June 30 - July 5 - Rochester MN
Rochester, MN is home of the Mayo Clinic. We saw one statistic that said that of the 90,000 residents, one in 70 is a physician. Not surprising, considering the clinic employs about 11,000 people. The other major employer in town is the IBM file server plant, where Al's nephew Adam is a computer programmer. More importantly, it's where Adam and his fiancÚ Amber will be married on July 2. Lots of family gathering, and we were among them.
Fri 6/30 - The computer says it's about 160 miles from Spring Green to Rochester, so we set out across Wisconsin on US 14, which should take us across the Mississippi River at LaCrosse and into Minnesota before joining I-90 for the remaining miles into Rochester. The Wisconsin highway department had other ideas, however, and we detoured around the last 9 miles of US 14 before getting to LaCrosse. Adventure is good. We searched in vain for a Welcome to Minnesota sign, and finally gave up when we stopped for lunch at an abandoned weigh station near Winona, MN. It was then just a short hop into Rochester, where we parked at the Autumn Woods RV Park, just north of the Rochester Airport. We didn't know when we reserved that most of the wedding activities were also happening near the airport. We'd been settled about 2 hours when the phone rang, and we made arrangements to meet brother Dave and Debbie (parents of the groom) for dinner . . . just up the road at the airport's only restaurant, a grill-pub named The Hangar.
Sat 7/1 - We spent the day doing chores, and around 4:30 drove to Adam and Amber's home for the rehearsal dinner - actually a great backyard cookout for about 60 people - the wedding party and anybody else who was in town. A most energetic and intelligent group of people. We had a chance to meet Amber (never had) and her family and to meet niece Beth's boyfriend and fellow roller coaster nut, Mike. The party soon degenerated into the usual generational groups, and we left fairly early, just before the yard lantern exploded and almost caught the deck on fire. We understand the snowcone machine doubled very well as a fire extinguisher. And that pouring wine on the fire had no positive effect.
Sun 7/2 - Wedding day - we had a 9AM breakfast (again at the Hangar) for everybody not otherwise committed, and Al's sisters Sue and Vicki flew in about then, so he made a quick run to the airport terminal to pick them up. Being the designated Sue & Vicki transportation facility, we then picked them up again at the motel (also near the airport) about 2:30 to head for the 3pm wedding. We met the rest of the family there, including aunts and uncles who'd come over from Michigan. A wonderful service it was, and following a group picture of everyone who attended, we followed the wedding limo to The Plummer House, home and gardens of one of the founders of the Mayo Clinic, for the "formal" wedding pictures which were to include all relatives of the wedding couple. Then we returned to the RV to print out Sue and Vicki's boarding passes for their return flight before going to the reception dinner, held at the Rochester Event Center located near (guess!) the Airport. By the time the dancing got seriously started, we'd folded and went home and absolutely crashed.
Mon 7/3 - Our day was to begin at 10:30, with the Wedding Gift Opening Gathering, held at the motel near the airport. We got there in time to connect with Sue and Vicki so we could get them to the terminal in time for their flight back home, and then watched as Adam and Amber opened their treasure trove. An added bonus was helping Amber celebrate her birthday (a few days away) by sticking a couple of candles in the wedding cake and singing at her. The cake was extremely good. We did more chores and then met Dave and Deb and some of Amber's family for dinner at the Outback Steak House.
Tue 7/4 - We processed over 200 of our digital photos of the wedding activities and uploaded them so family could see, and then burned a CD copy of the full resolution images for Adam and Amber. Judy did some laundry, and before dinner we dropped the CD off at Amber and Adam's home. The City of Rochester has an annual July Fourth celebration at Silver Lake Park, a big park just north of downtown. We went out around 7:30 for a concert by the civic band followed by fireworks. Both were exceptional, although near the end of the band concert we moved our chairs to get away from a group of perhaps 50 confrontational teenagers who were having what the police later called a "verbal dispute" precisely where we were sitting. The police broke that up just after we moved, and the fireworks went off without further incident. Absolutely spectacular. We've never been so close to a fireworks display. The shells were actually bursting directly over our heads. About 10 minutes after the display ended, as we were heading for the parking lot, the "verbal dispute" resumed in the street, and combined with the police response, completely snarled traffic. Took us most of an hour to get out of the park. Turned out the dispute had turned violent, with at least three people hospitalized for stab wounds and the like. The paper said that virtually every on-duty officer had responded. That left nobody for traffic control, and nothing moved for quite a while.
Wed 7/5 - 300 miles west of Rochester, MN is Mitchell, SD. That's a decent day's drive, so we planned a stop there. We were on the road shortly after 9AM. Much too early after such a short night's sleep. That's for our next report.
Al's Highlight - The reason for this stop was the family gathering, and the wedding-related activities left little time or energy for much else. So, in this case, the whole stop is the highlight. Besides, the family would never let us live it down if we picked anything else. :-)
Judy's Highlight - The wedding was about the most beautiful I've ever attended. Bride and groom each had 6 attendants, and everything went off without a hitch - except for the hitching of Adam and Amber, of course. The church is beautiful, and there was a pipe organ, beautifully played. Wonderful!
Click here to see a slideshow of some of our pictures from this leg of the trip. It's a short one - we've given the family their own place to look at all the pictures, so the main slideshow just skims the top.
Stay tuned . . .