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Published: September 21st 2015
Several weeks before I arrived in Rockford IL, I had had a malfunction of the toilet in the Pilgrim. Normally, on that particular brand of toilet, the flushing mechanism operates via a foot lever that returns to a neutral position after flushing. Suddenly, it stopped returning to neutral. That was not a big deal, as all that was necessary was to lift the lever with my toe to return the lever to neutral. When I had the Pilgrim in the shop for maintenance, the toilet was one item on the repair list. As I noted in my previous blog, after retrieving the trusty old gal from the dealership I had taken her to a friend’s place (my sister-in-law’s brother) for storage for five days before I departed Rockford on a Wednesday.
On the first weekend following my Rockford departure, the toilet malfunctioned again. This time nothing happened when I stepped on the flushing lever. No flush, no good! Unlike the southern climates, there are few mobile RV repair services in the north. I contacted the only nearby RV dealership and learned that a there was no way to diagnose the problem without inspection and then parts probably would need to
be ordered. After discussing my options with the service manager over the phone, we decided the most efficient solution would be to install a new toilet; however, they had no toilets in stock. I had him order a toilet and established an appointment for Wednesday morning, August 5, 2015.
Signs warning of a road closure on IA-92 west of Indianola had been evident from my first venture into town; however, none of the activities on my list had taken me that far west – until now! A 10-12 mile detour got me to the dealership where the installation of the new toilet went without a hitch. Rather than departing from Elk Rock State Park in Knoxville IA (east of Indianola) to Lowry Grove RV Park in Minneapolis MN, I departed from the dealership. Initially, I had plans to stop at the National Hobo Museum
in Brett IA near the midpoint between Des Moines and the Twin Cities MN; however, my “discretionary” time had been hijacked by a crapper! Trains have always fascinated me, and riding the rails has always been enticing albeit impractical. I guess I’m about as close as to being a hobo as I want to be in the
A Nice Crowd Enjoyed Three Days Of Good Music
Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival - Richmond MN
century. My trip to Minneapolis was uneventful.
Right off the bat, I had a weekend awaiting me in southeast Minnesota that was full of festivals. I selected two. Saturday, August 8, 2015 found me heading for Richmond MN and the Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Festival
. Bluegrass is not my favorite genre of music, but I have enjoyed the sound ever since my childhood when my grandfather, on special occasions, would retrieve his banjo from the closet and pick a few tunes for us kids. Although artists came from as far as North Carolina, I was familiar with none of them. Regardless, I enjoyed the day. Sunday, I declared the Irish Fair Minnesota
a rain-out when the threatening skies materialized as I was looking for a parking space at Union Station in downtown Saint Paul MN.
The attraction I most thoroughly enjoyed during my two-week stay in the Twin Cities was the Mill City Museum
in Minneapolis. I should probably add at this point that the Minnesota State Capitol is currently undergoing a major restoration and repair effort and is closed to the public until the construction work is completed in 2017. Will the Capitol become my favorite? That remains to be seen.
Museum is located in the oldest part of Minneapolis, the Mississippi Riverfront. People settled in the area because of the river, more specifically because of the only waterfall on the Mississippi River – Saint Anthony Falls. Before Anglo inhabitation, the falls were considered sacred by the Dakota and Ojibwe peoples. As Europeans moved into the area, it was alternately controlled by the French and the Spanish from the 1600s until it became part of the United States in 1803.
By the 1850s, the falls had been harnessed as a source of power for the lumber and flour milling industries. Indeed, millers have used hydropower since the 1st century B.C., but such usage in Minneapolis between 1880 and 1930 led to the city’s description as "the greatest direct-drive waterpower center the world has ever seen." In the early years, forests in northern Minnesota were the food for a lumber industry that operated seventeen sawmills on power from the waterfall, and the city grew up around sundry mills. By 1871, the city’s population of 13,000 labored in 23 large companies including, in addition to sawmills, an iron works, a railroad machine shop and mills for flour, woolen, cotton, paper, sashes and
wood finishing. Interestingly, and due to the occupational hazards of milling, six local purveyors of artificial limbs were competing in the prosthetics business by the 1890s. By 1890, Minneapolis had grown more than tenfold to nearly 165,000 people.
