After sojourning in Chicago for 2 nights, it was time to press onward to the Twin Cities to meet up with my buddy Patrick, who was flying out for the Sharks / Wild game. Ahoy, 8 hour bus ride to the rendezvous point...
The rain in Chicago had turned to snow, which struck harder elsewhere in Illinois.
To say nothing of neighboring Wisconsin.
One of the buildings of the University of Wisconsin - Madison, which was one of our stops along the way.
Needless to say, the Megabus was full to bursting.
My fleeting glimpse of Wisconsin's capitol building.
Ahoy, Patrick, you skinny b*****d! At the Holiday Inn, St. Paul, MN.
Patrick did well in his hotel research, and got the one directly across the street from the Minnesota Wild's arena (this view is from our window).
Next morning = 12 degrees and snowing. Awesome, actually. This is the MASSIVE Cathedral of St. Paul, around the corner from the hotel. When I saw it at night for the first time I mistakenly thought it was the capitol building.
The Xcel Energy Center by day.
Time for breakfast, so we caught a cab that incidentally went by the University of Minnesota, home of the Golden Gophers.
Williams Arena, seen here, used to be a basketball and hockey arena, but the Golden Gophers being the Golden Gophers, it was decided to build separate facilities in the 90s. Currently this arena is just for basketball.
And the Mariucci Arena hosts the Golden Gophers' pride and joy, the men's ice hockey team.
Might as well say it: go Fighting Sioux. ;-)
Our breakfast destination = the famous Al's Breakfast, which seats 14 people and is about 10 feet wide. I admit it, I first heard about it on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives... but the restaurant actually has its own Wikipedia page.
This wait actually wasn't too bad; however, we still had to stand behind people while they ate. It wasn't as awkward as it might seem.
Al's system of keeping tabs is pretty... unique.
Hanging amid all of the foreign currency taped to the wall is the restaurant's James Beard Award. Imagine seeing an Academy Award used as a paperweight - that's essentially what you're seeing here (since the James Beard Award is highly coveted, and is usually referred to as the Oscar of the culinary world).
Patrick is quite pleased we only had to wait 20 minutes.
Don't worry, I didn't eat all of this. I had to sample a little bit of everything, especially since the prices were ridiculously cheap ($5 for every plate you see here). The eggs Benedict was phenomenal, and the scrambled eggs with smoky cheddar were possibly the greatest scrambled eggs of my life. The special of the day was the crepes with almond butter ricotta (I think) and lingonberries, seen at right (I only ate one).
Time to walk off the calories by hiking to the light rail station across the river in downtown Minneapolis. This house simply caught my eye along the way.
Patrick wasn't too perturbed by the freezing winds as we crossed the longest river in America.
The Metrodome and downtown Minneapolis.
The light rail has a stop in Bloomington at the Mall of America. The massive parking garage is at the left.
The Mall of America, as you probably know, is the largest mall in the USA. It's four stories tall and has hundreds of stores. Shopping is only part of the experience, however, which is part of the reason that it's the #1 attraction in the state of Minnesota.
Patrick takes a look around in bewilderment.
Not only is there a roller coaster inside, there are no fewer than three.
The Lego store had massive statues made of the namesake building block.
One such example.
Where else in the world are you going to see a store devoted almost entirely to just Peeps?
We had to try a roller coaster, so we opted for the Sponge Bob one, featuring a perfect 90 degree climb and drop. Short but surprisingly intense - recommended.
I also tried the Fairly Odd Coaster, in which your train car spins 360 degrees while screaming down the track. Patrick opted out so he wouldn't ralph, so I went solo. It was dizzying, for sure.
An overlook from the second story.
A thirty foot tall Lego robot.
I'm a dork...
(Sniff) Devin Setoguchi is missed in San Jose, but we were excited we'd be able to see him and Dany Heatley in their new digs.
They may have been relocated to Dallas, but the Minnesota North Stars are far from forgotten. The NHL still pumps out their merchandise for the nostalgic Minnesota masses.
Coming up = why come to Minnesota and see just one hockey game? Exactly: you don't, and we didn't either. Stay tuned.