Minnesota 2020

Bundlings.com: [Main] [Contact Us] [Events] [Family] [Fun] [Garden] [Misc.] [Photos] [Search] [Site Index] [Travel]

Thursday, May 28, 2020: We rolled out of town around 8:30 AM in the rain.
We were heading up to Minnesota to pick up a minivan, so we rented one for this half of the drive. We ended up with an identical copy of our own beloved Grand Caravan. We equipped it with masks, because we were still in the middle of a pandemic.
We got breakfast in Lebanon and Tom dropped his credit card in the drive-through, so Debbie got out of the van to pick it up.
She found a shiny 2020 penny on the ground and brought it along with us.
It was still gloomy as we approached Chicago.
We passed the Home of the Chicago White Sox, currently named after some corporation or other.
Chicago, like every other city in the nation, had lots of COVID-19 billboards. This one noted that COVID-19 doesn't see gender.
The Field Museum had a subtle but timely message: Science Matters.
The Chicago Bulls said: We are not playing. Stop the spread of COVID-19.
Shedd Aquarium urged us to be like Wellington: Stay home, stay safe.
The Illinois Lottery reminded us: Distant now, together soon. We can do this, Illinois.
There's the Chicago skyline. We had plans to vacation here at the beginning of April, but that didn't happen, obviously.
It was bizarre seeing all of the grounded plans at O'Hare. With very few flights in the air, the unused planes have to go somewhere.
How is it that we've never photographed this Top Golf near Schaumburg before?
Less than an hour later, we were at the Wisconsin border.
We were surprised to see that casinos were reopened, then remembered that the state of Wisconsin had reopened suddenly on May 13 as the result of a court case.
It was hard to tell if there were people inside the Kalahari yet. It had reopened the day before.
As always, we photographed beautiful Castle Rock near Camp Douglas, ...
... and the Bosshard Bogs sign, for no apparent reason.
We picked up some tasty donuts for a mid-afternoon snack.
It was sunny by the time we reached the St. Croix River, ...
... where Minnesota was waiting to welcome us.
We were heading to Arden Hills but made a scenic detour in White Bear Lake.
Despite having stayed in the White Bear Lake area several times over the past six years, Tom had never seen the lake for which it is named.
We did some winding around ...
... and got lots of photos of white bears.
We drove along the lake waterfront. There were lovely houses on one side and groups of mask-less people on the other side.
On our way out of town, we passed the dealership where Debbie bought her first car ever, a green 1977 Chrysler Cordoba with a green Corinthian leather interior. Back then, this dealership was Buerkle Buick, and it was the only car dealership on this strip of road.
It's now Buerkle Hyundai and Tom was kind enough to circle back around so Debbie could get a better look at the lot where she bought that rusted out hunk of junk in 1984.
The land north of there had been built out to accommodate Buerkle Honda, the dealership that was cheerfully sending Honda Odyssey recall notices to Debbie's dead father's email account. This was very helpful for us to know that we'd have to immediately take that Honda Odyssey in for service when we picked it up the next day and drove it home.
We made it to our hotel in Arden Hills before 6:00 PM, ...
... and were back in White Bear Lake a half hour later.
This time, we stuck to the west edge of the suburb, where we were familiar with the local establishments, such as this little pizzeria.
We had placed our order for a Carbone's House Special, so Tom went inside to get it. While there, he got to listen to some locals talk about how they would be happy to take their guns "down there" to take care of things. At this point, we didn't yet know what this meant.
Debbie carefully cradled the box of pizza while Tom showed off the rest of our dinner purchase.
The Carbone's in White Bear Lake is not the One True Carbone's (which, of course, is Carbone's on Randolph), but is part of the large non-Carbone's-on-Randolph chain, where you have to ask to add shrimp to the House Special, then they add medium salad shrimp instead of baby shrimp, thus throwing off the perfect Carbone's Special topping ratio.
However, it is still better than every other pizza on the planet.
We had passed a police car in the intersection as we returned with our pizza so Tom asked the front desk clerk what was up. This was three days after George Floyd had been killed, and demonstrations the day before had turned violent, so police were stationed near businesses that might be attacked next.
As the evening wore on, we peered out our window at the Target across the intersection that was being guarded.
We parked our rental van right below our window, hidden from the street by the brick dumpster cover. We could see the flashing lights of the police car through the tree leaves across the parking lot.

Friday, May 29, 2020: We awoke at 5:30 AM because we had a big day of driving ahead of us. Everything seemed quiet outside, ...
... and we drove away from the hotel.
There was still a police car monitoring the intersection but no damage had been done here overnight. It had been a very violent night in many other parts of the Twin Cities though.
We drove past the Land O' Lakes headquarters in Arden Hills. Tom: "Is that Land O' Lakes like as in butter?" Debbie: "Yes. We are in the land of 10,000 lakes. Where did you think Land O' Lakes was located?" Tom: Mind blown.
We headed to the next suburb over: Shoreview.
Debbie showed Tom the senior residential facility where her stepmother, Becky, had lived the last half year of her life. Her apartment was the large one in the corner on the top floor. This was where Debbie visited her the last time she saw her in February.
Just down the street is the strip mall where one of the locations of Taste of Scandinavia is.
The bakery had just opened a few minutes earlier at 6:00 AM.
Debbie loaded up on two boxes of pastries: one for us and one as a gift for Becky's brother, who would be meeting us later in the day.
Mmmm, pastries. This is the top layer of goodies, with an almond heart, an almond 2 o'clock, and an apple pastry.
Next, we returned to Arden Hills to see the house where Debbie's father and first stepmother had lived after Debbie's mother's death. Coincidentally, it was on the same road as the one Debbie grew up on - just much farther north in the Twin Cities.
The house was just a block or two away from the Minnesota Army National Guard headquarters, which had been called into action to help with the violence in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
We were well out of town when we saw this sign. Maybe in this area, the risk of fire danger was low, but Minneapolis was burning.
We were heading up to Bemidji but we took a longer route so we could visit Mora, Minnesota, home of this large Dala Horse statue. It is a little smaller than the one we saw in Avesta, Sweden, in 1996, which is the largest one in the world. We loved that it was wearing a mask.
The sign says, "This is a replica of the Dalecarlian horse, hand carved in Mora, Sweden, since the 1840s. It was built by the Mora Jaycees in 1971 and presented to this community as a reminder of their cultural heritage and as a tourist attraction. It weighs approx. 3,000 lbs., stands 22' tall, 17' long, and 6' wide."
As we drove further north, we spotted these smaller-than-usual street signs set off 15 feet or so from the road. They were difficult to photograph when moving quickly but we tried.
This orange one contains an arrow pointing the way forward.
This one said "Stop ahead." We finally figured out that they were signs for snowmobiles and dirt bikes.
Ah, yes. You know you're in northern Minnesota when you start seeing giant fish statues.
This was baffling. A small pond next to the road contained dozens of floating duck decoys. Odd.
By now, we had made it through the top layer of pastries and were down to these. On the left is a pulla roll made with cardamom. On the right is the almond heart we glimpsed earlier.
As we drove, Debbie prepped the penny that she had found the day before.
It had been overcast all morning, ...
... but by 9:00 AM, the sky cleared and we ended up with a beautiful day.
Here is Big Sandy Lake.
The street numbering amused us. Here is 660th Lane.
We crossed the Mississippi River for the first time of the day ...
... and turned onto the Great River Road. We had no idea that it went this far north, but it makes sense that it does.
We followed the Mississippi up to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, ...
... where we crossed the river again.
This adorable little red building is on the grounds of the Grand Rapids Visitor Center.
We got a better shot of this giant Adirondack chair after having been bullet-trained when we were here the previous summer.
This is Old Central School, a 19th-century school which has been turned into a marketplace.
Cool murals.
We crossed the Mississippi River again ...
... just before entering Chippewa National Forest.
We passed Big Winnie Resort and General Store. Roadside America describes it thusly: "Bavarian architecture on a pagoda-style 1932 gas station and store."
When we arrived in Cass Lake, we passed the church where the memorial service for Debbie's father Bob had been held 10 months earlier.
The route to Bob and Becky's cabin is part of the Great River Road, ...
... but then you leave the Great River Road to drive on the not-so-great dirt road the rest of the way.
We had enough time before our meeting time at the cabin to stop at the nearby cemetery where Bob's ashes are buried, and where Becky's would be added once the pandemic had calmed down enough to have a service.
These headstones had been installed sometime this spring. The last time we had been here, the only grave marker was the small one visible in the upper right. Becky's stone did not have the date of her death (April 16) on it yet.
Debbie got a closer photo of the gravestone, ...
... with the penny she had found the day before. At Bob's burial, family members were invited to shovel some of the dirt back over the box holding Bob's cremated remains. Jill had found a penny on the drive up, and instead of shoveling dirt, she dropped that penny into his grave in honor of the times that her grandfather would save pennies for her and then they'd play with them when he came to visit.
So Debbie added her own found penny to the grave, buried in the sandy dirt right next to the headstone.
The ground was crawling with ants and the air was filled with mosquitoes, so we didn't linger, but we did get a photo of the reason why Bob is buried here: Becky's mother bought a bunch of burial plots here for all of her kids.
This memorial in the far corner of the cemetery all by itself caught our eye as we were leaving.
It was a pretty metal sculpture of a house with a tree next to it. One side of the roof read, "Always Building Together."
The other side contained the names of the couple who would always be building together, along with the date that they were married. It was so sweet.
Back in the car, Tom killed a mosquito who joined us. These things were gigantic. Ugh. Minnesota mosquitoes are the worst.
We stopped at the sign marking the start of Bob and Becky's driveway.
Debbie's stepbrother, Dan, had asked us to take it with us. Tom gave it a good try but we discovered that we'd definitely need some tools to remove it. Meanwhile, those giant Minnesota mosquitoes swarmed all around us.
We pulled up to the cabin shortly before 11:00 AM and Bob's Honda Odyssey was waiting for us in front of the garage. Becky's brother Dan came over to let us into the cabin and escort us around.
Since we had spent very little time here, we took lots of photos of a property we barely knew.
Inside, Bob's framed obituary portrait had been replaced with the matching portrait of Becky stored behind it in the frame, all of which Debbie had purchased the previous summer.
The display of most of Becky's grandkids covered the entire piano. Her daughter's three stepkids didn't make the cut, unfortunately for them.
The study was piled high with items brought from the Arizona condo a month earlier.
In an ironic twist, one of the books was titled, "Saving the Family Cottage." This very cabin would be on the market two weeks later.
Photos of Becky's family were scattered throughout the property.
We found a label maker and wanted so badly to take it, but we had already inherited a great one from the Arizona condo, and the deal was that the cabin's possessions went to Becky's kids, while the condo's possessions went to Bob's kids. We were here to only take things of sentimental value to our family.
We left this great stash of 3M products, but that was fine because the condo had contained lots of Post-it Notes, so we were set for life.
Debbie went through the kitchen next where she found a John Deere mug and a Boeing thermal mug.
She didn't think to look through the magnets until she got home and looked at these pictures up close. Her stepsister sent her four of these gems a couple of weeks later.
We placed items we wanted to take on the counter in the kitchen ...
... and in a box in the entryway.
This frame was made from wood from the cabin that used to stand here before it was torn down to build this much larger place.
Upstairs, we found the photo albums. It was very easy to separate out the photos of Bob's family, because anything related to them was in a separate photo album. Every other part of Bob and Becky's life was put in matching photo albums labeled by year.
Here's what we took. Since the Holden Village trip involved Becky's kids too, Debbie scanned the photos when we returned and mailed the album back.
Here's one of the bedrooms ...
... and another.
This storage room was obviously one of Bob's creations. He designed the cabin that replaced the one originally on this lot.
When we were done, Debbie snapped a photo of what she was taking to send to her stepbrother for review.
Debbie found this treasure in the closet of the storage room. This filthy coat was Bob's backpacking coat from when Debbie was growing up. It looked like a whole new coat after a run through the laundry at home.
Next, Becky's brother, Dan, let us into the garage. The second floor of the garage contains a large living area, ...
... with a living room, kitchenette, and two bedrooms.
This wall contained high school and wedding photos of each of Bob and Becky's kids.
