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Monthly Archives: September 2016

Minneapolis and Northern Wisconsin- Day 5

Tues. Aug. 23, 2016:
Minneapolis, MN

I woke up before 9am and I was feeling great. I had slept without a bandage on my ring finger that I had cut a week ago. It was so nice to finally be free of Band-Aids, it was starting to really annoy me: a week straight of 24/7 Band-Aid was driving me nuts. I made myself a cup of in-room coffee and it was truly awful. I distracted myself from it by watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and eating smores Pop Tarts. The TV guide had lied, it said that Sabrina The Teenage Witch was on and it had gotten my hopes up. We had time to kill as the Minneapolis Art Institute was only a 5 minute drive away and did not open until 10am. We created lists of the beers and ciders we wanted to try at lunch, as there was an option to do a flight of 4 beers, 4 oz each- we had to plan ahead.

We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the Minneapolis Art Institute does not have an admission charge. They had a great collection but it was a little bit disorganized. We went to the rooms in order. At first each section was broken down geographically and was focused. Halfway through we found ourselves in a room that represented Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo and a few other African countries and it was from all different time periods. The previous section, Asia, had been broken down by country and time period. This room felt like they had just thrown a bunch of items together.

Once we made it to the European paintings we were stuck near an annoying group of middle-aged ladies who kept talking to the tour guide long after the tour was over. They were talking about selling selfies on eBay and we had to speed-walk to get away from them. They were unbearable. We finished the museum in four hours and drove over to the Walker Art Centre. In trying to figure out if I would be able to see the cherry –spoon statue or not, I found out that to compensate for the sculpture garden being closed, the centre had a wacky rooftop mini golf course. I could not resist.

In paying for the mini-golf we were given free admission to the Walker Art Centre. We had a half hour before our scheduled tee time so we wandered through the various exhibits. It did not take long to get through most of it. There were only a few artworks per room, and the video pieces each got their own room. It would appear that contemporary art takes up way more gallery space than any others. I was not expecting to see so much wacky and head-scratching art. Only a few actually made me smile and were enjoyable. Overall it only further solidified my general disdain with contemporary art.

The highlight of the Walker Art Centre was by far the artsy mini-golf course. One of the courses was called Guess What? Chicken Putt, another one required you to use your golf club as a pool cue. The best one had footprints all over it and invited your competitors to stand in the way of your shot. It was really fun to play. Afterwards we tried to look down into the sculpture garden construction to see if there was a better view of the cherry, alas there was not.  I was very hungry afterwards, alas on our way from one place to the next I had eaten the last Oreo and in the Walker Art Centre parking lot we had finished off the Tostitos. I would have to wait until our late lunch.

Having spent 4+ hours walking we needed a rest break before heading out to lunch and from there to the baseball game, and of course if you’re sitting around the hotel room watching crappy TV, one needs a cider for that. The Shacksbury Farmhouse Craft Cider from Vermont was delicious, far and away better than the Seattle one I had grown to dislike.

I was a bit worried about getting lunch at Republican Bar as we did not have reservations. I was also worried because I thought it was closer to the stadium (turns out it was a 40 minute walk away). Luckily we managed to easily get a table, and during happy hour no less. Even though we had researched what we wanted in our flights, we still debated a little bit as there were a few beers and ciders on the specials board that we had not anticipated. Eventually we were ready to order, each reading off our little piece of paper. We wanted to get food at the game so we split an order of buffalo wings. It was fun to sip the ciders and beers and rank them, eventually I settled on from best to worst: Founder’s Rubaeus Raspberry ale tied with Nektar Zombie Killer mead-cider, Uncle John’s blueberry cider and dead last was Milk & Honey Heirloom cider. At the end of our flights we looked at each other, we were both still a little bit hungry and guacamole and chips were on happy hour special. But if we were getting food, we should probably get another flight each. This time more deliberation took place as we had not anticipated a second flight. Yes we had a few back-ups listed, but very few. We spent quite a while studying the beer menu and specials board, our server had to come back twice before we were ready. Keeping in mind the first flight, we sampled the rest and then it was time to submit a final ranking. From best to worst, it was: Ommegang Cherry Sour (which was easily the best beer I have ever had), Founder’s Rubaeus Raspberry again tied with Nektar Zombie Killer, Uncle John’s, Sweet Orchard’s Cuban Garden Party, Virtue barrel-aged cask which was the cider of the day, Fair State roselle hibiscus and the heirloom cider. How did I keep track of it all? Our server brought us a print out of what was on the flight. Eight 4oz glasses of beer and cider when you have barely eaten anything all day is not the best idea in retrospect- especially if you drank a bottle of cider before leaving the hotel. Needless to say, it was a hilarious drunken walk to the baseball stadium, we were equally drunk. We stopped at a park because there were port-a-potty’s, we were heading back towards our hotel for a pit stop and this saved us some extra walking.

