Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Suzie & Joe's Wedding - Minneapolis & Wisconsin Northwoods

I have never traveled out-of-state for a wedding before, but this year I did it twice. This second wedding for Suzie and Joe was held up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. I asked Tori to join me on the trip, but since she booked late she had to catch a separate flight from the one I took to Minneapolis with Dave and Tiffany. While we were all sharing a condo in Wisconsin, Dave and Tiffany stayed the first night with relatives nearby while Tori and I had a room at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. It was a great location, close to Nicollet Mall and the Light Rail Train Station. After checking in at 4pm, we crisscrossed back and forth across the mall on the Skyway System (covered walkways that connect most of the second floors in the Downtown buildings) before catching the train down to view the picturesque waterfall at Minnehaha Park.

We had a brief rain shower when we arrived in the park, but we discovered the Minnehaha Falls were dry with only a dirty brown pond full of fish at the bottom. I guess there is not enough water at the end of summer. Too bad. It would have been a pretty sight with the bridge crossing over the two-tiered falls. The park was full of huge grey squirrels and I saw my first chipmunk. We decided to skip a visit to the giant Mall of America and headed back Downtown where we got off at the Metrodome stop. Walking over to the Guthrie Theater, we checked out the architecture of its Endless Bridge sticking out towards the Mississippi River. Across the street was the Mill City Museum with its huge Gold Medal Flour grain elevators and ruins of old mills along the river. The nearby St. Anthony Falls powered the country's largest flour mills until the end of World War I. Walking across the Stone Arch Bridge, we could see the boat lock and the spillway that replaced the natural falls when they partially collapsed in 1869.

It started to rain again as we took the stairs down under the bridge for a twilight view of the river and the Minneapolis skyline. (Tori almost dropped her iPhone into the Mississippi while we waited for the sky to darken and the city lights to turn on.) We spotted several flocks of geese coming in for a landing on the river. Walking back towards our hotel, we were starving by the time we stopped for a delicious meal at "Taste of Thailand". Friday morning, we ordered room service from the Firelake restaurant downstairs before Dave and Tiffany arrived to pick us up in the rental car for the five hour drive to St. Germain. We soon crossed the border into Wisconsin and enjoyed the wonderful Mid-West scenery. Dramatic clouds drifting over endless fields of corn. At the halfway point, we stopped in Eau Claire where Suzie and Joe met at college. After checking out Dells Pond along the river, we went to Mogie's Pub for a quick drink. I had the Spotted Cow and tried the Spuds, a deep-fried potato snack filled with melted cheese. Yum!

After three more hours of driving we finally arrived in the Northwoods. Before going on to our rental condo at Black Bear Lodge on Little Saint Germain Lake, we stopped for groceries (crackers and 2 year aged cheddar) and beer. After beating Dave in a game of Roshambo (rock, paper, scissors) for the master bedroom, we checked out the lake and joined everybody for the get-together. There was a canoe full of beer and plenty of Wisconsin cheese. The venison salami and jerky was delicious! Dave and I played some Kan Jam with Suzie's brothers. It's a lot like Horse Shoes but you toss a Frisbee across the lawn into a plastic bucket instead. (Extra points if you can slip it through the narrow slot.)

It was pretty chilly in the Northwoods with a slight drizzle on Friday night so it was nice to have the sun come out on Saturday morning for the wedding day. After sleeping in for a bit, Tori and I took a canoe out on the lake for a nice paddle. Afterwards, we had a nice lunch with Louise, Doug, Dave and Tiffany at The Bear's Den. I hadn't overdosed on cheese yet, so I ordered the Buffalo Cheese Curds. Tori and and I relaxed out on the dock until it was time to get ready for the wedding. The rain clouds started to gather as we walked over to the ceremony and it started to sprinkle as we sat down. The Groom suggested moving the ceremony into the reception tent, but the Bride wished to stay at the beautiful spot under the trees by the lake and we all agreed. Just as Suzie started walking down the aisle, the sky opened up and a cold hard rained poured down.

Rain at a wedding is supposed to bring good luck. The Bride and Groom were protected by a huge umbrella but we forgot ours in our room so we were drenched and freezing by the end. The pastor helped out by speeding up the process. (Plus his pages started to stick together.) After the ceremony we hurried back to the condo where the blow dryers did a great job drying off our clothes before the reception started. Tori and I sat at the Devil's Tower table and an entire roasted pig was served. (Red Bull and Vodkas helped keep us warm.) We had a fun time dancing to "The Wise Guys" until my feet could not take it any more. The bouquet toss was hilarious because a blindfolded Suzie missed the single ladies entirely and hit the nearby group of men.

After Saturday's rain showers, Sunday was very sunny. Blayne rented a pontoon boat so we explored the lake with Carrie, Dave, Jess and Ken. We had a cooler of Wisconsin beer aboard and more cheese, sausages, and crackers to snack on. At the North end, we saw a bald eagle dive into the water close by and catch a fish. Very Cool! It carried it to the nearby shore and ate it in a tree. Back at The Bear's Den, we watched the Packers lose to the 49er's, but I won the half time pool and got my money back. Blayne ate an impressive sandwich, a thick steak resting between two small buns.

For dinner, Dave, Tiffany, Tori and I drove into the nearby town of Minocqua. It sits on a island in the middle of a large lake. Since it was a Sunday nigh,t it was pretty dead when we arrived but the Minocqua Brewing Company was still open. After all the heavy food I had been eating, I was tempted by the salad options, but Dave convinced me to stick with the local cuisine. We both ended up with the Beef and Brie and I didn't regret it. Back at Black Bear Lodge, it was the first cloudless night and we had a clear view of the bright stars above the lake. We joined everybody over at the fire-pit for a few hours telling stories and jokes until it was time to sleep.

The four of us woke up fairly early on Monday for our five hour drive back to Minneapolis. We hit the road around 7:30am, only stopping at the Nasonville Dairy to buy more cheese to take home. I bought 3 and 5 year aged cheddars as well as a third block of cheddar with chunks of Pepperoni inside. Dave kept raving about Culver's so we stopped at one near the Wisconsin border for lunch. I had the ButterBurger, some more cheese curds and their famous frozen custard. (Double Caramel Chocolate Peanut)

My first meal back home was a salad!

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