"Wherever I go and wherever I am, I find I should be somewhere else."

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Toadstools of Nebraska

Voyage of the Land yacht
Miles 729-1459
East Bethel MN to Brookings SD to Fort Robinson Nebraska

It is exactly 9 dead racoons from Brookings SD to Fort Robinson Nebraska, 461 miles.  Add in two dead cats, a dead coyote and something dead that my wife and I could not agree with, add in a very lackluster Vikings game on the radio and it made for a long day in the RV. a bit too moch as the cats started howling when we drove through Chadron, the Magic city (which has nothing to do with magic) and we still had 30 miles to go.

I did a book festival in Brookings, which was poorly laid out and as such, I won't waste my time there again.  It is a mystery of why they moved the biennial east river event from Sioux Falls to Brookings, maybe it was money or maybe just that the organizers don't want to have to drive to the largest city in the state.  It was a forlorned two days for everyone.

But enough of that, now we are in Nebraska, heading west.  Fort Robinson is a cool old Army base steeped in history.

Largely intact, the 140 year old fort served as an internment spot to subdue plains native Americans and then as headquarters of the 9th military and then as the largest quartermaster redoubt in the world from 1919-World War II breeding Army horses and mules.  In World War II it served as a housing for 2,000 German POWs from Rommel's North Afrika Corps.  The only trouble these prisoners of war caused was in another Nebraska camp when they ran our of beer, they rioted.  They accepted 3.2 beer ...reluctantly..

It has been largely restored since closing in 1947 and wirth the USDA pulling out in 1971.  It is a large and generally cool base, they have a nice campground and fairly healthy prairie steppe.

There is also an unsolved mystery of who killed a hobo on the Chicago Northwestern RR line to Lander WY right at this spot in 1940.

This was 63 years after Crazy Horse was killed a few hundred yards north.  It was pretty clear what happened there.

North of here is the Toadstool Geologic Park, it is basically badlands with a two foot layer of sandstone on top of the mud.  The mud erodes quicker.  Much of them have fallen down since being named.

I saw a common checkered skipper, a new butterfly

7 McCown's longspurs and a few odds and ends sparrows

Plus a last look at the sandridge prairie as tomorrow we climb the Pine Ridge before getting into Wyoming.  We will make the Rocky's tomorrow by noon.

I'm camped next to an military doctor buddy from Chuck Probst, an accomplished world lister and Hawaii birding guru who I birded with during my big year in Maui, small world.  Chuck's old Vietnam pal doesn't understand birders much like those at the Brookings Book Festival, we are a misunderstood lot, but oh works for me.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Of Ties and Tailgating

Chapter 4:  Of Ties and Tailgating

Excerpts from “Project X”
Miles 234-728, East Bethel. MN to Madison, WI
            It had been a very warm September week in East Bethel, MN for the first two weeks of our self-imposed exile from the world and slowly but surely we began to figure out what we needed and what we didn’t need in “Big Bird” our 34 foot land-yacht.  We didn’t need three cats.  We need individual storage buckets for underneath and we needed a longer sewage hose.  We need to lock a very friendly cat in the bathroom in the middle of night or that would be the end of sleep.  We need to move our rig the next time we come here to try to get satellite television due to a misplaced tree.  I also need an eastern screech owl but I didn’t need a barred owl, which, it seemed was almost as bad as Snowball the cat at night.
            Our last week in paradise we went to a baseball game in Minneapolis and I started to think, we needed a better team.  In 31 baseball games since 1977, I had never seen the Twins beat the hated (or loved) Yankees at home.  I was 0-31.  It was a painful, three stadiums of memories.  I had seen Reggie Jackson smack a monster homerun off the red scoreboard in right back in 1977 and then take a curtain call from the Twins faithful late in a game when I was 11 and then later, I saw Roger Clemons make one of his many “last starts” to beat up the Twinks and this year, my boys lost 7-2 in a very uninspired game.  The Twins fielded a team in September that consisted of 9 players that combined had hit 32 homeruns, one less than Giancarlo Stanton, the newest Yankee slugger that had hit 33 by himself.  Even the umps wanted to go home. In the seventh inning, he called a Twin batter out after a called second strike.  That is not something you see every day.  Even the Yankee catcher stood and patted the ump on the shoulder, after the batter looked confused at his early retirement.  The ump reversed his call and two pitches later, a soft line drive made the out “official.”
            The next night, we went to Hamilton.  In some sort of technical problem, the doors remained closed for almost an hour while we felt like cattle stuck in a slaughterhouse.  Then we were let in to a performance by understudies and fill in talent.  It wasn’t a bad performance, but for $200, I expected more.  Alexander Hamilton was a self-righteous man who traded moving the capital to the South for nothing.  He claimed the moral high ground except that he was more immoral than most, having affairs and leading to his son’s death by dual, before his own.  Aaron Burr was not any better and in some respects, both should have never left that New Jersey field alive back in the day.  The dual should have been a tie where both lost.  I guess, it was something to do and oddly, the night we were at the play a few blocks from Target Field, the Twins beat up on the Yankees and the night before our night at the Orpheum, Hamilton was played by their main cast….oh well, the story of my life.
            Our final weekend in camp featured a deck party hosted by us on our new "deck", that featured 50 guests and then on Sunday we sat on a neighbor’s deck to root for our side of the battle of the North, Packers versus Vikings.  

The rest of my family was in Lambeau rooting for Gang Green.  My wife brought purple and yellow chips to the deck party.  The game, never really ended as no one lost, or no one won.  Ties are like that.  In the end, the biggest loser was the Vikings rookie kicker named Daniel Carlson.  He kicked himself out of a job and two misses in overtime cost the Vikings a win.    He might have a “Viking” sounding name but the rookie was most recently at Auburn, Alabama and was from Colorado Springs, Colorado so in the end,  he wasn’t up to being a real Viking. 
            Much like the football game, the rest of what happened that weekend could not be properly described in writing, you just had to be there, so I will spare you the prose.
            On September 17th, we drove down to Madison to see our son, Allwin.  Silja had never visited him in Madison, now in his second year of PhD studies at UW as it always seemed difficult for her to leave our daughter for a few days.  I stopped off at Necedah NWR to look for cranes and find a red headed woodpecker for “Project X” and we saw two cranes 10 miles west of the refuge out in a field, so not able to get them for my project, but found cooperative woodpeckers in the usual area.  Necedah is the easiest place to get this somewhat elusive woodpecker, I’ve ever found.  

There were trumpeter swans everywhere but there were also mosquitoes everywhere, even  mid-day in heat.  Brighid the dog was looking for any water she could find, and if it meant her falling off rip-rap, that was okay for her.

 Madison was still the same place I worked at back in the day as a Capitol page, but I never went to school here.  I was accepted to Medical School but I got such a recruitment to be an MD/PhD researcher here that it turned me off and I instead went to Minnesota.  This time, we walked around the campus and ate at the Terraces. 

I touched “Abe’s toe” on Bascam Hill for luck like I last did in 1984 before the Wisconsin State Forensics Championships.  That worked when I was a high school senior and my Demo speech on Ice fishing completed an undefeated year.  I guess it also worked this time, as we had a great visit with Allwin.  We miss him and he seemed to miss us, too.  We have thousands upon thousands of miles to go, so we need all the "luck" we can get.  We haven’t seen as much of him since he went to Europe to study in college and now, here.  Nine hours seems close but we never end up driving this way. 

We hiked around Lake Mendota, saw his lab, and then in between meals, while he went to an engineering class, we hung out at Barnes and Noble.  Maybe I’m writing about the wrong topics?

The weather is changing, and so after an all-too-brief visit we headed up the road to our next point of call.  We sort of left feeling like the football game, we hadn't won, nor lost.  It felt like a tie.  It was nice to be here, but sad to leave.  Allwin agreed to take the dog in February when we take this journey south to Uruguay on our way to points even farther south, so that was good.  It will be best to know that the family’s best friend is in good hands when we are off the grid in the South Atlantic. 

We love you Allwin!

Project X  9/17/2018
39.  Wild Turkey
40.  Red-headed woodpecker

Sunday, August 19, 2018

To Cross a Fox

Cross Foxes is a 5 star restaurant at the foot of a mountain in Wales that is apparently dog friendly.  It is called "a dining extravaganza in a fantastic setting."  Did I just return from Wales?  Did I visit my acquaintance Harry Holland, a famous artist in Cardiff?  Although, it seemed like I traveled 6 time zones, sadly, I have never been to Wales so the answer is "no."

But...I did experience a cross fox, the four footed critter.

The Cross Fox is a mutation of the red fox, mostly seen in the boreal forests on Canada.  This was where I was and as I sat in line at the Canadian Customs line, a cross fox came out of the forest to look at us and defying rules on cameras, I snapped a quick shot of the beautiful creature harvested for its unique fur.

It was a typical week of pike fishing, birding, and having an adventure.  There was a rare Greater Black hawk in Maine to chase but this trip had been set year's ago so there was no second thoughts on that, Ontario was on.  Not everything is a seaplane awaited to take us northwest from Armstrong Ontario

On Sunday the 12th I luckily knocked off item #121 on my bucket list.  I drove completely around Smoothrock Lake, making a 35 mile or so odyssey in a 16 foot boat with a 20 horsepower motor,something I had never done since I first came there in 1982.  We caught some nice walleyes cruising around and saw some nice views.  It was my longest boat ride since 1991 when my wife and I crazily drove a 14 foot boat 100 miles down Lake Powell to see Rainbow bridge actually knocking off two buck list items, oddly both having nothing to do with the journey or the monument, and both incidental
#2 Catching a 1lb bluegill and #9 catching a 2lb crappie,both under the dock at the trail to the famous natural arch

Besides completing a life goal, I also caught some fish....

I saw some birds
Gray Jay

Baby loon with parent

Ruffed grouse on a cabin roof

Red eyed vireo

I also saw some "good"bugs:

A common branded skipper

One of the northernmost  reported to the bug site, BAMONA

Aphrodite fritillary

I saw some fabulous scenery, before a nearby forest fire filled the air with burning smoke and making days seem like dusk and dusk resembling nights

Sea Monster Bay from my book..."Confessions of a Pike Whisperer" absent this year of anything scary including large fish

The falls on the west side of the lake

The falls on the east side of the lake at Funger Lake

Trophies were handed out:
Unfortunately, none to me.  It was another year without hardware or prize money. 
Dr Jerry McCollough from Wadena, MN won the Stan Peer Trophy for winning the walleye challenge, catching the winning fish on his last fish.  2017 champion, Eric Thoreson of Rice lake, WI is handing him the trophy.

My boat partner Greg Peer bested my pike by over two inches to win the pike trophy, the 9th year of the last ten, the "pike boat" won the contest.with his second fish of the trip.  It was Greg's 3rd in a row, since we tied back in 2015.  Our boat caught 151 pike, down about 100-150 pike from a good year, due to the calm and the heat.

I ate some fine bush lunches:in remote spots, it wasn't five star like Cross Foxes, but my cooking was good, I gave it half a star because it was hot and generally we had something to sit on
I made grilled cheese

Franks on Burnt Over Lunch island

There were woodchucks:

There were few blueberries on the bushes to pick again this year, but we got enough for pancakes

While I was out searching for warblers to photo on one of the too many hot and lazy days without fish, I stumbled upon a scene with a guide Greg Alexander and some of the camp help, tried to water ski.  One  looked to be almost drowning after starting well.

Another kid finally making the longest run possibly ever on the lake, and Greg gave him the thumbs up!  way to go!

Yet another great trip up above the tension line, hundreds of miles north of the 48th parallel in the land of the North....It wasn't Wales but oh Canada!  I think this is my 42nd up here. I could go for free in September but well,  I have other things to do, like fire up our new land yacht....


Thursday, August 2, 2018

A Glamping We Will Go!

Dan Lanik, a local artist in Wahoo, Nebraska  was moved when a local gang of utility workers cut down a huge pine tree and were just taking the log to the dump so he carved a bear holding a large pike.  He donated it to Nebraska and it stands at the entrance to Lake Wanahoo State park, guarding a lake with neither bears, nor northern pike.

I can feel this, I catch a record pike and some bear would sneak up and steal it from me, as we all know my relationship with bears.  I can picture me grabbing the fish from the bear...."give it back!"

We stopped in Wahoo yesterday on our way to Lincoln, Wahoo, what an odd name for a town...

Wahoo is defined as:
a)  A type of bush or shrub
b)  a fish of the mackerel family that can exceed 150 pounds
c)  A famous submarine sunk in WWII by the Japanese
d)  An exclamation said upon buying something cool or after catching something like this big fish

As I implied in my last missive, a life changing event was waiting for us in Lincoln, much like the scenes from "Yes Man." A Jim Carrey Movie.  We did not visit the sights in Nebraska's capital, however, because we were getting the three hour tour (remind you of something?)....we were getting the tour of our new....toy?  home?  What really is it?

You see Olaf is going back on the road, with Silja this time.  Bob Tiffin of Tiffin Motorhomes describes it perfectly with the motto of his company...."Roughing it Smoothly."

By 2pm,we signed the paperwork and we now own something made by Mr. Tiffin, a new 34 foot Allegro RED, a glamping (glamour- camping) machine that has its own laundry, household refrigerator,and four TVs, and an impressive 800 ft pounds of Cummings powered tourque behold the behemoth.....

Truth be told, it was a little scary driving it for a while. Passing my first truck  carrying cut wahoo driving to Wahoo took a little nerve, but I survived.  The drivers between Lincoln and home survived.  It is big...and there are 43 foot versions of this. We skipped the submarine memorial in downtown Wahoo, which is named for the bush and not the fish, which can actually swim faster than this land yacht can drive on a two lane road in most states (the fish and not the bush).

Buying this is a big deal, it scares us a bit.  We are not selling our house...yet.  The maiden voyage will be west in September, but we may have a few mini test trips before that, and then, let the glamping begin.  A cat and dog were freaked out inside it this morning in our yard.

We will have to christen the land yacht, but we have to figure out the name of her, something this big needs a name.....we will accept submissions.  Before that...



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summer Doldrums

The doldrums of summer have descended upon me like a curtain descends on a play for intermission, where I wonder if I should go grab a glass of wine, go to the bathroom, or go and make a phone call.  Like most Julys, I start pondering things—thinking, scheming, or finding things to amuse myself. Other years, I just sit out in the sun and work on my tan, or lack-there-of.
Some years, I start a novel, either writing or reading one.  Almost all of the novels I’ve written were started in July.  Not this year and the one I’m trying to read, a history of the founder of Rolling Stone, I can’t get into.  It is hard for a Midwest boy to even understand either San Francisco or the Seventies.  I was too young to appreciate the Seventies, by the time I “woke up,” It was 1985 and the Baby Boomers had turned off the switch for the good times and conservatism and Reaganism were firmly in control.  I was 10 days old enough to be able to drink at 18, but that was a minor consolation. 
 I have an idea for a non-fiction research project but, ….yawn!  It is just too hot to sit in a museum and do research in Benson or Granite Falls, Minnesota.   Two dead congressmen will still be dead this fall when I’m more motivated. 
I get into hobbies in July, but rare birds are few and far between. The pike don't bite well, although even a blind dog occasionally finds a bone.
  The dickcissel have stopped singing, as had the snipe.  So these views from June are now fading memories.
My local pair of red-necked grebes are leading their chicks around and although fun to watch, how many photos can a guy take?  

Generally, not much is moving and neither am I.  Usually, I end up photographing snakes, bugs, furry mammals, and occasionally sunsets.  Not that anything is wrong with that and it is about the only month I do it.

A white-faced meadowhawk gets chummy with a garter snake in Day County, SD

A red admiral lands on my wife, she is now blessed with good luck and  fortune

Mud-puddling Melissa Blues

We binge watch television series, like "Comedians in Cars having Coffee" with Jerry Seinfeld., but I won't say anything about that.
There is a behavior I do in July that scares my wife.  As it is the time, I plot adventures.  My two big year projects were July ideas as were two company formations.  Mind you, they were profitable, but still, as they say, an idle mind is a Devil’s tool. A new lake cabin was thought of in July.  I buy things, sell things, and worse for my wife, I schedule things in July.  Even spending July’s in Europe, I schedule things.   “I wonder where that plane goes?”  These are never good words.   Largely, our kids were spared this as they spent July at Swedish camp, and it was being without kids that led to many adventures and many ideas.
This year is no different.  Yesterday, I plotted something big.  Chapter 97, or something like that,  in Olaf’s life now has a title.   Where it will take us?  I don’t know, I never know.  The next adventure starts in Lincoln, Nebraska next Wednesday and I will leave you guessing.  A movie, I like, “Yes Man” goes to Lincoln, too, one of the few, and that ended both good and bad.   So be advised, Olaf IS up to something, something big.  That is next week’s story as Wednesday is coincidentally August 1st, and August brings action to Olaf’s July’s ideas.