Sunday, August 20, 2006

Season Ends

Nate played what was the final game in the Border Cats' season. They lost 5-3. Not the exciting game that we saw for two nights in Duluth. He was feeling bad, of course, but headed for Marshall after the game to get ready for school. Season is finally over--time to move on into the next year of school and last year of eligibility.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Headed For Rochester and Championship Playoffs

Well--the Cats lost tonight in Thunder Bay, 10-4. An ugly game from our perspective. They play Friday night in Rochester for the second game in the championship series. Series is best two out of three games. So they have to win to play Saturday. I really hope they can pull it off, but the Cats' pitching leaves something to be desired. No matter, it has been a fun experience for Char and me, and I'm sure for Nate. His hitting has dropped off dramatically, going only 2 for 15 in the playoffs after batting .382 in the 11 games in which he played prior to the playoffs. Wish Nate luck for Friday's game.

Another Midnight Ride

Well, we did it again. We took off Wednesday night again for Duluth for the rubber game of the semi-finals. Turned out it was really worth it. Again, it was a great baseball game, highlighted for us by Nate's triple in the top of the 7th to score TB's 4th run. They won 4-1. In the photo, you see Char and me to the right of Mike and Connie, the parents of one of Nate's teammates from SMSU. Behind us you see the TB Border Cats crowd, quite a vocal bunch. It was crazy, but fun, doing this again. On the way home I was so tired I had to let Char drive early on. She drove most of the trip home. So by the time I showed up for work on Thursday morning, I had had 8 hours sleep in 48 hours. Worth every minute of it. Never give your soul to a company at the expense of your family. Never.

Midnight Ride of Joe & Char

Wow! It's like being a college kid again. Char and I took off for Duluth tonight to see Nate and the Border Cats play baseball, then turned around and headed right home. These are the playoffs. They lost last night in Thunder Bay, but managed a 1-0 win tonight in Duluth. One of the best baseball games I have ever attended. Score was 0-0 until the top of the 9th when the Cats managed to score a runner from first on a double by a teammate. Quite an exciting finish. We sat with our friends from Thunder Bay, and they were a very enthusiastic crowd. Nate did not have a good night at the plate, going 0-4 at bat. However, his defense at first was great, highlighted by an 8th inning diving catch for out number one, followed by a double play.

Getting out of town took some time, although we made the trip in 2 hours 45 minutes from our house to the ball park. The trip home was faster, 2:15. Remarkable how easy that drive is when there is no traffic.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More On Ft. William--Worth Seeing

The difference between a wigwam and a tepee is that a wigwam is a permanent structure and a tepee is portable. A wigwam, which is usually round-roofed or dome shaped, is covered with birch bark and sometimes packed with moss to provide added insulation from the winter cold. A tepee, which takes the conventional pyramid shape, is covered with animal skins which can easily be removed and packed.

What you are looking at here is a wigwam in the shape of a tepee. This photo was taken at the small Indian encampment near the fort. The participants recreate the lifestyle as authentically as possible.

The research these young people do and the effort they put forth to recreate an authentic 1815 campsite and fort is just remarkable. Certainly young children would find this interesting. Actually, I found it quite interesting, but wished I had had more time to visit Ft. William. The fort contains 42 buildings. It was a fur trading fort only--not a military outpost--and it was really interesting to how it was set up. Here, still in the Indian campsite outside of the fort, a young woman fries bread, one of the staples of the time. We were able to taste it as well. It had a mild, bland flavor, with the consistency of a firm biscuit.

Of particular interest to me was the apothecary. The apothecary did everything medical--provided drugs, remedies of all sorts, dental work, surgery--everything! It was quite interesting to hear him describe how he handled various ailments. He also showed us his surgical tools (not shown--just ask if you'd like to see the pic). He took the time to explain how a tooth was pulled and showed us the tools to do it. He also spent some time on the practice of bleeding patients, a common practice at the time. In fact, what I found interesting was that he recommended the practice for healthy people as well, noting that many women of the time underwent the procedure to maintain a pale complexion, which was considered desirable in those times.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Sleeping Giant

The Sleeping Giant is a land formation in Lake Superior that was formed upon the betrayal of Nanna Bijou, the Spirit of the Deep Sea Water. Nanna Bijou had told the Ojibway people of a tunnel that led to the center of a rich silver mine. However, he warned that if the Ojibway tribe were ever to reveal its whereabouts to the white man, he, Nanna Bijou, would be turned to stone. Through trickery by the Sioux, and then by white men, the mine was eventually discovered. When that occurred, Nanna Bijou turned to stone and blocked the entrance for all.

