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Midwestern Journey

Graham and I spent the first five days of the week in Wisconsin, visiting his mother and aunt and uncle. It was a lovely trip, despite the rain for most of our trip. We spent some time exploring the area around the tiny town of Trempealeau, Wisconsin, but mostly we spent our time indoors, catching up with one another.

I learned a lot about Graham's family history on this trip. His mother and aunt brought out pictures and stories and sagas. What I found remarkable was how similar Graham's mother and my mother were in upbringing. Only a year apart in age, they grew up about two hundred and fifty miles from one another. My mom's childhood was spent in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania and Graham's mom's was in Akron, Ohio. Looking on Google maps, I looked at pictures of Graham's mother that were ridiculously similar to those I'd seen of my mother. Her senior portrait had the same hairstyle that my mom sported; her prom dress was similar to the dresses my mom let me and my sisters play in when we were little kids. It was sort of strange.

The trip itself was lovely. I flew into Minneapolis / St. Paul on Saturday and drove to Trempealeau on Saturday night, and I had Graham's family all to myself that first evening and most of the next day. I didn't get to see much of the terrain when I was driving in, but the next morning, we took a walk down to the river and watched fishermen getting their boats ready for winter. I've never seen a marina on a river before, nor had I ever explored up close a river lock. Pretty cool. For most of the rest of Sunday, I watched a bit of football, and we waited for Graham's shuttle from MSP to arrive.

The closest "big" town is Winona, Minnesota, and I think it's probably around 25,000 people. There are a few colleges in the town, and I got the impression it was sort of Brenham sized. On Monday, we went into town to hit some thrift stores (a sweater and a present for one of my sisters), and sort of get a lay of the land. On the way back home, we picked up a pumpkin from a local patch, and some apples, cider and a pie from an orchard. Graham and I wandered into the orchard, and he remarked that if we didn't know what was coming in about a month, that this would be a lovely place to set up shop. Frigid winters and I don't get along well, though, so thoughts of transplanting to the midwest are pretty much quashed with the first view of someone's winter closet.

Monday night, we were delighted to discover that the Packers-Vikings game was going to happen. Right on the border between the two states, loyalties were mixed, but fierce. We saw all sorts of signs and banners and other declarations of allegiance. One of the bars was giving out free beer; I wasn't sure of the wisdom of that. This game is always a pretty fierce contentious, but this year, the first after the Favre defection, was particularly big. Graham and I, safely ensconced in our respective fandoms in the AFC, had no dog in the fight. We sort of felt more like anthropologists doing field work than football fans. Graham's family were generally Bears fans, so they were hoping for lots of bloodshed on both sides. We didn't dare go watch the game at a bar or local restaurant, and instead watched the game in the basement of Graham's family's house. Minnesota's victory well in hand, I went to bed.

On Tuesday, it poured, and we decided to stay inside and do really nothing. I, for one, liked the plan. Graham cooked for a good hunk of the day, and we got to hang out with his mom. We hadn't seen her since the election last year, and a lot has happened in her life in the intervening time. We were supposed to see her this spring, but my gallbladder surgery sort of threw those plans awry. Having a full un-interrupted day with her was perfect for me and for Graham.

Wednesday was a stunningly beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky, temperatures somewhere around 65, and not a hint of humidity. Photosynthesis was kicking in to high gear and trees that had shown no sign of turning when I had got there a few days earlier were awash in color. We hung out in the morning, watching Graham's mom making a chutney, and around noon, we packed up the rental car and headed back to Minnesota, stopping for more apples to take home at the orchard on the way.

This is a part of the country I'd never been to before. The closest I'd ever been is Chicago, but this rural area is much different than the bustling city about four hours away. I'm glad that we have relatives there to visit, and I suspect that we'll probably do an autumn journey often.

We got home and were hit with 94 degree weather with 98 percent humidity. Fortunately, a cold front came through tonight, and it's supposed to be in the upper seventies tomorrow, or else I think Graham would have started looking for jobs for me at the Mayo Clinic.