Samuel J. Tanner 7 minute read

To Minnesota and Back Again Again

My brain is mush.

Forgive me, but I spent nearly two weeks on the road with toddlers. Early onset dementia is setting in.

Look, I've got a writing problem. I'm not sure I can specifically explain why traveling with two boys under four is like having a lobotomy. Their routines were disrupted. My routine was disrupted. My wife's routine was disrupted. Many tantrums were had. By all of us. Lobotomy.

Were the Twin Cities delightful? Of course. You can see the place where I proposed to Katie from the Stone Arch Bridge. Katie and I snapped a selfie of the holy site on a sunny, summer afternoon. Our friend Natalie watched our boys, and we had a couple hours of peace. I ate decadent sushi. We feasted on legitimate Thai food. I even had a sandwich from the Jewish deli the dominated my childhood. Corned Beef on an egg bagel from Cecil's is comfort food. I drove by my old house in Highland Park. I gazed at the Mississippi River. Katie and I took a selfie in front of my home in Northeast Minneapolis.

Incidentally, we take lots of selfies, right? Millenialism. It is as contagious as it is gross.

Anyway, We saw friends and family, and socialized. My introverted self couldn't have been more exhausted by the end of two weeks, but I it was nice to be around my people.

Processing the trip home has been, in a word, difficult. I miss my friends. I miss having family around. I really miss the Twin Cities. I wanted more time with all of these things, and felt rushed as we raced around the metro area. I also wanted less time. Being so far from home with our toddlers was a temper tantrum on steroids.

Pennsylvania nagged me during the trip.

My lawn needs to be mowed or, borrowing from Pittsburgh slang, my lawn needs mowed. We just bought a house, and I wanted to return to it. I worried about my epileptic cat. I have countless writing projects I ignored. The emails have piled up. I've spent two weeks not really focusing on any of the work that I ought to be doing. Professors are self-starters, baby. I've started lots of projects by myself. And I let them sit for two weeks. I've got a new class to plan in the fall, and am feeling behind. Do I need to find work/life balance? To quote these Minnesotan's: You betcha. Still, I've got crap that I need to do (that needs done, you Pittsburghian weirdos), and I wasn't really able to focus in Minnesota. The toddlers were restless, and their energy seeped into my skin. I become restless too.

We left to return to Pennsylvania at 3:00 AM on Thursday morning. We packed our car, and hit the road. We made it to Eastern Ohio. We spent the night in a hotel near Cleveland. The experience was similar to our drive out to Minnesota.

We almost made it back to The Twin Cities in one day on the way out. Here's how that journey went:

I set the alarm in my bedroom in State College for 3:00 AM nearly two weeks ago. I woke up, made a pot of coffee, and packed the car. Katie went into Solomon's room thirty minutes later.

"It's time to go to Minnesota," she told him.

"Long trip!" He said with excited laughter.

"Yes," I said. "Let's go."

We had both of the boys in their carseats, and were on the road by 4:00 AM.

"Are you excited to go to Minnesota?" I whispered to Solomon.

"Minnesota!" He screamed.

"You guys should go to sleep," I whispered again.

"Sleep!" Samson cried.

I drove down an empty country road, through the valley, towards the freeway. We were alone, and the sky was black.

Soon, I was on the interstate. Semi-truck's raced along empty roads. The mountains were black, featureless features. I kept watch for deer, and made sure I stayed under the speed limit. The boys fell asleep in the backseat.

We were out of Pennsylvania three hours later, and made it through Ohio by 10:30. The boys were relatively quiet in the back seat. I drank coffee, listened to the radio, and made small talk with Katie. We hit Chicago by 11:45.

"We're making great time," Katie told me.

"I think we can make it to Minneapolis today," I replied. My optimism was foolish.

It was Friday, June 30th. I hadn't thought about the traffic coming out of Chicago. Countless cars were fleeing the smoggy, metropolis for the rolling hills of Wisconsin, to celebrate American independence. It took us two hours to make it through Chicago, and another four to get pass Madison. It was 6:00 PM as came across Wisconsin Dells.

"Should we stop?" I asked Katie.

"Probably," she replied.

"Waterpark!" Solomon screamed from the backseat. We passed Kalahari waterpark on the freeway, and I made the mistake of pointing it out to Solomon.

We couldn't afford to stay at the enormous waterpark. Besides, we were only passing through. Still, the cheaper, less dramatic Hampton Inn had a functional pool. Solomon and Samson enjoyed splashing for an hour. We ordered food, and went to bed. Solomon slept in a queen-sized bed.

"This is Min-A-Mon's bed, okay?" He told us when we arrived. "Mommy, don't sit on it."

Samson slept between Katie and I. Samson usually sleeps in a crib, so this was unpleasant. He kept kicking Katie in the back of her head, and telling us to be "quiet" as loudly as he could.

Solomon became annoyed with his younger brother. "Min-A-Mon trying to sleep, okay Samson? You be quiet right now."

I was exhausted from driving, and fell asleep. Samson eventually passed out too. I awoke with his head on my shoulder.

We were back on the road by 7:00 AM, and made it to the Twin Cities by 11:00. Not bad. Did the boys scream the entire drive? Sure. Was traffic abysmal? Let's qoute those Minnesotan's again: You betcha. Still, we returned to Minnesota without incident.

We stayed with Katie's brother in Elk River. Solomon and Samson had a blast with their cousins, and Katie's brother and his wife opened their home to us. Talk about generous. This is the third time they've welcomed us into their lives.

I shouldn't be so whiny. It was nice to be out of my routine. and I liked being back home in Minnesota. I did my best to view this trip as a vacation. We have toddlers, so a real vacation is something of an impossibility. Still, I did my best to enjoy the abnormality of being back home. Did I have enough time to see everybody I wanted to see? Hell no. I'm a popular dude. I kid. Kind of. But it is hard to visit with people, while still keeping our toddlers on something of a schedule. For the uniniated, a toddler without a routine is like a river without banks. There is nothing to contain the roar. Poetic, eh? Anyway, I made a real effort to be on vacation. We leave tomorrow. Minnesota ain't a tropical paradise, and this vacation was a little insane. Still, that'll do.

That'll do, pig. That'll do.

Did I just end this blog with a reference to the film Babe? Yes, yes I did. I warned you. My brain is a mess. I returned to State College yesterday, and my brain demands some rest.