Archive for May, 2007

Winona, MN

Friday, May 11th, 2007

I wish I had brought my camera along to the little town of Winona, Minnesota. The crabapple trees and lilacs are in full, fragrant bloom. The pale blue sky, the light green new leaves on the forest-blanketed bluffs encircling the town and the shades of purple, pink and white blossoms rival even the stained glass windows the town is known for. This is home to the Watkins Company, famous for it’s gourmet ingredients, natural apothecary remedies and much more since 1868. All of the aforementioned remind me of my grandmother and grandfather who were born on nearby farms, met at a local business school and married in 1909. My grandmother worked briefly at Watkins, a nephew of hers was a vice president of the company. I always think of my grandma with the scent of lilacs. I spent many a summer vacation roaming the streets of Winona with my brothers and sister.
I arrived via Amtrak from Chicago, a very pleasant five and a half hour trip. I met several interesting characters, many continuing the trip to Seattle or Portland. Of note is the young man from Seoul, South Korea, on a month long tour of the U.S. by train. His trip began the day before, arriving by plane to Chicago. He was “continuing to Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, New York and stops in-between”. (Imagine the announcements at the train depots from the old black and white movies of the 30’s and 40’s, the sound of the train whistles, the chug of the engines, the screech of brakes, the smell of the diesel exhaust, and the distinctive creosote odor of the railroad ties. I always want to travel when I smell railroad ties!). I also met a young woman from Poland, she currently lives in England, concluding her around-the-country tour by train. She compared the experience with the railroad travel in Europe, being favorably impressed with the U.S. journey. She described the camaraderie and family atmosphere of U.S. train travel. This is a BIG country, and you tend to make friends with fellow travelers on the train for several days on end. In Europe, the passengers tend to take shorter trips so you might not spend as much time getting to know one another. However, you can get to a lot more places in Europe by train than here in the U.S. And that EuRail Pass is pretty cool!