Over the last weekend of June, Janet and I traveled to La Crosse, Wisconsin to visit my cousin, Patricia, a.k.a. Patty Sue or Trisha, my aunt June, whose real name is Clarice (but if you are born on June 1 they might end up calling you June), and my sister Terry, a.k.a. Teresa or Teresa Jean. Isn’t it interesting how many different names we answer to or don’t answer to? Just in the last six months I have been addressed as: Doctor Pol, Dean Pol, Louis, Lou, Louie, Luis, and Lois (ugh), with my last name gaining letters here and there, usually an “h” between “o” and “l”. I sometimes get mail addressed to Louis Pol Jr. –he’s been dead since 1992. Anyway, the purpose of our trip was to celebrate, belatedly, my aunt’s birthday and hang out with my cousin and sister before they, my cousin and sister, head off to a gathering of our New York cousins in, you guessed it, New York.
The drive to La Crosse is long, 6.5 hours, but has many points of interest. The wind farms in central Iowa and southern Minnesota are impressive. The number of turbines has grown substantially since my drive two years ago. These graceful giants sit on top rolling hills and the turbine/ farm landscape stretches for miles. BTW, a well- placed wind turbine will pay for itself in less than one year and will generate enough power to supply 240-400 homes in one year. Other points of interest include Van Meter, Iowa, home to the Bob Feller museum (baseball Hall of Fame pitcher), Desota, Iowa, the exit to use to reach John Wayne’s birthplace, and the SPAM Museum, located between Albert Lea and Austin Minnesota. SPAM has been fondly called “ham that did not pass its physical” and “meat loaf without basic training” by members of our armed forces. On the other hand, SPAM is very popular in Hawaii and other pacific islands. In fact, we saw a billboard near the SPAM Museum that read “Where Hawaiians Go On Vacation”. For all of you Nebraskans, SPAM is also produced in Fremont, Nebraska.
There are other points of interest along the way. Not far from the Minnesota border, traveling from Iowa, is Clear Lake Iowa where “the music died” when Buddy Holly perished in a plane crash in 1959 (think American Pie by Don McLean). The Big Bopper also died in the crash, and the story was fueled by Waylon Jennings’ (who gave his seat on the plan to the Big Bopper just before take-off) retellings. Jennings did grow tired of the story and in a song “Long Time Ago” penned the words:
“Don’t ask me about the years I spent out in the rain
About the ones I spent in love or the ones I spent insane
Don’t ask me who I gave my seat to on that plane
I think you already know
I told you that a long time ago”
The weather during tour drive home to Omaha was awful, although the rain and wind in La Crosse was pretty crappy too. Winds of nearly 60 mph were recorded one evening in La Crosse, bringing down a few trees and many tree limbs. My cousin lives in an older neighborhood with historic trees, the kind with dead limbs and tired trunks. The drive home from Huck Finn’s, a restaurant on the water with outdoor seating and great views, was an adventure. The strong wind, rain -3” fell that night- and lightning made it feel/look as if we were in a carwash complete with a light show. The car shook like some guy from the 1960 trying to do the jerk. The car was very clean when we looked at it the next day. The drive to my cousin’s house also involved evasive tactics to avoid fallen tree branches, big ones, and crossing small streams created by the torrential rain on a streetscape not prepared for that much water. By 9 p.m. that night the electricity was out and did not return for 20 hours.
Did you know? After seeing a fireworks stand on every third block in Omaha (it’s nearly the 4th of July), we saw none, yes zero, between Omaha and the Minnesota border. Why is that?