Aitkin, Minneapolis & St Paul, MN July 4, 2017

Hoping we left the terrible mosquitoes behind, we headed further south to the tiny town of Aitkin, MN.  We settled here for the Fourth of July holiday, glad to be off the busy highways.  Our four days went by quickly and since there wasn’t much to see or do in the area, we used the time to do some chores around the RV.  We installed extra insulation in the pantry and the upper cabinets to hopefully keep those areas cooler.  We cleaned the vents and Bill changed the water filter and ice maker filter.  We vacuumed out the tow car, washed it, and Bill applied wax.  He also applied 303® Aerospace Protectant™ to the dashboard.  He worked hard getting all the dead bugs off the front of the RV.  We even managed to get a couple blogs published.  It was a busy and productive four days!  And on Independence Day the RV park had a golf cart parade.IMG_20170703_162137IMG_20170703_162108-PANO

On Thursday we moved to the Farmington, MN fairgrounds located about thirty minutes south of the Minneapolis/St Paul area.

20170706_182729After settling in we drove up to Bloomington to the Mall of America.  The Mall of America is the largest entertainment and shopping destination in North America with 520 stores and more than sixty restaurants.  It is four stories, sits on 96 acres and has 12,500 parking spaces.  The most amazing thing was the amusement park in the center with a roller coaster, a boat ride as well as many other thrilling rides.  After dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp we spent a couple hours walking around the colossal complex. PANO_20170706_19424220170706_194122 20170706_193931

IMG_20170706_204754In the Mall is a memorial to Thomas Burnett who died on 9/11 after his plane was overtaken by terrorists and went down in the fields of Pennsylvania.  Burnett was born in Bloomington and attended school there during his childhood years.  He was married and the father of four daughters when he died.  I found it interesting that a year before the plane went down he started attending church because of a strong sense of foreboding which he expressed to his wife.  On the day of the attack Burnett was one of four passengers to storm the cockpit, foiling the terrorists’ plan to crash the plane into the White House or U.S. Capitol.  He is buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota.  

On September 11, 2002 the Mall of America dedicated the Tom Burnett 9/11 Memorial with a plaque entitled “Do Something” and an open door representing the cockpit door with the message “To Deem Life Important and to Act Affects All of Those That Bear Witness…”.  The open door also represents a door to a brighter, safer future and encourages people to walk toward the future intent on doing something good, something kind, something noble and something right.

On Friday we had our six month blood work done and got service done on the Honda tow car.

Sunday we took advantage of lighter traffic and drove into Minneapolis and St Paul.  Minneapolis and St Paul are ranked first and second by the Trust for Public Land for best city parks in the nation.  Minneapolis-St  Paul claims to have the coldest average temperature of any major metro area in the lower 48 states and because of this Minneapolis has a continuous network skyway system with enclosed pedestrian bridges that is purportedly the world’s largest. St Paul has five miles of glass tunnels to allow people to go from building to building.  About 18 years ago Bill worked for six weeks in Minneapolis in late November, early December and he will never forget how cold it was out on the streets.  Especially for someone from Florida!!  He used those enclosed pedestrian walkways a lot!

We had quite a lengthy list of places to visit so we got a very early start.  First up was Minneapolis which is a large city with many tall buildings.  Very different from smaller St Paul.

IMG_20170709_122608We stopped by the Minneapolis Visitor Information Center to see the statue of Mary Richards.  Who can forget this popular character from The Mary Tyler Moore Show!  The statue was given by TV Land to the city.  It used to be outside but construction on Nicolette Street forced the statue to be moved inside.  We then drove to a nearby neighborhood to see the turn of the century Victorian house shown on the series where Mary supposedly had an apartment.  We noticed the private residence is now for sale.  There are other locations around the city featured on the show but there just wasn’t enough time to see them all.IMG_20170709_115152

We visited the St Anthony Falls Visitor Center Lock and Dam.  At one time St Anthony Falls was the only natural major waterfall on the Upper Mississippi River.  After the falls partially collapsed in 1869, the natural falls were replaced by a concrete overflow spillway.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s a series of locks and dams was constructed to extend navigation.  

20170709_103631From 1880 to around 1930, Minneapolis was the “Flour Milling Capital of the World”.  Evidence of this can be seen in the Washburn Mill ruins of what was once the largest flour mill in the world located near the falls.20170709_104230

The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (a U.S. National Park) protects a 72-mile and 54,000-acre corridor along the Mississippi River from the cities of Dayton and Ramsey, Minnesota to just downstream of Hastings, Minnesota. In the middle of Minneapolis is the St Anthony Falls Lock and Dam. IMG_20170709_101759IMG_20170709_101050

Overlooking St Anthony Falls Lock and Dam on one side and the mills ruins on the other is the beautiful Stone Arch Bridge.  Constructed in 1883, this is a former railroad bridge which crosses the Mississippi River and is the only arched bridge made of stone on the entire Mississippi River.  The second oldest bridge on the Mississippi, it is made of native granite and limestone and measures 2100 feet with 21 stone arches.  The bridge is now a pedestrian and bicycle bridge and is an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.  We enjoyed walking on part of the bridge with beautiful views of St Anthony Falls, the Mississippi River and the Minneapolis skyline.

Next we visited Guthrie Theater because we wanted to walk on the Endless Bridge. This 178 foot long cantilevered structure is neither endless nor a bridge but a steel truss that is counterbalanced by the weight of the building.  The Endless Bridge is in the left of the picture of the building. The attraction here is the magnificent views of the city, the Stone Arch Bridge and St Anthony Falls Lock and Dam.20170709_104648

We drove by the U.S. Bank Stadium which is where the Minnesota Vikings play football.  The massive stadium is in the shape of a Viking ship.  Really neat but hard to get a good picture of the entire stadium from our car. IMG_20170709_095451 

Next was Target Field where the Twins play baseball.  They had a home game today but we were early enough to avoid the crowd and traffic.  The Twin Cities will host the Super Bowl LII in 2018 and the NCAA Final Four in 2019.IMG_20170709_094219IMG_20170709_094653

The Basilica of St Mary, named the first basilica in the United States by Pope Pius XI in 1926, is located here.  It was completed in 1915, has a 200 foot high dome and a rose window.IMG_20170709_120825

We went by the Sculpture Garden but since we were running out of time and parking was scarce, we snapped a couple pictures of two of the most popular sculptures, the cherry and the blue chicken.IMG_20170709_120731IMG_20170709_120747

By now it was lunchtime and time to move on to St Paul, the capital of Minnesota.  Minneapolis and St Paul is divided by an “S” shape carved by the Mississippi River. It is approximately a six mile drive between the two cities.  At 26.2 miles, St Paul has more miles of Mississippi riverfront than any other city in the U.S.  IMG_20170709_141227It is known as a “City of Neighborhoods” which celebrates different heritages and diversity.  After grabbing lunch at a barbecue joint, we headed to the State Capitol building.IMG_20170709_133953

The Minnesota State Capitol is a Renaissance Revival Style building, with the second largest self supported dome in the world after Saint Peter’s.  It was modeled after Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome with the dome inspired by the U.S. Capitol dome.  The building is made of 25 different types of stone including 16 varieties of marble from around the world as well as Minnesotan granite and limestone.  Construction on the capitol was started in 1896 and completed in 1905 at a cost of $4.5 million.  Above the southern entrance is a gilded chariot with four horses representing the power of nature; earth, wind, fire and water.  The women leading the horses symbolize civilization and the man on the horse, prosperity.IMG_20170709_133623

Near the capitol is the Cathedral of Saint Paul, the third largest churches in North America, seating 3,000 people.  It has a 175 foot copper dome and six chapels. The cornerstone was set in 1907 and the design was Inspired by churches in France.IMG_20170709_134027

Charles Schultz of the Peanuts cartoon fame, was born in Minneapolis but spent most of  his childhood in St Paul where his father owned a barbershop.  During this time Schultz and his  father were known to purchase newspapers from Minneapolis and St Paul to  be sure they saw every cartoon strip printed locally.  For five summers after his death in 2,000, artists from all over St Paul designed and displayed renditions of Peanuts characters.  In Rice and Landmark Parks as well as throughout St Paul you can see the Peanut characters.IMG_20170709_145548IMG_20170709_145710IMG_20170709_144107IMG_20170709_145437

We ended the day with a stop at Minnehaha Regional Park to see the beautiful 53 foot Minnehaha Falls, one of the most photographed sites in in Minnesota.  The name Minnehaha comes from the Dakota language and means waterfall. Even though he never visited Minnehaha Falls, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made the Falls famous in his poem, “The Song of Hiawatha”.IMG_20170709_154405IMG_20170709_154929  

Enjoy the following video: 

A bronze statue of Hiawatha carrying Minnehaha is located on a small island in the park.  The statue was created in 1893 and placed in the park in 1912.IMG_20170709_161516

We enjoyed our time in Minneapolis and St Paul, however the two cities, especially Minneapolis, are very frustrating to drive in with many confusing one way streets complicated by construction and road closures.

Next up: Albert Lea and our last days in Minnesota

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