Category Archives: Travel


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?


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?


I just returned from a meeting of State and Provincial psychology regulatory boards held in New Orleans. It was our first in-person meeting in two years, and the Louisiana Board was so happy and proud to have the conference in their state.

One of the Louisiana Board members is a native of Louisiana and the the co-founder of a Mardi Gras krewe. I don’t know much about these organizations, but they seem integral to the celebration of Mardi Gras across the state and host parade floats, wear costumes, and have all sorts of parties and concerts throughout the year. He gave out Mardi Gras doubloons from his krewe to the conference attendees this weekend. The doubloons are large, colored, cast aluminum coins that are thrown from Mardi Gras parade floats. He also made us honorary members of his krewe, and translated the “secret” Latin motto of his Krewe, which is “Sicut equites aggredtuntur hominem vivere oportet” . I forgot the exact meaning, but it had something to do with living life to the fullest.

Our grandson turns 4 today, and I told him over the phone that I had pirate doubloons to give him when we see him in two weeks. (It would have been this coming weekend, but his mother is afflicted with COVID, and we had to change our travel plans.) Our son told our grandson that we were in a pirate town, and he is so excited to see the pirate coins and the pirate jeweled necklaces I got in New Orleans. It is magical to him, and I love to feed his imagination with simple things that can take on such meaning. Those are the best toys, I think.

Have you ever been to Mardi Gras? What seemed magical when you were a child? What were your best toys? Translate the Latin motto, if you can.

The Everclear Inn

We have a small airport in our town that has flights to Denver in rather small planes. It works pretty well as long as your final destination is somewhere in the West or Southwest. If you are flying East, it makes more sense to drive to Bismarck and take a plane to Minneapolis and then to where you need to end up.

Since Bismarck is in the Central Time Zone and we are in Mountain Time, getting to the airport two hours before an 8:00 flight means leaving our town at 3:30 am. We choose to spend the night in Bismarck instead of having such an early flight. The traveler’s choice is usually a hotel in South Bismarck that offers free shuttle service to the airport and lets you leave your vehicle in their parking lot.

This hotel used to be called The Expressway Inn. It recently has been given new management and a new name, and is deteriorating rapidly in terms of service and cleanliness. We stayed there Wednesday night. Husband dubbed it The Everclear Inn in a play on its new name. I noticed in the elevator a sign extolling their modern hygiene practices, such as “electrostatic room cleaning”, whatever that might mean. It is just too bad it is the closest hotel to the airport. It is still probably better than driving to Bismarck in the middle of the night. We flew back into Bismarck late Sunday night. The Weather Service prediction of heavy snow and ice over the weekend made it prudent to spend the night and drive home on Monday morning. Husband insisted on the Hampton Inn, a step up from our usual. I will be glad to be home.

What have been your more interesting lodging experiences? Come up with some interesting scenarios for electrostatic cleaning. How do you manage airports these days?

Losing Track

I am over-calendared.

Handmade on dresser in bedroom.  Daytimer on chest of drawers in bedroom.  Birthday calendar in studio.  Daily holiday calendar in studio.  Calendar on refrigerator.  Lighthouse for the Blind calendar in the breakfast room.  Calendar on my phone.  And two calendars at work (one on Outlook, one on Teams – these two are not by choice).   

Two weeks ago, I took a day off work to get the house picked up and cleaned a bit because my friend from Madison was coming for a weekend visit on April 8.   First houseguest since before pandemic.  On Wednesday I texted her about what kind of milk she likes so I could order the right thing from my milkman.  Then on Thursday, I texted her about what she wanted to do for dinner once she arrived.  This text she answered a little distractedly that we could work that out later.  Then on Friday, knowing that she was coming from Rochester (follow up medical stuff), at 5 p.m. I texted her to see if she had left for the Twin Cities yet.   About 2 minutes later the phone rang.  When I answered, she said “May 13.”   Took me just two seconds to scroll back to the very first text about her visit.  May 13. 

I’m still not sure how my brain translated May 13 into April 8.  All I can think is that I was looking forward to her visit so much that my gray matter shoved it up a month.   For someone who has 9 calendars, it’s a little embarrassing.

If you were stranded on a desert island, how would you keep track of time?  (Or would you?)

Missing Out

I am currently in Fargo, ND at a nice hotel. My home is 300 miles to the west. Since Tuesday, the residents of my town have been having a rip roaring blizzard, and I am missing it! For the first time since we moved to our town in 1988, my office has been closed for three days in a row due to the weather.

I love snow storms. I should preface that with the disclaimer that I love being in a snow storm while in my warm home with a full refrigerator. Friends are sending videos of their yards, their stock pens, their barns full of goats and leghorn chickens, and I am so jealous. We have been in a drought, and this moisture is welcome, but it is hard on the cows and their new calves. The header photo is of a friend’s cow on Wednesday during the storm. As she says, “the price we pay for moisture”. I should add my friend and her husband provide good protection for all their cows in various ways. I don’t know why this one was out in the open and looking so pathetic. Another friend just reported that her snow day was ruined by the discovery of a mouse in her house

My next task is to drive home on not such good roads. If I were at home, I would spend time staring out at the snow blowing by, gauge the depth of snow in the driveway, perhaps bake, and maybe take a nap. As it is, I will just bless the snowplow operators and keep both hands on the wheel.

What don’t you want to miss? What do you like to do during a snow storm? Any good storm stories?

Uncharted Territory

Monday was a busy day for me and my friend. She had a PT appointment in Waconia, and then we had to drive to Hutchinson to do some shopping.

I grew up in the far southwest corner of the state, and I have to admit I have never been in or even heard of most of the towns I have driven through on this trip. My parents never took trips to the Twin Cities unless it was a dire emergency. They weren’t lake or resort people, unless you count my dad’s fishing trips to Lake of the Woods. Sunday drives with my parents involved looking at the crops in the counties around Luverne. I am not used to driving on curvy roads, in heavy traffic, or around large stands of trees. I have lived in the west of North Dakota so long that I get a little nervous not being able to see 20 miles ahead of me to see where I am going.

My friend decided that we would take a different route to Hutchinson, one that was not the direct route from Waconia, and I tried my best to follow her directions. My friend is absolutely terrible at giving directions. She says in 500 words what could be said in 50. She was equally as frustrated with me for not understanding immediately what she meant. I am happy to say we made it without too much rancor, but I think in the future I shall insist on the voice of reason and calm from Google maps. We may end up in a lake but at least “the voice” speaks concisely.

How are you at giving and taking directions? What did “Sunday” drives entail when you were a child? What is you favorite part of Minnesota to explore?