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Mission Day

We stuck around in Chicago an extra day to work on another banner and to participate in “Mission Day”. Mission days are other coordinated events where you have a pre-determined amount of time to collect between 6 and 18 mission badges. If completed and verified on time, you get another badge. We don’t have any mission day badges yet and figured since we were already down there – we should stay an extra day and play.

Since we had a lot more walking to do and wanted to be able to get on the road before it was too late, we were up early for a family breakfast. A friend of mine recommended Wildberry Bakery which was just a short walk from our hotel. There’s not many restaurants in the area for breakfast (unless you feel like dropping $32 A PERSON on the hotel buffets!!) and despite arriving early – there was a big line. Let me tell you, after walking 20K steps the previous day with a lot of standing, waiting in line was hard work.🙂

Turns out we arrived in the knick of time and only had to wait about 25 minutes. When they called our table, the lines outside were so big the wait was almost 2 hours. Yes, people were OK waiting that long. Wow! Different city I guess…

The wait was worth it for us though. We were starving and still a little dehydrated so we loaded up on delicious coffee and their specialty breakfast options. Dad and Ben went with the caramel apple pecan French toast.

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While the rest of us selected the Signature Berry Bliss pancakes. I want another plate of this right now. It was absolutely incredible! They labeled it as “vanilla anglaise, blackberry coulis, berry mascarpone, and fresh berries”. Oh yeah. I’m a sucker for anything breakfast with berries.

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This just might be my favorite breakfast ever. If only I could get this back home.🙂

After finishing our meal we bundled back up and joined all the players walking around the area collecting our missions. Everyone hits the same locations but it’s friendly because we don’t have to hold locations for our team. It was a much more casual and laid-back atmosphere.

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We ran into cell signal issues a couples of times. Skyscrapers are fun to look at but terrible for playing games on your cell phone!

Here’s a funny story – I really liked the Lincoln statue and wanted a picture without dozens of people milling all around. So I made everyone sit and wait… and wait… and wait until I realized you need the people in order to get the correct height perspective. Ha

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A lot of walkers everywhere! Plus the crazy noise. Every driver in Chicago utilizes their horn more than their breaks. I’m convinced of this. There weren’t many long, loud horn blasts BUT there was a non-stop tap-tap-tap-tap of all the horns being tapped. No one has any patience, people just randomly stop in the middle of the road (there’s not much parking). There also were homeless people on every curb yelling over and over at people for money, cigarettes, and food. It was bustling and noisy and a LOT of stimulation. Maybe a bit too much for this small-town gal. (Heaven help me if I ever visit NY!)

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We had a location stop just outside of the art institute. I guess everyone is still celebrating the Cubs’ World Series win:

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We finished what we could over the morning and then it was time to scurry back and check out of our hotels, make a bathroom break, and check the parents’ car out of valet parking. Parking in big cities is CRAZY – it was $65/day for my parents to park. Remember yesterday I mentioned how Ben and I went around and around for an hour looking for a parking garage? That was so we’d “only” have to pay $32/day. Holy macaroni.

You pay for the pretty nighttime views I guess?

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The skywalk in our hotel. If we’d had more time it would have been fun to just sit there and sip some coffee while watching the people/cars.

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We left our car in the cheap (lol) lot and used Mom & Dad’s for letting Matt take breaks from the walking. We were all pretty wiped out but had more trekking to do. I think this was the river they dye green for St Patrick’s Day every year. Would be fun to take a river cruise sometime!

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And, as always, Ingress takes us to every random and unique sculpture the city has to offer. I love that.

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We only hit 17,000 steps to finish the mission and we logged our names into the system and got out of town before rush hour. I really wanted to sleep on the way home but figured it wouldn’t be fair to Ben to drive the whole way back without any company. I did doze off for about 30 minutes – whoops!

Overall a fun trip with lots of memories. It never fails whenever we play Ingress we run into something unexpected but I love having things to do and making friends from across the country.

Chicago & Via Noir

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Good morning everyone! We were hit with our first winter storm of the year and went from green grass on Saturday to 3″+ of snow on Sunday. Ben and I got our grocery shopping done early before the worst of the storm hit and then settled in under heated blankets to watch football and fold laundry. Typical Sunday.

