Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

Hiking Cottage Grove Ravine Park

November 12, 2010

I bought this book called Best Hikes of the Twin Cities by Kate Havelin.  It has a list of 31 parks in Minneapolis, St. Paul and the Greater Metro Area.

Each park profile lists the park’s location, directions for how to get there, an overview/history of the park, recommended trails, types of terrain, facilities, costs and contacts.  The author breaks the parks down into several groups:


  • Kate’s Top 10
  • Night Hikes
  • Hilly Hikes
  • Easy Hikes
  • Birding Hikes
  • Wildflower Hikes
  • Winter Hikes
  • River Hikes
  • Bike Trails

The only thing that I don’t like about the book’s layout are the maps of the park trails.  They’re not very detailed, and the only information that most of the maps provide is the general shape of the “featured” trail.  Accessory/alternate trails aren’t shown and the landmarks are kind of iffy, especially for forested areas.  I’ve tried to use the maps as trail guides a few times and have ended up off the path and unable to make my way back to the “main” route.

But I do like the book for finding and trying out new parks.  Last week we decided that we wanted to take a hilly hike that wasn’t too far away, and using the guide we ended up at Cottage Grove Ravine Park in Cottage Grove Minnesota.  The park in all of it’s autumn splendor and the hills weren’t crazy steep or abundant.  There area was lush, the paths were well-tended, and the lake was very pretty.  There weren’t a lot of people taking advantage of the park, so we felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.

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Marian Call in Minneapolis(ish)

November 9, 2010

I’m going to see her tonight!

I only recently heard about Marian Call through Twitter, and again through her performances at W00tstock.  I joined her Facebook fan page not too long ago, listened to her music for free through her website and bought her CD Got to Fly via iTunes.  Have I mentioned how much I love the internet and social networking?

Anyway, Marian Call sings folksy, acoustic-type music with a heavy emphasis on geek culture and humor.  She’s known for her fan music about Firefly and Battlestar Galactica.

She’s a biiiiiig geek, and I ❤ that.

The cool/scary thing about the performance tonight is that it’s going to be at Dunn Bros. in Roseville.  I love small shows like this.  People are being encouraged to bring their own chairs, and with such a large geek/nerd contingent in the Twin Cities (W00tstock Minneapolis sold out like *that* – imagine me snapping my fingers there), I have no doubt that there will be a lot of people standing.  Which is good, and I’ll have a chance to get (really) up close and personal with my fellow geeks.

I should definitely do a deoderant re-apply before I get there.

Anyway, my bit o’ geek for the day is that I’m taking off early to go hang out at Dunn Bros. so I can try to get a decent seat.  Also, this is an excuse to leave work early and continue re-reading The Demon-Haunted World in remembrance of Carl Sagan’s birthday.  Carl Sagan died in 1996, but today he would have been 76.


Update with PHOTOS!

Marian Call was awesome.  I actually did arrive about four hours early for the show, but a couple of my other friends also showed up around then.  I didn’t get much reading done in Demon-Haunted World, but we all hung out, played on our computers and had a grand old time.  One of my friends actually crocheted me a Jayne Hat in a little less than two hours in honor of the show and Marian’s Firefly fan songs.

Marian was friendly and chatty, the crowd was waaaay smaller than I expected (I’m bad at estimating, but…maybe 50 people?) and very well-behaved, and the sound was good.  This was probably the smallest, most intimate concert I’ve attended.  At the mid-show break and after the show Marian hung out and spoke with the audience and took pics with people.  Everything was very laid back and enjoyable.


Marian in Saffron garb for It Was Good For You Too



One Nation, Under Jayne!


Photo by @belmikey and posted with permission.  His complete set of pictures from the evening can be found here.

Sever’s Corn Maze

October 19, 2010

On Sunday the Hubby and I went to Sever’s Corn Maze in Shakopee, MN.  The weather was beautiful – sunny with a clear blue sky, and a cool nip in the air to give it that perfect fall feeling.

This is a view of this year’s corn maze, Vikings 50th Season (the Vikings are the MN football team for you non-native, non-sports readers), from the air:

The maze itself is gigantic – it took us about two hours to wander through it and find all 26 of the hidden signposts that were scattered throughout the maze.  That little tan board to the left of the picture above is actually a bridge where probably 40 people or so can stand side-by-side and look out over the maze.

At Sever’s they have pony and camel rides (yes, camels in freaking Minnesota – right der alongside dah corn, eh!).  They’ve got an area where an old-timey band plays and visitors can buy “state fair food” like corn dogs, cheese curds, roasted corn, and fresh-squeezed lemonade.  There’s a petting zoo, a corn “pool”, hayrides, a miniature hay bale maze for the younger kids, a pumpkin patch, magic shows, carnival games and all sorts of other entertainment.

We had a blast.

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I need to send $$$ to Tarryl Clark’s campaign.

October 6, 2010

Via Joe.My.God.

ValleyScare 2010

September 27, 2010

It’s that time of the year when the Valleyfair amusement park becomes ValleyScare

Many of the parks smaller buildings are transformed into haunted houses for ValleyScare.  Their gaudy, brightly-lit displays are switched out for black paint, fake blood, windows covered with black curtains, cottony spider-web gauze.

Spiders, skulls, bats, rats, gargoyles, vampires, devils, pumpkins, ghosts, witches and devilish half-man/half-monster creatures are planted all over the rides and food vending buildings.

The “worst” part of ValleyScare is the hordes of teen actors who are hired to dress up as zombies and monsters to frighten the guests.  They’ll sneek out from behind signs and start dragging metal buckets on the ground behind you, or they’ll lumber over from across the road to block your way.  Or they’ll just walk quietly behind you until you turn around and then moan or yell in your face.  The zombie below had no pretense or guile (that’s zombies for ya) – he just ran full out and screamed at the dude in the hoodie.  Hey, it seemed to work!

Look at the ants on the roof of the taffy shop – ugh!

This turned out to be one of my favorite photos from last night.  ValleyScare has fog machines located all over the park, and this photo captures the dusk lighting through the mist of the fog.  It’s very creepy and empty. 

Because it was Sunday, and because I arrived before the sun had set, the park was empty except for a handful of other patrons and an entire staff of zombie actors.  At many times I was one guest to four or six zombies, which really made the park feel like the end of Zombieland.

Tombestones in front of the tilt-o-whirl.

My favorite ride is the Renegade – it feels like the fastest roller coaster in the park!  Unfortunately, it’s allllll the way in the back of the park, which means I had to run the entire zombie guantlet.  I don’t mind the whole jump-out-and-scare-you thing, and it’s actually fun when I’m with a group of friends, but when I was by myself they’d jump out, I’d shriek, and then there would be this awkward pause where we’d both think, “Okay….we’re two adults standing here, one of us in a silly custume….now what?”, and I would scuttle away to be received by the next monster.  On the way back from the Renegade (yup, it was still awesome!) I cheated and followed close behind a group of three workers in ValleyScare ride operator uniforms so that I wouldn’t be attacked. Zombie camoflage WIN!

MN State Fair

August 27, 2010

Yesterday I went to the Minnesota State Fair with my little sister, Ashley, from Big Brothers Big Sisters.  We marched in the parade with a bunch of bands and other local groups.  Ashley found one of her friends and the group of us ended up hanging out all day long.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters marches in the 2010 Minnesota State Fair!

Ashley and Gang with the Fresh French Fries mascot

We ate so much food!  Seriously, I could have bought theater tickets for what I spent on food yesterday. Here’s the list of things that the six of us ate throughout the 10-hour day:

  • French fries
  • Deep-fried alligator bites
  • Corn on the cob
  • Tacos
  • Nachos
  • Famous Dave’s BBQ pork sandwich
  • Lemonade, frozen lemonades, lemonade slushies
  • Kettle corn
  • Pretzel with nacho cheese sauce
  • Foot-long corn dog
  • Caramel apple
  • Cherry snow cone
  • Root beer
  • Cheddar cheese curds
  • Ocean Spray pomegranete-blueberry juice
  • Curly fries
  • Pizza

Man!  It was a snacky, nibbling sort of day, and we didn’t all eat everything on the list, but that’s still a lot of food!

The Minnesota State Fair is kind of huge, perhaps bordering on gigantic, and maybe – dare I say? – ginormous.  Click on the picture below for the full-size image.

We did our darndest to see as much as we could!  We visited the Miracle of Birth Center and the Sheep and Poultery barn.  We sat in on the live audience of the KSTP Channel 5 4:30pm newscast with Megan Newquist.  All six of us were on TV (in one of the panning camera shots), and Ashley got Megan’s signature.

Ashley and her friend with KSTP meteorologist Chikage Windler

We walked by the Midway, the Kidway and Adventure Park.  We walked through Machinery Hill and Heritage Square.  We saw the skaters and BMXers at the X-Zone, petted the dogs in the Pet Center and walked through the Grandstand vendors area.  We visited the Eco Experience building and the Fine Arts building.  We rode the open-air Sky Gliders.  And at the end of the night we ran across a cheering crowd singing along with Boyz to Men at the Leine’s stage.

On the Sky Glider – not too bad for two girls who claim to not like heights!

And we had to stop to take pictures at every. One. Of the plywood cutouts we found.

