Saturday, January 31, 2009

Frozen Follies

The ice fishing contest was quite and experience -- a lot of fun -- and it makes a great story. It did present some challenges -- like keeping the camera batteries warm enough to work. I took the picture (above) from the scissorlift. My friend Paulette got up in the lift and her camera wouldn't work! What frustration for her. Down below, Clare and Traci kept warm with their amazing snow dance.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Go Granny, Go

In the afternoon, after the dogsledding, we took to a more contemporary mode of transportation -- snowmobiling! I'd never done this before and felt pretty sporty trying out a couple of the machines. A slick little red number caught my eye and I was in love! There are miles and miles of groomed trails around Grand View Lodge. We helmeted up and, after an exploratory loop on the lake, took off. We zoomed along beside the highway, into the woods and over lakes. We started out at a leisurely pace but the macho guys leading the pack soon picked up speed. I had to get brave or lose sight of the machine in front of me. We averaged about 30 mph but, once, across a lake, we got up to 50. I was feeling pretty cocky and figuring I was going to really rack up the granny points with my three grandsons. Alas, pride goeth.... I took a curve too quickly and slid up a snowbank where I sat like the cherry atop an ice cream sundae until one of the guys came up and got my snowmobile back on the trail. It's really tacky to feel better at someone else's misfortune, but I have to say I did experience that awful feeling when I rounded a corner to see three of the men pulling another snowmobile out of a ditch. The rider was unhurt, so maybe I don't feel so bad! We rode between 20 and 30 miles and my thumb was starting to ache from pushing the accelerator -- and I had to pee. Our leader asked if we'd like to make a potty stop or just head home. I girded my bladder and voted for home. It was only about 15 minutes more. When I finally got back to the room and started peeling off the layers, I discovered my thighs felt like ice. I now have another use for the hairdryer!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Going to the Dogs

I can't believe I came home from frozen Minnesota only to hear the weather man say we're about to get a really bad winter storm - freezing rain/sleet mix. And it won't be fun like Minnesota. The dogsledding was a real highlight. We went in shifts - two of us riding on the sled, Maury Duval driving the team of 10 dogs. Maury made the sled himself using white ash. Cindy sat in back and I squished up against her as tight as I could get. With a shout of "hike" we took off on a groomed trail that wandered over the snow-covered golf course. At first the dogs squabbled amongst themselves, more interested in social and anti-social behavior, but they quickly settled down to business. We clipped along at about 12 mph. On one curve, the sled swung wide and we headed for a tree. Maury halted the dogs and Cindy and I clambered out so he could lift the sled out of the snow and back on the trail. We were just about to load back up when the dogs got impatient and took off. Maury grabbed the sled and, pulled off his feet, went skidding down the trail on his side. As he passed Cindy she heard him say, "This is not good!" He finally got the dogs stopped and we loaded up again. We were almost home when we slid around another corner and turned over. I toppled out, head first into the deep snow - getting snow in the eyeholes of my spiderman mask. I had to dig my new camera out of the drift. It survived like the little trouper it is. Maury mumbled something about more weight on the front of the sled making it tougher to turn. Hmmmm, I believe I was the weight on the front of the sled! I wish I knew how to operate the video feature on the camera. I would love to have recorded the sound of the dogs and their eagerness to get to work. They were truly amazing and this was an experience of a lifetime.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fish Fear Them

"There's a whole ice fishing culture," Larry Stelmach told me as he huddled over a hole in the ice at the 19th Annual Ice Fishing Contest. "Some people think we're crazy. It takes a special kind of person to do this." He's not kidding -- and he's not alone. There were approximately 10000 people on ice-covered Gull Lake. It was -15 when we left the lodge at 10:30. I think it made it up to 0 by afternoon. Fishermen -- and women -- started lining up to have their fish weighed just minutes after the opening cannon. And they kept it up for several hours, hoping for prizes. The big winners are the charities supported by this fab festival and the community which has developed such a great cameraderie in the effort. Was I cold. Yes, but not as much as you might think. Of course, I had on so many layers of clothing that I couldn't bend my arms or legs -- two pairs of wool socks, two pairs of long underwear (one silk, one cotton), blue jeans, insulated pants, a turtleneck topped by a sweatshirt covered by my down coat, insulated gloves and boots, a knit headband over my ears and topped off by my now beloved and much appreciated spiderman mask! What a great day! I still hate cold weather but these Minnesotans know how to party and they don't let a little thing like cold temps slow them down. And they're cute. Lots of lumberjack-looking guys -- towering hunks with lots of facial hair and nice manners. Larry offered me a beer. After my, "No, thanks," he added, "Would you think I was rude if I had one." Are you kidding? What a gentleman. And he took off his glove to shake my hand when I left. I was impressed. But then, a lot of things have impressed me on this trip.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Great White North

