Talk about a day of contrasts.
We spent the night last night outside Minneapolis in an area named Chaska, to visit Skip’s cousins Dan and Doug Snapp and their families.
After a wonderful evening of their warm hospitality and laughter, we awoke this morning in our Travelodge bed, just minutes away from the not-to-be missed Mall of America. Since Skip has been there before on a business trip, he had no desire to return to the largest mall in the nation (which is proud to host more than 500 stores along with a full-scale amusement park, aquarium and plenty of restaurants and nightspots). But I had heard so much about it that I felt compelled to pay the place a visit, if only to say “I’ve been there”.
So we zoomed there after breakfast and, finding nothing more than your run-of-the-mill chain stores like Victoria’s Secret, Best Buy, Toys R Us, Banana Republic and such, decided we needed to do to something memorable…a roller coaster ride!
No, I’m not really into wild rides but there were a couple which looked somewhat tame so we decided to take the plunge. The Brain Surge and Splat-O-Sphere sounded a bit too intimidating (I don’t want to go upside down) so we paid our admission to the “Fairly Odd Coaster” and bravely took our seats (firmly buckled in) in the four-seater car with nobody else in it (who really rides roller coasters on Monday mornings?). A minute later, the car jerked forward and we were whisked skyward on a track which suddenly whirled us around backwards, leaving behind our sense of confidence and any sense of balance we might have started with.
We were plunged skyward and then thrust toward the earth, all the while having gravity pulled from our bodies. I’ve never heard Skip so quiet while I screamed my way all the way around, other than the moment when I wailed “I want to get off!”
It probably lasted no more than two minutes but we were happy to get our feet on the ground and both had a sense of nausea for a couple of hours afterwards (perhaps the large lattes we had before the ride may have had something to do with it?).
So, in order to regain our equilibrium, we decided to explore the neighborhoods of Minneapolis and headed for Linden Hills, which Dan had told us was a cool area and worth checking out.
We parked the car and strolled down the street, landing in a fun-looking Tibetan store called Heart of Tibet, where we had our second memorable experience of the day, when we started chatting to the owner, Nancy Dadak.
Turns out she is married to a Tibetan citizen who she met while studying Buddhism in Asia 15 years ago. She and her husband have been instrumental in developing a Tibetan monastery in Minnesota and in bringing the Dalai Lama to speak in the state. We talked for quite some time, telling her about our move to Cambodia and our shared love of Asian cultures and way of life and we felt as though we connected more with her in 15 minutes than with many people we’ve talked to for hours.
As we left, she insisted we give her our email addresses and keep in touch, then came around from behind the counter, took down a silky golden scarf and wrapped it around us. A gift from her and a memory of our time in her company.
As I said earlier, talk about contrasts… from the commercialism capital of the nation to a simple conversation about spiritualism and Buddhism in a little shop in Linden Hills…
I was about to wrap this up but then tonight happened!
On today’s drive into Michigan via Wisconsin, we stopped off in Ashland, a little one-horse-town on Lake Superior and headed out for a bite to eat.
Yelp directed us to a restaurant about a mile away called The Platter so we stopped in. It turned out the place was being renovated by a couple of new owners (Tim Walworth and his brother Richard) and only the bar was open till the kitchen was ready.
We were about to keep going but a couple of elderly women – Sandy and Janet – were sitting at the bar, quite sizzled, and insisted on buying us a drink if we’d stay awhile.
Not only did we stay “awhile”, we stayed an hour and a half. The two sisters (nicknamed the “twisted sisters”) bent our ears, told us stories of their lives, got drunker by the minute and offered us a place to stay if we were in their hometowns. They’d been there since 5, they said (it was 8 when we arrived), hadn’t eaten a bite, and were spending a week together husband-less and celebrating life.
They were a riot. It was an experience we’ll never forget and you can see them on the attached photo (they were barely able to stand for us to take it).
As Sandy said when we finally departed in search of food… ”If I’d known we’d meet people like you in a bar, I’d have spent more time in bars”.