Category Archives: North Dakota

Storm Clouds — June 19 – July 17, 2016

Our previous post was entitled “Before the Storm”.  This post is about the storm.  Not easy to write about, but our blog is designed to keep friends and family informed about the events of our life, and the events described herein have definitely impacted our life.

Those readers who normally check in to mostly read about “living the dream” in the Caribbean, such readers may want to skip this post.

To set the scene, remember that we are in Bismarck, staying at the home of sister Zona and 97 year old mother Evelyn.


Mom wakes up with a sore back.  We all think she had “slept wrong”.  We had planned on going to Lake Isabel (Zona’s cabin, west of Bismarck and just a little south of the tiny town of Dawson), and ask Mom if she feels up to the trip.  She says she wouldn’t hurt any more in the car and at the lake than at home, and so we should go.

Cathy (Zona’s daughter) and her husband Jon and their kids Cole and Katie are already at the lake when we arrive.  Mom settles into a recliner at the cabin, and the rest of us lounge around and later go out on the boat.


Mom’s back is worse.  We take her to the office of her primary physician.  She is unable to see Dr. Stein, but an X-ray is ordered.  Mom sees Stein’s Physician Assistant, who decides the problem is muscular and prescribes a muscle relaxant and schedules an appointment with a physical therapist.  The p.t. meets with Mom, tells us the X-ray revealed a compression fracture at T-9 and gives us xerox copies of mild exercises designed to help Mom to strengthen and straighten her back.  A CT scan and bone scan are ordered for Friday (6/24).  Mom has a very uncomfortable night.


Mom is in agony.  We still cannot get her in to see Dr. Stein, and so decide to take her to the Emergency Room at  Sanford Medical Center.  There, the two scans are done immediately, instead of waiting until Friday.  She is admitted to the hospital.


We meet Dr. Lwu, who tells us that there appears to be a tumor at the site of the fracture.  She recommends a procedure called Kyphoplasty, which involves inserting needles through the back from the side of the backbone and inflating the collapsed cavity to its former position and then cementing it in place.  This should reduce the pain in and of itself, but will also offer a chance of collecting enough material from the presumed tumor to be able to effect a diagnosis. The Kyphoplasty is scheduled for Thursday (6/23).  Mom’s kidney function appears compromised, and so a larger CT scan with contrast (to look for other possible tumors) is rejected.


Dr. Keys is assigned to Mom to deal with her weakened kidneys.  Tests are ordered.  The Kyphoplasty is performed and Dr. Lwu reports that all went well.  She predicts a lessening of pain but reports that preliminary indication from the sample is plasmacytoma.


Mom is visited by my Bergh cousins and their spouses and by Zona’s daughter Cathy and her husband Jon and their children Katie and Cole.


Plasmacytoma is confirmed.  Dr. DuFan from Bismarck Cancer Center recommends radiation treatments to lesson pain and shrink the tumor.


Mom visits the Bismarck Cancer Center to be measured and marked for the radiation treatments, and is then discharged from the hospital.





mom_chuck_hosp_walkOn 6/30 Zona’s son Erik and his wife Cindy and their children arrive.  Mom has her first radiation treatment.  On 7/1 Mom has trouble breathing, so we take her back to ER.  Her kidney function is now normal, so she gets a CT scan with contrast, where it is discovered that she has a blood clot in her lung.  She is readmitted to the hospital, since heparin and later coumadin must be administered until her blood is sufficiently thin to prevent additional clots.  These drugs mean that she cannot undergo a bone marrow biopsy, an option necessary to determine whether the cancer is also in her bone marrow (making it multiple myeloma).  She had pretty much already decided not to undergo chemo- or immuno-therapies anyway, so the determination is largely irrelevant.

Although most of our attention was focused on Mom and her health, there were other experiences during this period.  On 7/3, Mike & Roberta stop in for a few days, on their way out west in their new-to-them camper.  7/4 Barb’s son Jeff arrives and spends the weekend.  7/5 Mom has her first radiation treatment, with very little change in her pain.  July 8, the Tadewalds and the Pruddens arrive from Minneapolis to see us all, but especially Grandma Shipley.

