Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Our beginnings in the Great White North

When we last left you, we were in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  We ventured furthered north and then continued on an easterly trek.  We have accomplished quite a list of things, met some amazing people, and seen some really cool places.  I won't rehash the different RV/remodel that we did in Grand Forks, ND because I just posted a post by itself for that. 

This episode begins in Wyoming.  We went to a place that we had been before but wanted to go back.  We headed for Devils Tower National Monument.  We didn't do the Jr Ranger badge before and the kids wanted to see it again.  We also went to a coal mine in Gilette, Wy.  This was a very interesting stop for a number of reasons but we learned quite a lot about the industry and it's operation.  
Devil's Tower National Monument.  

One of the tires from the coal trucks.

Do you see the size of that thing?  Notice the large Ford truck behind it? 
The rodeo nationals were in town and Kamryn found herself a "Rodeo Girl".

Kamryn is learning to do her own boots.  
 After we left Wyoming, we headed into North Dakota.  Now, you have to understand that Kelly and I didn't meet in North Dakota but this was our first "married place".  We were physically separated due to military orders before we got married and when we did get married, she was stationed in North Dakota with me.  We have a lot of history in the north with actually prompted most of this leg of our journey.  We will go through that as we go but this side of the state is actually where we got our first "baby"...our first little puppy.  Back to the story...We did another National Park and gained another badge but this one was a bit different.  We were stopped by a Ranger and she found our story quite interesting.  We talked for quite a while and then she swore the kids in for their completion of another Jr Ranger badge.  They thought this one was great because this particular Ranger had actually written the book they just completed!  After that, we took a hike, had lunch and headed on our way.
A special time for the kids meeting a Ranger that wrote one of the books that they work so hard on.   She was also quite impressed with the number of badges they had.    

"Eating out" in Medora...but did you notice the buffalo dung in the background?  It was quite fresh and, yes, my kids stuck the stick in it.  

...and another is completed.  They are holding up their fingers to signify #87.

After we left Medora, ND, we stopped at a heritage museum in Bismark, ND on our way to Grand Forks, ND.  We had a lot of fun and found some time to goof off.  One of the coolest things was to find the flight suit of a pilot that I went on a refueling flight with 15 years before.  IT was quite a memorable flight for a number of reasons but, go figure, I happen to stop in a museum and her flight suit is in there!  Anyway, we had a good time there and headed 

Nothing too significant...just thought it was kid of cool that it belonged to someone I knew years before.  

What kid doesn't need to roll down a long grass hill.

We arrived in Grand Forks, ND  and settled in at the Air Force Base.  We had many things to get done here and most of them involved showing the kids our past and meeting up with friends.  Driving around the base we noticed how much different it was and shared many stories with the kids about us in our younger years.  They loved the stories and they had so many questions.  We were only supposed to stay for 2 weeks to complete my follow up but we ended staying about 4 weeks because of some extra appointments and the remodel.  Honestly, we did not plan on enjoying our stay as much as we did and the kids felt the same.  We had a few days that were non-stop but we had many days where we just hung out and did a bunch of nothing.  The people that we met here were really great and the kids didn't let them relax either.  We ended up meeting the Chaplain a couple times and then saw him in the Commissary the day we were leaving.  He had said how he had wanted to have our families meet because our boys like baseball so much and Grand Forks is such a small base.  We talked for a while and told him we were leaving that day.  With much disappointment, we departed but he had such great things to say.  That's a part of all of this though, we meet great people and get to know different parts of their lives and so many times, God allows us to share something that encourages them or He allows someone to share something with us that blesses our socks off.

Interesting story.  We met her and she gave one of her products for being "RV missions".  She has created a body scrub and a face scrub that is a really great product.  She is waiting to go on Shark Tank and was a joy to talk to.  Zachary prayed with her before we left and she did the same for us.  

Kelly and I used to come here all the time for chocolate covered potato chips when we were stationed here in 2000.
This young man stopped to say hi one night on patrol and we talked and he ended up coming in to see our fifth wheel.  We had a great conversation and traded some great stories.  This is why we do this.  God gives us some pretty amazing people to meet...if only for a short time.  
These were our neighbors for a few days and the kids invaded their space. They loved it.  

They had just put this in when Kelly and I were stationed here.  The kids loved all 50 ft of it!

He did great!

A little bouldering anyone?
 Many bike rides and walks to the park were had with a few days filled in by the remodel.  One day we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner and found after beginning to eat, there was a peanut product on the buffet.  AS some of you may know, Caleb has a severe allergy to peanuts and so we stayed in town for a few hours after dinner because the base was 27 minutes from the hospital.  All seemed well until Kelly were awakened at 0300 by Caleb telling us he had a rash.  Long story short...I drove VERY fast to the hospital with Onstar and 911 in the truck and Caleb ended up having to (for the first time) stick HIMSELF with his epi pen in the back seat of the truck because he was having trouble breathing.  We made it and everything ended up ok...until the next weekend when we were in the ER again for Caleb as he severely sprained his ankle.  We are thankful for a brave little boy who was able to do what needed to be done with that epi pen when needed.

We also met up with a few friends while we were in town.  One couple used to live across the street from our apartment in Grand Forks.  They had kids, we didn't but they loved us anyway.  We used to play cards together and hang out and had many stories to reminisce about.  Some we had even forgotten!  We also spent an evening with some friends that Kelly used to work with.  He was her supervisor and we watched their (then) baby a few times which proved to be quite interesting...but we got to laugh about it now.  We also found out that a good friend was stationed here and Kelly had been wanting to get a hold her and find out where she was so we could maybe see her on this trip...she was right here!  They had a great time catching up.  Like I said, we stayed busy and enjoyed our time.  The kids bowled a few times a week with free bowling and we got to know the manager there pretty well.

So now, a quick note on the heart issue to get it out of the way.  I had a number of appointments and had to do some tests.  I completed all of those and then was sent to a specialist.  Then, I had to have a heart catheter and at some point need to get some of the nerves in my heart burnt to stop having so many extra beats.  It's not a "must do" right now but something that we will revisit in the future.  There, I got that out of the way.

These are our card playing friends.  They drove up after we tried to find their house on the way to the base and ended up leaving a note on the wrong house on the wrong street on the wrong side of town.  We were quickly reminded about Grand Forks and how they have Some St, Some Ave, Some Blvd, Some St South, Some St North, Some Ave get my drift.  We laughed about it later and had a great time together.  

There were kids everywhere!  

Kelly used to work with him in the lab in Grand Forks.  It was great to catch up!

Just hiking.

That's a working young man.

They did this quite often here.

Getting ready for my heart cath. 

They had a great time catching up.

Kamryn got a new seat!  She loves it!

First off, they obviously love the new oven as they watch things cook.  Next, one has no shirt and the other has a hoodie on!
There is a dot just off to the left of center in the picture.  This was a mean old badger...he was too close to our camper and didn't like me at all.  

This was another couple that we met and their puppies loved us (and it was reciprocal)

Ms. Becky took great care of us at the bowling alley!  

After we packed up Grand Forks with our new (newly remodeled) RV.  We made a few stops that Kelly and I had made before but wanted to see again with the kids.  We went to Gooseberry Falls and shared some stories with the kids and did some hiking, Geocaching, and picture taking.
Kelly and I have this same picture from long ago.  
We also went the Mississippi Headwaters because we are both from the Midwest right on the Mississippi near St Louis and know how powerful and rich with history that river is.  The kids had a good time walking in the Mississippi River.  They thought it was neat also because they have seen and driven this river all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to here.  Now they have seen where it started and ended.

Pretty cool that I was raised near this river in St Louis.  This is where it starts.  
Walking across the Mighty Mississippi.
 While camping near the Headwaters, we did some fishing...and some catching too!  We had pretty good weather and had some beautiful views.  We left here with a few good stories that are already getting repeated.

Zachary was fishing all morning and nothing.  I walked up and said, "Try right here, they'll love this tail".  As fast as it hit the water I pulled this little guy in.  At least he was excited to see a Northern.  

Nice catch.  
 We headed to Voyageurs National Park and stayed a few days.  We got in some good fishing here and some neat geocaches.  This was a a good time for us to just hang out and not accomplish much more...just recuperate.

He's got it.  

Then we headed to Lutsen, MN.  Kelly and I came here 15 years ago and did some skiing.  Again, a tin of stories and places to take the kids and they were also excited because Minnesota State Parks have a program like the Jr Ranger Program.  They completed a few books and got some badges but the neatest thing was that when we turned them in, we met two wonderful ladies that worked in the office.  We talked for quite a while and shared our story.  They were very encouraging and had many great things to say.  This ended up being quite a blessing for us.  

When we arrived, we thought things were going to be quiet.  We ended up meeting a couple of families that were wonderful!  Kamryn had a young lady her age to ride and play with and Zachary had a great time with another family.  They all spent a lot of time together and we spent some great time with their parents also.  We are so blessed when God knows exactly when to put someone in our lives and how He orchestrates all of that.  This is the fist time that I have ever seen a bunch of kids play football in cowboy boots...but the did.  Night tag was played, late night walks with playground visits were had and a genuine good time was enjoyed by the kids.    

Finding another geocache. 

A little fish rodeo anyone?

NP # 88

Throwing  rocks into Lake Superior

Looks like an ocean doesn't it? 

Catching crawdads without soaking feet.  

Bike buddies. 

They had a blast together.

A little nighttime photo...kind of.
This is how we spent our eclipse day.  on top of Lutsen mountain looking up and checking the NASA site when it was cloudy.  

Met a guy on the trail to a geocache.  Loved sharing our story with him and he couldn't wait to share with his wife.  
We had to.  This was just funny all the way around. 

He's ready...until he got passed!

He was hilarious!  Especially when he almost ran over a squirrel!
Swimming in COLD Lake Superior.

Football in it!

 We left Lutsen and headed to Duluth, another place that Kelly and I visited long ago.  This was a very neat stop that started with our camping spot.  We parked in a harbor in the dry dock spots where boats would normally go.  It was great!  We were in the heart of downtown and we 4 blocks from the lift bridge that lefts the 1000+ ft long ships some through from Lake Superior.  We walked everywhere and had lunch in a place where Kelly and I eaten 15 years ago.  The kids loved the nostalgia.

The lift bridge in Duluth

This is where Kelly and I ate 15 years ago.  We pigged out on 1/2 price appetizers!

Did anyone know that Santa smoked Luckies?!?!?!

I need one of those!

We wanted to get ice cream but they had peanuts on the "add-in" bar.  The young man told Caleb to tell him what he wanted and he went in the back, opened new bags, washed containers and spoons and gave it to him to make his ice cream with no worry of peanuts.  

See what geocaching will get you.  Crazy stuff like this that you wouldn't normally see.  

We were cold and crashed a hotel patio. 

The lift bridge is up and we were waiting for a 1000 ft ship to come through.  

That's big!  You can see how skinny the channel was too.  See the wall on the other side of the picture?

I was teaching Caleb and Kamryn some stuff and some other kids walked in.  They just kept on listening and asking questions.

This was our view!

 After we left Duluth, MN we went to Minneapolis and headed for the Mall of America.  Its not just a big mall but is quite an engineering marvel with lighting, heating, cooling, and many other aspects.  Anyway, we took the kids there to show them and had a great time.  We also took them to the amusement park that is inside the mall and they had a great time. While in Minneapolis, we did some geocaching and found some pretty neat things that would have otherwise been missed quite easily.  We met another full time family that had a young daughter.  They spent some time playing and the adults got to chat.  They have a great story and I can't wait to see where they are in the future.  We also met another full-time family and the kids had a great time playing together.  Although we don't meet many, it is always interesting to meet other full-time families and hear their stories

This is a memorial for three gentlemen that we would have otherwise never seen when we were out walking.  
These are pieces of art that an artist puts the same two piece in two different places on opposite sides of the Earth.  

We went into a glass shop and ended up with an hour of homeschool!

We love antique stores.

A trip to IKEA.  Do you mean to tell me that these aren't parachutes?  They sure seemed like it and the stayed on the whole way through.   

Lego girl's dream.  

All Legos.  

This is looking over the amusement park in the Mall of America

Silly hats!

We did a hall of mirrors.  They had a blast.  

This is a failed piece of the bridge that collapsed on I35 in Minnesaota on 2007.  

We actually stumbled across this National Park.  It's not even on the map!  #89

This is what you do when you can't afford a Viking's game (or if it is locked)

Visited the store and she had a blast!

In the Mall 
The boys ran around by themselves for a while and this is where we found them.

Who knew they made little people bumper cars?

Another young lady that loves horses!

A little night tag with another full-time family.

Yes...this is a norm.

We left Minneapolis and drove to Wisconsin.  Yes, we bought a bunch of cheese along the way and most of it is already gone after a few days.  We stayed in a county park and planned on staying one day but someone gave us a spot that they had already paid for and because we wanted to hang out for one more day, we reimbursed them and stayed a second day.  Kamryn and Caleb found a playmate there and we otherwise hung out.  

After that we headed to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  I have always heard of this part of the country but hadn't been here; it's beautiful.  We parked in a great site on the lake and were hanging out until a neighbor came over and wanted to make sure we had enough wood.  We ended up chatting and then hanging out for the rest of their trip.  The kids all played and explored together and the adults talked about any and everything with a bunch of laughs.  They even fed my kids their weight in corn!  

That's my two beautiful girls.  

They love frogs (and any other animal)...what can I say? 

Zachary created his own boat with two life jackets.  Pretty resourceful kid...I was just hoping to see him take off when he caught a Northern!

He loves it!

They found a treasure about 8 ft down and pulled it up.  

These are the friends from across the street.

Just hanging around. 

After leaving that park we headed to where we are now. We didn't have cell service (nope, I'm not complaining!) for the days we were there so didn't know what the weather was going to do.  We drove along Lake Michigan (we've seen 3 of the 5 Great Lakes) to get to our current destination and got parked at an Army Guard Base.  We drove across the Mackinac Bridge today.  Someone a few weeks ago said they were going all the way through Chicago to avoid this bridge. So...we said we had to do it.  It is a 5 mile long suspension bridge over Lake Michigan and the two middle lanes are metal and see through.  So as we went over, Caleb was sticking his head out, yelling, "Cool!  I can see white caps down below!"  Then Zachary climbed across to see.  Kamryn enjoyed the front windshield view like her mother, just waiting for the crossing to end.  We arrived safely and Kamryn has already found a puppy friend and the boys and I found the lake.  

On the shores of Lake Michigan this time.  

Finding a "travelbug" in a geocache.

Michigan is done!

That's the big ol' bridge

No big deal although I will say that it is quite skinny and has NO sides to the lanes.  

Our journey is about to get a little crazy (as if the last few weeks weren't filled with business and crazy!)  We are heading to the northeast to finish our last couple of states for the completion of the lower 48.  We are also at National Park #89 and will be finishing 100 soon.  We have a few milestones coming up for our family and can't wait to see how God directs us in the upcoming weeks.  

Until next time...