Thursday, August 23, 2012


The Runestone Museum in Alexandria MN contains a 200 lb stone with runes (letters in the Runic alphabet). The stone was unearthed in nearby Kensington MN in 1898 when a farmer toppled a beech or aspen tree and found the stone held by its roots. The stone is of a kind found in the area and the lettering has been translated. It tells the story of Vikings exploring the area in 1362! The Wikipedia site about the Kensington Runestone says that Swedish scientists are positive that the stone is a fake and its language is consistent with the 1800s, not the 1300s. A video in the museum makes a strong case that the runestone is genuine and was written in the year 1362.



The museum is housed in a building serving as the Alexandria  visitors center and the office of the Chamber of Commerce. The displays inside are also devoted to local Indian tribes, living conditions in the area a century ago, and wildlife of the area. Across the street is the large statue of a Viking.


Here is the stone itself. More lettering is on the left side.


And here is the lettering on the left side.


This brief history of the stone appears on the bronze plaque at its foot.


This display case shows Nordic artifacts found in the area in the last century. They resemble similar implements used in Scandinavia hundreds of years ago.  A metallurgical  analyses indicates that the iron was a type used over 200 years ago and was formed by simple methods. The wooden handle in the axe on the right has not been carbon dated.


This display shows the most recent line by line translation of the stone  into various languages, with the last being English.


This is the translation of the runestone made by the first man to study it extensively, Hjalmer Holland (Holand?).


This image was shown in a 45 minute video about the stone showing the imaging done on it about 2010.  The point made from the imaging is that the Rs in the runestone had a dot (depressed area) in the center of the upper part  of the R and that style was used in the rune for the letter R in the 1300s.


Is the runestone genuine? If so, the Vikings were in Minnesota long before Columbus’ voyage of 1492!

The video at the museum also made the point that several indications of Viking early presence have been found on America’s east coast.


Our home Coast To Coast park is in Perham MN, and we try to spend a week here every summer.  In traveling to nearby towns, we have noticed that there are many statues in the vicinity. Some purport to be the largest statue in the world of the animal featured. such as the turkey and the bison below. This is not a complete set of pictures of the local statues. I have seen others of a loon, a crow, a milk cow and an ear of corn!


This huge turkey is next to a turkey farm near Frazee MN


This is a statue to a potato in Barnesville MN which is having a Potato Festival this month. We were told that there are several of these around the town.


A pelican is appropriate for Pelican Falls MN!


And this whitetail deer is the right statue for Deer Creek.



Here is a coot at Ashby MN.



How would you like to tie into this fish (a large mouth bass?)!


The town of Ottertail has this huge otter holding down a fish it just caught!


This statue of an Indian commemorates the tribal  battle for which  Battle Lake is named.                   



This Viking is at Alexandria MN which claims that Vikings were in the Area in 1362. See my blog about the

Runestone Museum.



Finally here is a bison. I do not recall where this one is located.

Monday, August 6, 2012


From our Corps of Engineers RV park near McGregor MN we took a day trip to Hibbing MN for antiquing. We did not expect to find a huge open pit iron mine just outside town, so I did not put my Canon digital camera in the car for taking pictures of it for a blog. But I did have in the car a 5.1 mp Vivitar digital camera I try to leave there.  I got the camera in an antique store for $10. This blog is experimental in that I wanted to see how well the camera would perform for blog purposes.




The fact that the type on this sign is readable  speaks well for the camera’s resolution.

A brochure bills it as the world’s largest open pit iron mine, 3.5 miles east-west and 1.5 miles north-south at the greatest dimensions. It is in Minnesota’s Mesabi iron range.


Mining is carried on 24/7/365 on several faces. That shown here is the closest to the visitors observation area.


This is a view of another part of the pit from the visitors center.


Equipment is displayed at the visitors center. Here a huge mine truck is displayed next to a shelter over the powerplant for the truck. It is diesel electric. Stairs permit visitors to climb up in to the operator’s seat.




This shovel bucket dwarfs Jo.


And here is a tire for one of the mine trucks.



Our motor home at the Coast To Coast RV park near Gresham. This area of the park was sufficiently open  so we could get satellite TV reception from the antenna mounted on the motor home. We had this part of the park to ourselves; the wooded part was very full on the weekend.


Jo was impressed with this town clock in Bondell which was recently installed.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


On July  31, Cousin Ken drove us up to the Bond Falls Scenic Area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, just a few miles from our RV park in Eagle River. The Ontonagan river, dammed above the falls, provides the outflow for this very scenic area. If you want to visit, the nearest town is Paulding.




This is the visitors’ first view  of the falls. And this is just half! The total drop of the falls is around 50 feet.



Here is the other half.



Cousin Ken Strong, Linda, me and Cousin Martha Rosenthal at the foot of part of the falls.



There are foot trails on both sides of the river from the foot of the falls to the top of the rapid where the falls begin. Visitors can stand beside the falls to experience the power of the rushing water. I was wondering as I watched  if any one has taken any kind of a craft down the falls and survived.




Jo with the upper part of the falls  in the background.


Us and another view of the upper part of the falls.


The view as we climbed higher up the side of the falls.


The highest parts of the falls were scenic, too.



Jo, Ken and Linda hiked down the other side of he falls.



As we returned to the bottom of the falls a group of children were playing.


