Monday, October 28, 2013

Just a Normal Weekend

Recently all I have talked about here involved traveling. Well, once in awhile I stay home. The past weekend was just a normal one!

I need to help my daughter who has some development disabilities accomplish life tasks, so I take responsibility for making her hair salon appointments and getting her there. She had an appointment for Saturday at 10:00, so I planned to pick her up about 9:30. Then signs began appearing last week advising the major road in front of my apartment building would be closed from 5:30 AM to 1:00 PM on Saturday.  That meant I couldn't get to where she lives without doing a very long detour. So I stopped by on Friday afternoon and she came to spend the night.

Saturday became more complicated when a note appeared under my door advising that the property manager wished to show my apartment to a potential renter on Saturday about lunch time.

So I was up early on Saturday morning so we could have breakfast and I could get everything cleaned up and looking nice before we left for the hair appointment. When I got up on Saturday morning indeed there was no traffic on the road. Then about 9:00 this is what we saw.

Perhaps it is easier to see in a video.

This was called in the media the Minneapolis Monster Mash -- interestingly enough, all run in Saint Paul. Sorry that the above video is a bit jerky. I had to use a telephoto lens and couldn't hold the camera still enough for the distance.

We left here about 9:30, getting the assistance of the police to cross the race line.

My daughter got her hair cut and I got my manicure -- all at the same place. Then we headed for Culver's on the east side of Saint Paul for an early lunch.

Our next stop was the Hayden Heights branch of the Saint Paul Public Library. We attended a lecture about the prohibition era in Minnesota. One thing I learned is that prohibition didn't prohibit drinking alcoholic beverages; instead it prohibited the making and transporting of such beverages.

Prohibition is a hot topic in Minnesota because the author of the legislation that promoted it came from Minnesota. Secondly, a border with Canada meant Minnesota was a hot location for smuggling. And I learned about something called Minnesota 13. This was a variety of corn that made excellent home brew! Some in the audience reported recently seeing an article in the paper announcing that Minnesota 13 is going to again be grown to support the micro-breweries that are arising in Minnesota. Well, in a couple of weeks, the Minnesota History Center is opening an exhibit on prohibition, so more will probably be reported here at a later date.

Took my daughter home and then went to Panera. Panera owed me a birthday gift. The sales clerk told me I could have any pastry in the counter, so I picked out a bear claw.

Enjoyed sitting for awhile with a cup of coffee and my nose in a book.

Home for relaxing evening. I didn't do anything on Sunday, but relax. So that's how life is once in awhile.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Lovely Weekend Along the River

In this part of the world, "the river" means the Mississippi River. Friends who live in Winona, a place I lived in the mid-1970s -- a time my children call the "dark ages" invited me for the weekend.

I thought I would sleep late on Friday and then be on my way. Much to my surprise, suddenly I had a conference call at noon on Friday. This had been proposed as a date, but never confirmed by the originator of the call. On Thursday night I sent an e-mail saying I thought no news must be bad news -- meaning the others were unavailable. I got back a very panicky answer saying the call was still scheduled. So at noon I was on the phone at the faculty development office at this university where I have emerita status. This was done in about 30 minutes and then I was on my way down the river. Google Maps sent me on Highway 61-Highway 10 down the river. I exited on Jamaica Avenue in one of the southern suburbs to get gas and also look for a place to get a bite of lunch. No luck finding a place for lunch, or at least I wasn't hungry enough to think Taco John's was a good choice!

Taking off from the gas station I went down a small road for a distance and then Google maps routed me down river on Wisconsin Highway 35. That was fine with me for I hadn't been on the road for a long time. The views were beautiful. After about 45 minutes I turned on Highway 63 and went west across the river to Red Wing, with lunch in mind.

I parked my car and walked to the edge of the parking area to get a view of the American Queen which was in port there.

Then I turned the opposite way and walked through a charming square.

This area has three charming sculptures, but alas no information about the artist.

I headed for the St. James Hotel.

Inside I admired the "Old Lobby."

I went to the new lobby and was told that all the restaurants had just closed at 2:00. The Brick House restaurant across the street was recommended to me.

I walked in there at 2:15 in the afternoon and was surprised to find all the tables full. I found the very last table with two chairs way back in one corner.

The restaurant was charming and the food was good!

This restaurant will stay on my list of restaurants to visit again.

Walking back to my car I enjoyed the street decorations.

As I continued down the river on the Minnesota side I found a good place to pull off the road and take a couple of photos of the area called Lake Pepin. Here the river becomes much wider. This is caused by the entry of rivers from the Wisconsin side which over the centuries have dropped silt which created a natural dam forcing the river behind to become different.

 I got to Winona a bit after 4:00 and my friend and I retired to her sun room for drinks and conversation. Later we went to a nearby Chinese restaurant for supper. I really wasn't very hungry after having lunch in the middle of the afternoon. Most of my entree was carried home in a box. My friend froze it and now it's my freezer for some other day.

We stayed up talking until after midnight. The next morning when I woke up I was astonished to see the clock said 10 AM. I didn't feel so bad after I found out my friends slept in until 9!

After breakfast in the late morning we headed across the river to the Sacia Orchard. I got some Cortland apples and a jar of apple butter.

Apple Tasting Table
Then we headed down river to Trempealeau, WI. This is a town of about 1500 located right on the river next to Lock and Dam # 6. We discovered a historic sign that said the Great River Road in this area were the first miles of a roadway that now extends from the start of the river in Lake Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota and all the way down to New Orleans.

We stopped for lunch at "the hotel" as my friend called it. This was a new place to me.

My friend asked for a table on the porch. We enjoyed lunch while overlooking the train tracks and the river. My friend said there would be a train every 15 minutes -- well perhaps, more frequently, because we saw five while having our lunch. And we saw a very unusual barge go by -- one was built to transport liquids of some kind. I've never seen one like that on the river around where I live, and the wait staff in the hotel, who must see many barges go by every day, said it was very unusual. My photo below is not the best.

We drove back to Winona with rain for about 10 minutes and then sun for a bit and then back to rain. I thought there should be a rainbow and then we found it. Since I was a passenger I could take photos galore. Here's one.

My friends told me the American Queen would be stopping in Winona on Sunday. That really surprised me since I had found it going upstream in Red Wing on Friday, but there it was on Sunday afternoon. I've seen this boat many times here in Saint Paul but the vantage points are much better in Winona.

I didn't crop out the car in the foreground, for I thought that helped us to understand how to large the American Queen is.

By the time we arrived a the Levee the passengers had left the boat and boarded buses to attend a concert in a museum elsewhere in Winona.

The buses surprised me because I've never seen them in Saint Paul. Here passengers leave the boat by taxi to either hotels or the airport, and board the boat in an opposite fashion.

In the late afternoon I headed back to Saint Paul, but did stop for a couple of minutes at Lock and Dam # 5.

I picked up a brochure here that explained this lock was built in 1935 and renovated in 1998. The brochure explains that 12 million tons of cargo grow through the lock every year along with about  9000 recreational, pleasure boats.

It was a great weekend!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Wandering Around Saint Paul

I have been working hard on a paper about saline soils for Mano a Mano (see, and got it finished last night. This is volunteer research, not work, not paid. I decided today I should relax a bit before starting on this next research question for Mano a Mano. I decided to spend the afternoon wandering down the street.

The first thing I did was go to the Science Museum and get a ticket for the IMAX film. The Science Museum has now opened an exhibited on the Maya culture.

Today and tomorrow are fall vacation days for students in Minnesota while all teachers attend fall continuing education conference. The museum was busy, but the film theater is big so getting a ticket wasn't a problem.

The film being presented was made by the Canada Film Board and a museum in Mexico and it recreates the discovery of the Maya buildings in the 19th century and how the Maya Codex became interpreted. According to the film, the huge part of the population disappeared in the 9th and 10th centuries, but there are still Maya people in Central America who know their history and culture.

From previous pictures I had no idea how large are the buildings. When one sees a person standing beside them, then you can understand how huge they were, and marvel at how they were constructed obviously without heavy equipment or cranes to lift materials. The film says the Maya culture and its buildings rival both the Egyptian and Greek cultures.

Here are a couple of pictures I took during the film--not very good, but all I could do.

The one above shows some of the stone carving on all the buildings too.
Sometime in the next couple of weeks, during school hours when the kids are busy, I'll go back to see the exhibit which comes from Belize.

The theater exit brings everyone out by the Elements Cafe within the museum. I stopped for a cookie (biscuit in British English) and a cup of coffee.

The Science Museum hosts a small museum, too, for the Mississippi River Recreation Area, a national park. I stopped and spoke to the park ranger telling him I was glad he/they are back to work. He said he was happy to be back to work, too. 

After that I wandered out onto the plaza by the Science Museum.
A sign on the plaza calls attention to the cottonwood trees between the two boats. Cottonwood trees used to line the river bank from St. Paul to St  Louis. These particular trees are a bit more than 80 years old.

