May 15, 2022

A Stroll Through Mason City, Iowa


A Stroll Through Mason City, Iowa
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 15, 2022

Summer arrived to surprise us in Minnesota this week.  It was still winter here only a couple weeks ago.  We celebrated the change of season with our inaugural boat ride on Prior Lake.  

Blue was very excited to join us on the boat, although he was being pretty cheeky for most of the ride.  He recently heard that not everyone is able to roll their tongue so now he's constantly showing off that he can do it.  I just hope he doesn't hurt anyone's feelings.

We stumbled on a turtle party and slowly backed away as not to disturb them.  

They looked like they were having a shell of a good time.

On Friday night, we hooked up with our old buddies, Jen & Dan Walters, to go out for dinner.  We asked where we were going and they said out in the Boonies.  I had no idea this is what they meant.

It was good to see the Walters family.  We congratulated Jackson for his recent college graduation from Minnesota State Mankato and congratulated Connor for his recent win in the Bob Ross look-a-like contest.

On Saturday, I drove down to Iowa for a quick 18 holes of golf with some of my old high school buddies.

We couldn't have asked for a nicer day with the sun shining and the temperatures in the eighties.  I didn't even hate my golf game as much as usual, so that's a day worth celebrating.

I love going to Clear Lake and seeing old friends.  We had the chance to stop at Joel's and see his parents, Dennis & Marsha.

Ron surprised me when he told me they were going to go for a quick spin around the block and he came back with another of our high school buddies, Dancin' Dave Hansen.

Dave was excited to see us and couldn't wait to show off his miniature wiener.  I thought it was pretty cute.

We then drove to Mason City, Iowa and decided to take a stroll through East Park.  I grew up in Mason City not far from here, so it was great to see the Winnebago River and some of my past play areas.  I even found one of my old balls.

This classic train has been sitting at the entrance of the park since I used to visit back in the early 1980's.  Probably a lot longer than that even.  I found it funny that it was all fenced in now.  When I was a kid we had full access and people crawled in every nook and cranny. I'm sure many of the spaces weren't safe for kids to explore which is why they added the fence.  I'd be curious how many children were seriously damaged before they finally said, we gotta lock this thing up!

We ended the day with a visit to one of my favorite restaurants in the world, Northwestern Steakhouse.  It's been operated by the same family since it opened in 1920 and they sure know how to make a steak!

We found it appropriate that our table had a sign celebrating East Park since we had just visited there minutes earlier.  What a crazy coincidence!

May 8, 2022

A Creepy Walk Down the Mazomani Trail


A Creepy Walk Down the Mazomani Trail

Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 8, 2022

Spring finally arrived in Minnesota this week with temperatures reaching the seventies!  With the nicer weather, it seems like nature's critters are coming out to visit more.  We've been seeing a lot of wildlife including this deer who strolled in front of our car before scooting into this ditch and off in the woods.  I always hope one will stop and let me pet them, but that never happens.

We went golfing on Monday night which was pleasant.  I'm sad to report that my golf game didn't magically improve over the winter.  I still have a lot of work to do to produce a respectable performance.  It's going to come to me one of these years.

We saw this great egret doing some fishing at Lakefront Park.  I tried to ask him what kind of bait he was using, but he just ignored me.  Jerk.

On Friday night, we told the Korkowskis we were going to go explore an abandoned farm house at the end of the Mazomani Trail near Jordan, Minnesota.  They were happy to join us.

It ended up being kind of a creepy walk.  First of all, it was shortly before sunset so it was a little bit dim outside.  Second, we'd never been there before and we had to walk more than a mile down a dark path in the woods.  Third, we were going to explore an abandoned farm house and I've seen that plot in many a horror film.  Finally, we ran into a couple of different dudes who were alone on the trail.  They were actually both very nice, but meeting strangers fit nicely into the horror movie dialog I was trying to establish with the group.  Plus, I swear one of them gave me a look that said "Let's Get It On".  But that definitely could have been my imagination.

We ran into a couple of deer along the way.  It was pretty cute as it became obvious they thought we couldn't see them because they were so "hidden" in the brush.  We didn't spoil it for them, though, and just went along with the charade.

It was a very beautiful walk alongside the Louisiana Swamp that attaches to the Minnesota River.  Sue was really hoping we'd see some snakes, but no luck in that regard.

Just when we were expecting to get close to the farmhouse we discovered the path was completely underwater.  Apparently there used to be a bridge here that has since collapsed.