Grain came to Minneapolis’ 34 flour mills via rail lines that stretched across the Northern Plains grain belt from western Minnesota into the Dakotas, eastern Montana and north into Canada. Those trains carried the milled flour to the eastern U.S. both for export and for domestic distribution as well as to Duluth for water shipment. Beginning in 1880, and for 50 years thereafter, the “Flour Milling Capital of the World,” more informally known as “Mill City,” led the world in flour production.
The original Washburn A Mill, built in 1874, was leveled by a flour dust explosion that claimed 18 lives instantly. That explosion, and the resulting fire, destroyed five other flour mills and cut Minneapolis’ milling capacity in half. The mill was rebuilt by 1880 and was fitted with state-of-the-art machinery, utilizing steel rollers instead of traditional millstones, which permitted safer operations while producing higher quality flour. At the time, it was the largest and most technologically advanced mill
in the world, and it was said that the mill ground enough flour to make 12 million loaves of bread a day. Put another way, the new Washburn A Mill could grind over 100 boxcars of wheat into almost 2,000,000 pounds of flour per day. In 1880, the Washburn A Mill was the largest flour mill in the world until Pillsbury A Mill opened across the river the next year.
After World War I, flour production in Minneapolis began to decline as flour milling was no longer dependent on water power. Later on in the mill's lifetime, General Mills started putting more emphasis on producing cereals and baking mixes and shifted away from flour milling. The mill, along with eight other of the oldest mills operated by General Mills, was shut down in 1965 and was left in disuse. In 1991, a fire nearly destroyed the old mill. Its ruins are the foundation of the Mill City Museum. In the late 1990s, the City of Minneapolis cleaned up the rubble and stabilized the mill's charred walls. Efforts were made to retain as much of the historic fabric of the building as possible, and many features of the Washburn A
The Anatomy Of A Wheat Kernel
Mill City Museum - Minneapolis MN
Mill were left intact, including turbine pits, railroad tracks, a train shed and two engine houses. The museum, essentially, is a new building built with the ruins of the 1880 Washburn A Mill.
The centerpiece of the museum is the multistory Flour Tower, where visitors ride a freight elevator to different floors of the building. Each floor is designed to look like a one portion of a working flour mill. Voices of people who worked in the Washburn A Mill narrate the presentations. Visitors exit on the 8th floor, where surviving equipment is interpreted by staff, and the group is then led to the ninth-floor observation deck to view Saint Anthony Falls, the Twin Cities cityscape and the mill ruins from above.
Exhibits in the museum include the anatomy of a wheat kernel; an explanation of how the energy from the falling water was harnessed to turn the cogs that spun the gears yada, yada, yada; the history of Minneapolis; short biographies of some of the major players in the growth and evolution of the flour milling industry; and well documented flour milling machinery. For the kids and the young at heart, there is a water power lab
and a baking lab. Make no mistake, this is a museum about the flour milling industry but includes a significant exhibit about the sawmill industry and other aspects of Minneapolis’ history. Anybody who is interested in feeling the pulse of Minnesota in general and Minneapolis in particular must see this museum.
I headed across the street to the Upper Saint Anthony Falls Lock and Dam Visitor Center. The facility is secured, and entry can only be accomplished with the tour guide at regularly scheduled times. The ranger gave an interesting informative presentation; however, since the lock is no longer operational, I cannot give the attraction a strong endorsement UNLESS one has never seen a similar facility. That having been said, if it fits into the schedule well and since it’s across the street from Mill City Museum, the view of Saint Anthony Falls is very nice.
Of course, I had every intention of visiting the Minnesota State Vietnam Memorial
in Saint Paul. "Lakefront DMZ" was selected as the winner of a national design competition that garnered 218 entries. A red granite map of Indochina forms the entrance to the memorial while a winding concrete pathway literally brings the visitor “home” from
Southeast Asia. The main plaza is surfaced with 68,000 granite squares in the shape of the State of Minnesota and representing each of the 68,000 Minnesotans who served in Vietnam. Dark green squares indicate Minnesotans who were killed or who are missing and are placed to mark the hometowns of those Minnesotans who did not return. Engraved on a dark green granite wall are the names of all 1,120 Minnesotans listed as KIA or MIA. A directory helps the visitor find a particular name. Congratulations to the citizens of Minnesota. Well done!
