About Us

Welcome to our blog of our 2013 trip. We Have been camping since our honeymoon. Each summer we take a trip to a new part of our country. We try to stop at local fairs & festivals, take tours of manufacturing plants, do a little kayaking, and try to get an up close look at how people live! Join us! This Bog runs from our most recent post backwards. At the end of this year,I have left the past years blog. Double click on any picture to get a larger image. These are all low res versions. If you see one you really like, let me know and I'll send you a better image.

Liz & Bruce on the way to Minnesota, last year

Saturday, August 11, 2012

August 5 thru Aug 10

Sunday we moved up the coast of  Lake Superior to a little town, Schroeder. Most of the towns along Minnesota’s  North Coast were founded by Finn’s Norwegians, and people from that region in Europe. They didn’t find the climate too intimidating, and the fishing was similar to the ocean fishing they were used to.  There are towns like Tofte, and Lutsen just to the north. We went  to a town called Two Harbors, a Taconite shipping port to see a close up view of a Taconite dock, and their world  famous tourist spot, the founding office for 3M!
3M or Minnesota  Mining and Manufacturing Co. as it was founded was started by a group of men who believed that they had discovered a place along the coast of the lake where there was carborundum, the 2nd hardest mineral, and the abrasive in sandpaper.  They came to Two Harbors, found an attorney, set up the company, and began selling stock. Unfortunately for them, the carborundum mine turned out to be a different mineral, and therefore worthless. This left them with a task that turned out to be providential. They had to think if a couple of new products. One to be the abrasive for their sandpaper, and two for the mineral in their mine. 3M as the company became known after many years has been inventing their way to success ever since. I use them as examples in my new products class almost every day I teach. The type of ingenuity they  use is evidenced in the development of one of their primary products, adhesive tape. As I mentioned the company was  making sandpaper. The largest market for his was the automotive business, particularly body shops. When making a call on one of his customers a company salesperson saw the difficulty the painter had with the new two tone paints that were popular. He went  back to his company, and they used some of the adhesive technology that made the abrasive stick to the paper, to create masking tape. Our company sold to several of  3M’s divisions. They have a wide variety of creative programs designed to create new products, and extend a line when they have found something unique. Look at the incredible number of “Post-it” products that are on the market today. They are the result of the company’s culture of taking an original creation of masking tape, in the early 1900’s and combining it with the ingenuity of  a 3M employee who in the 1980’s had his notes falling out of his hymnal in choir practice.
The Taconite loading facility in two harbors was very close to shore, and we observed it on a couple of occasions. The process is expected, with the short train cars being pushed out, then individually “drained” from the bottom into the long chutes. These chutes go into the holds. The train moves back and forth, and different cars are selected so that the boat is loaded evenly. We heard that if you just start filling in one end the boat will break in half.
The town restored the old steam tug that was used here prior to the advent of bow thrusters/ The Edna G was an interesting tour. They also had two restored locomotives, the largest, and latest from the WWII time frame. If you think, like us, that it was strange that they could get a huge locomotive built during the shortages of the war, you’ll begin to understand how important the iron ore from this area was to our winning the war.
We made a few other side trips while staying in Schroeder, to the Split Rock light house, a taconite processing facility, and many­ of the falls coming off the mountain behind the lake on the way t o the big lake. Split Rock was a light house requested by the ship owners after  great November storm sunk many ore boats. The Edmund Fitzgerald was only the latest on  long line of ships going down in a November Lake Superior storm. After the construction of Hwy 61, our path up form Duluth, the light became a favorite stop and the most photographed light in the US (at least according to the locals.)The overall facility was large with 3 keepers houses, a few barns etc. Seemed like overkill to me for a lighthouse operated from May-December. Very nice restoration, and great staff.
The Taconite factory had a tour, but no pictures were allowed, so this shot from up above will have to do. Their plant is about a mile long and takes the raw ore from the mines 40 miles north in the small ore cars we’ve seen. Then through a series of crushers, mixing into a slurry, and magnetic separators they extract iron. They then form a pellet about ½ the size of my little fingernail, including some other additives that make the steel better quality. These are what is loaded into the “lakers” and “salties” 68,000 tons a batch  for shipment down lake. The tailings are then pumped, still in the slurry up to a spot on the way back to the mine. There they have an environmentalist approved dam, and fill area, and the liquid then is returned to the plant to begin the crushing process again. This last step is extremely costly, (and since what they have is essentially our trap rock) it appears to me they are ‘disposing of” tons of good road bed!!!
The falls are interspersed about every few miles up the highway. The one pictured here is Gooseberry Falls, about medium in intensity, and near the maximum in height. Because the water flow was relatively low, there is a lot of play going on here. There are 4 levels and there are people in the water in each of them. There is a state park at each falls, and most have camping. The north shore is a place that  prior reservations are necessary to get some of the best spots…. But until we got here, we didn’t know what to reserve! We’ll probably come back to this area.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

July 31 - Aug 5

Neither of us had been to Duluth MN before, so it was interesting to compare our preconceived notions to reality. Liz found a CNBC ranking that claimed Duluth is in the top 10 for retirement cities on the USA. We found the city to be an interesting mix of lakefront shipping ports and their associated stores of material to be shipped. Duluth is the western most port of the Great Lakes. Ships from around the world (called Saltys , the Paul Tregurtha pictured here) stop here to pick up loads of Minnesota Taconite, (raw iron for steel) Montana coal, Wyoming spring wheat, and deliver limestone, etc, etc. It is a busy port. From here these huge boats, reaching 1000' move through Sault St. Marie at the lakes eastern end, down Lake Huron, across lake Erie, then Ontario, and out the St. Laurence. A drop of 650'! Of course many stay in the freshwater lakes (called Lakers) dropping off their cargo at US steel mills (yes! the US AGAIN has  thriving steel industry,) Power plants, and other factories along the great lakes shores. To those of us on the east coast who think of the great lakes as just big blue spots on the maps, the commerce that takes place her is astounding! Duluth is in the thick of it. 
Dulth shares the shipping harbor with the WI  town of Superior, who for years had the only access to Duluth's great backwater ports  of the St. Louis River. There was a long barrier point of land stretching down from the north. One night in the late 1800's someone blew an opening in the land creating the Duluth shipping channel. This, of course made the ship owners happy and the residents on the (now) island upset! An aerial lift bridge was constructed, the US Army Corps of Engineers was called in to keep the channel open, and Duluth began to grow - fast. For many years in the early 1900's Duluth had more millionaires than any other city in the US. 
Today the Corps run a visitor  center with tours and announcements of the ships passing through. It is also the home of some great restaurants such as the Duluth Grill, a Guy Fieri "Diners Drive Ins and Dives featured stop. since we try to take in a few of these on our trips we stopped. The restaurant had a SUPERB Lake Superior whitefish, and claimed to obtain their salad makings from their parking lot! I shot this picture of the front, and you can see the gardens running the entire sides of their lot. There were lots of salad fixings growing in their parking lot, although I am sure not in enough quantity to satisfy the quantity of customers they were serving. We also had a great, and super knowledgeable waiter.
Duluth is between the "big lake" and Spirit Mountain, so they created a skyline drive around the harbor so I could get some nice aerial views to show you, very accommodating. We could easily see into these little 1/2 size train cars on these narrow tracks. They carry the coal or Taconite out to pour into the cargo hold. All of these ships now are self-unloading, so it seems there is little for their crew to do now except eat, and wave to the tourists when they  go under the bridge. 
If you are curious about shipboard life, you can go back to some of our prior trips when we toured the Soo , and Welland canal Locks, or continue reading.
We took the opportunity to tour the Irvin a retired ore carrier from the great lakes trade. She was short, outdated, (built in the 30's) and going to be scrapped when the city bought her for scrap value ($1MM) and remodeled her to her former glory. She was named for the President of US Steel and had a quite comfortable "executive quarters". You see her here with the Aerial Lift Bridge in hte backround.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mon July 30

