18 December 2012

That Festive Shopping Time of Year

Shopping will continue to be a part of this festive time of year until....well until money and stores and desires cease to be. So not tomorrow or the next day.
Christmas shopping can be a stressful holiday tradition because literally everybody does it. And this year there was more of it because of the early US Thanksgiving. I have tried to do most of my shopping online but I do run out of time and end up at the stores on Christmas Eve poring over merchandise, speculating what will be the best gift.
I suspect the the Magi who visited the infant Jesus did not have the same dilemmas we do with Christmas shopping. There must have been an unwritten custom on how to give gifts to someone important. Gold and myrhh and francescence are not traditional given in these times. Ipods, Ipads, and Kindles seem to be all the rage. What would I get someone important? I would put much thought into it and look at potential items online and at store. Then I supposed I'd give up and buy a gift card.
Jack Benny riffed the whole Christmas shopping dilemma numerous times on radio and television. It is amazing that he got so much traction out of a simple routine of doubtful dismay and self-debate concerning what type of item to get for an individual or how much to spend or how to personalize an item.
Below is the classic Christmas Shopping episode from the Jack Benny TV Progran.

The episode is nearly a copy of a Jack Benny radio episode recorded in the 1940s. Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny and Barney Rumble and numerous other cartoon characters, is the store clerk in both iterations of the Christmas shopping episode. Another actor- Frank Nelson- also appeared in both as the floor walker. Though Nelson is lesser known by todays audiences- his characterizations still live on.

Harry Shearer, one of the voice actors for The Simpson, actually appeared on the Jack Benny Program as a child. He also appeared in a few TV episodes including one where he played Jack Benny as a child.

Hope your Christmas shopping goes well.

22 November 2012

A time for thanks and a Thanksgiving pagaent

When you live in the United States there is much to be thankful. Though it seems we take much of it for granted- like paved roads and lights.
I am thankful I can ride my bike just about anywhere. I am thankful there are wild places which we can still visit. I am thankful for my Mostly Finnish Spouse, who loves me even when I mess up and make mistakes.

Way back in my college days- I was a DJ on KUMM in Morris. I started as a news reader and then did a little weekend show on regional music. One year, I think 1994, I wrote a Thanksgiving Pageant that some of my colleagues at the station decided to perform live on the air.
You can find the full audio download here.

09 November 2012

Around the Sioux Hustler Trail: Depature

The following is a continuation of the log from the Sioux Hustler Loop hiking trip I took in October 2012. In this entry I meet up with hiking partner 3 Names and head for Orr, MN.

Voyageur Welcome Center in Orr
 Due to a mutual friend's funeral- 3 Names and I met up in Thief River Falls. From there we drove to Clearbrook and spent the night out of the wet and chilly elements in a farmhouse of a Christian brother.
We left the next morning for Bemidji where we left 3 Names truck and then proceeded through the northland towards Orr, MN. Upon our arrival to Orr we stopped at the Voyageur Information center. I did not realise how close we were to Voyageurs National Park. No info on the Sioux Hustler Trail was to be found at the center. We progressed into town to get a bite to eat at the grocery store. Apparently the A&W attached to the store must only be open in the summer. It was not particularly busy place but it was not dead either. Minutes later we were progressing toward Buyck and the western terminus of the Echo Trail while enjoying an old time radio western.
After passing through some splendid scenery (especially the Hunting Shack River- which reminded me of a famous Hamm's scrolling sign) we were at the trailhead around 2 PM.15 minutes later we were on the trail. 1 hour later and at a dead end of sorts we realised we took a wrong turn. A major wrong turn. In fact we were no where near the Sioux Hustler Trail. What we failed to do was take the turn at a cairn quite a distance away from our present location. From all accounts we surmised that this may have been an old logging road which was abandoned. We noticed numerous rusting oil barrels strewn about the forest at this point. Not far from the dead end there was a spur trail going east. No action was taken to explore the spur but a primitive wood marker pointed us back towards the trailhead at the intersection. On our way back we had to go back over a pretty challenging bear dam and then through the 2 stages of  the "pits of despair." This segment is a bit hard to explain but there were all these little berms but with sections separating them that over time came to seem like pits. 3 Names' guess was in abandoning the road dirt berms were laid to keep vehicular traffic out.
We finally reach the correct turn off and start down the trail proper. We joked that our detour was just warming up for what lied ahead. And it was in some ways. We knew for sure that there would be a great amount of hiking to be done in the dark.

Waterfall on Little Sioux Indian River near Elm Portage
 After an hour, we found a flat rock section adjacent to the trail and ate. Thus far the tread way was pretty clean with the occasional root or rock outcrop. Light rain began to fall as we returned to hiking. By dusk we had reached the Elm Portage and stopped to refill our water. The descent to the Elm Portage is steep and rocky but very interesting geology. It is a gorge of sorts.
With the darkness descending quickly, we followed the trail beside the bank of the river with all its rock and root obstacles. We all began to see more downed trees at this part. 3 Names navigated us through a grassy bog area and our elevation began to change. The hardly perceptible rain made our boots wet.  Utilising our rain jackets proved to be more troublesome. The heat produced by the rigors of hiking was causing us to perspire and thus making wet our underlying clothing. It was a bit uncomfortable especially when the trail went up and then down and up again.
I do not recall when we reached the cairn of the loop cutoff. But I did know that it would not be long until we reached the Devil's Cascade campsite. I think it was something like 30 or 45 minutes later when we discovered the camp latrine. It took a few more minutes to figure out the location of the campsite since a portage trail crossed the trail near it. I hiked down the portage towards the river a bit until I came to the conclusion that it did not lead to the campsite. So be forewarned- in the dark it is tricky to discern trail for portage.
Moments later we found the site and unloaded our backpacks and sat on a large downed tree near the fire grate. The campsite sits quite a bit above the roaring cascade below. You could fall from it if you are not careful. After a rest we set up camp. I also pitched a lean to with the tarp and hiking pole I brought. The lean to provided enough space to keep our additional gear dry.
3 names found a phosphorescent mold on a piece of wood. It really did not photograph well, but it certainly gave off light. But not enough to keep us awake any longer than we had to.

