Andrea’s wedding & the Price Chopper
We left 9 AM Saturday morning from the Lodge. Cory barely got the Custom Cruiser 100 feet from the driveway before informing us that he had no functioning brakes. We parked at Union Road and the diagnosis was a leak in the front line. An ominous beginning to the weekend.
We coasted to Cory’s parents’ house and transferred our luggage into their Saturn SUV. It had stormed heavily the night before and the morning sky was a mixture of dark blues and grays, though we did catch a few brief bursts of sunlight between the sprinkles. We listened to the SUV’s satellite radio on the way down. We were “treated” to “Looking for Clue” by Robert Palmer, one of the most inane, pointless songs I have ever heard. We endured continued rainfall, some of it heavy, until we passed Marshalltown.
Stopped for lunch in Lamoni, last town on I-35 before reaching the MO border. We ate at the Linden Street Coffee House (think Cup of Joe with sandwiches on the menu) and picked up snacks at an old-school Hy-Vee food store before getting back on the highway, just as the rain caught up with us.
Arrived in Excelsior Springs around 3 PM. It’s a small town, no bigger than Waverly. It was hot and humid outside with temperatures in the 90s. We met Alex’s sister Jill in the lobby of the Elms Hotel and she showed Ben and I to the room we would be sharing with her and Alex. We settled in and then she gave us a quick tour of the hotel. Think “The Shining” with better carpeting. The hotel is built atop a natural spring. Harry Truman stayed at this hotel the night he defeated Dewey in the 1948 election. There is a long lap pool in the basement that is said to be haunted.
The rehearsal dinner was held at the nearby Fence Stile Vineyard and Winery, a couple miles east of Excelsior Springs on a very scenic piece of land overlooking a valley to the west. The setting sun was being obscured by the same stormclouds that chased us through Iowa. We dined on delicious pasta and tiramisu and drank a variety of local wines and caught up with Rachel and Jill (the other one). I also finally met Rachel’s husband Aaron.
By nightfall the storm finally reached us and we ran through the parking lot just as the downpour began. Drove back into town and stopped at the Price Chopper, the local grocery. Picked up some drinks and a trippy box of Cocoa Crunchies and returned to the Elms. Alex, Jill, Ben and I had to pass through the reception of a wedding taking place that night in order to get to our room in the east wing, and as a result we managed to snag a few slices of wedding cake and random condiments.
We changed into our swimwear and ventured to the basement for some lap swimming. Ben split open his toe while running through the parking lot of the winery so he stayed out of the water, but he was a good sport in bringing some drinks down for us. Around 11 PM a tour guide came through with a dozen or so guests and we all listened to him talk about the various ghosts that supposedly haunt the pool area. Around midnight we returned to our rooms and hit the hay.
I woke up the next morning around 7-8 AM. Trying to share a double-wide with someone else isn’t easy nor comfortable. I showered, shaved, grabbed my book and my box of cereal and went out to the deck chairs by the outdoor pool in the back courtyard. The storm had passed through, leaving behind a clear sky, no humidity, and a cold brisk morning air. I went back up to my room for my jacket and then returned, took a chair and spent a couple hours reading The Call of Cthulhu. I watched the morning sunlight illuminate the steam from the outdoor hot tub and wished I hadn’t been so hasty showering that morning — a dunk in the tub would have been fantastic.
I found Cory in his room and he and I went off to further explore the hotel. We gained entrance to the second floor board room for a quick look-around. I met Blake & Hannah by the front lobby upon their arrival before noon. Once we corralled everyone else together, we walked a block away to the Wabash BBQ, located inside an old brick train depot. We were given our own dining room and we feasted on tasty burgers of generous portions, beers, fried pickles & onions. As far as wedding restaurant recommendations go for this year, I’m 3 for 3.
We had a few hours to kill before the ceremony. Blake & Hannah, Cory, Cara and I spent most of it poolside, lounging in the deck chairs or by the outdoor bar. Cory and I tried our hand at the cement shuffleboard, though our results were nothing to write home about. I returned to the room, changed into my formal wear and went back down to the pool. Dave, Micah & Alice had arrived and I chatted with Dave before it was time to be seated.
The ceremony began at 4 PM. We took seats near the back, though there were probably only a hundred or so people there, so we weren’t too far from the front. Andrea and her bridesmaids approached by dancing to some pop song that goes “It’s a beautiful day…”. It was pretty fun watching each of them groove their way to the front. Alex, having taken an online course to become an ordained minister, officiated the service. He did a fine job of it. The service lasted less than half an hour.
Afterwards we moved to the patio by the dining hall and had champagne and mingled with other guests. I caught up with Micah & Alice and Leah and greeted the newlyweds. We corralled every CFHS person we could find for a big group photo.
When dinner was ready, we walked around the dining hall, entered the lobby through the side door and picked up our numbered name cards. As expected, Andrea dedicated one table as an ALPHA table: Alex and Jill, myself, Ben, Cory and Cara, Dave, Blake & Hannah. Not enough room for Micah & Alice, who were paired with the husbands of the bridesmaids. Salad and wine, then the main feast, followed by numerous speeches by the wedding party and complimentary pours of Bud Light.
When the dancing began, Andrea’s mother Brenda made it her mission to get one dance with each of the guys at our table. I was lassoed to join her during “Footloose”. I usually don’t dance as I have no rhythm nor style, but when the mother of the bride tells you to dance with her, you can’t say no.
The dining hall began to thin out after a couple hours. Alex and Jill left to soak in the hot tub. Blake & Hannah left for a 2-3 hour drive to Joplin MO, where they had stayed the night before. When the Karaoke began, I left, changed into my swim trunks, took a quick, shocking dip in the frigid outdoor pool and then hustled over to the hot tub to join Alex and Jill. Cara came by a while later to chat with us. Ben, Cory and Micah remained in the dining hall to belt out a few tunes — we could hear Ben from outside.
The festivities winded down around midnight. Alex and Jill checked out at 8 AM on Monday morning. Ben and I slowly got our things together, and were watching an episode of “Matlock” when housekeeping came by to clean up the room. We sent her away. Met Cory and Cara in the lobby and we were back on the road by 10 AM. The return drive was under clear skies. We stopped at Terrible’s Casino near Osceola and stuffed ourselves silly at the buffet. Reached Cedar Falls around 4 PM. A fitting end to our journey — “Looking for Clue” was playing as we drove along Beaver Valley Rd on our way back to the Lodge.