In this week’s episode, Billy takes a trip down memory lane as he looks back on having a superb time in the Cuyuna Gnome Home, situated in Crosby, Minnesota. Billy chats with the owners, Jenn and Mitch Fallgatter, a.k.a. the best rental vacation home hosts you could ask for. The couple talk about the home’s origin story, how they renovated the interior, and some incredible Crosby leisure spots to check out.
Billy asks Mitch and Jenn:
--”What was it about the Crosby area that captured your attention?”
--“Where did you come up with the name ‘Cuyuna Gnome Home’?”
--”What are some challenges and perks to managing a vacation rental property?”
--”When is the best time of year to visit Crosby?”
--“What are your favorite restaurants in Crosby?”
--“What are some popular activities in Crosby for your guests to do?”
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Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I’m your host, Billy. Brian is still on vacation so we have another special guest, but before we get to them, we wanted to give a shout-out to all you listeners out there. California is coming in strong here lately. We want to say thank you to everybody in Oceanside, San Rafael, Hayward, Glendale. Cairo, Egypt. I love when we go international. And then when we go coast to coast all the way to Pensacola, Florida, we appreciate that as well. Thank you to all of our listeners all around the globe. We really, really appreciate it.
If you want a shout-out, send us a message at email@example.com or follow us on Instagram at mindful_midlife_crisis. You can also go to www.mindfulmidlifecrisis.com and click on the Contact page and hit us up there. We’re on Twitter at @mindfulmidlife, and we’re on Facebook at The Mindful Midlife Crisis Podcast. We’re all over the place so feel free to check us out. You can find all of that information in our show notes and on our website. Speaking of our website, be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter under Contact. We send out different mindfulness meditations each Sunday along with information about upcoming events hosted by our amazing guests who are always seeking out opportunities to help people reflect, learn, and grow.
There’s some other goodies in there as well. Right now in the newsletter, you can sign up for the Women’s Retreat 2022 hosted by former guests, Jill Dahler and Val Jones. Those episodes are episode 29 and episode 58. You can also help the Wealth Redistribution Project with episode 55 guest, Jesse Ross. You can check that out, see what he’s got going on, all wonderful opportunities to help reflect, learn, and grow and help others reflect, learn, and grow as well. We also share updates on where Brian on the bass will be showcasing his talents. You can always check out Gen X Jukebox on Instagram or Facebook. You can also go to their website. They’ve got so many things going on. They’re blowing up. You’re going to want to be part of this.
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When you leave us a five-star review, not only does it help others find the show but it also fills our hearts with happiness and joy, and that should really be your goal is to fill other people’s hearts with happiness and joy. Now, if you really liked this show and what really makes a big difference for us is when you subscribe or follow us wherever you get your podcasts and then you share your favorite episodes on your social media. If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, be sure to click on the little plus sign in the upper right hand corner so you never miss an episode. If you’re a Spotify user, click Follow under our cover art and you’ll never miss an episode because when we have guests on, like the ones that we have today, you’re not going to want to miss a thing. So, let’s bring on our special guests. They’re very, very special to me for so many reasons. I’m so happy to have them on here. They’re long friends of mine, I think we’re going on like 20 years, believe it or not. That puts things into perspective right there. Welcome to the show, my good friends, the owners of the Cuyuna Gnome Home in Crosby, Minnesota, Mitch and Jenn Fallgatter.
Jenn: Hello, hello.
Mitch: Good morning.
Billy: How are you guys doing?
Jenn: So good. Yeah, we’re on vacation this week so we’re feeling relaxed and, yeah…
Mitch: Yeah, I have a bone to pick with Brian on the Bass. He’s on vacation. He’s on vacation so he can’t be here but we’re on vacation and we’re here.
Jenn: Yeah, exactly.
Mitch: Come on, Brian.
Billy: This is all full circle once again. So this is the great bass story. I think Brian and I have alluded to this in the past but we’ve never really told the story so it’s nice that you’re here and I wish Brian was here as well. So, the great bass story goes like this. Mitch was in a band called Ded Walleye. It was the greatest band of all time. I’ve seen Ded Walleye more than any other band that I have ever seen, including Pearl Jam, and I’ve seen them all over, especially the five-state area. Lots of good times that I don’t really remember from those days. But then, Mitch, you left Ded Walleye and then our friend Jeremiah filled in for you in Ded Walleye, which means he left the band Grayson and then Brian filled in for Jeremiah in Grayson and then, years later, Brian was in a band called Space Needle and then he left the band and you and Jenn had just moved back to the Twin Cities and those guys asked me, “Do you know any bass players?” and I’m like, “I sure do,” and then you filled in for Brian on the Bass in Space Needle and it was just like what is going on here? It just shows almost the ancestral nature of the music world and how bands rotate people like that and they’re all connected.
Mitch: And the great thing too about that is everybody is good friends with each other. We don’t know each other all that well or haven’t that long but we have that connection. And just this last year, for our birthday bash, some of the folks and listeners might know that Billy and I, every year — has it been 11 years?
Billy: Yeah, I don’t know if we’re on 10 or 11 but we definitely have been doing this birthday meat sweats celebration for quite some time now because we get all the August birthdays together.
Mitch: And the last one we had for this year, we had both Brian and Jeremiah joining us on that and so it was fun that all three of us in the same spot, same time, first time ever to talk through that story and it was a pretty fun one to go through.
