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Escape Artists

A global discourse about great finds close to home and adventures far afield

More than baseball at spring training in Arizona

It was as if a fairy had dusted everyone with happy powder: walking around Sloan Park for the first Cubs spring training game last March in Arizona, fans seemed almost giddy to be watching baseball again on a perfect, 75 degree cloudless afternoon. As I enjoyed sitting outside listening to the crack of the bat, I pondered what to do the next morning before venturing to Tempe Diablo Stadium for an exhibition contest between the Angels and Rockies.

To keep the baseball theme going, I checked out the Wrigley Mansion, built between 1929 and 1931 by William Wrigley, the chewing gum magnate and owner of the Chicago Cubs, who still play in the stadium that bears his name during the regular season. The stark white structure sits on a 100-foot knoll and boasts 24 rooms and 17 bathrooms. Featuring unobstructed views of downtown Phoenix and Camelback Mountain, it was called “La Colina Solana,” or the sunny hill.

Placed on the national register of historic places in 1989, it was commissioned by Wrigley as a 50th anniversary present to his wife, Ada. While some would say it “blends” elements of Spanish Colonial Revival, California Monterey and Mediterranean architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright had a different view – he called it “an architect’s desecration” because of the incongruent styles. (After hearing this, Wrigley had his main staircase designed in Wright’s signature style so people would think he designed the property.)

I left wondering if Wrigley had any single male relatives around today when I learned about the plethora of special touches he incorporated into the house for his wife: if it seems like it takes you awhile to sit down in your chair, our tour guide said, it’s because Wrigley had them specially designed for his wife who was only 4’11”. Also, their breakfast nook featured a soundproof wall so Ada didn’t have to listen to the servants cleaning while she watched the sun rise over Phoenix.

As fans of baseball history know, the Cubs previously held their spring training on Catalina Island and the mansion features a collection of rare Catalina tile. Visitors also get to peer into the hidden Philippine walnut cabinet in the library that was used to store alcohol during prohibition. The house has a Minnesota connection as well – since 1992, it has been owned by the family of Geordie Hormel (yes, of the meat company in Austin). Legend has it that Hormel, a passionate jazz fan, saw the Steinway player piano Wrigley had commissioned for the house and bought the entire mansion for that one musical instrument, which is today estimated to be worth $15 million.

After my morning history lesson, I stopped for one last panoramic glimpse of the Valley of the Sun before heading off to that day’s spring training game. 

Ideas for the beloved weekend getaway

AG Thomson House Bed and Breakfast in Duluth

AG Thomson House Bed and Breakfast in Duluth

Everyone loves a weekend getaway, right? Yes, according to a recent survey of 1,000 people commissioned by Enterprise Rent-A-Car. More than eight out of 10 respondents said they plan to take at least one weekend getaway this year. The number grows to nearly nine out of 10 for those who are married or have children under the age of 18.
Respondents like weekend trips because they are relatively inexpensive, they can return home quickly if needed and they can explore new places close to home.
In Minnesota, we’re lucky. There are so many different places to go.
If you want a city experience, head to Duluth, where the A.G. Thomson House Bed and Breakfast (seen in the photo with owners Angie and Tim Allen) was named the top bed-and-breakfast in the country by Trip Advisor.
For a bucolic scene, hit Pipestone, surrounded by farm country and home of the Pipestone National Monument, where red quartzite juts up from the prairie.
Ely, the North Shore, the Gunflint Trail are great places to experience the North Woods.
In Wabasha, the National Eagle Center has daily live eagle shows and a deck overlooking the Mississippi, where eagles hunt.
For a host of other ideas, check out