Sunday, April 28, 2013

Walking in Mankato

Yesterday dawned to be a lovely spring day, so I jumped in the car and headed for Mankato. I lived in Mankato for three years while working for the Minnesota Department of Health. However, I've not really been in the town since, only have driven through on the highway when making a trip to Nebraska or northwest Iowa.

This walk started from the City Center Hotel, a hotel and whole area that didn't exist at the time I lived here. At the beginning I walked by Reconciliation Park. I had heard of this but this was my first time I had seen it.

Mankato has the unfortunate history to be the location of the largest public execution in the United States. Thirty eight Indian men were executed here after the U.S. -Dakota War.

In the small park along the Minnesota River there are two monuments. The first looks like parchment.
 On the side facing the street (shown above) are the names of the men who were executed. On the opposite side is a poem and prayer. The poem, by Katherine Hughes is powerful. She wrote:

Remember the innocent dead
Both Dakota and white
Victims of events that they could not control.

Remember the guilty dead
Both white and Dakota
Whom reason abandoned. 

Regret the times and attitudes
That brought dishonor 
To both cultures. 

Respect the deeds and kindnesses
That brought honor
To both cultures. 

Next to this monument is a buffalo. 

The walk route took me along a street with old buildings on one side and railroad tracks and agri-industry businesses on the other. 

 Eventually I turned to the left walking by an industrial type sculpture.

Then I turned to the left and there was the Minnesota River.

This river begins on the Minnesota-South Dakota border at the point where Minnesota has a bit of a bulge to the west. The Minnesota River flows south through Minnesota and at Mankato starts to curve back north to end up joining the Mississippi River about 5 miles upstream from where I live.

Often this river is at flood stage when the snow melts, but the strange weather of the past year prevented that. Last summer most of the area drained by the Minnesota was experiencing a drought -- the soil went into winter very dry. The lingering winter meant the the snow melted quite late, with the frost out of the ground, and thus the melt soaked into the soil.

The walking route took me on a trail that is between the river and the flood wall.

When I came to the Main Street opening on the flood wall, the walking route took me through the downtown business area.

Again I found an old Carnegie Library.

 This is now used as an Art Center.

Turning a corner I found a coffee shop-- hurrah! I was ready for a coffee and had a nice bagel, too. Then I was off along residential streets, but a bit confused about the route. I ducked into the portico along the Lutheran Social Service Building in order to use the shade to help me use the GPS on my phone.

Continuing down the street I came upon this grand house.

A sign beside the house identified it as the Cray House and noted it was now in the Historic Register of Historic Places. The conical tower feature is repeated in other houses within this neighborhood.

Soon I was heading by east towards the public library. There is found a monument honoring those who served in the Korean Conflict.

 I stepped into the present city library to explore a bit and found this lovely fountain.

Nice walk in my old home town.

Walking in Excelsior

On Friday I went to the small suburb, Excelsior. Excelsior sits along side Lake Minnetonka and was known for having the Excelsior Amusement Park. At one time one take a street all the way from Stillwater, which sits east of St. Paul on the Minnesota- Wisconsin border to Excelsior.

Well, Excelsior still is along Lake Minnetonka and coming here on an April morning is probably a much better idea then an afternoon in July when the town will be crowded with people enjoying boating and other tourist attractions such as the restored steam boat.

The walk started from a cute coffee shop/bakery. I had a cup of coffee and a scone while I organized my books and reviewed the route for the walk.

Soon I was off on a walking trail that paralleled the trolley track. This trail went along St. Alban's Bay of Lake Minnetonka.

On Friday the lake still showed ice, not ready for boating. The temperatures, however, were the first of the season to climb into the 70s (21C), and it was lovely to be out walking. This was my first walk of the season without a coat or jacket -- oh heaven!

The lingering winter has delayed trees leafing out, so I got to see this lovely contrast of the trees against the blue sky.

This view of a small harbor gives one an idea of how many boats might be here on a lovely summer day.

The route required that I cut through a small wooded area to find the return trail.

Within sheltered areas I found lingering snow.

Back in the city I came upon this house. It is all that remains from the amusement park. This "cottage" was used to house the park managers.

Soon I was back on Water Street, the business area. I came upon an antique store that had posters out along the street that illustrated the life on Lake Minnetonka in the late 1940s - 1950s. 

Near this shop I found another shop called European Treasures. I just had to go in to see what it held. I told the owner I needed a fix of Europe before leaving in two months. I walked away with a hand towel made in Portugal. It has lovely embroidery on it, but also will make me think of the Portuguese students I encountered while teaching at the University of Pecs.

