Thursday, November 15, 2012

By the side of the road

There's no question we were disappointed when final calculations showed we wouldn't have enough daylight to make the long-imagined flight to Massachusetts, so we decided to fly yesterday anyway, and headed off to a lunch by aiming the RV-7A for Rushford.

I've written about the airport before so I won't bother going into great detail other than to reiterate what a fabulous spot it is. We were back taxiing on Runway 16 when Carolie looked around at the fairly barren blufftop locale and declared it an ill-suited replacement for New England.

But, then again, she'd never flown to Rushford before.

"Your twin was just here," the gray-haired greeter said as he strolled out to take a look at the new arrival. Joshua Wyatt, who finished his RV-9A this fall and apparently has completed his Phase I testing, had apparently just departed the airport. We missed him. Rats.

Our new pal was Mike Thern, who manages the joint, accompanied by Amelia, the black lab, who has been suffering from Lyme Disease of late, but hobbled out on the two legs available to do a proper job of greeting the city slickers.

We tied down the plane, Mike gave us the courtesy car and we headed down the gravel roads and canyons to Lanesboro.

I can't tell you the name of the cafe/restaurant we found by the side of the road amid cornfields and the whirring of a grain elevator because I'm going to write a blog piece for the day job next week and I don't want anyone to steal the peg -- that it's a 100-year-old icon and its last day of business is Sunday.

But we walked in and were greeted warmly by a few locals. Henry, the piano player, was just leaving but as we got our lunch, he said he'd stay and play a few tunes to accompany our experience.

Vicki, the owner, is selling because her mom does the cooking and announced she's ready to retire. I didn't get to meet mom until I cleared our dishes -- after a splendid meal -- and walked them back to the kitchen where I also met Rob, who is a route driver for Schwann's. He volunteers at the place washing dishes and he was just finishing a giant stack, indicating that business in town is pretty good.

The old people in the town are pretty bummed out by losing the place and Vicki says if you want to buy it and reopen it, you better like old people. And you should be interested in providing healthy food. There isn't a deep-fat fryer in the place.

Vicki arrived here five years ago from Fort Lauderdale. Her mom already was working as a cook in a much smaller room at the side-of-the-road location. Vicki had designs on heading to Iowa, for no particular reason other than Iowa sounded like a land of some opportunity. But she ended up buying the building and fixing it up -- actually having it fixed up by volunteers in exchange for hot meals.

For all of the accurately-deserved reputation for icy coldness that Minnesotans have, the people couldn't have been more of a contradiction. And that apparently is the way the place runs. Henry the piano player became a regular because he let it slip that he played piano one day when he was having lunch. A couple from Decorah, Iowa revealed that they sing once and knew a little Norwegian song. So they were encouraged to sing it to the assembled. And when they finished the Norwegian national anthem, Vicki says, there were tears and a request to sing it again. And so, they did.

Though the place is closing on Sunday, it will still open up for the annual Christmas show. Vicki says she'll play her usual part as the person who carries the star. She doesn't have any other talent, she reports. She was, of course, wrong.

When we left, we realized -- again -- that the airplane really is a magic carpet to exotic places and inviting people.

Oh, by the way, we filled the courtesy car full of gas. We found it half-empty, which probably means people have used it and brought it back, not contributing to the upkeep of wonderful places like Rushford. Let's all be better at that in the future!

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