lydamorehouse: (cranky aizen)
My family has a very unusual attitude towards truancy. We encourage Mason to practice it from time to time, as needed, to blow off steam and to have a 'mental health' day/practice self-care. I don't ask a lot of questions or make any requirements for him to use these days. Mason just knows that he's allowed to say that he needs a day now-and-again.

On Thursday, driving in to school, Mason said, "You know how we sometimes just take off and drive somewhere? Today would be a good day to do that."

So, we turned around, I called him in sick, and we went home so he could catch up on a bit of sleep. Then, we talked about what kind of adventure he wanted, and, since it was really cold and there was supposed to be a winter storm moving in around us, we decided to stick close to home. After a comforting lunch, we headed out to Como Zoo. We spent most of our time in the Conservatory, because it's warm in there. Here's the view looking up at the glass dome.

looking up at the Como Conservatory's glass dome

This was just what the doctor ordered. Mason and I chatted about what's going on in his life, while strolling through the heat and the humidity of the conservatory. Because of the time of year, a lot of the tropical plants had fruit. We saw a Buddha's hand, coffee beans on the coffee tree, several ripening cocoa pods, and a bunch of other stuff that made me think that maybe I should try to take over the Conservatory when the apocalypse comes. I mean, they have COFFEE!

Then, because we're insane, we decided to see which animals might be out enjoying the sub-arctic temperatures. No surprise, perhaps, but the Siberian tiger thought it was lovely out.

Siberian tiger in the Minnesota snow

As I wrote on Facebook: 'Not the polar bear, surprisingly, she was sleeping. The Siberian tiger was out, as were the wolves, the reindeer, the bison, and the arctic foxes which I have LITERALLY never seen at Como Zoo before, despite having walked passed their labeled area for YEARS. The two foxes were prancing they were so happy that the temps were sub-zero windchills."

I couldn't get a good picture of the arctic foxes because probably all you'd see would be two eyes and a nose. They are MADE to perfectly blend with the snow, after all. But, they were very, very adorable. Potentially worth braving the temperatures to see, honestly. The Como Zoo is still kind of the sad zoo (as opposed to the MN Zoo, which we just call "the big zoo"), in that a lot of their "enclosures" are still little more than chain link fences, but they've been slowly renovating the place to improve the animals' quality of life. The foxes, unfortunately, are still in a very small-sh space, so that's why I'd say "potentially" worth a visit. Your enjoyment would totally depend on whether or not you can stand that kind of zoo.

Then, on Friday, Mason was officially home from school, but I let him sleep in while I met a friend on Friday to go to the Science Museum. As part of his job, Mason gets free passes to the museum and this friend had been looking for cheap/free things to do during the day. I ended up cancelling on my usual ladies to hang out with her, but I had previously planned to go on Tuesday, but that was the day the plumbing broke. What I would say about our trip to the museum was that, if you go, you totally should spend some time in the Race exhibit. It's... well, I mean, parts of it are heartbreaking and awful, but it's extremely well done. Anna and I probably spent the majority of our time in that room. It was a moderately quiet room, not being a favorite of the countless screaming argonauts (aka other people's children), which was also nice for us, as Anna is deaf/hard of hearing.

But, also, there are dinosaurs! This is a "compi" from Jurassic World (Compsognathus).

a Compi!  (Compsognathus)

Anna and I don't know each other terribly well--this is the third time we've done something together, though the first time it was just us. I would definitely hang out with her again. She's lovely company. 

In other news, I continue to try to find a plumber for our upstairs bathtub. The good news is that we have a fully functional bathroom on the first floor that has a tub, so we're not out anything while we figure out what we're doing. I had one set of plumbers out already, Ryan Plumbing, whose estimate was 1,500 - 2,000 bucks, as they figured they'd have to rip up the kitchen ceiling to get at all the pipes. Weld Plumbing called back and would like to wait and talk to their owner about whether or not they think they're the right people, which I told them was FINE as we're in a buyer's market, as we can just let it sit there until we get the right people with the right price. Weld was the first group who said that they thought there might be a way to McGyver it, if we wanted to try a fix for ourselves... which made me like them a bit more than the Ryan guys, but the chances of them calling back seemed kind of slim, you know? As soon as "I have to talk to the owner" comes out, it either means they think your job is too small for them or they otherwise don't want to do it at all.

BUT. I'm going to keep calling a couple of outfits every day because seriously, we have all the time we need to figure this out. It's a BIT WEIRD to take a full soaking bath downstairs while the rest of the family is hanging out in the living room, but it's definitely not the end of the world. 

I've been mostly keeping up with my spell of the day, but I'll catch up on posting about those the next entry. I've got to wrap this up as I need to run off to pick up Mason from his job in about five minutes.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
 I know many of you would counsel me to toss my Spell-a-Day book in the open river after the pipe incident, BUT y'all have to know that today's "spell" was really quite spectacular.  It was actually just a meditation that wanted me to go for a walk.

Winter view of como lake

Since I had to go out to Roseville DMV to collect my tabs for the car, anyway, I stopped on the way home to make a brisk walk around Como Lake. Right now, it's 17 F / -8 C, though I suspect the windchill makes it quite a bit colder. I hadn't intended to go the whole distance around the lake (1.6 miles / 2.6 km), but you know how it is once you start. I kept thinking, "Oh, I'm probably halfway around now..." 

The picture doesn't do justice to how sunny it got. The sun broke and was so bright that I wished that I'd thought to grab my sunglasses.  There are always people walking their dogs, jogging, or strolling around Lake Como, so I nodded a "good morning" to about a half dozen people and several puppers/doggos--including two Huskies that looked like they thought this was the BEST TEMPERATURE EVER, even as I was wondering if I would ever regain feeling in my thighs.

I spotted a couple funky little nests hanging like purses from the branches that I've asked my birding friends for help identifying.

purse like nest. Seemed to be made partly of moss?

Google gave me the option of red-eyed vireo, which is a kind of warbler that does seem to live around here at least part of the time.  But, I really don't know anything from birds, so I hope my friends will have a clue. My friend Sharon "Bird Chick" Stitler, says that's an oriole.  I didn't know we had those here, but that's awesome. 

After my walk, I stopped at Kowalski's because I work tonight, and the current plan my family has to deal with my absence is to "have something frozen" for dinner. But, they couldn't give me anything more specific than that to work with, so I picked up a variety of frozen options for them. 

Mason has work tonight, too, so he's going to have to make his way home via the light rail.  Shouldn't be a problem for him. He's gone on several walkabouts that have taken him far enough afield that he just hopped the light rail back home.  (Free range kids are the best!)  

Meanwhile, I can't remember the last time I had a library shift. I'm a little concerned because I think they changed the time sheet process during my absence, so that may require some poking around on the emails.  (This is why I stay home. It's too difficult out there in the real world!)  But, Shoreview is often fairly chill in the evenings, so I should have time to figure things out.

Hopefully, I didn't just jinx it, by suggesting that, however.

Right, well. I'd best hop up and get the rest of the around the house chores done before I have to pick people up and then turn around and head off to work. 
lydamorehouse: (Default)
 Today is our last full day of vacation. Tomorrow, we hit the road and make our way back to the Twin Cities and home, sweet home.  We decided not to try to do "too much" on our last day, so we went to Itasca State Park to see the Mississippi headwaters (or one of them, if you're feeling persnickety) and do a little light hiking.

We may have hiked a little more than we planned, but that's another story.

We could not have arrived at the headwaters at a better time. It was just as the gift shop/ interpretive center opened at 10 am. We got a prime spot in the parking lot, and, more importantly, we were way ahead of the crowds.

The Mississippi headwaters, looks like a pile of rocks.

Classically, Mason and I walked across the rocks:

Intrepid explorers on slippery rocks

Admittedly, I made it less than three more steps in before it got too slick for me. I was wearing my all-terrain shoes, which should have given me good traction, but I am old and unsteady.  Shawn helped me into the shallow, non-rocky bits.  You can't really see in this picture, but I forgot to change into shorts.  My jeans got very soaked... though they ended up drying out after our several mile hike(s).

The headwaters site started to get busy, so we discovered a looping trail that I thought would take us past a pioneer cemetery.  Alas, we were on the right trail, but on the wrong side of the lake for the cemetery.  Still, we got to see some fairly spectacular wilderness.

blue sky through pin trees

We have seen a lot of very good trees on this trip. Many wonderful trees. Mason was pretty tired at the end of this hike, but when I made sad noises he said that he would PROBABLY be up for one more hike of this size (about a mile) before we left the park for good.  

After this, we all piled in the car and did the "Wilderness Drive" which is an 8 mile stretch of paved road for cars (and bicycles) that winds through some amazing views.  It was a nice meander that took us to the famous Douglas Lodge, where we had lunch.

Interior shot of Douglas Lodge, lots of dark pine beams

I had tater tot hot dish for lunch. It was a little peppery (as in green pepper) for me, but I quite enjoyed it. Shawn had the walleye sandwich and Mason had Canadian bluefish.  We were all very happy with our meals and we shared a piece of chocolate brownie cheese cake for desert. Perfect!

Afterwards, we looked at the park map and decided that the best last trail for Mason and I might be right here at the lodge, a circle loop called "Dr. Robert's trail." We set off thinking that it would be an easy mile. It was a fairly rough TWO miles. But, I finally got a bit of a bog walk and I don't think Mason will actually hate me FOREVER... only until his feet stop aching.

Mason, angry hiking in the woods.

