Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Each year from 2003 to 2013 my wife, my son, and your humble writer headed out on a long road trip to anywhere but here. Our 2014 road trip represented a milestone of sorts: our first vacation in over a decade without my son tagging along for the ride. At my wife’s prodding, I examined our vacation options and decided we ought to make this year a milestone in another way — our first sequel vacation. This year’s objective, then: a return to Wisconsin and Minnesota. In my mind, our 2006 road trip was a good start, but in some ways a surface-skimming of what each state has to offer. I wanted a do-over.
We knew we’d spend Day Four seeing parts of downtown St. Paul, but we hadn’t originally planned it as a round-trip walking tour from and to our hotel. Once we got into town and looked more closely at what we’d mapped, we realized walking might be easier than driving the not-so-square street grid, to say nothing of parking fees.
We never write down all the possible attractions in each city we visit. Some things we’ve seen in alternate versions in other cities. Sometimes we have to decide where best to allocate our funds, and where to skimp for the sake of the things that excite us most. We’ve seen nature and science museums in other states. My son is a fan of those, and we’ve found plenty to enjoy in them. He wasn’t with us this time.
The Science Museum of Minnesota probably has awesome displays of physics and chemistry and animals and thermonuclear fusion technology and interactive outpatient bioengineering stations inside. Or maybe not. We wouldn’t know. We declined to investigate in depth, though we were curious enough to check around the perimeter, duck inside, and see what could be seen for free.
The Museum was a convenient intermission as we headed away from Rice Park, and a safe haven from a potential downpour that threatened us but dissipated without incident. The Museum’s foyer is spacious in square footage and ceiling space alike, and it contains a Mississippi River Visitors Center, where you can see pick up travel brochures, learn more about rivers, absorb new knowledge about conservation and ecology and whatnot, and, most importantly, have staring contests with stuffed animals.
If you forgot to bring bottled waters along on your day trip into town, they have drink machines in the lobby, easily accessible without paying for full-price tickets. Value-added Science Museum special feature: their Coke machine has a digital screen that makes advertising less static and more dynamic, thus demonstrating Science.
In the Science Museum’s backyard is a topiary labyrinth that didn’t appear to be free. We could’ve jumped the walls and barge inside if we were uncouth. Hence the distant overview.
Behind the Science Museum is the grandest science exhibit it has to offer: the Mississippi River. Potamology, hydrology, climatology, biology, forestry, maritime engineering, entertainment capitalism, and other sciences of varying accreditation are right there for the taking.
Between Rice Park and the Science Museum stands a bonus statue, this tribute to legendary hockey coach Herb Brooks, better known as the 1980 Olympics “Miracle on Ice” coach, most recently dramatized in 2004’s Miracle with Kurt Russell. Brooks stands in front of the RiverCentre (the local convention center), which we also didn’t enter. Too bad they didn’t have a comic show that week.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]