Below I got a good view of the maze. It's now closed for the expectation of the arriving winter season.

 And next to it is the mini-golf course all buttoned up for winter too.

Playing mini-golf is fun, but the real reason for this attraction is to teach hydrology concepts about the Mississippi River in a fun way.

Turning around I admired the viewpoint of the Xcel Center.

I walked over to the Ordway Theater  and got a ticket for a concert in January. Good thing for the seating for the date and time I wanted is almost sold out.

I walked around Rice Park and then headed back to the Science Museum, down the elevator, and out on a walking path through a small park surrounding the museum.

I admired this fall scene.

From the plaza I could see barges tied up again around the area where I live, so I walked along the river on the way back to my apartment.

Home in time to pick up the mail and relax a bit and then enjoy a German food style picnic put on by the building management. A very nice afternoon in Saint Paul.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Driving Adventure

Early this week I received a call asking if I would drive an elderly woman, 20 years older than me,  to church since I lived somewhat close to where she lives now. She had recently moved to assisted living because of short memory issues. This morning I received a call from her introducing herself and saying she was looking forward to going to church. I found this on my visual voice mail about 4 hours later because I forgot my phone in my purse and the battery went dead. I called her back and said I would be there at 4 -- yes 4 PM, as we were planning to go to the 4:30 PM service.

I arrived at 4 and she said had been trying to find my name and phone number to tell she thought she'd rather take a nap, but we went to church.

So glad we did because she got to see good friends and also got to write a note to another good friend wishing her a wonderful 100th birthday.

The memory problems were apparent. She asked on the way if I was working and I told her I was retired. We discussed where I used to work because she has some work history there, too. Then when I left her this evening, she wished me a good day at work tomorrow.

I have some idea about what was her career and the contributions to this city, so it was indeed an honor to give her just a bit of help today.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Library Research Adventure

Well, the weather is still very nice. Today as I write the temperature is the high 70s, and yesterday was lovely, too. And so I went on a library research adventure. I wanted good weather for this adventure because I was going on a bus on which I had never traveled and to the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota, a place I had not been for several years.

But first why?  I am now doing volunteer research for a Twin Cities based organization, Mano a Mano. Click here to learn more about the marvelous work this organization is doing in Bolivia. I have done many other types of volunteering for this organization, but now that I'm retired I've accepted the role of research volunteer. I've completed a draft of paper about updated statistics regarding maternal and infant/child health mortality in Bolivia. The rest of the research questions I have before me are related to agriculture in Bolivia. Mano a Mano has recently begun a new agricultural development effort.

So I'm researching in areas outside of my primary professional area and it's great fun to be learning about something new. On the other hand, I grew up on a farm so agriculture is not a new field for me.  One area is saline soils and I have learned that halophytes are the type of plants. My work is not to educate Bolivian farmers -- oh heavens no! In the US Mano a Mano has three staff; all the rest of the effort is done by volunteers. These efforts are to better inform the North American volunteers and provide background information that may be helpful for fund-raising.

I can use the databases through the University from which I retired and that's great for journal articles -- although right now there is a major agriculture database that is totally dead because of the federal government shutdown. My University, however, does not have an emphasis in agriculture, whereas the University of Minnesota does. I can search that University library catalog but don't have any rights for checking out books. So I decided to go spend the day in the library and see what I could find.

From my old neighborhood I could take a bus to the campus. Due to my "advanced age" I can ride the bus during non-rush hour times for 75 cents. I knew I couldn't park a car for that. So I drove to the old neighborhood and then had a breakfast in a restaurant there -- one I've not been to very much since moving from that neighborhood.

I was so glad I had taken the bus for another reason -- road construction. I would have been more than frustrated by the time I got there if I had driven the car. The bus driver knew all the detours.

I ended up getting off the bus at a stop too early, but it was a lovely day for walking. And had I gotten off at the right stop I would have missed the cows.

This campus has a large green area, almost a park. It's really a beautiful campus.

 I had forgotten to bring along a bottle of water so my first stop was a shop in the Student Center.

More and more landscapers are moving to using native plants. Here is a nice display of native grasses.

Water in hand I walked across the street to the library.

It now has a beautiful outdoor plaza.

I found the books I needed and spent about three hours with my nose in them.

On the way out I saw this view out a window.

 Then it was time to find the bus back to the old neighborhood and the place where I had left my car. Standing by the bus stop seemed like the logical place. I watched the circulator buses from the University come and go, and then suddenly there was the city bus pulling around and going down the street. One of the circulator bus drivers told me that the city bus stopped down the street. So I walked there and found a bus stop across the street, but since this bus comes only every 30 minutes I had a while to wait. I also thought I might just be waiting on the wrong side of the street, but if that happened I would just continue to Rosedale Mall and walk around a bit and then try the bus back to the old neighborhood.

Some others started to gather where I was waiting which gave me hope the bus would be arriving there. Then suddenly I saw the southbound bus across the street. I was waiting on the wrong side! I ran for the bus, the bus pulled out, I kept waving and running, and the driver stopped for me.

Back in the old neighborhood I stopped at Panera and cashed in my free coffee bonus. Then headed home.

A very good day.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

If You Dont' Like the Weather, Wait a Minute

Boy! that was true today. I had expected rain so was delighted to see bright sunshine when I awoke this morning. And glad for the sunshine because it is the day of the Twin Cities Marathon and it would not fun for the runners to be out there in cool rain. By 10:00 AM I couldn't stand to be inside anymore and decided to take myself out for breakfast.

Glad I did for when I was seated at a table in my chosen restaurant, I spotted one of my former Minnesota Department of Health colleagues out for breakfast with his three grandchildren. They were keeping him busy, so I didn't interrupt. Then one of the children pointed to the TV monitor over my head, and of course, he saw me. It was indeed fun to say hi again.

By the time I had finished breakfast -- 11:45 or so, light rain had begun. I decided however to stay in that neighborhood and do some book store shopping --one Christmas present purchased. No rain when I left, but my car was wet.

By 1:30 in the afternoon the sun as shining again. Then at 3:00 when I looked out, the world seemed strange. It was a very, very light fog, not rain, for I looked down and could see some people casually standing by a car talking.

At 4:30 I attended a church service. We had a guest speaker from North Carolina who expressed amazement that so many would turn out in frigid weather -- 50 degrees ( 10 C) -- but then he went on to say that he has heard that actually the weather gets worse.

Curious to know if this expression is alive and well in other cultures and other languages.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Showboating in Saint Paul

I've written a great deal about other places in Minnesota in my recent posts, and now here's one about Saint Paul. Showboat is both figurative and literal.

Showboating as an idiom can mean showing off or bragging. So I'll do that first. I've been walking these past few days in Saint Paul. On Tuesday I walked to a coffee shop in downtown Saint Paul for a meeting.

On the way I wanted to return some books to the library so after walking four blocks down the street, then on a path through a park associated with the Science Museum, and then taking an elevator in the parking ramp up 6 floors, and crossing the street I found myself in a beautiful courtyard for the the Central Public Library.

Then I headed across Rice Park towards the coffee shop. Landmark Center was looking great on this lovely autumn day.

Coming back home I admired the flowers in the Science Museum Plaza.

On the plaza too I also looked at the river view.

In what might be called the 3:00 position in this picture one can see buildings. That is the housing area in which I live.

Closer to home I admired the fountain in the Upper Landing Park.

On Wednesday I really did go to the Showboat. This is anchored on a barge across the river from where I live. All summer the University of Minnesota Theater Program produces a melodrama, such as would have been on a showboats during the 19th century.

I had to drive down river and go up the hill and then go across a bridge to Harriett Island Regional Park. 

I had ordered the ticket for the play online and expected to go to the Will Call room to pick it up. Got there and the window was closed. So I decided to walk down to the boat and ask for help. Found a young woman there who said, "I bet you are looking for your ticket."  I was puzzled about how she could recognize me. She explained I was the last person to arrive for a Will Call Ticket.

Above is the stage. I'm still always surprised when I go to things now in the day and find the participants are primarily senior citizens. Forget to define myself that way!!!

This play is called Leavin' Iowa. It concerns a man in his 30s who returned to his home in Winterset, IA for a family reunion. While there he is charged with the task of taking his father's ashes to his childhood home. When the  young man arrives there he finds the farmhouse is now a grocery store and he decides the can't leave the ashes there. To decide where would be the best and most appropriate place he begins to relive the family vacations they all took together. I enjoyed the play and was somewhat irritated when I overheard another woman say, "Oh, that was so cute."I thought the comment rather shallow.

In the evening I went to a great program at my church about the Syrian crisis. One of the speakers was a young woman who is from Syria. While there the thunder begin to crash and we could the rain on the roof. The weather is indeed changing to something new. Again can't complain, we need the rain.