Minnesota State Fair

•August 29, 2007 • Leave a Comment

arsfair07-010.jpgHave you ever heard Garrison Keillor speak about “Minnesota Nice?” This ain’t it. The Minnesota State Fair is the one thing we get arrogant about. It is the biggest in area, has the most exhibits, the most food booths and the highest attendance of any state fair in the U.S. It gives us the opportunity to say things like, “Don’t tell us about your South Dakota St. Fair or your Iowa Sate Fair or your St. Louis VP Days or anything else. It only shows that you have never been to the Minnesota State Fair or you would know how much your own little state fair sucks.” It helps us overcome the inferiority complex put upon us from being the home of the Minnesota Vikings, the Minnesota Twins, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Jesse Ventura, Hubert Humphrey, and former governor Arne Carlson’s ex-wife Barbara.

So anyway, we went to the state fair. Here is some photographic proof of how great it is. First of all they have HUGE kids–kids that are bigger than locomotives:

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And they have good looking people–people whose faces you would see in magazines(you can click on these pictures and they get bigger. That is part of the magic of the Minnesota Sate Fair):

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And if you aren’t convinced yet, here are some pictures from the sky ride just to show you how much better our state fair is than yours:

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Now to all of you who live in places like Iowa, Michigan, South Dakota, Missouri, etc, I am sorry for ruining your state fair experience by showing how sucky your state fair is. You could always come to Minnesota. We will treat you well. We are, after all, Minnesota Nice.

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I Got the Boot (and in 2 weeks I will be getting another)

•August 8, 2007 • 1 Comment

rsbills-boot.jpgAbout two days before we left for the Unicycle competition in Michigan, I started having some severe pain and swelling in my left foot. Two days later, it started in my right foot. As usual, I didn’t go to the doctor. I could elevate it or put ice on it that would help. But as soon as I started walking again, it started hurting again. It continued to get worse, to the point where I could barely walk and almost couldn’t do stairs at all.

I finally went to a foot specialist today at the local sports medicine clinic. He said at some point I had acquired a small stress fracture in the metatarsals on each foot. When the fractured bone chips broke off, it began hurting me more. He said there is no telling when the actual fracture happened, but it could be caused by landing hard on both feet a number of times–as in falling off a unicycle.

So now I am in a special boot that immobilizes one foot. After 2 weeks he will take that one off and put one on the other foot for 2 weeks. That one will be on the right foot and I am told that I cannot legally drive for those 2 weeks.

This will also coincide with the Minnesota State Fair–which means that my wife, kids and possibly mother will be pushing me around in a wheelchair.

NAUCC 2007 (North American Unicycling Championship and Convention)

•August 6, 2007 • 1 Comment

rs011.jpgWe have recently returned from Saline, Michigan where the boys competed in the North American Unicycling Championships. These are held every year in a different city in North America. This year’s event was hosted by the Redford Township Unicycle Club. They did a spectacular job of organizing the event and finding great locations. Here is a summary of our family’s participation.

Thursday and Friday—Travel, Arrival and Practice

After a 13 hour drive (3 of which were spent crawling through Chicago) we arrived at our hotel. We were all exhausted and stiff from traveling, so we bought a bucket of KFC and hit the hotel pool then went to bed early.

Friday morning, Christopher and Dad put all the unicycles together (they had been taken apart so that we could fit all 5 in the car top carrier), and Christopher met some other unicyclists in the hotel and rode with them for a while. Then we went to the event location, got signed in and spent the afternoon practicing, greeting old friends and making new ones.

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Saturday and Sunday-Artistic Events.

Christopher and Ben each competed in Freestyle and Standard Skills routines and Christopher competed in the Group routine. Ben received a Gold medal for his freestyle routine in the Intermediate B category. Christopher received a Silver in the Advanced Freestyle and in Standard skills, a Gold in the Group routine and an expert award for being the 5th out of all age groups in the Standard skills competition.

The group competitions were also fun to watch. My favorite was the McLaughlin family from South Dakota, who called their group routine Legally Red (their picture below should be obvious).

Sunday night was the public show. Our friends, the Majeskis, drove down from Romeo, Michigan for supper and the show. It was great to see them and let our kids finally spend some time together.

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Monday and Tuesday—Racing Events

Race days were hot and not our favorite family event. But the boys did well. Christopher got several (8 I think) Silver medals and Ben got a bronze. We spent most of the day sitting in shade of the Memphis Unicycle Club tent. Here are a few random pictures. Like all the pictures on this page, you can see the full size version by clicking on them.

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Wednesday –Mountain Unicycling and Closing Ceremony

This is always Christopher’s favorite day. He did very well in the off-road race and the uphill and downhill races. It was hot—very hot. By the time he finished the off-road race, he was as red in the face as I have ever seen him and completely drenched with sweat. After the race, he got a chance to get his picture taken with Darren Bedford, the maker of his custom Bedford Muni that we won in a raffle last year.

