Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bottle of Wine, Fruit of the Vine

Shadow Shot Sunday
July 31, 2011

Shadow Shot Sunday is a fabulous meme. You can see great photos from all over the world. Find out how you can participate or just browse the great photography at Hey Harriet's Photography.

We were out to eat last week at a place that we used to frequent regularly when we lived in St. Paul. Since we moved in 2005, we get there only so often. The name of the place is Cafe Latte' and I have never ever had a bad meal there.

Our celebration was a birthday. In attendance were Mrs. Spadoman and my two daughters, Alyssa and Jayne. We all had dinner, and we all had dessert. I didn't take pictures of the delicacies we had after dinner, but I should have. For the sake of a story, I'll mention them, and if you're so inclined, look them up on their menu which can be found by clicking on the highlighted link above.

Mrs. Spadoman had the Lemon Tort, Alyssa had Vanilla Cheesecake, Jayne tried the Tre Leches, (Three Milks), and I had Raspberry Tort.

At one point, the "girls" went to the rest room and check out a store window or two. I sat and saw shadows and took pictures. I chose the best of the shots for today's Shadow Shot feature.

We didn't order wine, and I'm not sure I would order Hob Nob if we did. But I did look it up after I posted this photo as my shadow shot. They have a very lively web site. 
Take a LOOK.

By the way, I used the camera feature on my cell phone. The light was low overall, but the wall display cast the long shadow of the bottle and the lines of the shelf it was mounted on.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Headin' Out

My own selkies

We'll be leaving in a little while for a weekend trip to visit the Great Lake Superior. Taking the Grandchildren for some swimming and hiking along the South Shore. We'll visit some friends in Ashland, collect rocks, picnic and generally have a great time. This excursion may turn out to be the only "Vacation" we take together this Summer.

That photo above might be what the kids will look like as they swim in the big lake. A bunch of Selkies. They love the water. I'll stick my toes in they'll turn blue and go numb, but they will love splashing and frolicking no matter what body of water it is. From the bathtub to the Great Lake, and all temperatures in between, water is King!

I'll be back Monday morning to tell you about why I'll be going to South Dakota soon.

In the meantime, treat each other with kindness and practice Peace.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Maggie

Margaret Ellen Spado

July 26, 1973

We were living in Brookfield, Illinois. Our house was on the corner of 31st and Harrison. It was a single story two bedroom affair built on a slab of concrete. The washer and dryer were at one end of the kitchen.

Our first born, Maggie, came to us that day and we became parents. We lived and loved. Then, on a fateful late Spring day, our lives would change forever.

L to R: Bobby, Maggie and Adrienne, Graduation Day, June 4, 1991

June 8, 1991

We were living in a cabin at Minneapolis YMCA Camp Menogyn, where I worked as a cook and caretaker. A one room affair with a sleeping loft, a screen porch and an outhouse. We had one 4-gang electical outlet.

We got the message early that morning via a knock on the cabin door by the camp director. Maggie was killed in an aotomobile accident in St. Paul. We were 300 miles away.

July 26, 2011

Maggie will be 38 today. We will celebrate with family and go out to dinner. We'll have decadent dessert, in the form of chocolate chocolate cake, at Cafe Latte' in St. Paul. We will all be together.

Please, my friends. I don't look for sympathy. I just wish to tell you we are still here and we acknowledge and celebrate Maggie's life and our loss on this, the day of her birth.

Maggie's Song
By: Dad

When I was young
I followed my dreams
My friends thought I was crazy
With some of my schemes

You stood by me, baby
Through good and through bad
This world is crazy
The end is so sad

Through twenty years of marriage
The love did divide
Twas a Pearl named Maggie
So sweet and sublime

She awakened our spirits
And of others around
Made her mark on the world
Her legend lives on


(Maggie won't you) Please come back
I knew you would
If you could

Life is a card game
It was the luck of the draw
It was comin' up aces
But fate had a flaw

Something has happened
No more smilin' sweet song
My world is empty
Maggie is gone

Repeat Chorus:

(Maggie won't you) Please come back
I knew you would
If you could


Sometimes we think we'll wake up from this horrible dream. Deep inside we know we won't ever live happily ever after.
Happy Birthday Maggie, we love you.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rock, Paper, Scissors, But Mostly Rock

Rocks, stones, pebbles, boulders, scree, outcroppings. What do they mean to you? Do you cast your eyes downward when you’re at the beach or on a trail? Do you look at some, pick up a few, and put some in your pockets? What force is at play for the entire process? The process of going to the beach in the first place? The process of looking at, or for, rocks? What attracts your senses? Color? Shininess? Shape? Size? Is it something that’s out of the ordinary?
Inukshuk on the windowsill

I believe all of these things, individually and collectively, are the spirits at work. The rocks are the spirits. Each has its own soul. Every grain of sand was at one time part of a mountain or the mountain itself. Worn down through time from wind, rain, flowing water, frozen water, snowed upon, sun drenched, fogged, clouded over and exposed to temperatures from so cold no human could live and breathe, and so hot the same.
Each one we see, that our eyes are drawn to, a masterpiece. None other like it. Similar, yes, but no two the same, like snowflakes. Some colored bands, some with cavities within sheltering gemstones. Translucent, opaque, solid, light, heavy, granite, chert, jasper, crystal, metallic, cinder, coal, diamonds.

I have an affinity for rocks. I have been taught that they are our ancestors. They are our Grand Mothers and Grand Fathers. They have seen all that man has ever done. They carry all wisdom because they have experienced everything in the world.
Think about it. The pebbles that are cemented together with tar to make an asphalt road are still pebbles. The accident that happened last year. The speeding car or motorcycle. The slow moving sightseer. The hitchhiker, the bicyclist. When she got out of the car to rebel from mistreatment and walked the rest of the way to town. 
Each pebble laid witness 
The pebbles of that road have seen it all. The explosions of the tumbling of the World Trade Center or the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The pebbles saw it all. They know what happened in every detail. They know who did what. And there might have been a stone sitting on a sidewalk. It becomes part of the rubble. 
Small pebbles gathered together, sealed in tar, connecting us

And it lives with every bomb we drop, every human sacrifice made, I’m sure there was a rock or a grain of sand, a particle of the Great and Sacred Earthen Mother nearby to witness. Taken from the Earth. Made into a structure with cement, then blown apart and released as a stone again. They never die. They never disappear.
Wall Street Journal photo from a bomb explosion in Iraq. The stones are set free to wander once again

So, what about it? Big deal. Eh? You can walk amongst them, or ignore them. I choose to pay attention. To wonder why I pick them up but not ever really expecting an answer, not ever to actually know the reason why the ones I have are with me. The ones on the windowsill. The ones on the dresser. The ones I carry in my pocket and travel with me. The ones I hold and ask questions to. The ones I pray with while holding them in my hands. The ones I look at from afar on pages of magazines or on a computer screen, telling them. “I’ll try to get there to visit you in person.”
Maybe it’s these rocks that call me, make me want to be on the move. Begging for a visit. I know I love them. And they let me walk over them, or up to them, touch them, feel their textures, their sharp or smooth edges. Their grain. Their hide.
Large crystal in rough, (unpolished) form

These are some I have around me at home. Believe me, I have asked the Great Mystery if it is okay that I take them home and have them live with me. I give gifts to the Sacred Earth Mother in return for the gift given to me. Some stay for a while and then find new homes by me giving them to someone or bringing them to a Sacred place to rest.
A scraping or digging tool perhaps?

Some that have come into my life are unique to where I got them, but not unique in their existence. This almost turquoise piece was cleaved and can be held in two positions. One for digging, one for scraping. It was found way atop a coastal hillside, one of the highest points around Cape Mendocino on the Northern California coast, along the Bear River Ridge Road. A place the locals call Monument. 
Scrape, with a place for the thumb

It was found with just a small edge, the rounded part that might be fitted into the palm of your hand, sticking up out of the ground. The rest of the rocks in the area was whitish in color and jagged, fractured flagstone. This was the only piece like this. Anything that resembled it was miles away on the black sand beaches of the Pacific Ocean.
Dig, or gouge, with this tool

This is my heart. This one was sitting in the sand on the Oregon coast. I had just had a heart episode that almost killed me. This heart was given to me by Mother Earth and was telling me that my heart is solid and the arteries were open for the business of carrying the blood I needed for survival.
Heart Rock

Can you spot the resemblance?

This one was but a small pebble in the sand, with more than 95% of its mass buried beneath. This agate looks like someone’s butt! In the sun, it glows.
Large agate butt

These are from the shores of the Great Lake Superior. Others are from the lava beds of a place called Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, and still others found while walking around the desert in the American Southwest. It’s funny that I use that word “found”. Like many that say Christopher Columbus could not “discover” America since there were already people here when he arrived. How could I “find” a rock that has existed through millennia?
From the Great Lake Superior

From lava flows in Idaho

I’ve been shown relics in the city, in the streets. How did they get there? Why are they there? Do the spirits send them out to observe us, to report? Are they, might they be, aliens? Do we ever see them move? Are they really inanimate? 
That blueish one from the top of Monument traveled there somehow. Who cleaved it? Did a human being that walked there long ago work with it and carry it here? Did a child that had it in their pocket, and got tired of carrying it, bring it?
And the question can be asked why for every instance, for every rock, pebble, stone and grain of sand. Do you ask these questions? Do you also ask them of the trees and plants, the grasses and flowers?
These are some of the thoughts I have about rocks. What are yours?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Vintage Pipes

Shadow Shot Sunday
July 24, 2011

This is a wonderful meme every Sunday that features submissions of Shadow Shots from all over the world. To see more and find out how to participate, go to Hey Harriet's Photography.

I love the detail in this close-up. The subtle shadows within the cylinder head fins and under the fender draw me in. Click to enlarge.

Guess the make, year and model and I'll send you a Dream Catcher.

No guesses. Oh well, here's the answer:

1973 Honda 500 Four

Gabba Gabba Hey and Peace to All

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thank You, Welcome Home

Haiku My Heart
July 22, 2011

Haiku My Heart is a creation of my friend, Rebecca, who writes the recuerda mi corazon blog. This meme is in its second year. Check it out and see more fantastic photos and read more Haiku from all over the world. And if you're interested, find out how to participate yourself at recuerda mi corazon.

Amber waves of grain

Side by side we are buried

Side by side we served

Raising the coffin flag of a deceased Veteran at a ceremony

According to my research, the letter at the end of this post was written on 12/27/2004. It was e-mailed to me by a good friend, and Veteran from the American war in Vietnam, just a week or so ago. That's right, it was one of the Larrys. Larry N. from Memphis, TN.

When I watch TV, I see corporations jumping on the support-the-troops band wagon. Sporting events have half-time or seventh inning stretch festivities to celebrate the modern day soldier. Ceremonies abound making sure the Veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't subjected to a population of people that couldn't care less that they served their country and watched their brothers and sisters shed blood and die.

I've got one friend that vehemently denies that any Vietnam Veteran was spit upon or called a baby killer. No one spit on me. No one called me a baby killer. No one, not one family member or friend, was even at the airport when I returned home from the war. No one ever said anything to me except for my Brother-in-law's Mother, an insensitive woman who asked me if I ever killed anyone.

I don't know how he knows that no one was called any names. I'm sure someone somewhere at one time or another was treated poorly when seen in uniform back in the 1960's and early 1970's. How could there not be some ill will as the protests against the war raged on at a high pace for many years before the government brought an end to the American war in Vietnam.

Common Bumper Sticker for a Vietnam Veteran

By the way, I like the sound of that moniker for the Vietnam War. The American war in Vietnam. Has a great ring to it. It was never declared a war you know. The American government defied the Geneva Convention with what they did in Vietnam, from naming a Prime Minister to withholding elections to providing arms, all against the UN Charter and against the 1954 Geneva Agreements. Look it up. It's all there. I'm not providing links. But I'm not telling any lies. Just Google "The Pentagon Papers."

Sometime in 1969, Republic of Vietnam. "Boots on the Ground"

Anyway, this Marine Corps Major, Brian P. Bresnahan, wrote this profound piece and I haven't read it until recently. This is the ultimate "Thank You" I've waited for since 1968. I don't need any fuss at a sporting event, or some TV commercial collecting beer bottle caps and beer can tabs so members of the armed forces can go see a ball game.

Actually, it's too late for any of that. We Veterans take care of each other. We shake hands and avert our eyes when the tears flow. We thank each other and welcome each other home. We've been doing that for years. We started doing that when we came out of the woods. We have done this since our heads came out of that cloud of smoke. We stop each other in parking lots when we see a Republic of Vietnam bumper sticker. At the VA. At Native American Pow Wow honoring ceremonies. On the street, in Walmart or the Natural Food Store and with our hearts when we hear of another brother dead or dying from the affects of Agent Orange.

The uncanny thing is that I don't feel one bit resentful that the people are doing something to honor current day Veterans. And since I watch a lot of sporting events, (my mindless fodder choice as opposed to reality shows, murder dramas and Idol), I see a lot of commercials and pomp during the broadcasts that honor the brave men and women that serve our country. I'm also keeping in mind that all this is sponsored by some corporation, but I do see the rank and file common man doing it as well on occasion, especially Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and now recently, the Fourth of July.

Some find it hard to believe that someone that wants peace, and is against the wars the United States is involved in, would support the troops and not have a problem with the rest of America honoring them as well. If you've been coming here for any length of time, may I call your attention to the side bar where it shows very clearly that I honor those that have given the utmost to Family, Community and Country. May I suggest you do too.

All Gave Some, Some Gave All

This letter has the heading of "A Thank You from a Marine stationed in Iraq". Without further adieu, here is the 2004 letter by Major Brian Bresnahan:

A guy gets time to think over here and I was thinking about all the support we get from home. Sometimes it's overwhelming. We get care packages at times faster than we can use them. There are boxes and boxes of toiletries and snacks lining the center of every tent; the generosity has been amazing. So, I was pondering the question: "Why do we have so much support?"

In my opinion, it came down to one thing: Vietnam . I think we learned a lesson, as a nation, that no matter what, you have to support the troops who are on the line, who are risking everything. We treated them so poorly back then. When they returned was even worse. The stories are nightmarish of what our returning warriors were subjected to. It is a national scar, a blemish on our country, an embarrassment to all of us
After Vietnam , it had time to sink in. The guilt in our collective consciousness grew. It shamed us. However, we learned from our mistake.

Somewhere during the late 1970's and into the 80's, we realized that we can't treat our warriors that way. So, starting during the Gulf War, when the first real opportunity arose to stand up and support the troops, we did. We did it to support our friends and family going off to war. But we also did it to right the wrongs from the Vietnam era. We treated our troops like the heroes they were, acknowledged and celebrated their sacrifice, and rejoiced at their homecoming instead of spitting on them.

And that support continues today for those of us in Iraq . Our country knows that it must support us and it does. The lesson was learned in Vietnam and we are better because of it.

Everyone who has gone before is a hero. They are celebrated in my heart. I think admirably of all those who have gone before me. From those who fought to establish this country in the late 1770's to those I serve with here in Iraq . They have all sacrificed to ensure our freedom.

But when I get back, I'm going to make it a personal mission to specifically thank every Vietnam Vet I encounter for their sacrifice. Because if nothing else good came from that terrible war, one thing did. It was the lesson learned on how we treat our warriors. We as a country learned from our mistake and now treat our warriors as heroes, as we should.

I am the beneficiary of their sacrifice. Not only for the freedom they, like veterans from other wars, ensured, but for how well our country now treats my fellow Marines and I. We are the beneficiaries of their sacrifice.

Semper Fidelis,
 Major Brian P. Bresnahan
 United States Marine Corps

May Peace prevail on the Sacred Earth Mother

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Mystery Tour, July 18, 2011

I recently took a trip to Iowa. Since I live in a neighboring state, it wasn’t by any means a long road trip, but I was away from home for four full days. I left early on a Thursday morning and didn’t get home until later in the day on Sunday.
I went to the annual Moto Guzzi National Motorcycle Club Rally in Elkader, Iowa. At one of these rallies, all one does is look at, talk about, ride and live with motorcycles and other motorcycle aficionados for the four days. Oh, and we eat too, usually while we’re out taking a ride in the countryside.
Early morning fog waiting for Ole Sol to burn it up in Elkader, Iowa, along the Turkey River

Someone that has been to the area before will have had a good meal or found a unique spot and it will be suggested that the group ride there and sample what the giver of information is talking about. In this case, the small almost completely dead town of St. Olaf beckoned with the St. Olaf Tap and their claim to fame, the pork tenderloin sandwich.

The town of St. Olaf isn’t far from Elkader. There are signs that this was once a vibrant community. But these days, the downtown of one block had most buildings empty or at least the windows curtained off, and no business was there let alone open, except for the St. Olaf Tap. And that wasn’t at all busy for a Friday noon lunch crowd as we found ample parking right out in front for our group of four motorcycles.

Inside was just as old and rustic as the outside. A metal paneled ceiling, an original from that era, around 1900, covered us overhead. The worn wooden bar was warm and inviting. That day, there was one other patron sitting at the bar, drinking a beer.
Their claim to fame is this pork tenderloin sandwich. The one-page printed on colored paper menu had three sizes listed. A large, a medium and a mini. When our waitress came to the table with the beverages we ordered, someone asked her about the sizes.
The "Medium" size Pork Tenderloin at the St. Olaf Tap

“The large is as big as the menu, the medium is about half that and the mini is the size of the bun.”
The disappearing "Medium"

I ordered the medium. Mrs. Spadoman had the mini. Both were very good, mine was bigger. I am bigger than Mrs. Spadoman, so it made perfect sense to order the larger medium.
As far as the weather, it was beautiful for motorcycle riding, or any outdoor activity for that matter, every day. We had sun and warm temperatures. The nights were cool and the best part, no mosquitoes. Really. Around here, this is like a miracle not to have the pesky devils nibbling any piece of exposed flesh and through any thin layer of clothing. No need for bug dope. The fireflies came out in force and put on quite a show in the early evening as well. The tents were cozy with the night time temps dropping into the 60’s.
Spadoman's motorcycle parked near the tent in Elkader's City Park

The accomodations in Elkader’s City Park were wonderful. Shade trees in the camping area and the public swimming pool were a blessing. Hot showers and indoor toilets were available as well. The town itself has been welcoming this group there since 1971. Camping and four meals were provided with the registration fee.
Motorcycles in large numbers clustered together at the rally
Mrs. Spadom,an doesn't travel anywhere without her "coffee kit". Everyone in our group enjoyed a great cup in the morning each day of the rally. Brewed like we do at home, one cup at a time.

Can you guess whose cup that is?

On Saturday, we rode cross country towards the Mississippi River and the town of Guttenburg. I was told they pronounce this town Gut’-in-berg. I have called it Goot’-en-berg for years! No matter what you call it, it sits on the Mississippi River and is a gateway to some of the most beautiful country anywhere. We rode South to Balltown and had lunch. That’s where Mrs. Spadoman and I broke away from the group and headed back to Elkader using back country roads all the way.
The Mississippi River bluffs from the Balltown, Iowa overlook

All in all, the trip was grand. Lots of good food, good riding, good scenery and good time in lawn chairs talking with friends. On Sunday, I loaded up my Triumph and rode home. I saw wet pavement and an overcast sky, but the rain had passed before I got there. I rode into the sunshine just North of LaCrosse and the tips of my toes, which had gotten a little damp from the overspray, dried completely by the time I got home, 210 miles from Elkader.
I’ll return to this event next year. The folks I went with have been going for many years and now I see why they do it. Next weekend, I’ll be headed to Viroqua, WI and the Lorem-Ipsum antique bike show. A longer trip is planned for the end of August and into September.

Peace to all

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Shadow Shot Sunday
July 17, 2011

Shadow Shot Sunday is a meme created by Tracy who hails from Queensland, Australia. You can see more fabulous Shadow Shots and find out how to participate by visiting her blog, Hey Harriet's Photography.

I will tell you, these photos are from last year on a trip I took to the Southwest of the United States. This year, there doesn't seem to be as many butterflies as I have usually seen. Maybe I just haven't been in the right place at the right time. There does seem to be more Fireflies than I've seen in many years though. I couldn't tell you if there is any connection between my observations.

I do love the way their wings are catching the shadows. The grasses, although short, are casting shadows as well.

Enjoy the weekend. Take care and be well.

Peace to all

Friday, July 15, 2011

Trees, Plants, Elkader Fog with a Full Moon

Haiku My Heart
July 15, 2011

Haiku My Heart is a wonderful creation by a wonderful loving human being I know named Rebecca. You can read more Haiku and see more fabulous photography and art by visiting her blog, recuerda mi corazon.

Trees are like spirits

Limbs stretch for air and water
They are people too

The Sacred Earth Mother is very green this year around these parts. The deepness of the color in the fields and forests surrounding the Mississippi River bluffs in Northwestern Wisconsin have never seemed so lush and vibrant with verdant shades. The water a deep blue. The sun, golden, strong, powerful, warm, no, hot!
The trees are singing
Spreading sighs up from the ground
Honoring nature
I like to stand near them, touch them, yes, hug them. I love the plants too. What some call weeds are life to me. Each has a task, to maybe feed or poison, but for a purpose that some might never understand. The Great Mystery.
Fruits and vegetables
Flowers beautify our lives
Neatly bunched in rows
Honoring the land today and everyday. Enjoying the season that lies in front of me now, not thinking about the one I will honor in six months. Each day, what it brings in terms of heat, light, moisture and even catastrophe, is accepted as given by a Supreme Force of being.
Elkader foggy morning

The berries are quickly getting ripe. Corn has tassels, (I'm up North, remember, this is a big deal!). Tomato plants haven't seen such glory in ages. Even the hot peppers are flowered to the hilt.

Raspberry moonlight
Casting shadows in the night
Full Moon floods the Earth
Enjoy what we have in front of us today. Look for the good in all of it. Know that even what we perceive as nuisance is necessary for a balance that is hard to understand in a crazy world. Mankind’s control is brief and fleeting compared to the hand of the Creator. I think I'll light a fire tonight. Might you stop by?
Mitakwe Oyasin

Thursday, July 7, 2011

This, That and the Other Thing

The Ore Dock at Ashland, WI, at the Southernmost point of Chequamegon Bay, Lake Superior
This dock has sat idle since 1973

First of all, if you click on the Title of this Post, you'll hear yet another rendition from the Dump and Shortcake Band's concert at the Duxbury Store. It's from the album "Live at Dux."  Unlike the other songs that I have posted here in the past month or so, this one is Not about driving trucks. This is a remake cover of a song done most popularly by Jimmy Buffet in the 1970's. The title is "God's Own Drunk", but many people know it as the Bear Song.

In other news, I will not be posting for Haiku My Heart or Shadow Shot Sunday this weekend. Mrs. Spadoman and I will be traveling out of town. We're leaving early this morning and going to a Moto Guzzi Motorcycle Rally in the small Iowa town of Elkader. I won't return until Sunday evening.

The rally will consist of camping out in the city park and taking advantage of that town's public pool between motorcycle rides in the immediate region. We'll be along the Mississippi River and ride the high bluffs overlooking the same. I know there are planned stops at St. Olaf and Guttenburg, both small Iowa towns. St. Olaf known for a little hole-in-the-wall bar and grill that serves up a great pork tenderloin sandwich in three sizes, and another bar in picturesque Guttenburg that is known for its hamburgers.

The rally ends Saturday evening, but we'll break camp Sunday morning and have a leisurely ride for the 200 miles home. The next week will be quite busy here at Spadoville.

The first thing Monday morning, I have to be in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota Eye Clinic, I've been waiting for this appointment for almost three months. I was referred there by the VA. I'm not sure what they'll be doing, but one thing for sure, they will give me an eye exam and fit me for glasses. I have something called astigmatism, and I'm finally going to get that looked at. After that, I'm sure they'll take some photos of my eyes and decide on a course of action for some retinothapy issues.

I just finished building a small deck out front to replace a crumbling cement porch. I hired a local handyman to stain the existing deck in the rear of our home. The remodeling project of the downstairs bathroom continues, there is plumbing to be finished, and I have business issues concerning motorcycle sales on Ebay. So, it looks to be a busy week.

The Summer is moving along quite quickly. July is well under way. When I haven't been working on the projects mentioned above, I have been on the road, but only the short jaunt, away from home for only a night. None of the long three week trips that I did in the past, like last June's motorcycle trip to California or the marathon van excursion to the West coast with the family, 8000 miles and 22 days on the road with the Grandkids, that we did in 2009.

I tell you, that trip was epic. The kids desperately want to get on the road again. They need to see Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico first hand. That's where we have a small RV set up. I talk about the plan to be down there a lot in the upcoming Winter of 2011-2012. They hear this stuff and want to go. I love their collective spirit(s), and hope I can get them down there.

There you have it. An update from my neck of the woods. I guess it's not uncommon for posting and visits to blogs to slow down in frequency as Summer activities keep us out and about. I hope everyone has a great week. I wish you all much Peace.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Monday Mystery Tour, July 4, 2011

Some mornings, I sit at the computer and write. Others, I browse the web. It was on one of these browse periods I found the GOES website. GOES stands for Global Online Enrollment System. It is a place where one can apply, online obviously, for the Trusted Traveler Program. In my case, I applied for a Nexus card. Nexus is a collaboration between Canada and the USA and holders of this card have the ability to expeditiously cross the border into Canada or the United States.
I think I want one of these cards.
That is NOT me in this stock photo for the Nexus card
The enrollment consisted of an online form sent to the government of the country of which you are a citizen, in my case, the USA, and be approved. If all the items are approved, you move on to a personal face-to-face interview at a Nexus location. The closest Nexus card processing office for me was Fort Frances, Ontario Canada.

So, having a new motorcycle to ride and weather fit for such a trip, I packed up the Scrambler and headed North this past week. I had made an appointment, on line, to be interviewed for my Nexus card.
My trip took me about 350 miles, (about 575 Kilometers), from home. I stayed in the border town of International Falls, Minnesota, just across the Rainy River from Fort Frances. I left in the morning, but not the crack of dawn. Plenty of daylight hours as the sun doesn’t set in the Northland until after 9:00 PM this time of year.
The weather was great for riding. Sunny, around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, ( 27 C). I took secondary roads, mostly paved, and meandered North through beautiful country lanes amongst the forests and lakes of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
I had been in this area before in the past, but it has been a while. I noticed how some things have changed, and others have stayed the same. In the 1980’s, I drove truck and delivered anhydrous ammonia, used in water treatment at the paper mills. These border towns have Boise Cascade along both sides of the Rainy River. I delivered on both sides of the border.
One of my first stops on this trip was for gas in Cloquet, MN. I knew this particular gas station was there, but wasn’t sure of its operation because of the uniqueness. 
Frank Lloyd Wright design gas station
This petrol stop was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous world renown architect from Wisconsin. There was this guy in Cloquet that had Wright design a home and went on to hire him to design a gas station too. The main attraction is the shaded area where the gas pumps are located and the high canopy that seems to be suspended with no visible means of support. Yes, that is my motorcycle parked at the pumps.
Full view, including the rocket shaped tower

From Cloquet, I continued North and found County and Township roads on my Minnesota Gazetteer. The motorcycle I’m riding now has the capability to get off the hard top and play in the dirt and gravel, so I did just that. I looked for small grey lines, as opposed to the bold blue and red on the map, and found some fantastic overland routes to get me to my destination.

I arrived at International Falls, MN by 4:00 PM. I unpacked, had a cup of coffee and sat around until dinnertime. I found the Border Bar and enjoyed a California burger basket. Here in Minnesota, a California burger is a mainstay. It is a regular hamburger with the addition of lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. The basket designation just means it comes with french fries or potato chips and maybe a side of cole slaw. Oh, and a dill pickle.
After dinner, I sat on a lawn chair provided by the Voyageur Motel where I stayed, and smoked a cigar. The fresh air and sunshine tired me out and I slept long and hard. I woke up fresh and alert and with great anticipation of my trip across the border into Canada.
Years ago, I lived near the border, one mile away actually, and crossing was just like going anywhere else. Usually waved through or asked a simple question like, “Where are you going in Canada today, eh?”
Things are different now. I didn’t know how different as I have not crossed the border since the 2001 September 11th fiasco. I do have a valid passport already, but my mission was to go to the customs office and be interviewed for the aforementioned Nexus card.
At the border, I was asked to produce my passport and asked where I was going in Canada. My answer was simple. 
“I’m going to the Nexus office for an interview this morning.” I said.
I was then asked how long I planned on being in Canada. “Not long”, was my reply. I was waved through and since I had looked up the address of the office and where I had to be, I drove right to it. It was housed in the upper floor of the Post Office building in downtown Fort Frances.
Customs and Post Office all in one building

I was early because I didn’t know how long the border crossing would take. I didn’t see a coffee shop in close proximity, so I just parked the bike and wandered the area. I believe the Canadian Postal workers are on strike or some such thing. There was no movement of anyone in the Post Office, but the building was unlocked for access to the upstairs offices.

The center of Fort Frances, Scott Street, was closed to traffic getting ready for ‘Mall Day’, a three block long celebration with street vendors, sidewalk sales and outdoor dining. Probably in conjunction with the then upcoming Canada Day on July 1st.


I took some photos of things that were unique to me. The golden yellow OPP sign, for Ontario Provincial Police is akin to our Wisconsin State Patrol. And the Royal Canadian Legion is a Veterans organization a lot like the American Legion Posts here in the states, complete with operating bar.
Ontario Provincial Police, Canadian

Wisconsin State Police, American

The interview was not exactly what I expected. In a small office, there was a desk. Behind the desk were two women officers, one had a laptop computer sitting in front of them, the other with a stack of papers, pamphlets, a camera and fingerprint recording apparatus.
They both wore the very dark blue uniform worn by the personnel at the border, but one had United States and the other Canadian patches on their respective sleeves. The Canadian women was tall and slender with blonde hair. She had strong Scandinavian features. The American was older and thicker with grey hair, she was an older more mature woman. Neither was wearing a side arm that I noticed.
The interview went smoothly after the computer got online, but during the wait to enter information into the system, the talk was general and casual. I was asked about how often I would be coming back and forth into and out of Canada. Besides a couple of trips I am hoping to accomplish later this year, I didn’t know for sure at this time, but I did entertain the idea that I would try to get to Winnipeg to see the newest National Hockey League Franchise Winnipeg Jets, due to start play in the next season.
I got a big smile and a complete change in demeanor from the Canadian. Gone was the professional attitude and a real human being surfaced as the conversation centered around the love of hockey in Canada.
The process only takes about ten minutes. There is a short three minute film. You watch it, sign a paper saying you saw it and understand the contents. Then, the interview where all the personal information you put down on the online application is seen and verified. Things like my passport, birth certificate, automobile registration and drivers license.
I was photographed and fingerprinted using modern 21st Century equipment. Away with the days of the ink pad and someone manipulating your hands and fingers onto blotter paper for a print. (Ask me how I know how this is done). Actually, I have never been arrested. If I had been arrested and convicted, there is no way I could get a Nexus Card. I was fingerprinted once by law enforcement during a demonstration to see how it is done as I used to work in juvenile corrections years ago.
They told me I’d get the card in a few weeks and how important of a deal it was that I was going to be a trusted traveler. They also mentioned that even trusted travelers have to go through routine baggage search and inspection from time to time as they will just be doing their respective jobs on each side of the border.
I left after completing all the required steps and went back to the border to head for home. I was going to ride through Canada to Thunder Bay but the threat of rain and thunderstorms helped me decide to take a more expeditious route.
At the border back into the United States, the guard asked for my passport. He asked me where I went in Canada. I told him that I was just at the nearby Nexus office for an interview. He asked me, “How did that go?” I answered that it had gone fine. 
Then he handed me my passport and a pen and said, “Here, you need to sign this for it to be valid.”
I laughed inside as all this seriousness about the border crossing, and the newest safeguards to make sure terrorists are identified, and these dimwits never noticed my passport wasn’t even signed. I find it hard to believe that if circumstances were different, maybe the color of my skin a little dark or an accent to my language, other than French for example, and the whole process might have been different.

I signed my passport, handed back his pen and headed South to Sandy’s cafe for some breakfast before getting on the road towards home. I like Sandy’s. I’ve been here before, in Winter. It’s cold in International Falls in Winter. Nicknamed Frostbite Falls on Jay Ward’s Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Rocky is a flying squirrel, Bullwinkle his, (or her), sidekick, is a moose. I had the pork cutlets with eggs special. It would be the only thing I ate until much later in the day.
My breakfast at Sandy's, International Falls, MN
Along the way, I found some good stretches of gravel roads and put the Triumph Scrambler through its paces. 

The Scrambler, ready to attack the road less traveled
I did stop and take some photos. At one place, the wild flowers were bright and colorful. They were everywhere! Here are some samples. I don’t know any of the names. Help me with identification if you can.
My thanks to Molokai Girl for turning me on to the site that helped me create this collage, Picnic
These waterfalls are along the Pike River flowage at Lake Vermillion. The wildflowers are from that same general area. I cut across the countryside using these gravel roads and saw not a soul. There is nothing like it for me. The riding was as spirited as it was in the Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada that I wrote about just one year ago. That trip with yet another motorcycle capable of off-road maneuvers. 
Pike River Flowage into Lakle Vermillion

I also saw this huge nest atop a utility pole. This was smack dab right alongside a large railroad yard. A lot of taconite mining going on in this region of Minnesota. 

Rail cars full of Taconite

I thought at first it was an eagles nest, but it turned out to be another bird of prey. I believe this to be a falcon. My shutter captured the wings adjusting. This bird was building a nest or repairing one as I saw it fly out of the nest and return in a brief moment with a twig in its beak.

I believe this to be a falcon. Please correct me if I've made an error in identification

It was hot and sticky with humidity. The wind rushing by while on the motorcycle is a savior when the weather gets like this. About ten miles North of Duluth, MN on County Hwy 4 near Rice Lake, the coolness appeared. From the big lake, Superior, the temperature dropped and I found myself donning a hooded sweatshirt and buckling the neck strap on my leather jacket.
Sorry, no Great Lake Superior photos this time, the lake was socked in by fog and I couldn't see the water, even from the Skyline Parkway.

I was ten miles South of Superior, WI on Wisconsin Hwy 35 when I hit the wall of heat and humidity, held at bay by the Great Lake. I stripped down to the barest of necessities and needed a dinner break in an air conditioned place to stay sane from the heat.
I had dinner at the Pour House in Siren, WI, the scene of a 2001 devastating tornado, and was home a little less than two hours after that. The bike ran well, I enjoyed every minute of riding and have plans on another trip in less than two weeks, South this time, into Iowa for the annual Moto Guzzi Motorcycle Rally at Elkader. Even though I ride a Triumph, all riders are welcome. Besides, I have friends I ride with that have Guzzis.
Thanks for tagging along. I’ll get the video camera mount on the bike and have some movies next time. This weekend will be slow moving with maybe a local ride day trip Saturday and/or Sunday. As they say, “Keep the rubber side down!”