Cousin Martha attends the Union Congregational Church in Three Lakes, WI, and when we are visiting her we usually attend a Sunday service there. A Roman Catholic Church is across the side street from the Congregational church. A homeowner on the lot abutting the Catholic church has objected to the timing of the Congregational church ringing its bells during the day. Although the Congregational church has decreased the hours of bell ringing at the homeowner’s request, he still is not happy.  He has put up a large permanent sign on his side of the common property line with that of the Catholic church voicing his issue with the Congregational church. It reads:


The youth group at the Catholic church made and erected a yet larger sign on its side of the common lot line in front of the unhappy neighbor’s sign reading:



What an ecumenical gesture!




Martha took us out for a ride on her pontoon boat. Here is one of the mansions on Cranberry Lake.


Another “nice summer place” on the lake. Martha’s pontoon boat is similar to that shown in a broadside view above.


Martha at the wheel.


Jo is enjoying the ride. So did I!



This is my entree when for the first time I ordered smelt. Cousin Ken tells me that the little fish are gutted but not otherwise processed until covered in a batter and deep fat fried. It is really very tasty, with a normal fish flavor. The squeamish just have to ignore the facts that the head, fins and skin remain on the fish!

Friday, August 3, 2012


In my blogs I try to be upbeat by highlighting the better parts of our journeys. This one is not upbeat, but interesting and socially important. The events here happened around the time of the Kent State, Jackson and Attica violence. This one should be remembered as an uprising in which which multiple deaths were avoided. I blog about this as we spent a week in a Coast to Coast park close to Gresham and because a good friend was the mediator. The Novitiate is very close to the Menominee Indian reservation.

The historical information below is based on data in web sites found in a google search “Gresham Novitiate”.

The mansion was built in 1938 on a 232 acre parcel through which Wisconsin's Red River flows. It is in a lightly populated  part of the state, 50 miles from Green Bay. The mansion was built and occupied by Mrs. Peters until 1950, when she gave the mansion to the Alexian Brothers order for use as a place to train novices to the order.  She and her late husband had the mansion designed to be appropriate for such a use, so the ultimate gift was in mind from the beginning. The Alexians added more buildings and used it as a novitiate from 1951 to 1968, when the program was moved to Chicago where the order has its headquarters. During those years the Novitiate was self-supporting, similar to some monasteries. The Alexians put the property on the market in 1969. A group of Indian organizations near Green Bay was negotiating for its purchase to use as an alcoholic rehabilitation center late in 1974.

But on January 1, 1975, a group of dissident Menominees seized the property and held the caretaker family hostage, demanding that the Alexians turn the property over to their “Menominee Warrior” group. They chanted “Deed or Death”. The Wisconsin National Guard was called out to provide security. Local vigilantes opposed to the invaders and had their own agenda for ending the takeover.

After 34 days the invaders agreed to leave (they left in handcuffs). The settlement agreement provided that the Alexians would deed the land to the Menominee Tribe upon the condition that it would make appropriate use of the property. The Tribe never came up with a plan, so the title reverted to the Alexians. A local told me that during the occupation the dissidents trashed the interior of the mansion by using millwork and wooden trim as firewood to build fires in  the middle of floors instead of in fire places and otherwise defaced the interior. During the occupation Marlin Brando showed up in his role as a supporter of Indian causes, perhaps taking a page out of Jessie Jackson’s book.

Four of the leaders of the dissidents were convicted of crimes and each was sentenced to about 8 years in jail.

In October 1975 a fire gutted the interior of the mansion. The Alexians  sold the property in November 1975. The other buildings were demolished, leaving  just the mansion  standing today as a white elephant on the real estate market.


The picturesque Red River runs near the mansion.


Front elevation of the building in July 2012



Rear elevation


Note the weeds growing on the roof and the vacant interior.




This is the side of the building closest to the river – perhaps a solarium.


This shows the stone construction of the exterior walls and the extent of gutting.


We have been in Wisconsin for a month, staying a week at each of four Coast To Coast parks. At the first one I visited historical societies and library archives to gather information on my great-grandfather, William Barstow Strong, to assist a researcher in gathering information for a possible book about him. I was able to get information far beyond that I had hoped for. We also went antiquing with Dale and Mary Graves on three days!



One day trip was to Wisconsin Rapids where Jo and her family lived for 10 years ending over 20 years ago. She had not been back since. She was able to lead me directly to her home there at 111 Ash. Jo likes to tell the story that she wanted a decorative rock in the front yard and the problems of getting it placed to her liking. The rock is still there!


The family often drove to Stevens Point for ice cream, and to her happy surprise, the store was still there and doing a very good business. (The product there does not now compare with Whitey’s in the Quad Cities,though.)


In our touring, we noticed a sign for a county park named Dells of the Eau Claire River. The only Dells I had heard about are in the Wisconsin river, so we had to stop to see this one.


The river first runs through shallow rapids for perhaps a a half mile as above.


Then the river goes over falls and through a very rocky area, with lots of opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and cliff diving for the more adventuresome. Sure enough, there were many teenagers enjoying the nice day.  A diver’s head can be seen in the pool.


Here is the lower rocky area with shallow pools



Downstream the river became more placid on its way to join the Wisconsin river.



Out of many tries, I caught jumpers/divers in the air only three times. Above, the boy jumped off the low rock at the right.


Here the diver is dong a back flip off the high rock as the left.



How is this dive from the high rock described? I did not seen any of the girls diving.