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Archive for the ‘weather’ Category

It took the 11 years and four treks, but I’ve made friends with the North Shore of Minnesota – a stretch of Lake Superior shoreline, highway, infamous landmarks, and seasonal resorts.

Up until now, my travels that direction epitomized the word miserable. Few other places in the country boast about bad weather to attract tourists, but for those in Duluth and points north along the treacherous northwest shore of Lake Superior, bad weather is a piece of nearly every historical moment worth noting. For me, one late summer trip several years ago featured horizontal rain and high winds for two straight days. A second venture resulted in a foot of snow and high winds. The third trip, a late April getaway, included some sun, but the wind blew so fierce it might as well have been the Antarctic. This pattern seems to be the norm.

The vistas and opportunities to hike, bike and relax in the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota are too numerous to ignore…and so away we went on Saturday to kick off Labor Day weekend 2010.

And brother, we hit the weather jackpot.

Two full days of “sunny and mid- to upper-60s farenheit” ruled our short getaway. On Day One, the lofty cotton-ball-esque dotted skies served as a personal tour guide as we hiked miles and miles of the Superior Hiking Trail – enough steps to make our feet, calves, knees and thighs tell us “enough.” If you haven’t stepped onto a piece of the 270-plus miles of this trail, add it to your bucket list. And while you’re at it, make sure to take the Lookout Mountain trail section for a scene unlike any other you’ll find in Minnesota.

That evening we ate and slept in Grand Marais. Our dinner bell rang at The Crooked Spoon, a crowded cafe on Wisconsin Street where the chef served up a wicked lamb tenderloin and the most beautiful leafy green salad I’ve ever seen. And while very much a tourist town, for a Saturday night, Grand Marais seemed very quaint and quiet overlooking a calm Lake Superior.

On a cloudless Day Two, Cheri and I biked the Pincushion Mountain trail, just a couple miles from Grand Marais off the Gunflint Trail highway. Leaving the town, this highway rises over 1,000 feet in just 2.5 miles or so. After completely wasting our legs peddling the mountain bike trail, I coasted back in to Grand Marais – nearing 40 mph on two wheels and barely turning the crank.

Another hike on the Superior Hiking Trail to take in Devil’s Kettle gave new meaning to late summer in Northern Minnesota. As we sat on the rocks of the Brule River watching the falls the color was unbelievable. From the rocks to the sharp dark walls of the river’s gorge to the green chlorophyl-laden shrubs and trees to a clear blue sky. Now that’s what being outdoors is suppose to be about.

Lesson learned. The North Shore may be unforgiving at times with its wind, driving rain and lake effect snows, but pick your moment and place and you can be pleasantly surprised by the gift of such a place. And you may, like me, make friends with a piece of America that you had for awhile given up on.

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I’m intolerant today. So…

To the Red River, Fargo, Moorehead – and the two 100-year-floods which happened within six years of each other:

Folks, if you knowingly live in a flood plain, quit your whiney complaining. Your options, as you have known since the time you bought the property included flood insurance, sandbags and flood waters. If standing in your living room waist deep in Red River water is no longer fun for you, simply move.

And, City Fathers of both Fargo and Moore(dunder)head: Who are the Ph.Ds who voted to build a public school in a flood plain. Sheesh. I guess just a few hundred thousand people live in Nort’ Dakota for a reason.

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It’s painful to watch. And sadly, if you drive, you’ve likely found yourself in a similar sitch. The video reminds us, when we’re behind the wheel of a two-ton automobile and freezing rain or snow come between the car and the road, we have no control.

Here in Minneapolis, the first real snow of the season brings out the crazy in residents. The Twin Cities received its first stay-for-the-season kind of snow fall on Friday. Three people died in weather-related car accidents that very evening after only an inch or so of snow covered the roads.

But as cooler temps worked their magic chilling the ground since mid-November, the snow no longer melts on contact. The tires pack it down, make it slippery and leave us all to our own creation…and demise, sadly.

It’s now Sunday morning and snowing again. Driving in snowy conditions requires expertise and attention.  Weather.com offers some suggestions for safe driving when it snows. Here are a few driving tips as a refresher:

  • Put away distractions. Cell phones, books, Big Macs and Big Gulps should not occupy your attention when driving in poor weather conditions.
  • Slow down. You’re driving a ton or two of metal making you the detonator of a gas-powered missile.
  • Triple the usual distance between you and the car in front of you. It could be driven by a 16-year-old numb skull with no winter weather driving expertise.
  • Don’t park along the street (note video above).
  • If the car you’re driving skids, steer into the skid. If the back of your car is skidding to the left, for example, turn the steering wheel to the left.
  • Apply brakes lightly when stopping. Don’t pump the brake and avoid pressing them until the wheels lock up.
  • Keep the headlights on, keep snow and ice off side view mirrors and refill windshield wiper fluid frequently.
  • Wear the seat belt.
  • Keep tires inflated to the recommended level.
  • Check tires for wear and tear. Replace tires before the snowy season, if needed.
  • Don’t assume the vehicle can handle any road conditions. A 4X4 on ice or hard-packed snow has no better traction than a tricycle.

Of course, the best advice of all: If you don’t have to drive…don’t. Why give the Grim Reaper your address and phone number?

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Monday Mix

Will The Real Jackass Please Stand Up?

In today’s New York Times, a fascinating account of the man who created the sensationalized rumors about Barack Obama – Andy Martin. Mr. Martin, himself, it seems has the sordid past. A law school grad who was denied by the Illinois Bar due to obvious mental stability issues, Martin turned to filing “a prolific” number of frivolous lawsuits as a way to gain some notoriety with the news media. He also failed three times in efforts to achieve public office. In spite of his failures in life, he successfully used his access with the news media to begin a contrived and mean-spirited attack on Senator Obama.  He professes Obama is Muslim, which of course he is not. But, as gossip and rumors will do, the Internet has helped Martin spread his lies – reaching the outlying areas of U.S. creating fear, uncertainty and doubt among our very own family and friends and neighbors. Here in Minnesota, many living in “greater Minnesota” – the rural areas and exurbia, especially retirees and skeptics – buy Martin’s slander hook line and sinker.

I encourage each of us to reach out to our neighbors who have heard the Senator Obama stories and accepted them as truth. They don’t have to vote for the Democrat next month if their ideals don’t mirror this candidate’s concepts for rebuilding America. But they should hear from someone they know and trust who can help quell their fears that Obama has anything but America’s best interests in mind. It’s our right to vote and our civic duty to learn and discuss the facts with our friends and neighbors – and to be informed as best we can when we cast our ballots.

Fleeting Fall

Autumn’s longevity in Minnesota seems to get shorter each and every year.  For the past decade I’ve lived here, Fall’s fleeting weeks have turned into what seems like a few days.  Thanks to Mother Nature’s great invention – photosynthesis – and an adequate amount of rain through the summer months, the spectacularness of Autumn has been particularly eye-popping this year. But, even after a balmy weekend in October in which the colors of the trees were more than photo worthy, today (this morning) Fall seems over. Leaves have piled in the yards and in the streets, on the lakes and streams and rivers – stacks of yellow and red – blankets just begging children to leap into the massive bed and roll around in laughter. Back in my childhood, one annual game conducted by the neighborhood kids each Autumn was to build a leaf house. Rakes in hand, we architected rooms, hallways and furniture – all carefully carved out with leaves in patterns on the ground. In our imaginary houses, we lived for the afternoon and as evening fell we’d shut the windows and doors of our “homes” only to wake up in the morning and realize the wind had literally blown our leaf houses into the neighbors yard.  Today heavy rain drops strike the remaining leaves still hanging on to their branches with all the strength left in them,  which isn’t much. One strong northerly wind yet to come and this year’s Fleeting Fall will be a memory.

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I’ve been waiting for this day since warm(er) weather arrived in Minneapolis a few weeks ago.

This morning at dawn the skies were cloudy and the air a bit heavy with humidity. I ran my normal 5.5 mile route and needed a lot of water to replenish my system at the end of the run. The thickness of the air has only gotten heavier throughout the day and the skies finally opened up at 5:15 p.m.

At this moment, the skies a menacing purply dark, tornado sirens are screaming their warning, and sheets of rain are blasting clean the salt-stained driveways, sidewalks and streets throughout the ‘hood. It’s a cleansing rain. It’s overdue.

The storm system is moving fast through the Twin Cities, over the MIssissippi, into Wisconsin and to points east. Weather casters are having a field day prognosticating about the path of the storm, the potential for tornados and hail and high winds.

But before the sun sets this evening, my guess is the skies will be clear and blue again, ushering in a Memorial Day we can all enjoy.

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Where does the time go?

Friday found me at The Guthrie in Minneapolis taking in a play written by the late Wendy Wasserstein. “Third,” proved an excellent production and, as The Guthrie productions are known to do, left the audience with plenty to talk about afterwards. I’m always amazed at the caliber of theatre productions throughout the city. So, when my 17-year-old (who is purely theatre-hungry at her young age) opts to go with her pals to Duluth to see a play I scratch my head. There are, of course, various reasons to travel 150 miles to see a college production – the road trip and adventure being excuse enough. I chalk it up to that and recall my own experiences at that age – when my best friends piled in a car and drove six hours to see George Winston and Spyro Gyra at the Kool Jazz Festival right here in Minneapolis. Those are memory keeper moments.

Saturday was father/son day including a karate lesson (my son is a red belt), an oil change on the Mazda 6, and lunch at Culver’s. Culver’s Restaurant is known for its butter burger – something which I haven’t eaten for more than two years. The place does make a good chili, though, which has far fewer bad things loaded in it than a butter burger and basket of french fries.

And today was laundry day – which seemed to last ALL damn day. In between washing and drying, I did purchase and install a new light fixture. Naturally, the manufacturer failed to provide adequate instructions as well as all the needed parts. But after some loud, tourette-inspired swearing, I found a work around and managed the install without a return trip to the Home Depot. Light in Minnesota is such a valuable thing. And even though we gain an hour of daylight on March 9, it seems we can never have enough light during the dark, winter season.

Speaking of winter, it is back in the atmosphere again. Freezing rain turned to snow after the sun set making streets and roads just slippery enough to create havoc. As hurried as we are for spring to arrive, we have to temper that excitement with the simple fact that it’s only March 2 and we could easily have a good snow fall or two (or three) before the end of April.

CCI wrapped my Sunday with an episode of “Dirt,” featuring Courteney Cox. In “Dirt,” Cox plays Lucy Spiller, editor of the tabloid magazine. She is a manipulative, take-no-prisoners , ruthless, Type A personality who rules over a chaotic newsroom. Lucy is intimidating, cold and, most times, a straight-up bitch. Indeed, the FX Network’s show cuts across a wide swath of my interests including adult themes, Courteney Cox, tabloid editing, Courteney Cox, photography, Courteney Cox, and bizarre plot twists. Did I mention Courteney Cox?

Life could never be quite so enthralling or creative as those who create such original theatre scripts as “Third,” or television programs like “Dirt.” But, we can still create and direct ourselves.

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Funny Thing About Winter

There’s a funny thing about Winters in Minnesota. It snows.

But residents here have short-term memories (must be that sub-zero climate that lasts for two months in January and February). They forget how to drive in snowy weather conditions. Even natives of the state seem to think their four-wheel drive SUV gives them special dispensation to drive normal speeds on the highway during near white-out conditions. (I love to see SUVs stuck in the road ditch after a good snow blows through town.)

On Saturday, the metro area got about six inches of snow between Noon and 8 p.m.  In that time there were more than 100 traffic accidents in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and more than 300 accidents state wide.

The best quote I found recapping the snowfall and accident totals came from a Minnesota State Highway Patrolman who said, “You can’t expect to leave 15 minutes late and arrive 20 minutes early when our roads are covered with snow and sleet.”

That sums it up people. When it snows, take it slow so you can enjoy the skis, snowmobile or sled when you get to your destination.

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