2018 Trip 5: Orlando and Palm Beach: Nov. 2

Part of the caravan to Mar-a-Lago, we are the red car.

West Palm Beach, FL Nov. 2

Nuns on the Bus. Well, this blog is political. Fair warning. One of the reasons we are down in Florida is to support the “Nuns on the Bus”; a group of Catholic religious women who are going around the country to educate the public about the inequalities in the 2017 tax bill. They make stops: at congressional offices, at local non-profits helping those in need of assistance, and at town hall locations to explain the tax bill.

This is the 6th time they have made a similar cross-country trip for justice. This trip began 27 days ago in California and ended today with a gathering that drove by Mar-a-Lago. Last night, they held one of their town hall meetings to explain the tax bill. Their explanation is easily understood. I will see if I can briefly highlight it. (They made it easier to visualize by having five individuals represent a person they actually met on the tour who are in one of the five quintiles.)

First divide the country in to quintiles by income. That is, the bottom 20% of the people by income, then the next 20-40% (the lower middle quintile), then the people in the 40-60% of income (the middle class), then the people in the 60-80% of income (upper middle), and finally the top 20% by income. The KEY STARTING FACT is that from 1940 to 1980, each quintile grew by an equal percent. There were still top earners and people at the bottom, but each group’s income grew at the same rate.

Starting with the Reagan tax cuts and continued with the Clinton and Bush tax cuts, this equal growth in income changed dramatically. From 1980 to 2016, the list below shows how dramatic that has been:
Bottom quintile income grew by 8%
Lower middle income quintile grew by 17%
Middle income quintile grew by 20%
Upper middle income grew by 32%
Upper quintile income grew by 66%
Oh, and by the way, the top 1% income grew by 205%
Quite a difference from a 1940 to 1980 growth pattern that was equal for all quintiles. The town hall meeting visualized this by having the person representing each quintile take a proportionate number of steps to dramatize the difference.

But the second part of the meeting discussed the proposed program cuts that MUST be made (as legislators such as Sen. McConnell has indicated just recently) to pay for the tax cuts. In this enactment of the proposed program cuts, first each person took steps forward to demonstrate average tax refunds. The lower quintile average refund was $90, the top quintile was $193,000. Then our representative individual took steps backward to represent the dollars they lose by the elimination of such programs as food stamps, Children’s Health Insurance Program, school lunches, Pell grants, etc. The lower two quintiles lost money; the top quintile’s gains far outpaced everyone else.

Personally I regret the lost opportunity for the country. If we were to spend well over a trillion dollars; an infrastructure program would have attracted bipartisan support. Jobs would have been created, business (large and small) would have revenue and profits, and streets, bridges, water and sewer plants and lines could be improved, electrical lines upgraded, and state and national parks improved. Probably the worst travesty is that the tax cut and ignoring infrastructure reflected true Republican priorities; support the donor group and ignore Americans.

Welcome talks before the caravan departs.

Today the gathering at Meyer amphitheatre in West Palm Beach and the drive of a caravan of cars past Mar-a-Lago represented hope but possibly a futile gesture. When we wake up Wednesday morning, we should have a better indication.

Some personal tid bits. We are staying at a Hampton Inn in West Palm Beach. Unknown to us, the nuns stayed here also and we talked with several of them at breakfast. We were also able to renew acquaintance with several nuns we had met at the Cedar Rapids IA town hall meeting we attended earlier in October. At the drive to Mar-a-Lago we gave a ride to a couple; she was one of the original founders of Network Lobby. Network Lobby is the advocate arm of the U.S. women religious groups. She is married now and has four kids and 12 grandchildren. Her brother was one of the founders of Outback Steakhouse. He is out of that now and starting a new chain called Bolay, meals based on a bowl and healthy food options to fill it. As we left the rally and went to lunch, we happened to pass one and stopped there for lunch. It was quite nice.

Vote November 6

Ed and Chris

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2018 Trip 5: Orlando and Palm Beach; Oct.31-Nov.1

Great blue heron at Arthur Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

West Palm Beach, FL. November 1

“The tram is down” said the voice on the phone. We were halfway between Kissimmee and West Palm Beach, on our way to the Arthur Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge after spending Wednesday at the pool again. At 1 PM we were scheduled for a 1.5-2 hour tram ride through the refuge, located just west of the sprawling suburbs of Palm Beach. The refuge is 145,000 acres and provides habitat and protection for endangered and threatened wildlife. American alligators, snail kites, herons, egrets, ibis, and wood storks call the refuge home. Migratory birds use it as a wintering grounds or a migratory stop-over.

The refuge caller offered us a walking tour instead of the tram tour and we accepted that as a reasonable alternative to the tram ride. (The other people scheduled for the ride declined the offer to hike instead. Possibly the 85 degree temperature had an impact on their decision.) After another lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches eaten at the refuge listening to bird calls, we joined Kathy, a long-time volunteer at the refuge for our hike.

The hike took 90 minutes and while we certainly did not cover as much ground as a tram ride, the hike provided an opportunity to learn about the refuge. The history of the Everglades and the role of the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee in feeding water to the Everglades were covered. Man’s modifications to the Everglades in favor of agriculture and settlement had dramatically reduced the size of the Everglades. Refuges like Loxahatchee attempt to ameliorate those effects by filtering polluted water and providing habitat for wildlife.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Once again on this trip we did not spot any alligators on the hike although they are numerous here. Birds were the primary wildlife observed, including snail kite (decades ago they were common in Minnesota but not anymore),limpkin, snowy egrets, gallinule, great blue herons, and a variety of ducks. Kathy’s expertise is in plants and she was able to inform us about many of the plants in the refuge and how they were used by Native Americans.

The refuge’s visitor center offered numerous interesting displays including two interactive ones. The first interactive was a mock airboat ride through the refuge complete with an airboat fan mimicking the wind in our faces as we would have experienced in real life. The second was a darkened room with the voices of a dad and his son listening to various calls of wild animals at night. Both were well done and a surprise.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Ed and Chris. Nov. 1

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2018 Trip 5: Orlando and Palm Beach: Oct. 30

Enjoying lunch at Canaveral National Seashore

Kissimmee, Oct. 31

Tuesday was a return to nature. To be honest, much of that was done through driving rather than walking. We left the Orlando area and drove over towards the Kennedy Space Center, to visit Canaveral National Seashore and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Both of these gems of public land resources were created through excess land purchased for the Kennedy Space Center.

Sea turtle shells at Apollo Beach Visitor Center, Canaveral National Seashore

Our first stop was at the Apollo Beach visitors center for Canaveral National Seashore. At Apollo Beach, we learned that the seashore provides a critical habitat for the nesting of sea turtles, including the very large leather back and loggerhead turtles. The turtles only return here from their sea voyages for the female to lay her eggs. The male never returns to land. It is rare to see the females as they lay their eggs during a 1 to 2 hour process at night and then return to sea. We forgot to ask how the male and female turtles meet at sea in order to mate.

Birds of Canaveral National Seashore

Our drive included stops at several locations, observing the combined saltwater to freshwater habitat since the national seashore covers both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Intercoastal Waterway. We were able to observe several dolphins but no manatees. Our lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and grapes was enjoyed sitting on a bench; watching the ocean waves and the raptors flying directly over our heads. Chris, in particular, enjoyed the sun’s rays beating down on her, helping to dissipate the last effects of her cold.

The Apollo Beach section of Canaveral National Seashore is at the northern tip of the seashore and located on a long spit of land. We had to retrace our steps in order to get back to the mainland and drive down to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is run by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the national seashore is run by the National Park Service. The staff at the refuge we’re happy to discuss with us other locations around the country that we and they have visited.

Birds of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

The refuge was actually a return visit for us. Our very first trip in retirement, in January 2013, we traveled with my two sisters and brother-in-law to watch a championship football game involving my nephew. My younger sister was enthralled with Merritt Island refuge and we had to cut short our time here in order to make it to Daytona before the football game began. That visit in 2013 had a greater profusion and variety of waterfowl and alligators throughout the refuge. During this trip, we saw more ones, twos, and fews than we did bunches of birds. Thanks to Chris’s sharp eyes, we did eventually see one alligator.

Dinner was back in Kissimmee at an Olive Garden. We brought left-overs back to VV for dinner tonight.

Our one gator on this trip so far

Ed and Chris. Oct. 31.

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2018 Trip 5: Orlando and Palm Beach, Oct. 27-29

Rollins College in Winter Park, FL

Kissimmee, FL October 29

We have been to Orlando and Florida so frequently that I can visualize many of our highway exits in advance. The flight down on Saturday was easy but Chris had the window seat for a change. My cold and cough were practically gone but her hacking was still quite noticeable. She got the window seat away from people. Her inability to talk to her neighbor was mitigated since the aisle seat was only occupied for one-half of the flight anyway and we both watched inane movies that distracted us.

For the first five nights we are staying at Vacation Village at Parkway, one of many timeshares in the area. It is big; 20 buildings with 7 to 13 stories each. We have found it clean and pleasant with the usual amenities. VV at Parkway was chosen primarily because it is on the south side of Orlando and we will be driving south to Palm Beach Thursday.

Sunday was spent in the Winter Park area. In this part of Florida there are four “Winter” towns; Winter Park, Winter Haven, Winter Springs, and Winter Garden. All are in the 30-40 thousand population range but Winter Park is a bit older and more established as a town. We had been to the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum in Winter Park previously. Northern business magnates established the town in the late 1800s; with the arrival of the railroad the little town was prospering. The downtown area along a lake was active with people eating at cafes and strolling along the lake front. Today our first stop was for a one hour boat tour of three of the inter-connected lakes in the area.

Our boat excursion was with Scenic Boat Tours. On the tour, we found it was the oldest operating attraction in the state of Florida, beginning in 1938. The boats are comfortable, not fancy; basically stripped down pontoon boats with pleasant seats but no canopies. This tour covers Lake Virginia, Lake Osceola, and Lake Maitland. There are numerous spring-fed interconnected lakes in this part of Florida (Winter Haven has over 50) and the three lakes we rode on are home to expensive mansions.

Scenic Tour boats going through one of the canals

There are narrow canals that provide the waterway connection; creeks that had been previously used by lumber companies to ship timber to a sawmill on Lake Virginia. During the Depression, WPA crews widened and improved the banks so the canals are kept boat accessible year around. At least most of the time; our driver indicated two years ago during a dry time, the canals were not deep enough.

The canals operate on a chance basis. They are basically wide enough for one boat and you hope you do not encounter another boat coming at you before you complete the one-two block long winding canal. The tour operates 6-7 boats who go through the canal about 250 feet apart and the last one through tells any waiting traffic that it is clear to proceed. Our boat did encounter two paddelboarders working feverishly to get out of the canal before we caught up to them.

Examples of homes along the lakes in Winter Park and Maitland FL

The tour guide talks extensively of the homes along the shores. Stories such as: the home of the NBA star whose home when sold had to be renovated to lower the height of the light switches, counters, and toilets; the home of a Cortland NY 1800s lumber baron who in order to convince his wife to come down to Florida built an exact replica of their Cortland home; and the largest home on the chain of lakes at 30,000 square feet.

We saw the water side of Rollins College, a small liberal arts college with an endowment of $300 million, in the top ten percent of colleges. The lake has buoys marking the slalom practice area for the water skiing team. The tour guide extolled the chapel and art museum so we later stopped by there also.

It was a surprise to us to learn that Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) went to Rollins. Evidently his family had big bucks from local business operations and after one year at Dartmouth, Fred transferred here. His family bought a lake home for him and his grand piano while he finished the last three years at Rollins. He met his wife here and they wintered in a home along the lake frequently. (He also lived in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.)

Knowles Chapel at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL

After the tour we visited a few land sites pointed out on the boat tour. The Kraft Azalea Garden is probably a nice site to hold a small wedding but nothing distinctive. The Knowles Memorial Chapel at Rollins College was designed by Ralph Adams Cram who designed more than 75 churches and cathedrals. He declared it his favorite. We were not impressed, it was pleasant but nothing notable. The exterior was more striking with the soft white across the blue sky, the interior dark.

The Cornell Art Museum at Rollins is small. It may have notable acquisitions but few, if any, were on display. There was a special, small, exhibit organized by the Ringling Museum out of Sarasota with several striking paintings under the theme of “Dangerous Women”.

Views along our walk at Mead Botanical Garden

The Mead Botanical Garden was our final stop. It is fall and not much flora was in flowering mode but we had a pleasant walk here. Most of the visitors were with a photography group that was utilizing the grounds for a special outing or with a weekly yoga group.

