Meet Plan Go 2011

Meet Plan Go 2011 will take place on Tuesday, October 18th at Honey.

What is Meet Plan Go? It’s an evening of illuminating information and discourse on the feasibility of career-break travel and round-the-world trips, held nearly simultaneously in 17 North American cities. If you’ve ever dreamed of escaping your cubicle to strike out and discover the world on your own terms, this should be Item 0 on your task list.

Being that career-break travel, commonplace nearly everywhere outside of the US, can be an intimidating prospect, we’ve pulled together a varied panel including world travelers, a financial planner and career-break veterans.

As fun and physically attractive as last year’s panel was, this year’s panel is a massive improvement. In addition to me, career-break traveler-turned freelance travel writer, there’s Julie DuRose, a recently returned, solo, female career-break traveler; Layne Kennedy, jet-setter and distinguished photographer; and Kara McGuire, personal financial columnist for the Star Tribune.

Cumulatively we are a veritable career-break travel super group, think tank and military junta all rolled into one. Our coming together will change the world in ways none of us can yet imagine. Historians will study and debate the event. Commemorative coins will be minted. Villagers will sing songs about us in the mountains of northern Laos.

Also, there’ll be $4 taps and $5 wines.

Needless to say, if you have any interest in career-break travel, you really don’t wanna miss this.

For more information about the Minneapolis event, visit the Minneapolis Meet Plan Go website.

If you need further encouragement about the feasibility of career-break travel, check out the 2010 cover story I wrote for “Choose Your Own Adventure,” featuring quotes from our very own Julie DuRose.

Travel | 19.09.2011 10:36 | Comments Off on Meet Plan Go 2011

Skyway posterboy

In the latest development defining me as a leading Skyway posterboy, Architecture Minnesota magazine followed me around one afternoon and shot video of me discussing my Skyway lifestyle. The video is a promotion piece for their Videotect video competition “Exploring the Built Environment,” the first subject being the Skyway.

Through what I’m sure was laborious and careful editing, they succeeded in not making me look too crazy:

Videotect: Leif in the Skyway from Architecture Minnesota on Vimeo.



Downtown, Two weeks in the Skyway | 1.03.2011 12:35 | 1 Comment

My Skyway article in

Perhaps you’ll recall a few weeks ago when I didn’t leave the Skyway for two weeks and blogged about it in great detail. The article I wrote on the strength of that stunt is now live:

Not long from now, the planet’s space agencies will start recruiting people for the first colony on Mars. Colonists will need to be comfortable functioning in close quarters, endure extended periods indoors and survive on less-than-scintillating food options. Where will these hearty colonists be found? NASA? The Biosphere? Or some other place where tens of thousands of people happily go about their days in comparable surroundings?

Read the whole article here. Or grab a paper copy (one for every friend and acquaintance should do), so as to give the appearance that my articles are wildly popular.

Biking | 17.02.2011 12:03 | Comments Off on My Skyway article in

YMCA, end of the confinement – Days 13 & 14 – Two weeks in the Minneapolis Skyway

If this is your first “Two weeks in the Skyway” post, you might like to start here.

YMCA: Though I’ve walked past it at least 20 times, my brain never registered the fact that the downtown YMCA has a very prominent Skyway entrance. It couldn’t be more obvious. But that’s how it goes when you’re walking through the Skyway (at least that’s how it goes for me). All concentration is devoted to getting your destination without getting lost, so even a huge entrance and a giant sign can go unnoticed – for years. Taking advantage of a friend’s generous guest pass offer, I toured the Y’s facilities and made lavish use of the pool and whirlpool.

The Y is impressively outfitted. In addition to the pool and whirlpool area, they have a sauna, steam room, basketball courts, racquetball courts, a running track, spin classes and the full arsenal of free weights and state-of-the-art weight machines. A month-to-month membership is only $62, which can be dropped to $42 if your insurance provider offers a heath club credit. What with the meager “fitness center” in my condo group, and my long lost love for racquetball, I’m very tempted to join.

End of the confinement: This will be my last post on my Skyway confinement. My two-week interval expires at 7:20 tonight. Like most Sundays, there’s not much going on within the confines of the Skyway and so I don’t have much planned. I’ll plunge into the system when the doors open at noon, do one last bit of aimless wandering, stop at Target for groceries and hoof it back home in time for the Celtics/Lakers game.

