Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Audubon National Wildlife Refuge

It was after 1:00 before we even left the RV today because we are trying desperately to figure out how to get through North and South Dakota while still seeing the sights we had planned. More on that later I'm sure.

Our first stop was in the town of Garrison to mail a package to the kids. It is the town near Fort Stevenson State Park where we are parked. Which do you think was most important to us...

Visiting the Walleye Capital of the World?

Or...savoring the best fruit smoothie (Rich) and hot fudge milk shake (me) in the world?

And no, there are no prizes when the challenge is that easy!

From there we drove around Lake Sakakawea (where we're parked) and south to the Audubon National Wildlife Refuge.

Our first visit to this Refuge was January 13, 1998 when we flew into Bismarck to celebrate our anniversary...seriously, we have always been a bit, shall we say, unorthodox? Rich wanted me to tell you that it was 13 below zero that day and the high today was 106...what a difference!

Again, we took the auto tour along Audubon Lake. Of course there were no ice fishing houses on the lake this time...giggle! Can anyone tell me what this bird is. They are ground birds that would flush out as we drove slowly along the gravel road much like killdeer, but that's not what they are.

Yes it was another birding day. This island was covered with Cormorants and we noticed some in a spread wing posture, both in and out of the water. I looked it up and this is a wing drying stance for cormorants.

The most thrilling sighting for me though were the American White Pelicans. I was lucky to get some shots of this one taking flight but only these two flight photos were not blurry.

From there we drove to Garrison Dam and Powerhouse on the other side of Lake Sakakawea from us. Lake Sakakawea is a reservoir in the Missouri River basin. Named for the Shoshone-Hidatsa woman Sakakawea, it is the third largest man-made lake in the United States, after Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Garrison Dam is one of the largest earthen dam structures in the world.

On our drive back we saw...

More bright faced sunflowers

These grain elevators from a bygone era...you should see the massive grain elevators up here now.

This piece of retired farm equipment that appeared, from a distance, to be the remains of some gigantic ancient animal.

Lovin' Life ~~ On Another Wondrous Day

Grand Forks to Garrison

Yesterday's drive was about 260 miles westward across North Dakota. As usual, there were some surprising sights. Because our connection is slow, I'll just post a few of those.

We did not expect to see so much water. There are huge lakes, innumerable smaller ponds, and marshes everywhere you look.

Workin' on the railroad with lots of interesting machinery.

A herd of elk along a fence that we suspected might enclose a preserve. This was a special treat because they just stood there while I took like eight thousand photos. Oh no, I just researched and learned that they are on a high-fence hunting camp..."wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then".

Some of them had absolutely enormous antlers; they were all so beautiful. I will just continue to enjoy what is my reality....my photos.

In Rugby, ND this monument marks the site of the Geographical Center of North America...not to be missed!

While we got propane, Rich cleaned the window so I can shoot. He does so much. I am so grateful!

Rich read that chunks from the retreating glaciers carved, then melted and filled most of these ponds and marshes.

On a hot day, the cattle sure are grateful for a pond where they can cool off.

Even though the vast majority of acreage contains various stages of wheat production, there are fields of corn, beans, sugar-beets, and ...

...we're still occasionally treated to the sight of sunflowers as far as the eye can see.

At the end of the day, there were Blue Moons and a Peach Daiquiri awaiting us!

Lovin' Life ~~ Enjoying What Is

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sunflowers & Galaxys & Our Flag

Today we are driving across North Dakota on state highway 2. The number of huge lakes and marshes is quite a surprise to us. The field crops up here look fabulous...wheat, beans, corn, and sunflowers. I LOVE seeing fields of sunflowers.

We left Duluth Saturday morning and spent the last two nights in Grand Forks, North Dakota. We knew there was a WalMart there; we have an atlas with their locations, and headed out for supplies after getting set up. We were a bit surprised to also see Menards, Lowes, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Dollar Tree, Kohl's, Famous Footwear, etc, etc, etc. That seemed like a lot of major shopping for a town of 52,800 people. As we drove around town yesterday enjoying the Red River, Town Square, and lovely parks it soon made sense. There are some small Minnesota towns just across the river so seeing those plates was expected; not expected were the large number of Manitoba license plates in every retail and restaurant parking lot. As we learned from our Canadian friends last winter, they realize significant $$ advantages when shopping in the U.S.

With all those opportunities, Rich made a major purchase last evening. Our big screen, pro truck driver GPS bit the dust a few days ago so after doing some research, rather than buying another GPS, he bought a Galaxy Tab 2 which comes with an amazing Maps app and he is considering adding an app called Co-Pilot. Has anyone used it? Now that we are both Samsung Galaxy users, I guess that makes us GGs...Galaxy Grandparents...teehee

Here are a few sights in Grand Forks...

The Red River of the North serves as the border between Minnesota and North Dakota.

This wildflower garden with sculptures was in Lincoln Park.

A paddlewheel fountain frames the entrance to the Town Square, a gathering space for community activities downtown, a block from the river.

In one corner of the lovely University Park stands this intriguing bronze sculpture named Porte du Nord. After taking photos of the telephone pole, railroad tie, and automobile tire on the front of this L-shaped wall, I walked around to find the inner walls covered with low-relief images of a dozen various object...fascinating.

Lastly, I want to share this photo of the Grand Forks Perkins Restaurant. The first time we noticed this was two years ago in Cheyenne, WY and have seen many on our travels since. High over Perkins restaurants they fly very large American flags.

