Readers who have followed our trip through the Heartland so far will recall that our last post gave the details of our visit to Leavenworth, Kansas, the origin of the Sante Fe Trail. After that visit ended we hit the trail ourselves and made our way to Minneapolis, a town that neither of us had visited previously. Our stop in Minneapolis was to be for one night only because we would leave the next day and travel to meet some friends at their cabin on one of the Minnesota lakes. We will detail that lovely visit next week here on Easin’ Along. We had booked rooms at the North Country Lodge, an Air Force installation adjacent to the Minneapolis Airport.
As is our usual practice when traveling, I drive while Helen (adorable wife) plans the activities and then tells me where I’m going…this works well. She was reading about things to do in Minneapolis on Trip Advisor and AAA Guidebooks and learned that one of the top attractions was the Mill City Museum located along the Mississippi River waterfront. It was a beautiful day and much cooler than we had anticipated when we arrived so a museum visit followed by a walk along the river seemed to be just what we needed to stretch our legs after a morning of driving. This was going to be an excellent day for learning something new.
The Mill City Museum occupies what was once the city’s largest flour mill. It is here where visitors are able to learn about the city’s once thriving flour milling industry and its relationship to the Mississippi River as well as to the history of Minneapolis. The building was constructed in 1879 on the site of a mill that had been destroyed in a flour dust explosion in 1878. That explosion was so large that not one stone was left in place and there were no survivors. The newly constructed building burned in the 1990’s and the museum was built into the remaining structure.
Great pains were taken to preserve the old mill and the exhibits were well done. A visitor received a good visual history lesson of the flour milling industry that sprang up in the 1800’s and served as an impetus for the growth of the city. Due to the availability of water power from the river, there were over 25 flour mills in the city around the turn of the Twentieth Century and made Minneapolis the “Flour Milling Capitol of the World”. Recognizable names like Gold Medal and Pillsbury grew from the Minneapolis milling industry. I enjoyed our visit greatly and learned much that I didn’t know before.
After our tour of the museum, we took the opportunity to walk along the Mississippi and learn about St. Anthony Falls, the only waterfall on the upper Mississippi. Centuries of erosion have claimed the limestone rocks that once formed the waterfall and now a concrete apron carries the water down about nine feet where it continues southward.
In order to extend navigation up the river beyond the city of Minneapolis, locks were built between 1948 and 1964. Nevertheless, due to the narrowness of the Mississippi at this point, only a few boats can navigate the waters and river traffic effectively ends here. The St. Anthony Lock was closed last year in order to prevent the migration of the Asian carp from moving up river.
The National Park Service operates the St. Anthony Visitor Center and conducts tours of the locks. Park Rangers also provide details the history of St. Anthony Falls and its contribution to the local milling industry. The Center provides visitors with a wonderful learning experience about this Mississippi River region and its significant impact on the economy of our nation. We took advantage of the views provided by the visitor center and also stretched our legs by walking end to end over a lovely stone arch bridge now devoted to pedestrian use. The walk gave us a great view of the Minneapolis skyline.
By now we were refreshed and it was time to do what we do best…eat!
Once again, Helen scoured Trip Advisor to see what was in the area where we were staying. As luck would have it, one of the more highly rated restaurants was conveniently located within a short drive of our lodging at the North Country Lodge. We pointed the car in the direction of George and The Dragon restaurant, once featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
When we arrived, the crowd was gathering and it looked like we were in for a wait, but it turned out that those folks were part of a large group waiting for a party room. We were seated immediately, but there weren’t many seats available…this place was busy. We were handed menus and, after a quick glance, ordered a local craft beer named Fulton Lonely Blonde Ale on our waiter’s recommendation. It was served ice cold.
The dinner fare was gourmet casual dining, which was perfect for us. For starters, I ordered a bowl of the Cheddar and Ale soup. This was delicious. It was very cheesy and contained small strips of grilled onions, and was served with warm and tasty pretzel bread. I could have consumed a gallon of the soup, but unfortunately I found the bottom of the bowl all too soon and had to move on to the next course.
I was in a burger mood so I ordered the George Burger and it was in the same league with the soup…incredibly good. The burger was served on a pretzel bun and topped with aged cheddar cheese, a mustard cream sauce, and some onions which were uniquely named “frizzled leeks”.
Once again however, Helen out-ordered me by selecting Scottish Salmon. This delectable meal was a healthy cut of salmon that was marinated in a Lemon Soy mixture and lightly grilled. It was served over fresh spinach leaves with a serving of creamy cucumbers on the side (adorable wife LOVES cucumbers). Needless to say she consumed every bite.
After dinner we needed to walk off a few calories so we meandered through a few shops near George and The Dragon. The area was charming as were the shops and we found a few cute gifts for family and friends. By then, it was time for a good night’s sleep and we worked our way back to the North Country Lodge.
Up early the next morning, we were pumped to make our way to Grey Eagle, Minnesota and the banks of Big Birch Lake. Please come back next week and let us share our wonderful time there with you. Until then…we’ll be Easin’ Along.