Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Romp in Rural MN

This week I am on a work road trip that takes me to 6 different rural Minnesota locations in 5 days and 4 nights.

St. Joseph

In that order.

Tonight, night #2, I am resting my weary head in site #4 - Morris. But let's back up and discuss how I arrived at my present locale.

Yesterday morning I set out at about 6:15am CT for lovely St. Joseph, just west of St. Cloud (I calculate that 86.5% of Minnesota cities, colleges and universities have "St." in their names - I believe that they think it is a title not to be reserved for religious figures any longer.). I arrived, I conquered, I inspired (eh, Boof??) and I departed town nearly a half hour early, at approximately 11:05. Destination: Alexandria aka Alex aka Alec.

I have been greatly anticipating this visit to Alex due to a history lesson given to a couple of us by a friend - Alexandria is the birthplace of America. However, due to the fact that I have not loaded the pictures that prove this onto a computer yet, that is a blog post to be written later, and you shall all await that story with baited breath. Trust me, it's worth waiting for.

So I arrived in Alex a little after noon, checked into my "fancy" hotel, and went on my history quest.

That took about 45 minutes. So I then stopped at Culvers (yum-a butterburger and a cement mixer - and on my employer's dime - can you beat that??), and returned to my casa del noche to relax until I had to inspire others for two hours, before returning to my room to watch Studio 60. That show is getting better and better.

This morning I loaded up the rental car and departed at 6am once again for lovely Brainerd. I arrived, I conquered, I inspired and I departed on time. I then decided to head for Morris, since that was where my next temporary residence awaited me...although I was in no real rush since I just had to be there before dark since my work commitments don't begin here until tomorrow morning. And it's a good thing I wasn't in a rush...because I fell victim to my ignorance of rural roads. Yes, I missed a turn. But it didn't hurt me too badly, time-wise - maybe only about 10 or 15 minutes. But I gained in sight-seeing. Instead of taking the direct route back across a larger (and by larger I mean, well, it's maintained enough to see the lines painted on it and it appears on all maps) road, I took a different county road across. For those of you familiar with this portion of MN...CR 17 from Rice to Sauk Centre. At which point I would rejoin my Rand McNally directions printed from the internet, and would be on the road that would, some 50 miles later, ultimately hold the driveway to my hotel parking lot.

CR 17 was AMAZINGLY rural...I mean, I thought I grew up in a rural area - Pine Plains aka Pine Box, NY. Technically, our house was in Gallatin, which was in Columbia County, which was so small that it was in a different county than my school in Pine Box (Dutchess Co.), our telephone exchange in Pine Plains (Dutchess once again) and our mailing address of Red Hook (also Dutchess Co.) - and yes, our mail was delivered right to our house despite being farther away mileage-wise than the Pine Box post office...I actually didn't realize how confusing all of that was until I was in college. It gets better, the fire department was also in a different town and county, etc, etc. It's rather comical, actually. However, I don't know if I saw a traffic light for HOURS.

But it was amazingly beautiful. First of all, it's fall up here, and the leaves are red, orange, yellow, etc. It's gorgeous. And they provide the back-drop for gorgeous old barns and silos. Is there a more picturesque or calender-ready drive? There really isn't.

And then I got to the tiny town of Starbuck, MN - just 18 miles from my ultimate destination. To quote the Chamber of Commerce website, this little town with a population of 1,314 is "a great place to visit and a better place to live" if you like to live hours from a mall. (I prefer not to, but to each his or her own!) As I entered town, I was hungry. I had intended to eat nearly 40 miled prior to Starbuck in Sauk Centre...but that town consisted of some sort of mill or assembly plant, a riding center, a McDonalds and a gas station. Pass, please. A billboard at the "city" limits advertised Dave's Doo Wop Coffee Shop that had gourmet coffee, pizza and videos - and I knew I had to stop.

I went through an intersection, and vowed to turn around if the speed limit increased from 30 MPH because I would know that I had gone too far. No sooner did I have that thought than I saw the 55 MPH sign. I turned around and hung a right at the intersection to head to downtown Starbuck. And I saw a caboose, one of only 10 built in 1909, on display at the Historic Depot, where "on July 1 [1983], the World's Largest Lefse was created on the depot grounds in celebration of Starbuck's Centennial." There's a giant mural on the depot commemorating it.

I then went to Dave's Place and had a magnificent chicken alfredo pizza with tomato, and watched the 8th & 9th innings of the Twins-A's Game 1 playoff game with Dave. A great pizza, a great guy, and a TV on top of the soda cooler.

For the record, Dave's Place rents VHS, serves pizza and sandwiches, has a juke box, gourmet coffee and scones, cool pictures all over the walls, bottles of soda and a bottle opened installed in the counter over a garbage can, and apparently, according to the outside sign, offers film processing, as well. It was awesome, and one of the best lunches I have ever had. And all of Dave's tips go into a fund to helps children in some far-off country. I loved that place, and town.

And now I'm in Morris, where I will attempt to find the bar for which I have a coupon that came in the little envelope with my hotel "key" for a free beer. Gotta love rural Minnesota.


At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Jason said...

Glenwood's a million times nicer than that dump Starbuck. Although Dave is a good guy.


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