Friday, December 25, 2009

The Big Christmas Storm

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse ……..
Even the mice wouldn’t go out anymore! You see the National weather service has been predicting the worst storm since the Halloween blizzard of 91.
A giant low pressure system was destined to sit in Iowa and pump moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into the winter air over Minnesota for days on end with a prediction of up to 20 plus inches of snow in total.
The endless babble about the weather started on Tuesday morning several days before the approaching storm. It’s been snowing off and on for most of December and there is already no lack of snow on the ground and roads. After several years of warm temperatures and little or no snow, this year appears is going to be a good old fashion Minnesota winter.
I was so counting on that whole global warming thing to solve this Minnesota winter problem, but I think I’m going to have find another solution.
For those of you who have been fortunate enough to have forgotten how this whole snow and blizzard thing works let me refresh your memory!
Remember when you had to dig your vehicle out of the snow banks?P1011379
Remember those last minute runs to the grocery store for those supplies just in case you can’t get out because of the storm?
But there is good things about snow storms. The big heavy snows usually requires warmer temperatures, and this one is no exception. Christmas Eve on the street in the snow its 27 degrees.
Either the snow or the holiday has reduced the traffic on an otherwise bumper to bumper car filled 50th street. The theater is open for Christmas eve!
A walk around the downtown 50th and France area reveals Margaret’s favorite store in the snow. “ Live Laugh Love”
As always whenever there is a snow storm you find little kids out playing in the snow piles!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) in Minnesota!

I know its hard to believe but just the other day an improvised explosive device went off in the Wendy’s in Arden hills! I thought we were safe from terrorist here in the heartland.

It was one of those days where Margaret and I went out for lunch together while we were both in the office in Arden Hills. We have a small selection of fast food restaurants around the area. There is a Subway that we often frequent, a new Mexican place in the same strip mall, an Arby’s, and down the road a ways, a Wendy's.

This day we went to the Wendy’s. The food is not that great but its a big open air restaurant with large windows that let in the sunshine (on the rare Minnesota days that the sun shines). If you have never been to a Wendy’s it is one of the few fast food places that you can get a baked potato a healthier alternative to the normal French fries.


Along with the baked potato you can get butter, and sour cream. That is what Margaret ordered along with a chicken sandwich. After we collected our food and sat down to enjoy the feast Margaret started to apply the condiments to her potato. That’s when the improvised explosive device went off!

imageI suspect most IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are made of fuel oil & fertilizer, old artillery shells or plastic explosives, but this one was made of sour cream. You see when Margaret started to open the sour cream packet to apply to her potato it exploded in her hand. I don’t mean a little pop, and it runs onto the table, but a high powered stream of white sour cream jetting into the air several feet. Fortunately for me it didn’t go in my direction. Unfortunately for Margaret that high speed stream of sour cream was aimed right at her glasses and hair.

Have you every tried to wipe sour cream out of you hair with a napkin in a Wendy’s restaurant? Take it from me its not a pretty sight and it doesn't work so well. But it sure is humorous. After a quick trip to the restroom the heroine of our story Margaret retuned uninjured by the IED and finished her lunch!

Watch out for IED’s they show up in the strangers of places!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Strange things about Memories

memories,jpg Have you every noticed that sometimes old memories pop up out of nowhere? I don’t mean memories from last week or last month, but from 40 or 50 years ago. Memories from when you were a child. Usually these are pleasant memories and nice to revisit having had long ago forgotten about them.

Some months ago rather than properly manage individuals that were abusing some company rules about break time and duration the company Margaret works for implemented a company wide rule that you could no longer leave the property during break.

Now that in itself isn’t a big deal, because how far can you go on a 15 minute break, but Margaret and a few others me included use to take that 15 minute break and walk around the industrial park that out company's building is located in. With the new rule that would no longer be possible.

Since people are endlessly resourceful some started walking in the parking lot, others Margaret and I started walking around the building. Its a big building and directly behind it is a railroad tracks.


The path around the building is not particularly nice. Its not even OK. It kind of dirty and you have to climb a steep trail to get around the back, Then you have to walk along on the railroad tracks to keep out of the mud. For the most part along the tracks there is a fair amount of garbage. At one end of the building there is a small muddy pond often with a few ducks in it.


In spite of all that for some strange reason its a pleasant walk! Why is that?

imageI think I might have an answers! In some small part the company tried to take something away and a way was found to continue the walks while sort of following the new rules. But I think that the real reason might be how those really old memories might get evoked. You see the trail around the building on the railroad tracks smells slightly of creosote. All railroad tracks do. That smell of creosote dredges up times and memories from long ago when walking and playing along the railroad tracks in the summertime with friends were fun. So even today that smell of creosote seems to make things pleasant.

