This has been a whirlwind of a week, finishing our three mini vacations of the summer – all right in a row. We had our Fox Lake cottage vacation last weekend with Greg’s parents. Monday was the one normal day of packing and laundry and getting everything organized. And then first thing Tuesday I was off on a solo trip to Minnesota. On Thursday I drove down to La Crosse and met up with Greg and the boys for two nights of family vacation. Overall, I had a lot of fun, did a lot of shopping, looked at a lot of books, and ate a ton of delicious food. But there were also a ton of internet related frustrations in Minnesota and bug related stress in La Crosse. A trip can never just be perfect, right?
I started my journey with a stop at Great Harvest Bread Co. in the Dells. I’ve never been there before and was hoping to find some kind of bread to have on hand for the rest of the week in case the hotel breakfasts were disappointing (and they were). They didn’t really have much bread, but the entire store was filled with bags of these mocha chocolate chip biscotti, so I picked one up. They were delicious!
I planned on eating lunch in Eau Claire, but got to town too early. I drove around, expecting there’d be a shopping area off the main highway I could just hang out at for a little while, but I didn’t have any luck. I eventually found my way to a Festival grocery store so I could go to the bathroom. I made it to Milwaukee Burger Co. right when it opened. Their menu looked fantastic and I chose just a simple fried chicken, pickle, and special sauce sandwich with a side of their enormous cheese curds. Very tasty, but very filling.
My next stop was at Bibelot in St. Paul. It’s a really fun gift type store that I always enjoyed going to when I lived there. I also grabbed a cold brew from Starbucks because I was already dragging and my day had hardly begun!
My main reason for picking Minnesota as a vacation destination was to see my favorite author, Colleen Hoover, at a book signing in Edina. I’ve never been to a book signing and when I realized there was one within driving distance it seemed like the perfect reason to plan a solo vacation. Anyway, it became really annoying when I realized to actually get a seat at the signing and guarantee of her actually signing my book, I had to purchase a book AT their location. They had 100 wristbands that they gave out between when the latest book came out (July 17) and the signing (August 7). 100 isn’t very many for a very popular author in a huge metropolitan area! So I ordered a book to be picked up that day, and then called to ask about the wristband. He told me that because I asked, and he still had 5 or 6 left, he’d put a wristband in my book. And then he realized they only have a 5 day hold and I ordered the book 6 days early. So I had to order a second book (technically a third because I already owned one from amazon to read on release day) the next day and just hoped I’d have a wristband when I got there. I noticed on the book signing schedule that all the other cities simply had you purchase tickets for the signing online. That would have been SO much easier for me!! And much less stressful.
Anyway! I drove over to the Barnes and Noble as soon as I could get there to see if I had a wristband waiting for me. I got lucky because the wristband was still there in the first book I ordered, despite it being expired. They made a big to do about it and decided I could still have the wristband, even though it wasn’t with the book that was still in the system… It wouldn’t have been the end of the world not to have the wristband. I still could have stood in the back and I probably still could have had my book signed. But after revolving a whole vacation around this thing, I really wanted to be able to sit down and enjoy it!
I went back to check into my hotel next and spent awhile just reading and relaxing. I put on a nice outfit, did my hair, and headed back to Barnes and Noble about an hour and a half before the signing started. Apparently this is one of five new concept stores in the country, and the setup was a lot more unique than any other BN I’ve been to. I was really excited to spend some time browsing the shelves. But everyone was already there and sitting! I forgot to bring my kindle with me, I wasn’t particularly interested in re-reading this newest book (it was great – just not her typical tingly delicious romance type book), and my internet wasn’t working at all on my phone. Eventually I decided to risk it and left my stuff on a chair so I could walk around a bit. 🙂 You can’t stick me in an awesome bookstore and not let me browse!
I guess because most people were just getting this book that day, Colleen didn’t do any readings or want to answer questions about it. But she did spend about an hour taking any other questions that people had. So many of the questions had to do with her writing process and where she gets ideas. It was so interesting! I really enjoyed the entire thing. And at the end, we went row by row to get our books signed. I watched everyone before me gushing to her about how great her books are and when I got to the front of the line I had no idea what to say! I was probably her fastest sign because I felt so tongue tied and dumb! Oh well. It was a really great experience and I hope to go to more book signings in my future!
It was pretty late, but I was getting hungry after not eating since 11 in Eau Claire. My plan was to go to Cheesecake Factory and just pick up a slice for the hotel, but then I decided I’d rather get real food instead. So I walked into this Rojo Mexican Grill and had my food about five minutes after I sat down! A huge basket of chips and salsa and three chicken tacos. I’m not normally a huge rice fan, but whatever they did to this rice was also amazing. Since I was parked right in front of it (thanks, handicap parking pass), I still got a slice of chocolate cherry cheesecake to bring back to the hotel and eat over the next few days.
I finished my night back at the hotel with a bit of a pampering spa hour. I had brought a bunch of bath bombs and oils and sheet masks. I was really too exhausted to fully enjoy it, but it was still worth doing. Overall, my first day of vacation was awesome!
Wednesday is much less exciting to write about. I checked out the hotel breakfast that just consisted in individually boxed cereals and plain bagels and went back to my room to read for awhile. I had a fully researched plan in place to start at Ikea and Mall of America and then work my way through all my favorite stores in the other cities. But on my way back to the hotel Tuesday night I saw there was a Container Store in the opposite direction. I’ve never been to one and always wanted to, so I switched up my whole itinerary. Of course in doing so, I really needed to do a bit more research, and the wifi in the hotel didn’t work at all, and my phone was roaming the entire time so almost nothing was working. I wasted a ridiculous amount of time in those 48 hours just trying to get something to load. Things that should have taken ten seconds took half an hour. Yes, I could have just used the time to unplug and made the day a true adventure. But I didn’t want to miss anything! And I wanted to make sure I had the best restaurant plan for the day. It was infuriating how hard it was to find answers or options EVERY SINGLE TIME I tried to search something out. My gps even stopped working half the time. I was trying to just go with the flow and not let it bother me. But…it bothered me. A lot.
Anyway, Wednesday was my shopping day. I went to Trader Joe’s, World Market, Marshall’s, The Container Store, and Whole Foods in Edina. I love unique grocery stores. And I love discount stores. And I love containers. My biggest mistake on this trip was not bringing along a cooler and some ice packs. So many things I wanted to buy at the first few stores I went to were meltable, so I had to pass. 🙁
I had lunch at Naf Naf Grill in Eagan. There were so many great choices all right in a row! I contemplated Punch Pizza because that was our all time favorite MN pizza chain (though there wasn’t one in Eagan when we lived there!). There was also a taco place called RTacos that looked tasty. But I was trying to get myself a wide variety of foods, so I went Mediterranean. My pita was good, but SO spicy. Too spicy. And I LOVE spicy food.
Next I went to Marshall’s and Home Goods and then temporarily got lost. Eagan has changed a lot in the 10 years since we lived there! And my gps stopped working. But I eventually found my way back to the part of town I recognized and drove past the Panera where I worked for the first year we lived there. Then I went into that Barnes and Noble to browse books some more. And of course got a frappuccino. To try and wake up, but also to try and combat the fire still raging in my mouth.
I finished up my shopping at my favorite TJMaxx in Burnsville, where I used to shop all the time (before apparently every city in MN got their own discount stores!). I also stopped in at Abdallah Candies, but I just wasn’t in the mood to buy anything else sweet after my coffees and cheesecake. After that I was totally exhausted and needed a break so I went back to the hotel to read and take a nap.
The rest of my night was kind of crappy. I kept thinking about still going to Ikea and MoA, but my ankle was killing me and I knew there weren’t really any stores I was dying to go to in the mall. I like Ikea as an experience, but it has so many steps and I still suck at going down stairs because my ankle won’t bend enough. Originally there was a restaurant that looked really good at the mall, but since I had fancy tacos the night before it really wasn’t such a priority to get that kind of meal again. I was trying to think really hard about what kind of things I’d find most memorable and of course the answer was BOOKS. On other trips the answer probably would have been to find some cool outdoor things to visit. But between the extremely hot temperatures and my stupid ankle, I just wasn’t up for that kind of adventuring on that leg of the trip.
Anyway, I ended up going to a really cool used bookstore called The Paperback Exchange. I wish I had come across it in my research ahead of time, because if you brought in any paperback to exchange, you would only have to pay 25% of the cover price on any book in the store. Without an exchange, it was 50%. Which was still a pretty great deal because they had SO MANY books, and thousands of them were in almost perfect condition. I had a lot of fun browsing the floor to ceiling shelving and came out with four new books that I actually knew about before and really wanted to read.
After that the night was pretty awful. I couldn’t make up my mind on where to eat. My problem on vacations is that I want every meal to be this perfect experience filled with types of food I could never find at home. I want every meal to be memorable and delight my senses. And sometimes that’s just a lot of pressure to put on food. I couldn’t decide on a restaurant, so instead I headed to another bookstore. But there was so much construction, closed roads, heavy traffic, and NO places to park. I just wasn’t up for walking blocks and blocks to get anywhere, so I gave up on the bookstore and headed to another restaurant choice. Came across more roadblocks and lack of parking. Finally went back to the hotel to regroup and see if there was something I could order in. Decided on something, only to see you needed to download an app in order to place an order and gave up. It was getting so late, but I didn’t want to skip eating entirely. But the internet wasn’t working, I didn’t know what to do, and I was getting so stressed out.
I finally made a choice on a place that was supposedly just 1.2 miles away from the hotel. Except when I got in my car the gps then said 3.6 miles. Which was a good fifteen minute drive. When I finally got there, through more construction and closed roads, I couldn’t get to the restaurant because it was in the middle of a construction site and all the doors were barricaded, even though the open sign was on. It was so confusing and frustrating that I left and just got Popeye’s on my drive back to the hotel. Except even that was a fail because all the food was cold and limp and I didn’t even eat it. SUCH a waste of a night. I should have just walked to the Walmart next to the hotel and gotten some cheese and bread or something. I was so mad at myself for wasting sooooo many hours of that super rare solo vacation on things that didn’t even work out. Oh, and then the final straw – I figured I would end the night finding something to watch on tv while eating popcorn that I had brought. BUT you needed a code to get the tv to work, which was not provided. Stupid! I just went to bed after that.
Needless to say, I was not in the mood to linger on Thursday morning. I didn’t even look at the hotel breakfast. Just packed up and stopped at a bakery I had driven by the morning before. They had so many tasty options! I got a French donut and a cherry fritter, and two bags of salty crunchy cheese breadsticks and a loaf of cinnamon bread to share with the family.
On my way out of the area, I drove by our old house in Farmington. It looked pretty much the same, except they changed the shutters to white. I liked the black ones I painted myself so much better. I was also really happy to see that the flowers, lilac bushes, and tree I planted on my first Mother’s Day were all still alive and well. I can’t believe how much that tree has grown in nine years!
As I headed south, I came to the conclusion that memory lane vacations are not much fun. I really enjoyed our four years living in Minnesota and have a lot of great memories there. But I’ve never regretted our decision to move back to Wisconsin. Driving around on this trip, though, kind of made me feel wistful and sad for the path we did not choose. Maybe because that blog post I wrote on Monday was still fresh on my mind – regret over not staying the college course. I definitely enjoyed seeing Colleen Hoover and I always like being by myself and shopping at all my favorite stores. But I also just felt really kind of sad the entire time. I also felt ANGRY at all the traffic and lack of parking options and poor internet, so yeah. I was ready to get out of there.
I’ll spare you all the other frustrating driving related problems I had that morning and just tell you that I finally got to La Crosse around noon and stopped at the coffee shop I had picked out ahead of time. I wanted some meal food since I didn’t know our plan for the rest of the day, but also didn’t want a ton of food, so I got a mini BLT. And even though I wasn’t really in the mood for it, the whole reason I picked Cabin Coffee Co. was for their huge frappe menu, so I couldn’t leave without getting one. This was the Mississippi Mud frappe. It was good, just a ton bigger than I expected it to be.
After that, I met up with my family! It was still too early to check into the hotel, so they decided to go to the Holmen Aquatic Center, a little north of Onalaska. It was really hot again, so we all had a good time swimming. But then some kid pooped in the pool and we were all kicked out. The boys were really antsy to just get to the hotel. We checked in about as early as we could and immediately went swimming there since we all still had our suits on.
For dinner we went to Buzzard Billy’s. It was the one restaurant I researched that I didn’t want to miss. Unfortunately, we had an extremely long wait on the food and Shepard was SO cranky about it, kind of ruining the experience. But it was delicious once it came!
We ended the night at Grandad Bluff. So pretty!
We were so color coordinated, without even trying!
I spent most of the time watching these people that kept walking around, laying and relaying blankets down, standing backwards, and cuddling right at the edge of the cliff.
Anyway, it was a good evening. We went back to the hotel and got the boys to bed and then we watched an episode of Better Call Saul on Greg’s laptop, with one earbud in each. The joys of hotel life with such different sleep schedules!
Friday morning is when things got tough. Long story short, while I was with the boys getting breakfast, Greg woke up to a bug biting him. It was a bedbug. He took photos and immediately went to the front desk and talked to the manager. They handled the entire thing like it was a national emergency. They wanted us to leave so they could inspect every inch of the room. While we were gone they must have found more because they moved us to a different room, gave us the hotel stay for free, AND insisted that we go on a shopping spree to replace all of the clothes and luggage we had with us, in case it was contaminated. They also told Greg if we ever want to come again to let them know we’d get another night free. They handled everything in about the best possible way, which is why I’m not going to out them to the world as a bedbug hotel. These things happen, and everything else about our stay both this time and a few years ago was fantastic. The bad thing, though…we were still exposed to bedbugs. And spent every single minute of the rest of the vacation worrying about that. And still worrying about it now.
Anyway, when we first left the hotel that morning, we didn’t have much of a plan other than to check out some river viewing spots before it got too hot. We went over into Minnesota and walked around, drove to a higher viewing point, and stopped to watch the lock and dam. The guys were mostly looking for new Pokemon.
We ate lunch at a place called Burger Fusion where you can design your own burgers from a huge list of possibilities. I don’t eat hamburgers, but chicken sandwiches were also an option.
After lunch we went to The Pearl ice cream shop where the boys split a cookie dough ice cream and I got a toasted marshmallow latte.
We went back to the hotel after that and went through the process of going through all of our items and then moving them to the new room. Greg and the boys went swimming while I figured out what the heck to do with all of our clothes. I had all of my best clothes with me. Almost all of which had to be ordered online because I can never find anything in stores that fit properly. I had three of my brand new Third Love bras with me and those are not cheap!! I also had my only three pairs of shorts, six brand new and awesome shirts, my favorite dress, and my only swimming suit and cover up. I couldn’t just ditch them all on the very tiny possibility they were contaminated. Yes, the bedbugs did exist in our room. But Greg is the only one who got bit. They couldn’t have been horrible. And all of our clothes were clear on the other side of the room from where our bed was. It just seemed so unlikely that after all the proper precautions, including extremely careful inspection and heat treatment, my clothes still needed to just get thrown away. Trust me, it has caused MANY arguments in the last three days, but I kept my things. All of Greg and the boys’ clothes they had with them – gone. My suitcase and their duffel bag too. And all the tote bags we had our food and electronics in. It sucked.
