(republishing in honor of Franconia’s 20th anniversary)
It’s been a long summer full of jobs on top of jobs while also looking for more jobs. You could say we are pretty much focused on jobs. It’s a nonstop train of jobs on the brain that can make you insane and write off rhymes that are lame.
We’d cancelled our big June vacation and have been just staying home ever since in an effort to save money and batten down the financial hatches to weather out this storm. For Labor Day weekend, however, we decided that enough was enough. We’re gonna frickin’ have ONE vacation this summer. Even just a day away in a hotel, not applying to jobs, and just relaxing for 24 hours would help us more than we could express. Our trip began at 9 a.m. Sunday. We got back at 2 p.m. Monday.
We had bought a Groupon in June for a paddleboat ride on the St. Croix River in Taylors Falls, Minnesota. So that was our main goal, to enjoy a boat ride.
And we did. Becky had to nearly overdose on motion sickness pills to get through it, but we had a great time in our 90 minutes down and back on the river, where we saw fascinating rock formations, lots of canoeists and kayakers, rock climbers who were lounging on the cliff in weird poses as if they wanted to be photographed for a crappy fashion magazine, and for some unknown reason, a ton of canoeists parked on a small sandbar in the middle of the river.
We boated on, Minnesota on one side, Wisconsin on the other. On the Wisconsin side, we saw lots of orange warning signs posted near the water. I told Becky they said “Warning. Hill People.” She loved that. We get a sadistic pleasure out of making up jokes about Wisconsin for no reason.
Here’s an actual sign that was on the road upon entry into Wisconsin that shows how frickin’ creepy they can be:
The tour guide pointed out interesting bits and pieces of the river and surroundings.
Him: People say they can see George Washington in that rock. Maybe you need to drink a few before you can say that.
Me: You’ve had all summer to come up with better jokes.
We also spent some time in Interstate State Park at Taylors Falls, known for its many deep, round pits known as potholes, formed by the powerful sand and silt filled rivers underneath glaciers 10,000 years ago. The park is pretty much a death trap waiting to happen, with these deep pits and cliffs every 10 feet. So at any given time, you can hear five parents going on as such:
“Peter? Peter. Peter, get down. Peter, don’t go there. Peter, come here. Peter, stop leaning on that. Peter! Peter, You are going to be in so much trouble if you don’t get over here right now. Peter, quit running. Peter. Oh, fuck it, see if I care.”
I’m pretty sure this park and the stress it causes parents is why there are so many vineyards in the region.
We spent some of Sunday trying to find a vineyard or cidery that was open. But it must not be the season for it. Though the local chamber of commerce and wine tour sites list them, we spent about an hour driving around the countryside from one deserted location to another. Though we knew Minnesota’s weird ass laws prohibit buying alcohol on Sundays, we hoped maybe they had tasting rooms. But our handy GPS system kept leading us to random farmsteads and spots with no visible structures nearby. But we enjoyed the nice drive through the countryside. Hell, we haven’t seen actual corn in the fields all summer – a first for both of us.
We did stop at Eichten’s Bistro and Market for an AMAZING broiled walleye sandwich and cheese plate for two. We left with more cheese and bison summer sausage. Highly recommend – go here if you can.
At that point, we were beat and went to the hotel to check in. The Holiday Inn Express was over the river in Wisconsin, but we tried not to hold that against it. (rimshot!) In fact, it was an amazing room with a lovely bed that immediately ensnared us into its web with a 3-hour nap. The room also had two TVs, a couch, a fridge, microwave and sink. All for $152 total. Not bad.
We tried watching TV, but when you don’t have cable, you tend to realize just how crappy most television is. We retreated to the DVD of Orphan Black we brought along (WATCH THIS SHOW BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME!!!)
The next day, we stopped for an hour at Franconia Sculpture Park just outside of town. It is 30 acres of huge outdoor sculptures that is free to visit, but seriously, be cool and donate if you go. Like most exhibits, there were some things I liked and some I didn’t. I’m reserving most of what I want to say about this for an art review, but for now, thanks to @karifur for the tip on this place.
To sum up, Taylors Falls can be done in a day for less than $200 for gas and food and activities. For kids, there’s a nearby waterslide park that looked pretty fun. It’s a cheap getaway for the financially strapped and worth every penny for the stress relief.
More pretty pictures: