Friday, May 31, 2013

Dells Part 1

The trip home was to be, as the trip to Minnesota was. A long drive.
We had decided on the drive over that we wanted to stop in the Wisconsin Dells on the way back.
Edward had been there some 40 years ago and I'd never had the pleasure of experiencing the natural wonder.
The Dells are natural sandstone carved out by the Wisconsin River as it makes it's way to join up with the mighty Mississippi.
So a little more than 4 hours into our 11 hour drive, we pulled off the highway to have a look around. After a slight mix-up with directions and a quick hot dog from a stand at the side of the road, we found ourselves on a two hour river tour.

The cute young guide had clever names for several of the rock formations, but don't ask me to repeat them all. I was more interested in the formations than what they resembled.

But I believe there was a reference to a ship yard here.
I was fascinated with the angles of the rock.

I expected them to be parallel to the water. But that was not the case.

This is sandstone and these formations were made more from frozen glaciers than by running water.

The story goes that a natural dam formed in the glacier. Then when the pressure from the ice forced it to break, the entire Dells were formed in less than a month by the advancing ice.

And you think you're under pressure at work.
It's always amazing how much force can be behind water and ice.

I think there's a chimney rock in every state. Here is Wisconsin's.
And here we have the Indian Chief.

And speaking of the Indian Chief, a fun fact for those that have never noticed it. The Mississippi River divides Minnesota and Wisconsin. If you look closely, you can see that same Indian chief peering from Wisconsin into Minnesota at the Northwest corner of Wisconsin.

Something else you can see on this map is how crazy I am.
Look at how far I drove in one day!
Then turned around to do it again. 
( Cause it was so much fun the first time )

More pictures tomorrow from where we got off the boat and explored the tight crevasses in the cliffs.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wedding Day

We left the Mall of America and headed out to a small town outside 
the city of Minneapolis. 
The town of Excelsior is home to The Lady of the Lake. She traverses the waters of Lake Minnetonka offering marvelous views of this romantic lake. This is where John and Linda had chosen to get married. Our small group gathered in the port on this beautiful day and waited for the captain to welcome us aboard.

When the time came, we were guided to the top deck for the ceremony.
The judge welcomed us and began.
As he spoke "Friends and family, we are gathered here today to join John and Linda as man and wife" the wind picked up and just then, as if on cue, there was a loud crack of thunder.
Linda gave the signal to get it started so we could progress to the reception downstairs before the rain started. But, it was too late. The rain came down hard. And Linda gave the signal for everyone to gather in the bar area on the deck below.
 Moments later down below, the judge began again.
It was a very nice service, written by the happy couple themselves.

The judge spoke loudly to be heard over the rain.

A little while later, we moved to the lower deck for a nice meal and conversation.
Here are the 'family jewels' on display with the matching wedding cake.

The lower level was enclosed and afforded us refuge from the storm outside the windows.
At one point, we headed back to port, just to be on the safe side.
 We were able to take in the sights and enjoy the ride.

Eddy got to catch up with his Aunts and cousins too.

The rain and fog gave us incredible sights to see while we cruised around the lake.
Dinning room interior

Small romantic island

Fog rising off the water

What's that saying about a wedding blessed by rain?

One thing I know for sure, is these two make a great couple. I am so glad that we made the effort to travel so far to be a part of their special day. And even though we did stop and pay our respects at the cemetery where Ed's mother is laid to rest, we now have something else to remember May 19th for other than a death.
It is a day that we will never forget. A day that our friends/cousin became a married couple. I know they will have many happy years together.

And to John and Linda, Thanks for inviting us to be a part of it all. I can't think of a better way to have spent that day. And despite the weather, it was perfect.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Family Jewels

.... Later that afternoon, we found ourselves in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Since our hotel was attached to an Outback Steakhouse, we met up with the Bride and Groom for dinner, the night before their big day. Outback has the some fantastic cheesecake and I had made the agreement with Edward that I would have cheesecake for my birthday if I drove us to the wedding.
After completing my end of the deal, I was delighted to have a great dinner with John and Linda and my wonderful husband too. And then to delight in my well earned cheesecake.
Then, to my surprise, John and Linda brought me a whole sampler cheesecake to take with me. 
A birthday celebration that I wouldn't trade for anything.
John and Linda are some of the funnest people I've had the pleasure of meeting and I was looking forward to witnessing their wedding the next day.

After dinner, we gave John and Linda our wedding gift for them. This treasure box holds glass gems in the colors of their birthstones. We like to call them "The family jewels". Little did we know that their birthstones have been a much used symbol in their relationship. Even her wedding ring has their birthstones set together.

Then as you could imagine, after spending 20 hours on the road and a wonderful evening out, we made our way upstairs to the hotel room. I barely remember going to bed. I do remember awaking the next morning refreshed and ready to take on the day.

Our day started at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Ed has memories of visiting this amazing tribute to our nations fallen soldiers as a child and wanted to share it with me.

We have one of these in Michigan. But since it was started only recently, the size is considerably smaller.

To stand in the center of all of this and look out in every direction, the perfectly aligned marble headstones are breathtaking.

(Sometimes I forget which car I am driving.)

