The birds were singing and the sun was shining when I rolled out of bed this morning. I felt so refreshed that I actually shaved part of my face. By shave I mean trim, and by part of face I mean I barely trimmed anything. It was a good effort though. At about 9:30 a.m. I got a phone call from Greenlay saying, “LEG 1 ASSEMBLE” so we grouped up and had a big team breakfast.
I realized how much water I was going to have to drink today about 2 minutes before stepping on the bus. It was HOT outside. The humidity just kills me. I think the heat index in Mankato was the highest in the great state of Minnesota today. It literally took about 4 minutes (not 3….not 5) for my body to start trying to cool itself down. I’m not sure who was struggling more between Greenlay and myself. We had to take refuge in various restaurants, coffee shops, and other people’s homes throughout the day to keep cool. At one point I tried to fit my whole body into a freezer. My head didn’t fit. It’s too big.
Braving the heat, we started the day’s festivities at KRBI 105.5FM in North Mankato, rocking a couple of clips on the live radio. After taking a few pictures with some of the staff at the station, we rolled on over to the Wells Fargo in Mankato to sweat out some autographs with fans. Thank goodness they set up the signing table in the shade, otherwise I probably would have melted. I honestly don’t know how those Minnesota National Guard guys and girls lasted decked out in full uniform. I would have passed out for sure.
After two-ish hours of autographs we decided to get some lunch before leaving Mankato. Instead of sticking with the regular sandwiches (Sang-witches according to Greenlay) Chuck Coyle made the call on stopping for burritos. Antti was disappointed because he wanted to eat at a local place, I wasn’t disappointed because I wanted to go Man Vs. Food and have Greenlay see if he could finish 2 burritos with double meat and all the toppings. Anna said ‘no.’ Mackenzie said ‘no’ Greenlay said ‘no.’ My heart said ‘yes.’ As per usual, I didn’t get my way. So I angrily munched on lunch while the ever-present Charles Coyle devoured his food like he just hit his 8-year-old growth spurt. We made a quick stop to pick up something to celebrate the end of day 3 of the Road Tour, but that’s a surprise and I’ll get to it later.
A toasty bus-ride and some group bonding time later we arrived in New Ulm at the New Ulm Civic Center. A quick interview with KNUJ 860AM and we started another autograph session. I was lucky enough to get another gnome as a present from a fan today, which was awesome! There was a great crowd there, even if I did find someone who was extremely critical of my artwork. Whenever I’ve been bored on the bus I’ve been turning the cards we’ve been signing into self-portraits. Typically, I get a lot of compliments, mostly on my Harry Potter Kassian, Gandalf Kassian, or Rudolph the Red Nosed Kassian pictures. One young lady, however, was not a fan of my drawing and let me know it.
I almost cried.
After the New Ulm signing we shot a quick video at the Hermann the German memorial. Hermann was an old school freedom fighter who apparently messed up some Romans back in the day and he has a giant statue that you can take a crazy set of stairs up to see. Personally, I was more concerned about my fear of heights and the ease that the building could be defensible against zombies (Seriously, if the zombie apocalypse happens… I’m going to see my buddy Hermann in New Ulm).
So we were done our appearances for the day. A nice long bus ride back to St. Paul awaited us so we decided to create some of our own excitement. Although it wasn’t that dark outside at all, we get bored really fast. So we stopped to launch some fireworks (legal ones…don’t freak out) in celebration of the trip. Considering we had one low quality lighter it took us awhile to get the sparklers we held in our hands going. When all the sparklers and fireworks were going the colors were green and red and Minnesota Wild beautiful. We got some good pictures and video, but it wasn’t dark enough to be quite as awesome as we envisioned it. Still… it was/is way cooler than anything Kevin Falness has come up with thus far, so we’re happy with it.
And now as this chapter of Leg 1 of the Wells Fargo Minnesota Wild Road Tour comes to a close, we can reflect on all the smiling faces of the kids, Greenlay eating all the pancakes, Chuck Coyle sleeping at every possible moment, and Antti being a Finnish ninja. We saw many cities, many people, and appreciated each one of them; even the one that made me cry. Thank you to the sponsors who provide cool prizes, shirts, posters, and sunscreen. Thank you to Anna and Mackenzie for putting up with our shenanigans and keeping us on schedule. A huge thanks to our bus driver Ryan for carting us around and being generally awesome and our cameraman Keith for encouraging my misguided behavior and preserving everything on film (if you’re reading this…make sure to Photoshop me enough to look good on TV, ok?).
Most of all, thank you fans from St. Paul Park, Winona, Rochester, Austin, Owatonna, Mankato, New Ulm and all the towns, cities, and villages we drove by for coming out and showing your support. Your enthusiasm and excitement prove that Minnesota truly is The State of Hockey.