"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Captain's Log - 27 years

Janie wanted me write about our wedding since our anniversary is tomorrow. 
John & Janie night before the wedding, notice the beard.
Twenty seven years ago on this date I was staying with my Dad and a couple of my brothers in a hotel in Cedar Rapids. I was getting married the next day in a local park so I was trimming my beard. The beard wasn’t going so well. I was thinking it would be easier if I just shaved it off. Janie had never seen me without my beard, having just met me six months ago, but I was pretty sure she wasn’t marrying me for my beard. So off it came. I was going to be clean shaven for the big day.
John and brother, Walt, having fun before the ceremony.
It turned out to be a hot day for September, so it was probably a good thing the beard was gone. The first person I saw as I arrived at the park was Janie’s best friend Trudy. She thought I was one of my brothers, but Janie caught on right away. She was surprised, but the wedding was still on.
It was so hot, in fact, that the beer was tapped as soon as it arrived. By the time we walked down the isle, most people had a beer in their hand. It was a celebration. The bride was beautiful with a wide brimmed hat and a veil. The wind had picked up, so Janie said her vows with one hand on her hat.
The ceremony
The bride
The reception was also at the park, which worked out well for everyone who already had a beer. We also had pork sandwiches, champagne, and wedding cake to go with the beer.  The first order of business was to ditch the suit and get into some shorts. We posed for some pictures, signed some papers, ate some cake and drank some champagne. But to really seal the deal, my buddy Bob had to kiss my bare ass. I was pretty sure this was going to be one picture that didn’t make the wedding album, but it had to be done. When he and Sue were married at this very location, I had challenged Bob to “bare it and I’ll kiss it” at their reception. He did and I did, so it was payback time. They were actually married on the back side of the pavilion we were at, so I argued that we should go there for the ass kissing ceremony. My in-laws took it well, I thought.
Mr. and Mrs. John Dean
Twenty seven years later, we’re still married. Pretty sweet. 

Bear Head Lake State Park

Bear Head Lake near Ely, Minnesota
We wanted a stop between International Falls and Two Harbors so in checking things out we found this park deep in the North Woods near Ely MN. It is a beautiful park, pretty secluded and heavily wooded. I would not call it big rig friendly, the campground roads are narrow and the sites though big enough for our 30 ft 5th wheel, it would be hard to find a site for a rig much bigger. There are some bigger sites in the loop that doesn’t have any electric, awesome tent sites. Our site was a challenge to get into but it is very private and we really like it. In the other loop there is a great non reservable site (#66) that I think we would try to get next time. 
Lots of docks to fish from
The Lake is beautiful and large. We hope to get the kayak out tomorrow and do some paddling. Yesterday we walked, worked out and then just vegetated. It was great! Today we are headed into Ely for groceries and dinner. Will check the web for a few things to do. It is overcast today so a good day for doing the tourist thing. Tomorrow is suppose to be beautiful.
A big snapper off the dock.
Trying to revive and release the Northern.
Judy asked if we ate Brady’s fish. They released the bass but the Northern didn’t make it so we did eat him that night. We had a big fish fry with lots of walleye that Paul, Bud and Bryce had caught earlier and Brady’s lone Northern. Mmmmm good! 
Happy Trails.....................

Monday, August 29, 2011

International Falls

Best campsite ever!
Perfect place for a campfire

Last Thursday we arrived in International Falls at the very best campsite we have ever had. We squeezed in next to the cabin of our friends the Hjelles. Brady was one of our hockey sons and his family feels like family to us. His Grandpa Bud added a 30 amp service so that we could stay with them right at the cabin. The cabin is about 15 miles west of International Falls right next to the Big Fork River. It was a wonderful 4 days. Brenda (Brady’s mom) had meals planned for every day. Man, did we eat well. It was a real treat. The weather was just about perfect too. We had a couple very light showers at night a couple times but otherwise warm days and cool nights.

Paul gets a nice size small mouth bass
Brady and his big catch
We rode our bikes a little on Friday. Saturday we did a 4 hour Kayak trip down the Big Fork while Brady and Paul took the fishing boat down. The Big Fork was a beautiful river for a float trip and the fellas fishing had a good time. When they got back about half an hour later than John and I, Brady came to get me to take some photos of his catch. He had a 17 inch small mouth bass and a large Northern. He was pretty proud of his day’s catch. 
Brady & Paul
International Falls is pretty secluded from the rest of the state up there on the border; at the cabin our cell service was sketchy at best. We did have internet as we have an antenna and amplifier on our air card. No TV stations from the antenna but the Hjelles (pronounced Jelly) did have dish network in the cabin so we kept up on the path of Irene. The upside of that seclusion means a quiet and wonderful place to be. We had campfires every night, played some cards (Rook: Brady’s favorite game) and just nice time together enjoying the fellowship of friends. 

