190802–Milwaukee, WI—Part 1. (Happy Birthday, Vicki!, Chil’ns, Grandchil’ns, and good friends)

Birthday celebrations are on hold till we get the family together. In the meantime, daughters Chris and Katie hosted dinner at Chris’ home. We may have explained her home before–the one with the grass roof!

We always like driving on to her property from the county road. It’s like going magically from suburb to forest in 500 ft….

The next day Vic and Norm went mountain biking on the Kettle Moraine easy trails.

Check our Vicki’s new riding pants and socks. Hmmmm.

That night we attended a concert “For King and Country”, a Christian band at The Wisconsin State Fair with good friends Terry and Cathy Andrus…

Katie hosted a pool party for grandson Evan’s team. It was the end-of-baseball season party.

Here, the coach is giving the season wrap-up speech. All the moms and dads were listening in…

Swimming wasn’t the only kid-activity. Grandson Evan is quite accomplished on the trampoline. Here he is doing several flips in a row with a follow-up single flip by granddaughter Joyce…


BTW, grandson Jake, (Sorry, no pic), mastered the bag throwing competition and dominated the boards all night. That is, until he got tired of winning and decided to join his little brother’s team in the pool. We have to point out that Jake was quite humble and modest about his skill showed that he is growing up with awesome qualities. And that, we think, is quite rare for a 15-year old these days.

The next day was time to celebrate Vicki’s birthday with a cookout at Buster.

Here’s Chris, Levi, Vicki and Joyce playing a board game, Exploding Kittens.

And Levi loved to fly the darts. Watch…

And PapPap was roof-fetcher….

Time for birthday presents……

Vicki went back to St Pete for a couple of days to visit her mom. And Norm played golf with daughter Katie..Wow, what a swing….

Afterward, they stopped by a mini-concert at Hartland’s Nixon Park featuring a Milwaukee bluegrass band, “Listening Party”….

and dinner at a local pub.

Vicki returned on Friday and Norm moved the bus to another campground about 20 miles south in Mukwonago, WI. They have full services and after a week with only electric, some serious dumping was in order, if you know what we mean…

We’ll be back with Part 2 of our Milwaukee visit soon. Stay tuned…..

190726–Minneapolis, MN, Madison, WI (Family Visits)

First, how did the Badlands get so bad? About a zillion million years ago this land was covered by a huge body of water. It was called the Western Interior Seaway. See the current USA (colored blue) under the waterway? The outline is S Dakota.

Tremendous earth upheaval and some volcanic activity pushed the water out and away. That took, say, a trillion million years. When the land went dry and all the animals that lived then went dead, we are left with the Badlands and fossils. The geological makeup of these towering hills is layers of stone, silt, and……..yes, fossils. It’s these fossils that tell paleontologists what kind of animals lived here. Here’s some pics of animals thought to be living at that time based on the fossils found….

This three-toed horse was the size of a big dog…

Unfortunately, the Badlands are eroding about an inch per year. And, at that rate they’ll be gone in a quick 500,000 years. (So, you better get your ole selves out here before it’s too late!)

And that’s the origin of these parts. Check it out!

Now, on to current time. It was another 90 degree day driving to Sioux Falls, SD. This is just a one-nighter! We’re on to Woodbury tomorrow. But this stop was fortuitous! Vicki got her nails done and Norm got a haircut (don’t laugh).

Saturday, 7/27. Another hot drive to Woodbury, MN, suburb of Minneapolis/St Paul. We’re in Lake Elmo Park Reserve. It’s just a short hop to Vicki’s kin.

Norm had to clean the bugs off the windshield and front end. They were caked on there so thick that it was getting unsafe. Where’s the bison when you need them?

We’ve now completed 1700 miles of about 3500. We’re two months on the road; Two to go.

We had a wonderful visit with Vicki’s aunt Norma, cousins Jann and Dave with son Henry, cousin Bobby with sons Harry and Charlie (visiting from Alaska).

Jann & Dave hosted everyone at their “Preserve” on Sunday. Dave gave us a tour of their homestead, 20-some acres of museum-quality tractors and other farm equipment, imported exotic lumber, a machine/welding shop and so much more in 2 large pole barns. Wild turkeys next to their private road…..

Dave built every building on the property including the house, sheds, pole barns and this small log cabin…..

Jann cooked up an awesome meal for everyone and remembered Vicki’s upcoming birthday with a special cake and some gifts.

On Monday Jann, Dave and Henry took us on a walking tour at the U of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. The weather has been wonderful and made the walk even better.

Later that day, we hosted a cookout at Buster. Henry, Harry and Charlie took a dip in the park’s swimming hole.

We remembered to take a couple photos…

From left, Jann, Harry, Bobby, Charlie, Dave, Henry, Norma, Vicki.

After a couple days of good feasting, we decided to take it easy by seeing the new Quentin Tarantino movie “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”. Dave, Norm and Jann liked it. Vicki didn’t. We said goodbyes and discussed Jann and Dave possibly visiting us again in St Pete this fall. Hope that works out.

Wednesday, July 31–An easy drive East on I94 across the St Croix River and through Wisconsin’s green rolling hills to Madison. We passed Fort McCoy near Tomah, WI where Norm spent a couple weeks of active reserve duty back in the 60’s. That’s an interesting story. Pardon the digression…

When Norm reported in for duty he discovered that he outranked the reserve training officer in charge. The regular Army commander took Norm aside and asked him if he liked to play tennis. So, in order for the younger reserve lieutenant to gain experience leading a field unit, Norm and the major played tennis for 2 weeks. The only exception was during bivouac when Norm was assigned as one of the training/rating officials. Very cool duty!

We met with Vicki’s cousin Margaret and her husband Neal for dinner in Middletown, WI. Another great get together with great folks. Lots of catching up with nice Italian food.

Thursday, August 1–Still in Madison, we also met up for dinner with Vicki’s uncle Frank and cousin Trent and his family.

We got caught up with each other’s lives. As usual, the kids are growing up fast.

From left, Vicki, Frank, Heath, Amy, Kyra, Trent.

On Friday, Aug 2, we traveled to the Oconomowoc area, our ole hometown. And, it is Vicki’s Birthday!!!🎁🎊🎉🎈. We’re waiting for a better time to celebrate though. Travel days are usually”work” days–breaking camp, driving, setting up camp.

We’ll be here for 2 weeks visiting the Chil’ns and Grandchil’ns, as well as good friends.

Stay tuned!

190722–Interior, SD. (The Badlands, Nuclear Missiles)

We drove through Wall, SD on our way here. Of course we had to stop for lunch. It’s the American thing to do. Road signs for Wall Drug started showing up 30 miles away. And, just like the Burma Shave signs of old, they used humor to enticed you to try it. Norm had been here before but not Vicki. So we stopped…..

The store is a block long. They sell everything, literally. Even drugs! They can seat 500+ diners.

After a world famous burger we headed on to Interior. Interior sits down and inside Badlands hills. Here’s some of the sites along the Badlands Scenic Loop….

The Badlands Motel and Campground, along with most everything else was built on what appeared like a desert floor. Some trees, but very little shade anywhere. And with the expected 85-95 degree day’s coming up, our rooftop air conditioners will be taxed. Making matters worse we were advised not to put out our awnings due to prevalent high winds. And to make matters really worse we only had 30 Amp service so we were limited to running one AC unit at a time. UGH! Oh well. We’ll survive. Got the generator!

Tuesday, 7/23, Hiking the Baddies.

Our first full day here included 2 hikes and a ranger talk. Our first hike took us up to a viewpoint that required walking around an outside ledge that was skinny, sloped down and away and gravely. Nope! That was our stopping point. We did manage the “ladder” climb. From the bottom….

At the top on the trail…..

And Norm descending from the top…

The second hike was on a boardwalk that had educational placards describing the fossils discovered here in the park. The Ranger talk doubled-down on the animal fossils and went on to show pics of what the local paleontologists thought the animals looked like. They actually found ancient, fossilized poop too. Vicki was fascinated….

Enough for one day; wouldn’t you say?

Wednesday, 7/24 was “Nuclear” Day. Vicki had made reservations for us to be included in a Minuteman Missile tour. They only take 6 at a time.