When we got to the stadium we still had 20 minutes before the game but we were too full for food. Plus the food stand Brent had wanted to get dinner at was not open yet. I was surprised to see that the stadium was not even half full. Once again I had been tempted by overpriced ballpark shirts. Around the 2nd inning it started to rain, which sucked given that the stadium did not have a roof. We waited it out until the 3rd inning and went in search of food. There were no water fountains, but they had big orange Gatorade coolers and triangle cups. I stopped at each one as we circled the concourse, they were my saving grace. I was starting to crash and I was not in the mood for food. The Butcher & Boar was still not open, so we went to Kramarczuk and Brent got a Polish sausage piled high with onions and sauerkraut, making it rather unappetizing to me at the time. We also got an order of deep-fried cheese curds. I ate one and it was delicious, but I was paranoid about getting sick.

By the time we were back in our seats, the rain had finally let up. This lasted until halfway through the 6th inning. At this point we had seen a Twin steal a base and another Twin hit a home run resulting in one firework and a lit up sign that had two baseball players (St. Paul and Minneapolis) shake hands. The stadium was really starting to clear out. The rain did not let up and it rained the whole walk back to the hotel. I was so tired by the end of all this, I needed sleep and more Pepto-Bismol, luckily I found some in the bottom of my purse.

 
 

Minneapolis and Northern Wisconsin- Day 4

Mon. Aug. 22, 2016:
Bayfield, WI to Minneapolis, MN

I was awoken early by the loud construction noise outside, well the workers listening to the radio. Oh and by Brent jumping on the bed and air guitaring to the music, which at first had meshed with my dream and seemed totally normal, much to Brent’s bewilderment. I managed to catch some more Pokemon before breakfast. The breakfast was amazing. We started off with a chocolate chip muffin, resulting in me getting chocolate on my face. Brent noticed and told me, I went to wipe it off only to wipe the wrong side and instead I smeared more chocolate on my face. The standout was the warm blueberry cobbler. The pancake of the day had previously been chocolate chip and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was now caramel pecan. This time around I had bacon on the side. It was a delicious combination alas it was a little bit too much food and I wound up unable to finish it all.

We drove back to Minneapolis for the final leg of our trip. Again I was getting so sleepy in the car. I opened up a can of Sprite in the hopes of keeping myself awake. I managed to stay awake long enough to cheer Minnesota and see that the first town we entered was Duluth, which I only knew about from Fargo. I had fallen asleep twice at this point. I gave up and turned on one of Brent’s podcasts and nodded off for a short nap. Eventually I awoke because I had to pee, and so we stopped at a McDonald’s. Partly also because I figured this would be a great time to grab a coffee, as I was clearly in need of one. Or two, maybe.

I was starting to get hungry and it was well timed. We were stopping for lunch at the Surly Brewing Company just outside of Minneapolis. They did not have a bottle shop only a souvenir shop. I ordered the Pentagram beer both because it was a sour and it came in a tiny little 4oz size. It was delicious and we ended up ordering the porchetta sausage dish because it came with the option to get a 4oz Pentagram beer, it was perfect! We also split the Hog Frites. I was expecting fries piled high with pork and cheese, not a pile of veggies and something spicy. It was like someone had dumped a salad on a perfectly good plate of fries. The food was only ok, but the beer was the true winner of the meal. It was nice to see the vats of beer being brewed next door through the big glass windows in the dining hall.

We drove to Gold Medal Park and left the car. The plan was to walk through the park and find a path down to the Mississippi River to see the old stone arch bridge. I did not expect to see so many cool abandoned and repurposed old factories along the river’s edge (in retrospect it is quite obvious why). From the bridge we could see St. Anthony’s Falls and the churning water below. It was very hot outside and the sun was super bright. Not helping matters was the fact that yet again, I had to pee. We stopped in at the Visitor’s Centre at the dam by the bridge. We pretended to go looking for information and acted as if we did not have enough time for a tour. All this just so I could use their bathroom.

Even though the Walker Art Centre sculpture garden was closed for renovation we still drove over to see if there was anything to be seen. I had not planned this trip out very well. The main reason for choosing Minneapolis was to see the (famous to me) cherry on a spoon sculpture in the middle of a pond. Unbeknownst to me, this statue was in the aforementioned sculpture garden, not a public park as I had envisioned. The drive was tense, all the moreso because of all the construction. The GPS managed to navigate us instead to the basilica I had also wanted to see. We parked in a nearby garage and headed out on foot. Driving around the Walker Art Centre was impossible. They basilica was gorgeous from the exterior but there was no indication that you could wander in and gawk at it from inside. Plus I was so distracted, would I see the cherry or wouldn’t I???

