Thursday, July 16, 2009

North Dakota? What Happened!

Nancy and I are on a road trip camping at state parks in the northwest corner of Minnesota. So what are we doing in North Dakota, and why did we spend an afternoon at one of THEIR state parks???

Well, we set out Tuesday morning driving toward the upper left hand corner of MN 350 miles away. But the thunderstorms and unrelenting wind buffeted us for hours across the wide-open prairie of western MN--miserable weather in which to set up a tent, much less to sleep in one.

So we breached the border, scooted up I-29, and took shelter in the Guesthouse Hotel in downtown Grand Forks, about 60 miles from our intended destination of Old Mill State Park. When the rain let up we walked the park along the Red River of the North, crossed the bridge back into Minnesota, and bought hiking shorts at Cabella's Sporting Goods in East Grand Forks. As we walked back to the hotel the heavens opened up once again and we got soaked in a thunder and lightening storm.

We spent Wednesday afternoon at Turtle Lake State Park with a beautiful prairie in full bloom, marchlands, forests, and hordes of hungry mosquitos. Several park buildings were erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), part of FDR's New Deal that put hundreds of thousands of unemployed men to work building parks and other natural resource programs across the U.S.

A beautiful stone building now stands in tribute to the CCC. It is now a picnic shelter, but originally it served as a bath house where the public could rent bathing suits and swim in the Turtle River.

With steady winds from 25-30 mph and dark, threatening skies, we decided to spend a second night in Grand Forks. Today we set out for the Old Mill State Park , the first of four Minnesota parks we intend to visit. More rain is predicted for today, and the weekend looks cool but dry. On with the adventure...and our long-johns!!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Amy and Al

"Are you on your way to work in Al Franken's office?" a man at the adjacent gas pump asked me in Pennsylvania as he eyed my Al Franken bumper sticker.

"I wish!" I replied. “But we ARE going to visit Minnesota’s other senator.”

He was one of many people who commented on the Senate race in Minnesota during our recent East Coast trip. People seemed to take a keen interest in the unresolved election and in the unusual situation of Minnesota’s having only one senator in Washington, DC.

As of noon today, with the swearing in of Al Franken, Minnesota finally has two senators. Thanks to Amy Klobuchar for doing double duty while seemingly endless recounts and legal challenges ground slowly to their conclusion in the Minnesota Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling last week that Franken had won the election by 312 votes.

A few days after this exchange, Nancy and I visited Senator Klobuchar in her office in the Hart Senate Office Building. Every Thursday, she hosts a "Minnesota Morning" for constituents who are visiting the capital. We were among the 80-plus Minnesotans who showed up to sample pastries from the Iron Range (where Amy grew up) and kibbutz with our senator.

It was the first time I had heard Amy Klobuchar speak. I was so impressed! Her commitment to the causes I believe in (environment, sensible health care, education, agriculture, and alternative energy), her articulate command of the issues, and her down-home humor and friendliness knocked me over. Unlike so many politicians, Senator Klobuchar seems the real deal, authentic to the core.

Nancy and I gave her a personally inscribed copy of our book, Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully: A Journey with Cancer and Beyond. Perhaps now that she’s not handling all of Minnesota’s requests for assistance with federal agencies, she’ll have some time for reading.
We hope that Senator Franken takes a page from his Minnesota colleague. If he works half as hard as the first woman our state has elected to the U.S. Senate, he will serve his constituents well.

And now, at last, I can take the Franken bumper sticker off my car!