Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Day in Nebraska City

Nebraska City is about a 45 minute drive from where my friends live in Nebraska. We decided to drive over and check out a couple of museums.

Nebraska City is one of the oldest cities in Nebraska, beginning its life with boat traffic along the Missouri River. A bit of internet research reveals too that Nebraska City was a favorite location for covered wagon caravans to cross the Missouri since the shoreline was an easy one for both the horses and the wagons. Today Nebraska City has a population of about 8,000 persons. Its most famous attachment today is as the place where Arbor Day started and is still highly featured everywhere about town.

We arrived about the time for an early lunch, so went first to the Lied Center Conference facility there.
One walks into a huge lobby area. Note the construction featuring large logs.

Above is a better view of the banner that hangs over the fireplace. It advocates the planting of tree using many languages.

We enjoyed a lovely lunch, noticing the table decorations all featured products from trees such as pine cones, acorns and other nuts, or plant life such beans and popcorn. The lamp shades in this room all had leaves imprinted on them.

About the main lobby were small displays relating to trees. The one above, for example, explains how the Granny Smith apple came to the United States from Australia in the 1970s.

Outdoors here as well as elsewhere in the city we found tree sculptures.

Above is one of these sculptures, with photos taken from two different perspectives. This particular sculpture is called The Nourishing Tree and is the work of Michele Angle-Farrar.

From our luncheon location we drove to the Kregel Windmill Museum. According to the guide we engaged here this is the only intact windmill shop in the United States. It is housed in the second building used by this company, the original having been located across the street when the company started in 1879. The present building opened in 1903 and was used until 1991 when the company ceased active operations.

The windmills produced here were called ELI and we learned that Kregel named this model after a friend. Windmills were needed in this area of Nebraska because it is a somewhat arid climate. If a farm or ranch was to have water, it was necessary to have a well and wind power was used to pump water from the well. The guide explained that most of the windmills produced here were used within a 30 mile radius of the shop; an interesting outlier to this rule was a windmill shipped in parts by parcel post to an address in Wyoming.

Below are two views of windmill construction equipment. While the present building appears to be crowded with equipment, our guide explained that during the time windmill construction was underway there was even more equipment about.The factory museum is set up to show how the factory looked in 1939.

 I remembered pumps like this below from time I was growing up on a farm in Iowa.

I found these jars and didn't quite know what it was.

Perhaps it can be seen that each carries a label. The guide explained to me that the typical well was a sand point well. Each jar shows the type of sand associated with each well. Having this sample would tell the windmill staff what tools might be needed if they needed to repair the well.

 Above is how the office may have looked in 1939, complete with a note on the desk advising the manager not to forget his dental appointment that day.

I didn't know what I was getting into when we stopped here, but I surely enjoyed this tour.

From here we drove about three miles to the Missouri Basin Lewis and Clark Interpretative Museum.  This museum particularly centers on natural history associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Inside we first saw a pirougue.

 At the front of this boat -- obviously a replica -- is a dog. His name was Seaman; he was a Newfoundland dog and completed the entire journey -- 8000 miles -- with the Lewis and Clark party. His job in particular was to bark and alert the men of a threat such as grizzly bears.

I ducked into the nearby gift shop. All the books related somehow to the Lewis and Clark expedition, but the below made me laugh.

 We learned that during the entire two-year trip the expedition members were plagued by mosquitoes. Perhaps they thought the mosquito loomed as large as the model below. 

On the lower level I learned that the expedition used 25 boats! Below are models of two of the boats.

These models are the work of Butch Bovier from L& C Replicas located in Onawa, Iowa.

The top level of the museum features a diorama of showing the prairie through which the expedition traveled.

Nearby was an exhibit about the interaction of the expedition members with the grizzly bears. This exhibit featured something quite unique.
It is a necklace made from grizzly bears claws. The story shown with the display is that necklace was given by an Indian to the expedition members. Upon their return they gave it to President Jefferson who gave it to the museum in Philadelphia. From there it went missing for more than 100 years. No mention of where it was found, but it did find its way to this museum.

Another exhibit explained how the expedition became dependent on fish as a food source as they continued west. This exhibit shows notes from the expedition members' journals as they attempted to explain how all these species of fish -- new to them -- were the same and different from fish they had known elsewhere.

One room on this level of the museum is devoted to stamps associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition. Below is a first day cancellation. Note the date on this cancellation is 1994. 

Below is a stamp from 1904. This was issued during the 100th anniversary of the expedition.

I can't imagine in 1904 what a 10 cent was used for; my first memory of postage about 50 years later is that one could send a letter for 3 cents and post card cost 1 cent!

We learned that Lewis and Clark re-enactments take place at this museum once a month during the summer months. If you are interested in Lewis and Clark,  you will want to put this museum on your list of things to do.

This was a very pleasant day in Nebraska City.

Friday, January 30, 2015

From St. Paul to Lincoln

Perhaps in the area of mundane, but this posting is about driving from St. Paul to Lincoln, NE. It is fairly amazing to have January days that have temperatures in the high 30s (remember that is Fahrenheit not Celsius) and there really isn't snow.

I decided I would try to take a picture about every 100 miles to show how the world was changing.

Below is the picture from mile 0, a picture out my living room window.

This photo was taken a few minutes before 8 AM, and in many ways the photo looks brighter than how it seemed when I was looking out the window at that moment.

At the 100 mile mark I had just crossed the border from Minnesota into Iowa and there is Diamond J casino.

Now Iowa has a riverboat casino law and there isn't a river near this place. I'm not sure why this is a legal casino and if anyone can add a comment about this to explain, please do.

Mile 200 found me at a rest stop just north of Ames, IA. The Iowa rest stops have historical exhibits. This particular one is all about transportation.

 Below are close ups of the pillars in front of the building. These are scattered out too by picnic tables at this site.

There are tile borders about the building that display early trucks and cars.

Inside I found a wooden bridge pictured on a wall; this is made of tiles.

About 30 minutes later I turned west off of I-35 and stopped for lunch at a nearby restaurant. I asked Google maps what to do next and that service took me on a route by Camp Dodge in Des Moines and then moving on state highway 44 west across Iowa.

Near the 300 mark I stopped to take a picture of a barn that struck my interest. However, later I discovered no such picture on my camera. I'm still learning with my new camera and from this experience learned to push the shutter just a bit harder!

Finally I crossed the Missouri River and had only about 40 miles to go.

Arrived at my friends' home about 3:45 in the afternoon. Sorry the pictures failed me at the end. I think I will try the thing when I drive back home in a few days.

Hope you enjoyed some views of a drive in the Midwest.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Another Hot Thing in Saint Paul

In the posting below I wrote about the Winter Carnival and other things happening in Saint Paul -- things that happen even in what most people in other places find to be cold, cold weather by their standards. When I was in graduate school -- at a time my children and grandchildren call the dark ages -- I had a friend who had lived his whole life in Los Angeles before coming to Minnesota for grad school. One night at dinner he looked at the rest of us in all seriousness and said, "Surely you don't go outdoors when the temperature goes below 32 (0 degrees C)!" Boy! did we laugh! And he found we did go outdoors in the winter.

I have noticed solar panels on the Xcel Center and River Center for sometime, but only today did I learn that the River Center solar panels represent the largest hot water solar heating system in North America.

Altogether there are 144 panels. They provide the energy for the hot water needed for cooking in the restaurants in River Center, as well as hot water for the restrooms and hot water as needed for cleaning. Any left over hot water is routed to the nearby District Heating System.

The District Heating System has pipes that connect through most downtown Saint Paul buildings, saving each of them from having to have individual system. In the winter hot water flows through the system and in the summer cold water flows through the system. The energy for this system comes from solar, wood, and biomass. 

