DAILY UPDATES.... This page will have updates from my trip, I'll try and post something everyday. If you have any comments or ideas please send me an email.

 
APRIL 6 - 12     APRIL 13 - 19     APRIL 20 - 26      APRIL 27 - MAY 3    MAY 4 - 20     MAY 21 - 27     MAY 28 - JUNE 5

JUNE 6 - 15       JUNE 16 - 30      JULY 1 -8      JULY 9 - 16

 

April 20 & 21, 2005
For the past few days I've been driving on the Great River Road - I started in Davenport, IA and finished in Minneapolis. MN. It's a great drive which goes through cities, towns and small villages - all while staying with in 10 feet to 10 miles from the Mississippi River.

Each town, no matter the size, seems to have a train passing thought it at least once an hour, a marina (or boat dock) and at least one bar. 

One of the bars in Red Wing, MN has a drink specials every time you hear the whistle from the southbound freight train. Yes, it doesn't take long to get your drunk on at this place. Not that this is news, but while I enjoyed the drink specials I came to the conclusion that bars really do attract drunk and obnoxious people.

Pepin, WI  has a gang problem, the two guys in the picture told me they are part of their self-proclaimed "moped gang." These guys know everyone in town - their are only 800+ residents. And according to the gang members, they are having an influx of "those people" from the big city. But, these old timers are culturally diverse and are accepting of the new residents.

In Winona, MN (well, they live in the river), people actually live on the river - their houses float on the river. I imagine the house just go up and down as the river changes water level - no need for flood insurance or a dock, just pull up to the porch.

I stopped to talk with a guy who bought 14 acres (a beautiful view of the river) of property for $275 in late 1950's, he told me, "I won't take any less than 500K" - that's a pretty good investment.

I spent about an hour waiting for the train, and when it finally came through it was going so fast that all you can see is a blur. As we already know, good photographers must often wait many hours for the picture - I'm trying my best.... 

One more thing I've learned, don't spend the night in the parking lot at the VFW or Legion Hall. It would seem like a good place to spend the night, but the "old timers" who hang out at these places get up very early and like to check the parking lot on their way out to morning coffee. I now lean toward spending the night in a hotel or a gas station parking lot.

If you're ever in Hastings, MN I suggest you go see Karl at Karl's Kitchen, they make a great breakfast.

On Friday, I'll be stopping at the Mall of America, Jersey Mike's Sub Sub Shop (Minneapolis, MN) and then heading off to Fargo, ND.

 


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Farming in WI

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Actually living on the river

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Pepin, WI is a small town!

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Mississippi River

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Another sunset

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Late night in the locks

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A train races through...

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Great breakfast


April 22, 2005
I spend a few hours at the Mall of America, and yes, its a huge mall complete with an amusement park (2 roller coasters, a log flume and at least a dozen more rides) and hundreds of stores. Oh, I did take out a few minutes for a pedicure while I was at the mall, some of you may be laughing, but where else in the world can you be the only guy in room full of attractive women (and have your feet massaged too)? And, the women want (no, they need) to talk to you because their curiosity gets the best of them as try to figure out why you're there, it's great. Don't knock till you try it! 

As I was leaving town I made a quick stop to see the folks at Jersey Mike's in Minneapolis, nice store, nice people (they even posed for a picture), but the my boys (and girls) in Hamilton still make a better sub!

Heading west, I said good bye to the Mississippi River (and the Great River Road) and hello to open roads, big sky and neon signs (I have a feeling you'll start seeing a lot of neon pictures in the coming week). 

I happened to get off the road in Frazee (Fray ZEE), MN to look for gas, instead I found Baer Brothers saloon - I had to stop. This bar is loaded with local characters: Mary, the 60+ year old custodian with the Frazee school district (she works as a supervisor on the 3pm to 11pm shift); Geminie (that's pronounced GEM in eye) the local Mr. Goodwrench; Kaitlyn, the bartender who just started today and wasn't quite sure how to use the tap (to keep her stress level down I opted for a bottled beer); and Jason, the bar owner who's last name is not Baer, he just named the bar after the Baer brothers because of their local history in the building where the bar is located.

One of the non-employees asked to borrow a CD's that the DJ was playing (an unusual request in my book), Jason said, "Sure, no problem, just have it back soon or you'll be my bitch." Not exactly sure what that meant, but I'll still say Jason is a good guy for letting him borrow the music. This was just one of the many interesting conversations...

This town was so small that of the 14 people in the bar, 12 of them we employees, and most of them had trouble paying their tabs at the end of the night!

When I arrived in Fargo, ND at 2am (Saturday morning) it was 31 degrees, perfect car sleeping weather!

I've also managed to sleep from 3am till 11am in the back of my car - I'm a nighter!

 

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Mall of America

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Jersey Mike's - Minneapolis

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wasn't this covered in employee orientation?

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Somewhere in MN

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Baer Brothers Saloon

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Fargo, ND - 2:30am


April 23 & 24, 2005
I went to the Fargo Airport and did some flying (in a Cessna 152) around ND and MN on Saturday afternoon. After landing and heading back to the office and I expected to say, "Thank you," and hit the road for Grand Forks - I was wrong. As I was paying my bill, Vic (the owner of Vic's Flight School) came walking in, and Vic knows how to talk! Vic worked on the railroad for over 40 years and has forty years worth of stories, from dead bodies to helping the less fortunate take "free rides" on freight trains. It was good for a laugh and also very interesting to hear about the old days of working on the railroad. 

On the way to Grand Forks, I stopped for gas in Thompson, ND and found Tim's gas station (the only gas station in town). While paying for the gas I started talking to Barb (the check-out lady) about living in Thompson (Friday was prom night), I also met Dale the police chief (who came in for a soda) and I watched as people came in to cash checks and buy gas and groceries on account. Later that night I went to Brewski's Bar, played some black jack (it's legal in ND) and had a few cold beers.

And yes, Dale is the sole cop in Thompson and everyone knows him. And they all just call him Dale....  

On the way to Devils Lake, ND I pulled off on a dirt road (except for the main roads, most of the roads up here are dirt roads) and then found a "minimum maintenance" road - they're not kidding! I drove about 200 yards and got stuck in the mud - it took about 20 minutes to finally get out of the mud.

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Lake Park, MN from the air

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Police Chief Dale Johnson - Thompson, ND

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I should have read the sign...


April 25, 2005
You're getting the mid-day update, as I'm sitting here having lunch at the Pizza Ranch, in scenic Devils Lake, ND I happened to notice the hotel across the parking lot advertising, "free internet," those are my favorite signs!

I hit the Spirit Lake casino late last night and turned a $100 into $225, so I decided to treat myself to a real pillow instead of using my coat/sweatshirt pillow when I sleep in the car. And since I had all those winning I also dropped off my clothes at the cleaner and  had them washed and folded - I am living large!

I drove around Devils Lake and the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation, I'd really like to know where all the profits (except my money) from the casino end up. The place is in pretty poor shape except for the brand new bike path that winds its way through the entire town of Ft. Totten. I'm thinking maybe they should spend the money on housing, schools or even garbage collection. Those are just my thoughts.....

I'm off to get my laundry and then head to Rugby, ND, and for those of you who don't know, Rugby is the Geographical Center of North America (GCNM).

The 2nd half of my day was interesting.....

On the way to Rugby a farmer seeding his field caught my eye, I caught a U-turn and pulled over to get a few pictures. The guy stopped and we talked for a while he reloaded his rig (not sure of the proper name for all the John Deere attachments). It's not a real exciting story, but I've never met a real farmer, and this guy is the real deal in my book. 

I finally arrived in Rugby, and just in case you forget it's the GCNM, and after taking a bunch of pictures of a stone monument and some flags in the freezing cold I went into the local diner, the Cornerstone Cafe, which  happens to be have the GCNM monument in its parking lot (marketing or coincidence?). I sat at the counter and had the opportunity to discuss the finer points of cooking hash browns - do you put the butter on the grill first, or do you put the potatoes on the grill first and then put the butter on top? This is the question. And, does the location of the butter add or detract from the overall "dryness" of the hash brown? And, finally, do you make the hash browns crispy or let them keep there original potato color? This is no joke my friend!! I threw in my two cents, butter first and then brown 'em - as in hash "browns." 

One more thing, the nice waitress kept refilling my cup during my stay at the diner (maybe 5 cups), total cost .49 cents.

I always assumed that most people knew where NJ was - I was wrong!

On the way out the door the guy next to me said I should head into town as they were having a Texas hold' em poker game - I guess he assumed I was a poker guy - maybe he thought everyone in NJ played poker....  It was tournament play (the poker craze is everywhere), so I had to settle for black jack. They like to gamble in ND, and most bars are more than happy to cash your personal checks, unfortunately most people haven't grasped the concept that most of the time you lose..... good thing it's inexpensive to live in ND.

Check the pictures page - click here 

 

 

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It's all good.... that's the hotel behind me!

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Devils Lake, ND

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Devils Lake, ND

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Spirit Lake Reservation

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New bike path!

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Seeding the field

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Geographical Center of
 North America

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Downtown Rugby, ND


April 26, 2005
It's cold, cloudy and windy in Minot, ND. The weather got very nice as the day went on so I spent most of the day chasing trains - you can see the pictures on the pictures page. I stopped in Stanely, ND at about 7pm - EVERYTHING was closed except for one bar. Ross, ND was even worse, they have more grain silos than people. The only thing the north west part of ND has is dirt.... I have dirt in my car, on my camera and all over me - otherwise it's a whole lot of nothing - just trains, farms and a tiny little towns. 

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Somewhere in ND