So, we set off in the morning for St. Paul, fortified by The World's Best Doughnuts (and possibly the worst coffee--it tasted like beef).
The ride was relatively fast, the kids stayed happy, no one needed to pee until lunchtime, and I passed the time reading more Elizabeth Berg and counting dead foxes (4).
We pulled over at a gas station with the world's biggest parking lot for food from the cooler. There was a family standing around their van, up on jacks, while a rather plump man crawled underneath, climbed out, wandered around, and wrung his greasy hands on a filthy towel. We stood there watching, eating our granola bars, trail mix, cheese, chocolate chip cookies, and milk. I felt like I should offer them some food, but there was a pizza hole and a sandwich pit at the gas station, which presumably sold packaged food, as well. They didn't exactly look starving, either. Still....
We switched drivers and finished the drive to St. Paul. The Google directions seemed to take us a rather silly way to our hotel, but we followed them. We stayed at the Best Western Bandana Square. What a hilarious name. It's part of an old train repair yard, so the conference rooms are named after lines, and there's a huge train out front. The original beams show, and so do some tracks in the floor. Supposedly there is a lot more trainy stuff there, but I wasn't really in the mood to go exploring.
After our cheap stays in the north country, staying in St. Paul was a bit of a knife twist. Our room was quite nice--spacious, nicely decorated, clean, bright. Then we pulled out the computer, both of us desperate to get back online. I mean, it had been a couple of days! It didn't work. At all. Eric called the desk, who gave him a number to call. They sent out a repair guy--on the weekend--just for us. That's dedication to your customers. Geekboy fiddled and wandered in and out of our room. Turns out the wireless worked fine--until you stepped into our room. You could sit in the hall and it worked fine. You could sit by the pool and it worked fine. But you couldn't sit on our bed, which is where I do my best work. Ahem.
They offered us a different room, but we were settled. I didn't think it was *that* important. In the evening, I took the laptop and sat by the pool while Eric and Kelsey went in the water. Which brought up another issue. Eric got out of the FREEZING water after half an hour or so. His swimming trunks were white with a couple of swirls of light blue. Kelsey's precious itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini was white, no polka dots. What the flock? She was in tears.
Lack of internet was dealable. Cold water--well, a minor complaint. But bleaching our suits? The final nail. Can you imagine what that was doing to their skin? And their hair! Eric's chest is still like a Brillo pad. Kelsey's hair is still straw. It's vile! Eric discussed it with the manager, who didn't give us all our money back, but over half. Talk to my pocket book, baby. Mama likes.
Eric's dad, John, lives a quick drive from the hotel. We had a nice afternoon visit and then picked up his special friend, Diane, at her house, where we covetously looked at her yard. Dinner was at The Good Earth. I had the Mediterranean Greek Salad, which I thought was a stupid name for a salad, but it tasted good. We all had dessert, the last fling of our vacation, or so we thought.
We had a brief goodbye at John's. He seemed pretty worn out. He's doing pretty well for someone who's 91.
I loved his apartment. He lives in a retirement complex, but not assisted living. He does have someone come and clean and cook a bit. His bathroom was fabulous--nice and spacious with a walk-in shower. That would help my mom a lot.
Next day we visited some more. He gave me a copy of some stories he's been writing about his boyhood, gave the girls some books they were admiring, and gave Eric a painting that someone in the family painted a very long time ago. John didn't know much about the painter, just that he was related on his dad's side and lived in the Bahamas, which John called Bahaymas.
We left around lunch, and stopped just down the street at a cafe whose name I've forgotten already. It's a family joint with huge servings and tempting desserts. We ate too much and all had dessert again, then set off for home under a darkening sky.
I didn't floss my teeth even once the whole trip. Now that's a vacation.