Thursday, August 02, 2012

At last! Vacation 2012, days 1 and 2 - arrival and St. Paul..... 

The Twin Cities were GREAT! I wouldn't mind living there if it weren't so damned cold during the winter (even worse than Sioux Falls!). I sifted through the hundreds of photos I took so I could post a few here.

We left Sioux Falls on Wednesday the 18th. Even though South Dakota is having a drought, it rained most of the way through Minnesota. I would have liked to have visited the towns associated with Laura Ingalls Wilder: Walnut Grove, Sleepy Eye and Mankato, especially since they are all on the same road, but I had to stick to the interstate since I have to have easy access to rest stops. I also would have liked to do some of the driving, but it is too fatiguing for me, so Dan drove and I navigated. We do not have GPS, a laptop, a tablet or even a cell phone, so I used Map Quest on the home computer ahead of time and printed out driving directions to each place we knew we would be going. I also brought along two city maps and an atlas for backup. Worked very well with a few exceptions.

We had a P.F. Chang's gift card, but no P.F. Chang's in Sioux Falls, so we brought the card with us as there are two in Minneapolis. Since the P.F. Chang's restaurants are on the west side of town and we were staying in an eastern suburb, we drove straight to the restaurant once we got into town to eliminate the need for doubling back. We split a gluten-free lettuce wrap, and then I had Mongolian beef with brown rice, which was awesome. Put the leftovers in our cooler to take to the hotel for lunch the next day.

We stayed in Eagan, which is straight south of St. Paul and straight east of the Mall of America. It was a no-frills room with a kitchenette, best our budget could afford. The bed was as hard as concrete and creaked horribly whenever you moved on it, but there was a nice cushioned chair with an ottoman where I could sort of relax. I brought a lot of food from home, but we got a few perishables at the grocery store like eggs, yogurt, cheese, carrots and apples. After I got settled in, I spent some quality time with a Stephanie Plum novel (part six) and called it a day.

After a night of no sleep thanks to the awful bed (even Dan complained of being sore from sleeping on it), we decided to do a dry run to the nightclub in St. Paul where Alison Arngrim, who had played Nellie Oleson on "Little House on the Prairie" would be performing her stand up routine that evening. We wanted to see how long it took to get there and where we'd be able to park.

Then since we were downtown, I asked Dan if I could take a peek at the capitol building. After visiting a memorial dedicated to the pioneers of women's suffrage, we did a self-tour of the capitol, meaning I could take pictures and rest as needed. Good thing because as with any capitol building, there are a LOT of stairs (we used the elevators once inside). The building is undergoing restoration, making the exterior less photogenic than usual, but the interior was impressive with lots of murals, statues and portraits. There is a sculpture on the front of the building covered in gold leaf with four horses representing fire, earth, wind and water.

Then we went to the nearby Cathedral of Saint Paul, which is named not after the city but the actual saint. It is really gorgeous. It is situated on a hill with great views of downtown. We did a quiet walk around the interior; I took photographs, but I won't know how many turned out because as with most cathedrals, the light coming in the stained glass windows makes the rest of the interior come out very dark. I wish I still had the cognitive function to use manual settings on the camera to compensate, but I'll have to make do with the one or two Photoshop tricks I still remember. After that, back to the hotel to rest for about five hours before our big night out.

We went to The Cabaret at Camp Bar, known for featuring many kinds of entertainment. I used my wheelchair because it was going to be a long evening for me. Alison Arngrim's show had the same title as her book, "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch". She was absolutely HILARIOUS! She had clips from "Little House" as part of the act, and at one point, she dressed up like Nellie to re-create the look from her favorite episode, the one where Laura pushed her down a steep hill in a wicker wheelchair. She took questions from the audience. I asked if she ever wanted to do an evil role on a current television show, and if so, which one? She said she thought it would be fun to appear in "Game of Thrones", maybe playing the mom of the evil boy prince. After her show, she did an autograph session. For Dan and me, she signed a photo of herself in her "Little House" costume sitting in front of the set for Nellie's Restaurant. She actually remembered me from her book signing in Sioux Falls two years ago! It was the hot pink duct tape on my wheelchair that did it. She also graciously posed for a photo with Dan and me. Went back to the hotel room wiped out but happy.

Will recount the rest of my trip in future posts. Stay tuned, heh heh.

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