Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Visiting Minnesota

This summer, we went to Minnesota! We didn't take the fast approach of taking an airplane, either; we rented a Ford Explorer and made a days-long road trip of it.

Here are some of the highlights of our adventure:

Tuesday, July 3

We headed out around 9:00 Tuesday morning (Tuesday is our trash day, and we wanted to wait until after the trash and recycling had been picked up; otherwise we might possibly have left a little earlier. But possibly not.) and drove for a couple of hours before stopping for lunch at the Fazoli's in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. (We really miss having a Fazoli's near us, and go to one when we can.)

Our next stop, perhaps predictably for us, was Rock City Gardens:

After spending a few hours there, we hopped back in the car and drove to Kentucky:

(Anna did a lot of the driving at this point; I was in charge of napping and taking pictures of the road.) We drove for several hours, the girls watching "Scooby Doo" in the back seat, and stopped to spend the night at the Comfort Suites in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, about 350 miles from home--a pretty good day's travel, especially for us.

Wednesday, July 4

On Wednesday morning we got up, had breakfast at the hotel, and went to the closest Starbucks we could find to get Elyse a cake pop, as we had promised:

Then we went to John James Audubon State Park in Henderson, a beautiful park with a great history, and a wonderful place to visit for those of us who love birds:

I do realize that none of the above are birds; I was very taken with the building, which was built eighty-something years ago as a WPA project, and spent most of my time taking pictures of it. We did see plenty of birds, but I didn't get any pictures of them. A raccoon family and a baby deer came to visit one of the feeding stations while we were at the viewing area, and I did get some pictures of them; you can kind of make them out in this picture:

(This was not the last time I would wish I had brought my Canon on this trip instead of just relying on my phone's camera.)

We climbed to the top of the museum's tower:

but did not go down these steps:

(Actually, I did go part-way down, but it was a sludgy mess, and it looked like a good hiding place for monsters, so I didn't explore too much.)

We then drove for a few more hours, and spent the night in Hazelwood, Missouri.

Thursday, July 5

Thursday we went to the Saint Louis Zoo in (guess where?) Saint Louis. It's a great zoo, and also, remarkably enough, free.

It also has one of the coolest visitor's centers I've ever seen, with a cafe (which is definitely not free), a gift shop (also not free), a first-floor education center, and, suspended from the ceiling, a shark and giant squid (not real ones, of course):

I took lots of pictures of animals, but most of them, frankly, aren't all that interesting. However, here is a polar bear with a frozen food ball (or something like that), and some penguins:

After a few hours at the zoo, we headed out for the road again, drove for several hours, including through a storm:

stopped for supper at a Denny's (where we were plagued by flies, which pretty much ruined our meal):

and finally stopped to spend the night in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Friday, July 6

Friday morning we drove for another hour or so through the pleasant, flat land of Iowa, with its wind farms:

crossed over into Minnesota right around noon:

drove for another hour or so through the pleasant, flat land of Minnesota:

and finally arrived in Faribault, Minnesota, to the house of Mary Jo and Denny (who will henceforth be referred to as Gramma and Grandpa). We settled in at their house and had some lunch, and rested for a while.

That afternoon, Anna and the girls went to Molly's house, and they all went to the lake to do whatever it is you do at the lake in Minnesota. At least one of those things is swimming, if the following picture, which Anna texted to me, is anything to go by:

Saturday, July 7

Saturday's big adventure was going to the Minnesota Zoo with Theresa and her kids. Here are some of the pictures I took there:

Jessica set up this picture, and I took advantage of the arrangement to take a picture of my own:

Various members of our party looking at things:

(I call this "Chiaroscuro at the Aquarium")

This is another picture that Jessica set up, and again I swept in and took a picture of my own:

As I've said before, if I didn't post the occasional selfie, I'd barely be represented on this blog. This is me waiting for the bird show. There were a lot of people behind me, but I cropped them all out so it looks like I'm alone in some sort of post-apocalyptic gladiator arena:

A couple of pictures from the bird show:

Jessica taking a picture after the bird show:

This is Anna and Theresa at the playground while the kids played. What struck me about this picture is that, though I doubt they were aware of it, they were sitting in virtually identical positions:


Sunday, July 8

Sunday began with a trip to Luke and Courtney's house for brunch. Before and after the pancakes and eggs (which were very good, Courtney!), the girls played with their cousins:

After eating, we went for a walk to the park near their house:

From Luke and Courtney's house, we went to Theresa and Jeb's house on the lake for a family gathering. We were there for around four hours; here are some of the pictures I took:

There are few things Jessica loves as much as playing with (and reading with) her young cousins:

And spending time with cats:

(That's Oliver, by the way.)

Monday, July 9

Monday was our final day in Minnesota. That morning, Anna and the girls went out with Gramma and Grandpa to the camper and I stayed at their house to do some grading (my summer students' research papers were due Sunday). Anna texted these pictures to me:

After lunch we loaded up the car, said our goodbyes, and pointed ourselves towards the south and home. We drove for several hours and a few hundred miles, and spent the night in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

Tuesday, July 10

Tuesday morning we spent some time watching Animal Planet shows in the hotel:

I'm personally glad we don't watch any of these Animal Planet shows on Hulu back home; since the Crocodile Hunter died, Animal Planet has really gone down hill. But I digress...this was the view from our hotel:

After a while we tore ourselves away from Animal Planet and views of corn fields, and headed out to put some more miles on the car. Somewhere -- I honestly have no idea where -- we passed a burning truck:

(Anna was driving at the time, otherwise I would not have taken this picture.) This wouldn't otherwise be notable, except this was the third time on this trip we passed a vehicle that was or recently had been on fire, which strikes me as a lot of burning vehicles.

We stopped for lunch at a Subway in Chesterfield, Missouri, and then went to Faust Park.

Faust Park has a Historic Village, much like the one at Stone Mountain that Jessica and I like to go to:

 (I took this picture through a window; you can't go inside the buildings.)

I believe this is the Fenton Mercantile. It reminded me of a combination of the Olsens' store in "Little House on the Prairie" and Ike Godsey's store in "The Waltons":

It was too hot to stay there for as long as I would have liked to; soon we were back on the road and traveling through rural Missouri:

The girls kept themselves amused in the backseat:

You can't quite tell in the picture above, but Elyse drew Scooby-Doo on Jessica's arm:

Anna did a lot of the driving, not just on this day but on the entire trip. I snuck this picture of her somewhere in Missouri:

If you look carefully, you can see that she has a box of peanut butter Ritz crackers beside her. That's one of the secrets to surviving a long drive like this.

We drove on for a while after sunset, and after passing through the late-night heavy traffic of Nashville (or it seemed like that to us, both the lateness of the night and the heaviness of the traffic; by then, Anna was grateful I was driving), we finally spent the night in La Vergne, Tennessee.

Wednesday, July 11

Wednesday morning we didn't dawdle too much in the hotel:

Because we wanted to stop at Rock City one more time, and then get home. We made it to Rock City in about two hours and spent about that long there:

Elyse added another cardinal to her ever-growing collection:

The above is the last picture I took on this trip. We were home in time for supper, glad to be back in our own place but a little sorry it was all over.

(For whatever it's worth, this is the longest blog post I've ever created, covering a span of nine days and including seventy-eight pictures!)

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