Billy: Yeah, we have definitely enjoyed some good meals in the past for our birthday celebration. We used to go to Fogo de Chão for lunch and if you don’t know what Fogo de Chão is, it’s a Brazilian steakhouse and they give you one of those cards that has red and green on it and when you want meat, you flip it over to the green side and you just watch them circle your table with, “Would you like this? Would you like this? Would you like this?” and you just get overwhelmed with the amount of choices that you have there and that was a wonderful adventure. I just remembered Jenn worked upstairs and came down because she said, “I just wanna see what happens right here,” and it was — I mean, that’s a great place and now, the question is do we need to pick a new place or do we just stick with Pittsburgh Blue because that has treated us well when we do our steak buffet with everybody?
Mitch: Yeah, I think we have a couple of years left there. I’m not ready to leave it yet.
Billy: Neither am I, and they treat us well and they have really good steaks there. They have the very delicious asparagus that we enjoy. They have the hash browns that we enjoy. Pittsburgh Blue. If you’re in the metro area, I do recommend a Pittsburgh Blue for a good steak that’s affordable too. That’s the key there. You can go to a high-end place like Manny’s and get a steak but it’s also good to get a quality steak at a reasonable price and I think Pittsburgh Blue is the best spot. We’re not sponsored by them but after that endorsement, I think we should.
Mitch: Hopefully some free dessert at least for the next one.
Mitch: It’s coming up too so let’s get this episode out and if you know anybody at Pittsburgh Blue, August is just around the corner.
Billy: That’s right. Hook us up, hook us up. If you see a reservation from Billy and Mitch, then you know that us coming in, we will take the full five-star treatment, if you will hand that over to us, that would be great. So, we do want to do our 10 roles with the two of you. We want our audience to get to know you a little bit better. So, you each did your own separate 10 roles so who wants to go first? Who wants to share their 10 roles?
Jenn: I guess I’m up first. So, part of what we told Billy initially was sort of like, just so the listeners can get to know us a little bit, like we play the roles that a lot of your listeners and a lot of, obviously, your guests have played like husband/wife, brother/sister, son, all the things that are — because family is really, really important to us and we spend a lot of time with our family. But we’re trying to like just change it up and just to get to know us individually, we threw a few other things out there. So, yeah, so my list so I’m a travel planner, not by trade, but I really love to do that personally. I’m a vacuumer. I also am an aspiring career coach. I’m a habitual business dreamer. An ocean or beach enthusiast. I’m a creature lover, a food creator, and, ultimately, a rest seeker.
Billy: We talk about boss babe quite a bit on here because that term was coined by the absolutely amazing Tanner Rutledge and this list right here embodies everything that I love about Jenn because she is the total boss babe when it comes to travel planning and aspiring career coach, habitual business dreamer, like if Jenn can tell you what to do, Jenn is in her happy place. But the other thing that I absolutely love is that you included vacuumer.
Jenn: I mean, Billy, this one is my favorite one out of my entire list. I could go on forever, but I had this moment of clarity this morning as I was coming up with my list. We’re on vacation and I am literally — I play the role of the vacuumer and I actually think of it as like we are on a set or we are in a play and that’s my role, like everyone else is having a really good time and I’m vacuuming around them. And the reason it also came to light this morning, there’s a certain retailer that has a certain sale going on today as we speak and the very first thing that I look for good deals on is a vacuum, and I’m telling you, I already have multiple. I said to my sister-in-law last night, like my entire house could be burning and as long as my floors are clean, I’m in my happy place so that is why I included that one.
Billy: Okay, so what is your go-to vacuum for those listeners out there who need a vacuum? What is the Jenn Fallgatter recommendation for vacuums?
Jenn: Here’s the thing, I am not specific to any brands because I think if you have a new vacuum that’s a good vacuum, it usually has the right suction, but I will tell you, I am constantly seeking things that have a really long battery life because I really appreciate a vacuum that can go without a cord. Or if someone could please invent or show me which vacuum — what’s that called when like a cord like goes back into the vacuum?
Jenn: A retractable vacuum cord, I would also be looking for that.
Mitch: The old ones had those.
Jenn: Yeah, yeah.
Billy: Yeah, I remember the old school ones, yeah.
Jenn: — and it could, I mean, it’s just these modern conveniences that suddenly we don’t have. The other thing I’m looking for currently is a really good like mop-and-vac vacuum that gets in all the crevices. So, there you go. I could go on for vacuums about but it’s not specific to a brand.
Billy: What I liked about the recoiling ones was that you actually had to be careful because you might get whiplash from the cord as it was sliding back in there so you got to be very careful with that.
Jenn: Yes. So, anyway, yes, vacuumer, I love it, and I had to include it because it just seemed so exactly who I am at the end of the day, like sucking things up and throwing them away. I love that.
Billy: I love it. I love it. So, Mitch, what are your 10?
Mitch: So, I hope we’re not counting because there’s a couple added in on top so I’m adding to that. So, I have coach, musician, builder, serial hobbyist, future lottery winner, leader, and then mentor/mentee.
Billy: Future lottery winner? Do you like playing the cardboard cocaine?
Mitch: So Minnesota and other states now have the Jackpocket app which is great and horrible. I can — I mean, right now, I can buy lottery tickets, boom. I don’t spend an exorbitant amount of money on it, a couple dollars here and there, but it’s just — I’m a dreamer in the sense of like having that, like where you can just be shut it all off and you don’t have to worry. I don’t want to win the big one though. I want to win the reset where nobody notices and is keeping track. I want somebody to win the $600 million one and I come in with the $20 million under the radar. I have it all planned out.
