Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In appreciation of the Sunday afternoon drive: Snapshots from Main Street Waterville September 26, 2016

A recent street scene from small town Waterville, Minnesota.

A man and his dog in a recent street scene from small town Waterville, Minnesota.

SOME MIGHT LAUGH. Others may consider it an activity for old fogies. But I don’t care. I appreciate the Sunday afternoon drive. We all should.

I grew up with the occasional Sunday afternoon drive as a rare diversion from southwestern Minnesota farm life. My siblings and I would pile into the Chevy, Dad behind the wheel, Mom in the front passenger seat. My farmer father would steer the car along rugged township gravel roads, tires kicking a trail of dust. His drive had purpose, focus—to look at the crops.

Today I still study farm fields. But not with the same assessing eye as my dad. My livelihood doesn’t depend on yields from the land.

Still, those semi-leisurely drives taught me something important. They taught me the value of looking and truly seeing, of noticing the details. And they taught me the value of going for a drive.

In the past several years, since we became empty nesters, my husband and I have taken to Sunday (or Saturday) afternoon drives like moths to porch lights. We choose a general direction we want to travel and just go.

A snippet of Waterville's Main Street, including Ron's Hardware, jam-packed with merchandise.

A snippet of Waterville’s Main Street, including Ron’s Hardware Hank, jam-packed with merchandise. You have to see this place to believe it.

A Labor Day drive took us west to the small towns of Elysian and Waterville. We’ve explored both before. But, still there were new details awaiting discovery. I like nothing better than to park the van along the Main Street of a rural community and then walk, camera in hand, documenting the nuances that define a place.

Waterville is the self-proclaimed Bullhead Capitol of the World and celebrates Bullhead Days every June.

Waterville is the self-proclaimed Bullhead Capital of the World and celebrates Bullhead Days every June.

On this day, it was Waterville.

Bullheads Bar & Grill, one of several bars in Waterville.

This low-slung building along Main Street houses Bullhead’s Bar & Grill, one of several bars in Waterville. The name pays tribute to the bullhead, a fish abundant in area lakes.

The food sounds enticing and the prices really reasonable.

The food sounds enticing and the prices reasonable. If I hadn’t just eaten a Sticky Burger (burger with peanut butter and bacon) at Tucker’s Tavern in Elysian…

I appreciate vintage signage like this spotted on a downtown building.

I appreciate vintage signage like this spotted on a downtown building.

Madden's Orchard occupies this corner building next to a community park.

Madden’s Orchard occupies this corner building next to a community park.

And next to the mini park sits this mini building, which is for sale. I peered inside to see a popcorn machine, making this a former popcorn stand.

And next to the mini park sits this mini building, which is for sale. I peered inside to see a popcorn machine, making this a former popcorn stand. What possibilities could you see for this building besides reopening a popcorn stand?

Signage always catches my eyes, especially the vintage signs I often find in small towns.

Signage always catches my eyes, especially the vintage signs I often find in small towns.

Some lovely aged buildings occupy downtown Waterville. This one, left, houses a law office.

Many aged buildings occupy downtown Waterville. This one, left, houses a law office.

I love this simple, bold graphic marking The Cafe.

I love this simple, bold graphic marking The Cafe.

Singing Hills Coffee Shop anchors the corner building next to JC Ryan's Art Gallery. The coffee shop, which I blogged about four years ago, is available for lease. It's named after the

Singing Hills Coffee Shop anchors the corner building next to JC Ryan’s Art Gallery. The coffee shop, which I blogged about four years ago, is available for lease. It’s an inviting shop named after the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail, a recreational trail that runs through town from Faribault to Mankato. Waterville is a popular southeastern Minnesota lakeside resort community.

I had a maple bacon sundae when I visited the coffee shop in September 2016. It was closed when I was there this year and, I believe, is closed for the season.

I had a maple bacon sundae when I visited the coffee shop in September 2014. It was closed when I was there this year and, I believe, is closed for the season.

Just walking the dog...

Just walking the dog in downtown Waterville…

You can learn a lot about a small town simply by reading the posters, signs and notices on storefront windows and doors.

You can learn a lot about a small town simply by reading the posters, signs and notices on storefront windows and doors.

TELL ME: Do you take Sunday afternoon drives? If so, why? If not, why not?

FYI: Check back for more photos from Waterville.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Advertisements
 

22 Responses to “In appreciation of the Sunday afternoon drive: Snapshots from Main Street Waterville”

  1. Dan Traun Says:

    Getting away from whatever for a period of time is always helpful to me. Be it a walk, bike ride or a jaunt in the car to the countryside. Look around and see what you notice. I can identify will all points you’ve made.

  2. We used to do that every weekend when we had young kids. Now we have so much going on we don’t find time to get it all done. As a child I remember many Saturday afternoon drives through cattle pastures. I’m not sure if there was a purpose or not.

  3. Beautiful Captures – thanks for sharing the Sunday drive 🙂 We do it a little differently by getting on our bicycles and hitting the trail. You may find us at the American Legion having a $1 drink or exploring the restaurants or craft breweries along the trail. We have been taking plenty of Sunday drives to the local improvement store too – ha! Life will get back to normal by the end of this month – 3 month renovation that has turned into 6 months is wrapping up this week – YAY!!!

    Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. Don Mcmy Says:

    Sunday drive? You bet! I’m a Lutheran pastor and a drive is a good way to relax after a full day and before starting a busy week. Can’t beat the small towns. Thanks, Don

  5. I absolutely love the last one… Tickets $40.00 in advance and $50.00 at the door. Tickets include dinner and chances to win guns, guns and more guns…(Sponsored by Budweiser) Man how the liberals here in Massachusetts would be screaming their heads off!!. Nicely done Audrey.

  6. My parents used to do the Sunday drive thing. I didn’t always love that when I was a kid who just wanted to hang out at home with my friends. We wandered all over Minnesota and western Wisconsin during those drives. It wasn’t unusual to end up in Duluth and have a really log slog of a drive home. We had a saying in our family that my dad knew every dead-end road in the state. He was great at getting us lost, but he always figured out how to get back. He would see a road he hadn’t been on and couldn’t resist. We seldom go for a drive without having a destination or errand attached to it. And, right this moment, that seems kind of sad! I used to do this when I was a single parent to my son, Shawn. I should call him up and suggest a date!

    • Yes, you need to go for a Sunday afternoon drive with Shawn.

      I think your childhood drives in the back seat likely contributed to your attention to detail in your writing. Even if you didn’t appreciate those drives then, you do now.

  7. Don Says:

    Sticky Burger? Hummm I have never had one of those, good eh?

    Growing up my family used to do a Sunday afternoon drive too, nice tradition that you still maintain. I think the architecture of the building with the law office is great particularly the upper part of the building! I miss the brick buildings as we just don’t have those here. As always I thank you for the visual trip through small town America!!!

    • I first tried a peanut butter burger in Boston this past spring. The son ordered it and allowed me to sample. I was sold.

      So glad to hear that Sunday afternoon drives are also a part of your past. I suppose brick buildings would not be too common in Alaska.

  8. Don Says:

    I remember you speaking of this in your blog about Boston. So doe the hamburger bun have the peanut butter spread on it? No other fixing on the burger such as ketchup, mustard, pickles etc.?

    • I don’t recall everything that was on this burger at the Boston Burger Company. But definitely none of the traditional fixings you mention. I just had a burger this evening (dinner out for my birthday) with peanut butter, strawberry jam, pepperjack cheese and bacon on it. Delicious.

  9. Sue Ready Says:

    Yes, gone are the times when we all have slowed down enough even on a Sunday to take a leisurely drive through the countryside and appreciate all that nature and its surroundings have to offer. So thanks for letting us all come along for the ride with you and Randy. .

  10. Bernadette Thomasy Says:

    Audrey, I enjoyed your Sunday drive and especially your comment about how past family drives taught you observation skills. Who knew they would influence your career? It is so interesting to look back and consider how we have been shaped.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s