Friday, July 14, 2017

The Land of 10,000 Lakes

I typically try to keep this blog focused on telling stories about adventure travel. I think that is what all of you are accustomed to reading and have come to expect. However, sometimes I break this rule. 

I recently took a trip for a reunion with some of my old friends. My Cuates (Guatemalan friends) with whom I served in the Peace Corps in Guatemala many years ago. About every five years or so we try to get together to tell tales, catch up on current events and make some new memories. During this trip, my friend Mirsch asked if this event would make The Adventure Begins. I was hesitant to write a story, but after some thought, I decided to write a micro adventure post. 

So, the adventure begins... The Land of 10,000 Lakes.

 I planned to take trip over a long weekend to meet up with some of my old friends. I didn't know exactly what activities might transpire, but I like to travel light and decided to take only the essentials - backpack, chacos, air mattress, sleeping bag, pants, swim suite, two shirts, extra underwear, hammock, light jacket, extra socks, hat, water bottle, toiletries, sunglasses, banadana and a small bag with electronics. I was wearing a shirt, shorts, undies, socks and shoes.
 The adventure begins with a flight north.
 The destination would be Pike Lake - 1 lake out of 10,000 lakes in the state of Minnesota.
The gathering would take place at the Casa de Mirsch - a lake house that belongs to my friend Mirsch.
Minnesota is in the north central part of the United States and shares a border with Canada. Duluth is a town in the north eastern part of the state of Minnesota. Perhaps due to the cold winter climate, moderate summer weather and easy access to some wonderful natural areas, the area was settled by many people of Scandanavian heritage. 
These are my Cuates (Guatemalan friends) - Mirsch, Rick, Sinu, Holly (Holster), Repp (Reppster) and Me. About every five years we get together to reminisce and evidently wear socks with sandals. We look like a pretty respectable group.
But looks can be deceiving. 
Some Cuatitos (little friends) joined the party too. 
We spent quite a bit of time gathered around the table sharing food and funny stories.
Mirsch brews a mean batch of Kombatcha that he prepared and shared with us.
This is Mirsh - the King of the Casa, sitting on his thrown. He had a multitude of activities planned for us.
The days were filled with speed boat and tube rides.
All the kids had their chance. Even the biggest of kids, Me.
Big kids and little kids
A father and son taking on the waves.
There was also plenty of time to kick back and relax.
Time for taking a mid-day snooze.
Time for a little snuggling.
Mirsch pulled out some paddles, set up a make-shift net and a game of Pickleball broke out.
We also played a Swedish game called Kubb.
We took sunset cruises on the pontoon boat.
Mini Me plotting to take over the world.
What'SUP? We tried some new things like Stand Up Paddleboarding. 
Jumping off Stand Up Paddleboards
And towing others behind a Stand Up Paddleboard.
In the evening we gathered around the glow of a campfire... until we couldn't take the mosquitos any longer.
I rented a Fat Bike and Mirsch took me on some trails that overlooked the city of Duluth.
We stopped by the Northern Waters Smokehaus and enjoyed some tasty sandwiches made with smoked meats.
We checked out the hike and bike trail that runs along the shore of Lake Superior.
Saw the old train passing through the historic old town section of Duluth.
A full house centainly made for a fun weekend.
Before we knew it, it was over. It's hard to say goodbye, so we'll just say "hasta la proxima"
I stayed one extra night because my flight was scheduled to leave early the next morning at 5am. I was the last to leave the party, but the first to arrive at the airport at 4:30am.
Unfortunately, my 5am flight was delayed multiple times. A delayed flight due to mechanical problems meant pretzels and coffee for breakfast as compensation.
My delayed flight = rescheduled connection = 4 hour layover = time to explore Minneapolis!
When I landing in Minneapolis, from the airport terminal, I walkd downstairs and caught the light rail train.
$4 got me an all day pass = a ticket to explore.
On my way via the light rail train.
I traveled to the Minnehaha Falls Park. I walked along a pathway, found these stairs and descended.
I came upon this bridge that stretched over the Minnehaha Creek.
I walked upstream of the bridge and discovered the falls.
The Minnehaha Falls is nothing to laugh about! haha :)
The Minnehaha Falls from above.
I continued exploring and found the old Minnehaha train depot.
A statue of Col. John Stevens was standing watch over the grounds. He was the first resident west of the Mississippi River.
The Col. John Stevens house.
I hopped back on the light rail train and headed in the opposite direction.
I passed by this gold gilded building. I don't know what was inside, but I thought that it was pretty unique and it definitely stood out.
I exited the train and ventured up this escalator.
I had arrived at the Mall of America. it is the largest mall in all of America. 
There was every store that one could imagine inside.
Toy stores inside.
Lego store inside, with this giant Lego Transformer standing two stories tall.
Aquarium inside.
Never stop exploring!
 Amusement rides inside.
Swirling swing thingamabog inside.
Roller coaster inside
And of course they had a food court.
It was past lunch time and I had not eaten, so I opted for the Thai Kitchen.
I ordered Thai fried rice with chicken. Unfortunately, it tasted nothing like Thai fried rice with chicken. It tasted like mall food.
I was running short on time, so I hopped back on the light rail train to return to the airport.
I wanted to find out the quickest and easiest way to reach my departure gate, so I downloaded the airport terminal map to plot my route. I needed to go from the bottom level to the top level and then across the airport to gate G1. I texted my friend Mirsch to ask him for advice. He texted back that there was a security checkpoint on the top level of the terminal directly above the light rail station that typically had smaller crowds. I followed his advice and it worked like a charm. I was inside the airport in no time.
Near my departure gate there was this bar with iPad terminals at every table. I guess that there are just not enough tiny screens in the world.
Whew... I made my flight with even a little time to spare. I watched one movie and before I knew it I landed in Austin. 

Hasta la proxima!

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