Sunday, January 31, 2010

Frozen Travels

This past Thursday a friend mentioned something to me about a film festival taking place in Winona this weekend. It doesn’t take much for me to heed the call of the open road, and after doing a little research I decided to go. I’ve taken a handful of road trips since the summer though it’s been a while since I went alone.

I had offered to drop off a friend at the airport (very) early Saturday morning and after doing so headed for Highway 61, the air temperature a bone-chilling minus 5 Fahrenheit (minus 20 Celsius). As dawn broke I drove past frozen fields, the sun’s early light giving them an appearance like polished marble. The land, locked in a frozen winter embrace, is asleep, but still breathes its magic.

I love to start Saturday mornings listening to Blue Grass Saturday Morning and today was no exception. One song mentioned being up before the rooster crows. I’m sure I was though I didn’t hear him in South Minneapolis.

My first stop was Redwing where I found a restaurant, Liberty’s, just opening its doors. It was the sort of locally-owned, rooted-in-the-community type of place I love. Coming into town I had spotted a YMCA and anyone who knows me well won’t be surprised to read that after breakfast I decided to go there and work out. On the treadmill, with a view of the Mississippi in the distance, I got talking to my neighbor, Rocky. We chatted for a while and she suggested I visit a place in Wabasha to watch the eagles, and a coffee shop in Winona. Good things to know.

A little further along 61 I drove past Hok-Si-La where five months ago I camped, and then past Lake Pepin, now frozen solid, where on that same trip I sailed at night on a yacht, on one of my most memorable nights of 2009.

Then onto Wabasha and, at Rocky’s suggestion, the National Eagle Center. Looking through binoculars I watched a handful of eagles perched in a tree on the Wisconsin side of the river. Suddenly one of them left his perch, swooped, circled and danced low over the river, and then -- soaring higher on the lifting wind -- returned to the tree. I wish I could fly like an eagle: Drifting. Circling. Dipping. Freedom.

Next stop: Winona. I arrived at the college campus where the Frozen River Film Festival had attracted hundreds of people. I saw two films: the first, Surfing 50 States, a film about two Australian friends who, armed with their surfboards and a beat up ice cream van for transportation, attempt to surf in all 50 US states; the second, Kashmir, a short documentary on that region and its people as seen through the eyes of a visiting American traveler. Time didn’t allow but I had wanted to see a documentary about an overweight 55 year old Slovene who attempts to swim the length of the Amazon while consuming two bottles of red wine a day even when swimming. Insane. But what a character!

After visiting the Acoustic Café (the coffee shop suggestion) I headed back to the cities. I arrived in Minneapolis close to midnight, my senses nourished by the change of scenery. It had been a full day but seeing something new is always good for my soul.