We got really lucky on the weather front though. The snow and super cold weather held out for us to partake in the quarterly “Anomaly” adventure for our GPS game. Since this is a global game, they don’t often have an event within driving distance so the whole family decided to take advantage and make it a weekend adventure!

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Ben and I arrived later than planned because it took over an hour of driving in circles trying to find the parking garage by our hotel. There were protestors by Trump tower and that hosed up traffic all around the area we had to be in. As a result, we missed being part of the group picture and had to do a lot of running and scrambling to find our ground team and get to our starting location. Thanks protestors!!

They had three types of teams for the event: ground teams (on foot that stayed in a general location the entire event), bike teams (a little more mobile) and then driving teams (most movement). Since none of us really wanted to try and play the game while navigating crazy streets, we selected a ground team. We got lucky and our whole family was placed on the same team. Where we weren’t so lucky – we ended up with the farthest walking location away. Matt was pretty tired and wiped out just handling the 45 min of walking we had to do right from the start!

Our ground location was in an adorable neighborhood. It was quiet and all the buildings were absolutely gorgeous brick. There was almost nothing in the way of lawns – so the only green space people had was in the walkway at the front of their houses. Those were always pretty elaborate and meticulously maintained. Then again, if I only had 10 feet to work with, it would look pretty impressive too I’m sure!🙂

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One of the interesting moments was when a horse-drawn carriage clopped its way through the street. I spent too much time watching it in surprise so my picture is a bit delayed…

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I told Ben I’d be OK living in a big city if we had a cute brownstone like one of the ones on the street. He laughed and told me we’d need 2nd, 3rd, and 4th jobs just to afford one. He’s probably right too!

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It was a long and cold day and our side was completely outnumbered, but we hung in it and enjoyed playing with the other members of our team. It’s amazing how people travel from all over to be a part of these events. We had a father/son from Iowa, and then people from Chicago, St Louis, and Texas.

Lots of action on the map!

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One of the more interesting moments was about 4 hours into the event when I realized I really, really, really had to go to the bathroom. There are no bathrooms anywhere in large downtown areas. I think it’s just taboo to keep the homeless from using them or something. Ben went with me and we literally walked into every gas station and store asking to use a bathroom. Finally we found a Starbucks and was able to use their restroom. Yikes – nothing worse than being 45min away from your hotel on foot with no potty!

We were doing well overall until the sun started to drop. It got windy and cold awfully quick. By then we were stationed near the water and had some awesome views of the moon reflecting on the water.

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The event was wrapping up and our group was chilled through and tired, so we stopped at the first restaurant we saw for dinner. I ordered the chicken pot pie looking for some hot comfort food to warm me up – and ended up with a platter that could have fed an entire family (along with a HARD bread bowl rather than the typical doughy top).

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I ended up sharing a big portion with mom and still didn’t even tackle half of this. Since there was a bathroom handy, everyone was chugging water like crazy. I think people were scared to drink all day. Maybe next time they need to re-think the length of the event and where they position the walking groups? Our team:

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After eating we decided not to walk all the way back to the hotel in the dark and used the event coupon for a free Uber ride. I’m not sure if any of you have used it before, but it worked really well! We selected a bigger SUV so we could all ride together and the car was clean, the driver was friendly, and it was a really nice experience. I would definitely use Uber again.

A long day in Chicago with over 20,000 in steps walked! Phew! Good exercise I suppose.😉 We skipped the after party with our local teammates and friends in favor of sleep. We stuck around the next say to complete the “Mission” day and earn another badge. I have more fun pictures to share but need to get to the office now.

Have an awesome Monday!

Three Days of Thanksgiving

It’s been raining cats and dogs around here and I’m excited for what is forecasted to be a much nicer day today – with temps back up into the 50s! WOW Wouldn’t that be a fun treat? Now that Thanksgiving has wrapped up, we can all say goodbye to the insane amount of pumpkin spice (I think every food item had a pumpkin spice version this year) and start thinking more about peppermint instead.

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While it wasn’t popular, we successfully navigated separate days for Thanksgiving. It was just insane to eat a big meal around 1/1:30 and then another at 5pm. We started the alternating days last year and it worked so well (for Ben and me) but I can tell it’s still a harder sell for some of the family.

