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Rotary Roses and Boys and Girls Club

Minnesota – Wednesday, November 6

Since I ended up in Detroit Lakes last night, I figured Tula and I better start our day off with a walk by one of the lakes. As I was driving down toward the water, I passed a sign on a street corner in town that something about Roses for Rotary with an arrow pointing down the street. It looked like something worth checking out, so I drove down to a greenhouse where I saw another sign. I got on the computer and read about the rose sale, and it supports several literacy programs for local youth. I knew I had found a good donation opportunity (and one I haven’t seen before!). The rose sale was set up inside the greenhouse and I talked to the 2 people who were at the sales table.  They had ordered 650 dozen roses and they were being sold for $20/dozen. The sale lasts a couple days, but there’s usually not much left by Friday morning. The timing of the sale coincides with the beginning of hunting season (which starts Saturday) and it sounds like the roses are popular with hunters, who give them them to their wives and girlfriends as a token for their upcoming absences! Hunting is a big thing around here – there are also kick-off dinners for hunters in some of the local towns.

After the rose stop, Tula and I continued down to the lake, where we walked along the lakeshore and through a park, then I put her back in the car, and continued through some pretty neighborhoods. I walked a little over 3 1/2 miles. Then I started heading out of town toward Park Rapids, but realized I was on the wrong road. When I pulled off the highway to turn around, I saw a really big Boys and Girls Club Thrift Store, which I haven’t seen before. I read about the local Boys and Girls Club and it’s a big program in the Detroit Lakes area, and their building just so happened to be on the road I needed to get to the correct highway. So I felt like I needed to stop and make a donation! I found the building and went inside and met some of the staff. This part of Minnesota has one of the poorest counties in the state, and more than 50% of the school-age kids qualify for food assistance. There are about 130-140 kids who come to the Boys and Girls Club after school, and the staff and volunteers pick them up from school, and give them a snack and a hot meal, and organize activities for them. In the summer they’re open for 10 hours a day, and have about 100 kids each day.  They have a nice-sized building with a couple classroom spaces and a kitchen, and I enjoyed meeting the people there.

Then I got on the correct road toward Park Rapids, and made a quick stop at the place where a tornado had destroyed a forest in 2011, but the community had replanted hundreds of trees by 2012. From there I headed north to Itasca State Park to see the headwaters of the Mississippi River, hoping to get to the visitor center before they closed early. I made it up there, and just missed the visitor center, but I was able to figure things out from their maps. Tula and I walked on the trail by one of the visitor centers, then drove to the one by the actual headwaters of the Mississippi River. I just loved walking in this park and to be able to see where the river begins was pretty magical after I’ve spent so much time walking next to it in a number of states. The beginning of the Mississippi River is small; kind of narrow and shallow. The water spills out of a big lake, over some rocks, to form the river that begins the long journey to the Gulf of Mexico, gaining width and depth and speed along the way. It actually flows north for a ways, before curving east and then south. There was a trail along the lakeshore by the woods, and Tula and I walked miles in the deepening twilight. We hadn’t gone very far when I heard a funny noise, and couldn’t figure out what it was at first. It sounded like someone was near me on a bicycle honking a horn. And then I saw swans – lots of them – and I think they were trumpeter swans. They were big and very loud, and it was fun to listen to the racket. They sort of made up for not seeing loons – someone told me they’ve all gone south.  One pair of swans still had a young one with them, and they’re kind of gray.  After I took Tula back to the car, I set out for one more walk to see the headwaters again and to walk by the place with the swans, but it was almost dark and they must have settled in quietly for the night somewhere.

I had planned to stay in Bemidji tonight, but discovered all the motels were full – it turned out train crews and construction people were in town working on the railroad tracks. So I headed a little northeast to the town of Blackduck, where I found a cute little mom-and-pop motel called the Drake Motel, where I called it a day.

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Good-bye North Dakota; Hello Minnesota!

North Dakota/Minnesota – Tuesday, November 5

I had a vet appointment for Tula first thing this morning, so I found the clinic and they did a check-up on Tula. They could see her hobbling, and the vet did range-of-motion checks on Tula’s legs and felt her back, and her knees, and said everything felt strong and good. She wondered if there might be a soft-tissue injury and gave me some pain medication for Tula to take for a week, and if the hobbling continues, she said I might want to think about getting some x-rays when I get home.