I love stories like this. Although we didn't do so, I believe you can actually travel to the island and Sleeping Giant Park. I think Thunder Bay, at least for Char and me, is worth a return visit some day.

Kakabeka Falls

Kakabeka Falls (in Kakabeka Provincial Park) are really spectacular, and are said to be the highest falls in North America after Niagra Falls. We took a short mid-day drive with Nate on Saturday prior to the game to take a look. It was worth the visit, and the photo ops are great. I've only included one photo of "the kid" with his fraternity T-shirt (Kappa Tappa Kegga). It is very difficult to capture the depth and awe of such a site without a really good camera--like a 4x5 or 8x10 studio camera. These little digital cameras don't do justice to a site like this. Nevertheless, you may get some idea of its beauty. We stood looking at the falls for some time, and I came to realize that water falls and fires have something in common. Have you ever sat around a camp fire and suddenly realized that you've been staring at it in a sort of hypnotic way. Well, waterfalls are the same way. You watch them for a few moments, and you just keep staring, as if hypnotized. Very soothing. Such a place would be a good site for meditation or creative thinking.

Overall, I think that both Char and I would recommend Thunder Bay as a destination. It's a community of about 100,000, and offers a number of sites to occupy your time for a few days. If nothing else, you can always go to a baseball game!

Nate's Family Away From Home

Thanks to a wonderful host family, Nate has has had a really great experience while playing for the Thunder Bay Border Cats. Dave and Aimee Gerdevich, and their children, Sarah (12) and Adam (9), have provided a super experience for Nate--and for us. The Gerdevich's welcomed us from the start and brought us into their fan-family at the ball park. It was really great. They are avid Border Cats' fans and attend nearly all the games. Without folks like this, ball players like Nate would not have nearly the gratifying experience that they do. Char and I are so thankful to the Gerdevich's for their kindness and hospitality. They gave both Nate and us a Royal Canadian welcome. (Nate is the tall guy in the back!)

A Midnight Bottle of Wine

After the game Friday, Char and I drove back to the hotel and enjoyed a bottle of wine on a small patio outside of the hotel. This photo was taken at about midnight, Friday. We decided that, after 32 years, we were able to stand each other long enough to travel together. At least most of the time. I am sometimes overbearing and hard to deal with, but Char has learned that this is one of my better qualities. I am unabashadly honest; I think she likes that.

Visiting Ft. William

Ft. William is really cool and definitely worth your time if you ever get to Thunder Bay. Ft. Williams was not a military fort, but a fur trading post of the Northwest Fur Trading Company, a direct competitor to the Hudson Bay company. The fur trading business was at its zenith around 1815. Basically, the fur trade supported the fashion industry of Europe. Voyaguers were the (more or less) indentured servents of the company, and were, socially, about as low as you could go. They worked incredibly hard moving furs to market for nearly nothing. Women during this time were little more than slaves. Life was harsh. I cannot begin to repeat the data dump we recieved in the two hours we spent at the fort, but I can tell you we could have easily spent a couple of days there. The staff members who make the presentation, made up chiefly of students, are all playing the parts of real characters that they have researched and who actually lived in the area. When they speak to you, they keep in character. For instance, when we told our guide that Nate played baseball, she said she was unfamiliar with that game but she did know lacrosse. Very, very interesting. I suggest you take your families to Ft. William should you ever get to Thunder Bay.

Now the guide you see in the picture above was trying to recruit us to join the Northwest Trading Company. She was trying to point out the benefits to us, although they weren't too great. One of the features whe was trying to sell was that one of the prominent members of the company, the apothocary (who was also the surgeon) had an elderly daughter who needed to be married off to someone. This woman had reached the age of 16 and was not yet married--quite a problem in those days. Soooo, our guide identified Nate as an eligible male who could possibly marry this women, if he didn't mind her being so old. It turned out that this woman wandered into our tour, and she and Nate were immediately matched. Our guide asked if they could be married immediately, but the post head administrator informed us that being betrothed was enough, and that the marriage, in the Scottish sense, was not considered consumated until the first child was born. They more or less lived in common law marriages in those days. So anyway, when the eligible maiden came into the great hall, I took the opportunity to take a picture of Nate and his betrothed. It was kind of fun.