I photograph American flags in small towns and large cities, flying from street light poles and on government buildings, adorning mail boxes and front porches; today I give a nod to Perkins for flying such magnificent ones.

Lovin' Life ~~ On The Road

Friday, July 27, 2012

Quad Cities of Minnesota

Today, our last in this area, we drove north of Duluth to visit the iron ore mining area surrounding the Quad Cities of Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert, and Mountain Iron.

It was mostly a driving day so The Girls got to ride along. See how cute they look all curled up in their new car cushions?

Every once in a while though they get up and look out at the road for a while. Do you suppose that's just to make sure their driver is alert and on route?

Our first stop was in the small town of Eveleth. When G'pa saw it on the map, he knew Dylan would want us to stop at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and pay homage to his favorite sport.

This sculpture in front of the building is a tribute to John Mariucci from The American Hockey Players.

Here is another angle of this great tribute sculpture for our family hockey fans to enjoy!

Near Virginia, we turned onto a dirt road that led us up to Mineview In The Sky where we viewed awesomely enormous mine vehicles like this 240 ton haul truck which was named King of the Lode and the much smaller 85 ton hauler.

This beautiful scene from the Visitors' Center is the Rouchleau Pit. This open pit expanse stretches nearly three miles long, a half-mile wide and 450 feet deep and this overlook was originally built for the bosses to supervise work in the pit.

From there we drove to an overlook outside Mountain Iron where we could see the Minntac Mine.

Guided by Rich's eagle eyes and employing the magic of my 35x optical zoom, we captured photos from that enormous distance, of several of those behemoth machines at work carrying full loads out and coming back empty for more.

After lunch at DQ we headed to Gilbert to complete our visit of the Quad Cities. Along the way, I was admiring the big blue sky filled with large fluffy white clouds so I held the camera out the window and got a few shots like this one...WOW!

When we were driving around in Gilbert, we stumbled upon Lake Ore-Be-Gone, an artificial lake formed by the flooding of three open-pit iron ore mines. Folklore relates that the 10,000 Lakes of Minnesota were formed from the footprints of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox while they wandered blindly in a deep blizzard. Here we've seen that many of today's small, beautiful Minnesota lakes began as open-pit mines.

Lovin' Life ~~ And Small Cities Rich in History

Exploring Duluth

Thursday morning we drove south of the city to pick up Skyline Parkway and drive its 25 mile length to the north end of Duluth. About a mile from the Parkway's beginning, the road was closed so we took another route and then drove back toward the beginning of this scenic route....until we got here. It quickly became obvious why the road was closed...teehee We had run across several road closings and I had heard a fleeting reference to a flood but had no idea that the flash floods from a 10 inch deluge of rain happened just over a month ago and caused upwards of 100 million dollars in damage.

I walked past the Road Closed signs to take the photos above of the washed out Skyline Parkway road. The old stone bridge itself was standing but I didn't want to get any closer not knowing if the ground is now stable. As we drove the Skyline there were other roads closed but this was the most dramatic washout that we had access to see. It's rained every day; it's raining now.

Above the city on the Parkway we had a great view, from south to north, of the Bong Bridge, the Duluth Iron Ore Docks, and the Blatnik or High Bridge with the rail yard in the foreground. Both of these bridges connect Superior, WI to Duluth.

Skyline Parkway would around through city neighborhoods too and then eventually down to Bob Dylan Way. Oh yeah, he was born right here in Duluth and lived here for the first SIX YEARS of his life, somehow making him a native son and earning him his own "Way."

Our next destination was the beach at Park Point. Crossing the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge was the beginning of our drive along the seven mile sand spit, Minnesota Point/Park Point. This is part of the largest fresh water sand spit in the world. The Bridge is a vertical lift bridge that was built in 1905 and reconstructed to serve its current purpose in 1929-30. A clearance of 180 feet is attained when the span is completely raised. The bridge operation is primarily through electric power derived from storage batteries that are charged by generators. There are two 450 ton concrete block weights on each end, lifted by electronic pulleys to raise and lower the bridge. It's a mind-boggling feat of engineering!

There's something primordial about my relationship with water. Yeah. Well. Whatever. When we reached Park Point Beach I, naturally, had to walk down to the beach...

...where I could commune with the waters of Lake Superior. Lucky for me, Rich walked down to the beach too and took on the role of photographer!

This was a first; I had never before waded in water where the cold waves carried debris crashing into my legs.

After a late lunch at Grandma's Saloon & Grill back on the mainland, we went to Lake Place Park,

which overlooks Brighton Beach. It had rained hard for a short time while we had lunch...perfect timing! Note that rectangular structure in the water;

it is called The Cribs, has a colorful history, and is used by local youths as an extremely dangerous diving platform.

After watching the divers, we walked through Lake Place enjoying the sculptures. This first one is my favorite!

On the way back to our car we stopped in at the downtown Fond-Du-Luth Casino where Rich quickly lost his self-allotted $20 and had to wait while I spent down the $3.90 winnings I had accumulated on my original $1 investment on a penny slot machine...we are such gamblers!

One more stop remained on today's tour and that was Leif Erikson Park so that I could take a photo of the statue recognizing his reputed discovery of North America in 970 A.D. and subsequent journey by ship to what is now the city of Duluth.

While I was uploading the day's photos and after the evening storm had passed, Rich suggested I look outside. Grabbing my camera I stepped outside to shoot this lovely evening sky and its reflection in the pond.

My uploads have been excruciatingly slow to Blogger tonight so it is after 1:00 a.m. but I wanted to share this varied and interesting day.

Lovin' Life ~~ Discovering a New City