Wednesday, September 11, 2013

EAST COAST FALL 2013: Baker City to Mankato, MN

Final Habitat build entries posted!  

SUNDAY, September 8, 2013
Baker City to Craters of the Moon NM
Arco, ID
304 miles

     We are on our way!!  Minnesota Habitat, New England fall colors, family and friends, Great Smokies…here we come!
         We make our departure from Baker City 5 minutes early…at 12:25, having provided special music in church with Luke.  (Special thanks to Alex Irvine for his loud ‘that was the best music EVER’ at the end of our song!  You can’t beat 4 year old enthusiasm!)  A welcome ‘full-lunch coffee hour’ with all the leftovers from yesterday’s memorial service, so Rick and I got a good meal in us while we were saying our goodbyes. 
         Smooth sailing today.  We forgot how easily the truck pulls the little trailer – Rick had to watch his speed a few times, which NEVER happens pulling the Jay Feather!  Rick drives the first 100 miles to Flying J in Nampa, we gas up for 14¢  cheaper than in Baker City, and I take over at the wheel.  I can see behind me!!!  That is my greatest joy with the tent trailer.  We will definitely miss many of the comforts of home (full bathroom, freezer and fridge, etc.) but I will appreciate the ease of hookup (you just pick up and move this trailer where you want it!) and towing.  I drive to the rest area just before Gooding, about 100 miles, where we
Limber pine in
the lava
switch once more.  We leave the freeway at this point – blue highways on the schedule for the next 500 or so miles until we hit I-90 in eastern Wyoming. 
Sunset from campsite
         The area north of I-84 is lush farmland.  Green!  By Carey, however, we started seeing the vast lava fields of Craters of the Moon National Monument.  The visitor center and campground, however, are on the eastern edge of the monument, so we drove through the aa and pahoehoe fields of black, dotted with rabbitbrush and a few pines, for about 15 miles before the turnoff to the VC. Visitor Center was closed, as it is now 6:30 MT, so once again, no passport stamp for this National Monument.  J  We last visited here in 1995.  (I had to check my passport book for the date!) 
Campsite at Craters of the Moon
         More campers in the campground than we expected on a Sunday night after Labor Day!  But we found a place where we could pull in and not have to unhitch.  It will make for a quick get away in the morning!  A quick dinner and then a walk along the road, a nature trail through the lava, and then a side trail back to the campground.  The sun was setting in the west, and bouncing off cumulous clouds to the east.  So pretty. 
Sunset on clouds
We are trying something new this year with the tent trailer, since it is just the two of us.  Rick is no longer sleeping on the dinette bed with its thicker padding.  We made an extra pad for the front slideout bed from our old mattress topper in the house.  He’ll take the front  narrow ‘double’ bed, and I’ll use the back one.  We take the table out, and the dinette then makes a nice sitting area.  We have one TV tray to use for a table if we need it. 
         Our other ‘experiment’ this trip:  We haven’t packed any cooking gear EXCEPT for a small microwave (it used to be in my classroom) and a small electric broiler Rick has had for years.  So, as tonight we have no electricity, we have a cold dinner!!  No problem!  This guarantees me a stop in the morning at the first town for a fresh coffee!  We are armed with battery LED lights for nights such as now, and two ‘desk lamps’ for electric nights.  You have to love the simplicity of a trailer with no hookups!  I am using the battery of the laptop, and tomorrow while we are traveling, we will plug it in and recharge it from the inverter in the truck.  We should get good sleep as it is often easier to just ‘go to bed’ when it gets that dark! 
         So,…..I am typing in the dark!  Time to finish up a few things and call it a good start to our trip!! 

         I do apologize for what is going to be lengthy blogs posts when I don’t have internet everynight.  There will be times when you get a week’s worth at once!  I’ll try to keep it brief! 

Monday, September 9, 2013
Absaroka Bay RV Park, Cody, WY
370 miles via Jackson Hole

     What a glorious day with a good change of plans!!  We had originally intended to drive up through Rexburg and into West Yellowstone, across the National Park, stopping at the Falls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  That is nice and would have been good.  It would have been new road for me from Idaho Falls to West Yellowstone.  However, we both decided a view of the Tetons would be awesome and the drive from Idaho Falls over to Jackson Hole is gorgeous as well. 
     Up and moving shortly before 7.  I started reading around 6:20.  A beautiful clear morning.  It was brisk last night, but probably just in the high 40’s.  I grabbed a yogurt for breakfast, and Rick drove the 15 miles into Arco where we found a cheap gas station (3.51!) and a couple of coffees.  I then drove to Idaho Falls, about 66 miles.  Finally in Idaho Falls, Rick pulled out his package of donuts!!  He was getting hungry! 
Palisades Reservoir
     Up through Swan Valley – beautiful landscaped and green ranches and farms, rimmed with mountains.  I checked out the operations of our new camera along this stretch, figuring out the key features without having to pull up the PDF file I downloaded onto the computer from the internet. 
Clouds begin to drift in as we near Jackson
     Palisades Reservoir is LOW!!!  The far end was one long stretch of grassland.  I doubt there is a boat ramp that is useable on the lake.  The lake extends to the town of Alpine, right inside the Wyoming border.  From there we follow the canyon of the Snake River as it winds its way north toward Jackson Hole and the Teton Valley.  Our clear morning skies are starting to cloud up, and by the time we arrive in Jackson, the city is socked into the clouds – you can’t see any of the foothills even!!  Ah well!
Classic Jackson scene.
     As we head north from Jackson, the skies are breaking up.  We never see the peaks of the Tetons, but plenty of big mountain bases!  We are amazed at the traffic - this is supposed to be the ‘off season’, but I told Rick no passport stamp was worth driving into the mess of the visitor center at Moose Junction.  I’ll just write it in the book!  My third trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons and I still don’t have a stamp! 
Teton Mts. in the clouds
Chapel of the Sacred Heart
     We pull over at a picnic area at the Chapel of the Sacred Heart to grab a bite of lunch off the top of the trailer.  (We never found a good spot in Jackson and the traffic was awful!)  The lake is low….Rick later read that the shuttle across the lake isn’t running because of the water levels.  Jackson Lake was amazing – looks like a huge marsh in places, especially toward the north end.  Where is all the water? 
     We explored the chapel briefly – it was rebuilt in 2002, financed by those wishing to honor the 2001 9/11 victims.  Beautifully done with large timbers, a rose heart window, and the classic cross layout. 
Fire burn along Yellowstone Lake
     Past all the other development at Jackson Lake and north to the Roosevelt Parkway and into Yellowstone.  The lakes up here are not full, but they certainly have much more water than Teton Valley!  Yellowstone Lake itself is so vast – it is like a mini ocean!! 
Yellowstone Lake
One surprise was the amount of fire burn down near the lake, Fishing Village, and toward the West Thumb area.  Some of the burns appeared to be within the past few years as little vegetation has regrown. 
     Out the east entrance of the park and down, down, down toward Cody, WY.  Our one wildlife sighting of the day….a bison’buffalo just ambling down the highway on the uphill side.  No concern in the world as people slowly passed him. 
Buffalo on the road
Shoshone River valley
     Shoshone River canyon is rimmed with rock walls, spires, minarets, and peaks.  It is amazing and neither Rick nor I remembered any of it from our previous trips.  Gradually we descended to Buffalo Bill Reservoir and to the dam, which can’t be more than 30 feet across a slot canyon.  The highway goes through a tunnel to bypass the dam – right through the rock! 
Buffalo Bill Dam is just to the left in a slot
in the rocks.  Amazing! 
  We pull into Cody around 4pm.  Our first stop is the Ponderosa Campground.  It is so crowded and packed in….they don’t have room for us – thankfully.  I call the other place and we drive just south of town to a much more open and relaxed campground – Absaroka Bay RV Park.  The cost was the same, we have wifi!  A shower! 

