Car shopping and other nightmares

Minnesota, you are forcing my hand. What the heck is up with your roads?  I thought the roads in Sacramento were bad.  Uh, no. They are fancy and fine.

I’ve heard a saying that Midwesterners have…”There’s two seasons here. Winter and road construction.”

Really?  Have you seen your roads Minnesota? Holy crap.

Look at this road….LOOK AT IT!

StPaulMNPotholesI would say 85% of Saint Paul’s roads are similar to this one.  There is about a half mile of Snelling Avenue that isn’t too bad. Yes, you should gasp in horror. It’s awful.  Minneapolis isn’t that much better.

So, after the winter from hell we get potholes on parade.  My car really can’t take much more. The poor thing is 10 years old. It has 98,000 miles on it. It’s time to retire the old gal.

Now I am faced with what vehicle to purchase.  I’d much rather go to the dentist and the gynecologist on the same day.

After some research, it seems that all wheel drive would be best for shitty road conditions. Also known as ice and snow. Apparently, the sub-sub-sub zero temps are an anomaly, so I’m not going to take that factor into consideration when deciding on a vehicle.

Then there’s the whole financing research to fry my brain…oh and let’s not forget the fun negotiation that will inevitably happen. Good thing Paul & I watch lots of Pawn Stars to sharpen my haggling skills.

By the way, the first person who says something to me about cup holders and their importance to my car purchase decision, gets kicked in the groin area.

I’m more interested in shit that matters like reliability, gas mileage, and overall cost to own. Oh yeah and taking on potholes like a boss. I mean you see those photos. It’s not like you can dodge those suckers. It’s pretty much off road driving on a road.

Minnesota: The land of never ending winter?

MinnesotaWinterHumorYesterday, I had a mental breakdown. The drive home was so frightening that the moment I saw Paul, I burst into tears.  I was so happy to be alive and needed to relieve the pent up stress from white knuckle driving through downtown Minneapolis.

Honestly, why do you people live here? Do you not know California exists? I kept thinking to myself, “Why am I putting myself through this? Why is anyone driving? This is so dangerous.”

My first winter driving in slick conditions and it’s one of the worst the locals can remember. Also, I just hate driving in general.  Icy roads exacerbate my fears. It’s not the roads that scare me; it’s other people.  People are stupid and they drive.

Did I mention a bus slid past my car? Yes. A. Bus. A few inches to the right and I might not be writing this blog post.

So, my Beetle has to navigate along icy streets while I pray idiots in vehicles of varying size don’t kill me.

You know how people drive when it’s sunny and warm?  They do that when it’s -1 and icy snow is compacted beneath their tires.

Do you see that top photo?  That’s what the streets looked like last Saturday.  They still look like that on Tuesday.

I’ve reached my breaking point with this weather.  I worked from home today because I just couldn’t bring myself to get into the car.  I could feel a panic attack welling up inside me as I laid in bed trying to will myself to get out of it.

This craptastic weather is supposed to last for another week or two. Can someone please help me maintain my sanity?  I’ve thought about seeing a therapist, but I have a feeling it would go much like Sheldon talking to Leonard trying to overcome his stage fright. I would not be impressed.

The one and only time I’ve ever gone to a therapist, I remember thinking, “So, I’m not screwed up. This lady is pretty much giving me the same advice I’ve heard from my parents and my friends. I’m done here.”

I think my problem really stems from an overload of stress.  This winter is HIGHLY stressful to everyone.  Add to that planning a wedding, which I’m excited about, but is a stressor nonetheless.

Tomorrow the forecast is supposed to be god-awful again and driving conditions around the Twin Cities are not going to be improving. Paul’s class was canceled tonight “due to the impending weather” as he put it.

So, will winter ever end or have we entered another ice age?

Whiskey Tango Plates

WhiskeyTangoToday while driving back from lunch, I noticed an odd Minnesota license plate.  Now, Minnesota has a TON of different kinds of license plates on the road.  Just look at this 11 page list from the Department of Public Safety.  Yep, 11 pages!

Regardless, I thought I’d seen one before and had wondered at its plainness…which usually is reserved for government type vehicles.

When I googled “white Minnesota license plate with black letters” the phrase “whiskey plate” showed up in the search results.  Ignoring that, I clicked on the description on the OMG! Facts page that said something about special DUI plates.  That’s right Minnesota has special license plates for people who have had two or more DUIs in the past 10 years or who have been caught with a blood alcohol level at twice the legal limit or higher.

Twice the legal limit is what we all know as fall down drunk.

While some of you might be thinking that’s kind of hardcore…it is. And I’m all for public shaming.

Now before you get your britches in a knot, the offender only has to have the plate for one year…but they have to have them on ALL of the vehicles they own.  So not only are you wearing the scarlet letter, but if your name is on the title of your kid’s car…so do they!  Fun for the whole family!

I saw some article where a guy was complaining about the fact that now everyone is his small town knows his business…because of the white license plate. Dude.  Get a grip. People in your town know your business, white license plate or not.  That’s how life in small towns work, right?  You can always move to a different state.

Speaking of public shaming, I found this website where the author was doing nothing but posting photos of various. Granted it doesn’t have many entries and they stopped updating it back in 2009, but my point is this is what I warned you all about on the internet.  Personally, my favorite photo is the one (or two) of the car with the Whiskey Plate outside of a liquor store.

Of course, now, every time I see a car that is driving like a jerk, I wonder if they have a whiskey plate.

Side note: If you search for Minnesota whiskey plate, you will get a shitton of attorney websites.  That’s some good SEO!

People of the Minneapolis Skyway

Minneapolis, Minnesota, Skyway, downtownOver the past two months, I’ve noticed patterns people have while wandering through the Skyway in Minneapolis. First of all, as far as I can tell, Macy’s is the worst place to be between 11:30 AM and 1:00 PM on any given weekday. You basically have to walk through half of the second floor to get from one building to the next. Whenever you are in said department store next, picture hundreds of people rushing through the area in which you are trying to shop. Yeah. It’s like that.

But not everyone rushes. You will find those who are on their mobile phones. There are two kinds of these people. Those who are texting, tweeting or just surfing the web while they wander through the IDS Center. Yep, I’m guilty of doing that, but I stay to the right and try to keep up with the flow of traffic.

And then there are those who are actually using the phone as a phone. Of these people you will find two subsets. One is on the phone for business. These are usually the quiet ones. They are on some godforsaken conference call and decided to run to Starbucks in the middle of it. Hello, *6 to mute your line! The others won’t shut the hell up. They are talking to some poor soul who can’t hear them over the roar of people walking, ambiance music playing, and groups of Target employees having a mobile meeting.

Speaking of groups of people, you will see more of these folks as lunch time nears. Odds are they walk about 3 abreast and don’t move out of the way of oncoming pedestrian traffic due some subconscious psychological need to be the Alpha Dog in the group.

If you see folks wandering around in groups at other times, the odds are pretty good they are Target employees. Rarely will you ever see a lone Target employee wandering through the Skyway. I think it’s a corporate mandate…or something. Don’t get mad Target. I kid because I love you.

Then there are the people who walk too damn close to me because they have to put out a fire in their conference rooms. Seriously, back the fuck off or I’ll cut you. I don’t care if you need to get to Caribou Coffee before the next meeting about TPS Reports. I need my personal space so I know you aren’t about to steal my purse or worse.

I am still baffled by the random appearance of strollers. I suppose they are new mothers who are stopping by the office to show off their babies, but some of those kids look to be a good year or two old.

Did I mention one time I saw a train of toddlers once? Literally. About 10 -15 of them were connected by some jimmy-rigged green belt that helped to corral them throughout the Skyway. I suppose they were on a field trip, but I doubt they were over the age of 5.

Minnesota State Fair: Stimulation overload

Nothing can really prepare you for the Minnesota State Fair if you’ve never been to it.

It’s not like just any state fair. There is crazy shit everywhere and I’m not even talking about the random people. There was so much to look at that I barely noticed the people. It might be the “Great Minnesota Get-Together,” but I was too busy being in awe of the stuff that I’d heard tales of over the past few months.

Seriously, I think I’ll just post a ton of photos, kind of like a vacation video:

MN State FairThe butter sculptures were fascinating, much like everything else at the fair. I thought there was just one, but as you can see from the above photo, there is a mini rotunda of them. In fact, you can watch one poor soul getting her image created while she sits for 8 hours in the 40 degree box.  Of course, that might not be too bad when it’s 95 degrees outside with a heat index of 105.

The Dairy Building had all things dairy and meat in it.  And yes, that’s a picture of me as a turkey.

There was a building dedicated to the pioneers of Minnesota, some of whom were my ancestors. They had a full bedroom and living room set up. It was a little eerie, but educational at the same time.

Speaking of education, we had to stop at the University of Minnesota building and ensconce ourselves in all things Golden Gopher.  If you didn’t want to buy a shirt, you could learn about rockets or medieval studies from the kids as well as checking out all of the trophies won by their various sports teams.

The Creative Arts building gave us a look into the baked goods of tomorrow. Well, they looked like they’d been baked yesterday and were well past their prime, but I was still in awe of all that cake and jam.

Oh, did I mention the mini-donuts? Yum!  The scent of deep fried dough hangs heavily around the fairgrounds, luring you in like a siren. Also, I had been hearing people talk about cronuts. Apparently, they are croissants cooked like donuts.  I found something similar at the State Fair:

state fair, food, fried, baked goodPersonally, I prefer cake donuts, specifically the old fashioned ones, so the hype is lost on me.

Minnesota State Fair, boozeWhat is not lost on me is the beer!  For $8 you get to taste four beers. I kept seeing people with these little boxes of cups and finally figured out they were drinking flights of beer. Somewhere I saw a sign that said “Land of 10,000 Beers” that sounds way more fun than lakes.

