As far as the Minneapolis airport goes, here are two pieces of info you might find helpful—or at least I, who can sometimes be a bit of a spaceshot, would find helpful. 1. There are two terminals in the Minneapolis airport – Humphrey and Lindbergh. Make note of which one you flew into so you can know where to drive back to.
2. If you’re renting a car, you’ll ride a tram after collecting your luggage to get to the rental area. It’s not as bad as it might seem. I was worried that returning the car in the very early morning might prove complicated, but it wasn’t. (Well, it wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t somehow managed to return my Alamo-National car to the Dollar area. How? I have no idea. Not a mistake you want to make at 5:15 in the morning. I was terrified of the tire-killing metal spikes.)
The drive from Minneapolis to Pepin is gorgeous. You head south for a while before swinging east towards Wisconsin. After you turn off the highway onto a county road (which can be hard to see in the dark, so bring your GPS or set your odometer and know the mileage), you’re making your way through twists and turns of farmland banked by trees. So pretty. I saw lots of corn and soybeans, though I’m told that years ago this area used to grow substantial wheat.
One of the towns you drive through is Red Wing – the original location of Red Wing shoes. We actually have one of these just down the road. Quite a nice discovery for me, as I’m not used to saying that.
I checked in to the Historic Anderson House, an inn in Wabasha, Minnesota right on the Mississippi River that gets high marks in Bill Anderson’s Little House Guidebook. Once you leave your contemporary lodging expectations behind, the inn is delightful. There are no elevators between its three floors; you’ll want to take that into consideration when booking your room if you have lots of luggage or can’t easily navigate stairs. The not-quite-level floor gives the hallway a bumpy feel, but it’s not unpleasant. Hallway décor consists of velvet-backed chairs and benches and other historic touches. The rooms — I only discovered this on my second day, and only as an afterthought — don’t have phones. I didn’t even ask about Internet access. Also, if you want a hairdryer, you’ll have to ask at the front desk.
Rates vary based on size of room; since I was by myself, mine was one of the smallest. Most of the space was taken up by the bed, done up with crocheted pillows and homey quilts. The tiny bathroom with shower and toilet were in the corner of the room behind a light door, and the sink was outside that, actually in the room. Still, traveling alone (read: without kids) I found I had everything I needed—even enough outlets to charge my cell phone, iPod, digital camera, and wireless headset, though I did have to rotate a tiny bit.
I also had a cat. The inn offers something unique for its guests—cat rentals by the night. Actually, rental is a misnomer, as the cats are free. My cat was Fred, a muscular, brutish black cat, and I was told “He thinks he’s a dog.” This turned out to be true. He was very friendly and often turned on his back demanding a scratching. The cats are put in your room in the evening, where they remain until the morning. Food and water are placed in the room (as well as an unsightly litterbox, but that can’t be helped). Fred and I had a nice couple of nights together, though he did try my patience once or twice walking across the nightstand, objects falling to the floor in his wake. (I’d link to the web page about the cats but it doesn’t seem to be working right now.)
The town of Wabasha itself is charming and low-key. My window allegedly faced the Mississippi River, but the view is only partial and requires squinting. For a true riverside experience, forget about renting a room for the view and just go outside. It’s a three-minute walk to the water’s edge. Both mornings I woke up in Wabasha I went running along the edge of the river and through the cozy downtown. Restaurants within walking distance of the inn include a Chinese place that I didn’t visit but looked quite nice from the outside, and an Irish Pub that served traditional pub food (bangers and mash, Shepherd’s pie) till 9 PM.
There’s also a restaurant right at the Anderson House. Room rates include a seven-dollar voucher to breakfast in the restaurant, not an arbitrary amount as the main breakfast dishes top out at about that much. (Small point: the inn calls itself a bed and breakfast, but it’s not. If you have to pay for breakfast, it’s just a bed.) Breakfast was fresh and filling and best of all, coffee and water were continually replenished, which is my pedestrian litmus test for the first meal of the day. The restaurant also offers dinner, but I didn’t sample that meal. There’s also a lounge downstairs from the lobby, which I kept intending to visit but didn’t quite make it.
The staff, as were most of the people I met in Minnesota and Wisconsin, were perfectly lovely, from the desk agent to the restaurant hostess to the owner to the waitstaff. I felt comfortable in their presence and felt as if they cared about getting to know me personally. All in all, a great experience and I highly recommend it.
Next post: Pepin.