I got out of the house again.

Yep, I'm as amazed as you are. I feel like a werewolf during a new moon. "Go ahead, boy, no one will mind."

I grabbed a notepad, my daughter's camera (and said daughter for a little help) and my cloth mask. Then off I went to Stewartville.

One of the things that I've noticed is that since I don't drive much for work anymore, those few times I do, I'm confronted with road construction and surprised – nay, shocked! – that my path includes some detour.

Old Dogs, Old Tricks

The fact that detours surprise me shows just how clueless I am these days. The Wise Woman likes to say I have "Half-timers Disease" as opposed to Alzheimer's Disease (say them out loud, you'll get the joke), meaning I basically remember about half the things I should. (Note: Alzheimer's is no laughing matter. I've had family members who've suffered, and its a terrible thing.)

Anyway, I'm the one getting press releases from MnDOT saying, "Construction will start on such-and-such road beginning on this date. For detours, go this way then that." So, basically, I ought to know better, except I've got Half-timers. And, frankly, half seems generous.

So, on the road to Stewartville I see lanes being narrowed, crossover lanes being built, and I'm thinking, "What's this mess?"

That mess is the first step in a two-year project for MnDOT to replace the U.S. 63 bridges, realign the off- and on-ramps and basically make the whole interchange safer and more simple to navigate.

Talking to MnDOT spokesman Mike Dougherty, I mentioned taking that exit -- eastbound on Interstate 90, exiting to go north to Rochester -- when I moved here 14 years ago. I was driving a moving truck with our minivan being hauled behind us. Mike basically said, yeah, so you know how badly that needs fixing.

Graduation Gifts Galore

My trip south to Stewartville was to do a story about the 2020 graduating class and the parents organization that raised $40,000 to throw them a party. Unfortunately, that party didn't happen because of COVID-19. Instead, each graduating senior got a gift package worth about $250.

Masks, social distancing, no handshakes. It's the current version of normal.

What isn't normal is the talk I had with these kids. One young lady talked about how this was the year for the one-in-three-years band trip. Nashville and Chicago were on the itinerary. But it didn't happen. Another senior talked about how he expected to be at the state track meet his senior year. He'll never get that back.

There's a lot these kids are missing out on because of the pandemic. I feel sorry for them because I still have photos from my senior dinner all those years ago.

By comparison, what am I missing? Just the road construction messes around southeast Minnesota.

Regional Reporter Brian Todd covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties along with some cities in Olmsted County. In the After Deadline column every Thursday, he shares behind-the-scenes tales from the newsroom.