Sunday, 31 August 2014

Minnesota and Blue Mounds

Fred and Sharon's two cats, Rosebud and Bud

We’ve had our last day at Fred and Sharon’s and now we’re on our way to South Dakota and the rest of our American adventure.

It was a sad parting for us all as we’ve had such a fabulous time, not only with the things we’ve done, but just the chatting and continual laughing. It’s a long way from when we first met Fred and Roger four years ago in Kathmandu, Nepal, as we prepared for our trip to attempt 6500m Mera Peak. We hit it off straight away, but about four days into the trek Fred had a fall, broke three ribs and had to be helicoptered out. That was the last time we saw him, but we kept in touch and we’re really glad we did as from the moment we arrived and met Sharon it was as though we had known one another for years.

Mmm! Seen at a stall in Minnesota State Fair
Jackie and Fred queuing for a corn dog
They live in a very nice house in a very nice neighbourhood and are the most generous and friendly people you could wish to meet. They’ve travelled a huge amount and Fred’s knowledge of US flora and fauna, world history, politics and Native American Indians made for some very interesting conversations and, of course he is a lover of vintage British sports cars, so it’s never a dull moment!
For our last day we were joined by Sharon’s nephew Christopher, who flew in from North Carolina for the weekend and, on Friday we all set off for the Minnesota State Fair, across the Mississippi river in the twin city of St Paul. 

Interesting things these corn dogs!
Not exactly perfect weather, we got on the Park and Ride double decker bus (the only double deck bus they have and one people wait specially for) and watched the rain come down through misted bus windows, not light rain, pretty heavy stuff that made us think we may just stop on the bus and go back again! Thank heavens we took an umbrella. Christopher and Sharon we’re going to see a well-known US comedian (I’ve forgotten his name), but we had a couple of hours together to wander round the various exhibits, outside once the rain stopped. Corn dogs, English fish and chips (chips in the US means crisps, chips are French Fries, except when it comes to fish and chips where it’s understood chips means French Fries – confused?), cheese curds, chocolate malt, all stuff we had to try.

The 'Birthing Barn' had a certain attraction for Jackie (actually all of us!)
Little piglets are so cute, it's a pity they grow up as pigs!
We got back to the park and ride after the bus ride back, it’s dark and we have to find the car. ‘No problem’ Fred said, I have a button on my key that will flash the lights and sound the horn when we’re close. ‘Is that your boot (trunk) that’s just sprung open Fred?’ Ah yes, that’ll be the key being held upside down then!

A three day old calf suckles Jackie's finger
Lovely easy morning this morning and then sad farewells as we drove off, we really hope we see them again, either in the US, in the UK if ever they visit, or maybe somewhere else in the world where we could meet up and climb something….

We’re still actually in Minnesota this evening, at a place called Luverne, very close to the South Dakota border, 3½ hours drive WSW from Minnetonka (many places including the state name have the prefix Minne, it’s the Dakota Indian word for water). We stayed here as we wanted to visit the Blue Mounds, a 100 ft high rock outcrop that, although red when close, appeared blue in colour to the early settlers in the 1860’s and 1870’s and were a prominent landmark. 
Fred, Jackie, Christopher, Sharon and Brian, just as we left
The rock is apparently Sioux quartzite and Roger had lent us a climbing guide, detailing a large quantity of climbs along the whole crag, but we decided not to do any as the rock is very slippery, having little friction, but apparently positive holds according to some climbers we spoke to. The gear was also limited and tends to pull out if fallen on, hence the reason people seemed to top-rope, but then anchors on the top are hard to find and well back from the edge, requiring lots of extra rope, that we don’t have. All in all, not for us! 

Finally got an average photo of a Red Cardinal on their bird feeder just before we left
The Blue Mounds
Walked up to the top of the cliffs as, behind a fence there’s a heard of buffalo apparently, but we didn’t see any, they were hiding. Did see some crickets, some of which didn’t hop but flew off and looked liked a moth with black wings tipped in white. Crickety-moths Jackie called then, not a bad name, but no-one seemed to know what their name was (I bet Fred would know!).

The Black Hills of Dakota tomorrow, 5½ hours drive away, better get some sleep!

Someone tell her she shouldn't be climbing on that, she won't listen to me!

The Blue Mounds. I suppose they do look a little blue from a distance

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