Saturday, October 9, 2010


I'm almost ready to start the long trek home, but before I go I want to tell you about some scenic views that just can't be missed when you're down this way.

I took a morning off from ballooning last week, and drove the “Turquoise Trail” from Albuquerque (ABQ) to Santa Fe. Don't miss it!! Cutting north from Interstate 40, about 20 miles east of ABQ, SR 14 meanders along the high plateau on the east side of the Sandia Mountains, going through villages full of art galleries and Indian craft shops. But, I didn't stop at those – just can't take in any more.

BUT, I did take a 14 mile detour off SR 14 to the highest point of the Sandia Mountains - 10,700 feet above sea level, 5,000 feet above the valley floor along which runs the Rio Grande.

Unlike most mountain tops where the view is crowded by trees or other mountains, from this one you can see all the way to the western part of forever – according to the Automobile Club guide, the Sandia Crest panorama “encompasses 15,000 square miles”. That's a big lot of desert, mountains, city, volcanic cones . . . . And the road up to the Crest provides great views of the plateau and prairies to the East.

These photos are from the Fiesta toward the Sandia Crest; then

from the Crest looking west.

Take your telephoto lens; a tripod, lunch, and go!!

I paid only a brief visit to Santa Fe; walked through the Old To

wn main square which is much larger and more picturesque than that of ABQ. Local craft people sat on the porch floors of adobe buildings that line the square, selling their own silver and turquoise crafts. Evidently they have to be licensed as authen

tic to be there, and a lottery decides who gets a turn to sell.

I didn't do justice to touring either Santa Fe or ABQ – guess I'll have to come back :)

And, just so I don't forget why I came here, here's a photo of a morning "Mass Ascension" -

organized chaos, but beautiful, isn't it?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Morning at the Balloon Fiesta

Dream – I'm reading a book – a mid-40's male detective remembers 15 years back to when he ignored the long blonde hair on the stairway – and, the aftermath. The price 'they' paid, for his oversight.

Is it morning? Still dark, but I hear more cars passing; get up – 4:30, yes, time to get up. Wash with babywipes (no water); dress in the ever-so-dim light of battery operated lamp; jeans, 3 layers, cap, Canada bandana, cloth gloves.

Sky is black, stars abound, no light on the horizon.

Meet new-found Minnesota friends in next campsite who crew for 2 Canadian balloons; drive to Field;give parking attendant banana bread; go to Crew Hospitality tent.

Breakfast – breakfast burritos, all you can eat Krispy Kreme donuts; Belgian waffles, juice, coffee, coffee, coffee. Several hundred pilots, crew and Fiesta volunteers laugh, chat, eat, and get ready for the day.

Off to launch site – continual phone calls between fellow chase-crew; pilots (2 balloons from Montreal). Pilot briefing with weather and ground control is over – pilot has to decide - Yes, we'll go; no, not yet; no, wait, YES, NOW.

Sky lightens a bit in the east; stars still glimmer; concessions open selling coffee, 'funnel cakes', breakfast burritos, souveniers, . . . Announcers begin their daily spiel, giving the schedule of the day; bad jokes; lifting spirits to an even higher peak. Sightseers crowd the field; stumbling a bit in the grass, waiting for light, for BALLOONS! Photographers everywhere. Check the number of cameras on this tripod!

Crew unpacks “envelope” (the balloon); gondola; ropes; radios; lights; fan; propane. . . . Lay it all out; I get to help lay out the envelope and ropes and then do traffic control, keeping the sight-seeers from walking over the envelope and ropes (Why, they ask, in a snit? Because if your heel goes through the rolled-up envelope it can ruin a $15,000 balloon.) Hurry up!! Pilot wants to go NOW, to be part of Dawn Patrol, launching at 5:45.

