A Joyful Noise: Musings from a southern perspective
- Sunday, 29 January 2012
- Written by Joyce Judd
Our baby girl had a baby girl. Ruth Renee was born on Tuesday, December 27. Melissa and her husband, Luke, live in Minnesota, which is not close to South Carolina. However, having noticed that a new little one was on the way, Papa and Nanny decided we would try to go for a visit. When to go? What route to take? What days to close the salon?
Given that Ruth’s due date was December 25 and that we had our Greer grandson Jeremiah’s birthday on the 31, we determined that we would be in Greer for Jeremiah’s birthday and then leave around 1:00 p.m. for Minnesota.
Our hope was that Ruth would already be here, and we would be able to be at the house with Melissa and Luke to help with the big kids (brothers Samuel, Josiah and Levi, and sister Leah). Then, of course, everyone was concerned about our traveling during the winter months. We all know Minnesota is not noted for its warm weather in December and January, right? So, in October when we finalized our plans, we began praying for good traveling weather. As it turns out, this is the year for the La Nina jet stream, and we all know we’re having warmer than usual weather right now.
Our next hurdle was what route? Melissa and Luke were concerned that if we took the Iowa route – which is preferred by most heading that way, we would encounter the blowing snow storms and white-out conditions. So, we determined we would head north via the Chicago route, and look at coming home through Iowa, if that was possible. And that’s exactly what we did.
Using MapQuest, we charted our route, figuring out about where we would be the first night so we could make reservations. Bob and I are both good travelers and we travel well together (even better now with the Sirius radio…but that’s a previous column).
I love to drive, and he’s a good navigator/entertainment director, so we figured we could easily do Indianapolis on Saturday. Then we found a hotel that, with our AAA membership was going to be a good rate, and so we booked our reservations at the Fairfield Inn on W 86th St. in Indianapolis, went back to MapQuest and charted the route. 543 miles. Sure, we can do this! And so we did.
Between the MapQuest directions and our GPS (nicknamed Mavis), we made the hotel and were in our room with shoes off by 9:45 p.m. That’s not terrible for us. We were comfortable, had time for showers, and were into bed with the alarm set for 6:00 the following morning, as we wanted to be on the road a ways before stopping for worship.
We had looked ahead on MapQuest and found a congregation in Gary, Indiana and thought we would worship there (singing the ‘Gary Indiana’ song all the way). However, as we loaded up and headed up the road (after a great breakfast provided by the hotel, by the way), we realized that the time had changed and we were going to be there an hour early. What to do?
AHA! Into a McDonald’s parking lot, out came the netbook computer, tapped into McDonald’s free WiFi, and poof! There’s a congregation in the Elmhurst area of Chicago, Illinois, exactly an hour ahead of Gary, Indiana.
Back on the highway and off we go. We were very proud of ourselves for thinking this quickly – and that it worked. Sure enough, thanks to Mavis (the GPS), we arrived 5 minutes before services started. It’s a very small congregation (34 members) and the minister, Logan Summers, was surprised to see visitors come in the door. Then, to find out that his wife Ashley is from Ft. Payne, Alabama (where I spent every summer of my life until I was 16 and my daddy was born on Sand Mountain in Reidville) was just a treat. Needless to say, when services were over and being the southerners we are, we all played “who do you know that I know” and found several friends in common. What a fun addition to our trip!
Back on the road, heading northwest of Chicago, the tolls began. Wow…what a bummer! Didn’t really mind the tolls, but the way they have them set up can be very confusing. You travel, and then all of a sudden the sign says to pay the toll, but the road stays open in front of you with directions for future exits. You, however, must know to get off the road, drive through the gate, give the nice people your money (sometimes $1.50, sometimes $3.00, once it was 90 cents) and then get back on the same road and go a little farther then do it all over again…about 5 times. We finally came to the end of that part, and then began looking for the road to Wisconsin.
Highway 90 took us to Highway 94 which was our road through Wisconsin. It was getting later in the day, the wind had picked up, little snow flurries were blowing across the road – never enough to make you slow down, but enough to make you really pay attention to the other people around you and it was getting twilight. This was the worst of the driving part, but as I said, never enough to even make you slow down. Just enough to keep you focused…and not able to look at the scenery.
We began to think Highway 94 would never end. It does though, just as you cross the state line into Minnesota and the Minneapolis area. The kids live about 45 minutes from the state line, and we were able to be there by 8:00 p.m. What an absolute treat to drive up to the house with 4 little faces watching and dancing in the big window.
