The Hotel Anderson
Katy and I were on a road trip scoping out colleges. We drove north, through Wisconsin to LaCrosse, then west, over the river and through the woods to our first college visit, a night’s rest, then onward and upward to the Twin Cities. It was October 12, 1998. There was already snow on the ground along the river road route we were taking, winding around the hills that follow the Mighty Mississippi. While Katy had a driver’s license, she couldn’t drive with her leg in a cast, so I plugged along, steering us to our next collegial destination. There were light snow flurries; nothing dangerous, just bothersome in that always dirty windshield with the intermittent wipers sort of way. It was a gray afternoon.
“I could sure use a cup of coffee“. “Doesn’t pie sound good right now?” So, the conversation flowed for several mid-afternoon miles, then we passed a huge billboard.
Whoa, Nellie, slow down!
“Did you see that?” “Yes, I did.” “Wanna go check it out?” . . .
. . . and so we did. We turned the car around, seeing the sign once again as we backtracked. The sign touted Wabasha, Home of Grumpy Old Men.
Have you seen the Grumpy Old Men movies? Grumpy and Grumpier? Their capers and escapades, ice fishing and love interests are endearing, in a slapstick, sophomoric sort of way. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon had us giggling and guffawing time after time and, well, it was the perfect time on our road trip of serious educational exploration to take a time out.
We followed the signs to the Hotel Anderson. A magnificent relic of times gone by, and a bit of a cat house to boot.
Yes, I took my daughter to a cat house.
I ordered a coffee. If memory serves me, Kate had a hot chocolate. We both ordered pie. Mine was all-American apple. Heavenly, warmed, delicious pie, à la mode, no less, in an old, still operating, historic hotel that was filled with antiques and attitude. On the historic register, the Hotel Anderson was established pre-Civil War, and it is still in operation. Katy and I inhaled our pie and soaked in the charming atmosphere in the hotel’s dining room, glad for a bit of a respite, and a story to tell once we got back home.
My pie devoured, I walked down a narrow, squeaky hallway to the ladies’ room. As I walked back to our table, I perused framed photos, newspaper and magazine clippings on the hall’s wall. Some were signed by movie stars and dignitaries, with more than a few mentioning cats!
I asked our waitress, who proceeded to tell us that, are you ready for this?, guests of the hotel could choose certain appointed rooms and pick out a cat to join them for the night. She invited us to go up the stairs, look into the room where the cats resided and were on view for one’s choosing, so, we did. The felines were on view from the half-door; all groomed and well-fed, purring and preening and napping – and not the least bit grumpy. We checked out the rooms that were unoccupied, the doors being opened to look in. They were charming and old; good for a simple night’s rest. All-in-all, it was a most side trip, and one that Tom and I took some years later when the fall colors were abundant.
Several years then passed before I discovered the Ford Treasury cookbooks, which depict famous restaurants I have begun chronicling here on the Cutoff, I was pleasantly surprised to find The Hotel Anderson depicted.
Grumpy Old Men, and the Grumpier sequel, are always a hoot to watch, especially in winter. There are some hilarious ice fishing scenes, love scenes, and an inordinate amount of “potty talk”, all in the Minnesota town of Wabasha.
Across the river from Wabasha is the town of Pepin. Pepin is where Laura Ingalls Wilder was born and where she and her family crossed Lake Pepin, in winter, to begin their journeys across the prairies. One of these days, I need to visit Pepin.
Have you seen either of the Grumpy Old Men movies? Do you have a favorite scene? Do you have a favorite pie?