So after a weekend in the north woods, we came home, unloaded our suitcases and repacked our bags to take off for Minnesota the next day. Originally we didn't plan to take our trips back to back like this, but we wanted to get it all in before school started this week (yesterday!), so off we went last Tuesday afternoon. My mom lives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, about halfway between where we live and where my brother-in-law lives so we crashed at her house for the night before hopping back in the car for another day of driving. Halfway is still 6 hours. 6 long hours that the kids seem to take very well. At least the first 5 anyway. Right about when we hit the state line, Binny started to get cranky and tired and hungry. It was also 10 at night. We pulled up to my mom's place, had a snack and went straight to bed in her little guest room, with surprisingly, enough room for all of us. The next morning, after some breakfast at mom's, we headed the rest of the way into Minneapolis for a fun side trip to the Mall of America. My mom hates the mall and thinks it's a waste of time (and money) but since we're from out of town, we thought it would be fun to check it out, plus she was at work by then.
I have been to the MOA before but apparently not for a long time. Last time I went, the amusement park inside was called Camp Snoopy. Camp Snoopy was always so much fun. There was a roller coaster and a log ride with two big splashes that hardly even get your clothes wet and tons of other amusement park type stuff all indoors. Now it's called Nickelodeon Universe. A universe that's bright orange and green with many of the same rides including the log splash along with lots of new rides and tons of Nickelodeon themed crap at every turn including a giant inflatable pineapple which I can only assume (we didn't fully investigate that one) is a Spongebob bounce house. We arrived right when the place opened, hoping that we could get in and out and be back on the road by early afternoon. Turns out that was a good idea because besides having no lines to deal with, the people running the rides that early in the day let us have most of the rides 2 for 1. Good thing too because at the cost of the tickets, we had only originally bought enough for us each to go on 2 rides apiece.
The roller coaster I remember from Camp Snoopy was always my favorite. It went all the way around the inside of the park with a few fun drops but nothing vomit worthy for sure. Pretty tame. I was so excited to see that the roller coaster survived the bright orange Nickelodeon makeover, but that's where it starts to get a little blurry. When it was Camp Snoopy, there was only ONE roller coaster, so when we got in line for the Fairly Odd Coaster first thing without consulting the map or asking anyone, I figured that must be it. Only when the ride attendants started loading us in the non-traditional looking roller coaster car did I start to think that perhaps we had gotten on the wrong ride. As soon as we were buckled in and ready to go, the car we were riding in started spinning and didn't stop spinning until the ride was over. And not a fun sort of spinning either. Perhaps fun to a bunch of teenagers, but to a family of four who had all just eaten breakfast, not to mention totally unprepared for up and down PLUS spinning, it was terrifying. Even more terrifying was the fact that I had chosen to sit directly across from poor Binny who was either screaming (and not the fun kind) or covering her mouth with her hand while making faces like she was going to vomit. I swear, I have never seen a kid's face turn green so fast in my life! The ride was short and nobody puked, but we all stumbled out of there and needed to take a little break before hopping on another ride. After using up all of our ride points (on some less terrifying rides) and finally getting on the roller coaster we had intended to get on first thing, we walked around the mall for a bit, had lunch and were back on the road shortly after noon for another 5 hours of driving.
My mom let us borrow her GPS for the car which came in handy for maneuvering the freeway system in Minneapolis/St. Paul and also for those last minute potty breaks out in the middle of nowhere Minnesota. Just a few taps on the screen and we were rerouted to the nearest gas station. We had to be careful though, some of the gas stations way out in rural Minnesota don't have public restrooms or at least ones that I would feel good about letting my kids use. You know, the kind where the bathroom is on the outside of the rickety old gas station and you have to go inside and ask the attendant for the key. Finally, right around dinner time, we pulled off onto my brother-in-law's gravel road and arrived truly out in the middle of nowhere. Yes, we too live out in the country which is probably obvious if you've ever read one of my Garden entries, but where Uncle B lives is country on crack. Flat land and farm fields as far as the eye can see and beyond that, it's more of the same. Huge fields of corn, soybeans and sunflowers, although the one field of sunflowers we saw was past prime and not very pretty anymore. The Gardener loves to watch the super sized combines and farm equipment working in the fields, and honestly he must have said to me a hundred times, "Honey, look at the size of that grain head!"
We try to make the trip out to Minnesota every summer to see the Gardener's brother. Summer is the obvious choice being the only time of year when the ground isn't frozen. Winter is NOT the time to be visiting that part of the country unless you really like sub-zero temperatures that last from October to March. In exchange for the warm weather there are mosquitoes and poison ivy, both of which were not a big deal for us this year, thank goodness.
A chicken family!This noisy rooster keeps things interesting with his constant ER-ER-ER-ER-ERRRRR.
Some of you may remember last year when we went out there and made some new houseplants out of scrap metal for my domestically challenged brother-in-law. The plants all still look great and not one has died, imagine that! With all of the time he's not spending caring for fake houseplants, he and his girlfriend have found time to start a family.
One night during our visit, the Gardener and the girls went bear baiting out in the woods with Uncle B while I made dinner and sipped wine with his girlfriend. I think she and I had the better deal!
On our first visit out to Uncle B's 4 years ago, the Gardener and Uncle B hung two tires from some very tall trees out in the middle of his woods. (It was scary to watch.) By now the ropes are getting a little weak from the exposure to weather so we had to make a repair after one of the ropes I was holding onto snapped right in my hand, sending me, Binny and Mae onto a pile in the grass. The Gardener tied it back together and we were back in business.
There is no shortage on tire swings at Uncle B's house. He lives in the woods along a river so he gets a little shelter from the strong winds blowing across the prairie with plenty of wooded trails and and a . there are many great swinging trees, and since the old man who lived there before Uncle B had junk EVERYWHERE, old tires are also abundant.
We spent 3 lovely days in Minnesota, one of those days we crossed the Kennedy bridge over the Red River into North Dakota to visit my grandparents.
we headed back to the twin cities to spend Saturday at the zoo with my mom and an evening of swimming and black bean burgers with some of her friends on their beautiful patio. By 8:30 Sunday morning we were back in the car and driving east again back home. By the time we pulled in the driveway I was only about 10 pages away from finishing a fun novel I started reading just the day before. I set it down as soon as the car pulled into the garage and haven't had a chance to finish it yet. Perhaps today!