Sunday, May 30, 2010

Crossing South Dakota

It seemed that all the turtles in Minneapolis had been quite busy this spring and as we left our campground Renita spotted a snapping turtle laying her clutch of eggs.
It didn't seem like the best spot as it was next to the dump station and terribly exposed but it was her spot and so we stopped the rig and ran over to take pictures,(As if she was going anywhere).
Pulling out of the park we took Interstate 35 south and then Interstate 90 west and it seemed like deju vu as we have been on this particular stretch of road so many times.
Of course as we crossed into South Dakota the wind picked up and I fought gusts all the way to Mitchell, our planned stop. It was with relief that we pulled into the parking lot of Cabelas and I was pretty tired, 330 miles), so we rested before checking out the big Memorial day sale.
The next morning the wind had abated slightly and so leaving early, high winds warnings were in effect for latter in the day, and poorer we headed west. The wind was steady and gaining but we made it across the Missouri River and it actually eased a little so the drive across West River was pretty easy.
Of course South Dakota had to let us know that her winds were only sleeping and by the time we got to Rapid City the winds had switched to the north and had gotten pretty strong. I had to fight the rig to keep it going down the road but with no place to pull over, we didn't have a lot of choice.
Turning south at exit 20 we now had the wind to our backs and the driving became pleasant. It had been another long day but we were at our planned nights stop, near Fairburn, South Dakota and the famed Fairburn Agate beds, more rocks for the fifth wheel! Clear skies.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Loves Labor, A Mother Turtles Tale

Last night Renita and I were treated to a very special sight, that of a turtle preparing a nest and laying her eggs. Its the first time we have ever seen such an event, other than on the internet or tv and so we feel that we hve been treated with a special gift from God.
Now Renita had been telling me to check the rear stabilizers legs as it seemed to feel like there was some movement. Of course I had ignored her for a while as I would never forget to lower the rear stabilizers.....
So I went out last night and saw a dark oval shape next to our campsite. As I looked closer I saw it was a turtle and that she was digging quite a deep hole with her hind legs. Slowly she would reach down the narrow opening and then scoop out a small amount of wet dirt and mud,(it had just rained hard in the afternoon).
Going inside and telling Renita she came out and we both watched her slow movement as she would stretch and dig and then switch legs. I took several pictures and then we left her alone, not wishing to disturb her as it was her time and her place.
Later I went out and saw that she was motionless and covering the hole. Surely she was laying her clutch of eggs, but we couldn't see them and so I took another image and then went back inside.
The next morning she was gone and the hole had been covered over. It was such a good job that we would never suspect that a nest had been made and filled and covered. If not for the slightly damp looking earth it would be almost impossible to find. Her nest was on a south facing slope and about 50 yards/meters from a pond.
We wonder if we should tell the park people or if we should leave well enough alone? All I know is that we have been blessed to see such a sight. Clear skies.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Biking the Grand Round, A delighful day on Minneapolis's Bike Trails

