Steamboat Days

, Monday, June 23, 2008 1 comments

The devil on my shoulder tells me that parades are stupid. He questions the fun of fighting for space in somebody's yard to sit and watch convertibles go by every 10 minutes with people waving to the crowd. He points out that these "floats" will be interspersed with self-amusing clowns that cause kids to recoil whenever they try to get too close. He reminds me that there will likely be several entries of Shriners pulling g-forces as they swerve their buggy-of-choice at the last moment, careening into the crowd. Tell me why is this supposed to be fun again....

But somehow I do manage to have a good time anyway, and this year's Steamboat Days Parade was no exception. The residents of Broadway Street had their properties blocked of 48-hours in advance of the parade, which makes it a little tough for the people of Winona to find a place to sit. Nevertheless, we found someplace pretty easily and didn't even have to park very far away. All the usual floats were entered, including my favorite steam coliope. The surprise favorite this year was the Waconia marching band which put on a dramatic and original show. Very impressive. Zoe The Limbo Princes was back again, receiving well-deserved applause.

The weather wasn't very cooperative; sunshine, rain, sunshine and finally rain that chased the crowds away. But everybody went home with a smile on their faces.

Connecting The Dots

, Wednesday, June 11, 2008 3 comments

Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected....
Anne Patchett
What Now

I've connected a lot of dots since my days at The University of Kansas. I’ve strung together a lot of one-day-at-a-time decisions until I’m sitting here now in a small and picturesque Minnesota town where I live with a girl I met in college, the 2 daughters we share and the golden retriever we all adore. It looks so natural in retrospect but looking forward, especially at a young age, the future is such a big question mark.

In a lot of ways I’ve hardly changed; hardly stepped beyond Mount Oread. It’s on those grounds that I built the very foundation of my life, exploring my values and learning how to become a husband and father and dog lover and photographer and mountaineer. My decisions may have taken me hundreds of geographical miles, but with each small step it seems I’ve merely waltzed around the room with the man I was already becoming by age 20.

On Thursday, the day after the girls finished their junior and freshman years of high school, we loaded up the Chevy and hit Memory Lane for a road trip back “home.” It’s been 11 years since I’ve been back and 25 since I began my adult life in Kansas. Like my own values, I found the campus to be the same at its core with a string of improvements keeping it fresh and current.

During our visit, Margaret and I pointed out the various places we lived, the chapel where we wed, and the sidewalks we strolled. The stories flowed freely and could hardly wait to be told; there’s the building I climbed, the roof I accessed, the ledge I stood on. There’s where we first kissed and the building where we studied, the room where we spent our wedding night. With each story we told, hundreds more went untold as the spring waters of recollection came flooding in from a past that was getting so distant I wondered if it was even real anymore.

We went further back and further forward in time by visiting Kansas City also. There’s where mom went to high school. That was our first apartment, where the neighbor had a golden retriever puppy. There’s our first house. There’s where you were born. There’s a park where we played endlessly. There’s my brother’s grave.

The trail was easy to follow - high school graduation, college, wedding, children, graduate school - and yet looking forward I never would have dreamed the details would play out this way. Sure I loved to climb up the walls to the ceiling in my dorm hallways, but how could I predict that I’d come back to Lawrence and buy some climbing shoes at the Sunflower shop in preparation for a rock climbing trip to Colorado at age 43? Sure I loved Buddy the golden retriever puppy when I was at a crossroads looking for my first real job at 23, but how could I predict having my own Marco 20 years later. How could I predict the people I’d carry forward with me? Or the one’s I’d leave behind?

Looking forward it’s anybody’s guess what the future will hold, but looking back, with few exceptions, the thread is there all along.

Paradox of Choice

, , Wednesday, June 4, 2008 1 comments

I'm  getting  sick of the internet. But I'm in it too deep to get out now. Everybody is aware of the common dangers of the net; dangers like pornography, phishing, viruses, stalking, etc.. I'm not really too concerned with any of these dangers for myself, but there is a more subtle and seductive danger in it for me - the danger of too much information. While not a physical threat, too much information threatens to make me tentative and indecisive. Having the world at your fingertips creates a paradoxical feeling that you never have all the information you're looking for. There's got to be one more piece of crucial information if you just do the right search.

I spend a lot of time on looking up climbs. Since I'm planning a trip to Colorado this summer I concentrate a lot on climbs I might do out there. If you click on that last link, you'll see that there's a lot to choose from. Along with each route description there are lots of pictures to help you get your bearings. And along with the pictures are thousands of comments which are sometimes incongruous. So then I head over to to see what printed guidebooks I can take along, and I page through the list of choices and find one that looks intriguing but I've never heard about. So I do a quick Google search to see what others think about it. I don't find any reviews, but I do find a copy of the book at a substantial discount. Going back to Amazon, I also find a discounted copy of the book I was originally interested in via an used book dealer. It's an older copy of a book that has now been picked up by Falcon Guides; I wonder if the new version has newer information about access, camping and related activities that I should pay more for? I also find another book that I thow into my "cart" for good measure in case the others don't have what I need. Then I second guess my choice of the last book, but it's too late because the order is being processed and the item cannot be canceled. 

I'm a victim of The Paradox of Choice, but it goes beyond buying decisions. The internet makes be feel like I have to be an expert on every topic. Before I can make a decision I have to educate myself with the available information. And in case you haven't noticed, the database of available information is huge. 

We were planning a kayaking trip to the Apostle Islands this weekend, and the constant stream of internet weather forecasting either ruined what would have been a nice weekend or saved what would be a miserable weekend - either way the plan was scrapped because we were forced to make a decision based on the available (too much?) information. Twenty years ago we wouldn't have been seeking hourly weather updates 5 days prior to our departure.

But that's the world we live in today.

Pictures From Our Week

, Sunday, June 1, 2008 3 comments