Fun Times with Family and Friends

Over the last few weeks I’ve been mainly attending to my duties as campground host here at the park. And visiting with relatives and friends. My main duties are answering questions for campers, policing the campsites after guests leave to make sure they are orderly and clean for new arrivals. And keeping an eye on the main shower and bathroom building and doing some light cleaning of them. This doesn’t take up too much of my time and I do enjoy meeting the guests and helping them out as need be. Over the last three weeks I’ve done three day trips to Marshfield, Wisconsin (2 ½ hour trip each way) to visit with my brother-in-law Larry and his wife Jan. Larry is Sonia’s older brother and we are very close and have been for the last 40 years. He has been battling cancer off and on for going on 13+ years. It is gone into remission a couple times before but has reared its ugly head once again. What he has is an unusual bone cancer that is more debilitating than fatal but unfortunately if it’s not kept in check, eventually it will take its toll. He’s previously had two stem cell transplants that put the cancer remission for about five years each time and now is going through chemo again which is taking its own toll. As anyone that’s been exposed to cancer knows it’s very trying on the whole family as well as the patient. His wife Jan is been super supportive and his main caregiver for the whole time. I always have tried to help as much as I can and he was there for me when Sonia was sick. With me being on the road I had not seen them since April and that is the reason I’ve done the three trips recently to spend time and help anyway I can. Here is an old photo of all of us at Christmas in 2002 before his cancer was diagnosed, and a few years before Sonia was diagnosed. In the back row of the photo from the right is Crystal our oldest daughter myself Larry, Sonia’s brother and Jan his wife in the front row it’s Jennifer our youngest daughter and Sonia.


Two weeks ago two friends of mine who are brother and sister came to the park to visit and spend some time. Mike and Patty are the son and daughter of my good friends Joe and Murlane my neighbors back in Oxford near my old house. As many are you will remember I spent a month out in Phoenix because Joe and Murlane have a place there that they go to every winter. They are like second parents to me and we are very close (I’ve known them for over 20 years now). And during that time I got to know the whole family and got very close with them all, the kids, grandkids and great grandkids. After Sonia’s passing we’ve spent more and more time together. I haven’t seen any of them since May. Mike lives in Oxford, by his parents which is about two hours away and Patty lives down in the Chicago area but was up in Oxford visiting her parents. Mike came and spent two nights whereas Patty stayed for a week. Here’s a photo of Mike and Patty before he headed out on a hike with Maxine.20160810_155035The two days that Mike was here we mostly did hiking and visiting, playing games in the evenings. We all like to play cards and dominoes and other games the time when very fast. On one of the hikes we did a hike out to what’s called Kings Bluff. Which is about a 3 ½ mile round-trip to the bluffs’ beautiful views of the river. Here’s a photo of Maxine as we reached the end of the trail.


One of the views that was our reward for hiking this far.


Across the way (to the right in the photo) is Queens bluff which is set aside as a natural area and you need a special permit to hike here, it has grassy areas on the backside with a sheer stone face.


Here’s a selfies the three of us are at the end of the trail.20160810_155130 During the rest of the time that Patty was visiting we did several little sightseeing trips around the area. One day we went to the Pickwick Mill located in the little town of Pickwick just south of the city of Winona, Minnesota. The mill was established in 1854 in the building we visited was completed in 1958. It’s constructed of limestone and large wooden timbers on the inside not using any nails or bolts to secure the building it’s strictly done by the weight of the limestone and the positioning of the timbers. It’s a large six-story 60’ x 45’ building with a working waterwheel that is 20 feet in diameter by 4 feet wide. The mill operated continuously for 120 years, with the equipment being updated over the years but finally stopping production in 1978. The fate of the mill was on determine and in 1980 the mill pond experienced a rare flood which destroyed the dam and the spillway of the mill. And there was considerable water damage done to the building itself, owners of the building considered tearing it down. But local citizens refused to let that happen and the mill was purchased in 1982 by the newly formed Pickwick Mill Inc. a nonprofit organization to preserve the history of the mill. Here’s a photo of the mill from the outside.images 2

They put a lot of time and money into renovating the mill to what it is today, they rebuilt the waterwheel a couple times over the last 30 years and continuously run it when the museum is open. And on special occasions they will run much of the old machinery for demonstrations using the waterwheel to power them. Here’s a photo of the waterwheel.20160811_124143

