Friday, July 09, 2004

Out and About

This weekend was busy. On Saturday we went to St. Paul for breakfast (blueberry pancakes), followed up by a visit to the science museum to see a film on volanoes, tornados and earthquakes much in the vein of the discovery channel et al. But the medium was quite unique. The seats in the theatre lay right back and before the movie started, a huge dome screen came down over us and we were surrounded. We were then in the centre of things as the movie rolled. It was a matter of hanging on, especially as the helicopter as it flew into the volcano.
Had a nice lunch at a soup and salad cafe after. Yes, this is a food and wine tour of the mid west!
That night went downstairs to one of the local bars. It was warm enough to be outside and watch the passing parade.
A bus load of young "ladies' turned up. It was obviously a hen's night. The bride to be was wearing a huge penis hat.
They came, they drank, they made lots of noise, they left.
Next morning went down to the stone arch bridge across the Mississippi and walked to a craft fair in the river park that had lots of creative things. The bridge used to be a railway bridge with 87 train crossings a day! But is now part of a heritage walk around and over the river. It crosses where St. Anthony falls used to be but man's use of the river over the last 200 years has turned the falls into a weir, with a lock system to get the boats up and down.
There sure is a lot of water coming down the river. In the past, this area used the river to power flour and timber mills etc. There is still small hydro electric station working there. The whole area was obviously run down but they are doing up all the old mills and factories as apartments and I think it will be nice in a few years. They have reclaimed the river bank and it's now a long park area on both sides with lots of trees, cycling tracks and seating. The view looking back over the city is spectacular.
We went to lunch...el fresco in a nice place with great food but strange licensing laws. You can drink outside but they can't leave the bottle on the table. They have to take it inside and race out every time you want your glass filled. So that means at a bar with outside seating you can have a beer in a glass, but you can't drink one straight from the bottle. Also bottle shops are not open on Sunday.
The following weekend we had a good time in Sioux Falls or rather Trent which is about 45 minutes further on. It's potentially a long drive for us not used to the freeway system, 250 miles or so but on the interstate you can sit on 75-80mph for most of the way so you get there fast, apart from the frustrations of several construction zones, known to us as roadworks.
It was nice to get back into the country again after a few weeks in a city. Our hosts live on a few acres surrounded by corn and soy bean fields. They are agisting a few Angus cows with their calves. The grass was over the cows bellies. It would be nice to see that sort of growth at home sometimes.
We had nice barbie the night we arrived and then went to Dell Rapids, the major town in the area, the next morning for "quarry days", the local festival. The main industry, apart from growing corn and beans, is quarrying pink stone, a really hard pink granite which is used for building, roads, etc. They had the parade down the main street, just like you see in the movies with fire engines, cheerleaders, festival queen etc. It seemed to go on for a long time for a small town. I thought they may have gone around the block and started again. They had all sorts of sporting contests on as well as an vintage car show and the ubiquitous tractor pull.
That night we had another great barbie, this time with more of the family. There was lots of talk and fun.
The following day was a family reunion picnic which I think is a great tradition. Sadly because of the younger generation's lack of commitment to such celebrations, these gatherings are in danger of dying out.
Then it was back to Minneapolis......exhausted!


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