Seriously, the food stands were center stage for me.  I don’t know what Spam curds are and I wasn’t about to find out. The ball of brie dipped in wine batter, shoved on a stick and fried was pretty good. The weirdest stick food was the spaghetti & meatballs and ostrich.  Of course, there had to be a salted nut roll.  I mean they are made here in Saint Paul.

We did see some non-food stuff like the Lego Road Trip exhibit which was pretty much children let loose on Legos.  They had some interesting models like the guy who stepped in gum.

And Paul wanted to see the John Deere exhibit.  He tried to get in that big tractor, but luckily, it was locked.

I don’t remember where the American Gothic picture was taken, but I think it had to do with farmers or something.  Either way, the hole was too big and the image was out of scale, but it didn’t deter me from sticking my head in there.

A tradition is to go to Sweet Martha’s for a giant pail of mini chocolate chip cookies.  We went there last because they pile that sucker up pretty high with those tasty treats and we didn’t feel like carrying them around the fairgrounds.

The streets of confusion: Midwest style

Screen shot of my commute?

Google Maps screenshot

The Girl with Moxie just reminded me about something in the Midwest that confuses me…your street names. More specifically here in the Twin Cities, the 35 freeways.

For those of you unfamiliar, there are two 35 freeways: I-35 E and I-35W. Now, my brain says that these are east and west, respectively. Not much of a problem until you realize that these suckers run NORTH AND SOUTH.

So, here I am already confused because there are no mountains in the west nor ocean in the east to help me with my bearings. Now we’ve got I-35 E north and I-35E south.

What?

Am I heading east or south?

How did I end up in Iowa?

Then we have the 94s. There’s I-94, which I hate because it’s always freaking crowded. Then there’s something called 494 and 694. I don’t think I’ve ever been on these two freeways since they tend to bound the Twin Cities on their northerly and southerly ends. I’m not sure which is which…yet. That’s what Google was made for anyway. These are less confusing than their E/W brethren. I’m used to adding a number onto a main interstate to create a small one that connects it to others. In the Bay Area there was I-80, where it ended, but there was also I-280, I-680, I-580, and I-380. The funny thing about I-380 is that it pretty much just connects I-280 and Highway 101. It’s barely a mile long.

One good thing about the Twin Cities, there’s the Mississippi River. I know when I’m east of it, I’m in Saint Paul. When I’m west of it, I’m in Minneapolis. Other than that, I need to learn more landmarks to better know where the hell I am and where I need to go.

Wine Review: Holman Ranch

Courtesy of Holman Ranch

Sometimes, I wish I still lived in California. It’s just because of the wine and going wine tasting at the wineries. It’s an experience I miss. The good thing about living in Minnesota is that wine can be shipped right to my door. So, when Holman Ranch offered to send me samples of their wine, I jumped at the chance.

wine, winery, bottlesThe good people at this Carmel Valley winery sent me six bottles.  I was expecting one, so thank you very much! They included three Pinot Noirs, a Chardonnay, a Pinot Gris, and a Sauvignon Blanc. No, I haven’t drank (drunk?) all of them yet, but I have tasted five of them.

Let me just say that while I’m not a big fan of Pinot Noir, I enjoyed all of them.  In fact, the two pinots I have tasted are some of the better wines I’ve had the pleasure to drink. They were smooth and rich. It’s difficult for me to describe why I enjoy a glass of wine. It’s sort of like being in love. You just know it when it happens and it’s great.

If you are hesitant about Chardonnays because they are usually too buttery for you, there is one from Holman Ranch is unoaked, or naked or virgin, which cuts down on the butteriness. There is some chemistry reason for this that has to do with lactose or lactic acid or something, but when I was being taught about that I was drinking wine, so there you go.

Again, I really wish I was back in California because Holman Ranch has an interesting event coming up. On September 26th they will be celebrating their 85th Annual Fiesta de los Amigos.  It’s the Ranch’s Birthday Celebration which will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.  From a press release:

The Fiesta de los Amigos – a part of Holman Ranch’s history! The popular Fiesta de los Amigos which began in 1928, the Ranch’s birthday celebration, was an annual highlight, often attracting more than 2,000 guests. In the 1960’s – 1980’s the Ranch was known for its rodeos and horse shows, daily trail rides, barbecues, and fiestas filled the calendar.

This year, the celebration will be filled with flavorful food truck delights, Holman Ranch estate wines to sip, lively entertainment to enjoy and more! Capture the moment of the Fiesta in our own photo booth or head to the game tent and enjoy games for the entire family.

The event will cost $50 per person or wine club members get 2 free guests and all additional wine club member attendees will cost $35 per person. If the event is not sold out, you can purchase a space to attend at the door for $60.00 per person. Five dollars from each paid attendee will be donated to the Alzheimer Association. RSVP is required. RSVP by September 20th to (831) 659-2640. Upon confirmation by Holman Ranch of your RSVP, you will be provided a gate pass to Holman Ranch.

You’ll excuse me while I finish my glass of 2011 Pinot Noir Heather’s Hill.