THE “M’S” HAVE IT! MINNEHAHA (HA-HA!) FALLS, MINNEAPOLIS, AND MALL OF AMERICA

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According to the results of my Google search, Minnehaha is a fictional Native American woman documented in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 epic poem, “The Song of Hiawatha”. She is the lover of the titular protagonist Hiawatha and comes to a tragic end. The name, often said to mean “laughing water”, literally translates to “waterfall” or “rapid water” in Dakota.

The name does make you chuckle, don’t ya think?

Minnehaha Regional Park, where the 53-foot falls are the star attraction, is one of the most popular sites in Minneapolis and was highest on our list to visit.  Walking/hiking and travel photography are our “thing”, and there were plenty of opportunities for both.  Besides, the park is also home of Sea Salt Eatery, a popular casual seafood restaurant reputed (on Trip Advisor) to have tasty fish tacos.  The great outdoors and delicious food; what a perfect combo!

The Metro Transit train stop was just across the street from the park, and the falls were located a short walk through lovely gardens, once we entered the park.

We arrived before the restaurant opened, so enjoying the gardens and watching the falls was a great way to pass the time before the restaurant line started forming.  (The lines get long, so we wanted to get ahead of the rush.)

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The fish tacos?  As tasty as the reviews stated, and dining alfresco was a lovely way to enjoy our brunch along with the hypnotic sound of the rushing water over the falls.

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Fueled up, we were ready to rumble, and hike along Minnehaha Creek (which flows over the Minnehaha Falls) to see where it met the Mississippi River.  The scenery along the creek was beautiful, and it was interesting to see the confluence—the perfect fishing spot for this fly fisherman:

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Taking a different path back and going the (unintended) long way back to the station gave us the opportunity to see more of this 167-acre park.

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The remainder of the afternoon was spent walking the city and checking out two sports stadiums—homes of the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins—both located in downtown Minneapolis.  The glass building of the football stadium made for some fun photography!

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“The times they are a changing.” This is Bob Dylan, then and now.

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The following day was a cold and rainy one, so we planned everything just right for our Minneapolis visit!  The first day was spent all outdoors, and our second one indoors.  We took the train out to the University of Minnesota to see my friends compete at U.S. Masters Swimming Nationals.  The weather at Minnehaha Falls couldn’t have been better, so we didn’t mind having a rainy day where we had planned on spending it indoors, anyway.

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Georgia Masters Teammates: Malena, Marianne, and Ed

It was great seeing a few of my teammates, but I was most excited to see our friends from Oregon, Allen and Carol.  “King Frog” (as I have called him since he broke the 200 Meter Breaststroke World Record in his age group) has been my breaststroke mentor on the U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums, since I joined USMS in 2010.  We (and our spouses) became friends and look forward to seeing each other at national competitions.  (We even met up at the FINA World Masters Swimming Championships in Montreal, in 2014!  King Frog broke a World Record then, too.)

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“King Frog (Allen) & Carol

After lunch with King Frog and Carol, we took the train out to Mall of America.  Shopping wasn’t the draw (we don’t particularly enjoy it); however, the spectacle of it all was what we were curious to see.

The mall completely surrounds an amusement park, and I managed to find plenty of photo ops. at the rides and throughout the mall.  The massive Lego sculptures were especially must-photograph features, as was the irresistible Crayola Crayon store where the colors on display were so cheerful.

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Coming up next:  HITTIN’ THE ROAD TO WISCONSIN

 

PRE-CRUISE:  VISITING VERO BEACH

The idea of going on an Impact Travel cruise came from our friends, David and Melody.  They had heard of Fathom’s unique concept and shared it with us.  We were intrigued and looked forward to experiencing it together.

Unfortunately, several days before the cruise, Melody had a back injury too serious to be able to travel; so, they had to cancel out.  David and Melody still wanted us to visit them in Vero Beach prior to the cruise, so we made our way south on December 28th.

While Melody rested, David gave us a fabulous tour of Vero Beach during the first full day of our visit; so, it made it easier for Bruce and I to find our way around while exploring over the next two days.

Over the next couple of days, between poking around the galleries, visiting the McKee Botanical Garden, taking long walks along the boardwalk at the beach, and watching the manatees; we got a great feel for the area.  Bruce and I enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere and friendliness of the locals.

It just wasn’t the same not being able to share it with our friends, though; and, we were heartbroken Melody and David wouldn’t be able to experience the cruise.

On New Year’s Day, we left Vero Beach for Miami to board Fathom’s Adonia.  It was a day of mixed feelings—concern for Melody, and sadness our friends would be missing the upcoming adventure; but, excitement that our volunteer work in the Dominican Republic would have an impact in more ways than one.

The following are scenes from our visit in Vero Beach.:

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Bruce and David

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Melody, at a farm near their house, before her back took a serious turn for the worse.

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“Woody” was made out of LEGOS!  What a surprise to find an amazing Lego sculpture exhibit waiting for us at McKee Botanical Garden!  Throughout the gardens were beautiful Lego creatures constructed by Sean Kenney, the world’s first LEGO Certified Professional.  Made of regular off-the-shelf Lego pieces, the exhibition featured thirteen individual displays built with over 300,000 LEGO pieces.  This guy was the most complex and made from 4,424 pieces.  He measured 10″x 8″ x 20″.

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This life-size gardener was constructed from 34,340 LEGO pieces.

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42,164 pieces were used to build this praying mantis.

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This Monarch Butterfly has an 8-foot wing-span and was created with 60,549 LEGO pieces.  It’s the second largest sculpture Sean Kenney has every created.

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Uh-oh!  This Milk snake is about to chow down in this cute field mouse.  Both sculptures were made from a total of 12,069 pieces.

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Our national bird, the Bald Eagle is made from 42,198 pieces and measures five feet tall.

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In addition to this squirrel, there were other squirrels and birds on the fence eyeing the bird feeder above (filled with LEGO pieces!).

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31,565 pieces were used to create this huge hummingbird.

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This Giant White Triumphator Lily made from 32,514 pieces was giant, measuring 72″ in length!

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How about a life-size rototiller?  It took 20,903 pieces to create it.

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Next up:  Aboard Fathom’s Adonia