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October 17th 2015
Published: October 17th 2015
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Today was the first completely unplanned day of this road trip - I didn't expect even to set foot in Minnesota, but thanks to an unexpected message from a friend, my trip took this detour. And it was a very good day.

I did a lot of driving, but it didn't really seem like that much (except in road work; see below). One of the benefits of driving through Minnesota during this time of year is all the great foliage you can see. The leaves are changing colors, and at times it can be almost as distracting as those mountains and badlands from further out west. The best display of foliage I saw today was at St. Olaf College, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I left my hotel in South Dakota before dawn, and I was quite surprised by how bright the sunrise was. I was glad to have a pair of sunglasses with me as I headed east on I-90. My first stop was actually for lunch in Mankato, Minnesota. A friend of mine teaches at Gustavus Adolphus College near Mankato, and he suggested eating at Dino's for lunch. They're a pizza/Italian place, and I'm always good for that. They had a lunch special that included a salad, and anyone who knows me knows that I don't do rabbit food. I'm not a foodie, and I probably have generally unhealthy eating habits (though better than many I know); if the salad had not been included, I wouldn't have ordered it. I'm including a picture just so people can see that I did have a salad. And no, I don't take selfies of me eating, and I'm not going to ask the wait staff to take a picture of me eating a salad. Just take my word for it. The pizza was also very good. After I left Mankato, I stopped by Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. I didn't have much time, and my friend wasn't there anyway. But it was a beautiful campus, as much as I got to see of it.

My next stop was the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Let's just say that I totally despise traffic, and in big cities, I just get claustrophobic with it. I did live in Atlanta for 4 years, and I won't do it again. Minneapolis gives Atlanta a run for its money in terms of traffic, at least from my experience today. Sure, there was road work going on in a few places, but other times, it was just volume and limited space. Yuck. But I did make it to the stadium, where they had parking meters in the Gopher Lot. $2.75/hour to park. Yep. That's a meter, not an attendant. A nickel gets you a minute. Insane. Thankfully, I've been collecting spare change, and I was able to put in enough for 30 minutes. I tried to get in the stadium, but they have a long process for taking tours, and that's the only option. They do have a Gopher + Vikings shop near the big scoreboard attached to the stadium, so that was convenient. I got my pennant. And then I was outta there.

I was so glad to get out of the city again. I really hadn't had a big city since Denver, and that really didn't feel all that big. My destination was Northfield, Minnesota, home of St. Olaf College. I'll be the first to admit - all I really knew about the college was that it had a highly-respected music program. But everything else I know about St. Olaf comes from Rose Nylund of The Golden Girls. Yep, I went there. And when I got to the college, I was met with natural beauty everywhere I turned. The trees especially made the place feel magical. I had been seeing yellow, red, and orange leaves all day, but nowhere was it so concentrated, so breathtaking. And everyone I came across had a smile on his or her face - they were as happy to be there as I was! I must've walked around for 45 minutes, just taking pictures of the beauty. I hit up the campus bookstore, of course. It was certainly a place I would love to come back to.

I stopped by a cinema in Owatonna on the way to my hotel in Austin, MN. The local theatre here didn't have much of a selection, but the other one did. So I stopped in and really enjoyed Bridge of Spies. The theatre was clean and very organized, and even though I got to the movie 15 minutes late (it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, once I found out that the next showing wasn't for another 1.5 hours), I was still able to get a ticket and not miss a thing of the film. I normally roll my eyes when people walk in after the move starts, but I guess I can empathize better now. After the film, I noticed a big pile of movie posters lying on the counter - they were all free to a good home! So I got one that was in decent shape, and maybe I'll have a place for it when I get back home.

Observations:

I really do think the GPS is required to make me sit through as much road work as possible on this trip. Today was almost intolerable.

The cold weather has finally started to settle in. It got down into the 20s last night, and it didn't get above freezing until about 9:30. And the high couldn't have reached 50.

I'll be quite happy if I don't have to stop in any big cities for the rest of the trip.


Additional photos below
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19th October 2015
The campus of St. Olaf College

Detour
Life is to short not to take the detour when you have an opportunity.

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