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Goodbyes and One More Adventure

It's never easy to have to say goodbye to a loved one. But when you are able to say goodbye while showing your children pieces of the memories that made that person so special to you, all while creating new memories, does make saying goodbye more meaningful.

When we got the news that my aunt, my mom's sister, had passed, well, I was at Lowe' the lighting section. Bet you didn't see that coming. I'm always in weird places when I "get the news". Fortunately, we were actually going to see my mom right after that for a late Christmas. It was nice to be there with her that day...kind of a distraction, I guess.

The funeral was going to be held in Caledonia, Minnesota, where Sandra and Al had lived for the past "however" many years. Ever been there? Ever heard of it? It's a small town...and when you drive down into it...or up into's hard to say really how that all works, it's like going into a little fishing village. I have no idea if people fish there. None. But it just reminds me of what I think a fishing village would look like.

I had been there once before with my mom and Kamryn a few years ago over Memorial Day Weekend. Girls trip. Kamryn kind of remembers it. We stopped at a few places along the way, like Fort Belmont and some gas station that sold Amish products. ;)

Kamryn remembers Sandra and Al's dog - a long haired chihuahua, Ricky. He wasn't a fan of her! Lol. I remember a few more things about that trip other than just the dog. I remember the hotel swimming pool was cold, and Kamryn swam in the lukewarm hot tub instead. Lol. I remember it was dreary...but Al still chauffeured us around - showing us the sites (as he always did whenever my family and I would come to visit them in Minnesota). Of course, we went to Grandad Bluff in La Crosse. Kamryn vaguely remembered that. I have a picture somewhere of her standing there...blowing away in the wind on top of the bluff. We also went to a greenhouse, and we picked out some plants, and some fun little "Fairy Garden" accessories for Kamryn - birds maybe?? I know we went into La Crosse for dinner at a pizza place one night. I remember thinking that I really wanted to show Jake downtown La Crosse! I remember it was a fun little trip with my mom and Kamryn.

It only took three years to finally get my family back there. And even though we were going back to La Crosse for an unfortunate reason, I was happy that Jake and Kindrey would be able to see it!

Like every road trip, it started with gummy worms. Jake has grown accustomed to this ridiculous travel necessity. He and the girls picked me up at work in Sioux City that Friday afternoon, with the gummy worms and other snacks ready for devouring!

We drove to Worthington - successfully made the roundabouts - and headed towards Blue Earth. We weren't like..."Oh don't screw up the roundabout! We need to go to Blue Earth." That last roundabout is tricky (!), and Blue Earth just happened to be on the way to La Crosse, and the Jolly Green Giant was calling our name!

As we pulled up towards the big green guy, Kamryn remembered one other thing about our trip a few years ago - that we stopped at the Dairy Queen next to the Jolly Green Giant. Priorities of a 5 year old.

So we didn't go to Dairy Queen, instead we stopped at a gas station in Blue Earth after the pictures (and a quick little run). Beverages had been consumed. A pitstop was necessary. The gas station wasn't that nice, but I came across The Farmerette's lotion! There were samples at the counter when we were getting more snacks (Bongard's cheese). I tried the Birthday Cake scented lotion. I really liked it! I also loved the idea of a farm gal making her own lotion out of soybeans, so I grabbed a business card so I could learn more. What a smart lady!

Then we went on our merry way. The girls watched a movie or two in the backseat. IPad's are pretty awesome as far as that's concerned. We bought this attachment for Jake's pickup to assist in the whole "backseat movie watching" thing. We slide the iPad to the middle and everyone in the backseat can watch - equally. Jake adjusts the pickup's stereo so the music is just in the front speakers, and he and I can listen to whatever we want, and the girls watch their movie. It works for us!

At some point in the trip, I discovered that we would drive right past Austin, Minnesota, and that in Austin, Minnesota, there is a SPAM Museum. "We have to stop there, Jake." We drove right on by Austin, Minnesota. Wah Wah.

When we arrived in La Crosse, it was midnight. Okay. It wasn't. It was like....7:30. It felt like midnight. Dark must be darker there.

We stayed at Home2 Suites by Hilton in downtown La Crosse. It was nice enough. Jake picked a corner room on the top floor. Turns out the corner room on the top floor is handicap accessible. We could have had a dance party in the middle of our room, and needed binoculars to watch our tv. :) There was a lot of SPACE between one side of the room and the other, and the hooks in the bathroom were easy for the girls to reach. :)

We unloaded our belongings in our spacious room, realized that there was a concert across the street, and thought about how fun it would be to go to it. And if it had just been Jake and I, we soooo would have. But that wasn't the sitch, so we set out to find a very late dinner.

We drove the wrong way, out of La Crosse - crossing the large bridge out of town. Oops. Then back again. (This seems to be a common occurrence when traveling with Jake in unfamiliar territory. I'll keep that in mind going forward.)

At some point we also ended up going the wrong way down a very busy one-way street. Don't worry. We turned around immediately and were only honked at once. ;)

We ended up at a strange A&W. It was winter. But it appeared as though we could order from the "Carhop". So we did. And while we waited for our food to be brought out to us, we realized that there was a building across from the restaurant (at the opposite end of the parking lot) that was clearly part of the establishment. There were kids (employees) running back and forth between the buildings, going into the "extra" building to mix batter, forgetting the whisk, and going back to retrieve it, and who knows what else. Twas odd indeed. But the girls had A&W Rootbeer, and we headed back to the hotel so they could get some swimming in.

