Traveling over a long period of time has definitely changed our perspective on various things, and one of those things is holidays. Sadly it can be difficult to track even the “regular” days, with no hard lines between weekdays and weekends. Since we often need to get to certain places on certain dates, the fact that a holiday comes along doesn’t mean we don’t need to, for instance, travel by bus or car for ten hours to our next destination. It’s all but impossible to plan and get gifts for each other when we are together 24/7 and have no access to our mailing address. We’re operating on a very stringent budget. And even if we could, it doesn’t really make sense to exchange gifts in the traditional way since we don’t have a home right now to store things in. Each day we remind ourselves how lucky we are to be “living the dream”, and in that sense, every day is like a birthday. But we still turn a little bit older each year; even this one… and we like to make the best of it.
So this year my birthday occurred in Minnesota! Cool – a new state for me and for us. We woke up early and left our host who had given us some great recommendations. We started out with a hike at Minnehaha State Park, where we were supposed to see Minnehaha Falls. Great! I love hiking and any hike with a waterfall is even better in my book. It was cold – we pulled out those new hats and gloves – but it really was perfect hiking weather. Instead of falls we found Minnehaha Trickle, but that was okay too. It’s the thought that counts, right? There was all kinds of cool sandstone all around and Elliott had fun eroding the rocks with his pinky finger.
Next up was the MALL. OF. AMERICA. I’m not screaming at you with the capital letters; that’s just how you have to read it, very loudly and dramatically for the full effect. Representing everything American, the MALL. OF. AMERICA is the largest mall in North America. Bigger than the King of Prussia Mall – can you imagine? Of course you can. We’re in America, and America likes BIG. What’s really ironic is that I’ve no lost love for malls. I’m definitely a thrift shop kind of girl. So, a mall for my birthday? Heck, why not? It is the biggest one, after all.
I knew it contained some special stuff; Elliott had maybe mentioned a roller coaster of some sort? But once inside, we could immediately tell this was no regular mall. They had to fill all that space with something, so why not… an entire amusement park? I kid you not – and you too can play there all day long if you buy a wrist band for the bargain price of $30. Okay, I admit it, we went on one ride. But it was really cool – a huge half pipe where you sit with several other people on a huge skate board, and you spin around as you are hurled up and down the sides of the half pipe at mind-numbing speeds. Rad!
Then there was the Lego store. Remember when you were a kid and there were red, white, yellow and blue Lego pieces, and you had to imagine something to build with them? Now there are Lego pieces in every color of the rainbow, and you can’t build a thing, it seems, without a ton of specialized pieces that come in one of a million custom Lego kits. Don’t look at the price tag without an inhaler nearby. Boy, between the amusement park and the Legos, I was sure glad not to have kids in tow. At least the enormous, 2-4 story Lego creatures were free to look at.
Eventually we found our way out of the gargantuan mall and it’s equally gargantuan parking lot. It had already been a terrific birthday, minus good friends and family, of course! I did get a couple great birthday phone calls – and even (miraculously) a birthday card or two – thanks! But it turned out there was more in store for me. Before we left Minnesota, we had one more stop to make. We still had the “no toll roads” option set on the GPS, but this time it would not have made a difference. We were headed to Darwin, MN, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. To get there, we were literally driving on gravel roads, praying the GPS was taking us SOMEwhere. It was harrowing at times but actually quite fun – and totally worth it to see a very special site – the world’s largest ball of twine!!! Now how awesome is that?
Being in the middle of nowhere, we never did find a place for a birthday dinner. Eventually we found some fast food (ugh), and Elliott surprised me with a pair of pink hiking socks he had managed to secretly buy at the MALL. OF. AMERICA. They will sure come in handy considering I left all my hiking socks at home. After seeing the DQ had closed, a donut from a gas station made a substitute birthday cake. With Elliott’s cell phone illuminating my donut in lieu of a candle as he sang happy birthday to me in the front seat of the car, we were well aware that this is the trip, and the birthday, of a lifetime.