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'17-'18 Saint Paul MN
Last week in December and first week in January. Mostly KAI!
'17 Aug and '07 May: Kansas City
2007 With Ken and Bill and Cheryl. What's there to do in KC? I'll let you know!

2017 AND THEN The Total Eclipse Of The SUN!
'16 Jun: Saint Paul, MN, and points Beyond
At home and a visit to Madison and The LAKE!
'13 Oct: Saint Paul, MN, and Lake Superior
The Kids!
'12 June Wedded Bliss!
Midwest Guy meets West Coast Girl.
'11 Feb: St Paul, MN, and Ely
With Cynthia for her birthday and to meet Mike and Kieran, and to go Ice Fishing!
'09 Nov: Wisconsin
With Cynthia for Thanksgiving, giving Thanks.
'09 Jun: Wisconsin
Oat and Aboat dun'cha kno yah, over dair hey, in dah Badger State with Cynthia, and Mark our local guide to all things Wisconsin.
'08 Oct: Minneapolis-St Paul
With Leigh, and Garrison Keillor!




Click HERE and all the pictures in this chapter will get big.

June 10

Cynthia! I arrived this afternoon in the sweet little Eau Claire airport and very soon thereafter we were off to their house in Chetek, and from there out for a fun dinner at this cool place by the lake.

I shouldn't say 'the' lake becuase just about every place is by some lake or other. There are So Many lakes.

Mark is working in Minneapolis and won't be back until Friday so we've got some girls-night-out ahead.

The restaurant, Pokegama Inn, settled here as it is on the banks of Pokegama Lake.

Fishing. Oh man, we're talking fishing is THE thing. You will see as the days roll on fishing fishing fishing.

From Cynthia and Mark's living room window after sunset. The frog choir is in full voice tonight!

June 11

This is Cynthia's vegetable garden. She wanted to give it a try first, to see if she even likes it before she dug up the yard. She planted all the ingredients for her favorite pico de gallo, a food item not found around here.

This is the view from their corner looking both ways down the road. The kids are at work and I'm about to walk to town.

Walk walk walk...

...it's all like this - I'm on a fairly fast two lane road, a car passing every 10 minutes or so, and with a plenty big shoulder for walking.

One thing Cynthia pointed out was that this is not an area of industrial farms. You see fields and a farmhouse fields and a farmhouse. It's very picturesque.

And fishing. In every open spot you see folks fishing.

She lines up her shot; she casts; she pulls in a fish! She was about as surprised as I was!

Spring!

A gigantic fiberglass fish. Gigantic fiberglass animals are, I read in my guidebook, a very popular decor item in Wisconsin.

My destination, 2.9 miles from the house we later calculated, is the homemade root beer joint.

They aren't open in the winter and Cynthia and Mark haven't been here yet but it's a hoppin' spot. How is homemade root beer? Pretty darn good!

It's not getting dark here until about 9pm so in the evening we went to the first of the Ski Team Shows that they will be doing twice a week throughout the summer.

It reminded me of going to a small town football game with all the trucks lining the roads leading to the venue and of course the whole family came, cheering for the team.

This town of Chetek has a little over 2,000 residents but all the surrounding areas must be participating too.

The actual township is very small and the countryside is unincorporated county...I think...something like that. People think nothing of driving 20 miles to the Wal-Mart because that's where the stuff is.

Do you wonder how many more of these pictures there are? Far far more than you're going to have to look at!

The top two tiers fell off that second group. There were many mishaps during this first show of the season so it'll be fun for C&M to check back in a month or so to appreciate their improvement.

Then we came home, fixed some food, played with our pictures, and went to bed about 1. Girls night out!

June 12

For a while now (as Angela knows only too well...) I tried to 'take a break' from my dear companion cheese because I knew I was on my way to CheeseLand USA.

And here I am, and here it is, and it is deeelicious. Mark stopped off at a creamery on the way home and picked up these treats with, I'm confident in saying, more cheese treats to come.
Cynthia Mark
We're off for an overnighter in the Lake Superior area, first stop, Pattison State Park.

Those kids are so darn cute and that's that.

The highlight of Pattison State Park is this, the Black River cascading down into the Big Manitou Falls, at 165' the tallest falls in Wisconsin.

Greeeen.

And the first buzzings of a full on mosquito invasion. It hasn't gotten hot enough yet for the mosquitoes to reach their normal size - the size of a half-grown hummingbird, but they are the size of my thumbnail already. And when you swat 'em they squish blood.

Driving on we were treated to a glowing delight. Wow. Then we did a driving tour around the Lake Superior port towns of Superior and its next door neighbor Duluth in Minnesota.

Just like the guidebook says, Superior is not so much and Duluth is very cool.

We spent the night here in this three bedroom, two bathroom, kitchen, living room, sun porch, House in the itty-bitty town of Brule for very very little money. Business is seriously down.

We did the trip in great comfort rollin' along the highway white-line fevor in Mark's mother's Cushy Cadillac Car.

It was a fun place with a big gathering of the owners and all the residents around a blazing campfire.

Good fun! And then we were to be up early the next morning for our 8AM canoe trip down the Brule River.

June 13

Mark and Cynthia! Oh yeah, we are having some plenty good fun!

We're up and out of last night's cabin bright and early to make it for the 8am start of our amazing amazing canoe trip down the Brule River. It was soo Much Fun.

First, we got totally rained on, soaked through. Then it got sunny and we dried out. We had maybe six passes through rapids rapid-y enough for us to get a good hoot going and sprayed wet again. It was soo Much FUN.

I decided not to take my camera. I bought a little waterproof disposable instead and I don't have the pictures back yet but...

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...Cynthia did have her camera and these are a few of hers.

I have to say, that river was as beautiful and memorable as any river I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy.

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After the river ride we headed north-east, touring along the edge of Lake Superior heading into Bayfield, kicking off point to the Apostle Islands.

At the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Visitors Center, our only National Park Service opportunity to buy the Ten Dollar Senior Life Time Pass any time near my birthday. I've been looking forward to my 62nd birthday for this Exact reason.

It is a few days early but the Ranger here was sympathetic and understanding and kind and sold me the thing anyway.

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The lake was starting to kick up some angry and just about then we came across this group of kayakers ready to take on the impending storm.

Storms on the Great Lakes are nothing to trifled with as evidenced by all the wrecks that litter the bottom. Oh they were intrepid, those kids.

We had to stop in Hayward to see more giant fiberglass fish. It's required.

We had some good eats here at the Fish Lips and then made our way back home in anticipation of our Sunday at the cousin's lakeside cabin. Family Fotos tomorrow!

June 14

Today is Sunday, a day with relatives out at the cabin.

Mark's father had no siblings and maybe a couple of cousins but his mother had 8 siblings and they all had a load of kids...Mark's cousins numbering in the thousands.

This lakeside cabin belongs to one of the cousins, Jan and Ron, and you couldn't find nicer, more welcoming folk.

Standing on the balcony looking out to the lake. That's their pontoon boat in the middle and a speedboat on the right.

There was a lot of activity with the speedboat and The Young People doing spinning jumping tricks on tube-like things dragged behind the speedboat.

Out on the pontoon taking the sun.

Wisconsonites in Praise of the sun. It was a long cold winter, a short cold spring, and now all they want is please for heaven's sake could they have some SUN.

We'll talk again in August.

Lexie, one of Mark's nieces.

We had fun - we swam in the lake and we went paddling in a blow-up boat all the way to the sand spit and back. It was an adventure!
Mark
Father and Son.

It was going to be Jan's birthday the next day, her Big Five OH so we all got to eat cake and sing.
Mark
Back at The Parents for dinner, Dick art directed this photo session, passing the tongs, the baton so to speak, on to the next generation, and it gets to be naptime for Dad.

Brooke doing her cheerleading moves. You go girl!

After dinner we decided to enjoy a little after dinner amble and Peggy lead us around the neighborhood.

We see these guys all the time. I'm waiting for the deer, and my walleye of course.
Cynthia
Cynth, Peggy, and Michelle. We're the after-dinner amblers. When we got back the whole kitchen was cleaned up. Nice.
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We're singing. We know the same songs and we like to sing 'em Out Loud. Cynthia was BEGGING for my camera.

And if I say 'hey let's...' Peggy says 'Sure, let's!'. And Peggy's always got an idea 'Hey, let's...' to which I reply 'Sure, let's!'.

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June 15

The kids moved one of the comfy chairs from the basement into this spot in the living room and a perfect side table so I'd have 'my place' to plug in and to enjoy this view any time of the day or night.

I had a shot from the evening on a previous day and this is a morning view. Sigh!

Mark went to Minneapolis to work this morning and won't be back until Thursday night so we're on our own for a few days. Cynthia is working too Monday-Thursday but I've got plenty to do.

I went in to work with Cynthia and then took her car for an outing. First stop, Cynthia's office town, the cute-as-pie Chippewa Falls.

To get a feel for the era. In this tiny town here are 12 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

I spent some time in the Goldsmith Memorial Chapel, prominent in the early 1800s.

In comparison I really wasn't feeling it for downtown Eau Claire, which is strange because I thought I was going to like that place especially. There are many lovely old residential neighborhoods without that feeling of tract house suburban living, but the downtown seemed confused and unsure of itself, which is all to say, no pictures here.

Then I drove to a very small town where they have a restaurant touted by the guide books, the Norske Nook. It was ok but I can't give a fair review because when I got there the car started acting up. In the end it was No Problem. The car is Just Fine. The people in Osseo (pronounced O-sea-o) were wonderfully helpful. But you know how that can be, when you fear for the worst.

After Cynthia's work we went around looking at places to live as they are planning to move soon to a location better suited for their commutes. That was fun. And then we cooked a good dinner, I enjoyed my view, we played with our pictures and chatted. Oh lucky me!

June 16

The first big excitement of the day was seeing the deer wander through the yard this morning. She was probably doing in the woods what bears do in the woods and hence not so elegantly she stood still for a brief moment.

And the second excitement was going around with Cynthia to look at places for rent. Here's the keeper.

We were the first to look at it and while Cynthia was writing a deposit check out by the car the second people to look at it were saying they wanted it, but then Cynthia handed the landlady the check and she was glad to welcome Cynthia to their new home!

We saw many versions of these two bedroom one bath duplexes. This one is in wonderful shape in a wonderful neighborhood. We spent an hour visiting with the neighbors who are very dear, and it's 25 miles closer to her work, 30 miles closer to Mark's.

And a dishwasher. Cynthia swooned over the dishwasher.

This is two views of their yard, the same as all the other yards in the neighborhood. It is very very country out there with full-on fields two blocks away.

The attached garage with an electric garage door opener is a real luxury for the winter.

I knew, but hadn't fully absorbed what it means to have a warm, tidy, clean, full basement. The basement is the size of the full house! This doesn't even show it all. It's dang amazing.

And SO inexpensive by LA standards although wages are not to LA standards either. Really though, I'm thinking you could pretty easily live on two Social Security checks out here in the Midwest. If you have a very very high tolerance for freeeezing cold in the 7 months of winter and sticky humid suck-the-life-right-outta-ya heat in the 3 months of summer. But then since 'they' all want to retire to Florida first chance they get, California retirees might as well skip the Midwest part and go straight to Florida.

July 17

On the 17th I spent the entire day lounging around and looking out the window. Really.

So here are some of Cynthia's pictures. Her rainbow shot got the full double which is so cool.

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I still don't have my river pictures - this one is very cool, I forgot to use it the first time around.

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Our lake day. That's ME with Brooke and Lexie. I swam with the girls out to the platform.

For what seemed like an hour, as I struggled to get Up ON that thing I thought I wasn't going to make it and would have to turn right around and swim back. I could not pull myself out of the dang water...but then...I did!

Cynthia has many pictures of my pathetic struggle which I am Not putting here.

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Mark
There were so many adorable and talented dogs around the lake cabin belonging to the residents and all the neighbors. They run in a summer-camp like pack. This cutie-pie was the baby of the lot.

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Then Lexie and I went out boating so to speak. As well as occasionally going straight ahead, we also spent a lot of time going around in circles.

We made it all the way to the sand spit, currently being a top destination for the dogs to relieve themselves. We called it Poopy Island.

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June 18

On Thursday I dropped Cynth off at work and drove out to where Mark's mom is taking care of her mom during the week. The youngest sibling was there too as was her daughter who is getting married in a few weeks.

Peggy made a most delicious, according to Mark a classic, Wisconsin ladies lunch. We had Tater Tot Hot Dish which includes ground beef and carrots, Cookie Salad which is made with cool whip, cookies, and mandarin oranges, and scrumptious brownies with home made chocolate fudge poured over. Yowza!

We had a lively visit with the family and then Peggy and I went to the nearby Indian casino where for ten bucks I played video porker for an hour. What a lovely day!

Sara, GG, Peggy, Tudee.

From 1986, The FAM. The siblings are numbered 1-9 and the spouses are listed with their sibling-mate. Dick and Peggy are Mark's parents. I'm going to underline the names of the ones I've met!

Standing on the floor from the left: Jim(+Karen), Karen #9, Dad (Frank), Mom (Frances), Mary #8, Ric(+Mary), Nada(+Jim).

In the middle: Pat #6. Pauline(+Pat), Peggy #5, Jim #3.

Top row: Mike #7, Dick(+Peggy), Shirley #4, Jerry(+Shirley), Betty #1, Stan(+Betty), Tom #2.

June 19

Happy Birthday to MEEEE. I got to do just what I wanted to do too.
Cynthia Mark
I wanted to go fishing. I also wanted to catch fish, preferably walleye, and then eat them.
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Well we fished and we fished. I never did get quite up to loading the worm myself. Worms I am here to tell you strenuously object when asked to take on their job as bait, so Cynthia and Mark took turns keeping me in action.

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What a gorgeous site. I was happy just to be there! No, people, please, he's fishing.

No mosquitoes yet either although I was slathered in deet. It was a very little Midwest-muggy but then the breeze kicked in and we have basically had great weather the whole time I've been here.

Cynthia, gone fishing.
Mark
I caught 2, Cynth caught a bunch more, Mark said he caught 'oh about 20'(?!) and we had to throw them All Back.

That's right, every single one. They were Too Little. Pulling them in they seemed plenty big enough! We got little bitty bluegill, perch, bass, and sunfish.

But not to fear...
Mark
...we had bought frozen Canadian walleye Just In Case and there they were right out there on the counter ready for us when we got home.

So I GOT my birthday walleye dinner and it was FAB. And a cake and singing too!

(Side note: This is interesting. We had to buy Canadian walleye because there is no commercial fishing anywhere in any lake in Wisconsin. You can't (in theory anyway) buy any fish from Wisconsin. It's all about recreation here and they don't want the lakes depleted.)

June 20

We're off for our Saturday outing of a few hundred miles but first we went from Chetek into Chippewa Falls to the shoe outlet for Mark to look for some new work boots.

This was a Huge store with SO many men's shoes. I'd never seen anything like it.

Then we drove drove through gorgeous farm country. Gorgeous!

Got'ta Stop Now.

YUM. Wisconsin downhome brats...and btw pronounced brat like bratwurst not brat like that snotty kid down the block.

Our destination - the town of Phillips and Fred Smith's Wisconsin Concrete Park.

It's the favorite roadside attraction of the author of the guide book we're using and since we've been enjoying his observations, we decided to give it a go.

Hmm, a miniature-cross between the Watts Towers and the Terra Cotta Warriors? Fred Smith started this project in 1950. He had a stroke in 1964 bringing an end to his constructions although he continued to speak of making additions until his death in 1976. There are over 200 pieces crowded onto this property on the edge of the highway.

Whooou, check him out.

A lot of the glass is missing but I can still imagine what it might have been like to experience these folk in their original state.

Man and Beast and plenty of fantasy characters too.

Back on the road we passed the Czech Festival. We went in. It was held in the high school. In the high school cafeteria, and the auditorium, and the gym. It was stuffy in there and a little too odd so we didn't stay.

We decided to find the oldest tavern in Wisconsin which was in the same town. We found the place smouldering from the fire that Burned It Down not more than a week ago. So...

...we moved on down the road to this bbq joint, the only place for miles, across from the window factory and the corn fields. Everything we ate was delicious.

Then on the way home we had such a sunset. We had to stop the car. It made me gasp.

We rushed to set up the tripod at home and this is one of Cynthia's shots.

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Driveway shadows. Howdy! Good night!

June 21

Oh boy, another day of Touring Around. My favorite.

Crossing into Minnesota we are taken aback by the view of the Franconia Sculpture Park. We've got to stop here!

See that house? A cadre of artists, 10-14 "emerging and mid-career artists", live there for various lengths of time while working on huge sculpture projects funded by the Jerome Foundation and many other arts organizations.

The art is then displayed in the fields surrounding the house.

This is the construction area where the artists work.

I haven't mentioned all the wildflowers yet. They were not here when I arrived and now they are everywhere. Pretty cool.

This guy is building a project, an amphitheater where the mounds he is raking up will be covered in grass and you can sit on them or on the marble slabs. He was very generous with his time describing how this very amazing place works.

Then we visited the mid-1800s town of Stillwater on the St Croix River.

This area is an easy communting shot to Minneapolis-St Paul were it not that this is the only way to cross the river within 20 miles and hence is a real rush hour bottleneck.

This is a lift-bridge too, very close to the river, which only makes matters so much worse for the traffic but kinda cool for the tourists. Mark says in the winter folks just drive across the ice!

We all liked it. It is a touristified old town done nicely. They've kept the whole look including warehouses, factories, and river boats, all repurposed for residental and modern commerical enterprises.

Here's a building that is waiting for renewal...

Stillwater is also well-known for its bookstores including a specialty in antiquarian volumes and maps. There's a Frank Lloyd Wright too, but it is at the moment privately occupied.

This picture is out of whack...I'm going to fix it tonight!

We are in the visitor's center of the Interstate State Park, first State Park in Minnesota and quite fabulous with all sorts of trees, rivers and lakes, and fabulous looking hiking trails that we did not enjoy because it was Raining.

And to get in, I got to use my new National Park Senior Life Time Pass! Who knows how many state parks are going to accept my National Park Senior Life Time Pass!
Mark
Last stop of the day - find Dad for a Father's Day greeting. He was at GGs with another flock of relatives I got to meet.

What a couple 'a cuties!

Then Dick came over to C&M's place for dinner where we ate pizza and watched the nascar races. And a grand time was had by all!

June 22

It's Monday, the kids are off to work and I have to get ready to go.

So I think, hmm, why don't I walk into town? Why indeed?! Because it was h.o.t. and humid. I know what it's like in the Midwest when it's hot and humid. It's the main thing I remember of my childhood trips to Illinois.

And I'm 62 years old (with a National Parks Senior Life Time Pass!), I've traveled widely, so I should be able to use my experience when considering my actions. But noooo.

It was SO HOT I finally just thumbed it the last mile. It was going to be that or the ER. My ride was blasting a/c and I was Happy.

From while I was still walking...

As a final picture from my Absolutely Wonderful two weeks: Corn. When I arrived you could not tell what, if anything really, was growing in this field and now it's Corn. It's the country.

Thank you dear Cynthia! Thank you dear Mark! I had an Absolutely Wonderful time.
Click HERE and all the pictures in this chapter will get big.


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