I thought I recognized a park across the street from the art centre, it had a pond and seemed like the spot where the cherry should be. My heart sank a little, it wasn’t there. But almost immediately Brent exclaimed because he saw the stem!! It was across the street in the middle of the sculpture garden construction behind fencing!!! There was a bridge that normally allowed access to the garden and it was not closed off! Just the access to the garden was. From the bridge I was able to see the cherry on a spoon sculpture in all its tacky glory. The only thing missing was the water spraying from the stem. You see, when it was installed properly in the pond it was a fountain, making it that much cooler. I was so happy to finally see the sculpture. And now I had no reason to ever return to Minneapolis ever again. I was very glad to have seen it. As we passed the park initially I kept seeing flashes of red raising my hopes, which were then quickly dashed when I saw it was just a bench.

Our hotel was near downtown, if you can call it a downtown, which it barely was. As soon as we got to the room I filled up the ice bucket. It felt so good to down a glass of ice cold Sprite while my cider chilled in the ice bucket in the fridge. I did not want to risk a mini-nap, so rather than writing in bed, I chose to sit in the chair instead. With a foot stool and a side table it was perfect for writing and drinking ice cold cider. Once I had cooled down and rehydrated we headed back out. Brent had found a nearby liquor store and we headed out to stock up one last time. I had one and a half ciders left and ended up grabbing a Vermont farmhouse cider. This was mostly because I had grown to dislike the Seattle cider. It was better on ice, but still not that great.

We had an hour and a half before we had to leave for dinner at Smack Shack. I was all caught up in my notebook but too brain-dead to read. Instead I opted for watching Teen Mom OG on MTV, just like the old days, except with cider instead of Ben & Jerry’s. I was fully in vacation mode.

We had been told that there was a nice outdoor shopping arcade downtown so we left early to walk by and see it. We had been grossly lied to. It was just a regular street with a Macy’s, a Marshalls and a Saks Off Fifth. I was expecting something along the lines of Newbury St. in Boston or the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. It was made all the worse by all the construction. We now had extra time. We happened to walk by the Minneapolis Central Library, which I immediately recognized from a best-of-in-each-state library list. It was a very nice modern looking and inviting building. We tried to see the Audobon bird exhibit but we were way too late and the exhibit room was closed. We took the scary glass elevator back to the main floor.

Dinner at Smack Shack was way better than I had expected. I was anticipating greasy, gimmicky food. Lobster meat stuffed into a burger, named a Juicy Lucy? It sounded like a gargantuan mess of enormous size. I feared that when I would steal a bite from Brent I would not be able to even get all the components in one bite. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was just a little bit of lobster meat stuffed into a regular sized burger of great quality.  The crab cakes I ordered were amazing and it was just the right amount of food given I was not feeling too well. Even the kettle chips on the side of the burger were delicious. Brent wanted a second beer therefore it only made sense to order dessert. I had only ordered an appetizer for dinner anyways. Apparently the key lime pie went really well with Brent’s grapefruit beer.

On the way home I had wanted to stop at Walgreen’s to buy some more Pepto-Bismol but it was closed, and it was not even 9pm yet! I knew this because I had wanted to get back to the hotel around 9pm because that was when the new episodes of Teen Mom OG were airing, 2 hours of uninterrupted trashy TV. Alas, because of the time zone switch we missed the new episode and they were airing one I had watched earlier in the day during the marathon, so we watched Bob’s Burgers instead.

 

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Minneapolis and Northern Wisconsin- Day 3

Sun. Aug. 21, 2016:
Bayfield, WI

I woke up just before the alarm clock, it was still so early, but we had an 8:30am ferry to catch to Stockton Island. Breakfast at the hotel was amazing. We started with warm croissants and a blueberry, granola yogurt parfait. For my main I had the French toast with Wisconsin maple syrup (apparently that is a thing?) and fresh strawberries. It was a good breakfast to start out a day of hiking. Especially given we did not know how long we would be there for, they do not list when the ferry returns. We packed Gatorade, soda and Pop-Tarts for our day trip.

I was honestly expecting a 20 minute boat ride, not an hour long one. Stockton Island had seemed so close. It was worth it, we got to see another bald eagle sitting in a tree. We found out that the return ferry would be boarding at 12:15pm. That would give us about 3 hours on the island. At first this did not seem like a lot of time, we had so many trails we wanted to hike! Once we got there we found out that two of the trails we had wanted to see were closed due to damage from a storm in July. It was all well and good, we would not have had time to do them anyways because they were longer than we had expected. Instead we went on the two shorter trails, taking us along the edge of the island and to the beach. On the island we were met by an adorkable park ranger, he offered to take us on a nature walk but we had to pass. It would have been too awkward to handle. We got to see the rocky shore being splashed by huge waves. We found some wild blueberries that according to Brent were bitter and full of seeds, warranting spitting them out. We walked to the beach where the problem bear had wandered. On the cruise the previous day the captain said that the bear had been shipped to a zoo. He had lied, the bear had been shot and his taxidermied self was now on display in the information centre on the island. As we walked we could see the damage from the storm, there were a lot of uprooted trees. In total we saw two garter snakes, some moths and some birds. We did not see any bears, the closest we came to seeing one was bear poop. We walked by the camp sites and stopped at look-out points.

