Our last night on the road we spent in Saint Cloud, Minnesota at a bed and breakfast in separate rooms, a delightful respite from sharing roadside motel rooms. We arrived at the Edelbrock B&B a little later than we intended because of some tomfoolery with the online maps Emily had printed (the route told us to get off I-94 a lot sooner than we should have, so we got a long tour of a string of nearby villages that had similar road numbering systems to Saint Cloud, which did not help us in the least. iPhone to the rescue! We made it, and well before sunset.
The proprietors, Carol and Chauncey, greeted us as we dropped our luggage onto their gravel driveway, then helped us carry some things as they ushered us into the most beguiling bed and breakfast I have ever encountered (in my limited experience). The house was a historic Victorian structure, ivy climbing the gables, exterior walls of a welcoming cream brick with red trim. Artifacts dotted the yard, turning it into a picturesque playground: a vintage blue Schwinn, its basket an ad hoc container for pink pansies; wagon wheels, watering cans, and washtubs blooming with petunias; terracotta pots stacked upside down with a tray balanced on top to create a birdbath; an old red wagon that the boys found immediately and began giving their toys rides. Then, we saw the inside. Holy antique hoarders! It looked like Carol and Chauncey were in the antique store business rather than the B&B biz. Old stuff lined the walls and covered every inch of available surface area. Stuff was stacked on things, gimcracks mingled with gewgaws, whirligigs cuddled with whatnots. I would have loved to stay there for a week and never leave the place, rather investigating the nooks and crannies cram-jammed with crumbly, aged relics. I coveted a great many items, but at the same time, felt nearly claustrophobic, surrounded as we were by so many ghosts.
Okay, I’m not a good photographer at all, but I love that picture. It has been easy to capture interesting images on this trip.
Observe the plethora of stuff and also the boys playing in the mirror. This was in the “Blue Room,” I think, where Emily and the boys slept.
The above two are from my room, the “Gold Room,” which was huge and filled with STUFF, STUFF, STUFF!!!!! Old ads, hatboxes, an autograph book from 1890something, old wire rim glasses, a writing desk outfitted with quills and ink bottles…lots of fun stuff!
Oops, this one’s a little blurry, but that’s Carol and Chauncey w/ Emily and the boys. I didn’t mention how C+C had six kids, one adopted, and about 9287398729 grandkids, and pictures of them all, everywhere. I didn’t ask them about their music factory. Get it?! C+C? MUSIC FACTORY?! EVERYBODY DANCE NOW! HA. HA. HA. Ahem. Never mind.
We tore ourselves away from antique-gazing to walk five blocks to a place Carol recommended called Jules’ Bistro, a funky café with original paintings on the walls, delicious gourmet pizza, and friendly servers. We didn’t see much of downtown Saint Cloud other than the blocks we walked (the B&B was very close to town center), but the place felt clean and inviting, minus a major construction endeavor that had ripped up a hefty portion of the main drag. We walked, the four of us hand-in-hand, taking our time and savoring this last full night of our adventure.
The next morning we ate a scrumptious breakfast baked by Carol before we went on our way. We drove straight through Minneapolis/Saint Paul and I vowed to come back someday and spend some time in what I’ve heard to be a wonderful city…in the warmer months, that is. I realized too late that we could have stopped by Landmark Plaza downtown to see the bronze Peanuts character statues (Charles Schulz was born in Minneapolis and grew up in Saint Paul). There’s one big reason for me to come back.
We explored Wisconsin at Lake Menomin in the town of Menominee. Alas, we only had time for a quick picnic before heading back on the road to Chicago, but we stopped for dinner at Emily’s friend Amy’s house in Madison, where Emily’s husband Roger met us. We had a yummy supper of peanut noodles, sliced veggies and fruit, and I squeezed in a short nap because by that time, I had been on the road for four solid days and my brain, body and eyes in particular were leaden. Rejuvenated by the meal and the nap, we headed for Chicago, Roger, Emily and the boys in the van, me in Roger’s car, blasting some tunes (which is hard to do with young boys napping in the backseat).
A twin bonanza! Amy and her boys and Emily and hers.
The trip ended on a bit of a buzz kill, courtesy of the Illinois toll system. We had completely forgotten about the tolls that pepper the highway all the way from Wisconsin to Chicago, which was not a problem for Roger and Emily, as they have a speed-pass that can be electronically detected. I, on the other hand, had only about forty cents cash to my name, and I blew through the first toll unpaid. We had to stop the caravan so that Emily could loan me the cash to pay the tolls, and from what I heard later, that created chaos in their car, since all the stopping and starting woke up the boys, who were a tad miffed about the situation. Weren’t we all! The icing on the cake was the enormous traffic jam when we hit the north side of Chicago. Naturally, by this time, my bladder was brimmin from the large coffee I pounded from when we gassed up in Madison, and though I am fairly familiar with Chicago geography, I didn’t know enough to just pull off to a gas station and let Roger and Emily go ahead. I needed to follow them, although I probably could have figured it out (Addison to LSD, not that hard). They live in the south side (six blocks from Obama!), and we were bumper to bumper up north. Alas. After much teeth-gritting and cursing of Illinois for being so crowded and toll-happy, we made it to the house at last. I adore Chicago and have considered moving there many, many times, but that was just straight up mean, Chicago.
The next morning, I woke up thinking I was in Seattle. I was disoriented for a good minute and a half before I realized that I was in Emily’s guest room, where I have slept a number of times since they bought the house a couple years ago. After shaking off the cobwebs, I emerged from the bedroom to spend my last morning with Emily and the boys before heading home to my beloved Saint Louis. If the tolls and traffic were the most annoying thing we had to deal with for the whole trip, I think we did pretty well. We had an incredible time, and I am already looking forward to our next foray across the country (where shall we go next?)
Stay tuned for a pictorial retrospective!