This year we spent the actual holiday with my family. I made the usual sweet potato casserole and Ben tried a recipe he found for corn mixed with onions, garlic, bacon, and sour cream. We arrived a little before mealtime to help prep and then to play some board games. I love all the dishes at Thanksgiving and it feels like you can only take a little bite of everything – when you want heaping piles of food – because you know you won’t have room to eat it all.🙂

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We had our “usual” spread – brined turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade stuffing, pumpkin knot rolls, sweet potato casserole, and broccoli for Alex.

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We made barely a dent in the overall food (leftovers!!!!) and then Ben and I left to try some black Friday on Thursday shopping. I know, it’s ridiculous. JCPenney opened at THREE on Thanksgiving. THREE. I remember when I thought 8pm was early. Anyway, the last couple of years I’ve gone when they open to snag one of the free $10 coupons. I bring Ben, we each get a coupon, we grab our two pre-planned items, and are out the door 15min later. It’s actually not too bad because we don’t meander around and can get in and out before the crazy lines.

Silly me – I was thinking most people would be home enjoying food with their families, so we got there just 30 minutes before they opened…

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It was cold for us standing out there in the wind and I felt sorry for all the underdressed little kids that had to wait. We veered off course a little and snagged some wood wick candles that I’ve wanted but am too cheap to pay full price for (they are really $$$) so it took a little more time but 18 minutes after entering we were headed back outside and all the coupons were gone. Whew!

Our plan was to hit ShopKo next – which didn’t open until 4pm. More waiting around so Ben took me for a loop around Lambeau Field where there are a zillion Ingress/Pokémon Go stops. We loaded up on inventory and then drove to ShopKo just 2 minutes before they were scheduled to open. There are three entrances to ShopKo and you can see the lines for two of them here (I didn’t even get the one entire line in the shot!).

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We parked the car just as the back of the line hit the front doors and coasted in with absolutely no wait. Oh yeah! The ad misrepresented one of the items we had planned to get, so instead we loaded up on Keurig K Cup deals and random impulse buys. The check-out line was INSANE but we lucked out and had a lady in the eye care department check us out.

The next stores we were interested in didn’t open until 6 and there was no way we were hanging around that long, so we drove back home for dessert and more family game time.

Mom made an apple pie and then a sweet potato pecan pie too. I’ve never had sweet potato pie before. Have any of you? It looks like pumpkin but has an incredible light and airy texture that’s not overly sweet. It was really, really good.

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We left the family around 8:30 and decided (Ok I decided and Ben came along for the ride) to try and brave some more shops thinking that since places opened at 6 and it was much later, most of the crazies were gone. We hit Walmart and that was pretty empty and then went back into the main heart of shopping land to check out BestBuy (picked up one item, saw the line, put the item back and left) and Dicks Sporting Goods (got a bunch of running stuff for Alex, stood in a LONG line, discovered every last thing I picked out WASN’T on sale!!!). What?? Don’t get me started on that one.

We hit a couple other places on Friday along with another trip to JCPenney to return the candle I bought the day before. It wasn’t packaged and when I placed it on the counter it completely shattered the glass. Mom served us up a bunch of leftovers so we didn’t have to do any cooking on Friday, which was awesome.

Saturday we spent over with Ben’s family. I made yeast rolls. I can’t remember the last time I ever made some and I used yeast from Trader Joes that I think had a much different taste to it. I wasn’t really happy with the end result. The taste was off and the texture was not what I wanted it to be. Try again next year! Then we sat and watched the family watch the Badger football game and got all caught up on the news.

We slept in a bit every day over the long weekend and they stayed up a little too late watching the Packer game last night. I’m tired! But I’m hoping I can steal a few minutes over lunch to get outside for a quick walk. If it really is 50 degrees today, I want to make the most of it!!

Have a splendid day!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The sweet potatoes are cooking in the oven and Ben’s working on some “mystery” corn dish that’s smelling delicious! Taking a moment to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. Isn’t it nice to have a day to think about the things we should be thankful and grateful for all year long?

