Day 2 - White Bear Lake
|Wednesday, March 20, 2019: We were on the road by 8:00 AM because we still had another five hours of travel ahead of us.
|We stopped at DeForest, Wisconsin, home of the large cow statue in front of Ehlenbach's Cheese Chalet.
|In the Burger King drive-thru right next door, we could see that there was a more life-sized cow statue in the Ehlenbach back yard.
|Across the freeway at the same exit, we drove past this pink elephant. It is nearly identical to the one we saw in Springfield the previous month, except it is missing a martini glass in its trunk. According to the Internet, this was one of many elephants made by the DWO Fiberglass Co. of Sparta, WI. Skip ahead to Day 5 to see our fiberglass statue experience in Sparta.
|We were heading to Minnesota for Debbie's beloved Aunt Mary's funeral, so Debbie posted this 2003 photo of the two of them on Facebook.
|Recent back-to-back blizzards and rainstorms had led to flooding all over the Midwest, and Wisconsin was no exception.
|We had passed Cascade Mountain just last month, all lit up at night, so it was interesting to see it during a winter day.
|Ah, yes, we are definitely now in the land of Debbie's people.
|Just moments after Debbie spotted open water on a lake and decided to start looking for bald eagles, she spotted one in a tree right next to the freeway. It's the majestic dot in the middle of this photo.
|Here's Castle Rock at Camp Douglas - always photogenic and always photographed.
|Bosshard Bogs looks quite different in the winter than it did the previous fall.
|Word on the Internet is that Moe's Almost World Famous Diner in Osseo is now defunct, but the big steer statue is still eye-catching.
|Tom spotted this license plate which seemed appropriate because we were passing Baldwin, Wisconsin, home of Debbie's drop zone during her skydiving days.
|There's Minnesota up ahead!
|Is that open water on the St. Croix River? Then there might be bald eagles nearby! Sure enough, there was one, just barely visible in the larger version of this photo. He's in a tree on the left side.
|Minnesota Welcomes You.
|We headed to White Bear Lake. This is not White Bear Lake, but it looks pretty and has a walk way on it. Perhaps we will visit this place when it isn't freezing cold, but in three visits, it hasn't happened yet.
|As we turned off the freeway to head to our hotel, we could see Carbone's Pizzeria just a couple blocks away, where we had gotten pizza on two previous trips already this winter. It would happen twice more on this trip too.
|It was shortly after noon when we pulled up to the AmericInn in White Bear Lake.
|With so many of Debbie's relatives coming, we reserved the community room for two days of gatherings. We had used this same room for Debbie's uncle's funeral five and a half years earlier. The room desperately needed a good vaccuuming, so Debbie borrowed the hotel's vacuum cleaner for a while. Paul and Judi had arrived by then and helped set up and clean the tables and chairs.
|Meanwhile, Tom and Claire were one floor above us in a two-room suite. This is the room Aunt Mary stayed in for her husband's funeral so it seemed appropriate for us to stay here for her funeral.
|The front room had French doors that separated it from the bedroom area.
|Claire figured out pretty quickly how to get out of the room, and actually did once (cousin Adam to the rescue!), so most of the time, Tom put a chair in front of the door to keep her away from it.
|Here's the bathroom sink area where we kept out Claire's snacks and drinks.
|In the bedroom, here's the bed ...
|... and other furniture. See that chair in the corner? Claire liked sitting there and dropping her toys behind it.
|Normally, Debbie photographs our hotel rooms, but since she was busy setting up downstairs, Tom did the honors and was very thorough.
|Meanwhile, the community room was now ready to receive guests.
|We were expecting close to 40 people so we were glad to have enough tables and chairs.
|Cousin Laura's wonderful neighbor, Celeste, wanted to do something for her friend, so she contacted Debbie in advance and brought a van-full of party supplies for our family gathering.
|She brought so much stuff, it took a hotel luggage cart to bring it all in: water, soda, cups, chips, kids snacks, Swedish Fish, and Jimmy John's sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies. Thanks, Celeste!
|By mid-afternoon, Aunt Carol had shown up with packages of lefse, so Claire was happily eating it upstairs.
|The room was starting to fill up by 3:00. Here are Cousin Sara, Carol, Debbie's dad Bob, Aunt Sandra, ...
|... Uncle Mark, Cousin Shirley, Uncle Herb, and Cousin Sharlot.
|When Debbie asked everyone to pose for individual shots, here's what she got. Mark, ...
|... Sharlot, ...
|... Herb, ...
|... Shirley, ...
|... and Aunt Emmie.
|Debbie offered Emmie a re-do after that one.
|Tom brought Claire down to the party room every so often to hang out.
|Debbie had given all of her relatives tips on how to keep an eye on Claire and how to help keep her happy and safe, so everyone helped out while she was around.
|Debbie and Sara had a nice chat.
|Mark brought Goslings rum. Why is this relevant? Because Debbie's grandparents' nicknames for themselves were Mother Goose and the Wild Gander, so they referred to their kids as their goslings.
|Mark also showed off his Apple Watch with Mary's photo on it. But Debbie was ready with her own photo of Mary on her watch, taken on a 1988 trip to Norway.
|Every 10 minutes of so, Claire would casually try to work her way out of the room, ...
|... but she'd be thwarted and redirected to sit down.
|She managed to get past Grandpa Bob, but Mom was waiting for her.
|Judi took a photo of Bob, Mark, Herb, and Paul, ...
|... while Debbie took a photo of Judi at the same time.
|Judi then took this photo of sweet Claire being gently prevented from leaving the room.
|Pizza arrived before 5:30, and we were ready to eat.
|By now, Mary's kids had all joined us, along with more cousins.
|With Mary's blessing, Debbie had coordinated the gathering, and all of her relatives had been generous about bringing food and drinks to share.
|Here's Cousin Terry's family.
|Mark showed up again to show off his iPhone lock screen featuring a photo of Mary when she was a girl. Oops! Debbie wasn't prepared for this and still had an old photo of granddaughter Kelly on hers. But bonus points to Debbie for having a reminder to order Aunt Bonnie's special pizza.
|Mary's widower, Uncle Benny, joined us for the evening. Debbie had brought a couple hundred photos of Mary over the years which Tom displayed in the room. Since this was where Claire's stash of toys were, she spent a lot of time in this corner, even when surrounded by relatives. Here, Benny held up one of them for her.
|When Baby Emma, the newest member of our family, arrived with her parents, Megan and Craig, Cousin Dawn got to hold her.
|Very clever! The goose theme in Debbie's family also includes the name of the family newsletter. Formerly the Goose Pond Honker when Debbie's grandmother started it in 1974, it was shortened to the Honker when Debbie's dad took over in 1994. Debbie has been the editor since 2015. So it was only appropriate that Goose Honkers Ale showed up as one of the beverage offerings.
|Cousin Heather was in bliss when she got her chance to hold her granddaughter.
|Finally, it was Debbie's turn. She and Emma played "Boo!" ...
|... and smiled ...
|... and laughed. At just three months old, Emma already has a huge, happy personality.
|Here are Cousin James and his family (with Emma's dad Craig in the background).
|They brought a bag full of old toys for Claire, which made her really happy.
|Before Mary died, she made Benny buy $100 worth of Girl Scout cookies from their granddaughter, Lisa, so Benny donated the remaining boxes to the family gathering. Debbie got them distributed and might have grabbed three boxes for ourselves. Mary gave us two boxes when we visited her the previous month and we had since discovered that the Minnesota version of Samoas (called Caramel DeLites) are more delicious. Minnesota Thin Mints are also slightly better too. And the Minnesota version of the S'mores cookies are radically different, so they had to come home with us too for a taste test.
|The crowd was thinning out as 11:00 PM approached. Here are Mark and Debbie, ...
|... Aunt Lani, ...
|... Shirley, Sharlot, Sandra, ...
|... and Cousin Sarah and her fiance, Kelvin.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy