2011-09-21 (Wed) to 2011-10-01 (Sun) Trip from Atlanta to Minneapolis, MN and back

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I have a friend who had surgery and I volunteered to help her during recovery afterward. We worked together in Charleston, SC in the mid-1970’s. We’ve kept in touch and she’s been able to visit me on a couple of occasions since then. Since retirement, I’ve wanted to travel, and her surgery gave me a ‘reason’ to drive to Minneapolis from Atlanta. I packed as much as I could the day before leaving, and on the morning of the trip, I packed the last-minute things. I wanted to leave about 7am, but I didn’t get away until 9am. I programmed the Garmin GPS with her address and started driving with the directions of the machine. I confess that I have a large book of maps by state, but – I trust the Garmin so much, I didn’t even look at it.

Entrance to Ameristar Casino and Hotel in St. Charles, MO (outside of St. Louis)

Entrance to Ameristar Casino and Hotel in St. Charles, MO (outside of St. Louis)

I stopped several times for gas, food, and a break. I would hit the radio ‘scan’ butten when a station began to drift and I was able to find something interesting on the radio during the whold trip. (I confess that I’m not very picky about stations – mostly, I’ll listen to anything. Note: When I first moved to Atlanta, I would drive to SC to visit my parents and my car only had an AM radio. In the middle of the drive to SC, there were NO radio stations available to listen to. So, the ability to have a radio station for the whole trip is noteworthy.) About dusk, I was tired of driving and the GPS had directed me along the interstates to St. Louis. I crossed the mighty Mississippi River over the Martin Luther King bridge and had a couple of very tricky turns along the crossing highways. I didn’t know anything about St. Louis, but I drove using the GPS directions.  I knew that the approximate distance of the total trip was 1,100 miles and that St. Louis was about half way. As I crossed the St. Charles river, I saw the Ameristar casino on my right. As I like to explore casinos, I stopped and toured the facility. Previously, I’ve been to Las Vegas and read about the sign-up for rewards programs that the casinos there offer. As I entered the casino, I saw a rewards sign-up desk and stopped for a plastic card and to be entered into their computer system. I spent about $5 on several machines and decided that paying for flashing lights and catchy tunes was only good for a little while. I found a parking spot and spent the night.

2011-09-28_IA-Hwy27_Dennys

2011-09-28_IA-Hwy27_Dennys

The next morning, I started driving about 8am and again stopped several times for breaks. I started driving on an interstate toward Kansas City for about 20 miles out of the city, and then drove north on state roads until I reached Minneapolis. As I drove, I began on the west of the river and parallel to it for many miles. I thought that I saw some fields that had previously been flooded by the river a few months ago because it looked like the crops had been damaged. During the time period of the flood, the news media showed many pictures. I hadn’t seen any reports of how bad the actual flooding was because I think that many towns on the river were warned of the river’s rise and deployed many sandbags. In addition, I think that opening the river floodgates to the crop fields alongside of the river helped prevent additional damage. The GPS showed that the Mississippi River was many miles to my right. On the road, the only indication of a nearby river was that occasionally, I would see a sign pointing to the right indicating that there was a landing in that direction.

2011-09-28_IA-Hwy27_Windgenerator

2011-09-28_IA-Hwy27_Windgenerator

I saw many corn fields in Iowa. They stretched for miles and seemed endless. I was amazed at how many trees and vegetation had to be removed in order to have the large corn fields. I now understood why the midwest is described as being the ‘breadbasket of America’. I saw some farmers harvesting the corn and various machines were in the fields. The road through Iowa wasn’t an interstate, but it was a four-land divided highway that was very flat (and somewhat worn by trucks and many years of travellers). For lunch, I stopped at a Denny’s. I just wanted a place to sit-down and rest a few minutes.
In north Iowa, I saw my first ‘wind farm’. The huge wind turbines seemed to turn slowly in the breeze.  They were only clusted in one area and I wondered if they were placed there as a pilot – to see if they would actually generate enough electricity to warrant installation in this area. (Note: on my return trip, the windmills were not turning.)
I arrived in Minneapolis and got into the afternoon rush-hour traffic, but the GPS kept me on the road to my friends house. She told me that she would probably get out of the hospital on Friday, and that the hospital was near her house. When the GPS indicated that I was to exit the main road, I noticed a sign for a hospital and drove to it. I checked the information that my friend had told me and this hospital was where she had her surgery. It was near dusk and I parked the van nearby. (Note: there was a hospital parking deck with a bar indicating that it was just under 6 feet in height. I drove Vanna White up to the bar, and decided that she probably would be damaged by some interior structure if I entered – so-o-o-o  I had to back out and park down a street.)  When I opened the door, I was surprised to learn that the outside air there was quite cool. I found my jacket and called her in the hospital. She told me what room she was in and I found it without much problem. She seemed to be doing well and we talked for a while. She had a friend from her work come visit and about 8:30, I left to go to her house. She had left a key outside for me. The only navigational problem of the trip began at this time. It was dark and the GPS told me the turns, but the house number wasn’t visible and Garmin didn’t tell me exactly ‘which’ house was my friends. I hated to do it, but I called her again in the hospital and she told me that her house was in the middle of the block and what I should look for. I found it and got in, unpacked, and had a great night’s sleep.
The next morning, my friend was released from the hospital about 11:00am and her sister was scheduled fly come to Minneapolis and drive her home. I had watched some tv and heard them drive up. I helped her as much as I could, but she was doing well and just needed to rest and recover. Her sister flew out on Sunday, and I was to help her in whatever way was needed – and so I did. She was up and about and several days after arriving, I drove her to see her doctor and the doctor removed the surgery drainage tubes. The weather was great for the time that I visited. After my friend felt better, we walked around a neighborhood park one afternoon (Pamela Park), and the next day went to a nearby mall (Southgate) and window-shopped.

