Finally Colorado

Fri, Sept 23, 2016

After a leisurely five day drive across the Heartland, Carol and I arrived in Fort Collins last night.   We’re planning two nights here for some R&R and then we’ll head west over the Rockies to Utah.

Six years ago, I was working on a project to convert algae oil to fuel and we were generously funded by Obama’s stimulus program.  One of our partners was located here as they were affiliated with Colorado State University (Go Rams!).  I’d been here before and really liked it so it was an easy decision to stop here on our way down to Denver.

Today is a layover day so Carol and I went out for a hike in Lory State Park.  A really nice place that was once a homestead that grew into 3,500 acres.  Colorado bought the land and now there’s a playground for the locals.

We did the self-guided Well Gulch Nature Trail.  The whole 1.4 miles.  Perfect.  Here’s Carol and TiVo with the Horsetooth Reservoir in background.

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Tomorrow we head up I-70 into the Rockies.  Yippee!

‘We Have Red and White’

Thu, Sept 22, 2016

Carol and I are camping in Ogallala, a small town in Nebraska. Named for the Oglala Sioux tribe.

Back in the day, the town was quite a doozy as a terminus for cattle drives.  This became possible only when the Union Pacific connected the town back to Texas.  Ogallal was also a stop on the Pony Express and later along the transcontinental railroad.  Yee Hah!

There’s a tourist trap called Front Street that has a bar and restaurant.  So naturally we had to go.  Walked right in with TiVo in tow hoping no one would say anything.  Carol carried a blanket so we covered a chair and had him sit right up 🙂

When the waitress came over, I asked about wine and she gave the classic response: ‘We have red and white’. Uh oh.

So I ordered a vodka martini and the waitress turned to Carol who said:  ‘I’ll have a beer’.  I only hear those words about twice a year.  LOL

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When a Dog Follows

Wed, Sept 21, 2016

We’re camped in an area where the dirt roads are laid out in one mile squares.  So I thought it’d be easy to lay out a run that was 2 miles west, two north, two east and then two back to camp.

So I headed out feeling good despite the warm breeze out of the south.  About a mile and half in, I came upon this beautiful family farmhouse.  Fresh white paint, beautiful flowers, lots of green grass and large silos by the garage.  A really nice set-up.

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After clicking the shot, a beautiful black and grey dog came running up.  At first, I was a bit apprehensive but she turned out to be really friendly so no worries.

I restarted my run and she followed with her long legs making it look so easy.  Her game was leapfrog in which she’d sprint ahead and then stop to sniff something on the side of the road.  I’d pass her and then a few moments later she’d go streaking by only to stop again.  So leapfrog it is.

After about a mile, I started to worry about her getting too hot and/or losing her way.  On the approach to the I-80 overpass, I stopped and tried to get her to turn back.  On the third attempt, it worked and I lost sight of her due to the pitch in the overpass.

Relieved, I started running again again only to have her come streaking by.  Leapfrog was back on.  So off we went and I realized that I was really enjoying her company.

But I also knew that she’d bonk and I didn’t want it too happen on the far side of the loop.  How then to get her back home?

The answer was to make a U-turn at the 4 mile mark and backtrack to her home.  So that’s what we did.  And then the bonk hit, all she could do was walk at an easy pace.  So we slowed and worked our way back to the farm.

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As I stood outside, the owner came out.  Really nice guy.  Said that she followed all of the runners.  Nothing to worry about.  Now he tells me.  Here she is.

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Windmills

Tue, Sept 20, 2016

The last time I drove across the Midwest was 1980 as I was headed to Arizona to pile it high and deep.  But drove is misleading as I rode across on my motorcycle.  Remember it like yesterday.

A lot has changed over the years but the scenery is pretty much the same.  Beautiful farms, lots of corn and soybeans and an unending line of semi’s.

And then there are the windmills.  A lot of them.

They’re concentrated in southern MN and Iowa which has me thinking about tax policy.  No way these things get built without tax credits.  And since we didn’t see a single one in Nebraska, I suspect they’re legislature wasn’t biting when the industry came calling.

One thing fortuitous about windmills is that they generate their power during the day when energy demand is highest. Same for solar.

Anyone who’s experienced rolling blackouts will tell you that the more power generated during the day, the better.

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KOA and the Heartland

Mon, Sept 19, 2016

Carol and I left Minnesota yesterday and we’re in Iowa today and heading to Nebraska tomorrow. The Heartland.

It’s kind of funny but we’ve been staying in KOA’s.  Totally family friendly.

If you’ve never been to one, KOA is Kampgrounds of America.  All camping related words that start with a ‘C’ are spelled with a ‘K’.  Sort of Korny, no?

