Miscommunication leads to misunderstanding, which rarely leads to anything good.
Charles F. Glassman
State 11: Minnesota - August 19, 2017
We woke up in Hastings, MN ready to begin another brand new day. However, we had some unfinished business to address at the capitol in St. Paul. Yesterday, we unknowingly crashed the Grand Opening Celebration of the Minnesota Capitol Building, and it's 50,000 attendees. Instead of fighting the masses, we decided to return the next day which is now today. As we approached the capitol building, we were pleased to see all of the road blocks were gone, and the maintenance crew was just finishing packing up the stage. The party was now over, the crowds were back to the grind, and all was quiet and calm in Minnesota’s capitol city of St. Paul. We soon got our first view of the external structure of the newly remolded capitol, and it was the most beautiful building we had seen so far on our trip. From the cornerstone to the apex of the rotunda, the external structure was entirely constructed of marble. Second only to the St. Peters Basilica, The Minnesota Capitol has the largest unsupported marble rotunda in the entire world! If the external structure wasn't spectacular enough, we have yet to discuss the gold gilded Quadrila perched at the base of the external dome greeting all who ascend the grand staircase. The Quadrila depicts a chariot driven by a woman, which is pulled by four horses. The four horses represent the 4 elements: earth, wind, water and fire, and the woman leading the horses represents human civilization. Marble domes! Gold chariot statues! Newly restored capitol building, only 1-day old! This was certainly going to be an amazing tour!
When entering a capitol building, one would think to just walk up the main staircase, and through the front door, but it is rarely so simple. Most capitols have all of the doors locked, and only 2 entry and exit points. One of which is for the public, and the other is for government employees. Locating the public entrance of the capitol typically results in a frustrating scavenger hunt, and an occasional comical experience. However for the first time ever, we walked right up the external grand staircase, and straight through the front door of the capitol building. In addition, we were not subjected to invasive searches at the front door, which is always indicative of a warm welcome. We met up with our tour guide beneath the main rotunda. Displayed on the main floor of the rotunda were 4 battle flags used by the Minnesota citizens who served in the Spanish American and Civil War.
Usually the guide who performs the capitol tours are merely knowledgeable of the history of the capitol building. The Minnesota capitol tours were conducted by historians from the Minnesota Historical Society, which greatly enhanced the entire experience. Our guide was interesting, comical, engaging, dramatic, and the best we have had thus far. Our guide then led us through the House, and Senate chambers, which were nice but otherwise unremarkable. Please see the pictures below.
Next, we were led to the Governors Reception Room, where he holds press conferences, signs significant bills into law, and entertains important dignitaries.
The room was extremely ornate with gold gilded plaster ornaments, and glorious large paintings throughout. One of the noteworthy pieces of art depicted a graphic battle scene from Gettysburg in which 90% of the Minnesota regiment lost their lives. The painting acutely captures the atrocity of the American civil war in a raw and real manner to the likes of which we have never previously seen. The aforementioned painting was also the final work created by the artist, as he perished on the Titanic the following year. Please see the picture below.
Above the Governors podium, we noticed there was a large blank space on the wall. The empty space used to display a painting depicting the Sioux Indians selling their land to the government, which would become the state of Minnesota. The land was sold for a ridiculously low price of $0.12 per acre, and historians agree the government literally stole the land from the Sioux Indians at that price. Every time the governor got up at the podium to give a speech, he had a painting depicting how Minnesota ripped off the Indians as his backdrop. The state decided to remove the painting from its prominent location, and move it to the 3rd floor hallway of the capitol. I do commend the Minnesota government for preserving, restoring and continuing to display the painting. The manner in which America treated the Native Americans in the 19th century was deplorable, and an embarrassment to our nation. Instead of covering up such paintings, or storing them away in a warehouse, we should display, discuss and learn from them to ensure history never repeats itself.
After leaving the Governor's reception room, we were lead down a hallway and on to a floating marble staircase. I have never seen such a staircase, and was amazed at how the massive marble slabs seemed to defy gravity! Please see the pictures below!
After climbing up 4 stories, we were led up an additional staircase, and on to the observation deck surrounding the external base of the rotunda. One noteworthy feature was both roof's of the house and the senate were constructed with copper. We continued our journey around the observation deck, until we came to the 24k gold gilded Quadrila previously described. Seeing her from afar as we entered the capitol was memorable, but standing face to face with the sculpture on the roof of the capitol was spectacular.