At 7:21pm, I suppose I’ll step outside for a few cleansing breaths, but quite frankly I don’t really want to do anything, at least not right away. There’s nothing that I feel like I’ve been denied during the past two weeks. Indeed, the confinement and research kept me surprisingly occupied, trying new eating options, assessing happy hours and investigating tips by a variety of other Skyway users. The whole experience has left me in more reverent awe of the system than ever. And I was already kind of a scary Skyway enthusiast before this little stunt began.

Last night, my final full night of confinement, in a bit of perfect timing I watched the film “Waydowntown,” a dark comedy about four people who live and work in downtown Calgary, who bet each other a month’s salary to see who can go the longest without going outside the extensive Plus 15 skyway system. The film opens on their 27th day of confinement and they’re all starting to come unwound to varying degrees. By the end of the movie, which largely takes place during the lunch hour, all but one of the characters suffer moderate psychotic breaks and race outside.

I can’t speak for the mental challenges of a competitive confinement, but these two weeks zapped by so fast, with an utter lack of hardship, that I barely noticed that I was confined at all. A surprisingly full life can be enjoyed within the confines of the Skyway. It feels as if I could easily go three, four or eight weeks or more. Apart from my social life taking a serious hit, I don’t see why not. But that, of course would be crazy – at least in summer.

Two weeks in the Skyway | 30.01.2011 11:59 | Comments Off on YMCA, end of the confinement – Days 13 & 14 – Two weeks in the Minneapolis Skyway

Kabobs Indian Grill, 8th Street Grill – Day 12 – Two weeks in the Minneapolis Skyway

If this is your first “Two weeks in the Skyway” post, you might like to start here.

Kabobs Indian Grill: In my continuing quest to copy Katie Cannon in every way (except for the baby incubating part), I followed her advice and visited Kabobs, located in the 4th floor Gaviidae food court. Here’s a veteran traveler tip for you (actually it’s something new travelers figure out within hours, but in case you’re traveling with slow learners), when you’re out looking for a place to eat in a new destination, a key indicator of whether a place is serving exceptional, authentic food or just gruel for rube tourists is to track how many locals are eating there. If there’s a standing sandwich board menu out front with food pictures, a bunch of people with guidebooks and daybags, and a guy whose sole job is to stand in the street and try to lure in customers (and if it’s within 50 yards of a major tourist site), keep walking. If it’s busy with locals and the servers don’t give two shits whether you stay or go, elbow your way to a seat. Well, frequent Skyway users will have noted the influx of Indians in downtown Minneapolis over the past few years and pretty much all of them were queued up at Kabobs and chatting with the servers like regulars when I arrived. It was very encouraging.

For $5, you get a single, all-you-can-carry pass down the varied buffet. Yesterday there were a number of rice, veggie, noodle and chicken dishes. In the interest of journalist investigation, I had the servers pile on a little of almost everything, including four pieces of naan, until I ran out of space. I can’t intelligently discuss Indian cuisine, so I’ll simply say that every single thing I got was delicious. All of it. Even the small pile of stuff with eggplant that I accidently agreed to take was pretty good. And it was spicy enough to make my nose run, but not make me run screaming from the food court and dive into the Gaviidae fountain. I was stuffed and happy. Kabobs may very well be the best eating value in the Skyway.

8th Street Grill: I had only figured out last week that the 8th Street Grill had a Skyway-connected entrance, so I was pretty amped to investigate what appeared to be a great happy hour. Though it was so busy we were in serious jeopardy of having to stand, we managed to grab just-vacated stools and consume several $4 Strongbows on tap and substantial quesadillas for $7, after the happy hour $2 price break. The best part is that happy hour is 3-7pm Monday through Friday and all day Saturday, so there’s ample opportunity, especially for self-employed Skyway enthusiasts, to cash in on these deals and stagger home without fear of being run over.

Two weeks in the Skyway | 29.01.2011 11:41 | 4 Comments

Hell’s Kitchen, Kieran’s, a long walk – Day 11 – Two weeks in the Minneapolis Skyway

If this is your first “Two weeks in the Skyway” post, you might like to start here.

