235 miles; estimate 3 hours 30 minutes
One of the advantages of traveling is that it serves as a sort of enforced fitness program. For instance, though it embarrasses me to admit it, I find it hard to climb even one flight of stairs. While we were carrying our stuff from our room at the Howard Johnson down one flight to our car, I made innumerable trips up and down those stairs—and carrying heavy stuff, as well. Dan did the same. Loading the car is much more motivating than hanging around some clanky old gym pumping iron.
The sky was heavy and dull much of the way, and I found it hard to take an interest in the beautiful farmland, especially as it was so flat. One thing that impresses me in traveling back and forth across the country is how much land is devoted to production of grain crops in this country. Two or three routes across the country go through hours and hours of corn. It's astounding. And a great bounty. Everything looked very good this year, especially compared to the drought-shriveled fields we saw on last year's journey. Population was sparse and mostly Caucasian.
Coming into a city as intense as Minneapolis was shocking at first. There seem to be many more gleaming high-rise buildings downtown than we remembered, and, as our taxi driver said later in the evening, the population is a melting pot. And, you know, the style of big city people sometimes shocks us suburbanites. The effect was compounded by the fact that there was a Twins game last night, and our hotel is convenient for the stadium, so there were lots of folks in town and our Best Western Normandy Inn was full.
The hotel is large and has a kluged-together floor plan, requiring three elevators for three different sections. The desk clerk omitted to point out this fact, so Dan pushed our laden cart into the first elevator we came to. Up to the third floor, all the way to one end and back—our room isn't there. Huh? Must be another wing. We got downstairs and a hotel person conducted us to the appropriate elevator. More exercise. Long, long hallways in this dumb layout.
Everything else about the motel is swell, especially after the Howard Johnson. Automatic doors at the entry. Large carts. Nice appointments. Spacious room. Good bathroom with a door. Osmosis filtered water on tap at the end of the hall. I really appreciate stuff like this. And the price isn't bad, either, which makes Dan happy.
The last time we were here, it was so cold that I never left the hotel after we returned from the museum, so this year I was eager to use the pleasant weather to explore downtown. It wasn't quite what we expected. We had to walk several long blocks past big buildings with no people services at all before we found a section with restaurants. These were all so trendy and expensive that we reeled out the doors. It was good that we had stopped for lunch. Finally, we discovered Mason's, a new, family-run, only slightly trendy restaurant with an interesting menu and tolerable music. The owner said he was trying to bring that neighborhood feel back to downtown. Dan had a pork shank prepared in the style of osso bucco that was delicious (I sampled). I had a good beet and spinach salad. We took a taxi back to the motel.