This bedroom had three framed items related to Bob's parents, which we took with us and gave to family members on the drive home. One was a family photo from 1954 and two were from Gale College: a class photo and Debbie's grandfather's diploma. Becky's father was in both as well, since he was president of Gale College at the time.
The garage was looking much more full than when we had seen it the previous year. We had already picked through the treasures in this room.
In addition to escorting us through the property, Dan had previously recharged the battery in the Honda Odyssey for us so it was ready to drive away. When Debbie asked Dan if he would pose for a picture, this was his response.
Forty five minutes after we arrived, we were driving away. Debbie was in the Odyssey and Tom was in the rental minivan.
The Odyssey dashboard showed that it needed maintenance. That was an understatement. It need an oil change, two recalls fixed, and a whole new windshield. But other than that, it was in great shape and was going to Bob's side of the family as he had requested.
We were back on the Great River Road on our way to ...
... Bemidji.
We crossed the Mississippi River again. At this point, the river was mostly a series of streams that connected one lake to the next. Bob's cabin was on Lake Andrusia, which was two lakes down the river from here.
Our plan was to drive our respective minivans to Paul Bunyan Park and meet there. Of course, we had to get our usual photo of these two characters.
The visitor center was closed due to the pandemic, ...
... so Debbie peered in through the windows ...
... to get a look at the Fireplace of States that is described as being built from stones from all fifty US states.
We walked to the water's edge for a minute.
The playground was closed and the park was nearly empty, which is strange for a weekend in northern Minnesota in the summer.
Here's a cool sculpture by the parking lot.
We took this opportunity to get a closer look at the safe that Tom and Dan managed to get into the Odyssey with a little help from Becky's brother-in-law Terry's furniture dolly. It had been too heavy to take the previous summer, so this time it was one of our main goals of the trip. This photo was taken from the ceiling of the van looking down at the safe, wedged on its back between the middle seats. Check out that detail on the door - it's a beautiful vintage safe.
Here's the interior, where we found two of Bob's expired passports, an old luggage tag, and a 1929 wheat penny. We didn't have the safe combination so we didn't dare turn the handle, but we got that from stepsister Katy a week later. Even better, we got two copies of the combination: one written in Bob's handwriting and the other in his father's handwriting. This safe had belonged to his grandfather, so it was a family treasure.
Here's a photo of Debbie's grandfather's college diploma. She has photos of him in his apartment at the University of Wisconsin - Madison with this diploma hanging on the wall, so it was great to find this at the cabin. Even better, the frame matched the frame of his high school diploma which Debbie had found at her aunt's house and would be delivering to Debbie's cousin Shirley the next day, so they were a matched set finally being reunited.
Next, we drove to the Bemidji airport to return our rental minivan. We had put nearly 900 miles on it since leaving home the day before.
The welcome mat at the rental car facility matched the hook rug that used to hang at Bob and Becky's condo in Arizona.
Shortly after 1:00 PM, we started the day-and-a-half journey back home, this time in the Odyssey instead.
We were starving but the drive-thru line wrapped completely around the building at Culver's, ...
... so we went to Taco John's instead. We felt a little bad while we were waiting for our order when we looked next door to see that Subway's drive-thru was completely empty. I guess no one is really interested in cold sandwiches during a pandemic.
It was after 2:00 PM when we arrived at Itasca State Park. It didn't take long for us to realize that we just didn't have the time, interest, or tolerance for mosquitoes to take the short hike to the Mississippi headwaters, so we didn't stay. We had been here before in 2012 so it was fine to pass on it.
We passed this snowmobile crossing sign on our drive out of the park, ...
... then passed this slightly different one down the road a mile or two. Why the difference? Why??
We drove through the town of Park Rapids, which its excellent Art Deco movie theater marquee, ...
... and arrived in Vining, Minnesota, home of astronaut Karen Nyberg, at 4:00 PM.
With a population of only 78, it's a pretty tiny town, but the gas station/convenience store immediately catches your attention because of ...
... the giant coffee cup sculpture next to it.
But that's just the start. Nyberg Park is next door and it is filled with sculptures.
Every sculpture in the park was created by Ken Nyberg, father of astronaut Karen Nyberg. This sculpture was created to honor her. The timing of our visit was perfect, because Karen's husband, astronaut Doug Hurley, would be launching the next day on the crewed Dragon mission.