A barn on the banks of the Big Fork River

Hjelle's cabin from the river.
Today we headed to Bear Head Lake State Park near Ely MN. We arrived this afternoon. We knew it would be a tight and parking was definitely a challenge due to trees, but we got it parked. We will be here until Friday, looking forward to checking out this secluded North Woods park.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Leaving East Grand Forks

On the bike trail of the Grand Forks Greenway

Tomorrow we leave East Grand Forks. This stop has been such a pleasant surprise, we know that we will return in the future. We put about 60 miles on the bikes, John went to a movie (I walk out, will talk about this later) we visited the hockey rink and had beer and appetizers at the Blue Moose most night here, and went to farmer’s market. The weather has been wonderful and we can’t think of a better way to spend a week. 
Farmer's Market

Our next stop is International Falls MN. One of our hockey sons (Brady) is from the Falls and we really have been wanting to spend some time there. We visited once before but it was too short to do all that the area has to offer. A bonus is that we are going to hook up at the cabin. Brady’s grandfather Bud added a hook up so we could stay right there for free. Free is always good in this lifestyle! Brady is off at school in Columbus OH, at the University of Ohio so we didn’t expect to get to see him but we love his parents, grandparents and brother Bryce so as much as we miss Brady we still wanted to visit. Here’s the cool part- Brady is coming home Friday night!! His mom spilled the beans so we are suppose to act surprised when we see him. I would be shocked if Brady ever read the blog so I am pretty sure I can write about it here and still act surprised. So it is on to International Falls, a visit with the Hjelles’, Rainy Lake, Rainy River and Brady!!
Cool car, Heritage Days Parade, East Grand Forks.

Mitch (youngest son) starts a job tomorrow! That makes us very happy. He is working with a contact firm TechResources on a job for Aegon (or TransAmerica). He is very excited to have a job. He went shopping for work clothes today. We are breathing a sigh of relief. In this economy it is a tough job market. 
Also wanted to give you a Fred update. We haven’t seen our snake friend since we left Iowa. We are not sure if he vacated there or maybe in South Dakota but we have looked for him this week and he seems to be gone. We hope he found a great home, we are just glad that it isn’t with us!! He certainly made life interesting for awhile.
Oh, that movie I walked out on was “Conan”. I usually can handle gorey movies but this one really got to me, but John enjoyed it. I went and had a beer at the Blue Moose while he finished the movie. I knew it was time to leave when after 20 minutes I hadn’t taken my head out of Johns shoulder to watch the screen. It is really bloody. If that is your thing John says you’ll like it but for the rest of us I’d say save your money. I’m just glad all we paid for me was the matinĂ©e  price.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Impressive Flood Control Plan

The maker showing the river levels in previous floods including the 1997 record breaker

