Upper Mississippi Vacation (Part Two)

Brain Surge ride at Mall of AmericaYou can’t do an Upper Mississippi trip without stopping in the Twin Cities (well, you could, it just wouldn’t be right). We got to Minneapolis and had a few hours to do the rides in Mall of America. It wasn’t very crowded, surprisingly, so we had time to ride about 10 rides. My favorite one was Brain Surge (pictured), where you use a joystick to spin yourself forward and backward. I wouldn’t recommend it to people with motion sickness or who get queasy.

20170613_093050The Mill Museum was our next destination. We walked around the Mill Ruins Park, a beautiful little area by a dam that was next to the Mississippi. There was a large stone bridge that we also walked across before we went into the museum since we had time to kill before it opened. I think I’m starting to appreciate architecture and rustic things more now because I found everything in the area beautiful. Once we were inside the museum, we walked around and explored the old mill’s purpose. I had fun before our tour with the interactive water example. It showed how the mills would use the water from the 20170613_110641Mississippi to power water wheels and other items. Our tour, once it started, consisted of getting on a big elevator and listening/watching a documentary of sorts. I don’t quite know how to put it, because we heard people recount their experiences working in the mill before it exploded and burned, but we watched examples of the stories as we went up and down eight various floors. We got to see old “vacuums” that took the flour dust out of the air and pumped it into the Mississippi, before the rules about disposal of stuff. We got to look out over the ruins of part of the mill once we reached the ninth floor, as well as learn about why the side walk was made out of wood. There was a canal below the road and sidewalk that all the mills in the area drew their water from.

2017-06-13 12.14.48As we continued, my mom had her heart set on finding a Minnesota classic for food: a Juicy Lucy. She found a restaurant that served them. It turned out to be a place that claimed to be the home of the cheese-filled hamburger, 5-8 Tavern and Grill. They were fairly big hamburgers and very hot, but they were delicious. From here on out, it was just a ride back home. On this ride, I found a true monster truck.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to do a “reboot” in the next year and see the stuff we didn’t on this trip.

Upper Mississippi Vacation (Part One)

We planned to do an Upper Mississippi River vacation since we had already seen the lower part, and my mom really wanted to walk across the headwaters. We didn’t have as much driving as previous vacations, so that was a plus. It was also only a four-day  trip.

First stop was the Wisconsin Deer Park. Wisconsin Deer ParkWe bought deer food when we arrived and got to pet and feed the deer that were out and about. I never realized how cute deer were until then. They were really affectionate when it came to the food, and they even ate out of our hands. The antlers on some of the deer were very soft and fuzzy. After we finished feeding them, we walked around and looked at the other animals for a bit. There were rheas, peacocks, goats, bison, and a lot of types of deer.

20170610_130255Next stop was Villa Louis. Villa Louis is an old Victorian house with mostly original everything inside, which is pretty rare in old homes. It was a pretty neat place. We got to see the old office building on the property along with the adjoined billiards room. During the tour of the inside of the house, we saw the bedrooms and even some of the clothing people wore. There was a display of Victorian wedding dresses going on, so we saw all the old types of dresses as well. The original owners of Villa Louis raised racing horses. 20170610_131036They believed that if the horses drank mineral-filled water, they would run faster. They drilled artesian wells that put out the water that had a lot of iron, which also makes things around it red. Whether or not it helped the horses at all, I don’t know. But we did get to try the water from one of the wells, it was pretty good. As cool as the place was, we had to chug along to continue with our vacation on schedule.

20170610_165133Our next destination was to the American Pickers‘ place in Iowa. My dad really wanted to come here since he likes the American Pickers show. It took us a bit to find it, but we did. And when we did, we were kind of…surprised. My dad compared his reaction to when Ralphie decodes the Ovaltine message in A Christmas Story. It’s a somewhat interesting place, but they don’t have many antiques for sale there–mostly a lot of American Pickers t-shirts, coffee mugs and magnets. It was funny though to see my dad’s reaction.

Next was the upper Mississippi. We drove around in the Lake Itasca park and did some walking on steep nature trails. It was beautiful, although there were a lot of bugs. After getting a little turned around, we headed up to the headwaters. Well, we walked across the “mighty” Mississippi where it was about 18-feet wide and 2-feet deep.Wading across Mississippi River We walked down the stairs to get to the river. It was cold and sort of slimy in the water, but we did it. We hit the road again and then realized after looking at a postcard…we didn’t actually reach the headwaters (disclaimer: there were no signs where we were to point us in the right direction). Mom guesses that she was just so excited to have walked across the Mississippi that she didn’t even think about it not being the actual headwaters. So, now we’ll have to do a reboot of this vacation to go up to the actual headwaters of the Mississippi.

Watch for “Part Two” of our mini-vacation next week.

 

Northwest Vacation: Part Five

20160619_113731

Chateau de Mores in Medora, North Dakota

North Dakota is the 49th state I have been in! In my 49th state, we went to Medora, where we saw the Chateau de Mores.  It’s a 26-room hunting cabin from the Victorian Era West that belonged to Marquis de Mores. He wanted to be the richest financier in the world by sending packaged meat in refrigerated train cars. His first step was to build right by the railroad that led east to the Chicago stockyards.

You can tell the Marquis and his visitors liked to drink!

He named the six-square mile land he built upon Medora, after his wife. It went though several economic booms and busts over the years, but now it is home to historic landmarks and small businesses. While we were there, we went to a restaurant there and got buffalo burgers and I got sarsaparilla, a type of root beer. It was really good. We then went to the old slaughterhouse of Marquis de Mores, which was almost all rubble except for a chimney. After we took our pictures, we headed to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It was a long drive, but we saw thousands of prairie dog mounds in the prairie dog “towns.”

In the upper left-center, there are buffalo, and in the lower right-center, there are two prairie dogs.

We also saw deer, horses, and a lot more sage. I saw a group of some sort of animal on the way in, but I didn’t know what they were. On the drive on the trail, we saw lots of pretty scenery, then the trail circled back. It turned out that the animal herd I saw before was a herd of buffalo! We took our pictures and left the park to start on our journey home.P1010312
Now, the only state I have left to visit is Hawaii! I don’t know when I’ll get there, though. My mom started planning a trip for the Upper Mississippi River when we were headed through Minnesota, since it starts in Lake Itasca. Geez! We just finished this one, and she’s already thinking about the next one!

Northwest Vacation: Part Four

rainbow at Shoshone FallsThe next day, we went to Twin Falls, Idaho, also know as Shoshone Falls. There were some neat waterfalls there, and we even saw a rainbow! The site of one of Evel Knievel’s jumps was also there, but the path to get there looked like a death trap, so we decided not to go there this time. It was close to lunch, so we headed off.

.20160618_093703

We had a lot of fun on vacation so far, but 20160618_120147when we went to the Idaho Potato Museum, we probably had some of the best food all vacation! We walked through the small museum and learned about potatoes and their 20160618_120431history. I even learned that there is a Potato God, which I thought was pretty neat. There are four categories of potatoes, too, including Red, Gold, Russet, and Fingerling. When we learned about the process potatoes go through before they are sold or consumed, it was a lot to look at. They’re picked, cleaned, stored, cleaned again, examined, “perfected,” examined again (bad ones are thrown out), peeled, boiled, cut, packaged, and then sent off to stores or french-fry places. They certainly go through a lot of work for the perfect potato!

potato chocolate milkAfter our walk through the museum and seeing some of the equipment they use, we stopped in at their Potato Cafe. We ate a chili baked potato, some southwestern fries, potato chocolate milk (yes that is a thing) and potato cupcakes. The chocolate milk was actually pretty good, considering it was something that sounded so bizarre! The cupcakes were good, too!

Waffle fries with southwest topping at the Potato Museum-yum!

Waffle fries with southwest topping at the Potato Museum-yum!

Stayed tuned for part five – North Dakota!

Northwest Vacation: Part Three

20160616_095358[1]

One of the several signs we saw that made no sense of being there (I think we know we are in air and breathe it) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The next day, the 16th, we saw some pretty weird signs before we went to the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. It was like a miniature Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not museum, but in a store. I got a wooden “voodoo” doll. It was bizarre looking, but still cute.20160616_110634[1] On our way out, we saw a cupcake truck. We got two cupcakes and ate one of them. It was very good. The other one we saved for later. Continue reading

Northwest Vacation: Part Two

In part one of the Northwest Vacation, we went to Mt. Rushmore, Little Bighorn Battlefield, and fed prairie dogs. After the battlefield, we drove through Montana, Idaho and most of Washington. In Tacoma, we went to our hotel to rest up for the next day: Seattle, Washington!

A picture of the different sizes of grinds coffee can be.

Wednesday morning, we drove to Seattle and parked at Pike’s Place Market. We didn’t do anything there yet because my dad and I really wanted to get to the Starbucks Coffee 20160615_090738[1] Roastery. It was really cool, looking at all the tools they have to use to roast, store, grind, and blend the coffee beans to get the right type of taste. After we looked around, we got a pretzel bagel and a coffee. My dad and I both got an iced “No. 11″ brew. It was amazing.

