Wayfarer to a Wedding–Day 4: Take the Long Way Home

Under the peaceful crackling of the electric fireplace and the soft glow of the Christmas lights, I slept the sleep of the peaceful and exhausted.  I awoke the next morning to a winter wonderland.  Belmond got a bit of the severe weather plaguing the southeastern part of Iowa.  It was only a few inches, but it certainly put me in the Christmas mood.

I spent the early morning hours organizing some photos on Facebook and then it was time for a hot, filling breakfast on this fine and frosty morning.  Along with my OJ and milk, Connie started my meal with a lemon roll.  I perused the morning paper as I savored each tasty mouthful.  A small dish of banana followed shortly thereafter and culminated in a plate of French Toast with a side of sausage links.  As usual, the breakfast was too much for my appetite, so I wrapped up some of the toast and returned to my room where I wrote yesterday’s article.

Soon it was time to head to church so I brushed the powdery snow off of my car, loaded my things, settled my bill, and headed over to St Francis Xavier Catholic Church.  I really enjoyed this church.  I was warmly welcomed inside and it had an older quality to it that reminded me of my old parish of Holy Rosary when I lived in Fort Dodge, IA.

After the service, it was time to make the journey home.  Since the weather wasn’t bad on my way home, I took an alternate route through Storm Lake, IA.  My grandparents lived in the little town of Storm Lake from before I was born until about 2000 when they moved to Papillion, NE.  Both have passed away and are buried in Storm Lake and I wanted to stop and pay my respects and wander around the place.

It was bitingly cold outside, but I walked around my grandparents’ old neighborhood and took some photos of their old parish of St Mary’s and their old home.  I meandered past a couple of old playgrounds that I often played at in my childhood.  The equipment had changed, but I still remembered the days when one of the playgrounds had a great jungle gym and pole where I often pretended to be Bruce Wayne getting the call from Commissioner Gordon about the latest villain infesting Gotham City.  To the Batpole!!  I would slide down the pole to my waiting Batcycle (OK, my grandfather’s old bicycle) and zoom off into the streets as Batman, the Caped Crusader!!

When I felt good and frozen, I hurried back to my car and drove up the city’s namesake, Storm Lake.  I wandered out onto the jetty and looked at solid sheet of ice that was the lake.  I walked down the halls of memory once more as I remembered all of the times I had been kicked off that jetty by my family members in my childhood.  I come from a family of fishermen on my mom’s side and I was a very energetic child who lacked the patience for fishing.  I often amused myself by tossing rocks into the lake, marveling at the splish and splash they made.  That’s when I’d get the boot because I was scaring the fish.  I always thought it was unfair because Grandpa always sneezed with the subtlety of a nuclear explosion and undoubtedly scared off every fish within a 10 mile radius.

After returning from my mental perambulations, I continued my drive home.  It was nearly 2pm and I was tired and hungry so I hoped to stop in Early, IA and have a late lunch at the Crossroads Restaurant.  I was in for a mild disappointment as the restaurant had closed at 1:30 that day to begin the Christmas holiday.  I drove for another hour and stopped in Denison, IA at Cronk’s Restaurant where a patty melt and a side of fries restored enough strength for me to finish my long drive home.

I’d like to take my moment to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas.  I’ll be starting a new series of articles in a little over two weeks when I journey to the wilds of Arizona.

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Wayfarer to a Wedding–Day 3: Bells Will be Ringing

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After a good night’s sleep in Klemme House (pictured above), I was ready for a rousing breakfast to fortify me for the day ahead.  Connie started my morning repast off with a snickerdoodle muffin and a small dish of bananas and grapes along with glasses of milk and orange juice.  I contentedly munched away while reading the morning newspaper.

Shortly afterwards, Connie brought out the main entrée:  egg puff.  It was a kind of egg soufflé stuffed with cheese and ham.  Very delicious and needed protein for the long day looming ahead of me.  After serving me, Connie and Al sat down and chatted with me while enjoying their own breakfasts.  I found them a most congenial couple.

After my meal, I finally had the chance to explore Klemme House in a little bit more detail.  Pictured below is the Hoyt room which served as my quarters for the stay.

The Hoyt Room

The Hoyt Room

 

 

 

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And a bit of the house proper.