And thus ends the vacation part of our trip. We will probably be stopping at a few road side attractions on the way home, but this was our last woodsy adventure.  I got a little sad about it all, so Shawn bought me a guide to all of Minnesota's State Parks.  Hooray! I can go home and plan the next angry hike!

lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
 The title of today's journal entry is curtesy of Mason, who spent much of the day in the back seat as we were driving around, reading. Occasionally, he would look up and wonder what we were doing.  We also spent a surprising amount of today on dirt roads... only once were we terribly, terribly lost.

But, I get ahead of the story.

We left Grand Rapids, Minnesota, today in gray, overcast weather.  Our first stop was Deer River a town that "roadside attractions" told us would have a giant statue of a northern pike.  We even knew that this supposedly large fish was supposed to be at the intersection of highway 2 and "Division Street." We circled that town three times.  Finally, giving up, we turned up Highway 6 and lo, and behold! Highway 6 WAS DIVISION STREET.  We found our fish (which, for reasons of goofy driver syndrome, I called a 'duck' and several other animals instead of fish.)

giant statue of norther pike (fish) in Deer River, MN

Because the only thing we had to do today was get from Grand Rapids to Bemidji, we decided to do a lot of scenic touring.  Shawn had picked up a brochure in the National Forrest Center on highway 38 near Marcell. It advertised a "self-guided auto tour" of the Chippewa National Forrest. The directions take you in a loop from Highway 38, down a few county roads, and then some very narrow forrest roads. It was TOTALLY WORTH IT.  

For one, all of the "spots of interest" were extremely well marked. Our first stop promised wildlife, and it actually delivered. Not only did we see a beaver swimming in the pond (our fifth of this trip), but we also saw four ducklings making their way back to their parent.  On the other side of the road was reported to be an osprey nest.

It was there... complete with osprey.

osprey nest with nesting osprey

All the stops were fairly interesting, but I think my family's second favorite part was when we turned down a section of Forrest Road 2182 (the brochure warned: "this road is narrow. Proceed with caution" and they weren't kidding!). The location site was entitled "Tunnel of Trees" and it was really quite amazing. At several points we were driving under a dark canopy. The road was so narrow that it took us over a plank bridge that was really not much more than a few planks set at tire width.  VERY NARROW. 

My family likes to say "Might be worth a detour!" and this one really was.

The next place we headed towards was an area called "The Lost 40" because it really was lost at one point. A surveyor back in 1882 flaked. He and his crew left this section of woods off the map. They accidentally plotted "Coddington Lake nearly one half mile northwest of its actual location," and thus, when it came time for logging companies to divvy up the land, they missed 144 acres of virgin pine.  These are some of the oldest white and red pine trees in Minnesota.

There was another self-guided trail, this one a walking trail, for the Lost 40. Since we had such good luck with the scenic byway, we marched into the woods with confidence.

It was spectacular.

A long shot up a very, very tall pine tree.

We also took the classic shot--hugging the ancient tree, to show how thick the trunk of some of the trees in this forrest were.

My family of tree huggers hugging an ancient pine

Then we got terribly lost.  There were large informational markers on the trail, but the trail itself was not terribly well marked. This is somewhat problematic as pine forests (as you can see from the picture of my tree huggers) tends to be barren and thanks to the pine needles. But, we only went off-course a bit, accidentally going to the trail's end at Moose River. We were able to turn back and reconnect with the walk... but my "indoorsy" family was getting hot and sweaty.  The weather was cool, but we had our hoods up on our hoodies to try to mitigate a very serious mosquito situation.  At one point, when it looked like our informational markers were out of order, Shawn let out a disparaging sigh and said, "Okay, but if we're going in the wrong direction, you will have to CARRY me out of this forrest, because I am DONE."

But, did I mention how gorgeous it was?

It was really f*cking gorgeous.

Mason's red hoodie as a stark contrast to the massive stands of pines

After this, we probably should have headed directly to Bemidji, but we had planned to eat lunch in Blackduck, Minnesota.  Before we left the wifi at the Grand Rapids hotel, Shawn had found us a diner that looked pretty good. It was actually fairly amazing. It was Restaurant 71 in Blackduck and I don't know if it was so good because we were all so exhausted, but I may never have EVER had a better California burger in my ENTIRE LIFETIME.

We also took a picture of one of the two black ducks in Blackduck, MN, because we are totally the people who take pictures of all the cheesy statues.

A black duck statue in Blackduck, MN

We tried another scenic byway, this one called "Lady Slipper Scenic Byway."  A lot of our byways have been under construction this trip. As I told my friend Dorian on Facebook, it's the old Minnesota joke: "there are two seasons in Minnesota: winter and road construction."  The ranger at the information center told me that, despite the gravel bits, the road was open. It was, though, what she neglected to mention was that a lot of the "sites" were actually fairly far drives from the actual scenic byway. I had given up doing a bog walk on our earlier Chippewa Forrest scenic byway, because I was more hopeful that the bog walk advertised as part of the Webster Lake Campground would have showy lady slippers, which is a flower I have never seen in the wild.

But, WOW did we get lost trying to find Webster Lake Campground. It was here that Mason poked his head up and wondered, "Why are we on a dirt road AGAIN?"

We ended up having to abandon our search for that bog walk, but a few clicks down the road we saw a pull-out that said it was a "Lady Slipper Interpretative Site."

There was a tiny boardwalk there, but the lady slippers were fairly amazing.

lady slippers growing wild

I don't seem to have much luck with bog walks. We're spending a day here in Bemidji and Shawn found me a brochure advertising a bog walk in Bemidji State Park. We'll see if I actually make it there tomorrow.  The big thing we want to be sure to do is hit the Mississippi headwaters in Itasca State Park, but other than that we've got no plans. 

After that, we head home to see if the kitties are still alive and if the house is still standing (pretty sure our cat sitter, Mr. Murphy, is doing a great job, but you know how you worry when you've been gone a long time.)

So far, it's been a wonderful vacation. There has been, as Mason has said, a lot of "looking at trees," but they have been very good trees, indeed.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
 I didn't write much while we were at Bearskin for reasons of poor internet.  The Lodge at Bearskin _has_ wifi, but they encourage you to only be on briefly as it does not have a huge amount of bandwidth and, even if it did, you're up on the Gunflint Trail, for gods sake, why are you on-line!!??

Instead, we spent many days doing this: 

Canoer's back and vista of a calm northwoods lake.

We did go on a couple of new-to-us hikes, while up at Bearskin, however. One day, Mason and I decided to drive to the end of one of the roads and hike up to Ruby Lake.  From where we parked it was only about a mile to the lake, so that was just about the perfect distance for our "indoorsy" family. There was a rowboat there with a sign that suggested we could take it out for a fee, but there was no place to pay and no oars. Possibly, we were supposed to get such at some lodge or other? Our Bearskin front desk person had made it sound like if we brought money along, getting the row boat out would be self-evident.  Alas, no. But, we enjoyed the scenery at any rate.

A different view of a north woods lake, with a profile of Mason in his sun hat.

You can see what kind of weather we've been having from both these shots, which is to say: SUNNY.  This was possibly the most ideal weather we have ever had up at Bearskin (this is our fourth year going to Cabin 1.)  

The second hike that we did involved a LOOOOOOONG drive to the end of the Gunflint Trail.  The drive itself was both beautiful and... unexpected. We were up early-ish, around 8 or 9 am, and the roads were packed with tourists.  I like to meander on the Gunflint Trail, not going more than 50 and always obeying signs that suggest that hairpin turns should be taken at 25 mph, etc., so that meant that several times I had to pull over into a cutout to let faster traffic get around me.  

Plus, we drove through a huge swath of countryside that had been devastated by the 2007 Ham Lake Fire. Shawn always has a very visceral reaction to burned landscape, even when it has had years of regrowth. She did not like the sections of Yellowstone that had been burned, either. I don't have the same reaction, but I can understand it. The forrest looks 'wrong.' 

We stopped at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center and did a bit of hiking on their "trails." I put trails in quotes because honestly? Some of them looked like we had taken off down deer trails until we hit signage that marked the names of the various trails.  A couple of the trails took us to nice vista where you can see how the fire affected the area.

Mason siting on a bald rock overlooking a sparse vista.

Mason is in his hoodie because the weather was also very mild. Today, here in Grand Rapids, I overheard one of the servers at our hotel say that the high was going to be 67 F / 19 C.

After six full days at Bearskin, we packed up and headed off for the second leg of our grand summer vacation: the slow meander home/north woods road trip.  

Last year, after our monumental road trip to Yellowstone National Park and back again, my family discovered that we LOVE road trips. Plus, leaving Bearskin is really hard, so for the last few years we've always extended our vacation with mini trips to somewhere vaguely civilized, but new to us.  A few years ago, we tried out Thunder Bay (which led to the experience of being several hundred miles into the trip and Shawn realizing we forgot our passports.)  The last time we stayed a few extra days in Duluth.  This time, we are exploring some classic Minnesota spots like Ely and Bemidji, with a special trip to visit the headwaters of the Mississippi.  Because Shawn is from Grand Rapids, MN, we are staying here a few days to check out some of her old haunts and to use this hotel as a launching off point for other adventures.

Yesterday we drove from Bearskin back down the Gunflint trail to Grand Marais and Highway 61.  From 61, we veered back north for Highway 1 and Ely.  Highway 1 should have been idyllic, but there was a LOT of construction and somewhere just before Ely we hit our first batch of bad weather since leaving for Bearskin.  Plus, there always seems to have to be "that one town" where we all arrive hangry and grouchy. This trip it was Ely. I was made especially mad by the fact that my family was starving and so wanted to JUST STOP AT A SUBWAY.  I wanted a nice sit-down meal at a cute place in Ely.  My family won out, because even I was too famished to really enjoy driving around trying to guess which place would be good to stop at.  And, of course, literally the moment we stepped into the Subway an ENTIRE TROOP OF BOY SCOUTS got in line in front of me. I kid you not, and I could have screamed.  But, food helped and soon enough we were stopping at Ely's International Wolf Center for a close-up at the Ambassador wolves.
The wolves were nice and, for once, Shawn enjoyed a museum.  Shawn isn't exactly a museum connoisseur, but she is the State Archivist of Minnesota and, thus, has a few standards. Let me tell you, the museum at Chik-Wauk did NOT meet them.  The wolf center? Yes. Though we all agreed that the entry fee ($13 a person) was a little steep considering what you got out of it. Though we did not stay for any of the demonstrations, which might have made it worthwhile.

The wolves were hanging out near the observation window, though, to snooze out of the rain. The white wolf, Greyson, got up and shifted to a new position and I got this picture of a very sleepy doggo.

the white wolf (not bucky barnes)

It was funny because as Mason and I were returning the canoe to Bearskin Lodge, someone's husky came bounding around the corner at speeds and my honest first reaction was to grab Mason's arm because I thought we were being rushed by a wolf. Though it only took a second to sense the happy-puppy vibe off the husky AND to notice that it wore a harness.  But, yeah, for a brief moment I thought, "HOLY SH*T, WOLF" and, yeah, looking at this fellow, you can see the resemblance.

The rain stopped by the time we were leaving the wolf center and so we made our way down to Grand Rapids with only a few roadside attraction stops. This is the other thing about my family. We are all about the roadside attractions. Last year, our go-to phrase was "might be worth a detour!" and we still live by that. (That, and "the destination *is* the journey.") So, we stopped to see the world's largest floating loon in Virginia, MN as well as the "Iron Man" (but not Tony Stark) statue in Chisholm, MN.

a floating loon sculpture. Yep. Looks just like a big loon on a lake.

Shawn and Mason in front of Iron Man (who is, sadly, not Tony Stark) in Chisholm. He's just some random 1880s miner. Much disappoint.

After that we collapsed in our hotel room. 

This morning we got up moderately early and attempted to drive the "Edge of the Wilderness" Scenic Byway (aka Highway 38). But, we discovered less than halfway up the byway that it was CLOSED. It's very rare that the entire highway is closed, but this was both lanes blocked, giant signs reading DETOUR, ROAD CLOSED.  Undeterred, my family followed the detour through Leech Lake Indian Reservation and reconnected with the scenic byway in Marcell, MN.

Our favorite was a stop to hike the Trout Lake and Joyce Estate site. There were nicely maintained (wide and "easy," aka no steep grades) trails that took us into the woods. If we had known we were going to hit the closed highway, we might have lingered longer here and explored more. On the other hand, my family is rarely up for hikes of more than a mile or two roundtrip, so we probably did just enough.  

Shawn on a park bench in the woods. It was kind of funny to come across a park bench so we thought someone should sit on it.

We did eventually get reconnected with Highway 35 and we went to the trail's end at Effie, MN.  Effie apparently sports Minnesota's largest open air rodeo and a metal sculpture of a mosquito, jokingly known as Minnesota's state bird.  Mason really wanted to pose by the mosquito giving it the finger (mosquitos consider our son an all-you-can-eat buffet and always have, when he was little we some times called him 'Skeet Rounds, because he was covered from head to toe in mosquito bites), but Shawn managed to keep him from doing it.

Shawn and Mason under a metal sculpture of a mosquito. Mason's middle finger is starting to raise, but  Shawn shushes him.

We are still on the road for two more full days. Tomorrow, we head to Bemidji where we'll spend a night. Then, it's off to the headwaters and home.  If the wifi is good in Bemidji, I will try to do another write-up.


lydamorehouse: (Default)
Luck is a funny thing to determine.

In the pouring rain, as we headed out to our family vacation on the Gunflint Trail, I found a penny. There’s a saying that goes: “Find a penny, pick it up; all day long, have good luck.” As a kid, I also understood that there was an unspoken corollary, it’s only REALLY good luck, if you find it face-up. The one I found was showing tails. What I have done since I was ten, is flip it over while it’s still touching the ground, and then pick it up.

Is that good luck or not?

We had rain most of the way to Duluth. Because it was Grandma’s Marathon, we decided to go up a kind of back way that involved highway 61 and a bunch of meandering. Other than the persistent rain that dogged us, it was a pleasant drive.

In Duluth, while trying to skirt around downtown the car started making A NOISE. No one ever likes hearing car NOISES, but when you’re on the very first leg of a two-week trip that’s going to involve a lot of driving? We pulled over and considered our options. Luckily, Shawn has a lot of data on her phone, so we were able to discover a repair place that was open… several miles back.

With much reluctance and a lot of holding back tears of despair (and a couple of wrong turns), we found the repair place. Miraculously, it was attached to a Ford dealership and not at all busy. They said they could perform a break check (which is what the creaking NOISE initially sounded like) in fifteen minutes.

The repair shop was across the parking lot from a DSW and a Barnes & Noble. Seeing that, I sent my wife and son off to their two favorite shopping experiences and sat down in the ‘lounge’ to watch Disney’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame” which was playing on the TV, a show I have never seen, because I tend to avoid all musicals like the plague.

Minutes later, we get the prognosis: sorry, lady, your instincts are wrong. It’s not the breaks. The breaks are in great shape.

Even though that was good news, in a way, I was still leery of driving into the ‘no services’ great north woods with an unidentified undercarriage creak. I asked them if they wouldn’t mind a quick check of the underside. They were happy to.

More singing hunchbacks.

After they drove the car themselves, they determined, particularly given how loaded down with supplies our car was, it was probably struts. Bad news, since that’s a big, many hour repair; good news, because none of the mechanics thought that the NOISE was that bad and were willing to recommend that we could drive many hundreds of miles before we needed to have the work done. In other news, we could go on our way, so long as we took the car in at our earliest convenience.

They charged us nothing. Zero dollars and no cents.

Good luck or bad luck?

We’d called ahead to let Bearskin Lodge know that were were on our way, but delayed. They said they’d leave the door to our cabin open and we could come in any time, even after midnight, and we could check in in the morning.

With the time crunch gone and, even though we all felt a little frazzled from the unexpected repair detour, we were determined to enjoy the rest of the trip north.

As soon as we left Duluth, the sun came out.

Superior kicked up a ton of fog/mist, but, in large patches, we had brilliant weather. We have a favorite agate hunting beach, Flood Bay, and we stopped to do a little rock sifting. Both Shawn and Mason found agates, something none of us has ever done on this beach, despite it being famous for its agates.

two people rock hunting

We also stopped at Gooseberry Falls, which we tend to stop at every year. I discovered that they sold international stamps--and then later realized I forgot ALL my international addresses. Another good luck/bad luck moment.

gooseberry falls

Another first for this trip: Split Rock Lighthouse! Shawn, being the state archivist of Minnesota, was able to get us in free, which made the experience even better. The view was fantastic.

At this point, however, we started to get a little anxious about arriving before dark, so we skipped several of our usual favorites and headed straight for Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail.

We saw a ton of deer this trip. At least one turkey hen crossed the road in front of us.

Was it a lucky trip? Yeah, I’d say, in the end, it was.
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
 It was a fairly busy weekend as such things go.

I worked at Roseville on Saturday for 5 hours.  That went surprisingly slow at times, though possibly my best interaction was with a patron who wanted to tell me all about the memoir he was going to write about how the Pope got assassinated by the cocaine cartels... a MEMOIR. I live for moments like that, honestly.

I came home to a house full of teenagers. Mason had gone to SpringCon with his girlfriend and their mutual friend, Dalton. Dalton had to head out, but we ended up hosting Rosemary for dinner and a seriously rousing game of Trivial Pursuit. There were several points when I laughed so hard I nearly peed. (We have a policy of random guesses when you don't know an answer.)  I was very sleepy by the end of the evening, however.

Sunday, Mason really, really wanted me to see SpringCon (aka MPS Comic Con.) Plus, he'd reported that our friend Theo was there selling art. So, we hopped in the car and stopped by for an hour or so.

a rack of comic books

If you've never gone and are curious, SpringCon is basically a gigantic dealer's room held in the Grandstand of the State Fair. There are lots of racks of comics, boxes of comics, and artists showing off their work. We said hello to Theo and their partner, Pip, as well as to my friends Barb Shultz and Christopher Jones. There are also people showing off fan related things as well as fan merchandise.

Someone had made a LEGO model of the battle at the end of "Last Jedi."

I took Mason out to lunch (Wing Stop), but we got it to go and sat in the grass at Como Lake and ate. It was a lovely day out and a ton of people were out walking dogs and enjoying the sun.

I only felt bad that I had to cut our picnic short in order for me to book it out to Chaska to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, where I TRIED to connect with some friends who were doing a flower-viewing party (in the style of a Japanese hanami).  I was supposed to meet them "under the crab apple blossoms about a mile in on Three Mile Drive," but it was a comedy of errors. For one, even though Three Mile Drive was obviously drivable, I had no idea if there would be parking anywhere near my friends were camped out at. I guess I sort of imagined that the drive would be like Custer State Park, where you can't really pull over anywhere, except in the case of a buffalo emergency.  I really don't know why I got that in my head, but i did, and so I parked in the main lot and proceeded to start to WALK. 

I ended up walking around the parking lot for a stupid amount of time because I was following signs that said "Three Mile Drive." I also have no sense of how far a mile is. Also, when I came to this set of trees, I thought that somehow this was the meet-up spot and they had moved from there to somewhere else.

a collection of pink flowered trees that I THOUGHT were crab apple....

Thus, I figured I missed them and so decided, instead, to check out the Japanese garden and head home.

The Japanese garden was lovely.

water feature with a Japanese stone lantern and a cedar tree on a small island. A man-made waterfall can be seen in the background

But the trip felt sort of wasted, you know. I sunburnt my nose and wasn't able to off-load ANY of my Japanese candies that I hauled around.

Ah, well. I did get to discover the MN Landscape Arboretum AND had a lovely time exploring the Japanese Gardens there.

Weirdly, I ran into Rosemary's mom, Lisa, on my way out. Like, I could NOT find my friends, whom I'd planned to spend time with, but randomly in this HUGE PLACE, I run into Lisa, who was there with a friend to see the tulip display.  She offered to let me tag along, but I was feeling pretty done (see: sunburned nose).  I offered them a bit of my Japanese candy and then headed for home.

pink and white tulips planted in a central circular gardens. Several people are seen in the picture because it was crowded af

Luckily, it's an easy drive home, despite the distance... or would have been if 35W wasn't under heavy construction.  But, I got home and we had a lovely dinner (I made kielbasa and a potato hash) and I slept like a LOG.

Today I worked at White Bear Lake and I could not have felt more tired and exhausted.  But, hey, I'm working a lot now because after Mason is off school, I'm pretty much taking the month of June off. (Bearskin here we come!)
lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
Yesterday was a lot of driving. I didn't end up posting anything last night because we didn't stumble in the door until after 8:30 pm (we left Rapid City at 7:30 am. Now, there is a time change in there where we lose an hour, but still that's a LOT of hours on the road.)

We did some classic stuff. We stopped both at Wall Drug and the Corn Palace.

the corn palace

goofy people

We started to see a few more families on the road at Wall Drug, but Mitchell could have been a ghost town. Shawn and I both remarked at how several store fronts were closed and/or empty in Mitchell. It's June. This should be the beginning of the tourist season for them, I'd have thought. We were there right at noon and I had a BLT from the one place we found to eat. That was the other thing, the 'historic' downtown didn't have a lot of places to get food. You'd think it would be more like the other tourist towns we travelled through, like Cody, which is just lined with diners and burger joints and pizza places. Something for everyone, as they say. All of that interspersed with trinket shops.... but no, they seemed to have department stores and... furniture? Not something you're going to haul the rest of the way across country with you.

This actually made me wonder if the over-the-road tourism is down in this part of the country. Okay, well, a quick Google tells me that my anecdotal sense is WAY OFF. Apparently, tourism numbers are up, according to the South Dakota Tourism Industry Information for 2016.

Maybe we were just lucky? Because we planned this trip so early into summer vacation?

I don't know. Interestingly, Wikipedia tells me that the largest draw to South Dakota is actually the Sturgis Motorcycle rally. Maybe that's the thing that's shifted? The demographics of the people traveling across country? We certainly saw a ton of motorcycles all throughout our visit both to South Dakota and to Yellowstone.

Also, I'm super curious why so many of my fellow travelers were white. It wasn't 100%--but there was a shocking sea of white faces waiting for the geysers to blow. Why is that, I wonder? Or is this another anecdotal misinterpretation of mine? I couldn't easily find a demographic statistic for the visitors to Yellowstone, though I did see that 2016 was a record-breaking year for them. So what do I know?

We did stop at the Minute Man Missile Site (Delta-09). That was kind of spooky cool. There was a fence around the site that had this sign:

cows out of missile site

It says, "Help us keep cows from entering this area. Please close chain as you enter and exit." There's a lovely little center icon of a big red no symbol over a cow.  

One of the missiles is preserved:

missile in launch pad

As a kid of the 1980s, I found this very chilling, frankly.  Mason looked at us and said, "And how do you think I feel, knowing that 45 has the launch codes?"  


Right.  So, that left us all feeling a bit... freaked out.

Otherwise, I have to say that the thing I'm noticing now that we're home is that I still have my tourist eye on everything.  I kind of wished that I'd had my camera this morning when I went for coffee because I had a sudden yen to photograph the neat old houses that are in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood. Maybe this is something I'll have to start doing as an antidote for all the depressing politics.

I thought about going out to Pride today but I just couldn't muster the thought of fighting crowds after all of the fighting crowds at Yellowstone and whatnot. Good news: I'll be gay all year 'round.

lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
Today was day two in South Dakota. Today was the day we decided to do a lot of the typical tourist stuff. Shawn had read in the guidebooks that the very best time to go to Mount Rushmore was early in the morning, so we were on the road again around 7 am. On the other hand, the guidebooks were right. We had the place to ourselves.

Here is our postcard perfect shot of Mount Rushmore.

The classic shot

Turns out Shawn LOVED the museum at Mount Rushmore and we spent a lot of time looking at the exhibits. Today, over dinner, she said that Mount Rushmore was one of her favorite parts of today, in fact.

Mason looking up at Mount Rushmore

I like this shot because it highlights one of the things that first struck me about Mount Rushmore. Most of the pictures you see look like the one I took, so you never have the sense that these faces are just carved out of the top of a mountain. When Shawn and I traveled here in the 90s with Karl from Czech, that was the thing I most remembered: that Mount Rushmore was actually just a tiny fraction of the mountain. For some reason, I had somehow thought someone had carved an ENTIRE mountain.

This time I was able to be more impressed.

From Mount Rushmore we took Iron Mountain Road "backwards" towards Custer State Park. If you go the other way, several of the tunnels have been cut to perfectly frame Mount Rushmore. Having done it the right way with Karl, we didn't feel we needed to do it that way this time. Iron Mountain Road is famous for its pig-tail bridges and switchbacks. There are also one-lane tunnels cut out from rock. We stopped at one of the overlooks.

Mason on the rock

The road was really fairly beautiful, lots of tall pines and jutting rocks. We've been having amazing weather, too, the wind was actually chilly this morning. You can see that the "sky was not cloudy all day" as the song says.

After getting off 16A, we turned toward Custer State Park. There is an entry fee to the park of $20 per vehicle. We stopped at the Visitor's Center and heard the park ranger telling tourists that there was good bison viewing off Fisherman's Road. To get there we took off on Wildlife Loop. Shawn and Mason were pretty convinced we'd never see any animals because most of the view consisted of miles and miles of this:

desolate Custer State Park

We started making jokes about a government conspiracy to hide the wildlife, especially the elk (which we kept mispronouncing elf). However, we did turn off on Fisherman's Road, which was dirt and gravel. But, that was where a lot of the wildlife was (no elf,) but we did see a huge herd of bison (including babies) and more pronghorn.

And my favorite: PRAIRE DOGS.

praire dog

I love how this one is just sitting with its feet in the air.

prairie dog lying down on the prairie

Then we got a classic bison blocks the road moment:

bison in the road

And, then, the "tourist" burros. Apparently, the burros are not native to South Dakota, but they were left in the park by workers. They are super friendly, looking for hand outs, and will stick their heads in your car.


Unlike some people, we didn't get out of the car or feed the burros.

From here we drove up Needles Highway (aka Highway 87). I... could have used a few more guardrails on this drive. The roads were super-duper narrow and there were sections where there was just a tiny bit of asphalt between me and the cliffs.

needles highway

guard rails are a thing, South Dakota!

This scary-ass road culminates in this:
Needles Eye

The "eye" is so narrow that as our car went through, Mason could stick his hand out the wind and touch the wall of the tunnel. I have no idea how some of these big-ass trucks that kept passing us on the road got through that thing without scraping off their rearview mirrors (at the very LEAST.)  
I was really sort of surprised that the rangers that took our money did not measure the width of the car.  

Even though I white-knuckle drove this, I think it was probably my favorite part of the day.

We then stopped at a Subway in Hillcity for lunch.  Subway has become a weird go-to lunch place on the road. Shawn used to hate Subway, and now she's like, "OH LOOK, A SUBWAY!" I think because the food is always consistently decent and there are vegetables.

After this we turned towards home base.  We dropped Shawn off at the hotel, and then Mason and I took in a round of mini-golf at the pirate themed mini-golf course just down the street from our hotel. From there, we tried to go back to our creek, but it had been discovered by some frat boys (and one girl) who brought pizza to the rock, so we went across the road and found a new creek to wander around.

creek in black hills

And explore, we did:

Mason in river

I call this one "uh, Ima, what do leeches look like??!?"

From here, we turn towards the home fires. Probably taking I-90 through Wall Drug.
lydamorehouse: (ichigo hot)
 Originally, we'd planned to spend three days here in South Dakota, using Rapid City as our "home base." We decided today to cut it short. Our family is just plain tired of the road.  There's a ton to see here, but today proved that we're pretty close to saturated with "scenery."  Tomorrow will be our last full day here, then we will do the huge drive home.

This morning we let ourselves sleep in. With the time zone difference (we're in Mountain Time)  that really only meant until about 7:30 or so. Then, after fueling up on the hotel breakfast, we headed down 79 for Hot Springs and the Mammoth Site.  79 is not the most scenic, but Shawn snapped a picture.  You can't tell from this picture, but it really looked like it was going to rain on us.  A huge dark cloud loomed in the west.  

South Dakota hills

However, when we got to the Mammoth Site, we had a great time.  The site itself is interesting because it's a working paleontology dig.  When we were there, in fact, we saw people excavating.  At first, we thought it was going to be a bust because we had to buy a ticket for a tour that didn't start right away and they told us to "enjoy the gift shop." By the time the tour started, Mason was muttering about capitalism.  But, we had an amazing tour guide. He could not have been more than 12? Maybe 13?  He looked younger than Mason, but he did a phenomenal job. He was incredibly knowledgable.  

Plus, we got to see mammoth bones!

mammoth skull with tusks

I learned that there are actually mammoths other than woolly mammoths.  Apparently, the majority of those found at this site are of a kind known as Columbian mammoths.  Also, we aren't supposed to call these fossils because they have not turned to stone.  They're actually just dried bone.

There were also a ton of other animals that were discovered in this sinkhole, including another extinct mega-fauna, the short-faced bear.

short-faced bear skeleton

I have to admit that since Mason was very much focused on the Cambrian Period, I never learned that much about the age of mammals. I didn't know that llama used to roam here, as well as some kind of now extinct camel, something called a camelop. That's pretty cool stuff. 

We left the museum pretty enthused for the rest of our day.  I have to say, too, though we didn't get any pictures of it, Hot Springs seemed like a  neat town. I sort of regret not exploring it a bit more. There was a Pioneer Museum that we could have checked out, and a very cute downtown made mostly out of red sandstone.

Instead we drove up 385 toward Wind Cave National Park.  We didn't have any intention of actually going into Wind Cave.  What I wanted from the park was prairie dogs!  I love prairie dogs.  If I had a fursona, I think it would be a prairie dog. I mean, look at them. They fat, sort of cute, a bit territorial, social, and enthusiastic.

prairie dog town!

I literally could have spent the rest of the day watching the prairie dogs popping around, zipping from hole to hole, and chirping at things that annoy them.


As we were cruising through the park at low-speed and my family was getting really tired of me happily chirping, "Oh! More prairie dogs! Let's stop!!" we spotted a group of pronghorns on the side of the road.  Perhaps you already know this, but I was able to wow my family by telling the that the "antelope" of the song, "Home on the Range" with the line "where the deer and the antelope play" is actually referring to the pronghorn.

pronghorns, America's antelope

I really did not expect to see pronghorns in the wild on this trip.  Just as I did not expect bears.  We also saw what we figure was a marmot sitting on a fence post in Wyoming. 

From this park, we'd hoped to cross over into Pringle and head up towards Custer, but... we were caught in a time loop and could not escape the buffalo.  Seriously, we must have circled the interpretive center three times trying to find our way out.  However, we did see this lovely buffalo a lot:

buffalo in wind cave national park

Thanks to the compass that is built into our car and a very helpful park ranger in the interpretative center we managed to escape the gravity well of Wind Cave.

Custer, of course, is a tourist trap of a town.  We got out there, though, because we were all getting really kind of hangry and I needed to pee. Shawn was really, really, REALLY done with crowds, though, so finding a place to eat that wasn't wall-to-wall tourists was hard.  We managed to find a sit-down place that had decent food and we were all in a much better mood after chatting with our server, Joseph, who was from Tennessee originally and sort of found himself stuck in Custer, having been brought here as an army brat.

Besides getting food into our stomachs, the smartest thing we did was peel off 385 and head down Sheridan Lake Road toward Rapid City. Hardly anyone was on that road and it was GORGEOUS.

black hills with rocks and trees

Having seen pronghorn, however, we started to really hope for elk.  At one point, our entire family spontaneously attempted an elk call, which was sort of a terrifying bellowing groan in our estimation.  :-)

Sheridan Lake Road

As we were driving along here, we spotted a pullout and decided that what this burnt out family really needed was an hour in the woods just sitting and reading and exploring.  There was a small pat that led us to a stream that had a ton of small fish and crawdads.  

Mason dipping his toes in the stream

my big fat butt in the river

I managed to drop my phone in the water.  Ironically, I'd been very careful and taken it out of my pocket and set it in my shoes, but when I sat down to put my shoes back on... bam! It tumbled into the water.


However, I managed to turn it off right away and it's apart, drying right now. I have faith it will recover. Otherwise, Tracfones are cheap. This is why no one buys me a smartphone. :-)

Tomorrow, we're going to hop up early to see Mount Rushmore before the crowds and then do the wildlife circle in Custer State Park.  Then, finally, we shall head for the home fires!
lydamorehouse: (temporary incoherent rage)
 Shawn dragged us out of bed at 5:30 in the morning because she read that it's best to hit Yellowstone early in order to avoid the crowds.  Turns out there was another bonus, which was, morning is when the animals are the most active.  We've been staying at AmericInns the whole way and they have continental breakfast that isn't horrible. Cody, like Beulah, sports two coffee shops (possibly more, but two were easily seen from the main drag) and so I went out at 6 am to try to find a decent brew. I found someone who would make me a latte, but it was fairly awful. Tomorrow, I will try the Mudd Shack or whatever it was called.

It's about an hours drive between Cody and the east gate entrance to Yellowstone. We passed through mountain tunnels, which is always cool.  This is the reservoir made by the Buffalo Bill Dam.

on the way to yellowstone

The landscape up to Yellowstone was very similar to a lot of what we'd seen in Montana.  No trees and a lot of scrub leading up to rocky outcroppings.  Shawn and I both confessed that this was pretty much what we were afraid all of Yellowstone would look like (oh boy, were we WRONG.)  In fact, once we got to "cruising altitude," as it were, things looked a lot more like the landscape around Bearskin. Shawn said, looking out at all the pine trees lined up along the roadside, "This looks like home." (Grand Rapids, MN.)

Are we in Montana or Wyoming?

But this is Wyoming/Montana: scrubby.

We passed a lot of horse ranches, too.  I joked that where in North Dakota it was all, "I found a cow!" in Wyoming it's "I found a horse!"

Shawn had made a big deal about finding us a hotel room at all in Cody this time of year, and so any time we saw a "vacancy" sign on any of the dude ranch/hotels, we teased her saying, "Oh, sure, you couldn't find anything open! We could have stayed here and had pony rides!" Luckily, she's a good sport and used to us ribbing her.

Even before the official gate, we saw people pulled off to the side of the road.  This is what's known in the Yellowstone area as a "bear jam," aka the kind of traffic jam that happens whenever wildlife is spotted.

Here's what everyone was looking at:

buffalo in sage grass

I really love the contrast here between the brown/black of the buffalo and the silvery green of the sage brush.  This shot seems almost stereotypically Wyoming, don't you think? At first I worried that this big guy was sick being so far from a herd, but Shawn read that male buffalo are loners. Mason said he clearly saw that this fellow was male.

The flowers were really lovely.  There were pearly everlastings growing here too (which remind me of deep woods northern Minnesota):

pearly everlastings

One we were in Yellowstone proper, the road grade started getting significantly steeper.  I worried a lot about our new/used car, but it performed like a beauty.  Pretty soon there were snow caps in the distance.  We had to pull over to take a picture. (We tried selfies, but we kind of suck at them.)

Shawn and Mason with snow-capped mountains in the background.

We took a ton of pictures as we moved higher and higher into the mountains.  But here are a few of the more interesting shots we got:

Slyvin Lake

snow capped mountains at Yellowstone

top of the world

Then came the most amazing thing. We saw a traffic jam ahead and I jokingly said, "Hey, maybe there will be bears at this bear jam."  GUESS WHAT??!! THERE WERE BEARS.


A pretty good shot considering that Shawn (being non-suicidal) took this picture from inside the car, the window rolled down, with telephoto.  There were many more morons who were out of their cars, setting up tripods, and milling around.  It is possibly not obvious, but these two are GRIZZY BEAR CUBS.  The one in the foregrounds still has a bit of white baby fuzz.  There is a mama grizzly somewhere near and, unlike the stupids, we were long gone before she showed up.

We saw dumber people, though.

There was a whole contingent of stupid walking across a grassy plane towards a giant herd of buffalo.  Buffalo can run 30 mph.  People can not.  There were idiots with children doing that.


It does make me wonder how many people die from wildlife every year.  Especially since you can get great shots from inside your car. Like this:


And this:

buffalo herd

Then, we did what every tourist to Yellowstone must do. We went to visit "Old Faithful."  OMG. The visitor center near "Old Faithful" is a massive complex and it is ENTIRELY JAMMED WITH HUMAN BEINGS. I don't normally mind crowds, but I do not like being elbow-to-elbow with that many sweaty, impatient people.  Mason had the right idea. He put on his Moose Hat (which he picked up at the first gift shop) and read:

moose hat

But we didn't have to wait that long for the big eruption.  For all that, the actual geyser was nifty.  Mason and I managed to score some good seats right next to the walkway's edge.

old faithful erupting.

But our stop here was one of those times when no one knows what to do--should we try to eat here? Do we just grab cereal at the convenience store? Get in the car again and subsist on potato chips?--and we were all h-angry and hot.  Luckily, I had an epiphany in the bathroom and that was that when the guidebooks told us we needed to practice patience, they didn't mean on the road, they meant with each other.  So, we suffered through the long lines and got some real food. (Actually, I made my family find a seat and I waded through the food lines).  After that, we felt much better getting out of there and getting back in the car.  

