To become the “Flour Milling Capital of the World”, you needed three things: grain, water/hydropower, and a way to ship the flour. Minneapolis sits aside the highest drop the Mighty Mississippi takes as it rolls to the Gulf. St. Anthony Falls provided the power to drive the mills, and the Midwest is filled with fields of grain. Nearby is the Port of Duluth/Superior, the largest inland seaport in the world. It provides 49 miles of docking lines for lake-going freighters, and enormous train yards for delivering the goods. We saw the longest trains yet on this trip, mostly filled with grain-carrying cars. Minneapolis’ growth was staggering as the baking giants like Pillsbury lined up their factories on both sides of the river. It is a sprawling metropolis today, with many delightful neighborhoods near Downtown.
We enjoyed dinner and a walk with old friends along the Waterfront and part of Dinkytown (near the University of Minnesota) even on a very hot, humid evening. Karen and Mark has just returned from their cool summer retreat on Orcus Island in Washington’s Puget Sound. I hadn’t seen them since a visit there many years ago when I camped out on their vacant land, before they built an 800 sq. ft., g house overlooking the Sound. It was great to catch up and find our old friends happy, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, working as tenured professors, and still pursuing adventure, often in their kayaks, and on bikes, all over the world, including several trips on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a wilderness filled with small lakes close enough to portage canoes from lake to lake. They inspire.
However, we missed other unique Minnesotan thrills like dancing to the “World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band”, shopping the 520 shops at Mall of America (the world’s largest retail and entertainment center), and canoeing Lake Calhoun the biggest of the Chain of Lakes right in Minneapolis. What? “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”, and we didn’t even go swimming on such a hot day? Poor priorities.
Instead we headed out to the Western border with South Dakota where we witnessed an outstanding electrical storm. Sitting outside in lawn chairs watching the lightening display from the Cracker Barrel restaurant parking lot, we felt the wind suddenly pick up and fled into the Roadtrek as the heavy rain started. Happily inside as marble-sized hail pummeled the van, we welcomed the silence as the storm waned…until the wind picked up again, detritus starting to fly through the air, and the tornado sirens went off. Being Californians, we had never heard this type of siren before and initially waited for some impatient driver to let off his car horn. After a passive minute, we braved the crazy wind to question a Cracker Barrel employee. She said if the siren continued, we should go into the Cracker Barrel and join the employees in the walk-in coolers to await the tornado. Yikes! Fortunately, the wind began to slacken…and the sirens ….stopped. Welcome to the Midwest!
Hmmm, California earthquakes? Midwest tornadoes? Gulf and Atlantic coast hurricanes? Of the three, Sally prefers earthquakes (actually enjoys the thrill, feeling the earth moving), whereas Steven would prefer to be stuck in a tornado as they provide less risk. What is your favorite planet-induced destructive phenomena?