By the end of the week, we ventured to Minnenonka Park. We had a picnic lunch, and took a short walk around the area to look at the waterfall and beautiful flowers. After that, we drove to Woods Park and took a longer walk around the lake. It was beautiful and I was thankful that my friend was feeling well enough to venture out.

2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,LightRailApproachingMallOfAmerica

2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,LightRailApproachingMallOfAmerica

The following day, we rode the light rail from the Mall of America to downtown. Minneapolis has a very wide sidewalk area they called Nickolette Mall where vendors sell their wares. It was cool outside and the wind really picked up between the tall downtown buildings. We bought some tomatoes, bread and jelly, and we had scones for a snack. I took a lot of pictures from the train and admired all of the pretty plants in parks along the way.

2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall(Vendors)

2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall(Vendors)

2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall-LightRail

2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall-LightRail

2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall-Macys

2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall-Macys

2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall-Vendors1

2011-09-29_MNMinneapolis,NickoletteMall-Vendors1

My final full-day in Minneapolis was Friday. My friends sister was scheduled to return and all of us planned to spend time at the Mall of America (one of the items on my ‘bucket’ list). I had heard about the large mall, and it was only about 6 miles from my friends house. I wanted to see it before returning to Atlanta – just to see what was there. We spent the day looking in the mall in various stores. I bought my friend a shot-glass, so that she would have a special glass that would make it easier for her to take her pills. I bought her sister a Mall-of- America ballpoint pen. Everyone should have both a shot-glass and a ballpoint pen with Mall-of-America written on them, right? After shopping in the mall, we went across the street to Ikea and shopped there. I had never visited that store before and was amazed at all of the items sold – they were just ‘different’ than the ones found in regular American stores. After all, the company is from Sweden and the European style-of-living is very spartan compared to American opulence. By the end of both of the stops, I was tired of walking. We had walked for hours. We returned to my friends house and went out to eat at a very nice, nearby restaurant that night. (Salut) It was a very appropriate end to my stay in Minneapolis by having such a wonderful dining experience.

(Note: I think that I picked the one, good-weather week in the fall that Minneapolis has. The weather was excellent the whole time. I had discussed with my friend about the possibility of snow this time of year. She told me that it was ‘possible’, but – not ‘probable’.  I told her that if it snowed after I arrived, that meant that she would have to put-up-with-me the while winter — because, I don’t know how to drive in snow.)

2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaPark-ParkingAreaPayStation

2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaPark-ParkingAreaPayStation

2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaPark-StairwayToBottomOfWaterfall

2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaPark-StairwayToBottomOfWaterfall

2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaPark-Stonewall-and-WalkwayAtTopOfWaterfall

2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaPark-Stonewall-and-WalkwayAtTopOfWaterfall

2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaParkWaterfall

2011-09-28_MNMinnetonkaParkWaterfall

2011-09-28_MNEdina,WoodsPark-Walkway(BridgeOverPond)

2011-09-28_MNEdina,WoodsPark-Walkway(BridgeOverPond)

The most unusual thing happened. At my friends house, there was a picture on the wall and I noticed that it was painted by Elsie Lewis Fogle. Well, I graduated high school with Elsie Lewis and she later married and started painting. Our high school class had a reunion a couple of years ago and I got to talk with her for a few minutes. This is another of my ‘small world’ experiences. I presume that my friend had purchased the picture when we worked in Charleston many years ago. (Both my friend and I had houses on the Isle of Palms at the time we worked in Charleston. The sand dunes in the picture reminds me a lot of the South Carolina coast and the Isle of Palms.)

2011-09-28_MNEdina,_ElsieLewisFogle-Picture

2011-09-28_MNEdina,_ElsieLewisFogle-Picture

The next morning, Saturday, I packed the van and left mid-morning. My friend was doing well and her sister would be there for a few days. My return drive to Atlanta was on the same route as the drive there. The Garmin GPS was essential to help with all the road changes in St. Louis. I stopped at the casino again because I knew that it was an easy access area. I was able to take a picture of the river as I crossed it early the next morning. I held the camera in the direction of the left side and took the picture by pushing the camera button while driving. I felt comfortable doing the picture that way because there was very little traffic. The sun was rising in the east as I drove and it hurt my eyes for a while. I put on sunglasses to help reduce the direct light but, it was still rough driving. My saving grace for this part of the drive was that it was early Sunday morning and there wasn’t much traffic.

2011-10-02_MOStLouis,MississippiRiver(MartinLutherKingBridge)2

2011-10-02_MOStLouis,MississippiRiver(MartinLutherKingBridge)2

Later during the drive and near Nashville, the North/South traffic increased substantially over the previous East/West route that I had been on. There was a little construction to slow down the pace, but the remainder of the trip wasn’t bad. The interstate to Chattanooga had been widened and improved many years ago. I remember that it was only 2 lanes for many years – and very hilly and winding. I arrived back in Atlanta about 4pm. I was tired, but happy to be home. It had been a really good trip.