Minneapolis, Minnesota to La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Day 2 was supposed to be our “easy” day. The road mileage was less than half of what we had averaged during the first two days. Because Friday took us longer than expected, we ended up adding St. Paul, Minnesota to Saturday’s trek. We also decided that because the day was “so short,” we would sleep in an extra hour and add another town to the mix – Stillwater, Minnesota. We’re quickly learning that every minute on this trip matters. It’s been a churn so far, but we’re learning along the way.
Leaving our Minneapolis lodging at 8am, we drove downtown to capture one of my Runner’s Choice locations that was supposed to occur on Thursday. I grew up going to a number of Minnesota Vikings games, and I’ll never forget my Metrodome experiences. Having said that, the place was a dump, and Minneapolis now has a NFL stadium that creates absolute awe. US Bank Stadium is like no other. So huge. So impressive. I’ve never been to Jerry’s World in Texas, so my only comparison is Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis. The stadium, and its surroundings, have truly made this section of downtown Minneapolis wonderful.
To celebrate, I thanked a Packers fan. Sorry Don. Nothing but love. My sister and brother-in-law are awesome. Don just started a new job with 3M, and I love hearing about his experiences and the crazy products that 3M has in their arsenal. My sister is one of my rocks, and I’m lucky to have such a supportive sister.
Dad and I will both tell you that Saint Paul, Minnesota might have been our highlight of the day. The city is overshadowed many times by its larger twin, but wow, we stumbled upon an amazing neighborhood. The Cathedral of Saint Paul towers above the city, and we snaked our way into the Cathedral Hill neighborhood. Filled with amazing old homes and fall scenery, we were both in awe. At the Cathedral, I thanked a few Catholics, Mike & Helaine Engler. Dad used to work alongside Mike, and I’m grateful for their donation!
Another shot of the Cathedral.
My short jaunt through the neighborhood was great. Once again, the fall colors were out in full force to compliment the incredible architecture of the area.
Needing some caffeine, we drove a few minutes to the nearest coffee shop and were welcomed by more great architecture.
I captured this picture of my dad doing what he does best – Drinking coffee and reading.
As mentioned, we decided to add Stillwater, Minnesota to the day’s trek. Stillwater is a cute town east of the Twin Cities on the St. Croix River. Known as a tourist destination, you can quickly see why it has become a popular destination. At the town’s drawbridge, I thanked Shane & Jenna Omann for their donation. I grew up in Fort Dodge across the street from Jenna, and I always mention that I still consider her a little sister of mine. Jenna and Shane live in Charlotte with their Great Dane and little girl Hazel. I’m kicking myself for not stopping earlier to thank these two next to a politician’s sign – Shawn Omman for Supervisor.
Dad and I decided to tackle the mile together in Stillwater, and we did it in style, climbing the city’s stairs to reach a killer vantage point.
The two of us overlooking Stillwater.
We also found a local resident where I thanked my two nephews Will & Graham. Will is obsessed with the grand old moose, so I always keep my eyes peeled for the lovable character. It’s also Will’s birthday, and I wish I was with him to celebrate! Happy Birthday little dude.
We drove south on the St. Croix River to meet up with the Mississippi River in Red Wing, Minnesota. I found a classic Minnesota storefront.
Red Wing, Minnesota is home to the world-famous Red Wing brand. The company’s headquarters is in town along with their flagship merchandise store. Within the store is the world’s largest boot. You can’t pass up a good picture with a big boot. I thanked my uncle and aunt, Randy and Lori Good. I’m not sure if Randy wears Red Wings in the fields, but I found the tribute fitting.
From Red Wing, we traveled south to Lake City, Minnesota, a really neat marina town on the Mississippi River. With the season closing, we saw a number of boaters packing up shop and getting ready to move their boats. I took the opportunity to run the piers and was surrounded by fishermen, boaters and eager tourists. I thanked Chris Shrader here. Chris is a long-time Phi Delt volunteer and former staffer. Chris and I spent a few days together in New York City in September when we presented Phi Delta Theta’s Lou Gehrig Memorial Award to Curtis Granderson of the New York Mets. We spent part of a Sunday touring Manhattan, the day after the recent bombing. It was quite the time to be in New York City, and visiting the 9/11 Memorial on that day will be something I always remember.
When you drive the Great River Road, there is no shortage of great vantage points. It’s very tough to pass by scenic overlooks, but there are so many of them. I had to stop at one during the day, and I decided to thank Eric Paisley, another Iowa State Phi Delt. I run into Eric ever so often at Iowa State Cyclone football tailgates. Thanks Eric! The next morning we passed Paisley Trucking on the River Road. Another missed opportunity!
Our next stop was Wabasha, Minnesota, and the small town captured our hearts. The great thing about traveling in October is seeing the fall festivals, Halloween-inspired decorations and activities that occur. As I was running along the river, a number of fall festivals were going on with kids having a blast. Very festive. Wabasha is home to the National Eagle Center, a unique museum that celebrates this incredible animal. I thanked Jason Brannon once again for his donation.
Wabasha is named after an Indian Chief who now holds down a beautiful section of the river.
From Wabasha, we crossed the river into the great state of Wisconsin where I ran a mile in Alma, Wisconsin prior to driving up to the Buena Vista Overlook. I love how river towns are laid out, with many of their houses clinging to the cliffs along the river. Alma is no different, and the Buena Vista Overlook is breathtaking. I thanked the Etler family here. April Etler watches our children during the week and has become a member of the family. Our kids love her, and she is an amazing resource and person to have in our lives. Her husband David and kids Emma and Austin have also become parts of the family, and it’s been fun to watch their kids grow alongside ours. Cal and Tess LOVE going to Emma’s volleyball games and try to distract her with ample waves from the crowd.
From Alma, we headed south and crossed back over to the Minnesota side in Winona, Minnesota. Winona is home to Winona State University, a quaint school with a beautiful campus. As we parked, we realized that the Homecoming football game was going on, so my run came with a bit of school spirit. I ran over to the stadium and dodged in and out of Winona State fans. I was the definitely the guy getting made fun of as I ran through football tailgates. I thanked Roger & Paula Griffith on campus. Paula and Roger are the best! They are the parents of my best pal Travis, and I spent most of my childhood across the street and in the Griffith home. Roger is a traveler at heart, and I love to hear about his great bike treks across the midwest.
Our next stop was Trempealeau, Wisconsin, home of one of the Mississippi River’s many dams and locks. Dad and I are still not 100% how these things work, but they sure are fun to watch. They seem like unnecessary road blocks to me, but who am I to judge. I thanked Kelly Caughlin who I know is in heaven following the Cubs’ NLCS win this evening.
Also in Trempealeau, we found this awesome welcome sign where I thanked my main man Keith Wysocki. Keith is a former colleague of mine, a die-hard Nebraska Cornhusker, a professional pest killer and a horse racing enthusiast. I knew Keith would appreciate my new fish friend.
We arrived in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a great river town that would host my final run of the day. La Crosse is a bustling city that has a spectacular bluff (Grandad) that towers over the city. We drove up to the overlook and were met by many other tourists. I thanked Brad & Tracy Sievers here. Brad was a great role model for me as a young college student, and I still think he’s one of the coolest guys around. Brad and Tracy dated throughout college, so I got to know her well too. The two of them live in Texas with their adorable and baseball-loving kids. I also want to thank Tyler Heinz of Grand Bluff Running for equipping me with this awesome Festival Foods Grandad Half Marathon long-sleeve shirt. It was a perfect addition for the day’s weather, and dad could spot me from a mile away.
Another shot of La Cross from Grandad Bluff.
We ventured into town and I found a fun mural as a backdrop to thank my newest colleague Jennifer Morrow. Jennifer and I have collaborated on Phi Delta Theta’s magazine for years, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to now have her on the team as an employee. She has creative skills that will bring great things to our communication efforts.
Two nights in a row I’ve been able to meet up with fellow Iowa State Phi Delts. Mark Hughes is a pledge brother of mine, and it had been years since we saw each other. Mark has worked in La Crosse for six years now at a local hotel, and it was awesome to see him during this trip. We shared a delightful Buffalo Chicken pizza before we had to bid adieu. Great seeing you Mark!
Our home for the evening was an awesome cabin in Coon Valley, Wisconsin. I connected with Becky of Quiet Valley Cabins through Airbnb, and she was gracious in hosting us for the evening. The area is unbelievably peaceful and dad felt at home on the farm. They built this cabin by hand. Check this thing out! I so wish I had the skills to build a place like this.
I loved sleeping in the loft. The cabin was immaculate.
Their other rentable space on the property.
My final thank you of the day was to Luke Benfield as I celebrated the day with a Wisconsin classic – New Glarus Spotted Cow beer. People in Iowa are mesmerized by this beer, and it’s always a special treat to come across it. I’m pumped for Luke and his wife Sarah as they are expecting their first child any day now. Luke and I worked together at Phi Delt for a number of years, and he now lives in Nashville.
Today was a great day.