out couldn’t have been better. “We didn’t have the wedding we expected, and it turned out perfect. And we didn’t have the honeymoon we expected, and it turned out perfect.”
Proving the pandemic can change people’s lives, but it’s unable to crush the human spirit.