Hell’s Kitchen: Denied my Buddha-given right to huevos rancheros last Sunday due to limited Skyway hours, I tried again yesterday. Though, because I’m an adventure traveler, I decided to up the adrenalin factor by making the trip with a 2 and ½ year old car battery with legs named Jackson. It was Jackson’s first time in the Skyway and he shamelessly broke all the rules. Walking slowly, not holding doors, wanting to be carried… I was mortified, yet, oddly, all the people who observed this behavior smiled approvingly. So, apparently I’ve been doing it all wrong. While I’m out running errands today, I’ll most definitely be testing the “carry me!” theory on various people.

My huevos rancheros were predictably wonderful and Hells’ Kitchen, a place where I’ve received erratic service over the past two years, pulled out all the stops for Jackson and his mother. The slate is clean Hell’s. I’ll disparage your once cadaverous service no more.

Kieran’s Irish Pub: To be perfectly honest, I’m still not sure how I feel about Super Kieran’s, which opened in Block E last spring, abandoning the much loved old location which was subsequently transformed into the early-closing “Old Pub” (which has now tragically closed all together). The move meant the loss of the cherished Kieran’s intimacy, as well as their Strongbow on tap. (Actually, I don’t know exactly when they dropped Strongbow, but I’m sure, wherever I was, I spontaneously burst into tears.) These changes were two big loses for long-time patrons. That said, the food selection at the new location jumped in a gratifying direction and they wisely incorporated a Skyway-connected entrance for us Skyway ninjas. Obviously, more investigation is in order.

A long walk: I have, due to workload and social obligations, been remiss in what I hoped would be one of my regular routines during my two-week Skyway confinement, random exploration. As such, yesterday I made a point of shutting down the office early for a two hour walk while it was still daylight. Among other things, I visited and assessed the inventory in the recently opened Skyway Wine & Spirits in the Six Quebec building; the length of Skyway connecting the western parking ramps, the Target Center, the Twins stadium and the Orpheum Theatre; the tunnels under the Government Center and City Hall and the art display in the Thrivent building. I am very close to having stepped foot on nearly all 83 skyway bridges and visiting all four distant corners of the eight-mile system. Yet I’m still getting lost. I’m starting to realize this may never change.

Two weeks in the Skyway | 28.01.2011 11:16 | 3 Comments

The Burger Place, skyway garden, McCormick & Schmick’s – Day 10 – Two weeks in the Minneapolis Skyway

If this is your first “Two weeks in the Skyway” post, you might like to start here.

The Burger Place: Acting on yet another tip from Doug, yesterday I had lunch at The Burger Place in the Soo Line building, conveniently located next door to Sorrento Cucina if you just have to have a burger and your companion wants a slice of lasagna the size of a cinder block. Though the burger menu sprawls with options and specials that might have given a normal person pause, I’m stuck in a Rainman-like mushroom Swiss burger phase right now, which I got with lettuce, onion and tomato. A pile of fries is included. It was thick and delicious beyond expectation. It’s no Capital Grille Signature Cheeseburger, but it’s also half the price, so there’s really no comparing the two. The line was quick, service was great and the bright dinning area is a nice bonus. Wins all around.

Skyway Garden: On a tip from an interviewee, I stepped into the 510 Marquette Building for the first time in my life and, as promised, found a Skyway level garden with benches for relaxing. Now if only the area had natural sunlight…

McCormick & Schmick’s happy hour: I’ve heard (and read) a lot of people give M&S the business, and one has to respect that much consistent negative buzz, but I have been repeatedly and uniformly pleased with their happy hour. The menu changes constantly, the food is almost always good, particularly for those HH prices (ranging from $1.95 to $4.95), and the wine, while no bargain, is just fine. I had, for the jillionth time, the pork tostada (delicious and large for $1.95) and the smallish, but satisfying chicken quesadilla ($3.95). Service, an area where they allegedly struggle, was middling, but the place was hopping and I have a hard time criticizing service under those conditions unless it’s painfully bad.

Two weeks in the Skyway | 27.01.2011 9:56 | 3 Comments

The Brother’s Deli, La Belle Crêpe, the first ant in my pants – Day 9 – Two weeks in the Minneapolis Skyway

If this is your first “Two weeks in the Skyway” post, you might like to start here.

The Brothers Deli: At the urging of both Katie and Doug, yesterday I had lunch at The Brothers Deli, the lone remaining location of an empire that was at one time 16 locations strong and dates back to 1935. It’s located on the Skyway level in the Dorsey building. What makes these sandwiches stand out are the carefully sourced meats and breads, though their soups, including a tomato basil and a homemade chicken noodle, are popular as well. The sandwich menu is a bit dazzling and after much indecision I settled on the rather simple Broadway Danny Rose, with “lotsa corned beef plus lotsa pastrami on rye.” Though it was extremely good, I regretted going for the safe option, so once again I’ll have to return to this place as many times as it takes to get a good sense of the total package.

La Belle Crêpe: I didn’t eat here, because I had just put away that giant sandwich, but I had to find out if the rumors were true. A Skyway-connected creperia? No bloody way. Yet there it was, the tiny La Belle Crêpe, located on the ground floor of the Medical Arts building, selling a short, seasonal menu of sweet and savory crêpes, plus a breakfast menu, including dill and lox. I’ll be back.

And I learned this today: There are back door, Skyway-connected entrances to both Thom Pham’s Wondrous Azian Kitchen and Newsroom.

The first ant in my pants: Day 9 of my two week Skyway confinement test matched my previous record, set last winter during a particularly busy work time and similarly god-awful weather. Coincidentally or not, I was a little antsy yesterday. There was no real explanation for it, though the current two week run of mild insomnia that I’m enjoying is probably playing a part. I haven’t missed anything substantial and I’m not anxious to go anywhere in particular, I was just antsy. Kind of like the sensation experienced by people who work for months and months on cruise ships.

The upshot is that my social opportunities have remained plentiful. Friends are generously making the trek downtown to visit me, mostly, I suspect, so they can check the pallor of my skin and note any new facial tics for future party stories.

Two weeks in the Skyway | 26.01.2011 10:27 | 3 Comments

Sorrento Cucina, happy hour at Restaurant Max – Day 8 – Two weeks in the Minneapolis Skyway

If this is your first “Two weeks in the Skyway” post, you might like to start here.

Lunch at Sorrento Cucina: Before my weekly run to Target for groceries, I’d gotten myself all amped up for another lunch at Sushi Do, but then I stumbled on a year old Heavy Table piece by Katie Cannon, “Five Spots to Eat at in the Minneapolis Skyway.” Despite the muffled cries of “spicy tuna!” emanating from my stomach, journalistic responsibility demanded that I sample the goods.

Embarrassingly, I’d never even heard of Sorrento Cucina, serving the Skyway for what must now be 19 whopping years. It’s hidden away in the Soo Line building, in one of those corners of the Skyway on the way to nowhere important (for me). Well, like any place serving non-lethal food in the Skyway it was fantastically busy, but the line moved quickly and in about three minutes I was heaving the largest slice of lasagna al forno I’d ever seen, along with a bread stick and an iceberg lettuce side salad, to one of the copious red and white checked tables. Like Katie before me, I chose the lasagna amongst the many options, including several nods to health-conscience diners, because lasagna preparation has the kind of latitude that makes it a telling indicator of the general effort and skill being put forth in the kitchen. Despite the distraction of the unspoken competitive eating challenge leveled against me, I was quite impressed. However, unless you can eat more than me, and you probably can’t, best to get a half order. Lesson learned. Also, the ravioli was going fast, so I’ll be returning soon to see what has inspired that level of popularity.

Happy hour at Restaurant Max: I met local writer, soon to be published author, Douglas Mack at Restaurant Max at the stroke of 4:08pm for our 4pm appointment (I keep my watch set to Writer Standard Time). I’d been to Max for happy hour once before entirely by accident and for some reason I had it in my head that the deals were pretty decent. Well, the truffle fries and variously topped flatbreads on the menu were pretty good, as was the house chardonnay, and the service was attentive, but the frugal Norwegian gut instinct in me feels like $5 glasses of wine during happy hour, even in 2011, is a little presumptuous. Still, it’s not a bad spot for a bit of swank and the banking nerd in me loves the original vault door by the bathrooms.