What’s nice about KOA is that it’s like McDonald’s.  You pull into a new city and you know exactly what you’re going to get.  No surprises.  Every evening I log on, enter my frequent Camper Rewards Kard and bingo, I have a site.  Easy peasy.

At this KOA, they take family friendly to a new level.  Our site is on Barnyard Row which is next to Kornfield Kourt.  Kamp K9 is over there.

Here’s our site at last night’s KOA.  Korn, anyone?

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Land of Lakes

Fri, Sept 16, 2016

Minnesota is known as the Land of Lakes and a quick look at a map will tell you why.  The license plates are adorned with ‘10,000 Lakes’ but there are over 15,000 that are greater than 10 acres and many more that are smaller.  These lakes were formed by advancing glaciers that scooped and pushed soil during the last ice age leaving depressions in their wake.  In time, they filled with water.

Most lakes are clear enough to drink but not recommended where motor boats are allowed.  In the Boundary Waters Canoe Area up north, it’s paddle power only so all you need for a drink is to dip your cup in the water.

With so many lakes, it’s no wonder that fishing is a favorite pastime with walleye (for eating) and musky (trophy) two popular fish.  If you’re ever out there, you’re likely to see a loon, the state bird (although others will argue that honor should go to the mosquito).

It’s also no wonder that having a lake cabin on one of the lakes is treasured up here.  Growing up, we weren’t so fortunate but my sister has corrected that and her two boys grew up spending weekends fishing at their cabin.

Here’s a shot of the area where my buddy has his place.  If you’re wondering if the shores are lined with cabins, my response is ‘you betcha’ 🙂

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Hops and Craft Beer

Wed, Sept 14, 2016

If it weren’t for craft beer entrepreneurs, we’d all still be drinking Bud – Miller – Coors.  But then there’s always Bud Light – Miller Light – Coors Light.  Sigh…

The craft beer revolution has really caught on in the Northeast, Midwest and West (especially Oregon!) and thanks to the Boston Beer Co for leading the way with Samuel Adams.  But not in parts of the South such as Texas where the big beer distributors have firm control over what gets in.  Grrr…

My buddy has 24 acres about half of which is leased to his neighbor for feed corn.  The rest is trees, open pasture and access to his dock.  So I wasn’t too surprised when he decided to put some of it to work growing hops.  He has three types: Willamette, Cascade and Centennial.

This required digging holes for the 25ft poles and stringing wire as the hops are vines and they like to climb.  He’s in his fifth year now and growing beautiful product that he sells to the local craft beer producers.  His effort may be coming to an end, however, as it’s proven to be a lot of work for little (financial) reward.  And the hailstorm a few weeks ago didn’t help matters.

Here are some shots of the set-up and the cleaned hops.

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40 Paces from Farm to Market

Mon, Sept 12, 2016

After four days of R&R, we drove 2 hrs west to my buddy’s place where he keeps a small garden.  Walked down there and he handed me a shovel and said ‘Here, turn it over’.  So in went the shovel and out came the potatoes.  Never done that before.

We also picked some tomatoes, pole beans, peppers, cantaloupe and watermelon.  The corn came from the corner store.  It’s tough to beat food in the midwest during harvest season.

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Among Hmong

Sun, Sept 11, 2016

Being 9/11, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those lost on that awful day 15 years ago.

When you hear ‘Minnesota’, you might think snow and cold but you should also think vegetables as this is a farming state.  And that means great farmer’s markets.

But great farmer’s markets need great farmers and that’s a lot of hard work.  Enter the Hmong, an ethnic group of farmers from the mountainous regions of Laos, China, Vietnam and Thailand, who have settled in the area in great numbers.

My sister lives in downtown Minneapolis and she was our tour guide for the day.  Being a boring guy, I stuck to the usual (i.e., heirloom tomatoes, portobellos, purple cauliflower, asparagus) but you could get pretty much anything that grows in the ground.

Kudos to the Hmong as an example of an immigrant group that has made this country the great country that it is today.

 

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Edit:  How could I forget the Minnesota Salad composed of seven varieties of greens you’ve never heard of and garnished with edible flowers?  Carol’s preparing it as we speak.  Should be yummie 🙂

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Home Sweet Home

Fri, Sept 9, 2016

Carol and I had an easy drive from Sioux Falls, SD to Medina, MN on the west side of Minneapolis.  My twin and his wife have lived in this area for a long time and the appeal is the proximity to Lake Minnetonka.  It’s the largest lake in the metropolitan area and is a favorite playground for the boating and waterfront restaurants.

We’ll be here for a few days of R&R and then off to my high school buddy’s place out in Alexandria.

Here’s dining at Birch’s on the Lake.  Had I not butchered my hair this morning, you might have a hard time figuring out who is who.

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Happy 22nd anniversary to Carol 🙂