Category Archives: Minnesota

VOMIT — August 10-18, 2016

Before I discuss the events that occurred during the time frame listed in the title of this post, I should give a little background.

Last Fall, while pursuing our annual visit to our doctors in Savannah, GA, Barb saw a cardiologist  to see whether she should be taking statins for her cholesterol. Among the tests he ordered was an ultrasound of her carotid arteries.  She had no alarming symptoms, but saw the doctor given the medical history of her family and because numerous doctors had recommended statins, an option about which she was skeptical.

The full report was not available by the time we left Savannah to return to the Caribbean, but the initial indication was that there was no significant blockage and that all was well.  Early this year when settling up medical bills from last year and paying the balance for the ultrasound, she decided to find out what the report said.  The only way she could  get it was to have it sent to our mailing service in Green Cove Springs, FL.  She eventually got the report and learned that a 1.3 cm nodule had been found on her right thyroid.

So this year during our extended visit to Bismarck, Barb decided to seek medical advice.  The ultrasound was repeated, with no change in size.  But the recommendation was to take a biopsy by needle to investigate the nature of the nodule.  That biopsy revealed a cell type that is consistent with follicular neoplasm.  We were told that cells of this type are suspicious and could be cancerous, but that the only way to be sure is to remove the entire affected wing and then examine it.  If it is cancerous, the other wing would also be removed (and additional treatment would probably be undertaken.)  So surgery was strongly recommended.  We decided to involve the medical facility currently ranked number one in the United States:  Mayo Clinic.  We were able to secure an appointment, but several weeks in the future.

Meanwhile, Mom was recovering from her own medical issues, so we decided to take our RV to the west and visit Yellowstone National Park and then join our friends in McCall, ID for an informal rendezvous at the home of Tom and Leslie Arnold.

And that brings us to the events of this post.  On August 10 Barb and I left our friends (still partying) and our RV in Tom & Leslie’s yard and drove our little Chevy Tracker to Boise to catch a flight to Minneapolis, where we rented an automobile to drive to Rochester, MN.

In the following days Barb met with an endocrinologist, had yet another ultrasound, and had another needle biopsy.  Same result:  surgery recommended.  We also got a more precise meaning of “for this type of cell, most turn out to be benign”.  “Most”, as in eighty-five percent.   Remarkably,  Barb was able to schedule the surgery for the day after we got the results of the biopsy.  The surgeon, a specialist who performs hundreds of these a year,  removed the right thyroid (and the small isthmus that separates the wings), waited for the removed tissue to be examined, and then closed up the incision, because, yes, the nodule was benign.

They call this situation a VOMIT – “Victim of Medical Imaging Technology”. If the nodule had not been discovered by the initial ultrasound in 2015, Barb would not have had the surgery. But of course if it had been cancerous, it would have been a good thing that it was detected.

The surgery was done in the morning and Barb walked back to our hotel room late in the afternoon. She had a sore throat for a few days — the after-effect of a tube they put in her throat for the surgery — but otherwise felt generally fine. Well, there were some early episodes of low energy, but we don’t know if that is the consequence of anesthesia or of having lost half of her thyroid.  Hopefully her left thyroid will make enough hormone to compensate for the missing right side.

We made it back to McCall, ID and our RV very late Wednesday.  Thursday morning I Installed a new charging relay on the RV — restoring the ability of the RV alternator to charge the house batteries when underway– and got underway after Leslie and Tom fed us a huckleberry pancake breakfast.  Our destination:  Sun Valley, where we would meet Bill & Colleen.  But that gathering deserves its own post.  Stay tuned.

Red River Valley of the North — Grand Forks & Grandin, ND; October 6-9, 2015

After we left Sisseton, Barb and I headed north to Hillsboro, where we camped in the city campground. We were between Fargo & Grand Forks, in the heart of the Red River Valley, the incredibly flat and fertile area that owes its thick topsoil to silt laid down by Paleogeographic Lake Agassiz. The campground was crowded with workers for the sugar beet harvest.  We had called ahead, and had been told that there was lots of room.  But when we arrived, all but one drive-through spots were occupied.  Apparently the person with whom Barb spoke had forgotten that the sugar beet harvest was just getting underway.  We learned that the beet harvest is a frantic affair that must be completed in a very short time.  Consequently, the effort requires many extra workers, most of whom are employed driving trucks filled with beets to storage facilities.  Where do these extra workers stay?  In their campers in the campgrounds.