The waterwheel only needs about an inch of water flowing over the top to make it go around, which was quite interesting. If you look close in this photo you can see that there’s very little water flowing but the wheel continues to turn.20160811_124139 There’s all kinds of different equipment on all six floors. In this photo I’m standing next to some large belt driven wheels that drive the equipment as I said they still start the equipment up from time to 1

These pulleys and belts were down in the basement, where the start of the drivetrain is right off the waterwheel.20160811_130240

The millstones themselves were enclosed in an oak encasement, which is referred to as furniture. Here’s a photo of the new newly restored encasement.20160811_130810

Here is a photo of some molds that were used in casting new gears and pulleys. They could reuse these molds numerous times making sand castings and pouring cast-iron gears, machining them to be the final finish gears and pulleys.20160811_125656 The older gentleman in this photo knew much of the history of the building dating back the 150 years and he himself worked in the mill before its 2 Here’s a photo on the six floor of all the different flower bags that they found from years past.20160811_124624

They had all kinds of interesting little memorabilia throughout the building.20160811_130841 There’s all kinds of interesting things to do and see in the Winona area it’s has a rich history dating back to the mid-1850s. It was one of the first communities that was established in Minnesota as the pioneering families moved westward to the Mississippi. On one of the other days we took about an hour drive north to the small town of Wabasha, Minnesota also on the Mississippi River to visit the National Eagle Center. The Eagle Center is a nonprofit organization formed to help rehabilitate and reintroduce if they can be, rescued injured and sick Eagles back into the wild. They have a beautiful facility with displays of all kinds and live birds use for educational purposes, it is well worth the seven dollar entry fee. At present they have five Eagles that will never be able to be released into the wild from injuries that they had sustained. One of the eagles is blind in one eye and four others have wings that had been broken and never healed properly. And so they would not be able to fend for themselves in the wild. This photo is of the Golden Eagle that they have and use for display and educational purposes it’s a male.20160812_104350


This is one of the female Bald Eagles its wing was damaged and therefore cannot be released.20160812_104404


This is male Bald Eagle and is blind and is one eye. The females are a fair amount larger than the males.20160812_104431


They give a very extensive educational program explaining how DDT and lead affect the population of the Eagles in past years. I had known that DDT which was banned back in the 70s had affected Eagles and many other birds depleting the calcium from their body, making the shells of their eggs thin and they would crush under the weight of the birds as they tried to incubate the eggs. This was very serious in the Eagles and almost led to their extinction at one point there was less than 2000 bald eagles left in the lower 48’s and now there is well over that just in Minnesota. The one thing that I found very interesting and didn’t realize is it takes very little lead to kill a bald eagle. The Eagle’s digestive system will breakdown lead very quickly which leads to lead poisoning of the bird and they die a slow and painful death. It only takes a piece a lead about the size of Lincoln’s nose on a penny to kill a full-size bird. The birds can get this by feeding on fish with lead shot or a deer carcass that might’ve been shot by a hunter and they would pick up a splinter of lead from the shell. This is the biggest threat to Eagles these days, with the elimination of the DDT the fragile eggs are no longer a big concern. After they present the educational program they would bring in one of the birds and feed it so that you get a close-up look at them. This is the other female bald Eagle and they brought her in after the presentation and gave her a large piece of fish.20160812_113917


The fifth Eagle they have is just a little over a year old juvenile male and has not been trained to be out in the public yet.


This past weekend my friend Gary who I have not seen for over a year and my sister Jean who have not seen since May came to spend the weekend. Here’s a photo of Gary playing with Maxine. Maxine loves it whenever Gary comes, he is her best bud because he will play a rough with her which is what she likes.20160827_091456


She kept pestering him, bringing him the ball wanting him to throw it, but would play keep away like she does so often.20160820_143619

Here’s a photo of Jean.20160827_091500(0)


The three of us spent our time together catching up on old times and what’s been going on in our life’s since we last seen each other. We played games in the evening did a little hiking and sightseeing of the area. Enjoying some great meals together and each other’s company. As you see the last few weeks have been pretty busy and have gone by very fast, visiting with friends and family. My time here at the park has gone by very quickly and in a little less than two weeks, my time here at the park will be done. This week I am planning a day trip to visit my friends in Oxford and this coming weekend my sister Bonnie, who I’m going to Great Britain with. She plans to come for the weekend and finalize some more things for our trip to Great Britain. I’m starting to get excited about our upcoming time in England and Scotland. While till next time safe travels and best wishes to all. Rick  🙂

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