Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Day 4: Celebrating America's Birthday. In America. At the Mall of America - July 4th Tour through Minneapolis/St. Paul.


Day 4: Celebrating America's Birthday. In America. At the Mall of America - July 4th Tour through Minneapolis/St. Paul.

**This series of posts recap my two-week trip to Billings, MT and back from July 1-16, 2013. For the entire list of my featured rides, click here.**

This was a very involved Fourth of July!

It started at dawn. I was up by 5AM for a 6AM departure from Apple Valley, MN and a 35 mile ride with my friends to an Emma Krumbee's in Belle Plaine for a very tasty breakfast. We parted ways afterward as they headed toward South Dakota and I backtracked to Minneapolis/St. Paul to do some sightseeing before I continued north to my next stop in Minot, ND. No worries, I was going to meet up with them again in Billings for the WOW International Ride-In™.

Salmon fillet Eggs Benedict? You betcha. You'll be seeing quite a bit of food during this trip.
My first stop was downtown St. Paul, the state capital of Minnesota. As a huge Peanuts fan, heading to Charles M. Schultz's hometown is like returning to Mecca. This state has not forgotten one of its most famous sons, and sculptures of his work dot various parts of the city and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport among other locations. Of course, with giant statues combined with an empty downtown and free parking (thank you federal holiday!) come very absurd photos.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy make themselves at home in the cultural center of town.
Wondering what Linus and Sally are looking at...
Eleanor is tiny in comparison to the massive St. Paul Conservatory of Music.
Spoiler alert: it's a better love story than Twilight.
Just wake me up when you get to the good part.
In front of the Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL Minnesota Wild. I am in the "State of Hockey," after all.
After fooling around in St. Paul, I headed back next door to Bloomington and the Mall of America, a place I had last visited in 2006 during my first long-distance campaign to Springfield, MO. The place hasn't changed much in terms of layout, but there were quite a few new stores and food places to try out.

You're seeing that right; that's a full-blown theme park inside the mall. Six years ago, this was all Peanuts-themed but is now full of Nickelodeon characters.
Sculptures from the adjacent LEGO store near the park.
This sculpture is well over 20ft. tall.
I wouldn't mind riding that motorcycle. If something breaks on it, it's much easier to rebuild!
MEGA Peep adorns the Peeps and Company Store.
The Mall of America has nearly anything you can think of. If it didn't have a boba drink shop, I would've been severely disappointed.
A Green Bay Packers store in the middle of Minnesota? Talk about treading in treacherous waters.
In Minnesota, they play hockey...not that you needed a reminder.
This is an inside joke just for Susy. Let's just say that when I play Disc Golf, I aim for the back of the head.
Swiper the Fox is my favorite character on the show "Dora the Explorer." He needs a spinoff show, except it would be all about larceny, taking things that you really don't need, and getting caught in the process. That's my kind of show.
Swiper will steal your wallet, your backpack, your first born. Hell, if I had a first born he can swipe that all day.
Walking through the mall and seeing all these items reminded me of someone or something that's happened to me. These next ones are for Matt. Peanut Chews are one of his favorite candies.
Amurrica Peeps.
A super-pack of Peeps! Can you say birthday present idea?
Get me a Peeps hockey jersey and we're all set.
Even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hang out to entertain another generation of children. It's still not as cool as it was in the '90s though.
Speaking of "house divided," how about this intentional placement of the Apple and Microsoft stores right across from each other?
After a few hours of walking, acquiring a few souvenirs, and an hour chair and foot massage, Eleanor and I were off again toward Minot, ND. Of course, my "wonderful" timing had my arrival time well into the night. Somewhere about 20 minutes past Fargo, ND on I took a small bird to my helmet's faceshield at 75MPH and watch it plink off. Mind you, as a ice hockey goalie I'm pretty used to fast flying objects coming at me, but I'm not an motorcycle when that happens. I pulled over not that much later to check my helmet (which turned out to be okay) and to take this cool shot of this lake at dusk.

I have been asked if I touch-up any of these photos, and frankly, what you see is what I shot. Some photos get cropped for aesthetics, but I don't adjust any of them. This lake photo was taken with my Motorola Droid Razr M in High Dynamic Range mode. Yep, a cell phone, one that shoots higher-resolution photos than my other travel high-definition camera, a Sony MHS-PM1 Webbie HD.

After a few hours of boring straight lines in the dark, a staredown with a baby deer, and a fly-by from a barn owl, I make it to my friend's house in Minot a little past midnight. The coolest part of the ride, however, was the small fireworks shows firing off from the farms that dotted the highway. It was my own personal, moving light show. For the next couple days, I spend some time in this part of North Dakota and even take a few steps into Canada. Stay tuned...!