Monthly Archives: August 2014

2014 Trip Five, August 29, Summer in the Cities

Saint Paul, MN Friday August 29

Friday the 22nd we were back on water again, this time on the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River Fund and the Mississippi National River and Recreation area sponsored a canoe trip from Hastings, MN to Prescott, WI. This is just about the very southern end of the national park. It is about a three-mile paddle.

The  canoes

The canoes

There were 60 people, 10 to a canoe. Yes, these were big canoes, fashioned after the style used by the French-Canadian voyageurs. Wilderness Inquiry is the vendor handling the details of the canoe trip and uses 24′ canoes built by Northwest Canoe of St. Paul. Evidently, each canoe costs about $12,000.

activities along the Mississippi

activities along the Mississippi

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The trip not only included the paddling, but several supplements including: a.) a send off by two musicians in Hastings; b.) a musician dressed as a voyageur, playing a concertina and singing tunes of that French Canadian trappers era; c.) a local interpreter telling stories of early settlers; and d.) poems and stories of the Prescott area by two local interpreters.

Along the Mississippi

Along the Mississippi

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The evening was overcast which kept the likelihood of sunburn to a minimum. The canoes handled well but there was a little more paddling and less floating than we expected. We managed to keep up with the others and held up our portion of the paddling. The need for paddling was partially due to the need to be off the river before dark as the canoes do not have lights. As it was, a tugboat and its barges came into Prescott about 20 minutes after our arrival.

Saturday was partially land and partially water as we visited the lake cabin of a former co-worker of Ed’s. Three other ex-YJB people were there with spouses, one co-worker had been diagnosed with cancer and has ben going through treatment so it was great that he was able to make it for a good part of the day. A boat ride and excellent dinner were a wonderful way to spend part of the day but the haunting songs of the loons are always memorable. One could listen to them all day.

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Wednesday was Fair day, the Great Minnesota Get-Together. We, and 125,000 others, spent all or part of the day there. The Minnesota State Fair has the largest average daily attendance of any state fair. The Texas State Fair has more total people but they go for 24 days. We made the 8 AM first bus from our local park and ride lot. Good thing we were early, at 7:40 we were about 25th in line. The bus driver said he had 93 people on the 57 passenger bus. There were still people waiting as the first bus pulled away.

music and food at the State Fair

music and food at the State Fair

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I volunteered at the Mississippi River Recreation booth from 10 AM to 1 PM. I felt sorry for the rangers who pulled 8 hour shifts; my legs and back were sore from just three hours. Chris did some walking, eating, and listened to music at the Leinie bandshell while I was slaving away.

Leismer's seed art at lower left

Leismer’s seed art at lower left

The new transit hub at the west end is a great improvement from being dropped off at the Como Ave parking lots of previous years. We toured the new West End Market, sampling new foods and made a stop at the booth run by Foci, a local glass blowing cooperative on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. We had been meaning to visit the studio and galleries in person, this was at least a reminder to us to squeeze that in before we head out of town on September 8 for the next long trip. Sarah Leismer created an entry for the seed art competition and won second place, a portrait of a light rail train against the city skyline backdrop. We stopped by to see that in person.

Snelling Avenue entrance to the fair

Snelling Avenue entrance to the fair

We were pretty tired by 8 pm so headed for home; missing the animal barns this year. The three-hour stint at the booth does reduce the walking around time in addition to the sore legs it creates.

Ed and Chris Aug. 29 4:30 pm

The article about the Mississippi River written by the Hastings Star Gazette

Hastings newspaper article on river canoeing

Hastings newspaper article on river canoeing


Hastings paper article on canoe trip

Hastings paper article on canoe trip

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2014, Trip Five, August 21, Summer in the Cities

St. Paul, MN Thursday August 21, 2014

Saturday the 16th we returned from Little Falls after having our second great breakfast at the Waller House Inn; stuffed french toast plus fresh fruit and bacon from the local meat market. The other 8 people at the breakfast table were planning to spend all of Saturday and most of Sunday at the race track. We bid them adieu and wished them well. They were heading for what they enjoyed.

Jubilee II on the St.  Croix River

Jubilee II on the St. Croix River

We went home via Stillwater. Chris and I met Lori and Mike for a lunch cruise on the Jubilee II run by the Stillwater Packet Company on the St. Croix River. The Jubilee is a three-story boat, we landed seats by the window on the second floor (enclosed). The day was gray and overcast so sitting inside was just peachy. Lunch was a standard buffet, food was fine but nothing exceptional. The river was crowded with pleasure craft of all sorts; pontoons, kayaks, speedboats, houseboats, cabin cruisers (do they still use that term?), sailboats, etc. The boat ride did not go as far as Hudson before turning back but we saw the pillars being erected for the new and controversial bridge to cross the St. Croix.

Chris and Ed with Lori and  Mike

Chris and Ed with Lori and Mike

Gondolier on the St. Croix RIver

Gondolier on the St. Croix River

We had not seen Mike and Lori for a while so it was good to have a chance to get together. After the boat landed, we spent a little more time with them at the Dock Cafe watching the boats on the river and talking. We even spotted a gondolier with two passengers. He looked to be earning his keep as the gondola made its way up against the current.

Vegetables growing in the Duluth Grill parking lot

Vegetables growing in the Duluth Grill parking lot

Sunday was a trip to Duluth with Kathy. Duluth is 2.5 hours away via I-35 and a fun place to visit. We had breakfast at the Duluth Grill which had been honored recently for families in food hospitality. One of the mottos for the Grill is “We grow our vegetables in our parking lot” and they do. We examined the vegetable beds surrounding our car and the lot and were quite impressed. The food was fine but not overwhelming. Sunday morning they had a nice crowd so we had to wait about 20 minutes. i had their red flannel hash without realizing beforehand that it was vegetarian. Oh well, good for me I guess.

Duluth Rose Garden with aerial lift bridge in background

Duluth Rose Garden with aerial lift bridge in background

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Duluth is normally cooler than the Cities with its location on Lake Superior; today was cloudy and cool. We would have been happy with less “air conditioning”. (It did rain hard in the afternoon as we were heading back.) The Duluth Rose Garden was our first stop. They have an extensive display with many unique hybrids. From there, it is a 1 1/4 mile walk to Canal Park by the aerial lift bridge. Canal Park is the major shopping, lodging, and eating destination. Just down a ways, Bayfront Park was having an art fest which we explored. Kathy made a minor purchase, otherwise the wallets stayed closed. A number of the landscape artwork caught my eye. I always have been impressed with landscapes, one of the reasons we travel to so many locations in the US.

Chris and Kathy walking along Lake Superior

Chris and Kathy walking along Lake Superior

We walked back to Kathy’s car and visited the Tweed Museum of Art on the UMD campus. They had an interesting display of commercial art focusing on Canadian Mounties and one by a local Benedictine nun whose collection of icons and contemplative drawings of individuals made the visit worthwhile. The trip was capped off with a stop at Portland Ice Cream before we left town for a shake, a malt and a sundae.

One of the icons  at Tweed Museum

One of the icons at Tweed Museum

Tuesday was an explore the Twin Cities Day. The Saturn was dropped off for its pre-road trip check and we took the bus to Union Depot in St. Paul. We had come here for the grand opening about 18 months ago but it was too crowded to enjoy at the time. Today’s tour was 75 minutes to learn about the main concourse, head house, and waiting area and was led by a staff member from Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority.

Head house area of Union Depot in St. Paul

Head house area of Union Depot in St. Paul

The taxpayers have spent $240 million to renovate this as a “transit hub”. So far, though, the usage includes two Amtrak visits per day, Jefferson Lines, Megabus and several of the Metro Transit lines along with Minnesota Valley transit. The building has people in it, but certainly not as crowded as other major depots/terminals we have seen around the country. The building looks nice as it should for $240,000,000. Hopefully the money will eventually prove worthwhile. Lunch was in the Depot at Christo’s, a Greek restaurant that has been there pre-renovations. Greek is not our favorite ethnic food but the buffet was reasonable and quick.

Union Depot

Union Depot

Oh yes, the newest light rail line (LRT) stops in front of Union Depot. The “Green Line” runs between St. Paul and Minneapolis downtowns. At a cost of $950 million taxpayer dollars, the line is clean and sleek. But as with many projects, by the time it satisfied every complaining group and political constituency, it comes across as a true mish-mash whose major compliment is that it is spurring redevelopment projects along its route. The Green Line LRT does not get priority over car traffic. The stops are frequent and since bus lines along University were reduced, it functions more as a glorified bus line.

We decided to ride it between the two downtowns to test it out. Result: one hour to make the trip in the middle of the day. While we did not run a car as a comparison, Mapquest says 16 minutes for the trip from Union Depot to Target Field is reasonable. What a waste of money-in my mind. The Union Depot tour guide talked how inter-connected rail lines are a great benefit to a metropolitan area. The Green line ride gave us ample opportunity to look at storefronts and developments as well as people watching. Good thing we are retired and have time for this. We went home via the Blue Line LRT (to MOA and airport) and bus down W. 7th Street. This combined ride only took 45 minutes.

Today was another tour. Monday our Minneapolis newspaper was not delivered. Chris, in looking up the circulation number to get a paper delivered, noticed that the phone directory had a listing for tours of the Star Tribune. We decided to give it a shot. After all, with a nephew working for the paper and cousins who had been in the newspaper business, it might give us a few conversation points.

Star Tribune printing facility

Star Tribune printing facility

It took both a phone call and an email before we received a response but we were lined up for a 4 pm tour today (Thursday the 21st). Well, we had a fantastic, two-hour tour just for the two of us. The tour is of the production/printing facility and was led by Bob, a retiree who had been a reporter, composer, and production manager but who has been retired for 15 years now. (He and his wife have taken 41 cruises so he encouraged us to explore that option more in our travels.) The Heritage Center as it is called, is located in the North Loop/Warehouse district of Minneapolis. The building was built in 1985 on land that had been primarily railroad yards. Now it is surrounded by condos and apartments in a very fashionable neighborhood of Minneapolis. Even when it went up though, neighbors were quite upset and made sure the building would fit in with the old brick style of the warehouses still in the area. It makes a nice appearance on the outside.

Automatic guided vehicles

Automatic guided vehicles

Inside are huge spaces for the printing presses, composition areas where the printing plates are made, and areas for sorting/stuffing/stacking the finished product. It is tough to concisely state a two-hour tour but here are just a few highlights of what we heard. A. The paper is moved from storage to racks to presses by a series of automated guided vehicles – (AGV)basically two ton robots. They are battery driven and directed electronically to get newsprint and deliver it to any press that signals it needs more paper. The robots even take themselves out of service and get their batteries recharged when necessary. It was weird. We probably saw 15-20 of these machines gliding along the plant floor all by themselves. I have to admit, this was probably the highlight of the tour.

B. All of the paper comes from a plant in Thunder Bay (where we are headed in 2.5 weeks, we will check to see if it offers a tour) in specially designed railroad cars. Each roll of newsprint weighs about a ton, when unrolled will stretch about 14 miles, and costs $700. C. The printing plates are made out of aluminum and are re-cycled after printing. The composition is primarily electronic and the staff in this division were given buy-outs several years ago as the new system made most of their jobs obsolete. D.The St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune are both printed at this facility under a complex agreement signed a few years ago, saving money for both but under strict separation of printing rules to prevent stealing of articles from each other.

E. The printing presses roll from 11 pm to midnight for editions sent to Greater Minnesota and then again after midnight for the metropolitan area. We were able to observe the advance printing of some sections for the Sunday paper which can be printed before the deadline for the daily news. F. One newspaper costs about $30 per week to print. A subscriber to seven day delivery pays only about $7 per week. Ads make up the rest of the revenue so obviously advertisers are treated very nicely and their concerns are important to the paper.

Ed and Chris Thursday August 21 9:15 pm

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2014 Trip Five, August 15, Summer in the Cities

Little Falls, MN Friday August 15

In the words of Chris and Ed; “Been there, Done that”. In the words of Brainerd International Raceway “For the NHRA Nationals, center stage is BIR’s quarter-mile drag strip, which will be where nitro-fueled dragsters will fly down the track at 320 mph while cranking out 10,000 horsepower, throwing out flames from their exhaust pipes and rattling the grandstands as they go by.”

Brainerd International Speedway

Brainerd International Speedway

Dragster at BIR

Dragster at BIR

Friday was to be our one day at the speedway, knowing it was just qualifying events. The big crowds come in Saturday and Sunday, allowing us to wander around in relative ease. Most of what we saw today was the Sportsmen category. In layperson parlance, (which we knew beforehand), two cars come up to the starting gate, they rev up, take off, you turn your head to watch them zoom by, repeat process. The grandstand seats are bleachers with no shade and while it was a glorious day, we were glad we had sunscreen on. We were also willing to go walk around.

walking around BIR

walking around BIR

waiting for their turn

waiting for their turn

There is easy access to the starting line so we watched the cars line up and perform last minute adjustments. There is easy access to the prep area so we watched crews work on cars. We stood several feet away from pro drivers as they autographed memorabilia for fans. We visited the merchandise area but nothing appealed to us. We passed by numerous tool vendors but with no mechanical aptitude and a condo, it was no problem to keep walking. We ate cheese curds.

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at a pro's crew area

at a pro’s crew area

We did not have access to “The Zoo”, the camping area where all night activities and music go on. Maybe next time after we have purchased our $200,000 motor home. There was an RV sales and rental vendor so we stopped in to view a few of the smaller models. Again, nothing grabbed our fancy so our wallets stayed closed.

After a few hours, we turned to each other and said: “Do we want to go back to our grandstand seats and watch more races or head back to the B & B?” Heading back to the B & B won out. I am sure we missed the most exciting part of the Friday races but the thought of a late afternoon nap was too strong.

We leave you with photos and a video, so you can share the experience with us. We have probably done very little to truly enlighten you. We apologize for that.

Ed and Chris August 15 8:30 pm

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2014 Trip Five, August 14, Summer in the Cities

Little Falls, MN Thursday August 14

We are on our way to the Brainerd International Speedway for drag racing. Friday is a full day of qualifying competitions, the finals are Sunday but we thought one day might be enough for us. Instead of driving up and back on Friday and making it a really long day, we are spending Thursday and Friday nights at a B & B in Little Falls (Waller House B & B).

Waller House B & B in Little Falls MN

Waller House B & B in Little Falls MN

Our drive up was relaxed, stopping at Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Our stop was just to check it out, maybe visiting Crane Meadow and Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge at another time.

Little Falls is a town of over 8,000 and there is a falls on the Mississippi River for which the town is named. We stopped at the visitor center and received a concise summary of the town and some of the efforts underway to make the town just a little different from other communities. For instance, while there are some wall murals in town (which are popular in numerous towns), Little Falls is beginning efforts to install unique bike racks (see photos).

Unique bike racks

Unique bike racks


Unique bike racks

Unique bike racks

Little Falls was the source of water power and a lumbering community. Weyerhaeuser had a facility here and one of the Weyerhaeuser’s built a mansion here before moving to a larger house on Summit Avenue in St. Paul. The Weyerhaeuser mansion is available for viewing but we passed it by for spending two hours at the Charles Lindbergh house. First, though, was a picnic lunch at Maple Island Park along the Mississippi River.

The Lindbergh home is where he lived during his youth. The tour includes a half hour video, docent tour, and museum. Our MN Historical Society membership gave us free admission. The house is located along the river and was built around 1900. I am not sure what each reader remembers about Lindbergh but we were struck by the “humanness” of the man.

one view of the Lindbergh house

one view of the Lindbergh house

His dad and mom ended up getting divorced and he spent time with each. He was not a good student, ending high school early to raise food on the farm for WWI efforts. He was asked to leave the Univ. of Wisconsin in his sophomore year. But he had a scientific and mechanical mind; constructing a hot water heater and home heating system off the wood stove installed in 1917. He was attracted to airplanes early in his life, and spent time in the US Army Air Service for a few years. He was one of the early pilots delivering mail by air in a time when 75% or so of these pilots died in crashes.

the bed in the unheated porch where young Lindbergh  slept year round

the unheated porch Lindbergh slept in year round

The historic site presents a balanced view of his life. Obviously, his record-setting non-stop flight over the Atlantic in 1927 made him famous, and is highlighted at the museum. The kidnapping and killing of his infant child is also covered. However, they also cover his isolationist stance leading up to WWII-of course most Americans were before Pearl Harbor; his pro-German comments; and his anti-Semitic comments. After Pearl Harbor, he joined the war effort as a civilian volunteer (FDR refused to accept him in the military) and he provided valuable assistance to the military in the Pacific. The site also informs you that in the early 2000s, three people in Switzerland came forward and were proven to be his children due to a extra-marital liaison with a Swiss woman.

A few interesting tidbits. A. Charles and his mother shook hands every night before going to bed. B. He and his mother took an auto trip to California in 1916. At age 14, he was the driver. However, there were no fuel pumps in an automobile then so gas was fed to the engine by gravity. BUT, going to CA means going over the mountains. How do you get gas while going uphill? You drive backwards up the mountain!!! It took them 40 days to make the trip.

The restored car that the Lindberghs  took over the mountains to CA in 1916

The restored car that the Lindberghs took over the mountains to CA in 1916

After Lindbergh, we checked into the Waller House B & B, a very nice facility just a few blocks from downtown. The owners used to live in the Twin Cities and the husband worked at the Ford Plant. Dinner was at A.T. The Black and White cafe where the food was excellent. The husband and wife owners are Le Cordon Bleu trained and the food had excellent blends of ingredients and textures. Their chocolate mousse was one of the best I have ever had.

Chocolate mousse at A.T. The Black and White cafe

Chocolate mousse at A.T. The Black and White cafe

All in all, a brief visit to Little Falls has been pleasant. Another community whose initial reason for being, lumbering, has died out. Later on a strong boat manufacturing facility proved an economic engine but while still here, is much reduced in scope. The town still presents itself to an outsider as a pleasant, well-maintained community.

wall  mural in  Little Falls MN

wall mural in Little Falls MN

Earlier in the week I was an election judge for the primary election and attended Mayor Coleman’s presentation of the 2015 City of St. Paul budget. I am not sure why I did the budget presentation. I guess there was a sense of one should be involved in your local government but the presentation, while well done, was obviously a media event. 99.44% of the people there, over 150 in my estimation, were “suits”. No budget summary was distributed to normal people and no questions were taken. So, not an event I am likely to repeat.

Mayor Coleman making his budget presentation

Mayor Coleman making his budget presentation

When I retired in 2012, I needed a few activities to keep me active. One of the items was to volunteer as an election judge. In 2012, I worked the presidential election that brought in big crowds. I was a newbie and spent the entire day helping people figure out which line to get into. So when I volunteered for this year, I was a little nervous. All judges must take a multi-hour training class, I did mine online this year. There is a lot to know and I was uncertain I would remember the rules for registering, what to do with spoiled ballots, can you or can’t you use a cell phone in the voting booth (no), etc.

I was assigned to a different location than 2012, the Jimmie Lee Community Center at Lexington and Marshall. This new location also was the voting place for two precincts, meaning a need to help people figure out which precinct they were in. The working hours are from 6 AM to 8:45 PM, which leaves just enough time to set up and take down the equipment and signs before and after the voting hours of 7 AM to 8 PM. I drove there. Chris needed the car later in the day so she tried out a new bus line that was recently added. It is even closer to our condo that the St. Paul-MOA-airport line and goes up Lexington to Har Mar Mall. Our precinct has 2600 registered voters. This was a primary election, so only statewide offices with challenges were at stake. Well, after 13 hours of voting time, we processed 9 new registrations to vote and 203 people who cast their ballot. In 2012, we had more than 203 voters in the first hour. My biggest challenge was to stay awake.

I had brought a book to read (actually re-read, Asimov’s “Forward the Foundation”) but I only had snippets of time to read; a half-page here, a page and a half there. My morning task was easy, got me into the swing of things without worrying if I would screw up or not. I was the ballot counter official, showing people where to put their ballot in the counting machine, directing them to another spot if they voted wrong and the machine rejected their ballot (in a primary you only vote for candidates of one party). Despite instructions, by the end of the day we had 10 spoiled ballots from people who voted for multiple parties or multiple candidates in one race. I also had the major responsibility of handing out the “I Voted” stickers. It is surprising how polite people were and either truly wanted a sticker or enthusiastically pretended they did and took one with an eager, “Yes, thanks”. Even young men in their 20’s were eager recipients of a sticker. Relatively early on I witnessed the first spoiled ballot and could observe the process of discarding but still keeping track of the number of bad ballots and replacing it with a new one.

This easy first position coupled with the light traffic of a primary election made me more confident as I tackled job two-ballot judge. From noon until 8 pm, I was one of two ballot judges who distributed ballots to people who have registered today or were previously registered. (Registration judges validated their ability to vote.) Ballot judges are responsible for tracking the ballots distributed, making sure you only give a ballot to a person who is properly voting in this precinct. We have hourly checks on the total ballots, cross-checking on the number of ballots accepted by the ballot counter with the number of voters approved, spoiled ballots, blank ballots opened, etc. SUCCESS! our numbers at the end of the day tallied up. However, there was a time or two during the hourly checks during the day when my quick math totals were off and I had to say OOPS, 125 and 18 are 143, not 133.

Since it was a slow day, I was able to observe and/or talk to voters. We had one woman complain that we set up the voting booths too far from the registration table and ballot counter and that people who had difficulty walking (not her) were being inconvenienced. The head judge moved the booth with the chair closer to at least partially remedy the issue. There was a very nice young woman who translated our directions into Hmong for her parents and then came back and registered and voted afterwards. There was the guy who voted and told me how he had been a political science professor at St. John’s in 1971 and decided he should move to St. Paul and become involved in politics. He ended up heading a series of free health clinics. He is working on his wife to retire so they can travel more; she said she has a counter on her desk until next March when she turns 65 and will quit. There were a number of parents with their children in tow, most were very well-behaved.

The head judge was new to this precinct also. He had been a head judge before but not here so he had an opportunity to be concerned whether everything would turn out okay. (They did.) He told me since I had not noticed (there’s a surprise) he was one of the people in the training videos I had watched online. Several of us were new to this precinct but all of us had signed up to work the general election in November so we will return and be much more comfortable in the setting. At least two of the judges had worked here before. There were about ten judges in all. The head judge, a new registration judge, two judges to verify previously registered voters, two ballot judges, one election counting machine judge, and a greeter to direct people to the correct precincts. Three people only worked partial shifts, the rest of us worked the entire day. The head judge informed me that in Ramsey County, election judges are sent out to nursing homes in advance of the elections to allow residents to vote via absentee ballot. There are about 35 nursing homes they visit. They do not go to assisted living or independent living areas, just the nursing home component.

After a couple of hours, the head judge from the second precinct whose ballot area was behind a curtain in the huge gym we were using would start wandering over to compare total voters between the two precincts. Thus, began an epic journey for him, as he must have checked our counter about every ten minutes. After a while it became a game. We were always slightly ahead, 3 ballots, 10 ballots, maybe 15 ballots. Around 6 pm it seemed his precinct might pull ahead as they received a boost from a quick influx of about 8 voters. We ended the night the victors, 203 to 201. Chris picked me up in the parking lot and it was home to bed.

Ed and Chris Little Falls, 10 pm

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2014 Trip Five, August 10, Summer in the Cities

Saint Paul MN Sunday August 10, 2014

Deb and Rebecca came in late Thursday night from Boston to visit. It is always such a pleasure when they are in town. They slept at Sarah and Sarah’s apartment this time but we fed them daily and were able to spend time with them each day.

Deb and Rebecca at Minnehaha Park

Rebecca and Deb at Minnehaha Park

Circus Juventus

Circus Juventus

Saturday night we went to see Circus Juventus. I think the four of them were a little uncertain when we mentioned Circus Juventus; after all, it is a school for kids up through high school about circus performing, whether as an after-school activity or as a training ground for a career. This is CJ’s 20th anniversary and their summer show always highlights their older performers; their May show gives everyone a chance to perform and we consider that show more for parents and grandparents. The title of the show was “Neverland” based on the Peter Pan story. They have made great strides in 20 years, the sets, costumes, staging, and acts are all amazing. Our four guests were all overwhelmed with the capabilities of the students-and Sarah L was pretty intrigued by the elaborate safety rigging. One of the nine graduating seniors will be starting at Ecole National de Cirque this fall ( a professional circus school in Montreal). He played Hook. We all commented that college admission resumes or videos for these students must be pretty impressive to admission officers.

one of the trapeze acts

one of the trapeze acts

The facility seats 900 and CJ puts on 21 shows, all are sold out. We walked to the arena, it is just up the hill from our condo and on-street parking becomes very crowded. Our usher was a parent of a 10th grader who has been with CJ since 2005. As you peruse the list of performers, you observe that most of the “older” ones have been with CJ at least six years. So what kind of acts did they perform? There was trampoline and dance but the three-hour performance includes high wire walking including sitting on a chair on the wire and pulling the chair out from under you while on the high wire; fire dancing including gymnastics on a stand with fire ringing the bottom of the stand; flying trapeze where aerialist one (Hook) catches aerialist two; trampoline including landing on a slim board in the air and landing three people high; triple trapeze with first set on a swinging contraption, second set hanging from the first set, and third set of performers hanging from the second set; climbing up and rolling down silks hanging from the rafters; etc. Our jaws dropped numerous times during the evening.

Because of the constant motion and multiple focus points, photos usually came out fuzzy. This video came out fairly well, overlook the mis-directed spots.

The six of us and Kathy went to the Mu Performing Arts production of “A Little Night Music”. Mu is an Asian-American focused theater and it was interesting to view their staging of the play which is set in Sweden around the 1900s. We wrote about Mu earlier this summer when Kathy, Chris and I went down to Rochester in late June to see one of their productions. They do nice work and “A Little Night Music” was well done. An understudy stepped in for the Friday night performance and she did an excellent job as Desiree.

Double surrey at Minnehaha

Double surrey at Minnehaha

If you know our daughters, you can understand that vacation for them means sleeping late so after a late brunch at our condo on Friday, we headed over to Minnehaha Park and went for a bicycle/surrey ride. Another item that had been on our list. Since Sarah L had to work, the five of us just fit on a double surrey (no fringe on top) for an hour “zipping” around the park. Minnehaha Park may be in Minneapolis but we still think it is a great place to visit.

At Bernie's house

At Bernie’s house


part of Bernie back yard

part of Bernie back yard


Monarch butterfly in backyard

Monarch butterfly in backyard

Saturday Bernie hosted us at her house for a lunch of chicken and vegetable ka-bobs. Her rain gardens are in full bloom and are successful in attracting butterflies-one of her goals. The day was overcast but despite a few sprinkles we were able to be outside most of the time.

Before Deb and Rebecca arrived, we did more touring along the Mississippi. Wednesday morning we took the Landmark Center tour of “The Great River”. The weather was fantastic and the river was back within its banks. If I am able to remember all of the details, by now I could give a pretty informed tour. We knew about one half of the stories/details our guide provided. I had forgotten that Raspberry Island used to be called Navy Island due to a WWII training facility there. I should have recalled it, when we lived in South St. Paul as kids there were several young men in our neighborhood who practiced crew out of the Minnesota Boat Club building which dates back to 1910.

Bald eagle along the Mississippi

Bald eagle along the Mississippi

Thursday night was a pontoon birding trip along the Mississippi River, leaving from Harriet Island. We spent about two hours on the river. The trip was sponsored by the Mississippi River Fund in conjunction with the National Park Service (Mississippi National River and Recreation Area). Anna from the River Fund was our driver and Ranger Sharon was our bird expert. We saw several bald eagles, chimney swifts, pileated woodpecker, egret and blue herons. Again, it was a great evening and the ride itself was a pleasant way to spend two hours along the Mississippi.