The tour included visits to three locations: the Visitors Center, the Missile Silo and the Launch Control Facility. They were about 15 miles apart. First, a little background courtesy of the Visitors Center.

The USSR and the US were Cold War enemies from the 60’s into the 90’s with both nations building Intercontinental Ballistic Missile systems capable of annihilating each other. The difference was theirs were liquid propelled which took up to an hour to get ready; and ours were solid propelled that could be in the air in minutes. The other big difference was the number of ICBM’s available. While the USSR had about 7,000, the US had 30,000.

The fall of the Soviet Union led to treaty’s that drastically reduced the number on each side. All of the facilities in S Dakota were destroyed except the one we visited here which was allowed to remain open but inoperative for historical purposes. Of course all nuclear warheads were removed. (That’s a really small nut-shell explanation of events back then; but, you get the picture). On to the facilities. First the silo.

The facilities at the missile silo included the silo, of course, a tall motion sensor that would alert launch control of intruders, and a cone-shaped antenna that communicated with airborne control centers. If the command came from launch control, the 90 ton silo cover would slide out of the way and the a Minuteman missile would blast off to a target thousands of miles around the earth.

The cover, adapted for public viewing. The tall white pole on the other side of the cover was the motion sensor…

The antenna for airborne communications. It could take a nearby nuclear blast and still function. It would be used if cable communications with launch control were lost……

The missile silo and missile. The silo was 8 ft wide and 30 ft deep. It walls were 2-feet of concrete covered by a steel liner. Each Minuteman missile was 80 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It’s solid fuel was stable enough to last decades while still making the missile able to launch in minutes.

Norm is standing in front of the personnel access hatch.

The small locked hatch to his left exposed the coded controls for opening the larger hatch to his right. There’s also a better view of the motion sensor. It was capable of sensing a rabbit.

Launch Control was another short drive away.

A Ranger met us at the gate..

Each launch facility had a crew of about 6 soldiers. A CO, a cook, 2 military police, and 2 Missilers. The MP’s and the Missilers worked 12 hour shifts. The Missilers worked in the capsule. All others worked above ground in those buildings.

The MP office. They had a view of the road and all access points….

The above-ground buildings also included bedrooms, baths, kitchen, dining and living area.

The CO’s room….

The MP’s room. Notice the blackened windows….

Technicians/guests room was similar but the windows were not blackened.

The kitchen, dining and living areas. Expand the pic and read the daily menu. Heart healthy!…..

There were three Launch Control Centers (LCC) in S Dakota. There were others in other states. Each LCC had responsibility for maintaining, securing, and launching operations for 10 silos, typically arranged in a circle around the LCC about 3 miles apart. You’d think that meant 30 warheads. But no! The Minuteman II missile had multiple warheads each set on different enemy coordinates. Those coordinates can be changed within seconds of launch by the LCC (or the airborne launch command if necessary.)

The Missilers worked in the capsule that was 30 ft below the surface and designed to protect them from a nuclear blast. It was made of four-foot-thick concrete reinforced with three-inch-thick steel bars. It was also suspended from shock absorbers. This pic makes it look small….

We hopped on a 6-passenger elevator to go down to the capsule.

The coded door to the capsule was quite large; larger than a bank safe..

The capsule was a “No Lone” area meaning there had to be two Missilers at all times..

Once in the capsule……

You see two chairs at the electronic control boards. Each Missiler must remain in view of the other at all times. But the chair at the far end didn’t allow that. Hence, the mirror on the far wall, up and left.

Notice the red cabinet with 2 padlocks in this next pic. Each Missiler had a separate key to the cabinet. It held the firing codes and launch keys. In order to actually launch any missile, the two Missilers here along with two Missilers in another location had to have the proper codes and launch keys. The launch keys had to be turned by all four within 3 seconds. Boom!

This cot was available for short rests as needed….

The Treaty didn’t require that all missiles be destroyed. So, some are still working sites; just not in S Dakota. Well, we all feel safer now!

Thursday 7/25, will be Buster cleanup and bill-paying day. Get in line!

Friday and Saturday, 7/26 & 27 will be travel days to the Minneapolis area for visits with some of Vicki’s relatives.

Stay tuned. They’re crazy…..fun!

190718–Custer, SD. (Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Bison Herd, Fording Rivers and more.)

It was a long, hot drive over to Custer SD from Garryowen MT. After setting up the RV we grilled some chicken and brussel sprouts for din din, paired with a fine, perfectly matched 2019 California Bota Box Chardonnay.

On Friday 7/19, we headed out to what the park ranger said was an easy biking trail. He misjudged us. After about 30 minutes of struggling up some very steep inclines and trying to stay erect on similar downhills strewn with big rocks and pine cones we looked for an easier trail.

We found a new one that was mostly level that went back into the woods to a waterfall.

We came to a stream that we had to ford. It was too deep to ride through.

So, we traversed a wood plank that was conveniently placed…

Near the waterfall we had to cross the stream again. This time we had a bridge to use.

Then we arrived at the waterfall. It was a very picturesque scene.

Well, we still had things to do so we headed back to the ranch for showers and lunch. Afterward, we drove over to the State Game Lodge and Visitors Center.

Did you see President Naughton waving? Here are some pics of the inside of this fascinating building.

The lobby…..

The fireplace in the lounge…..

The bar…

One section of the very large dining room…

Saturday, 7/20 was Monument day. Mt Rushmore, then Crazy Horse. Only a short drive as the crow flies, but quite a few miles twisting and turning on the mountain roads here. First thing was to have lunch. Afterward, we walked the grounds that included a long set of stairs up to George Washington’s nostrils. (Almost!)

Here are some pics of Mt Rushmore National Monument. Not too many people know that the park added a new head recently…..

(The pic above courtesy of Kathleen Naughton Watson, world renown photographer and editor of Buster Publications).

And, from behind. Can you see George?

We had an aggressive day planned so moved on to Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse has been a mountain carving in the works for many years. The final product will be the warrior on his trusty steed pointing at, well, something. Not sure about that. There was an admission fee. $12 each. But the cashier asked “anyone a former service member?” Bingo!! Free for us both. (That Vicki is such a freeloader.)

So far, only the head is carved and the artist died. His sons and families are continuing the effort.

We checked into the trolley ride up to the base of Crazy Horse’s head, but $125 each was too dear. Hence, our pic is from the Visitors Center at least a million miles away.

We thought about going to the “Granite Spires (Needles) but were bushed. We drove back to Buster for the night.

Sunday, 7/21 was wild life day. We drove south from our campground to where the rangers told us the herd of bison were grazing. The herd is 1500 strong but we only saw a portion of it.

Our drive to the herd….

Then, we came upon a part of the herd grazing near the road…

Opps, some were on the road. This one found us and rubbed his face on the front of our Jeep…

A bonus! We also hit upon a group of Longhorn Antelope….

And one brave pup on the road…

On our way back, we came across the prairie dog town. These little creatures are held in high esteem here. They are prey for resident predators, they control some of the rodent population, they enrich the grassland with their underground tunneling (that I question) and more.

Yawn! We’re beat and need to get back to Buster to get ready for our departure tomorrow; and, the skies are turning dark. We made it home and got the bicycles remounted on the Jeep just before the skies opened up.

What an awesome place, this Custer State Park. We’d come back here again if we’re in the area. There’s lots of great biking, wild life viewing, sightseeing, hiking, fishing, camping, swimming and it’s a scenic and meticulously-keep park. We’re certain this will be remembered as one of this trip’s highlights. Especially since Norm is remembered in granite there along with those other guys.

As mentioned above, tomorrow we head over to the Badlands. Lots to see there too, including a lunch stop at the world famous Wall Drug.

Stay tuned.

190717–Garryowen, MT. (Little Big Horn National Monument)

Sitting Bull rallied several tribes in the area to fight the US Army commanded by George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876. Custer and his troops were handily defeated. Almost all US troops died including Custer. A handful escaped.

The Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes led by Sitting Bull were fighting to stay off the reservation and to preserve their way of life as nomadic buffalo hunters. The US Army was carrying out the Grant Administration’s orders to remove the native peoples to a reservation.

After Custer’s defeat, Sitting Bull, along with his people, fled north to Canada. In 1881 he returned to the US to surrender. Sitting Bull was killed by Indian police on the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota on December 15, 1890.

George Armstrong Custer was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars. Custer graduated from West Point in 1861 at the bottom of his class, but as the Civil War was just starting, trained officers were in immediate demand.

There were 2 memorials on site. One for The US 7th Infantry Div and one for the Native Peoples. First, the 7th Infantry Div……

Second, the native peoples….

The native people memorial was not a celebration for them. They didn’t brag about winning. They paid tribute to the soldiers and Indians who fought to the end. Mostly, it is a lesson of getting along and respecting each other.

Tomorrow, a long ride to Custer State Park in South Dakota. Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and other attractions are nearby.

Stay tuned…..

190715–Bozeman, MT (Museum of the Rockies, visit Ris Higgins, friend from Milwaukee)

The Museum of the Rockies is an awesome historical depiction of life in the Northern Rocky Mountains. It displays numerous archeological findings from the beginning of time to now. Both Microscopic life and giant dinosaur life are displayed. The museum is part of Montana State University. This is our second visit. Here’s some pics of the displays….

A really fascinating museum. We’ve got too many pics to put up here. So if anyone reading this wants to see more, just let us know.

We also sat through a live presentation of “The Night in the Big Sky” in the museum’s planetarium. Funny, how small Earth is in the scheme things.

190716–We started out the day on our mountain bikes. There are several loop trails, mostly through beef grazing hills but we’ll take what we can get. It rained lots last night so we ran into some sloppy conditions………

Not much tread showing on those knobby tires. And these obstacles are a first for us. Ole!

Where’s our friend Tim when you need him? He just ran with the bulls last week in Pamplona, Spain. (All right, we know that’s not a bull.) But, Ummm, filet mignon on the hoof! The beef here look well-fed don’t they?

We wound our way up and down the hills until both the bikes and we were mud strewn. UGH!

First action on the way home was a stop at “Buggy Bath” car wash. There, we high-pressure-washed the bikes, removing all the caked-on mud and….yes….the cow-poo.

Second action at home was a shower. Oh yea! And there was enough time left over for lunch and a nap before we met up with Ris Higgins.

Ris and her husband Joe (who is currently out of town) worked at Miller Brewery in Milwaukee–like us. We haven’t seen them in 20 years. They own and manage a consulting practice here that they started decades ago. We had a very nice early dinner with Ris. We had such a fun time getting reacquainted and reminiscing that we forgot to take pics. We promised to stay in touch in the future.

Tomorrow we’re off to Little Big Horn Battlefield Monument. Stay tuned.

190711–Butte, MT (“Richest Hill on Earth”, Montana Folk Festival)

It was a short 30 mile trip North today from Melrose to Butte. We’re here to see the largest open pit copper mine, the Montana Mining Museum and to attend the Montana Folk Festival.

We’re camped at 2 Bar Lazy H RV Park and Campground situated in the outskirts of Butte. It took us an hour to get Buster settled. We tried 5-6 different sites and each one was not even close to being level. We eventually entered one cockeyed with Vic locating depressions in the hard dirt on the uphill side for the wheels. Why is that important? Our absorption-type refrigerator needs to be level to work properly, our “levelers” can only do so much, and for our comfort. We finally got settled with everything working properly. Whew!

190712–First order of business…..was to try the easy mountain biking trails. The second order of business was to find the easy mountain biking trails. Out here “mountain” is dominant in the phrase mountain biking. A local bike shop recommended one off the Univ of Montana campus–the Butte Trail. Vicki’s raring to go….

We liked the Butte but looked for more challenge. THAT was a mistake! Both ascents and descents of other trails were loose rock-strewn and very steep. Wait, not rocks, but boulders the likes of which Neil Armstrong would have seen. Also, the temps were rising fast in the hot sun and we were gasping at 5500 ft elevation. We hiked our bikes back up to the “Butte”, did one more pass on it and called it a day after 90 minutes. Whew! Time for lunch…………a couple Motrin and an ice pack on Norm’s knee.

The Montana Folk Festival started tonight. We drove into the historic district where several stages are set up for the weekend. Tonight was bluegrass…

The main stage was set up under a “Head Frame”. It was used to send miners, mules, equipment and supplies down to the mine, sometimes a mile deep; and to bring the ore up. These old structures are scattered throughout the historic district. Copper, silver and other ores were mined here. The historic district is also known as the “richest hill on earth”.

Another name for the Head Frame was the Gallus Frame. But it was better known as “The Gallows” because so many miners died in these mines over the years. “Best guess is 2500 souls lost over a period of 100 years. That’s an average of 25 per year” says the Chamber of Commerce. Open pit mining took hold and deaths dropped to only 6 in the life of the biggest mine, the Berkeley. Steep declines in copper prices led to the eventual shut down of Berkeley operations in 1982, again, says the Chamber. Since then, the pit has been filling with water. Toxic water. We’ll visit the Berkeley tomorrow.

190713–We drove up to the trailhead of The Continental Divide Trail after a light breakfast. That took some doing because the maps we had were not the best.

We did find a suitable trail that we liked. But only a half hour into it and on top of a ridge we gasped at the sight in front of our eyes.

A storm was approaching! We checked our phones and found that our weather apps had sent us a storm warning based on our location. The warning was for 30 mph winds, cloud to ground lightning and 1/2 inch hail possible. We immediately made a U-Turn and scurried back down to the trailhead. We beat the storm on the mountain but ran into it on the car ride home. No hail, though. We were lucky so far.

Our large awning was out. Thirty mph winds would destroy it. However, there’s a wind sensor built into the awning frame that, in winds 18 mph or greater, will activate the retrieve mode and store the awning back in its metal cover. BUT, it had failed before and we had it replaced in Portland. This new one is untested.

As we entered the campground we saw other RV’s awnings torn and tattered. Party tents were blown down with mangled support frames. Tents were leveled. Our hearts jumped. When we turned the corner to our lane and approached Buster we saw that the awning was fully retrieved and safely tucked away. The new sensor worked. That’s Good news!

We got cleaned up, had lunch and noticed the rain had temporarily let up. We decided to drive over to the Berkeley Pit and check out the world’s largest open pit mine. Here’s a short video…..

We were told that the EPA classified the Berkeley Pit as USA’s largest toxic field. While the water in there is 1000 ft deep it hasn’t risen enough to get into the groundwater system. But it doesn’t have far to go. Large pumps and a huge water treatment plant were installed that runs 24/7 to remove the toxic water, treat it and dump it into a local river. Here’s some more photos…..

Enlarge that photo and see the building on the other side. Hopefully that will give you some perspective.

Again, enlarge the pic and see the water treatment plant with its two tall stacks on the other side.

Having had enough toxic waste education and since the rain was holding off we returned to the Historic District. Vic wanted to go to the tap dancing stage at the Folk Festival. Norm wasn’t too keen on the idea. After all, there was a brothel museum nearby. Who won?


The sky looked threatening again and more warnings were broadcast on our weather apps. So, we ducked into the Muddy Creek brewery for a porter.

“Never feed the bears” doesn’t apply to alcohol.

Enough for one day. Back home for Vicki’s homemade pork tenderloin stew before the next storm cell hits.

190714–We located a contemporary Christian church very near the World Museum of Mining. We enjoyed the service.

Later at……..

we breezed through the gift shop and went straight out to the village that was built to resemble the town in the late 1800’s. Many of the buildings are real and were moved here. The town (museum) was built right on an abandoned mine with Headframe.

Norm climbed up the headframe. He’s waving…

The cage (two) that lowered men and equipment and raised men and ore…

Here’s an artists rendition…

The engine room…

It was a fascinating museum and we learned a lot about the mining industry in the 1800’s and later.


We headed back over to the last day of the Folk Festival.

Today’s music for us was a little cajun and a little western swing. Vicki dragged Norm on the dance floor for some swing, waltz and two step.

That concluded our Butte stop. Tomorrow we pull up stakes for a couple days in Bozeman. There, will meet up with a couple friends we worked with at Miller Brewing in Milwaukee.

Stay tuned…