Next day, we drove our dinghy back south a bit to visit the farm, near Grandin, ND, of Barb’s cousin Geri Peterson (and her husband Dennis), where we had a scrumptious lunch and then a tour of the farm and machinery, including rides on a combine for each of us, harvesting corn, and including a drive to see some of the Peterson’s land. During the ride we saw a new colony of Hutterites just forming.  And we learned that many farmers in the area are burying tile pipes under the soil in order to flush away salts that have accumulated over the years.  Pipes in fields adjacent to ditches just drain into the ditches; other fields require sump pumps.  The cost of such installations is some indication of the productivity of the farmland in the Red River Valley.  The size and complexity of modern machinery on the farm was mind-blowing to Barb and I, who grew up and left farms, um, a few years ago.

On the 9th we moved up to the Grand Forks area, where we camped in the Sherlock park campground of the Red River State Recreation Area in East Grand Forks, MN.  The Recreation Area  was created in the wake of the flood of 1997 that devastated the communities of East Grand Forks, MN and Grand Forks, ND.  Various structures and over 500 homes were removed and the land — now a 1,200-acre greenway — became a state recreation area.  Near the park is Whitey’s, a reconstruction of the famous bar and restaurant in East Grand Forks, an establishment that I and my fraternity brothers at the University of North Dakota used to frequent on Sundays since we could get a beer there (with a meal and by using our fake IDs) because Minnesota’s laws were more lenient than North Dakota’s.  East Grand Forks was also where my first wife and I lived after we married during our senior year in college.  The apartment building was nowhere to be found; it was probably also destroyed in the flood.

Barb and I drove into Grand Forks to visit my undergraduate alma mater.  We had trouble finding parking, so our visit was shortened to the 30-minute limit imposed in front of the impressive student union. Too bad; I had intended on stopping by the development office and leaving a substantial endowment.  🙂

Back to my roots — Sisseton, SD area; September 28 – October 5, 2015

When we left the Minneapolis area our destination was Sisseton, in Roberts County, in the extreme northeastern corner of South Dakota.  “Sisseton” is an anglicization of the Dakota Indian words “Sinsin Tunwan” (also rendered as “Sissetowan”), which means “Swamp Village”.  Sisseton is the largest town in the Lake Traverse Reservation, homeland of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, a branch of the Santee Dakota group of Native Americans.  The Shipleys used to live about 10 miles south of Sisseton on what was (and still is) called the “Valley Ranch”.  Dad was the foreman there and the mechanic for all of a set of farms and ranches owned by A.W. Powell, the president of a Sisseton bank. My sister Zona and I attended a one-room country grade-school about two miles from our farm (and of course we had to walk uphill both ways whenever the weather was less than a full-scale blizzard.) Valley Ranch was just below a range of hills (the Coteau des Prairies) that had been laid down by receding glaciers in the ice age.  Up on the ridge of the hills, about a mile from our former home, is the grave site of Gabriel Renville (1824–1892), the last chief of the Sissetowan and Wahpetowan.  I spent much of my childhood playing with the direct descendants of Chief Renville.  Later, I drove a Model A Ford about 10 miles north to Sisseton for my freshman year of high school, and then we all moved to Romulus, MI for two years before returning to the prairie states to Jamestown, ND in time for my senior year.

So there was a reason to stop at Sisseton with our camper.  We settled in to the only campground in the immediate area (Camp Dakotah), and were joined the next day by Mom and Zona.  We had all long talked about visiting the old stomping grounds, and now we were making it happen!

Mom and Zona had made some phone calls that enabled us to get together for a number of conversations with contemporaries of Mom and with childhood friends of Zona and I. Coffee with Luella George and her son Donald (and his wife Linda).  Breakfast with Luella’s son Phillip and daughter Shannon and with friend Calvin Hove and his wife.  A visit to an assisted-living facility to see Phyllis Karst, where we were joined by her daughter Judy Karst Nelson and son Paul Karst.  And another visit to see my folks’ friend Milton Leiseth, whose wife Jeanne, now deceased, had taught Zona and I in the one-room school.  The visits were as enjoyable as we had expected and we all came away congratulating ourselves for finally making it happen.

The four of us also visited the old farm, which still bears the name “Valley Ranch”.  As we stopped at the beginning of the long driveway to photograph the arch over the cattle guard, the new owner, Calvin Finnesand, happened by on a 4-wheeler on his way to check his cattle.  He gladly gave us permission to poke around the grounds where we used to live.  We already knew that there had been many changes, but were anxious to see if we could find the site of our former home.  We knew that part of the house had been moved away and converted into a granary, and that the attached addition (formerly Mom & Dad’s bedroom) had been retained on the ranch but moved and converted to a bunkhouse.  All of the former barns had long ago collapsed. The bridge that had formerly crossed the adjacent creek had also mostly collapsed, and a huge tree had grown up right in the middle of the approach.  All of which were initially surprising and distressing, until we remembered that we had been gone for over 55 years.  It took a while, but we had a small victory in finding the foundation of our former home.

We all took a trip in to Peever, SD, the little town east of the Valley Ranch, where the Shipley family had originally gone in to shop on Saturday nights.  The association of Peever and Shipleys was long-standing:  Mom and her siblings went to school there.  For a time in my childhood, the Chamber of Commerce of Peever had paid Dad to show free movies on summer Saturday nights.  Several sheets sewn together served as the screen, and Dad had speakers and a projector capable of showing films of commercial format.  But he only had one projector, so every 20 minutes there was a pause while he changed the reel.  Folks pulled their cars onto the vacant lot and watched from the comfort of their vehicles, or while sitting on blankets on the ground.  Afterwards, many bought groceries at one of two small stores.  And we almost always stopped at the Hanson cafe for coffee and pie or a cheeseburger and malted milk.  The grocery stores are long gone, as is the cafe.  As is the Lang general store that used to be across from the cafe.  The schools are all gone; students are now bussed into Sisseton.  The only occupied commercial buildings remaining are a liquor store and the Post Office, and the latter is scheduled to be closed.  Remarkably, the two poles that supported Dad’s movie screen are still there!

We all also took a drive north and west of Sisseton, where we visited Sica Hollow.  “Sica” means “bad” in the Dakota Indian language; did I mention that I grew up on the Sisseton/Wahpeton Oyate Reservation? The state park has a number of horse trails and a few campsites that seemed to be largely intended for hosting folks who have brought in horses on trailers.  And then we stopped at the relatively new Nicollet tower, built at the initiative of Harold L. Torness, a banker and lifelong resident of Sisseton and the successor and son-in-law of A.W. Powell.  Torness was so fascinated by the book “Joseph N. Nicollet on the Plains and Prairies: The Expeditions of 1838-39 with Journals, Letters, and Notes on the Dakota Indians” that he spearheaded a $335-thousand fund-raising campaign to build a monument to the explorer. In a breathtaking view from the top of the tower, visitors can see the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota, six counties, 11 communities and the Continental Divide. An adjacent 2,400-square-foot interpretive center has displays and classroom space.

After Mom and Zona had returned to Bismarck, Barb and I went on several other expeditions.  We went east and south to the village of Browns Valley, located on the southern-most end of Traverse, a long narrow lake on the border of South Dakota and Minnesota that transformed from a north-flowing river to a lake when it was blocked by glaciers in the ice age.  Another trip was to the south and west of Sisseton to Lake Enemy Swim, where the Shipleys used to go to swim and picnic 60 years ago.  We stopped at Waubay National Wildlife Refuge where we climbed a fire watchtower.   Closer to Sisseton, we stopped to see the Buffalo Lake Church, an old “Norwegian” Lutheran church that had been mentioned by the proprietress Marsha of our campground.  Marsha, incidentally, also told me that as a child her family used to go to Dad’s movies in Peever.  On the way back to Sisseton from the Buffalo Lake Church, we drove down a gravel road past a field filled with — are you ready for this? — a huge herd of bison!

