Days 43,44, and 45 – Minneapolis and Muriel Deserted by Allan

Wednesday September 17 (Muriel)

Grateful for help from Our Lady of the Dashboard (GPS), we navigated the two or three miles to the Walker Art Center.  We enjoyed the lovely modern building and a special exhibit about the architecture of Eero Saarinen and sampled various displays of modern art.  Tiring of that, we strolled outside to the sculpture garden across the street in a spacious park.  Unfortunately we had no camera with us, but Allan “cheated” using the camera in his cell phone for the photos below.  The museum required me to check my purse and Allan hadn’t brought one along.  Many of the modern sculptures were outstanding and all were interesting.  One scene was especially striking:  a colorful sculpture-fountain shaped like a huge spoon, titled  “Spoonbridge and Cherry,” was installed in the center of a large grass lawn, with a couple dozen Canada Geese behind its pond.  The impressive Minneapolis skyline was outlined against a clear blue sky beyond the closer scene.  The only note that was not absolutely perfect was the difficulty of walking on the grass to get near Spoonbridge due to mighty volunteer efforts by the geese to fertilize the lawn.

We returned to the art center and lunch on its patio at its Wolfgang Puck restaurant.  Yes, we were back among some of the big city charms we had left behind in Los Angeles.

Next stop was the Mall of America.  Imagine stretching Topanga Plaza to 78 acres and four stories, with a family theme park in its center.  Next to the theme park is a LEGO imagination center.  There is an aquarium in the basement, but we only visited the four above-ground stories of the mall and missed some of the attractions.  We eventually found a replacement car charger for my cell phone as our only purchase other than a couple of small non-fat lattes at the Starbucks.  Our main motivations in going to this mall on steroids were for Allan’s business knowledge, a bit of curiosity, and the fact that the mall is near the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.

Allan has to be at a major business meeting in Los Angeles tomorrow and Friday morning.  We drove from the ultra mega mall to the airport, where I dropped him off.  He will sleep downtown, not having time to go home.  The lady of the dashboard enabled me to find my way back to our hotel where I visited the hotel happy hour for about half an hour, did laundry which was much more complicated than it should have been, and dined on leftovers from lunch and a banana from breakfast.   Checking Allan’s flight on the internet, I learned his flight left almost an hour and a half late.  He’s going to be pretty short on sleep.

Meanwhile, I hope to find things to do tomorrow that I can walk to or otherwise get to easily.  Then Friday I will drive to Milwaukee while Allan flies there after changing planes in Minneapolis.  I’m none too happy about this arrangement, but we’ve been gone 6 of the 12 weeks we plan to be touring, and Allan promises this is the only time he’s going to leave me dangling.

Thursday September 18 (Muriel)

I spent the morning watching news of the financial crisis on CNN, on my computer doing email, and deciding what I wanted to do that wouldn’t involve driving.  In the early afternoon I got directions from a hotel clerk to Mill City Museum.

It was a pleasant walk of probably less than a mile to Mill City Museum, built in the ruins of an old flour mill located along the Mississippi River next to the falls that once powered the mill.  With about 20 other visitors, I took the Flour Tower tour.  We boarded and sat in a huge industrial elevator which moved up and down between floors, each of which had a dramatic multimedia presentation about some aspect of the mill’s history, from around 1880 until it was abandoned by General Mills in 1965.  In its last decades it turned out 2 million pounds of Gold Medal flour daily.  It was destroyed in a fire long after it had been closed.  It certainly makes a lovely ruin and contrasts dramatically with the nearby black, starkly modern exterior of the Guthrie Theater.

After a few minutes to enjoy the view from the top story of the building, I hurried to a scheduled one-man re-enactment of Franklin Steele, a founder of Minneapolis and builder of its first lumber mill and of the first bridge over the Mississippi anywhere.  Of course, the Mississippi is relatively narrow in this area.  Finally, I watched another entertaining and informative offering, a film “Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat.”

Before, between and after all of these, I got to play with unusual interactive displays that demonstrated things like how water wheels and turbines work with water flow and how to control water flow, and watched a demonstration on how flour dust explodes.  I ambled out the back door to the grassy bank of the Mississippi.

I learned about the different kinds of wheat and the kinds of flour they make and figured out that most of the grain elevators Allan and I saw on our drive through southern Minnesota to get to Minneapolis must have held … have you guessed it yet? … wheat.

Visiting the Mill City Museum was a delightful and entertaining way to get a feel for the history of Minneapolis.  I walked back to the hotel taking a slightly different route than I took to get to the museum.  It was afternoon rush hour, the streets, many of them one way, were very crowded, there were traffic directors at several of the intersections, and I walked a few blocks too far at one point because of ignorance of what streets cut through to where I was.  It’s a good thing I decided to walk.

Friday September 19 (Muriel)

I loaded my stuff into the car and headed southeast to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The Lady of the Dashboard gave me a bit of trouble when I first got onto the freeway system but behaved herself the rest of the day.  After about half an hour on the road I was in Wisconsin.

The terrain was fairly similar to southern Minnesota’s.  The landscape was very green.  There were rest stops every 50 miles, some with excellent displays about the area.  One rest stop even had displays about Wisconsin rest stops.

Highway signs about gas stations were less useful.  I decided to wait until the eastern edge of Madison before buying gas.  I passed through Madison and into countryside much faster than I expected.  There were no services for quite a while.

The first time I followed a sign off the highway to a gas station, the station was so new it wasn’t open yet.  The second time, I found no gas station at all.  The Lady of the Dashboard thought from my turning off the highway (please excuse my attributing thought to a GPS) that I intended to take an alternate route, so she sent me along a series of county roads for many miles.  It was a fascinating detour, but not so relaxing when my main concern was to not run out of gas.  The local roads were excellent.  The farms were surprisingly small, based on how frequently I passed farm houses.  The houses and barns were surprisingly large and well maintained.  Even the fields were beautifully manicured.  After many miles I found myself driving through a very upscale exurban lakeside community.  Then, just before I got back to the highway, two gas stations appeared.  The gas tank got filled.

I checked into a motel about 5 miles from the Milwaukee airport.  After a pleasant dinner at a restaurant across the street from the motel, I spoke to Allan by cell phones while he changed planes in Minneapolis.  We decided I wouldn’t pick him up at the airport.  Some time after midnight, after I went to sleep, Allan arrived by taxi

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