(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Catch up Part 3 - St. Paul

Normally when we go to the US we budget some time to stop to see our friend Kathy in Minnesota. Other than the enjoyment of just hanging out with her, there are other fun aspects to the visits. One is that she and the girls have become great friends as well. I think they truly enjoy these visits as much as we do. Another benefit is that Kathy leaves a stone’s throw from the Minneapolis airport. Not only does it make it easy, it is often a welcome break in travel, often coming directly from Africa. Unfortunately she often needs to deal with a brain-dead, jet-lagged family but we try to be as functional as possible.
This time the trip was wedged in between Indiana and Idaho, a welcome respite from those ubiquitous i-states. Unjet-lagged, we were not surprisingly more functional than our normal St. Paul selves. In spite of some rather wet weather, we hit the ground running. In the midst of a downpour we enjoyed the local historic carousel and visited the library. 
Later, after the weather cleared up we went to Ft. Snelling State Park to picnic by a small lake.
Though we didn’t visit the fort itself (there are mixed reviews about how entertaining that would be, even for history buffs), the fort does have an interesting history. It was originally built as a frontier outpost in the early 1800s and served various purposes up to the point of being post-WW II precursor to the Defense Language School, the US govt. language training facility that I know well which later moved to Monterey, CA.
swimming under the flight path

One interesting and sad story was the fort’s link to the famous slave Dred Scott. For those of you, like me, who forgot most of your high school history, Scott was purchased by John Emerson in St. Louis, Missouri, but he later worked and lived at Fort Snelling during much of the 1830s, having brought Dred and his wife Harriet Scott with him. The Missouri Compromise made slavery illegal in Minnesota Territory. Emerson took the Scotts back to Missouri, a slave state, where they sued for their freedom and that of their daughters because they had been held illegally in a free territory. A longstanding precedent of "once free, always free" was overturned in this case, and the US Supreme court case of Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) ruled that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional and that African Americans had no standing under the constitution. Though legalized slavery was slowly dying (the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Lincoln less than six years later), Scott’s days were numbered as well. Soon after the trial Scott was deeded to another man who in turn set him free. Unfortunately he died of TB sixteen months after obtaining his freedom.
Eco-friendly Minnesotans use recycle bins for umbrellas

As I said the last time we visited St. Paul, the place has a lot to offer. In addition to eleven and a half months a year of snow and ice, it’s loaded with bike trails, microbreweries, outdoor activities, good restaurants, etc. If it had some mountains, we could discuss a mutual future. Alas, the state’s highest point is a measly 2,301 feet. The mean elevation in Idaho is about 5,000 feet. So it’s probably not going to happen.

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