It was at the hotel pool that I envisioned our "own" pool. We don't have a pool. So this was a dream pool. Have you seen the movie Coco? I imagined that we would have a swimming pool in a big mansion/hall like this. Dream big, I suppose! Anyway...the girls LOVE swimming. They have really turned into little fish. So so happy in the water.

Then another family came, and the girls became a bit more guarded, but that wasn't going to stop them from getting their "swim" on. Eventually, though, it was time to bring the girls back up to the room so we could ALL get some rest.

The next morning, Jake located some "fancy" coffee for me at Cabin Coffee Company. Great way to start the day! He also brought us breakfast from the hotel....the girls got waffles ( I tried them and SO wished that waffles and syrup were carb-free). I got an omelet of sorts. Probably a better option than the waffles.

After breakfast, we headed towards Caledonia for the funeral. Such a pretty drive. We were so lucky that we didn't experience "winter" while we were there. It was such a relief to not have to worry about THAT while traveling.

The church was beautiful. It was so nice to get to see my "Minnesota" family. It had been YEARS since I had seen my cousin's daughter who is now in college. I'm not sure where the time goes, but if I find out, I'll let you know. We were able to see some of my mom's extended family, too. I was happy the girls were there. Even if they didn't really talk to anyone much, I know they'll remember going and being there. And on that note, Jake, without hesitation, agreed to go all the way to Caledonia. I'm blessed to have such support on the Homefront!

The funeral was beautiful. Very peaceful. Such a nice tribute to my aunt, Sandra.

The girls behaved themselves all morning. Jake behaved himself all morning, too! ;) And after spending some time with family, it was time to go back to La Crosse.

We told the girls they could go swimming for a little bit before we went to watch the KC football game. So the girls hurriedly dressed for the pool, and then downstairs we find the pool was out of order. OUT OF ORDER. There was an employee cleaning by the elevator, and he said he thought it would be closed until at least the next morning.


What to do?

I had remembered passing a Children's Museum the night before (when searching for din din), and thought we could take the kids there after we went to Grandad Bluff (a family tradition and the reason I had wanted to attend the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse at some point in high school).

Considering it was January, the weather had been pretty spectacular, but it was starting to feel a bit more blustery up on the bluff. The girls were troopers though!

The girls were definitely surprised, and happily so, with the Children's Museum. It was a perfect afternoon! Jake and I were even on "TV"!

After the Children's Museum we met up with my brother, Weston, and his fiancé, Paige, at the Twisted Moose to watch the football game. It really wasn't all that busy there, and you could roast s'mores at your table, so it was a perfect choice for our family!

Kamryn thought it would be a good idea to stick graham crackers to her cheeks. Nope. Not a good idea. But we all laughed. So funny.

It was actually really fun, just hanging out. We even got a private tour of the dance hall - shark head and all!

But we had to leave because the guys needed underwear.

Let me explain. They discovered that Duluth Trading Company was located in downtown La Crosse, and they had seen enough commercials about their underwear to believe that they needed their own.

So we walked towards the store...but...found a bookstore, Pearl Street Books, on the way. Divine intervention, I do believe. My aunt Sandra loved books. She loved writing. So we went inside. It was really cool. The girls each picked out a book, and Paige found a ladder. It was a good time! ;)

Connected to the bookstore was a coffee shop. But this wasn't any ordinary coffee shop. This coffee shop was Jules Coffee House.They combined coffee and alcohol, and it wasn't just Bailey's. :) We bought giant chocolate chip cookies for the kiddos...and the men bought spiked coffee. The shop reminded me of a saloon. Loved it! I'm sure the coffee shop patrons were less than enthused with our presence. Ah well.

After chugging Weston's coffee, we finally made our way to Duluth. The guys were in heaven. Seriously....WAY too impressed with this store. It was nice enough, but not my style. They searched for what seemed like forever to find the perfect pair of undies. Ask Weston how "perfect" his are. Just ask him. Jake LOVES his, and this is no lie! You will have to ask him what he ended up with.

After their super purchases were made, we headed back to the hotel for more family time. :) The pool was still closed, so we went to Paige and Weston's room and ordered pizza. We visited about nonsense....Then Weston and Jake decided that Jake was going to run for Governor.

Vote for Jake!

It was getting late, so we brought the girls back to our room so we could all get some much needed sleep!

The next morning, after a little bit of "loud complaining" to his daughter in earshot of the hotel employees, the pool magically reopened! Crazy how that worked out!

The girls swam for an hour, we saw Weston's cool undies, and then we all headed south.

But before leaving town, we just had to stop at the World's Largest Six Pack! I'm pretty sure it had been discussed the day before, that if we stopped there, we would have to also stop at the SPAM Museum, too.

We made the mistake of thinking we'd "find" coffee in La Cresent, the "Apital" (Apple Capital) of Minnesota. There was coffee. Just not any I would drink. I will go without coffee before drinking gas station coffee. I openly admit I am a coffee snob.

So, we drove to the SPAM Museum. Okay. You would never expect this museum to be cool....but this museum was so nice! Props to SPAM! And props to running into Weston and Paige there. So fancy. :) We took the quick tour, let the girls play for a bit, picked out some souvenirs and Jalapeño SPAM, and then set-out to find lunch and coffee. Caribou Coffee to the rescue!

The girls had a wonderful time (not getting coffee, but in general). We always have so much fun together. It doesn't matter what we are doing. We can just be in the truck for hours, doing nothing, and when we finally get out, we say, "Well, that was fun!".

And....I think that pretty much sums up the weekend...I know it started with a somber purpose, but it also reminded us that life is short, and it really gave us all the more reason to make the most of it!

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