We did decide, though, that if someone wanted a cheap version of Old Faithful, you could crush into the bathroom, let someone like me who has stinky farts let out a good gassy one, turn on the hot water faucet, and then everyone cheers. Because that's something that's never in any guidebooks: geysers STINK. They smell like sulfur, like rotten eggs. In fact, the whole "clean pine forest" smell up in Yellowstone has a whole undercurrent of "who farted?"

At any rate, after all that hassle, we decided, in fact, that we didn't need to see any more geysers. If there were a lot of people gathered to see a "site" that wasn't wildlife, we would just pass that site right on by, in fact.

I think we made a good choice. We did see these "painted pots" however:

painted pots

After that we mostly just pulled out in spots where there were hardly any people.  Thus, Mason got some time to contemplate nature on the Summer Solstice:

Mason and Yellowstone

The very last thing we did was look at the giant falls... that I've forgotten the name of.  Because you know what else I wasn't prepared for in Yellowstone? How BAD the signs are... and the maps.  I think a lot of tourists would be a lot less cranky if there were better signs directing people to places. But, we had to do a complete 180 at one point otherwise we would have missed these.  And, they were pretty darned spectacular, too:


That was Yellowstone.  From here, we turn east towards Mount Rushmore and home.... though it will still be a few more days on the road.

Right now, I'm off to avail myself of the hot tub. My shoulders are aching after all that white knuckle driving on the roads.  Going up had me worried about the engine, going down had me freaking out about the breaks.  I could use a massage, honestly.

Tomorrow? MORE DRIVING.  We go from here to Rapid City, hopefully going past Devil's Tower. 
lydamorehouse: (nic & coffee)
We got up bright and early this morning and headed west. Today was a day of heavy driving, not a lot of stopping, though we did manage a few. I made Shawn stop and take a picture of cows on our way out of Beulah, though. It was such a familiar sight that I had to have it immortalized.

cows on the hill (ND)

That's North Dakota to me, right there.

Ww stopped at a rest stop that overlooked Theodore Roosevelt National Park, aka the North Dakota Badlands. After we left that rest stop we lamented not taking a picture of the picture of the buffalo wandering around in front of the Interpretative Center. We did see a giant cow pie on the grounds, so we know that it was accurate that buffalo occasionally invaded the rest stop.

ND badlands

This picture doesn't really do the badlands justice. They're such weird places, actually.

As we entered Montana, we discovered that Shawn really does not like the landscape of Montana. "Alien," was what she categorized it as, and, "Dead." As the driver, I have to disagree. I found Montana fascinating. The colors are so different, everything is legitimately sage colored and the trees are replaced by scrub. It seems flat and uninteresting, but when you're driving, you become hyperaware that you're constantly going UP at a fairly steep incline.

But there's not a lot to look at, that's for sure. Here's typical landscape:

flat of Montana

You can see why they call it "Big Sky Country," though.

My family and I had a long discussion about "Big Sky" and what other mottos Montana could have used. Pretty much all of us were in agreement that really, if it were us, we'd advertise the fact that there are DINOSAURS bones everywhere. I'd have put "The Land of Dinosaurs!" on the license plates, but that's just me. When we were arguing about whether the landscape was interesting or ugly, I muttered, "Well, it's prettier than Indiana" and Mason thought that would make a good state motto, too: "Better than Indiana."

The thing about Montana is that for all the weird, scrubby flat stuff, occasionally stuff like this will randomly jut up out of the ground:

random rocks of Montana

This is Makoshika State Park. We stopped for the Interpretive Center which had some dinosaur bones in it. We wandered around a little bit, and I was kind of tempted to drive around in the rocks, but the woman in the center said there was only a couple of miles of paved road before it became unpaved switchbacks. So, yeah, no. Not with our car.

Mostly we didn't stop except to pee, but all the the rest stops there was this helpful sign:

sign for rattlesnakes

The only place we spent any really amount of time was at Pompey's Pillar. This is where Clark left some graffiti on a rock. There was a really nice set of stairs we climbed to see it and there was an elder tour bus there, so we didn't have to feel badly when we had to stop a lot to take rests. Pretty much at every perch were some nice older folks who admired Mason's hair and asked us where were from.  

Clark's graffiti

Here's a shot from above:

pompey's pillar

Then there was more driving... we saw mountains in the distance, but happy stayed between the pass all the way to Cody.

Tomorrow, Yellowstone!
lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
 ....I finished Closed and Common Orbit last night!  

Yesterday was a busy day.  I got up early and took our car to Dave's to make sure it is road worthy for our big trip West (starts tomorrow!)  I always feel so "urban" whenever i take the bus/train combo to get there and back again.  The car was done around 10 am, and by the time I got up Mason was sniffing around for lunch ideas. One of the other trip tasks was vacuuming the car, so I talked him into helping me with a promise of Subway.  While we were sitting at Subway, Mason looked up from the manga we were reading (we're both reading Haikyu!!) and said, "Do you want to go on an adventure?"

Adventure in our family can mean anything from a hike in the woods to a road trip to Crystal Cave.  We opted to head over to Minnehaha Falls and take a walk along the paths by the creek.  The falls were AMAZiNG. Of course, because this was spontaneous, I didn't have my camera. (For those of you who don't know me well, no, this does not mean I left my phone at home. It means I don't have a smart phone. My flip phone technically has a camera, but yeah, no.)  The falls were super huge thanks to all the rain we've been getting. The creek had even washed away a lot of the usual paths. Everything was walkable yesterday, but we could clearly see water lines where the water had crested the trail in places. The whole creek was very fast, too. It's very rocky and rushes like a rapids.  We stopped in that first little wide spot where a lot of people go swimming and Mason and I watched one kid on an inner tube have the time of his life letting the current whip him downstream. He'd hop out, splash back up, and do it again.  I took off my socks and shoes to dangle my toes. The water is still very cold. It felt good on an 80 F / 26.7 C day.  

We hiked all the way to the river, reliving a lot of memories of the bog walk, the cliff section, etc., along the way. Near the river we found a good spot to sit and Mason read while I watched the mighty Mississippi flow.  We were visited by at least one Great Blue Heron, who flew overhead, and several coots (which I first thought were loons, but they had no spots).  I waded in the water and watched the super-tiny baby fish as they inspected my toes.  There were a lot of them, but they were needle-small, and none of them were brave enough yet to take a little taste of me, like the bigger ones will do.   

I always think it's fun to take the flatter route back, but it never is, though a chipmunk dashed across our path at one point.  Then, we stopped at Se Salt for ice-cream in the park and OMG I wanted fish fry (all the plates passing us looked SO, SO tasty.)  Mason got "salted caramel," which I had a couple of bites of.

A nice day.  As Mason said with a big grin on his face on the drive home, "THIS is summer vacation."

Indeed it is. 
lydamorehouse: (Default)
I see that I haven't updated since before Christmas. Yikes! Shame on me.

Let's see... perhaps I will try to work backwards to recount all the goings-on at chez Morehouse-Rounds. The New Year was quite lovely. We broke with a long-standing tradition of an early night and snoring before the ball dropped and actually decided to be down right social on New Year's Eve. Our friends, [ profile] seanmmurphy and his wife, invited us out for a candle lit walk at Snelling State Park. Unfortunately, we were having a no-good-rotten day from almost the start. Shawn woke up with a killer migraine and Mason woke up... a teenager. (He was amazingly whiny, sullen, and angry about nothing and everything all at once.) Even though Shawn was feeling better by evening, I wasn't sure I wanted to inflict Mason's mood on the Murphy-Carlson's so, I volunteered to hike in the woods sans the rest of my family.

It was actually very lovely. If my family was more energetic and athletic, I would try to make it a family tradition of our own. There was no snow, of course (the storm blew in just as we were headed back to the car), but the park volunteers had lit the trail with lovely ice and plastic bucket candles. We walked and talked about mainstream fiction vs. science fiction and people we knew and our genetic/ethnic backgrounds and all sorts of things that one rambles on about with good friends. We had such a lovely time that Sean's wife offered to bring the wine and cheese over to Shawn and Mason, rather than having me have to fetch them over to the Murphys'.

When I called Shawn, the overall mood in the household had improved dramatically, so it was a go. We had munchies (added to by the things in our fridge, and I am please to report we could even offer a few fancy cheeses ourselves,) and sparkling juice for the majority of us, and bit of wine for those that wanted. We talked until nearly midnight, when the Murphys decided to head home and we rushed upstairs to watch Dick Clark and the ball.

The day had turned around quite nicely. I should say too, that in an effort to try to have a happier day, we had gone book shopping earlier. Uncle Hugos needed more copies of the AngeLINK books and so I brought what I had, and we made a nice trade. Mason got a ton of those punny MYTH books by Robert Lynn Asprin (I LOVED those when I was a tween,) and I even walked out with a book or two for myself. Then, since it was the one day when the shops were still open for a while, we zipped back to St. Paul with the plan of hitting Kowalski's for last minute food supplies before the holiday wasteland. We drove past our other favorite bookstore: Sixth Chamber, and we decided to drop Shawn and Mason off for a look-through and I went and fetched the milk and eggs and other sundries. When I came back to retreive them, they were just ready to walk out. I asked Shawn if she'd remembered to try out the secret password. On Facebook, Sixth Chamber had a deal that the first five people to walk in and say "hedgehog" would get a gift certificate. Shawn said she hadn't, so I marched up to the counter and said, "hedgehog!"

I won.

I was the very last person to offer the secret password. I got a t-shirt, a Japanese eraser (kitty!), and a 20% off coupon.

Then I came home and discovered a royalty check in the mail from Penguin for Tall, Dark & Dead (the book that continues to sell, sell, sell!)