The State Fair continues for the next 12 days.  I’d like to visit at least once more this season in order to see some of the “less exciting” buildings that I missed on account of visiting with a 13 year-old with a short attention span.  Exhibits like the arts and crafts building, the Agriculture and Horticulture building (Arg!  We missed the crop art!  How could we miss crop art?  It’s “Dedicated to the beauty of seeds pasted on a board to make a picture.One doesn’t just miss seeds pasted on a board to make a picture!), the DNR building, the cattle and swine barns and the International Bazaar.

Ah, you ridiculous food, fun and farm-focused festival.  I love ya.

MN Renaissance Festival

August 22, 2010

Weekend Adventures!

This week was the opening of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.  For those of you who may have never been, there are Renaissance fairs all over the United States and each one has its own flavor.  The MN Ren Fest (or Fair) always takes place in in  Shakopee, MN.  The location has permanent buildings that are used by the same vendors every year.

The front gates of the MN Renaissance Festival

Going to the Ren Fest is like volunteering to be part of a play – you can dress up in costumes, you can speak with a lot of “thees”, “thous” and “thys”, and there is a good chance that you will interact with belly dancers, pirates, royalty, handmaidens and guardsmen, pickle sellers, fairies, peasants, minstrels and troubadours, explorers, merchants, sorcerers and many other types of characters.  Some of them are paid actors, others are just visitors who are getting into the spirit of the fair.

I’ve been to the Fair before, but I’d never gone on opening day.  I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, so I decided to head out by myself.  I drove out to Shakopee, parked and arrived at the gate at about 8:30am.  At about 8:50 actors started climbing up onto the gates.  I knew from past experience that there would be a gate show, usually with the king, queen and their attendants, as well as few rabble-rousers to taunt the royalty and visitors alike.  After the gate show they shoot a cannon to announce the start of the day’s fair and the gates open.   The gate show actually kind of stunk this year; the actors wove and dove through the relatively simple (and cheesy) script, but eventually they reached the end, the gates opened and the fairgoers streamed inside.

Visitors coming into the Ren Fest through the front gates.

Immediately inside the gates felt a lot like that scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit where Eddie Valiant enters Toon Town for the first time in the movie – it was noisy, crowded and there were actors on all sides singing songs of welcome to the fair.  It was kind of neat, but chaotic.

The Royal Court – Queen and King, center

The fairgrounds are actually quite large, and after the initial rush at the gate people ambled off in different directions and we ended up spread pretty thin.  For the first hour of the fair I had the place largely to myself.  It was very odd because I knew that in an hour, these paths would be packed with people.

At Ren Fest there are comedy shows, magic shows, belly dancing, juggling, wine tastings, cursing exhibitions, jousting, snakes, tortoises, dogs, ferrets, elephants, camels, goats, and usually at least one alligator.

A fairy blows bubbles for the cutest little girl that I saw at the fair all day.

Kick ass giant suits of armor outside of an artisan’s shop

Belly dancers entertaining in one of the festival’s open areas

What can you do with two sticks, some rope, and a bucket of soap?  This woman can make GIGANTIC bubbles.  I also caught one of the roaming flower girl in the back of the photo.

At Ren Fest you can pay to have someone thrown in the stocks, or you can purchase a ticket to have dinner with the queen and king (or both!).  There are approximately eighty billion and elebenty types of food to eat.  A common sight at Ren Fest is people of all stripes ambling along holding a gigantic cooked turkey leg, nibbling at the meat and watching the crowds.

I left fairly early in the morning – 10:30am!  That’s less than two hours inside and I’d bet a personal record for me.  The spaces were so empty that I was able to walk around the fairgrounds twice, and none of the shows I wanted to see started until after noon.  Also, the sun came out and burned off the early morning fog and it started to get really very muggy.  I’ll be headed back to the fair again later in the seven-weekend run with the Hubby and friends and that’s usually an entire day’s trip.  But this trip was unique and I’m glad that I went.

Initial MN Primary Results

August 11, 2010

From the NYTimes at 06:00 Wednesday 11th, 2010

MN Governor: Looks like Dayton is currently squeeking ahead of Margaret Anderson Kelliher by about 4,000 votes.

MN 5th District: See, no contest.  It’s good to know that the DFLs in 5th district saw right through BDW’s DFL-sheep’s clothing.

MN 6th District: Looks like Tarryl Clark beat out Maureen Reed for the 6th District.  Maureen Reed has very classily announced the suspension of her campaign for the 6th District, and is uniting behind Tarryl Clark to work toward their shared goal of kicking Michelle Bachmann to the curb in November.

Weekend Report

June 21, 2010

This weekend was pretty snazzy.

On Saturday I went on a motorcycle ride with a bunch of friends.  My friend Courtney rode on the back of my bike, and the group of us took a series of winding rural roads from St. Paul to Taylors Falls, MN.   It was cool and overcast the entire day, but all of the weather radar info (on the gazillion or so smartphones we had between us) said the chance of rain was minimal, so off we went!

We rode through some really beautiful areas, and after about an hour and a half of riding we stopped to eat lunch at Taylors Falls.  We ate at a drive-in hot dog/hamburger diner-slash-mini golf place that had horribly addicting fried green beans (thank goodness they had vegetables alongside all of the burger and fries options!) and really yummy, frosty root beer.

After lunch Courtney and I headed back toward Minneapolis, and along the way we stumbled across this incredible sculpture garden called Franconia Sculpture Park.  The place was gigantic – they had probably 30 installations spread over a large area of farmland, and we saw artists working on new pieces throughout the park.  Everything was connected by black pebble walkways and paths mowed through knee-high wild grass.  Some of the exhibits reminded me of the St. Louis City Museum – they were interactive and invited the public to touch, climb and play.


After we left Franconia, we stopped briefly in Stillwater to walk around downtown.  We sat down at one of the coffee shops and suddenly it hit us – were both exhausted from the ride.  Riding on a motorcycle can sometimes zap your energy – I think it’s a combination of having the sun shine directly on you and having to push against the wind for long periods of time.  Whatever it was, we were done, so we took the quick route back to Minneapolis and each ran home to take naps.  I usually hate naps – waste of time! – but mine felt really, really good on Saturday!

On Sunday I went rollerblading around Lake Calhoun and then came back home to have some breakfast and watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica.  In the afternoon I went into work at the bookstore for a couple of hours, which was great because I had stepped down from part-time to seasonal back in May, so I had a chance to catch up with a bunch of work buddies who I hadn’t seen for about a month.

When I left work it was sunny and in the mid-80s, so I decided to head back out to Lake Calhoun – this time with my fancy-schmancy scuba fins, mask and snorkel.  The sun had been shining on the lake all afternoon, so it was relatively warm.  Aside from the popular bandaid and hair tie specimens, there’s not much to see in Lake Calhoun from a snorkeling perspective, but it was neat to fin around and play for a while.

After I got out of the water I just sat on the sand and marveled at the lake – it really is very beautiful.  The blue water stretched out before me and there were several sailboats and windsurfers zipping across the water.  The shoreline around Lake Calhoun has never been sold privately, so all areas of the lakefront are open to the public.  There are bike and walking paths that encircle the lake and three beaches, one seafood restaurant at the north end of the lake, and a place to rent kayaks, canoes and paddleboats.  From the south end of the beach you can see the entire Minneapolis downtown skyline rising above the trees.

I hung out at the north-end beach area for about an hour and then came home to do some chores.  Well, that’s what I meant to do.  In reality I watched another episode of BSG, played on the internet for a bit and then went to bed.  The dishes and laundry can always wait 🙂

Minnesota Tornado Outbreak

June 18, 2010

Last night’s weather was wonky in Minneapolis.  We got about 60 seconds of either hard rain or hail – when we went outside 30 minutes later the ground was dry…  And the sky was yellow.  I mean yellow.  It’s hard to capture a cloudy, yellow sky with a digital camera – all of mine tried to auto-correct – but one of my friends managed to get a good shot and posted it to her FB account:

At 9pm it was so light out that it felt like 6 or 7pm. 

Tornados ripped across many parts of Minnesota last night, but in Minneapolis the weather remained fairly calm.  We did have some high winds in the early evening, but not much else.  At about 9:15pm The Hubby and I went walking in the oddly bright, balmy, 80-degree evening.  We found this telephone booth outside of an antiques shop on Lyndale Avenue.  It looked great with the dark blue, cloudy sky in the background. 

Details from last night’s tornado outbreak in greater Minnesota:

There is already a wikipedia page devoted to the Mid-June 2010 Tornado Outbreak.  Remembering that this is Wikipedia, and knowing that I haven’t fact checked the info, here’s what they have to say: 

Affecting mostly Minnesota and North Dakota, the system produced a total of 62 tornadoes reported across four states while killing at least three people, all in Minnesota.

The page also has a table started that is listing EF#, Location, County, Time and Comments/Damaged caused by the tornados. 


A funnel cloud forms near Grand Forks International Airport Thursday afternoon June 17, 2010. A number of tornados were reported in the northern Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota into the evening Thursday. (Associated Press/The Grand Forks Herald: John Stennes)


A large funnel cloud touches down west of Albert Lea, Minn., early Thursday evening.

Youtube has several videos of last night’s tornados.  I thought this one of a tornado in Winsted, MN by mkastavitch was fairly decent:

And this video by SlayerWalleye (that’s a Minnesotan user name, eh?)  shows some of the devastation caused by a tornado that tore through Wadena, MN: