So I probably shouldn't have been surprised by this, considering how often I find Minnesota connections in the most unexpected places. But one of the first people we met in London looked at our credentials and immediately had a story about his Minnesota experience.

Alan Farmer is a volunteer with the London Olympics. On Tuesday, when Jim Souhan, Brian Peterson and I arrived at our hotel--the Premier Inn Euston--he was working the media transport desk. Years ago, Alan worked for Sperry-Rand and made a business trip to the Twin Cities. During his summer visit, he was introduced to our boating culture.

"I remember they had a bucket of chicken and a load of beer,'' he said. "We were out on the Mississippi River, and they tried to get me to water-ski, even though there were barges.''

I'm typing this from the patio of the Premier Inn, tucked on tiny Dukes Road in the Bloomsbury district. A balmy day has cooled to a lovely night--so nice to be out of the Minnesota sauna. It's a cool neighborhood; lots of pubs and restaurants. A few characters, too. Last night at one of the local hangouts--The Euston Flyer--we were approached by the same drunken young panhandler not once, but twice. Neither try worked. We also were warned at the first place we ate at, the London Pub (yeah, didn't put too much effort into the name, eh?) not to put our backpacks, cameras or other equipment on the tables or chairs next to us. A favorite scam, the bartender said, is for a thief to carry a coat and drape it over the chair as he/she walks by--to conceal the pickup of your valuables. He suggested we always wrap a strap around our legs. I had heard the London pickpockets are legendary. Guess they're not kidding.

We quickly discovered all the buses being used for media transport are double-deckers. It's pretty cool--great views. We also quickly discovered the Javelin high-speed train. It's a 10-minute walk to catch it at the St. Pancras station, and it's amazing. The trip that took us 45 minutes by bus on our first day Tuesday takes 7 minutes on the Javelin. Its top speed is said to be 140 miles per hour. When one went past us at the Stratford station, the whoosh was incredible. It's sleek and new, and the smoothest train ride I've ever experienced. London is just full of cool stuff!



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