I had about a mile and a half left of walking in North Dakota, and finished it off in downtown Fargo. Since this is buffalo country, the town had various buffalo statues placed all over town, and painted in a variety of colors and designs.  Then all 56 miles of walking were done, and all 7 North Dakota donations had been made – Safe Shelter, Heaven’s Helpers Soup Kitchen, Welcome House START program, Seeds of Hope, Scandinavian Heritage Park Gol Stave Church, Dakota Prairie Food Pantry and North Dakota Veterans Home.

I said good-bye to North Dakota, drove across the Red River of the North, and crossed into Moorhead, Minnesota. I found a park right by the river and got Tula out for a half mile – I’m still going to have her take it easy today. Then I stopped by the Dorothy Day food pantry, which just so happened to be open on Tuesdays at 1:00, and that was the time I got there! I stopped in to ask if they would prefer a financial donation or a food donation, and I met an enthusiastic older gentleman named Jim who took me inside the pantry to show me a poster of how much farther they can stretch a dollar than I can. So I made a financial donation.  Jim showed me all around the pantry area, and explained their system. They use a color-coded system, and when the clients come in, they are allowed to “shop” for the items they need, based on their family size which determines their color. Then, even if there is a language barrier, the people can choose the foods their family will enjoy. There was even a kids’ shelf where the kids could each choose something.  And there were plenty of volunteers on hand to help out too – it was a busy place!

Then I found the Red River Trail, and it passed by the Hjemkomst Center, which I planned to visit when I was done with some walking. I followed the river trail, and enjoyed a long 4 1/2 mile late-fall walk. Then I went into the Hjemkomst Center, which is another Scandinavian place to visit, and one of the volunteers took me out to an exact replica of a stave church, and we were able to go inside. The wood work and carving was beautiful. The inside of the stave church isn’t as big as the outside appears because of all the ornate woodwork. Benches were apparently not used, and anyone who was ill had to stay outside and listen to the church service through the “leper window.” Back inside the center I watched a video about a man who built a replica of a Viking ship in the 1980s (a project that took years to complete) to fulfill his dream of sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to Norway. He started from scratch – cutting down trees and sawing the planks. He died before the boat was finished, but his kids carried on, and eventually they were able to put together a crew, and they successfully sailed the boat from Duluth MN to Norway. The actual boat is now in the center, and it is kind of a broad, shallow boat, and I can’t imagine sailing it out on the open ocean – it just didn’t see like it was big enough to go against the waves and bad weather. But they made it, and fulfilled their fathers’ dream. The video was really good, and to be able to see and touch the actual boat was pretty amazing.

I went back outside to do a little more walking in Moorhead before it got dark, and Tula went on part of the walk too.  I covered 2 1/2 miles in a pretty neighborhood area as it was getting dark. Then I returned to the Hjemkomst Center (conveniently open late on Tuesdays) to look at the museum area. They had some nice displays – an old loom which was weighted with rocks, a Norwegian tent and clothing displays and various old tools and weapons.  It was also the grand opening of a Sheep to Shawl exhibit, and I wandered through that. There were displays of different kinds of  wool, spinning and knitting.

By the time I was done there, it was late. I had made my first Minnesota donation and done 8 miles of walking without getting more than a few miles into the state! So I got in the van and drove about 40 miles to the town of Detroit Lakes, where I stopped for the night.


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North Dakota Veterans Home

North Dakota – Monday, November 4

Today I was going to see some of southeast North Dakota, and I headed west from Fargo through prairie land. At one point I passed an old abandoned church with broken windows – that’s not something one sees very often. I stopped in the town of Casselton where I got out and walked 2 miles. From there I headed southwest to the town of Lisbon, which is the location of the only veterans home in North Dakota. I had called ahead and spoken to Margy to see if there was anything in particular that they needed, but she said a donation toward anything on the wish list would be good. I took a look at the choices and decided I would like my donation to go toward the “Resident Christmas” program. The veterans home staff goes out shopping for a Christmas gift for each of the residents, and since it’s already November, I thought that might be a timely donation. When I got there Margy called someone else down, and that person (whose name I’ve forgotten) showed me all around the veterans home.  It was very warm and inviting, and set up sort of like a large home, with a kitchen for each group of about 13 residents (so they can help themselves to snacks and drinks in addition to the meals that are provided), and a hallway of “storefronts” that are set up to look like different shops – a pool hall, a theatre,  a barbershop, a town hall, a museum, a chapel, etc. They also have a separate wing for patients who need additional nursing care. It was fun to see the place, and it’s so nice for the veterans to have a place to go. After making the donation, Tula and I set off for some walking in town, and I covered a little over 2 miles. I passed a “little free library” which looks like an overgrown birdhouse with paperbacks in it, and anyone is free to exchange books there. I’ve seen several of those in various towns – a fun idea!

Then I set of for Valley City. I stopped for a walk in Medicine Wheel Park, which featured a replica of a Native American solar calendar, although I didn’t quite understand it! There was a central stone calendar of some sort, and a long path leading by rocks which had the planets’ names on them, although I couldn’t find Pluto even though I walked to the end of the trail!  Valley City also has one of the longest and highest single track train bridges in the nation – 3860 feet long and 162 feet high over the river; built in 1906 and still in use. (Although I’m pretty sure my mom, Taryn and I saw a higher train trestle in Kentucky a few years ago but it wasn’t as long).  I wanted to see a train cross the bridge, but no luck.  And then I walked a mile and a half around the campus area of Valley City State University. By this time it was dark, and I still needed to get some miles in since this was my last full day in North Dakota. So I stopped by a big indoor mall near Fargo and walked a few laps to cover 2 1/2 miles. I think this is only the 3rd time I’ve walked a couple indoor miles! Then  I stayed in Fargo again for the night, since I had a vet appointment for Tula in the morning.


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Dakota Prairie Food Pantry

North Dakota – Sunday, November 3

Devils Lake is the largest natural body of water in North Dakota, and a Sioux legend tells a story of the Great Spirit who drowned a war party in the lake after they attempted a forbidden night attack. Because of that, the Sioux named the lake Minnewaukan Seche, which meant “spirit waters.” The white people interpreted this as “Lake of the Evil Spirit” and it was later shortened to Devils Lake. I drove some of the lake while driving out to Sullys Hill National Wildlife Preserve, where I set off on a 3+ mile walk on the narrow little loop road around the preserve. In the end, that was probably not the wisest choice of a walking trail, although when I walked around, all I saw was a big bull elk crossing the road way far ahead.  I didn’t have Tula with me for that walk (her hind leg still seems to be bothering her a bit and I’m going to talk with a vet tomorrow), so when I got back to the car I took her on a short walk on a trail by the lake. Tula gets around just fine and doesn’t seem to be in pain, but she does hop now and then, and that’s what I want to get checked out. So I’m limiting her walking.  On my way out of the preserve, I drove around the same loop road I had just walked, and within the first half mile, I came to a large herd of buffalo what were blocking the road. I would certainly have retreated if I’d seen them while I was walking, and that’s when I realized maybe the road was meant more for cars and not pedestrians and bikes! I got fairly close to the herd and just stopped and enjoyed watching them. The babies were were so soft and fuzzy looking – I could almost reach out and touch one.  They ignored me – perhaps they’re used to cars. Finally they began to lumber away and I continued along the one-way road.

I returned to the town of Devils Lake and walked another mile along streets that were mostly deserted because it was a Sunday. I passed the Dakota Prairie Community Action Center, and I had called them on Friday about making a donation to their food pantry program, and happened to catch the lady who was the director of the food pantry. The Dakota Prairie Community Action Center has numerous programs to help people who are struggling, and she said they would most certainly appreciate a donation, but they’re not open on weekends, so she said I could just mail in a check and specify that I wanted it to go toward the food pantry. So that’s what I did. I wanted to make a donation here simply because I like the Dakota Prairie name, and the fact that I’d seen so much of the Dakota prairies and that they were home to past generations on both sides of my family.

Then I started heading east. I stopped in the town of Lakota, North Dakota and walked almost 2 more miles. Then I drove for a while longer and came to Grand Forks, a major agricultural town along the Red River of the North – a river I’d never heard of before. I found the greenway along the river,  and walked almost 4 1/2 miles along the water as darkness fell – it was a really pretty walk. They have a floodwall to protect part of the city, and a marker that shows the height of flooding during numerous floods. Once again, I simply couldn’t comprehend how the river I was looking down on could rise so high above my head. It was dark when I finished my walk, and altogether today I covered 11 miles, which helped make up for the shortfall earlier in the week. I headed south to Fargo where I stopped for the night.


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Peace Garden

North Dakota – Saturday, November 2

Since I ended up in Bottineau last night, that’s where I started my walking for the day.  At the city park, I encountered a 50 foot statue of a turtle riding a snowmobile – this town is situated at the base of the  Turtle Mountains, and since snowmobiling is a popular winter pastime, they combined the two and made this big statue. I walked a little over a mile and a half, and walked past a lot of grain elevators that were humming and steaming – it seemed to be a busy area on a Saturday morning during harvest time. Then I headed north toward the International Peace Gardens that straddle the US/Canadian border. Along the way, I climbed up into the Turtle Mountains, although seemed more like big hills to me!  Compared to the surrounding flat prairie, I imagine any elevation change is notable, and there were numerous signs announcing the changing elevation, even though it only increased from 1700 feet to 2266 feet! Along the way I made a quick stop at Mystic Horizons, which one guidebook said was a 21st-century Stonehenge. There were huge rocks set in place with little slits cut out of them where the sun would peek through at exactly the moments of summer and winter solstice, and spring and fall equinoxes. There was a large sun dial, and a Polaris Sighting Tube to locate the North Star. And there was a nice view of the prairies stretching off into the horizon.


I drove east along the North Dakota/Canada border, passing cows turned loose into old cornfields, and lots of small frozen lakes. It was a sunny day, but pretty chilly. Then I arrived at The International Peace Gardens.  The flowers were no longer in bloom of course, but it was still a good place to get out and walk around, although I stayed on the North Dakota side. I walked 3 1/2 miles around the Peace Gardens loop, and then Tula and I walked another mile through what was left of the formal gardens, and by the big floral clock.  There was also an unexpected 9-11 tribute, with a monument made of some of the fallen steel beams from the World Trade Towers. Outside the boundaries of the Peace Gardens, the actual border between the US and Canada was a very straight line of dirt where trees had been cut down to make a border line – my Triple A book says that the Peace Gardens commemorate the friendship between the US and Canada on the longest unfortified border in the world.


I had to go through Canadian immigration/customs on the way out and then I began to head south to the town of Rugby, which is called the Geographical Center of North America. I found the stone marker, which had the flags of the US, Canada and Mexico all flying by it. Then I walked a couple miles throughout the town of Rugby, and passed a unique bell tower, and an old-style movie theatre which seemed to only be open on Saturdays, and a lot of people were coming out for the movie.


Since I had made 2 donations yesterday, I didn’t make one today.  Once my walking was finished, I drove another hour or so over to Devils Lake where I stopped for the night, and enjoyed a good meal at Applebee’s using a gift card.


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A Scandinavian Day

North Dakota – Friday, November 1

I woke up to a chilly gray morning, and headed over to Oak Park to start the day’s walking. Tula walked a little bit of it, and then I walked on all the trails in the park and along a river and covered 2 1/2 miles. Then I headed into the downtown area and walked another mile. Minot wasn’t as interesting as some other cities, but it’s the farthest west I’m going in North Dakota. There’s an oil boom going on in the western part of the state, and it’s likely to continue for at least 20 years. It’s driven up motel prices and other prices in the Minot area, and it’s probably even worse farther west.

I noticed another park in town called the Scandinavian Heritage Park and it flies the flags of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland. I walked all  around the park and it was a really interesting place, with a beautiful full-size replica of the Gol Stave church in Oslo; a 30-foot tall Dala horse; a Danish windmill; a statue to memorialize Sondre Norheim, the “father of modern skiing”; and several other Norwegian buildings that were dismantled in Norway and reassembled in North Dakota. The buildings weren’t open because it was the off season, but it was still fun to walk around. The stave church had a donation box, and since I’ve been surrounded by so much Scandinavian family history this past week, I decided to make a cultural donation to the Gol Stave Church.

When I was finished at the Scandinavian Heritage Park, I headed over to Roosevelt Park (named in honor of Teddy Roosevelt – it still amazes me how some of these historic people got around so much without modern transportation!) on the other side of town, and walked almost 2 miles. Then, based on signs I saw in town, I headed to the big North Dakota state fairgrounds where a large craft show was taking place. I walked around the fairgrounds for a bit, then headed inside to enjoy a big craft show. There were also baked goods for sale, and I got some lefse and krumkake. That all finished off my walking for the day, then I drove still farther north to the town of Bottineau, close to the Canadian border, where I stayed in a motel called Norway House – a fitting end to a day with Scandinavian parks, buildings, food, and now the motel name. I tasted one of the krumkake and although it looked really good and the color and texture were just right, something was missing from the taste – no nutmeg! They still tasted okay, and when I looked at their ingredients, I saw they used cardamom instead of nutmeg. Krumkake need nutmeg – but I ate them anyway!


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Welcome House and Seeds of Hope

North Dakota  – Thursday, October 31

I went along with Sommer to her workplace this morning because she said a couple of her co-workers would like to meet me. They had some questions about my journey and I enjoyed talking with them. Then I got Tula out for a short walk on the paths by the capitol building. She doesn’t seem to be hobbling as much as yesterday, but I’m going to limit her walking today. Then I headed downtown, and along the way I passed a Retired Priests Residence – that’s something I’ve never seen before!

I drove to the Welcome House in Bismarck – one of the places that Sommer had told me about. I met Rosie, the House Manager, and she told me about the Welcome House and how it provides shelter and food for homeless families, along with assistance to find permanent housing.  They also offer some additional programs and one of them is called START, which stands for Success Through Activities, Recreation and and Transportation – in other words, an extra-curricular program for students. The Welcome House believes that all children should have the opportunity to participate in an extra-curricular program, and they will pay the registration fee and even help with transportation. This was a new donation opportunity for me, and I was happy to be able to help a little. I spent quite a bit of time talking with Rosie and learning about the Welcome House, and she wanted to hear about my journey too. When we said good-bye, Rosie said “I will remember you forever” which was very moving. I never expect to have such an impact on people.

Then I walked for a mile and a half around the historic downtown area. As I was out walking, another big building caught my eye and it was called Seeds of Hope. It was a thrift store, and all the proceeds benefit abuse victims who are served by the Abused Adult Resource Center. I went inside, and it was the nicest thrift store I’ve ever seen. Like the outside of the building, it was attractive, neat, clean and organized. There were a lot of people in there shopping and I browsed around a little too. I liked the name Seeds of Hope and I wanted to make a donation. I gave it to one of the ladies who was working at the cash register, and she was very appreciative of the donation.

At that point, I went back to Sommer’s house for lunch. Both she and her husband live close to work and they often come home for lunch, and to let their dogs out. Her husband couldn’t make it today, but Sommer and I enjoyed a nice lunch (and I liked the beets we had – I can’t remember the last time I tried beets!) and a little more time to visit, and then we parted ways.

With my donations done, I was going to concentrate on my walking for the rest of the day. I started off with a mile and a half in one of the historic residential districts, and then headed for an arboretum for some more walking. From there I went back to the Missouri River and covered another mile and a half walking along the river. Then I drove north for a while, up to the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site. I went into the visitor center, then Tula and I walked on the trails past the old village areas. The Knife River Indians lived in round sod houses – many of them all clustered together with hardly any space between. When the villages were abandoned, the round sod houses eventually collapsed into the ground, leaving many visible mounds on the ground. It is not known why the houses were built in big groups so close together – except maybe for defense purposes.  We scared up at least 10 pheasants on our walk, plus I had seen a couple back at the arboretum. They seem to be all over!

I continued heading north through the prairieland, and at one point I passed an old church out in the middle of nowhere. As it was getting dark, I made it to the town of Riverdale, where Tula and I got out for a final couple miles of walking for the day.  The town of Riverdale sits by the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River, and it’s one of the biggest earth-filled dams in the world.  Today was Halloween, and there were kids in costume out trick-or-treating. It was a neat, tidy town to wander through, and when I was done with that walk, I had covered almost 10 miles today. Then I was happy to sit in the car for the drive up to Minot, where I stopped for the night.

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