08 November 2012

Around the Sioux Hustler Trail: The Facts

Small map of Entry Point 15- Sioux Hustler Trail
 A few weeks ago my friend Man of 3 Names I journeyed up to the BWCA to embark on an adventure. With it being October and the weather not always cooperative at that time of year (although in the past I have had some great October trips), I planned a rugged hiking trip. Our goal: hike the entire Sioux Hustler Loop. The challenge: the ~32 mile trail does not get much maintenance and is at best primitive. 3 Names and I were up to the challenge.

To the best of my knowledge and research- the Sioux Hustler Trail in some form has been in existence since at least before the Civilian Conservation Corps were working in the Superior National Forest. Part of it may even been hewn in the early part of the 1900s for use in fire spotting. I found an interesting and informative article about the wilderness fire towers off the Echo Trail here: http://www.kjackson.us/articles/ThreeWilderness.pdf
The article describes 3 fire towers including the one on the Little Sioux River above Devil's Cascade. The part of the trail that leads to the tower may very well have started as the path of the telephone line that ran to the tower. Eventually a cabin was built near the tower so I suspect the path may have been improved.
I can only assume that the rest of the trail was used for forest purposes as I can find no data concerning logging activity occurring in the immediate vicinity of the trail.

Overview of current Sioux Hustler Trail
 The 1960s the tower and cabin were dismantled but the trail was marked on a map I have from the same period. However, this map has the trail much larger than it exists today. In fact this map has the loop portion beginning and ending near the Echo Trail as opposed to the loop portion beginning about a mile south of the Devil's Cascade campsite. Still there is a trail which may have connected eastern portion of the current Sioux Hustler not far from the trailhead.

I surmise that between the 70s and 80s- during the swell of hiking enthusiasm in the US- the trail received a little bit of maintenance. Today the trail's western portion receives the most attention. The parts north and east of the Devil's Cascade get very little attention.
Most of the trail exists within the BWCA, so a permit is needed and fortunately between October and May- the permits are free. To get to the trail head you need to head up the Echo Trail- either from Ely or Buyck. The trailhead parking lot is marked and is Entry Point 15 it is just east of the Little Sioux Indian entry Point.

There is very little detail about the trail online. I discovered only a handful of articles. I am not sure even the Boundary Waters Journal has had an article about the Sioux Hustler. The Kekekabic Trail gets much more attention and even its own club. Best information is from a Canadian- http://pemmican.tannerpages.com/wiki/Sioux_Hustler_Hiking_Trail
But even some of that information is incomplete but did post photos to most of the campsites.
Goto Part 2: Depature

31 October 2012

A kinder, gentler scare

how dapper

 Ah Halloween, that holiday that while growing up in the church was conveniently avoided and replaced by the likes of the Hallelujah Hoe Down or the Holy Ghost Weenie Roast. Good reasons no doubt since my birth All Hallows Eve has become more about the gore and scare and more recently a little bit of sexy. And Christians really wanted to avoid the big scare that Frank Peretti painted in a lot of his books. I think my 'brethern and sistern' responded in reactionary ways and did not engage the culture or have a desire to influence it. However, I am not going to delve into the merits of why or why not you should recognize Halloween. Too long, too complicated and I don't have time. I desire to be neutral towards it. So disguises, sweets, meeting neigbors- I like. Scares, gore, witchcraft and their ilk- I do not like. Strangely enough, Martin Luther decided to begin an scholarly engagement that eventually turned out to become the reformation on this date in 1517. Maybe we should engage the current trends with some well thought out actions on this day? I think I should don a Martin Luther costume next year.

Miss Piggy for President

As for this year my first costume is the dapperly dressed man. It basically is a gangster costume I culled from the Wal-Mart discout bins a number of years ago. Must have cost me a few bucks. The hat, on the other hand, has been around since my high school days. I belive it appeared in "42nd Street" when I portrayed the character Abner Dillion. Friends at work suggested this costume could double as one for Batman's nemesis "Two-Face" with a little make-up.
The big winner at work this year was our receptionist's Miss Piggy costume.

25 October 2012

Baptism in the Quetico: Part 4

Quetico landscape
The following series is a narrative from my first canoeing trip back over a decade ago into the wilderness of the Quetico. In this final episode we hike an old logging road, are visited by rain showers, and head back home.

We went hiking the next day on trail north of our island campsite. We canoed to a closest entry point for the trail. It was not close enough so we ended up bushwhacking through the forest and underbrush until the trail was spotted. During that foray we discovered a wooden boat hidden in the woods. I am not sure how far we hiked but it took up much of the day. The trail deteriorated at a marsh that was once a beaver colony. There we made instant pudding. Unfortunately I had no water, just a little lemonade. In substitute of the water I added Tang. It was a regrettable decision. Orange and chocolate do not taste pleasing together. We returned the same route only exploring a spur that went to another lake. Along the way we saw a variety of forest flora including lady slippers. Much to my dismay, I did not see any animals. What amazed me the most was that the trail was a two lane road as late as the 1960s. Unusual litter and debris were found along the path like tires and coffee cans. When we got back to camp we jokingly referred to the hike as the “forced march.”

checking the map

The good weather ebbed as storm clouds blew in a few days later. Much to my dismay, my tent did not pass the rainproof test. Water pooled up on the sides and floor of the tent. The rain lasted on and off for about a day. Neil, 3 Names and myself helped put up a tarp over the campfire and cooking area in the morning. Waiting for the rain to cease, we played numerous hands of 500 and drank hot tea. In the late afternoon the sky changed and the sun returned. Almost immediately 3 Names and I started pulling things out of the tent to allow them to dry. Valuable lesson learned: always have a tent with a full rainfly. My tent only had a roof fly- hardly capable of keeping the rain at bay. 

In the morning we broke camp, loaded the canoes, and paddled back to where we first launched. I would be prepared for the challenges ahead this time. I was even willing to get out of the canoe and into the water. Portaging was not easy but now I knew it would not be and expected it. Rapids and beaver dams did not discourage me. 3 Names and I took them well. I even got out in the water to walk the canoe through a set of rapids. At last we made it to our most difficult portage. It was no small task but this time I came out hardly scathed. Mental preparation is the key. And expect to get wet and dirty, it’s part of the journey.

Paddling out on Baptism Creek
 With no portages ahead, 3 Names and I dug into paddling. We zipped through the set of rapids we had to walk through before. However, my partner's steering invited a number of trees to take a bite out of us. The twists and turns of the stream returned although they were not as annoying. 3 Names and I had at last passed Neil and Ruth in the home stretch out of the creek thanks to my intense paddling.

Once on shore we loaded the gear into the trailer and changed clothes. 3 Names and I took our usual places in the back of the pig smelling pickup and we began the eight-hour journey home. We stopped to eat a few times and laughed at the retelling of our escapades.

“You can come along anytime.” Neil told me during a meal at a café. “That is if you want to go again.”

I hesitated for a moment. Memories of constant paddling, strenuous portages, rain, and bogs went through my head. Just then I realized that I made it through them all and I’m not dead.

“Sure thing.” I responded. “Next time I’ll be ready.”

Short form video or why I love Mister Glasses

I caught the You Tube bug shortly after Google bought them. For me it pretty much replaced television since no service could satisfy my eclectic tastes. Then again I did not watch much television to begin with- I just didn't have the time. Well, the advent of You Tubism increased the viral video- the short incredibly absorbing video which made you want others to see.  

A few years before- and maybe even earlier- Channel101 became the incubator for the new the short form webisode. One might even suggest the 48 hour film fest also gave rise to the sub-10 minute video. However I am not going to dwell on Channel101 and its sibling Channel 102 (although may have been rebranded as Channel101 NY) in New York. Read the backstory on the wiki page. These twins put out a slew of short forms almost once a month- some good and some not so good. As of late I have perferred the New York flavor's offerings although LA did have Yacht Rock, House of Cosbys, and the beginning of the ever famous Chad Vader-Day Shift Manager.

Production of these videos is becoming somewhat of a lucrative business venture as more and more production companies are formed just to make these videos. Heck, Saturday Night Live has been toying with it. Still, anyone with a DV camera and a computer can make a video these days but quality no budget productions are not so easy. You need a decent crew and locations and make sure you've got good sound.

One of my favorite webisodes from Channel 102 New York is Mr. Glasses. This creation follows the life of a bald bespectacled architect who with some colleagues intend to help people through the means of modern architecture. Today, it is lost amongst the myriad of webisodes flooding the Nets. But Mr Glasses was special. The black and white production was steeped in subtle humor affixed to modernism.
But like most internet things, Mr. Glasses just went away after 7 webisodes. His creator, Mitch Magee, found other things to poke with the pointed spear of his humor.
However, Mr. Glasses did sit for a blog interview in 2011.

24 October 2012

Nowhere Band remembered

Guitarist Johnny McK. Former member of many nowhere bands.
 A college mate of mine- Keith Pille- illustrated and wrote the Internet comic Nowhere Band up until it ended in Spring 2011. A one shot strip appeared one year ago today documenting the an incident that happened 5 years after the Awesome Boys sputtered out when Josh decided to leave the group to pursue writing.
I followed the web comic a little. It had the working of a decent sit-com that would revolved around the indy and garage band scene. Probably would still work- so somebody call Dan Harmon.
As legend has it- Keith and I were in a few bands together in college. Or at least that is what my memory is telling me.
The first- Mr. Willie. Keith was on bass, I was on rhythm guitar, Dale on drums, a guy named Dan was lead guitar, and the indomitable played viola and threw peeps. The band did a few Velvet Underground covers and a few originals for their 1 and only performance at battle of the bands. I think was using Keith's cheap Squier telecaster. The name of band was a nod to a local grocer.
The second- Studly Party Tonight. Keith was again on bass and I on rhythm guitar. Pat J was our lead guitar and I totally forget who played drums because Dale was unavailable. Keith came up with the name based on an incident in his hometown of Blair, Nebraska. I forget the details but it had to do with a party and some guy spray painting "studly party tonight" on the outside of the building where the party was to be held. This band came together with 1 rehearsal. We covered the Velvets a little and did a few originals. We formed for 1 day to play the Battle of the Bands.
The following year The Angry Minnesotan formed without the help of Keith on bass. He instead began the early formation of what eventually became Red Hay. You can read about the AMs here.
So here is to all those bands that struggled to make it big but continued to conquer the mole hill in their basements and garages.

The longer you wait the less you get- hiatus debunked

Some of you would suspect that the blog is on hiatus. And you would be partially right although in an accidental kind of way. Numerous blog-worthy items have occurred since that last post. But on hiatus I am not. I just moved someplace where I do not have a regular internet connection.
So I digress and will compress the items of note from previous weeks.

Item 1: Return of the bike trip

In August my Mostly Finnish Bride and I took a bicycling adventure which took us through the central part of Minnesota. It was mostly on rail to trail but was a scenic trip that took us through miles of landscape which perhaps inspired Garrison Keillor. You know I have yet to read anything from him that does not take its setting from that idyllic community someplace near St. Cloud or related to his life. It would be interesting if he could right a series of science fiction stories or maybe a treatise on deep sea exploration. I suspect it would either begin or end or somehow cross paths with Lake Wobegon.
We traversed the entirity of the Central Lakes Trail and the Lake Wobegon Trail and then needed to take to the road to get from Holdingford to Sauk Center without retracing our steps. And yes, we did dine at Charlie's Cafe in Freeport.

A Night in Holdingford

Speaking of Holdingford- it was quite the Lake Wobegonesque town. A bit sleepy when we arrived but it awoke promptly at 8 PM for 2 softball games. And did you know it is home of the oldest World War II memorial in the US.

WWII Shrine in Holdingford
 Finding the campground in Holdingford was not a problem. It was just blocks from the trail once you reached downtown. However we re-routed many blocks up a hill and back down in order to get to it because the street leading to it were torn up- really torn up. The promise of showers also faded when I spied the sign on the bath house doors stating it was closed for repairs but we could use the adjacent porta-potties. No thanks- not for showering.
We shrugged off that disappointment and went into town looking for food. What we found was 2 bars, 1 closed bar,  and 1 small convenience store. After walking around a little more we decided to go to Corner Pizza & Antiques on the recommendation of an Holdingford resident. Apparently if we came a month earlier there would have also been a sandwhich shop. It went out of business. So to the pizza place we went.

We were not disappointed.  It was just as advertised- a pizza shop that doubled as an antique store. There were antiques everywhere. Even the booth we sat in was antique We enjoyed a pizza in while listening to old 60s and 70s tunes play on an antique record player console.

Item 2: Moving

Almost a week after the bike trip we closed on a house. Actually we almost closed on a house and then finally closed on a house. The seller had messed up part of the transaction. Eventually we did close once those items were cleared up. Thankfully our realitor caught it before we signed anything.
We moved in few days later with the help of a regiment of seasoned movers. Many of our friends had moved this summer so they were in gear when the time came to get our stuff transported to the new house across town.
I'll miss the downtown locale but our new place has more room.

Item 3: Fair Pilgrimage

looking for something at the fair

Despite having moved just a few days before and not settled in yet, we decided to make a pilgrimage to the Minnesota State Fair. We had a lovely time with my family. It was a perfect day even if I did not get to every exhibit or listen to some live music for a while. We did manage to get to a lot of exhibits from cows to seed art to bees. The seed art this year was particularly politically charged.
Foregoing the price of meals at the fair we decided to head off the grounds for a while and enjoy Famous Dave's BBQ just down the street. 
We returned and enjoyed a fantastic end of the day by strolling through Heritage Square and then catching the last part of the laser show.

Horticulture Building

Foodwise I consumed a few 1919 Root Beers, cheese curds, roasted corn on the cob, chocolate milk, and an apple dumpling in addition to some pancakes for breakfast. I was very impressed with the cheese curd operation in the food building. Despite the line being huge, we got the curds in about 1 minute!

Item 4: Labor Day on the farm

Then Labor Day rolled on in and we spent some time on a real farm. Actually we've been to this farm numerous times- it belongs to my most Finnish father in law. We celebrated a birthday and then headed home to do more unpacking and arranging.

That's all for now. More will come, I just need to find a decent internet signal around here.

19 August 2012

Baptism in the Quetico: Part 3

I do not think the 450 rod portage was
used any more 
The following series is a narrative from my first canoeing trip back over a decade ago into the wilderness of the Quetico. In this episode we camp at the end of the portage and then make it to the island campsite on Baptism Lake.
Dusk descended and two more portages loomed ahead. However, once all the gear and canoes were at the end of the portage there was no way we were going to do another one. The next portage was just across a small pond.

Exhausted, I felt dismayed that my favorite shoes were soaked and my best pants were covered with mud up to my knees. I had enough for one day. We pitched tents on the rocky soil at the end of the portage and prayed no one would come through the portage early the next day.

3 Names and I shared a tent. I placed my shoes outside with my socks hoping they would dry. They didn’t. The roar of the falls ahead kept me awake. It also drove me crazy.  I should have brought earplugs.  In addition I realized my sleeping pad was not very good. I tossed and turned all night. [This happens on every camping trip- it usually takes me a day to acclimate to the wilderness.]

There is another anecdote about this portage I recall before 3 Names and I went to sleep. It has to do with a MRE – a meal ready to eat in military parlance. A MRE includes a main entree and a few extra food stuffs- including crackers, cheese wiz, gum, fruit drink and a piece of cake plus a water activated heater. The food is supposed to last for years. Well, I had one of these light brown plastic packages strapped to my backpack. But at the end of the portage it was AWOL and we were hungry.  3 Names and I went back down the portage looking for it.

After a 10 minute search we find it beside the trail and bring it back to the tent. I think the main entrée was ham. It was not very satisfying. But the heater was pretty cool.

The next morning was brisk and crisp-- no 80-degree weather up here. I put on new socks and a second part of shoes. We broke camp and loaded the gear into the canoes for a short jaunt to the next portage. This portage required a climb of about 20 feet straight up. It was a tricky ascent. How did the voyageurs do this with 90lb packs?! It got easier after that part and the portage past near the majestic waterfall I heard last night.

After the falls the scenery of the Quetico changed from prairie forests to rocky islands and coniferous forests. It reminded me of the north shore of Lake Superior.

Nearing noon we entered Baptism Lake.  Less than a mile from the entrance to the lake we found a campsite on a small island. Neil had camped there many times before. The island we were on had a rocky shoreline, pines, and plenty of moss and fallen trees [like nearly every island in these parts.] We made camp and awaited a scrumptious meal made by Neil. Although we were in the wilderness, Neil brought a two-burner gas stove. 3 Names and Neil fished in the afternoon and caught two Northerns, which we ate for dinner. At nearly every meal we had fish. According to Neil, There are no other species of fish in the lake.

A popular trout lake, Cache Lake, is nearby but the portage to it is nearly two and a half miles. Quite a jaunt. That portage has a bad reputation and one writer describes the portage as having only 3 bad parts – the beginning, the middle, and the end.

Baptism in the Quetico: Part 2

The following is part 2 in a series on my first canoe trip into the wilderness of the Quetico which occurred over a decade ago. I will provide some annotations to the tale. In this episode we fight off one of the toughest portages.

into the Quetico
Our route consisted of more twists and turns. Ruth and I disembarked once again as the canoes were pulled over a beaver dam that blocked the width of the stream. Getting into the canoes we put on our bug netting, since the gnats were getting bad. So far, I was clean and pretty dry. I really did not want to soil my fine hiking shoes and expedition pants and I didn’t think I would have to.
Nearing seven, we reached the first portage. Efficiency in portaging is a must, otherwise you’ll be going back and forth quite a bit. So carrying as much as possible helps tremendously. Our first portage was measured around 80 rods I think-- not long but not really short either. With the canoes on shore we removed all the packs and placed them in a pile. I then helped 3 Names get the canoe on his shoulders. [These were Alumnacraft canoes that weighed ~70 to 80 lbs. Hearty but heavy canoes.] Neil had already started ahead of us with the other canoe. I grabbed my pack and a few smaller bags and started up the trail. The path looked worn and neat until I got to the standing water and mud holes. I navigated around it the best I could, but there was more standing water and mud plus two large fallen trees blocking the way. With my best effort I forded the trees only getting my shoes full of mud. I assumed that’s the only mess I’d have to deal with.
Wrong! Most of the portage went through a bog—those notorious water saturated areas. 3 Names ahead of me was not faring any better. With a canoe over his head he could not tip toe around the bog.  Next the trail turned and there were more fallen trees and an unavoidable bog. With a canoe paddle in hand I was able to keep balance as I climbed over a fallen tree. The next straight portion was all bog. I tried to avoid it but it pulled me in. I then gave in and walked right through the bog, getting both dirty and wet. My countenance changed from grin to frown. The bog grabbed at my loose right shoe as I trotted through it. 
Next a small stream cut through the portage. It was almost too wide to jump. I set one foot as far forward as I could and crossed getting only one shoe wet. More boggy ground was ahead and  I was getting exhausted. Then there was a hill. About half way up a fir tree blocked the path. Finally at the top, a whole bunch of fallen trees made the path almost impassable. Since I could not climb over these trees, I was nearing my breaking point. Hovever, I somehow straddled myself over a trunk on one side and turned my face like flint towards the end of the trail. I dropped my packs and dreaded the return trip to get the rest of the gear. Already most of the party had fallen prey to this portage. The canoes did not even make it to the end on the first try.
I was demoralized and were not even halfway to the campsite yet. 

18 August 2012

Journey to the center of North America: part 8

Way back in July 2010 the Man of 3 Names and I set out from Grand Forks, ND on bicycles to sojourn to the Center of North America (Rugby.) I do not recall much from this part of the trip except my rear tire was causing me problems endlessly. However, now the conclusion of our journey.

Barn in ND countryside
Waking in a hotel was not my intention but it felt good. Moreover they did have breakfast- and what the construction workers did not devour earlier in the morn, I ate. I think 3 Names had some too but I am not sure.
Before heading out we stopped at K-Mart a picked up a patch kit for my tire. They did not have a replacement tube for a 700x35 presta.
Back on US-2 we made good time until I had another flat. I repaired the flat next to a round bale and we were on our way again. The shoulders were wider this side of Devil's Lake but the traffic was much heavier.
We lunched in Michigan City and I noted that they grocery store was part of a complex that included a cafe, post office, and the high school. We made use of the city hall's bathroom and water spout.
Somewhere further alone US 2 we decided to take the back roads. I am not sure why but I think it was because the shoulder disappeared again. I rode on some low volume paved roads and a few newly graveled roads. At that point the rear tire was causing me trouble again. I just could not keep it a optimum inflation. It seemed like every 20 minutes I needed to attend to pumping up the tire.
Our route took north of the Air Force Base and airport and through some wildlife production areas until we reached the outskirts of Grand Forks. At this point the tire valve broke and I could not keep air in it any longer. So I parted company with 3 Names in North Grand Forks along the railroad tracks at near dusk. The plan was that he would return with his truck once he got home.
It took about an hour but 3 names returned and I loaded the bike into the back of the pick-up and we drove to his home. No truimphant entry this time. After some chat and  recollection of our journey, I loaded the bike and gear into my car and departed for home.

Journey to the center of North America: Part 8

Way back in July 2010 the Man of 3 Names and I set out from Grand Forks, ND on bicycles to sojourn to the Center of North America (Rugby.) I continue this story as we head east on US 2 from the cairn in Rugby, ND.
changing size shoulders on US 2
From the Center of North America 3 Names and I got on US Highway 2 and headed east towards Devil's Lake. Little did I know that this would be the longest part of any journey I have ever taken on 2 wheels.
As we leave Rugby we meet a lady and her family that are doing a cross country bike tour. She had a support van so we knew we were really the hardcore ones out on the wide shoulder. We were doing good time since we had a strong tail wind pushing us.
Not long after I experienced a rear flat. Luckily we were close to a wayside rest where I was able to repair it in about a half hour.
Back on the road we began to notice our large shoulders diminish to less the a foot of usable space. Pretty scary since cars and large trucks generally sped by at high speeds but fortunately many pulled into the far left lane to pass us. We pressed on through Knox then York adn eventually Leeds and Niles.
Soon we were approaching the Devil's Lake region. Devil's Lake has been a problem for a quite a few years since it has been extending its reach beyond its normal boundaries because the lake has no natural outlet. Water flows into it but little flows out. It is a huge international issue because Canada does not want that water from Devil's Lake to flow north via the Sheyenne River to the Red River.
As we neared Church's Ferry we began to see road construction on US 2 which makes for real troublesome riding. But fortunately for us, sometimes a whole new lane would be coned off offering us the rule of that side of the highway. I also need to note that at this time it was getting dark. Traversing through this construction was hard enough but without good lighting we were finding it a bit more difficult. The construction slowed us down considerably.
the road is no more
We encountered portions of road became all dirt and gravel. It was surreal at times-  it looked like we were in a war zone of destruction. However, I never recall actually seeing the lake itself.

Darkness falls and we resort to riding in the dusky twilight with only my headlight as illumination through the maelstrom of construction. At nearly 11 PM we arrive in the city of Devil's Lake and nothing is open- no grocery stores or Wal-Mart. The only things opens were bars and gas stations. We watch the Empire Builder arrive and depart from the rail station then pick up a bit to eat at a gas station.
At this point, we have ridden at least 100 miles in the day and potential camping is 10 to 15 miles away. We concede and head to a motel and get the last room they have for $80. The construction on US 2 had bloated the town with construction workers, so we were fortunate to get a room.

17 August 2012

Journey to the center of North America: Part 7

Way back in July 2010 the Man of 3 Names and I set out from Grand Forks, ND on bicycles to sojourn to the Center of North America (Rugby.) It has been while since I have written about it so the details will be sketchy, but I felt I needed to complete this one before I move onto the latest bike trip.
Near Rolette, but not quite

Here are the previous posts for you to catch up on
Part 1: Leaving Grand Forks
Part 2: Towards the border
Part 3: From Hoople to Walhalla
Part 4: Out of the Gorge and a change of plans
Part 5: Independence in Munich
Part 6: Night at the Hawk Museum

I continue this story as we leave the Hawk Museum and head towards the center of North America in Rugby.

Old farm machinery
 I cannot say enough about the Hawk Museum camp we made. It was cool. We were surrounded by tons of old iron. There was a shower. And it was cheap. I think we may have paid just $5 for both of us. What a deal!
With still a chill in the air we left behind the surroundings of the Hawk Museum and got back on State Route 17 enroute to what I call the Rugby cutoff. On our way we went through Wolford which was kind of uneventful. The route was a bit hilly in sections so it took a while before we reach the intersection. In the distance at Wolford we could see the wind towers but as we kept pedaling they did not get any closer.
Giants in the earth

We did reach them and they spralled out for several miles like sentinals watching over this vast unkept prairie.

I was glad when 17 finally intersected Route-3. We headed south with a bit of tailwind in hopes of making it to Rugby in an hour.

When 3 Names and I arrived in Rugby we made our way to the downtown and loaded up on food and supplies. We found a local park and rested for a while before getting back on the road. However we had yet to reach the center of North America. We took route 3 through town until it met US 2. There, just a bit off the intersection of these roads is the monument we were seeking all this time. The stone cairn marks the center of  North America. Or at least it claims to be- the real center I have been told is in a lake south of town.

Behold, the center of North America!
I think we basked in the glory of being in the center for a really short time. Looking back I think we should have just had our lunch there and explored the nearby museum which featured an exhibit of the world's tallest saleman.

31 July 2012

Treasure at the end of the rainbow

My dearly beloved mostly Finnish spouse celebrates her birthday today. What a treasure I found at the end the rainbow.

27 July 2012

A venerable Huffy in Nisswa

The Huffy in the garden
 My first bicycle was a Huffy Dragster- an early entry in the BMX market for Huffy. Although it could have been a pieced together monster with parts from the Huffy high-rise style bikes.
I don't see many Huffy bikes these days although they were the 3rd largest bike manufacturer in the US during the 1960s. I suspect Schwinn was tops back then. Both companies appear to have produced similar models of bikes through the 1960s to the 1970s.

Huffy started out as a sewing machine manufacturer in 1892 formed by George Huffman. The Huffy name did not really come into existance until the 1950s. Prior the bikes carried the Dayton name- because they were made in Dayton, OH. The name Huffy came from the name of company- Huffman Manufacturing- which the sewing machine manufacturer turned into in 1925.

While on holiday in Nisswa, MN I spotted this Huffy. The bike pictured here is what I believe to be a vintage 1970s men's Huffy 5-Speed Regatta with light. This one looks practically new. It appears to be simliar to the Schwinn Suburbans of the same period.

