The extent of my experience in Minnesota previously has been a few stints in the airport, my main memories of which are there were cute shops and a lot of good looking men, so not bad! On my way north from Iowa I took a brief pit stop in Blue Earth, which aside from having a lovely name is also home to a statue of the Jolly Green Giant and some little sprout figures around town. As far as I can tell the town doesn’t have any affiliation with the vegetable company’s original location before it was absorbed by Pillsbury, so maybe it was just a nice place for a giant to settle. I mean, what better spot for a vegetable giant who is nice and ‘green’ than Blue Earth?
Next up was the adorable German town of New Ulm. This place is filled with gingerbread style houses, manicured lawns, overflowing flower boxes, and was all just as orderly as one would expect from a German community. After a few hours sleep I roused myself at 4am and found a nice little city park close to a state park where it was fairly dark to lay out my little picnic blanket and watch the Perseid meteor shower until the sky became light and the deer were getting inquisitive and grunty. I found a spot to get another couple of nap hours in during a downpour, which provided a relaxing soundtrack but also was so intense that my occasional leak sprouted again so that was fun to wake up to and deal with. I plopped my bowl down and shoved some towels around and took off to explore the town.
As with everything else in the world these days, timing was not on my side. The cool glockenspiel clocktower played some nice songs at noon, but the figures that normally come out to do a little show remained hidden behind a door thanks to a broken gear. The park around the town mascot, Hermann the German, who stands guard atop a tower on a hill was closed for construction, so I had to make do with a peek from below. I managed to totally walk by Hermann’s alleged footprint (full of controversy– so silly) on the wall outside the chamber of commerce just where I parked as I had my head down under my raincoat hood. Oops. But, once the rain let up my luck turned around a bit. I stocked up on European cookies at an adorable shop where I imagined myself back in Bavaria for a moment surrounded by the litte cuckoo clocks and gnomes (including one I really wanted of a gnome riding a pig). I drove by the family home of Wanda Gag who wrote and illustrated the classic children’s book Millions of Cats- beautiful house, and if you don’t know the book (her most famous of many) take a peek because it’s a great story but suuuper dark and creepy. Love it.
The next couple of days I spent around the Twin Cities with my base as a little beach by Lake Minnetonka. On my way to my little parking spot I stopped briefly at a two-story outhouse (how does this work????? I must know), past a big ‘pearly gate’ in St. Peter’s, and then by Prince’s Paisley Park where I didn’t do the tour but just walked by and took in the multitude of fan art, mementos and tributes along the path. My last stop of the night was in the town of Excelsior to have a sit on a bench dedicated to town eccentric Mr. Jimmy, who allegedly served as the inspiration for the Rolling Stones song ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want” after a chance conversation with Mick in the drug store after a Stones show nearby. It seems like an ideal little upscale town to spend a week vacationing at the lake, certainly deserving more than my little drive by visit.
In Minneapolis I spent a beautiful pre-humidity morning in the sculpture park. I love a sculpture park! In addition to taking in the fabulous art, I was totally impressed by the perfect spacing and thoughtful selection of the pieces, and even more so by the incredibly responsive loudspeaker system… if anyone (usually a child) touched a sculpture, tossed a rock, or dipped a toe in the water a pleasant voice gave a specific reminder to please refrain from whatever it was. Either a great recording system or one watchful employee!
Wandering through town I walked past a pretty church, some college campus buildings, the statue of Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat in the air, a mural of Bob Dylan, the Twins’ ballpark, a lot of very empty and quiet streets, and a few small reminders of the upheaval that had been so noteworthy of late. My day ended where it started with a return to the sculpture garden and Walker Art Center where I’d secured a ticket to free evening hours which luckily happened to be that day. What a busy (and hot) day!
The following day I spent the morning at Minnehaha park and walked around to see the falls and river, made some eggs, and get some stretching in before meeting up with my cousin (okay, cousin’s daughter) and her kids. We walked along the Mississippi while Jenny’s kids asked me to quiz them on math problems and play 20 questions and I caught up with yet another of my relatives I haven’t seen since her wedding. Oops. I’m so bad at keeping in touch but and trying to improve!
Later I checked out some other areas of St. Paul like a park outside a beautiful library that had Peanuts character statues, and one across the road of the Miracle on Ice coach, and later drove past two of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s homes (of course both super gorgeous). Then, it was off to… the Mall of America! Ha. I wanted to see this hot mess but also was significantly motivated by another wave of storms coming through with high winds and rain and tornado watch. Between not really wanting to drive in that with no clue where I was really and my leak from the other day, the thought of covered parking while visiting was perfect.
This place was… well it really was the mall of America. So many stores. So much fast food. At least 3 Starbucks. A casino. A spa- well really at least one normal nail and massage spa, and one meant just for kids (skewing girls) and their dolls. A storefront ‘museum’ which you had to pay entry to go in and take pics in front of graphic walls for social media. Mini golf with Sasquatch. An aquarium. A mirror maze. Of course the iconic amusement park in the center of the crazy. The list goes on. It was an entertaining way to get a lot of steps in as I wandered and got lost a lot.
Bought a book, a snack, and escaped consumerist mecca just in time to watch that sideways rain and the sky go from pitch black with bursts of lightning to eerie pink sunset. Surreal. Then when the coast was clear, the van was go!