Still excited from yesterdays close encounter with the Lake Calhoun Monster, we arrived at our daughters house intent on a bike ride. She asked us how far we thought we could ride, suggesting several routes, and we decided to try to ride to East Cedar Lake Beach and back on the Grand Round. It's a trail that is about 20 miles, which would be a personal record for us.
Leaving her house we rode down the bumpy streets of east Minneapolis and connected with a bike trail that crossed Minnehaha Creek and headed upstream. The bike trails here are by far the best we have seen and it was an easy pedal, compared to the ride around hilly Lebanon Hills Park.
We rode steadily and didn't stop for a break until we reached the southern edge of Lake Harriet. There we connected with the Grand Round and Jenny pointed out the location of the band shell at which we had attended a free concert several years past.
She also pointed out that there was a bike trail and a walking trail and to be sure to avoid the pedestrians. A good warning for us as we are not use to the numbers of people. Everywhere we looked people were riding and walking and jogging! There were also fishermen and lots and lots of sunbathers.
We started our ride along the west shore of the lake but soon stopped to visit the home of the Gnome. Unfortunately a sign on the door said he had moved and that people should stop leaving him gifts. Don't know if it was a winter move to Texas, but it did seem like there were lots of Minnesotans there with us.
Passing the band shell we continued on the trail, crossed Lake Street at the light, and rejoined the trail along Lake Calhoun. I pointed out the location of the monsters lair, and shook my head at all the swimmers, some mothers with small children.
We continued on our ride reaching East Cedar Beach, to see two police cars at the trail entrance. Hoping for some excitement, the beach had been a nude beach several years previously, or at least getting to watch a drug bust, we were somewhat disappointed as a park policeman had actually driven onto the beach and remained there for over an hour.
As we ate our lunch several young women came rushing from the water and told everyone of seeing a huge fish! Of course I jumped up and forced my way through the throng of bikini clad women, as its rare to see a huge fish. Renita even commented on my bravery to help others in need, oh and I got the look from her.
Seeing no fish I waded back to shore and we finished our lunch. Taking our bikes up the beach Jenny asked us if we felt ok as we could take a shorter path home, but we demurred and chose the scenic route. We were soon at it, riding past the monsters lair and heading south towards Lake Harriet. We rode the east shore this time, so we got to see the other side, and again the trails were really busy!
A detour prevented us from seeing one of Jenny's favorite parts of the ride, where the trail rode under a railroad bridge, but it was still a beautiful ride along the creek. It amazes us here in that cars stop for you as you cross a street. Not so in Texas where the car drivers delight in running over bikers and pedestrians.
Arriving at Jenny and Vitos house the gps said that we had rode for 19.63 miles, a personal best for both of us. We were both a little sore but not bad. It was a great day in Minnesota! We both agreed that Minneapolis was our favorite city, in three years of travel, and that it would be a nice city to live in if you had to live in a city. Clear skies.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Monster of Lake Calhoun, A Day Canoeing in the Twin Cities

Some may doubt our story of a monster, but we have seen it rise from the clear depths and swim alongside our canoe. It paused as if to say, this is my home and I am hungry. Do people here in Minneapolis know such a monster exists? Know now and keep your pets and children from Lake Calhouns waters........
Jenny and Vito were both working so we decided to go canoeing at the Chain of Lakes Park. Its in downtown Minneapolis and consists of three connected lakes, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake, and Lake Calhoun.
We launched the canoe from a dock, near the eastern end of Lake of the Isles and headed west toward Cedar Lake. We quickly passed a mother duck and her ducklings and Renita snapped pictures of bluegills.
Passing under a bridge we entered the narrow waterway that connects Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake. Its pretty overgrown with aquatic weeds, from all the lawn fertilizers, but still an easy paddle. We were going without the stabilizers and the canoe sliced through the water. like a racing kayak, or so it seemed to us.
Entering Cedar Lake we headed to Hippie Beach,(East Cedar Lake Beach), for lunch, where a small group of sun worshipers were getting their vitamin a in mega doses. No drums beats echoed across the water, had the drummers been arrested(see last years blog)?
Eating lunch we headed towards the far shore and as we paralleled the edge Renita pointed out a long large fish, a muskie. I kind of wished I had a fishing licensee but the sight of the fish and its tiger stripped sides was enough to make the day. Little did I know!
We neared a pair of loons that were diving and feeding and watched a mother duck swimming across the lake. She had in tow nine newly hatched ducklings, and we wondered if she knew the danger she was exposing them to.
As she neared the loons the male rose in a threat display and then another. She frantically quacked to urge her ducklings to swim faster, when the male loon displayed again and then charged. The mother dropped back to protect her brood and to provide a shield for her little ones.
Seeming to escape the loon's ire they continued to paddle when the loon dove and then reappeared attacking the small babies. The mother duckling turned and fought the much larger loon as the little ducklings seemed to walk on water.
She didn't win the fight, she was so much smaller then the loon,but she did manage to turn his frenzy, allowing the brood to escape. Rejoining it she led them across the lake and into the safe haven of a small beach.
We glided back into the narrow passageway where a muskrat swam past us, dove and then resurfaced. It started to lunch on some of the water vegetation and seemed unconcerned with our canoe passing nearby. It must have been really tasty seaweed!
Entering Lake of the Isles we headed toward the larger islands. One is a wildlife refuge and landing on it is prohibited, so we paralleled its shore and watched the many geese and green headed mallards.
Our next goal was Lake Calhoun and so we rowed through the canal and under the two bridges. Now lake Calhoun is much larger and last year a sailboat class had provided entertainment as we watched them overturn their boats and crash into one another. Only one sailboat was out and we were getting tired so we paused before heading back, when the monster appeared.
Now I have caught shark and bull black and red drum. We both have caught and released large northern,(my best is 43 inches and Renitas is 42 inches long, and so we have seen many large fish under water.
This brown shape appeared alongside the canoe and I know it was over 50 inches long, and that's being conservative. It was the largest fresh water fish we have ever seen, and it lives in the Twin Cities. We talked with a fisherman on the bank and he didn't act surprised as he said he had seen it attack bluegills as fisherman were bringing them in.
The fish swam lazily around us and Renita tried to take its image but it was too deep and all you can see is the brown looking log in the upper part of the image.Believe us if you want to or not, it makes no never mind to us for we both know that a monster lives in Lake Calhoun. We have seen it! Clear skies.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Minneapolis, Our First Week