Billy: I like how $20 million is under the radar. How often do you dream about what you would do with the money? I think about what I would do if I won the lottery all the time but I’ve never played the lottery.
Mitch: Any time I’m on a road trip, like if the kids are watching something in the back and we’re zoning out listening to podcasts. Drive time is it for me. I’m just thinking of like that big ass motorhome that we could be in instead of our vehicle and, yeah, so quite a bit.
Billy: Yeah, I think about that stuff all the time about what I would do with it. And considering I’m unemployed, I really am in the dreamer phase at this point. But rather than playing the lottery, I am investing in myself right now. So I’m not investing in the lottery, I’m investing in myself because that seems like the more responsible thing to do when you don’t have a job. So, what are the three roles that you’re most looking forward to in the second half of your life?
Mitch: I think the musician, builder, and serial hobbyist.
Billy: Tell a little bit more. When you talk about builder, what are you hoping to build?
Mitch: So my family, I have two brothers and a sister and we’re growing up small town North Dakota just always building things and our older brother has a company out in Nashville, Sawdust & Whiskey, where he makes custom furniture. My younger brother lives in Lakeville by us with his family and him and I, we have a CNC machine, we started building a few signs so I know we’re going to talk about the Cuyuna Gnome Home, the sign that’s in there. We’ve built some other ones for friends’ cabins and things like that, dining room table, my office desk, Jenn’s soon-to-be office desk and a few other tables and things for other folks out there, friends and family.
Jenn: He’s really amazing of like just figuring things out, like we’ve built — I’ve done none of it. I’ve come up with the idea and —
Mitch: She vacuumed around it though.
Jenn: Yeah, I did that. Keep coming back to that, but we come up with ideas for our own home and then he figures them out, which is amazing. And, yeah, like we’ll talk about, as we get going forward, about like building the bunks for our bunk room at the Gnome Home, etc., but he just like is a creator of, yeah, things with primarily wood but I guess he could probably figure other things out as well. He also has a welder. I don’t know what he’s doing with that but eventually that will —
Mitch: I made our table —
Jenn: Oh, there you go.
Mitch: — and the -in-laws’ table.
Billy: Well, and I think that speaks to the serial hobbyist as well. You sound like you’re picking up things. You talked about being a coach and it sounds like you’re actually a coach for the mountain biking team up there. Correct?
Mitch: Correct, yeah. So I’m one of the coaches for the Lakeville High School team, North and South together, and it’s grades 6 through 12, so I’ve been a part of that for three years. Our oldest, Leo, is on the team as a rider as well. So, yeah, we just got our third season started here with the team last week.
Billy: That is such a Minnesota sport right there where you can go mountain biking and that’s why you chose the Cuyuna Gnome Home as well in Crosby and we’re going to talk about some of the features of that because if you are an avid mountain biker, if you’re an avid outdoors person, in fact, Crosby is the place for you to go and the Cuyuna Gnome Home is exactly where you want to be staying. Jenn, what are some of the things that you’re looking forward to in the second half of life?
Jenn: Yeah, so I guess, for me, the vacuuming falls off a little bit solely because — we didn’t mention this earlier but we have three kids as well so, obviously, the role of parent for us is honestly the most important right now. But, anyway, so that’ll fall off a little bit because I won’t be chasing around them and vacuuming up their messes. So, yeah, traveling, being near the ocean, so, for me, it’s like any body of water but specifically the ocean, like if we go towards maybe having another vacation rental in the future, I would love it to be on the ocean, it just calls me, so I’d love to be there. And then, honestly, getting back to like cooking and entertaining. That’s also something that’s fallen off a little bit for me so as I think about like as our kids are raised and we get to be a bit more with our friends and family on a more regular basis, I want to get back to that because I love to cook and like create food and entertain and do that whole thing.
Billy: Your house is a lot like Grand Central Station. I know we’ve talked about this before because you constantly have family in and out of your home so you are doing quite a bit of entertaining just in that regard and you used to do Croctoberfest as well where everybody would bring over a crock pot and just dish up whatever it was in there. That was always a good time too. So I definitely have been entertained in your home before and I’ve been entertained in so many ways by you guys and that’s why I absolutely adore and love you and when we talk about Minnesota nice, the two of you embody all that is right in the world when it comes to Minnesota nice. So, I want to talk a little bit about that and I want to talk about the Cuyuna Gnome Home in Crosby that people can go and check out on their next summer vacation when they are in Minnesota. We’ll be right back with Mitch and Jenn, thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.
Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We’re here with rental property owners and amazing human beings, Mitch and Jenn Fallgatter. They are here talking about their rental property in the lovely small town of Crosby, Minnesota. And you might be thinking, “Where the hell is Crosby, Minnesota?” It’s in the Brainerd Lakes area and if you don’t know where the Brainerd Lakes area is, Google it because when we talk about the lakes area, there are literally hundreds of lakes in this area and there’s so many amazing rental properties in there but no rental property will make you feel more at home than the Cuyuna Gnome Home in Crosby, Minnesota so it’s important to check that out. So, Mitch and Jenn, you bought this property a few years ago. Tell us more about managing a rental property like this. What are the challenges? What sort of prep work did you have to put in? What are some of the perks? We actually just had Jessica Fiesta George on not too long ago in episode 64 where she talked about LinkedIn profiles but she also said that she bought a rental property in Pensacola so maybe you could talk to her, Jenn, in case you’re looking for that rental property along the ocean right there. But what challenges, what perks, what prep work goes into this? What’s the managing that you have to do with a rental property?
Jenn: Yeah, I mean, I would say, overall, this is something that we’re figuring out as we go and I’m assuming a lot of people that pick them up do figure it out as they go and they don’t spend a lot of time working with — because we don’t know anyone else that owns one, I will say that. Yeah, so, overall, I mean, at the end of the day, I’m like very entrepreneurial. I do have a full-time job, I don’t own a business, but that’s just something that my mind always works that way and so when Mitch sort of came up with this idea, which we’ll talk about in a few minutes here, for me, I was all in. I was like is it something that we can make money against? Is it something that we can enjoy for ourselves? Etc. So, for us, it was like we’ve owned it for a year now and starting from the beginning, it was like we bought the house and then we had to figure out what needed to go into it.
Well, I very like love thrifting and I love like decorating houses and I love doing that whole thing so, for me, it was really fun. We spent a lot of time — or I should say I spent a lot of time, yeah, going to thrift stores, working on like Facebook Marketplace trying to figure out how we were going to decorate and furnish this place on a budget. That was amazing. I loved doing that piece of it. We worked on it for about a month. One thing that was most important for us to buy new and this was all Mitch on this one, like, “We need to have new mattresses,” like guests are coming to us, they want to have a great night’s sleep and so, for us, that was like the one thing that we splurged on so that guests could get a really great night’s sleep because we knew enough research for ourselves or places that we had stayed on our own that like if the bed is crappy, that just ruins your entire experience. So, we worked on it for about a month. We did a ton of painting on the inside of it, working on getting things like, “Oh, we gotta get the Wi-Fi up and running, we gotta get security up and running,” and all these things that we were going to do to manage a property remotely so that took quite a bit of time and Mitch and I functioning as ships passing in the night as we were working on this place. Then we ultimately it opened last August and that’s really where the management part came in.
While we were in the Crosby area, we also worked to hire a cleaning company and people to manage the lawn and we’ve now gone on to hire a couple people that work on just ad hoc requests for us, like, “Hey, this isn’t working at our house, can you pop over and see what’s going on?” So I would say, a year in, we’ve gotten a lot better at that piece of it. The management piece with Vrbo and Airbnb has made it really easy, getting notifications on your phone when someone’s booking and then all the cleaning system is integrated and stuff. So, I’m not going to say it’s not work but we’ve found ways and a process to make it easier for us. And then, ultimately, like the perk, I know you asked that question too, it’s like it’s fulfilling my cup of this, yeah, owning sort of like our first little business and then the perk of just being able to enjoy it ourselves. Right now, it has been all work. When we go there, we constantly have like we need to paint more, we need to fix this or we need to get ready for the next season or clean the yard, etc., all those things, but, for us, ultimately, we’re really enjoying the area in general and so we do want to spend more time there and so that would be a perk for us. It’s just between working on the house and then also our kids and our life and like Phil is just really busy so we haven’t had much of that perk yet.
Billy: Well, and you have such an amazing eye for interior design and for style and just having spent two weeks there, which, again, I cannot thank you enough for because, otherwise, I was going to have to get through those two weeks staying at my dad’s house and I love my dad but the volume is on the TV at stadium level all the time and he has so much clutter around his place and I want him to listen to the episode that we did with Janet Taylor, episode 54, about decluttering because it’s just like can we please get some of this shit out of here? And he just doesn’t want to let it go. So that was causing me a lot of stress and, back in March, I was already stressed enough. So, the fact that you were so absolutely wonderful to let me stay at your Airbnb during that time for two weeks during March and I don’t imagine — I don’t know if you get a lot of people during that time, we can talk about what sort of what’s your busy season and what’s your offseason too, but I really, really appreciated that because I was very comfortable. It felt like home. It’s a beautiful, beautiful kitchen.
Living room is absolutely spectacular. And you’re right, those beds, slept like a charm, and coming off of the Airbnb that I stayed at in Puerto Vallarta where I had to go to the chiropractor and get a massage after that stay, I was very, very thankful for a comfortable bed. So, you did an amazing job and, listeners, you can hear how much care and how much attention they have put into this place. I also have to give you props, you have a brand new washer and dryer down in the basement and that is something that when you’re traveling extensively like I’ve been doing, you really appreciate those kinds of things, like a good washer and a good dryer that will actually get your clothes clean as opposed to mostly to somewhat clean, like some of the washers that I’ve been using.
Jenn: I need to interject though too about, when you stayed at our place in March and you had sent out the video but you speaking of using one of the beds to sleep in and one is your closet, laying your clothes, I mean, that was one of my favorite uses, like you do look as though you’d been in the military with how well folded your clothing is. Mitch does some traveling for work and he — like that spoke to him. He’s like, “Billy and I are the same. I use a bed for my closet and a bed to sleep in.”
Mitch: If they say we have a king or do you want two queens, two queens all day long.
Mitch: Sleeping bed and a clothes bed.