So now from time to time you find us, on nice days playing again on the railroad tracks.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grizzly Bears are Really Big!

Last Sunday a late weekend in November we slept late. When we woke up the sun was shinning in the bedroom windows, as I rolled over and looked out the window there was a HUGH GRIZZLY BEAR looking through the window!


OH WAIT! That window was at the Minnesota Zoo a little later in the day at the new Kamchatka Peninsula’s Grizzly Coast display.( I’m getting old and a little forgetful). You see after breakfast and a little milling around we went down to the zoo to see the bears.


There were three Grizzlies in a realistic recreation of the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia where the bears hang out. You could stand in a window and watch them swimming in a pool of Salmon. (I think the bear was looking for a salmon to play with.)



You can see them below the water as they hunt for the salmon swimming back an forth with just their ears out of the water. During the time we watched he didn’t catch one, but I suspect that I wouldn’t want to be that salmon he was looking for.


There are three bears in the enclosure. Here one of the bears is scratching his back on the dead tree.


After the bears we moved on to the Siberian Leopards. They were incredibly beautiful creatures, but not willing to pose for a picture, so we will just have to settle for a picture of his tail.


The zoo has a couple of Tigers as well. Here you can see Margaret in the cage posing with the tigers.


Just across the walkway was a more animated version of the Tigers.


Brave Margret with the wolves!


She wouldn’t pet this one though!


As we walked around the zoo we saw sharks, monkeys…



red pandas, and sea creatures……

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But here you see the most dangerous creature in the entire zoo having ice cream!


Monday, November 9, 2009

I’ve Been Pardoned!

image The governor came through! It was a close thing. It was down to the last minute and then the call came thought. “You’ve been pardoned!”

The celebration was immediate! We stopped on the way home from work at the Granite City brewery for dinner and some micro brew beer.

(Forgive the quality of the pictures they were taken with the camera on my phone. Convicts are not allowed to carry real cameras)

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OH Sorry: I forgot you missed the part where I became a convicted criminal didn’t you!

Flash back to Saturday Morning November 7th:

Nothing special was happening this weekend and Saturday was a beautiful day so after an early lunch at 11:00am we headed out to the lakes to hike around the trails in the last remnants of nice weather. After the hike and a trip to REI to get Margaret some “Life is Good” socks we returned to the apartment later in the afternoon to relax for the evening.

On the way up to the apartment we stopped at the mailbox to check the mail. A strange letter was in the mailbox. A plain white window envelope with a bright yellow sheet showing through the window, with a return address of “ District Court” Oh Shit! I thought I've be called to jury duty.

After getting into the apartment we opened the envelope and it wasn’t a jury summons at all it was a” Failure to Appear” notice from the Dakota County Court.


In short it says you have failed to appear in court on your appointed date and have failed to pay the fine you received for parking illegally on September 24th at 510AM in the morning at some obscure intersection in Apple Valley, MN Dakota County.

What!! I haven’t been in Apple valley in years and the only place I was at 5:10 AM on that Thursday morning was in bed! I didn’t get this ticket. There was a phone number to call in case of any questions. I called the number but of course it was Saturday and there was nothing but an answering machine. Please call between the hours of 8:00AM to 5:00pm Monday through Friday.

I started packing! I’ll leave the country they'll never catch me! I can cross over into Canada and make my way to Europe and live there. I was ready to retire anyway.

Well it is only a parking ticket, and the fine is only $35 maybe I should wait until Monday and call to see what is going on before I flee the country.

Monday morning at 8:30 I called the number on the yellow sheet. After a brief conversation with a rather rude public employee of the Dakota County District court I got the name of the issuing agency and called the Apple Valley Police Department. There I spoke to a helpful young lady and explained that I couldn’t have received this ticket because I have never been in the lovely city of Apple Valley. She gave me the details of the ticket and explained that it would have to be waived by the issuing officer. Unfortunately he was on vacation until the 18th of November. She said she would have another officer look into it and get back to me.

Great! this is starting to look like a convenient way to extort money from me. I may have to move to Europe after all because there is no way I’m going to pay this. These people are never going to call me back!

imageAt 4:00 as we were walking to the car when my cell phone rang. It was the young lady from the Apple Valley police department. She explained that there had been a clerical mistake and the wrong license number was keyed into a computer. She would send a letter to the District court to correct the erroneous citation.