Huffy probably saw its peak in the mid-80s when US Olympians used Huffys to win medals at the 84 and 88 Olympics. Methinks the bike market was changing and becoming more competitive. Huffy was known for their entry level bikes but competition with imported bikes from Japan and Taiwan with high end features put them in a bind. They weathered the storm by continuing to produce decent entry level bikes. But then bankruptcy in 2004 and leveled them.
They continue to exist. I think they may have some bikes at Wal-Mart, Fleet Farm and Target. I still have a Huffy mountain bike that was made in the US that I bought at Target. Works great. Even has a the quick removable front tire.
These days it looks like Huffy is mostly producing kids bikes and cruisers. 

20 July 2012

Anna and Mark's Wedding Revue: Part 8

Enter the worship circle
By far this had to be the best put together wedding of all time. Quite a production. Maybe if we had a trough of water that was miraclously turned into wine then.....nah. Thanks Mark and Anna!

Will there be a sequel?

Yes! 10 years later. But that is a blog post for another time.
Not many weddings have matched this one for shear uproar. But every wedding is different in its own way.

Anna and Mark's Wedding Revue: Part 7

Dancing brothers
The dancing was pretty popular. Most of my Christian friends were enjoying themselves since the anti-dance squad stayed away from this reception. Hurray! Mark's DJ friends then finished off the night by spinning the hits. None of which I knew although P.O.D. was familar. The crowds began to dwindle after 10pm but the music kept going until after 11pm. Only the most dedicated and sleep depraved stayed. Anna and Mark escaped to the solitude of someplace and I just kept joking around with a multitude of people.

Baptism in the Quetico: Part1

The trip began at French Lk
The following series is a narrative from my first canoeing trip back over a decade ago into the wilderness of the Quetico.

I had been eagerly awaiting this canoe trip to the Quetico for over a year. I had never been on a canoe trip before so I jumped at the invitation to join a friend of mine, Neil, on his annual trek to the Canadian boundary waters. The opportunity to get into the “real backwoods” thrilled me. Joining us were Neil’s wife, Ruth, and David, an adventurous college student [ed. To regular readers of the blog David is the Man of 3 Names.] We started out from Morris, Minnesota at dawn. For eight hours David and I sat in the back of Neil’s Mazda pickup equipped with an old bus seat that smelled like pigs. Our only view from the rear window was of the trailer that carried our supplies and two aluminum canoes. However, this inconvenience seemed minor compared to adventure I expected in the Quetico.

I did not know much about the Quetico. I knew even less about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. In my mind I envisioned pristine forests and lakes all easily accessible by short and upkept canoe portages. I also expected to stay clean and dry. Well I was partially right.

Quetico Provincial Park is just north of the B.W.C.A in Ontario. The major difference I am told is the people- there are less of them canoeing and camping in the Quetico wilderness. I would also add that the weather, although above normal on our trip in late May, is a bit cooler. The lake water felt nearly ice cold as all of us discovered by falling into the lake (most by accident and one intentional.). Long sleeves and pants were worn most of the trip.

We arrived at our entry point on French Lake at about three in the afternoon and set off shortly thereafter. About a half-mile from our launching point, we entered Baptism Creek. The slim slithering switchback stream went on forever it seemed. Left then right, left then right—this creek was getting a bit tedious especially when Neil and Ruth got 40 canoe lengths ahead of David and myself. Neil and Ruth were efficient paddlers and knew how to take the turns and navigate the current. My arms were feeling the tension of having to paddle against the strength of the creek. [ed. Who knew I'd be doing this by myself in a few years time.]

Our first obstacle came with a small set of rapids. Neil and David walked the canoes through this section as Ruth and I followed on shore. I unfortunately lost track of Ruth and the creek. I then found the creek but no one in sight until Neil and Ruth came paddling by. I had missed David and the canoe by 200 yards. I hurried back to where we disembarked and bushwhacked as near the creek I could until I saw the canoe.

14 July 2012

The RedHawks game

On July 10th I went to my first RedHawks game of the season. Boxscore here.
Foul ball I caught at the RedHawks game July 10th

The 'hawks were down by 5. The Kansas City T-Bones had mastery over the RedHawks bats. Inning after inning the home team failed to turn on the offense. Fortunately the RedHawks defense kept the game from getting totally out of hand. Plus the pitching improved.

In the bottom of the 5th with 2 outs Ryan Stovall came up to the plate. The first pitch he hit a foul over the the home plate stands. It hit the press box and rocketed down towards my seat and 2 women sitting next to me. In a moment of odd courage I put out my barehand and caught that ball. I had never done that before- catch a foul. The women and my MFW were grateful. The next pitch Stovall eeked out the first hit of the game for the RedHawks. But the RedHawks do not take advantage as Carlo Cota flies out.

It was not until the 8th inning until the RedHawks put some runs on the board- 3 in the 8th and 2 in the 9th to tie up the game and send it into extra innings. We were in for a spectacular finish if the RedHawks kept up the rally.

Top of the 10th. The T-Bones crack a triple with 2 outs. RedHawks change pitchers. And then mow down the next batter with a strike out. Whew. Close one.

Bottom of the 10th. 1st batter is walked. But over the course of the next 2 batters advances to 3rd and in scoring position with 2 outs and vetran 2nd baseman Carlo Cota at the plate. He is down in the count with 2 foul balls. The next pitch he swings- a strikeout.

No, but wait- the catcher drops the ball. Carlo runs to first. The T-Bones catcher throw to the 1st baseman but the throw is a bit wide. Carlo is safe and the winning run crosses the plate.
RedHawks win. Players swarm Carlo.

And I cannot believe what happened. This slightly unusual play seals the victory- and is the 8th consecutive win by the RedHawks.

And you know that has some similarty to the story of Jesus. He certainly appeared to have lost- his followers were scattered, he was crucified and died. But up from the grave he arose- sealing the victory over sin and death, creating the opportunity for you and me to become sons and daughters of God, and so much more. See the Roman Road page on this blog for more information about beginning a relationship with Jesus.

01 July 2012

Convoy of Hope stops in Red River valley

My mostly Finnish spouse and I volunteered a large chunk of time this weekend to an event called Convoy of Hope. It was an event which helped the needy and poor in the area by providing some services like hair cuts and family portraits, connections with community organizations, and some groceries all at no cost.
We helped distribute groceries in hot and humid condtions. We both had some sun burn but it was worth it to to be part of the "convoy."
bagging the groceries with people power

small mounds of groceries

28 June 2012

Anna and Mark's Wedding Revue: Part 6

Uproar of Swinging Music
After the worship band finished, Andrea Rooney presented a special dance to the song "We Are One." Then Mark and Anna took the spotlight and had the first dance. Mark was a wildman on the dance floor with dips and twirls. I wonder how Anna felt? It just happened that the real spotlight was bleeding unto me. Perhaps the video will show my antics being spotlighted. Faux Pas and MTI took the stage thereafter and entertained the crowd with bluesy swinging music. Quite a few people enjoyed a dance or two. Although some may consider me a dancer, I chose to sit out this one. Fact: I was at the Valentine Swing Dance in 1998 and I did dance!

[There was quite a real uproar concerning the music being played that evening since the venue for the event was a church building. The pastor was unhappy with some of the musical choices from the above referenced bands.That whole uproar could be a blog post of its own.]

27 June 2012

Anna and Mark's Wedding Revue: Part 5

An uproar of worship
Following the stories, (most were about Mark's unusual habits), a video narrated by Mark and Anna was presented that expressed their gratitude to the individuals in the wedding party and their parents. Well done! Jeremy Erickson and a band then took the stage for a time of singing and worship. This group was amazing. I enjoyed the professionalism and the fullness of sound they exhibited. If they only had a bit of continuity to the songs they would have been phenomenal.
[To the left of the fellow with the big guitar is Jeremy Erickson who passed from this life to eternity on 06/10/2012. This large worship band reminds me of one I was in this weekend for Cindy and Matt's wedding.]

Anna and Mark's Wedding Revue: Part 4

Guys at Uproar
After the church cleared out I began a sojourn to the Hosanna Worship Center, about a mile away, for the reception that was entitled UPROAR. I struggled to bring my unwrapped wedding gifts into the large auditorium. It looked like the academy awards! There was a stage that was totally decked out with lights plus there had to be seating for nearly 500. I don't know why I didn't eat much, but Coco's catering spread was right on. I should have had seconds. After I had my fill people began to tell stories about Mark and Anna.
[ Added bonus celebrity sighting: 2 members of Children 18:3, Seth and David, appear in the adjacent photo- they were at the Uproar celebration reception but did not play. The guy in the white shirt was once part of an earlier incarnation of the band]

20 June 2012

Anna and Mark's Wedding Revue: Part 3

Oleary, usher.
 Once Neil finished I bolted out of the church since I noticed my car headlights were on. I totally missed Jeremy's 1st song because I was running around the building getting my coat and then my keys. Bernie Wing addressed the couple and the audience with a poignant sermon on marriage and the bride of Christ. Unfortunately I did not take notes. Things went well until the saying of the vows. Some microphone problems arose then Mark decided to start his vows over again. I thought we memorize those. Then the ring part came. The ceremony ended after a time of prayer for Anna and Mark. The newlyweds then greeted their guests while I hid on the sides and spoke with Aaron O'Leary.

19 June 2012

Anna and Mark's Wedding Revue: Part 2

Mark and Anna greet more guests
A large crowd was on hand to witness the event. The whole sanctuary was nearly filled with guests from near and far. I sat patiently and silently waiting for the ceremony to begin. I glanced over the program which listed the whole wedding entourage. A few friends of mine were involved. David George was a sound technician. Shortly after 4pm the ceremony began. A small chamber ensemble including strings played a song from Copland's Appalachian Spring. Carefully avoiding the pillar at the rear of the sanctuary, the bridesmaids, groomsmen et al, strolled to the front of the sanctuary. I forgot the next few minutes until Neil Thielke spoke a word of encouragement over Mark and Anna.

Anna and Mark's Wedding Revue: Part 1

It has been a busy wedding season for myself and my MFS (Mostly Finnish Spouse)- we have 3 down and 1 more to go. In honor of the wedding season, I am re-posting the much sought out wedding posts of the The Anna and Mark's Wedding Revue from 2001. They have floated around the far reachs of the nets for a while since the orginal site was lost- RIP Geocities and Xoom.

Mark & Anna greet guests
 January 13, 2001- Mark Haugen married Anna Oglesby in an illustrious ceremony in Morris, MN at Faith Lutheran Church. The ceremony was presided over by Bernie Wing and Neil Thielke with music by Julie Goos and Jeremy Erickson.

At 3:30pm I started for the church, stopping only at Benson drug to buy a card and other stuff. I arrived at Faith Lutheran at 3:50 and was greeted by Anna's younger brothers. Being modest and a bit on the elusive side, I decided to sit at the rear of the sanctuary in the overflow seating.