There was a kid in a group near us on the trail and we kept running into him and his group throughout our trip. Emerson as I will call him, was hilarious. He even had a catch phrase: oh my word! Once we got off the boat his parents were telling him about the plans for the rest of the day, they were going to drive somewhere. Emerson was not having it, what about my nap?, he asked, sounding irate. He was not pleased with the response that he could sleep in the car. This kid was my soulmate.

Three hours was a long time to spend walking around. I was so tired by the time we got back on the boat. We sat downstairs to avoid the high noon sun. Pretty soon I was stretched out on the bench and fast asleep. I awoke to find the captain steering the boat with one foot.

For lunch we drove to Culver’s, a Midwestern fast food place. It was tough to find and I had to use the GPS and Brent’s phone but eventually we got there. The “butter burger” was a greasy buttery burger patty, but I was surprised at how thin it was, I kind of had expected more. It was delicious though. We were in Wisconsin, I had to get the fried cheese curds. On the way out I got a frozen custard concrete, made with Wisconsin dairy of course. I had ordered a small, but of course that size did not exist. What I meant was a mini, instead I got the largest size, a regular. I had gotten the chocolate flavour with peanuts, marshmallow cream and Heath bar. It was heavenly, but no match for the heat. My dessert was melting and fast. By the time we got to the hotel my stomach had started hurting. I had risked it getting the cheese curds but it was still worth it. I distracted myself with Pokemon GO. Our hotel was a Pokestop so I set a lure and spent my time catching Pokemon.

By the whirlpool tub there was a package of complimentary bath salts, I had to have a bath! Plus on the walk back from the harbour we had stopped in at the grocery store and grabbed Wisconsin’s second and third highest rated beers, which both happened to be fruit beers. The New Glarus Raspberry tart (#3 on the list) was incredible and easily one of the best fruit beers I have ever had. I poured a full glass and filled the tub- the tub that was not in the bathroom, but in the bedroom tucked into a corner. I thought nothing of it. That is until I was going to climb in with my book and my glass of beer. It felt weird and I bailed. I couldn’t get the jets to work anyways so either way I would have bailed, just not as soon. I was so tired, I tried to read my book on the couch but instead I ended up falling asleep, nap number two of the day.

We had dinner at the hotel, we split the smoked trout and cheese plate. The best part was the smoked trout. All the cheese plate did was further solidify my growing dislike of cheese plates. There is too much variance and chance of getting bad cheese. I was tricked into eating the goat cheese. I was still too full from lunch to order a main, so instead I ordered the seafood chowder. It was amazing, it had fish from Lake Superior. I briefly considered ordering another bowl but I was so full once I finished it I couldn’t even think about dessert. Brent had ordered the trout sandwich. It came with a side of fries and they were honestly the worst fries I have ever eaten in my life. I did not know that fries could be made that bad! “It was like eating potato slices,” to quote Brent.

With the bill came a postcard that we got to fill out that would be mailed on our behalf. They had done the same thing at breakfast but I had taken it instead as a souvenir. This time I wrote it out to my dad- even though it would arrive after my return.

Back in the room my stomach was hurting again and I started Googling if cheese intolerance is a thing. Then again, I had eaten an incredible amount of cheese over the course of the day, many times more than what I would normally eat. I strongly considered taking a third nap. Instead I thought fresh air might make me feel better- with a side of Pepto-Bismol.

We went for a walk down to the harbour to see the lake. The sun had set and most of the town had cleared out. We saw a bat swooping around catching bugs, it was so cute. We walked along the lake in a small park and out to a fishing dock where we saw the last remnants of the sunset. We tried to walk back through the marina but it dead-ended and we had to turn around. It resulted in me getting to see some adorable dogs, so no complaints here. On the way back we did not see our bat friend, I joked that he was somewhere lying in a food coma.

I felt much better after the walk and the fresh air. We cracked open the second highest rated beer in Wisconsin, also from New Glarus. The Serendipity was labelled as a sour beer with some fruit to it. I was expecting sour ala Cantillon. This was barely sour, it had a strong bold fruit flavour and was thick. It was almost syrup-y actually. It was nowhere near as good as the raspberry one and quite frankly had been mislabelled, it should not have the word sour anywhere on the label. And while I am at it complaining: why did they coat the top of the bottle and the bottle cap in wax? It was annoying to open and then to clean the cap so I could save it. It was nice to sip beer and read my book in bed.

 
 
 
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