When at last we left Sisseton, we drove northward to visit a cousin of Barb near Grandin, North Dakota.  Tune in next time.

Niece & Nephew — Minneapolis Area; September 25-28, 2015

On September 25 we arrived in the Minneapolis area.  Specifically, at the Carver Park, near Victoria, Minnesota.  The Park is huge and multipurpose — we settled into the Auburn Lake Campground, a lovely place that was packed with families in small campers and/or tents on Saturday, but was nearly deserted by Sunday afternoon.  The only drawback of the place, from our point of view, was a lack of pull-through and power/water/sewer-equipped sites. No pull-through meant we had to un-attach the dinghy (and back the camper into the site), but no matter, we needed to set the dinghy free anyway since we drove into Minneapolis the next day to do a little shopping.  Came home with some groceries and some indulgences:  a new iPad for Barb and a new MacbookPro for me.  On the 27th we drove a few miles into Victoria to the new home of Erik & Cindy and their children Sophie & Evan.  (Erik is Chuck’s sister Zona’s son.)  We had a marvelous dinner and visit with them and then returned to the camper.  Right behind us were Erik & Cindy.  The goal was to build a campfire and to continue our visit while consuming adult beverages and eating s’mores — objectives met in fine style.

Next day we motored back into Minneapolis proper and met Jessica and her daughter Lily for lunch. (Jessica’s hubby Peter was out of town.)  Jessica is Zona’s daughter.  It was our first opportunity to meet the cute-as-a-button Lily, and our first chance in a long time to get caught up with Jessica,  A circumstance we appreciated and enjoyed.  Alas, Jessica had afternoon commitments, so our reunion was all too brief.

That evening, with some sense of anticipation, we readied ourselves for observing the much ballyhooed lunar eclipse.  Handicapped by the lack of a tripod, we improvised with a pillow-cushioned box set upon a picnic table carefully chosen from among the empty camping sites to give open visibility in the right direction and angle.  It mostly worked, with a few episodes of frantically dragging the heavy table out of the shadow of a tree and back into the diminishing moonlight.  I had hoped to get pictures of the moon disappearing and then re-appearing.   Alas, although the evening had started out with clear skies, just as the eclipse neared totality a band of clouds moved in and obscured the spectacle.  Nothing to do but pack up and count my blessings.  Which I did and do.  Thanks for the experience, and for the beloved mate with which to share it.

Visiting the Ringens — McFarland Lake, Minnesota – September 18-24, 2015

After our second visit to Bismarck, we took the camper to the extreme northeast corner of Minnesota to visit friends Jon and Cathie.  (As mentioned in a previous post, we stopped along the way at Valley City to visit Lynne & Steve.)  The Ringen’s cabin is on a hill overlooking McFarland Lake.  What a view.  We went on several nice hikes, one of which began with a prolonged bushwhack through the forest behind their cabin.  Despite some skepticism on the part of the distaff participants, we found the hiking path just about where we expected to.

Jon and I attempted to start the larger of his two boats, but didn’t succeed.  So we used the smaller one to pull the larger one away from the public dock and to the Ringen’s dock.  On another day we all took the smaller one on a tour of the scenic lake.

We ate like royalty during the visit, with grilled pork loin and coq a vin and turkey and pizza and homemade ice-cream.  We spent a lot of time just relaxing and talking.  We played Mexican Train dominoes, which provided me an opportunity to extend my string of humiliating defeats.

We had gorgeous weather for almost all of the visit.  On the eve of our departure it rained, which meant that our return down 17 miles of gravel road to Hovland was, um, soupy.  When we stopped at Grand Marais to hook our “dinghy” back to the camper, we discovered that the retractable stairs, below the door of the camper, didn’t retract so well any more.  We scraped off as much as we could, and used a little water to attempt to clear the joints of the mechanism, but concluded that a visit to a repair shop would be needed.  (This conclusion was strengthened by Barb’s fear that the steps had been damaged on the way up to the Ringens when I hit and sent into the ditch a plastic traffic cone at a highway construction site.)  Fortunately, a more-thorough cleaning job at a camp ground that night resulted in a return to full function.

Our ultimate destination, as we traveled south, was the Twin Cities area.  But our account of that visit will await the next edition of the post.  Until then, watch out for traffic cones.



Visit to the Ringens — NE Minnesota, August 4-13, 2014

Here are some things I thought I knew about my marriage and my self:

  1. As a couple that lives on a boat in the Caribbean for most of the year and owns no home on land, we have no need for a motor vehicle, and no place to keep one if we had one.
  2. As “old” folks on Social Security, the time has passed when tent camping is an option – sleeping on the hard ground and stumbling around in the dark for the inevitable nighttime visit to the toilet.

And yet, as we prepared to head from Bismarck, ND, to the extreme northeastern corner of Minnesota to visit Jon Ringen — old friend, former undergraduate schoolmate, former fraternity brother, and former college roommate in an off-campus rented house – and his wife Cathie, Barb and I did something extraordinary.  We bought an automobile.  And not just any automobile, but the very same 1999 Toyota Camry that Mom had owned until we talked her into ceasing driving back in 2008 or so.  She had given the car to her grandson and my nephew Erik, who had used it for a number of years before upgrading to something newer.  He was just about to sell the Camry when we appeared for our latest visit to Bismarck and so we bought it, thinking that it would be a solution to the problem of getting to Minnesota and Colorado and Arizona, a subset of our planned destinations during our 2014 visit to the USA.

“Why not camp on those trips?” Barb asked.  Once Barb gets an idea, she is not easily dissuaded, and so we bought sleeping bags and an inflatable queen mattress and an inflator and a ground tarp and a cooler and two small pillows.  Bismarck niece Cathy and her husband Jon loaned us their tent.  The plan was to spend two days getting to the Ringen’s cabin on McFarland Lake, MN, camping the first night along the way at Itasca State Park, MN.  That would give us time to stop on the first day at the Chase Lake Nat’l Wildlife Refuge, near Carrington, ND.  The Refuge is in the heart of the Prairie Pothole region that cuts a swath in the middle of the state, in the tallest and most rugged part of the Coteau, a geological formation that holds some of the highest density of wetlands in the nation.  In particular, Chase Lake hosts the largest nesting white pelican colony in the USA.  Barb, no fool, had realized that if she wanted to talk me into camping, a good inducement would be to suggest that we spend a lot of time in areas where I could do some bird photography.

We stopped in nearby Medina for breakfast and to visit an unmanned information room dedicated to birding and Chase Lake.  Using pamphlets we obtained there, we headed out on gravel roads to the lake.  The first suggested route had us encountering huge trucks on a narrow road that surprisingly dead-ended at a huge gravel works where large machines were creating material for road improvement.   We backtracked and two miles south took a second suggested road that would take us adjacent to a small lake on the way to Chase.  Alas, the road soon deteriorated into a two-track path overgrown with weeds that slapped the front of the car and made nasty noises as they scraped the bottom.  Much to Barb’s dismay, I proceeded.  Or at least attempted to proceed.  When we crested a small hill we could see that our track ran straight into the small adjoining lake.  Were we on the wrong track?  Nope.  Officially a semi-arid State, North Dakota has for the last decade or so gotten an unusual amount of rain, and our small lake had filled to the point that our track was flooded.  I stepped out of the car and could see white pelicans on distant shores, but they were too far away for photographs.  While Barb held her hands to her head and moaned, I pulled a “moonshiner turnaround” and we backtracked again to a real gravel road that could take us back to a highway and on our way to our Itasca destination.  We arrived in time to visit the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi and settle into a peaceful campsite.

Next day, we arrived about mid-afternoon at the cabin of Jon & Cathie Ringen, located on an overlook of Lake McFarland, about a mile east of Pine Lake, one of the easternmost lakes of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).  “Cabin” doesn’t do the dwelling justice.  After years of addition and enhancement, the place has most of the comforts and conveniences (and capacity) of urban homes, lacking only land-line power and telephone, deficiencies addressed by solar power and cellular communication, the latter of which is available only by virtue of their height above the lake, an advantage not enjoyed by most of their lake neighbors.

For the entire visit we had marvelous weather which we took advantage of by hiking and canoeing and sunning on the deck.  We ate like royalty and drank like sailors.  I probably spent too much time attempting to convince them that it is time to retire from professorships and enjoy the benefits of additional leisure, including the opportunity to visit us on the boat more often.  One afternoon we attended a potluck for the residents of the lake, an annual event organized by the Ringens and a lovely neighbor named Jessica.  On our last full day with the Ringens, we all travelled up to the Rendezvous Days at Grand Portage National Monument where scads of French trader re-enactors were camping.  In an arena adjacent to the National Monument, the Grand Portage Band of Minnesota Chippewa was holding a traditional Pow Wow, scheduled each year during the same weekend as the Rendezvous.

We had a great visit with the Ringens – we hope they will come see us soon.  The breadth of their hospitality is illustrated by their beneficence as we left:  they gifted us with a spare camping stove, cook kit, and hexagonal tent so large as to accommodate folding seats in addition to our mattress and so tall as to permit us to stand erect when inside!  As if that wasn’t enough, Jon waterproofed the seams of the tent before we left.

When Barb posted something about our visit on Facebook, we got a nice surprise.  Former cruising friends Ann and John (Livin’ the Dream), who have temporarily swallowed the anchor and are living in Punta Gorda, FL, saw the post and wrote to say that they were going to be canoeing in the BWCA.  They finished their weekend excursion just as we finished our visit to Lake McFarland, and so we met them for lunch in Grand Marais as we headed back toward Bismarck and they returned to Minneapolis, where John was doing some consulting.  So great to visit with them again.

We stopped that night (Aug. 11) and camped at the Savanna (no “h”!) Portage State Park near McGregor, MN, using our new tent, stove and cook kit.  Next day we drove to the Arrowwood Nat’l Wildlife Refuge, located on the James River north of Jamestown, ND.  There, we had much better luck at getting close to white pelicans.  I also photographed a yellow warbler and a Baltimore Oriole.  We then continued to the little town of Pettibone, to camp at a place Barb had found on the net. She had called a listed number, and learned that they did indeed have a small campground, complete with water and electricity. When we arrived, all we could see was a park that shared its space with a fire station.  Asking at a small grocery store, we learned that the park was indeed the campground.  Further, the toilets and showers were accessible via a side door to the fire station.  The camping fee was $5 for no power and $10 if using the power.  Donations were requested for using the spotless showers.  The town had one café, but served only breakfasts and lunches.  However, one of the two bars served warmed-up frozen pizza, and that is what we had for supper.  Next morning after a breakfast at the café of delicious caramel rolls and eggs over easy, we backtracked a bit to once again try the Chase Refuge, circling to approach from the north.  This time, we succeeded in getting to the shores of Chase Lake, but saw only a few distant birds.  Undaunted we continued on back roads all the way back to Bismarck, enjoying the countryside and the many birds along the way.

Our “headquarters” up to this point has been in Bismarck, but we have said little about that aspect of our visit.   We will remedy that situation in our next post, when we will discuss what we have been doing when we weren’t off someplace else.  Stay tuned!

McFarland Lake, Minnesota — Sept. 26-29, 2013

We had great weather during our visit with Jon and Cathie Ringen, way up in the NE corner of Minnesota.  The leaves were just beginning to turn when we arrived, and they just got better and better.  The Ringen’s own a gazillion canoes; we used two to take a short excursion into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, where we had lunch in one of the park’s camp sites.  On our last day, we took a ride in one of their small motor boats to the extreme southern end of McFarland Lake.  Absolutely gorgeous day, made all the better by getting some photos of Common Mergansers that were so preoccupied with their feeding on small fish and/or crayfish that they never flew away.

Our stay was much too short, but we enjoyed visiting and walking in the woods and being on the water and playing cards with our friends.

On our way back to Bismarck, we made three stops.  The first, to photograph an incredible “artistic” display in the front yard of a home on the highway adjacent to Lake Superior.  The second, to grab a lunch in a small town of Minnesota and photograph an interesting creature outside a dive shop.   The third, to have dinner in Valley City, ND with Barb’s high school friend Lynn and her husband Steve.

Detroit Lakes, MN: Oct. 6, 2012 – Soo Pass Ranch

On our way back to Bismarck from our visit to northern Minnesota, we stopped at Detroit Lakes to visit the Soo Pass Ranch.   In the early 70’s Barb’s folks and siblings ran a dude ranch named the Soo Pass Dude Ranch at the site.   Barb was attending college in Minot at the time, but worked at the ranch in summers giving trail rides and teaching riding.  She lived in one of the small red cabins that remain to this day.  The horses are long since gone, the ranch house has been expanded, the barn converted to other uses, and the venue has converted to a massive site for an annual music festival (We Fest) as well as other events, including a snow mobile rendezvous.   On the day of our visit, the place was deserted, save for a single groundskeeper.   He was extremely gracious and gave us an impromptu tour of the facilities.

McFarland Lake, MN: Oct. 4-6, 2012

When Jon Ringen, friend since undergraduate days at the University of North Dakota, saw in our blog that we were returning to the States for a spell, he emailed an invitation to come visit him at his cabin in McFarland.   Searches of various computer maps revealed a “McFarland” some two hours from Rochester, MN, where we would be seeing a doctor at Mayo Clinic for my arthritis.   This McFarland is in Wisconsin, just outside of Madison.   Easy peasy.

I sent a note to Jon, mentioning that we would come “down” when we finished at Mayo.   He responded that “down” was a peculiar word to use, since McFarland was “up” from Duluth.   Several emails later we realized that we would not be driving an easy two-hours to the southeast, but a much longer eight hours north up along the western shore of Lake Superior to within three miles of the Canadian border and just east of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

It was great to visit with Jon and Cathie.   Jon and I spent some time reminiscing and some time solving some of the world’s major philosophical problems, and Barb and I both enjoyed getting to know Cathie better.   The weather was not favorable for being outdoors, so we had to content ourselves with admiring from indoors the handsome McFarland Lake and its surroundings.

Rochester, MN: Oct. 1-3, 2012 – Mayo Clinic

After nearly two years of frustrating delay, I finally got in to see a doctor at Mayo Clinic about my arthritis.   And what a doctor he was; attentive, warm, patient, methodical, involved and the Chief of Rheumatology.   I spent all day on Monday, October 1st meeting with the doctor and then being tested in various labs, with the last test not finishing until about 7:30 pm.  In each case the technologists were friendly but extremely efficient.   We could not have been more impressed with Mayo Clinic.  Tuesday we did some shopping and went to a movie.   Wednesday we did a self-guided tour of the fabulous art at the Clinic and then joined another couple in accompanying the carillonier as he ascended up into the tower of the Plummer building to perform his Wednesday noon half-hour concert. You can read more about the bells here.

Later that day we met again with the doctor, who described in detail his findings and the treatment options.   I have inflammatory poly osteo-arthritis.  The hope and expectation is that if the inflammation can be eliminated, then the pain can be minimized and the degradation of the joints can be slowed or stopped.  The inflammation will be treated using the same kinds of drugs that are used for rheumatoid arthritis, even though my tests have consistently been negative for that type of arthritis.   So I am now taking two drugs daily:  hydroxychloroquine and sulfasalazine.    The literature says that it may take months to see some improvement, but in fact my fingers already seem a bit more flexible and my ankles seem much less swollen.