Travels with Children

The adventures I embark upon with my four young children.

Archive for Minnesota

Crossing the Bridge

Today we crossed the new 35W bridge in Minneapolis for the first time.  It’s been a week since the bridge opened; just over a year since the old one collapsed.

I remember the day the bridge collapsed, thinking, “It couldn’t really have happened, could it?” as we so often do when tragedies occur.

But it did, and now it’s been rebuilt, with a memorial planned near the site along the Minneapolis riverfront.

And so today, a little because it was a good route to take, and a little because of curiosity, I talked to my kids about the bridge collapse, and told them that we’d be driving over the new bridge.  They are still young enough that the significance missed them, and they said, “OK, Mom,” and went right back to counting buses and airplanes and UPS trucks with the excitement of kids who rarely see these things in their rural life.

Traffic was blissfully quiet as we crossed the new span.  I didn’t hold my breath, as I’ve heard of others doing as they crossed this new piece of pavement.  I didn’t worry that this bridge would collapse, because it’s new and wide and strong, and there are so many older bridges that really are crumbling where I do say a prayer for safety as I speed across.

I did, however, think of the thirteen people who lost their lives on that August day, and of their families, and of the survivors of the bridge collapse, those who will forever have scars from it.

And then it was done.  It took only a few seconds to cross the bridge, and now I can say I’ve done it.  Why I think that’s important, I’m not sure.  But it’s a milestone nonetheless.


Moving on two wheels . . . and then some

At the beginning of the summer, we outfitted ourselves with some bikes and equipment so that we could take the family out on some bike rides.  Our criteria were a little unusual, I suppose: we didn’t want to spend a lot of money since we didn’t know how it would go, and because our kids are so young and not accustomed to navigating traffic with their bikes (we live on a farm), we wanted them all attached to us.

Hubby and I each got a new bike, and we got two tagalongs and a double trailer.  (I had joked that if I got a tandem bike I could have handled all four kids by myself, but we didn’t go that far.)  Again, these were all basic models, so our outlay for everything was less than $600, and we anticipate decent resale from the taglongs and trailer in a few years.  The kids and I all got new helmets at a bike fair, they were good helmets at a bargain price.

When we ride, I have our five-year-old behind me on a taglong, and hubby has our seven-year-old on a tagalong, with the girls (2 and 4) in the trailer attached behind it.

Our first “big” trip was a trip into town.  3 miles didn’t sound so bad, even on gravel.  Funny how I hadn’t realized how hilly our roads were until that time.  And hadn’t thought about the wind being against us on the way home.  But we made it home and everyone enjoyed the ride.

Our next stop was the paved portion of the Luce Line trail in Hutchinson, MN, which runs from one end of town to the other with some nice parks along the way, as well as restaurants.  We even made a shopping stop at Shopko, which is just off the trail.

We took the gear along when we spent a week at the lake and went on rides almost every morning.  We rode through Sibley State Park near New London, Minnesota, which is beautiful; along the Glacial Lakes trail beginning at Willmar, Minnesota, which is wide and smooth and flat and very peaceful; and around Spicer’s Green Lake, which we had estimated at 6-7 miles but found out when we were done that it was closer to 12!

At the end of the summer, hubby and I got away for a rare night out and decided to see how our bikes handle without trailers and tagalongs attached.  It was so gloriously easy without the extra 50-150 pounds of kids behind!  We rode the trail in New Ulm, Minnesota, and we’re planning to take the kids along on it soon.  On the north half, there’s only one street to cross, so we may actually unleash the kids and let them ride by themselves with their training wheels on it.

We’re still novices at this bike thing, but it was a fun way to spend some family time together this summer.


Do you take your kids on bike rides?  What kind of equipment do you use?  Do you have any favorite trails?  How do you teach your kids road safety?  Please let us know with a comment!

At the orchard

One of my favorite fall things to do with the kids is to go to an orchard.  Usually we’re in search of the Minnesota favorite Honeycrisp, and today we weren’t disappointed.  We stopped at Holmberg Orchard near Vesta/Marshall, Minnesota, where we’ve gone annually for the past four or five years.  I also realized that, although the kids and I have been on 10 or 11 orchard trips in the past five years or so, hubby has only been along on one of them, so it was a treat to have him accompany us today!

Since the kids still had their church clothes on, we didn’t allow a tromp in the corn-filled boats (yes, real corn in real boats, and it is fun for kids!) but we did take the tractor-pulled hayride through the orchard.  In previous years, the wagon took us out to the pumpkin-picking area, but this year it was just a tour of the orchard.  For some of their fall events weekends, the orchard has special activities going on as well.  In past years we’ve been treated to clowns and pony rides.

While hubby and the kids picked out a huge pumpkin to carve (a steal at $5), I went into the gift shop and made our apple purchase.  I had my heart set on both Honeycrisps and Zestars, but the price deterred me from buying more than one bag and Honeycrisp won out.  (Honeycrisps were $11 for 1/2 pk bag and $20 for a pk; Zestars were $10 1/2 pk and $19/pk.) 

Before we left, we stopped in the snack bar area where we each chose between apple crisp, ice cream, or cider (hot or cold).  Older son wanted a barbecue, but we had to remind him that we’d had lunch only an hour earlier.

A trip to the orchard is always a good way to celebrate fall.  I suspect that we’ll continue our orchard treats even when our own trees (hopefully soon!) bear enough fruit that I don’t have to buy apples.


What orchard memories do you have?  Do you have a favorite orchard to visit? 

If you’re in Minnesota and have seen Honeycrisp or Zestar apples at better prices than I mentioned above, please let me know, as I’d love to stock the fridge.  Honeycrisps easily keep into January or February if cared for properly!

A lakeside haven

I’ve always been surprised when I drive through the towns surrounding Lake Minnetonka.  They seem to have a different feel to them–not suburban, not rural, but like a resort town.  I’ve always enjoyed driving these twisting, turning routes because it’s like I went far away without crossing the state line.

I wasn’t entirely surprised, then, when we ventured off Highway 7 into downtown Excelsior, Minnesota.  Within a few blocks, we were off the busy road and into a quaint downtown area with unique shops, interesting restaurants, and a main street that leads right up to the lake.  People everywhere were walking and biking, with friends, alone, with pets.

It reminded me a lot of a smaller-scale Mackinac Island or Bar Harbor, Maine, with breezes coming off the lake, people wandering in and out of stores, and restaurant patios filled with people enjoying the day.

Banners across the street advertised “Girls’ Nights Out” throughout the summer, which I’m going to recommend to my friends as a nice outing in the future.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find this area.  All it took was a turn off the beaten path.

Do you know of any great places that the main roads have passed by?  I’d love to hear about them!

Where will the signs lead you?

We’re backroads people.  If we have to get there quick, sure, we’ll use the Interstate, but if time isn’t important, or if we want to avoid going through towns, we head for the county roads and find a scenic route.  Even better, sometimes we find something that’s really off the beaten path that’s a very pleasant surprise.

This was the case on a recent trip.  We were only an hour and a half from home, but deviated from our usual route.  (Actually, we don’t have many “usual” routes because I love to see as many different things as I can.)  Hubby had a certain county road in mind, so we headed for it.

Along the way, though, I spotted a sign that intrigued me.  It said “Capitol City” and pointed us down another road.  “Capitol City?” I thought?  Out in the middle of rural Minnesota?  We followed the sign, which led us six or seven miles and around a few more corners, ending up on a spot on a gravel road that overlooks two lakes.

There we found it, a piece of Minnesota history I’d never heard of.  It wasn’t a city, or even any buildings, this Capitol City.  Instead, we found a series of signs that detailed a capitol city that almost was.

St. Paul was originally set up to be the temporary capitol of Minnesota, so Governor Henry Hastings Sibley sent out a party of searchers to find an ideal location.  They recommended this site in Kandiyohi County.  It went through some political twists and turns, and at one point was actually slated to become the new capitol, but the order was repealed by the next governor.

The plats had been laid out, with the capitol atop the hill and a town on the shores of the nearby lakes.  It led me to wonder how different our state would be with the capitol in Capitol City instead of St. Paul.  How would it have affected rural development?  How would the Twin Cities be different?  One can only wonder, because the state capitol stayed in St. Paul, and all that remains of Capitol City are the markers and documents that describe what it was to be.

Capital Hill 1

Capital Hill 15

Capital Hill 13

Capital Hill 11

Capital Hill 10

Capital Hill 9

Capital Hill 8

Capital Hill 7

Capital Hill 6

Capital Hill 5

Capital Hill  3

Capital Hill 4

Capital Hill 2

Capital Hill 12

Photo Friday : Buffalo Ridge Windmills

On our latest trip to Iowa, we got up close to some of the many windmills on the Buffalo Ridge in southwest MInnesota.  The windmills go on for miles and miles, quiet giants waving their arms over the prairie.  The kids always are excited when we see a windmill on a drive, and to see so many was absolute excitement for them!

Buffalo Ridge windmills

Buffalo Ridge windmills

Buffalo Ridge windmills

Buffalo Ridge windmills

To see more Photo Friday travel photos, head to DeliciousBaby.

In our own backyard

There are days when we don’t have to go very far for excitement.

One morning in August, we were on our way to return books at the library when we came upon this spray ‘copter reloading.  It was in the middle of our road, so we had to stop and wait for it.  Boy, that’s tough for kids, to have to sit and watch a helicopter up close . . . and then take off from the truck.

Helicopter 1

Helicopter 2

We dropped off our books and headed to see Grandma, when we came upon this in front of her house.

Cherry Picker

To an adult, a mere annoyance, but to the kids, a lot of interest added to their day!

What interesting things have you seen in your own neighborhoods?