9/16/2009 – Editorials


By Richard Peterson

This is the second installment of my trip to the Minnesota State Fair in Minneapolis Sept. 3-5.
After spending a day walking around the Minnesota State Fair I woke up on Friday at 4 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I got up and planned my day. Of course, nothing was open, so after making my plans I watched TV until about 6:30 a.m. The room at the Radisson at the Mall of America, incidentally was very nice. Cost was $106.91 for two nights.
Ya, I spent a bundle on this trip. But if saving money was the object, I would’ve stayed at home.
The courtesy bus didn’t start operating until 9:30, so I hiked half a mile to the Mall of America to board the light rail system.
On the hike to the mall I was surprised to find that my legs were stiff. This had never happened to me before. But then, I’ve never been this old before.
Since it was rush hour I had to pay the full fare of $2.25 to ride 12 miles on the Hiawatha Line light rail train from the mall to the Warehouse District near downtown Minneapolis.
The train went by Fort Snelling on its 36-minute trip and I was astounded at the number of people buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. There were thousands and thousands of headstones placed in neat rows, as if the veterans were at attention.
I tromped around the Warehouse District looking for a place to have breakfast and stumbled across a place called Moose and Sadie’s at North 2nd St. and North 3rd Ave. I ordered the egg, bacon and cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee. Cost was $9.53. That’s considerably more than I like to pay for breakfast, but I must admit it was much, much better than McDonald’s. The bacon was flavorable and so was the cheese. The bun was large, fairly flat and relatively heavy. The flavors of the egg, bacon and cheese melded into a little ballet that danced on my taste buds. Good! Good! Good!
I tromped south down to Nicollet Mall and noticed an army of sanitation workers busy cleaning the streets to prepare for the day’s onslaught of pedestrians. They even washed the sidewalks with pressure washers. Every cigarette butt was picked up by sweepers. The place really shined.
I consulted my map and determined the route to the James J. Hill House on Summit Ave. in St. Paul. I changed buses four times, but had no problem reaching my destination, thanks to the Twin Cities Transit System map given to me by the guys at the Amtrak Station.
James J. Hill was the man who built the Great Northern Railroad, which is now a part of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. He was immensely rich and built his 36,000 square foot stone mansion on a high point in St. Paul.
Completed in 1891, the mansion was the largest and most expensive home in Minnesota. It contained 36,000 square feet on five floors including 13 bathrooms, 22 fireplaces, 16 crystal chandeliers, a two-story skylit art gallery, a 100-foot reception hall and a profusion of elaborately carved oak and mahogany woodwork.
Sophisticated technical systems throughout the mansion provided central heating, gas and electric lighting, plumbing, ventilation, security and communication. The final cost totaled $931,275.01 including construction, furnishings and landscaping for the three-acre estate. It is estimated it would take $25 million in today’s funds to reproduce the building. Some things could not be reproduced, such as the rare wood in the home.
I was especially interested in the heating system of the home. It had two giant coal-fed boilers in the basement that provided hot water to heat the basement and several rooms where warm air gathered before rising naturally to the upper floors. There were no fans and no radiators on the upper floors. There were air ducts in the walls which directed the warm air into the rooms.
What a joint! The tour lasted a little more than an hour and cost $6 for senior citizens. Others had to pay $8. See, I told you in this column last week that it pays to get old.
After that I took buses back to the fair and ordered a basket of curly fried potatoes for $5.50. I carried the ridiculously large portion (it could’ve served five people) outside to eat and sat down to enjoy the delicious potatoes. I ate about a fourth of it and gave the rest to a young couple and their two kids. The kids really enjoyed them. So did the adults. This was one of the major bargains at the fair.
I also had walleye in a boat for $6. This consisted of maybe 8 pieces of deep-fried walleye. It was very good. Excellent! I went back for seconds.
I noticed that the crowd was significantly larger on Friday than it had been on Thursday. Many people were walking around talking on cell phones.
I decided to leave the fair and walk east to the Como Park Zoo. I suppose it was about a mile east of the fairgrounds. Admission is only $2. I tromped around the zoo until I got tired, walked south to a bus stop and returned to the fair. After an hour or two of walking around I once again took the express bus to the Mall of America.
I tromped around the mall for a while and then had supper at the Thai Kitchen in the food court. This time I had Thai chicken with vegetables and tofu. The chicken was very hot and spicy. The vegetables consisted of onions, baby corn, green peppers, cabbage, zucchini, broccoli and carrots. Cost was $6.99 and well worth it.
This time I caught the courtesy bus to the Radisson and went to bed at my normal time of 8 p.m.
(Continued next week)


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