I found Minneapolis! I didn’t have much luck with it’s Twin, St. Paul. I’m not quite sure what happened. The “downtowns” are only 15 minutes apart. GPS took me into downtown Minneapolis. Then, it took me on a road (35 I think), and it got confusing quick. It’s not like normal highways, and it simply doesn’t take much to confuse me. But there was 35N, 35S, 35E and 35W. The next thing I knew, I was back by my hotel so I just called it a day and called it a trip.

Winter found me, the day after I finally found fall.

“It never snows this early here,” the woman at the front desk was telling me, as I was packing up my car.

What I didn’t say: “Yes, it never snows this early here, hurricanes never hit Miami that early in the season, serial shitters never hit Memphis, Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington are never on fire all at the same time and a global pandemic is pretty scarce as well but what can you do?”

I just nodded and went to see Francis again, right before the snow was about to start falling. I had another fantastic morning with here and we wen out for a hike behind her home down to the Cannon River as the snow started to make its way in. I an definitely see the lure of small towns–and old friends. I just love that kind of connection. We hadn’t seen each other in over 25 years. We chatted here and there through Facebook. I think the first time we spoke was when I was having a crisis when Covid first hit–she’s a doctor, I couldn’t get my meds refilled, I reachd out and she called me instantly. But then we are hiking and chatting as if 25 years had never passed.

We did make a promise though. No more of this 25 year crap. “We’re too much alike,” she texted me. I’ll be back in the area next summer. We both are lousy at planning ahead so I just texted I’ll let her know when I am a few hours out.

With the snow falling, and my next stop Wisconsin, I decided to take the scenic route anyway. There is this spectacular drive that takes you south along the Mississippi River to meet up with the main highway. The further south I got, the less and eventually I found dry 42 degree weather. I didn’t get to see much of the Mississippi, the hills to my right were showing off their fall colors like a girl coming down the stairs in her prom dress. I drove past Route 90 and towards a crossing town, La Crosse, officially in Wisconsin. My last crossing of the Mississippi River of the journey.

Eastward bound. All east. Unless?

Route 90 took me to Wisconsin Dells. It’s a great little town that I will be checking out today with another friend. No matter the weather, no mater what the day holds, how great is a day that bookends with breakfast with one old friend and dinner with another old friend? I hadn’t seen Rachel in about 25 years. I almost didn’t see her. I wasn’t paying attention to the GPS. Her address was on Walnut Street. It took me to the Walnut Street in the next town over.

Rachael and her husband took me to this new place in her town, Baraboo. The explained Baraboo to me as well as Wisconsin Dells. The Dells was a created community. There is a little museum here of the guy who created the first shutter for a camera, inventing motion photography. He used it to take pictures of a bunch of local landmarks, giving them unique and interesting names. He went to Chicago and passed out postcards, drawing the city people up for their summer vacations.

Nowadays, the Dells continues the tradition. As you make your way into town, it opens into a four lane main road just like in another other city. Here, though, the road is lined with amusements parks, attractions and water slides–they had the first water slide here. It is sort of like entertaining Vegas.

Baraboo, I found, was the winter home for the Ringling Brother’s Circus. One of the brothers homes has been converted into a brewery and restaurant. We ate, and drank, there.

Locals, especially when they are friends, are incredible. I think they set me up with a list of tings to do and see for the next three weeks or so. And then Doug started talking about the northern drive into Michigan and how spectacular it is. Yeah, the weather is supposed to be crap, iffy, but no snow. I know I said east and fast but?

Rachael wants o take me on a tour and how could I say no? Especially to the person who, once upon a time, saved my life. And she gave me a spoon!!! –I lost mine a few dozen hotels ago. She didn’t believe me when I told her about my coffee set up. So of course I took pictures.

Old friends, The Mighty Mississippi, a new state and just one more state on my lifetime list. Yes, winter found me, but I was perfectly okay with that.


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