Flood control is something John and I find interesting. We lived in a city, Cedar Rapids IA,  that was ravaged by flood in 2008.  In the 3 years since then we watched as the city  has tried to recover and make a plan for the future. I know that they had a group come here to Grand Forks to look at their flood control measures and why they didn’t learn more and take more of these plans back to CR, I really don’t know. As a tax payer in CR we were very frustrated when we saw the city rebuild its City Hall in the middle of the river, literally, on May’s Island. There was such an opportunity there to change the landscape in a way that may have prevented future flood damage but my opinion is they put their heads in the sand and are sure it will never happen again.
Some of the flood wall along the bike trail
Earthen levees line other portions of the trail
Here in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, a different approach was taken. In 1997 this area had a flood that was devastating. It took out neighborhoods and  buildings much like what happened to us in Cedar Rapids, probably worse. Instead of putting everything back where it was they developed a long term extensive plan to protect their cities. When you come to these cities there now is the Greater Grand Forks Greenway that is green space on either side of the river. In this green space are parks, bike trails, a campground & golf courses that has enhanced the beauty of their river and their towns. Outside that area are earthen levees and flood walls both done in a way that does not detract from the beauty of the river.
One of the trail heads,  Eagle Point.
In April of this year all that planning was put to the test as the Red River once again experienced a major flood. In 1997 the river crested at 54 feet, this year at just over 49 feet. I found a time lapse on Youtube, that shows the flood marker and how close it came to the 1997 level. I found other photos out there with all the flood walls in place, there are sections that come in and out as necessary. These measures stood the test and protected  the cities from the type of damage they experienced in that 1997 flood. There was a lot of expense and planning to get all these measures accomplished and in place but kudos to a city that made hard decisions and made their city a better place.  I talked with one gentleman on the bike trail this week that felt that these cities have made themselves a better place for all their citizens after that flood. It meant sacrificing neighborhoods that once existed next to the river and backing all the development out a ways from the river bank but they gained wonderful green space for all to enjoy and a buffer zone to protect them all.
The Red River still running high in August
There have been so many areas devastated by floods in the past few years. My personal feeling is some of it is due to things man has done to try to control the rivers. We continue to build dams and levees to try to control the water flow and when it backfires someone’s town downstream is underwater. We continue to build right on the banks and are surprised when the river rises and buildings go under. We continue to put down surfaces that instead of letting rain water seep into the ground when it rains instead runs into our sewers and runoff systems that empty into our rivers. I think we need to give our rivers some breathing room, enhance all of our lives with some green space. There are things we cannot control like snowfall amounts and its run off in the spring, rainfall amounts, hurricanes and all manner of things that Mother Nature has in store but we can try to respect the power of these things and try to build and live in such a way that we can recover easier. I think that is what the Grand Forks area has done right. I only wish  Cedar Rapids had done the same when they had the chance.  I know they are incorporating a few of these ideas but from what I could see they still do not have a comprehensive plan.
A view of Grand Forks from the bridge
I hope you all get to visit this area. The campground sits right downtown East Grand Forks, on the Minnesota side in what was once a local neighborhood. They are beautiful cities that have lots of great things to offer.
Happy Trails.........

Friday, August 19, 2011

Greater Grand Forks

Pedestrian Bridge across the Red River in the Greater  Grand Forks Greenway

This is a great spot. We are camped in the Red River Recreation Area on FHU for at least a week ( I think I will add a day) . This campground is part of the Greater Grand Forks Greenway that was developed along the Red River as a result of the devastating flood of 1997.  I am going to do a post about that and all the measures Grand Forks and East Grand Forks took after that flood. This is something of great interest to me after the flood of 2008 in Cedar Rapids (where we lived for 35 years). I think CR could have learned a lot from this area and my opinion is the missed a great opportunity.
Ralph Engelstad Arena, where UND plays hockey

The statue of Sitting Bull outside the arena
Part of the Greenway is a system of bike trails. In two days we put on almost 35 miles on bike trails here.  Yesterday we did part of the Greenway and then took a trail that took us out to UND. We wanted to see their hockey arena because we had heard so much about it from both Kevin and Brady who lived with us. It definitely is a large and beautiful facility and we can say that without seeing the inside, except for the gift shop. Recently the arena had a fire in a group of speakers and they are repairing the damage before the season so we weren’t actually allowed to go in the arena itself. John has coworkers and friends who graduated from UND and there was some controversy around the building of this rink. Seems the NCAA wants UND to give up the name Fight Sioux and the guy who built this for the U found that ridiculous. He felt that the name was actually a tribute to the mighty Sioux nation and to Sitting Bull so he made sure the logo was emblazoned everywhere at the rink so it would be difficult to remove it . From what we have been told they are still in litigation over the issue. Wish we could have seen the inside.
The dedication on the statue of Sitting Bull 

A Fisher

On our bike ride one of the other cool things was spotting a creature we had never seen before.I did get one shot of it and then we went online to try to identify it. Its face looks a little like a bear but its body reminded us more of a mink. After researching  we found out it is a Fisher, which is a relative of the weasel.  The Minnesota wildlife site said it is strong enough to take on a porcupine. It is fairly reclusive so we are lucky to see one. Cool.

The park is right next to downtown East Grand Forks MN and you take a short walk to restaurants, a movie theater and a Cabela’s. We have been in Cabela’s twice already., bought a new chair and I got a new pair of hiking shorts, identical to the pair I already have and love. We also stopped downtown Grand Forks ( right across the river, also easy walking distance) at a place called Dakota Home Bakers. The sign inside says locally owned and locally grown foods. We just had coffee but I also bought a loaf of bread that we will have for dinner tonight.
Tomorrow there is a farmer’s market on the ND side so want to get there in the morning. We may have to take a day off the bikes, our behinds need a rest. It is so good to be out biking again and I hope soon we will be able to tolerate some longer rides. There are many bike trails on this route we have chosen. Minnesota has an amazing bike trail system.  so until tomorrow...

