Travels with Children

The adventures I embark upon with my four young children.

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?

If you’re in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area this week . . .

and can find a way, go to Civic Fest at the Minneapolis Convention Center!  I’m too beat for a full review right now, but it was very well done.  The floor was not crowded and there were lots of things for kids (and adults!) to do.  Civic Fest runs through Thursday (coinciding with the Republican National Convention), so if you can clear your calendar for a few hours, take advantage of this opportunity.  Be sure to take your camera as there are some nice photo areas as well.

Video of the Tractor Square Dance

It took all day, but my first Youtube upload is finally complete.  Now you can see some video clips of the Farmall Promenade.  I apologize for the mediocre quality of the picture; my little digital camera did the best it could.  Enjoy!

The Last Dance

We made a two-day trip to Iowa this weekend and did some fun and interesting things that I’ll write about in the days to come, but I’m going to post about our last stop first.

We visited the tiny town of Nemaha, Iowa, (population 70), with a couple thousand other people who wanted to see the Farmall Promenade.  I had heard about these square-dancing tractors earlier this summer and had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to go see them.  Suddenly summer was closing in on us, and we found our opportunity.

As we talked to people in the area, we almost decided against going.  One woman told us that the show is really entertaining, but that they were expecting a lot of people and that it would probably be hard to see.  Unless they brought in bleachers; maybe they’ll have bleachers, she said . . . but it’s going to be hard to see.  With this information, we hemmed and hawed about whether we should go.  In the end, we decided that we had nothing to lose, and since my husband and I really did want to see the show, we’d give it a try.

We arrived in Nemaha at 2:45 for the 4:00 show.  Attendants showed us where to park, and we headed to the site.  The organizers had indeed set up bleachers, as well as benches on hay bales, and space for people who’d brought their own lawn chairs.  We spotted an elevated platform with a few chairs on it and staked our claim on the rest of the area.  That was definitely our best move, because it allowed us a good view, as well as a little space for the kids to move around without bothering other people.  If we hadn’t arrived early, it would have been difficult to find a vantage point for the kids (and us) to really see the show well.

It was hot in Nemaha, and the wait was pretty long, but I’ll give the kids a lot of credit:  they handled it well.  I had brought snacks and drinks for them, which helped as well, and there were reasonably-priced concessions available.

Finally, at 4:00, the show began.  The four groups of Mr. and “Mrs.” boarded their Farmall tractors and the dancing began to the call of a very capable and entertaining Laurie Mason-Schmidt, who put her heart and soul into the show.  In between “dances,” there were entertaining bits and some nice tributes to the people who have worked with the Farmall Promenade for the past ten years–the lady who made cookies before every bus trip, the Star Energy station that provided the gas for the tractors and never sent a bill, the wives of the dancer-drivers, and many more.

The best part, though, was the dancing.  Watching eight tractors do-si-do and swing their partners was a sight to see.  The tractor wheels were often just inches apart as they spun in their circles, and these are tractors without power steering. 

This was small-town Iowa at its best.  People from Nemaha and the surrounding communities had gotten the promenade set up for their visitors, and had a meal for 1,800 people planned afterward.  From the national anthem to the last bow, I had tears in my eyes several times as I watched how this group of people and their community had come together with something unique and entertaining.

We were so glad we went.  The kids each had their own favorite parts–the tractors “wound and wound,” the big circle at the end, the antics of the drivers–and although they complained about the heat, they were fully at attention when the tractors were dancing.  It’s hard to describe exactly how and why we enjoyed this so much, but it was really one of the nicest family things we’ve done together.

If you want to go to the Farmall Promenade, well . . . you can’t.  You see, this was the last dance.  After ten years of promenading, the Farmalls will be parked once again.  They’ll be missed.

For more information on the Farmall Promenade, visit

I also posted some video clips on Youtube.