Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Washington DC, America – July 2012

Minnesota Twins vs Kansas City Royals at Target Stadium

July has become a ‘pilgrimage’ month of sorts for Katherine and me as we take our annual summer sojourn to the USA to visit the in-laws and escape the rainy winter weather in Cape Town.  This year our 3.5 week holiday was dominated not only by a very welcome procession of long summer days and blazing sunshine, but also by an action-packed itinerary of weddings celebrations and holiday festivities that saw me overindulging on a regular basis. It wasn’t until I had put on 5kg and could no longer button my pants that the feeding frenzy finally subsided!

The minute we landed in the Twin Cities on Saturday afternoon, we were whisked away to a Chicago Concert in Red Wing followed by an epic Sunday ball game when the Minnesota Twins finally found some form to defeat the Kansas City Royals in an exciting 11-9 contest. And I have to say that this was the most entertaining baseball game I’ve ever attended.

Medal winners in the Inwood 4th of July 5km road race

Next up was a road trip down to Inwood, Iowa, for my first ever genuine ‘small town mid-west’ 4th of July celebration. The Americans pull out all the stops for this festive holiday. We started off with a 5km road race; followed by a fire truck dominated parade down the main street; chilli dogs and tavern sandwiches for the picnic lunch; an extended family burger barbeque and volleyball; and, finally, the derby and fireworks. It was an Independence Day extravaganza that I will never forget!

After an entertaining couple of days in Iowa, we retraced our steps back north into the state of ten thousand lakes for Katherine’s sister, Laura’s, wedding.  It was an elegant and classy affair at the Forepaugh’s restaurant in Saint Paul.

Next up was a five-day bike trip on the Elroy-Sparta (www.elroy-sparta-trail.com), La Crosse River and 400 trails across the state of Wisconsin: dairy capital of America and home of the ‘cheese heads’. The predominantly flat bike trails follow old decommissioned railway lines through the woods and include three long tunnels hewn from the rock over a century ago! It was cushy cycling at its very best with comfortable BnB’s to look forward to in the evening, a tasty home-cooked breakfast every morning before we hit the trail, typical mid-west hospitality and enough micro-breweries to ensure we carbo-loaded like champions before each leg of the cycle trip.

After a relaxing final week back in Minnesota, it was time to fly to Washington DC for one final wedding. We joined Bonnie (a school friend of Katherine’s) and Joe at the Fairmont Hotel to celebrate their marriage and I even managed to squeeze a couple of lunchtime beers in with an old school friend of my own, Johan De Bruijn, at a cool Georgetown pub.  It was festive finale to 3.5 weeks of non-stop action and entertainment … Now I just need a ‘real holiday’ to recover from my USA vacation!

The winter edition of Wild magazine hit the shelves this month with my Swazi Sojourn cover story on the Big Game Parks of Swaziland. The Reilly family have done some remarkable work to save Swaziland’s wildlife and natural heritage from the brink of extinction.  Check out: https://www.stevecunliffe.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Wild-Big-Game-Parks-Swaziland-Final.pdf

Wedding season in the USA