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From there, I drove over to Josh’s home to keep him company until we headed over to the wedding.  He was watching The Lone Ranger when I came in and I sat down to join him.  Now I had heard terrible things about this film and it was a box office bust over the summer.  With my bar set below the zero level, I found that I didn’t hate the film.  I can’t say I particularly liked it either.  I think the decision to go comedic was a bad choice, but I will say that I found the last 45 minutes quite enjoyable with the revelations and the action packed train sequence.

About 1:30, the groom’s party had all arrived and we got into our tuxedos and headed over to the Oakridge country club in Goldfield, IA for the ceremony.

It was a lovely ceremony and was capped off by Reed, Josh’s groomsman, and I pulling out lightsabers that Josh had bought for us (the wedding had a Star Wars subtheme) from our suit coats and making an arch for Josh and his new bride, Malissa, to walk under.

We had a delightful time at the reception and then closed the evening with some apple pie shots at the B & S in Eagle Grove.  I then returned to Klemme House, weary, but happy, where I collapsed into bed.

Wayfarer to a Wedding–Day 2: Driving, Driving, Driving

What a busy, busy day yesterday.  I awoke from the best sleep I had in many a moon to a cold and frosty day.  I found that my car had a thin sheet of ice on it from the freezing rain which was making its way along the southeastern part of Iowa.  I knew it was going to be slow driving and a very long day so I needed to start things off with a bracing breakfast.

After cleaning up, I went downstairs to the dining room where I found goblets of water and orange juice waiting for me.  Joan started off my morning repast with a small plate of fruit (bananas, grapes, cantaloupe, and strawberries).  Joan and I chatted a bit about the weather threatening the state and my journeys as I nibbled away. 

The second course was an almond, blueberry, cinnamon muffin about the size of my fist.  I took a few bites and then put the rest away for another time as I am a very lightweight eater and I still had the entrée to go.

Fortunately, the entrée was a small serving of blueberry French toast with a glaze of vanilla and a side of nice, crispy bacon.  Fortified from this meal, I was ready to chip my car loose from its icy prison, pay my bill, and hit the road.

The roads were fairly empty and I took it nice and slow as I journeyed to Fort Dodge to pick up my tuxedo.  I briefly wandered around the old homestead and marveled at the many changes that had taken place in just over a year.  Several businesses had shut down, others had been remodeled, and new ones seemed to be springing up all over the place.  Yes, it certainly seemed like the old burg was experiencing a bit of a renaissance.

I picked up my tux which was a perfect fit (thanks for the measurements, Omaha Playhouse).  The owner said she wished all guys could fit in a tuxedo as easily as I did.  Josh arrived at the shop about 20 minutes later, looking fit after dropping about 50 pounds since July.  We caught up on old times and I headed over to his place in Eagle Grove.

As we dropped off our clothes, we immediately hopped into his Trailblazer and headed over to the Oakridge country club in Oakfield, IA to begin decorating for today’s wedding.  The place looks truly grand.  Pictures to come in tomorrow’s tale.

And I digress a bit.  I learned something valuable with this blog today.  I thought I could keep space open in my media library if I deleted photos after posting them.  But I found that deleting them in the library also deletes them in the posts.  So what have I learned, if nothing else?  DON’T DELETE THE LIBRARY!

About 3pm, Josh ran me back to his place, so I could hop in the car and make my way over to Belmond, IA for my home away from home for the next few days:  Klemme House Bed and Breakfast.  This fine little home is owned and operated by Al and Connie Mattison.  It only boasts 3 guest rooms, so I was grateful that I had nabbed the last one when I originally made my reservation.

As it turns out, my famed luck was with me once again as I was the only guest on Friday since the other 2 reservations canceled due to the inclement weather plaguing Iowa.  As a result, I was once more upgraded to the finest room in the house (the Hoyt Room).  I had little time to explore the place because I had to get back to the country club to finish decorations and get Josh to his bachelor’s party.

About 6pm, Josh and I were joined by our mutual friend, Reed, Josh’s future stepson, Jordan, and a friend of Josh’s named Jeff and we headed over to Thor, IA to experience Unkie’s Entertainer Lounge & Restaurant.  This is a little dive bar, but it’s reputed to have some of the best food in the state and I found that reputation to be well deserved.  Reed ordered a sampler platter of appetizers for us (onion rings, cheese balls, mushrooms, and green pepper rings) which were all breaded and tasty.

For our dinners, Reed, Jordan, and Jeff opted for the Unkie’s specialty sandwich (ribeye steak, ham, and some other toppings) while the groom enjoyed a prime rib and I enjoyed a ribeye steak.  It was an excellent cut of meat that I probably would have paid twice as much as I did in a fine dining establishment.  If you ever find yourself in this neck of the woods, try a meal here, but they only take cash.  Fortunately, there is an ATM on the premises.

From there, we headed to the B & S where we enjoyed some conversation and drinks to close out the night.  The highlight of the evening was watching Josh down his first shot of Jagermeister.  I truly wish I had filmed it as he appeared to be Dr. Jekyll changing into Mr. Hyde after downing the liquid.

From there I returned to Klemme House where I fired up the electric fireplace and settled in for a long winter’s nap.

Until the next time. . .

Wayfarer to a Wedding–Day 1: Can You Tell Me How to Get to Adams Street?

It was a gray December day with a prediction of freezing rain and snow.  Twas not a day one would consider for a road trip, but this was no ordinary road trip.  For today, I was heading to the wedding of my best friend, Josh.

Josh and I have been best friends since we were 4 years old.  We’ve seen it all, done it all, and one couldn’t ask for a more loyal pal.  I moved out of our hometown of Fort Dodge, IA in 1993 when I was 15 and I am now 36, so that should give you an idea of the solidity of our friendship.

Tomorrow I am going to be putting in a lot of driving as I will be bouncing through multiple towns for various reasons so I decided to split my trip up into a couple of days to make things a little easier on myself.

I think I prefer road trips to flying because there’s something peaceful about driving, especially when one takes the back roads and travels through a lot of small towns.  There’s just a purity about watching the scenery and the character of small towns always seems to bring a lightness to my soul.

It doesn’t hurt that small towns usually possess my lodging of choice:  the bed and breakfast.  I fell in love with bed and breakfasts about a decade ago when I attended a mystery weekend at the Victorian Villa in Union City, MI and since then, I try to stay at them whenever I can and am embarking on visiting as many as I can for my own enjoyment and for this blog.

Why do I like them so much?  I suppose it’s because, unlike a chain hotel, each establishment has its own character and history.  They’re also small (4 or 5 guest rooms is the norm) which guarantees peace and quiet and also allows me the chance to meet all sorts of interesting and fascinating people.  They’re also private homes, so it’s always quaint and cozy.  And the breakfasts. . .delicious and always a surprise.

“Aren’t they expensive?” you may be thinking.  Yes, some can get kind of pricey.  But experience has shown me that the going rate is usually on par with a decent hotel, so for a similar price, I’ll always take a bed and breakfast.

I’ve stopped at Carroll, IA for the night and am currently ensconced in the Adams Street Bed and Breakfast.  This fine establishment is owned and operated by Joan Reiling, who warmly welcomed me into her inn.  I was ready to take a load off as it was a gloomy, bitterly cold day.  I had arranged to stay in the Vintage Retreat room, but, to my surprise and delight, Joan said she had upgraded me to the Magnolia Suite, free of charge.

Regrettably, there’s a bit of freezing rain going on so I didn’t do much except look at some Christmas light displays in the neighborhood.  Right now, I’m sitting by a roaring fire and am getting ready to enjoy a long, hot soak in the whirlpool tub.  So I wish you a good night and ask that you come back tomorrow for another tale.

Double Bill Christmas Show Provides Mixed Bag of Gifts

In one night, you’ll get the gamut of Christmas with a story about the birth of Christ and a story about jolly old St. Nick in the Circle Theater’s productions of Waiting for Gordy and Bang!  Zoom!  To the Moon!

The night opens with Doug Marr’s brief one act play, Waiting for Gordy.  This is a very sentimental, sweet, holiday take on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.  Two men, Earl and Vic, have been waiting on the steps several times a week for 4 weeks waiting for Gordy to come and tell them when it’s time to leave.  During their conversation, a star appears and we get a modern take on the birth of the Savior.

As Earl, David Sindelar gives a remarkable, beautifully underplayed performance.  With a serene, confident delivery, Sindelar’s Earl exudes a warm assurance that Gordy will, in fact, come.  He is quite clearly the rock in his friendship with Vic, gently persuading him to wait with him for the mysterious Gordy.

Matt Allen’s Vic provides a fine foil to Sindelar’s solid Earl.  Far more animated, sensitive, and a tad scatterbrained, Allen’s Vic comes off as very childlike.  He’s impatient, forgets what they’re waiting for, and takes offense at perceived slights.  Yet that slightly vinegary interpretation provides a needed dynamic with Sindelar’s sweetness.