Blue heron

Blue heron

Pontoon birding trip

Pontoon birding trip

View of St.  Paul from the Mississippi River

View of St. Paul from the Mississippi River

Our final Mississippi River time was lunch with Chris and Nelson along the river in NE Minneapolis followed by a trip across the Stone Arch bridge from the east side this time. Maybe one of these years we will finally travel abroad and can compare notes with them and our other cousins who are more international travelers than we are.

Ed and Chris Monday August 11 5:15 pm

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2014 Trip Five, August 3, Summer in the Cities

Saint Paul, MN  Sunday August 3

We have been back from WI for a week now and are continuing our explorations of our home area, an area we have neglected for the last 18 months as we have traveled around the U.S.  The last week was one in which we continued testing out a few new  events unaccomplished in our previous ten years here.

Friday and Saturday we explored the Minnesota Fringe Festival. The Fringe Festival is a potpourri of short (less than 60 minutes), adventurous acts of comedy, drama, dance, music or a combination of the former. This year there are 169 different shows at 19 different venues around Minneapolis. Each show is performed five times over an 11 day period, but at just one of the 19 different venues. Show descriptions are brief, until online reviews are written providing an attendee’s explanation and critique of a show. Ticket options vary from one show, to ten ticket packages, on up to an unlimited number. Shows are offered every 90 minutes. To get into a show, you have to show up, get in line to obtain a ticket, and then get in line to get into the theater. Seating capacity varies on the venue. Performers actually receive 65% of the ticket revenue for each show they perform so online reviews are important. The artists may also have friends passing out flyers about their show at some of the other 168 shows. It seems they also try to get friends to write early positive reviews, sort of stacking the deck.  One veteran fringe-goer we talked to in line said to pay more attention to reviews written by people who write multiple reviews, those are less likely to be written by friends or family.

There are about 25 fringe festivals in the U.S, 10-12 in Europe,and another 10-12 in Canada and Australia. Minnesota Fringe is the largest non-juried festival in the United States and the third-largest Fringe festival in North America. This year is the 21st one in Minnesota. Supposedly it started in Edinburgh Scotland in 1947 but took a while to gain traction elsewhere.

Doing the Fringe Friday night in Lyn-Lake area

Doing the Fringe Friday night in Lyn-Lake area

This being our first time, our tactic was to focus on two locations and decide among shows being offered Friday and Saturday. Friday evening we were in the Lyndale-Lake area with three venues close by each other. Saturday we chose the Rarig Center at the U which offered four venues in the same building. We figured trying to drive to another part of town and get into a theater in 30 minutes would be a pain. We had purchased a punch card good for ten tickets, or five shows for us as a couple. Of course, given our habits, we were in each area plenty early. In fact, Friday night we had time to walk around Lyn-Lake and have appetizers at Bryant -Lake Bowl (one of the venues). The neighborhood has changed dramatically since we lived here 40 years ago; much more upscale housing nowadays.  This first weekend of fringe we did not encounter any sold out performances; supposedly this is likely the second weekend as reviews coalesce around the top shows and attendees try to make sure they can get in to the top performances.

Four of our choices were comedies, one was a mystery. Three were pretty decent, one so-so and one kinda lousy. The lousy one was still receiving pretty positive reviews 24 hours later from other people on-line. No sense describing the plots, you won’t see them and I probably could not detail them in an interesting and concise fashion. But the overall experience was a fun one; one we might well continue if we are home next summer. But we think five is a reasonable number to see. There is considerable standing around time for a performance that probably will only last 45-55 minutes. (If the show goes over 60 minutes, they turn on the stage lights and tell them to get off.)

Saturday was a particularly busy day. A morning bike ride went into Crosby Farm Park to observe if the bike/walking trails had been completely cleaned up after the flooded Mississippi River had inundated the park. The City crews had done a great job and we enjoyed the ride, even more so when Jim and Heidi spotted us on the path and we stopped to chat for a while. Unfortunately our Fringe Festival activities prevented us from watching Jim’s St. Paul Pioneers football team win again Saturday afternoon.  One more win and they are on to another national title play off next January in Florida. We may have to adjust our winter plans if they make the championship.  After the bike ride, we headed over to the Guthrie area of Minneapolis. We had a 1 P.M. walking tour sponsored by the Mill City Museum.

