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Prime Time | Evan Hazard: My day: A room on the ground floor

By Evan Hazard

Thursday August 16: I headed south again. Pit stop at Morey’s in Motley, bought sardines for future reference, and ate a light lunch in the car. At Rice, instead of turning east onto Benton County 2, drove south into town and then west on County 2. Crossing the Mississippi, that becomes Stearns County 1, but Stearns County 2 soon tees off. That goes to St. Joseph, 12 miles south. It’s a pleasant rural road, more relaxing than the 65 mph minimum of traffic flow on 10/371. A road-kill fox squirrel reminded me I was out of the north woods.

In St. Joseph, I drove to St. Benedict’s monastery and parked near the guesthouse. I’d called Sister Theresa earlier, so Sister Rita, the guesthouse caretaker, was waiting, and she showed me to my upstairs room. Then I phoned Sister Theresa, whom I’d invited to have supper with me at Kay’s Kitchen. She asked to bring Sister Geraldine along, which was fine with me. Portions were large, so I doggie-boxed half my chicken taco salad and put it in my cooler.

If you began reading these essays after spring ’05, you may wonder what Evan, a staunch if unorthodox Methodist, was doing at St. Ben’s and Kay’s Kitchen with two nuns. Well, in March ’05 I described a post-Christmas adventure when Elaine and I stayed at the guesthouse, took our friend Sr. André Marthaler (who had taught English at BSU) to supper at Kay’s, and lost a credit card there. To see that column, mail me at .

Sister André died two years ago, but we had earlier latched onto Sr. Theresa, who spoke on the Psalms in the late ’90s at a Methodist do at a Catholic retreat center in Buffalo. She and her colleagues are a delight and quite tolerant of faithful apostates. I had to visit the Twin Cities in mid-August, so that seemed a good time for my first solo visit to St. Ben’s. Sister Geraldine runs the monastery’s print shop. Sister Theresa runs the studium, a program for visiting scholars at St. Ben’s, sings in the choir (we had to sup early so she could make choir practice) and arranges other things, such as the donors’ festivities that Saturday, which I had to miss because of the Twin Cities trip. I paid Kay’s with my credit card and did not lose it.

As usual, I breakfasted in the dining hall with Sister Theresa Friday morning. Sr. Geraldine was there, and four other nuns joined us and we all had a good time. Left St. Ben’s about 10 a.m., and headed for the Cities. Traffic was heavy, and the unofficial I94 minimum is not 65; it’s 70. I try to stay at 68 or so, except when it’s so crowded we all have to slow down. Reached the Elm Creek rest stop by noon and lunched there on Kay’s leftover taco salad, a tangelo and skim milk from my cooler. A red squirrel came up the hill and around the back of the rest stop building. They aren’t abundant that far south.

I usually try to exit the freeway in the Metro area as soon as I can, to do traffic lights on Central Avenue at sane speeds. This worked less well than sometimes, because miles of road work left two lanes instead of four. However, people behaved and I got to Carol and Stuart’s Minneapolis house around 3 p.m. They weren’t there, but Sam was, cleaning up for Sunday. He will be an ESL teacher in Moscow starting in September, and now knows, “There’s no ‘cow’ in Moscow.”

I unwind a while, then drove to the Cathedral Hill B&B in St. Paul. Before leaving, I checked the Prius’ mileage display: 240 miles from Bemidji to that house, average consumption 53.4. I then reset it, to learn how it would do in summer in city traffic: about 45 mpg.

Bill Gray, the B&B proprietor, taught me how to work the front door lock, took me to the one bedroom on the first floor, and then asked about my breakfast preferences: no sausage and eggs, just granola and Greek-style yogurt, plus coffee and the same fruit compote others would have. We then tried to figure out who else was coming; he had numbers but no names. One couple, probably my older son Brian and his wife, Kandace, but there was another couple with two kids. I told him I didn’t think Kathryn would be bringing the kids, so there might be five of us rather than seven. Turned out I was right, but Carol hadn’t known that when she made the reservations. I also wondered if everyone had received the email of the weekend’s schedule from Stuart specifying that everyone should be at the B&B by 5:20 p.m. to be picked up for the groom’s dinner at the groom’s parental home farther west in St. Paul. They hadn’t, but Brian and Kaf had cell phones. Brian and Kandy got there on time. Kaf and Rick had not left O’Hare and would miss the groom’s dinner. More later.

EVAN HAZARD, a retired BSU biology professor, also writes “Northland Stargazing” the fourth Friday of each month.