Monday, August 25, 2008

ACFW Advance Scout Week 1: The trip to the Conference and what to do

Hello, fellow ACFW-ers! Some of you know me, some of you don’t. I’m John Otte, a speculative fiction author and I’ll be attending the ACFW conference in a little over a month. As you all know, it’s being held in Minneapolis this year.

Many ACFW-ers are doing conference prep in their blogs, discussing pitching, one sheets, conference etiquette, and so on. Well, the conference is being held just 20 miles from my home. I thought it might be fun to be an advance scout for all of you. This is the first of four "scouting reports," a sort of unofficial orientation to Minneapolis and its environs. I hope to post one each week on Monday night until the week of the conference.

Let’s start with something that I’m sure is on many of your minds.

The Weather -

Many of you have probably heard stories about Minnesota’s weather, especially our winters. This is because when you come right down to it, Minnesota only has two seasons, namely "road construction" and "winter." But luckily for all of you, you’re coming in September. That’s a very pleasant time of year, with temperatures hovering right above freezing. It’s also the time of the annual polar bear migration. If you have time, be sure to check that out. It’s a really impressive sight.

A picture from last year's migration

I’m kidding, of course. The temperatures average around 70 degrees for a high with a low of 50 degrees or so. It did get down to 33 degrees 17 years ago, but that probably won’t happen this year. Of course, we’re also going to be spending a lot of time in the hotel, so you won’t have to worry too much about the outside weather.

Many of you will arrive at the Minneapolis International Airport. I thought you might like a brief tour of what you might see on your way from the airport to the hotel.

My guess is that the hotel shuttle or taxi you’ll take will go along 494. If so, pay attention on the left. You’ll drive right by the Mall of America. I won’t go into too much detail about that now; come back next week and the week after for more details.

The trip will probably take you at least ten minutes depending on when you arrive. If you have the misfortune of making this trip during rush hour, it might be longer. The reason why is our next landmark, namely the corporate headquarters for Best Buy.

This impressive building sits close to where 494 hooks up with I-35W. You might even be able to spot it as you’re coming in for a landing. Consider it a sort of architectural rorschach test. What you see in these buildings might tell you a lot about yourself. For example, those with a more historical or nautical bent might see three ships. If you’re a sci-fi fan like me, you’ll see Jawa sandcrawlers.

Whatever this campus looks like, it’s the cause of delays during rush hour. When the Best Buy corporate employees are loosed, they snarl up the traffic. That, plus the intersection of two major freeways, always means traffic congestion. So if you have the misfortune of trying to drive by during rush hour, expect to crawl for a while.

But the Best Buy buildings also mark where you’ll see our hotel for the first time. As you come up a small hill, if you look out the front of the car, you’ll see the Sheraton in the distance. There it is! Your journey to the conference is almost at an end!

That is the hotel. Really!

But based on some of the threads in the forums, it would appear that some of you are car pooling. That’s great! If you’re coming in on I-35 or coming from the west on I-90, might I suggest two landmarks to visit?

The first is about 35 miles west of where I-35 and I-90 intersect. In a small town called Blue Earth, there is a 55-foot tall statue of the Jolly Green Giant. Stop by and have your picture taken with it.

The second is 20 miles to the east of the same intersection. In the town of Austin, we have the Spam Museum. I’ve never been myself, but I hear it’s pretty entertaining.

Either of these might be a little out of your way, but hey, when’s the next time you’ll be in the Land of 10,000 Lakes?

Tonight I also want to make a few suggestions for those of you who might be traveling with spouses or children. If your spouse or offspring are not participating in the conference, they may be looking for some things to do in the area. What follows is an incomplete list of attractions in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area:

1) The Mall of America -

The hotel has a shuttle to the Mall (more on that in two weeks). There’s a lot of stuff to do at the Mall, but again, I’ll talk about that in two weeks. Just to get you salivating a little earlier, I offer seven little words: No sales tax on clothing in Minnesota.

2) The Minnesota Zoo or Como Zoo -

The Twin Cities offers two zoos. Como Zoo is free to the public and has a pretty good selection of animals. Como also has a conservatory (also free) and an amusement park for littler kids (not free).

The Minnesota Zoo is a bit pricey, but it includes a brand new exhibit about animals from Russia. They also have dolphin shows and a monorail that takes you through the exhibits.

3) The Minnesota Renaissance Festival -

This isn’t that far from the hotel. If you like people dressed in period costumes and medieval shows and crafts, this is for you. Sadly, one of the best acts at RenFest is incomplete now. "Snot" of "Puke and Snot" died recently.

4) Museums -

We have a number of cool museums in the Twin Cities:

The Walker Art Center - Just what it sounds like. It’s an art museum. And it’s been a while since I’ve been there, so I couldn’t tell you what they have. Sorry.

The Science Museum of Minnesota - This is really cool. They will have a CSI-themed exhibit, along with a number of dinosaur fossils, a museum of medical hoaxes, among other things (including an Egyptian mummy!).

The Minnesota Children’s Museum - While geared for younger kids, this is a fun venue with lots of activities that trick kids into learning.

The Minnesota History Center - I’ve never been here but I hear it’s cool.

5) The Water Park of America -

If your family gets sick of the hotel’s pool, have them head on over to this water park within a stone’s throw of the Mall of America (hence the name). This facility has large water slides and a number of other fun water-related rides. While it’s connected to a hotel, it is open to the public (but definitely not for free).

6) Comedy Sportz -

This is a high energy, family friendly improv comedy troupe. If you’ve ever seen "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", you’ll like their show. Only they’re live and they don’t have the luxury of editing out the non-funny jokes.

So there are just a few ideas of what non-conference family members can do. It’s not a comprehensive list (obviously). If you want more ideas, head on over to the Explore Minnesota website. You’ll find all you need there.

That’s it for this week. Next week, we’ll talk about the hotel itself and the meal options for Friday night. In the meantime, if you have any questions about Minnesota or the Twin Cities, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

See you in a month!


Erica Vetsch said...

Hey, John, I'm driving up from Rochester. I've been caught in the maelstrom that is Twin Cities Rush Hour.

I always thought Minnesota had two seasons too, but I call them 9 months of winter and three months of some pretty poor sledding.

Patricia said...

Hi John,
Liked your blog. there are three of us driving from Texas. We're all ready for cooler temps, so bring on the cold.
Keep up the humor.

jenness said...

Hey, great idea! Thanks for the virtual tour. :-)

Tiff (Amber Miller) Stockton said...

Great idea, John! Thanks for sharing with the loop at ACFW. Looking forward to next week's informative post. :)

Christina Berry said...

This was a fun way to make me remember to pack sweaters. Why is it that a thermostat in a hotel is always set for either the cook slaving over the hot stove, or for a menopausaul woman?? (Hey, I've got nothing against women like my mom ... I'm just sayin'.)


Robert Treskillard said...

Great post, John. It's been over 10 years since I moved away from the Twin Cities (where I grew up), so you brought back some fun memories.

See you at the conference!

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Nice post. I visited MN at the end of Sept. last year for a extended weekend. I found the city of Minneapolis clean and the people friendly, and without the terrible traffic of Atlanta.I'll miss this year's conference but hope to make the next one.

Camy Tang said...

What a great idea for the conference! Thanks for the commentary and pics and recommendations!

Sharon Hinck said...

TOO funny... I stopped by the Sheraton today, just to scope it out (I've never been inside it...and with my poor sense of direction, wanted to figure out where to park and where to find the ballroom, etc.)

It's a BEAUTIFUL hotel.

So I'm in the "scouting" mode, as well. :-)

Lynette Sowell said...

Wow, makes me wish I'd planned for an extra day. :) You had me going for a second on the polar bears.

Angela Breidenbach said...

John, You are a hoot! I like the red arrow pointing out our hotel, lol. Although I've been to the Mall of America, I still look forward to going. Excellent tour guiding! I have tours of Montana on my blog and feel like you should do more of Minnesota on yours!
PS See you soon

John Robinson said...

Great comments, John (and funny! Loved the sandcrawlers joke!). Thanks so much for doing this. Knowledge is power, right? *G*