A Quaint & Quiet Retreat: Cannon Falls & the Quill & Quilt Bed and Breakfast

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Well, hi, there.  It’s nice to see you again.

The grip of the road had hold of me once again this Memorial Day weekend and so I found myself traveling to the little town of Cannon Falls in Minnesota to enjoy a little rest and respite at the Quill & Quilt Bed and Breakfast.

Since I had to travel a little farther than normal for this trip, I broke it up over a few days so I wouldn’t cut into valuable exploration time.  My journey began on Friday night where I promised myself I would drive an hour past Des Moines, IA before stopping to rest for the night.  About fifteen minutes before my promised stop time, I passed through Story City, IA where I nearly pulled over for the evening, but reminded myself that I said I would drive a full hour outside of Des Moines.  After all, surely there’d be another place just a bit up the road.

Silly me.

At first, I thought fate was going to push my drive all the way through to Mason City which is just outside MN’s border.  Fortunately, about 30 minutes after my promised stop time, I saw the telltale 3 blue signs which meant that gas, food, and lodging were close at hand.  I pulled off I-35 into the tiny town of Williams, IA and obtained a room at the Best Western Norseman Inn.  The motel wasn’t much to look at from the outside, but I was pleasantly surprised by the clean and comfortable room that met my eyes.  It also came at a very affordable price ($65 before tax).

After settling into the room, I went across the street to Boondocks Cafe for my supper.  I was momentarily stunned when I saw the restaurant because I swear that I had actually eaten at this place as a child with my grandparents.  I had a sourdough club sandwich and some fries for my meal which filled the cavity nicely, but I felt the price didn’t match the quality of the food.  Everything was a la carte, so I ended up paying $12 for diner food.  However, bear in mind that Williams is an isolated town so that makes it a bit of a seller’s market.

I returned to my room for a hot bath and some sleep.  And I must say that this inn has the thickest curtains I have ever seen.  When I turned out the lights, I couldn’t see my hand in front my face.  So I faded into the land of Nod.

The next morning I had a quick continental breakfast and was on the road by 9:30.  About 12:15, I found myself in Cannon Falls.  The best way to describe this town is that it’s a small town with big city energy.  The place was bustling!!  People were walking all over the place and this town must be the bike riding capital of the USA for I saw more bicyclists here than I’ve seen anywhere in the country.

The first thing on my mind was lunch so I found Mick’s Downtown Diner and went inside.  The joint was jumping, but I managed to find a seat for myself.  I ordered a delicious steak pita and settled down to a relaxing meal while I completed the novel I was reading.

After lunch I wandered around the town a little before finding the famed trails of the city.  As I walked along the trail, I found the city’s namesake waterfalls and wished I had packed swimming trunks and an inner tube so I could have tubed down the falls and Cannon River.  Instead, I took an invigorating 8 mile hike along the Cannon Valley Trail.

Upon the conclusion of my hike, I attended services at St Pius V and finally was able to check into the Quill and Quilt.  I was greeted at the door by the innkeeper and enjoyed a glass of natural fruit juice from a container that had strawberries, kiwi, and other assorted fruit soaking in ice.  Very tasty.

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I was led to the third floor of the inn and my room, the Writers Loft.  This was the most spacious room, I have stayed in to date.  Not only was the living area a good size, but the bathroom was a duchy in and of itself.  It contained a whirlpool tub and a double shower nicknamed the Car Wash.

 

The bed was king sized and comfy.

The bed was king sized and comfy.

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The Car Wash

The Car Wash

 

Once I had settled in, I gave the innkeeper my juice order for breakfast the next day, hopped in my car, and drove to the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN to have dinner with my brother, Jeff AKA That One Guy Who Travels, and his S.O., Scott.  We ate at Tucci Bennuch, a very wonderful Italian restaurant.  I was in the mood for something healthy so I opted for the Scottish Salmon with lemon risotto and arugula salad while the guys settled for spaghetti dinners.

My dinner was absolutely magnificent and after a pleasant night of food and conversation, we walked across the way to the Nestle Tollhouse store where I bought a chocolate chip cookie for dessert.  Our group said our good-byes and I made the 45 minute drive back to Cannon Falls.  Needless to say, I had funned myself out and collapsed into the most comfortable bed I had ever slept in and slept all the way through to the next morning.

I started my day with a long soak in my whirlpool tub, then headed downstairs to breakfast at 9:30.

The breakfast opened with a small dish of fruit with granola and a honey glaze and a glass of OJ.  The main course was an egg quiche with cilantro, cheese, and other veggies that made me feel healthy just looking at it.  On the side was a butter scone and some spinach and garlic sausage (which was devastatingly tasty).  Most enjoyable was the companionship.  For my regular readers, you know that I have been the sole guest at most of the B&Bs I’ve reviewed.  This time, the place was sold out and I had an great time simply conversing with the other guests.

After breakfast I proceeded to do absolutely nothing.  Now that’s a day.  For once, I planned no itinerary.  I wandered down another trail where I found the city parks and a frisbee golf course which had me wishing my old friends, Mat and Dave, had been with me for a little competition.  Once my walk had concluded, I returned to my room and watched the classic film, Mississippi Burning.