7/9 – 7/19

July 9, Mom is released again from the hospital, her blood having finally gotten thin enough to minimize the chances of another clot.  She must continue with coumadin and be taken in to the lab for blood test, but she is home!  She has about a week in which she suffers occasional bouts of extreme pain, usually after having been on her feet for a bit.  The only thing that seems to help is to get into just the right position in a bed with a raised head or in a recliner with a lowered back.  And then one day, after about 9 or 10 radiation treatments, the pain is largely gone.  From that point on, she slowly begins to regain her balance and her strength, thanks to the assistance of three different home care specialists that each visit several times a week.  From that point on, we celebrate Mom’s freedom from pain by playing Progressive Rummy multiple nights a week.

Mom is not out of the woods yet, since there may be cancer lurking elsewhere and since she is still much weaker than before all of this started.  But she had three weeks of radiation, and on the last day of treatment we learned that it generally takes two weeks of recuperation for every week of treatment before the fatigue is totally gone.  Meanwhile, her spirits are high and she is exercising with dedication and she is largely pain free.  We are so glad.


Before the Storm — May 25-June 18, 2016

We flew from Curacao to Bismarck on Wednesday, May 25, and retrieved our camper on Saturday, May 28.

Zona’s daughter Susie and her family visited over the weekend from Minneapolis.  On the 29th we all gathered at Zona’s for a big feed.  Neighbors Jerry & Jeanne also joined in.  Maddie spent a lot of time riding horses with Jerry.

On June 2, we joined the Dockter family in an expedition to Medora and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  The Dockters took their camper and we took ours, and Zona and Cathy each drove a car.  We all camped in the Medora Campground, where we were joined by Dawne & Jerry Renner in their luxurious diesel pusher.  The official excuse to spend some more time in the area was to attend the Medora Run/Walk on Saturday.  Barb and I walked, and discovered that, all of our exercising in Bonaire not withstanding, our arthritic joints and stopping to take photos along the way had us coming into the finish in almost dead last place (as walkers!).  After the main race there was a kiddy race in which Katie participated.

On Sunday morning Barb and I got up super early and motored up to the Cottonwood Campground in the Park to participate in a Park-hosted bird watch.  On the way up we came up over a hill and encountered a lone bison walking right up the center line of the road.  We pulled off to the side and let him pass.  The bird watch was very well attended.  The large crowd was broken up into three subgroups.  We chose the “open land” group, and ended up climbing a steep hill.  Our guide was very knowledgeable about bird songs and identified many birds by sound that I didn’t even see, let alone photograph.  At the conclusion of the watch we were all treated to a complementary breakfast of juice and pancakes and sausages, after which there was a raffle in which I won a Teddy Roosevelt T-shirt.

On our way back to Bismarck from Medora and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Barb, Mom and I took a detour off Interstate 94 and traversed the “Enchanted Highway” southward down to the little town of Regent.  Local artist Gary Greff conceived of the project, taught himself how to weld, built it beginning in 1989, maintains it and plans more sculptures.  From the “Official North Dakota Travel & Tourism Guide”:  The Enchanted Highway begins at Exit 72 on I-94 near Gladstone and terminates 30 miles down the road in the small town of Regent. Beginning with “Geese in Flight” at Exit 72, large metal sculptures are placed along the county highway, each with a parking area and kiosk.  Sculptures include “World’s Largest Tin Family,” “Teddy Rides Again,” “Pheasants on the Prairie,” “Grasshoppers in the Field,” “Deer Crossing” and “Fisherman’s Dream.” The gift shop in Regent has miniatures of each statue and the Enchanted Castle motel and restaurant offer hot meals and a soft bed.

The project is the work of a single man who decided to do something to save his town of Regent from extinction.  He cajoled local farmers along the highway into donating land for the sculptures.  Alas, not all farmers have been interested in helping; he has the materials assembled for another planned sculpture (Spider Webs) but has not succeeded in getting the land!

We met Gary at his Enchanted Castle when we stopped in to pay for our night of camping ($20) at the Regent Enchanted Campground.  Very congenial guy — he gave us an extended tour of the Castle that combines a bar, a restaurant and a hotel, all featuring a medieval theme complete with swords, battle axes, metal suits of armor, etc.

I didn’t get a picture of the “Geese in Flight” sculpture, but here are the others:

(The size of these sculptures is only apparent when the pictures are expanded and the Shipleys within are revealed.)

On Thursday,  June 9, Barb and I took the camper (and dinghy) up to Lake Sakakawea, where we camped in the Lake Sakakawea State Park Campground over a long weekend.  We had originally planned on only two days, but extended our stay just in time before the place got essentially fully-booked.  We had a number of nice walks along the grassy and occasionally wooded shoreline, just north of Garrison Dam, which we also toured.

Third Time is a Charm — Back to Bismarck, October 11-22, 2015

As mentioned in our last post, the wind was howling when we arrived back in Bismarck.  The camper was parked back up on the hill behind sister Zona’s home. so we were fully exposed to the buffeting gusts throughout the night.  Next morning the news accounts quantified the extent of our noisy and jerky experience:  65 mph.  There followed a few days of relatively cool weather, after which a glorious “Indian summer” resumed.

Before the nice weather had returned, while it was still cool (more appropriately described as “cold”, in the opinion of Barb and I, with our Caribbean-conditioned thin blood) Bismarck hosted a surprising festival in the park adjacent to the zoo.  (The same zoo, by the way, where a moose had been killed by a falling branch during the afore-mentioned wind storm, the day before it was scheduled to be transferred to Minnesota.)  The festival?  A food truck festival.  Food trucks must be a relatively new phenomenon in Bismarck, because, cool/cold weather be damned, the place was packed.

We packed a lot into our third visit.  Barb and Mom and I went to the North Dakota Heritage Center, adjacent to the State Capital Building.  Its enlargement/enhancement/remodel is completed, and it is now spectacular.  There are major exhibit rooms dedicated to fossils found in North Dakota.  And a large exhibit about the many Native American tribes in the general area.  Another about the early white settlers. And yes, one about the current oil boom taking place in the western part of the state.

Zona’s oldest daughter Susan and her husband John (and their children Mattie & Oliver) arrived from Minneapolis to do some duck and pheasant hunting, so we got to visit with them during evenings.  Zona’s Bismarck-based daughter, Cathy (and her husband Jon and children Katie & Cole) popped in a number of times.  Zona’s brother-in-law Floyd and his wife Sheila also visited multiple times.  By popular request I hosted a multi-pot low country boil for Cathy and her family, Floyd & Sheila, Marvin & Violet Bodvig, Dawn & Jerry Renner, and of course Mom & Zona & Barb & me.  What is in a low-country boil, some of you may be asking.  Potatoes & onions & ring sausage & carrots & corn on the cob & shrimp & a massive amount of Old Bay seasoning, all boiled together but added to the pot at appropriate times for proper cooking, served with home-made cocktail sauce made of catsup and horse radish & worcestershire sauce & lemon juice.

Zona has a cabin on Lake Isabelle, some 50 miles east of Bismarck.  In addition to a garden and apple trees, there are grape vines on her property.  This year Cathy and Jon took responsibility for the harvest, which meant that they had first dibs on deciding what to do with the bounty.  Cathy chose wine.  So one afternoon Zona & Cathy & Mom and Floyd & Sheila & Barb & I all met at a local vintner to deliver the grapes and to decide on what style of wine to order.  Tasting ensued.  Cathy made the final decision.  Tune in next year to learn how it all turned out.

A few days before we left Bismarck, we took the camper out to Tappen, ND, where friend Marvin Bodvig runs a farm supply dealership.  Marvin graciously consented to storing our camper (and several others) until we return in late June, 2016.  As you can see in the photo, below, he also stores his small airplane there.

Tune in next time to learn about our next visit, to Savannah, GA.

Barb’s Hometown — Carrington, ND; October 9-11, 2015

When we left the Grand Forks area, we motored west through Devil’s Lake (and a little south) about 100 miles to the small (population 2,075) agricultural town of Carrington, where Barb had gone to school while living on a nearby farm.  Out of 12 children, Barb’s brother Tim is the only one of her siblings still living in the state.  Tim has three  energetic, industrious and admirable sons who have also remained: Tyler, Preston & Austen.  In every sense, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.

We parked our camper in the municipal campground, a pleasant enclave in an attractive park adjacent to the main highway that bisects the town.  Tim and his sons joined us for dinner (called supper in this part of the world) on the camper one evening.  On another night, we heard loudspeaker and crowd noises.  When we went out to investigate, we realized that the city park was adjacent to the Carrington High athletic field, and that a football game was underway.  Barb is a former cheerleader for the Cardinals, so of course we had to bundle up — it was cold — and go see a bit of the game.  There were no cheerleaders to be seen.  Barb asked a bystander, and learned that there had not been cheerleaders for the high school for many many years.  Guess things have a way of changing.

It took us two attempts, but Barb and I finally succeeded in getting to the Chieftain Cafe early enough to order their famous caramel rolls to supplement our breakfast.  Standing outside the cafe is a Muffler Man, in this case a Native American.  (Follow the links to learn more.)

Barb visited one of her aunts while we were there but that was about all we had time to do.  We had planned to go out to visit Tim’s cabin at Lake Juanita and to spend more time with Tim, but on Sunday morning we learned that a big windstorm was going to hit the area later in the day.  So we cut our visit short and almost made it back to Bismarck before the wind hit. The wind was only 30 to 40 mph that afternoon but in the 60s that night, during which our camper was doing some not-so-restful rocking and rolling.

See our next blog for an account of our third 2015 visit to Bismarck.

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.  🙂

Visiting Mom, Sister & Friends — 8/31 to 9/9, 9/13 to 9/16, Bismarck & Valley City, North Dakota

Every year when we are back in the States, we spend considerable time in Bismarck.  Many of you know why:  that is where Mom and sister Zona live!

This year, we will also spend a lot of time in Bismarck, but in several segments.  We interrupted our visit to fly back to Las Vegas for Barb’s dad’s 90th birthday celebration, and we interrupted it again to head to Minnesota for a time.  But to talk about the Vegas and Minnesota visits is to get ahead of myself.  More about them later.

While in Bismarck the first and second times, we slept in our camper, parked up behind Zona’s house and plugged into her storage building.  But we had most meals down at the house, when we weren’t taking advantage of some great restaurants downtown for lunch.  We played a lot of cards with Mom and Zona, with Mom proving once again that at 96 she is still a better player than the rest of us. She also posed for me in pictures that Zona used to advertise (and sell) her recliner.  We visited with niece Cathy & her hubby Jon and their kids Cole and Katy, and went to one of Cole’s football games.  Barb joined Zona at a bookclub meeting.  Friends Marvin & Violet and Floyd & Sheila and Dawn came to visit. High School buddy Curtiss DuRand extended a North Dakota visit and came to see me briefly.  We toured the State Capitol Building on a foggy/rainy day.  I spent DAYS washing and then waxing the camper.

And on our way to Minnesota, we stopped overnight at a campground in Valley City, ND, where Lynne & Steve joined us for dinner.  Barb & Lynne are a dangerous pair.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park — Medora, North Dakota – August 28-31, 2015

When we learned that sister Zona and mother Mom (Evelyn) were going to be in Minneapolis for the weekend attending the Minnesota State Fair, we decided to delay our arrival in Bismarck, ND, and spend a long weekend in the extreme western end of the state at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  There is a nice campground within the Park, but we opted for the commercial facility with more accommodations:  sewer, water and electricity, located just outside the Park and a stone-throw away from the little tourist-saturated village of Medora.

As is our common practice, our first stop was at the Visitor Center where we took in the orientation movie and then joined a ranger for an informative and entertaining tour of Teddy’s Maltese Ranch cabin.  Next day, we took our little Geo Tracker out for a tour of the Park.  Gorgeous scenery, as befits a place called “badlands”, but not so bleak and not so dramatic as the parks in Utah.  We saw pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, a western meadowlark and bison.  We returned to Medora to take advantage of the famous pitchfork fondue steak supper, and then rushed back to the Park to join a ranger at Wind Canyon for a scheduled full moon walk.  Fortunately, we were confused about the appointed time and arrived an hour too early.   “Fortunately”, because the early hour meant there was still light in the early evening and on the drive we saw a coyote, wild turkeys and a flock of grouse.

On Sunday we drove up to the Petrified Forest Wilderness Area, part of the National Park but accessed by a separate gravel road that runs northward to the west of the main park.  Pleasant walk from the parking area to the petrified area.

Monday morning we broke camp  and drove the 133 miles east to Bismarck, where we were greeted by my ever-young 96 year-old mother and my just-turned 69 year-old baby sister.  But more about that visit in the next edition of our blog.



South Dakota Badlands — August 18-19, 2014

On August 18 Barb and I headed south and west, bound for the Badlands.  We avoided superhighways all the way, soaking in the austere beauty of the plains of the western Dakotas.  Barb’s son Jeff, on his way to Idaho from Kansas, met up with us just as we arrived at the South Dakota Badlands.  He had his camping gear along, and we had ours (newly acquired), so we pitched two tents in one site in the Badlands campground. The experience was pleasant in every way; very nice accommodations and great to spend some time with Jeff again.  We spent the morning of August 19 roaming through the park while making our way west, stopping frequently to admire and photograph.  When we exited the western end of the Park, we headed to Wall, SD, where we stopped for a late lunch and the obligatory visit to the over-hyped Wall Drug.  And then on to the Black Hills.  But the latter experience deserves its own coverage.  Stay tuned!

Bismarck — July 15 – August 18, 2014

Our main focus while we were in North Dakota, as always, was as guests of sister Zona and mother Evelyn in Bismarck.  Zona lives up on a hill just outside of town in an enormous house that includes a separate suite for Mom.  The center of our activities is socialization with friends and relatives, of which we saw many.  Zona’s son Erik and his wife Cindy and their children Sophia & Evan are temporary lodgers with Zona as they decide on a home after moving to Bismarck from Minneapolis.  Across town live Zona’s daughter Cathy and her husband Jon and their children Cole & Katie.  Zona’s daughter Suzie and her husband John and their children Mattie & Oliver, also from Minneapolis, stopped in for a few days on their way to the western Dakotas for a family vacation.  Zona’s brother-in-law Floyd and his wife Sheila stopped in for a visit.  Nearby neighbors Jerry & Jean were guests for dinner one evening.  On another occasion, we got together with across-town friends Dawn & Jerry.  Friends Violet & Marvin, next-door neighbors of Zona’s cabin out at Lake Isable, and companions with us on our first visit to Norway, also came for dinner one evening.

When it was just Mom and Zona and Barb and me, we often played progressive rummy, during which Mom showed all the spunk and intelligence and competitiveness that has kept her young for all of her 95 years.

Barb and I also partook of some of the local attractions, visiting historic Ft. Lincoln, where General Custer lived for a time.  We also drove north of Bismarck to see the Three Ditches site of a Mandan Indian village – a site that had already been abandoned when Louis & Clark came through because of a catastrophic small pox epidemic caused by contact with White traders.  And we visited the North Dakota Heritage Center located on the grounds of the State Capital.  This is a first class museum that should not be missed by anyone passing anywhere near Bismarck.  It was with a sad heart that we left Bismarck, for we always enjoy our visits.

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!