Happy Trails............................................

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Update on Fred

Fred the Freakin' Freeloading Snake 
Well, we haven't seen Fred for a couple days which makes us wonder if he finally took off. Either that or he is so traumatized from the travel that he's in seclusion in his little hiding place. We arrived in East Grand Forks MN yesterday and will be here a week so we will still keep an eye out for him.

A friend of mine has another friend (is that confusing) who knows a little about snakes so she sent him the photo of Fred so we could figure out what kind of snake he is and here is his answer.

"After a google search, I am sticking to my original opinion. A Racer, and many of the Google pics look enhanced to me, they are not THAT blue, and are often gray like the one in the vehicle. I generally like snakes but I would not want to find a Blue Racer in my car, they are freakishly fast and will bite, harmless but scary. Even the way the snake holds it's body says "racer' to me. They live in open grasslands and hunt by sight, so they hold up their heads to look around. I've only seen a couple in my lifetime,,,whoosh, gone."

We agree that Fred is a mighty fast moving snake so there you have it , Fred is probably a Blue Racer, that is kind of cool, well as long as he leaves my truck.  Thanks Molly  and her friend for solving that little mystery.

It is a little windy and rainy today so tomorrow we will get out and discover Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. There are lots of bike trails here so we will probably peddle our way around the city. Looking forward to discovering a new place.

Happy Trails.......................

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Becoming South Dakotans

Downtown Madison South Dakota
New Plates for the truck!

We are in South Dakota and today did all our paperwork, licenses, registrations, mail forwarding etc. We are how officially domiciled in South Dakota, our home town is Madison. Madison is a very nice little town, but I doubt we will be here very often. We actually tried to get a site at Lake Herman State Park very near Madison but they only had one site in the lower campground. We checked it and it would be a bear to get into so we have decided to head north. We will be staying at the Red River Recreation Area in East Grand Forks MN, across the river from Grand Forks, ND. They had a lot of flooding earlier this year but there were no cautions on the park and they took my reservation so we will get to see how they are doing. This park was actually created out of a residential area that was devastated in 1997 in a flood. Coming from a city (Cedar Rapids) that experienced a devastating flood, I am impressed that they chose this solution. Cedar Rapids could have made choices like that but did not and we felt they missed an opportunity, to make a better city that would not have to worry every time there was a flood (which seems to happen more often these days).
John and Mitch

Just when I finally get a plan there is always a new little twist. I’ve come to actually expect this. Got a call from son Mitch who is job hunting and things are beginning to happen for him. He had an interview yesterday and has one tomorrow. Tomorrow’s interview is with a company he looked at earlier but they did not have a position for him then. They do now and actually sought him out from his previous resume. That is a good sign. So if something happens with him we may have to head back to get him moved. We were to head to International Falls after next week but who knows - we may head back to Iowa temporarily. Flexibility has become my mantra. If it means Mitch is gainfully employed I am all for it!!!
Janie & Mitch
Update on the snake saga: we haven’t seen Fred since we left. After Kevin (Kevin and Ruth) mentioned he hoped Fred wasn’t a pregnant Fredita, I am now having nightmares of many little snakes. I also had to laugh at my own faux pas of having Fred scamper away. I like Judy saying a regular snake may slither but a wet snake may scamper. Well truth be told the real emphasis is on “away” as in out of my truck! We will keep you updated if we see him again. Thanks for all your input however we won’t be selling the truck (the number 1 solution both here and on my Facebook). Stay tuned...
Saying good bye for now to Matthew, Mike, Trudy (my best friend) and Eric.  Love ya all!!
Happy trails........................

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fred the Freakin' Freeloading Snake!

John, named our hitchhiking passenger. I had to clean it up a little but that's only because he was really angry at the snake when he came up with the name. Yesterday we tried to wash him out of his hiding place with the hose and guess what, that didn't work either. I even had the camera ready to get a photo of him scampering off.  So I guess he is going with us to South Dakota tomorrow. 

It has been a busy last couple of days, we have been getting together with a few close friends before we leave and a little time with family too. I'm anxious to get on the road, I wonder if Fred feels that way too. 

Happy Trails..............

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Name that snake

What should we name this guy?