After swimming we headed over to Kohls with a long list of everything that needed replacing. Full blown shopping for every article of clothing for three people, plus a few extra things, is exhausting. Greg didn’t even know what size he wore in anything, but because all of his clothes are from Kohls anyway, we were able to find a lot of exact replacements. The boys were a lot harder because most of their summer clothes were either no longer in stock or hidden among clearance racks. Shepard definitely had opinions on what we picked out for him, but Caden started crying every time we asked him which color or style he liked better. Shopping to him is like the ULTIMATE worst thing in the entire world. I got new pajamas, the only thing I agreed to leave behind, even though they were my favorite. 🙁 And I also got to pick out a new carry on bag, which I guess is the silver lining because my other one was pretty old. We managed to get all of that done in about an hour. I felt bad it was over $500, but that was even without replacing my things! The hotel reimbursed us without a bit of hesitation, though.
We headed to the farmer’s market next, which is the one thing in La Crosse I really wanted to do. It was still so hot, though, and crowded, and the rest of my family had no interest in being there. I bought a kohlrabi, the boys each had a glass of fresh pressed apple cider, and I had a glass of delicious sweet mint iced tea. I was so sore at that point, and stressed out. We needed to think of something else to do, but I was just done. Cranky and tired and overwhelmed by everything. I wasn’t super hungry, but we still needed to eat, so we finally decided to just go where everyone wanted to go – even if it’s the same food we could buy at home. Shepard picked Culver’s. Chicken tenders for literally the eighth meal in a row.
Caden wanted a “sub” (turkey and mustard) and chips. Greg and I ended at Burracho’s because it was across the street from the hotel and I didn’t want to drive back into La Crosse for something more unique.
We ended Friday night with more swimming. I enjoyed more hot tub time. It was a long day! Honestly, the boys were great. The whole bedbug ordeal, though. Not fun.
On Saturday morning I took the boys down to the pool while Greg packed everything up. They love the pool and hot tub there so much!
Their favorite part is the indoor/outdoor aspect of the pool. They were just having the greatest time in the world swimming between the barrier and alternating between the pool and the hot tub. It made me realize if we just have very low expectations and actually listen to what THEY want to do, family vacations can be really fun. It’s been so long since we’ve been on one just the four of us. Probably about three years! They were always so disastrous in the past that we switched to just Greg and I going on mini trips, or me going by myself because I’m the one who loves traveling the most. But this was fun! And it was good for us.
We parted ways around ten on Saturday. Greg and the boys went back home to do some Pokemon hunting and pick up Annie. I had to check out the La Crosse TJMaxx (after my two day detox), a gift shop I always like seeing in town, and the craft mall in the Dells. I got back home mid afternoon and snuggled with my pup!
And that was our trip! Overall, a success. If the bedbug incident hadn’t happened, it would have been great. Alas, Greg is still mad at me for keeping my clothes and annoyed that I refused to let them sit in bags in the sun for two weeks (because I had a WET swimsuit in one of the bags, plus ALL OF MY SHORTS AND BRAS). It was pretty dang hot when they sat out yesterday, plus I washed and dried them on heavy duty loads on the hottest settings today. I think they’re fine. And if they turn out not to be, I will take full responsibility on de-infesting our house. 😛
So, no Sunday Intention post this week. I’m still so tired. Trying to get caught up after being gone a week. Trying to prepare for babysitting Hudson for three days when no part of our house is baby proofed and he is very much on the move! Trying to figure out when the in the world I can get back to work in the next few weeks. And feeling both sad that summer is coming to an end and our calendar is filled with so many things, yet still not enough of the fun things I had wanted to do. And feeling excited that FALL IS COMING and my life will finally get back to normal. It’s a confusing time, the middle of August. 🙂 But we power on!