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During the closing ceremonies we received a call from friends in Minneapolis telling us about the bridge collapse on 35W. After the ceremony we went back to the hotel and swam a while, then took unicycles apart and loaded the car for an early departure.

Thursday—Heading Home

On the way home we took a detour through Waterford, Wisconsin, so that we could visit St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, where Bill did his vicarage and where Christopher was born and baptized. Christopher enjoyed that. Then we headed home.

Next year’s competition will be in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We will begin practicing for that sometime next week.

Family Reunion 2007, Austin Texas

•July 23, 2007 • Leave a Comment

austin-tx-skyline.jpgMost of us converged upon Evan, Audrey and Graham’s beautiful home in Austin, Texas for the 2007 reunion. Brenda, Christopher and Will were not able to attend, but the rest of us were there. Here is what did and didn’t happen.

Tuesday, Arrival Day

Bill and Ben arrived first, flying in from Minneapolis. Margret and Van met them at the airport in surprisingly timely fashion. Nanny, Chris, Mary, Nick and Alex arrived shortly after from Memphis. Then Colin and Alex (Alex is not technically part of this clan yet, but we are all saving some vacation days next year in anticipation of her initiation) drove in from Houston after flying from Raleigh. We swam, relaxed and visited until supper time.

It rained.

We ate supper at a Mexican-Hawaiian restaurant (only in Austin can you have a Mexican Hawaiian restaurant. This explains the city motto: “Keep Austin Weird.” This is the same city where they gather every night to watch bats fly out from under the bridge, but more on that later).

After that it was back to Evan’s house. Many of us went to bed. Some of us stayed up to watch movies on Graham’s 14 foot projection TV. This is the only mention I am going to make of the 14 foot TV. Though it was much more central to our activities, I don’t want people to think our reunion was about watching TV. Plus I have been accused of not loving my kids enough because I don’t have a 14 foot TV. Never mind that I don’t even have a 14 foot wall to put it on.

These pictures will get bigger if you click on them.

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Wednesday, Recovery Day

Today we swam, played, visited, relaxed and recuperated from our travels.

It rained.

We had a Texas BBQ lunch (they barbecue beef, not pork, as God intended) and a July 4th celebration with fireworks. Graham’s home (ok, technically it is also Evan and Audrey’s home, but if you have been there, then you will understand that Graham is the master of that domain) is situated along Lake Austin, a dammed up part of the Colorado River. There were lots of fireworks displays to be seen from their balcony.

Did I mention that it rained?

Thursday, Sea World San Antonio

Today we went to Sea World and did all the Sea World stuff. We saw Shamu and rode rides and stuff. We stayed there until they ran us out.

It rained.

Here are some pictures. If you click on them, they get bigger.

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Friday, Schlitterbahn

schlitterbahn_picture.jpgToday we went to Schlitterbahn, the world’s largest water park. Some of us loved it. Some of us only liked it and some of us thought they should probably take the c and the l out of the name. Some of us went shopping instead. I have no pictures from today because, well, because waterparks and digital cameras do not mix well.

It rained.

We left in time to meet everyone else for a great supper. Then we went out for ice cream at a local Austin ice cream parlor. Graham thought enough of it to throw up there. I don’t have any pictures of that either. Sorry.

Saturday, The Rain Leaves

So do the Memphis Hugos. Coincidence? I don’t think so. But before they left, we went to see Graham’s boat.We couldn’t go riding because of all the flooding. They were afraid we might accidentally run into a house. But we took turns pretending to drive it. Then we went out to lunch at a cool place called the Oasis that sits on the cliffs 400 feet above Lake Travis. I have some pictures for you. Like always, if you click on them, they get bigger.

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Colin and Alex had left early in the morning, because they had friends getting married in Houston. Oh well, at least their friends are getting married. Maybe they will catch on eventually.

austinrs-030.jpgWe bid farewell to Nanny, Chris, Mary, Alex and Nick (and the rain), then went home and swam in the sunshine. Tonight we went to see the bats. I should probably explain that. Austin is the home of the largest urban colony of bats–1.5 million, to be exact (though I personally didn’t count them). They live downtown, under the Congress Street bridge. At dusk they all come out. Lots of people also come out to watch. If you dont believe me, read this. Their is even restaurant where you can watch the bats and drink a batini.

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Sunday, The Sabbath

Today is Sunday, so like all good Christians, we went out to lunch at the Club–the Club, being the Barton Creek Resort in Austin. After Brunch, Ben and Graham played golf while others chose to sit in rocking chairs on the porch. Here are some pictures. If you click them, guess what? Yep, they get bigger. Margret and Van left after lunch.

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Then we went to see Ratatoullie. We didn’t know what else to do since it wasn’t raining.

Monday, Back to Work.

