Saturday, July 05, 2008

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

"Though the streams are swollen
Keep them doggies rollin'

And roll we did. 19 miles from Cannon Falls to Red Wing, 19 miles back. All along the swollen Cannon River we kept our doggies pumping the pedals of our bikes.

My brother Ted and I met at Cannon Falls at 7 a.m. and took off about 15 minutes later. We stopped in Welch for a potty break and then went on to Red Wing. A guy at Welch told Ted there was "nothing at the other end but a McDonalds!" Dork. There's a whole freakin' town at the other end, loaded with gastronomic possibilities!

Farther into town. Away from the trail.

Right on the edge of town, where the trail dumps out, there're a couple of shopping areas with some restaurants that were not open. We rolled up to a gas station that said it had a restaurant attached and found it locked.

As we sat there on the bench outside the gas station, chuckling at our stupidity (we had spent several minutes lining up our bikes and meticulously locking them together before checking the door), a pickup rolled up.

"Are they closed?" the fellow asked. He looked about Dad's age.

Ted walked up to the open window of his truck and told him they were closed.

"I'm hungry!" I shouted from the bench.

The guy said that sometimes Econo Foods has a pretty decent breakfast. He told Ted to stay put. He'd drive over there and look and come back to tell us.

A few minutes later he came back and said, "Well, how about Perkins?" By this time I'd checked my Magellan and saw there was one 1.2 miles up the road. Ted asked if it was that far. "Probably." was the answer.

"Throw your bikes in the back and I'll run you up there," he offered.

And so was my second hitchhiking experience of the trip.

I missed the guy's name. I made Ted sit in the middle in the guy's pickup cab (that was a humorous sight...260 lb, 6'1" Ted hunched in the middle of this mini-pickup cab and me by the window.)

The fellow, I'll call him Roy because Ted said he couldn't remember his name but it was an "old guy's name like Roy," was a semi-retired building inspector and part time project manager for commercial properties.

Nice fella. I was glad I sat next to the window. At the end of the ride he said, "Watch your arm, sweetheart," when he rolled up the window as we got out. I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it. But it would have creeped me out if he'd called me that and I was in the middle.

So we had an enormous breakfast around 8:30 or 9 and then hit the trail to come back. Believe me, it was a LOT harder on the way back. Poor Ted had a racing saddle on his bike, which is not terribly friendly to the bottom. And of course we were getting slightly tired. And there was a breeze against us on the way back, as well as a lot of bike traffic on the trail. Everyone was out to enjoy a nice ride on the 4th.

We got back to Cannon Falls around 12, which kind of astounded us. Could we really have taken 5 hours to cover 40 miles? So we were standing there saying to each other "Well we stopped here, we stopped there, we had breakfast." Finally I said "You know, we prolly actually covered it all in about 45 minutes if we take out all the stops."

And then we were pleased.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Weather Outside is DELIGHTFUL!

I snaked an arm out from under the covers this morning to grab my cell phone.

"Ok. Its July and I'm huddling in my bed not wanting to get out because its only 55 degrees and I left the windows open last night," I text(ed?) to Rena, Sarah, Tambri, and Chris.

Yup. July 3. 55 degrees. Bracing! I got up and put on my jeans, SOCKS (!) and my warmest t-shirt. Now at 4:45 p.m. it is a really nice 78 degrees out...warm enough for crops.

My morning expedition was to ride my bike to downtown Farmington. I strapped my Jazzercise mini-backpack to my handlebars and set out to gather provisions: 2 bottle of wine (a red Rioja from Spain and a Piesporter Riesling I hadn't tried yet), a movie (The Great Debate with Denzel Washington), a bag of Foglifter coffee by Millstone and a loaf of crusty bread from the Farmington Bakery. I was pretty amazed that I could fit the two bottles and the bag of coffee in my little backpack.

Mom went strawberry picking this morning. She left at 6:00 when I was still dead to the world. So for lunch I had a grilled cheese sandwich and a handful of berries. I finished reading my book, "The Titan," by Fred Mustard Stewart. GREAT BOOK! It kept me riveted...very hard to put down.

This afternoon we sought out National Camera Exchange and I bought a small folding reflector and 3 lens caps. I've lost 2 caps so I replaced those and bought another to have as a spare. And of course the obligatory Target stop. I bought some shirts for Nate that were on sale.

While Dad's in the hospital Mom has been carrying his wallet around in her purse. When we sat down for coffee, she said, "Hmm...this is like going to the bank." And she pulled out his wallet, took $20 out, and put it into hers. "I just made a transfer," she said.

Now tonight we'll have steak. I'm in charge of cooking that when Mom's at her piano lesson. Tomorrow I think Ted and I will ride the Cannon River trail. We'll see. The day will end at Julia's with a bonfire.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Running Around

We have been very pleased with what a great traveler Bear is turning out to be. The first day in the car he was a little unsettled, but not a lot. He didn't cry or anything. He just looked a little "on edge." Never really relaxed much that day. But by the second day he was all about enjoying the ride. He stretched out on his seat and dropped off to sleep, not really even moving around much. He did a good job in the hotel, not barking even once if people walked down the hall.

He's also had good house guest behavior with just one accident at Chris' and one at Mom's. Both poop incidents. I don't understand why they do that, but dogs seem to need to do something in a house the first day they are there. Every dog that has visited our house has done that too.

Each morning I get up and walk him around Farmington before breakfast. He also loves Mom's fenced-in back yard, running around and exploring the gardens. At Julia's he seems a little lost out there. Julia said they would let him out and he didn't come back. They would go looking for him and find him hunched over under a tree. I think he found some mulch pile in her back yard and rolled in it, though. He really smelled like gardening manure last night when I picked him and brought him back to Mom's. So he had a 10 p.m. bath.

Sunday was a little more exciting than I would care for. Dad ended up in the emergency room at the Northfield hospital and ultimately had surgery to remove portions of his bowel, which had perforated. He will be in the hospital until at least Friday, maybe even as late as Sunday.

Yesterday brother Ted, sister Julia and I took the kids on a bike ride down the Minnehaha Parkway. We rode from Lake Nokomis to Fort Snelling State Park. It was fun to ride the old neighborhood. Everything is in full bloom and Minneapolis has done a wonderful job updating the Minnehaha Falls area. Ted and I are thinking of another ride on Friday morning.

After the ride we went to the Malt Shop for an excellent lunch and then I spent the afternoon and evening at John and Julie's house. They moved into their new parsonage a couple of weeks ago so I helped with some unpacking during the afternoon. I was in charge of the workshop room in the basement, which I brushed out with a stiff whisk broom and then organized with all Julie's tools and such. It was a satisfying project. After cleaning up, we walked back to the 50th and Lyndale area and at the Blackbird Cafe, which is next door to the Malt Shop. I had a wonderful spring pea ravioli dish.

This morning I'm just hanging around and this afternoon Lis and I plan to go to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to see the Frielander: Photography exhibit.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Beep Beep Flash Flash

The sights and sounds outside our hotel room in Bloomington, IL on Tuesday night.

Wonderful hotel. We stayed at the Baymont Inn. It's a pet-friendly hotel, which I'd never stayed in before. Rather I should say I've never stayed in a hotel with a pet before. I guess I could have stayed in a hotel that allows them, but I've never brought one with me.

Anyway. My expectations were low. My parents had tried staying in pet-friendly hotels before with mixed results. The principle concern they had was that they seemed to be given smoking rooms, even when requesting non-smoking. Dad's theory was that they must just put all the "bad stuff" in those rooms...smokers and pets.

So Lis made the reservations (she's an AARP member) and I told her, "be sure sure sure it's a nonsmoking room!"

The hotel was spotless. And smelled crisp and clean. They were changing out carpet and furniture in some parts of it, so it was being remodeled as well.

We checked in, confusing the heck out of poor Bear as we kept taking him outside every 15 minutes trying to get him to pass some solid waste. But we did settle down and have a meal of Wendy's chili and salad. And wine. Then Taylor settled in to watch the tube and Lis and I repaired to the pool deck with our other glass of wine. It was a gorgeous evening out. No bugs, perfect temp. We settled in to bed around 10:30 and dropped right off to sleep.

Around midnight we heard what sounded like a loud clock radio beeping over and over. Lis got up to investigate and saw a red SUV parked under our window (we were on the 2nd floor) with the car alarm going off. The headlights were flashing and the beeping was persistent. We figured someone would come shut it off soon, so we went back to bed. About 3 or 4 minutes later it stopped.

An hour or so later it started up again. Lasted 3 or 4 minutes, stopped.

Every 90 minutes or so it would start again. All. Night.

I did not call the front desk. I figured someone else would. I actually slept through it for the most part. I'd hear the beeping sound, identify it, drop back off to sleep. I woke pretty refreshed except for a migraine, which was unrelated. So I was good. Taylor never knew about it. Lis said she was good.