I’m so thankful for God, my wonderful family, a warm and inviting house, reliable transportation, and for living in a safe and secure community.❤ Of course, I’m also thankful for my blog friends too!

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Hudson: Home of the Hot-Air Balloons

Happy Thursday! The forecast for Nov 17th is 65 degrees. You heard me, 65! This lady is taking a much-needed lunch break for some fresh air at work today. It’s been such a wonderfully mild Fall. There is a big cold front sweeping in tomorrow afternoon and the temps are supposed to go from the mid-60s down to the high 30s by dinner time. Yikes. That’ll certainly feel like a severe change!

I’ve been feeling bad about my lack of blog activity but sometimes you have to embrace the ebb and flow of life and settle into whatever the new normal is. It’s been a really stressful and challenging time and I haven’t had much interest in doing a lot of things. I come home mentally and physically exhausted and just want to curl up on the couch and read/watch TV. Then I mentally berate myself for neglecting my blog, among many other things. I’m actively working on figuring things out so hopefully this won’t be the norm forever, but bare with me friends.

We’ve been trying to get out of the house a little more lately just for a change of pace and scenery. I’ve needed more away time to not think about work and other stressors and little trips here and there have been a wonderful relief. When we were in MN, I mentioned about the little B&B we stayed at but didn’t finish our last day…

The restaurant attached to the B&B:

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While this place wasn’t as great as our Door County experience, I think we’d go back another time if just to explore the city during tourism season. I could see the fringe of activity on main street and I bet the hustle and bustle would be really fun during Summer. It just felt so relaxed and away from everything.

We had time to kill so we sat on chairs in our porch. Pretty view of the marina:

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We’re not used to big breakfasts but breakfast wasn’t served until 9am (why??) so by the time we could go and eat, we were hungry! It was a carb-bonanza with caramel rolls, biscuits with sausage gravy, cheesy eggs, and fresh fruit. For homemade rolls though, no one makes them as good as my mother does.🙂

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Back to the room to pack up and head on out! More views from our room:

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After the later-than-planned start, we crossed back over the Mississippi river to work on another Ingress banner in Hudson, WI. We had been concerned about cell signal but I really wanted this banner (I love the colors and think it’s so pretty). We were really glad we decided to go for it – so much to see in the town! Hudson is known for being the premiere winter ballooning event and winter festival in the Midwest. Annually more than 40 balloons have flown since 1990.

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Ingress usually points you in the direction of historical locations, parks, and various places of interest. It’s an amazing way of learning some of the city’s treasures and this proved the case once more. We started out weaving through various churches and tiny parks before arriving at the local water tower – way up on a walking path with a captivating morning view:

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Plus it’s nice to get out a do a little walking here and there while driving around town! We found ourselves at another park with amazing trees and the best view of the entire city. It was completely void of people and I could have stayed there all day.

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So pretty!!!!!

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Silliness in the park. Because that’s how we roll!

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We lucked out with the best weather imaginable and had the windows rolled down and tunes blaring as we weaved through town. One section had us looping down by the Mississippi riverfront and I saw the cutest restaurant with people dining al fresco and 90s music playing. We decided right there to finish the banner and grab a late lunch / early dinner before settling into the drive home.

We got seated on a high table right next to the outdoor bar.

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Blackberry margarita for me!

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Ben selected the meatloaf sandwich and I had the half turkey sandwich

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Really tasty food! I wasn’t that hungry after breakfast and the 1/2 sandwich was the perfect size. The hostess offered to take our picture – can you see the river in the background? I bet it’s a gorgeous walk at night with all the street lights on.

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I told Ben I want to move to Hudson. He laughs at me but we both loved the town. It’s close to the Twin Cities and the craziness of big city life to reap those benefits but far enough away to be peaceful and slower-paced.

So that’s it for MN. We had a lot of other banners we wanted to do but they always seem to take longer than we plan (maybe because we stop too much to explore the areas). I’m trying to talk Ben into another trip during Christmas vacation – but we’ll need to wait and see how the weather is that week. I love to plan!

I’m on a boat!

Our Ingress escapades continue! Some of you may think this game is pretty dumb/pointless but I love how it gets us out of the house and exploring different areas. So the next banner we wanted to tackle was called “I’m on a Boat” and looped around downtown by the new Vikings Stadium (there’s a statue of a Viking ship nearby – hence the banner title).

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We tackled this early Sunday morning, which was smart because there wasn’t as much traffic and we were able to make some faux pas (like driving on the metro tracks) without being in trouble. Can you tell we aren’t big city folk?😉

I did a lot of jumping out of the car and running over to hit locations while Ben would drive around the block and pick me back up. I wandered into a little park just outside the Gold Medal Flour office. Skyscrapers all around and a cute area filled with early morning walkers, joggers, and animals.

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Plus interesting sculptures

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Our next stop brought us closer to the Mississippi and right in the midst of Oyster Fest (what?). It never fails, whenever we are out tackling a banner we run into bizarre events that prevent us from hitting portals we need to complete our banners! We had our sights set on a Peanuts banner next. There were 18 individual missions – you could complete them in any order because they didn’t need to make a unified picture – and because a few were right in the throes of Oyster Fest, we opted not to pay the entry fee for food we wouldn’t eat and instead just completed 12 of the 18 missions. It still looks pretty cool.

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In fact, this might be one of my favorites!🙂

It was a LOT of walking all over because parking was non-existent and we didn’t want to risk moving our car and hoping to find another spot. So we weaved and ebbed our way all over the area. It was a nice day and we saw some awesome old buildings too.

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We were tired and it was well-past lunch when we finished so we drove over to Afton, MN to check into our B&B and then hopped back into the car to check out the Mall of America (lots of driving all over!).

The MoA is pretty excessive and Ben isn’t much for shopping or crowds but it’s something you need to experience if you’re in the area. I took him by the things I thought he would find most interesting – like the Lego shop and the large amusement park at the center of the building. Can you spot Ben on the roller coaster?

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Our plan was to window shop and then find a sports bar inside to grab an early dinner and watch the Packer game. As it turns out, sports bars are slim in the building but we found a Mexican restaurant on the top floor that had a decent TV for viewing. Whew!

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The Packers were looking dismal so we left at halftime and made our way across the store to find IKEA. Neither of us had ever been in one before and it really was nothing like what I expected.

They funnel you in “S” shapes throughout the floor so you lose your ability to tell where you are in the store and where the actual exit is. After 30 minutes of walking and no actual exit anywhere in sight, I actually started to panic. We’d follow the EXIT sign only to run into another “S” with tons of people. If there’s ever a fire in IKEA, I doubt anyone would make it out alive. Not my thing – it felt really claustrophobic knowing I couldn’t just turn around and head for the doors.

But we took some pics – like Ben with his “tacky” retro kitchen

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And I sort of love these chandeliers – if I ever got a dining room for them🙂

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We bought nothing and left as soon as we could spot the exit. Then we were back onto the road navigating to another mission – which we found out was a museum closed for renovations. Boo!

It worked out OK though because by the time we drove all the way back to our B&B, it was dark and we were pretty tired. The evening was crazy warm and they had a restaurant/bar attached with lots of music and torches. We grabbed some beer and root beer and sat outside to enjoy a perfectly bug-free night.

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The B&B had a definite old and musty smell but was cute and our room was surprisingly large. We had a whirlpool and a fireplace. I don’t often see a fireplace in a room and I loved it. Such a special extra thing for reading before bed!

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Another successful day on the road. It’s fun being away but I always seem to have trouble drinking enough. I hate stopping to use the bathroom so I just stop drinking… and if I do that for a couple of days in a row, it’s not good. We came stocked with bottled water and forced ourselves to keep drinking and I think that helped a lot.

 

Six Miles along Victory Memorial Parkway

Oh boy – it’s a somber night in the household after watching the Packers fall short this week.

What’s better is looking at my trip pictures and reliving all the fun we had. I wrote about our trip through Eau Claire and Chippewa falls and although that was amazing, we had more shenanigans in store.

We woke up early Saturday morning and loaded up on the continental breakfast. I love it when you find hotels with a hot dish – it can be a challenge to eat healthy on the road – and this hit the spot with some delicious scrambled eggs, french toast, and sausage links.

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We said goodbye to Eau Claire and headed West across the Mississippi and into Minnesota.