Here are pliers and a cockroach, ...
... a potted cactus, ...
... a huge steel knot, ...
... a little green alien, ...
... a watermelon being sliced, ...
... a blacksmith, ...
... a spoon and knife dancing, ...
... a huge elephant made out of lawnmower blades, ...
... a globe of the Earth, ...
... a giant hand holding a football, ...
... a fish being speared, ...
... and an anchor.
The artist's signature is welded onto some of the pieces.
This little ball represents the relative size and distance of the moon using the scale of the Earth sculpture we saw earlier (and visible in the distance on the left in this photo). A small sign below it explains.
We drove down the main road through Vining ...
... and saw this clothespin, ...
... a Native American on a horse, ...
... and this cowboy, who was across the street from ...
... this gigantic foot. The top of the toe is flat so that visitors can sit on it.
Next to the foot was a sign.
It listed roadside sculptures throughout Minnesota.
What's this? Upon further examination, Debbie discovered this photo of a prairie chicken statue in Rothsay, Minnesota.
Can it really be? Has the mystery of this picture from a 1977 family road trip been solved? It has! Good to know that the sculpture is still there. We'll have to visit it someday.
We stopped in Henning, a slightly larger small town just a few miles back down the road we had come in on.
It also had a Ken Nyberg sculpture: this oversized stethoscope in front of a clinic.
We drove through various Minnesota towns to get back on a freeway, passing this Sinclair dinosaur sporting a graduation cap.
It was nice to see Lake Irene, obviously named after Debbie's mother.
It's definitely been the year of seeing cars buried in fields, after passing Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo the previous month, and now this display, which was an ad for a local body shop.
We stopped at Big Spunk Lake Rest Area on I-94, where Tom took a photo of the map ...
... and this sign about the Benedictines in Minnesota.
Downtown Minneapolis was coming into view when we called Carbone's on Randolph to place a carry-out order. They told us that they couldn't take any more orders because of the curfew. What curfew? It turns out that this was the first of many curfews that would be imposed on cities throughout the country and the world as a result of the police brutality demonstrations.
We crossed the Mississippi River again. It was much larger as it approached the Twin Cities.
A sign like this contained news about the curfew. Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo of it, so just use your imagination here.
When we got back to the neighborhood around our hotel, we saw that the Target across the street had been boarded up for safety.
A T-Mobile store up the street was also boarded up, since it was a prime target for looters.
We hurried to find a place to get dinner before curfew started and were thrilled to see that Arby's was still open. Cars quickly filled up the line behind us as everyone else came to the same realization.
Thank you, Arby's.
We drove past Target again and saw barricades on the entrances and tow trucks towing away parked cars.
This was no joke. Tensions were high.
Across the street from our hotel, a firetruck was parked. The Cities would be on fire again this evening.
We ate dinner in our hotel room ...
... and checked on our van in our secret parking lot below us.

Saturday, May 30, 2020: It was time to head home, so we were up by 6:00 AM ...
... and pulling up to Taste of Scandinavia Bakery & Cafe less than an hour later.
Debbie had ordered a prinsesstårta (princess cake) the day before and we were here to pick it up.
Check out this beauty. It is filled with white cake, raspberry jam, and a cream filling, and topped with delicious marzipan. When we got it home, we cut it into four pieces and froze three of them. Each piece yielded several servings, so we'd take out a frozen piece every few days to make it last longer.
Our route took us right past St. Paul, as usual, ...
... but then we kept heading south instead of following I-94 to the east, ...
... which gave us a nice clear view of the Bank with the One at the Top.
There's that mighty Mississippi again.
We had made a rookie mistake by not getting breakfast when we went to the bakery, and it was over an hour before we found a convenient McDonald's. Terrifying.
We drove through Rochester, Minnesota. If memory serves, Mayo Clinic is over there toward the left.
We passed Sugar Loaf as we approached Winona.
Their Target didn't seem to be under attack. In fact, it didn't even seem to be a regular Target at all - it appeared to just be for pickups only. Was it always this way or was this a recent pandemic change? No idea.
Winona has some pretty buildings like this church ...
