Saturday, August 04, 2012

Vacation 2012, part 3 - Mall of America and departure.... 

Saturday the 21st was the visit to Dan's "mecca", the Mall of America, the largest shopping mall in the United States. It is a very easy drive from Eagan, parking is free, and there are lots of parking garages, which we appreciated because it was raining again. Turns out the mall was packed because of an "American Girl" event, making lines for elevators quite an ordeal because of all the strollers competing for space with my wheelchair. I imagine, though, that it would be quite crowded on any given Saturday. We were parked on the fourth level, I think, and had tickets for the SeaLife aquarium on the first level, but they were good for the whole day and not a specific time, so we could just patiently wait our turn and not worry about being late for anything.

I know what you're thinking: an aquarium in a shopping mall? How good could that possibly be? I was thinking that too. But I was pleasantly surprised.

Aside from the sting ray exhibit being closed for re-design, everything else was up and running. The aquarium is actually a series of tanks containing various types of ocean creatures and plant life. Most are quite colorful. Because the glass tanks would reflect the flash on a camera, I took photos without flash, which was quite a challenge. Some turned out quite dark, so I'll have to open those up in Photohop to see what I can salvage.

One of the tanks contained huge lion fish. There was a touch tank with chocolate chip starfish and other cool things. There were many tanks featuring different kinds and sizes of sea horses, which I thought were quite beautiful. I really liked the jellyfish tanks, which had fluorescent lighting so they would glow. The sharks were of the smaller variety, but it's still awesome when one swims right over your head. I also discovered they move much too quickly to photograph with a digital camera. There were some really huge sea turtles, but it was too dark to get any photos of them. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience, best shopping mall aquarium I've ever seen, heh heh.

Another detail about the mall that might surprise people: it contains an amusement park. Yep, roller coasters and the whole nine yards. I obviously can't do rides anymore because it's now very painful for me to be jostled at all, but I do enjoy people watching, and the higher levels of the mall (it's five stories high) have a good view of the amusement park.

After we finished our tour of the aquarium, I told Dan he could go wherever he liked as long as he pushed my chair. Since Dan is from a small town in South Dakota, he has been to this mall a million times, and he actually LIKES to shop while I generally avoid it. We now live a mile from the largest mall in South Dakota, but I have only been to six stores in it in six years. It turned out I was the one who wanted to check out a few stores here because it was all a novelty to me. And some of the stuff in the Mall of America is unique. There was a store that only sold perfume, one that only sold Crocs, and one that only sold flip flops. The places that interested me were: the Bettie Page store, which sold new clothing in 1950's designs: Happy Days, a memorabilia store featuring everything from "Gone with the Wind" to Elvis to "Twilight"; and LegoLand, which had life-sized or larger people and creatures made entirely of Lego.

Before it was all over, I'd acquired two Disney shirts on sale and a paperback book on exploring all the places Laura Ingalls Wilder had lived. We had avoided the area where the "American Girl" event was going on, but we saw enough of the rest of the mall that I got the general idea. I think we called it a day and got back to the hotel about 5pm.

The rest of the evening was spent relatively quietly as the headache I'd had most of the trip (I always get one when I'm away from home more than a few hours) had gotten worse from all the noise in the mall. Could feel myself slipping away into zombie-land, and I realized it was a very good thing we'd be going home in the morning. But I did manage to finish the sixth Stephanie Plum novel and begin the seventh one before I attempted to sleep.

We headed back on Sunday the 22nd. I'd told Dan we could play tourist some more after check out if he wanted, but I was rather exhausted and relieved when he opted to just go home. The ride going back was more painful than when we had first started out, but fortunately, my car does have fairly comfortable seats, so it wasn't nearly as excruciating as, say, flying on a commercial airline would be. We were welcomed by 100 degree weather in Sioux Falls.

Now all I have to do is recover from my post-vacation flare. Easier said than done, sigh. But this was by far the least stressful and painful vacation I've had in many years, and I have a ton of photos to show for it, IF ever I get around to editing them.

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