Jim, Heidi and Chris along the bike trail

Jim, Heidi and Chris along the bike trail

This walking tour was about the conditions for working women in the mill area during the late 1800s and early 1900s. A re-enactor in period dress gave the presentation for us and about 15 others as we walked along the mill area streets and the river. The day was warm and hazy (smoke from Canadian wildfires has drifted our way) but the 90 minute tour was worthwhile. The re-enactor portrayed a female reporter(Eva Valesh) for a St. Paul labor paper who later became a union organizer and national speaker.Valesh was just 19 when she began reporting and would go undercover, get jobs in the factories, and then report on working conditions. The good factories were relatively clean with reasonable wages for the time ($6-7 per week.) Many were dirty, low paying, and required standing on concrete for 10 hours per day, frequently 6 days per week. At one factory, the women went on strike for better working conditions, the owner would not make improvements and the factory closed and went bankrupt a few months later. When Valesh was on her speaking tours, she charged $5 per speech except when she was back in Minneapolis where she presented her talks for free.

Mill City Museum working women tour

Mill City Museum working women tour

Sunday we returned to the Mill City Museum for another 90 minute walking tour. While we were waiting for it to begin, we caught the 19 minute film on the history of Minneapolis. It is a humorous account of the city’s history but there is one inaccuracy. When talking about the local labor movement, the narrator (Kevin Kling) gives the history of Minneapolis labor but calls it Twin City labor history. In reality, the two cities approached labor relations in completely different attitudes. St. Paul was more benevolent while Minneapolis was run by corporations who maintained a strict anti-union workforce until the 1930s and 40s.

St. Anthony falls area today at non-flood and with water not diverted for mills

St. Anthony falls area today at non-flood and with water not diverted for mills

The  Sunday walking tour was about the water power of the falls. In this tour, a costumed museum interpreter portrays William de la Barre, who was born in Austria and moved to Minneapolis from Philadelphia to be the head engineer working for the Washburn Crosby mills and water power company. He spent half a century developing flour mills and waterpower for the company. The guide has been giving these presentations for a dozen years and does it very well. The Washburn-Crosby mills were the forerunner of today’s General Mills. General Mills makes a flour labeled as Gold Medal. In 1880, the national milling association held an international competition to determine the best flour. The Washburn Crosby company, using the new technology that de la Barre installed, won the gold prize and hence the brand name. Fortunately for the company, the competition was only held once and thus the prize could not be claimed by any other company.

Engineering the Falls Mill City Museum tour

Engineering the Falls Mill City Museum tour

Mr. de la Barre was hired after the Washburn A mill exploded in 1878 to build a new mill that would not explode and went on the be the person responsible for controlling and maximizing the water power created at St. Anthony Falls as Washburn bought up all of the riverfront land and its water rights. The city wanted water power and the industry it would sustain. Flour mills, saw mills and textile mills all lined the riverfront and along the parallel canal which had been created to furnish the waterpower. Over time, saw mills and textile mills dropped out and milling became the dominant force for many decades. The river bed geology is soft sandstone over a varying depth of harder limestone. Besides creating Minnehaha and St. Anthony Falls, the geology led to numerous sinkholes and collapsed tunnels at the dam and raceways that had to be repaired.  One factoid we learned, the original suspension bridge on Hennepin Avenue was the first bridge crossing the Mississippi River.  (St. Louis tries to take credit erroneously.)  Izzy’s ice cream has located a second shop three blocks from the Mill City Museum so we ended our afternoon activities with a visit there.

Mill City ruins area of Minneapolis

Mill City ruins area of Minneapolis

Earlier in the week I volunteered for the National Park Service doing the enviable task of pulling weeds. At Coldwater Springs is a new park along the Mississippi created on the site of a spring that provided water to Fort Snelling. The Park Service has been the responsible party in bringing this to fruition as a park. In most of the Mississippi River National River and Recreation area, they just partner with local governments and park agencies to provide a coordinated approach. I spent 1.75 hours bending over, hunched over, or kneeling on the ground pulling out crown vetch. Great fun;  my lower back is still crying out to me.

Thursday night was the Lynx, our WNBA team that has won the WNBA championship two of the last three years, finishing second the third year.  We met the Sarahs and some of their friends at Kieran’s Irish pub before the game. The Lynx had close to a sell out crowd at Target Center as they played the Phoenix Mercury, the team currently with the best record in the WNBA and riding a 16 game winning streak.  Well, the Lynx put an end to that streak in an exciting game.

MN Lynx defeat the Phoenix Mercury

MN Lynx defeat the Phoenix Mercury

The rest of the week was quieter. We had dinner with Kathy and breakfast with Bernie and Tony.  We paid a visit to Indian Mounds Park in the Dayton’s Bluff area of St. Paul. We figured if we drive to Iowa and Mississippi to see Native American mounds, we can certainly make another visit to our local ones. There is no museum here though.

Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul

Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul

 

 

Ed and Chris Monday August 4  2 PM

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