So, I'd say that New Year's Eve was pretty auspicious. Money and fabulous prizes galore!

Speaking of TD&D, one of the things I did over the holiday was read the page proofs for the mass-market paperback edition. They sent it as a .pdf, and so I mailed it to Shawn's fancy new Kindle Fire, and spent a day reading my book on the Kindle. I found several typos, much to my surprise. But, the good news is that they'll be corrected in the paperback version. The other thing that was kind of awesome about that is that I discovered that one of my best selling books is also one of my quirkiest.

I don't know if you noticed, but Garnet is kind of a slut. There is a LOT of sex in that book, and sexiness. Sebastian is also surprisingly dark, and Parrish is... a total hustler, like literally, in that book. It's kind of amazing... and Garnet's friends are odd, a lot like my real friends, and the interactions in that books are very *me*.

Thus, one of the things that re-reading that has done for me is made me a bit more confident about my quirkiness as a writer. You see, in most cases, I have no idea if my personal brand of weirdness was a plus or a minus to sales. The AngeLINK books, which are very *me*, are all out of print.

This "failure" has caused me to believe that maybe I had no idea how to write to a popular market. But, TD&D is going to mass-market. It's the only book I've had that's changing format like that. As a trade-size book, it's well into its sixth or seventh printing. I've easily made as much money in royalties from that book as they paid me in an advance, probably twice as much... if not more.

My point is, I can now say, with confidence, that my quirkiness is _not_ a detriment to sales. IN FACT, a person could make a pretty strong case that... maybe, just MAYBE I know what I'm doing.

Well, we probably shouldn't go THAT far. But, at least, it seems to be true that a book that has a lot of my extra special weirdness smeared all over it isn't automatically headed for the remainder pile.

This was kind of an epiphany... during the Epiphany and everything.

Meanwhile, yesterday was our traditional day to take down all the Christmas decorations. You might not expect this of a couple of pagans, but we kind of go all out for Solstice/Yule/Christmas. There is tinsle! Bells! And all the other things that the Grinch absolutely detests. So, that was kind of the main event for the day. We hauled the tree out for recycling, put everything away into boxes... and, because it was the last REAL day of vacation, all this was interspersed with lightsaber battles.

Mason, I should warn you, is a dark sider. Which forces me, the Slytherin, to play the good Jedi. Mason, too, likes to make up the various Darths that he portrays. Yesterday, each Darth had the added power of the elements, a sort of Elemental Force power, so there was Darth Terrus (Earth) and Darth Inferno (Fire) among others. Probably the toughest guy was the one with water power because a touch of his lightsaber froze me with ice. In the Masonverse, too, the good guys do NOT automatically triumph, either. So, I died a lot.

Let's hope that old idea that how you spend New Year's Day is how you spend the rest of the year isn't true, or I'm going to be run through with a lot of lightsabers.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
I picked up Mason early yesterday and we headed over to HPB in Highland. He really wanted to see what they had for GOOSEBUMPS and STAR WARS. We picked up a Kevin J. Anderson (Heir to the Empire series?) and the two Horrorland Goosebumps they had. Then I asked Mason where he wanted to go, and he suggested Bass Lake. But he burst into tears when he realized he'd left his stuffed bunny, Sirralbuoyadoh (named after a girl in his class) behind. After a little back and forth, I agreed to turn around for her. (He needed to change out of school clothes for a woods romp, anyway.)

Mason has NEVER been much for stuffed animals. People have given him tons over the years, but he's never seemed to understand what to _do_ with them. He tends to prefer toys he can build things with or otherwise manipulate towards some _purpose_. Ms. Sirr is the one exception. She is a very realistic rabbit hand puppet (though Mason asked us to sew up the part you put your hand into, and asked if she could have anethesia for the "surgery.") He actually talks to her and plays with her, which is kind of a relief to me.... because I remember doing things like that with my various stuffed animals as a kid and Mason never seemed, like I said, to get it.

Anyway, turns out it was important to get Ms. Sirr because she had been "asking" Mason to take her back to her roots, aka the forest. He'd read on her tag that she was a Dutch rabbit, and kept asking me if I thought these woods were enough like those for her to feel at home. Mostly, though, once we got to Bass Lake he got more into tromping about and getting full of burrs. We tucked Ms. Sirr into his hoodie and she rode along, kind of like a baby in a Bjorn. I got some really cute pictures of the two of them.

Last night, I actually took a short break from writing (what? I deserved it! I wrote 3,000 words, which, for me, is HUGE for one day's work) to watch "Wolverine" with Shawn on DVD. I enjoyed the movie in the theater, but I forgot who the true Wolverine fan was in the house. Shawn collected all the Wolverine issues when he spawned off his own title in the early 90s.

All through the movie, she kept shaking her head. We both lamented the lack of even a MENTION of his time in Alpha Flight and the lack of Domino in Weapon X. But while she really enjoyed the opening, Shawn just couldn't brook with all the liberties taken with the timeline (and who knew whom and when). We both agreed, however, that it was surprisingly pleasant to discover that Liev Schiber inhabited the role of Sabertooth in the same way that Hugh Jackman is Wolverine.

And she did appreciate a lot of the visuals (ehm, who wouldn't like more naked Hugh Jackman??) but also how satisfying it was to see him come out of the adamantium tank-thingie with THE CLAWS. There were a lot of "ah, the jacket" and "OMG! The belt buckle!"

She did point out that the setting is actually kind of confusing. Is it supposed to be the 70s throughout the movie? Wolverine is in the Canadian rockies some few years after Vietnam and sometimes the fashion seemed very late 70s, but then there were Hummers and all sorts of other anachronisms.

Ah well.

Anyway, speaking of writing, I'm behind so I must go write, write, write.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Our dinosaur hunt was quite successful. Mason and I bagged several of the elusive and mighty bryozoans (they're about the size and shape of Cheerios.) Actually, we found one that looks like a watch gear, and it's completely free standing, as it were. No surrounding rock. It's nifty.

For the uninitated, the park was somewhat hard to figure out. I had a map courtesy of the Park Permit folks, and the same one was posted in a larger scale complete with helpful images and information all along the trail, but I spent a lot of time wondering: "Is this it?" There were several points where actual places were labeled with large wooden posts, ala, "The West Clay Pit" or some such, but if the Park folks were going to go to the trouble of put up a sign for that, you'd think a helpful "fossil area" would be useful too. Still, it kind of added a treasure hunt aspect to the whole experience.

There were a surprising number of people just wandering about, some were there with tools, like us, but others just seemed to be walking their dogs or otherwise enjoying the trails. The trails themselves were cool, honestly. Some were clearly "official" and others... well, Mason and I wandered around in the wetalnds area probably following deertrails (I sank in some serious muck at one point), but we had a great time pretending to be on a mission to rescue Princess Leia from the remnants of the Empire. Because this park is on the Mississippi bluff area, it was very reminiscent for me of the Hixon Forest trails in LaCrosse. Steep! Several times I slid down areas on my butt (watchful for my wallet slipping out.)

We had a great time. Like any good fossil hunters, we got sun baked and dusty. A success for most six year old boys, I should think. I think it helped that Mason knew the sort of things we'd find yesterday. Despite all my big talk about hunting dinos, he did *not* have his heart set on finding T-Rex. Like I said, he knows more about the Ordovician period than I do, so he was quite content to dig a few holes and admire the clam shells and petrified "seaweed" that we found. (In fact, unlike most kids I know. Mason seems much more interested in PRE-dinosaurs anyway. I think it goes to his general fascination with sea life. The marine biologist in him likes the Cambrian period when, as he puts it, "all life on Earth existed in the the ocean.") Mason was in a great mood for it yesterday too. He kept reminding *me* that it would be okay if we didn't find any fossils. The adventure hike was good enough. Note: Mason isn't usually the patient one in the family.

The rest of the day was spent back to school shopping. Mason has outgrown his school pants and shoes, so we had to make a stop at Kohl's. We also had a successful hunting outing there. We bagged us several tan pants and a few black. He also got some shoes (on sale!), so I think we're ready. We have the open house at Crossroads tomorrow. I'm looking forward to meeting Mason's first grade teacher and seeing the classroom. Mason informed me this morning that there would be no more "cubbies" for his things. First graders, apparently, have LOCKERS. (This was spoken of in a near mystical tone.)

Well, I'm hoping for a writing date with Eleanor today. I need to get ready for that.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Just a quick note before we head off... I got up this morning at quarter to seven and headed off to the Park Permit Office on Hamline Avenue North and picked up my official license to hunt dinosaurs! Okay, really, it's just a permit that allows Mason and I to pick up and dig for fossils at Lilydale Regional Park, but I've be referring to it as my dinosaur hunting permit. :-)

Mason is excited because we might find things that were alive in the Ordovician Period... and, like, he could instantly name three or four creatures alive then. (I couldn't if my life depended on it. Briachopods? Triobites? Sponges?) Anyway, even though our license doesn't allow us to start digging until 11:00 am (foolishly I thought we'd want to hang out or something before going), Mason is anxious to get there and get started. The map to the park is kind of confusing, and we need to get our list of tools together:

bottled water,
plastic bags,
tissue paper (for the fragile peices),
magnfying glasses,
and adventure log notebook.