So there -- another hot thing in Saint Paul. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Winter Carnival Adventures

When we are at the language camps in Poland we always do some sort of presentation for the students. Usually people speak about their home towns. (I have, however, tried to find different subjects because how many times can I speak about Minnesota and not bore them to death!?!) One volunteer this year came from Milwaukee and he spoke about how nice the city is along Lake Michigan in the summer, but said over and over again that due to the cold there is nothing to do in the winter. I told him he needed to move to Minnesota because there is plenty to do in the winter in Minnesota, and St. Paul in particular.

Now the Winter Carnival is in progress. This is the 129th Winter Carnival, so this is far from a new idea. The story behind this is that a New York City paper, in the late 19th century, wrote that St. Paul was the Siberia of North America. So to refute this notion the city fathers of St. Paul decided to put on a great party in the winter, and the Winter Carnival was born.

Today was the day for the King Boreas Parade. As the Winter Carnival legend goes King Boreas is in charge of winter.

Following is a picture of the Winter Carnival Queen and the princesses. It is not a good picture -- all of us standing on the curb were being pushed and shoved by people who insisted on crossing the street between parade units. I really couldn't figure out what was in their minds -- why did they come there if they didn't want to stand still and watch the parade, and many were on the cell phones trying to figure out what had happened to others of their group. Enough of my tirade about these impolite people -- back to the parade.

The 2015 Winter Carnival Queen is on the top left of the float. To my knowledge this is the first African-American woman selected to be Queen.

King Boreas is attended the Princes of the North, West, East, and South. Here is the float (and for people in other countries float may be a funny word -- it is the name used in American English for something such as the structure used by the Winter Carnival royalty shown in these pictures) for the South.

The unicycle group entertained the parade watchers.

Notice there is no snow to be seen. It is not as if the city removed it -- no it is has been warm enough that it simply melted away. We really deserve this after the terrible winter we had last year. Today was easily 50 degrees warmer than this same day last year -- + 30 something is much better than -20 something!!!

Above is a view of a few of the Hilex gnomes. The city used to have plant where Hilex was made. The gnomes have been in the parade probably since the 1930s.

Another traditional part of this parade is the Bouncing Girls.

The guy above got in trouble with both parade watchers and nearby police officer for thinking he was so important that he had to interrupt everything to take a selfie with the History Hound from the Minnesota Historical Society.

Everyone was delighted with the group representing the Siberian Husky Rescue group.

About the last unit in the parade was the float for the Lions group. This a fraternal organization which centers its work on vision services. Early in my career when I was a public health nurse in a rural county in southern Iowa it was this group that helped me when I found a child who needed glasses, but who came from a family who could not afford them.

The parade ends with the Vulcans, but I didn't get a picture -- the street crossers were particularly annoying at this time. In about a week the Vulcans will overtake King Boreas and then spring will come.

When the parade was over I walked over the Central Library and sat down on a bench. I had been on my feet for nearly 2 hours and sitting down felt very good. I went through my pictures, hitting the delete button for those that didn't need to be kept. I wanted the crowd also to disperse a bit from the nearby Rice Park so I could try for some pictures of the ice sculptures. I was concerned that if I didn't do that today, by tomorrow they would be gone.

And I was right. -- When I got there I found some of the ice sculptures melting and crashing to the ground.

I did get these two pictures.

Near here I heard someone say, "I can smell the beer garden."

The ice bar in Rice Park was doing good business.

I started walking towards home and found another outdoor bar at the Great River Brewing Company.

Just about home I walked by the Fitzgerald Theater and saw the crowd lined up for the 5:00 performance of the Prairie Home Companion.
 And if this is not enough the Red Bull Crashed Ice event is also this weekend. I was not anywhere to take any pictures of this but it easy to find this on You-Tube. This is the third year Crashed Ice has been in St. Paul.

All of this should prove there is something to do in St. Paul in the winter, so please you all from Milwaukee come here for the winter -- don't say bored in your city!!!

