Wednesday, October 3, 2012

a pioneer woman and her waffle fries

minneapolis --city of water (NOT city of chic-fil-a)
i am fully aware that my hunt was for nothing more than a few chicken nuggets and some waffle fries.  and you probably wouldn't exactly call me a frontier girl for climbing into my black yukon xl with a cute 4 year old in the backseat and driving to downtown minneapolis in search of a chic-fil-a.  but i sure felt like one -- a frontier girl.  a pioneer woman.  at the very least, a desperate housewife and a motivated mother on the prowl for some serious fast food.

you see, we left georgia two months ago and my pioneer-like children have been deeply deprived since that final southern day.  in true survival mode, we've been subject to the meager fast food offerings of only mcdonalds, burger king or taco bell.  there's not a single chic-fil-a restaurant in all of the west metro area of minneapolis.  for those of you reading from atlanta, i can almost hear your gasp.  imagine the entire city of atlanta and not a chic-fil-a franchise to be found -- not anywhere. hard to believe, i know.  astounding, in fact. go ahead and take a minute to let that little absurdity sink in. completely unfathomable, isn't it?

we all knew from the beginning, this move would be an adventure.  we knew we'd pretty much be expected to wear animal pelts and eskimo shoes, but we had no idea we'd have to drive over 40 minutes and 30 miles of highway to hold a white and red bag of fried comfort in our hands.  no idea at all.  i am pretty sure we might have reconsidered agreeing to this new job opportunity, had we really known...had we truly understood the enormity...had we been absolutely aware of the dire situation.  but in our optimism, we all thought quietly to ourselves, "surely not."

oh yes, we have sacrificed mightily.  part of me was kind of ready for this different, rugged type of living.  part of me was a bit intrigued by the idea of a new life requiring layers of GORE-tex, thermal underwear and fur.  seriously.  i have always identified strongly with my childhood role model, laura ingalls wilder.  in fact, it is no surprise to me that i have moved to her home state.  no surprise at all for this girl who, as a child (okay, and even adult), has always embraced all things little house on the prairie. i owned the dolls, i read the books (countless times), and i faithfully tuned in every tuesday night at 8pm on NBC.  as a child, i could recite whole sections of dialogue,  detail each story line and even, on occasion, been known to dress up in a bonnet and calico pinafore (not so much lately, however).   growing up, i organized my siblings and any willing neighborhood children in little house episodes in our backyard.  i mean it, i was as devoted a fan as they come.  in fact, i can remember getting to the end of the book series (the first time) and being absolutely devastated.  i was probably not more than 11 years old when i read laura's final book, the first four years, and i really wasn't really sure what i'd do from that point forward.  i felt that i had arrived at the pinnacle of prairie literature and wondered what more in life could there possibly be?

so here we are just a little over 2 hours away from the setting of these books and the tv series. walnut grove, minnesota is a mere afternoon's car ride away. (i'm itching to go). laura ingalls moved to walnut grove from pepin wisconsin in 1874.  she was 7.  i realize this is 2012 and i am about to turn 44. the ingalls family's first home in minnesota was called a dugout (basically a mud hut), our rental home on the lake is just a tad bit grander. so my connection might seem a bit slim to you.  but i have to tell you, there has certainly been at least some kind of comfort in knowing that i, like laura, would be pioneering a bit in this land up north.