When the film ended, I went down to the spa suite on the first floor and enjoyed a 2 hour massage from Anna Harvey.  Her slow, firm pressure and movements really worked the kinks out of my weary body.  Once the treatment was completed, I returned to my room and enjoyed another long soak in the whirlpool tub to continuing purging the toxins from my body.

The Spa Suite

The Spa Suite

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Once done, I decided to hunt up some dinner and found myself at Chuggers, a little bar and grill on the main drag.  I decided to try the Fireball Burger which was truly exceptional.  After eating, I picked up a Dr. Pepper and returned to my room where I’m preparing to sip soda and watch Insomnia.

Tomorrow it’s back to reality until my next adventure which may be sooner than anyone thinks. . .

But if you find yourself in Cannon Falls, get a room at the Quill and Quilt.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

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Riveting ‘Race’ Pursues Victory and Perception, Not Truth and Justice

In the law offices (beautifully designed by Bryan McAdams) of Jack Lawson and Henry Brown, Charles Strickland, a rich, white man, seeks counsel to defend him of the charge of raping a black woman.  The two attorneys could care less about his guilt or innocence.  Their decision to take on this client will be based solely on whether or not they believe the case is winnable.  When a careless (or is it?) error is made by their law clerk, compelling the two lawyers to defend Strickland, we are taken into a world driven by personal and societal biases.  This is David Mamet’s Race currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Race is compelling drama at its finest.  From the moment the heavy drum beats signal the start of the show, this play takes off like a rocket and goes full throttle until the very end.  I was absolutely mesmerized by the astonishing pace of the production.  These four expert storytellers picked up cues so tightly and effortlessly that one barely had time to think and digest the information before another revelation was made.  With the superlative acting enhanced by brilliantly constructed, crisp dialogue and further bolstered by whip smart directing from Amy Lane, you’re going to get one thought provoking, challenging night of entertainment.

Doug Blackburn’s tour de force performance as Jack Lawson is worth the price of admission alone.  Putting on a veritable acting clinic, Blackburn finds beats within beats and has crafted the most fully developed and real character I have seen on stage in years.  Lawson is neither a good man nor a bad man.  He is a lawyer.  He doesn’t, no, he can’t care about his client’s guilt or innocence.  Lawson’s job is to win, plain and simple and he will do whatever it takes to obtain victory.  In Lawson’s view, trials are won by the lawyer who tells the better story, not who has the truth on their side.

Through Blackburn’s masterful storytelling, we see a man who is deeply cynical, thinks ten steps ahead, and chases down every angle to obtain a not guilty verdict.  Yet he may have made one crucial miscalculation when his fear of being sued for discrimination dictated he hire a black law clerk who, though talented, may not have the firm’s best interests at heart.

As Henry Brown, Lawson’s legal partner and a black man, Andre McGraw is more than able to keep pace with Blackburn’s Lawson.  Nearly as cynical and more distrusting than his white partner, McGraw’s Brown has little respect for their client, believing him to have sought their aid because of the multicultural build of the law firm.  Brutally honest, Brown coldly lays out to Strickland that his color will already make him guilty in the eyes of a jury and he would prefer to drop the case.  When forced to defend him, Brown suggests a defense that will be a little lackluster for the client, but would preserve the image of the law firm in order to obtain future clients.  Though he plays it intensely for the most part, McGraw does have some beautiful, softer moments in his private conversations with Blackburn.

As Susan, a newly hired law clerk, Jonnique Peters gives a stunningly enigmatic performance.  Up until the very end you never really know what she is thinking.  At first, she seems like the bright-eyed, optimistic, fresh out of law school lawyer who is going to pursue truth, justice, and the American way.  But as the play progresses, you will find that there may be a much darker side to Susan.  Her thirst for justice may or may not compel her to commit some highly unethical acts.

Brennan Thomas gets as much mileage as he can out of the role of the accused.  As Strickland, Thomas gives a haunting portrayal of a man who insists he has been falsely accused, yet feels great shame about something.  His Strickland is more of a hindrance than a help to his lawyers as he constantly wishes to go to the press so he can explain his side of the story.  As it happens, he may have quite a bit to explain.

What I truly loved about this play is that Strickland’s guilt or innocence is not important to the plot.  Race is really what this play is all about.  Every action in this play is either driven by race or the perception of race.  Brown believes Strickland will be found guilty by the simple fact he’s a wealthy white man accused of raping a black woman.  Lawson won’t accuse the accuser of being a whore because “she’s black and [he’d] be impugning her sexuality”.  Susan just knows Strickland is guilty.  It strongly suggests that as hard as we, as a society, try to downplay the issue of race, our biases will always make it a reality that cannot be ignored.  You will think when this show ends and that’s what great theatre should make you do.

Race runs at the Omaha Playhouse, located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE, from May 9-June 8.  Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  There is no performance on May 17, but an extra performance will be held on June 4 at 7:30pm.  Tickets are $35 ($21 for students).  For tickets, contact the Playhouse at 402-553-0800.  Race contains strong language and adult subject matter and is not recommended for children.