Category Archives: Travel

Midnight Flight

One of my colleagues was excited last week for the arrival of her mother for a visit from Washington State. She was flying from Spokane to Bismarck via Minneapolis, arriving in Bismarck on the midnight Delta flight.

There are very few commercial airports in ND, and very few commercial carriers that come into the State. I knew exactly what the midnight flight into Bismarck is like. The airport terminal is almost dark, nothing is open, and all the airline counters are closed. There are a couple of lighted offices, and one or two rental car desks whose occupants look exhausted. The long term parking kiosk is closed, so you better have exact change for your parking bill, or else a debit/credit card.

It is sort of comforting, sort of odd to live in such a remote place and know the details of these things so well. I wonder what it will be like to move back to Luverne when I retire, and what new things I will learn, and what old things are still there.

What communities are you the most familiar with? How have they changed for better or worse over the years? What are some of the more interesting airports you have been in?

Airbnb

Husband and I spent four days last week in Fargo with our son and his family, joined for two days by our daughter. She was on a week long visit from Tacoma to friends in various parts of Minnesota. We picked her up in Alexandria on Friday. She hitched a ride back to the Minneapolis Airport on Sunday morning with her best friend who lives in Hopkins but who was in Moorhead visiting her sister. Her trip took a lot of planning!

Son booked an Airbnb with five bedrooms in the historic section of Fargo on 8th St. It is only the second time we stayed in such accommodations, our children far more accustomed to booking these lodgings. It really worked out well, especially since our 4 year old grandson was pretty happy not having to eat in restaurants and could run around and play and make more noise than he could in a hotel. We ordered out from our favorite Thai and East Indian restaurants, and son grilled lovely lamb kebobs on Saturday night. My only complaint was that our mattress was far too soft and gave me a backache.

Fargo was surprising, even after all these years of living in this State. We went to the downtown farmers market on Saturday. It was wonderful, and we scored some fresh, local sweetcorn. There are very few places in North Dakota where you would see many gay couples walking around in public holding hands, but there they were, happy as they could be among the produce stalls. It was also far more ethnically diverse than I remember it being in years past. It was so nice to see.

I imagine there are Airbnb nightmares, but ours worked out swell. We will more than likely do it again, but will have our children help us figure out how to choose them.

What are your Airbnb experiences? What cities have pleasantly surprised you? Where are your favorite places to visit?

Experiencing TSA

Last week when we were coming back from St. Louis, we got shuffled into a TSA line where they are apparently testing new equipment.  No taking off our shoes, no pulling out our little baggies of liquid, no requests to dump water bottles. 

At first I thought this would be great but was very shortly disabused of that idea.  After your bags went through the scanner, anything that looked funny got shoved off to the side for additional scrutiny.  In the regular line this happens as well but since our line had been specifically told NOT to pull out anything including liquids or toss water bottles, it meant that more than half of the bags going through got held up.  Water bottles were opened and examined with some kind of test strips, bags were opened and rifled through; it was not a quick check. 

Neither YA nor I had anything unusual but we were behind a few people who did.  So we stood back and waited while watching everyone else’s problems pan out.  The family who went through right before we did were a hot mess.  Three kids, all under the age of five and already hot and tired after waiting in line.  Four adults – it was hard to tell who belong to whom but they were clearly all together.  Because they were told not to take things out of baggage, there was a plethora of sippy cups and water bottles.  Every bag was opened and pawed through (sorry, my bias is showing here).  Every sippy cup and bottle was opened and tested. 

As the kids started to melt down, one of the adults started to melt down as well.  She was angry – about everything.  When her anger did nothing to make the situation better, she got angrier.  Her voice got quite loud, she got in one TSA agent’s face.  The folks with her tried to calm her down, but she was having none of it.

I’ve never seen anything like this in person but it was amazing how fast other TSA agents were in coming to their co-worker’s defense.  And how MANY TSA agents came over.  I was extremely glad right then that TSA agents do not carry firearms or any other weapons but there were enough of them that could have taken this woman down with ease.  They did end up asking her and one of the other adults into a side hallway (six TSA agents for the two adults).  When they came back a few minutes later, the distraught woman seemed a little calmer and she didn’t say one more word.  I can only imagine what they said to her. 

I asked one of the agents who was standing behind us how long this new process/equipment had been in place.  He sighed and said “one week”.  I wished him luck.  Then our bags came through.  All they did was confirm our little baggies of liquid/cream which was easy because we both had them in side pockets of our bags; off we went, plenty of time to get to our gate despite the delay.

Have you ever been a test case for anything?

Where in the World is VS?

It’s been awhile…… here are some clues.

The Botanical Garden, which opened to visitors here in 1859, is the oldest public garden in the US and among the top three public gardens in the world.

The first US kindergarten was started here in 1873 by Susan Blow.  (You can still see her original class room!)

The Eads Bridge, completed here in 1874, was the first arched steel truss bridge in the world. The bridge continues to carry automobiles, pedestrians, cyclists and light rail trains!

Several new foods were popularized here in 1904: the hot dog, the ice cream cone and iced tea.

Famous folks from here:  Maya Angelou, Yogi Berra, Daniel Boone, William Burroughs, Vincent Price, Stan Musial, Marlin Perkins.

What do you think?

In Memoriam – Our Little Jail Bird

It was this week three years ago that we lost our Little Jail Bird, Edith.  In her memory, I’m running her most iconic posting on the Trail.

Until last fall, I had never been to Banning State Park. I had driven by it dozens of time, because when I head up to my sister’s house, I always turn off 35W and take Highway 23 into town. I didn’t know much about Banning, but when I was looking for a day trip, it seemed to fit my needs perfectly.

First, I wanted a park where I could drive there and back in one day without getting too tired. Second, I wanted a park that didn’t involve driving several back roads, because I knew that I would be driving in the dark due to the shorter fall days and my night vision and sense of direction is bad enough that I would get lost unless I kind of knew where I was going. And third, I wanted a state park because I had a state park sticker and wanted to use it as much as possible to get my money’s worth out of it. Banning fit all of those qualifications. Plus it has a waterfall, which is a big plus in my book.

So, off I went, one sunny morning in October. When I arrived, I stopped at the visitor center to get maps and ask where the best spots were. I was so excited. It seems that often when I go north, I am early for the fall colors and often find myself driving home just a few days before “peak”  and this time I was not too early! I said something about that to the woman at the desk (while trying to not jump and down in excitement) and she shook her head woefully and told me in a discouraging tone, “You’re going to see LOTS of brown out there.” Gee thanks, way to burst my bubble.

Of course, since I drove all the way up there, I figured I better go on the hike anyway even if I would see mostly brown. I drove to the parking area and when I stepped out of the car and looked up, I knew it was going to be a good day (see header photo).

I hiked all the way to the falls and back and shot lots of photos. It was an incredibly beautiful day: that clear, deep blue sky that you only seem to see on autumn days and – surprise! – lots of colorful leaves on the trees. It can be a challenge shooting in bright sunlight, but I was so overcome by the beauty of it all that I just took that in my stride. There was that wonderful northwoods smell in the air – pine trees and dead leaves. Nothing like it! and nothing else invigorates me like that does.

It was getting pretty cool and the sun was going down quickly by the time I was heading back on the trail but the golden evening light only made things more beautiful and the colors more intense. I went home pleasantly tired and very happy and glad that the woman’s prediction of “lots of brown” wasn’t true.

Any comments / reflections welcome!

Speed

I drove home yesterday from Howard Lake, MN in seven hours. Google tells me it is 496 miles. The speed limit varied between 55-60 MPH on Highway 12 between Howard Lake and I-94 at Sauk Center, to 75 MPH once I got out of Fargo.

I tend to drive 5 MPH higher than the speed limit if I can. It isn’t so high that a Highway Patrol would care about me, but fast enough that I can make good time. I admit my MPH got up to 90 as I passed some slow coaches here and there, I haven’t had a speeding ticket in 30 years.

I was probably too tired to drive safely once I made it to Bismarck, but my, was I ready to get home. The temperature dropped to 62° as I entered western ND in early afternoon. I understand it is a little warmer in MN!

How many speeding tickets have you had? What is the fastest you have driven? How do you keep cool in heat waves?

My Un-Monty-Don-Esque Woods

Today’s post comes to us from Clyde.

Monty Don, of craggy face and deep rich voice and calm confident demeanor, is the BBC’s in-house gardening expert, worth knowing if you are a gardener. And worth knowing if you are into travel. In addition to his weekly garden show, he has done several series where he helps non-gardeners develop their small yards and, my favorite, when he gives tours of great gardens of different countries, such as France and Italy. Of those I love the French tour most, in part because he travels around in post-WWII era Citroen, one of the more visually memorable cars. The French gardens are the highly structured masterpieces of topiary and shaped hedges and large fountains and looping pathways. The Italian ones are about as structured but do not appear to be so, cultivated randomness.

But it is the old English gardens which impress and irritate me. Garden on the English tour means large expanses of hundreds of acres where every tree, pathway, line of sight and folly has been developed to look ancient and natural, when it is not. The long lines of sight built into the landscape are masterpieces of faux natural. The beauty impresses me, but the bending of will to man irritates me, done by genius such as Capability Brown (1716-1783), original name Lancelot Brown. (Marketing was an art even in the 18th Century.) Brown’s face is shaped much like Monty Don’s, by the way.

Then there are the woods 20 feet off my patio, owned, except for the first 5-6 feet, by the city. Capability would rub his hands in glee on how he could change that abhorrent disarray. Not that I do not have a similar impulse, having been raised on a farm where the woods were managed as graze and woodlot. Our roads through the 85 acres still appear in my dreams.

My woods here is as wild and uncontrolled as woods in a city could be, mostly because of the ravine. Various parts of both Mankato and North Mankato are designated as Upper and Lower, meaning on top of the bluffs or below them where the ancient river Warren carved out a deep and wide valley in a matter of a few days.

The header photo shows the tangle at its worst or most glorious. They are the end of the woods where they point out into a small field of corn or soybeans, a la Ben. Those trees are not shaped that way by the wind, in fact they are bent right into the prevailing wind. I assume their need for sunlight made them arch out and away from the tall trees. It is a favorite place for deer to bed down. But even they struggle to navigate through my woods. There are several tall trees reaching their full maturity, about which there is a mystery I will not delve into. But when the leaves are gone (I took these pictures in April.) you can see the tangle of fallen and rotting trees down the sides of the raven, which gets deep very quickly, or up among the standing trees. Or you can see my corkscrew trees, as I call them, species unknown to me. They reach up like a middle finger in the face of Capability.

Trees are in all stages of life and decay.

Many visitors live or walk through the woods or the apartment building’s strip of grass.

Just three days ago I realized that at the base of one of the mystery trees a pair of squirrels have raised almost to maturity a litter of, I think, five kits. I caught them venturing out to explore, but only on their tree so far, and took this photo through the window above my computer.

I have sketched several parts of my woods. These two trees now are mush on the ground.

This spring a thick branch on one of the mystery trees broke in the high winds and got caught as a squirrel beltway. The next day the squirrels tested carefully before venturing out on this wonderful shortcut across an open space in the upper trees. Now it is their jousting ground and a trysting place, observation deck, escape route and attack route.

I could show and tell more, but I have overstayed my welcome.

Thoreau said he had traveled much in Concord. In what small area have you traveled much?

Virtual Chicago

YA took a long weekend trip to Chicago the past three days.  I dropped her off early on Friday at the airport.   I was really looking forward to having a long weekend all to myself.  You all know that I adore YA but since I haven’t traveled for work since March of 2020, we haven’t really had a break from each other for quite a while now.