On the way back down the staircase, we spoke with the tour guide, and learned some very interesting information about the Minnesota government. The Governor recently vetoed the state budget, so the State Senate and House sued the Governor. The case is being appealed to the State Supreme Court who will decide the legality of the Governor’s veto, and if he acted outside of his authority. I am not a lawyer, but I never heard of a Governor being sued by the states legislatures due to a veto. The Governor possesses legal veto authority, and in turn, the legislatures can vote to supersede the Governor’s veto. A State's Senate and House suing it's sitting governor reveals the government in Minnesota can’t work together to do their job. This is definitely not qualities we want in the government of our new home state!
After departing the state capitol, we drove two hours North to visit the most eastern seaport to the Atlantic Ocean located on the southwestern most tip of Lake Superior: Duluth, MN. I was expecting Duluth to be a large, ugly, dirty, commercial seaport, but the city would prove to have quite a few surprises for the Cross Country Couple. As we got closer to the city limits, we began seeing strange signs outside of gas stations that said, “Wild Rice Sold Here”. We shrugged off the first sign as a strange fluke, but after additional “Wild Rice Sold Here” signs began to appear one after another, we began taking more notice. This went on for gas station after gas station for miles and miles. We knew there had to more to this story, because who in the world goes to a gas station to buy rice? The wild rice of Duluth would come to play an important role in our visit later in the day!
I had a strange feeling Duluth would end up being a very interesting city unlike any other we had previously seen. The skyline of the city was very unique! The city is entirely constructed on the side of a very steep mountain overlooking Lake Superior, so everybody in the city has a lake view. As we were driving around exploring the city, we came across the next surprise Duluth had in store. Off in the distance, I saw the most unusual bridge I had ever seen in my entire life. This bridge is called an Aerial Lift Bridge. The entire span of the bridge automatically raises up every 30 minutes 138mfeet in the air to allow ships to pass beneath.
We saw both a small passeger ship, and a 1000-foot cargo ship pass beneath the
bridge during our visit. If all of that wasn’t enough to get excited about, the bridge was open to pedestrian traffic. Please see the pics below.
On either side of the bridge was a very long cement pier, with a light house on the very end of each. We walked out to the light house on the end of the first pier, and then crossed the very cool gravity defying bridge before tackling the pier with the second light house. Please see the pictures below.
I want to take a moment to highlight a picture I took on this day, which is my favorite thus far on this trip. When I reached the second lighthouse, I shot a picture across the channel to the first lighthouse. The depth of the lighthouse, with Lake Superior and the Duluth skyline as a backdrop came out awesome! However, the most interesting aspect of the picture to me are the people at the end of the dock standing at the base of the lighthouse. I found the picture very indicative of humanity. Humans are the most evolved species to ever walk the earth, and from that, we derive a misguided belief we possess dominion over all other forms of life. In actuality, humanity is barely a foot note in the ages, and the only reason for our continued existence is by Mother Nature’s good grace. Mother Nature existed long before humans came into being, and she will continue her existence long after humans are extinct from the earth. Mother Nature displays forgiveness, patience, and kindness toward humans, while humans perpetually display selfishness, arrogance, and destructiveness towards her. I hope the picture below serves as a reminder that humans are nothing more than tiny specks at the end of a dock, and at any moment in time Mother Nature can wash us all out to sea and off the face of the earth. We must all due our part to care for our planet, and treat Mother Nature with the respect she deserves!
After returning from the piers, we discovered a nice riverwalk that hugged the curvature of the Duluth shoreline along Lake Superior. The summer sun beat down upon us, but a brisk breeze from the lake cooled us as we meandered along the boardwalk.
Half of the shoreline along the lake consisted of huge boulders, and the other half of the shoreline was your typical sandy beach. One would expect, the beach to be packed on a hot summer day, and the boulder sea wall to be abandoned. Anywhere else in the world such reasoning may be accurate, but not in Duluth! The beach was vacant, and everyone was climbing, tanning and jumping from boulder to boulder. I even heard a mother tell her 5-year-old daughter to go have fun climbing the rocks. It didn’t end there! 50 feet from the shoreline there is the ruins of an abandoned cement pier known as Uncle Henry’s Mausoleum. The kids were swimming out to the pier, climbing to the very top, and then jumping off into the water from 25 feet in the air! We do admire the residents of Duluth's tenacity and fearlessness, as it mirrors traits we also possess as the Cross County Couple. However, the City of Duluth is a class action lawsuit just waiting to happen!
After returning from the Riverwalk, we came across a restaurant called Grandma’s Saloon and Grill. A quick google search reviewed Grandma’s had been in business since 1976, and is an iconic location in Duluth, MN. We decided to walk over to Grandma’s to check it out. Since we are vegetarians, we always view the menu first to scope out the meatless menu options. While most of Grandma’s recipes were catered toward the carnivores, we discovered one extremely exciting option: The Wild Rice Burger. Seriously; a rice burger? I had never heard of such a preposterous thing! However, the reviews were excellent, and some shared that they drive over and hour away just for an intimate experience with Grandmas Wild Rice Burger. Now all of the gas station signs saying “Buy Wild Rice Here” on our approach to Duluth, finally started to make sense. Since becoming a vegetarian years ago, I have made it my personal mission to seek out the best veggie burger in the entire country. I judge each veggie burger on flavor, consistency and presentation, and most have been epic failures! However, now I had the unique opportunity to indulge in a Duluth delicacy I never even knew existed! By just sheer coincidence, could I have just come across the best veggie burger in the entire world? I just hoped it did not have the consistency of a rice cake! Crunch! Yuck! First, we had a 45-minute wait, and the anticipation was killing me! Upon being seated, Lori and I placed our orders for 2 wild rice burgers consisting of: a handmade wild rice patty, with a secret blend of spices lovingly placed on a freshly baked whole wheat pub bun, topped with mayonnaise, lettuce, onions, carrots, sprouts, a single slice of sharp melted cheddar cheese and a side salad all for $11.99!
When our Wild Rice Burgers finally arrived, I stood there for a few moments using all of my senses to take in it's very essence, but saving the sense of taste for the grand finale. Long at last, I picked up the wild rice burger, and brought it to my mouth to take a man sized bite.
The wild rice perfectly mimicked the gritty consistency of ground beef, and the secret blend of seasonings significantly added credibility to the meatless patty. The single slice of melted sharp cheddar cheese contributed to the stability of the patty, and added to the complexity of flavors. While most veggie burger patties are mushy and crumbly, the wild rice patty was firm, formed, crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and almost perfectly matched the consistency of a traditional burger. The whole wheat bun was clearly freshly baked in the restaurant, but was un-toasted, which led to the veggie toppings saturating the buns with moisture. One thing both vegetarians and meat eaters can agree on is a soggy hamburger bun is disgusting! The smorgasbord of veggies successfully added to textures, moisture, and flavor, but the quantity of each was disproportionate and distracted from the culinary experience. The tomatoes were over ripe and cut too thick. The sprouts were wilted, and greatly under represented. The raw yellow onions were too generous, and overpowered the dish. A lightly sauteed red or sweet onion would have been more appropriate in this dish. Lori’s wild rice burger had no mayo and was dry, and mine had globs and globs of mayo squirting out the sides. I typically prefer to have my condiments on the side, so I may apply them to my taste. All things considered, I rated Grandma’s Wild Rice Burger an 8 out of 10, and the 3rd best veggie burger I have ever tasted. They nailed the meatless patty of the veggie burger with expert precision. If they toasted the bun, and fixed the toppings this would be a veggie burger I would fly back to eat!
Then, we drove to Hermantown, MN where we found a Walmart to spend the night. The reviews regarding overnight guests at this Walmart were inconclusive, so I called ahead to ask for permission. The Walmart customer service representative whom answered the phone had a heavy Jamaican accent, and I had difficulty understanding the specifics of what she was saying. She stated the Walmart at this location was very particular on where to park. She continued by saying we should park near the RV’s, and if we parked anywhere else, we would be ticketed and towed by the local police. We were just happy have a place to park Rosie for the night, since there were limited overnight parking options in the area. We arrived at the Walmart and looked for the RV’s we were told to park near. This is where things got confusing. There were RV’s on one side of the parking lot and an Arby’s on the other side. Please see the picture below.
Where would you park? Because of the customer services ladies heavy accent, we did not know if she had actually said to park near the RV’s or park near the Arby’s! To complicate matters even further, we arrived at Walmart after 11:00 pm, and it was already closed for the night. Talk about confusing! If we parked on the wrong side of the lot, we were promised a visit from the police in the wee hours of the morning! Albeit stressful, we did find the situation quite humorous. In the end we chose to park near the Arby’s, and left a note on the dashboard that read “Van broke down. Ok to park overnight per Odjuwalla, the Walmart Customer Service Manager, and will tow in the morning”. Parking where we aren’t absolutely sure we are supposed to always results in an awful night sleep. Oh well! At least we had a good laugh, and a place to park for the night.