I got my stuff packed and checked out by 10. Took out the map and charted a route to the downtown riverfront. Amazingly, I found parking in front of the 2-block-long USPS hub facility, which is half a block from where I wanted to cross the river. It reminded me of Spokane, WA which is built next to the falls on the Columbia River. This place is built next to the falls on the Mississippi. Very impressive, considering how far north we are. It's about half as wide as it is at New Orleans, I'm guessing.
I took a nice long walk across one bridge, up to the next one, and back across. Took a lot of pictures, made a pit stop at an office/eats/arts complex which was built into a restored block of storefronts.
Got in the car, and charted my way back to the Mall of America. It must be the romantic side of me, or maybe my warped sense of humor, but I chose to take Hiawatha Ave past Minihaha Park to the freeway.
Had lunch at IHOP across the street from the mall, was waited on by a middle-aged man named Bob who had a routine he did at every table, so I had it memorized and was tempted to say it along with him when it was my turn to get my check. I found his feigned interest annoying. I suspect when he started this routine 30 years ago, he was sincere, but it's all rote now.
Took the car across to the other side of the mall, grabbed my camera and headed for the underground aquarium. It is very well done, the ramp leading down to the fish tanks is done up with wildlife scenes, with lots of live turtles and lots of stuffed non-turtles. The fish tanks are in three themes. Shark cove, gar village and paradise reef. They have a lot of small sharks, but nothing compared to Monterey. Gars are long-nosed fish which look weird, especially when there are about 50 of them floating listlessly in the tank. They are native to the Mississippi. Paradise reef is mostly semi-tropical angel fish and tangs. Pretty.
For an underground aquarium in a shopping mall, it's amazingly worthwhile.
When I grabbed my camera, I forgot to also grab my spare battery - I had it in mind when I left IHOP but short term memory loss kicked in. The battery was too low to fire the flash, so after I went through the place once slowly just looking, I went back to the car, changed batteries, and went back to take pictures.
The lowlight of the aquarium visit was attending a 20-min presentation which the announcement said would take a look at the film Jaws and de-mythify it. What it really did was hype the 30th anniversary DVD and make sharks sound like they are happy happy joy joy critters who would never knowingly hurt a human. Coming out of the aquarium, the first store you see is the Fox News gift shop, and the headline on the TV screen was "14-year-old girl killed by shark". http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,160698,00.html Hmmm.
The presented was a young woman (20-ish) who was so Midwest it hurt. The accent, the expressions, the almost complete lack of grace were amazing.
About the time the Jaws thing was over it was time to take back the rental car. It was a short trip - take the first freeway one exit north, take the next freeway one exit, and then hang a right and you're there. And the shuttle to the airport picked me up in 5 minutes.
So here I am in MSP, been through security, took the first class upgrade again (this time they had a window seat available) and signed up for a wireless connection for $7.
By the time I save this, it will be time to grab some bottled water and be ready to board.