We went up to Green Bay, to give Liz  a chance to check up on her investment. As a new owner she was concerned about the Defense after last year, so she wanted to see some of the changes made. :-) 
Seriously, I did buy Liz a share of stock in the Pack last December, because she has admired the way that the town owns the team, not an individual. She has almost got me convinced that it would be a valuable concept for the regions the NFL teams play in to own the teams like the Packers. In Green Bay's case it was a necessity when the meat packers who were running a local football team had to come up with some serious money to buy a franchise in the new NFL. They sold stock to the town,and the rest is history.
There is a much closer bond between the team, players and fans than those I've been around, the Browns, Giants and Pats. The Packers training facility is right across the street from the stadium. Because the team only has the locker room in the stadium, they must walk across the street after practice in the morning. A tradition was started sometime in years gone by, of a kid offering his bike to a practice weary player. It was probably gratefully accepted and more bikes offered, until the  players now virtually all ride kids bikes! This is no problem for when the kid is a teenager, the sizes almost match, such as Clay Mathews in the above picture.
The problem becomes immediately apparent when  the kid is much smaller, or a girl. The players are having a genuine good time here. The kids usually can't hide their delight, and we heard the players engaged in conversations with them on the way by us. We had a great time watching, and while Liz has confidentiality agreements that keep her from telling even me, she says don't worry about the Packs D this year.

July 25 thru 29 OSHKOSH!

One reason to come to this region is that we are within a days drive of one of our favorite things to do on these  trips - Go to the Oshkosh airshow. It is a one week extravaganza of anything involving airplanes and the people who pilot them. It starts off with the fly ins. Massive quantities of Cessnas, Pipers, etc. coming in en mass one after another. To experience  Airventure you've really got to take a week sometime and come out. To get a better taste see this site;
In it you'll find recordings of the tower as they carefully guide 12,000 (yes twelve thousand) airplanes to the ground. You'll also find that there is so much to do, that even if you have no intrest in airplanes, there is always something interesting to go watch, see or listen to.
This years theme was a salute to the greatest generation in the air. It featured lots of war birds, and many interviews and meet and greats with the remaining Tuskegee Airmen, the Doolittle Raiders, a number of airshows with many Classic airplanes from the time, and a re-enactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor, with the Commerative air force's Tora!Tora! Tora! show. Since we arrived mid-week, the show was all ready rolling. Our first night we went to a "Theater in the Woods" presentation of the Tuskegee Airmen, The Raiders, and Dutch Van Kirk the navigator and the only survivor of the Enola Gay.
The theater is designed so even if you can't sit close, you can see on a live TV Screen. The facility  can hold a couple of thousand people. This is where Liz and I first met the Tuskegee Airmen a few years back. They simply filed into the theater and sat down in the row ahead of us. They turned around as the program was presented,and talked with us. Liz particularly admired Bev Dupree, and hoped to get an autograph this time. It happened on our last full day there, and you'll see Liz and Bev talking, and him signing a Warbirds of America decal.
We also listened with fascination to Dutch Van Kirk, the navigator on the B29, Enola Gay. It is amazing how these men both our fathers age, are so vital today.  There were probably 15 Tuskegee Airmen there, all moving like men in their 70's. Bev is in his mid 90's. Dutch is 91. He did forum's in Warbird Ally, did the meet and greats, and gave navigation lessons. Liz and I met up with him, and got his book autographed, although we had to wait for a minute while he and his wife ate ice cream sandwiches, it was in the 80's.
Oshkosh usually honors significant anniversaries, This year a well respected kit maker "Van" was being honored with a fly in of anyone who assembled one of his RV aircraft. There were lots of them, but they did not stand out as a group, because of the customization that the owners had done on them. The Piper Cub on the other hand, another honoree this year, was resplendent in it's distinctive yellow color. This one was originally built in '43 and just had it's first post restoration flight 7/7/12.
Every afternoon there is a 3 hr airshow, with some of the performers we saw in Portsmouth at the start of this trip. There are always some who come especially to Oshkosh, notably the Red Bull guys. Like the people who enjoy this beverage,these performers are seemingly jazzed on caffeine, and looking for anything that hasn't been done before. This helicopter is an example, spending nearly all of his time flying upside down, or getting into or out of nearly impossible situations. From listening to others talk about his performance we learned that this  is accomplished by using special rotors, etc. that allow the ship to fly inverted. The problem is these rotors impart the same degree of instability to these craft upside down or right side up! It's  significant challenge to get them to fly at all.