case in point: chic-fil-a.  it has taken us over 2 months to locate the nearest (and, by the way, only) chic-fil-a.  but, today, i found it.  it was a moment of great exploration.  i had left the house this morning, taking my in laws to the twin cities airport for their return trip home.  we knew there was a chic-fil-a inside the airport.  but purchasing the food there would have also involved purchasing a plane ticket.  i didn't feel quite that adventuresome or affluent, for that matter, but we had heard that there was also an establishment located somewhere in the university of minnesota.   so after dropping off rick's parents curb side, bella and i began our trek to the city.  and a trek it was.  you see, the chic-fil-a is located inside the student union of the campus.  keep in mind what a college campus might look like.  keep also in mind that minneapolis has two seasons:  winter and construction.  so, because there is no snow on the ground (yet), streets and ramps and roads are torn up everywhere.  i mean it. i have truly never seen so much rapid construction.  the workers are actually scurrying.  they have much work to complete and surely they know what is coming.  anyway, i followed my handy little iphone directions, but it was a sort of through-the-woods-and-over-the river-to-grandmother's-house-we-go kind of drive.  literally over the river.  let's just say, the normally reliable iphone failed this pioneering woman miserably.  the U of M, i found out today, is basically situated on both sides of the mississippi river.  isn't that so cool to know?   wish i had known that before my exploration began.  anyway, i did have an interesting time going back and forth between the west bank and the east bank, all the while driving through gopher territory trying to decipher detours and road closed signage.  when i finally did locate the general area, i was challenged with college co-ed pedestrians, graduate students and bikers everywhere.  i mean it's a college campus, right?  and i am certain all 50, 000 students were in the small winding streets between me and my waffle fries.  i was a fish out of water for sure.  imagine a suburban housewife and her chinese daughter in a large suv navigating these tiny, tiny university streets. i had no books, no backpack, no bike, nothing that would make me blend in to this maroon and gold academic scene, only bella, my way too large vehicle and my determination to find food.

i want you to know this was an exercise of not only exploration, but of perseverance.  i asked student after student, as i drove (stalker-like) by them, "can you tell me where the chic-fil-a is?" but no one could tell me.  not one. they just gave me and my dark vehicle a dubious look and hugged their trendy backpacks closer to their bodies. i  probably asked 10 students before i finally noticed a young man in a food service uniform. he looked like he might know and the best part is, HE DID! "right inside that big building," he said to me with sort of a smile.  he didn't say "mam" because we are not, and i repeat, not in the south.  but he knew.  and he pointed. and that was enough.  bella and i both gave a big "whoo-hoo" and then spent the next 30 minutes attempting to find a place to park my large vehicle.  yes, it had taken the better part of our afternoon and yes, i probably had more responsible things to be doing, but it was amazing.  i mean it. amazing. we knew the goal was in sight. we could almost smell the chicken.

at this point, i was really feeling strongly connected to my friend, laura ingalls.  do you remember the little house episode when they were in the middle of a blizzard but had to get to the barn to care for the animals?  do you remember how they had a rope tied from their cabin door to the door of the barn?  had they just blindly walked from door to door they might have ended up frozen in a cornfield.  but these people were smart.  they knew what they had to do and they did it.  they knew how to stay the course and they stayed it.  that was bella and me in the middle of the sea of college students.  i knew what had to be done and i did it.  i had five kids counting on me.  we fought against the young and the beautiful twenty-something-year-olds and we kept our heads down plowing persistently forward to the student union of the U of M.  and then all of sudden, THERE IT WAS.  yes it was tucked between a generic mexican food place and a ho hum chinese bistro, but it was THERE.   yes, it was only a chic-fil-a express, but it was THERE.  no, there wasn't one "yes mam" or "it's our pleasure" to be uttered by any worker behind the counter,  but that didn't matter,  we had found it.  we did.  we did. we did.  i am not going to lie, we had some stares.  perhaps it had something to do with our dancing around and bella shouting, "we found it mama, we found it!" perhaps it had something to do with our multiple bags of fast food.  but that didn't matter either.  we had come and we had conquered.  davy crockett may be king of the western frontier, but just for this day, bella and jody felt like queens of the chicken nugget and waffle fries kingdom.

believe it or not, the best part of the day was not eating the fried food, nor was it even finding the chic-fil-a.  the very best part of today's pleasure was texting my kids.  i sent them this picture with the message, "hurry home!" and it gave me great delight to do so, knowing what their reactions would surely be.  i wasn't one bit disappointed. now, i might be stretching the whole frontier girl thing in my little anecdote today and i've clearly stolen the title of "pioneer woman," but i assure you, i was, nonetheless, a rockstar mama this afternoon...and in my own little house series, that's the best part ever.

another gorgeous view of the bridge we crossed (multiple times).  

cool view of the weisman art museum -- bonus for all my detour driving!

pioneer girl, bella -- victorious!