We could kind of see the farmhouse between the trees, but there was no way to get close without some serious swimming involved.  I've since read that the farm buildings were built sometime between the1860's and 1880's and were purchased by the Jabs family in 1905.  It's still known as the Jabs Farm.  Some day we'll try to get to it again but start our hike on the south side of the river instead.

After our hike, we stopped at Cuzzy's Brick House in Carver, Minnesota.  It's a really fun place complete with a sand volleyball pit and whiffle ball field in the backyard.  I always thought I could have been really good at whiffle ball if I'd have just dedicated myself to it.

On Saturday night, we had a nice surprise when we bumped into our friends Ted & Marcia at Chili's in Shakopee.  They're such good people.

On Sunday morning, we took Miss Sheri to Cracker Barrel for Mother's Day.  

Happy Mother's Day to all you awesome moms out there!

May 1, 2022

The Vikings NFL Draft Party 2022

 The Vikings NFL Draft Party 2022
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 1, 2022

We love the Minnesota Vikings.  When we heard they were having a big party for the NFL Draft at US Bank Stadium we jumped at the chance to be there.

We found ourselves to be in really good company on the walk to the stadium.

It was kind of wild entering the place.  We've never been there with so few people in the stands nor have we had the chance to walk on the field before.  We were excited for some new adventures.

  As season ticket holders, it only cost us $10 each to join the party.  There was also the Redzone premium access for $140 each.  As far as I could tell, it included some food and drink and gave you seats closest to the stage.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't worth it.

There were a bunch of news people scattered throughout the facility reporting on the draft.  Everybody wanted to know who would be joining the Vikings!

We had a chance to tour the locker rooms which ended up being less of a thrill than I anticipated.  I totally expected a bunch of naked dudes to be walking around instead it was mostly just empty lockers and a lingering smell of Ben Gay.

Outside the locker room they had cool prints featuring every Vikings member of the National Football Hall of Fame.  Miss Sheri has always been a big Bud Grant fan so she was excited to see his entry.

Our favorite casino was a sponsor and had a Plinko game where you could win cash or swag.  I swear it must have been rigged.  They had 4 slots for swag and 3 slots with cash, but all 4 of us hit swag somehow.  I wanted the cash!

The Vikings had the 12th pick so we soon found our seats and listened to the draft analysis by local sports personalities including the Voice of the Vikings, Paul Allen, along with Ben Leber, Pete Bercich and Paul Charchian.  They were getting us all excited about potential future superstars who would soon be wearing the Purple and Gold.

The anticipation was building, the crowd was getting restless, and soon the cheerleaders spread out amongst the floor to cheer on the newest Viking.  Moments before the pick was to be announced we suddenly saw the announcement that the Vikings no longer were picking #12 and instead traded down to select at #32 instead.  Everybody around us suddenly started getting very fussy.

Turns out our new GM, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, took a page out of his predecessor's handbook and thought moving down 20 spots to allow our division rival the Detroit Lions draft a top wide receiver was a wise move.  Needless to say, it didn't seem like a lot of people in our general vicinity agreed that was a good idea.  Hopefully he knows what he's doing. 

On Saturday night Miss Sheri and I went to Niesen's in Savage to watch a band called Nerve.  They rocked.

April 24, 2022

Rolling with the Minnesota Wild


Rolling with the Minnesota Wild
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for April 24, 2022

On Thursday night, we headed to downtown St. Paul to the Xcel Energy Center.

We were there to watch the Minnesota Wild take on the Vancouver Canucks.

I brought Luke to the last game for which I had tickets so tonight it was Avery's turn.  

There's only a handful of games left in the season.  The Wild had sealed a place in the playoffs while Vancouver still had a slight chance to get the final wild card slot.  We knew we were in for a battle!

The two teams traded goals until the score was tied at 3 to 3.  They were playing pretty aggressively and we even witnessed a couple hockey sticks to the face which was a little unsettling.  

Eventually the home team took control and ended up winning the game by a score of 6-3.  They have a few more games to finish the season and then will be taking on the St. Louis Blues in the playoffs.  Let's Go, Wild!

Other excitement for the week included taking Grandma Linda out to dinner for Easter.  We went to Kona Grill because she wanted to have coconut shrimp which is pretty traditional Easter food for her.

We also had Blue's mother and brother spend a few nights with us.  It's always fun to have these three stalking us while looking to be entertained.

We had someone tell us that a local park called Pike Lake Park had an Eagle's nest so we went to check it out.  Unfortunately it was quite a way off in the distance  so we couldn't get a very clear look at the birds.  It looked like mom and dad were having dinner, but we couldn't figure out if there's any babies in there yet or not.  One of these days I'm gonna climb up there and get a good look to be sure.