August 26, 2012

Riding Zray on the St. Croix River

Riding Zray on the St. Croix River
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for August 18, 2012

On Saturday afternoon, we drove to Wisconsin to hang out with our old friends, Karl and Tina Zitzewitz, on the St. Croix River.  They're such pleasant people to be around.

They also have this really cool boat they call Z Ray.  How they came up with that name is a really long story.  The short version is that it's brand name is Sea Ray.  Their last name starts with Z.  And if you put those two together, you come up with Z Ray.  I guess it's not that long of a story.

This photo would have been a lot funnier had I taken the time to photo shop the hose out of the picture.  But that seemed like it would be a lot of work.  So please imagine this picture as if there was no hose seen.  And then giggle.

Before we went out on the boat, Aaron wanted to give the boys a ride on their Jet Ski.  Luke was excited to ride on the back when they left, but had somehow moved to the middle seat before they returned.  Apparently he thought he wasn't going to be able to hold on for the ride.  Which could have been kind of funny had Tina worn her life-jacket that reads on the back " If you can read this, that means Luke fell off!"

Avery patiently waited for them to return so he could have a turn.  He didn't have much of a choice because we weren't going to let him yank Luke off the water craft like he wanted to do at first.

Before we knew it, we were on the water and Captain Karl was ready to take us someplace to have fun.  

The boys were having a little too much fun.  I think they were harassing other boaters as we drove past them.  At least that's where I expect these smiles were being generated.  There had to be some kind of mischief behind them.

The River seems like a big party 24/7.  Which pretty much makes it my kind of place.

After we dropped anchor, Karl suddenly turned to me and asked if I wanted to see his Dingy.  I was so relieved when he pulled out this boat off the back.

I asked Miss Sheri if she wanted to ride Karl's dingy with me, but she just said no.

At the end of the day, when we came back to the dock.  We discovered this monster spider.  We captured him to get some pictures and then decided to let him go.  We were quite impressed with his ability to run across the top of the water.  You can see it for yourself here:

Horseback Riding Through Murphy Hanrehan Park

Horseback Riding Through Murphy Hanrehan Park
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for August 18, 2012

So I bought a Groupon for a 2 hour trail ride through Murphy Hanrehan Park.  We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to go discover our inner cowboys.  And cowgirls.

Our guide's name was Miriam and she was doing this for us to support her own Horse Habit.  Apparently, she has her own horse and does this for the people who board him.  Seems like a fair trade to me.

She helped get us all strapped in and we were ready to go.  Already I was starting to experience an unpleasant feeling in my groin region and we hadn't even left the parking lot yet.

Right after the boys climbed on their horses, I knew this was going to be another one of those things where they were already better performing at than their father.  It sure sucks to get old.

I decided that I would keep the camera to take pictures of everything and then realized it was quite challenging to turn around and get pictures of Miss Sheri.  

My photo taking tasks only lasted for the first few minutes, though.  Miss Sheri confiscated the camera from me after I lost the reins out of my hands twice while taking photos.  One time, the guide even had to turn around to get the reins back for me.  It wasn't my fault, though.  The stupid mule I was riding just didn't want to listen to me.

After I finally held on to the reins with two hands, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the day!

Well, smooth sailing for the most part.  My horse kept taking me off the trail so he could reach down for a snack.  After awhile, Luke's did the same thing.  But the scariest part of the ride was when Luke's horse suddenly got spooked and started running!  We all held our breath and watched as we heard Luke exclaim "Ahhhhhh, it's Galloping!"  Luckily it slowed down shortly afterwards and we had a new phrase to tease Luke with for the rest of the day!

Look, Mom!  No Hands!

Murphy Hanrehan Park was incredibly beautiful!!  I can't believe I've lived nearby for almost the past 20 years and we've never been there for a visit.  I guess it's because we don't have a horse.  And I really don't enjoy walking on trails much.  On second thought, this place really sucks!

August 19, 2012

Tomahawk Boy Scout Camp 2012

Tomahawk Boy Scout Camp 2012

Todd Swank's Diary Entry for August 11, 2012

It was Boy Scout Camp week and the boys headed to Birchwood, Wisconsin for a great experience at Tomahawk Scouting Reservation.  It's basically a week where they don't have to take showers or listen to their parents and get to hang out with their friends all day long.  We're always surprised when we can get them to come home afterwards.

Miss Sheri and I came up on Thursday night to join them for their final two nights of camping.  This is the house that Miss Sheri built.  While Todd watched!

This is the Bear Box.  We're supposed to keep all of our food and other "Smellables" in here to keep them safe from bears.  I always want to sneak a candy bar back into our tent at night so we can use it as bait.  I figure if we could just get a bear into our tent, we could then keep him as a pet!  But for some reason, Miss Sheri won't ever let me do it.

Morning time is quite invigorating at camp.  The mist makes me hum "Smoke on the Water" to myself all day long.

Then one of boys bellows "Fall In" and everyone gathers for the first flag ceremony of the morning.  It's such a good experience for the boys to do stuff like this.

A second flag ceremony happens with the entire camp and then we all cram into the dining hall for some exquisite cuisine.  On this particular morning we were treated to sausage corn dogs and blueberry muffins.  All I could do was wonder how good would these items work as Bear Bait?

