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Vacation Day 1

  • I realized while I was packing that I was intentionally leaving behind things that a TSA agent would find interesting, and would therefore want to ‘confiscate in the name of security’.
    • Never thought I’d take the same approach with folks in my own country as I did with police in 3rd world crapholes.
  • I noticed something during the trip – In places with a lot of background noise or echo, I have trouble understanding what folks are saying.
    • It’s only been happening since 1997 or so.  If it doesn’t clear up soon, I’ll have to consider getting it looked at.
  • There comes a time when you just tell everyone to go on without you so you can go to Tim Horton’s for a large coffee and a couple of crullers.
  • The picture the ride operator took of Irish Woman and Boo going down the log flume at Mall of America is getting framed and placed on our wall.  Irish Woman looks like she’s about to be dropped into Perdition.
  • Dinner that night was a “Crispy Cheddar Burger.”
    • No, I did not read the description before ordering it.
    • Imagine a nice, juicy hamburger patty, cooked in a 10 inch skillet.  Once the burger is done, liberally sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese over it and the bottom of the skillet.  Let the cheese melt and get all nice and crispy wherever it touches hot metal. Serve with lettuce, tomato, and cheese on a whole wheat bun, because someone who orders this is looking for healthy food.
    • What I saw was a plate covered entirely in, literally, grilled cheese with the top half of  a bun in the middle.  I had to lift it up to make sure there was a hamburger underneath it all.
    • Irish Woman laughed when she saw it, while I just gaped at it with wide eyes.
    • I took it as a personal goal to finish it, but I am not ashamed to say I failed.  I did, however, get 2/3 of that cheese into me before my insides threatened to go on strike if I took another bite.

Vacation Day 2

  • We drove through western Minnesota and across the plains of North Dakota.  I’m pretty sure Irish Woman felt a bit of agoraphobia when she realized that she could literally see from one horizon to the other.
  • Traffic in North Dakota is a little different than what I experience in Louisville.  For example, the speed limit through all of the construction zones was no less than 65 miles an hour in North Dakota. In Louisville I normally just put my car in park and break out the chess set when I hit construction.
  • We visited the world’s biggest buffalo in Jamestown, where I had the strange sensation of watching children play on a jungle gym that I remember playing on more than 40 years ago.  Does that mean I’m old?
  • We arrived safely at my aunt and uncle’s house just in time for dinner and for Boo to begin several days of being spoiled rotten.

Vacation Day 3

  • I wake up, my head is clear, my joints don’t ache, and my nose isn’t running.  Toto, I don’t think we’re in Louisville anymore.
  • At the suggestion of my uncle, we visited the state capitol and the North Dakota Heritage Center.
    • We started at the statue of Sakakawea, which is how you properly spell the name of the Native American woman who led Lewis and Clark out of North Dakota.
    • Not sure why she did that.  Lewis and/or Clark must have done something really wrong to her over that winter.
    • Boo was fascinated with the dinosaur exhibit, which included a creature that was preserved so well you could see its fossilized skin.
      • Since it was in North Dakota and not Kentucky, there was no evidence of poorly spelled tattoos.
    • Irish Woman was entranced by the displays of Native American artifacts and clothing.  She marveled at the detail of the beadwork, and seemed to finally understand that human beings need to do something constructive with their hands after they’ve been locked inside for four months while the wind howls around their shelter.
  • For lunch, we went to a cafe my uncle also suggested.  Boo had a buffalo burger, which he pronounced as delicious, and a pumpkin roll, which I think might have convinced him to marry a Scandinavian girl.
  • That afternoon, we visited Fort Abraham Lincoln and toured the barracks of the 7th Cavalry and General and Mrs. General Custer’s house.
    • OK, I did walk around whistling ‘Garryowen‘ to myself.   I admit it, I’m a geek, and the 7th was one of those units I wished I could have spent more time with.
    • The barracks showed just how far we have come in the military.  The soldiers under the rank of First Sergeant got a bed, a shelf, and a box half the size of a foot locker.  Food was hard tack, coffee, sugar, and salt, unless you spent part of your $13 a month to buy luxuries like vegetables.  Apparently, water came directly from the Missouri, and was ‘filtered’ by letting the biggest chunks of sediment settle to the bottom of the bucket before drinking.
    • Mrs. General Custer (the tour guide said that was how she preferred to be addressed) also lived rough in her two-story house, complete with china, musical instruments and three servants.
      • I learned that when the Custers didn’t like the look of the solid maple trim and doors throughout the house, they paid someone to paint it so it looked like oak.  I didn’t say stain, I said paint.  Some poor soul painted the pattern of oak grain on the maple.  I expect to see that someday on one of those fix-up-a-house-to-maybe-make-money shows Irish Woman likes to watch.