The governor called I have been pardoned! I won’t have to move to Europe anymore. Oh and I get to celebrate at the Granite City Brewery on the way home.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Photographer

imageOver the years we have had a number of nice cameras. I have always had a higher end 35 mm with different lenses, sometime a bit complicated to run, and I have always considered my self a bit of a photographer. Margaret has always had a smaller more convenient point and shoot. When digital cameras came out we had some of the first ones available. As an R&D engineer in the technology field that’s really part of my job to be current on all that stuff, It pays the bills as they say.

We take pictures of images we like to see and sometime share them with others through our web site.

Margaret gets up early in the morning usually before I do. Its been that way for years. If we are at the lake in the summer she often will go outside and snap pictures of the sunrise coming up over the east end of the lake. In the evening often during happy hours we will sit in the sunshine, and Margaret will snap pictures of the sunsets.

We have a special folder on her computer just for those pictures “Sunrises and Sunsets".

On one particular Saturday morning late in the summer she captured this image while up early in the morning out wandering the lake shore. The fog was heavy and the sun was peaking through and shining on the neighbor kid’s bouncing float toy. (We have shown it on the blog before)


The photo was recently picked to be one of the images on the 2010 yearly calendar produced by the company we work for.

Congratulation to the photographer in our family Margaret!

I can at least consol myself with the fact that she used my camera to take the picture.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Coach Gets stored for the Winter

Last year we left the coach sit out in the weather. It spent the winter on the lake lot. We visited it about once a month to check on it and it seemed to do fine for most of the winter. As spring approached in the February, March time frame some cracking occurred in the dark brown decals on the sides of the coach. It appeared to be the result of the rapid change in temperatures that occurred as it warmed up.

This year we decided that we would store the coach in a covered shed for the winter. We checked around a number of possible location and finally arrived at an RV storage lot in Little Falls. They have a very large metal building that while unheated it would keep snow ,and sunlight away from the coach. The building will also work to moderate extreme temperature changes.

The storage season runs from Oct 15th to May 15th and costs $17 per linear foot for the RV. We made an appointment to deliver the coach on Saturday morning October 17th for the season. To get there by noon on Saturday we would have to stay over night at the lake, and take off by 10:00am Saturday morning to get there by noon.

We arrived at the lake around 6:00 on Friday night after taking off a little early from work. Since the coach was parked in the driveway awaiting its departure, we parked in front of the garage and hooked the coach up to electricity and opened it up for the night.


Sitting in the driveway is not quite level but a few boards under the jacks solved the problem.


After some final close up tasks (cover the hot tub with a tarp) for the lake we settled down to a dinner of rotisserie chicken, French bread and wine in the coach.


Saturday morning dawned cold and foggy. It was about 30 degrees with a frost of ice on many of the trees and decks. Let’s hope the roads are clear at 10:00 when we take off!


After breakfast we wandered around the lot for a tour. You couldn’t see the lake at all for the fog!


Down along the shore you can get an idea how thick the fog was.


You can barely see the neighbor’s dock. It seems like its a little late to still have your dock in, but there are still several of them out there. If a freak storm occurs these folks could be in trouble.


About 8:00 I started get the coach ready to move for the winter. Since this will be the first time we have ever towed the Jeep behind the coach I wanted to be sure of a few things and allow plenty of time for the first hook up. Once the coach was out on the drive way in front of the garage I hooked up the Blue OX tow bar to the coach for the first time.


The coach is now ready to put it out on the road and hook up the Jeep.


The jeep is almost ready to be towed, only the lights need to be hooked up with the coiled blue cable.


Finally we are ready to head off down the road in the fog towing the jeep.


After stopping to check everything in Akeley we head off down highway 64 for the hour and half ride to Little Falls.

At 10:00 a few miles south of Akeley the fog is still thick with no signs of letting up. Other than being able to see the jeep in the rear view camera you cannot tell that it is even there. The coach doesn't even notice the jeep when braking.


At last just before Motley around 11:00 the fog starts to lift.


As we pull onto Hwy 10 and the four lane it actually starts to look like a nice day.


Around 11:30 we pull into the dealer lot for our storage appointment. While I go inside to arrange the parking Margaret documents our rig with her little camera.


We unhooked the jeep ,and stored the tow bar for the winter in the storage bay. Then we swept out the coach and unpacked the last of the things before locking it up. Here is the coaches winter home for this year.


Lets hope that this is its last trip to the storage shed!

To shorten winter, borrow some money due in spring. ~W.J. Vogel

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