Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Beyond the Minnesota Zoo May 25, 2016

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Apple Valley sign

 

WAITING AT A STOPLIGHT along Cedar Avenue in Apple Valley, I noticed apple-shaped street-side signs. That prompted me to wonder about this south metro community’s name and history.

Mostly, I connect Apple Valley with the location of the Minnesota Zoo. And an Original Mattress Factory store; a brother-in-law is an OMF vice president.

But what about those apples? According to the city website, a builder named several of his plats Apple Valley and then planted an apple tree on each home site in some of his new developments. What a great idea. That was in the early 1960s.

In 1968, residents voted to incorporate the Township of Lebanon as the Village of Apple Valley.

As cities go, Apple Valley is relatively young. I’ve mostly lumped it with other south metro communities like Lakeville and Burnsville. Maybe it’s time to take a closer look, to explore beyond the few businesses I’ve occasionally shopped along and off busy Cedar Avenue. Does Apple Valley have an established downtown? What am I missing that would be worth seeing?

The Visit Apple Valley website uses these words (matched with photos) to describe an Apple Valley experience: serenity, luxury, ahhhhhhh, relaxation, play, indulge.

Interesting enough, it also touts Apple Valley as “the best place to stay when visiting the Mall of America” some five minutes away. That helps the local hotel business. But what about the local retailers who would prefer shoppers stay in town? I suppose, though, those MOA visitors do drop money in local shops…

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Driving toward Minneapolis & “a blazin’ ball of fire” November 30, 2015

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Along Interstate 35 in Burnsville.

Northbound along Interstate 35 in Burnsville.

DRIVING INTO AND AROUND downtown Minneapolis always makes for an interesting experience.

The Minneapolis skyline appears in the distance as we drive along Interstate 35 in Burnsville.

The Minneapolis skyline appears in the distance as we drive along Interstate 35 in Burnsville.

This trip late Black Friday afternoon—not to shop but to visit family in the north metro—did not disappoint. I noticed a businessman texting on his drive home in heavy traffic. I spotted a junker van with a padlock attached to the exterior driver’s door, at about the location of the lock. I don’t have photos to prove either because by the time I realized what I’d really seen, we’d bypassed both.

Duluth Trading Company's billboard along Interstate 35 in the south metro.

Duluth Trading Company’s billboard along Interstate 35 in the south metro.

However, I did not miss photographing a Duluth Trading Company billboard for Buck Naked Underwear. I find these ads amusing.

Signage for the "sane lane" nearing downtown Minneapolis.

Signage for the “sane lane” nearing downtown Minneapolis.

The blinding reflection of the sun.

The blinding reflection of the sun.

And I didn’t miss photographing the reflection of the setting sun off skyscraper glass blazing a blinding ball of fire into our eyes as my husband aimed our van toward downtown Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis skyline as the sun sets.

The Minneapolis skyline as the sun sets.

Creeping along in a congested area near downtown Minneapolis.

Creeping along in a congested area near downtown Minneapolis.

As traffic thickened, Randy remarked that he is thankful he does not need to deal with rush hour on a daily basis. But at least we were moving, albeit sometimes barely, and traffic volume was less due to the holiday weekend. The slow-down gave me time to study the Minneapolis skyline. I can identify only the Foshay Tower and the IDS Center; it’s been decades since I’ve been downtown.

Driving through the Lowry Hill Tunnel.

Driving through the Lowry Hill Tunnel.

Low light and a slow shutter speed created this effect inside the Lowry Tunnel.

Low light and a slow shutter speed created this effect inside the Lowry Tunnel.

And then we were curving and zooming through the Lowry Hill Tunnel, which always feels visually surreal, as if we are inside an auto racing video game.

That was Friday.

Driving toward downtown Minneapolis from the north.

Driving toward downtown Minneapolis from the north.

Saturday morning, after staying overnight with our eldest daughter and son-in-law, we headed back toward the city on our way home.

Behind the building in the foreground, you can see the pointed end of U.S. Bank Stadium.

Behind the buildings in the foreground, you can see the pointed end of U.S. Bank Stadium.

Another view of the stadium from the Interstate.

Another view of the stadium from the Interstate.

My focus was on the new U.S. Bank Stadium under construction in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. To me, it resembles a ship rising from the urban core. A Minnesota Vikings ship.

And so we drove south, clear sailing. No crashes. Light traffic. Out of the city. Back home to Faribault, fifty miles distant.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

When an outstate Minnesotan travels through “the Cities” May 14, 2015

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The downtown Minneapolis skyline on Mother's Day.

The downtown Minneapolis skyline on Mother’s Day, later afternoon. The combination of grey skies and photographing this scene while traveling at Interstate speeds give this unedited image a painterly quality.

I AM NOT A VENTURING into the big city kind of girl. You’re not surprised, are you?

Approaching downtown Minneapolis from the north.

Approaching downtown Minneapolis from the north.

 

A concrete divider separates lanes on a particularly curvy stretch of Interstate near downtown Minneapolis.

A concrete divider separates lanes on a particularly busy and curvy stretch of Interstate near downtown Minneapolis.

There are way too many curves in this section of Interstate 35 approaching downtown Minneapolis from the north.

There are way too many curves in this section of Interstate 35 approaching downtown Minneapolis from the north.

If not for the traffic congestion, I would likely hold a different attitude toward cities. But the high speed at which vehicles travel in close proximity across spans of lanes unsettles me. Too much closeness. Too little space. Too much concrete. Too much of everything overwhelms me.

Edging out of the Twin Cities metro with only 24 miles to Faribault.

Edging out of the Twin Cities metro with only 24 miles home to Faribault.

I am always relieved when we exit the worst of the traffic craziness and land spreads out on each side, free, unencumbered by visual barriers of tall buildings, houses crammed together and sound buffering walls.

Crossing the Interstate 35W bridge.

Crossing the Interstate 35W bridge.

As much as I wish my husband and I could avoid the Twin Cities metro, we cannot. We must drive through it and around it to visit loved ones or to pick up/drop off family at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Sometimes I wish the airport had expanded into cornfields farther south, nearer our home. But then we would deal with the roar of airliners. And that I would not like.

A personalized Mother's Day message on a billboard momentarily distracts me.

A personalized Mother’s Day message on a billboard momentarily distracts me.

Likewise, construction of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium draws my photographic attention.

Likewise, construction of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium draws my photographic attention.

Interstate 35 south of downtown Minneapolis.

Interstate 35 south of downtown Minneapolis.

So I try to make the best of these necessary journeys through the Twin Cities metro. I use my camera to distract me while the husband focuses on the road. And, surprise, I am beginning to feel more comfortable. Well, not too comfortable.

I have no plans anytime soon to go into downtown Minneapolis.

The downtown Minneapolis skyline on a grey Sunday afternoon.

I am not yet ready to venture into the heart of the city.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling