#66 Exploring Minneapolis by Bicycle

(I have not established a statute of limitations for my blog posts. I was thinking of pushing myself to write them in the same year that I did them. I will use that rule today and like normal New Year’s Resolutions, I break it tomorrow.)

Back in July 2017 when we were in Minneapolis, MN, we had some time to tour the city. We agreed it would be ideal to tour the city by bicycle. We found a bike rental store, rented a few good bikes and took off. We rode throughout Minneapolis for 5 hours. The city has very good bike paths, several of them were formally trolley lines or railroads.  Also, the city is fairly flat.

We traveled up the river along the old industrial section, crossed the Mississippi River, weaved our way through the University of Minnesota, rode past the old mansions, crossed the Mississippi again, rode down along the river through a large park, ate lunch, had an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen (of course) and stopped at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. We packed our bikes on the subway and headed back to near our origin, and completed our ride. It was a lot of riding and some good relaxing. It is really fun to sightsee a city by bicycle and not have to worry about competing with cars and trucks.

Bike path formally a rail line

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Cityscape of Minneapolis

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Mississippi River

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Photograph of the Month: November

This photograph is of the Fallasburg Covered Bridge, which is located north of Lowell, MI, east of Grand Rapids. It wouldn’t be a good photograph of a covered bridge if it didn’t have snow to allow the roof to protect the bridge. As luck would have it, it did snow the night before.

From a website: “Completed at a cost of $1500, Fallasburg Bridge stretches 100 feet long and stands 14 feet wide and 12 feet high. The Fallasburg Bridge is one of only three covered bridges open to vehicle traffic in Michigan. Historic Fallasburg Village, past the 1871 covered bridge on beautiful Flat River, was a bustling nineteenth-century village until the railroad era.”


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#65 Visit Bridge Grandpa Built

My grandpa, Oyvind Leiv Rydland, worked as a design engineer for the Michigan State Highway Department in the 1930’s. He was involved in the design of bridges for the state.

While I don’t recall grandpa talking about his work or these bridges, my dad would occasionally mention them to me and tell me that if I went to Michigan I should see these bridges. A long time ago I had seen one of the bridges that grandpa designed, the Cut River Bridge in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but not the other. On this trip to Michigan I found out where the other bridge was located.

So on 11/12/17 I headed up from Grand Rapids to Cadillac, then west on M-55 over to see the bridge spanning the Pine River. The interesting thing I found there was that although this may not be a real impressive bridge by modern standards, it was at the time.  They even built a park next to it as a tourist stop. They had a fairly large parking area near the bridge and a path for visitors to get a closer view of the bridge near the river. I guess at the time, it must have been a pretty impressive structure. Perhaps it was impressive because most bridges in Michigan do not have to span deep valleys and this is one of the exceptions.

All in all, it was kind of cool to see something my grandpa had a hand in building.

From one of the websites: “The Mortimer E. Cooley Bridge is one of only two cantilevered deck truss bridges in Michigan. This structure is notable on aesthetic grounds as well, as the winner of the American Institute of Steel Construction Award in 1936 for the most beautiful structure in its class. This is also a large bridge, with an overall length of 555 feet.”


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#64 Solo Road Trip

Background – Mary Ann will occasionally take a trip to see her sisters in Florida, Minnesota, or Illinois. With my family nearby that doesn’t apply to me. I got to thinking, “Heck, she is leaving on a vacation and I am staying home. Maybe I will take a vacation by myself. I’m retired and have the time.” After discussing it with her, she agreed that I should take a ‘vacation’ while she is on her ‘vacation’. (I was invited to join her and the sisters, but … No way, no way, no way. Haha). So where to go? I settled on Michigan since I thought it was a place that had no good reason for us to vacation together. It would give me a chance to see places where I used to live, which might bore her to tears. And I would also have the opportunity to practice my photography – landscapes and cityscapes.

Warning to readers: Unlike my other more ‘interesting’ experiences (Haha), this may not be as exciting for readers to appreciate and replicate.   (My brothers and sisters might relate to this, though.)  Bear with me.

There are four cities/towns in Michigan that I have memories of as a kid. They are Grand Rapids, Paw Paw, Muskegon, and Lansing. I was born in Grand Rapids. I have only a few memories of one of the houses that we lived in there. After all, I was pretty young then. At the age of 3 or so we moved to Paw Paw, where we lived for 3 or 4 years before moving to Bethesda, Maryland. I have lots of memories from Paw Paw. My Mom’s parents lived in Muskegon and my Dad’s parents lived in Lansing. Both sets of parents moved to Maryland after we relocated east.

I drove first to Paw Paw (11/8/17) since I had the most memories of that town. Paw Paw is a village, population 3,500, in southwest Michigan. The population has barely grown in the 55 years since I lived there. Although it is the county seat, there is not much else. Maybe it is a commuter town to Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo, or a stop off the interstate. I did uncover two bright spots – St. Julian Winery and Paw Paw Brewery. I visited both for tastings. The wine was good and so was the beer. The village is so small, for what I wanted to see, I could have jogged around the lake and seen the whole town, but it was freezing cold and I had my camera to record some memories.   I stopped by the house I used to live in, the elementary school I briefly attended, a cemetery near our house that I knew was there but does not show up in maps, the scary bridge that crossed the hydroelectric dam on Mona Lake, the skeleton of the Tastee Freez we used to have ice cream, and the downtown area.

The ‘scary bridge’ was a narrow road over the lake which barely fit a car between the hydroelectric building on one side and the lake on the other, no safety rails. When you are 5 years old and can’t swim, don’t have seat belts on, and your mother is driving fast over the bridge screaming “We’re all going to die!” you get pretty scared. My younger sister, Karen, was just as petrified as I was.

Next I drove west to Lake Michigan to photograph lighthouses. I went to South Haven and then Grand Haven. It was colder on the coast with high winds, making for some good photographs. I then drove up to Muskegon (actually North Shores) to see my grandparent’s old house (Adolph and Anita Dasler).   I didn’t stay long (you don’t want to stay long in Muskegon), high-tailing it to Grand Rapids.

I decided to lodge in Grand Rapids for the rest of the trip. From there I could get to any other place I wanted to see in about an hour or so. Seems like a lot of people live somewhere else and commute to Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan, about 200,000. From what I hear it is the best city in Michigan and also claims to be Beer City, USA.

While in Grand Rapids, I stopped by the two houses where I lived and the hospital where I was born (Blodgett Memorial Hospital). The next day I took a tour of the countryside, visiting a few small towns and covered bridges. I also met up with my wife’s nephew, Bryce, for lunch as he does one of those commutes from a small town on Lake Michigan to Grand Rapids.

The next day I did a walking tour of downtown Grand Rapids. While staying in downtown, I stopped by a few of the breweries – Founders Brewery, which sells craft beer nationally, and the Grand Rapids Brewery.

Then I took a day trip to Lansing to see the house where my grandparents (Oyvind and Dorit Rydland) used to live. While in Lansing I spent the afternoon visiting relatives, Pat and Pat (My godmother’s daughter, Patricia, and her husband, Patrick), catching up on our families.

So that was the extent of my personal road trip experience. It was interesting taking a trip by myself. I had the opportunity to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. On the other hand, it would be better to share it with my travel partner. I realized that this would be a good trip to involve Mary Ann, however we would definitely have to pick a better (warmer) time of the year!

Scary bridge in Paw Paw, Michigan

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Lighthouse at Grand Haven, Michigan

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Cityscape of Grand Rapids, Michigan

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#63 Performance at the Kennedy Center

On 11/2/17, Mary Ann and I went down to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC to see “The Book of Mormon”. The performance was on a Thursday night, thus making it a good retirement experience. We could drive down there whenever we wanted and return as late as needed and not have to worry about leaving work early or going to work the next day. I like doing these things on a weekday. However, there was a downside as the show started at 7:30 in the evening. We still had to contend with rush hour traffic to get there on time. Waze sent us through a labyrinth of side roads to get there on time.

The John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a great venue to experience live performances. A pretty classy place. It seemed that everyone was dressed up for the show. Our performance was in the large opera house part of the building. “The Book of Mormon” was not an opera but a wacky musical. While it made plenty of fun at the Mormons, it was very Politically Incorrect, making fun of most religions and peoples. Surprisingly enough, even in the Politically Correct culture of the Washington area, people still laughed at all the satire. It was a good show.

I would recommend taking in a play or musical (It would not be in my nature to recommend an opera though – personal opinion. See Retirement Experience #17) at the Kennedy Center.


#62 Field Trip with Grandchildren

A little background on this retirement experience. Since retiring, I have been involved in the grandkids after school care. At first I was just an extra body with Mary Ann doing the heavy lifting.  But as time has gone on, I have become more involved. I go along with Mary Ann to pick them up from school, help with their homework, read to them, sit and talk to them as they eat their snack, and play with them – sometimes ‘wrasslin’ to get their energy out. All in one hour a day. While I was still working, I was not involved at all.

One thing I had not done was go on a field trip with any of the grandkids. Even though I was not asked, I would have been petrified to be locked into an activity and have to be responsible for several kids. Normally, either Kristin, Chris, or Grammy (Mary Ann) would happily do the honors. However, a field trip bumped into a major scheduling conflict. Annie’s pre-school class was going on a field trip on 11/14/17 and none of the responsible, reliable adults (Kristin, Chris, or Grammy) were available. That left Papa (me). I was available. I was approached and after they explained it would only be an hour and I only had to watch one other kid besides Annie and we were only going a mile away from school, I accepted.

The field trip turned out to be a tour of Giant Foods, a local grocery store. Why a grocery store? To learn about nutritious foods. A few parents and a couple of teachers gathered up a group of 3 year olds, placed them in their car’s respective bulky car seats, and drove over to the grocery store.

I had two kids to watch. Annie and Mackenzie. We all held hands and they were on their best behavior. We made one loop around the store – produce section, dairy, deli, meats, seafood, and frozen foods. Out of all of those sections, it boiled down to see the fruits and vegetables, see the milk, eat a slice of cheese, learn meats are proteins, touch a live lobster, and see the massive amounts of ice cream in the frozen section. At the end of the tour they even had a demonstration of the checkout line. (Now, I think that was a bit much for 3 year olds to grasp.)  They left with a goodie bag including an apple, water bottle, pencil, coloring book, and a wrist band. Whohoo. What Annie got out of it was wanting to go back with me to ‘Giant Food’ (not ‘the grocery store’) and buy her Lucky Charms and ice cream.

I survived this retirement experience with a promise to Annie that I would take her back to Giant Food to get Lucky Charms and ice cream. She did not let me forget it, either. In fact, the next week we (Mary Ann and I) took her grocery shopping. We got all the thing we needed in addition to, of course, Lucky Charms and ice cream.


#61 Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

On my way home from dropping Mary Ann off at Reagan National Airport for her visit with her sisters on 11/4/17, I stopped at Arlington National Cemetery to tour the cemetery. My original purpose was to visit my parent’s niche (in the columbarium) and my uncle’s grave. It was a pleasant fall afternoon so it was good for a long walk to see the other highlights of the cemetery and take photographs.

I visited the Kennedy family gravesite where President John F. Kennedy and his family are buried with the ‘Eternal Flame’ burning. However, the most impressive place in the cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a monument dedicated to U.S. service members who have died without their remains being identified. The tomb is continuously guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Periodically, the guard changes (every half hour, every hour, or every 2 hours, depending on the day and time). All day long there is a large crowd witnessing the guard performing the meticulous routine to watch over the tomb, as well as the periodic changing of the guard.

As I watched the guard pacing along the path and witnessing the changing of the guard, I was moved at the symbolism of the tomb and the dedication of the soldiers performing their duty. I was also impressed that the large crowd remained respectably quiet throughout the entire continuous ceremony.

When in DC, the Arlington National Cemetery is a worthwhile place to visit.

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