Ready? Use fan to inflate the balloon with cold air; keep walking under the envelope, touching only with cloth gloves (oil on hands ruins silk envelope); fluff envelope up so it will inflate more quickly. Attach the Crown with velcro strips; keep people off of the envelope and ropes; answer questions from observers; HURRY.

Envelope is full of cold air, still lying on its side; tethered to truck. Pilot lights the propane; as air heats, the envelope begins to stand up. Noise, flames, heat. Gondola still on its side, crew checking – instruments in? Lights attached; crew has keys to chase vehicle? 2 way radios working? HURRY. Envelope is up, gondola is in position, pilot is in; double checks everything, mixing propane and air to keep the balloon upright and ready to go. . . . . .

Zebra-garbed field official arrives – ready to go?? final instructions to pilot. Pilot decides who to ride – darn, not me, this time. Zebra checks the field, the wind, the 10 other balloons in our immediate area – not yet, not yet - - then, two arms up, frantic whistle, you're off!! The group cheers!! Away he goes.

Crew gets another coffee, then begins the chase. Pilot says “I'll try for Second and Alameda, near the school”. Roger. We drive the streets near the Field, find our balloon touched down in a dirt parking lot of a small condo development. Chatting with our two guys is a t-shirt garbed woman, who tells us she was walking the arroyo (drainage channel), on her way to school.

She helps us pull the balloon over to the pavement (pilot uses hot air to lift off a bit); then to roll it up, pack, lift, put everything away. She tells me she's 'retarded', and we agree that helping with this balloon is a wonderful thing to be part of. We give her a trading card for our balloon, and she carries on to school, to tell her friends about the start of her day.

We return to the field; drive home; and back to bed. It's 8:00 a.m. Can I pick up that dream where I left off? I want to know how the book ends!

My favourites, so far.

"Arky", with lady bug trying to catch up - I guess Noah forgot her.

and, "Pondemonium", the most creative and original I've seen so far.


Monday, October 4, 2010

update October 4

October 3, 2010

It's been a busy 2 weeks - finished the Habitat build in Grand Rapids, Minnesota; stayed overnight in St. Paul, seeing the season's premiere of Garrison Keelor's "Prairie Home Companion"; waiting in Wichita for a replacement tail light for the trailer, and now have been in Albuquerque (ABQ) for 5 days.

Above is where I'm camped - note the shade tent - it's been in the mid-90's which is a little hot after the long underwear weather during my last 2 weeks in Minnesota.

The Balloon Fiesta is just great - words can't describe the sight - hundreds of balloons, hardly any alike (except Wells Fargo bank - they have 2!); and funny shaped ones too - a parrot from Holland, a little man from Japan, one from Lithuania, and at least 3 from Canada. I hooked up with one of the Canadian ones last night, as I wanted to crew for my home country; so, I toured the balloon field (equal to 54 football fields), looking for Canadian license plates. Didn't I find "Wicked", a ballon built in Aylmer Quebec by a fellow who works 3 blocks from where I live in Ottawa. So, I got to help launch the balloon, and put it away again when lightning started to strike on the field. Have I found a new hobby? We'll see.

So far, the most magical moment of the Fiesta is the sight of 50 balloons directly over my head, backlit by an absolutely blue sky. As I lay back in my chair, looking straight up, the balloons looked as if they were little globes of colour, floating in a clear blue sea. Magic! Here's a picture from my "living room", the RV park is directly across the street from the Fiesta site.
another memorable moment was this morning when I had a breakfast burrito - hashbrowns, chiles, scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese sauce, all wrapped in a tortilla - to my Potluck pals - care to try it?

Spent a half day at the "Very Large Array", in Soccoro about 50 miles south of ABQ. It's a set of 27 radiotelescopes that are linked together; moveable; that are set up to receive radiation signals from outer, outer space. Fascinating (to me), as the scientists continue to try to understand how the universe started; how it's grown; how it is / or is not, shrinking. . . . . Sure makes me think about God - did She know what she was doing or what!!!

ABQ is a beautiful place to visit - the city is in a huge valley -
probably carved by the Rio Grande River; and is bounded on the East side by the Sandia mountains. There are so many places where one can see for miles and miles and miles, across the valleys to the next mountain range. Not like we'd see in Alberta as we drive toward the Rockies, but mountains that are 7 - 10,000 feet high covered with sage brush and tiny trees. Saw a herd of antelope, grazing next to a herd of cattle - anyone remember the song "Oh Give me a home, where the buffalo roam?" No buffalo though.

Am about ready to come home - have been "dry camping" while in ABQ - that is, no electricity, no water. Since it gets dark at 7:00 p.m., the evenings are long, or at least they are until I go to sleep at 8:00 p.m. - I miss not being able to make my coffee and stay in bed in the morning, as I am able to do whenever I have electricity. The other thing I really miss is radio; I considered whether to buy a satellite radio before I left, but didn't; that's the only purchase I should have made. Another thing to consider for next time is to buy a tiny generator, so that I can have some electricity when there are no hook-ups. Ah well, live and learn, eh?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 19 - Grand Rapids, and more

It's been a busy 8 days since my last post – I left Roseau on September 8, having enjoyed a lovely five days with cousin Leanne and family, and learning even more about my family history on my father's side.

Then to Moorhead and Fargo (cities across the Red River from each other). I only went to Fargo to check out Cabela's, a full service sporting goods store. Wow – everything any camper would ever want, and could ever need, from soup to nuts to overalls and propane powered coffee-makers. Cabela's is decorated around stuffed animals, of all sizes – chipmunks to moose, and everything in-between.

By way of contrast, I also went to Scheels, another full-service sporting goods store. Much of the same products for sale, BUT an interesting contrast in decorating. In addition to all of the stuffed animals – bears, moose, deer, chipmunk, beaver . . . . Nearly all of the US Presidents were also gracing the interior – in full-size replicas a la Madame Tussaud's. Would anyone care to write an essay comparing and contrasting the décor of the two stores; or, do an analytical piece on that topic :)

Also spent a half day at the Hjemcomst Center in Moorhead. (Hjemcomst means homecoming in Norwegian). This Center memorialises the individual dreams of two men.

The first, Bob Asp, was a guidance counselor at a local high school and had a dream about constructing and sailing a replica of a Viking ship to Norway – and this is from the middle of Minnesota remember. After years of work his dream became real, and though he died shortly before the voyage was to begin, his children carried on his dream, and did indeed sail to Norway. For more on this inspiring tale, see

The second dreamer was Guy Paulson, who wanted to replicate a Norwegian Stave church. As a worker in wood, he wanted to honour those who had gone before, and the thousand-year old stave churches which still stand in Norway. He too perservered, and made his dream a reality. For more info on this one, go to

Then, I resumed my east-ward journey to Grand Rapids, Minnesota where the next Habitat Build is taking place. On my way, I stopped at the Mississippi Headwaters Centre

and stepped over the beginning of that great River. I took a photo of the River, on my way out of the park, ½ mile from where the river begins. What do you think? Does that look anything like the River you know or think of?

Arriving at Grand Rapids – birthplace of Judy Garland by the way – I set up at Pokegama Dam camp site , which is a beautiful and well-run campground right on the banks of the Mississippi., above. I wake each morning to the sound of the river rippling by – wow! Spent some time at an annual meeting of the Minnesota Street-Rod Association, and may have located my next tow vehicle, if I decide to get rid of the Mazda Tribute that has carried me so many miles.

Also went to Hibbing, MN, to see a three-way continental divide. I had always thought that there was only one, THE continental divide that runs down the Rocky Mountains; but no, there are several of them. The one near here is not at a high altitude, but a drop of water that falls upon it can go one of three ways; One to the Red River, then north to Hudson Bay. Another, to the Mississippi and then to the Caribbean; and the third, to the east, to Lake Superior, the St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean. Boy am I learning a lot!!! For more info, see:

While in Hibbing, I visited another open pit mine site – there are so many in this part of the world, and I didn't want to miss anything. The Hull-Rust mine is said to be one of the largest in the world. For more info, see .

See for a short video that shows the entire scope of the mine.

And, on the way back from Hibbing, I ran across a planetarium, giving free admission. I saw a great movie on the demise of dinosaurs – the movie ran across the dome of the planetarium, and it was fun to see/hear the dinosaurs stomping to their end. As well, two fellows were using a sophisticated, though small, telescope to look for sun spots. They showed me how to use the telescope, and I saw 2!! They then explained sun spots, and were very envious when I told them I hope to see the Great Array in Soccoro, NM (stay tuned for that.)

The Build here is going well – we're working on three houses, one of which is to be finished in time for a September 26 open house of the HomeBuilder's Association – I'm learning how to put on exterior siding, put on j-channel in an elegant fashion, and carry stuff. I love it. It combines much of what I love best – immediate results; Christian service; good company; being outdoors; travel – could I become a 'full-timer', living year-round in my little rig? Food for thought.

Off to church now – I'm finding that the United Methodist churches are closest to my theology and I feel comfortable there. After that, I'll be repairing a few minor leaks in my baby Boler – can't see myself sitting in the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, festooned with a blue tarp, so I'll try to get that fixed before I leave here next Saturday. My Habitat experience is giving me confidence that I can fix some things, and knowledge about what questions to ask before I start. Good stuff!

Bye for now. Keep in touch, eh??

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September 8 - Minnesota, and relatives!

What a heart-warming experience! I've been in Roseau, Minnesota since Friday, visiting with my second-cousin, Leanne, and her husband Keith. They've welcomed me warmly, and I've really enjoyed staying in the warm, comfortable roomy house – quite a contrast to my 13 foot Boler trailer!

We met last year when I was touring through the area, and we just hit it off. Leanne is a central person in my family history, as she is related to many people in the area, and knows almost everyone else. Being a former school teacher, a very active church member and of Sons of

Norway, and a participant or instigator of many local activities, she's well-connected. Among other things, Leanne is a quilter, and plays accordion in a local band, entertaining not only at local events, but also at Norse-focused events in the mid-West. Keith is a highly skilled carver and carpenter, and both he and Leanne have displays in the local historical museum of the Norse art.

My paternal grand-mother and grand-father (Karen Gaukerud and Theodore Haaby), were both from families of 9 children; and Leanne is the grand-child of one of Karen's sisters. Many of the children from both sides stayed in this area, and some of their children (people my age) are also nearby. And, that means that I have so many relatives in this area that I have only to close my eyes, throw a stone, and I'll hit one. Being so well-behaved I don't do that, but during my visit, Leanne has frequently said, “and you're related to that person, through the Gaukerud (or Haaby) side of your family”. It's been overwhelming to me to see how many relatives I have here.

Leanne and Keith have showed me around, taking me to local cemeteries, one of which contained headstones for TWO Karen Haaby's (my maiden name); and another where my grand-mother, another Karen Haaby, is buried. One was my great grand-mother. Very eerie to see a headstone with one's own name on it. Thank goodness the dates were wrong, so I'm not dead yet.

On Sunday we went to the Rollag Steam Show, an annual event in a village 3 hours away – it brings together hundreds of tractor and other steam engine machines, and thousands, yes thousands of people from near and far. Remember we're in northern Minnesota, about 50 miles from the border with Canada, and farming has been the way of life here since the settlers came (my ancestors among them) in the late 1800's. We saw tractors and farm equipment of all sizes, some dating from the early 1900's; a working sawmill, powered by steam engines; displays of Norse hand-work – embroidery, weaving, knitting.

I also experienced some Norwegian food – lefse, of course, which is a tortilla-like bread made of potato and flour. I was also treated to Rømmegrøt (Sweet Cream Porridge) . I was chatting the white-bearded fellow in front of me while waiting in line for my lefse, and when he told me what he was ordering, I said “what's that”, and the conversation all up and down the line halted, faces turned toward me in disbelief – how could a person not know what “ Rommegrot“ is?? (Could they tell I was not a local:) Nothing would do but that I had a bite of it. He offered me a clean spoon in a gentlemanly fashion, and I slurped into a bit of heaven – wow! What a great taste – fresh cream, thickened with a tiny bit of flour, mixed with sugar and a bit of cinnamon, and topped with melted butter! Sort of like condensed milk on steroids. I was later told that this was often eaten by women who had recently given birth, to restore their strength. I guess!!

If you want the recipe, go to:

For those of you that attend our potlucks, stay tuned - you may get to sample some!

We had dinner last night with Leanne's brother John and his wife Randi; and talked and laughed about many things. John took over the family farm years ago, and now their son is at school studying agricultural business. They have 1500 acres of diversified crop (wheat and beans, maybe some beets), which John carries on by himself. When need arises he can hire help, or sons and sons-in-law also help. In the past Randi worked there too, driving the huge combines to get the crops in. But, her work as a nurse took her away from the farm work, and John has carried on, and is a successful small farmer.

As always, Americans are interested in our Canadian health care system, so there was lots to talk over dinner about that. We also compared notes on living in the heart of a culturally diverse urban Canadian area with life here in rural northern Minnesota. Neither side won out, by the way – I think we agreed that each has its pluses and minuses, and it seemed we were all content with our choices.

This visit has been good for my soul; it's great to feel connected to so many blood relatives.

And, now I'm off to the next leg of my journey – will end up in Grand Rapids, Minnesota for Saturday, as my next Habitat build starts Sunday. But, am taking the long route going west to Grand Forks, North Dakota, then south to Fargo-Moorhead for a day or so, before heading east again to Grand Rapids. Bye for now.

Friday, September 3, 2010

September 2

This is likely the last of my Mine Visit entries – don't know why they're so fascinating lately, but yesterday I visited my 5thin the last 6 weeks. Part of it has to do with the fact that I'm where they are, and they're really interesting. Here in northern Minnesota and Michigan, mining was the heart of much of the economic development of the area, in the mid 19th and early 20th century, and some have been preserved for tourists.

Today I visited the Soudan Mine Underground Laboratory at Soudan, Minn. (drove up from Duluth this morning, as I didn't have enough time to both see Soudan and Duluth and still make my rendevous with my cousin on Friday.)

The Soudan Mine was a working iron ore mine for about 80 years (1882 – 1962 I think). It produced high quality ore in huge chunks that steel mills could use without any processing, and was in great demand when open hearth furnaces were used. But, when Blast furnaces came into being, they needed small pellets of iron, and so the processes used at the Mine I visited outside Marquette were developed, and Soudan Mine closed.

In 1965, US Steel donated the Soudan mine to the State of Minnesota, on the condition that it be maintained as a demonstration of a 'deep' mine, and after a touristy type visit by a theoretical physicist, his wife suggested that the mine could be used as the location for a laboratory that needed shielding from cosmic rays for its experiments – and, there, the Soudan Lab was born.

For more detailed info on the Labs and their work, please see:

Enough to say that we travelled down ½ mile in one of the 'cages' pictured here – the Cages are placed upright, and run on vertical tracks, at a 78 degree angle, at a speed of 10 mph. The cages are made up of two parts – one to carry people (18 at a time); and the second to carry iron ore, 6 tons at a time. It takes 2 ½ minutes to descend 2341 feet to the 27th level, where we went on two tours. The first was a straight mine tour, which followed the descent from the surface with a ¾ mile ride on a little train, horizontally into the mine.

The cage was sort of enclosed, but the guide did go in each time we entered, to shoo out the bats that may have been visiting.

This mine was notable because the seams of iron were so pure and so dense, that no shoring up or drainage was required. Just blast and extract – much simpler than the other mines I saw whose seams of ore were so mixed with other minerals, that constant drainage and shoring up was required through-out.

The Lab tour was separate one, so after a half hour back at the surface, some of us descended again to the 27th level, and toured the theoretical physics lab. This lab was established to capture “neutrinos”, shot from a cyclotron in Illinois – yes, really, 500 miles all underground! Each second, we on the surface are bombarded by trillions of neutrinos, and the physicists want to understand how that affects or is affected by gravity, the atmosphere, the Sun, and outer space. So, by capturing neutrinos which have NOT been affected by rays from the sun, the scientists can help us get to Mars. (I'm about to make my reservation :) Is the lab effective? So far only about 10 neutrinos PER WEEK are captured; but according to the scientists that's fine, as it gives lots of data.

We were told that though the effect of neutrinos can be observed, their existence can't be proven; so physicists had to make up the idea of them, to explain things like gravity. Hold that thought.

There is a second lab on the same level, this one dealing with “dark matter”, that is, the 90% of the universe that we can't see, hear, feel, experience. The idea behind the “Cold Dark Matter” experiments is to show the action of molecules down to absolute zero (minus 480 degrees F), so the molecules can be tracked, as they move much more slowly when it's cold (just like the rest of us?) This lab is tracking “Weakly Interacting Molecule Protons” or WIMPS. Hmmm.

We were told that the concept of 'dark matter' can't be proved, but it must exist to explain how the universe is made up.

[I learned while in Soudan that there is an underground lab in Sudbury also studying neutrinos; but using a different method - guess I'll have to go see that one too sometime. For more info on that, g to

So what's all this mean? I don't know of course – you theoretical physicists out there will understand it all. But for spiritual people, isn't it interesting that even hard scientists, so dedicated to 'proof', have to make up things to explain how the universe started and how it works. For me, the Mine Tours have been a wonderful confirmation of the existence of God, a God who helps scientists find ways to explain Creation and how it works, and helps people like me understand better how the world works.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September 1

Spent a lovely day in Michigan's Copper Country, at the extreme end of the Keewanan Peninsula – look on a map of Lake Superior, and see the peninsula pointing to the left, near the extreme west end of the Lake. It's a lovely drive up from Marquette, and the last 15 miles into Copper Harbor were arched by elm and maple trees, just beginning to turn colour. The two lane road is fine to drive, and I recommend Copper Harbor for wanderers. DO GET GAS IN HOUGHTON/HANCOCK, before going further.

Also, good camping at the Fort Wilkin's campground at Copper Harbor – full hook-ups for Rvs, clean, level shaded tent sites, clean bathrooms/showers, good fishing (I hear); a local Camp Host who provides info and teaches how to bake bread on a stick over an open fire.

Copper Harbor houses two bars, no churches, no gas station, one ice cream store, and a wonderfully restored military fort, dating from the mid-19th century. Originally built to maintain order during the first Copper Rush, Fort Wilkin was active for only a few years in the 1840's; then recommissioned again briefly in the late 1860's – was there a perceived threat from Confederation?? Don't know.

The Fort is staffed by in-costume interpreters, who not only know the actual history, but also local myth from both Indian and Soldier perspective. (Was local lovely Fanny Hooey really kidnapped ? Both local and Indian legend agree that it was so, but formal history does not substantiate the event– hmmm.)

After Copper Harbor, drove back through Houghton and Hancock, Michigan - a local university seems to provide most employment, and students on their first days back at class did their student thing – walking out in front of passing traffic etc.

The Keewanen Peninsula is well worth a longer look – it has a history for both fishing and copper mining, and there are many small villages around the exterior; and so many beautiful views of Lake Michigan, that one can't take them all in.