Minnesota 2018

A quick trip to the states to celebrate Thanksgiving.

7 days ― November 2018

Part 1: To Minnesota for Thanksgiving

With one day to spare I booked a ticket to visit my family in Minnesota for Thanksgiving. I normally visit at Christmas - but this year we won’t be going, so it made sense to visit for the next-nearest holiday.

As a non-American, Thanksgiving is a weird non-Christmas-yet-still-festive holiday. The decorations are up, it’s cold, and there’s turkey. But there aren’t so many jingles on the radio.

Looking along the shore of Lake Harriet. Close to the shore the edges of the lake have frozen in to intricate shapes. The banks are brown and autumnal.

I’m told that in Minnesota there’s a 50/50 chance that there’ll be snow around this time. This year there wasn’t, but it was still chilly - between 3ºc and -10ºc whilst I visited.

A photo of frozen ice on a lake. The ice has formed in to scalloped shapes as if large shells were pressed in to the surface and then removed when frozen.

The fluctuating temperatures around zero cause interesting features to form in the ice. Here my best guess is that pools have started to melt, and have then refrozen. It’s fascinating all the different ways that ice manifest.

A photo of frozen ice on a lake. The ice has broken up in to many sharp pieces, then refrozen. As a result the surface is cracked and bumpy, yet solid.

50m beyond the previous photo and the ice was completely different. It looked like this had formed in to big sheets that had broken up and then frozen together. It was still rather thing though - you wouldn’t want to walk on this yet.

Walker Art Center

The Walker is one of my favourite museums (up there with the Hayward Gallery and New Museum). We went to see the Siah Armajani show - which was excellent, but didn’t inspire any photos. He had a wide variety across his career. I particularly liked his mathematically inspired drawings using factorials and typewriters.

A wall covered neatly with posters, 4 high and 11 across. The posters are mostly text based with some bold colours and show pro-EU, anti-brexit messages.
Pro-EU anti-brexit poster campaign, 2016, by Wolfgang Tillmans
Five projectors in a dark room project black and white photos on to a wall.

I wonder sometimes if museums will be the last place you’ll find certain bits of technology. Obviously museums about technology will - but also so many museums still use them for contemporary exhibitions. Will future generations start to associate big cube TVs and projectors as specialist items for exhibitions?

An area is marked off in the corner of a room in the shape of a cube. Ed Horsford stands in the area. To the left is a sign that reads "By standing in the zone created by this drawing, and for the period you remain there, you declare and agree that you are a citizen of the United States of America.".
Declared Void II, 2013, by Carey Young

It seems increasingly that shows and works are made with Instagram in mind. The Hayward’s Space Shifters was great for this. I assume it’s a win-win for the gallery - they get increased exposure for their show, and the user gets a selfie.



Part 2: Pavek Museum of Broadcasting

The Pavek Museum (amazing website) holds an great collection of vintage broadcasting and media equipment. They’ve got examples of all sorts of things, including some rather odd inventions that never took off. I visited based on a tip from Atlas Obscura.

A photo of the rear of a vintage studio television camera as the operator would see it. There's two circular dials lower down, and a small CRT display in the center. The number '3' is written in marker in the middle.

Rather rare for museums (particularly of vintage artefacts) they encourage vistitors playing with the exhibits. Many of them were still in working condition and museum staff happy to turn them on. I particularly enjoyed the Star Wars theme played on twin 1920s cinema speakers the size of grand pianos.

A photo of the front of a vintage 'tube tester'. The camera is looking directly down on a control panel. There's dials and inputs all over, with a large swinging gauge in the center.
A vintage electronics pamphlet held in a hand above a piece of vintage electrical equipment. The pamphlet reads 'Anyone can replace TV tubes'.

How does a vintage paper pamphlet like this survive so long in such good condition? Many of the machines had their accompanying promotional material next to them. Really great to see the outlandish claims and instructions that were included.

A photo of telegraph signals encoded as morse code on a long ribbon of paper. The ribbon is about 1/2" wide and and punched through with many dots.
'5 level' tape from a telegraph machine. More here.
A photograph of a vintage radio player. The player has two reading heads side by side rather than one. The record has two visible tracks.

This table had a collection of curiosities. A stereo record player (note the twin heads and tracks on the disc), a lamp (top left) with record player in the top, and the base acting as an amplifier.

A photo of the front of a vintage recording device. The device has a label on the front reading "Tapak 'NewsCaster' spring-driven recorder"
1950s spring driven recorder. Originally priced $289.50 - $399.75
Photo of a vintage poster describing with words and diagrams how to use a rotary telephone. The main reading reads "The best in telephone service is at your fingertips..." with a 6 step diagram for how to use a rotary phone.
A large vintage suitcase telephone. It has a standard receiver, but the rotary dialer is much larger than normal. The whole unit is about the size of a small suitcase and has a handle on the top. It looks comically large.
I'm unsure if this is a gag or a real thing that existed.
A close macro photo of a vintage radio postcard. The postcard reads "HB 4 FE" and depicts a radio mast giving off signals inside an outline Switzerland.
A grid of radio postcards on a wall. The cards are evenly spaced, but each very differently designed. Some have bold typography featuring 5 letter codes. Others depict animals / planes / local scenes.
A photo of a map of the United States. There are approximately 30 maroon or grey push-pins inserted at various locations.
Photo of the front of a vintage radio battery. The battery is brightly coloured with a graphic dark blue, light blue, white and red design. The front text reads "Ray-o-vac radio 'B' battery"


Part 3: Off to the North Shore

A mini-trip within a bigger trip. With a free car and free weekend, I drove north from Minneapolis to visit the north shore of Lake Superior.

Frank Lloyd Wright gas station

Another Atlas Obscura tip on the way to the North Shore. The only gas station by Frank Lloyd Wright, though I’m tipped off that there’s a model of one in a museum in New York.

Looking out the viewing area inside the Frank Lloyd Wright gas station.
A photo of the front of the Frank Lloyd Wright gas station. There's gas pumps in the front and a tall sign reading 'BEST'.
A photo directly facing a workbench inside an automotive garage.

Jay Cooke State Park

Jay Cooke park stradles the St Louis river leading towards Duluth and Lake Superior. Bits of the shore were starting to ice up, but were a far way from being stable enough to stand on.

A long view across an icy river. There's dark rocky outcrops coming out of the river. The river is partially frozen with creamy patches of ice at the sides.

I walked for a couple hours along the riverbanks until hunger got the better of me and I moved on to Duluth and a tasty lunch in a diner.

A photo from behind of a park bench overlooking a snowy river.
A photo looking through some branches at an icy river.
A photo of a rocky and snowy path in a forest.
A panorama from the banks of an icy river. There's dark stones littering the riverbed and creamy ice in between.

Park Point

Nature reserve / beach / sanddune. Very cold and windy.

A photo from a grey beach looking along the shore.
A grassy field with some trees on the right hand side.

Two Harbors

A small sleepy town where I spent the night. Really nice local brewery.

A dark industrial pier in a bay. There's a small lighthouse in the distance.
A pier receding in to the distance with a lighthouse at the end.
A small lighthouse at the end of a pier is silhouette in front of a setting sun.


Part 4: Tettegouche state park

I spent a very enjoyable morning hiking in Tettegouche state park up to High Falls and back. The paths got progressively more icy, which was an interesting challenge - time I got some microspikes I think.

A photo from the side of a highway looking over the side. Lake Superior is in the background.
A photo taken from the side of US highway 61.
A photo taken from under highway 61 as it passes over the Baptism river. There's a blue arrow pointing to the right.
A photo taken from high up, overlooking a bend in Baptism river. The river is mostly covered in snow and ice. There's sparkles in the air from snow flying about.
A photo taken from a steel footbridge over Baptism river. The camera is facing directly down the bridge.
A photo down the banks of the Baptism river. The river is 70% covered in snow and ice, with a wire bridge in the background crossing the river.
A small wooden lookout from above the Baptism river.
A panorama taken from the top of High Falls. The falls are partially frozen over with white and frothy ice.

High Falls were half frozen over - though I epxect it’ll be a few more weeks till they fully ice up. The falls are the highest waterfall fully in Minnesota.

A stepped wooden path descends a dark pine forest.
A photo of High Falls taken from the pool at it's base. The water is partially frozen over.
High Falls from below.
A photo taken from the banks of baptism river. There's dry grases in the foreground and sparkles from snow in the air.
Looking through leaf-less trees and pines to Lake Superior
A photo from the shore of Lake Superior, looking East. There's snowy frocks on the right.