Our reservations for Lebanon Hills Regional Park didn't start until the fourteenth, so we arrived in Prior Lake and stayed two days at Mystic Lake Casino Rv Park. Its about as nice an rv park as you will find anywhere and not bad for 26 bucks a night.
Jenny came over and visited us the first day and we pretty much spent it resting and visiting about family and friends and her new job,(She is an LPN at a cardiac unit in Burnsville and will finish her RN this fall).
The next day we moved to Lebanon Hills Regional Park, in Apple Valley. Its really a nice place but very pricey, 31 bucks a night. There are not a lot of options, however, as some of the other parks ban dogs but allow horses,(The drive was all of 19 miles).
After setting up our house we drove to Jenny's. She lives in Minneaoplis, in a downstairs apartment house. She's got a huge deck, and Vito and her have already filled it with plants and deck chairs and a barbecue grill. She proudly told us that her lawn furniture were all rescued items.
Inside, the living room is dominated by the Christmas Cactus. This was the plant that had been passed down to us as a cutting from my Gramdma Brackins plant. We actually have a picture of it in the window of the Brackin Family Farm near Elgin, Iowa. As you can see the plant is huge, and I am sure my brother and sister are both amazed at how large it has become.
The next few days were spent at Jenny's and Vito's, barbecuing and resupplying. Its been awhile since we have been in a big city and we won't see one again as we head to Wyoming so we have been stockpiling stuff from Trader Joes.
We also attended our first Art Crawl. This is an event in which many of the artists in Minneaoplis and St Paul open their studios and allow everyone to see and buy their work. We were really interested is seeing other peoples jewelry and we realized that our work was as good as any we had seen. So the next day we opened a store on Etsy,(our stores name is markandrenita). Now if I can just figure out how to take better pictures of our work!
Yesterday we finally took a bike ride around one part of the Park. It was on the bike trails that are all throughout the Cities. As we rode we passed joggers and other bikers. The people here are so fit, compared to down south.
It was so nice to ride again and our bodies both protested a little from the inaction and lack of riding. We both have a long way to go if we are going to enter the Senior Olympics, but that is our goal. We don't really care if we win. we just want to participate, and so we must commit to getting in better shape. Clear skies.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

North to Minneapolis, Part 2, Iowa Memories

Our trip in Keosauqua was of course filled with family time as we saw Pam and Roy and our niece and nephews. We even taught the whole family a workshop on wire wrapping and they all turned out beautiful pieces that were much nicer then the first piece I ever wrapped.
It is so nice to relax in Iowa, and eat breaded pork tenderloins. I am so surprised that the people in Iowa look so fit, compared to some of the southern states, especially Mississippi. Roy has become obsessed with lapidary and so we had a great time showing our rock collections and even traded some pieces.
Heading north, we took 218/27 and the road was pretty good with little traffic, so our drive was easy and uneventful. Arriving at Black Hawk County Park we got a great campsite. A humorous incident happened to us here when we were dating. We got stuck in the sand and had to call a wrecker. In a moment of panic I had first called my future brother in law Roy, and in one of my biggest mistakes I called my Dad for advice. Oh my was that a mistake as we were supposed to be at a dance and I had the family car..........
Arriving in Waterloo we both felt the same emotional tug. The next day we had a huge list of to do things, visiting family, decorating our parents graves, and even driving by the houses where we grew up.
The first place we drove by was Renitas house on Division Street. The trees her Dad had planted were huge and the house looked pretty much the same, with the exception of the two car garage. I didn't ask her how she felt and I just listened to her talk aloud, sometimes you just need to listen...
Next we drove to Waterloo and headed up fifth street. Of course we passed my elementary school and we had to stop at the Johnson Bakery. The bakery has been in the same family for a long time and the lady behind the counter laughed with us as I bought way too many doughnuts and cookies and even a pie.
My house seemed so old compared to when I lived there. The owners had torn off the screened front porch in which my brother and I had slept during the summer months to escape the Iowa heat and humidity. The massive elm tress had long since died and had never been replaced and what can I say but you can never step in the same water twice.
Both of us have been blessed in life to have had stable homes and loving parents. Not a day goes by without thinking of them and how much we miss their kind words and loving touch. We both know that we will be reunited with them in time and that thought sustains us as we continue our journey. Clear skies

