Thursday all the stars must have been aligned in Cliff's favor: Here's how things went.
Conditions were wet from a rain on Wednesday so Cora's dad couldn't work at his construction site Thursday . We usually don't have her on Fridays, so being off Thursday gave us a four-day weekend. We were rather disappointed, because we hadn't had her all week. Cliff was complaining about us not getting our little girl fix. He started surfing his usual tractor message boards and said, "This is the weekend of that great big swap meet in Minnesota."
Cliff has been reading about that event in farm magazines, and more recently, online, since he was in his twenties, and always tried to figure out some way to get up there and check it out for himself; I've suggested many times that he just take off and go, but he hates long trips and ends up saying it isn't worth the drive. The annual Le Sueur County Pioneer Power Swap Meet usually attracts up to 1,000 vendors and 12,000 people on any given day, according to THIS ARTICLE. It runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
So he mentions it Thursday morning and I said, "Why don't we just go? I can reserve a motel room right now and we'll head up there."
"All the motels will be full," he said.
"Why don't I call some of them and see?"
I don't think he answered one way or another, but I got on the phone. I looked at motels online and called the first cheap one I found, thirty miles south of our destination. There were rooms available, so I made reservations for two nights. This pretty much forced Cliff's hand. I scurried around trying to grab the few things we'd need. I ground some coffee for the trip and got out a suitcase, telling Cliff we could share one on this trip. I mentioned I had some books to pick up at the local library, so I'd grab them on the way through Lexington. Turns out they were both audiobooks I had reserved weeks ago, so we had something to listen to on our 800-mile round trip. It occurred to me in Lexington that I had forgotten to grab the coffee I had ground, so I ran in the grocery store and bought a can of Folgers, which is still better than motel coffee.
There are golf carts to rent on the grounds. I called, but they had all been spoken for. No four-wheelers are allowed, incidentally, just golf carts and garden tractors.
While Cliff was gassing up in Richmond, I decided to check the reviews for our motel: They were HORRIBLE! "Dirty" and "falling-down" were some of the words used to describe it. I looked at reviews for other motels in Mankato and found one that was reasonable and didn't sound too bad. They had a room for Thursday night but were booked up for Friday. Rather than call any more, I decided to hope for the best and, if all else failed, we'd spend Friday night in the dirty, falling-down motel; they'd probably still have a vacancy. I had called it and cancelled, stating that an emergency had come up. Hey, finding out you are booked in a crummy motel IS an emergency.
Thanks to the audiobook (The Nineteenth Wife), travel time fairly flew. We stopped for lunch in Bethany, which is in the area where both my parents were raised. I opened the door to the McDonald's rest room and practically ran into my cousin, Lela: four of us girls were born to four brothers in 1944, and she and I are half that quartet. We visited briefly; she and her husband were just finishing up their meal (her daughter is a Facebook friend and told me, "Thursday is 'going-to-town-day' for them.")
Cliff had mentioned that it always rains and snows on the first day of the swap meet, and usually is pretty cold, so we both took our winter coats. He worried that our car would get stuck, since cars are parked in a grassy field and often do have a rough time when it gets muddy.
Once at our motel, I asked the girl at the desk to let us know if there was a cancellation for Friday night. She checked the computer and informed me that there were ten suites available, it was just the small rooms that had sold out. I booked one: it was forty bucks higher, but at least we knew the motel wasn't bad, and we wouldn't have to call around elsewhere.
Friday morning I made coffee, the worst coffee I've tasted in a long time. The water in Mankato is loaded with chlorine. Oh, and we discovered that we had left the travel kit that contains our soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream... all those little essentials you need when you're away from home. I figured we'd go to Walmart and pick up what we needed after a day at the swap meet, being sure to get a gallon of water for coffee.
We probably waited in line for half an hour getting into the grounds. It had rained all night, so the field where we parked was pretty squishy. The sun was shining when we arrived, though. Cliff and I went our separate ways for most of our time there. He drives me crazy, zig-zagging around with no rhyme or reason and missing half the stuff he would have wanted to see. I spent a lot of time sitting, too. The older I get, the less my knees want me to walk. I had my cane-chair, but sometimes I just need a regular bench or seat of some kind. I did take a couple of prescription pain pills, but even then there's a limit how much walking I can take. This trip was for Cliff, not me. I just dealt with things as best I could.
It was cold, and clouds gathered mid-morning, threatening rain, but thank goodness the sun popped back out after noon and warmed us up nicely. After eating, I wondered off into a part of the grounds I didn't even know existed and found all the stuff Cliff was really there to see, the tractors and implements and tractor parts. We'd wasted most of the morning wandering through flea market junk! I called and told him to meet me. When I pointed to the area, he insisted he had been there, but I knew he hadn't had the kind of time it would have taken to go through it all, so I sent him off again. I chose to sit at a picnic table and play Sudoku on the iPad. I had done all the walking I am capable of doing in one day!
There were several young boys driving garden tractors around pulling trailers behind them, with signs saying they would haul your purchases to the car for a price. Cliff only made three or four small purchases that fit in his pocket. It really isn't about him needing stuff, anyhow. He just loves to look at old, rusty farm junk and consider the possibilities.
"Yes, but I doubt if I'll come this far again. And if I do return, I'm going to have something to ride on."
We didn't go to Walmart, we neither one had the energy for a Friday night foray through that mess. We figured out there was plenty of ice in the cooler, and if we wanted untainted water, we'd just thaw enough of those ice cubes for our morning coffee. Worked just fine, too.
I'd actually love to go to the tractor show that's held on those same grounds in August. I'll bet it's HUGE.
::Note to self:: Plan far enough ahead next time to reserve a golf cart.
The best thing about the trip is that everyone who has been going to that swap meet for years said it always rains or snows, and is bitter cold, on the first day of the event. I guess Cliff and I brought them good luck.