A young girl sitting with our crowd in the ballpark works at Ft. William. She says that working there is a really great job. She said that one of her friends put it this way: "Just think! We get paid to play dress-up every day."

Nate and the Bat Girl

The Border Cats won tonight, 3-2 in 10 innings. Nate got the hit that scored the first run, then he scored. Game was tied at 2 after 9 innings, but the Border Cats managed to score in the bottom of the 10th to win. Kind of exciting. During the game, Nate got upset with himself, and broke a bat over his leg. Then when he took the field in the next inning, he decided that wasn't such a smart move because his leg was really sore. :-) Kids!

Anyway, after the game, he came over to ask me if I would take a picture of him and the "Bat Girl." Melanie is one of the kids who works with the team. Although Nate has only been there for two weeks, it was quite obvious that she had developed a sweet spot for him. Of course, Nate has always been good with kids. I hope all of you can someday feel the pride (if you haven't already) in your kids that I feel in Nate.

Thursday Night's Game

Nate during pre-game warmups. He spends a lot of time stretching.

OH! Believe it or not, the assistant General Manager came to ask me to throw out the first pitch of the game. I was flabbergasted! Really! I agreed. Then I had to warm up with Nate. My arm went sore almost immediately. So when the time came, I walked out onto the field (notice that I did not take the mound, but stood in front of it). And, to top it off, instead of the catcher catching my pitch, Nate was behind the plate. Talk about an emotional moment. I have the souvenir ball. It never hit the ground. As Nate put it, I threw a perfect strike! :-) That was really a kick.

Nate and his Southwest MN State U teammate, John Goneau, a pitcher. This is after the game when the players come into the stands to sign autographs.

One of the things I had forgotten is how important and awesome it is for little kids to be around ball players. The players are kids themselves, but not in the eyes of these youngsters. They are huge heros. It's so much fun to see. Here Nate signs one of the kids gloves.

Kids came for about a half hour. The players are very patient. Here Nate signs one of the youngster's T-shirts.

Mrs. Robinson came too.

Traveling Along the North Shore

When we left St. Paul, the temperature was 68 degrees. We got to Tobie's just fine. Had breakfast. But as we drove north from there, the temperature dropped about 8 degrees, the sky clouded over, the wind came up, and it started to rain. It was as if someone had summoned the demon Bartimeus, and he was upset about it. We drove thru a stiff wind for quite a few miles. One piece of bad luck was that a car threw a stone at my windshield and cracked it. Damn! Replaced windshields never get seated like originals. Such is life. Of course, I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. So we changed clothes. Naturally, that changed our luck. As we approached Grand Marais, it started to clear up. Got sunny and warm again. Temps rose to about 65 degrees.

Well--turns out I needed some liprinosil. My Rx ran out at home, and I took it to the pharmacy for a refill, but the hours of operation at the WSP pharmacy are rather limited. So I had to leave home without the necessary supply of the drug (an ace inhibitor used in tandem with chlorthalidone for bp management). So I go into a pharmacy in Grand Marcia and ask the pharmacist how I can get my doc to get him an r's so I can get some liprinosil. He asks how much I need. Enough for Sunday, I said--five pills. He says he will sell me the five pills w/o an r's. Wow! Never thought that would happen. So he charges me $.50 for five 5 mg pills. Funny thing is, with my pharmacy benefit, I pay a $10 copay for 30 pills from my pharmacy. Are you doing the math? My pharmacy charges me over three times as much for the same drug. Go figure.

Anyway, Char and I stopped just south of Lutsen at a wayside rest for lunch. The wind was blowing fiercely off of the lake. Nevertheless, we made a sandwich and had lunch. This is what the lake looked like then. Don't know whether you can see it, but there were plenty of white caps, which form with a wind of 15 mph.

My Retirement Home

This is my retirement home! $21.500 plus freight. It is a 12x20 cabin. One big room. No bathroom facilities--I'll have to figure out how to handle that. Room for a bed, table and two or three chairs, stove of some kind, and a desk. All I have to add is a satellite dish and a satellite phone, and I'll be in business. I can go off and live in the woods and read and write books. What do you think?