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Our Springtime Migration to Minnesota, Part One

We left Grand Isle in amid strong winds and blowing sand. The oil spill hadn't reached the Isle and so our thoughts were about the days trip. The bridge crossing went easy as the wind was behind us and the roads hadn't yet flooded from the unusual high tides.
The wind was at our backs and so we got great mileage, 14.1 mpg, not bad for a traveling house! We had been told of a beautiful state park in Mississippi, Percy Quin, and so that was our goal for the day.
Arriving about noon we checked in and found it to be as pretty as we had been told. The spots were large and all full hookups and so we parked and rested. Cardinals and bluejays flew about, with the forest dominated by the towering longleaf pines and red maples along with nutall oaks,(note that my tree identification is a bit shaky).
The next morning we headed further north, taking Interstate 55, and passed the tornado's path of destruction at mile marker 152. We have seen tornado damage before but the path,149 miles, and width of this tornado was larger than most. I wondered how quickly the Mississippi forest will hide the damage, compared to the tornado trail we saw in Pennsylvania.
Our planned spot for the night was at Enid Lake, the Corp of Engineers Campground at Wallace Creek, and the place was so beautiful that we decided to stay for two nights. The spot were huge and new and mostly empty and so we camped on another lake shore.
Shortly after setting up our fifth wheel an eastern bluebird landed near our doorstep. Again we saw cardinals and bluejays and lots and lots of eastern bluebirds.
A great blue heron waded along the shore and Renita wondered if it was one we had seen wintering along the coast.
After an extra day we headed north, crossing into Tennessee, The streams and rivers were all in flood stage and we were glad we weren't heading to Nashville. The roads in Memphis were some of the worst we have seen and crossing into Arkansas didn't seem to show much improvement. Signs of future roadwork due to stimulus money promised improvement and so we won't cross this path off of our list, yet.
The miles flew by and we reached Cape Giradeau and the private rv park, Cape Camping and Rv Park. It was a letdown after two days at Lake Enid but it really wasn't a bad place and it fulfilled our needs for an easy overnight place.
The next morning we left bright and early, 8 am, and headed towards St Louis, Mo. The road was ok, but a bit bumpy and so we took it slow. Flooded fields told of the passing storm front but it seemed to dry out as we got further north. We took 270 around ST Louis and so didn't see much except trees and cars. I did have the usual idiot try to play chicken with me as they entered on a ramp but they backed off before I forced them over the railing,
Northward we continued and the signs for Hannibal appeared. We actually want to visit there someday but not this trip and so we passed it, only stopping for fuel and necessities. The road actually improved a bit as we headed north and after a long 330 mile drive we arrived at Lake Sugema.
We found our reserved spot, it didn't have a notice, but we set up anyway and soon a lady came by and asked if we were the Brackins. I assured her we were and so she joked about it a bit. She had been moving a pile of rocks when we drove by her and it struck me as funny that here people like to joke around and have fun, not all places are so relaxed. The people here and Iowa kind of remind me of hobbits and the Shire, only without the furry feet and much nicer looking people(Note the lady was movind rocks by hand!).
We called Renitas sister Pam, and told her we had arrived and set up our house. She had already told us she had prepared dinner and so we are taking four days to rest and visit with her and Roy and their family.
Traveling with your house is really nice. Some people mow lawns and do yardwork and we just move to new places and let the park personal keep our yards spotless. When I think of all the beautiful places we have stayed and all the family and friends we have visited we both feel lucky,but I have already said retirement is good. Clear skies.