Home again, Home again…

Meet me in St. Louis, Louis, well not for awhile. We would rather you meet us in St. Paul these days.

These nearly three week tours of the Midwest get long by the end. Though I think we thoroughly enjoyed every stretch of the trip. We started off heading to St. Louis with a one night stop in central Illinois to see my sister’s family (the cousins). In St. Louis we crammed all our favorite local foods into the first day because the next two days were Christmas Eve and Christmas. We saw all the St. Louis family at a large family gathering, my sister’s family came to town for presents and way too many people in a tiny house. Everyone had fun and my mom managed to seat ten adults and seven children in her kitchen/dining room. (Go MOM!)

Our next step was the western suburbs of Cleveland to see the awesome relatives there and have our traditional New Years Eve party at my aunt’s house a few days early to accommodate the maximum number of cousins. She slept 20 plus people in her house that night (it is a large house). We went on for a quieter day with my grandparents in the house my grandfather built in the 1960s. It was lovely, and the kids loved being there. I always feel like a little kids again when I sleep in their house.

From Cleveland we made our way over to Ann Arbor area in Michigan. We saw the extended family there, our college friends in the area (M’s friendships with them date to early high school), and stayed up late just hanging out with his sisters. The highlight of the trip was the 22 hours M and I got away together, leaving the kids with their grandparents. Everyone fared well, and M and I had amazing beef tenderloin at our favorite Ann Arbor restaurant, The Earle. We finished our trip with a stop in Western Michigan to see M’s grandparents.

The last day of the trip was the most trying. You may have heard of the 190 plus vehicle accident on I-94 near Battle Creek in Michigan. Well, we were on that stretch (on our way to the grandparents) just 18 hours before the accident. The next morning there were two accidents involving 10 vehicles on the Indiana tollway near South Bend about 40 minutes before we got to South Bend. The police directed us off the tollway and we found our way on US-20 to I-94 about 40 miles outside Chicago. (This is why we travel with AAA maps.) Did I mention that the whole morning was full of lake effect snow? It was pretty bad out there. We inched along, remembering a similarly treacherous drive through Eastern Ohio the day after a snow storm when we lived in Buffalo, NY. Well anyway, once we got to the Western side of Lake Michigan, the roads we fine, but then there was Chicago traffic. All told, we had driven about 2.5 hours longer than we should have to get home on Friday. Wisconsin was smooth sailing, and we got home 12 hours after departing. It was supposed to be a 9 hour trip, which we were expecting to take 10 with our normal stops. I suppose it could have been worse. We could have left a day later and been caught in an accident. We could have left earlier in the morning and been in a different accident. Instead, we arrived home safely but exhausted.

My favorite geological feature of Wisconsin, which we were really happy to get to after the morning events.

Yesterday we worked on unpacking, but were slightly delayed by a feverish child. The said feverish child is out of bed today with a very low temperature and no one else has a fever (yet). So, I am hopeful this virus will pass on quickly.

Coming home after so long is familiar but strange, and when I look out our back window, I can’t help but feeling that even living in the largest metropolitan area of Minnesota, we do live in a sort of wilderness (I know it is not the REAL wilderness).

The view from the back window (this is from last January, we have less than a foot on the ground currently).

The untamed cold of the winter, the often intense heat of the summer, and the wildlife we witness in our “civilized” backyard, tells me that Minnesota is just the beginning of the West. It is a beautiful state, even in the wintertime. And it is starting to feel more and more like home.

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