Monday, May 16, 2011

Summer 2011

Finals are done, dorms have been cleared, grades are in and the seniors were graduated this past Saturday (Congratulations Class of '11!). In the wake of the wind down to the academic year, I find myself once again plugging away at the college for the Communications Office, a nice full-time gig that will help me pay rent. This is my first year living as a real adult in my own house with four other friends in a perfectly situated spot barely a block from campus (I can see the Campus Center from my living room window).

This year a lot of out-of-Staters have decided to sow some roots in the Twin Cities for the summer. My housemates are from Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Hampshire and Oregon-- I represent the only born and bred Minnesotan in the group. Some of the coastals miss the ocean but their aquatic blues can often be cured by a bike ride or a jog down to the river or Minnehaha Falls. I'm looking forward to tornado season, myself. Stormy weather with yellow skies, funnel clouds, lightning flashes and rolling thunder sets off the perfect cozy ambience for an evening inside. We already got a brief preview a few days ago when the weather warmed up enough. About a quarter of the way through watching The King's Speech, Colin Firth was upstaged by a masterful Michelangelo-type storm cloud towering outside our window, shot through with forks of lightning so scraggly, bright and blue that they looked like a Hollywood effect. All of us were turned around and staring out the window for a solid half an hour stalking the storm's progress.

Since then temperatures have taken a turn for the crisp-- leading my housemates to believe that summer simply doesn't exist in a place like Minnesota, but come July they'll learn better, and probably feel a little nostalgia for the spring and fall months.

Once it does warm up, I'm looking forward to planning a few authentically Minnesotan day trips with them. The first voyage on the docket is a trip to Valley Fair, an amusement park in Shakopee. Steel Venom, The Power Tower and The Wild Thing are a few of the park's focal selling points, though I must say the Excalibur is the best. What it lacks in flash, power, torque and upside-down loopy-dee-loops, it makes up for in charm and charisma. The Excalibur is an old wooden roller coaster at the back of the park, painted white, rickety and janky. The tracks creak and sway under the cart, giving the impression that it will collapse beneath you at any moment. Also, the people in charge of the overhead microphone on this ride tend to have an amusing take on their job. The last time I went, the pre-ride announcement sounded a little something like this:

"Welcome to Excalibur. Please be sure to fasten your seatbelts securely. When the cart is in motion keep your arms and legs inside at all times. If you have loose items you will need to place them in the cubbies along the side. Please do not disturb the bear that sleeps under the roller coaster. If the bear should wake, do not touch the bear, jeer at the bear, feed the bear, or look the bear directly in the eyes. If you do look the bear directly in the eyes remember to stop, drop and roll. If you should become mangled by the bear, please call for help and we will attempt to assist you. Enjoy the ride."

Another noteworthy attraction is Apple River, which technically is in Wisconsin (this I must concede to the cheese-heads) but is only a few hours drive northeast of the Twin Cities. At the river you can rent a tube for about $15 or less, tie it together with your friends' tubes and float down the river-- a lazy journey lasting for about an hour and a half. At the end of the river there is nothing but a Dairy Queen and a bus waiting to shuttle you back to the top of the river. You can go through as many rounds as you want and buy as many sundaes as your stomach can handle at the end.

Update 8-8-11: We went to Apple River! A fun time was had by all. My friend Mollie swears she was attacked by a shrimp and became impressively acrobatic on her tube to avoid letting any single part of her body touch the water. We diagnosed her with PTS(shrimp)D. Anyway, here's a picture of happy people: