Christmas 2014 in Minnesota

Tuesday–Saturday, December 23–27, 2014
Posted here April 15, 2022

A nice but quiet Christmas followed by an unpleasant surprise on the return trip.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Left home at 1:28 pm. Arrived at Joe and Elizabeth’s home in Stewartville, Minnesota, at 6:16 pm. Visited with Elizabeth until Joe got off work at 12:45 am.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Got up late (10:20); I (Charlie) went running (4.15 miles). ~ Eggo waffles for breakfast, with dark roast coffee.

Errand runs with Joe: Kwik Trip (4:11) for gas; we bought cheeseburgers and soda, then ate in the van. ~ Dollar Tree (4:55) for calendars and sparkling juice. ~ Walmart (5:48) for cough syrup and some small Christmas gift items for various people. ~ Later, 2nd run: Target (7:14); Joe bought sidewalk salt, then got coconut cream pie for free. ~ Then Kwik Trip; Joe bought us mochas.

I helped Joe make bacon cheeseburger casserole; served at 9:10 pm. ~ Watched Doctor Who “Day of the Doctor” then “A Christmas Carol.” By now it was midnight.

Thursday, December 25, 2014 (Christmas Day)

Up for the day at 10:52; I (Charlie) went running (5.06 miles). ~ Made pancakes and sausage links with Joe. ~ Exchanged gifts, very nice.

Joe started Cornish game hens for dinner at 5:30; served at 7:00 with corn. ~ Watched “Guardians of the Galaxy” on DVD; it was really cool.

Watched “Doctor Who: Last Christmas” Christmas special, 8:06 to 9:26 pm. ~ Then “Time of the Doctor” (last year’s special) until 11:00. Wendi fell asleep between 8 and 9 pm.

We ate coconut cream pie; everyone ate two pieces except Elizabeth, who had only one. ~ Joe and I drank cola spiked with a bit of Admiral Nelson’s spiced rum; it was very good. ~ Watched “The Ultimate Christmas Gift” on Disney.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Up 9:26 am, then back to bed. Finally Wendi got up and told me, “I want to go home.” Her back was sore from sleeping on the couch, and her allergies were acting up, probably from the dog.

I went running (4.52 miles), slow and sluggish from yesterday’s generous food, but still nice. ~ Joe gave me the last of the Tiramisu coffee he made last night. He and I ate some of the Zachary chocolates he bought. We all drank Holiday Nog (made with almond milk); it tasted just like regular eggnog made with dairy milk!

Joe replayed “Doctor Who: Last Christmas” for Wendi. ~ Elizabeth got up at 2:22 pm. ~ Wendi and I packed up and loaded the van; Elizabeth would have to leave around 3:45 to take Joe to work.

We left Joe’s house at 3:28, stopping at Kwik Trip (3:37) for gas and sandwiches, which we ate in the van. Left at 3:57.

Trouble on the road

The engine overheated; pulled off I-90 to State 76, south toward Houston, Minnesota. Stopped for 10 mins, drove again; only got a few miles before overheating again. Stuck 5 miles or so north of town. A nice lady named Becky took me into town (Wendi stayed behind) to buy antifreeze. Cenex station didn’t have the right stuff; True Value across the corner did. Bought 2 gallons (5:38). Went back, put 1/2 gal in, it ran out of the overflow tank. Drove 3 miles back north, toward 90, and it overheated again.

Phoned AARP Roadside Assistance twice; they couldn’t help us directly because no service stations were open in Houston. Texted Elizabeth; she could come and get us around 8 or 8:30 and take us back to their place for the night. Meanwhile, several people stopped and offered help.

The guy who runs Connie’s Body Shop in Houston (which also does towing) stopped to offer help, while I was on the phone with AARP RA. They are not affiliated with Allstate, so the AARP rep told us we could send them the towing bill for reimbursement. The guy from Connie’s went back and sent us a tow truck. Meanwhile, Elizabeth, unwilling to brave the weather (a snowstorm was coming), phoned her parents (Tony and Teresa Ulbrech) and asked them to come and pick us up and take us to her house.

The tow truck came. We rode with the driver. The snow got very thick, and at one point he slowed down to 20 mph and could still barely see. Teresa phoned, asking if we had found a hotel yet; they would pay for the room. Finally we arrived at the shop; the other guy met us and looked at the coolant leak. The piping for the rear heater was rusted and broken through. Quite likely, the broken semi tire we hit on I-90 had finished it off. They could plug it and fix it for us in the morning, so we could drive home after the storm; we would not need to take it to another shop for repairs. They said we should stay at Loken’s Sawmill Inn (809 Cedar St.); they could take us there. We tried to phone and text Teresa, but to no avail.

Elizabeth’s parents pay for our hotel

They loaded up what we needed for overnight and took us to the hotel. I paid for the room with my debit card, and the attendant helped us carry our stuff to room 106. ~ Right after that, there was a sharp knock on the door. It was Tony and Teresa! The guy from Connie’s had directed them to us. Tony had already paid for our room; the attendant had backed the charge off of my card. Tony said not to worry about repaying them. “Merry Christmas,” he said. So we got to see Tony and Teresa, even if only for a few minutes.

We hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so I went next door to a BP gas station. They didn’t have much for sandwiches, but some young people suggested a place called Sub Zero, three blocks away, which sold pizza and subs. I never found the place; I ended up back at the Cenex station. I told the lady there (who had talked to us earlier) what happened, and when I mentioned Teresa, she asked me, “Is that the woman in the purple?” It turned out that she had been there earlier, and had asked directions to Connie’s Body Shop. ~ I bought two subs there (9:32 pm).

Back at the hotel, we couldn’t find our bag of snacks, so I went across the street to the BP station and bought chips, and also donuts for breakfast (Sawmill doesn’t do a continental breakfast). Then I found the snack bag in the kitchenette, where the guy had unloaded it when he brought us here from Connie’s.

We watched “Doctor Who” on TV as we ate. The sandwiches (heated in the microwave) were delicious. We finished the 2-7/8 oz bags of chips too, because we were so hungry. Then we split a 4-oz bag of chocolate covered peanuts from the snack bag. ~ Wendi went to bed at midnight. I got to bed at 12:49 am.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Up 9 am. Coffee and donuts for breakfast. Called Connie at 10:09; they were putting in antifreeze and would pick us up in a half hour.

Connie picked us up with our van. Bill was $150. I walked to the Cenex, used the ATM, and bought a water (11:06). Paid for the towing and repair work (11:15); they had cut us a deal because, as Connie said, “We didn’t want to beat you up too badly because we knew you’d had a bad day.” ~ I learned that Connie was short for Conrad (his last name is Tschumper, pronounced “Jumper.”). He was a Packers fan, 72 years old, and has been a Packers fan since Bart Starr was playing back in 1958. He even has Packers ornaments in his yard next door to the shop.

The trip home was pleasantly uneventful. We left at 11:25 am, stopped for lunch at Travelers Inn in New Lisbon, Wisconsin, where there is an A&W (1:10), then drove through to Janesville, stopping briefly at Woodman’s to get my work schedule and buy a dozen eggs (3:58). We arrived home at 4:14.

I phoned Connie at the body shop in Houston, Minnesota at 6:16 pm to let him know that we had arrived safely at home, and the repair had held. He was happy to hear that.