She didn’t ask me for any input on her trip, except for two questions, one about her Real ID and one about security at the airport.  When I asked her if she needed a packing list printed out (I have it on my pc), she said no.  (I did see that she had created and printed out her own packing list when I took a couple of things into her room yesterday!)  As the parent of a young adult, I was not expecting to hear from much if at all until her pick-up (noon today).

It was a nice surprise on Friday afternoon when I got a photo text of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat with a question about whether this was my favorite painting (I had mentioned my favorite painting was hanging in the Chicago Art Institute – this isn’t it). 

Later on Friday I got a quick text about an “ok impossible burger” but no photo to enshrine the meal.

Then on Saturday morning this photo came.

I didn’t realize right away that it was taxidermy – The Natural History Museum.   A bit later, a photo of Sue, the famous tyrannosaurus rex, showed up (header photo).  No texts about dinner.

Yesterday, there was a photo of a breakfast taco and smoothie and then, some real polar bears at the Chicago Zoo

This was followed by a picture of a lovely flower – the Botanical Gardens.  I didn’t even remember that this was on her schedule. 

No photo of the pizza dinner last night.  Her flight arrives at noon today so no more photos will be coming. But I definitely feel like I had a trip to Chicago even though I barely left the house over the weekend!

If you could get a virtual tour of someplace, where would that be?

TRAVELERS NEVER DID LIE, THOUGH FOOLS AT HOME CONDEMN THEM

At Blevins Book Club on Sunday, tim and I were extolling the high quality of Ben’s eggs, having both gotten some the weekend that the straw bales were delivered.  Even the organic eggs that I get from my milk man pale by comparison.  I commented that I wished Ben lived a bit closer so I could justify driving down for eggs on a regular basis.

I should not have been surprised when I got a text from tim today saying maybe we could do some kind of driving swap/egg coop arrangements.  For the first five minutes after I got the text, I thought “tim is one crazy dude.”   Then the next five minutes I was emailing Ben with a few questions to even determine the feasibility of this. 

The third five minutes I was looking up directions between my house and Ben’s farm and thinking about how every few weeks I could get in almost 3 hours of books on tape when I was driving down and bacl.  And the fourth five minutes I was thinking about the spreadsheet I could design if this turns out to be do-able and more baboons than just tim and I can co-op (a lot of this does depend on Ben’s chickens after all).

I’m not sure what the next few five-minute increments will bring – but please don’t anybody tell my milk man!

How far will you go for your favorite products?

Making Myself Scarce

I came back to work from New Orleans on Tuesday and found a message on my phone from a Sheriff’s Deputy letting me know he had a subpoena to serve me. I phoned him back and he said he would serve it to me sometime in the afternoon. He didn’t show up.

Yesterday I phoned him again about it, and he said had two subpoenas that had got mixed up and he served mine to the wrong person, but had retrieved it. I told him I would be in all afternoon. To me, that meant I would be at work from 1:00 pm until 5:00 pm. I went home for lunch.

The Deputy showed up at my work at 12:15, and was really honked off to hear I had gone home for lunch. He left in a huff, telling the receptionist that I could just track him down. Well, in my 30+ years of being served subpoenas, it doesn’t work like that. He is supposed to find me. Nevertheless, I tried phoning him to apologize for the mix-up but his voicemail was full. After some emails to my superiors, I phoned the Sheriff’s Office and told the receptionist that I would be in all afternoon and to please let him know. He never showed up.

I have no idea what case the subpoena is for. I have no idea when the hearing is. I will gone all next week. I really don’t want him to show up today to serve me a subpoena for a hearing next week, since I will be out of town If we don’t have sufficient time to prepare our schedules, our Human Service Department attorney from the Attorney General’s office will file a complaint and ask for the hearing to be rescheduled. Unfortunately, our attorney is gone until Monday! I plan to spend today laying low, not answering my phone, and hoping beyond hope that the Deputy doesn’t show up. I need to make myself scarce.

When have you wanted to hide? Have you ever been served a subpoena? How do you make yourself scarce?