Minneapolis (part 3)

The landscape around Minneapolis is bedazzled with lakes and rivers and forests.  The avid outdoors person can find lots of places to go get their nature on.  Our plan for Friday was to get the old gang together and go canoeing down the St. Croix River near Taylors Falls.  This is a beautiful area with rugged rocky cliffs overlooking a lush green valley.  Unfortunately, there was a huge storm that dumped about 11 inches of rain over the watershed and caused flood levels throughout.  Park Service says no canoe trips this week.

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Osceola Wisconsin on the bank of the swollen St. Croix River

Saturday was another tour of the city, starting at the Mill City Museum.  Long ago, Minneapolis had the largest flour mills in the world.  The water from the Mississippi powered the machines in the huge building that cleaned, ground, and packed the flour.  Gradually though, the mills moved out of the city.  The Washburn A Mill closed in 1965 and sat empty until 1991, when it started on fire.  Flour dust is explosive and the old mill was covered in it.  Today’s museum is built around the remains that survived.

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What is left of the old mill walls forms a backdrop for a concert stage
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From Mill City Museum, a view along the riverfront

For the rest of the day’s tour, we explored Northeast Minneapolis (a.k.a. Nordeast).  Marylu’s daughter and son-in-law, Lisa and Bryan, who live there, were our tour guides.  Lunch was at Kramarczuk’s Deli and Restaurant.  Mouthwateringly authentic ethnic Eastern European food and an amazing selection of house-made sausages.  Mit kraut, ya?

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Best sausages in town

Following lunch, we set off to taste test the breweries and distilleries in Nordeast.  In 2011 Minnesota passed what became known as the Surly Law.  Surly Brewery fought for and won the right to sell it’s beer by the glass in taprooms.  Since then, they opened a huge new brewery with an inventive gastropub and have become a real hotspot for beer fans.

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Since then the number of breweries in Minnesota has skyrocketed.  In just Nordeast, there are at least a dozen breweries.  We visited four of them.  We also found two new craft distilleries where they make and pour their own spirits.  My favorite new distillery is Wander North.  They actually make up an IPA beer then distill it to make beer whiskey!  It is a great time to be a drinker.

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Of course, life is not all beer.  Or BBQ.  Sometimes you have to go out and get some culture.  Besides all the museums and galleries, there are many theaters here.  The most famous is the Guthrie.  This odd looking building overhangs the Mississippi River and offers unique views of the city.  Inside, we saw a matinee performance of “South Pacific”.  This was the original version with all the racism intact, so it was both a little disturbing and wonderfully entertaining.

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Ribs from Smoke In The Pit, 37th & Chicago. Best in town.
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The famous Guthrie
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The view from one of the viewports on the Guthrie’s Endless Bridge

We made kind of a major mistake during our visit here.  We scheduled our doctor’s appointments on the last week of our stay.  I’m OK but have to take yet another damn pill.  Marylu seems to be OK but needs another test. Next week.  An esophagogastroduodenoscopy.  I think they charge by the syllable.  So instead of Mackinac Island, we will be back in Eden Prairie again.  But that just gives us more time to spend with friends and family and enjoy summer in Minnesota.

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Surviving the heat wave quite well in Bob & Sharon’s pool.

Next up: Eden Prairie

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Minneapolis (part 2)

The second week of our being in Minneapolis passes quickly.  We have friends and family to meet and catch up with, places to see, things to do.  People are curious about our travels and their questions make us stop and think about where we have been, where we are going next, and for how long.  Next is toward New England, then South, following the sunshine as winter breaks out up here.  How long is uncertain.  We are still looking for favorite places to add to our list of possibilities.

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A quilt of Minneapolis, on display in the Swedish Institute.

Back in Minneapolis, we are touring some of the beautiful buildings.  There is some fine architecture here.  The chapel at Lakewood Cemetery, the Basilica of St. Mary, The Swedish Institute.

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The angels sing on the dome of the Lakewood Chapel
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Interior of the Basilica of St. Mary
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The entrance to the Swedish Institute’s Turnblad mansion

One day, we even went over to the Other Side: St. Paul.  If you have ever lived in Minneapolis, you know how we dread having to cross the river into THAT place.  Jesse Ventura infamously accused St. Paul streets as being laid out by drunken Irishmen.  Minneapolis streets are generally laid out in a grid so that Streets run East-West and Avenues run North-South.  The names are (mostly) in either alphabetic or number order.  Every home between 14th and 15th has a house number in the 1400s.  None of that is true in St. Paul.

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St. Paul downtown. You can’t get there from here. Even if you could, it’s under construction.

Maybe it was just the St. Paul curse on Minneapolitans, but our trip there was pretty much a bust.  We went to tour the Capitol, but it was closed for construction.  We went to tour the Governor’s Mansion, but it was closed because of Black Lives Matter protesters.  We ran over to Summit Brewery for beers and it was closed for a private party.  Fortunately, the guy at the door had mercy on us poor “South Dakotans” and let us use the rest rooms and even gave us free beers to drink out on the patio.

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Under wraps and boarded up Capitol
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The Governor’s Residence lies on a quiet, stately street. Usually.
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Cold beer in the shade on a hot day. Perfect!

A couple of day later, we tried St. Paul again.  This time we checked in advance and the Minnesota History Center was open.  This is kind of a mixed bag of displays.  Iron mining, military hardware, Minnesota weather, the 35W bridge collapse, Minnesota products, sports.  An unexpected treat was the “What’s Up Doc?” display, featuring the art of Chuck Jones, the animator for Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, and many other of our favorite cartoons.

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A World War One Jenny fighter patrols the museum
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You wascally wabbit!

We also got a chance to explore the St. Paul Cathedral while we were there.  Why all the cathedrals?  Marylu likes the amazing architecture and designs meant to life a person closer to heaven.  I enjoy the exuberant extravagance of the decorations; the gold ornamentation, the intricate stained glass, the life-like carvings.

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The St. Paul Cathedral chancel and apse
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Interior detail of St. Paul Cathedral

So many friends to see.  So many places to visit.  Our three weeks here is passing by so quickly.  Too many photos for this post so…

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Having a great time in Minnesota

Next up: more Minneapolis

Minneapolis 6/30 – 7/22 (part 1)

Minneapolis, Minnesota:  Population = 410,939 (part of the Twin Cities Metro area with about 3,500,000), elevation = 950 feet, average January low temp = 6.3, Average July high temp = 87, average sunny days = 198, annual snowfall = 54.5”, annual rainfall = 34.2”, air quality index = 85.1, water quality index = 27, comfort index = 48

The road from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis runs through mostly farm country.  As we cross Southern Minnesota, we start to see low, rolling hills, covered with crops.  I wish I would have had my camera ready for the quintessential Minnesota photo we witnessed: looking over vast tracts of farmland, soybeans to the left, corn to the right, following a pickup towing a fishing boat.  Perfect.

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Healthy Minnesota corn – knee high by the 4th

We had an unexpected trip highlight along the way.  Rolling along the interstate we caught up with three semi trucks with trailers more than twice as long as normal trailers.  They were hauling the blades for a wind turbine.  Those things look pretty big, up there spinning in the breeze.  Up close they are gigantic.

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Up close with a turbine blade. They travel in packs of 3

Finally, we top the hill in Burnsville and see a cluster of skyscrapers on the horizon: Minneapolis.  Before we pulled up stakes and set off, we were residents of Eden Prairie, a suburb of Minneapolis to the Southwest.  For the next three weeks, we are living in South Minneapolis, in a cozy neighborhood with tall tunnels of urban forest overhead, not far from big freeways and huge shopping.  Besides all the family and friends we want to catch up with, we are also going to try to visit lots of spots on the TripAdvisor “Things To Do” and “Places To Eat” lists.  Funny how a person can live in a town forever and never get around to seeing the highlights.

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Minneapolis rising out of the plains
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The neighborhood canopy of green is full and lush this time of year

Minneapolis is called the “City Of Lakes”.  There are several large lakes within the city; Lake of the Isles, Cedar, Calhoun, Harriet, Nokomis, and Hiawatha.  There are also many smaller lakes, ponds, and rivers, including the Mississippi.  If you can’t find a place to launch a kayak, you are not looking.

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Lake Harriet
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Lake Calhoun
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Minnehaha falls

This is a major metro area so the list of things to do goes on and on.  There are museums, sports arenas, theaters, concert halls, golf courses, art galleries, parks, and, of course, thousands of restaurants for all tastes and ethnics.

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The new Vikings stadium. Don’t want to jinx the Vikes, but it looks like a sinking ship to me.
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The Twins stadium. Best stadium food in the league.

Downtown Minneapolis has something most cities don’t: a skyway system.  These connect 69 city blocks and total about 11 miles of walkways.  When the summers get steamy or the winters get frigid, the skyways turn most of downtown into one huge air conditioned building.  A person can walk for miles, visiting offices, restaurants, banks, and shops, and never go outside.

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Miles of skyways criss-cross the city

This is also the home (well, technically Bloomington is) of the Mall Of America.  This humongous building houses over 520 shops, 50 restaurants, and an amusement park with everything from a ferris wheel to a roller coaster with a full upside down loop.  Future expansion plans are adding even more stores, offices, restaurants, and hotels to the megamall.  All they need now is an  airport arrivals gate.

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Four floors of everything Americans love.
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Done shopping? How about a roller coaster ride?

As you may imagine, our arrival back in the hometown area has been a joyous occasion for us.  There are so many friends and family to meet and hug and catch up with.  We are trying take a touristy look at the city too, but that takes a back seat to seeing our favorite people.  We will do more exploring next week.

Next up:  more of Minneapolis

Sioux Falls, South Dakota 6/24 – 6/30

Sioux Falls, South Dakota:  Population = 159,532, elevation = 1,418 feet, average January low temp = 4, Average July high temp = 86, average sunny days = 211, annual snowfall = 40.4”, annual rainfall = 24.7”, air quality index = 97, water quality index = 20, comfort index = 44

From Pierre, our route took us Southeast along the Missouri River and through the Crow Creek Reservation.  The river is wide and the banks are hilly with speckles of trees.   Oddly, it seems to me, most of the river is deserted.  There are a few far-flung farms here and there, but very few houses on the river.  Nobody is out fishing.

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Tribal flags on the Missouri River Crow Creek reservation

We hook back up with Interstate 90 and put the pedal down.  The further East we head, the greener and taller the corn gets.  The bugs get bigger too.  Our windshield looks like a battleground.  It is about time for lunch, so we stop in Mitchell.  Of course, if you are ever in Mitchell, you have to stop and see what craziness is on this year’s Corn Palace.  Every year is different and this year’s is especially fun.

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An interesting collection of bugs. Really messing up the shell collection.
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Willy Nelson made out of corn
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Elvis and many other rock stars, done in corn

Our journey started in Sioux Falls, where we dealt with the paperwork it takes to become full-time travelers.  We still had a few details left to resolve this time around, so here we are again.  We really like Sioux Falls.  For a town of its size, there is a lot to do and see and eat.  We can revisit some favorites and check out some new places.

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In the Marine Cove
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A resident of the Butterfly House
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The Taphouse on 41st Street has a fine selection of beers and a great happy hour.

Phillips Ave. is the “trendy” street downtown.  There are very nice restaurants and shops and even a brewery.  Along the street is the Sculpture Walk.  Artists display their works for a year and the publics votes for favorites, which then win a prize.  All the works are for sale.

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“Echo” by Osamede Obazee
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“Jam ‘n Eggs” by Kimber Fiebiger

One of our favorite sculptures is a former Sculpture Walk entry, “The Potato Man”.  We kept driving past McKennan Park and wondering who that was on the corner every day.  Closer inspection revealed that it is a statue.

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A permanent resident of McKennan Park

Our favorite tap house in Sioux Falls has to be Monk’s House of Ale Repute, where they brew Gandy Dancer beers.  The tap list is extensive and includes great selections of all types of beers from their own and other breweries.  Jerry, the proprietor, is an affable character with an encyclopedic knowledge of beer.

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Nice town, Sioux Falls.  For me, it feels just about the right size.  It is big enough to have lots to do and small enough to not be all jammed up in traffic.  Big enough to have a prosperous and varied economy, small enough to have quiet little neighborhoods 10 minutes from downtown.  It’s just too bad that it has to be in South Dakota.  We have seen winters in Minnesota too many times to stay this far North.

Next up: Minneapolis