Minneapolis turned out to be more fun than I thought. I mentioned a feeling of road weariness in my last post while I was in Vancouver. Because of this, my plan for the Twin Cities was more sleep, less adventure and a ton of final prep for Europe. I figured I’d get out to the famous Mall of America, but other than that, not much else. However, the CS community had some fun stuff planned and I have to thank them for helping me have a great time in their city. I still feel like I had enough downtime, though, so it was the best of both worlds.
So I spent the first two and half days sleeping late and hanging out in coffee shops mapping out potential paths through Europe and reading up on several different cities. I also booked my hostels for the first couple weeks overseas, studied transit maps, and even downloaded a few phone apps that could be useful. After a couple days of doing nothing but travel prep, I wanted to get out to a Twins baseball game. I tried getting someone from the CS community to join me, but apparently the team is pretty awful this year, so no one was interested. Instead, someone in the community messaged me about going to an event that was billed as one of the premiere events of the summer…the first ever Internet Cat Video Festival.
Yes, such a thing exists, and I was there. I bunch of people from the Minneapolis CS group were there too, so I had plenty of company. Everyone was really cool and friendly. I guess people traveled from all over the country for this thing. They had around 5,000 people in attendence. The organizers had spent months reviewing thousands of entries from all over the world. “Cat”-egories were created, and top videos in each one selected for viewing. There was even a famous internet cat named Lil’ Bub who flew out for the event.
I wasn’t familar with Lil’ Bub, but the FB page, and huge gathering around her told me of her importance in the feline community. The one to two minute cat videos were great too, and the crowd really got into it with cheers, laughs, and lots of awwwing. The top video was Henri 2, Paw de Deux. It’s the high art of internet cat vids. Afterwards, the surfers and I went out for pizza and beers, and I got to hear more about life in Minneapolis. Fun times.
The next day turned out to be equally awesome when I went to the Minnesota State Fair with a couple local couchsurfers… Emily and Rachel. Rachel had been living in Minneapolis for a few years, but Emily had just moved there a couple weeks prior. It was my last day, and since I had checked out of the hostel, I had all my gear with me, and Emily was really cool to let me store my stuff in her car while we went to the fair. This particular fair is famous for its “food-on-a-stick” theme, and not just the usual corn dogs…they get some funny things onto a stick, like spagetti and meatballs, casseroles (hot dish), and even beer (which I only heard about). The weather was perfect, and I have to say they put on a pretty cool fair. Emily, Rachel and I agreed to share our food so we could sample as many things as possible.
Between the food, rides, talent show and the company, it was another one of those days that makes the list of most memorable for the trip. It was sad to depart, but it was getting late, and I had a bus to catch. Rachel was kind of enough to give me a ride to my stop. Couchsurfers just rock.
So, of course, I also went to the Mall of America. The locals I met here hate it when you mention it, and for someone like me who sold most of his material attachments to travel, it was a little overwhelming to see all that stuff in one place. I walked the whole thing, though, and it is enormous. The artificial canyon was filled with every franchise business you can think of. I think all the food courts alone woud fill a regular mall. I had heard about the roller coaster in the middle of it, but it’s way, way more than that… it’s like a mini amusement park, complete with ferris wheel, log ride, merry-go-round and other rides.
The 30 ft lego transformer robot thing was freakin’ incredible. I couldn’t believe something that size being made entirely out of legos. If you can’t tell from the pics, it’s as tall as 3 floors of the mall. I looked up the stats, and it’s estimated to be 6 tons and made of 2.8 million Lego bricks.
As has been the case lately, I stayed in a hostel. It was the only one in Minneapolis, and it would seem the lack of competition allows them to get away with a pretty crummy hostel. Everything except the kitchen had a general sense of being unclean. Kind of felt like a homeless shelter, except I had to pay and they didn’t feed me. It wasn’t the kind of hostel filled with young party kids, so that was nice as I was looking to relax. Other than that, I can’t say much else that’s good.
The public transit was really good in the city. I rode the light rail and buses several times, including from the train station to the hostel, the MOA and State Fair. Cheap, reliable, and got me where I needed.
All in all, I think I’ll need to come back to Minneapolis and couchsurf next time. I met several really cool CS’ers here, and would love to hang out again… perhaps at their crash next year?