After getting our caffeine fix, we went back to Pike’s Place Market. We saw the famous fish tossers toss a hole bunch of fish, but I only got one on video.

We walked around a lot, looking at the interesting signs and stores and found an ocarina salesman. He makes ceramic ocarinas all the time, from tiny, one inch big 4-hole ocarinas to larger, 6-hole ocarinas. I got a 5-hole ocarina as well as two books on how to play it. Next we went to Honest Biscuits for food. I really liked the Sweet Potato Biscuit. It was delicious! We also went to a chocolate store in Pike’s Place Market, and later saw a steel drum player. We then went to some stores specifically for fans of almost ANY show, band, game, card game, or movie! I got a Doctor Who ID for the Tenth Doctor, or David Tennant’s Doctor. He’s my favorite.

After our walk around Pike’s Market, we went to the space needleSpace Needle. space needleMy mom and I went up the Space Needle and got an amazing view of Seattle. We could even see our car! Later in the day, after some driving north, we did a whale watching tour and saw two orca whales a bunch of times. They aren’t technically whales, as we learned on the boat. They’re actually the largest member of the dolphin family. They didn’t breach at all, but they did surface so more than their dorsal fin was showing several times. We got back to the hotel late, but it was worth it to see the sunset on the boat.

Orca sightingP1050350

We got back to the hotel late, but it was worth it to see the sunset on the boat. Stay tuned for part three about Ye Old Curiosity Shop and Oregon.

 

 

Northwest Vacation: Part One

Hi guys!  We had one the most interesting vacations this year. It’s our Northwest-Pacific Vacation!

On Sunday, we got up really early so we could hit the road before traffic got really bad. There was tons and tons and TONS of driving, but we did get to feed the prairie dogs near the Badlands in South Dakota.They were so cute, and they were very funny. Some of them made noises as they reared up on their back feet that made them look like they were chanting, or at least very happy.

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

We left the hotel the next morning and had enough time to go to Mount Rushmore! I hadn’t been there since I was four, so I didn’t really remember it. It’s definitely big, and there was a lot of work put into it. Going to it now, since I knew more about the Sioux and their fight to keep the Black Hills area, I appreciated the work that the Sioux did to keep their land more than the monument the government put into the taken land.

open range

The Open Range

Next, we drove some more and found a random oven in the middle of nowhere. It had a sign on it that read “OPEN RANGE.” At first I didn’t get it, but my parents explained that it was an Open Range (stove) on the Open Range (land). My one thought after that was why and how people would get a stove into a field.

These look like big dandelions!

Monument on Last Stand Hill

Monument on Last Stand Hill

By this point, we started seeing more and more wild white sage. It practically took up entire fields in one place! There wasn’t as much sage at Little Bighorn Battlefield (our next stop), but there were some wild horses and humongous dandelions (they evidently weren’t dandelions, but I don’t know their name and they looked like dandelions)!  Little Bighorn had a lot of driving on a trail describing Custer and the “U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry and the Sioux and Cheyenne in one of the Indian’s last armed efforts to preserve their way of life.” It was sad that so many died. The scenery and hills were pretty, though.

Little Bighorn cemetery

Little Bighorn cemetery

After the battlefield, we went to get food–Buffalo Burgers. They were delicious!

Stay tuned for part two – Seattle!

The Spring Springfield Field Trip

Hi guys! Sorry I haven’t posted much, I’ve been busy with LOTS of school stuff, including a trip to Springfield, Illinois, a few weeks ago. It was fun, and I learned some new things about the area.

For starters, we got up really early so I could catch the bus. My friends and I sat together (it was funny because we were all Pisces in one section of the bus) and took pictures out the windows on the 4-hour drive. We had a break, but then it was straight back to the bus. A few people dozed off, but they didn’t stay asleep for long. We had reached our first destination!

As we walked up to the New State Capital Building, it looked very regal. P1000876We felt like we were walking into a castle in some ways. The inside was shiny and a lot of it was marble. We went up four flights of stairs at the start of the building, but it was worth it. P1000895There are two different rooms that are almost identical, but they are used for voting in the state capital. As we walked the halls, we could look up at the dome. It was beyond words!

We went outside and I took some pictures with my friends. After the teachers took a group shot, we headed back to the bus where we started for the Old State Capital Building. It was a smaller, and of course older, version of where we had just been. Although it wasn’t as large, it still was very neat. We went into the room where Abraham Lincoln had sat when he voted for senators and representatives. It was also the same room that his coffin and body were kept in on the last day it was visible to people.

At our next place to visit, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, we went through a long walking tour. It led from a replica of the Lincoln’s one-room cabin all the way to a mini-movie. The mini-movie at first looked like a man telling us all about artifacts, but it soon turned into a history with a slight ghost-story twist. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but let’s just say it left a majority of the group in awe at the ghost.

We had lunch after the ghost story, and one of my friend made friends with a squirrel. After we ate, we headed to the Governor’s Mansion. We weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside, but it had a lot of cool china and furniture. When we went outside, we met the governor’s dog, Stella. P1000954She licked my hand before becoming swarmed with kids petting her. After hanging out around the flowers and bugs for a bit, the teachers let us go back to the bus.

Next, we went to the Lincoln family tomb.P1000960 I had read about the Lincoln tomb in a bP1000977ook about the Lincoln grave robbers for a  summer report, and I had also watched a story on it on Mysteries at the Museum. It was very cool to be at his grave; no matter how weird that sounded, it was fun.

Our next stop was a memorial for a lot of wars that have happened, including World Wars I and II, the Vietnam  P1000981 P1000985War, and the Korean War. At the Vietnam War Memorial, there is an everlasting flame that they keep lit to show the determination of the warriors in that war. My friend found the name ofP1000991 her relative at that memorial, too!

We went to our hotel for a bit, for about an hour so we could eat dinner, and then we left for the shopping mall. Almost everyone stopped in at the glow-in-the-dark mini-golf, and we all glowed. I was wearing a white top so I looked like I fell into toxic ooze! We headed back to the hotel after waiting around, getting slightly lost, and walking in circles. The teachers told us to get into our pajamas, and then called us down for a pizza party. Why they had us eat dinner, go to a mall, get into our PJs, and then have a nine o’clock pizza party is beyond me, especially since we had already eaten! My roommates and I had a lot of fun. We made each other look like clowns with makeup, had a pillow fight, and watched some anime (two of them are HUGE anime fans), a Japanese style cartoon, and then attempted to fall asleep. I was the only one to fall asleep at midnight, the others fell asleep at three or four in the morning. We got up at four-forty-five so we could be ready for the breakfast call at six. My friends looked like zombies because they were so sleep deprived!

We headed to a small village called New Salem. We P1010033watched a video on Abraham Lincoln’s history there. A boy fell asleep behind me because he and his roommates were up all night (he was aP1010054lso in the neighboring room at the hotel, so I think we kept them up a bit). P1010014It was a pretty informational video, but I had the most fun running around the village and taking pictures. The village only had some staff workers, so running around was okayP1010006 as long as we didn’t trash anything. My friends caught up to me and we P1010027ran-walked the rest of the area, all the way to a bridge. We had about thirty minutes left after making it to the bridge, but we were tired so we P1010078walked back (until I mentioned that there P1010067was ice cream in the gift shop). We ran so we would have enough time to enjoy the sweet treat, and ended up inspiring everyone else to get swirl ice cream. It was delicious.

Then we went to the Lincoln Home, our final stop on our trip. It was somewhat small, especially for having so many people living there, let alone guests that would come over. The Lincolns were hosts to 200 people at some parties, and they could all fit in two tiny rooms! Also at this stop, there was a small house that we went into that was used by some of Lincoln’s associates. It had some artifacts that had been found in the area, but it wasn’t anything much.

On the bus trip home, it was fairly uneventful. We all talked on the way home, about how much fun it was. A few of us also talked about how we would survive the next day, where we had a Destination Imagination competition! But that’s a different story…

This was a very fun field trip with my school. I can’t wait to see what next year’s is!

Cruising Alaska, Part 4: Ketchikan and Last Day of Cruising

7/1 – Wednesday: Ketchikan was our last port of call. We went on a tour that brought us to a Totem Pole Park and a Lumberjack Show. At the park, we learned that all the totem poles that natives made had stories behind them. All of the stories had a moral at the end, kind of like fairy tale. Someone also said they saw a bear in someone’s driveway. My mom wanted to see it, but my dad and I said, “No!”

This is one of the totem poles that would have taken a lot of time.

This is one of the totem poles that would have taken a lot of time.

They call the little disks they chop off "cookies"

They call the little disks they chop off “cookies”

Here is the animal carving of a bunny

Here is the animal carving of a bunny

Once we finished up at the park, we saw a competition where the lumberjacks showed off their skills. They climbed up huge poles to show how fast they could climb up trees, cut logs in half several different ways, carved faces into logs with chainsaws and  tried to balance on logs floating in some water. It was really cool. One guy fell on the log, though. I felt really sorry for him.

There were a lot of signs that we saw on our way to get our final charms for the bracelet. One sign was their rain gauge, and it showed how much rain they get on average a year. They get a LOT of rain–300 days a year, but it was sunny when we were there. A few other signs were the street signs. One said “Killer Whale Avenue,” and another said “Totem Row.” Some of the signs were at the lumberjack show. They were a bit strange, to say the least.

WP_20150701_11_51_45_Pro[1]WP_20150701_13_07_07_Pro[1]WP_20150701_13_07_13_Pro[1]WP_20150701_13_06_53_Pro[1]

 

 

 

 

 

This is my Watercolor Mountain

This is my Watercolor Mountain

7/2 – Thursday: This was another day of cruising and our last full day on the boat.. We didn’t really do a lot. I did create a watercolor picture of a mountain in the watercolor class. They did have some trivia. I answered one question spot-on, thanks to my fourth grade art teacher. We came in second place to another team, but we traded in our points for a deck of cards and a scrap-booking kit. After we did that, we saw a show that Yulia & Alan Reva opened for. They did a really cool routine, and then a comedian named Phil Tag came to the stage. He had really funny jokes.

7/3 – Friday: We left the ship in Vancouver and headed into the bus terminal. We got our luggage and stood in line for the bus. Once we got to the airport, we had to show our passports again and again and again as we went through customs. We waited around for our plane to arrive, and boarded. We then had our four hour plane ride home. I tormented my cat when we got home (not really, I just gave Zip a really big hug).

Travel Statistics:

  • Time on the airplane: somewhere around 12.5 hours total.
  • Time on a bus: about 11 hours total.
  • Distance cruising on the boat:  around 1,939 miles.
  • Number of times I got hand sanitized: probably near 100 times.
  • Number of times we had to show our passports: 10-12 times.

 

Cruising Alaska, Part 3: Skagway & Ice Strait Point

6/29 – Sunday: In Skagway, it was supposed to be sunny, but it got foggy and rainy. Our trip to dog-sled on a glacier was cancelled, so we did two things. First, we took a helicopter ride to a different glacier–the Mead Glacier–and hiked around. This was my first helicopter ride. It was cool. The glacier was freezing cold. The guide told us about moulins, or glacier mills, which are really deep vertical shafts, where you could see the blue glacier ice. We could also drink glacier water if we wanted to, but I didn’t want to put my hand in the cold water.

Glacier water running in to a moulin at Mead Glacier

Glacier water running into a moulin at Mead Glacier

Our helicopter ride from Mead Glacier

Later, we went to a dogsled camp and dog-sledded, learned about Alaskan huskies and held pups. When we dog-sledded, there was a ten-month old husky named Rowdy, who kept jumping up and down and looking behind when he ran. It was funny.

Rowdy is the second dog on the left.

Rowdy is the second dog on the left.

Here Rowdy looks a bit tired.

Here Rowdy looks a bit tired.

My favorite part of the trip was cuddling with the Alaskan husky pups

My favorite part of the trip was cuddling with the Alaskan husky pups

We also 3-month-old pups learning how to run as a team. They mostly wanted to chew on things.

We also saw 3-month-old pups learning to run as a team. They mostly wanted to chew on things.

This is the driftwood building

This is the driftwood building

We also went on another hunt for the Alaskan charms, and saw a few odd sights. There was a unicorn on a car, a building made of driftwood, and a sign read “NOPE.”

WP_20150629_14_24_44_Pro[1]

I’ve never seen a unicorn hood ornament before.

Evidently this means “Closed”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Devil’s Club

6/30 – Tuesday: In Icy Strait Point, there were a lot of bald eagles and ravens. There were even a few whale sightings. Unfortunately, all I got to see was a little bit of the whale’s tail and some spouts. We went into a few of the stores there, and we saw some weird types of salves. One of them was called “Old Man’s Beard Salve.” There was also a Devil’s Club salve, so we wondered what Devil’s Club looked like. We went on a nature trail and found some. The leaves are HUGE, and their stems are really spiky. Natives wound hang them outside their house to ward off evil spirits because the plant was so spiky.

Devil’s Club stem is really spiky.

Later we had some frybread, which tastes like a less sugary doughnut. We also saw an eagle’s nest. Once we got back on the boat, they had some more trivia. This time it was about The Beatles. We got most of the questions. We should have gotten all of them, but we were tired. We had done a lot so far!