Days 6-12 (6/29-7/5): When I began the project of sharing the wonderful experiences Bryce and I had on our road trip to and from Minnesota, I originally planned to blog a day-by-day recap in about one week. Well, it has been more than a month since we’ve returned to Harrisonburg, and I’m still a few blogs short of the intended 12-day ode to my Minnesota home. I haven’t even reached the half-way point. Fail. Rather than drag on the Minnesota-centric entries for another six weeks, I decided to wrap the story up in this one last post.
Friday morning of our first week in Minnesota, Bryce and I jumped back into the old Altima and left the bustle of the Twin Cities behind for the much more relaxed environment of my parents’ place in rural, western Minnesota. In just over two hours, we traded the interstate corridors for county roads and skyline for shoreline. Alexandria, Minnesota is one of those picturesque midwestern communities on the edge of the prairie – think “A Prairie Home Companion” – surrounded by farms, lakes, trees, and resorts. Looking back on my childhood, I realize I took the beauty and charm of the area for granted. I wanted nothing more as a teenager than to grow up and move out. Now, I treasure the time I get to spend at home with my family.
We arrived in Alexandria ahead of schedule, so my parents thought they’d surprise everyone by not sharing that information. When my sister (Amy), 5 year-old niece (Monroe), and 3 year-old nephew (Sully) showed up early that same afternoon, they were just as ecstatic to see us as we were them. The little ones ran in to give us hugs, and once things calmed down a bit, Monroe put her hand on my shoulder, looked me straight in the eyes, and told me, “I’m happy you’re here.” My heart melted at that very moment, and I could not have been happier to be home in Minnesota.
Over the next few days, we spent all our time with the family. Friday night we headed ‘into town’ for drinks, karaoke, and more batter-fried cheese curds with my mom (Carrie), brother (Brad), sister (Melissa), her husband (Rick), recent high-school graduate nephew (Jordan), all-growed-up niece (Brittani), her beau (Blayne), and several friends we’ve made over the years while singing our hearts out at karaoke. We spent Saturday afternoon with Amy, her husband (Jim), Monroe, Sully, and my dad (John) tooling around Lake Mary on a rented pontoon. Bryce and I then took Monroe and Sully to see ‘Brave’ in the local movie theater later that day and came back to a campfire cookout for dinner, complete with s’mores for dessert. Yum! The entire clan met up at my parents’ farmhouse Sunday to celebrate Brittani’s 22nd birthday. Yikes, I’m old! We consumed our weight in homemade tacos (shells and all), guacamole, and Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake before fulfilling our promises to Monroe and Sully to have a water balloon fight. Though, I must confess, we utilized buckets of water and the hose in addition to the water balloons. The greatest part of Water Wars I? Everyone participated, bringing our glorious family weekend in Alexandria – one of the best we’ve ever had – to a bittersweet close.
Monday afternoon we bade our family good-bye as we left the countryside for the metropolis once more. We returned to St. Paul just in time to catch a concert hosted by One Voice Mixed Chorus (for which Bryce was the guest conductor the fall before we moved to Virginia). If you are presented by an opportunity to attend a OneVoice concert, my advice is to take advantage as soon as you can. The chorus works hard to build community in the Twin Cities, creates awesome music, and definitely deserves your support.
Bryce and I then made our way to the Burggraaff residence, our friends’ home in Rosemount, where we finished out our stay in Minnesota enjoying great company, delicious food, and top-notch wine. The Bruggraaffs (Maggie, Dave, Mazie, and Addie) play host to us often, and we appreciate their endless hospitality. Maggie and I became fast friends while in college at the University of Minnesota Duluth. On many occasions, we skipped boring classes to go out for much more exciting meals. I know she blames me and calls me a bad influence, but I didn’t ever have to twist her arm too hard. Besides, we wouldn’t be the friends we are today if it weren’t for those seized opportunities to share a meal.
For lunch on the Fourth of July, we met up with Karly and Dustin at The Cheesecake Factory, friends we made while I worked there. I know, I know. Another chain restaurant. I’m not ashamed to admit, though, that I enjoy the food at The Cheesecake Factory (they serve some of the best hamburgers, no joke), and Bryce and I dine there when given the chance. And, we don’t always order cheesecake. Is that a crime? On a completely unrelated side note, do you ever meet someone and feel as though you’ve been friends for years? That’s how I describe the friendship I built with Karly. It’s like we already knew each other before we met. The world works in mysterious ways, and I’m glad it brought us together.
As the day burned on, and I mean burned – another 100+ degree scorcher, we stayed indoors. Maggie cooked an amazing BBQ Rib dinner which we devoured before watching fireworks. Due to the excessive heat coupled with our impending drive back to Virginia the next morning, we decided to forego the local Minnesota fireworks for the ones broadcast on TV from our nation’s capitol. When you think about it, watching the capitol fireworks in Minnesota was slightly backwards and a little funny since Bryce and I now live just two hours outside of Washington, D.C. You might say we drove half-way across the country to watch some nearby fireworks. But that would be a gross understatement, because the fireworks were the least important thing we did. More importantly, we celebrated our family and friends in the best ways we know how – by spending time together, sharing meals together, and enjoying the best my Minnesota home has to offer.
Pictures courtesy of Bryce. 🙂