Finding some time for a quick trip to catch some warm weather and see some spring training baseball in Florida was a challenge so it had to happen last week or not at all. It proved to be a fun five days with weather and connections as a recurring theme.

This past February was the warmest on record in southwest Florida with each day around 85 degrees and sunny. It was a nice escape from the recent grip of winter, which predictably showed up with plenty of snow in the Twin Cities the night before our flight.

The next morning, the blue plastic snow shovel from the back of our van proved to be handy for digging our way out of the hotel lot. Knowing that my shoveling would help get us to the airport did make that chore a bit easier. The hotel maintenance guy watching me shovel a path from the hotel main entry to the parking lot as he finished his cigarette made it all the more worthwhile. When we pulled into a snow-filled parking slot at the Park ‘N’ Fly lot, I had the feeling that shovel’s work was not done.

Shoveling snow at the beginning of a trip to Florida is a bit of a twist but, no matter. We were heading to warm weather and leaving snow behind. At least for five days. At the airport, near our boarding gate, we ran into Tim and Connie Velde. They were heading for Nashville for a Rural Electric Cooperative national conference. Our flight was leaving shortly before theirs but we still had some time to catch up. It wouldn’t be the only time on this trip that we ran into someone from back home

The weather in Florida was perfect for spending some time at the beach, catching up on some reading. It was also perfect for seeing the young and promising Twins play twice at Hammond Stadium. We even had a chance to visit with WCCO morning announcer Dave Lee who, like many other Minnesotans, was escaping winter for a week in Florida.

Our time at Fort Myers again included a good visit at the Stillwater Grille, the very nice restaurant owned and operated by friend and Clarkfield graduate Jeff Meyer and his wife Julie. As we were walking into their outdoor dining courtyard, we heard someone at a nearby table yell out “Smig”. We stopped to talk a bit but even though the guy looked familiar, I had to admit that I didn’t recognize him. No wonder. It was Montevideo native Scott Manthei, whom I hadn’t seen since we were both in college at Mankato, about 45 years ago. He and his wife Barb own and operate the Nordic Trails golf course just north of Alexandria and were vacationing in Fort Myers with her brother. Scott said he spotted us across the crowd at the Twins game earlier that day. When he stopped by our table later, I introduced him to Jeff and we had a friendly Granite, Clarkfield and Monte gathering.

Our trip was too short but we added a few more hours of warm weather to our vacation with a suppertime flight home on Thursday. That quickly became a distant memory when the shuttle dropped us off at our van in the Park ‘N’ Fly lot around 9:30 that night. Trudging through the snow alongside our van to get at that plastic shovel was no fun and that lightweight shovel wasn’t much of a match for freeing up tires that were firmly frozen into five inches of solid ice.

After pushing the van and trying in vain to chip away the ice, I gave up and made the long walk to the parking lot pay booth and asked them to call one of the drivers to give us a hand. A few scoops of salt and an extra hand pushing as the wheels spun eventually proved to be enough to free us after a half hour. That was a not so fun start to a long, late, foggy trip back home. There was no traffic along the way and no one shouted out our name. It was a fine welcome back to Minnesota.

Many of the movies that are nominated for Academy Awards don’t seem to make it to our neck of the woods. If they do get here, there’s often a conflict and we seem to miss them. One that we did manage to see recently was The Post, an excellent movie about the Washington Post’s coverage of the Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration. It has a lot of parallels to what is going on in Washington D.C. these days.

We had a bit of time on our hands in the Twin Cities last Saturday so, despite the snowfall, we drove from our hotel in Bloomington into Minneapolis to see Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri at the Lagoon Theater in Uptown. Like The Post, Three Billboards was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture.

We were lucky to find a very snowy parking spot nearby. In the theater lobby we ran into Sen. Amy Klobuchar. She and her husband were trying to take the night off and see a movie too. They had seen Three Billboards already and were going to see the Shape of Water, which won the Oscar for Best Picture. Seeing Three Billboards was worth every bit of the very snowy drive back to our hotel and I didn’t have to shovel our way out of our parking place. I had no such luck the next morning. 

The St. Paul Pioneer Press story last week about the Granite Falls High School hockey team that participated in the first state hockey tournament in 1945 was a fun read. The team was coached by Phil Minelli. Gorman Velde was the goaltender and is the only member of that team still alive. His recollections of the team’s state tournament experience made the article a very entertaining read. There is a state tournament record that the 1945 Kilowatt hockey team still holds. They also have a legacy that many of us will hold onto.