Monday, September 15, 2014

10,000 Lakes and One Huge Mall

Greetings from the Twin Cities!

Ok, so we aren't IN the twin cities. We are in a suburb, Northwest of Minneapolis, called Maple Grove. Our immediate surroundings are helpful. We have things like Walmart, Cub Foods and REI. I think it is fair to say we earned these modern conveniences after spending a month in the U.P. We also have a place called 'LEANN CHIN'. We drove past it several times and made chin jokes. We felt it was poor branding to associate yourself with a body part that nobody wants MORE of. It's like that Chinese place in the mall that hands out free samples but classier looking. Anyhow, our curiosity grabbed us and we went in. The food was fantastic. So, I have concluded that eating LEANN CHIN will, in fact, give you more chins but the food is SO good, you won't care. 

In addition to acquiring more chins, we have done some sightseeing. We went into Minneapolis and bummed around downtown for a day. We ditched the car at a parking structure and rode on the light rail. It's a very simple, yet very effective system. You got one train that connects Minneapolis to Mall of America and another train that connects St Paul to Minneapolis. I am fascinated by public transit. Every time I visit a new city I am determined to conquer their transportation grid and act like a local. When in Rome...
Taking a trip on the Blue Line
Giant Slices at Pizza La Vista
Twins vs Tigers at Target Field. Tigers won 8-6 but Phil Coke almost ruined everything...again. 

Speaking of Mall of America, we did that whole thing. It's ridiculous. I mean, I've always heard about it and thought it sounded decent. I pictured a giant mall with a roller-coaster inside of it. It felt like something that was maybe past its prime. (Didn't gimmick malls peak in the early 90s?) Anyhow, I was pleasantly surprised at this place. It is a monstrosity with an amusement park in the middle of it. They are planning to double in size soon and add a Great Wolf Lodge and connect to an existing IKEA. This, in addition to the tons of shops, restaurants, night clubs and department stores. Imagine a mall with a Best Buy inside of it. Let that roll around in your head for a minute. Only at the Mall of America.
This is just a portion of the amusement park inside the mall. We had a BLAST here.

The food court was awesome. We went with Chipotle because it is a staple of our marriage. It is the one constant in dining that supersedes all other options. Don't ask me why, it's just our mutual go-to when eating out. We ate our burritos, scored some sale items and had a fun day of acting like typical tourists. Fun Facts: 1) There is NO SALES TAX on clothes in Minnesota 2) Despite being in the Midwest, the Mall of America is not heated.
This girl has a shopping addiction. 

Minneapolis has a lot of great parks right outside of the downtown area. We spent an afternoon at one of them and enjoyed some recreation and family bonding. Minnehaha Park is right in town but it doesn't feel like it. The Minnehaha Creek drops 40 feet over the Minnehaha Falls and pours out into the Mississippi River. Along the way there are 5 bridges for you to walk across while you explore historic markers with a tour you can take using your mobile phone. The park also features restaurants, bike rentals, picnic areas, playgrounds, disc golf and photographers flock to this place. Good for watching people and nature.
These pedal cars are really popular at Minnehaha Park. They look fun and relaxing but you can definitely feel the burn. 
Noah at Minnehaha Falls
Kickin' it on the bridge. 

As much as we want to go out and see the sights in this great town, there is a certain degree of 'settling down' that has been taking place. We have been at this for over a month now and summer is coming to an end. Yes, we get to live on the road but the boys need to have their time for learning and I have a business to run. So, Jessica has incorporated school time just about every morning and she has done a beautiful job with it. She just takes off her mommy hat and puts on her teacher hat and the boys respond wonderfully. I occasionally stick my head in there and try to help when one of the boys is struggling with concentration. Mostly I just step back and keep quiet. We are truly fortunate to have a mom like Jessica. She takes education seriously and inspires wonder in our children.
Morning Circle. It is how they begin the school day. 
Noah doing color bead stair. 
Our stove during school time. The couch, camper stairs, picnic table and cabinet all have works in them too. 

Oh, If you read my last blog you might be expecting me to tell you about the Apostle Islands. Before we came to Minnesota, we spent 2 nights in Northern Wisconsin. The area is apparently the place to be in the summer but when we got there it was mostly shut-down. I got a yuppie vibe from the place. Sailboats and boutique shops lining the shore of a town that is pretending to be forgotten by time. The park we stayed at was really nice though and I met a nice couple from St. Cloud that I chatted with on a few occasions. There was also a really nice coffee shop in town with lightning fast WiFi (if you haven't learned by now, I am a connection junkie. Keep me connected and make it fast).

The islands themselves are hard to get to (hence the sailboats, hence the yuppies). We looked at a lot of pictures and it looked awe inspiring. We loved the idea of taking our backpacks and staying on a remote island in Lake Superior for a couple days but, alas, we are RVers and the Apostle Islands are an attraction built for a different kind of explorer. For that reason, we checked out of town early and devoted our full attention to Minnesota.

Noah getting pampered at the haircut place. 
With Minnesota in our rear view mirrors, we are heading out on a two week trip that will span from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. We plan to stop at FOUR national parks along the way (Badlands, Yellowstone, Glacier and Olympic) and we have all of our backpacking gear ready to go at a moments notice. This, of course, is all contingent on the weather behaving. South Dakota and Wyoming apparently got freakish amounts of snowfall last week. In the event of an approaching snowstorm, our plan is to change course and head to New Mexico and then continue west on a more southern latitude. Whatever the route, we are all geared up and ready for more travel thanks to this gem of a Midwest town. 

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