An Old Highway 61 Blog and Photos by Gail Gates
What scares you? Spiders? Ghosts? That weird hair that sprouted in that odd place on Aunt Betty? Maybe the uncomfortable knowledge that winter is only a gasp away?
Whatever tingles your spine, change is in the air, and I’m blaming October.
Yes. October. It’s a crazy month. Between colored leaves, 80-degree temps one day and—surprise!—frozen gardens the next, there is also a healthy dose of Halloween-inspired shenanigans. Hayrides, pumpkin patches, and yards decorated to give homage to the dead, decayed, and terrifying.
Love it or not, October is here, and I would enthusiastically suggest a drive on Old Highway 61 to experience the change of seasons.
Recently, I drove Old Highway 61 from North Branch to Sandstone. Just north of Rush City, I saw a sign advertising a corn maze. That sounded fun, but it was midweek and the venue is only open on weekends, so I missed that. (Hey! It just occurred to me that another name for corn is maize. Maze. Maize. Corn. Corn maze. Huh. Welcome to my mind.)
On a sad note, I had planned to stop at Cassidy’s restaurant in Hinckley for lunch. When I got to the door I saw a piece of paper with “Closed for business” handwritten in pen. WHAT? WHAT? I pressed my nose to the glass and saw only darkness inside.
Cassidy’s was my very first waitressing job back in the Paleolithic era, and, yes, the cavemen hit on the servers back then just as they do today.
Anyway, the food at Cassidy’s was mostly homemade and delicious, and people drove great distances to dine there. All these years later, I still remember the big pots of soup bubbling away in the lower level, along with the pans of fragrant bread pudding and sugary pies cooling on the counters. (As I recall, back in the day, the Sunday special included free dessert. Anyone else remember that?)
Cassidy’s, and its clientele, evolved over the decades—fancy at one point, but geared toward travelers wanting a quick bite in more recent years—and that was okay. They adjusted as needed. My husband and I often made their renowned soup and salad bar our lunch stop when in the area. (Can you say freshly baked wild rice bread and chicken spaetzle soup?) Cassidy’s was a forever place. A tradition.
And that is why it came as a shock to see the doors locked, and the lights out. I later learned that after fifty years of serving the Hinckley community, the owner decided it was time to retire. Completely understandable, but I still felt sad. As with so many things caught in the flow of time, a little part of my roots had been torn out.
Rumors abound as to what happens to the Cassidy’s property next. However, like October, change is in the air. We either accept and move forward or get stuck in the past.
From Hinckley, I drove Old Highway 61 to Sandstone. The tree leaves were dazzling in shades of yellows and reds, and clearly showing off. Flocks of geese made dark “v’s” against ivory clouds, and traffic was almost nonexistent. I relished the sights, and turned up the radio.
My first stop in Sandstone was at Cheri’s Flower Basket. I highly recommend checking it out. Cheri Holm is a dynamo of a person and a solid supporter of women artists and entrepreneurs.
Her store is a much-needed composite of items found nowhere nearby. Among her offerings are women’s clothing, fairy garden supplies, specialty soaps and lotions, jewelry, religious items, and cards. Cheri is also a florist AND makes delicious homemade fudge. (Her fudge is sold in many locations regionally, and remains a best seller.)
On this trip, I learned she now has a backroom dedicated to repurposed furniture and other antique-ish items. “You can buy repurposed goods ready to go, or get the supplies to do your own projects,” she said. From what I saw, the prices were very reasonable, and the inventory ever-changing. If you are a junk and treasure hunter, you’ll be happy you stopped. https://www.cherisflowerbasket.com/about-us
Okay, so I mentioned I didn’t get to eat at Cassidy’s, but fear not, there is Sprouts On 5th, in Sandstone. https://www.facebook.com/sproutson5th/
I’ve mentioned Spouts On 5th before, but it’s worth another shout out. Just down the street from Cheri’s Flower Basket, and next to the Ben Franklin Store, Sprouts is a dining delight. The hours are from breakfast through lunch…so I think 8-2 Tuesday through Saturday…and the food is fresh and as locally sourced as possible. I will warn you that when they run out of a daily special, they run out, but you cannot go wrong.
My favorite is their Cobb Salad. My friend Dee always gets a hamburger because of the quality, and my husband likes the soup and salad combos.
He always saves room for dessert. Whatever they’ve baked for the day leaves him smiling. During our last stop, the dessert was apple-rhubarb crisp. He talked about it for the next three hours in a lusty way.
So those are my musings from the latest drive on Old Highway 61. The area ebbs and flows, seasons change, and yet the feel of it remains both nostalgic and current.
And, now that I think about it, that’s a good thing… and not scary at all.