After breakfast, the boys spent a lot of time improving their scouting skills.  We were so proud of them this year!!  They earned 13 merit badges between the two of them and both advanced to the rank of First Class Scout.  They started talking like they really want to put in the effort to earn the rank of Eagle Scout some day.  That would be so cool!  

Troop 331 has a new scoutmaster this year in Troy Brown.  He's someone we know well since he originally recruited us into Cub Scouts way back when the boys were in 1st grade.  He's a great adult leader and the boys of Troop 331 are sure lucky to have him!  

While the boys were back at camp hard at work, our old buddy, Karl Ziztzewitz, Miss Sheri, and I snuck away to participate in some of the camp activities.  We hiked through bogs, threw Tomahawks, and even shot rifles!!  We didn't earn any merit badges for ourselves, but we sure had a good time!

I like following Miss Sheri through Bogs.  Even if the ground is kind of squishy.

Karl was pretty tired after a full day of activities.  He was plum tuckered out and fell asleep shortly after we came back to camp.  Cute Little Tyke that one is!

On the final night of camp, there is a big campfire and awards ceremony where the Scouts perform a whole bunch of skits.  These three guys did impressions of three of the adult leaders that were absolutely hilarious.   I'm thinking some of them just may have a future in Hollywood some day!

The adult leaders also got in on the act and showed the kids that they didn't have a monopoly on the funny times.  The skits were all just awesome!

What a great week at camp!!

Troop 331 out of Prior Lake, Minnesota in 2012.

August 12, 2012

Prior Lake Lakefront Days 2012

Prior Lake Lakefront Days 2012

Todd Swank's Diary Entry for August 12, 2012

It was the weekend for Prior Lake Lakefront Days!  
Time for a Party!

So we loaded up the family in the mini van and headed across the pond to the Festival of Joy!

Friday night featured the Old Car Show!  And this Old Car Guy was on an Old Car Phone.  Must have needed a heckuva long extension cord back in those days to actually use it!

Then we sat and watched the talent show for awhile.  There are so many good singers in Prior Lake!  I keep telling my family that one of these years we're going to perform in this thing, but they keep talking me out of it.  If only I could sing, I'd go up there and do it by myself!

On Saturday, we dropped the boys off for Boy Scout Camp and then drove over to the parade to support our old friend, Tom Wolf, who's running for Scott County Commissioner again.  He's a real good guy!!  Plus, he gave us these awesome shirts and let us walk alongside him in the parade!  I couldn't ask for anything more on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon!

Tom's wife, Kellie, worked from the trailer to coordinate us volunteers to hand out pamphlets and point out where we needed to go.  I'm sure glad she did, because I'm one of those people who need lots of guidance!

Tom did an incredible job at working the crowd and introducing himself to as many people as he possibly could.  He sure made me want to vote for him!

After the parade, Miss Sheri and I thought it would be a good idea to take a helicopter ride over Prior Lake.

I couldn't remember if we left the garage door open or not and figured this would be the quickest way to verify.  Thankfully, we had closed it when we left the house that morning.

Prior Lake seems a lot bigger from the air than it does from the water.  I really liked riding over the lake this way and just wish my boys could have been there as well.  I would have loved pulling them on their tube behind this thing!

August 5, 2012

Fishing Merit Badge Earned at Prior Lake's Candy Cove

Fishing Merit Badge Earned at Prior Lake's Candy Cove

Todd Swank's Diary Entry for July 31, 2012

On Tuesday night, we decided it was time for the boys to finally complete the requirements for their fishing merit badge.  So we told them we'd take the boat over to Candy Cove so they could catch a fish.  Needless to say, they were absolutely thrilled at the idea.

Each time we go by this purple house, Miss Sheri exclaims that it "Looks just like a Doll House!"  I always tell her to bring her dolls the next time we go on a boat ride so I can drop her off and she can play there, but she never listens.

It was a beautiful night, but Candy Cove was relatively empty so we had the joint to ourselves.  Perfect time to take some fish out of there!

These guys flew overhead shortly after we arrived.  I don't know what their story was, but it looked like they were running from the law.

Before we started with the poles, we had to jump in the water to cool off and formulate a strategy.  My thoughts drifted to "How do I get my wife and kids to do most of the work?"

So I volunteered to stay on the raft and be the official fishing merit badge photographer.   Luke was the first one to yank in a Whopper!

Miss Sheri is not a huge fan of holding on to fish so she wore some of her most menacing gloves to help her with the task of assisting the boys.

 Next up was Avery and he quickly pulled in a Lunker of his own!  Our mission was accomplished!!  The boys each caught a fish!

So we brought the boat home and then Miss Sheri told me our tasks weren't complete for the night.  Somebody had to help the boys clean the fish!  Well, after stomping my feet for a little while and crying the words "I don't want to do it!" I suddenly noticed that our very nice neighbor, Jim, had arrived at home.  So I asked him nicely if he could help with some fatherly duties and teach the boys how to do it.  I also reminded him that I really shouldn't be trusted with things like knives.  He seemed to understand this line of thinking and graciously volunteered to help us.

Jim is such a nice guy!  He patiently taught the boys the proper technique for cleaning the fish.  I'm sure they left a little more meat on the bones then a skilled fisherman would do, but I was still amazed at what a great job they did for their first time!  We would actually have some fish meat to eat!!

So the next day, Miss Sheri and the boys cooked up some real fish for dinner!  It was at that point that we remembered that none of us really like to eat fish.  But it was still a neat experience that I'm glad we had the chance to share!