Friday, August 1, 2008

The FMCA Convention in St. Paul – July 12th – 18th

The designated arrival time for pre-parking is between 8 and 12 on Saturday July 12th. We unhitch the car & get ready to “follow the leader” into the State Fairgrounds, home of this year’s convention. I drive Popeye & Bob follows in the car.

Official FMCA Convention

As I pull up to the gate, the guard says to me “Hold up, please. The two coaches in front of you are going to the handicap area. You’ll be the leader for the next group.”

Our parking spot - pretty nice!

Listen up, everyone. I got to be lead dog! Bob, in the car behind me, had no idea what was going on & as it dawned on him, all he could think was “holy cow, I hope she doesn’t lead us all astray.” Of course he had no idea they gave me a map. And honestly, I couldn’t resist, I told the guard: “Good thing it’s me & not my husband. He can’t follow instructions!” The poor guy didn’t know what to make of this! He was smart enough to say nothing.

About 2,800 coaches arrive

With 8 coaches & their respective tow vehicles following me, I confidently led everyone into the fairgrounds to the guides who were flagging us to our respective parking places. We all made it safely. No one got lost.

Entrance to the MN State Fair Grounds

Soon the weekend is over & we get down to the serious job of convention attending. This time we are prepared. We’ve printed out the schedule of seminars & decide who is going to what, where & when. The list of vendors is also at hand so we can go & seek answers to our dozens of questions.

Wood carvings are everywhere from a 2005 exhibit

This is the seminar where I learn to Blog

Monday afternoon, Jim & Chris Guld hold one of their 8 computer related seminars, this one titled “Every RVer needs a Blog.” This couple is amazing. They live in their coach full time & go around the country giving seminars & addressing RVer’s computer needs. Tuesday morning I turned on the computer & following their instructions, this blog was up & running in about 10 minute’s time. I had previously written a little of what we had done, so it was simply a matter of editing the writing for a blog, then incorporating a few pictures. The most challenging part is catching up when you need to go back to May 6th when we started this trip.

Chris & Jim's Rig

Thereafter, I let Bob attend all the technically oriented seminars & stayed with Chris & Jim, learned much, aspire to more, & just hope I can eventually attain the standard they have set. I highly recommend you visit their site: to see what a really professional blog looks like. If my back had cooperated, I would have attended all seven of their seminars (one was given twice), but I had to make do with the five I attended.

Another wood carving to enjoy

In the meantime, Bob dutifully went to seminars on engines, transmissions, cooling systems, aqua-hot systems, etc. Although we have been to these before, it never hurts to go to a refresher course.

And you think Popeye is big?

FMCA has entertainment every evening. Monday night was a lovely hypnotist, who charmed the audience & managed to cast her spell on 16 volunteers from the audience who went up on stage & were good sports for all in attendance. Thursday night, the last evening of the convention, the headliner was Gary Pucket, founder & leader of The Union Gap. Honey didn’t recognize one song they performed – no surprise! My only claim to fame is that back in 1980 - 1981 I took harmony classes with his younger brother Brian, a drummer.

Displays of the latest & greatest

Bob, asking lots of questions

The convention doesn’t start until Monday afternoon, so this gave us time to do a little sight-seeing on our own. Our first project was a nice lunch in town. I turned on the computer & did a search for healthy eating in Minneapolis, and found a fabulous restaurant, Café 28 in a trendy neighbor quite by accident. It was located just blocks from Lake Calhoun, with interesting shops & spiffy old houses. Parking, however, is a nightmare. Fortunately, we find parking just steps from the restaurant & had a long enjoyable lunch. Thank heaven it's Saturday!

Science Museum of Minnesota

The following day, we drive into St. Paul & head for the Science Museum. The featured show is all the original gadgets & gizmos from Star Wars. The exhibits & displays are great fun & hopefully the pictures will amuse you.

Inside the Science Museum

View of Mississippi River from the Museum

Honey in the Star Wars section

Really, Bob fits right in!

Hey, Yoda's here!

He's one handsome fella

These must be bad guys

How would you like to be the actor wearing this costume?

Afterward, we walk out into downtown St. Paul, which looks better than we remember it from a previous visit years ago. The beautiful Ordway Center for The Performing Arts is magnificent, as is the cathedral. We get only a peek at the Fitzgerald Theatre, wishing Garrison Kiellor were there. His Prairie Home Companion Radio show is our favorite.

The Ordway Center for Performing Arts

Fitzgerald himself

The actual Fitzgerald Theater

One of many churches

Campground at Mystic Lake Casino

With the convention a rousing success, we went south to the Mystic Lake Casino RV Park near Bloomington, home to The Mall of America. This affords us more opportunity to get cleaned up from our 6 days of boon-docking at the fairgrounds, a good “practice run” for our planned 9 nights at Oshkosh.

Mall of America

Something for everyone

Included are a few pictures of The Mystic Lake Campground & Mall of America. We hope you enjoy them.

Great place for lunch

No bored kids allowed!

The only Lake Wobegon store in the world

Oops, one thing I forgot to mention inside the Mall of America. On the top floor I spot a wedding chapel. This to me is curious, so I inquire inside to find, yes, many people get married here as it’s so convenient. Whereby I ask, “Do they have a maternity ward on the middle floor & a funeral parlor on the bottom floor?”

Would you believe?

Yes, it's for real
Coming up: La Crosse, WI

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