View from the Basement

The Road to the Mighty Mississippi

Subject: Belated birthday trip
Destination: River towns, changing fall colors
Assembled Girl Pack:
Kahuna, Pam, Gay, Anastasia Beaverhausen and me.
We were sad to leave Georgia behind, but she was suffering from a bad case of “Renter-itis.” Ask her about it!
Gay and I were supposed to pick up Anastasia at 7 a.m. Thursday morning, but being the early birds we are, we arrived at 6:30 a.m. We rang the doorbell, knocked vigorously and, with our faces pressed to the door windows, we used the cell phone. A female form came flying by in a “state of disarray,” shall we put it. Anastasia was furious at us, but Gay told her, “I live for moments like this!”
Pam had called earlier in the week to see if I had the reservations intact. I related that we were flying by the seat of our pants. The line went dead — both Gay and Pam are the organizers of our group. They dislike my chaos. First stop was Rochester, Minn., where we were sucked into the downdraft of the Apache Mall. We arrived in Winona, Minn. that night and found rooms were sparse. I was waiting to be berated if we ended up at the Sugar Loaf Motel. (Thankfully, not.) It was at Winona that I posted a picture on Facebook of a rock cliff that I said we climbed before breakfast. Actually, we were in a shoe store.
Next stop was Wabasha, where they have an Eagle Education Center to visit and the whole downtown is decorated with pumpkins, scarecrows and Halloween cats, witches and corn shocks. It was excellent and Gay is thinking we should do the same in Woony to be more festive. (Heather did point out that when they put pumpkins on the street in high school, they got in trouble.) Plus, Minnesota pumpkins lying around were weighing in the range of 200-1,000 pounds. Kahuna is not into stopping at rural business places with decorations. At one such spot she sarcastically commented, “Well, this is a happening place, they have a porta-potty.”
We pooped out on Friday night and stopped at Red Wing, Minn., where we barely got a room! Seems there was a pumpkin festival on Saturday that draws in 30,000 people. We did make time to stop at Falconer Winery for some tasting. Our wine guide was a complete “ditz”. The tasting was $6 and Kahuna gave her a $10 bill for pop and cheese curds, too. She had to go to the till three times to figure it out and then read each description off the wine bottle to us like school children, even though it was on the paper in front of us.
That really rattled us, so we went downtown and found the historic St. James Hotel that was built in 1875. We discovered the old bar on the fifth floor (elevator) had comfy chairs and Bloody Mary’s, and we got our “chat” in gear. Drinking always leads to eating, so we found Smokin’ Oak Rotisserie Grill, popular evidently, with a long line. Kahuna waltzed right up to the hostess and told her that we had called for a reservation 45 minutes earlier. They say “the truth shall set you free,” but by golly, a little white lie comes in handy.
Later that night, we were trudging up to our second floor room when Gay’s suitcase had a mind of its own and cartwheeled end over end back down the stairs. Esther said, “I think you were aiming for me!” Gay replied, “Sometimes I think you know me better than myself.”
Saturday arrived with a brisk wind and we were up early to beat the festival customers. I had a revelation while watching Pam eat a banana, that there really is no proper way to eat one in public, unless you cut it up with a fork. We had a hey-day looking at about 200 vendors. (They said 500, but that’s doubtful.) Kahuna had purchased a fluffy bag of kettle corn and I had an irresistible urge to kick it like a football. Kahuna dampened my urge by saying, “Try it and find out what happens.”
We traveled on north and dabbled a bit on the Wisconsin side, happily munching on cheese curds. Next stop was Stillwater, and it was jammed with shops and antique stores. Once again they were having a pumpkin festival by the river with vendors, music, pie-eating contest and the giant pumpkin weigh-in. (I’m telling you, pumpkins are exciting to Minnesotans.)
We found our niche to sit on the porch of the old Waterstreet Inn, which had the BEST Bloody Mary’s and smoking-hot — at least a three alarm fire in the mouth. We witnessed the weigh-in on the biggest pumpkin—2,185 pounds. We were so overcome with emotion that Kahuna sat down at the baby grand in the lobby and played a bit of “Beautiful Dreamer.” We will now refer to her as Piano Jan.
Pam took the wheel from our steadfast driver, Gay, and guided us the rest of the way into Minneapolis. Much to Esther’s surprise, she discovered her friend Bev, from vo-tech and her wedding personal attendant, was one floor above us in the same hotel. Our group had a quiet last supperm since we all knew we would be returning to the real world by Monday.
Breakfast is our favorite meal and we dined at one of the best “Hell’s Kitchen.” Take the time to check it out if you happen to be in the city. Three of us just had the giant pecan caramel roll as our meal. Coffee is very bold and could almost grow hair on your chest. (Cream to the rescue.)
Trizzle, trizzle, trazzle, trone…Time for this one to go home.          – Dee Baby

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