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Thursday, July 28, 2005


Day eight: Minneapolis. Eau Claire. Wausau. Green Bay. Menominee. Escanaba.

Minneapolis to Escanaba, Mich.: 409 miles, 8.5 hours

Miles so far: 3072

States visited so far: 9

Minnesota and Wisconsin are both surprisingly pretty places. Green, lush, and covered in farms, they’re as vast as the great plains, but not as boring. Wisconsin, in particular, was far more hilly and convoluted than I expected, but given the time to drive the road and study the map, that makes a lot of sense: If it weren’t for Wisconsin’s elevation, Lake Michigan would drain into the Mississippi River instead of the St. Lawrence.

Like Montana and Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin lend themselves to panoramic photography and no other kind. You already know what a barn looks like, and a silo, and a cornfield. Pictures of those things are beyond dull. But surround yourself with a huge homogeneous landscape, and it’s breathtaking.

Lucky for me and my non-panoramic camera, we arrived in Minneapolis, which is one of the most attractive cities I’ve ever been to. Straddling the Mississippi where it’s still rather narrow, the city displays a variety of tasteful architecture that doesn’t try too hard. The frigid city had the good sense to develop an elaborate Skyway system that allows workers, residents, and visitors to walk across downtown without stepping outside. Emily and I walked above ground nearly a mile from our hotel to the riverfront, where we then crossed the Big Muddy on foot.

Downtown Minneapolis Bridge over the Mississippi Downtown Minneapolis Grain Belt billboard

Especially for Max, here are some highlights of the sculpture garden in town.

Richard Serra Sol LeWitt Frank Gehry Claes Oldenburg

Tonight, for the first time, we’re in Michigan’s gorgeous Upper Peninsula, on the north shore of Lake Michigan. More tomorrow as we set out toward Ann Arbor, the whole point of this trip.