My wings were clipped for a long time. On April 18, Linda had knee-replacement surgery, and I was home helping for quite awhile. So it felt really, really good to fly to Minneapolis-St. Paul on Sunday, June 12, arriving mid-morning. The Twin Cities have an extensive bikeshare network, and I wanted to try it out. Changed into bike shorts in an airport rest room, picked up a rental car, slathered sunscreen, and drove a couple of miles to a station in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul.
I have a handy app on my iPhone that shows maps and updated info on bike availability at every station (not just for MSP, but dozens of systems). Bought a 3-day pass for $10, adjusted the seat on the green bike, and rode off,a few blocks south to the former site of the Ford Motor Company plant. I remember touring the factory as a child, one of the experiences that led to a long interest in industrial process. Then north toward St. Thomas University, east on Summit Avenue, back toward the neighborhood where we lived for almost a decade before moving to Texas. Had a splendid lunch at Café Latte, then rode to the old house, pausing to take a picture (it looks almost the same as 30+ years ago). I recognized a former neighbor who I had not seen in that many years, Chris, and we had a nice chat. Serendip!
Rode back to Summit, down the hill, past the state capitol, then all around downtown St. Paul. The center looks mostly good. I especially liked the new ballpark for the St. Paul Saints on the east edge. Trudged back up the hill (bikeshare machines are the equivalent of an old Lincoln Town Car!), rode around more neighborhoods, then rang the doorbell at 376 Summit, home to David Herr, a former law school chum of Linda’s. He was home, offered a glass of water and a quick yak. Like a small town! I continued west, back to where I started. All told, 31 miles.
Got back in the little Ford, stopped for a Dairy Queen chocolate malt, and arrived at Deb and Phil Ford’s house in southwest Minneapolis about 4:30. Had a quick visit, showered, and we departed for dinner at Sainte-Genevieve, a little French restaurant nearby. Jo, one of their longtime friends, joined us, and after the meal she gave us a tour of her 1916 Craftsman-style bungalow and garden, both lovely. Next stop was dessert at a new place in Linden Hills, a Minneapolis neighborhood I recall well from growing up a couple of miles away. I was asleep by 9:45.
Up early and out the door to meet Emily Sheppard, my late friend Jack Sheppard’s youngest child, who recently moved back after years in New York. It was great to catch up with her. Grabbed a Danish pastry at one of my fave bakeries in the whole world, Wuollet, and some yogurt. At 9:45, I met nephew Evan Kail, an aspiring writer and filmmaker; he created a YouTube channel of interviews, and did an hour Q&A with me for that “show.” We caught up (it had been almost a year) at breakfast at 50th and France, the shopping area blocks from our house in the 1950s and ‘60s.
Back to the Fords, picked up Phil, and we motored south in his car to the outdoor equipment coop REI to pick up a new bike Phil bought. His Mini was way too small to carry the bike, so I rode it home, an indirect route of 17 miles via the three main lakes in South Minneapolis, Harriet, Calhoun, and Lake of the Isles. I’ve known the bike paths around them for more than half a century, and it’s a lovely ride. Quick shower, keep moving, and on to the whole reason I flew out: a mini-reunion of the Edina High School Class of 1969.
Picked up my airline sidekick and pal-since-1963 Steve Schlachter at his mom’s new coop apartment (a year earlier she moved out of the home where she was for more than 50 years), had a quick visit with Marlys, and made fast for McCoy’s a bar in the adjacent suburb of St. Louis Park. About 40 of the class of 806 attended, and I knew almost all their names from their faces: Jim Knutson, Tom Keegan, Nancy Carlsen, and more. At my age, it was the most fun you could have in three hours, yakking with old friends, catching up, telling stories that were mostly true.
The best conversation was with Guy Drake. Back then, a super-talented musician and actor. Not sure what he did for most of his career, but five years ago he studied theology and became an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church. “Talked shop” with Ross DeKraay, longtime airline captain who has worked all over the world and was headed to Korea on a Boeing contract. Reflected on parenthood with Tom Boulay. It was over far too quickly. Dropped Steve off, grabbed a light dinner, and headed back to Phil and Deb’s for another nice yak. Deb was also Class of ’69, but transferred in, so did not grow up with my buddies.
Got up early again Tuesday morning, worked a couple of hours at Caribou Coffee at 50th and France, ate more yogurt and pastry (you can get Yoplait anywhere, but no place has bakeries like the Twin Cities, thanks to the German and Scandinavian immigrants). Drove east on 66th Street, tracing the route we used when we bicycled to the airport, as we did almost every day in the summer of 1967. Flew home on the fast nonstop. So great to not have to connect.
Three days later, at 4:30 AM on Friday the 17th, I motored south on I-85 and I-85 to suburban Greensboro, North Carolina, to deliver eight big boxes of Portmeirion Botanic Garden dishware we no longer used. We started buying the pattern on a 1988 trip to England and amassed a lot of it over the years, much bought on frequent trips to Britain the 1990s. Linda and I loved it, but Robin thought it old-fashioned, so it was time for change, and there was a willing buyer at Replacements Ltd., which specializes in used china and cutlery. It would have cost more than $200 ship, hence the road trip.
I was there in under five hours, by 9:30, unloaded, got a receipt, and headed back north. I had the rest of the day, so instead of a freeway with too many trucks and lots of cars, I headed up U.S. Highway 29, “The Seminole Trail” that connects Washington, D.C. with Pensacola, Florida. It was a divided highway and almost-freeway most of the way, but not as frenzied. Stopped in Lynchburg, a small city on the James River, for a pleasant walk along the riverfront, lined with old brick factories and warehouses, and some new construction. Parts of downtown were time-warped, back at least six decades to the exodus of retail for the suburbs. Fascinating stuff. Grabbed a quick lunch at the nicely named but disappointing Biscuitville (I had seen signs for them at several places earlier in the day, and I was hoping for a nice place rather than fast food).
I got off U.S. 29 and meandered up the Rockfish Valley, the easternmost part of the Appalachians, a network of ridges and valleys. Really beautiful country (should have pulled over and snapped a picture). I was, by 2:15, at the tap room of my favorite Virginia small brewery, Starr Hill, in Crozet. It was a different kind of rest stop, pausing for 75 minutes to sample (5 ounce glasses) three of their brews.
Back in the car, east 10 miles to Charlottesville and massive traffic on the U.S. 29 bypass, then stop and go all the way to suburban D.C., arriving just after six. By the numbers it was 602 miles, just under 12 hours at the wheel. As I headed home, tired and bored, I thought about my traveling-salesman father, who regularly clocked 50,000 road miles in a year. Especially in his latter years, all that driving must have really taxed him. We are so lucky.