I'm looking past the computer monitor at a vista of tall pines and snow. There's a long path, shoveled, lined with lights, leading down to the frozen lake. It's absolutely beautiful and absolutely cold. High today has already been -- 20 -- it's headed down to 2 by this afternoon. The skiers have just left and the first group of dogsledders is out now. I'm waiting my turn. I have on so many layers, I can hardly bend to sit! Are we having fun yet -- yes -- and it's just going to get better!!!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Was I Thinking?

It was 6o here today. Tomorrow it's supposed to be 78. And I'm going to Minnesota where the temperature Friday is going to be 5. What's wrong with this picture? Oh, I have all my warm clothes -- two pairs of long underwear, wool socks, insulated pants and gloves, neckscarf and hat. But it occurred to me that my face is going to be hanging out. Margaret Kysar suggested I go to Ace Hardware and get one of those knit thingies -- a hat that comes down over your face but with holes for your eyes and mouth. I've got good news and bad news. Ace had them. That's the good news. The bad news is they only had kids' hats. And I didn't have time to run all over town trying to find a nice grown-up one. So I'm going to Minnesota with an evil Spiderman mask. The good Spiderman hat is red with a black web. The evil one is black with a white web. My ensemble is blue and black. So I will be coordinated. I promise a picture. It should be so amazingly embarrassing that it will be lifted to an iconic level. And I'll bet there'll be a little silent envy by those less sartorially spectacular ..... or less warm.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cat Lovers Unite

If you love cats, you'll love The pictures are great and the captions hysterical. And, occasionally, they include other animals. The video of the hedgehog eating a carrot is a hoot. I'm too cold to go in my office and use the computer there - the one with my photos on it. So this will have to do for today!

Monday, January 12, 2009

I've Got Good News and Good News

Congratulations to Kansas City on their listing as one of five international destinations to watch this year! I love Kansas City -- have a great time EVERY time I visit. That's the good news. And now more good news -- this designation came from I checked this site and found LOTS of good information including a chart of all the airlines "extras" charges. Bookmark this site -- it's a gold mine.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Sad News

My friend and fellow writer, Sharyn Kuneman, died. I wish I had a picture to put with this post. I see her clearly in my mind's eye -- short, strawberry-blond hair and always smiling. Whenever I saw her name on the list of journalists for an upcoming press trip I knew it would be a fun trip. She was a great traveler; never let glitches get her down and she was the first to tell a joke on herself. I remember sitting with her at breakfast in Freeport, Maine, and talking about funny things that had happened to us on trips. One of her stories was about a time she only took one pair of shoes on a trip -- and got them wet. How to dry them fast? Hmmm, how about the microwave. It seemed like a good idea until the microwave melted the glue that held the soles and the uppers together -- and, all of a sudden, she had topless bottoms! I'm glad she shared that -- sounds like something I might try -- like the time I decided to warm my pajamas in the microwave and, not realizing there was a kleenex in the pocket, set them on fire. Sharyn will be fondly remembered and greatly missed.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Puzzling Tradition

Jack and I spent the evening putting together a puzzle given to him as a Christmas present by the 3rd grade class he reads to each week. He'll take the picture to school tomorrow to show the kids. This puzzle was pretty easy. Last year the class gave him one of a red barn in a snowy field in front of a snowy mountain range. We didn't finish that one until spring break! This is supposed to be a travel blog -- but what does a travel writer do on vacation? Stay home!!!!! Hang with me -- I am hitting the road again in two weeks and I'll get back into work mode.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Christmas Is Officially Over

That's not a theological statement, just a physical fact. Jack made me take the tree down today so the recyclers could pick it up and mulch it -- sort of tree reincarnation. I loved the tree. I loved getting up in the gray early mornings and turning on the lights to enjoy their colorful sparkle. Now all that's left of it is a pan of yucky water and piles of needles. Rats!