Tuesday, August 17, 2004

More Doings in Minnesota

Last weekend we went downriver to Red Wing for a bit of a family gathering. It turned out not to be the cutsie village we first thought. Red Wing is quite a big town with a lot of industrialisation along the river bank. We stayed in an old Victorian house in a nice "burb". Downtown was was ok too with lots of shops and places to eat. They were having a river festival so there were lots of things going on and the place was full of people.
The "girls" went shopping on Saturday while the "boys" did a bit of a bar crawl around the small towns surrounding the area. It was great to finally see some hills being in the Mississippi Valley. The rest of southern Minnesota is SO flat. This meant the corn and bean fields were in a minority while cattle and horses predominated. I saw some really nice wooded areas and small farms on the backroads. We also went to a car show on the river bank. There were nice old cars from 60's and 70's in addition to the really old ones. Rain set in for the day so we went to the movies, Tom Cruise in "Collateral". DON'T BOTHER! It started ok but got really silly and lots of violence too.
We went to a store (it's a chain) that sells uncooked pizzas. Just like Pizza Hut you get to order what combination you want but they give it to you "raw" so you can cook it at home. I have never seen these at home but it is a good idea. Then we played poker until 1am! There were not a lot of hands played. It was more drinking and laughing. Needless to say I only brought home 4 of the dozen bottles of wine I took.
The next morning, after pancakes, bacon and eggs we crossed over into Wisconsin and came home up the Mississippi Valley to MSP via Hudson where we stopped for Caribou coffee....the best in the world!!! This chain puts Starbucks to shame. Pity they are so localised but I am bringing some of their beans home. They make great blueberry muffins too.
During the week we went to see a surf movie. "Riding Giants" was great. Awesome tow in waves at the end. There was a history of surfing as well with some great grainy old film which brought back the good ol' days together with some funny stuff.
We followed up this with dinner at an Italian restaurant, Campiello, which we had come across during our last visit to uptown. It was great too. I had roasted mussels for appetiser, not entree, and spit roasted chicken and spinach rissoto as entree, not main (you gotta get these expressions right or else) washed down with a very expensive bottle of chianti which was really wonderful. No room for sweets, even though the Coldstone Icecreamery is virtually next door.
Later that week I went back to the science museum in St.Paul specifically to see the Lewis and Clark movie on the surround screen.
It was a great day, sunny and cool, just like our winter. In fact this has been the coldest August on record in Minnesota! It was great to walk around this nice city. The outside cafes were doing a roaring trade at lunch time.
I got to the museum early so decided to "do" the exhibits. Am glad I did. The upper Mississippi exhibit was interesting as were the dinosauers. They had a heap of hands on things in the biology and weather rooms but it's school holidays and the place was packed with kids.
In biology they had a complete slice of a man and a women, the real thing incased in huge glass or plastic slides, head to foot, mid region. After you got over the initial shock they were fascinating to look at.
The movie was great with spectacular scenery from a helicopter which fitted the medium so well. I had read their actual diaries last year so it was nice to see an abridged pictorial version. They sure did it tough for the two and half years they were on the move up the Missouri, over the Rockies to the Pacific and back again. At one stage they were down to eating tree bark and candles. They only lost one expedition member (ruptured appendix) and 2 native Americans (self defence) were killed. They did so much good scientific work and surveying as well as building relations with the Indians. It is a pity it turned out to be the beginning of the end for native Americans, not that that was any fault of Lewis or Clark. It's a great story, like Charles Sturt or Bourke and Wills et al. The adventure is well worth reading about. I think SBS ran a doco a few years ago. It was made by Ken Burns who made the Civil War series. Ihave tried to buy the dvd but it's not available for our region.
I caught the express bus home. It runs down the interstate using the breakdown lane to avoid the slow traffic that always exists between the twin cities. The driver was a black female michael schumacher clone. Formula 1 in a rattly old bus was an experience.
This Saturday we went shopping and then headed for Hudson and a night out.We went to a new wine bar in town. It was very trendy with a good selection! Then to a Carribean influenced restaurant where I again had spicy fish. After dinner it was out into the sticks to the Willow Creek saloon, a country bar where everyone knew one another or maybe they were all related. The band played the theme from "Deliverance" which I thought was appropriate. We drank beer and people watched and didn't get to bed until well after 1am. We got up early next morning and we went out onto our host's boat from a trip down the St. Croix River after grabbing take out coffee at Caribou. It's a tributary of the Mississsippi and joins up with her 10 miles down stream. The river is very wide at Hudson, at least 500m, but can be shallow in some spots, 1m, due to shifting sand bars.The scenery is lovely with very green forests coming right down to the banks where there are lots of sandy beaches. There are also amazing houses but they are well hidden among the trees. We saw deer and eagles and where in the hell did the seagulls come from????????
While we were out there, Steve got a call on his cell from his son in Baghdad. Talk about the wonderful world of communications. Here we were sitting in peace and quiet on a cool summer morning while he was in a 130 deg F hell hole with the possibility of getting shot at. I think the river would get very busy later on in the day as there were hundreds of boats moored everywhere. The river freezes over in winter and all those boats have to be lifted at the beginning of October. Then it was back to our hosts' home for brunch. I sat on the deck and watched the squirrels and chipmunks feeding on seed they had left. We had biscuits (scones) and gravy which is not at all as bad as it sounds, bacon, pancakes and juice. All great!
Then home to watch the Olympics and to start some cleaning up and organization for our imminent departure in just under two weeks.

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