Enjoying the old ‘hood

LOCATION:  Rochester, MN
CAMPGROUND:  Autumn Woods RV Park
WEATHER:  Pretty nice.  High 83

We did some shopping and found a JOY decal for our Airstream.  Alexis’s boyfriend is also working on a new logo with JOY on it for the blog.  Can’t wait to put it all together!

We stopped by our old neighborhood.  We were amazed at how much the trees have grown.  We checked out our old house, where we lived from 2000 – 2013.  It looks pretty much the same.

Then, we had a happy hour with some neighbors on their driveway, social distancing of course.  One guy is a brewer and filled up George’s growler with one of his Belgian beers.  It was fun to get together with the old crowd.  When we lived here, we often met up on a driveway to chat and sip beer.

DINNER:  In an unsupervised moment the other day, George stopped at our favorite bakery in town. His plan was to have a cup of coffee and a snack; he ended up with a huge, frozen pastie.  So tonight, since it was cooler, we baked the pastie in the oven.  It was a traditional one – with meat and diced potatoes.  We added a LOT of hot sauce to it for flavor.  Side was a caprese salad that I made to use the basil that our daughter had given us from her CSA.  I didn’t have any mozzarella, so I substituted some goat cheese..  All good!

A Day of Recuperation

LOCATION:  Rochester, Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Autumn Woods RV Park
WEATHER:  A cold front came through with heavy rain.  High 66.  Everyone is happy!!!

Today was a rather slow day. I spent it resting after my procedure…..nothing to worry about.

Daughter Alexis had the day off so we hung out together.  We picked up lunch at Old Abe’s, a vegan restaurant.  George and I split a non-meat brat sandwich.  It had wasabi and a cucumber/onion sauce.  Quite tasty.  In this photo, George is wearing the t-shirt from the deli in Minneapolis that makes the non-meat products- “The Herbivorous Butcher”.

We have decided to extend our stay here before we go “up North”, giving us a chance to see some friends.  I am also trying to decide our route from here to Montana.  We will have about 4 days to get to the Bozeman area, so we will have some long driving days then. 

DINNER:  Soup (sorry to say, but out of a can) and salad – using some of our daughter’s CSA veg that she picked up today.  She also gave us broccoli, basil,  and scallions.  Really fresh and tasty!

Around Mayo Clinic

CAMPGROUND:  Autumn Woods RV Park
LOCATION:  Rochester, MN
WEATHER:  Still hot.

We did a few more things around Mayo Clinic.  Here is the entrance to the Gonda building, where many offices and procedure rooms are located.

Two Facebook memories popped up today.  This was from 6 years ago when we went to Alaska

And this one was taken a year ago when we were visiting my aunt and uncle in Grande Prairie, Alberta

We visited one of our friends, a former coworker with George.  We got a pizza and salad to go.  So nice talking with old friends.  This friend lives in a section of town behind Mayo’s St. Mary’s Hospital.  A lot of physicians live in that area, so it is referred to as “Pill Hill”.  In addition to neighborhood book stands, where people can grab books, there are some filled with canned goods rather than books.  Such a great idea….

BOOK:  I finished another Louise Penney novel – “How the Light Gets In”.  5 stars out of 5.  Really enjoy her writing.

Beautiful Rochester and Mayo Clinic

CAMPGROUND:  Autumn Woods RV Park
LOCATION:  Rochester, MN
WEATHER:  Hot (93).  Feel like – 103 (with humidity)

Today was healthcare day.  I had an appointment in the Gonda Building, Mayo’s most recent clnic building.  (You, too can get a building named after you…..if you donate enough money)…joining the Hilton Building, Marriott Building, etc.  The Gondas are in the NetJet business)

Mayo does a suberb job with its aethestics.  Flowers, paintings, sculptures veryone.  They also promote music for the soul.  The baby grand paino is often used by patients and staff who strike up a tune.  This is view of flowers from the the Gonda atrium…

Along with this “Statue of Man” between the lobby and 1st floor

And, the stairway is topped with Chichuly glass art

Mayo “won” the designation of the best hospital in the world in 2019,  and has signs around the campus showing this…

Mayo is super super cautious about Covid.  In BC (Before the coronivirus) times, elevators were always packed with patients and visitors.  Now, they are pretty much empty now, with strips marking 6-foot distances.

They say that corn should be “Knee High by the 4th of July”.  This cornfield in front of our RV park, shows that it surpasses that goal.

DINNER”  Leftover steak in a mashed potato sauce. I made some roux, and browned leftover mashed potatoes in garlic and oil.  Served with leftover black aoili from the restaurant’s lunch the other day.  Served with a salad.

Cautious with Covid

LOCATION:  Rochester, Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Autumn Woods RV Park
WEATHER:  Still hot.  High 95

I had two Covid tests this morning at Mayo Clinic, in preparation for a procedure I will have done later this week.  (Nothing to be concerned about).  A swab test to see if I HAVE the virus; a blood test to see if I HAD it unknowingly. It is not surprising that they are EXTREMELY cautious about Covid.  Lots of precautions.  Mayo has had to furlough a lot of its administrative staff during the pandemic, but it was interesting to see how they have been redeployed in new temporary jobs, such as escorting patients like me from place to place, minimizing contact with others. 

The entire city is uber-cautious.  This is the most mask-compliant place we have been.  Not surprisingly, everyone wears masks all of the time.  After we had lunch out today, the City increased its caution by requiring everyone to wear masks at all times, including at restaurants.  You are supposed to leave it on while eating, just lower the mask when you take a bite or sip.  It reminds me of the covered ladies I watched eating while in Dubai.

We had lunch together at one of Rochester’s great new brewpubs.

You call ahead for reservations, and they only reserve a few tables at a time.  Customers have their table for two hours, giving staff time to deep-clean between customers. 

The food was great, and unique.  George had a very rich macaroni and cheese, topped with kimchi of all things. 

Alexis’s boyfriend had the seasonal salad – a soba noodle salad with a lot of veg…

Alexis had a big pile of French fries with the restaurant’s black garlic aioli

I had a (somewhat) boring Caesar”s salad.  No photo…

The decor of the restaurant is nice.  These are their former beer labels…

In the afternoon, I had a dentist appointment.  (So many things to check off while we are here).  They, too, were very conscientious.  The fairly large waiting room had been stripped of its cushy furniture, magazines, kids’ play area, and coffee station and was left with 5 lonely-looking hardback chairs spaced about 15 feet apart from each other.  Only a skeleton staff works daily, reducing the number of patients seen. 

With a clean bill of health (both Covid tests and dentist), we stopped by the British pub next to the neighborhood where we used to live.  This had been our hangout when we lived here.  So convenient – we could walk there from our house.  Normally at 5:00, it would have been packed, but today there were only a few customers.  Mostly take-out.

We hung out at our daughter’s apartment for a bit.  She lives in an older house that has been converted to apartments.  It is conveniently located just a few blocks from  Mayo Clinic’s Methodist Hospital campus where she works, so she can walk to /from her job. 

DINNER:  We took it easy and returned to the Airstream for a light dinner…..leftover Caesar’s salad with chicken and cheese chunks. 

A Trip to the Mississippi!

LOCATION:  2nd night in Rochester, Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Autumn Woods RV
WEATHER:  Hot and humid.  95

Today was a road trip to the Mississippi River, about 40 miles away.  We picked up daughter Alexis and headed out.  We drove through lush corn and soybean fields.  Everything looks green, healthy, and rich. 

Our first stop was Lake City, MN – birthplace of water-skiing!  The story goes that two Norwegian settlers here, enjoying snow skiing, figured out a way to modify the skiis to use on the water. 

Lake City is a small town with a large marina.  You can see the sailboats in the background.

The road travels south following the Mississippi.  The views were beautiful with lots of boaters out today on Lake Pepin, part of the Mississippi.

In Wabasha, we crossed over to Wisconsin. 

Our destination was Nelson’s Creamery, one of our favorite places to go when we are in the area. 

The front part is a cheese shop, wine and beer shop, and ice cream stand.  People were lined up out the door to buy their famous ice cream.

We avoided the crowds and slipped in the back door where the bistro is.

It really has a nice vibe.  It is small, intimate, and nicely decorated.  In the winter, they light a big fire in the fireplace.

Lunch was a hummus platter for Alexis….

And a salad/sandwich combo for us.  George and Alexis shared a bottle of an excellent South African sauvignon blanc (good South African wines are hard to find here).  They could embibe as I am the designated driver for a few days, in preparation for some labwork.

Then, back across the bridge to Minnesota.  We stopped at Slippery’s Bar and Grill for a photo op.  This is where the Walter Matthau/Jack Lemmon movie “Grumpy Old Men” was filmed.

Back at the RV park, I prepared dinner for Alexis and her boyfriend.  I got Joy all fancied up…

DINNER:  Tacos.  I made ours with chicken and vegan Alexis had hers with fake steak.  Side was lettuce salad.  I used a lot of the veg that Alexis gave me from her CSA to which she belongs. 

George grilled the meat (and vegan “meat” for the tacos.

Here is the recipe that some people requested for the soba salad I made the other day.  You can substitute a lot of different veg in this…..

Soba (Asian buckwheat noodles) Salad

3-4 oz soba (one of the banded bundles is 3 oz)
2 c frozen edamame
2-3 Tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp sugar
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
Diced scallions
Diced red onions
I added diced scapes and chives, although the recipe didn’t call for them
1 packet miso soup mix mixed with 1 Tablespoon water (or you can use regular miso.  I like the soup mix as it makes just the right amount, and you are not left with a big package of miso). 
Diced red bell pepper

Boil soba about 4 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cool water.  Drain again
Cook edamame – I did in microwave using package directions.  Drain, rinse with cool water.  Drain again

Mix together everything else.  Add chilled soba and edamame

Recipe said you can add blanched spinach if you want.  I didn’t

Back home in Rochester!

LOCATION:  Rochester, Minnesota – our (previous) home town!  In southeast Minnesota
CAMPGROUND:  Autumn Woods RV Park.  This is about the 5th time we have stayed here.  Was previously one of our favorites, but it has gone downhill.  Trash at our site.  Full hook-ups and paved, level site.  Nice laundry room.  Poor wifi.  Showers and toilets are closed (supposedly due to Covid-19, but I think it is because they don’t have staff to clean them).  At $50 night, rating goes down to 3 out of 5.
WEATHER:  Hot.  95.  We are hot; the locals are sweltering!
DRIVE:  One hour

We didn’t dawdle at Myre-Big Island State Park this morning…we left fairly early for Rochester.  It was an easy drive, but parts of the Interstate were closed due to construction, and we had to take detours. 

After we got set up at the RV park, we contacted our daughter who lives here to make plans for the day.  We visited her and her boyfriend at their apartment, did laundry, went shopping together, and hung out.  Nice!

Then, in the evening, we took a traditional July 4th picnic to the home of our daughter’s boyfriend’s parents.  They live in a beautiful, older neighborhood of Rochester with lots of big, shady trees.  Their garden is full of vegetables and flowers.

George fired up the grill and we made hamburgers (vegan) and brats (the real thing). 

We had a nice dinner.  They made potato salad and some delicious guacamole.  I made a cold soba noodle salad.  (Comment if you would like the recipe). 

We sat outside on their driveway surrounded by beautiful flowers, distanced apart, for a lovely meal and conversation.  Not surprisingly, Rochester folks seem to be more vigilant about Covid-19 than any other place we have been. 

Our daughter is off the next few days, so we will enjoy being with her.  We want to see old friends and neighbors while we are here.  We also have Mayo appointments, dentist appointments, and the all-important beauty shop appointment with my former hairdresser. 

You can’t win them all….

LOCATION:  Near Albert Lea, Minnesota in south central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  White Fox Campground in  Myre-Big Island State Park.  Electricity only.  Central water and dump station.  Nice bathrooms, but closed (more to follow).  Firepit and picnic table.  Level, gravel site.  Sites a bit close together for a state park.  Not too much shade.  Way too expensive at $47/night   2 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Very hot and humid.  High 93
DRIVE:  2 hours all on Interstate 90

We awoke about 5:00 with sunshine streaming in our open windows reflecting off Round Lake at the Harvest Host winery.  Then we went back to sleep! 