We were in the elevator with our bags the next the morning and I said to Lis, "I see someone did stick a note on the windshield of that car." And the other woman in the elevator said they had complained to the front desk a few times during the night, once running into the fellow that was staying in the room right in front of the flashing headlights. The hotel staff didn't seem to know what to do.

That kind of blows my mind. They take your vehicle information when you register. Why didn't they look up who it belonged to, call his room, and tell him about the problem? If they couldn't reach him they could have gone to his room. And if that didn't work, they should have had it towed.

So Baymont? Nice hotel. Kind of stupid staff, however. At least at that one.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hitchhiking in Mount Vernon, IL

I am very late with this entry. No real excuses. Sorry.

Tuesday we traveled from Nashville to Bloomington, IL. Lis and I like to get out and walk and see stuff, so after a couple of hours on the road, I asked Magellan to tell me about some points of interest. As it turns out we were just an exit or so away from Mount Vernon, IL.

The AAA information built into Magellan pointed out that the Appellate courthouse was where Abraham Lincoln argued cases and also served as an emergency hospital under the guidance of Clara Barton during a tornado in 1888. Magellan also said that there was an historic village to see in the town. So we told Magellan to take us there. And she did. Right to the center of Mt. Vernon.

We looked around and didn't really see anything that looked like a replica of a village, and no real signs about the Appellate Court. So we parked and started wandering around downtown. Taylor and Lis periodically said, "There's an old building. Maybe that's it." And so we would walk to that, ultimately finding an old church and a couple of other buildings.

Finally we saw a postal worker and asked her. She directed us down a street, told us where to turn after a bit, and we set out walking.

What turned out later to be something like 2 miles, we ended up outside the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts. We didn't go in there because we figured the village was on the other side, but as we walked by the center we were able to enjoy the many wonderful sculptures that dot their park.

Finally we came to a sign that sign that directed us to the go down one more street. At this point Taylor said, "I want to go back to the car." I suspect we all did at that point. It was in the low 90s and we were pretty hot and thirsty and sweaty. Bear was dragging along on his leash. I told the other two that I would go to the car and bring it back. I suspected that we had come the long way to our present location and my internal compass was telling me that I could turn around and go straight down the street we were on and find downtown. I assured Lis that I would ask someone.

And so I set out and, after about 3 blocks, I saw an elderly gentleman outside a house pounding a "For Rent" sign into the ground. We had noticed a mailbox right there that had the name "T--" on it, and above the mailbox was another sign that said, "The house that Jack built." I had commented on it to the others when we walked by the first time.

"Are you Jack?" I asked the gentleman.

"Yes!" he said, with a quizzical look on his face.

I walked toward him with my hand outstretched. "I'm Karen and I'm lost," I told him.

He chuckled a bit and then I told him I was from South Carolina, traveling to Minneapolis to visit family with my friend and younger son. We had stopped here to stretch our legs and ended up walking pretty far from our car. I asked him to confirm my suspicion about where downtown was, and he immediately said, "Hop in the car. I'll run you down there."

And so we moved his extension cords out of the way and hopped into his Taurus.

"So when did you build your house?" I asked.

"Oh, my wife and I did in '67," he said.

"So you've lived here almost all my life," I said.

"Oh, I think I'm about three times as old as you are," he chuckled.

"Now Jack, I doubt that," I said. "I'm 48."

"Well I'm 86, so I guess almost twice then," he laughed.

As we drove back to the car (and here I proudly mention that I was correct about its' location...thanks to my great sense of direction), we visited for a bit about our lives. He lost his wife in 1992 and has three living children. One lives about 40 miles away and the others close to 300. He's a retired boilermaker and then did some arrangements for land leases to oil companies. "I still do a little of that," he said.

And we got back to the car. We exchanged email addresses and I got into my car to go back to the others.

The village was closed and is obviously a tourist thing...but it seems well put together. I was disturbed by the real gravestones that are just leaning up against the church in the village. My theory is that if old gravestones fall over or break, they should be left on the gravesite if they aren't going to be repaired. There is a great cemetery by the village. But we were too hot and tired to do any more walking around, so we left. We never did go back to the Appellate Courthouse to look around. That's the real attraction there, to my way of thinking. I guess you can call for a free tour. We'll have to do that some day.

So kudos to Jack, of "the house that Jack built!" Great guy!