Combined, these 2 characters are the everyman.  The faith and the doubt.  And the work of these 2 fine actors made for one of the most moving stories I’ve seen in many a moon.  The play may seem static as neither actor moves much, but that is absolutely critical for this tale as it’s truly about what they say and not what they do.

From there, it was on to the featured play, Bang!  Zoom!  To the Moon! written by David Sindelar.

In this story, it’s Christmastime again, and Santa is getting ready to deliver presents.  However, when his GPS system is broken by a klutzy elf, Santa ends up on the moon where he is held captive by the Moonians who are upset that their Christmas wishes have long been ignored.  It takes the help of Santa’s witchy (literally) wife, daughter, elves, and inventor to save Father Christmas and preserve Christmas for Earth.

Sindelar’s script is full of zingy one liners and is a cohesive, well planned story with some amusing bits.  One of the more entertaining moments is that the moon is so barren that the Moonians don’t even have a proper cell to hold Santa.  They have a cell door which they force Santa to carry around which provides for some good, physical comedy.

Real life mother and daughter, Stephanie Anderson and Stella Ehrhart, play the Moonians, Difray and Angon.  Anderson, in particular, is a hoot with alien, staccato speech patterns, robotlike movements, and a monotone laugh.  Yet, she also is able to mine the role for some sympathy with her sad tale about Santa never granting any of her Christmas wishes.  Ehrhart manages to match her mother for delivery and humor, especially with her attempts at trying to hijack this tale with a telling of Zippy, the Christmas Narwahl, though at times she slips out of her Moonian accent and does not cheat out enough to the audience.

Sarah Ervin nearly steals the show as Oopzit.  Oopzit means well, but she is an unintentional force of nature that breaks everything she touches and constantly injures herself.  Displaying an excellent sense of timing and physicality, Ervin is an absolute scream as the klutzy elf as she politely swears (Cheese and rice!!) and flops around the stage.  Adding to the realism of this character is the fact that Oopzit is noticeably more banged up each time she appears on stage.

Dylan Marr gives an exceptional performance as Quinn, Santa’s absent-minded genius inventor.  With good use of voice and body language, Marr’s Quinn has genius and uncertainty all rolled into one and makes for some delightful moments.

Laura Marr and Matt Allen play Weeble, Santa’s chief elf, and Gunar, Santa’s inept #2 and reindeer wrangler.  Laura’s Weeble is tough as nails and always ready to take charge.  Her inability to call a GPS by its proper initials is the best running gag in the show.  Allen’s Gunar is a lisping, cowardly buffoon, though he does have toughness when the chips are down.  Allen’s performance needed to be reined in as he was a bit too over the top for the show and his awkward gestures and poses often distracted from the show.

Another real life mother and daughter team, Christa and Katya Reason, played Santa’s wife, Driselda, and his daughter, Lisbeth.  These two are witches and Driselda handles the magic side of Santa’s operation while Lisbeth just wants to learn more spells from her mom who is too busy to teach her.  Christa Reason’s Driselda is a bit ill tempered, easily frustrated, and slightly arrogant.  But underneath beats a heart of gold and a person who can admit her mistakes.  Katya Reason’s performance as Lisbeth is a little rough around the edges.  She needs to be a bit more animated and broke character on a few occasions, but still had a nice, bratty charm.

As Santa, David Sindelar plays the straight man of this group of loons and does it very well.  Santa is clearly the boss of the operation as proven when he orders a mandatory Hawaiian casual week when the others at Santa’s Workshop laugh at the only garments he has left after Oopzit destroyed his wardrobe.  But being the kind soul that he is, Sindelar also shows a warm heart and loving nature with this character as he listens to the plight of the Moonians and vows to do better by them.

Waiting for Gordy and Bang!  Zoom!  To the Moon!  runs through December 21 at the Circle Theatre.  The show begins at 8pm with an optional dinner starting at 7pm.  Performance days are Thurs-Sat with one matinee performance at 2pm (lunch at 1pm) on December 15.  Ticket prices are $25 for dinner and show for adults, $23 for seniors, $20 for students, and $16 for children.  For just the show, prices are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $8 for children, and $10 for active military and TAG members.  Reservations can be made at 402-553-4715.  The Circle Theater is located at 726 S 55th St, Omaha, NE  68106 in the basement of Central Presbyterian Church.