Driving into the Inn’s parking lot my eyes saw continued signs of wear from years of too few dollars coming into the business, and the effects of weather and time not being addressed in the way that they should have been. The heavy canvas type covering over one of the entry doorways was tattered, and there was more rust on one of the service doors that only added to the aged look of the building. I made a comment to James, and he remarked that they needed a flag to fly on their large mast just off the side of the restaurant located near by. It was not the first time that we had made note of simple repairs that would improve the place; we seem to comment each time we visit. Over the years that has been several times a year, mostly for relaxation and time to get away with some books and spend time in a hot tub and swimming pool. So it was not strange to hear James recently say it was time again to pack a couple bags and slip way for a weekend.
The place is not on the coast. Not in Chicago. Not anywhere really ‘exciting’. But it is a place that has memories for me, and one that James and I have both come to find as a perfect little get-away located not too far from home that is clean, and safe. Not a four-star inn, but one with the amenities and calm that we desire. As we relaxed in the hot tub there recently I thought back to the number of times that I have visited.
I first stayed at the Elizabeth Inn in Plover, Wisconsin when I was about twenty-seven years old. A friend from broadcasting school asked me to be best man at his wedding. The reception was in the banquet room at the Inn, and it was there I made a toast to the couple that was pretty sentimental, and later discovered while dancing that a woman had put her room key into my tuxedo trouser pocket. (Oh Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.) Dressing that day for the wedding I was pleased with how good-looking I was in a tuxedo. (Hence, the key.) I still remark to my friend that the pictures from that day were the best that I ever have had taken.
I next stayed at the Inn in 1997, the year my parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. The next morning the three of us would be on a tour bus bound for Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. I can still see the Lamers Bus with the early morning sun glinting off of it waiting for us to board in the parking lot of the Inn. Long before daybreak I was up, dressed, and ready ‘to roll’ when the wake up call came. I recall shoving my damp swimming trunks into a plastic bag that morning, and placing them in my suit case. A strange memory for sure. But the idea of being able to relax in a hot tub or frolic in a swimming pool was not a part of my growing up, and so as an adult I have always thought it quite wonderful to have occasions when I could splash to my heart’s content.
During the past decade James and I started staying at the Inn several times a year. The majority of the time it was just to get away and relax. But the Inn was also a place we stayed when my mom was sick and in the local hospital. It was there in a room at 2 AM one Sunday morning when James and I sat at a small table with paper from the front desk and wrote my mom’s obituary. At the Inn I discovered what the longest night of my life felt like.
The small restaurant located just a number of yards away holds great memories too. For as long as James and I can recall the same older woman is there to take our orders. Traditional baked chicken dinners, or ample mid-western breakfasts always taste best when coming from someone who handles two plates of food along with a steaming pot of coffee all at the same time while dispensing care-free conversation. Middle America at its best!
As a teenager and young adult I recall so many times when it was just too hot to cook, or my parents and I were out and about (such as after my nieces appendix operation) and we stopped in for food. My parents always liked a booth in the back by the windows. Today James and I prefer a table in the middle. But never leaving without pie blurs time. Some things never change.
I know at some point given the pace of ‘progress’ that this Inn will no longer operate as there are newer ones with splashy signs and better promotions. But until then James and I will escape a few times a year after packing some clothes and a couple books, a crossword or two, and some tea bags for late nite TV. We will travel northwards and hang out for several hours after lunch at the pool and hot tub while reading and talking. Then shower for dinner. Then back into swim trunks.
Relaxation does not need to cost a lot.
But one does need to bring the small plastic bag for damp swim trunks.