     Dinner, route planning for tomorrow, internet searching for campgrounds, etc., downloading pictures, phone calls to home, and showers round out the night!  A clear sky, a sliver of a moon, and a delightful chill to the air.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Cody, WY to Custer, SD
359 miles

Heading out of Cody, WY
    A beautiful sunrise in the eastern sky marks the beginning of a new day!  We pack up and are on our way by 8, with a stop at the Maverick to gas up, coffee up, and potty up!!    There are three routes from Cody to Sheridan-Buffalo, WY and all of them are about the same mileage!  We have previously taken the TenSleep and Shell Canyon routes, so we are opting for the northern route on 14A .  It proves to be a spectacular choice! 
Looking back as we begin the
climb up the pass
   Shortly after leaving Cody, we past one of the sad reminders of our nation’s past, The Heart Mountain Relocation Center.  During WW2 this was the home for up to ten thousand Japanese Americans  We couldn’t stop as the center was closed this early in the morning, but in some advance reading I found Heart Mt. was also the site of the largest draft evasion protest among the relocation centers.  Imagine this.  The sons of the intered Japanese were refusing to go to war! They were arrested and imprisoned.  What was our nation thinking?  It would have been an interesting stop, but onward we drive!
     This part of northern Wyoming is marked with large ranches and farms -  and what we think are sugar beet fields.  We finally passed a sugar refinery which confirmed our guess. 
     About an hour from Cody, we start up the steep and switchbacked grade of the Big Horn mountains.  Our summit will take us between Medicine Mountain and Bald Mountain, elevation circa 9200’ at the pass.  Gorgeous views back down to the red cliffs and canyons of the valley, farmlands, and reservoirs.  Ahead of us the road wound around and climbed, over and over. 
Medicine Wheel (Google image)
Broad expanse at the top of pass
     Medicine Peak is the site of an ancient Native American spirit hoop – a astronomical site as well as spiritual.  It is a huge circle, marked with stones laid out ion a very precise manner to mark the seasons and planets.   With the trailer we opted not to drive the additional gravel road up to the summit, but I will attached an internet picture of what the wheel looks like from the air.  There was what appeared to be a weather observatory at the top as well. 
Rock formations during descent from summit
Run, moose, run!
     Just after we pulled back on the highway after a summit stop, we saw a cow moose loping across the field.  I didn’t get a great picture, but we saw a moose! 
     The road travels along the summit ridge for about 10 miles – a vast expanse of rolling hills and grassland – SOOOO green!! 
     And then, the road drops…down a winding switchback route on the north side of the Big Horns to the valley below.  Forested slopes, rock outcroppings, and gorgeous alpine meadow creeks. 
Just in case you don't recognize
an antelope! 
Coal train (google photo)
     Into Sheridan and a quick stop for gas and to switch drivers.  From Sheridan I drove some hundred miles to Gillette.  We have no pictures of the hundreds of antelope we saw along this stretch of freeway, or the rolling expanse of grass (we are in part of the National Grasslands!) and the train after train of loaded coal hoopers heading out of Gillette.  Sorry.  Rick doesn’t take millions of pictures out the car windows unless it is something VERY special!! 
     We stop in Gillette at a Perkins for a REAL meal.  We have eaten for two and a half days out of the food bin.  Rick has a hankering for a real breakfast meal and Perkins fits the bill.  I think he devours his pancakes in record time!  A nice break! 
     We extended our plans driving today to head toward Newcastle and the southern entrance of the Black Hills complex.  I had tried several times to contact a campground in Newcastle to check out prices, etc. but no luck.  So…with no guide or prospects, we head south on Hwy 16 from Moorcroft toward Newcastle.  I drove this stretch as well, for a total mileage today of nearly 180 miles.  I had to make up for my paltry 70 miles yesterday!  We got to Newcastle and quickly made the decision to push on to Custer only 30 miles across the border. The campground in Newcastle didn’t look great, nor did the whole town have a very good ‘feel’.  Rick took over the wheel. 
Entering the Black Hills area
     What a great choice!!!  We got into the forested area of the Black Hills, passed Jewel Cave National Monument (the road here is horrible through the monument) and then started looking for RV Park signs as we neared Custer.  We saw a couple advertised, tossed out the one that said 'water slide too’ as too commercial, and picked Big Pine Campground.  Another God-blessed decision: water and electric, wifi, and outstandingly clean showers all nestled in a pine forest covered with soft grass and sparkled with flecks of mica throughout.  And under $30!  We arrived early enough we had time to relax a bit and then unhitch and head north toward Mt. Rushmore.
Our site at Big Pine CG
   While in Cody we were approached by a man who said, “you are from Baker City, Oregon?”  We replied yes, and he said, “I am too!”  It was Anita Goodyear’s brother, Larry Spriet!  We talked abit about the Black Hills as they were heading that way as well.  Rick started talking about the nighttime ceremony lighting the mountain.  That got us to thinking….hmmm, maybe we should hit that instead of stopping during the day on Wednesday.  So we did! 
View as we walk up Avenue of Flags

     Saw deer along the road as we drove up the 21 miles to the memorial.  Passed the Crazy Horse memorial – still not a lot of progress on it, although the facial profile of the Indian is fairly well finished.    We were somewhat disappointed to find the parking fee at Rushmore is now $11 and no passes are honored.  We balked briefly and then paid it!   
     A gorgeous sunset while we waited for it to grow dark.  A large crowd, but not horrible.  Oh, we ate our dinner in the parking lot before heading in – after a good lunch we didn’t need much.  Rick ate the pie he purchased at Perkins as we left!! 
The sky is on fire!!  
     The program tonight at Rushmore was on Liberty and the freedoms we enjoy because of these four men.  Well done.  After everyone sang the Star Spangled Banner as the lights grown stronger on the mountain top, the park gal asked all vets and active servicemen to come down to the stage and assist in the lowering of the flag.  Probably close to a hundred went down.  She had each one introduce themselves by name and military branch.  A nice tribute. 
Mt. Rushmore lit up at night
     We looked through the exhibit half until 9 when they kicked us out!  A beautiful drive home to Custer in the dark, avoiding a few deer and marveling over the sliver of moon setting in the southwestern sky.  It was magnified by the horizon and so pretty in the drifting clouds. 
     All in all….an awesome day!!!  A little internet work before bed to figure out an intended target for tomorrow, as we will push past our primary goal of Chamberlain to make Thursday an easier day.  Goal: Mitchell, but NOT the corn palace!! 
    G’night (this is actually g’morning, because I write this blog post as we head east on I-90, having left the Black Hills.  Too tired last night to do so!)  

WEDNESDAY, September 11, 2013
Custer, SD to Mitchell, SD
311 miles

    Oh oh!  I slept in today!  Woke up at 5:30 and rolled over for another half hour-45 minutes, and it was 7 when I poked my head out of the sleeping bag again.  This is what happens to me in a sleeping bag - I bury myself!  But we managed to get our act together and on the road by 8:45, having stopped at the campground office to purchase enough ice to get us into Mankato.  Our Baker City blocks have finally melted! 
Morning light in Custer SP
     Since we went up to Rushmore last night, we head straight across Custer State Park on Rte 16A, by-passing most of the Rushmore chaos and traffic.
Leaving the Black Hills
 Connect with 36 and 79 north to merge on to I-90 again just east of Rapid City.  Rick drives this morning while I struggle with the computer, who has decided to take this opportunity to install a bunch of downloads.....and takes nearly 45 minutes to do so!!!  All the while I am trying to run off the batteries!  

Missile silo outside the Badlands
     Rick was reading last night and found a National Historic Site listed in the information on the Minuteman Missile Silos scattered across the Great Plains - a remnant of the Cold War with Russia.  We pulled off at Exit 116 and walked a self guided tour of the only SD site still remaining - the other 149 were imploded and returned to farmland.  At exit 131, the regular Badlands NP exit, we went into the Visitor Center and watched a short movie.  Since it was 11:45 by the time we finished our exploring, we ate lunch on the roof of the trailer, and I took the wheel for a bit.  

What IS this reddish crop?
     South Dakota looks much like Wyoming did - rolling grassland.  We did see more and more farmland as we head east: sunflowers, and a couple other fields we are still struggling to identify, one of which was a dark burnt red. 
     We put in one of the Audio CD books that Liz loaned us to occupy the time between here and Mankato.  A mystery type story.  Even with the book, between a needed potty break and a feeling of 'lull' while I was driving, I only put in about an hour's worth before we stopped at a rest area.  Rick drove the remaining 120 miles into Mitchell.  We crossed the Missouri River at Chamberlain, which was where we originally planned to spend the night.  
Crossing the Missouri

     Pull into 'Family Fun Campground' five miles west of Mitchell at 3:45, which instantly means it is 4:45 as we have entered Central Time Zone.  I think we will be on Central Time until we leave Mankato.  This is an older park situated in a thick grove of deciduous trees near the freeway.  Horseshoes, mini golf, etc. are the 'family attractions'.  But with school having started, just alot of other boomers like us here now.  Only about half full.  For $25 we get a site with electricity, water, and wifi and plenty of shade.  When we get out of the truck, we are bombarded with a cacophony of sound - the elm trees are filled with the music of cicadas.  Hopefully they will go to sleep tonight as well!  The air is warm and a bit muggy.  The midwest has been hit with a heat wave this past week.  I think we are arriving at the tail end which is good!  
Our site at Family Fun in
Mitchell, SD
     Talk with Luke briefly on the phone (receiving the good news that Kady is moving to Baker City this next weekend!) and catch up on internet and pictures.  A mellow evening. 
     By the time I finished writing and downloading pictures, the cicadas have suddenly silenced.  A gradual tapering and then.....nothing.  Now we can hear the crickets!     

THURSDAY, September 12, 2013
Mitchell, SD to Mankato, MN
235 miles

     Today should be a short travel day!  However, we start out a little later than planned.  I was blithely working away on my devotional stuff, thinking Rick was up and at ‘em early, the sunrise was glorious, and it was a wonderful crisp cool morning.  Then I remembered.  The watch I use during the night is still on Mountain Time.  It was 8am, not 7am!!!  Oops!  Quickly shut down the computer and got my breakfast so I would be ready to pack up the trailer with Rick. 
     We drove into Mitchell and found a relatively cheap gas station and got our coffees.  I drove from Mitchell to just past Sioux Falls – about 75 miles.  A gorgeous morning – big puffy white clouds and blue skies, wave after wave of corn, soybeans, and more corn. 
     We filled the tank in Sioux Falls for twenty cents a gallon cheaper!  Good thing Rick only put 5 gallons in at Mitchell.  The gas light hadn’t come on yet, but we were in need soon.  Another drink and Rick takes us into Minnesota.  A quick stop at the first visitor center we pass to pick up a MN map!  We are NOT armed this trip with the usual AAA maps and guidebooks!! 
     The agriculture remains much the same in southern Minnesota, but the white lines of windmills are added to the landscape.  At exit 87 off I-90 we leave the freeway to head northeast toward Mankato, on Rte 4 to pick up Rte 60.  Divided highway much of the way once we reach 60.  Some lovely little towns along the way, well kept. 
Our campsite at Land of Memories
     We arrived in Mankato around 1:00 pm and found the campground without problem.  Met the Campground manager Rick who asked, “Are you the couple coming in for Habitat?”  When we replied in the affirmative, he told us our site number, bathroom key, etc. !  We find our site out in the open area, later learning that this section of the campground once had hook-ups, but it flooded several years ago.  Now only the electric remains.  The bathhouse is a couple football fields away, but Rick said, “That’s what we have bikes for!   Just don’t wait too long!”  We are in a grassy site, with a nice table.  Get all set up and after a bite to eat, we leave to explore the Mankato area, find a Wal-Mart, and buy some ice. 
     We end up making a rather large loop around the entire town, but after finding the Weight Watcher site, then exploring North Mankato, we asked a motorcyclist for directions while stopped at a traffic light.  On the far east side of town we discovered box store central!  What a mass of huge stores, Wal-Mart included.  Rick picked up his TV amp, we got a rug for the trailer so our toes will be cozy when it gets colder, and picked up ice and a few groceries.  As we left the Wal-Mart, I realized there was a small map of Mankato on the MN map – that helped us find a route that swung way south of town to loop around and come back out at our west-side campground.  Quite the adventure!  Mankato is surrounded by cornfields!!  Four rivers all enter the Minnesota River in the Mankato vicinity, which is part of the reason flooding occurs rather often. 
      Back to the trailer to meet Mike and Gloriann….our ‘leaders’ for the week – they will be leaving Saturday morning!  We get our shirts and water bottles, as well as the packets of information….that probably have a wonderful map of the town and the location of the Wal-Mart! 
     I am going to try to hit the WW meeting tonight at 6:30 pm – I’ve got to find places to weigh at least 7 times on this trip.  If I can get 2 in while in Mankato that will help. 
     We do need to find a place that has Wifi for free!  Going a whole week without any service could be rough, although I did it in Hobbs! 
     More later…..we are here!! 
     Evening.  Had a wonderful campfire tonight under a half moon.  Gloriann eventually brought out some marshmallows (the giant ones!) and we roasted a few.  Good conversation as we got to know each other.  Jeff and Bonnie are from Phoenix, formerly from Wisconsin, and they have been up ‘north’ since May!  Their kids still live in the vicinity.  Mike and Gloriann are Minnesota/North Dakota natives – their home is just a hundred miles north. Mike, however, worked military, so they have lived all over. 
     Back from campfire to call Sarah Swanson and make arrangements to meet up with Sarah on Saturday morning up at Gustavus Adolphus!!  Looking forward to a fun day with her. 
     I got to the WW meeting, but arrived a half hour late!  It started at 5:30 rather than the 6:30 I had written down.  Oops.  Worked out fine, however, as I weighed, listened for 5 minutes, and then left! 
         G’night!!!  Work clothes are out and ready!  Heard we are putting up roof trusses tomorrow.  Another new skill to learn!! 

Friday, September 13, 2013
Mankato Habitat Work Day 1

       Brrr!  44 degrees in the trailer as I arise around 6:15 to spend a little time with the Gospel of Luke.  I put on my leggings and polar fleece and cuddle in a corner.  I won’t turn on the microwave until Rick gets up – it is right next to his head and wakes him up.  I can wait that long for coffee! 
     Clear and damp outside – a heavy dew.  In fact, the soccer fields are blanketed with about a 5’ layer of fog.  Pretty cool. 
The two houses we spend most of our time on
     We follow Mike and Gloriann to the job site – just on the other side of the Blue Earth River – only 2 miles at the most from the campground.  The local Habitat has basically run the road through a chunk of purchased property and built 8-10 houses with 3 more in various states of completion.  We are near the river in a more historic old part of town.  The railroad is less than a football field away – very loud at times!! 
     The roof trusses are ready to go, and after a few minutes of layout, our Supervisor Ben (tall husky young man – probably in his 30’s) grabs most of the men to get the double layer first set up which is the most difficult.  In addition to Rick, Jeff, and Mike, the CAVs, there is a Habitat intern, Tyler, and Russell, who just started a year long Habitat Americorp job.  We were also joined a little later in the morning by Nor, who is one of the homeowners still putting in his hours. 
Gloriann and Bonnie work on Tyvek
      In the meantime, we three gals in pink (both Gloriann and Bonnie were wearing pink shirts and I had on pink and purple tie dye!) wrapped part of the sheathing in Tyvek.  I got to use one of the hammer staplers….not easy to keep it running straight and without wrinkles, but we did a pretty good job!  We also measured and cut about 30 pieces of 2x4’s to use to support the trusses while they go up AND swept and cleaned out the house next door from the mess the electrician and plumbers left. 
     After break we ALL worked to start putting up the main trusses, fitting them into a joist installed on the original one going over the garage.  It took about 3 tries to start getting the teamwork down, and at one point Jeff almost fell off the scaffolding backwards.  That would NOT have been good.  After 4 or so, we stopped for lunch (brought in by a lady – sandwich meats and cheese, fruit, and a bag of popcorn – I thought it was a little lame, but I’m not complaining.)
Setting the first truss.  
The break must have been what we needed, because after lunch we started operating smoothly and the trusses went up well.  For the first half, I was up on the roof with Mike, pounding in half of the nails into the joist holder.  Once we hit the other side of the house, there were no joists and no room for me up there anyway.  Mike did it alone, while I went to help move more trusses over from the vacant lot across the street.  Rick did MAJOR lifting today – helping with his long arms to lift and then hold wood in place.  He was tired and sore by the time we finished.  Probably good we came in on a Friday…..we have the weekend to rest up before a full week! 
Halfway across the house!
Midway through the afternoon shift (and after I had left the scaffolding) we were bless with the arrival of our new homeowner, Katie.  She is a single mom with two daughters, ages 10 and 13.  Katie had driven by many nights this week to view the progress; she was exuberant to see the roof trusses up and the house begin to take shape.  I took her over to the garage next door to see the house plans.  Her enthusiasm was so fun to witness.  She kept thanking me on behalf of the group.  I told her the opportunity to meet her and picture her in her new home was more than worth it!  She hopes to be back next week to actually do some work.  (This Habitat doesn’t work on Saturdays, which I would think makes it harder for homeowners to put in their equity time.)
Back to camp to relax, shower, clean up dishes, etc. from the week, and write/read.  (Where I am at now!)  We are going out to dinner tonight as Mike and Gloriann take off in the morning for home.  Today was the only day we were going to work with them.  It has been a beautiful day, weather-wise.  Definitely warmer than yesterday (in the 80’s) but sunny and clear –a gorgeous blue sky.  Not as windy.  Campers are arriving at the park for the weekend.  The Frisbee golf course here is quite extensive, very professional, and well used!  I am going to wander down to the boat launch at some point and see the river!! 
Back later perhaps…. 
Gloriann and Mike with their Birthday cake
What a beautiful evening!  The sky is gloriously clear, which means it will be cold again tonight!  Big half moon and stars as we emerged from the BonFire, our restaurant of choice.  I tried some Walleye Salad….figured while in the area one should at least taste the local fare!  Rick had a huge local beer and a vegetable herb pizza.  All very fancy.  After a wonderful meal and good conversation, we discovered it was the day between Mike and Gloriann’s birthdays – so we managed to get a free piece of cake for the group to share.  It was a huge piece so easy to do!  When we went to split up the bill, Mike INSISTED he wanted to cover it, that he and Gloriann had recently done very well on a real estate deal.  He needed to share the blessing!  So….I guess we get to share the blessing this weekend with Sarah!

SATURDAY, September 14, 2013
Visit with adopted niece, Sarah Swanson
Gustavus Adolphus College and St. Peter, MN

     A bit more relaxing a morning as we don’t have to leave for St. Peter until shortly after 9am.  Seems a little warmer today, or else it warms up quicker!  We share goodbyes with Mike and Gloriann (I give them on of my Sampler Habitat books) and then head north.  First stop is within a quarter mile – to gas up the truck!!  Then north on 169 along the Minnesota River (low water year!) and into St. Peter, a town of about 11,500 – just a little larger than Baker City.  The college is up on a hill west of town, but within easy walking distance.  We find Sarah’s dorm and the parking area, and Sarah meets up with us….her roommate is still sleeping!!  From the lack of ANY activity visible on campus, I guess we came a little early on a Saturday morning for student life!
 "Tornado sculpture"Plaza at Gustavus Adolphus
     We get a tour of the campus – the south side is very open with newer brick buildings.  We find a tornado came through here in 1998 and destroyed many buildings and trees.  East side has much more foliage and older buildings.  All the buildings are an orange or yellow brick, with the exception of the chapel built in the early 70’s.  A typical college chapel of the time: modern lines and architectural concepts.  It is beautiful with a tall spire and a simple cross on top.  The cross was destroyed in the tornado and found in a farmer’s field two miles away.  It is not hanging in the narthex of the building.  Long lines of narrow stained glass lead upwards to the apex of the roof.  Very pretty. 
Interior Gustavus chapel
Chapel exterior
     Through the campus center and then in to the athletics pavilion.  A
Sarah and Rick by the Gustavus track
volleyball tourney was in progress, a football game was on tap, and a ruby game just getting started.  Lots of activity!!  Back to Sarah’s dorm to find Kendra awake and up.  I have to say I was pleased to see right off the brightly colored sheets of tie dye on Sarah’s bed!!  I really should do that for more of the college grads.  They look so cool!  Shelli made her a quilt with bright rainbow colors that looks awesome with the sheets. 
What kind of corn?
     We stop at a Subway in St. Peter for a quick lunch, and then on down the highway toward Mankato to stop at Seven Mile Creek County Park.  Sarah had been to this park with a Geology class and said it had lots of nice trails (10 miles worth to be exact!)  We parked and found a map and wandered about 3.5 miles while we visited and talked away!  The scenic viewpoint was a little disappointing (we saw lots of tree tops), but it did take us up to the top of the river plain and into fields of corn.  What kind?  We aren’t sure – not sweet corn, maybe popcorn?  It seemed to be drying on the stalks.  The more hiking to the far west end of the park and back along the otherside of the mostly non-existent creek this time of year.  I found some cool acorn husks! 
On the trail
     On into Mankato to the Lowe’s to purchase bricks to help Sarah ‘lift’ up her bed 16” so she can store things underneath.  Kendra, her roommate is sleeping on the top bunk, and they have a hammock swinging under the loft arrangement.   Very nice!!  We swing past the Habitat build site and then to Land of Memories.  Sarah seems to have such found memories of this little tent trailer, as we took her and Annika camping once up at Wallowa Lake in it.  Brief chat as we find raindrops beginning to fall….
     Realize Sarah could use a plastic tub to help store things under the bed, so it is back to the other side of Mankato to Wal-Mart to make that purchase.  I basically said “Happy Birthday, Sarah”!  These aren’t very exciting gifts, but…..!!  From there we were thinking to head back up to St. Peter for dinner, but Rick spies a Mongolian Grill across the street and that seals it!  Sarah has never been to one!! 
     A GREAT dinner (this was a good place!).  Don Bovais called while we were in the restaurant, so while my food was being cooked I talked with Don and got him the passwords, etc. he needed to sign us up for the Philadelphia area Habitat builds. I have to say he sounded JUST like the Don I remember!! 
         We take Highway 22 straight back up to St. Peter and drop the bricks off at the dorm.  Rick said she and Kendra were getting right to it arranging (I parked the truck), so we said our goodbyes and left the home decorating up to them!!  We will probably meet up with Sarah again tomorrow night for dinner. 
Football watching in tent trailer!
     Back to the tent trailer….the rain is really coming down now – hard!  So far so good in staying dry!  Rick successfully got the rabbit ears set up outside (I think under the front bed) and connected to the TV so he can get TWO stations!  But at least one of them is a football game, so he appears to be content!!  I am sitting here typing, sipping decaf tea, and preparing to download today’s pictures!  A cozy little night in the tent trailer!!  Hope we stay dry!!!  G’night! 

SUNDAY, September 15, 2013
Church, Laundry, and Sarah!

         Oh, how it did rain last night.  I overheard one of the campers say he had over an inch in a little rain gauge.  I had a little leakage down one of the support poles near my head, but wrapped a towel around it during the night to absorb a little, and nothing more came in much.  We haven’t sealed any seams in this trailer in years, so it might be a prudent move at some point!! 
         This morning dawns cloudy and cool, but no rain up to this point at noon!  It was MUCH warmer, however, as I arose at 7 to find the temp in the trailer near 60, while Friday morning it was 44! 
Mankato FPC
      I actually put on a turtleneck and fleece vest for church, partly because it was cool, but also because it was the dressiest thing I could find!  We pulled up to the beautiful Mankato church, only to discover that worship was to be a “Service in the Cellar” as part of a fall stewardship campaign.  I can’t say it was a real spiritual worship service, as we were grouped in tables solely for the purpose of conversation!  However, we did gain ideas and offered some of our own.  Churches everywhere are facing the same issues!  The Mankato church currently has an interim pastor and is hoping to call a new ordained minister by Christmas.  Diversify music, draw in youth, more fellowship and community building, better communication, outreach into the greater community, etc.  Where have we heard all this before??? 
         As we left we wandered into the chapel, which had a beautiful set of fabric art banners titled, “Seasons of the Spirit”: purple for advent and lent, green for growth, red for Pentecost, and white for celebrations of Christmas and Easter.  Outstanding liturgical art. 
Seasons of the Spirit
         The steeple of this church stands tall against the Mankato skyline.  Rick and I originally saw it Thursday afternoon as we searched for the WW meeting site and a Wal-Mart, not realizing it was the Presbyterian church.  I was sorry to miss worship in the sanctuary, as the stained glass was gloriously typical of big city churches.  A good morning, nonetheless!
         Back to LOM to pick up our laundry and the map to find a Laundromat.  We can’t find the one Gloriann mentioned, find one indicated on map but it was closed, and then stumble upon the Northside Laundromat.  Seems adequate!!!  We manage to shove everything into one large load!  This is the part of life on the road that is not very glamorous!! 
         Had a text from Sarah when I came out of church that 6pm tonight would be good for a final rendezvous, and hopefully her roommie Kendra will be able to join us! 
         Back later!!
         Wow!  Venus is a beacon in the sky to the west, the moon just keeps getting fuller and fuller, and the skies have cleared!  It could get cool tonight!! 
         We had a relaxing afternoon of catching up on scribbles (me), football (Rick) and conversations with Moms (both of us!).  I had to laugh when I came back to the trailer after visiting with Mom….Rick had positioned the TV rabbit ears to the seat of my bike – strapped on with an elastic band!  Bike seat looked pretty
What has happened to my bike?
funny!  But it seemed to work and he was a happy camper watching two good football games this afternoon.  I was happy because I caught up on my Luke scribbles, the blog pictures organized, and now when I get to wifi tomorrow night (I called and the Burger King has free wifi!), I will be ready to download quickly!! 
         We drive up to St. Peter at 5:30 pm for our dinner date with Sarah.  Up to the room to check out the bed – it looks wonderful!!  The girls were pretty proud of their ingenuity!  Took a picture so I could capture the beautiful quilt Shelli made as well! 
Sarah on newly 'raised' bed!
   Down to the Pearly Gates of St. Peter!!  Ok, so it is a local tourist attraction, but we took pictures anyway!!  Pretty fancy gates to no where, evidently! 
At the Pearly Gates! 
         Sarah was given the decision as to where to eat.  She finally opted for a recommendation by a friend for the BBQ place next to the Mexican restaurant.  We didn’t have a name, but found the Lone Star BBQ & Grill next to the El Agave, so we figured we were in the right spot!  Good meal – pulled pork sandwiches or baked potato with pulled pork.  Sarah and I had the tater, Rick and Kendra the sandwich!  Had a good chance to meet Kendra more – discovered she is a violin player and knows Thom McLean well!  In fact, she is pretty sure that her mom was Thom’s high school orchestra teacher!  Small world!  Or, at least the string community of Fairbanks, Alaska, is a small world! 
The three of us at Lone Star BBQ!
    We drop the girls off, give out hugs, and our on our way back down to Mankato.  A super weekend with Sarah and I think she appreciated it all! 

Monday, September 16, 2013
Mankato Habitat Work Day 2

     We wake up this morning to a beautiful sunrise and a quiet night’s sleep!!  A beautiful day ahead, although it is 44 degrees in the trailer when we arise!  My bed felt good and I had to force myself out to do a little note taking from the Ragamuffin Gospel book.  
Painting in the basement
     It is just six of us at the Habitat site today: Supervisor Ben, Americorp Russell and the four of us CAVs.  Ben has another house a block over that is being inspected for resale this afternoon by a realtor and he wants to finish some painting and reflooring in the bathroom.  We head over there first thing (after I do a quick devotion time).  Jeff and
Rick checks the wall....
Bonnie end up in the bathroom (not a smart choice on their part - removing the old floor was a job and a half!).  Rick and I painted down in the basement.  There had been a mold problem on the concrete walls and we were painting a thick mold killer white.  We got 'er done by the morning snack time.  Fresh coffee cake and grapes, coffee and juice served by a couple of very dear older ladies!  
Getting the sheathing started!
     After morning break, Rick and I stayed at the main job site and helped Glen and AJ apply the vapor barrier to the insulation in the second house (AJ's house!) The family had come by on Saturday to install the insulation and got started on the polyethylene plastic that must be put up by code.  All has to be caulked as well with a soft, non-hardening caulk that helps seal the plastic to the wood.  We are learning about cold climate building here!  
     Lunch was a drive over to Mr. Goodcents - basically a Subway type sandwich shop.  I was going to order a salad, but the arrangement had been for a cold sandwich, so I went with turkey!  After lunch Rick continued to help- with the 'Polly', but they shifted to ceilings and I couldn't reach!  By then, Bonnie and Jeff had finished, so we started moving sheathing for the roof and helping on house #1 (where we worked Friday).  Some of the trusses didn't get squared exactly right and Ben was a little 'tense' for abit, but I think it worked out by the time we left!  Tomorrow will be an intense day of roof work....hopefully before the forecast rain comes later in the week!  
     Grocery shopping enroute home, salad making, showers, and tonight Rick and I are at Buffalo Wild-Wings Bar and Grill - free wifi for me and the Steeler's game for Rick!  What a deal.  I spent the first half of the game finding a campsite for this weekend outside of Chicago - we found an email waiting for us from Matt!  Rick spent the first half of the game talking with fellow Steeler fans who turned out to be Thiel College graduates, and the guy went to Rocky Grove High School!! Fun! 
     Today was a PERFECT day weather wise.  Probably highs in the 60's, sunshine!  Ideal working weather!  Could we hope it will last?  

TUESDAY, September 17, 2013
Habitat Work Day 3
     Clouds greet us this morning! In fact, the forecast for the next few days jumps all over the place!  Rain, humidity, and higher temps!  Today was cool, then the skies cleared and we had beautiful blue with puffy clouds, and then…after lunch?  Back to the clouds and a definite feeling of pending rain! 
     Our job today?  The roof!  Our crew this morning was 8 in number: the 4 CAVs, 2 Habitat employees, a local volunteer, Jim, and Erin, the homeowner of the third house down the street.  Erin almost  has all her hours in and should be able to move in once the house is complete.  I think we might be doing some sheetrock down there on Thursday. 
     Rick was up on the roof ALL DAY – mostly with the pneumatic stapler attaching the sheathing permanently in place.  Temporarily the sheets have a few nails and are held in place with the H clips.  Bonnie and I spent most of the day moving sheathing boards from front to back, lifting up to waiting hands on the roof.  We also got to measure and cut after lunch when Jim and Erin had to leave.  I won’t even guess how many steps I took walking around the house today!!  My back feels the lifting muscles, and I’m sure Rick’s back feels the ‘bent over’ position he had using the stapler gun.  (The staples are about 2 inches long.)
         Mankato Habitat does know how to feed you!!  Many of the area restaurants arrange to provide lunch meals, sometimes delivered, but usually we take a break and go to the restaurant.  Today our treat was a return trip to Buffalo Wild Wings!  I had a buffalito and salad (a type of soft taco), and Rick some chicken strips and fries.  Good time! 
We had to carry trusses across the street
     Came back to the trailer today to do some serious relaxing!  It was a late night last night and a lot of physical activity.  Rick has the TV going with some news, and I did a Sodoku and feel asleep three times!!  A light dinner.  Tuesday night so NCIS, etc. shows until 10 and we crashed!!  Seemed like it warmed up as the evening progressed. 

WEDNESDAY, September 18, 2013
Mankato Habitat Day 4

Wow.  It is 64 degrees in the trailer when I wake up this morning, but the skies are cloudy and it seems like it could still drizzle.  Did rain briefly during the night, but mostly it has been a heavy mist all night. Today is forecast to be in the mid 80’s and HUMID!!  As I write tonight it is still 78 degrees in the trailer and I am batting away little tiny fly insects – they must be coming in right through the screen, attracted by our bright light.  (They are extremely slow…I can squish them, but they are also extremely numerous.)
Rick and Ben on roof trusses
Rick nails in a section of sheathing.
     Rick spent the day on the roof – all day I think, except for the breaks!  He said it is tiring because you have to stay ‘attentive’ all the time, and it is hard on the ankles.  But we finished almost all the sheathing (the gables over the garage are ALMOST done – they were tricky and very time consuming).  Bonnie and I were given the assignment this morning to measure and cut a whole bunch of 2x4s using the chopsaw.  Then we moved them into the house on the concrete floor.  Right after break, Ben set me up to assemble the door frames for the interior: nail two side boards together, one 81”, the other 96”; nail all my cross bars together in sets of 2; nail the sides to the cross bar.  The fun part of the job?  I was given a power nailer to use!  It took me a little while to get the hang of it….at first I had to pound a few back out!  But it was super humid inside the house – the breeze that was blowing outside didn’t penetrate and I was dripping sweat in no time at all!  By lunch I had half of them finished and stacked up against the outside walls. 
         Lunch today was sandwiches from Erbert and Gerbert Sandwich Shop – good enough, but we will still patronize Subway!
Power nailer and door frames!
         After lunch Bonnie helped me and we finished up the door frames.  By then Ben was calling out measurements right and left to finish the roofing on the garage gables – some for sheathing sheets and some for 2x6 facing boards.  I learned to measure on the “angle” or a 6 cut, using the square.  Rick was armed with the cordless nailer all day, tacking sheathing in place, etc.  We worked until 3:30….everyone was getting tired, so a good thing to get people OFF the roof! 
         All of the CAVs opted NOT to head out of town tonight 20 miles to a beautiful lake for ‘Whiskey Wednesdays’…..instead after showers, we drove in to Weight Watchers and then to Burger King for free wifi!!  A very light dinner, internet until 7:30, and then back to the campground.  Muggy tonight!!
         The campground is the site of a big ‘PowWow’ this weekend…. Trailers are already pulling in and setting up shop.  Two Indian Fry Bread trailers, etc.  Glad we are leaving on Friday morning!!  It portends to be a circus!! 
         Full moon coming up through the shifting clouds this evening.  Beautiful!!! 

THURSDAY, September 19, 2013
Mankato Habitat Work Day 5
         Weird night!  It was 70 degrees in the trailer when I got up this morning, but it looked like it was clearing off.  I did finally pull a light fleece over me during the night, but the sleeping bag was untouched!!! 
Morning train stops us again! 
       Up and out around 7:50, obviously a little later again today because for the second day in a row we had to wait for a train leaving the campground.  I definitely jinxed us the other night when I said we had never been stopped by the train yet!  It moves VERY slowly through town, so it takes nearly 10 minutes for the 103 cars to pass.  Then….if you drive too fast, you have to stop again at another crossing to get to the job site.  Today, Rick tried to circumvent the second stop by taking a different route, but that gets you into the 8am school traffic, so we didn’t gain anything!!  Ah well!
Rick helps Ben mix up texture mud
         Ben starts us out today helping him prep Sarah’s house to be ready for texturing – plastic on the windows, hinges, etc.  Ben was going to texture this morning, so Sarah and her family can start painting this weekend.  Once that was done, we started in on the sheathing at the front of the garage.  Made a few wrong cuts, so we didn’t get as far as we would have liked before the storm hit!  Oh boy!!!  Rick and Jeff raced back to the trailer park to put up the awning in the Miller’s trailer and to unplug the electric in ours.  I had left the computer asleep and plugged in. Rick and I had zipped up the trailer in prep for rain, but Rick wanted to be sure because this was RAIN!!!   And this was a lightning storm that DUMPED a ton of water in about 15-20 minutes.  We suddenly had a lake in front of the worksite. 
Cloudburst forms a lake in front of Habitat house
Rick and Jeff work to sheetrock ceiling
     Due to a now wet roof, Ben pulled us from the 1st house and we shifted gears to install ceiling sheetrock in Erin’s house #3.  Erin was there today to help, even though she has all her hours in!  Even with a break for a potluck lunch at the Habitat Affiliate office (and Re-Store), we managed to get the three bedrooms and closets all ceiling sheetrocked.  Rick was helping with the lift, while I mostly measured and cut sheetrock.  I like doing that!
         Nice lunch visiting with Ben’s mother, who is the Mankato Habitat director, and meeting Kellie, the volunteer coordinator who I spoke with on the phone.  Nice people!  The store does about $1000 a day business, which is really good concerning the size.  They are going to build across the street a bigger store with offices and sell the current location.  Ben’s mom explained the tithing that individual affiliates are ‘supposed’ to do to support the international projects.  Mankato takes it very seriously and tithes to a project in Tanzania – they figure they have helped build nearly a 100 houses in that country as well as Southern Minnesota.  (A thousand dollars in Tanzania goes much further than in the US!)
         The campground just keeps filling up!  The Pow Wow must be BIG!  It commemorates a 1862 event in which 38 Native Americans were hung after they were accused of raping and killing women and children.  This, of course, came after treaty violations on the part of the white man.  One wrong leads to another which leads to another.  You’d think we would learn.  Anyway, according to the park manager, the REASON for the event is largely forgotten in what is now just a huge celebration of Native American culture.  The Fry Bread booths are already up!  I guess the Frisbee golf is cancelled because several ‘holes’ are being used for parking areas!  We had heard there was to be a soccer tournament also, but I don’t see how!  We WILL be out of here first thing in the morning! 
Three happy Habitat homeowners!
     We grab a little dinner and pack things up in the truck: bikes, food containers, wood, etc.  Can’t tell if it is going to rain tonight or not, but around 7 the clouds break to a beautiful sunset.  Jeff comes down and invites us back up as we had talked at the end of the day for football and campfire.  Rick pulls the TV out and Jeff sets it up on a TV tray just outside the awning of his trailer.  We load up the pile of wood we collected from the job site, grab a drink, and head up to their site for football and fire!!  We had talked about going out to dinner, but decided neither of us really wanted to do so, so this would be a good final social event!! 

Getting the fire started! 
         And it was!  Bonnie is quite the football fan as well, but we sat and talked through the whole game: kids, churches, religion, Habitat, etc. etc.  We covered the gamut.  I don’t think she watched at all - of course we sat a little further on the far side of the fire and I don’t know if she could hardly see the screen!  Oh well.  A beautiful evening, full moon came out, and not a drop of rain!  However, we didn’t get back down to our trailer until 10:45!!!  The lights of the Pow Wow area are still bright and glaring and we can hear the drum beats and chanting.  They must be getting warmed up!! 

Click HERE for ALL our pictures other than Habitat build.  

Click HERE for Habitat pictures!


  1. Hey Ginger and Rick...I am so enjoying your travel tales and photos. Don't know if I would like 44 degree weather in a popup though, sounds a bit chilly for my ol' bones. :) Sarah looks great, all grown up and evidently loving college life. That's quite the bedspread! Love it. Will be waiting for your next installment. :)


    PS..Inspection just finished now to wait for the outcome as it applies to me. The "buyers" came over for the inspection as well. They are really pretty particular so will wait and see how much work I will be responsible for.

    Miss you guys. Hugs around.

    1. Hoping the inspection went well, Marcie. I am slow in posting as internet has been sporadic...will get something more up in the next few days. Glad you enjoy traveling with us!! Hugs back at you!