The Great American Road Trip II - 4 - "Did Everyone Here Remember Their Jumper Cables?"
At 10:00 we left Wausau bound for Minnesota. By 10:40 we made it to Abbotsford, the first city in Wisconsin. The sky was overcast and very cloudy. We passed farms and saw various farm animals as well as various farms and silos. While different, the sameness of the road was tiresome after a while.
We were surprised to see signs warning of Amish buggies, and saw a farm animal pulling a plow, but did not see any horse-and-buggy combinations then. Each small town we passed through on the route featured beautiful and customized signs with the town name and motto. Wisconsin towns are clean and have a lot of pride in themselves.
Trees became a more common sight as the hills began to roll as we headed towards Chippewa Falls. The sky began to darken just a little bit more the farther we went towards Minnesota.
We neared Eau Claire as my mom read to us from her back-seat nest of a massive rivalry. Apparently, Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls had a massive rivalry as they competed for dominance in the state's once-large logging industry. However, when the forests were depleted, the towns both turned to other fields. No word on whether they're still bitter with each other.
Trees in Wisconsin are just starting to bloom, as the long winter has finally passed. A little before noon it began to drizzle as we merged onto Interstate 94 bound for the Twin Cities.
The road became very wet very quickly as trucks churned up mist. We had to pull off the highway and stopped for gas about 30 miles east of the Minnesota border. It was pouring rain at this point. Pulling out of the gas station, we saw an Amish buggy before getting back on I-94.
By 12:30 we were heading out of the storm and the rain had decreased to a steady drizzle and saw a coyote near the road. The rain stopped as we crossed the Mississippi into Minnesota (state #7). We stopped at the welcome center and saw a number of interesting characters, including a man with his shirt half-off crouched over on a picnic table, around 15 Amish men and women, and an anorexic hippy who, my mom testified, busied herself in the bathroom by washing her hair in the sink.
At 1:00 we were in the Twin Cities, crossed the Mississippi again, and tried to find a place we'd seen on TV called Pizzeria Lola. The route there did not seem hard - just go on the expressway until you exit off and go on Xerxes Avenue.
What we did not realize is that not only did the exit we were supposed to take nonexistent, but that there seems to be more than one Xerxes Avenue. In our attempts to get to our hotel we ran into this road a number of times, but we did not take it at any point for fear of getting even more desperately lost. At that point, all we wanted to do was get to our hotel.
We had seen what we thought was our hotel from the Interstate into Minneapolis, but that one turned out to be different. Thinking that was the only one, we were confused when our GPS told us to pass it. We pulled off into a Culver's parking lot and called the hotel. After a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, everything went better than expected; our hotel was right where it was supposed to be. Our confusion was due to the fact that it can't be seen from the highway. We then ate at Culver's and sipped on some milkshakes as we went to our hotel.
Heading off at around 6:45 for the stadium of the independent league St. Paul Saints, we took a detour and drove around Macalester College. The outfield fence at their field was incredibly short but also incredibly high, at they built the field into very limited space. It would have been fun to see a game there - my dad called it "arena baseball."
At 7:15 we parked near the stadium in the Lions Club parking lot, where the attendants could not believe that we had driven over 1500 miles from North Carolina. One guy even ran behind the car to check our license plate out. Clearly we need to play up on our accents and throw in more "y'all"s.
The game was insane, and by insane I of course mean our brand of insane. One of the highest-drawing independent teams in the country, the Saints are co-owned by the grandson of famous baseball owner Bill Veeck, the mind behind such infamous fiascos as pinch-hitting midget Eddie Gaedel, 10-cent beer night, and the infamous Disco Demolition. His grandson carries on a muted version of this bizarre tradition, with such between-inning games as the tire roll race and various contestants trying to put on a frozen t-shirt first.
The Saints also have various characters who are paid to just walk around in-character to entertain (and occasionally harass) fans. One fellow alternated between French chef and train conductor, another was dressed in drag and hobbled around on a walker, and yet another was basically Elvis meets Mr. Sulu. (Oh my.)
One of the most inventive traditions the Saints have is the annual pig mascot, named before Opening Day and announced with smoke signals like they're selecting a new Pope. Previous pig names included Kim Lardashian, Kris Hamphries, and Kevin Bacon.
Their PA announcer wandered around the stadium and I'm still not sure if he was drunk or not. He asked fans dumb questions and made fun of the other team. During the "charge" cheer, he did the "charge" yell in a very small, sleepy voice the first time, then burped the next time and didn't say anything the third. He also told all the fans that he "hoped they all had their jumper cables." (If my dad were a PA announcer, he'd be that guy.)
The food at the stadium was also excellent, as it is one of the only independent teams in the country to have a VP to run the stadium food. We sampled gyros and cheese curds - both of which were fresh and excellent. We left a bit early to get ahead of the large, drunken crowd, but when we left the Saints were beating the New Jersey Jackals 7-2. (The Jackals starter got hammered in the first two innings - he had no control and kept leaving pitches over the plate.)
Tomorrow, I'll be at the Mall of America meeting Paleo at the LEGO store. We'll also go and meet Takuma Nuva later on in the day.