Saturday, May 27, 2006

Take me lots of baseball games

The second most important thing about coming to Minnesota was to be able to catch a lot of baseball games. For my brother in laws, this was their chance to see their beloved Twins as much as they can. But more importantly, as baseball fans in general, we are up for spending as much time as possible at the park as possible. So I included this special post for all the baseball that went on this week....


It started simply on Tuesday night with a game with the local amateur baseball team in Prior Lake. Amateur baseball is big around here and they take it seriously. The park was beautiful for a local baseball field and the play was pretty good. It definitely gave me that "For the Love of the Game" feeling. To top it off, our presence inspired the team to their first win of the year!


On Wednesday we decided that we could wait no more and attended the Twins-Indians matinee at the Metrodome. We were totally excited to be there and even splurged on some good seats about 20 rows behind home plate.


The place definitely had a cavernous feeling, but I thought it was pretty cool. The air conditioning was especially welcomed on a humid day and I saw a sight I have never seen at a baseball game (having never seen a game outside of California)....a beer man! Guys walking up and down the aisles carrying heavy trays of beer and ice so you don't have to get up? It was amazing! I wanted to shake their hand, but wanted to buy what they were offering more....


We had such a good time (a relative concept, of course. The Twins were thumped 11-0 by Vallejo native C.C. "Cheeseburger" Sabathia and the Indians) that we went back on Friday with the whole family, as well as the family with whom we have been staying with. This turned out to be even more special as they picked that night to celebrate the recent passing of Legislature to build a new ball park for the Twins. The governor was there to sign the bill, past Twins legends were on hand (my favorites - Jack Morris, Dan Gladden, Rod Carew, and in my favorite Twin of all time (no disrespect to Kirby), Harmon Killebrew), and every fan received a free hot dog and soda. Plus it was a match up of the future of baseball as Francisco Liriano of the Twins faced Felix Hernandez of the Mariners...the night pretty much went according to script, leading to a 3-1 victory for the Twinkies. Our crowd went wild with the victory....


Perhaps the best experience of all, however, came Saturday night, as we visited the greatest spectacle of Minor League baseball -- The St. Paul Saints. The independent league with really no one to answer to carried the wacky minor league promotions torch with pride with the logo "Fun is Good."


Where to begin the craziness? The pig mascot "Mudonna" roaming the field? The real live pig that brings the umpire new baseballs between inning named Bud Squealig? The fan harness onto a billboard in left field and told that if he caught a ball while stuck up there all game, he would win $10,000? ... No, I think it has to be the fact that we attended the game where they celebrated the 30th anniversary of The Love Boat. Pictures of the B-actors that made guest appearances on the show were plastered all over the stadium. Games in between innings (included one involving Mrs. Brittany Kwong herself) had a Love Boat flavor to it....and did I mention the giveaway? A rubber toy boat colored purple and gold, reminding us of a certain local football team and their experiences on a "Love Boat". The giveaway was worth the 4 dollars general admission itself. A whole night of entertainment as well made it one of the best time I have had at a baseball park. Go Saints!


Hitting the Road Again....

After passing the half way point of our trip, it was on the road again for us. We started back in Albert Lea where we met with Britt's mom's uncle (help me out again...great uncle? am I close?) who has a farm outside of town. Being way out in the country was nice, especially the railroad tracks that ran directly next to their house. We had to have a quick Stand by Me moment....


We then went back into town and meet with an old friend of Britt's dad. They were a great family and we spent the whole evening sharing stories over pizza. Even with some passing showers earlier in the day, the kids could not resist playing on the trampoline in the backyard (also extremely common in people's yards here, along with that swing set)


After a quick stop at Dairy Queen, it was time to head back to Prior Lake. We got in pretty late, but we had another full day ahead of us, so we got up reasonably early and was at it again. Friday was a visit to where Britt spent the most time before moving out to California. We drove around to see their old house, as well as the houses of people they knew. Then a stop with some more old friend of her dad's and then it was onto Wisconsin, where some dear friends of Britt's family has a farm. Britt has been wanting me to meet them ever since I've known her and now I can see why. They are great people with the best sense of humor and just fun to hang around. They raise these Scottish Highland cattle that has long hair and looks pretty weird....


They also raised sheep (who really needed some shearing since it was another hot day out) and some chickens, so the kids had a blast seeing all of the animals.


Ah heck, some of us big people thought it was cool too....


We had a bbq lunch (hamburgers from the above cattle, I might add) and it was too soon time to go. This was one stop that I was sad to leave so soon. It would have been fun to hang around a bit longer. We had to rush back to the Minneapolis to make the baseball game though, which brings me to the next post....

Towns visited: Albert Lea, MN (again), Hastings, MN, Elmwood, WI

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mid-week bonanza

The past two days has slowed down a bit and we have had a chance to relax and catch up on some rest. We even made a second trip to the MOA to make sure we saw all of the Twins and Gophers memorabilia. Tuesday mornings are slow there, as all the employees were just standing around socializing....

Flirty Shark

Anyways, we were only there for about an hour and ended up meeting up Britt's cousin for lunch at Clearly Lake Park. It was a nice place with a playground and (what else?) a lake. The kids couldn't resist and decided to get their feet wet at the "beach" (if there is sand, it's a beach....I guess)


As you can see, we weren't getting into trouble at all.....


They were playing fine when a funny thing happened: a photographer with the local picture came by and asked to take pictures of the kids for a story they were writing about people living happily in the suburbs. So sure enough, the next day, a picture not so different than the one above, appeared on the front page of the local section of the paper. I have several copies, and will have to scan in one to show you, as internet versions of newspapers never include the pictures. Incidentally, according to the paper, we are from Redmond, CA. Maybe the editors realized that an article about nice living in the suburbs shouldn't be associated with the Murder capital of the west....

Some other odds and ends:

- You remember in Dumb and Dumber that part where they pee in a bottle in the car? Well the Dumb and Dumber I'm riding with have took it to another level and started a booger bottle.... no pictures will be included.....ever.

- I didn't get to mention that when we were in Marshall, we also visited Britt's dad's granny (which would make her my daughters great great grandmother). She's 95 and has Alzheimer's but she is still energetic and bright. She lived in the "dementia ward" of a convalescent home, which was locked from the rest of the place and it was a little sad seeing all of the people living there. When all 12 of us who were visiting were being left out, one of the seniors living there tried to blend in and walk out with us. It was really funny...and the same time.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Shop 'til you Puke


While I came to Minnesota to meet family, it was also time to have some touristy fun. Really, you can't be any more touristy while in the Twin Cities than visiting the Mall of America. I, like many people back home, generally hate malls. The MOA (to use local vernacular) is really just a big, industrial mall. All of your mall staples are represented (some more than once. More on that later), there just happens to be this big amusement park in the middle that greets you as you walk in.


But back to the stores for a moment...If anyone ever wonders if there is such a thing a TOO big of a mall, the answer is most certainly, yes. When your mall is so big that you have to put the same store not once, note twice, but three times in different areas, you have too much room. I'm not talking about Starbucks either (I actually only saw one of those), there are 4 Lids stores in the mall. Why do you need the same hat store 4 times??? Then there are MOA gift stores all over the place too, also cheating. Throw in a few Cinnabons, I figure there are probably only about 12 stores in the whole place...give or take 50 or so.

We didn't really have time to do a lot of shopping. We hit a lot of sporting goods stores so that my brother-in-laws can stock up on Twins and Gopher merchandises. I got a few Gophers stuff too but will probably wait until I get to the Twins game to get me a hat or something. Plus riding the rides take up most of your time. The girls had a blast and wanted to go on everything. Now that Hannah is tall enough for more adult rides she went on her first roller coaster. Britt and I were nervous but it turned out that the roller coaster there was probably perfect for a first timer. Just intense enough for a good time. Sara played the younger sibling perfectly and cried a lot because she wasn't tall enough for many of the rides. The ones she did get on, she had a blast....


One last cool thing...the mall was built on the site of the old Metropolitan stadium where the Twins used to play before the beloved Metrodome was erected (heh heh, he said erect...). They left two pieces of the old stadium as part of the mall, including home plate....for Twins diehards like my in-laws, this was like a pilgrimage to Mecca. For Britt and I, we just get a chance for more goofy pictures.....


Cities visited: Mall of America, MN (it's big enough to be its own city...ok, technically it's in Bloomington, MN)

Monday, May 22, 2006

On the road again....and again...and again...

So I would have updated sooner, but the internet access that I am stealing is a little shaky, especially during the hours when I think the neighbors is using their connection (of course they can say the same..."Why is Internet so slow lately?"). That and the fact that I've basically spend the last two days permanently imprinting my ass on the backseat of the rental car. Two things that I have learned about life in Minnesota:

- If you don't like the weather, wait a 10 minutes and it will change.

- Anywhere you go is pretty much a 2 hour car ride.

The last rule, stems a bit from the fact that I am on the Friesen reality tour this week, they have just lived in so many parts of the state. Driving through Minnesota isn't so foreign compared to home. The flatness is smartly hidden behind unnecessary curves in the road (everything is flat, what are we meandering around?) and a LOT of trees. Combine with the farmlands, it isn't so different than driving through the Central Valley in California, or even going through Davis....for 4 hours. The sky seems bigger though, making the it seem more vast. Maybe it's like the Truman show and they just built me a new set in a bigger studio while I was on the fake "plane".

In any case, I ended up in some pretty small towns in the middle of nowhere. In fact, we attended a 50th wedding anniversary of Britt's grandmother's sister (what does that make her to us? I have no idea...) at the smallest, oldest church that I think I have ever attended. And as promised, visual aids.....


And the middle of nowhere part, as demonstrated by my lovely wife standing on the street right out front....


Small town charm, you gotta love it....

Towns visited: Marshall, MN; Clarkfield, MN

Friday, May 19, 2006

Welcome to Minnesota!

So after the reddest of eye flights this morning (still looking for the answer to the proverbial question, "Is it a red-eye flight if your eyes are red BEFORE you board?") We touched down at Herbery Humphrey Aiport at 5:45 am local time. So starts my trip with Britt's family back home to Minnesota. We come with somewhat somber hearts, as the biggest reason was to bring Britt's mom's ashes back to be buried with her family, but we are looking at the bright side and are thankful to her for her last gift to us and allowing us to all be back here. There are supposedly a lot of people that I am to meet over the next ten days (who am I kidding? it's the girls that are the star attraction with these people), so I really better take a nap straighten out my body clock. Some first impressions though....

- Flying in a dawn allowed for some wonderful views of the area....Land of 10,000 lakes indeed. I thought it was a bunch of puddles down there. And I think I've seen my last "hill" for a while. I'm exploring the rumor that early Minnesota settlers were spaniards who were looking for comfort after Columbus came back. (I know, it's a reach at humor. Just stick with it and you'll chuckle a week from now).

- For those of you at home. Gas price if $2.89 or so around here. I'll try and send some back for you guys.

- We are staying with Britt's cousin in Prior Lake just out side of Minneapolis. Britt and I are having a hard time adjusting to the suburban life in the midwest. Kids walk to the park without adult supervision. They walk in the middle of the street because cars actually watch out for people. Unless you have a dog, no one's house has a fence and you basically have one big comuunal backyard. It's like walking into the Twilight Zone Housing Association. We'll see if I can make Britt into a Stepford Wife....

-And finally, thanks to whoever neighbor here has the unsecure wireless access. I really appreciate you letting me "borrow" some bandwidth this week....

I'll try and keep this going throughout the week. I need a nap or something. Visual aids will be incorporated as well...