Yesterday I got a couple photos of our "pet" snake. He likes to peak out and check out the world from the safety of his home in the pump housing of our extended fuel tank. We still have not figured out how to get him out of there. It is really a confined space. So until we figure something out or he finally gets hungry and leaves, he will be going along for the ride. We decided he's been around long enough, he deserves a name. So what do you think we should name him??

I still want him out. I'm ok looking at him from a distance but you won't catch me climbing into the bed of the truck, I'll leave that duty to John. John claims he isn't afraid of the snake (that's my studley guy!) but still has yet to come up with a plan to get him to leave. If we don't figure it out soon the snake will find himself in South Dakota. Maybe he just wants to see the world too?!

Happy trails.......................

Friday, August 12, 2011

Snakes and a Baby

How do you like that for a title. Did it a make you wonder if they were doing a sequel to “Snakes on a Plane”? Well unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I am not a movie producer. If I was I am not sure that is a movie I would make. So instead I’ll just talk about each separately. Baby first!
Kelvin Richard

Janie & Kelvin
My nephew Jordan and wife Rachel gave birth to a beautiful baby boy last Sunday. His name is Kelvin Richard (after Lord Kelvin who developed the Kelvin temperature scale). Jordan is a biochemist so it is a fitting name. Kelvin arrived 5 weeks early but weighed in at 6 lbs 4oz. I think Rachel is glad she didn’t go full term as that would have been a big baby. Jordan weighed 10lbs 9oz  (I think, I’m close any way) when he was born and I think Kelvin was on track to being similar in size. Kelvin is doing great, but he’s still considered a preemie. They are watching him closely and he has had to spend a little time in a Billi-Bed  but he got to go home on Tuesday and that in itself is amazing considering how early he was. We stopped in on Monday to see him and he is a cutie, I always forget how little newborns are. My boys were never that little but Gabe was only a little over 7lbs. It reminded me of how quickly they grow up (sigh).
Jordan, Rachel, and Kelvin
Now on to snakes. John picked up some firewood the other night and I went to take it out of the truck and there was a snake slithering through it and yes I screamed like a little girl! I do not like snakes. It is good sized snake, maybe about 3 feet long, but we are not entirely sure what kind. Most Iowa snakes are pretty harmless, or so I’m told, but that doesn’t make me like them any more. John knows it didn’t come on board with the wood; he is sure he would have noticed a snake that big. So we have no idea how he got there but he is currently residing in a little pocket area by our extended fuel tank. Yesterday he stuck his head out and was checking things out. Next time I see him do that I will get a photo. We are not sure how to get rid of him - and I want him out of my truck!!! Any suggestions???
We are leaving here on Monday and I am excited to go somewhere else. We have a tentative plan to first go to South Dakota and become residents there and then head north into Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan doing as much of the shore of Lake Superior as we can. The only reservation we have is on Labor Day weekend. I found a spot in Two Harbors, MN.  I got lucky and a spot had just opened up. So this is out very tentative plan:

View My Saved Places in a larger map
I always try to have a general plan in mind and usually it gets changed but that’s ok too. I’m just glad to be out on the road again.
Happy Trails...........

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Prairie Flowers
Thanks to everyone who commented on yesterday's blog. I thought I would clarify a bit. We met some very nice people and I would never want to slight them in any way. It isn't even so much what they thought about us but about discovering where we fit in. RVing is still relatively new to us. We went right from tent camping to full time RVing in a fifth wheel which is quite a jump. That means we never did any group campouts before and don't have those long time friends with whom we share camping memories. For us it is all about the discovery and meeting people along the way. I think we were a little more comfortable in the Escapee's rally last year because we met others who were in our same situation. New to RVing and many who were new to full timing. It is always easier when there are others going through the same kinds of things you are. 

We did learn a lot from the other Excel owners. Learned things to watch for, how to remedy certain issues. We also got to see 2 new rigs. One couple had a new 2012 33GKE ( to Rockin' Tom, that is an awesome floor plan) and the founder of Peterson In., Vaughn Peterson was there in an new 2012 36CFE, which is a new floor plan for Excel. I must say if we had the money I would try to talk John into the 33 GKE, the kitchen in it is awesome, maybe in a few more years. 

Just so you know we haven't given up on all clubs and rally's, I think as time goes by we will get a little more comfortable with everything, but thanks for all your support. This (time with my blog buddies) is one place I feel very comfortable. The support we have gotten from all our fellow bloggers has been invaluable in this lifestyle, this is a community all on its own, one I had no idea existed and the one I am so thankful for.

Prairie in bloom

Happy Trails........................