Monday, June 04, 2007

Travel Journal Day 1

Think of a number. Wait, I should probably give some information first. There's a pool going on. The only true question about my vacation that most people have is the number of pictures I will end up taking. DM, Char, Steve, Liz, Bryan, and James have all given their figures for the pool. My question to you (as in "pick a number,") is simply, "What's your estimate?" If I can think of a good prize, there may be a fun present to who ever is closest.

Back to Day 1. When I originally looked at the website for boat tours in Taylors Falls, there was a 3:30 launch listed. This is only the case starting next week. Today, the outfit had one tour, launching at 1:30. Luckily, I realized this last night when I did further research (directions and trying to find the price). So I set the alarm clock a little earlier.

Unfortunately, I overslept by an hour. Fortunately, I'm a bit OCD so I had set the alarm for an hour and a half earlier than I really needed.

I grabbed all the bags I had packed the night before (okay, I know I'm only gone for a few days and I didn't bring a ton of clothes. Bags indicates one overnight bag, my camera bag, a cooler, my laptop, and my purse. All necessities.) I ran out the door to the car, or walked as quickly as I could while carrying all said junk.

The drive to Taylors Falls was pleasant, no rain but a few fluffy clouds in the skies. Once I got north of the cities, I exited onto a country highway that has frequent speed reduction areas, but I made it to the launch site with about 20 minutes to spare. And I didn't speed. The drive took me through a few towns (one was Chisago City) that had signs boasting ties to Sweden. That was pretty cool.

The boat tour was $14 for an adult, not too bad. It is narated and was 80 minutes long. The vessel was the "Taylors Falls Princess" and is one of two boats that give tours on this part of the St. Croix River. A family run business that has been in operation for over 100 years, it was lovely. I enjoyed relaxing and looking at the white fluffy clouds, the tall green pines and other trees, and trying to imagine the figures in the different rock formations. The St. Croix is known for these rock formations, left behind when the glaciers melted. I was able to see the "Holy Cross," the formation that gave the river its name. I also saw the "Old Man of the St. Croix," an elephant, another man's profile, and a lion. I didn't see the witch in the one formation and the Turkish man with a turban was difficult. I don't think I was looking in the right place.

There were few passengers on the ride. I sat on the upper deck with about 5 elderly couples and two families. Family with 'pudgy man who really shouldn't wear a neon orange shirt' dad had two little girls who spent most of the ride making each other hit themselves. That was fairly annoying. Especially since the girl who started it was the first to start screaming, "Stop! Stop! Don't do that!" The other family, the one with 'holy crap is that an attractive man' dad, had two cute little boys who shared snacks with each other and pointed out neat sites to each other. Hmmm. The boys were younger too. The one was pretty cute when he said to his brother, "I want to write a note to Mom and Dad. Can you help me spell?"

I found out that the St. Croix is one of the ten cleanest rivers in the United States and the reddish brown coloring has nothing to do with pollution or iron ore. It was a neat fact to know that the coloring comes from Tamarack (spelling?) trees that grow at the source of the river. Since everyone always asks about the coloring of water in pictures, I'm glad I know.

After the boat ride, I drove across the state border to the Wisconsin side of Interstate Park. The Minnesota side's state park is the 2nd oldest in Minnesota and the Wisconsin side is the first state park for Wisconsin. Together, they make the first interstate park in the United States. That was kind of interesting.

In Wisconsin, I purchased a day pass to explore the potholes/sinkholes that were formed by the glaciers melting. There is a short hike (.4 miles) that loops where you can see a few of these holes. I took off to do this and was surprised that my loafers didn't kill me while walking. I was able to also find a good vantage point to see the boat I had just departed and a few more scenes of the river. I only passed one set of people on the hike, a couple walking the loop the opposite direction. They didn't talk to me or each other. That was the quietest couple I've seen in awhile. Neither looked all that happy.

Leaving Interstate Park, I headed into the "downtown" portion of Taylors Falls and did find an ice cream shop. I think it is the one that two separate people mentioned to me. Teri was one of them. For a snack, I sampled a cone (one scoop only - but their definition of one scoop was a lot larger than mine - he scooped twice. That is no longer one scoop. But hey, more ice cream for me!) of Rum Black Cherry. I sat outside the shop at a table covered in old newspaper advertisements (100 year old ads) and watched people go to-and-fro. There's a dentist office right next to the ice cream place.

With a snack in my belly, I started driving south towards Rochester. The drive took about 3 and a half hours. It started raining off and on during the drive and only once (about 50 miles outside of Rochester) did I have to change my speed for the weather. There was about a 10 minute downpour that caused me to clench my fists and drive very slowly for a highway.

The rain passed and I entered Rochester. The hotel was easy to find and I took care of uploading pictures from both cameras. But no hints on the number yet! In my hotel room, I noticed that I definitely spent more time in the sun than I'm used to today. My arms are light pink and I may have a slight red line on my face. Okay, slight red everywhere except where my sunglasses were. Whoops. I'll grab some sunscreen before I go on the next boat ride on Thursday. The other adventures are mostly evening or dark places.

Right now, I'm waiting for it to get a little darker before I head off to Stewartville, the creepiest town I've ever known. I want the full effect of the streetlamps for the pictures I plan on taking, so I have about another 45 minutes to wait until I leave. I'll probably leave in a few minutes though and just find a place to eat. That's the part of my trip I didn't quite plan. And my stomach is not so happy about that. Ice cream and a few Bugles (car snack that my mom gave me) do not a full day meal make. I was going to eat in Taylors Falls, but I didn't find any food other than ice cream that sounded appealing. That's Day 1 so far.