My Skyway world is expanding: Feedback from other Skyway users/obsessives has been incredibly enlightening. Every day I learn about a new place/service/quirk that had entirely escaped me during my three years of wandering. I’m still enthusiastically collecting these nuggets, the best of which will appear in the article that I’m researching, so if you have any winners, please give them a bump in the comments section.

Two weeks in the Skyway | 25.01.2011 10:21 | Comments Off on Sorrento Cucina, happy hour at Restaurant Max – Day 8 – Two weeks in the Minneapolis Skyway

Weekend logistics for Skyway dwellers, halfway mark reached – Days 6 & 7 – Two weeks in the Minneapolis Skyway

If this is your first “Two weeks in the Skyway” post, you might like to start here.

Weekend logistics: Weekends can be tricky in the Skyway. Generally, the Skyway system keeps uniform opening hours: 6:30am to 10pm on weekdays, 9:30am to 8pm Saturdays and noon to 6pm on Sundays. But there’s a bunch of sections that deviate from this schedule, sometimes in critical places like the quickest way between my building and the liquor store. (I’m talking about you Medical Arts Building) And even that somewhat generous 10pm closing on weekdays can burn you if you lose track of time, say, at Bradstreet and it suddenly dawns on you that you have 12 minutes to pay the bill and jog through eight buildings after five cocktails, so you’re not stranded in nothing but a t-shirt several block from home in February. This may or may not have happened to me.

Breakfast fail: Saturdays aren’t usually a problem, but for the most part I don’t plan ambitious outings in the Skyway on Sundays. Unfortunately, I temporarily blanked on this sage wisdom yesterday as I ravenously charged out for a hard-earned plate of huevos rancheros at Hell’s Kitchen. Except I neglected to note that it was only 10:30, so I was more than a little peeved at myself and various anonymous decision-makers when the very first door I came upon was, of course, locked. I am always exquisitely prepared to make my own, world famous omelets at home, so I didn’t go hungry, but consarnit, I wanted effing huevos rancheros.

America’s Got Talent auditions: Ultimately, my only significant outing over the weekend was to the Minneapolis Convention Center to absorb the extraordinary sociological spectacle that was the America’s Got Talent auditions. When I arrived at noon on Saturday, almost 500 acts had already checked in and the wait time, from arrival to audition, was five to six hours. I wasn’t allowed to observe the auditions themselves, but I wandered freely amongst all the staging and holding areas, including the airplane hanger-sized Exhibition Hall B and a number of conference rooms. The sheer wait time, the interminable herding from room to room, filling out a variety of forms the entire way, seemed prohibitively defeating. How any of those poor performers, bored, tired, with their blood-sugar levels bottoming out, had the strength to flip on the energy when they finally made it in front of the producers, I’ll never know.

Excrement encounter: I experienced a Skyway first on Saturday: dog shit. Not having to worry about stepping in animal waste is one of the countless perks of Skyway life. But the world is full of inconsiderate asshats and thwarting their incessant efforts to screw things up for everyone else can only go so far. As such, at some stage Saturday morning, one of the metro area’s F*ckwit All Stars took their dog on a walk in the Skyway and the dog, having absorbed its owner’s lack of basic civility, took a dump in the Orchestra Hall Ramp section of the Skyway and both continued on their merry way without considering that maybe, just maybe, leaving a pile of dog shit in the Skyway might inconvenience others. By the time I passed the scene at least one person had already stepped in it and used the next three feet of carpet to skid-clean their shoe. Bravo, f*ckwit.

Halfway point reached: Last night marked the half way point of the two week Skyway confinement test. I’d love to ramp up the suspense here and say how difficult it’s been and I don’t know how much longer I can last, but quite frankly, what with last week’s weather, the first week was not only a breeze, but it was an absolute joy. Communication with people on the outside has largely confirmed that my Skyway confinement is more a privilege than hardship. Apart from a few missed social opportunities and my huevos rancheros, I have nothing to complain about.

Two weeks in the Skyway | 24.01.2011 10:18 | 6 Comments