... and the city courthouse.
We crossed the Mississippi River for the final time on this trip, ...
... and crossed over into Wisconsin.
Hey, look at that! We're back on the Great River Road again - specifically, the Wisconsin section of it.
We passed the road that leads to Elmaro Winery, ...
... just minutes away from downtown Trempealeau, ...
... where we stopped at Debbie's aunt Carol's house. She had plenty of Elmaro wine to send home with us, ...
... including several samplers and two cases of wine, plus lots of other goodies too.
We gave Carol the framed photo of her family that we had picked up at the cabin the day before.
Buh-bye, Carol!
We passed the Trempealeau catfish statue on the way out of town. His mask had slipped but it was still technically on, which was nice.
The water was pretty high after lots of recent rain in the area.
Our next stop was in Onalaska to see Debbie's cousin Heather. Proper social distancing was observed.
We were here to drop off a box of Heather's photos that Debbie scanned for her, and to pick up another box ...
... and three more bags of pictures to scan.
Since Debbie had only been here in the evening once before, she had to get a look at the view of the Mississippi River and the bluffs of Minnesota in the distance.
As we were leaving, Sarah and Ron walked up so we got to say hello and goodbye to them from a safe distance. The small child remains unidentified.
It was a scenic trip through the back roads to meet up with I-90 on the other side of La Crosse.
We passed a giant Orchy at an apple orchard.
On I-90, we passed this collection of dinosaur skeleton sculptures near West Salem.
Of course, here's another photo of Castle Rock near Camp Douglas.
We decided to take a look at the Wisconsin Dells to see what the pandemic had done to it.
It was a Saturday afternoon on a beautiful sunny June day, but parking lots of local attractions were nearly empty.
Mount Olympus should be packed by now.
The water park was also sparsely attended but those who were there were much closer than recommended.
Mr. Pancake was empty.
The Del Bar had a sign noting that it had reopened for business on May 22.
We were really here to see this very sad sight ...
... the sign noting that the Tommy Bartlett Show was closed for 2020. For a family who has known the Tommy Bartlett Show for as long as Debbie's has, this was heartbreaking.
Nice to see the Wisconsin Department of Transportation likes to quote classic films.
We stopped in DeForest, Wisconsin (home of Ehlenbach's Cheese Chalet), ...
... to deliver Grandpa Schilling's framed diplomas to cousin Shirley.
In addition to the matching high school and college diplomas, Shirley decided to take the class photo as well. It was great to know that all three family treasures would be together again. (Note: stepsister Katy sent Debbie an unframed copy of this one a couple weeks later, so we have one for the family archives as well. Score!)
We got a photo of Shirley and Xavier. They were maskless so Tom stayed in the car and Debbie kept her distance in her own mask.
Shirley invited Debbie in for a quick look at their fantastic basement bar. Once the pandemic is over, we'll have to visit a little longer.
It was a little after 1:00 when we left DeForest. Of course, we photographed the famous pink elephant at the freeway entrance.
We had been listening to coverage of the SpaceX crewed Dragon launch for several days. After an initial launch scrub two days earlier, it was looking good for takeoff today.
We were still on the road at T - 00:19:59, so we decided to find a place to stop and watch the launch.
How convenient to find the Janesville exit five minutes later!
We each got a treat at Dairy Queen, ...
... then found an empty parking lot to watch the show.
There are the astronauts inside the Dragon capsule.
We have liftoff!
Say it with us: "the first American launch from American soil with American astronauts since 2012." Our road trip rule was that we'd both give a thumbs-up every time we heard this oft-repeated phrase during coverage.
At 5:00 PM, we were back in our home state.
We were anxious to get home, but also starving. What was supposed to be a quick stop at KFC in Rensselaer turned into a 25 minute wait, but it fortified us enough to get home.
Once home, we popped this gorgeous cake in the refrigerator immediately, ...
... then took stock of all of the goodies stashed in various compartments and pockets of the Honda Odyssey we had brought home for Jill.

** THE END **

Bundlings.com: [Main] [Contact Us] [Events] [Family] [Fun] [Garden] [Misc.] [Photos] [Search] [Site Index] [Travel]

Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy