Summer in the Twin Cities: Part II

Whoa, it’s over.



Truthfully, it’s hard to believe that my summer in the Twin Cities is over.  This place feels like home now and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m leaving a part of me here.  Shoot, I’m about to cry….  Let’s move on.

As promised, here’s the second half of my internship experience with Siemens in Minneapolis.  I left off my last post right before the start of July.  While my sister visited during the first six weeks, the second half I got to see my brother.  He flew up from Atlanta for the Fourth of July weekend and it was so good to get to hang out with him before he goes off to GCSU this Fall.

Twin Cities w Austin

Happy Birthday America!

What better day is there than July 4th?  Seriously. I mean we get to see family, eat hotdogs, wave our American flags, sing God Bless America as loud as we want, chant “U! S! A!” all day, and then explode things with pretty colors at night.  It’s a pretty awesome day.   Like true Americans, my brother and I went to the Yankees v. Twins game at the beautiful Target Field.  Not only did we have shade at our seats, but we had a pretty sick view too…. double win.

Skyline View @ Target Field

Skyline View @ Target Field

Since we aren’t the biggest baseball fans in the world, we left a little early to go grab some Starbucks and figure out the rest of the night.  The tentative plan was to head over to Stone Arch Bridge for fireworks.  But before heading over we had a couple of hours to kill, so we made our way over to Minnehaha Falls.  This urban waterfall is one of the iconic images of the Twin Cities and the escape it provides from the city is fantastic.

Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls

Once it finally got dark, we drove over to Stone Arch and found a spot to sit and celebrate America with the rest of the city.  People up here aren’t quite as rowdy as those down south, but it was nice to have at least one U! S! A! chant.

Two Packs of Beef Jerky, One River and No Water

Saturday was a great day.  After dragging Austin out of bed, we drove the hour or so to William O’Brien State Park for a day of kayaking….. literally, a full day of kayaking.  Apparently the scale of this trip didn’t hit us until we pushed offshore 17 miles upriver at Taylor’s falls with no water, two packs of beef jerky, and strong winds pushing us the wrong direction.  At barely 30 mins in, both of us were exhausted.  Oh, and we were also thirsty from the beef jerky.   Whoops.  It sucked, but this was our kind of fun and I knew at the end of the day we would both have big smiles on our face looking back at the adventure.

Being on the water with Austin all day was awesome.  At the start of the trip, we were given a large map of the river and a couple of instructions about key forks to take left or right.  It was a warm and sunny Saturday – rare up here – so it was a great day to be on the water.  Throughout the trip, we made a couple of stops to stretch our legs and figure out where we were on the map.  Most of these were uneventful until we stopped about four hours into the trip on an island already occupied…. with mosquitos.  Within seconds, we were surrounded by a swarm of them.  Shirt-less Austin didn’t stand a chance.  Once we realized how many had surrounded us, we scrambled back into the water and wasted a ton of energy paddling hard out into the river.  So much for taking a break.

Soon afterward we came upon a train bridge that was just begging for us to jump off of it.  We beached our kayaks and found a path up to the railroad tracks.   On the bridge, we made our way out to the center and counting down from 3, jumped out over the river.  When you have time to think “Oh, I’m still in the air”, you know it’s a tall bridge.  Upon surfacing in the river, we realized that we hadn’t quite thought this all the way through and were quickly being swept downstream by a strong current.  It took some solid swimming just to scramble to the shore, let alone where our kayaks were docked.  I wanted to jump again, but that probably would have meant floating the final miles without a kayak.  No good.  About 30 mins later, we heard something chugging along.  Apparently the bridge is still in use… oops.

End of an Adventure

Beef jerky can only take you so far and after kayaking for 6 hours, we were so ready for some water and food.  Thankfully we soon spotted the state park and as I expected, a huge smile came across our faces as we brought our kayaks onshore and finished out the day.

Kayaking Trip

17 Miles and 6 Hours Later

Our first priority after putting up our kayaks was to find food.  We stopped in Stillwater and went to Smalley’s Caribbean Barbecue.  Legit.  I’ve had very few meals more satisfying than this one.  I was really really hungry.

Austin’s Last Day

Sunday was unfortunately Austin’s last day up in Minneapolis, so we made sure to hit the last few highlights.  In the morning, we drove around Grand Avenue and the Summit Avenue area for some cool views of St. Paul, then made our way to the Guthrie Theatre to check out the views of Minneapolis and the Mississippi River.

Summit Avenue

Summit Avenue

Overlooking the Mississippi

Overlooking the Mississippi

And of course, we snuck in the Mall of America!  By the end of the weekend, I was once again exhausted but also so refreshed from getting to spend time with my bro.  It’s always great to have some quality conversation with family/friends.

A Little Bit of Home

The second half of my internship has also seen a lot of weekends filled with Eagle Brook Church.  I absolutely love the people there and the whole atmosphere of excellence and intentionality.  Throughout my time, I’ve served alongside and learned so much from so many incredible people…… from Selvin teaching me the ropes on camera to pastor Steve greeting me every weekend to the producer Russell (who can apparently rock the drums!) to the always exceptional and cheerful technical director Erica.  Sometimes I wish that I could just surround myself with people like them all the time.  It’s so refreshing to walk into Eagle Brook every weekend knowing that I’m about to serve with friends that care about bringing hope into broken lives.

Believe or not, I also ran into an Atlanta guy.  FINALLY SOMEONE THAT UNDERSTANDS MY LOVE FOR NORTHPOINT AND PASSION CITY!!!  Taylor is the video production director for all of the Eagle Brook campuses and just moved back to Minneapolis from a year serving down in Atlanta at North Point church.  Oh, and he’s only 21.  Without a doubt, I knew we would be friends.

Eagle Brook

Eagle Brook

Since he was originally from Minneapolis, he knew of some great places to eat and we were able to meet up after work one week to eat at Blue Door Longfellow…. Home of the Blucy.  Let me enlighten you:

Two fresh ground Angus beef patties collaborate to encompass a veritable cornucopia of ingredients, creating a cavern of delectable deliciousness. It’s a collision of culinary creativity and Midwestern ingenuity. Often imitated, never duplicated. A St. Paul original.

Yes.  On so many levels.  Hands down the best meal I’ve had here.

Fireworks Round Two:  Why Not?

A mere two weeks after the Fourth of July, I learned of a multi-day event called the “Aquatennial”.  I’m still not quite sure what it is, but all I know is that it’s another reason for the Twin Cities to explode things with pretty colors.  And explode they did.  Deemed one of the largest fireworks displays in the nation, it was quite impressive.  I watched it on the steps of the Guthrie, which made for an epic experience.  And, I’ve now been left with the impression that Minneapolis likes to celebrate.

Really Big Fireworks

Really Big Fireworks

Last Week in the Twin Cities

Over my last week here, I’ve had a lot of time for reflection and processing all that I’ve learned from this summer.  It’s been quite a couple of months and while the experiences have been fantastic, the awesomeness of my summer really comes down to the people that I’ve met and the friends I’ve made.  For some reason, this realization always surprises me, but I’ve had this same thing happen over and over throughout my life.  I figure the best way to end will be to highlight some of the people that have made this summer unforgettable.

Without a doubt, this adventure starts with Ken.  To this day, I’m still amazed that he let a hippie like me get an internship under him and let me glimpse into his vision for the Smart Grid industry.  Truly an experience of a lifetime.  He’s been incredibly patient with me as I’ve struggled and grappled with the problems that I encountered and I’m going to miss how amazing it was learning under him.  Through his generous internship offer, this whole summer was made possible.  I’m so grateful that he decided to let me intern with him this summer.

JP! What a sweet name and what an incredible guy.  With JP, I was able to work on a really cool project that allowed me to take a piece of what I was doing with Ken and really dive into it.  Along the way, JP sacrificed so much of the time that he didn’t have in order to help me, an intern.  Looking back, I’m sorta still scratching my head why he would do this.  All I know is that his example has marked me and I hope to one day invest in someone at work as much as he did for me.

I’m sorta in a shout-out kind of mood, so I figure I’ll throw out some other people that I’ve met at Siemens.  Phil, Randy, and Michelle made for an incredible group of cube-neighbors.  When the days were getting long and I was struggling to finish out the day, I knew that I could always pop over to them and have some great conversation.  Randy and Michelle not only gave me some great office survival tips, but also great tips on how to…. oh, wait, that’s still a secret… nevermind.  Basically, they helped me survive and learn a new skill.  Since he just graduated a few years back, Phil was a great guy just to go to lunch with or talk about school/early career and such.  And the best part is that none of them treated me like the low man on the totem pole… bonus!  Overall, Siemens was a fantastic place to work at during the summer and I know this was due in very large part to the people that work there.

On the weekends, I got to hang out with a whole new crowd of people at Eagle Brook Church.  Shoot.  I’m going to seriously miss Eagle Brook.  There’s just something so attractive about the team there.  From my very first weekend, I felt like I was among friends and could just be me around them.  Every weekend, I couldn’t wait to get to Eagle Brook.  These people are awesome.

Camera 2 @ SLP

Camera 2 @ SLP

“Alex, you’re drifting!  We just need to pick up the tempo a little bit.  Ready… two!  pull… Pull… PULL… PULL!!!  Someone give me Josh!”  Just a few of the quotes I’ll probably never forgot from the technical director at Eagle Brook… Erica.  Haha.  I can’t help but smile thinking back on my experiences from working a camera at Eagle Brook on weekends.  I’m so glad that I decided to serve in production over the summer.  Oh, and Erica…. She’s awesome.

Over the weekends, it was always good to see other people on production like Russell (probably the funniest guy I know), Bryan, Grayson, Chris, Josh and Selvin.  Oh and Steve was an incredible campus pastor.  When someone is intentional like he is, it really leaves a lasting impression on you.

Unfortunately, I have had to say goodbye to everyone up here, but if I ever get a chance to sneak back up to MN on a quick trip – I will take it in a heartbeat.  Love this city, love the people.

First Picture @ Siemens

First Picture @ Siemens


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