Part two of two. An accounting of our recent day trip to celebrate the fall season, where all you really need is a car and a full tank of gas.
We got back on the road and drove to Red Wing for the second part of our day trip. With all the driving, I felt like I should have riding goggles and a scarf.
Here’s the thing about Red Wing. When I was in 6th grade, we had to learn about Minnesota, and Red Wing was one of those places I learned about that stuck with me. I always wanted to go.
I fucking hate Red Wing. HATE IT! The mythos we were taught in 6th grade was that Red Wing was this quaint town full of old-timey charm. My first experience in Red Wing was on a train trip out to Boston, but before we could even leave the state, another train full of grain had de-railed and stranded us in Red Wing for 4 hours.
This day trip was also a complete disaster because here’s the thing about Red Wing: Unlike other “quaint” towns. It has more than one Main Street. Red Wing has Old Main, Main, East Main, West Main, Old West Main and Old East Main. AND, these are 6 SEPARATE roads. Who does that?
THE definition of a quaint town is to find the main street, the ONE they have. You then park your car and walk up one side of the street and down the other while enjoying the shops you only find in “quaint” towns. Not Red Wing. Hell no. I had read about a Red Wing Brewery in Minnesota Monthly, and thought we could at least eat in Red Wing.
BUT, the brewery, located on OLD WEST MAIN, caused us to go down and back and around and finally use more of our beloved GPS juice.
Going during the Red Wing fall art festival was a bit of a hassle. Lots of traffic. We found the Red Wing Brewery after some back tracking and had lunch – a flight of beers for Becky, and for me, a pint of Cokins Bavarian Style, which is made with only barley, hops, water and yeast, in accordance with the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516. We had a cheeseburger pizza and brewery bread sticks. And Becky got tipsy with the 6.0 proof beer. I couldn’t blame her. Red Wing does that.
Why go to a brewery if you are not going to try them all? What is the point of that? Joel was driving, and who knew how long it was going to take us to get out of the Hell that is Red Wing. The Red Wing Brewery beer comes with a fist to help knock the memory from your brain.
Back on the road, we headed to Wabasha, home of the Grumpy Old Men movies (though none of it was shot there). What it is home to now is a great main street of fun stores and shops and SeptOberFest — a magical time of year when they decorate the streets with pumpkins and create mazes with bales of hay.
Alright, Wabasha IS the definition of a quaint little town. We went to their ONE Main Street and parked the car. The Chocolate Escape provided caramel mochas, truffles, and turtles, and we sauntered down to SeptOberFest central while holding hands and practically skipping. All the businesses celebrated, including churches, by decorating pumpkins. I pet as many dogs as I came across. Sounds of horse hooves clop through the air.
But see, here’s where the trip changes. For those who are unaware, we were circling LakePepin. The fall colors are amazing, but something happens when I cross over into Wisconsin. Granted, I’ve not visited much of Wisconsin, at least not any large cities, but instead, only rural Wisconsin.
This portion of Wisconsin is filled with “non-incorporated” named areas and the countryside is full of homes, trailers and cars in varying layers of rust and decay. Everyone appears to be a hoarder because of the sheer number of rusted items on lawns and driveways.
You will pass through several towns of population 80. Every single person makes lawn gnomes and pretends to be Amish. They also have a ridiculous number of vehicles out front in the midst of hoarder central. You will also see a bright pink limousine. You will also see some beautiful countryside.
People have groves to chop wood. Joel and I tend to get this feeling. It is a Children of the Corn or Nothing but Trouble feeling one gets while driving around this portion of Wisconsin.
Joel comes up with random facts about Wisconsin as we drive:
- You can offer your unborn children as legal tender.
- If you get pulled over by the cops for a traffic violation, you can expect to spend the night in a cell with a surly ferret wielding a jackknife and who will make you squeal like a human.
- The cheese is not from cows.
Imagine a place, if you will, a place where all these things about the people are possible. I’m sure the people there are lovely. But, if given the choice between swimming across Lake Pepin to get into Minnesota or approaching one of the houses surrounded with more garden gnomes than could be counted in a lifetime, I’m taking my chances with the fishes.
We stopped at Maiden Rock Cidery in Stockholm. Unfortunately, Saturday night is when large groups of Wisconsinites travel the countryside in search of fresh blood – often screaming in that way only a 40+ year old white woman can: loud cackle yet somehow you can hear the undertones of an Uffda. They were out of cider at this cidery. We got some wine instead.
Overall we were on budget. Including gas, apples, lunch, chocolate and wine, we did it for $200, which is not bad for a vacation. If in a pinch, you could bring your own lunch, skip buying wine, apples and chocolate, and the whole vacation could be done for less than $100.
During our long stretch of unemployment, it was cheap vacations like this that made us still remember that life was worth something. It gave us something to look forward to in the midst of a sea of crap and utter soul crushing pain. This time, coming home didn’t hurt so much. For the first fall in our lives, we weren’t going home to more job hunting.