While we were there, Melissa was feeling great, and since Luke was off work until January 16, we were all acting like we were on vacation. I didn’t think Melissa should be doing a whole lot of walking around, but there’s a place near them called Stillwater that they love to go to and wanted us to see as well. It’s a very small town and has turned into a bit of a destination for the trendy folks. There are lots of antique stores, book stores and places to eat. Melissa and Luke go there and stay in a Bed and Breakfast to celebrate their anniversaries, and they wanted us to see it too. So we decided on a driving tour.
We left about 10:00, made it there by 11:00, and then Bob got into the car with Luke, and Melissa got into the beast with me. This way, they could tell us about stuff as we drove (with 5 children, neither of us had a car big enough for 9 people, so we had to take both vehicles). There’s a great old lift bridge – maybe the oldest bridge of its type in Minnesota; there are paddle boats along the river, and there’s a set of caves with a restaurant where a distillery used to be. A very quaint little town.
It was getting along towards lunch time, and there’s a little café in Stillwater called Leo’s that’s a little retro in its atmosphere; so we decided we would eat lunch there. What fun! We sat at a table in the corner out of the way. It had window seats on 3 sides (booths), and then 2 chairs on the inside edge. The kids all piled into the larger window seat, the baby and I sat on 1 smaller seat and Melissa sat on the opposite.
Bob and Luke took the chairs and we had so much fun! It’s a Coke café, so everything was red and green with vintage advertising, an old T.V. on a hanging bracket on the wall, and the 50’s satellite radio playing. The food was terrific (I had a hamburger plate…the burger and the bun were cooked on the flattop stove, the potato chips were made and fried right in the store), and the kids were so good. We all had ice cream too. We were stuffed! But what fun it was.
When lunch was finished and we were ready to leave, Bob thought, perhaps, he and I would walk around and go through some stores. So, Luke, Melissa, and the kids all headed back to the house while we window shopped. Some really fun stores, the prices were not as awful as we thought they would be, but we left all the stuff there. Guess we didn’t really need anything after all.
Thursday night found Samuel getting ready for his wrestling class. Yes, wrestling (or ‘rasslin’ if you’re southern). Luke and his family are big on wrestling; they attend competitions annually with several guys they know. None of them are wrestlers, they just enjoy the sport. So, Sam is now wrestling. Papa was able to go and see him wrestle, and it seems the 4 year old Josiah will go Tuesday night to see what the coach thinks. Four is a little young, but there’s another 4 year old wanting to learn as well.
Friday morning arrived, and no choice but to pack the beast and head south. After delayed hugs and kisses, Nanny and Papa and the beast turned towards Iowa. The weather could not have been any better. Beautiful sunny skies, no winds. The snow they had had was only a memory.
We took I-35 South and along the way found a rest stop like none other we had seen. It’s a red barn building with a silo attached, and they have a pie and coffee café upstairs! I had never seen a state rest stop with a café of any type in it, so I was surprised. However, no pie. It was too early for me.
When we reached Hwy 218, we turned east on the Highway of the Saints. I don’t know why it’s called that, but it is. We ended up traveling through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, a bit of Ohio, then Kentucky. We spent the night in Richmond, Kentucky at the Best Western at 100 Eastern Bypass Road (may also be Hwy 876).
We didn’t arrive until 11:45 in the evening (we had left the kids house at 8:40 a.m.), and had traveled over 800 miles. We had booked the reservation via Orbitz on Thursday night, making sure they knew we would be late arriving. While the outside of the building looked a little rough, our stay was wonderful. The shower head was probably the best we’ve ever head in a hotel (lots of pressure); the bed was most comfortable, and the rooms were very clean. But breakfast…!!!...woohoo! The complimentary breakfast included biscuits, gravy, eggs, grits, waffles (!!), coffee, juices, fruit. It was wonderful!
The last 5 hours of the ride were mostly non-eventful. However, we did discover that if you stop at a Pilot station for gas and if you drink a 20 ounce cup of coffee after you had 2 for breakfast, you’re probably going to see the inside of every rest stop between Knoxville and Greer.
And so, we’re home. It was a wonderful visit with the kids and grandkids. Little Ruth is just a blessing and beautiful little baby. We have lots to be thankful for. And now, we’re saving up for our next adventure!
As we traveled on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, we did see some state troopers along the way. And then, on the ride home, we saw 1 state trooper in each state. We are so thankful to the men and women who wear the uniform, miss holidays with their families and deal with the worst of events. Please continue to pray for all our folks in uniform. Let’s hope it’s a safe year for all of them.