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!