Numerous other memorials are located near the Minnesota State Capitol including the World War II Memorial
, Korean War Veterans Memorial
and what appears to be a foundation piece for the Middle East/Gulf War. That memorial is a combat-ready attired combatant. Another memorial I found to be unique and interesting was the Fallen Firefighters Memorial. I also had encounters with the Hubert H. Humphry and Roy Wilkins Memorials. I’m sure there are others, but, with the Capitol building closed to visitors, I had no map or other form of guidance but plan to return to see the Capitol and other memorials.
One nice sunny day, as had been forecast, I set out for
the Charles A. Lindbergh House and Park
in Little Falls MN. ADVICE - Irene, my GPS, took me directly to the Charles A. Lindbergh State Park
. That probably was MY mistake as both entries probably displayed and, since they are equidistant from the RV park, I selected the wrong destination. After paying the fee and retreating to my truck, I examined the park map and learned that, although the state park was once part of the Lindbergh farm, the historic site is across the street and is not a part of the park. After a U-turn and an additional fee, my ducks were lined up ala a shooting gallery.
Charles August (C.A.) Lindbergh was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1858 and was brought to the United States by his parents when he was about a year old. The family settled in Melrose MN. Following his graduation from law school, C.A. established a practice in Little Falls and quickly became one of the town's leading citizens. His marriage to Mary produced two daughters, Lillian and Eva, but Mary died of complications from abdominal surgery in 1898. In 1906, C.A. Lindbergh was elected from Minnesota's Sixth District to the U.S. House of Representatives, a position he held for ten years.
C.A. Lindbergh died of a brain tumor on May 24, 1924.
Charles Lindbergh’s mother, Evangeline Lodge Land Lindbergh, was born in 1876 in Detroit MI to Dr. Charles and Evangeline Land. After graduation from the University of Michigan, she moved to Little Falls to teach chemistry at the local high school. After her marriage to C.A. in March 1901, the newlyweds settled into a large, new house along the Mississippi River southwest of Little Falls. On Feb. 4, 1902, Evangeline gave birth to her only child, Charles Augustus Lindbergh. She chose to give birth in Detroit, where she would be attended to by her uncle, a medical doctor. Shortly thereafter, she and the baby returned to Little Falls. On Sunday Aug. 6, 1905, the home caught fire and burned to the ground. The house was a total loss. While they never divorced, C.A. and Evangeline had been estranged, and, from this point forward, they would live in separate homes. After the fire, the Lindberghs built a smaller home on the same site. Young Charles loved his time outside on the farm and wrote about those cherished days in "Boyhood on the Upper Mississippi."
The Minnesota Historical Society has
… He Invented A Method To Make His Job Easier
Charles A. Lindbergh House and Park - Little Falls MN
produced an excellent web site that addresses Lindbergh’s early experiences in aviation including Army Flight School and Flying the Airmail, the New York to Paris Flight, Flying with Anne, the Lindbergh Kidnapping and Lindbergh's Double Life. A very interesting article by Rudolf Schröck in the June 2005 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, "The Lone Eagle's Clandestine Nests. Charles Lindbergh's German Secrets.
," explains not only the affairs that became Lindbergh's Double Life but the mindset that might have led Lindbergh to conduct the affairs in the first place as well as his extreme secrecy surrounding the affairs. In his last letter to one of his lovers, penned from his New York hospital bed and dated 10 days before his death on August 26, 1974, Lindbergh commanded, "Hold the utmost secrecy!"
A mural of a little boy gazing up to a Minnesota sky welcomes visitors. The visitor center has two levels of interactive exhibits including a "Spirit of St. Louis" flight simulator where the visitor is challenged to re-enact the tricky take-off in New York, to survive an ice storm over the ocean and, then, to land safely in Paris. There are models of Lindbergh's planes "flying" through the main gallery; a re-created attic of the boyhood home, filled
Lindbergh’s Secret Hiding Place
Charles A. Lindbergh House and Park - Little Falls MN
with Lindbergh's own toys and souvenirs; and the entry to a 1920s-style movie theater, where original footage of Lindbergh's famous flight shows continuously. Exhibits on the lower level include information about Lindbergh's work as an environmentalist and conservation advocate and the 1959 Volkswagen that Lindbergh drove through four continents, including Africa. Then, there is the guided tour of Lindbergh's boyhood home.
In addition to “Lindbergh stuff,” there is a Nature Trail Walking Tour and a Works Progress Administration (WPA) Walking Tour on the property and a Driving Tour to other sites around Little Falls that relate to Lindbergh's history including the cemetery where his half-sisters, Lillian Lindbergh Roberts and Edith Lindbergh are buried and the buildings where his father ran his law practice (here is a PDF download of the Little Falls Driving Tour
brochure.). This attraction is excellent and is, in my opinion, a must see for everybody in spite of Little Falls location about 30 minutes north of I-94.
Having a medical background, I had learned of two attractions that stirred my interest. The first was the Minnesota Veterinary Historical Museum
in Saint Paul. I knew going in that the museum would be small since it is located in a corridor between
two adjacent buildings and that the exhibits are accessible only when the vet school is open – Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM. Upon my arrival at the Small Animal Hospital, the receptionist gave me a brochure with a building map and a half dozen or so display areas for the museum. My expectations grew slightly. One area noted in the brochure is, indeed, behind a locked door with a sign indicating that portion of the museum is open one afternoon a week (I believe Wednesday). The portion of the museum I was able to visit contains antique equipment making it much more suitable for the practitioner or student than to the general public. For those still interested, I would suggest a phone call beforehand to ascertain when the entire museum is accessible.
My other medical attraction was The Bakken Museum
in Minneapolis. Earl Bakken was born in Minneapolis in 1924 and is the inventor of the first wearable, battery-operated cardiac pacemaker. The Bakken Museum is the world's only museum devoted to medical electricity and magnetism from 1200 A.D. to the present. Did you know that in the 1700s Ben Franklin and other scientists hosted parties to show
off their latest discoveries in static electricity? I didn’t, and I doubt that many of my readers care; however, for those with a medical background or those with youngsters, this look into early medical devices such as electrocardiography (EKG), electroencephalography (EEG), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and cardiac defibrillation is fascinating and, for the youngsters, might provoke a life-long quest. Equally interesting are some of the devices that evolved into useful science and some that were pure quackery from the outset. Highly recommended, as noted above.
The Minnesota History Center
in Saint Paul evoked somewhat of a mixed emotion. In addition to the very well done (and for me relevant) ongoing exhibits – “Minnesota's Greatest Generation,” ”Open House,” “Weather Permitting,” ”Grainland” and ”Then Now Wow” there were two featured exhibits – ”We are Hmong Minnesota” and "Inspiring Beauty : 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair." The Hmong are an ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. I learned after my arrival that the day of my visit was the final day for the Ebony exhibit, and, although both exhibits were very well done, I personally found neither of the featured exhibits of particular interest. Having the featured exhibits
allows the museum to display a fresh face every year or so and gives the locals a good reason to return periodically.
The ”Then Now Wow” exhibit takes the visitor from the fur trapping days to the collapse of the I-35 bridge on August 1, 2007 which killed 13 people. “Minnesota's Greatest Generation” has an outstanding participation exhibit of a Douglas C-47 transport aircraft fuselage where a small group of visitors boards the aircraft as a WW II paratrooper being transported to the drop zone. Noises and vibrations of the aircraft, flashes and explosions from anti-aircraft fire and commands from the jumpmaster add infinite realism to the experience. “Home Front Stories” is another exhibit that brings the voices of Minnesotans to the visitor as sundry subjects are highlighted in 1-2 minutes narratives from “Women Miners“ to “Twin Cities Ordinance Plant“ to “Duluth Shipyards.“ The experiences of a WW II POW and Bataan Death March survivor, Ken Porwoll of Brainerd MN, are summarized in “Yes, but I want to live.” Of course, Charles Lindbergh and Minnesota’s iron ore mines are given appropriate coverage; however, some of the standard fares (such as the famous native sons and daughters) have been omitted
– or hidden so well I missed them! The museum is well done and has some extremely unique exhibits that render it exceptional. The Landing - Minnesota River Heritage Park
in Shakopee MN is another mixed bag. The web site touts Guided Walking Tours of the “1880s Eagle Creek Village with a costumed guide;” however, I was not offered a guided tour nor did I see any underway. That having been said, 15-20 costumed interpreters were on hand to enlighten the visitor. As with almost any volunteer-driven enterprise, the enthusiasm of the interpreter to an adult patron varied immensely. That having been said, every encounter I witnessed with a youngster was enthusiastic. I guess my advice would be to bring the grandkids or tag along with a family. The presentation, such as doing the laundry on a washboard, might be somewhat unsophisticated but informative and entertaining nonetheless. What the heck, kids will ask questions that adults wouldn’t consider lowering themselves to ask! All things considered, this is one of the best living history museums of its ilk that I have ever visited. Remember, hang out with the kids and LISTEN.
One day I drove to Menomonie WS to visit with a couple I had
met in 2010 at the RV park where I wintered in Sanford FL. They were in the space next to mine. He is a disabled Vietnam vet and gave me some invaluable assistance when I was groping for some solutions to my issues. They, since the RV park where we wintered was sold and subdivided for site-built homes, have abandoned the snowbird lifestyle and now stay close to their grandkids year round.
Of course, not every attraction I visit is worthy of a “must see” recommendation. The Minnesota Transportation Museum
in Saint Paul has a nice assortment of unusual artifacts, most of which are unrestored and are located enticingly beyond the reach of the visitor. The artifacts that have been restored, and therefore are available to the visitor, have received a mediocre restoration. Without question, this museum ranks in the bottom ten percent of the railroad museums I have seen.
The Minnesota Governor's Residence
has a limited tour schedule (six days a year) and requires a reservation. I emailed my request as instructed and received a reply expeditiously with my tour time. The group was given an introduction in the grand entry by Presenter A and directed to the next room where
Not A Bad Lookin’ Crib From The Outside
Minnesota Governor's Residence - Saint Paul MN
it received a narrative given by presenter B. The Grand Poobah of Presenters was the timekeeper and moved the groups through the interesting mansion promptly at about five minute intervals. We saw half a dozen rooms which were nice but not exceptional. All of the presenters were dressed to the nines, almost all read the narrative from an index card (or two or three), most could not answer questions from the audience and I pined to have been a mouse in the corner at the country club. The tour is not worth the effort unless you happen to have great timing or live in the Twin Cities.
I set out to visit two vintage street cars and the Minnesota Streetcar Museum – the Como-Harriet Streetcar Line
and the Excelsior Streetcar Line
. The attractions have different hours of operation, and both web sites have poor directions. I was unable to find one station. I found the other station; however, it was not scheduled to become operational for a little more than an hour (which I had planned to spend riding the first streetcar). I hope web site designers reading this blog are catapulted into the 21st
century and get GPS coordinates added to their
Oh yes, the food tip of the week. On the recommendation of The Food Channel’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
(DDD), I made a stop at Pizzaria Lola
in Minneapolis. Based on the recommendation of DDD host Guy Fieri and my waitress, I opted to try the Korean BBQ Pizza. The pizza oven at Pizzaria Lola is wood-fired and is located where the entire preparation and cooking process is readily visible from the bar – my seating preference anyway. The pizza was good and quite interesting; however, I cannot highly recommend the Korean BBQ variety. Obviously, food is a personal preference thingy, but I’ll try a different selection if I have occasion to visit again.
The Twin Cities was a very mixed bag in many respects. The location of Lowry Grove RV Park is right in the heart of the city which made it very convenient; however, the spaces are EXTREMELY cramped. Indeed, I had to park the Ram a short distance from the Pilgrim as there was no room for it on my assigned site. Getting around the metro area was a piece of cake with my GPS but downtown parking was crazy. I had a higher
percentage of lower rated attractions on my list; but, with a two-week stay scheduled instead of my normal one week stop, I was able to reach deeper into the barrel than normal.
With the Minnesota State Capitol closed to the public because of restoration activities, I still have one “must see” remaining on my list; and I have yet to make a foray into northern Minnesota. Overall, I had a nice time in Minneapolis/Saint Paul. Having, for the most part, avoided large cities thus far on The Great Adventure, I hope Twin Cities MN is a harbinger of things to come.
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