Maurice Burgess (Ed's Grandfather)
Some might say that there is no personal tribute to each soldier. What I found, is a well organized system that makes it easy to find your loved one. And that they become an important part of the wonderful field of marble tributes that is much bigger than any one alone.

After a quick stop at the kiosk, we were able to find Ed's grandparents on his mother's side with no problem at all.
Eleanor Burgess (Ed's Grandmother)

It's been many, many years since he's had the chance to visit here.
After the cemetery, we headed over to the Mall of America for a quick shopping trip. For those that have never been there, It's 3 floors of pure shopping pleasure. A cinema on the forth floor and a Aquarium in the basement. Four wings of shopping surrounding a theme park complete with roller coasters.
There's always something going on in the mall. On the day we visited, they were painting pianos for charity.
As one facebook friend wrote, "Where does one start?"

And the answer of course is Starbucks!

It's a good thing that a good friend in Texas sent me a Starbucks gift card for my birthday. Thanks Josh!

But we only had a short amount of time before the wedding.


Friday was my birthday!
And anyone who knows me, knows that on that day each year, I can be quite elusive.
I have a way of disappearing and popping up in the strangest of places.
This year was no different than many others that came before. This year, I got word from one of Ed's cousins that he was planning to marry a sweet girl that we met last time we visited Minnesota. The two of them make a great couple. They are always fun to be around and we decided that we could not miss their special day. The wedding was scheduled for Sunday with my birthday being Saturday. So after a quick nap Friday evening, we threw a few things in the car and set off on another all night drive. It's ten and a half hours to drive from the East coast of Michigan through Chicago, to Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A few stops along the way for freshening up, and we found ourselves in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin by 5:30 AM. The weather was amazing all night, making the trip a breeze. Our first destination was a cemetery just outside of town that is filled with some very large granite headstones. Here's a peak at some of the monumental monuments made from Wisconsin Granite.

But what would cause us to go out of our way to a small sleepy Wisconsin town besides a cemetery? Another cemetery!
This one is where Ed's mother was buried after her death in 2002.
 We could not pass through Wisconsin without stopping to pay our respects. Especially after stopping at my mother's grave just a week ago.

To remind you, Ed's mother died the day after my birthday in 2002 and my mother died the day before my birthday in 2011.

Audrey Borowski was laid to rest next to her grandparents. As a child she would visit them in Beaver Dam in the summers. This was her favorite time and had many happy memories of the summers spent there. So we all thought Beaver Dam was where she should be, even though she's so far from all of her family. We know she'd be happy with them.
We have yet to get her a headstone, believe it or not. But we placed flowers on her grave.

 As we were leaving the cemetery, we thought a nice cup of coffee was in order to complete the rest of the journey. We still had 4-1/2 hours to drive to Minneapolis.

So a quick search on our new smart phones that we got for my birthday showed us where to find that cup of life. And even though I'd been up for over 24 hours minus that quick nap before leaving, breakfast seemed to find it's way to the table as well.

 I think this town is about as Mid-American as you can get. Can you spot the "out of place Michigan car" on the street?

Right in the center of town is the town museum. It was way too early in the morning to explore this treasure. But we walked around and explored the small Wisconsin town that Ed's mother always spoke of with such fond memories. We started to understand why she loved this little hamlet so much.

 This town just drips with history of middle America

One thing we noticed as we walked the street of this beloved town was the bars. There was a bar on every block and above each and every one of those bar's doors, proudly hung a PBR beer sign. Any American over the age of 30 has heard of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. And evidently, Wisconsin still celebrates it nightly.

I wish we could have discovered more of the town history that day but had someplace to be by the middle of the afternoon. I'm sure that the town gets it's name from a beaver dam. But today, there is a man-made dam just behind those buildings and the river rushes right between them. Beyond that is a lake. Very strange. I walked past the building expecting an alleyway and was met with a rushing river. It adds so much charm to this already charming town.
Since we had someplace to be and on my birthday, I like to do what I love, we got back in the car and hit the open highway...... 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Willkommen !

On our way back from visiting my mother's grave, since we were doing things from our past, Ed suggested that we stop off in Frankenmouth for a good Polish dinner.

His family has a Polish name but moved to Michigan from Germany (an area that was called Prussia) in the 1890's.

Frankenmouth is a small town in the center of the lower part of the state. 
Dancing 'round the May Pole
It of course was settled by Germans way back when people were settling.
It's a great place to go and enjoy a Polka dance.

The town has become known synonymously with it's world famous chicken dinners.

 We thought we'd stop into Zender's and enjoy a nice dinner. Now, I can't eat chicken but I can always find something on a menu that will suit my pallet. But this was the first time in history that I decided that I just couldn't spend extremely high prices for food that I was not going to enjoy. There was absolutely nothing that caught my fancy.
 So, we ordered desert and called it done.

A Cheesecake for myself and a cobbler for Edward.
Pugsley was waiting in the car and we returned just in time to catch the sunset at the old covered bridge.

A paddle wheel riverboat, much like the one we will be on next weekend in Minnesota.

Pugsley was mesmerized by the horse drawn carriage crossing the bridge.

You can drive across the bridge, but keep it under 7mph

We left right after the clock tower animation show and headed for home.
Until the next post.... Auf Wiedersehen!