Back to the bakery to look again at the treats -- came home with loaf of sweet potato bread. I've never before had bread that contained sweet potatoes. It is quite nice for sandwiches -- gives the sandwich an unexpected flavor.

A lovely day in Excelsior and I took care of E in both my Walking Minnesota Cities and Walking the USA books.

Update on May 1: Today the Hennepin County Sheriff's  Office declared Ice Out on Lake Minnetonka. Only two other times in weather records has it taken until May for this to occur.

Art in Bloom

Last Thursday evening I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art event, Art in Bloom. The object of this event is for floral designers to create a piece that reflects or mirrors an object or painting in the museum. The viewing of the art and the floral designs is accompanied by wine and music, and there was a mob of people there.

We were greeted at the entrance with this grand bouquet.

Here are some favorites.

Above is a Japanese helmet -- artist unknown.

This the floral piece created to accompany it.

In the gallery associated with American Indian art I found this.

The original object, an American Indian coat is in the rear with the floral piece in the front.

And how this? Here is Tornado by Julius Holm.

And here is the floral piece created to mirror it.

It was a lovely evening at  the museum. I resolve to go back about several times during the coming year, probably in the morning when it will be more quiet to take a look at both new and old familiar things.

Minneapolis Mob?

I've been busy enough having adventures that I've not been writing about them. Here's the first of catch-up.

Each month the Minnesota History Center has a History Lounge. The April event featured author, Neal Karlen, speaking about this new book, Augie's Secrets.    Try the link if you want to learn more.

Karlen explained he had been trying to write this book for about 20 years, and finally when some of the principals in the stories reached their 90s, they decided to talk. I never knew anything about the Minneapolis Mob, and was totally amazed to learn that sports betting started in Minneapolis. It was originally called the Minneapolis Line. The activity moved to Las Vegas when Hubert Humphrey became the mayor of Minneapolis and drove one of the families out of the city; they re-located to Las Vegas. Enjoyed this whole lecture very much.

When I left the History Center the full moon was in view.
 Here's another view of the downtown St. Paul skyline, just at dusk.

To the east the Minnesota Capitol building looked beautiful.

 It was great to be out on a balmy evening, even if the snowbanks are still obvious!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Trying to Find Spring

Here's what I woke up to this morning.

It's beautiful, but it's also April 23. Enough already!

This helps readers understand why I went looking for spring by driving a bit further south.

Last November I also did this when the weather was warmer and did a walk in Des Moines. I had planned to also do the West Des Moines walk the next day, but winter arrived. I though a warmer day another time would be much better idea. I'm so glad I waited, for this walk didn't turn out to be what I expected. It would have been a miserable experience on a cold November day.

This walk is also named Valley Junction and I expected the route would take me through an interesting shopping area. Instead I did 10 K in residential areas, housing that appeared to be built post World War II lacking any kind of interesting architecture.

What helped a bit were surprises I found in a couple of yards. Somewhere beyond the 5K point these wooden sculptures surprised me.

These are both made from wood, obviously a very talented person did these. There were not any signs to explain anything about the objects.

While I was not enjoying scenic sights along this walk, I did find green grass and flowers.

I could have been home in the snow. Instead I added another 10 K to my distance records and added W to the Walking the USA book.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Adventures in Indianola

Today I enjoyed a French toast breakfast at the hotel
and then drove about 20 miles south to Indianola. Indianola has a population of about 15,000. The town was founded in 1849, three years after Iowa became a state. A Wikipedia article says the town was named after a town of the same name in Texas. (Indianola, Texas is now a ghost town, destroyed by a hurricane.)

The temperature early this morning was about 33 and there was a stiff wind blowing. I'm certainly in denial of the weather. I should have brought along a hat and gloves, had a winter coat. 

I went to Indianola to do a Volksmarch, picking this one to go in my Walking the USA for the letter, I. The walk box is located at Jiffy Express. I found the clerk at the counter here to be especially helpful.

I found the map and decided to do a 5K look that went around the Simpson College campus.

The route first went on city streets by an old Carnegie Library.

Indianola now has a new library, and this building is used by the Des Moines Area Opera. Walks often go by a Carnegie Library because some walkers keep track of how many of these buildings they can find.

The route took me north. I noticed a squirrel run and especially noticed it for it was a different color than the ones I see in Minnesota.  I was able to get this photo of this inquisitive fellow.

Soon I found myself on the campus of the college. Simpson was founded in 1860. It has many old buildings and also some quite new buildings.

This is College Hall. A careful look at the flags will show the American flag is at half-mast in honor of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombing.

I wandered into the library and found some interesting displays of old objects related to the college's history.

