Sphagnum Moss – Wisconsin’s Invisible Industry

Driving from Minneapolis to Chicago takes you through the great northwest corner of Wisconsin. I always imagined this area to be low-lying farmland, but it was far from that. It is quite hilly and forested. In most places the hills and the valleys are marked by silos and pastures that are home to many, many herds of contented cows.

Sphagnum Moss - Wisconsin?s Invisible Industry

I stopped at a rest stop near Black River Falls, WI and saw this fascinating route marker. Holy peat moss, don’t they have anything more exciting to say about the Wisconsin wilderness? I guess if I was a gardener or a florist I might see things differently.

Freeway Driving

All I can say is it is fun, fun, fun on the freeway! The speed limit for most of the drive was 65mph and the traffic basically drove 65-70. When I got closer to Chicago the speed limit dropped to 55mph, and the traffic drove 75-80. The closer to Chicago I got the more hellish and crazy it got until I breathed a sigh of relief and exited at O’Hare Airport.

The tollways are another wonderment of mine. As you approach the tollbooth there is a sign that says “Toll Ahead, 60 cents for passenger vehicles”. So, I fish my fingers into a pile of US change I had collected for such an occasion and find exactly 60 cents. However, when I get to the tollbooth the sign says 80 cents, so I had to quickly fish for more spare change. This happened more than once… I think that they just increased the tolls but did not change all the signs.

On Course for the next Four Days

The next four days I am on Voyager training at the Ex-Libris offices here in Des Plaines, IL. The office is located just north of O’Hare airport and I have plotted a route to their office that avoids most freeways. Travel should be a breeze tomorrow.

The O’Hare Hilton

While on course I am staying at the O’Hare Hilton. This is a beautiful 4-star hotel, booked on Hotwire.com for only $89/night. The bed is wonderful and I am looking forward to a good night’s sleep. I should tell you that when your book on Hotwire they do not tell you exactly which hotel you will get until you complete the booking. In this case they told me that the hotel was in the general area of O’Hare Airport… however when I confirmed the booking I discovered that the hotel is AT O’Hare airport. I can see inside terminal 2 from my hotel window, and the control tower is just outside my room.

Despite being at one of the busiest airports in the world, it is surprisingly quite here right now.

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow, after class I am heading into Chicago for an evening at the Second City comedy club. I have booked a ticket for the 8PM show.

Minneapolis and the Mall of America

Mall of America Entrance

After touring around Minneapolis today and visiting the Mall of America it is nice to relax a bit this evening. Tomorrow I will drive to Chicago… according to Google Maps it will take me 6 hrs and 25 mins. However I will take about 9 hours for this as I plan to stop and see some sights along the way.

The Mall of America

The mall is huge! Even the parkades are impressive; I have never seen so much parking in my life. Each of the two parkades are seven levels high. The big challenge here is remembering where your car is. PS. Did you know that “parkade” is Canadian… trust me, Americans do not understand what you are saying when you refer to a “parkade”.

What a playground this is! If you have kids, the Mall of America is the place for you. The centre of the mall is a very large amusement park. The amusement park and most of the Mall’s attractions are built for young kids.

Here is a short video clip I captured while at the Mall. As you can see the amusement park is huge, and it mainly caters to the younger set.

Of course, I now know why there were no stores at “The Mall” in Washington, DC. This mall has all all of them. The amount of specialty stores is astounding. So, if you like to shop and you have lots of time and money, this is the place for you. And, bring the kids; they’ll love you for it.

The biggest message I can give you, is if you are not a kid, or if you don’t like shopping, then an afternoon at the Mall of America is all you need to get a feel for what you are missing.


One thing I have to tell you about is how such a large part of my trip will use technology. For example, on this blog’s right-hand column you see a location map. This map is a very cool thing.

The map is provided by a third party service called Loki.com. ( http://loki.com ) Loki is cool because it is able to estimate your position by surveying the WIFI (Wireless Network) signals in your area. By looking at this WIFI signature, and matching it with a catalog of wireless signatures it attempts to know where you are. In fact, presently, LOKI is placing me exactly where I am in Bloomington, MN.

To use Loki you have to be connecting via wireless internet and you have to install a toolbar.

Loki also allows provides a map and an RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feed that I can easily insert here into my blog.

Another cool technology device I am using now is an IPOD Touch. Not only does the IPOD Touch play music and movies (the music comes in handy during long road trips) it can also connect to the internet via WIFI.

In fact while I was in Grand Forks and again in Fargo, I was able to connect to free wireless on the IPOD Touch and check my email and update my Face book status. In fact all you have to do is park near any McDonalds and you will find free wireless. (McDonald’s in the USA all have free wireless) When I was in the Mall of America I found several free wireless connections where I could make a connect to the internet.

The Weather

Yesterday it was +18 C here in Minneapolis and it was sunny and a little humid. Today it is 10 degrees colder and quite rainy. (No snow)

On the drive down yesterday Highway 75 was a sheet of ice from Winnipeg to Morris. It was like someone drove a zamboni down the highway… I have never seen a highway that icy in all my life. Needless to say traffic was only going about 50-60 kph, including driving on the shoulder in some spots. Once I hit the US border the ice was gone. Once I got to Fargo it was well above freezing.

Saving Money on Hotels

I am currently in the Holiday Inn in Bloomington, Minnesota ($59.53/night, tax included, booked through the discount service http://hotwire.com). The hotel is a little older, and it is right next to the freeway, but the price was right and it is close to the Mall of America.