Billy: That’s exactly what I did when I was in Korea because I had — there was just two twin beds and I’m like, “Well, duh, I’m gonna sleep in this one and I’m gonna put my clothes out right here,” because who has time to open closet doors when you’re traveling? Nobody has time for that. Nobody has the energy for that. So, of course, and you lay everything, shirts are in one row, shorts are in another row, underwear is in another row, pants are in another row, like why should this surprise anyone listening to this podcast? That’s exactly how I lay things out. And I only brought blacks, whites, and grays because I don’t have time to match.
Jenn: Oh, my gosh. I should have sent my children to the Gnome Home with you when you were there. You could teach them some discipline with their laundry.
Billy: I don’t know that that would have been any more relaxing than listening to my dad chime in on Fox News for 12 hours at stadium level all day so I don’t think that would have been good for me, that one. So what are your busy times? When are you fully booked? When are you somewhat booked? When are you never booked?
Mitch: Summertime is the busy time, like the mountain biking is kicking off full swing. And then, last year, again, like August is when we opened this thing up which the real fun story on that is we were out doing the final push on the house, I went up and I worked during the day from there and then, at night, I was finishing the bunks, doing a few random — installing the locks and camera and all the fun stuff and we had somebody from the mountain bike team coming up as our first guest so we were pumped, like, “Okay, they’re coming. It has to be ready,” but it doesn’t have to be like stranger ready because they know us well enough so we had everything up and running but we still had it on Airbnb and Vrbo. Wednesday night, in August while I’m up there working, they were coming to stay Saturday and leaving Sunday.
Jenn: They as in me —
Mitch: No —
Jenn: No, our guests —
Mitch: — our guests were coming to do a race on Saturday and then go home Sunday. Then we had somebody book Sunday through Wednesday, then the next day we have somebody book Wednesday through Friday, and then we had somebody book Saturday through Sunday. So our first week up there, which was full-on panic mode so I had to stay a little bit extra then Jenn and her mom and sister had to go up, final push, work till I think, what? Three o’clock on that Sunday and the guests arrived at four? But so summer is by far the busiest time. The trails up there for mountain biking close for part of November for hunting season because they are huntable land as well and then it depends on when the snow falls. There’s a big — a lot of people do go up there for fat biking, cross country skiing, things like that too and ice fishing, snowmobiling. So much activities up there, like you’d mentioned earlier. So then springtime is when it slows down a little bit until the trails open back up.
Billy: Had you guys had a chance to really truly spend time there and enjoy like you’re on vacation or have you just put in the work in that spot?
Mitch: Mainly work. I did a trip with my cousins this February/March and we did some ice fishing, did a couple small projects, but we did sit and go out and hit all the restaurants as much as we could with still doing some work that had to be done at that point. And then I’ll be going back up here in two weeks, we have a mountain bike team camp out and so a few of us are going to be staying at the house. There’ll be a little bit of work, odds and ends, but that will be mountain biking, hanging out with the team and hitting up the local spots over there. Not as much as we’d like. Someday.
Billy: Well, and clearly mountain biking and the outdoor recreation are what draws you to that area. What else captured your attention about the Crosby area?
Mitch: We hadn’t spent much time in Crosby. Billy, you and I from back in the Ded Walleye days, Brainerd area a ton, Crosslake, like that whole area a ton, which was always fun to go to so I felt like I knew the area pretty well. Jenn likes going up there because there’s everything right there and it’s that small town feel, we’re both from small town North Dakota so going there just felt good. We actually put an offer in on a house before ever going to Crosby, stepping foot in the town. We didn’t get that house so the next weekend we’re like we should probably load up the family and day trip up there and go hang out a little bit and see what it — make sure we like it. And it is. Again, it’s one of those places that’s wild, that Deerwood, Irons, and Crosby is about 4,000 people. The amount of restaurants and places, ice cream shops, that is all spectacular food is crazy so it just felt really good to us and to see everybody, it is a very outdoorsy activity led area where everybody’s biking. Every restaurant and bar and ice cream shop has bikes everywhere around them. And so just a good spot. Felt great to be there.
Jenn: Oh, I was just going to talk about too a little bit of the area that I think is cool, especially with something that you do, Billy. So up in the area they used to mine. It’s like all these mine pits that have since filled in with water and so now there are these lakes around the mountain and the mountain bike trails go around them and what’s really cool about these lakes is they don’t allow motorized boats on them and so it’s really big for kayakers and paddle boaters. PS, I just got a new paddle board so maybe you and I could meet up to go do that.
Billy: Ooh, I’m all for it. It’s funny that you’re talking about the mines because everybody at the restaurant when I was talking to them, they were saying, “You need to come back up here if you’re a paddle boarder and go out into the mine lakes because they’re crystal clear and they’re hundreds of feet deep, you can’t even imagine what it looks like there,” and so that sounds so cool because when you get to the top of that state park that’s up there where the mountain bike trail is and look out that way, you can see — I have pictures on my Instagram at mindful_midlife_crisis, you can check out those pictures, and you can see the snow and there’s no trees around them, those are those mining lakes and those mining lakes are huge. There’s huge. And compare that to — and then when you add to the fact that Serpent Lake is also in Crosby and Serpent Lake is huge and then Mille Lacs is the freakin’ ocean and that’s about a half hour away, there’s so much to do and see in that area if you are a watersports lover.
Mitch: Yeah, and the visibility is 40 feet or so —
Jenn: On those mine lakes.