This is a set of Dresden china, owned by a music professor in the 1920s. It has a motif of buildings from the campus on the pieces.

And here's a band uniform from the 1950s.

I noticed some flowers! These are the first spring flowers I've seen outdoors this year.

Near this area I noticed this window in a old building.

With further investigation I learned this is a Science Building, built in 1889. And much to my surprise, one of the first students here was George Washington Carver.  Carver went on to finish his baccalaureate degree at Iowa State University, the first African-American student who graduated from the University.

The walk next took me by Buxton Park.

 This will be more lovely later in the spring and summer, but it looked good to me for we are seeing piles of white in Minnesota, rather than green grass.

I walked a large rectangle path north of the park and then back to the campus. Then the walk took me through a residential area. Glad to have been routed there, for in this neighborhood I saw something I've never seen before:

yes, indeed -- pink garbage cans. I noticed these by many houses in this neighborhood.

I was getting interested now for a break. The route took me through the downtown area and I spotted Uncommon Grounds. I decided to go there for a coffee and also got a half sandwich. All was good and I think I made a good choice for there was a steady line of people coming into this shop to pick up their lunch.

Leaving the coffee shop, this window caught my eye.

This building is now occupied by a law firm. It appeared that some kind of sign had been removed over the front door, this I have no idea about how old is this building nor what was its original use.

The last four blocks back to the start point were cold. In the time I was in the coffee shop the sun disappeared and gray clouds blew in. I was glad the remainder of the walk was very short.

My second adventure occurred a bit up the road.

Above is the National Balloon Museum, this kind of balloon:

Enjoyed a short visit here. I'd never before seen all the equipment that goes with the balloons, nor did I know anything about balloon competitions.

Returned to the Des Moines area and decided to try to find the Jordan Creek Shopping Center. I found Cheesecake Factory. Haven't been in this restaurant for years.

Enjoyed a lovely salad

and got a piece of cheesecake to bring back to the hotel for later this evening.

Sometimes the Best Adventure is No Adventure

Since Minnesota is having persistent winter I decided to go south for a couple of days. Another "wintery-mix" was forecast to begin yesterday afternoon. Well, at lunch time when I got out of a meeting -- held in a room with no windows-- I was most surprised to see the "wintery-mix" had already arrived. I decided to still go with the plan, but oh so slowly. It wasn't safe to drive much more than 30 mph (48 k). I promised myself to stop in Owatonna for "lunch." Got there about 3 PM. The normal 1.25 hour trip took a bit more than 2 hours.

I saw many vehicles in the ditch, a high percentage were vans. I think the drivers were going too fast for the road conditions and the vans didn't have the right weight for the road conditions.

While stopped in Owatonna, I opened up the web on my phone to see weather radar and could see the snow stopped somewhere on the Minnesota-Iowa border. Sure enough, although sometimes rain continued.

Arrived safely in Des Moines about 6:30 and checked into a hotel. About 8:00 PM I took a very cold walk, maybe only 100 meters to a nearby McDonald's. The temperature was in the mid 30s but the wind was really blowing and it was a cold,cold walk.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Walking in Chanhassen

We are still experiencing winter in Minnesota even though the date is April 12. So I pulled on corduroy slacks, a sweater, boots, and a winter coat and headed for Chanhassen.

According to a Wikipedia entry, Chanhassen is a combination American Indian word that means sugar maple tree. Chanhassen is a southwest suburb of Minneapolis, and according to Wikipedia the median household income is $92,000. This level of income is obvious as one walks about and looks at the homes. Chanhassen is somewhat famous for having the largest professional dinner theater in the United States.

The walk began at a lovely branch of the Carver County library system. Outside I found this lovely sculpture.

The walk continued past shops, not very interesting as they are built in a quite contemporary strip mall style. And I had to keep my eye on the sidewalk, too.

This time of year the sentiment begins to build that  Mother Nature put this here and Mother Nature can take it away!

At the 0.5 mark I found St. Hubert's Church.

Next to it is a late 19th century City Hall building, now apparently an office area for a diet food company.

The walk now turned to a winding street called Frontier Trail. I walked through a housing area built within an area of ravines and hills. The temperature was just at freezing (32F and +1C), but there wasn't any wind, so the walk was actually quite pleasant.

Found a snow man.

These trees are beautiful, but truthfully I would have enjoyed this view more in December than April.

I also caught a glimpse of snow covered Lotus Lake.

5K went by quickly, glad I got out and did a walk!

When done I walked across the street from the library to the Minnesota Grille located in a Bylerly's grocery store. I had a grilled cheese sandwich and sweet potato fries. Later when I got home and got on the Internet, I discovered this was National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day. Who knew?