Paige said...

Haha, I love it!!! So would have done the same thing as I get Chick a lay,as Madeline calls it, Iced tea almost every day:) Yes, here in Germantown TN we have numerous Chick filets! I'd mail it to you if it would keep!

Simply LKJ said...

Ha! Katie was sooo grateful Baylor has a Chick-Fil-A on campus! She thought I'd committed the cardinal sin when I called her last week to say I was eating at Chick-Fil-A for the first time since she left! LOL She said it has been a lot of fun to see the kids who have never been to one experience it for the first time. Baylor also just opened a Moe's, Which Wich and Panda the past year and a half! Katie was in HEAVEN!!! And, right at home.

Curt, Pam, Ryan and Carissa said...

Well, at least you found it - LOL!! I am originally from WV and LOVE Chick-Fil-A. We now live in Michigan and there isn't one near us at all. My husbands family is from Minneapolis so the last two times we have been there, we have attempted to make it to the Chick-Fil-A. The first time was a Saturday and they aren't open on Saturdays. The second time was last Christmas and since the students were on break, Chick-Fil-A was closed. We are coming to MN the first week of April and are hoping to FINALLY make it there. Because of your journeys today, we now know where to look for it!!

I have to wait until December 22nd to get some Chick-Fil-A in WV!!

carolyn bradford said...

I promise you we have to officially meet one day! Not only is Laura Ingalls Wilder my ultimate hero but CFA!! For crying out loud…I've spent the last three years with my daughter following her husband around and loving it in the Interim Manager program with CFA! They finally got their own store in New Orleans just last month! So now we've moved them there and are eagerly looking forward to this wonderful opportunity! But every time I leave the South…the one thing I want is Chick Fil A!!! I don't blame you at all for traveling and going to desperate measures to get our beloved chicken nuggets and waffle fries!!! This post just made my night!! I'm so glad I get to read up on your family's adventures! I truly love it!
Carolyn Bradford

Anonymous said...

Next summer check out Walnut Grove - each weekend in July they have a fabulous LIW days complete with a pageant (outdoor show) and lookalike contests. So much fun!

Deborah said...

I'm recently new to your blog and have found you a real inspiration. But now knowing you're a southerner, love Chick-fil-A and a little house big time fan, I believe we're definite kindred spirits. I asked my husband 30 minutes ago (prior to reading your blog) if we could move to Minnesota near Walnut Grove so I could live where "Laura" lived. I kid you not. So happy you found CFA. Wishing you more happy visits. Maybe you could pick some up on the way to a field trip to Walnut Groves. Have a blessed day.

Diana Rouse said...

OK - SERIOUSLY... You crack me up!!!! I had no idea either that there was a CF in MSP!!!!! Way to persevere!!!!!

Hugs from CA!

Valerie said...

Just sent this to Anna at Chik-fil-a . There has to be a place to post this. True dedication.

familyof8 said...

I have read your blog for a while, but I had to comment on your post about CFA. My dear friend has moved from AL to Minn and she drives to the same CFA. She has a heart for orphans and it sounds like you might just have to meet up. She is a southern girl all the way.
Email me and I will see if you live near each other...she would give you a great big southern welcome and invite you over for some college football. She says everyone watches NFL not SEC football.


Ben and Brandy said...

What a great post! I moved to Saint Paul 3 years ago from Arkansas and definitely miss the CFA sometimes! We are in the process of adopting a little from Guangzhou, so I have appreciated and found encouragement in your posts.