Pretty exciting, no? Apparently, also at this park they have a bat cave. Not like in the comicbooks, but just as cool, I think.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
So yesterday was supposed to be my "idea" day, but I got sidetracked by the excitement that is Hidden Falls. I don't quite know why kids love Hidden Falls so much, but they do. It's actually not terribly remarkable to the grown up eye, IMHO. For one, it's man-made. A lot of concrete and gravel... but they did a nice thing making a series of "falls" that are kid friendly for climbing over and building dams over, etc. It really is just a street sewer run-off grate that tumbles down a bit of a sandstone that then leads to this elaborate man-made falls system. But... both Mason and his friend Dalton spent two HOURS just clamboring and spalshing and generally doing boy stuff in the woods.

At one point, the boys were tossing rocks into a big pool, and Dalton said, "This is great! I've never done this before!"

At first I thought, "Are you kidding?" Then it occurred to me that, you know, this is what that book LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS is talking about. It used to be, in the days of much more undeveloped property, that it wasn't far for a boy or girl to roam before they found some hidden creek or whatever where they could just do unstructured play. Those days you could just roam, too. No parent had to accompany you everywhere. Now, you have to have a play date, and then usually it's off to some clean, "safe" park with rules about what you can and can't do. Why would someone in this day and age have had an opportunity to just throw rocks into the water? (Rock throwing is usually a no-no. It's specifically not allowed on our beach, Lake Josephine, for instance.)

I'm glad Mason and I were able to share that moment of discovery with Dalton. And I'm super glad his mom packed Gatorade. I'd meant to bring along water, but I totally spaced because Mason and I ended up playing laptop pinball right up to the moment we were meant to pick Dalton up. (I'd thought I might stop at the store to get bottled water at least, but time had run out.)

Anyway, it was a great day. I also had a wonderful time at Wyrdsmiths last night. We all got quite carried away, as we often do, brainstorming improvements for [ profile] naomikritzer's already pretty awesome story. There were arguements about pterasaurs and Thunderbirds and a whole boatload of awesome. It didn't inspire me specifically, just generally. I was reminded why I love those guys and why I keep going to Wyrdsmiths.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
It's been a busy week, which explains my absence from the Interwebs you kids hang out on. It's also been kind of strange, but I'll explain.

First of all, may I have a moment of silence while I speak the benediction? "Gucci, Gucci, Garnet. You were a good series."

Yes, Garnet Lacey is no more. The book I finished this year, HONEYMOON OF THE DEAD, will be coming out in May of '10 as scheduled. However, my editor turned down the proposals my agent and I sent for books 6, 7 and 8. As far as I know, all the previous books are still in print. I haven't heard that they're going to be remaindered right away or anything.

Yesterday was my day of mourning. I wailed and gnashed teeth. But it was a rather less dramatic affair than you might imagine because I *am* still contracted for three books in the new young adult series. And, as I told Shawn, we're not really _out_ anything, since, most years, I only write one book a year anyway. More to the point, Penguin was actually quite gracious. They told my agent that they're interested in possibly seeing a new series by my psuedonym. So it's not like they said, "And don't let the door hit you on the way out." In fact, quite the opposite. It's hard to be too depressed when this really does feel like an opportunity to propose something fun and fresh. My editor would like to see contemporary urban fantasy, but that's a mighty wide pool. I'm kind of excited to start pondering ideas. I think I've mentioned this before, but I actually really, really LOVE writing proposals. Most people dread the synopsis, but I rather embrace it. It's a funny thing.

And today Mason and I off to Hidden Falls with a friend from Crossroads. He and I have been neglecting our big explores, so I'm glad we have the excuse of company to get off our quickly expanding back sides. It's funny how easy it is to get wrapped up in doing stuff around the house even when the temperatures are so gorgeous. It doesn't help that a new Netflix "Loony Tunes" volume arrived, and Mason has been watching it on a steady loop since the little red envelope appeared yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday, I was also mourning the loss of Senator Ted Kennedy. Foolishly, I made an off-hand comment about Senator Kennedy and health care reform in my status bar on Facebook yesterday that exploded in a huge (for me) aguement among all my liberal friends and my one crazy Republican friend that I only friended because he was the game master of the AD&D game where I first met Shawn. Without him, there would be no Shawn and Lyda. Too bad he's on the wrong side about the public option in the health care reform debate.

I gave up on the book by Mike Resnick that I took out of the library. It was the third in the series and it didn't quite grab me, alas. I've learned that, with my mild dyslexia, if a book doesn't drag me into it instantly I usually can't sustain the energy it takes for me to finish a book. Unless I'm on vacation or other mitigating factors (like it's the last "new" book in the house, etc.) I like the idea of the series, though, and might see if the library has the first one. I remember enjoying other things that Resnick has written, and I'm still craving more, more, more in the reading department.

Tonight we pick up our next CSA box and it looks like another good one. There will be more corn and... (drum roll, please)... WATERMELON. I'm really excited. Plus, Shawn and I bought into a sunflower oil share and another bottle may be waiting for us! Yippee!

It's also Wyrdsmiths tonight and I can't wait! For various reasons (mostly trips up to the cabin), I've missed a couple of months worth of meetings. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again and get back to the habit of critique and production.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
As you know, Bob, the main entrance to the Minnehaha creek hiking paths is closed for construction. I believe the Parks & Rec folks are taking advantage of the drought to do some support work on the crumbling falls. Apparently, they’ve also widened the paths, because some of the sections I always sort of held my breath as Mason clambered across on the “cliff section,” as I like to call it, are now quite a bit leveled and widened. It looks a lot less natural, alas, but the part of me that’s a concerned parent likes it well enough.

On Wednesday, Mason and I packed our adventure bag (binoculars, magnifying glass, camera, notebook, pencil, sun screen, bug spray, field guides to “critters” and trees, and a brown bag lunch) and headed to the park. We got there at around 10:30 am, and found the new entrance to the park, which is just beyond the usual and brings you down on the other side of the first stone bridge. The park folks have really improved that first wide rapids spot. They added a relatively natural looking amphitheatre type structure out of field stone for adventurers to sit on, and removed the rather dangerous rebar and cable that used to stick up around at the shore. I think, perhaps, they realized that people are going to use that area as a swimming hole, so they might as well make it a bit safer and easy to access. A ton of kids were in the water when we arrived, all screaming and shouting about “crawdads,” which, alas, we never saw. We did wade around a bit, though the creek has dried significantly and is really little more than a trickle -- where there used to be roaring rapids.

Mason and I made the hike all the way to the Mississippi beach. Here, we had lunch (peanut butter sandwich for me, ham and mayo for Mason, chips for both, and plenty of icy, cold water.) Mason wanted to throw his crusts out for the sea gulls, but I asked him to wait until we saw the birds again because that beach is already so trashy I didn’t want to litter, even something as biodegradable as that. I’m glad I did.

Not too much later, a family of ducks came ashore – a mother and her half dozen or so yearlings. A mean kid threw a stone at them and nearly hit them, but they were quite determined to come to land at that spot, so they circled around and waited for him to leave. When the mean kid left, they waddled to shore, hardly caring that three fishers were casting lines right there. They seemed quite used to people in general (if not mean ones in particular). One of the fishermen started handing out his lunch, and I thought, “Hey, I have those crusts!” I tried to coax Mason over to help, but he was intent on a sand castle, so I fed the ducks. They were tame enough to take bread right from my hands.

Further along on the beach, Mason discovered a large dead fish. As he later told Mama, he thought it had been there long enough that flies had “colonized” it. I don’t, however, think he saw actual maggots or fly eggs yet, but he did investigate with a magnifying glass, and I stayed far away, so who knows? It had certainly been there a long time.

Mason in the woods is an awesome thing to behold. As intent as he gets reading, so he is when he’s exploring. Usually, the hike is a lot of sprinting ahead and circling back saying “C’mon” and other helpful things (ala “Tigger” in “A House at Pooh Corner,”) but when he’s laying on the beach staring at the sand or sitting in a field of plantains, he’s in the zone. You can hardly move him. I’ve learned to just find a comfy spot and wait. Sometimes I sit for a half hour or more while he talks quietly to himself and does whatever it is he’s doing.

Processing, maybe. Having a mental downtime. Communing with nature. I don’t know, but it seems to do him a lot of good.

While he did his thing, I saw a hawk, two loons, and a chipmunk. Plus, I got a little mental rest too. It was nice. After the hike, we stopped at See Salt and I bought Mason a “Squid Ink” ice cream cone (really black cherry, though it was defiantly an ugly gray color.) I had a little taste. Despite its off color, it was quite yummy. Still very clever, as I think they make their own ice cream there and the color was probably a goof. Calling the ugly color squid ink, I suspect, sold tons of scoops to kids just like mine.

On Thursday, we thought to head to the zoo but got derailed. Mason really wanted to read more back cover copy of the “Goosebumps” series, so we started on another book hunt adventure. This time we started at Midway Books in our own neighborhood, then off to the HPB in Saint Louis Park, where we hit the jackpot. Mason even managed to spend his coupon on a new “[Blank] from the Black Lagoon” book that he spotted after spending a half hour pretending not to enjoy the “Goosebumps” books.

I, of course, managed to pick up a new JMS “Spider-Man.” This one is #5 of the graphic novel collections, “Unintended Consequences” (#51 – 56), of which I already read and reported on #51/492 “Digger” and #52/493 “Dig This” single issues.

Finally, we ended the great book hunt at Red Balloon here in Saint Paul, but the “Goosebumps” pickings were slim. Mason did get “Bad Kitty” a book he fell in love with years ago and has been trying to find since, and a couple more of the Black Lagoon series by Mike Thayer (illustrated by Jared Lee.) All and all a successful book hunt. We conquered many a book!

Today, it is raining (hopefully all day). I wonder what we'll do?

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