Evan and Audrey had to go back to work. Bill and Ben had to go back to Minnesota. This brought the 2007 reunion to a close. But not without having a great time. We are talking about doing a short cruise for the 2008 reunion. I hope it doesn’t rain.

Memorial Day Weekend, Part 2

•May 30, 2007 • Leave a Comment

ben-head.jpgThe only time we left the farm over the weekend was to go to the booming metropolis of Currie, Minnesota, population 225, and home of the End-O-Line Railroad Park and Museum. The Railroad park and Museum was our reason for going. It was actually quite interesting. We learned the difference between Hobos, Tramps and Bums. We learned why a caboose has a hole in the top. We learned why they don’t use cabooses anymore. We learned how the engineer would get even with the station attendants who irritated them. We learned all sorts of things we might need to know if we ever appear on Jeopardy.

The boys got to sit on real locomotives, a real caboose, and other train cars. They got to see what an old depot looked like and ride on a hand powered turnstile that moved engines from one track to another.

All the pictures on this page can be seen full size if you click on them.

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We also got to see a multi-colored, artistic buffalo, but I was the only one impressed with that. Even the tour guide found it too embarrassing to talk about (so of course, I had lots of questions about the buffalo).

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willuni-007.jpgWe also got to see what my wife’s hometown of Fulda, Minnesota looked like back in the day when the trains still ran through town. Absolutely no one will find this interesting, but I spent way too much time getting this picture to photograph just right not to post it.

That about wraps it up for our Memorial Day weekend. I will try to come up with something interesting to say before next Memorial Day weekend. If I do, you can be certain that I will share it with you, dear reader.

Memorial Day Weekend, Part 1

•May 29, 2007 • Leave a Comment

willuni-033.jpgAs is our custom,we had our annual Memorial Day Camp Out at the farm this weekend. Brenda’s Dad owns a farm in Southwest Minnesota. He has a nice pasture area somewhat removed from the house with 2 creeks running through it. Every year the older boys and I pitch our tent on the edge of the creek, build a fire and fish and relax. This year was Will’s first try at camping. He stayed in the tent with us one night, then spent the next two nights in the house with Mom. That was fine with me. He spent all of Friday night alternating between rolling on top of me and kicking me in the stomach.

Some highlights from the weekend camping trip other than Will joining us for the first time:

willuni-020.jpgThe boys hooked up with their cousin John and invited him to join us. On Sunday I took the boys north a ways to where the creeks entered Grandpa’s property and had them follow the creek back down to the camp site. The fished along the way. When they arrived back at the campsite they were on the wrong side of the creek. Christopher wanted to build a bridge. John thought he could jump across. Ben was content to stay on the other side of the creek and fish. Christopher started looking for fallen trees to make a bridge. John tried to jump (emphasis on tried). He didn’t make it. His shoes and socks were white when he arrived at the farm. They were brown when he left. I have been expecting a call from his mother about the state of his shoes. I fully intend to blame it on his grandmother.

willuni-022.jpgChristopher did build his bridge and walked safely across. John said, “I should have listened to you guys!” Once Christopher was across, Ben tried the bridge. Christopher waited expectantly for him to fall in. You have to understand that Ben has a hard time being in the sight of water without falling in. But, much to our surprise, he made it. Then he sat down with John on the bank and drank an orange juice. I was sitting in my chair reading my book a few seconds later when I heard a great splash. You guessed it. Ben had fallen in and was soaked head to toe, but he managed to hold on to his orange juice which was now half orange juice, half creek water. John on the other hand dropped his juice in the creek trying to catch Ben. I should have warned him about Ben and water; he might have gotten to finish the bottle instead of dropping it in the creek.

willuni-019.jpgOn Sunday night we invited the house dwellers to come out to our fire and make smores. In the pictures you will notice some HTRDs (High Tech Roasting Devices). These were manufactured by Christopher in Grandpa’s shop. The patent is still quite secret, but I believe they are made out of broom handles and fencing wire. He spent quite a bit of time at the grinding wheel, grinding a point onto his wires (see picture). I didn’t tell him that they probably didn’t need to be that sharp to poke through marshmallows. He would have just argued with me anyway.

All of the pictures on this page can be viewed full size by clicking on them.

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Christopher’s Confirmation

•May 10, 2007 • 1 Comment

zong.jpgBusy weekend around our house. This was Mondo weekend, as well as the weekend when Christopher celebrated his confirmation. My mom, brother, and nephew drove up from Memphis and arrived Friday afternoon. Brenda’s family came Saturday afternoon. The big Mondo show (photo left) was Saturday night. Confirmation was Sunday morning followed by a party at house for 31 of his closest friends and relatives.

One of the fun surprises for Christopher was finding out that you got gifts for confirmation. He received enough to buy a new Trials unicycle. That means one more hook needs to be put into the rafters of the garage.

I believe that brings to total to 15 unicycles hanging in our garage.

This is one of many great photos that Bill Gilbertson took at Mondo. You can view or purchase them at his site.