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2002-11-20 - 5:27 p.m.

Over the river and through the woods

My business trip went well last week. The drive there was much shorter than I anticipated, only 2 1/2 hours from my apartment to the office. Of course, this was on dry roads with no traffic to speak of and I drove between 80 and 85 mph most of the way, so I imagine it would take longer in the winter.

On the way there I passed several of my favorite highway signs (Speed Limit 70), a llama farm, a Company Store outlet (although I couldn't stop to shop), and only two officers of the law (one Dane County sheriff on speedtrap duty near Madison and one State Patrol in Minnesota who had already stopped a semi truck). I also saw some gorgeous scenery (cliffs, rivers, fall foliage) near La Crosse, WI and passed over the Mississippi River for the first time in months (I used cross the Mississippi almost every day in the Twin Cities).


My actual time at work was fairly uneventful. As soon as I got there on Thursday I spent half an hour feeding confidential documents into the appropriate bins (white paper in one, colored paper in another, segregated for recycling purposes). I don't have a paper shredder in my home office and I'm conscientious enough not to throw that stuff away in my local trash bin (I was subjected to all sorts of industrial espionage warning videos when I was hired, so I'm paranoid that someday I'll leak confidential secrets by accident).

The rest of the time on Thursday was spent in meetings, random hallway conversations, and urgent problem-solving sessions. I stayed with AR and we left my car at work on Thursday night and she drove us around town to do errands. Bank, picking up her boyfriend's birthday present, craft store, Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart was for the LOTR Fellowship of the Ring special extended edition DVD, which I have been waiting and waiting for (restraining myself from buying any other DVD edition). Wal-Mart had it on special for $23! Score! We ate Ruebens on the way to AR's apartment at this off-the-side-of-the-highway local bar and then went back to her place where we drank hot chocolate, ate cookies, and watched LOTR until we fell asleep (early).


Friday we got up early (6 a.m.) to get ready (2 women, 1 bathroom), buy doughnuts, and drive the 40 minutes to work. Work on Friday was taken up with reviewing my Big Ass Document (the doughnuts were provided to thank people for coming to the meeting--unfortunately, they didn't work and I am going to have to spend a lot of time tracking down absent reviewers). I had lunch with various co-workers after the review meeting. I decided to be politically oblivious and invited only the people I actually wanted to see, rather than the ones I "should" (such as my sow of a team leader who hates me--she wasn't invited).

During some down time on Friday I went to Super Target and bought a new hair dryer, some lipstick (new colors for fall--I have yet to find the perfect neutral), toothpaste, and lotion. After Super Target, AR and I went to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at the local stadium seating theater. One of our co-workers had nicely bought us advance tickets when he went to the midnight showing, so we waltzed in (getting the Midwestern passive aggressive "I'm watching you but not saying anything directly" evil-eye from the ticket woman), got popcorn, and sat down in perfect center mid-level seats. I thought the movie was great. My knees and hips were protesting by the end, but it was fun. When we walked out, the entire theater lobby was absolutely crammed with people and we were very glad we'd gone to the earlier (3:45) showing.

We did some grocery shopping for dinner on the way home. AR had planned a linguine with clam sauce extravaganza and we had a lot of fun chopping things, washing clams, drinking wine, watching LOTR, and finally (quite late at night) eating.

sink full of clams
plate with food

Cooking dinner involved calling AR's mom at one point to ask for clarification on how to tell if a clam is alive or not (the clams were alive until we steamed them--dead clams before the steaming process are bad and can lead to food poisoning). It also involved me dropping a spoon about fifty times while chopping carrots, AR speaking for the clams, Moby on the stereo, both of us refilling our wine glasses frequently, LOTR (and hobbit jokes) during pauses in cooking, and in general much hilarity.

We watched LOTR until we couldn't stay awake any longer, then went to bed, planning to get up early the next morning so we could go to the Cities, shop, eat sushi for lunch, and I could meet up with my family (aunt, uncle, and my brother JR).


Saturday morning we did manage to get up early (8am) but we did not manage to get out of our PJs, shower, or in any other way get ready. Instead, we ate toast (homemade bread from AR's mom) and watched the rest of the LOTR. This put us significantly behind on our schedule so we only had enough time to shop before I had to meet my family. We were both sad not to eat sushi, but I was half an hour late even without eating, so it was necessary.

We shopped at some of my favorite stores (Smith and Hawken, Restoration Hardware, Lagos Hill, and The Bibelot Shop) and I bought wonderful things (some for me or our apartment, some for Christmas presents).

When I finally arrived at my aunt and uncle's house, we said hi and then went to my brother's dorm (he's a freshman in college this year) so he could show me around. His dorm room was a mess, but at least both he and his roommate are slobs instead of just one of them. We also walked around campus so JR could show me where he goes to school. I was wearing my leather jacket because when I left home it was in the 40s and 50s. Unfortunately, it was a lot colder in Minnesota--down to 15F at night and only in the 20s and 30s during the day. Walking around campus was cold!

After our walk, we went to a late lunch at Cafe Latte and I brought home German chocolate cake for The Scientist (and a slice for me too). It took us half an hour to get out of the parking garage on Grand Avenue so after we got back to my aunt and uncle's I had to leave right away. I dropped my brother back off at his dorm on my way out of town and then zipped towards home.

It was a long drive alone in the dark, but I listened to MPR (Minnesota Public Radio)--All Things Considered, Prairie Home Companion, and various other things until I couldn't get reception anymore and switched to The Joshua Tree (my default roadtrip album). By the time I got home, The Scientist was out at a party. I picked him up an hour later and we spent the rest of the weekend quietly--watching things on TiVo, doing laundry, and lazing around (a typical Sunday for us).

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