Vacation Day 4

  • My uncle graciously offered to drive us around western North Dakota, which proves how much he cares about us.  Seriously, locking yourself in an SUV with the three of us all day is a sacrifice of sanity.
  • First, we visited the Enchanted Highway, which is a series of art installations on the prairie.  This is a testament to a man’s dedication to his community, and an example of what someone will do to keep from getting cabin fever in February in North Dakota.
  • Then, we went west and saw the Badlands.  When Irish Woman asked me why they were called the Badlands, I said it was because where weren’t good for much.
  • Finally, we visited Medora, which is like Tombstone or Deadwood, except that they prefer to invite you to the Fellowship Hall at the Lutheran church for coffee and cookies rather than shoot you dead in the street.
  • A drive through part of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park brought back memories of when I was a Scout, except that I wasn’t huffing and puffing behind the more physically fit kids as we went up and down the buttes this time.
  • We saw several wild horses and a bunch of buffalo.  In one circumstance, a bull buffalo was walking down the middle of the street, and we just pulled over to let him pass.  He looked in on Boo, and I am proud to say that not only did my son not reach out to pet the rather large animal, but Irish Woman also suppressed her urge to jump out and hug the wooly beast.
  • That night, we gave my aunt several skeins of alpaca wool yarn I had acquired from a friend who has a herd.  It’s not often that an artisan in this day and age not only knows where her yarn came from, but also the name of the animal who donated the wool.
  • We finished the day off with a relaxing boat ride on the Missouri River with my cousin.
    • I’m guessing the water was ice cold, because the temperature immediately dropped ten degrees once we were away from shore.
    • I wasn’t at all worried when Boo was given the pirate hat and closely-monitored control of both the wheel and the throttle.  No, really, I was fine.  So was Irish Woman.  Really.  Fine.

Vacation Day 5

  • We travelled to Minot and spent some time with one of my other aunts and most of her children and their families.  If I ever doubted that there is a strong family resemblance, then I learned better that day.
    • Seriously, if I were to line up my little brother (OK, youngest brother.  Son of a gun is bigger than I am, and that’s saying something), my cousin from one aunt and uncle, and my cousin from another aunt and uncle, you’d think somebody had triplets a few decades ago.
    • When we went to leave that evening, I promised my aunt that I would be back.  She made me promise to not wait another 30 years this time.  I will keep that promise.
  • On the drive up to Minot, we passed several Minuteman missile silos.  Irish Woman and my aunt agreed that purchasing one of the defunct sites and turning it into a subterranean McMansion would not be a good idea.

Vacation Day 6

  • We visited my home town and attended services at the church where I was baptized.  It was neat to have several folks recognize me after so long.
  • We had lunch with one of my cousins and his family, and had a great time listening to family news and telling old family stories.
    • I recounted the time when my four siblings and I went to her house to get lunch because it was closer than our own home.  Unfortunately, my aunt was not at home, and my uncle was sleeping after working all night.  He didn’t miss too many beats when five pre-kindergarten age children showed up on his doorstep and asked for lunch.  He woke himself up enough to make us fried egg sandwiches and glasses of cold milk before sending us on our way and going back to bed.
  • Boo got to go on a ride in an ATV, and now he wants one.  I may or may not indulge him on that.
  • We visited my grandparents’ graves, and I think I know where I want my ashes to go when it’s my turn.  It’s a beautiful place right on the edge of the prairie.
  • Irish Woman was surprised to see another missile silo just at the edge of town, and wondered how the locals felt about having such a thing there.  My uncle and I showed the classic Norwegian high plains stoicism when we just shrugged.

Vacation Day 7

  • We made our way back east to Minnesota.  I can’t say I was happy to cross the Red River.
  • I made a tactical error in stopping at Taco John’s for lunch, but I remembered really enjoying their food as a kid.  I was not disappointed.
    • However, several hours later I told Boo that if he broke wind in the car one more time, I was going to strap him to the roof rack and make him catch bugs with his teeth.
  • It occurred to me as we drove that I should have invested in the company that sells the government of North Dakota orange plastic traffic cones and barrels for their construction zones.  I would have been a millionaire several times over.

Vacation Day 8

  • When pulling out of our hotel in Saint Cloud, we noticed that the strip mall next door had, in this order, a high-end sports bar, a medical clinic, a liquor store, an Asian massage parlor, and a sandwich shoppe.  That seemed to cover all the bases.
  • After going through the TSA checkpoint, Boo turned to me and asked, in a rather loud voice, “Dad, do you have your gun with you?”.  I rather quietly and urgently told him to stop talking, and later explained that if the nice agents had heard him, we would not have been flying back to Kentucky today.
  • I noticed that the shops and restaurants in the Minneapolis airport have neither caramel rolls nor lefse for sale.  That just seems wrong.
  • MSP does, however, have the best set-up ever for folks who want to minimize interaction with other human beings.  You sit at a table, use a touchscreen to select your food and drink, pay by swiping a credit card, and a server brings it to you, perhaps without saying a word.
  • Our landing in Louisville was rather festive.
    • If you remember the dogfight scene between the Millennium Falcon and TIE fighters in The Force Awakens, then you know what our approach was like.
    • All things considered, our pilot did a good job of getting us down safely.  I will also give him credit for catching the second arresting wire on touchdown, because if he had braked just a little harder, my two remaining wisdom teeth might have come loose.


So, I went home after 30 years away.  I reconnected with my family, and to my surprise, they were happy to see me and glad I was there.  We’re already making plans to go back.

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  1. suz

     /  June 14, 2017

    Congrats on having what sounds like a great vacation! And lots of quality family togetherness time!
    Some of those museums sound very interesting. DH keeps muttering about going to see Mt Rushmore again as I have never been and he enjoyed it a great deal when he last went 30+ years ago. If we make it to SD, no reason why we can’t get to ND, right? 🙂


    • It’s only a few hours from Mount Rushmore to Bismarck. And it looks like a pretty drive, at that.


  2. Roy

     /  June 16, 2017

    A few years ago me and a friend of mine made a western road trip, photo safari, that included most of the plains and Rocky Mountain states. On our return trip, we visited the Little Bighorn battlefield in Montana and then headed east towards home. The next stop was Rapid City SD. However, I drug him about 250 miles out of the way just so that we could visit a little corner of North Dakota as well. The North and South Dakota were my 48th and 49th states. Alaska is the only one I have left to visit.


    • The West really is a good place to just go and wander. Yeah, there are miles of miles and miles, but it’s beautiful.


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