Tuesday, May 26, 2015


DH worked at Moundville while he was working on his masters degree at the University of Alabama and he had often mentioned wanting to visit, so that was the final stop on our return trip from Minnesota.

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The museum is small, but beautifully put together.

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The mounds that the natives built are impressive. DH said that when he worked here, the building at the top of this mound was open to the public and contained a life-sized diorama, but the park had trouble with vandalism and it is no longer open.

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It's quite a climb, but the view from the top is spectacular!

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Blaze was very interested in earth lodges.

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Close to the river there is a cluster of small houses with life-sized dioramas of daily life.

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For more information about Moundville:

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Friday morning visit to the Como Zoo

We were about to leave Minneapolis Friday morning, when we passed the sign along the highway that warned that the exit for Como Zoo was coming up. It was a warmer, drier day than the day before, so DH decided we could make an impromptu stop.

Como Zoo is one of the free attractions around Minneapolis.

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We seemed to have picked the day when every child in Minnesota visits the zoo.

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My children, ex-husband, and I had visited the zoo 10 years ago, but I don't remember the crowds being so bad.

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DH doesn't like crowds, so it didn't take him long to announce that he had had quite enough of other people's kids.

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The conservatory was far quieter and prettier than the zoo.

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Blaze and Grandmother:
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We made only one more stop at the zoo after leaving the conservatory, but it was undoubtably the most disturbing.

The viewing room for this polar bear was so crowded that it was hard to move and something was very wrong with the bear. It was acting like it was having dry heaves and I was worried that it was having a seizure.

I remember being bothered by the behavior of the polar bear 10 years ago. The enclosure for the bears was smaller then and the polar bear was swimming back and forth, like pacing, in a tank that was too small for it's needs. This is quite likely that very same bear. The park has twin bears who are 20 years old and I can't imagine that their new enclosure could cure them of all the crazy caused by the smaller, less stimulating enclosure that they used to have. Any enclosure is probably too small and madness inducing to a polar bear. Como Zoo's own website says that "Polar bears have been known to swim for 100 miles in a single stretch". 

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The website, also, states that they can smell a seal 20 miles away. That alone would cause insanity, I would think, because the seals are only a short walk away. Imagine living next door to a restaurant that is cooking delicious food all day. You can smell it. It makes your mouth water, but you are on house arrest and may never walk out the door. You will be fed by your captors, but it will never be the food that you crave. That will remain as a tantalizing smell that you can never act upon.

The Minneapolis Institute Of Art

We arrived in Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon (May 13), so that we could attend a dinner for the bride and groom's families at Pizza Luce in Downtown (excellent pizza, by the way). Then we had most of Thursday to entertain ourselves, until it was time for the wedding. My original plan was to go to Como Zoo on Thursday morning, but it was raining. Ula had suggested several free places to visit in Minneapolis, so we tried the next one on her list, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, instead.

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This was a great place to spend a rainy day!

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Benches with a tablet attached to each end, showing information about nearby displays, were scattered throughout the museum.

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There is an impressive collection of Asian art.

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Blaze and Grandmother looking at art together:

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Then we went back to the hotel to prepare for the wedding.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Mother's Day Glamping Weekend

The weekend before my daughter's wedding, I wanted to make a detour through Asheville on our way to Minneapolis, because I have always wanted to see the Biltmore Estate and a traveling exhibit of costumes used on the show Downton Abbey made that an even more appealing idea right now. The only way we could afford to add this extra step to our trip was to camp instead of staying in a hotel.

A cold dinner at a rest area on the way to North Carolina:
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The campground that we stayed in was easy driving distance to the Biltmore. It was also pretty and mosquito free.

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The only problem we had with camping there, happened when we arrived, just before closing time.
We checked in with the campground attendant and arrived at our reserved campsite, only to find that it was already occupied by a group of people sitting around a blazing campfire. We returned to the camp attendant, told him what had happened, and he went to check it out. It turns out that the campground was full for the night with prepaid campers (which was supposed to include us) and these people had shown up and found that our campsite was not yet occupied and made themselves at home, thinking that we would not show up and they could use our already paid for site. We spent almost an hour in the car in front of the attendant's trailer, as he removed the opportunistic campers from our spot. It was after midnight by the time we got the tent up and the air mattresses pumped up. That doesn't mean that we all fell into a deep and restful sleep, though. Every time someone drove along the road behind our tent, DH and I were fully awake and worried that it was the campers who had been removed from our campsite coming back for vengeance. The truck revving it's engine at 3 a.m. was particularly worrisome.

Sunday was much better. Most of our fellow campers were packing up to leave or going off to have adventures when I was making breakfast.

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I didn't want to start a campfire and smell like smoke when we went to the Biltmore, but we had plenty of things for a lovely cold breakfast in camp and our one-burner camp stove works well for making coffee.

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The Vanderbilts sure built a beautiful home! It's like the American version of Hogwarts and Downton Abbey combined.

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The view from the house is amazing!

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Photography is not allowed inside the house, but it is as magnificent as you would expect from a structure that looks like that on the outside. There are three above ground floors to walk through, as well as the basement that contains kitchens, servant quarters, a gym, a swimming pool, and a two lane bowling alley.

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The Downton Abbey costumes were scattered throughout the house.

There was another good reason to visit the Biltmore Estate this time of year. May is the month when the flowers around the estate are blooming in their greatest numbers.

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If this were the American equivalent of Hogwarts, this is where herbology class would be held:
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The Biltmore was created to be self sufficient. The estate is vast and driving is necessary to get from the house to the area where the hotels, winery, and small farm area are. If it's a hot day, I highly recommend walking through the cave under the winery.

There was a small petting zoo/farm area that contained mostly chickens and goats. Blaze made friends with some chickens.

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My souvenirs from the Biltmore were a patch to sew onto the suitcase and this tea cup:

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We went back to camp, had a relaxing evening by the fire, and a much better night's sleep.

In keeping with the idea that we were just visiting a school of wizardry, it really looks like Blaze was conjuring up a fire.

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These people who were staying at the campground had a fancy set-up. The gray tent made out of tarps was a mess tent almost as big as a two car garage. The far side of it was open, so that when I walked past, I could see that it was full of shelves and supplies.

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Crafty Crow