Sarah and I spent part of the weekend visiting friends and family in the Twin Cities.

Friday afternoon, we packed up the car, bid Dalla adieu, and headed northwest towards the Twins Cities: Minneapolis and St. Paul. We got to St. Paul in the early evening. Sarah has to conduct another coring operation for her master’s thesis, and some of the equipment she needs had been recently built in Minneapolis. Part of our mission was to pick up that equipment. Our first stop was at a house in St. Paul to pick up 150 lbs. of aluminum coring rods (all about eight feet long), several eight-foot lengths of plastic tubing, the coring device itself, numerous four-foot lengths of PVC piping split in half, a bundle of foor-foot lenths of plastic tubing, and various other coring essentials. With the car now stuffed to the brim with coring equipment, we headed for the house of our friends, Josh and Sarah Ann.

We unloaded all of the coring gear into their garage and spent the night relaxing in their house with them. Their cats have a history of pulling evil tricks on me in the middle of the night, so it was a bit of an anomaly when the cats merely settled for walking across my head several times during the night.

In the morning, we all piled into the car and headed for Hell’s Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis. Hell’s Kitchen makes some of the most fantastic breakfast food on the planet, and I make a point of eating there at least once every time I spend a night in the Cities. We were not disappointed this trip as the food was spectacular, once again.

Sarah Ann had a pile of work she needed to finish over the weekend, so she and Josh headed back to St. Paul while Sarah and I strolled the downtown streets. Our destination? The fabled, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

My parents and their friends met us at the Metrodome for a (meaningless) baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox. Before the season began and Minnesota’s season headed south, it looked like that three game series would have serious playoff implications. As it turned out, the Twins were essentially playing for nothing other than pride. They called up and played several players from their minor leage team and filled the infield with some of their bench players. However, they did trot out Johan Santana to pitch, which meant that something good was likely to happen for the home team.

Something great happened for the home team, for a change. The Twins not only scored runs (a rarity worthy of mention this year), but the White Sox hitters may have been better served to stay home that day. Santana had overwhelming stuff and he struck out thirteen batters. He didn’t allow a hit or walk until the fifth inning. Santana pitched into the ninth inning when he just ran out of gas. He had two men on base, with nobody out, and at that point, he had given all he had. He walked the next man and several of his pitches didn’t even make it to home plate.

Twins manager, Ron Gardenhire, trotted out to the mound and Santana left the game to a standing ovation. In came the Twins’ All-Star closer, Joe Nathan. Nathan faced an unenviable position: three men on base; nobody out; the heart of the White Sox order coming to the plate; and a shutout pitched by a man who gave everything he had on the field.

But, All-Stars are supposed to emerge victorious from situations like that and Nathan was equal to the moniker. Fourteen pitches and three strike-outs later, the White Sox were walking dejectedly back to their dugout while the Twins were celebrating a great win. It would have meant even more to the Twins and their fans if the game hadn’t been meaningless, but I think that all the fans in the stands left happy that day. Even White Sox fans had to be happy that they witnessed such a dominating pitching performance.

After the game, it was time for lunch, and we all headed over to The Local for brews and food. We ate outside and everyone seemed to enjoy sitting around with beer and pub food after a good game.

After lunch, my parents and their friends headed back to their hotel while we shopped for a few gifts Downtown. Eventually, we called Josh and he picked us up and brought us back to their house.

We sat around the house for a while, chatting, until our stomachs signaled it was dinner time. Josh and Sarah Ann took us to Pad Thai, a Thai restaurant located in St. Paul. We loaded ourselves down with a variety of Thai food before heading out to tackle one of the Twin Cities’ numerous miniature golf courses.

We ended up at Burnsville Mini Golf. If you’ve ever wondered what miniature golf will be like after nuclear war, Burnsville Mini Golf is probably a good approximation. It was clearly built many years ago, and not a cent of the profits has been sunk back into the business. The sign isn’t lit, which makes finding the little business quite a challenge at night. They have a limited number of putters and balls. One soft-spoken high-school student works in a nearly empty clubhouse. If you want a drink or a snack, you’ll need to scale the chain link fence to reach the convenience store next door. The holes are constructed of artificial turf on concrete pads with walls made of bricks. In many places, the turf is coming up from the concrete. In other places, the turf is gone entirely. Many of the bricks are broken or missing. In fact, the large number of unsecured bricks on many holes means that one could rearrange the holes as desired. The water holes had no water. Many stones from the surrounding landscaping were present on the course, leading to some interesing and unexpected ball trajectories. Some of the holes weren’t lit which makes them quite a challenge at night. There was one other group on the course when we showed up. Other than that, it was only us. Clearly, Burnsville Mini Golf is nowhere near the upper echelon of the miniature golf galaxy.

Regardless, we had a good time playing the course. When your ball is just as likely to leave the course by traveling through a hole in the wall as it to go into the cup, you can’t take the game too seriously. Josh didn’t even have a miniature golf ball; he had a regular golf ball. This meant that his shots often acted very differently from ours, often to interesting and funny effect. So, while Burnsville Mini Golf isn’t likely to host any sort of professional miniature golf tournament any time soon, if you just want to be out and about on a pleasant September evening, it suffices.

Sunday morning, we strapped much of the coring equipment on top of the car, said our goodbyes, and headed back to Wisconsin.

As usual, I posted some pictures of the trip.