Coffee Klatsch, Cuisine, Stearns, Wobegon Trail

Shmokin’ To Freeport

Lily shares her Spotify playlists with me.

I don’t have to be cool. I ride the jet stream of Lily’s coolness.

Her Shmokin’ songs cover the musical spectrum from bossa nova to rock.

Minnesota miles shmoked past as we explored the curling ribbon roads and plotted Wobegon Trail excursions and made iconic stops along the way.

Like Charlie’s Cafe in Freeport.

It’s been awhile.

I brought my cousin Lois an orange poinsettia when we met at Charlie’s for coffee.

As we approached the entrance, an older man strode up, hands outstretched, and said “thank goodness you remembered my poinsettia”!

He was so convincing, in his flannel shirt and baseball cap and winning grin, that for a moment I thought Lois’s poinsettia really was his.

But the glitter-sprinkled beauty from CashWise in St Cloud was always going to Lois.

If I'd had another sparkly orange poinsettia, I'd have gladly given it to him as first prize for sheer brio and thespian potential.

We laughed as we went into the cafe together.

I asked Lois if she knew the cheeky would-be plant-napper. He’d stopped by our booth to acknowledge her efforts as a local storyteller and historian.

“She knows all the secrets,” he said.

Don’t I know it.

He was aware of Lois, but she’d never met him.

It’s like that in a small town.

On our way out I bought a chunky mug so I could have a taste of Charlie’s every day, and a few of its famous cinnamon rolls for my sisters.


There’s never enough time.

I could while away a lot of time in Freeport.

Next time, I will.

Lois and Laurie, Charlie’s Cafe.

I know the small towns of Stearns County well.

Each has unique qualities.

Some of Freeport’s are its smiley face water tower, its historic Swany White Flour Mills, the majestic Sacred Heart church, and Charlie’s, of course.

Grandma Lena (Thielen) grew up near Freeport, and Lois and her husband Johnnie farm nearby in Grey Eagle. Many of our relatives are buried in the Sacred Heart cemetery down the road from Charlie’s. Many live in small towns across the county and along the Lake Wobegon Trail.

I love the Freeport water tower so much I made it the face of

Freeport feels like home.

There’s a Lake Wobegon Trail pathway on the edge of town, so whether you’re walking, cycling or snowmobiling, plan your route to stop at Charlie’s for breakfast, a cinnamon roll, or a little lunch.

It’s a fair drive from St Cloud to Freeport.

We listened to Shmokin‘ and admired the blue, blue sky. There’s nothing like a Minnesota sky.

Lily was driving.

I watched for deer, scanning the woods and ditches for fast-approaching animals with soft dark eyes.

My sister once hit a reindeer that had escaped from a reindeer farm near St Joe. Her insurance company didn’t believe her reindeer story. Reindeer live at the North Pole, not in Minnesota. She had to comb through the accident site to find a piece of broken mirror from her car, complete with reindeer fur and skin, to get her insurance claim accepted.

We didn’t want drama like that while driving to Freeport listening to Shmokin’.

It's a long playlist, but we settled on some shared favorites for our journey. Maybe you'll find a few you like for your next drive to Charlie's, or as you walk or cycle to Freeport along the Wobegon Trail.

We’re both smitten with Hey Cowboy! The cowgals from Austin, Texas kept us company as we crisscrossed the roads of Stearns County, circled lakes, explored landmarks, and stopped for DQ crunch cones. Like I said, Lily’s musical tastes are way cooler than mine. But sometimes I clicked out of Shmokin’ to play favorites of my own. When you spend hours together on a road trip, you have to share listening dibs. Dad wouldn’t have agreed. He was king of the Oldsmobile radio dial, and it was always tuned to polkas, waltzes, and country music. Look out for his Don’t Touch My Minnesota Dial playlist here at Meantime, what do you think one of these gals is whispering as she opens their song – I think it’s “give me back my bag of vodka”.

The gals from Hey Cowboy! with a familiar Minnesota icon. Photo Hey Cowboy! Instagram

Shmokin’ +

Don’t be fancy, just get dancy.

Pink, Raise your glass

Photos Barry Weber,;

4 thoughts on “Shmokin’ To Freeport”

  1. Lois Thielen says:

    I have been inspired to write my own playlist of about equal length including everybody from the Rolling Stones to The New Christie Minstrels to Sawyer Brown to Buffalo Springfield. I actually have most of the songs on CD and cassette. About running into reindeer: do you know there’s a small zoo just out of Freeport with all kinds of animals? It started as a reindeer farm over 30 years ago and now is the Hemker Zoo.

    1. Editor says:

      I knew about the zoo but haven’t been there, have you? We would love to see the Lois playlist! It was naughty of my sister’s insurance company to reject her damages claim implying that running into a reindeer was a tall MN tale. How cool that she went back to the accident site and found that piece of mirror with reindeer evidence to get her claim accepted. When she hit the reindeer she said his big eye and antlers were pressed against the window – they looked at each other for a long minute then went their separate ways, relieved they both lived to tell the tale.

  2. Marti says:

    There have been a few times I’ve turned my radio on and a polka started playing. How did it get to that station? I’d smile and say thank you dad. Strange things happen doncha know. Marti

    1. Editor says:

      They always happen to you for sure Marti 🙂

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