‘We’ve driven fifty miles….in two hours,’ the professor announced despondently in the Famous Dave’s parking lot somewhere in Wisconsin. Our initial goal for our second day of driving-back-to-Calgary had been to leave Madison at 9.30am to get to Rochester, Minnesota, by 12.30pm. Where we would hang out with friends for a while before hitting the road again for the (two hour) drive to downtown Minneapolis. Where the professor had a seat for the 7pm Twins-Mariners game in the new Target Field stadium.
But as these things go – for us, anyway – things hadn’t gone quite as planned. We were actually in the van by 9.30am, but it was en route to the Tenney Locks in Madison, where I’d mysteriously lost…..my only pair of glasses the night before. Basically, they’d fallen off my face whilst I walked. A fact I didn’t make note of until we were back in our car leaving the locks. So we returned the next morning to do some mildly-intensive searching for my brown frames with the (rather) chipped lens.
Needless to say, we didn’t find the glasses; we only ‘lost’ more time.
I’d originally told our Rochester friends we’d arrive by 12.30pm. But a glance at the clock and some basic math suggested we’d be lucky to get there by 1.30. And there was still the ‘minor’ problem of not having directions to get to their house. We’d visited them in December during our last excursion to Indiana. But we’d arrived after dark and I did not feel confident about my ability to recall the correct highway exit.
It was around 2 by the time we crossed the Rochester city limits and began the painful process of looking at each exit wondering aloud if it was ‘the one’. We had smart conversations like ‘no, that doesn’t sound right to me,’ or ‘I think their exit was on the north side of the city.’ Twenty some minutes later, after much driving up and down highway 52, we ended up at a McDonald’s; praying for wireless internet so I could open my email, find their address and google directions.
For once on this ridiculous journey, McDonald’s internet actually worked and, with google map directions on the laptop screen, we started driving to our destination. Only to realize after several minutes that we were going the wrong way. I’d searched for directions coming in to Rochester from the south, but we were actually coming from the north.
It was a pleasure informing the professor of my error, and asking him to turn around in yet another McDonald’s parking lot.
When we arrived at our destination, we were more than two hours late. And we’d have to leave again in an hour. ‘How long do we have?’ the Gort asked before he got out of the van. ‘We only have an hour,’ I told him solemnly. ‘An hour! We can do that!’ he assured me with confidence. The Hen followed him, wearing only a diaper and a shirt. Apparently he’d sat in a bunch of fruit snacks and I figured it was less embarassing to have a partially-clothed child than a child leaving behind pieces of waxy fruit whenever he sat down.
Two hours later, we headed to Minneapolis; arriving at our hotel roughly five minutes before the baseball game started. After dumping our stuff in the room, and after the Hen dumped the entire bottle of complimentary lavender pillow spray on one of the pillows, we headed out into downtown. We walked with the professor towards the stadium, then I and my three sidekicks veered off to find sustenance.
I felt a little self-conscious, walking alone with three small children. A feeling that was only exacerbated when a young-ish man walked past me whilst saying (loudly) to his girlfriend: ‘Mamma Mia….look at that….three children!’
He said it in the same kind of voice he would have used if he’d seen a woman walking with twenty children. As though I was some sort of….spectacle. And I, solitary woman walking around with three blonde boys in downtown Minneapolis on a Friday night, started feeling like a spectacle. Thanks to the myriad of looks we received. Some were smiling ‘aw, cute kids’ kind of looks. And others were quizzical ‘is she homeless, should we give her money’ kind of looks.
The latter was only reinforced when my boys, intrigued by the meat-roasting-fire inside one of those Brazilian restaurants, ran to the restaurant window and pressed their noses up against it to get a better look.
After eight blocks of walking, we found a Panera and stopped for dinner. Five minutes after ordering the food, finding a high chair, and imploring the older boys to behave appropriately, I realized I’d never actually taken all three boys out to eat by myself.
Aside from the enormous trail of bread chunks left by the baby, the experience went fairly smoothly. ‘Can we come back tomorrow?’ the Gort asked. As if Panera was some sort of paradise on earth.
Eventually, after a (what-was-I-thinking) stop at the downtown Target with cranky kids and a baby smelling of poop, we made it back to the hotel. Which was no easy task considering I can’t read street signs without my glasses.
The professor returned to the hotel around 10.30pm. ‘We need to move back to Minneapolis, just so I can go to [baseball] games in that stadium,’ he informed me.