Sunday, July 28, 2013

Let's Get Commercial

The Mall of America....owned by the Triple Five Group opened in 1992 and currently has 4,200,000 square feet of retail/office space under it's roof. That's large enough to fit seven Yankee Stadiums inside! The Mall has 2,500,000 square feet of retail space and entertains over 40 million visitors annually. It became the second largest shopping mall in total area and largest in total store vendors in the United States when it opened. This past winter, the mall hosted a 40 feet tall ice castle made of icicles formed from 4 million gallons of water and then fused together. The castle joined 50 large ice towers together to create a series of shimmering archways, tunnels, walls and caverns. The mall currently has only a 4% vacancy. Here is a sampling of the Nickelodeon Universe which is an indoor theme park with roller coasters, air drops, ferris wheels and other rides.

There really isn't a caption I could put on this picture, although several come to mind, that would not land me in the dog house for several weeks....Debi and Josh were looking over their offerings....

Nickelodeon Universe features many different rides and attractions. The large mechanical arm in the foreground swings you up and around in weightlessness and then flips you upside down. Don't eat before riding this contraption.

Of course, SpongeBob Squarepants has his own area of fun stuff, called the Rock Bottom Plunge.

On display was a huge figure of a transformer and a half scale helicopter. The transformer was almost three stories tall! Not necessarily impressive until you realize they are made entirely out of LEGO blocks! Someone had way more time, and patience, than I do.

Each of the figurines you see here are made entirely with LEGO blocks... The store was packed with shoppers.  You could buy LEGOs in every color, size and shape.
While the Mall is certainly commercial in a big way, it has something for everyone 
and we enjoyed spending the day there.

Leaving Wisconsin, headed for Minneapolis/St. Paul

We left Shawano, Wisconsin and headed north and west on US 29. We have been traveling a zig zag route along the Mississippi River. While visiting in Chicago, our granddaughter flew into O'hare and is now with us for the remainder of her summer vacation. Traveling with two thirteen year olds requires some minor adjustments to your lifestyle. First off you have to cook more! They are always hungry...They will travel with us until later this summer when they will return to California and back to school. It's always a pleasure to have them with us. They have an opportunity to see parts of the country other kids only read about in books. If you full time, explore the chance to take your grand children with you when you travel. It's awesome for them and fun for you....anyway, our journey heads west again, towards the mighty Mississippi River.

Today's posting is a little different than my previous posts. Since we subscribe to the adage that the "journey is more important than the destination", today's post will focus on the journey between Green Bay, Wisconsin and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

We left Green Bay and headed north and west on US 29. This paved two lane road is perfect if you're trying to avoid the Interstates and their never ending ribbon of concrete and the only view is of the painted stripes and other travelers. There is always very little traffic and the small towns you pass through are all unique in their own way.

We passed many farms and houses along this route before the road widens into a divided highway. The crop of choice, of course was corn with soybeans, wheat, dairies, and hay.


As we neared Wausau, US 29 opened into a divided highway, still with very little traffic but fabulous scenery. All these farms showed pride of ownership and hard working families.

This was a dairy farm outside Abbotsford, Wisconsin. Abbotsford's motto is "Wisconsin's First City", which made little sense as it wasn't incorporated until 1965. In reality, it is Wisconsin's First City due to its' alphabetical place on a list of Wisconsin cities! Embarrassing!

We are just coming into the town of Stanley, Wisconsin, just east of Chippewa Falls.

No, that's not a farm in the distance. It's a church! Located far off the main highway, it serves all of the local farm folks.
 And for those who think every farm and barn are in perfect shape, this image begs to differ!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Calling all "Cheeseheads"

Green Bay Wisconsin;  Home of the NFL Green Bay Packers---known for their cheese block headgear. Wisconsin is known as "American's Dairyland" because it is the country's leading dairy producers. Dairy farms produce milk, cheese and many other products. We found cheese factories, large and small scattered throughout the State. Since neither of us are fond of large cities, we decided to stay at an RV Resort on the shores of Lake Michigan, Village Inn at the Lake. While it wasn't much of a "resort", it did have many of the things to keep the grandchildren happy, pool, spa, basketball, video games etc. Our site was a little narrow for our four slide coach, but it faced Lake Michigan so I guess it evens out. We did a day trip to Green Bay to visit Lambeau Field and see the big city....

Green Bay is Wisconsin's third largest city and is located at the head of Green Bay, a sub-basin of Lake Michigan, which of course, is one of the four Great Lakes. It is a city of over 110,000 people. It is mainly an industrial city with several meatpacking and paper plants, and a shipping port on Green Bay.

No trip to Green Bay is complete unless you visit Lambeau Field, home of the NFL Green Bay Packers football team. The stadium was named after Curly Lambeau who founded the team in 1919. He also served as the team's head coach for 31 years, leading them to six league championships. The name Packers came from the packing company, Indian Packing Company, that Lambeau worked for at the time. They provided the first uniforms for the team with the condition the team would be named for it's sponsor.
A peek inside the stadium. Tours are daily for $11/person but last about 2 hours. They take you behind the scenes and out onto the playing field. You're free to walk around the ground floor and visit the second level trophy room for free. There is also a pro/gift shop on site.

The Packers are an interesting football team. Besides holding the record for most championship victories, they are the only non-profit, community owned professional sports franchise in the United States.

They are also the only professional sports team that releases its financial balance sheet every year.

Lambeau Field holds the distinction of every home game since 1960 has been a sell out. Despite the Packers having by far the smallest local TV market, the Packers have developed one of the largest fan bases in the NFL. Currently there are over 86,000 names on their season ticket waiting list, meaning there are about 25,000 more people waiting for tickets than the stadium holds.

If you need a decorative post to hold the portico up, and you're a football town, guess what you use.....?

At the Titletown Brewery, stands this statue as a tribute to Donald Driver. He played his entire career, (14 years) for Green Bay as a wide receiver before retiring this year. He holds the Packer's all time receiving yardage record. The statue is lit at night. Originally is was located at a museum about a mile south of the brewery, but was moved here when Green Bay erected a monument honoring the victims of the World Trade Center tragedy of 9/11/01.

With Wisconsin leading the nation in dairy farming, it was difficult to choose which farm to visit for some cheese tasting. We finally picked this small factory in Kiel, Wisconsin. We spent quite an afternoon sampling many of the tasty cheeses they had to offer, including "curds".  Curds are known as "squeaky cheese" for the sound they make when you chew them. They are best eaten within hours of manufacture, as they rapidly lose their flavor. The squeaky sound is made when the curd is rubbed against the teeth while chewing due to the air trapped inside the porous material. They were quite good.

Henning's Cheese has been in business since 1914. It is a small farm and factory run as a family business. It has won many awards for the flavor of it's cheeses, winning the Gold this year for it's Chipolte Cheddar, and the Bronze for it's Aged Peppercorn Cheddar.

Yes, we left with several packages of different kinds of cheeses.

Green Bay is the County seat of Brown County and as such, is home to the Brown County Courthouse seen here. This building was built in 1908 and is still in use today.

I mentioned earlier we decided on camping on the shores of Lake Michigan. Here is a sampling of the view from our site. This photo was taken from our front door. As a disclaimer though, I used the zoom lens of the camera. There is a highway between our site and the Lake.

The days were warm and sunny, so we all got to get in some "swim" time. After running on the beach, playing in the waves and having a wonderful afternoon, we headed back across the street to the campground for some much needed relaxation in their jacuzzi.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Chicago....My kind of town

Chicago....the word brings up visions of all kinds. We had never been to Chicago so we really didn't know what to expect. I've read about Chicago, mobs, crime, wind etc. and envision run down houses, brownstones and dilapidated apartment houses. Overflowing dumpsters with rats running wild in the streets and sewers. What we found was just the opposite. Beautiful high rises, culture, cleanliness and tons of people. I estimated about 150,000 people were still in the downtown area at 10PM. Amazing!
Enjoy the sampling of pictures that follow. We enjoyed our visit. Now, O'hare, that's a different story. We picked up our granddaughter there and it was a zoo!!!

We arrived in Chicago late afternoon, but traffic was light.

Kids were hungry, so we spotted a MickeyD's downtown and figured we'd stop in and grab a burger.  We looked for a White Castle but saw the McDonalds first.

As with most things Chicago, this McDonalds was different. Two stories high with an escalator to take you upstairs. Plush leather seating including some comfy barstools..great ambiance for sitting, watching the world go by and take advantage of their wi-fi hotspot.

The following photos are simply random pictures taken as we drove/walked through the downtown area.

That's Lake Michigan in the background. This area is undergoing renovation. Adjacent to this area are many exclusive high rises accessible only by invitation or residents.

Downtown offered free concerts under the stars as well as a "Taste of Chicago" with many food vendors hawking their tasty treats. This was a full band and the acoustics for being outside was amazing!

This shows Lake Michigan in the background with the ferris wheel on the Navy Pier on the right.

The 3,300 foot long Navy Pier was built in 1916 and has worn many different faces. Originally built as a cargo terminal, it quickly became a gathering place for entertainment. During the war years it was used as a training center for over 10,000 navy personnel. Once the war ended it again was transformed into an entertainment venue. It's centerpiece is the 150 foot tall ferris wheel containing 40 six passenger gondolas. Other rides include a musical carousel, the Light Tower Ride, and Wave Swinger, an old-fashioned swinging thrill ride almost 40 feet high. There is also an 18-hole miniature golf course and token-operated remote-control boats. Visit Chicago, you won't be disappointed.