Adventures with the Dancing Goats

In November I went over to the university where I used to teach to meet a friend for lunch. She had parked up the street from the offices in front of a place new to me, The Dancing Goats Coffee Shop. This coffee shop is located in an old brick building, but I can't remember what it used to be.

Last week I had a meeting again at the university related to my retirement funds. (That is a whole different story and I'm glad to report that all I got was good news.) The university is presently building a parking ramp in the area that had been the parking lot, so parking is severely limited at the university. Thus, I had chosen to ride the bus, so I could return from just about anywhere, and so I decided to walk over to visit the Dancing Goats. And I found plenty of goats in the decoration of the shop.

 But what does coffee have to do with goats?

Well, on the wall inside the shop there is a short story stenciled on the wall. This story explains that long, long ago an Ethiopian goat herder noticed that when the goats ate a red berry the goats would leap and "dance." He collected some of these berries and took them to a monastery. There the berries were tossed in a fire and everyone noticed how good they smelled. The people in the monastery tasted the berries and that's how coffee was born! At least that is one explanation for it!

If you are in St. Paul, find this charming coffee shop.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Adventures with Soup, Cookies, and Helping People in Bolivia

Do those three things go together? Yes! During January many of us as volunteers are intensifying the sorting of medical supplies and equipment for Mano a Mano. One staff person left her job to take a new job in Colorado --that means Mano a Mano has lost 33% of its staff in the United States. Yes, in 2014 it had only three paid staff in the United States and all the rest of the work was done by volunteers.

Now a very experienced volunteer had taken over the task of coordinating the volunteer activities for sorting the donated supplies. For many years there was always a Friday afternoon sorting time. This has now been restored. And the volunteer coordinator had the idea of doing a Soup and Sort on Tuesday nights in January -- trying to reach those who are not available for a Friday afternoon.

So here's the news about Soup and Sort.

We meet at 5:00 PM. One of the volunteers who is an excellent cook makes soup and that couple also brings some bread to accompany it.

Here's the Carrot-Ginger soup from last Tuesday night.

It was yummy!

And my traditional job has been to bring cookies for the sorting time.

Here is a bag of Snickerdoodles on the way to the Soup and Sort. I have been looking at a lot of recipes for Snickerdoodles trying to find one that meets my memory of how these should be. For this I made the Trisha Yearwood recipe I found with Food Network app on my Kindle. Everyone liked this version very much so it will probably be baked now about once a month.

But what do we sort?

Here is a view of things waiting for our hands. Things come from all over the Twin Cities. I also got into some boxes yesterday that were very carefully packed and labeled and sent here by HERO -- which stands for Health Equipment Recycling Organization. This group is apparently based in Fargo, ND.

Things are sorted into 10 different categories. For example, 1 is for orthopedic supplies and equipment; 2 is hospital linens, scrub clothing, and baby clothing; and 5 is misc. medical equipment -- everything from syringes to ventilator tubing. We also have a category 11 which stands for Doctor Evaluate. This is for materials past their expiration date but just seem too valuable to throw away. When these materials reach Bolivia one of the physicians there will sort these materials to see if they can be safely used in Boliva -- for example, perhaps these materials might be resterilized.

During the past couple of weeks we have put together boxes to make a pallet.

Last year enough materials were sorted to load in 5 containers which went in two shipments -- two containers packed out in February and 3 containers packed out in November. The ones sent in November have now reached a port in Chile. It may take yet another six months for these materials to clear customs and then make a final trip to Cochabamba, Bolivia where Mano a Mano International is based in Bolivia.

During the past couple of days I've tackled t-shirts. These are good t-shirts we think can be used by those who do construction work in Bolivia for Mano a Mano. They've been in warehouse awhile so I brought them home for laundering before they are packed.

If readers are curious please use the link above to find out more about Mano a Mano and the work this group does in Bolivia. It takes a lot of money to ship a container to Bolivia and if any readers are interested in helping just a little bit you may find a donation link here: donations