It was a stunning and cool morning. The winery’s bistro was closed (only open for dinner) and I sat on their patio next to the waterfall enjoying the scenery …..and their superb internet.

Winery and farm employees bustled around.  The owner stopped by to chat with me.  He told me that sometimes they have as many as 10 Harvest Host campers staying with them.  Their 23 acres of grapes cannot keep up with the demand, so he told me they import grapes from California and Washington to make their wine and/or to blend it with their own grapes.  In addition to the bistro and winery, they do a lot of events, especially weddings. 

The drive to our next location was brief but unpleasant.  Almost the entire segment of I-90 was under construction, very bumpy, and with lanes shut off. 

Someone had told George about tonight’s park and the reviews on the website were glowing, so our expectations were high.

We were disappointed. This is the most expensive and least desirable campground we have experienced this trip. Can’t win them all!

First, it is way too expensive for a state park.  In addition to the camping fee, we had to pay $7 for a day pass.  It had been difficult to make reservations because the park had been totally closed due to Covid-19.

We got our day pass and went to our campsite.  It was still occupied!  Check-out time is not until 4:00,  and the occupants belligerently  told me that they would be there for another hour.  With an hour to kill, we thought we would drive around the rest of the park.  There are two separate campgrounds in the park.  We went to check out the 2nd one.  We entered it, only to encounter a roadblock saying the campground was closed (due to Covid-19).  There was no place to turn around, so George had to back up a long way.  He is really good at this; I could never do it in a million years!!

We found a place to park Joy in a picnic area and took a hike.  The park has two fairly large lakes.  They are very shallow – about 4 feet and grassy.  Motor boats could not navigate this.  There was a smell of dead fish in the air.  We don’t see the allure.

In the picnic area, George  headed to the restroom, only to discover they were closed….due to Covid 19, with instructions to use a pit toilet.  (Why would this be more sanitary?)

An hour later, overheated from waiting out in the sun for more than an hour, we returned to our campsite and were able to set up.  Oh no!  There is only 30 amp hook-up, meaning that we can only run one air-conditioner. 

While Joy was cooling down, I checked out the restrooms.  The women’s and men’s restrooms are closed (Covid).  However, there are two handicapped-accessible ones open – individual units with showers and toilets.  With a lot of tenters, these two remaining stalls are quite popular! 

A  bit of a rant here…..We take precautions with Covid 19 and respect rules to contain the virus.  BUT – how can closing one campground and keeping another one open help?  I would think it would be wiser to open both campgrounds here, and spread people out….maybe only allowing every other site to be occupied?  With everyone in one campground and only 2 toilet stalls available, it seems like we are cramming people together.  Why close some restrooms and keep others open?  End of rant.

We have great TV reception here – about 10 public TV stations, including ones from Minnesota and Iowa.  We watched a good show on PBS about our national parks and their highway development. 

This Facebook photo popped up today.  It is from a house-sitting assignment in southern Yorkshire, England 4 years ago.  The house is an “old vicarage”.  The backyard is a graveyard full of tombstones from the 1700s and 1800s.  It was eerily beautiful.

DINNER:  Asian stir-fry.  Time to finish up all the veg before a shopping trip tomorrow.  Bok choy, onions, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, leftover diced pork loin all stir-fried in sesame oil with a bit of soy sauce and chili peppers.  Served over some ramen noodles.  Oishikata, as they say in Japan! 

Traveling with Joy in Paradise!

LOCATION:  Round Lake, Minnesota, in southwest part of state
CAMPGROUND:  A Harvest Host site — Round Lake Winery.  We have stayed here once before, and we think it is the loveliest HH site we have been in.  We are parked among the vineyards just feet from a beautiful lake.  Their wine is good, too!  They also have a bistro.  As with most HH sites, there are no hook-ups.  5 stars out of 5 (more if I could give them!).
WEATHER:  Hot, humid.  High 89
DRIVE:  1 hour on Interstate 90

We were in no rush to get to the winery so we stayed until check-out (4:00) at Palisades State Park. 

We drove in to the nearby town of Garretson, population 800 or so.  Unlike most small towns, it is prospering fairly well.  We went to Devil’s Gulch Park where we learned the history of Jesse James and his escape. 

Jesse and his gang had robbed a bank in Northfield, MN (actually quite near Rochester where we used to live).  A posse chased his gang west.  Only Jesse and his brother were not shot, and rode their horses hard.  Once near Garretson, the brother went one way and Jesse went another way, only to encounter this deep gulch.  The legend is that he, as an experienced horseman, jumped the deep gulch which was more than 20 feet wide.

From there, the brothers reunited and hid in a cave in what is now Palisades State Park – where we are camped. 

We hiked around Devil’s Gulch Park to see where he supposedly jumped across on his horse….(now a bridge):

Then, we went in to Garretson to use their library’s internet.  It was closed, but we were able to get wifi from our pick-up truck parked in front.

We packed up at Palisades.  It has been a good 4-night stay here.  The campground is filling up fast with 4th of July weekend campers. 

After a very short drive, we arrived at Round Lake.  The entrance is breathtaking.  You drive through vineyards, then the road curves to show the lake peeking through.  We got settled in right in front of the lake.

This is the view from Joy…

Without electricity (so no AC), we opened up all of Joy’s windows.  A nice thing about Airstreams is that there are windows on all 4 sides, so we can get a nice breeze.  The breeze off the lake was cool and we are parked under a leafy tree with good shade. 

We walked over to the winery to do a wine-tasting.  We bought a bottle of red wine that is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and a local hybrid cold-hardy grape (developed by the University of Minnesota) called marquette. 

We had dinner on their patio.  George had their special bistro steak wrapped in bacon.  I had a Cobb salad.  We opened our bottle of wine.  Just lovely!

Once it got dark, we sat outside and watched the lightning bugs.  Life is so good!

More hiking trails

LOCATION:  Garretson, SD – outside of Sioux Falls
CAMPGROUND:  Palisades State Park
WEATHER:  Mostly cloudy.  High 86

It rained pretty hard during the night.  Some branches fell from trees – glad they did not hit Joy.  It is kind of cool lying in bed listening to a storm, cozy and safe inside. 

I don’t know where the morning went!  Exercises for George; yoga for me.  Lots of piddling around.

We drove about 20 miles to another SD state park – Big Sioux Rec Area.  We can get in free with our SD park pass, and are trying to get our money’s worth!  It is a lovely park.  If we are driving on Interstate 90 again, we just might try to camp here, as it is very conveniently located off I-90.   We ate a picnic lunch under a gazebo….smoked oysters in a spicy chili oil with crackers.  Yum!

Inside the park is an old cabin built in 1839 by a Norwegian settler.  He, his wife, and 8 children lived here.  I can’t imagine 10 people in such a small cabin.  We hiked some trails there along the river.  Very nice. 

We stopped at a library to use wifi.  It was closed (due to Covid?), but we stood outside and picked up their internet. 

Then, on to Minnesota to check out a microbrewery.    It is in the town of Luverne, about 20 miles east of here.  We drove through lush countryside – beautiful corn and soybeans.  Everything is so green and well-kept.

The microbrewery was cool.  Most of the customers were sitting outside in their huge beer garden.  A bit hot for us, we stayed inside.  I tried one of the citrusy IPAs; George had a schwartzbier.  Both very good.  The microbrewery is called Take 16, referring to Highway 16 that is sort of a northern Route 66. 

Back at the campground, George made another one of his famous fires to grill our dinner.  He is really improving in this department!  In addition to cooking our dinner, I had him grill some hamburgers for future meals.  I will be making a hamburger spaghetti sauce to freeze. 

DINNER:  Pork loin,  sweet potato, and green beans.  The pork loins were only $1 each, and each of us only ate half, so that makes for a pretty inexpensive meal!  I see leftover pork in our future…

BOOK:  “Before We Were Yours” by Lisa Wingate.  Similar to “Orphan Train”, and based on a true, sad part of our US history.  5 stars out of 5