It seems that despite our best efforts to see this show in it's entirety, we always stumble upon something "new", only to discover that it's been there for several years. This year we heard someone describe the Encampment, so decided to look into it at the corner of the warbird area. It is a recreation of what a remote air base in Europe or Asia might have looked like to our airmen. They had WWII tents, cots, every other type of gear, all with airmen in period uniform, (even the USO girls) camped out. We talked to one fellow who said EAA used to ask them to close up this living museum, and go to other camping facilities on the grounds, but they now encourage them to stay all night, so it "feels" like a real camp.
A few of you may recall to Miracle on the Hudson flight of USAIR a few years back. Ever since the summer after that Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, and Jeff Stiles have been fixtures at EAA.  Jeff tells the story this way. He is from WI, so had been to Airventure in the past. The first summer when they were invited was Sully's first exposure to it. They gave talks, did the meet and greats, and were in a whirlwind. At a Young Eagles (a group enabling kids to fly a plane early, and then get their pilots license) auction to raise money for this program, Jeff thought of the pair of shoes he had on while wading thru the plane to make sure everybody was out. He was going to put them on EBay, but thought this cause sounded worthy. He put them in the auction, and the bidding started. As it calmed down a bit he sweetened the pot with his flight jacket, after awhile when the bidding plateaued again, Airbus' chairman said that Airbus would match the winning bid. They raised $80,000, and Jeff was immediaty approached by Harrison Ford (the actor) the current President of the Young Eagles to assume the presidency. He accepted, and Sully joins him as he can.
 They did numerous talks thru the week, and Liz found that Sully had a new book out on people who exhibit leadership in their daily lives. Since leadership is a class I teach, Liz bought me the book for my birthday, and Sully was gracious enough to talk with me about leadership for a few minutes and sign it! While Sully was talking a jet wound up, and took off drowning him out. Sully paused, identified the plane, an F8 and said "that is the sound of Freedom." One other reason we like to come here is the reminder of what our country can do when challenged by two enemies in battle. Seeing the legacy of these planes, each designed,built, then flown in a VERY short time, makes us grateful to our parents generation, & extremely mindful of our choices when selecting leaders now. We've received a tremendous gift, the ability to live free - we shouldn't let it slip away!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

July 24

Tues was a travel day, but we stopped at Upper Sioux Agency State Park, and a little museum of Minnesota Farm life in the mid- late 1800's- ?. At the State park we learned a lot about the Dakota "problem" or whatever euphemism you might use. Here's my understanding: The Dakota were native to the land, when the settlers came in. They were pretty easy to get along with, as long as there weren't too many of "us". The Dakota signed a few treaties saying they'd stay out of this area, if we'd stay out of that. That worked pretty well until our government sent in some managers to handle all of these areas. Probably one of the first times the line "I'm from the Govt. and I'm here to help" was uttered.
It was just as true then as it is today, and the Dakota, resented being pushed around by Uncle Sam. A Dakota chief went to Washington DC to meet our chief, and came back astounded by what he saw in the 1850's. He knew there was no way to beat the Europeans, so decided to negotiate. That didn't work out too well either, because the US through the "managers" it appointed simply violated everything that they didn't like in the treaties. The Sioux, getting fed up, finally struck back, but the US "was engaged in a great civil war". The settlers took it on the chin. The Army couldn't defend them and many of them were wiped out. Turns out New Ulm played a pivotal role in all of this, losing many families to the Sioux warriors, but also playing a key role in eventually resoloving the crisis. It was resolved, so we & the Dakota are now friends. If you click on the picture above you'll see a tribe of them camping right next to us! :-). The state park had Teepees you could rent- cool!
The museum had a great collection of household items from the 1850's up to present times. These museums can run the gamut from a call for everyone to clean out your basement and barn - to a well managed collection that represented the time period. This one was much more the latter. There was much that I recognized form my grandmothers house, vintage 1920's, up to things from the 60's. As Liz said, our kids didn't live then they don't know this stuff! True. The picture is a farm kitchen form the early 1900's. ex. they had a combination wood fired and electric stove!

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 21-23

Saturday & Sunday were mostly music days, but we took a little time out for a trip to Schell's brewery, right in New Ulm.  Schells is America's 2nd oldest continuous brewer. They were founded in 1860, by a German American man who moved to New Ulm, after he arrived in the US.If you would like to have more of the history of the company click on this link: http://www.schellsbrewery.com/history.php.
 It is a family run company, and they are a big supporter of the Bavarian Blast festival we are attending. Te photo here is  They were running tours of the brewery every half hour all weekend long. We went for one, found it interesting.
The festival is held on Brown County fairgrounds. We were camped just outside the gates with about 20 other units. Liz and I had such a great time at the music festival. Because she is our music specialist, I will have her tell you about it:  
Bruce asked me to sit in as the music commentator for the New Ulm Bavarian Blast.  I will try to do it justice.  J Liz

We could hear the music wafting across to our trailer before we even approached the ticket booth at the Brown County Fairgrounds in New Ulm.  The first band up on Friday morning was Squeeze Box with Mollie B.  

They played traditional polkas with a lot of animation and got everyone dancing.  Mollie was the first of many excellent musicians we were to experience; she played the keyboard with her left hand while playing her trumpet with her right!  She also sang and played the concertina and saxophone for different songs.  She was bubbly and they put on a terrific show.  I leaned over and told Bruce “I bet she’s a music teacher.” Later when she was signing autographs, Bruce had the chance to speak with her and I was right, she was a teacher.  She recently left teaching and was trying to make a go of the entertainment business.  She hosts a five hour polka show that is apparently quite popular and considering that she has been nominated the United States Polka Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year four times in a row, she just might make it! 
As Mollie B was finishing taking her bows, the next group was completing their sound check.  It went on like that all weekend, non-stop. One group would set up on one side of this wide stage while the other group was performing.  The music went on from 11:00 or 11:30a.m., for twelve hours or so.  Bruce and I went to bed long before the music was over.  I really felt bad for the sound man’s assistant; he never stopped moving mikes and running wires all weekend. 
The second group we heard was as unconventional as they come.   From all appearances The Alex Meixner Band was just another polka band.  That’s where the similarities ended.  The picture shows Alex, on stage, with the Narren. They are the folks dressed in the wooden masks. Narren means "fools" or "merrymakers. They were around all weekend and they were a delight! Alex, who’s from Florida, plays piano and piano accordion, drums, diatonic button accordion, bass, trumpet, and alpen horn.  Being a music major and having grown up in a musically talented/performing family, he is well versed in any genre of music you can name.  The band would begin with a sweet German waltz and segue into a frenetic version of “Play Some Polka Music, White Boy” within seconds.   While everyone had a ball the entire time his band was on stage, they never knew what was coming up in the next measure.  This was very apparent in the zany way he incorporated the Beatles, Czech polkas, Aaron Copland’s Hoe-Down from Rodeo, and Johnny Cash in the same fifteen minutes of music without stopping for a breath in between.  His most recent album is Three Ring Circus and that pretty much sums up his performance.  He plays with such exuberance and joy.  I’ve never witnessed anything like it and words fall short of adequately describing it. You have to experience Alex to truly become an Alex groupie, but if you want to check him out, Google him.  There’s a lot of videos on You Tube.  We saw his talented band play four times and would go again tonight if he was playing in the area.
New Ulm citizens have a longstanding tradition of being musicians.  Many belong to the community band or one of the other performing groups we saw.  One of the most well known groups is a men’s singing group called the Concord Singers.  The membership consisted of perhaps 35 vocalists, a drummer, and a woman accompanying them on the keyboard.  Something I read said that people commented when the soldiers from New Ulm marched off to fight in the Civil War that they were excellent singers, singing as they marched along.  The love for singing has continued through the generations.  The Concord Singers presented a program of traditional songs, usually with the first verse in German and then in English.  The strength of their combined voices raised in song was wonderful to experience. 
The last day of the Bavarian Blast we had the privilege of hearing two bands from Germany who were touring the US, playing at festivals such as this.  The first, Musicorps Einhausen, was a group of perhaps forty-five community members from Einhausen, Germany.    The average age of this group was about twenty, but there were some older folks as well.  They played predominantly German songs and were very well received by the early morning audience.  The second group, Herborn Seelbach, was much larger and more polished.  They had only recently added women, or dirndls, as the director’s wife called them, referring to the women’s traditional German attire.  Almost every musician played at least two instruments.  Their arrangements featured a lot of brass and the director’s wife said they favored American music, even when they were playing for their own enjoyment. They presented a wide variety of American music ranging from big band music such as In the Mood to show tunes such as New York, New York and Seventy-six Trombones, adding in a few German songs.  They had an excellent singer who was, from time to time, joined by one of the women to sing along with the music.  The director’s family members played in the band and his grandsons, aged about 5 and 7, were featured percussionists on a few songs. 
The Bavarian Blast ended with some presentations by Mayor Bob and a gathering of all the musicians.  The Concord Singers led a few songs with instrumentalists filling in and Herborn Seelbach performed God Bless America, the German national anthem, and the Star Spangled Banner to end the festivalIt was truly a wonderful musical experience

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 20

New Ulm is a small farming community SE of Minneapolis, St. Paul, like many towns that built the Midwest. It was started by a group of German's who came here in the 1850's with a plan for a town in America. They were all desperately poor, having sold all of their belongings in Germany to finance the trip over here. They were farmers, and they were given prairie land free, as the US Govt. had various treaties with the native Dakota. They encouraged others from their homeland to come over, and New Ulm, and other towns grew. The town they came from was Ulm in Bavaria, southern Germany
I knew of New Ulm because my old company sold to a 3M plant there. When I made calls there I heard stories of the descendants of those first German's who immigrated. Keep in mind this was in 1980, only 130 years later. This surprised me. For example I heard that this town was so German, that they didn't fight for the US in WWI! When MN turned up as this years vacation target, I found New Ulm's "Bavarian Blast" in a list of festivals, and put it on the list. We decided to use it as a base of operations for this part of the state. They had fairground camping, w/electric very reasonably, so we arrived on Thurs afternoon. I knew there was a glockenspiel in the center of town, and we made our way there on Friday.  
we also went out about 30 miles west of the city to see a representation of what Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in her book "little House on the Prairie". She actually lived in this part of the prairie for a time, and her father cut the sod for a house very much like this one. It, and several other buildings were made using 1 X 2' blocks of sod cut from original prairie grass. There were few if any trees, so little lumber was available. The gentleman who created these buildings, did it to show others what living on the prairie was like. 

He also had a dugout, a much smaller temporary building created out of the hole left when they removed the sod. Laura's family lived in one of these while her father built the house.
Friday started the festival, a program of traditional German music. We make these trips to experience life in other parts of our country, the way the people live, work, and play. This weekend was perfect. We talked with people like Harold in the photo, who told me how his grandparents, had friends and relatives back in Germany during the war. They did not want to send their son to fight them! But he said as the newer generations were born here, there is no talk of that, only "America the Beautiful".  Alex, the young man behind him, was born here, and had been active in "heritage days", this festivals predecessor during his teens and twenties.  Then he was transferred to NYC, quite a shock for him and his New Ulm born wife. He just moved back, and he says he's home now. He loves the German culture of this town, and it 's people. Both said however that Heritage Days was a lot bigger. Getting 30-40 thousand people there was not unusual. They used to have several tents, and many bands performing simultaneously. So there are two sides of this ethnic coin.  We met many other people who told us stories of their families, how the German culture has been assimilated, and how other cultures relate to theirs. It was a special weekend, and our fondness for New Ulm grew. Tomorrow, the MUSIC!!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

July 18 & 19

Wednesday morning we went up to Pipestone National Monument, reportedly the place where Indians from Ohio to the Rockies came to quarry stone to make pipes. They believe smoking a pipe is like communicating with their higher power. Therefore this place is sacred. The stone was clay from millennia ago, which under heat and pressure, became much harder. Subsequent layers of this area's red quartzite, formed over it. It is no problem with modern tools to peel off the relatively thin quartzite layer, but for the ancient quarriers it was major task.
The pipestone is about as hard as your fingernails, and can be easily carved and otherwise shaped. Indians made sort of pilgimiages to this area and quarried stone for thier pipes. While the rangers don't use the term "Peace Pipe", (nor Indian) it seems very descriptive to me. They passed around and smoked a pipe when they were having tribal councils and other important meetings. So while smoking a pipe was not used exclusively for peace treaties, it is easy tor see how the Europeans could come to believe that. The Indians saw the smoke curling up out of the pipe and thought it was a message to their God. 
The carver up above, from the Dakota tribe, was making pipes and other iconic pieces. He was a Navy veteran, serving on a guided missile carrier, and he had a very dry dry sense of humor, so maybe it is native to this part of the country. If you look closely at the back, of his pipes, you'll see the Starship Enterprise

On the way up, we had noticed a great number of windmill blades in a parking lot, and caught a glimpse of a sign for Suzlon. This is a company that makes a good percentage of the windmills we have seen out here. Minnesota is doing it's part and more for alternate power. We have seen concentrations of windmills all over the countryside. We discovered they each cost about $2.5 million, and the farmers get monthly lease payments for the land, and a share of the proceeds from the power sold. Each one supplies the equivalent of 500 households electricity! In other words 4 of them would provide Killingworth's electricity.
While my request for a plant tour was turned down we really took the opportunity to "look into" windmills closely. The generator that Liz is looking at was obviously one that had problems, and was probably being scavaged for parts. There were 75 0r 100 blades sitting out on the prarie. Looking at the manufacturing dates of 2009 and before led me to believe that they too were originally defective. The white posts you see on the end of the blade are wrapped bolts, this blade had never been mounted. The horizontal line you see next to my head is a handle to allow access into the blade. It was too bad we couldn't get a tour, but the ability to see the parts to a windmill up so close was great. 

On Thursday morning we got up early and went for a walk along the lower cliff line of the quarztite that runs through the park. It has been so warm up here that we felt the morning would be cooler. It was, however the dew point was so high that we had thick fog. So all you're going to get is this very poor picture, and my equally poor description. This ridge supposedly was one where the Indians would stampede the Bison over  and collect the meat at the bottom. The park literature says however that this has never been substantiated. No one has ever found bones at the bottom. It was a nice walk tho, and we saw many spiderwebs, birds, and a more than adequate supply of prairie hare. Later in the day we left the park, and traveled up to New Ulm for their Bavarian Blast, a weekend of music, polka, om pah, and fun.

July 16 & 17

Monday we moved from St.Paul to the Southwest corner of MN, Luverne, where Blue Mounds State Park is located. We are happy in our "relatively" small trailer, because a larger rig would preclude us camping in some of these tight parks.


In the western part of the state you begin to see the prairie. There are the farms with the corn and Soybeans from the central part, but interspersed between the fields there are great areas of grasslands with outcroppings of red quartzite protruding though.  This park is known for a couple of hundred acres of prairie land and their herd of Bison. You can see this illustrated in the picture at the top. 
The park has a herd of 100 Bison, and they will auction off as many as 40 this fall. We learned that the term Buffalo, while generally OK is not preferred. The big animals the hunters found in our West are more accurately known as Bison. What ever you call them these guys are big, and the prairie is HOT. We went looking for them Tuesday morning, and found them close to the fence.
 I was actually able to climb up onto the walkway for the auction buyers, where I shot the photo of the big guys loafing, a term that means lying down and chewing their cud. They often roll in the dust, to rid themselves of flies and to cool off. After awhile they left this area, and began to wander down in front of an observation stand the park had built, so we could easily see over the fence. This beasts appear to be quite docile. The park warns us however that the fence wold mean nothing to hem if they wanted to get out, or get us! I can't imagine what it took for an indian to go after these guys with just a bow and arrow.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Sunday we went back to to Minneapolis to see Mary Tyler Moore, and for a couple of events. (Can anybody tell me how to change the orientation of photos in Google Blogs?) Both underway when we arrived, we first went to the shores of Calhoun Lake, right in the city, where the Milk Carton Boat Race was being hotly contested. This is not kids sailing a milk carton against each other. It is people fashioning & decorating -complete with costumes - full boats out of milk cartons, (or jugs) to race! It was a blast. There were various categories, and the contestants were of  all ages. A lot were families or companies that put together a boat. The milk cartons were all donated by a MSP milk company. There were plenty of lifegaurds on the scene, and a great announcer who, with what we're beginning to see as a typical MN kind of humor, described the race.  I've made the pictures smaller here so I can fit more in. Please click on them to get an enlarged view. 
Some of the boats are really worth seeing up close. 
There were teams that had a boy and his Dad, & teams of great groups of folks, such as "Need for Speed" on the left. Redemption is the craft you see being guided back after it's first race. The stern had come apart, dumping the female paddler into the drink. Being gentlemen the guys went back, picked her up, and still managed to cross the finish line first. In their next heat the boat capsized and started to disintegrate into individual milk cartons right away, and the guys tried a variety of different techniques to get the remaining part of their boat across the line, including using it as a life raft. one guy, finally manged to get on top, and the rest soon did too. They ended up with everybody on top of a relatively few milk cartons, but coming in 3rd (out of 3.)

The last race was a grudge race, between the organizers of the Winter Carnival and the Aquatennial. Each team got to choose a boat from the competition. The winter carnival choose "Need for Speed", and the Aquatennial, organizers choose a boat built by the Fireman's Fund Insurance company, a craft built more for advertising value than quickness. The fire truck got handily defeated by Need for Speed, and the winter Carnival won the first of these races in the past 3 years. The competitors here had an overwhelming desire to get across the line. There was a crew made up of young women racing a boat called "Olympics Wannabees" That was totally unseaworthy, and dumped sailors off her every time they tried to  get back on. Undeterred, the women just started swimming and pushing their boat in true Olympic spirit. The race was won by a young guy and gal on a small little boat , called Suzy the Cow.
 On the same lakefront there was a sandcastle contest going on. These folks know how to undersell events. We were thinking kids making sand castles out of bucket molds and tall spires. Not quite. This would be better named a Sand Art, or Sand Sculpture contest. The organizers had marked off a large square and inside there were some very beautiful sculptures being created. The one pictured here is of a family member who is competing in the Olympics. There were sculptures of everything from the Angry Birds, to a VW convertible to the more common mermaids and turtles. Almost everyone had a grid map with their drawing marked out that they worked from. Really serious stuff here.