Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another milestone

Mixed emotions today.

This has been a day of mixed emotions.  On one hand I remember the 23 plus years that Joanne and I were married.  On the other hand I am very sad that she is not here to celebrate with me.

Twenty four years ago today, on a Friday evening, Joanne and I were married.  What a journey that began that day.  Not a day goes by that I don't think of her and I miss her more than ever.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 20

Almost over and back to where it started.

Well, the  dogs and I are back to where we spent our first night out on this journey.  We are back at the Miller's Kampground in Liberty, Missouri.

We left Prior Lake, Minnesota, around 8:30 this morning and headed for I-35.  Had a pretty uneventful day of driving other than the wind.  Spent the entire day driving into a very heavy wind coming out of the south.  That meant driving directly into the wind the entire day.  I was fairly tired when we arrived at the RV park around 5:00 this evening.  After getting the coach plugged in and set up we have pretty much sent the evening sitting under the air conditioners. 

Tomorrow will be our last day on the road and we should arrive back home sometime tomorrow in the afternoon.  After I get the coach unloaded then will come getting in contact with the insurance company and the glass people.  Thanks to a large hail stone from a storm in Oklahoma City this past June and the "great" roads in our Interstate system we now have some major cracks down the right side of the windshield.  Additionally, it has pulled lose from the coach in a couple of places.  I was able to cover those areas with tape to keep the rain out while we were up in northern Minnesota.  We've experienced a bit of wind noise today but nothing we can't live with.

This has been a good trip, much better than the first two solo excursions I've made this year.  The trip to Florida in January was very sad and lonely for both me and the dogs.  The trip to Indiana in May, for the Monaco America rally, was also very sad in that I was with many of Joanne and my very close friends, many of the same people we were with just three weeks prior to her death.  This trip gave me a good bit of time to spend with Joanne's family members up in Duluth.  Not only with her only Aunt and Uncle but some good quality time with her brother, Roger, and his family.  Attending the Priolo family picnic and seeing several of her cousins was also very good.  While in the Minneapolis area was able to see Roger's children.  This was a more upbeat trip and I feel much better in the return trip home than the prior solo outings.  I can only say "Thank You" to the Duluth branch of the Priolo family for making me feel so welcome.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 19

Casino donation and lunch in a famous diner.

Yesterday was a day for mostly hanging out around the coach and playing with the dogs.  After they had their supper I headed over to the Casino next door to find something to eat and play a little Blackjack.  The food court looked better than the big restaurants or the buffet.  Then spent a couple of hours trying my luck at the Blackjack table.  As is normal, all the luck was on the dealers side.

Today I decided to head over to St. Paul for a late lunch at a famous diner.  Mickey's Diner has been in business since 1939 and is now operated by the third generation of the family.  Joanne and I had visited there a few years ago after we had seen the movie "A Prairie Home Companion".  The cast of the PBS radio show that the movie was based on has been known to gather at Mickey's late at night after the broadcast.  Mickey's has also been featured in several other movies and many television shows.

The radio show is broadcast from the Fitzgerald Theater which is located just a couple of blocks from Mickey's.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 17

Moving day and visiting with more kin folk.

The time in Duluth has come to an end.  Pulled out of the Lakehead Boat Basin about 8:30 this morning and headed south.  First stop was for fuel.  Paid the highest price of the whole trip at $4.26.9 per gallon for #2 Diesel.  Fortunately I only needed just over 22 gallons.  We arrived at the Dakotah Meadows RV Park around 12:30 PM.  We've stayed here many times over the years and enjoy this park.  This is in Prior Lake, Minnesota, down on the southwest side of Minneapolis.  This park is adjacent to the Mystic Lake Casino and golf course.  This is a very large complex operated by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

After getting the coach all set up for the few days I plan to be here I got in the car and head up to the north side of Minneapolis to meet up with some of Joanne's family members.  Mark and Heather are the children of her brother, Roger.  Tonight was Mark and his wife, Wendy, and their son Zack.  Heather brought along her boyfriend, Tom.  We met at a place called the 5-8 Club, a local hamburger place.  We had a good meal and were able to sit and visit for some time.

LtoR: Tom, Heather, Zack, Wendy, Mark and Me

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 16

Gearing up, getting ready to move.

Just relaxing this morning before getting out and starting to get the coach ready to be back on the road.  This will be the last full day in Duluth.  Need to take down the windshield sun shade, take the tire covers off and dump my holding tanks.  Also need to pick up all of Bridgit Jeane's toys she has scattered all around the inside of the coach.  Hard as I've tried I have not been able to train her to pick them up herself.

Yesterday was mostly a "stay in" day.  We had rain during the afternoon and then again during the evening.  Between rain storms I did walk over the bridge into Canal Park for dinner at the Green Mill restaurant.  Was able to take some really nice pictures around the marina/RV park as the weather cleared.

This is the view I've had for the last two weeks out the front windshield of the coach.

This was last nights sunset over Enger Hill and the harbor.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 14

Slowly winding down our time in the north country.

Not much has been happening the last few days.  Trip up on the hill to Sam's Club and Home Depot for supplies.  A stop for lunch here and there but otherwise just relaxing at the coach.  Just a couple more days here in Duluth and then will slowly start the trek south.

Today it was to another of the places from the TV show "Diner's, Drive-In's and Dives".  Just before heading out on this trip the Food Channel re-ran an episode that had Gordy's Hi-Hat Diner in Cloquet, Minnesota.  This is about 40 miles south of Duluth.  So, today was the right time to head down there for some good burgers.  Gordy's is only open from April to September.  In the winter months Gordy heads south to get out of the cold weather.

For the trip today I picked up Joanne's Aunt Pat and Uncle Dennis.  We were also joined by Roger and Marilyn, Joanne's brother and sister-in-law, and their grandson, Zack.  Marilyn's sister and her husband also joined us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 11

Just relaxing and a couple of strolls.

It has actually been pretty quite since the picnic on Sunday.  Have pretty much just hung around the coach with the dogs.  I've walked over to Canal Park a few times just to get out a little.  Had lunch on Monday at the Canal Park Dairy Queen for a bit of a change.  One of the neat things about Canal Park is the bronze artwork the city has commissioned.  There are several pieces scattered around with a plaque nearby telling who the artist is and what the piece represents.  One of my favorites is "The Determined Mariner". 
Another thing that is nice up here, and something Joanne always enjoyed, is all the flowers that are planted around town.  Due to the mild weather in the summer they are able to keep these looking nice all summer long.  We can do this in the spring down in Oklahoma but by mid summer the heat takes its toll.  In the downtown area and in Canal Park they have some really nice hanging baskets along the street.

Although it is about a half mile walk over to Canal Park walking is better than trying to drive over there.  Parking is at a premium and both in the parking lots and on the street it cost to park a car.  Due to that I've not moved my car from the RV Park much all the time I've been here.  A couple of trips to see relatives and, of course, to the picnic.  Also I've made a couple of trip "up on the hill" to the big box stores for needed items.  (Also, the only Taco Bell I've found in town in up there.)  I did drive over to the West End yesterday evening to cruise around the area where Joanne grew up.  She always liked to drive through the old neighborhoods to see what, if any, changes had been made.  I stopped at the Duluth Grill for an early dinner before returning to the coach.  (I enjoy watching the TV show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Channel and when traveling try to go to some of the places featured.  The Duluth Grill was on there a year or so ago.)  Exactly one year ago was at the Duluth Grill with Joanne and her Aunt Pat and Uncle Dennis.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 9

The family reunion picnic.

Today was the annual family picnic for Joanne's family.  We have made many of these picnics over the years.  It is always held on the Sunday closest to August 15.  When we first started coming to these they were pretty much maintained by the older generation, meaning the siblings of Joanne's dad, Ted.  Now all but one of that generation have passed on so it is up to their kids to keep it up.  In Joanne's dads family there were six kids, four girls and two boys.  The youngest, Pat, is the only one of them left and she was not able to attend today due to a fall she experienced earlier in the week.  The majority of the people there were Uncle Bud's kids.  (Bud was Ted's younger brother who passed away in 2010.)  A hand full of other cousins were there but it was kind of sparse.  The picnic this year was held at one of Bud's sons house.  Of Uncle Bud and Aunt Dorothy's children six of their eight were there.  All five boys and one of the girls.  This picture is of their five sons:  LtoR, youngest to oldest, Jimmy, Alan, Bob, Steve and Richard.

I had a good visit and was glad I made the trip.  I had briefly met some of the people in years past but got a chance to sit and visit more with them today.  Joanne's brother and sister-in-law, Roger and Marilyn, were there and able to clue me in on who was who.  (From the picture Jimmy and Steve, plus Steve's wife Nancy, are "friends" with me on Facebook so I have had some contact with them prior to coming up here.)

After returning to the coach and spending a little time with the dogs I walked over the bridge to Canal Park to get some dinner.  This time I went to a place called the Green Mill.  Had a good Italian meal before heading back to the coach for the evening.  Had very good service at the restaurant and probably left more tip than was necessary.  Always bothers me, especially when the service is very good, to take up a table for four all by myself.  That reduces the amount of money they could make and also cuts down on the wait staffs tips.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 8

Lotta food but not much else.

This has been a fairly slow day.  Spent most of the time today sitting around the coach entering uploading data to the Find A Grave website.  As previously mentioned I went out last Tuesday and photographed the entire Solway Cemetery, where Joanne's uncle and aunt are buried.  I've spent some time this week resizing the photos and uploading them to the website.  This requires setting up a separate page for each person buried there.  (The link attached to the name above in blue is to the Find A Grave section for this cemetery.  Any entry there entered by TheOldChief is my work.)

I did take some time to walk into the downtown area for lunch.  One of the places that Joanne and I always stopped for lunch, at least once, each time we came to Duluth was the Original Coney Island.  This place has been in business since 1921 and has a neat atmosphere.  This is across the bridge, through Canal Park, across I-35 and down to Superior Street, a little over a half mile from where the RV is parked.  On the way back through Canal Park I took some time to do a little shopping.  There is no way I can take a trip of this length and not have some stuff for the grand kids back home.  So, to all those little ones that might be reading this:  "Yes, I got you something."

In the afternoon, after getting the dogs out for some exercise the three of us just relaxed and took a nap.  The RV park is full this weekend due to a huge blues music festival that is going on in town.  Each time the dogs see someone walk by the coach, which is most of the day, they start barking so it was best to take them to the back for nap time.

This evening, after the dogs got fed, I walked back over to Canal Park for dinner.  Went to a national chain place this time, Famous Dave's Bar-B-Que.  This chain is based in Georgia so they have the southern food thing down pretty good.  Also, they serve "sweet tea" which is unusual up north.  (Up here most places think sweet tea is tea mixed with fruit juice.  True southern sweet tea is tea sweetened with sugar and plenty of it.  The sugar must be mixed in while the tea is still hot so it will dissolve.  Sugar will not dissolve once ice has been added and the tea is cold.)  Anyway, had a good bar-b-que dinner and did a little more shopping before coming back to the coach.

Of course, both times I ventured out today the bridge was up, letting one of the Vista Fleet boats (the local tour boats) and small craft either in or out of the harbor.  That backs up traffic, both vehicle and pedestrian.  I did learn about the schedule for the bridge.  Of course it will go up anytime one of the large ships that work the lakes enters or departs the harbor.  Otherwise, the bridge only goes up every half hour.  The Vista Fleet and all small craft must enter or depart at those times only.  This knowledge will assist me in scheduling my departures anytime I need to head into town.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 7

A little maintenance and a brother-in-law visit.

Not much happening yesterday.  Mostly spent the day doing maintenance on the coach.  Due to a hail storm this past June in Oklahoma City the windshield is cracked and has a small gap between the top of the windshield and the front of the coach.  This allows rain water to come in.  Apparently a large hailstone chipped the windshield up high on the passenger side and I did not notice it before leaving on this trip.  On some of the rough roads (I-35) coming up several large cracks appeared and caused part of the windshield to separate from the coach.  Went to Home Depot and got some blue painters tape and covered over the gap.  That should take care of it until I get back to Oklahoma, contact my insurance company and get a new windshield put in.  Also, my outside driver's side rearview mirror had worked lose so I had to disassemble it and tighten it back down.  There always seems to be something that needs to be done to keep these things operating smoothly.

Today was time to go "up on the hill" to visit with Joanne's brother, Roger, and his wife Marilyn.  Duluth is laid out around the tip of Lake Superior and is surrounded by a very steep hill.  The city grew up that hill and the newer areas are on the back side of the hill.  That area is where the large shopping mall, newer chain restaurants, auto dealerships and most businesses that require a lot of room are located.  Roger and Marilyn live up in that area.  Roger has a lawn mower/snow blower repair business he runs out of his backyard and I caught him working on a couple of mowers when I arrived.

It seems like driving almost straight up when going "up on the hill".  This was taken from the top of the hill looking back down toward town and Park Point.  That long island area just past the bridge is Park Point, an upscale part of town.  The area just past the bridge, on the right, is The Lakehead Boat Basin, where my RV is parked. 

This next picture is from the top of the hill looking down Lake Avenue.  This is the street I use coming back down the hill.  This is fun this time of year.  Not sure I'd care to be driving around here in the winter.  This street ends down in Canal Park at the foot of the bridge.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 5

An early start for a change.

Rolled out really early, at least for me, when I got up at 6:00 AM.  Got the dogs fed and walked and got myself ready and then headed out for Superior, Wisconsin.  Two of the best friends anyone could have, Ron & Kay Rivoli, were going to be in Superior for an 8:30 AM campaign rally.  They are with the Tea Party Express on a tour of Wisconsin campaigning for a U.S. Senate candidate.  For several years now anytime we were anywhere near where Ron & Kay were performing we made every effort to catch up with them.  We had a good visit, although fairly short, over donuts and coffee.  All too soon it was time for them to climb back on their bus and head out to their next campaign stop.  (Long term readers of this blog will remember that these two drove 1,600 miles, round trip, last November to sing at Joanne's memorial service.  Also, they furnished me a place to park my motor home for a week this past January at their winter home in Daytona Beach, Florida.)

It was lightly raining this morning so after visiting with Ron & Kay I came back to the coach and relaxed with the dogs.  It did rain most of the day but in the afternoon it cleared off and the sun came out.  The temperature here in Duluth got all the way to 69 degrees.  This is great compared to the 100+ temps that are still happening back home.  During the evening I walked over the bridge to Canal Park for dinner.  The most well known, and one of the oldest restaurants in the area is Grandma's.  It is traditional to have at least one meal there each time we are up here.  Grandma's is in the shadow of the Duluth "World Famous" Lift Bridge that spans the shipping canal between Lake Superior and the inner harbor.  (Of course, as usual, it just started to go to the raised position as I was approaching it, both going over and coming back.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 4

Some relaxing and some grave walking.

The dogs and I spent the morning just relaxing around the coach after spending three days on the road.  They seemed to enjoy having me all to themselves for awhile.

In the afternoon I headed up past Proctor, Minnesota, to a small cemetery where an Uncle and Aunt of Joanne are buried.  This is her Dad's younger brother, Bud, and his wife Dorothy.  We drove out there last year when we were here to take a picture of their grave marker for the Find A Grave memorial page I had set up.  At the time we estimated there were about 200 or so graves there.  (This is the Solway Cemetery in the Solway community in the Lammers, Minnesota area.)  After taking another look at the memorials on Find A Grave for that cemetery I found that there had only been 22 documented, including the two I set up last year.  So, today I went out and took pictures of all the headstones, all 265 of them.  I've spent this evening copying the information off each picture to make a list so that I can start entering them on the website.  (This may take awhile because I still have about 1,000 to get entered from Resurrection Memorial Cemetery in Oklahoma City where Joanne's Dad is buried.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 3

Back on the road and then to our destination.

We left out of Faribault around 8:30 and headed toward Minneapolis.  Was hoping to miss their morning rush hour traffic and pretty much did.  Traffic was medium but it is always interesting to heard one of these big rigs through the down town area of any major city.  After a stop for fuel we were on to Hinckley and Tobie's Restaurant.  This has pretty much become a stopping place on our trips up north.  The place has been there for many years and some of the waitresses seem to have been there since it opened.

 Arrived in Duluth early afternoon and checked in at The Lakehead Boat Basin.  This is a working boat yard and marina that has RV sites in the summer months.  We have stayed here several times over the years and always enjoy it.  It is located almost downtown and within walking distance to most of the attractions in the area.  It also helps that the owners, Joel and his daughter, Jody, remember us and are always welcoming.  After getting the coach all set up I called Joanne's Aunt Pat to let her know I'd made it into town.  Went out to dinner with Aunt Pat and Uncle Dennis tonight at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant then back to their place for a good visit.  Being this is my first trip to Joanne's hometown without her this will be my first time to visit with most of her relatives since her passing.
I'll be spending the next two weeks here visiting with folks and attending her families annual reunion picnic.

The picture to the left is the view from the front of my coach.  Just past the marina is Duluth Harbor.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 2

Another travel day.

We left Liberty, Missouri, after breakfast this morning and headed north.  Fairly uneventful day with a stop for fuel in Missouri and lunch in Iowa.  Traveled up through Des Moines and then across the state line into Minnesota.  Stopped for lunch at Boondocks, a cafe/motel/truckstop that lists it's location as Middle of Nowhere, Iowa.  (Good food but lousy service.)  After getting into Minnesota one of our primary stops was the Cabela's store just south of Faribault.  I love to shop at Cabela's.  Since we don't have their stores in Oklahoma I usually buy from them via their online catalog.  They have some of the lowest prices on ammunition.   Since I do a lot of target shooting I like to buy ammo in bulk.  Picked up a couple of cases of shells for two of my firearms.

We are now encamped at the Camp Faribo Campground in Faribault, Minnesota.  The plan is to leave here in the morning and arrive in Duluth sometime tomorrow afternoon.  So far the traffic has been fairly light, which is to be expected when traveling on Saturday and Sunday.  Tomorrow may be very different, especially since Interstate 35 goes right through the heart of Minneapolis.  Since we are only about 40 miles south of there I'll wait until after morning rush hour before heading that way.  We should be well past there by the time the noon rush starts.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Minnesota 2012--Day 1

Another adventure, another solo trip.

Left Oklahoma City around 9:00 this morning, heading north.  After we got into Kansas noticed the engine in the coach was running a little hot.  Checked the gage on the dash and it showed the engine was at 211 to 212 degrees.  This engine usually runs at around 197 to 202 degrees.  Stopped in Emporia, Kansas, and bought a gallon of coolant pre-mixed for diesel engines and poured the whole thing into the resovoir.  That did the trick because when I got back out on the road she was running right at 200 degrees.

This is another trip out with just me and the dogs.  It gets lonely driving all alone.  It is almost impossible to get an AM or FM radio signal when traveling cross country.  (My car is equipped with XM Sattelite Radio but I don't have that up here in the coach.)  There is a whole shelf of music CD's but it is almost impossible to mess with them while hearding 30,000 pounds of vehicle down the road.

We made it past Kansas City today and are in a nice RV park in Liberty, Missouri.  This is normally the place we stop on our trips north and the lady in the office remembered me from last year.  Got the dogs fed and me fed and have settled in for the evening.  Several years ago, before our RV days, Joanne and I stopped here in Liberty on our way to Duluth.  We had seen the roadside signs many times advertising the attractions in Liberty so on that trip we decided to stop and take a look.  One attraction is the first bank that Jesse James and his gang ever robbed.  Also, not far out of town is the house that was owned my Jesse and Frank James mother.  We took the tour of both.  The other attraction is the Liberty Jail.  This is where the Mormons were help prisoner when they met up with trouble while attempting to establish a Mormon community.  After the death of their leader, Joseph Smith, they moved on to Utah and established themselves there.  This trip I think I'll just be content in relaxing in the coach for the night before moving on in the morning.