Mitch: on the mine lakes which is incredible to be able to think about. And, yeah, when you get close to them, I haven’t been out on the water there yet, hopefully, we will be on this next trip, but, like you said, the mountain bike trails go right by there and the first time we stopped by, it was crazy to see like 40 feet into a lake.
Billy: Yeah, and when I was up there, like I said, it was during the wintertime so I didn’t get to really appreciate the water that’s up there so I absolutely want to go back because you talked about Crosby and there’s a feel to Crosby and I grew up in a small town too, I’m just not a big small town guy, but Crosby has a different feel to it. Crosby felt very inviting and I think a big piece of that was the people that were there and the people working at the restaurants and working at the bars that they’re just really genuinely nice people but a lot of the food there is five-star food too. It’s very, very delicious. So what are some of your favorite restaurants in that area?
Jenn: I think what we would say about Crosby too is we wholeheartedly agree with the fact that it does feel different than small town. As Mitch mentioned before, he and I both grew up in small towns in North Dakota so, for us, small town life is something that’s super nostalgic to us. What’s fun about Crosby in comparison to some of the towns that we grew up in is it is up and coming because of the area, like Crosby feels like the atmosphere and the restaurants and things I’ll talk about in a second but like it feels, for me, who I aspire to want to be, like this laidback life. It feels very mountain town to me —
Mitch: Mountain or island town almost —
Jenn: Yeah, mountain or island, that’s another good way to say it. Just like really cool people and, yeah, amazing food, amazing drinks in the town itself. But, yeah, some of our favorites so there’s a place there called the Iron Range Eatery that’s just really neat in terms of atmosphere and then also it’s a combination of creative pairings and, yeah, just a really cool place to go. One of the things that they have on the menu that is like my go-to every time we go there’s like a bruschetta, bruschetta, however you say that, dish but there’s other really great things. I mean, I think that the first time we went there, I ordered the avocado toast, which is not something I would typically order because I make it at home all the time. However, they had it put together at that particular moment, I was like, I mean, I got to have that. So just really neat, original food. Victual is a place that we always enjoy with our kids. They have great ice cream there that happens to be — I think all of their flavors are like lactose free so really easy on your belly if you can’t have the lactose but just there, again, really creative flavors and what’s really neat about these places too is they’re newer, like new modern takes on like this old small town. Yeah, I mean, I could go on and on. Mitch can talk about a couple, like the Cuyuna Brewing Company always a place we visit.
Mitch: Yeah. I mean, that’s usually a first stop in town. Oh, actually, my first stop is always at the Red Raven to get coffee. They got some pretty amazing coffees there. Every time —
Jenn: So Red Raven is a bike shop —
Mitch: Bike shop, coffee shop, yeah, all-stop shop there and there’s great cycles in town that’s a great spot.
Jenn: It’s the place in town where you imagine that they would maybe eventually start remembering you if they see you enough, like a local hang that would be really cool to hang so Mitch keeps showing his face in there, hoping eventually they’ll recognize him.
Mitch: Next time. Next time maybe. But after the coffee then Cuyuna Brewing. It’s great, family friendly, pet friendly, the whole works —
Jenn: Local music sometimes —
Mitch: Local music, bring food in. Rafferty’s is across the street. They just add — yeah, they just opened up the Burritos California next door. There’s all sorts — again, any of the food, just bring in whatever you’d like. It’s amazing.
Jenn: I put on the list as well the North Country Cafe and it’s your typical small town cafe which is really great in itself but they hooked me with their sloppy joe which also sells out there so apparently you have to either call ahead and make sure they still have some left or get there early to have it but it’s just fantastic.
Billy: I did have that sloppy job based on your recommendation and it was delicious. I also went to a Burritos California and that was very, very tasty. I went to Iron Range Eatery and when you talk about creative pairings and cool atmosphere, that is exactly what that place is. I really, really liked the ambiance at Iron Range Eatery. And I’m trying to remember what I had there but it was one of their popular dishes and I can never remember the name of it but it might have been short rib. That’s what it was. It was the short rib. It was fantastic. It was so, so good. The best short rib I’ve ever had was at Therapy in Las Vegas. That was a 10 out of 10. This was right up there. It was very, very delicious. So props to Iron Range Eatery. I don’t know that you guys go to this place as much as I did but the place that I fell in love with where I just became a townie and if you’re from a small town, like you know the townies, and you take great pride when you become a regular at a bar because then it feels like Norm when you walk in in Cheers but I fell in love with Trailside Tavern because it was really just a laidback atmosphere but two have the bartenders there, Matthew and Al, just the greatest guys ever and they kept me company because, otherwise, I really didn’t have anyone to talk to while I was up there because I was up there by myself that whole time and I was doing a couple of interviews with people but I really looked forward to going to Trailside Tavern and talking to Matthew and Al.
But then, their specials, I know you guys haven’t been there very often, if you go there, I’m talking to anybody listening to this, if you go to the Trailside Tavern in Crosby, whatever the special is on the menu, make sure you get it. And then, for dessert, make sure you get the banana cheesecake. Oh, my god, it’s so good. It’s so good. They bring in the cheesecake from Brainerd, I can’t remember what the name of the place is, but it’s just one of those local small town experiences that really made me feel welcome and I think that’s why I really connected with the town of Crosby.
Mitch: The great thing too is there’s so many places we haven’t mentioned, the Deerstand, the Croft Pub and Grub, Hard Water Lounge. I have not had a bad drink or meal in that tow, whether it’s a morning coffee to a nightcap somewhere and any meal so that’s what we cannot wrap our mind around. How would an area of around 4,000 people, we have not been to every place yet, we try to, we just don’t even bring much for groceries when we go there because we want to make sure that we’re able to tell our guests like this is where we recommend. The town has made it very easy on us to say, “Here’s a few recommendations but go wherever, it’s all gonna be great.”
Jenn: Yeah. And, I mean, I think the thing is too because, obviously, through this conversation, Mitch is like the mountain bike enthusiast and the relationship, like I go mountain biking, I don’t not, but it’s not a driving force for me to go to the area. So I would say like if you’re considering biking, like don’t let it be intimidating to you, they have tons of just even trails that you can ride on that are paved, or you can try some of the actual off road trails, whatever you call them. See, I don’t even know. But, yeah, the food for the area is such a draw and we had — I know Mitch mentioned that, in November, it closes down because of hunting season and we had guests actually pretty much all through November and they did enjoy, yeah, the fall leaves and then just being able to explore the town itself. Crosby also has a lot of antique shops and so some people came to go through those, which is also really fun. So between, yeah, the hiking and the other things that you can do there, it’s just honestly like a town for all. Our house is not right on the water, that is something I know that a lot of people during the summer season are really seeking is looking for a house that’s on the water. Ours isn’t, it’s just in town, you can live in a little neighborhood for a few days to a week. And we did have some people enjoy that. So the food, for us, it’s like we’ve spent a lot of time talking about it but I think that’s been the one thing that’s been our constant source of enjoyment while we go there as we haven’t had a bad meal and we’re always looking forward to going out for that.
Billy: Well, and I would say it’s a 10-minute walk to Serpent Lake and it’s maybe a 20-minute walk to the state park because that’s what I would do just to get outside even though it was freezing cold. I just wanted to get outside and get some air and I would go to those trails and walk those trails at the state park for a while and it would take about a 20-minute walk to get to there and then I’d walk around for an hour and it was very, very refreshing just to be out in nature. And you mentioned fall. I bet fall, when the leaves are changing up there, is spectacular. Because I think, Mitch, you sent me a picture one time of the leaves changing.
Jenn: Oh my gosh, it’s gorgeous.
Billy: Minnesota leaves in the fall is just — it’s spectacular. It’s one of the two reasons I like being in Minnesota, summer and fall are my main reasons for being there and then want to get out of there in winter and there’s no such thing as spring.
Jenn: I want to mention too, just because you talked about being a townie and being like involved while you’re there. If a person could time it right and you get a snowfall while you’re there, they’re always looking for snowshoers to pack down the trails and that’s something that I would love to do. Mitch bought a new pair of snowshoes last year, I don’t have any, but you know what, I think they have an outfitting store there that you could rent some from. But, yeah, if you could go pack the trails, like I would really feel like not just at one with nature but with the community, which I think would be really cool.
Billy: Oh, that’s super cool. I didn’t know that they offered that. That is not in the extensive booklet that you give to your guests so I think you need to update that extensive booklet because you said the town makes it easy for you to find places to eat. You also make it easy for your guests to find places to eat because of the booklet. So, when we talk about being organized and that sort of thing, again, the amount of care and the amount of detailed attention that you put into making sure your guests have a wonderful experience is evident just right when you walk through the door and I got to tell you, as your guest and as your friend, I really, really felt welcome in your Gnome Home and — wait a minute, we got to talk about, we haven’t talked about this. We haven’t talked about why you call it the Gnome Home. Why do you call it the Gnome Home?
Mitch: It’s a good story.
Jenn: Yeah, yeah. So —
Mitch: We got to set the scene. I’m in the shower.
Jenn: Let’s go back even further. We have to go back even further.
Billy: This sounds like either a murder mystery now or a scary movie or a porn episode so Mitch is in the shower, we’re dealing with gnomes, what’s going on here?
Jenn: Okay, let me set it up a little bit more. Mitch had been looking at the area for a number of years about like he really loved mountain biking, he really loved the area was up and coming so—
Mitch: And real quick, on top of that, like the one thing that really got me going that I need to go stay there, I’ve been by there a couple times, but True North Basecamp has these awesome cabins right on one of the mine lakes and I was just like, “That is the coolest damn thing ever, I can’t wait to stay there.” I haven’t yet, need to check it out, but they have some — there’s so many cool places to stay out there too.
Jenn: Yeah, and so then, as Mitch talked about this place, I always half listened as like a really good wife does, because he’s a serial hobbyist, as he talked about in his 10 things so it’s like he always has something new that he’s talking about that he wants to get, etc., hence why he needs to win the lottery. Anyway, so we talked about it for a number of years. We finally got to a point where I was like, okay, I think I’m on board, let’s start actually looking at it, let’s start looking at what that would mean for us to have a place up there and so we started looking at some houses. The houses were selling extremely quickly up there so like Mitch said, we put an offer in on one house, that didn’t work out for us, but we saw this next one and so I thought, “Oh, Mitch, I don’t know.” We didn’t mention this before but it’s a 100-year-old house almost, like I think it was built in 1927 so we’re just getting right up there in age. And some of the spaces in the house are just quirky. They’re just different. I looked at a couple of the doors on the picture, because, again, we bought it sight unseen and I was like, I mean, that door is really small. You could tell by like some of the spaces, like things just looked small, like the bathrooms are tight, etc. Anyway, so I said to Mitch, “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know if we should put an offer in on this space. I don’t know if it’s quite right. What if people can’t fit through spaces, etc.?” Anyway, so then cut to the shower. Go ahead, Mitch.
Mitch: So, yeah, her mind is going a million miles an hour in the morning and I’m just trying to wake up so I’m getting ready for work, she’s getting ready for work and she just said, “I don’t know,” she’s like, “Think about —” I’m six-foot-tall, that doorway is probably a little over six foot into the kitchen and the door to go into the bathroom is much lower than that, like a foot —
Billy: I’m five nine and I had to duck.
Mitch: Yeah. And so I thought, I’m like, with vacation rental spots, it’s being cutesy with different things and naming different rooms and so I’m like we can call the bathroom like the gnome cove or something, like I just meant the bathroom, and gnomes are synonymous with mountain biking. They’re the creatures that keep the trails safe and all this. They’re the ones who are working behind the scenes where it’s actually —
Jenn: It’s like folklore.
Mitch: Yeah, it’s folklore, it’s a bunch of like — it’s really a bunch of volunteers busting their asses on the trails but everybody wants to thank gnomes for it. So if you’re out mountain biking, chance that you’ll see a gnome statue on trails will happen. And so I’m like it ties in with that and the small space, let’s just go with that. Jenn thought I meant the whole house and then we started going off, there is a place called the Cuyuna Cove and so we didn’t want to tap onto that and so we went back and forth on a few different things, the gnome abode, and then, yeah, so after a while, we ended up with —
Jenn: Yeah, so he had me hooked on the place once he came up with this amazing marketing idea and so that’s how it became the Cuyuna Gnome Home.
Billy: And a fun little game to play is to walk around the house and count how many gnomes you can find in the home. I can’t remember how many there are. I won’t tell people how many there are because maybe you’ll add a few more here and there but it’s fun to walk around there and count the gnomes that are lurking around in the home. Not creepy. They’re not creepy, they’re there to make sure that you’re safe and that you’re having a good time.
Mitch: And when you said that, when you did the video, that made me think I’m like we want to get more now because we did have some other friends stay with us here a couple of weeks ago and they have two young children and so their son was running around the house trying to find more and he swore he saw one in the bathroom — or, no, in the bedroom, the little closet somewhere in the bedrooms and then in our closet in the bathroom, he was for sure there was gnomes in the gnomes-only closet. But we do need to get more to make it a fun little game for the kids that are there.
Jenn: Yeah, and it’s given us an interesting sort of play on words throughout the house between these gnomes and then naming different areas and that’s what we’ve seen in our reviews too. I know you talked about like the work and the things that we do on a consistent basis to keep it running. The reviews that we get on the place are actually really good but it helps us come up with new ideas and things to change in the place but we have seen that people are like, “Our kids really loved those small spaces and stuff,” so it just makes it kind of novel.
Billy: Well, I think that gnomes make it a magical place and the work that you have put in to make sure that people have a pleasant and welcoming experience make it a magical place. I know that I had a pleasant and magical experience there as well and a welcoming experience there as well and I, just from the bottom of my heart, I cannot thank the two of you enough for allowing me to stay there during that time. I really, really appreciate it. You have no idea how much it means to me that you were willing to let me crash there for two weeks and it was a good time for me to just clear my mind and I had such a positive experience meeting the people up there and I very much owe that to you so sincere thank you for always taking care of me and always looking after me and being such amazing people and amazing friends.
Mitch: Well, we’re glad to have you up there and, of course, anytime we would let you crash there. And it worked out great for us too. Not long before you stayed, our Wi-Fi went out in the middle of winter and we didn’t know if we had heat or not, if the place was going to freeze up and we almost had to drive up there at nine o’clock at night. And so thank you for keeping an eye on the place for us, that was super helpful to not worry about it. Billy’s got it, he’s got it covered. You did some laundry for us too, didn’t you? You washed a…
Billy: A few sheets, yeah. I wanted to earn my keep.
Jenn: Hey, Billy, we need you to wash a rug up there, could you do that? Thanks. Yeah, so that was really helpful. I mean, for us, we talked about sort of at the beginning like family and friends are really important to Mitch and I so if people can enjoy it that we know, I mean, we’re happy to have you there. I mean, listen, there is money making season that we have to adhere to in order to support a second home for us but when the place isn’t being used, we’re happy for our friends to go use it. That really honestly makes us really happy, that other people can enjoy it.
Billy: Well, and I did and thank you again. I really, really appreciate it. I love you both. Thank you so much for being on the show and talking about the Cuyuna Gnome Home. We’ll make sure that we put that information in the show notes so be sure to check that out.
Jenn: Thank you, by the way. Can we say thank you? Thanks to Billy. Sorry to miss you, Brian.
Mitch: I know. Brian, damn it. Next time.
Billy: Next time — and we’ll make sure — Brian will be there for the birthday bash so we’ll make sure that we get to eat some quality steaks at Pittsburgh Blue. Pittsburgh blue, once again, feel free to hook us up with — I think they always hook us up with free desserts. We’ll take free dessert and free sides this time for all of the wonderful publicity or we’ll just take the good service that you always offer us. So with that, for Brian, for Mitch and Jenn, this is Billy, thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Take care, friends.