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

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.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 14

The rebuilt and recreated Gold Medal flour mill

Friday evening found us at ST Paul RV Park where we could learn how the other half lives. Our rig was dwarfed by some of these motor homes and 5th wheels.
Starting this weekend and going for about 10 days, the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul hold their annual Aquatennial. I never have found an explanation for the name. At any given time there are 2 or 3 activities you can partake of. Saturday we went Down to Minneapolis to visit two museums. A restoration of General Mills flour milling plant, and a museum of electronics and magnetism, called the Bakken.
A model of the mill as originally built made for the Worlds Fair
Mill City is a rebuilt Gold Medal flour mill from the early part of the 1900’s.A flour mill operates on the gravity principal. No longer grinding wheat between two round stones, mills use rollers today. An elevator brings the grain to the 2or 3 of the left side of the top row of cells you see in the cutaway model in front of Liz. The grain drops into the the the next row, below as it is ground between two rolls. The first grinding is very course, and as the grain reaches the bottom, it takes another elevator ride back to the top of the next set of cells, where it repeats the process. As it moves down and to the right, the wheat is ground finer and finer. 
Two of the roller mills originally used 
You can see in the picture below, the white chutes coming down from the floor above. The grain would be ground between two rolls powered by the belts on the side. The finished product goes through the floor to the next operation, below.
This mill was abandoned in the 60's and sat full of the machines, and everything else that had no value until 1991, when on a cold February day, a fire ripped through the plant. Most of the plant came down, but by the late 90's a group of Minneapolis civic leaders decided to  recreate this mill to showcase Minneapolis the "Mill City". Milling had become a industry, as the prairies to the west were broken, and the immigrants planted crops, mostly wheat. 
The arch bridge and the old Pillsbury mill
There were many large mills such as this one built in the area, notably Pillsbury, right across the Mississippi form Gold Medal. I think all succumbed to flames eventually, as milling flour creates great quantities of highly flammable dust. The city has created an excellent area where apartments and shops are sprouting up. There were hundreds of walkers and joggers on the arch pedestrian bridge, and lots of interesting shops on the other side. It was a better than expected morning.

The description of the Bakken attracted both Liz and I. I had known that the founder of Medtronic had donated many of the exhibits that gave this museum it’s start. Medtronic was a customer of mine at my old company. They were pioneers, along with Wilson Greatbatch, in Lithium batteries for pacemakers. The museum contains many electrical, and magnetic devices for diagnosing and treating illnesses. They were having a special day, because of the Aquatennial, with Ben Franklin in attendance explaining his theories of lightning, an other electrical phenomena. Liz used some letterpress from Ben's old print shop to print one of his sayings. The museum had a few exhibits demonstrating static charges such as the hair-raising one to the left.
They also had exhibits showing early EKG equipment, and many other diagnostic devices. Most of the very early devices were from Earl Bakken's personal collection. The pacemaker below is one of the collaborative models from the early days.  The round cylinders in this one are mercury batteries. They lasted a very short periods of time then the patient had to  undergo another operation to implant an new one. Wilson Greatbatch had a new technology to manufacture Lithium batteries for the pacemaker. Li batteries are very long lived, often outlasting the patient!! The founder of our company worked with Wilson, and developed expanded platinum, and nickle grids for the pacemaker. The company, Wilson Greatbatch Ltd , is still a customer today, although using different materials for pacer batteries. 
The museum was interesting, and very informative for me. I'm not sure Liz enjoyed it as much as I did, although most of the exhibits were fascinating for the many middle schoolers that were attending.

July 13

Friday was a moving day, as well as a trip through Red Wing, home of Red Wing work shoes, and Red Wing Pottery.I'll deal with the pottery first. It is grey stoneware and made here since the late 1800's. We can tell it's good because there is a group of collectors who were having a convention in town this weekend! It's expensive, and while we were offered a tour of the pottery works, we opted not.

Which leaves me Red Wing shoes to describe. The company was formed in 1905, by a man who could not buy a good pair of work boots. He began producing his own, and the company grew by making high quality shoes tailored for a particular job. The most notable was the 877 a crepe sole boot that everyone recognizes.

The process of making a boot hasn't changed much over the years. A cowhide is tanned, died, and shipped by a subsidiary to Red Wing's three plants, one here and two in the south. Then a worker, here Barb, very carefully lays out her cutting plan, keeping in mind the parts of the boot she is cutting, the leather's quirks. etc. It is an extremely skilled task, requiring years of experience, to maximize her yield, and get the appropriate pieces of leather for the particular boot being made. She then rotates the grey press over the platen and hits the switch, die cutting her part.
Most of their machines are vintage sewing machines. They are experimenting with a laser cutter to do Barb's job, but with her judgement of what part needs to look great, and what part needs to be strong, their people are doing a more efficient job than the computer controlled laser machines. The can buy commercially produced Brother sewing machines, but they cannot do the job that these pictured examples can. Their engineers modify the Brother machines, often rebuilding them with whole new components. When they believe they have reworked more than half the machine they add a Red Wing label beside the manufacturer's label!
The plant was  not operationg at capacity. Our guide said they adjust hours and peoples schedules quite a bit to handle the fluctuations in business. Most of their shoes, particularly the work boots are made in this plant which is union, and two others. All in America. They have a plant in China primarily for the Vasque line of recreational boots. Foreign plants and markets are difficult for them to handle. They felt they had to have a Chinese plant, and put their own proprietary machines into it. I remember the discussions that went on in the company I worked for around this subject. There is great concern that any proprietary process will be lost to a foreign competitor. 
A size 638 boot dwarfs Liz
They have found that the offshore markets, when selecting a Red Wing product, prefer those made in the US. For example Europe wants the classic 877 boot, but in funky colors. So we saw some blue, and green leather in their shop.

 The picture here (I can not figure out how to get a portrait orientation in this new blog program!) is of Liz with a giant two story version of their famous 877 work boot displayed in their store.
We then headed up to St. Paul for their 2 week long summer celebration, Aquatennial.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 11 & 12

Abby and Was'aka
We had seen an ad for the National Eagle Center in Wabasha MN so decided to go up and see it. They claimed to have live eagles you could observe, and if you know Liz observing birds is right down her alley. Wabasha was a nice little community, and happens to be the town that the movie “Grumpy Old Men” was set. The center is on the Mississippi River, and they have a very descriptive display of Eagle habitat, and why this part of the river has so many of them. They explained that this part of the river is at the juncture of two rivers, and is just after a very wide part of the Mississippi called Lake Pepin. This results in turbulence and an increase in temperature, which keeps the river from freezing in winter, allowing Eagles to keep fishing. The possibility of seeing an Eagle in flight, while certain, was not the attraction however. The center had 5 eagles and they allowed us to get extremely close to them!
Abby and Columbia
In a meeting room, one of their staff, gave at least an hour’s presentation, including time with 3 eagles, while they ate their lunch. They used 4 bald eagles, and one golden. Golden eagles feed more like a hawk eating rabbits, and similar animals. Bald eagles prefer fish. Besides her prepared talk, kids and adults asked questions
All these eagles were rescues, some from auto accidents, some from things such as lead poisoning. The golden came from FL and one of the bald eagles came from CA. Each one of the m suffers from some injury, which prevents them from being returned to the wild. We learned eagles have been off the endangered species list for some time, and that their claws exert 400 psi of force when they are grasping their meal. The handlers wear double gloves, for protection, and despite the heavy leather they are made of, they don’t last a year. All feathers are recovered and sent to a federal center, where native Americans can apply for them for costuming.
We continued to be amazed that we were encouraged to get close to the birds, and to take as many pictures as we liked. I shot about 80, and can’t manage to edit more than half of them out. Next to the presentation room was a space with 5 or six perches near the ground, and we walked among the birds, took their pictures, and asked questions of the staff that was in the room with us. The birds were tethered to a leather lead, and in the picture, you see of Liz and I there was only that lead, in the handlers hand, keeping the bird from flying. It was really cool to be able to examine these fine animals so closely.
Thursday, was a day of relaxing and tending to a few chores. Tomorrow we head up to Red Wing, and then St. Paul for the weekend.
 And.... Check back a couple of days, I've posted some pictures of the bluffs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 10

On Tuesday, we decided to run over to Austin to visit the Spam Museum. George Hormel was a German immigrant who started a meat packing company in 1891. He was quite forward thinking for a meat packer, an industry where making sausage was actually creating  a new “product”. His son Jay C. had more marketing interest, and Hormel grew and prospered through the Depression. Hormel was the first meat packer to offer a year around wage package, giving workers knowledge that they would have a steady income for the year. One of his innovations was Hormel “Dairy” brand canned meats. Dairy, because Hormel’s Hogs came from southern MN where the farmers fed their stock better quality feed which reportedly included milk.
When Jay came up with the idea of a canned, spiced, pork shoulder and ham lunchmeat, he held a contest in town to name it, and Spam was chosen. WWll came, & Spam production was diverted to feed the troops overseas. The methods and the recipe was given by our govt. to other canners who produced supposedly the same product. So the Spam our soldiers complained about, was not always Hormel’s product! Regardless of the complaints, there was always a supply of Spam for the soldier, a great source of protein. After the war, Jay hired BBDO, the big NY ad agency to promote Hormel’s products. He launched the “Hormel Girls”, and began radio advertising on Geo. Burns and Gracie Allen’s show.
The museum offered a self-guided, tongue in cheek, humorous walk through the Hormel family, as well as the company’s history, heavy on the Spam. Geo. walked away from the company he founded and moved to Bel-Air CA, mostly for health reasons before the war . He and his wife wanted to do something for the young women of Austin, so they gave their fine home to the YWCA, who used it for years. When it became impossible to continue use for that purpose due to laws and regulations, the YWCA gave it back to the town for restoration.

The home is in fine condition, and to tour it is to tour my grandmother’s home. This house was built in 1871, remodeled in 1927 after the Hormel’s bought it, and was used by Geo. and his wife to entertain guests, both business and social. They regularly held shareholder meetings there! The house was very relaxed. We were encouraged to wander around at our leisure and pickup and handle most of the furnishings. They added a conference/reception center on the back of the house in 2009, which helps to support the operation of the house, and keep it open. Altogether a neat experience.

July 7-9

Sunday we moved down to Whitewater State Park, in southeast MN, on the Whitewater River. This was on a list of top 10 state parks. It is much better than any of our region’s state parks, but not as nice as our gold standard, Michigan’s.  It has an excellent ranger station and nature store. The sites are large and the web reservation system is excellent. They have electric, even 50 amp, but no water. We’ll be here until Friday, and use this as our base to tour the region. This park is so far down topographically from the surrounding towns that there is NO cell phone service, so no internet, calls, etc. We will send this out when we come up for side trips.
This is the Bluffs region of the state, where the melt waters from the glaciers carved through the land leaving very high riverbanks, extending up 100’s of feet.  The land here was mostly sedimentary rock, which was easily washed away by the melt waters. Occasionally a pillar of much harder rock would be left, caused by an inclusion of magma from a fracture in the crust. These leave some interesting features as we drive along. (The preceding geology lesson provided by our expert resident geologist and teacher, Elizabeth.)
Those of you who were with us a few years back, or who have gone backwards through this blog, may remember similar bluffs (without the pillars) from our trip to Wisconsin, as we camped on the banks of the Mississippi. We are about 20 miles west of the big river now, and will go back to St. Paul by way of Route 61 along the river through Red Wing.
We’re going to tour and relax here for a few days, and tend to a refrigerator issue. Our fridge and freezer have not been keeping up with the extreme hot temperature of last week, on either gas or electric (61 F). We took it in to an RV service shop, Monday, where the tech diagnosed very low gas pressure 5 vs 11. This explained the poor performance on LP, but not electric. After replacing the regulator, the fridge performed fine on both gas and electric. I’ll leave the explanation to those with more experience… Any of you Fire Co. campers ??????
I was going to include some pictures of the bluffs, etc. but didn’t have time to get them organized before we came up today. Sorry!!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

July 4-6

We left Syracuse the morning of the 3rd for the trip over to Painesville, Ohio for a visit with Liz's family. We had seen Liz's two sisters when we in Ohio for my Dad's funeral in June. We wanted to see her Mom, ,brother and her nephews. Only her Mom, and Judy her sister was available. We had a great diner, and Liz caught up with her Mom. We spent the night in a Sam's club.
We had at least a 12-13 hour drive ahead of us on the 4th and the 5th to get out to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. There were a couple of things that  can add time to that, the traffic on the 4th, (especially around Chicago) and the temptation to stop by Elkhart, the home of most RV manufacturers. The 4th, being a holiday, the trailer places were closed, and the traffic was light. We breezed through, and made it to Madison Wisconsin by early evening. The time change helped a little, and we had a nice site in Cracker Barrels back lot. The temperature was heating up, and the Honda generators were perking along keeping our AC running. 
Bruce, having just sample some cranberries

An early mechanical cranberry harvester
The next day we were headed up to Shakopee MN. Around lunchtime we noticed a sign for Warrens WI. the Cranberry capital of the world. Wondering how our sister state, Mass. would take this insult, we decided to stop at their Cranberry Discovery Center, and defend Mass honor. 
We found out that about 7 years ago Wisconsin surpassed Mass in production. They had great display of cranberry history, including machinery such as the harvester in the picture. 
All cranberry growers can participate in the Ocean Spray co-op,no matter what state they are in. One of the nations largest and well managed processing and marketing organizations, Ocean Spray does more than just sell the farmers fruit. They are the force behind all the new cran whatever fruit juices you see in stores and many other new products that really grow the ultimate market for relatively obscure berry. The center was in the basement of an old cranberry warehouse. Upstairs was a store selling cranberry goodies, and a ice cream shop where I had my lunch, a double scoop cone of cranberry truffle. We continued on and arrived at our park in Shakopee a small town to the south of Minneapolis/ St. Paul. The temperatures have been beastly, climbing to 100F on both days of travel. 

Friday was just as hot, and we opted for a planning/laundry day. We also went to the Burnsville MN  Northern store, a giant toolbox for everything that a guy needs. Friday night thunderstorms went thru, cleared out all the hot humid air, and Saturday dawned beautiful.