a pilgrimage to Freeport, Maine

We dropped a small fortune but we are set for winters for life. @llbean

My family has been ordering coats and book bags from the L.L. Bean catalog for as long as I can remember. Unusual for western Kansas where North Face is everywhere, tattered Colorado ski passes dangling from zipper pulls.

In sixth grade, my first L.L. Bean backpack after my relatively new box store bag ripped. I picked it out after flipping through glossy pages: navy, one large interior compartment with a classic square pouch on the front, and my initials monogrammed above it. I was wearing it when I was hit by a car later that year (just a bump, no injuries, freaked my mom out with my phone call from school) and you couldn't tell except for two thin skid marks, battle scars to brag about. In high school I upgraded to a larger size (when fully loaded it's wider than I am), which survived the impressive piles of books I lugged around everywhere as an English major in college, and still serves me well.

L.L. Bean faded into the background until our second winter in Boston. With snows approaching record highs and toes freezing on the daily commute, I turned once again to the brand that hadn't let me down. I got wellies with warmers that arrived in time to carry me through the rest of winter, and snow boots on back order for the next year. This was followed by Ian and I surprising each other (completely) last Christmas with their famous wicked good slippers. (I also discovered when you call customer service, a real person picks up on the other end with no answering system intermediary.)

Love our @LLBean wicked good slippers.

So our trip to Freeport, Maine a few weekends ago was years in the making. That it happened during their centennial celebration was icing on the cake shearling in the slipper. We headed out with breakfast and an outline of our list: winter boots for Ian, a new winter coat for me, and new luggage for us.

Two hours later, we stood in front of the L.L. Bean flagship store. After taking a few requisite photos with the giant boot (in my matching boots), we walked in. The store is massive. I felt like a little kid.

We wandered around a bit until we discovered into the luggage section, where we scoped out possible replacements for our current set, which is almost 5 years old and is beginning to tear and lose parts (like wheels). After logging a few items for our wish lists, we took a quick lunch break. Thanks to a chowder cook-off hosted by L.L. Bean, Ian downed a bowl of seafood, while I munched on a gigantic cheese pretzel. Then it was time to tackle the remaining items on our list.

ll bean trip to freeport

We headed to the men's footwear area, where Ian tried on a pair of non-Bean boots they carry for variety. He wasn't sold on the classic Bean boot style, but I convinced him to at least try them on. As soon as he slid his foot in the first boot, he looked at me and said "Anna, I want these boots." I hugged him in my excitement, drawing a strange look from our salesperson.

Boot box in hand, we headed upstairs to women's coats. I tried on just about every heavy coat in stock, with lots of advice from a very helpful associate. "You're in Boston? You'll be happiest with a waterproof coat; let me show you our best two in two price points... Down is nice but high maintenance and more expensive... This comes in a longer length if your order online... This one looks nice and it's more versatile because the fabric is heavy duty: it won't tear if you're hiking through the woods..." I decided on the "Cadillac of Bean coats" for it's fit, waterproofing, and ample arm length (the latter two were missing in my previous winter coat). It feels like it's hugging me every time I put it on. How can you resist that?

We dropped a small fortune (the Dave Ramsey way), but we're set for New England winters for life, guaranteed.