Sunday dinner was in our timeshare, one way to save money and avoid lines at restaurants in this top visitor destination. Monday we exercised walking throughout VV at Parkway in the morning and spent the afternoon by the pool.

One of the pools at Vacation Village at Parkway, Kissimmee FL

Ed and Chris
October 30, 2018

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2018: Staying Home for Awhile, October

Headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River at Itasca State Park in MN

Saint Paul, MN October 26

We will be leaving tomorrow for a week’s trip to Florida. We will blog about our travels and adventures in Florida next week so we want to wrap up our fall “close to home” activities.

Minnesota, like many other states in our diverse and beautiful country, has an extensive state park system. There are 76 state parks in Minnesota. Many people, we included, visit state parks that are near to their home and/or have a unique feature. To encourage people to visit all of the Minnesota state parks, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR oversees our state parks) has a program called the Passport Club. A person buys a booklet at a state park and then when they visit a MN state park, the booklet is stamped and dated from that park. In retirement, we decided to see how long it would take us to visit all the parks. We started in April 2015 and got our 74th stamp last October. (Two parks do not have to be visited since they can only be accessed by boat.). We picnicked, hiked and participated in programs at parks we never would have visited except for this passport challenge.

We have decided to complete a second MN State Parks Passport and have added the challenge of doing the Hiker’s Club hike that is identified at each park. These hikes range from 1 mile to 6 miles. We have already visited 9 parks on our road to complete our second passport book.

Itasca State Park

Hiking at Wild River (top), Lake Louise (Chris in pic) and Interstate State Parks in MN

This month we visited Itasca State Park with Ed’s sister Jude. Itasca is the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River. It begins its 2350 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico as a small stream flowing out of Lake Itasca where flat rocks and a footbridge have been placed to allow people to walk across the Mississippi. Itasca is the second oldest state park in the nation, after Niagra State Park in New York. The park is home to over 100 lakes and thousands of acres of wetlands and forests. We also visited and hiked at Lake Louise, Interstate and Wild River State Parks this month.

The Nuns’ Bus in Cedar Rapids IA

Have you ever heard of the Nuns on the Bus? The advocacy arm of U.S. women religious (nuns) over the years has criss-crossed the country on a bus tour to talk about targeted political issues. This October a group started in California on a truth tour to talk about the Republicans’ tax policy. They hold town hall meetings, meet with members of Congress, have site visits and rally’s. Last week, they (and their bus) were in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a town hall meeting on our nations’ recently enacted tax policies. We went down for the meeting, listened to the presentation and joined the small group discussions on what an individual can do (VOTE).

Prior to the evening gathering, we went to the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids. One gallery was a heart wrenching telling of Czechoslovakia during WWI and shortly thereafter. Czechoslovakia no longer exists; divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. If folks feel depressed about our current political climate, reflect on history, ours and that of other nations.

Returning to St. Paul from Cedar Rapids across IA farm land and along the Mississippi River

We stayed overnight in Cedar Rapids after the nuns’ program and since the next day turned out to be one of our rare (for this year) glorious fall days, we decide to take the long way back to St. Paul through western Wisconsin. We stopped at a wonderful conservation interpretation center in Clayton County, IA and were pleased to discover a new information center that opened this summer along the Great River Road in Genoa, WI by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mary of the Angels Chapel attached to St. Rose Convent

At the nuns’ program in Cedar Rapids, we met some nuns (Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration) who had come down from LaCrosse, WI. They invited us to stop at their convent, St. Rose Convent, if we had time; we did and were so glad we stopped. We had a tour, with historical commentary, of their chapel (located on the campus of Viterbo University) and their perpetual adoration chapel (a Catholic worship space) that has had uninterrupted prayers being said in it 24/7 since August 1878!

Sandhill cranes at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

Last weekend we participated in a bright and early (6:30 a.m.) activity at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge to watch the morning wake-up of about 9,000 sandhill cranes from their roost to forage in neighboring fields as they fatten up for their flight to Florida. It was 32 degrees out with 20 mph winds; there was no bird watching shelter, so were outside for 2 hours. We have seen 200,000 sandhill cranes in Kearney, Nebraska several years ago so this was a low-key affair but worth it. In an interesting fact (to us, at least) the Kearney sandhill cranes migrate north to Canada from Texas, going to the west of Minnesota. The Minnesota sandhill cranes migrate southeast to Florida. Maybe we will see some of the same birds next week, we did not check to see how long the cranes’ migration journey takes.

We continued this month our volunteer work with the Bell Museum of Natural History and Ed with the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, including the annual volunteer dinner where Ed received a National Park Service backpack for exceeding 750 cumulative hours of service.

Did we mention to VOTE on November 6?!

Fall in St. Paul, two days apart

Chris and Ed
October 26

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2018: Staying Home for Awhile, September

Lake Superior sunset

October 1, 2018

We know that September has only 30 days, but did this past month just seem to fly by for you? It did for us. Some time at the North Shore, a mini getaway to Minneapolis and celebrating old and new “friends” had us busy for most of September.

Fun at our cabin on Lake Superior

After saying good-bye to Deb and Rebecca as they returned home to the Boston area, we picked up Chris’ sister Kathy and headed up to the North Shore. We stayed at a “mom and pop” cabin lodging in Little Marais, right at the edge of the mighty Lake Superior. This was our 4th time at this cabin and Ed noticed that the shoreline seemed “higher” than last year. In talking with Dean (the “pop”), Ed learned that in the fall of 2017, the shoreline at the cabins at Little Marais experienced a battering of 30 foot waves that washed away some of the shoreline. In the spring, as part of the restoration from the damage, they decided to add more dirt to create a little wall above the rocks.

The first home of the 3M Corporation

One of our regular stops when traveling to the North Shore, the Duluth Rose Garden

The weather was generally quite nice and we were able to enjoy walks and drives in the area. In Two Harbors, we introduced Kathy to the 3M museum. In this small town in 1902, today’s huge conglomerate named 3M (formerly named Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing) had its origins. The museum is small but cute, run by the local town, not the corporation.

Mid-month we had an urgent request from an Evergreener from North Carolina asking if she could spend a week with us to flee from Hurricane Florence. She had stayed with us in August and has 2 sisters in the Minneapolis area; however, both have dogs and she is allergic to animal fur. We were able to host her for the time and believe her house in Raleigh was not damaged.

The Mississippi National River and Recreation Area closed its coverage at the St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis at the end of September. Ed did several 6-hour volunteer shifts there throughout the month and had his last shift on 9/28. He locked his keys in the car that day, so Chris enjoyed the nice fall day to bus/light rail to bring over her key set. Ed is continuing his National Park volunteering at the main visitor center in St. Paul on Thursday and both Ed and Chris are volunteer docents on Tuesdays at the Bell Museum.

The Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank

Speaking of Minneapolis, we had an evening fundraiser (for the Mississippi River) to attend in Minneapolis and decided to stay overnight (for 2 nights) to “walk around” town. The day for our exploration was not raining but a bit chilly. However, we tried out new restaurants for breakfast and lunch, had a wonderful tour of the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis and ended the day with 11 miles on our step counter.

The train ride in Osceola WI

We celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary this month by taking in a lovely fall train ride from Osceola, Wisconsin to Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota.

Some animals from the MN Zoo

One of Ed’s National Park volunteers arranged for an outing to the Minnesota Zoo with a talk there by a naturalist on mussels. Mussels originally had been very plentiful in the Mississippi River but had been harvested for years to make buttons. Plastic is now the material of choice for buttons. There are efforts underway to restore the river’s mussel population.

Some of our hikes during September

While it seemed that we had a lot of rainy days in September, there were enough nice fall days to get us walking to area local parks. We are so very, very fortunate to have a fabulous free park system near to us, from right across the street, to right over the bridge, to an easy bike ride, to a short drive. We enjoy water, trees, wildflowers, occasionally animals, and plentiful birds. Sometimes we have been the only car in the parking lot and see no one on our hikes. We bring a picnic lunch and for a short time are able to forget about the conflicts in our country.

Some views on the Nooks and Crannies Tour at MN Landmark Center

Last week, we went to another evening function, the 40th anniversary of the Minnesota Landmark Center. This elaborate old federal building was on the verge of being demolished when two women joined together and began a succesful movement to save, restore and re-use it. Ed’s mom was a volunteer here for numerous years before she died in 2007. Over the years we have attended events here but at its 40th anniversary celebration we were able to take a “Nooks and Crannies” tour. Highlights included the enormous old boiler room, the Elvis memorabilia display kept by the maintenance staff, and an amazing view of the St. Paul skyline from one of the open air towers.

Coon Rapids dam on the Mississippi River

Chris and Ed
Oct. 1, 2018

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2018: Staying Home for Awhile, August

St. Paul, MN Sept. 7, 2018

View of downtown St. Paul from a pontoon on the Mississippi River

A book launch, a visit from our Boston area family and the Minnesota State Fair…August was a glorious month to stay home.

Ed’s sister Jude had been working on a book to share with readers her journeys with 8 dogs over her life. July 2019 was publication for My Dogs And How They Shaped My Life. We kicked off August by hosting a book launch for Jude. It was a well attended gathering of friends, family and neighbors congratulating Jude on her book and hearing her give readings from several chapters. Her book is available on Amazon.

Jude’s book launch

We continued our civic and community volunteering this month (League of Women Voters, Bell Museum and National Park Service)with Ed adding a FULL day (6 a.m.- 9 p.m.) to serve as an assistant election judge at one of the Ramsey County precincts.

Fort Snelling Veterans Memorial Chapel

Once a month the Fort Snelling Veterans Memorial Chapel is open to the public. We spent some time there during its open hours this month and were impressed with the various stained-glass windows. The chapel was dedicated in 1928 and currently holds non-denominational worship service on Sundays sponsored by the Chapel Foundation.

Family time

While we enjoyed visiting with North Carolina Evergreeners who stayed 3 nights with us, we were delighted to have our daughter and daughter-in-law visiting from the Boston area. Besides visiting with Mom and Dad, time with twin sister and visits with the aunts were on their schedule. However, the timing of their trip out here was to have some time at the great Minnesota Get Together; also known as the Minnesota State Fair. They had a successful day at the fair. Since Ed was volunteering twice at the National Park Service’s booth at the Fair, we went 2 days. We helped make the overall attendance an all-time record at 2,046,533.

Scenes from the Minnesota State Fair

Leave your diet at the gate!

Chris and Ed Sept. 7, 2018

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2018:Staying Home for Awhile, July

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

St.Paul MN, August 11

Since our retirement in 2013, we have been usually spending most of the summer in Minnesota. Our condo in Saint Paul offers us 7th floor patio views of downtown Saint Paul and the Mississippi River valley to enjoy with our breakfast and/or dinner. Right across the street are walking and biking trails that can take us over to Minneapolis and beyond. With family nearby for spontaneous or planned gatherings, free concerts somewhere (usually near a body of water), tours at nature centers and local gardens, professional theater just a 10-minute bus ride away and numerous opportunities for civic engagement, what is not to like in “staying put” for the summer in the Twin Cities?

As we delight in staying in our condo, we are so pleased to know that we actually live in a national park. Yes, our condo, across from Crosby Farm Regional Park, is part of the 72-mile Mississippi National River and Recreation Area that stretches from Dayton to Hastings. This National Park is a partnership park with local and regional parks along the river corridor. And yes, we live in that national park corridor!

The spring and prairie flowers at Coldwater Spring

One section owned by the National Park Service is Coldwater Spring near Minnehaha Falls. This area had been an important gathering site for Native Indians and then a water supply for the soldiers at Fort Snelling. It is gradually returning to its forested, native flower beginnings, and is just gorgeous. Throughout the season, park rangers or other guides lead tours on specific topics at Coldwater. We took a twilight tour by an author who has written a book about the history of Coldwater (at one time as one of the regional federal Bureau of Mines testing sites).

In addition to visiting national parks, we enjoy exploring national wildlife centers/refuges. There are several in Minnesota (one right near the airport) and this month we stopped by the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge and traveled its 10-mile auto tour through its wetlands.

Fun at historic Grand View Lodge on Gull Lake MN

We celebrated Ed’s birthday (not a multiple of 5)this month with a gathering at one of his sister/brother-in-law’s home; my sister had also taken us to the MN History Theater to see “Glensheen”, a story about a double murder in a Duluth lumber baron’s mansion, (excellent) as a birthday gift. We also hosted an Evergreen couple from Nebraska who were here for a family wedding and took a long weekend with our Minneapolis daughter/daughter-in-law and their Houston nephew to Grand View Lodge in Nisswa (central lakes region of the State).

Wabasha Street Caves

It is always a treat for us when we “finally” experience something in Saint Paul that has been here for a long time and that we had not yet visited; a tour of the Wabasha Street Caves was such an outing. These sandstone caves over the years have been the site of a thriving prohibition speakeasy, a mushroom farm, a cheese storage area and now an event center that provides tours on Sundays.

The Bell Museum; our area’s newest gem

We have been involved with voter registration events with the Saint Paul League of Women Voters, attended a discussion with our mayor on suggestions for the upcoming budget and always appreciate an opportunity to participate at our city councilwoman’s monthly morning coffee or happy hour. Ed volunteers with the National Park Service at 2 of its locations and both of us are volunteering weekly at the newly opened The Bell Museum (natural history). It is stunning. Primary election is this Tuesday, August 14 and Ed is working all day as an assistant election judge. GET OUT AND VOTE!

The Mississippi River, a working river; viewed from our walk along the river in Lilydale.

Chris and Ed. Saint Paul MN August 11, 2018

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2018: Staying Home for Awhile, June

Hennepin Avenue bridge from the water taxi

Saint Paul, Minnesota. July 4, 2018

On June 3, we returned to St. Paul after a 18-day trip to Arizona. While there, we spent time with family, visited some iconic Arizona landmarks (the Grand Canyon, Tombstone, Organ Pipe National Park), and explored southeast Arizona where we had spent little time on previous trips to the state. We were only touring in one state, stayed several nights with relatives, had a comfortable rental care; however, found ourselves commenting on how long this trip seemed.

We had anticipated a fall 2018 trip to Idaho but after several days after our return from Arizona, we decided to put our out-of-state travels on hiatus and “stay home for a while”. Staying in Minnesota in the summer and fall is not a hardship. The opportunities for outdoors activities are numerous, the cultural scene is robust and family and friends are close by. It also seemed like the time for us to get more engaged with political work and community volunteer efforts.

Nicollet Island from the water taxi

We did an hour excursion in a “water taxi” on the Mississippi River from Boom Island in Minneapolis. It was a beautiful time to enjoy the Minneapolis skyline. The boat’s skipper did a wonderful job of combining history with contemporary landmarks and environmental issues. Later in the month, we hit the water again on a naturalist-led canoe trip on Lake Snelling at the nearby Fort Snelling State Park. The day after our canoe trip, the rains came and came, closing the lake because of unsafe, high water conditions.

Morning paddle on Snelling Lake

Minneapolis and Saint Paul host outside, somewhere, music and theater every night of the week. The concerts are usually at city parks so picnicking, biking, walking are encouraged. We heard two jazz groups and a large (56 members) brass ensemble at several venues this month. Ed’s sister took us to a remarkable performance of seniors (the group Alive & Kickin) whose singing was delightful and whose individual life stories were very moving.

Brio Brass at Lake Harriet Bandshell

We celebrated Father’s Day and daughters’ birthday; welcomed visitors from Houston; were inspired by the Parkland, Florida students’ visit to the area, and attended our state rep’s summer picnic.

Whether we are traveling or staying home, we are very blessed.

Minnehaha Falls

Chris and Ed
July 4, 2018

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2018 Trip 4: Arizona: June 1-3

Flagstaff and Phoenix Arizona, Friday to Sunday, June 1 to 3

Part of Taliesin West, Scottsdale AZ

This 18 day trip wrapped up on a slower pace. Friday we started the day easy and then drove down to Phoenix. The scenery changes from the Ponderosa Pine forested mountains of Flagstaff, through the western end of the Mogollan Rim to the cactus studded area around Phoenix. We checked in to the Orange Tree Resort, a time share community from which we obtained our two nights lodging. Chris and I jumped in the pool, Deb and Rebecca lounged on their patio. Dinner was at Ajo Al’s, an authentic Mexican restaurant.

Dinner at Ajo Al’s, Phoenix

People here love the weather, so they say. I believe them. However, Chris and I found the 90 to 107 degree days hot, dry heat or not. I noticed people did not sit outside under the shady umbrellas at restaurants until evening. They hide indoors during the day. So, in my opinion, not much difference enjoying a warm indoors during a Minnesota winter as enjoying a cool indoors during an Arizona summer.

One other supporter of my belief-Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect (1867-1959). Wright founded an architectural studio and school just outside Scottsdale, Taliesin West. We toured it Saturday morning; Chris and Rebecca taking a three-hour tour. Deb and I settled for a 1.75 hour tour. Wright’s school, following in his past practice, packs up the students and faculty from mid-May to October and they study at Taliesin East in Spring Green Wisconsin. He was no dummy, it is hot in Arizona in the summer.

One example of the reconstructed Chinese art at Taliesin West

Taliesin East came first, Taliesin West was founded in 1937. I am not going to give you a history of Wright, there are many books about his life and his work. A few tidbits gleaned from our docent tours to liven up the narrative though. Frank Lloyd Wright:

    • had three wives and a mistress
    • was a challenging person to work with
    • designed over 1000 buildings, if an owner followed his design exactly, they were allowed to place a red icon on the building, around 20 owners qualified as most found some aspect of his design not to their liking
    • had his students live in the desert in tents for their first year at Taliesin West, years two and three they built their own small housing units in the desert which were torn down when they left
    • emphasized incorporating the building into the natural environment in which it was placed
    • purchased a large quantity of broken Chinese artifacts, had his students glue them together and many are placed around Taliesin West
    • designed his cabaret (small theater) with almost perfect acoustics and seating designed on a bias so a person’s view is not blocked by the individual seated in the row in front of her
    • The water features and stone walks and walls were fire prevention features
    • and his school have a zero drop-out rate, and a 100% placement rate for its graduates with a notable international representation
    • the doorways are a ducking place for people 6 foot tall and over

    The drafting studio at Taliesin West


    The Water Tower at Taliesin West – once Wright had enough money to drill deep enough to reach the aquifer

    After a lunch at Panera, it was back to the Orange Tree Resort for more pool and relaxation time.  Lou and Joyce had returned from Flagstaff and joined us for a pizza and pasta dinner in our room. Then Chris and I took Deb and Rebecca to the airport for their red-eye flight back to Boston.

    On Sunday, we found a Catholic Church nearby, Blessed Sacrament, that actually had decent singing by the congregation. We had lunch at In-N-Out, a west coast burger chain before joining Lou and Joyce at the Musical Instrument Museum. The Musical Instrument Museum is amazing but let me get my biases out of the way. A. I think corporate execs are paid way too much and this museum was started by a former chief exec of Target Corporation; B. As a Minnesotan, and since Target is headquartered in Minnesota, I would have preferred to see such a museum in the Twin Cities. Okay, on with the tale.

    One example of a country exhibit at Musical Instrument Museum Phoenix

    The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) is housed in a building that does not wow you on its architectural style. It is clean, straight lines, white and beige colors. It is the inside, the exhibits, that make one say “WOW”. And I am not a major music listener. The second floor is devoted to collections of musical instruments from around the world, grouped by geographical regions. So what? you say. Well, the presentation includes examples of the musical instrument; a map so the geographically challenged can understand where the country is located (I did not remember that the New Hebrides are now called Vanuatu-did you?); and an audio-visual screen that comes to life as you approach it wearing your headset. Thus you understand the country’s location, see the instrument, and hear and see the instruments being played.

    Another country exhibit

    Just four of the 15,000 instruments in the collection at Musical Instrument Museum

    While numerous instruments are local adaptations of standard instruments (drums), there are unique examples also. The museum has a saying: “Music is the language of the soul”. The exhibits demonstrate the universality of music and the enjoyment and the ritual needs it fulfills. The first floor has a rotating exhibit room (currently a new exhibit is being set up), displays of instruments and related videos of famous musicians from around the world, a display of mechanical music, and an experience gallery where guests can play instruments similar to those on display. We spent two hours here and could have easily been here two or three times as long. Highly recommended.

    We said our good-byes to Lou and Joyce and headed to the airport where our flight got us home at 11 PM. A very enjoyable 18 days and 2200 miles of Arizona exploration-with a plus of family time.

    Ed and Chris. Saint Paul June 4

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