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.


Anonymous said...

That sounds like a fun trip. (except for the excercising of course) Who would think that a place like Winona would have an interesting film festival in the dead of winter. It would be interesting to know where the Australians surfed in their 50 state quest. My assumption is some of the landlocked states had some pretty boring lakes to surf. I am no closer to visiting all 50 states than I was a few years ago, so just getting to all the states is an accomplishment most Americans never experience.

Christopher said...

In the landlocked states the Aussies surfed all sorts of places - rivers, potato mountains (Idaho), fields of crops…it was a hoot. You need to pick a state you have not been to and go visit!

Anonymous said...

I think it's funny that Rocky recommended that bald eagle place and you actually saw some bald eagles when you got there. Seems like a setup, almost. Usually people recommend these places and you go there and all is deserted and silent, except for a lone reed swaying in the wind, or a squirrel scurrying across the ground. But you actually saw some eagles!