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Our first stop was Victory Memorial Parkway – a part of the Grand Rounds Scenic By way in Minneapolis. Every tree has a memorial stone at the base in honor of the servicemen of Hennepin County. There’s two lanes on either side with a substantial boulevard in between where the memorial trees line either edge. Smack in the middle is a biking and walking path – and on a warm and slightly breeze October day, we were taking advantage of the weather and out on our feet!

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We tackled an 18 mission banner first and literally breezed through it. The locations were so close together that we completed the entire thing in less than an hour – when a usual banner of that size would be closer to 3 hours.

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It’s a pretty one – I love it!

Since we flew through that so quickly and the day was young, we got ambitious and decided to tackle the 66 mission banner – our largest EVER to date:

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This would take us all the way down Victory Memorial Drive and then across and all the way down AND back up Victory Memorial Parkway. It *looked* short on the map and easier to do on foot, so we parked the car and got walking.

Gorgeous, gorgeous day – lots of people out playing Pokemon Go, walking their dogs, and a few folks reading on blankets. Despite ample traffic, it felt quiet and removed from the chaos. I REALLY wish we had something like this in Green Bay!

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I was working up a decent sweat and I kept glancing at Ben who was wearing his new sweatshirt (I can’t convince the boy to take it off since he’s bought it).

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We were about 20 missions in when we realized it was a LOT more walking then we had planned on AND we didn’t bring a phone charger with us. We went into a big of crisis mode at that point, trying to keep our screens extra low and picking up the pace. We didn’t want to be miles away from the car with no working phones and have to walk all the way back – and then back AGAIN to finish the rest of the banner.

Another 10 minutes later and we began to notice it was getting really cloudy and overcast. Sure enough, we started seeing tiny drops on our phone screens. Oh no. Hustling, panting, and chugging along – we managed to get 56 of the 66 done before my cell went dead. I grabbed Ben’s phone and kept working on his while he walked the extra .4 miles back to the car (we made it most of the way!). The car grabbed me just as the rain really began to fall and with our phones plugged into chargers and our feet throbbing from all the exercise, we finished the rest of the mission in the car.

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It was much later than we anticipated when we finished (4pm) so we started the drive into town to find our hotel. The plan was to check in and get our luggage all sorted before it got dark and then try and find some place for dinner.

We were smart and packed a few snacks and lots of bottled water. I often don’t like to drink when we have road trips but I’m learning that’s not an option. You need to stay hydrated!!

The skyline:

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Downtown Minneapolis was chaotic and the roads leading into our hotel were blocked off for some event (apparently there was a zombie Halloween party going on). After our GPS pointed out which tall building was our hotel, we saw a parking ramp right next door. Long story short – the hotel was actually 6 blocks away (huh?!). By the time we found our hotel, checked in and walked back to move the car to a closer location, we’d already incurred a $30 parking fee. Exhausted and not thinking too clearly, we grabbed our suitcases and walked them through the throngs of zombies all the way back to the hotel.

We couldn’t roll the luggage because the ground was LITTERED in fake blood. Pretty messy and nasty. Some of the folks at the party staying in our hotel:

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By the time we got our luggage into our rooms and sat down on the bed, everything hurt. We hadn’t had anything substantial to eat since breakfast and my feet were killing me. We found this hotel via Living Social and as part of the offer we received a food credit in the attached dining area. We figured even if it was uber pricey, with the credit we probably would be comparable to some other place that would require more walking. (why do I never think about ordering pizza or something that delivers??)

The dining room / bar reminded me a LOT of LA. It felt urban and glitzy and was almost empty – surprising to us on a Saturday night (maybe that’s why they were doing a Living Social promotion??)

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We were the only ones not eating at the bar, so we spread out on the booth and laughed about the folly of the day. I was actually pretty impressed with our food too. We both ordered a pulled chicken sandwich with a semi-spicy sauce. I didn’t have much of an appetite and only ate half of mine. Ben was MORE than happy to gobble up the rest.

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From there we slowly staggered back up to our room…

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And after more than 16,500 steps on our pedometers, we literally fell into bed and instantly crashed to sleep.

(at the time we were SO tired and a bit defeated about the parking lot hassle but this is how the best memories are made, don’t you think?)