Sunday, February 28, 2016

Road Trippin'

Before taking off for Europe I wanted to spend one more weekend with Hue, also it was technically his summer break and I couldn't just let him sit in Milwaukee the whole time.  If I had thought ahead a bit more I would have planned a real trip, but instead a 6 hour drive north, with stops both in my college town and the twin cities, would have to do. I didn't want to be responsible for a huge group, after all I wanted to have fun this weekend, so my invite extended only to Hue and Jun, both of whom were happy with the plan.  To round out the group I invited my cousin Alivia, smart, independent and with a thirst for knowledge, I'm honored when people say we're a lot alike.  Given the people I'd be spending the next few days with I had high hopes for the trip.

We left Friday morning and for the first portion of the trip everyone was pretty quiet, being the driver this was not going to fly with me, I required entertainment while carting these three around. I introduced the boys to the 'Alphabet Game' an old favorite from family road trips, and despite driving and keeping my eyes on the road, dominated. The drive was one long stretch of deja vu, bringing back University memories as I neared my old campus town.  We did all the road trip things, played car games, ate snacks and jammed out to music.  Upon arriving in La Crosse we checked into our room, but failed on one account. Having only booked for two people I should've had the boys wait in the car, but stupid me they came in, meaning we'd have to pay an extra $20, not worth it for the room IMO, but such is life.  We dropped our stuff and went to find food, I passed on most of the car snacks and was thus starving by this time.  Per a friends suggestion (and because I never ate there during my college days) we had lunch at Hmongs Golden Egg roll, the name's odd and it's previous location in a bank building were maybe what previously deterred me.  It's since had a make-over and the food was awesome, reminiscent of my days in SE Asia, yum.

Up next was the bluffs, I couldn't bring these three to La Crosse and not give them the grand tour, a small hike and views over the city included.  They were luck in that we timed our arrival along with that of a train, this way I could share with them the story of when I almost killed myself running across these very same tracks.  The hike was just as beautiful as I remember and everyone seemed to enjoy the views from the top.  If I'm lucky this trip may have persuaded my cousin to add La Crosse to her possible University options, I'd love to have a reason to go back and visit.  We finished the afternoon with a walk through campus, unfortunately being summer vacation many buildings were not open, but they were still able to get a feel for the campus and I a walk down memory lane.

After resting or some time at the hotel, and cleaning up after our hike we contemplated what to do with our evening. Seeing as the three of them were all underage hitting up the bar scene was quite out of the question, instead I had the brilliant idea to see if anything was playing at the Riv, an awesome old school theater downtown which also serves food and drinks.  We were in luck, not only was something showing but the time coincided perfectly with my phone interview (for a job in Korea).  Finally the next morning we took a walk along the river, another of the natural highlights of this city.  Not to brag or anything but I think I was a pretty awesome tour guide fro La Crosse, aside from Ice Cream at the Pearl there's not much we missed.

Back on the road, headed north again, soon crossing the border into Minnesota and continuing on our way. I'd never before actually made the drive from La Crosse to Minneapolis, I was either in a bus or passenger of a friends car, but the sights were spectacular.  Aside from worrying we might blow off the road due to high winds the drive was enjoyable and we arrived in the cities after about two and a half hours. I had booked a hotel near the mall, for one it was cheaper being outside the city and we were planning to do some shopping Sunday morning anyhow.  After dropping off our things we were right back in the car and headed towards the city to explore, without much of a plan to lead us.

I have a few friends living in the city, two of whom were in town and planning to attend a music festival in Loring park.  We wanted to stop by the Sculpture garden which was nearby so I told them we'd try to meet up after doing so.  The roads were packed and parking was ridiculous as expected, due to the concert, but we got supremely lucky when someone pulled out just as we were arriving, free street parking is much preferred to the $5~$10 lots! Unfortunately almost all of the sculptures had been removed from the garden, kind of forgot the reasoning, but we were able to see and take a few pictures with the big spoon, so it wasn't a complete let down.

The music festival was free which meant huge crowds, thankfully my friend let us in on a tip to use the 'back entrance' so we were able to avoid waiting in line forever.  It was a mission to find anyone in the crowds but we were successful after wandering for only a few minutes.  Unfortunately the food vendors (Chipotle, also sponsor) were only offering overpriced burritos and nachos so we thought it better to go find something more substantial and cost effective.  After a brief meeting with my friend Mitch and promise that we'd be back later, we made our way to a nearby Chinese restaurant where we ate more than our fill and Hue satisfied his 탕수육 craving with orange chicken. Unfortunately as we ate the rain came down, in buckets, which meant a wet run back to our car.
I was at a loss for what to do with these three underagers on a rainy Saturday afternoon in the city.  Both of my friends were back at the apartments drinking, and although the invites were extended I wasn't sure that was what my companions were looking for.  Alivia wanted to at least see the campus so we took a drive through town, not knowing there was a football game about to start which graced us with loads of traffic.  Ultimately we decided to drop in on my friends, first to Mike's house for a miniature DSP (Delta Sigma Pi) reunion before leaving them to the bars and then reuniting with Mitch at his apartment, thankfully the two are both centrally located.  Despite the short distance, the drive to Mitch's was harrowing, with rain coming down in sheets, my wipers on super speed could barely compete.  Mitch has also taught in Korea and his roommate lived in China for a few years so it was a cool international mix and vibe at his apartment, with Korean paraphernalia decorating the walls, I believe helping the boys not to feel completely awkward.  While I caught up with Mitch the boys were entertained with his air dart gun, but poor Alivia probably could have been having more fun.  We called it a night after watching a good portion of School of Rock and letting the rain die down, returning to our hotel and properly passing out, one more day of adventure ahead of us. 

I was up early, but in no hurry to rouse the rest of them, instead taking some time to catch up with an old friend, sharing with her the news of my interview for Korea.  Our only plan for the morning was shopping and the mall wasn't open until 10am so there was no point in rushing.  I grabbed a few take-aways from the hotel breakfast and woke the rest of them with the smell of waffles, maybe the only instance thus far in the trip I felt like the adult. We decided to separate at the mall, allowing each of us to go where we wanted, but agreed to meet back at the entrance by 1:30. When I saw the crushed look on the boys faces I agreed to 2pm, but having a six hour drive ahead of me that afternoon that was as late as I wanted to stay, plus I'm not much of shopper.  Alivia and I stuck together, stopping at only a few stores with the majority of our time spent in Forever 21, and before long we were back at the entrance waiting for the boys, ready to head back to Milwaukee. 

The drive back was enjoyable, until everyone decided to fall asleep and leave me rocking out to music on my own.  That and the "TP" warning light that kept flashing were my only complaints with the drive.  I wanted to ignore the light, but upon realizing I was the adult on the trip decided I should figure out what it means. Google solved the mystery and told me my tire pressure may be low, considering we had another five hours to go and winds were strong I decided to pull off and fill the tires, another form of entertainment and new experience for the boys.  From there the drive was smooth, except for our failed stop in Madison where we were planning to grab dinner, instead ending at a Thai restaurant in Milwaukee somewhere around 7pm.  Honestly, I was sick of driving and the thought of eating in Madison and then getting back on the road sounded terrible, better to just push through and be home.  All in all the weekend was a major success, until the last few hours I forgot that I was technically responsible for these three, and felt more their equal than a teacher, 누나, or older cousin.  I wish I could have had more time and a more exciting destination, but we took what we were given and made the most of it, plus there's still plenty of time for the rest. Hue will be back in Korea soon and we'll explore on his home turf ~~ something I can't wait for, less than three months now! 

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