May 30, 2022

Memorial Day Weekend 2022


Memorial Day Weekend 2022
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 30, 2022

We had a pleasant visit this week with Grandma Linda when she stopped by to show off her new car for us.  Hard to believe a little  lady can handle such a huge machine like this, but she seems to be able to get around with it pretty good.

We had a surprise encounter with this little fox during our walk this week.  I feel like we saw this guy last year because I remember wondering why his eyes were closed like this.  Or is that just a thing with foxes?  

We also saw our first pair of sandhill crane this week.  These birds normally fly south for the winter so it's good to see we're warming up enough for them to decide to come back.  Next year I'm going with them.

We bumped into our good friends, Jen & Dan Walters, as they cruised around town with some of their old buddies from Florida, Sherry and Karen.  We've met them on previous visits so we asked if we could get together and shake a leg this weekend.  Happily for us they said Yes.

We invited them over for a boat ride on Saturday morning.  The water is still too cold for a swim, but we had fun cruising around to some of our favorite sights.

Prior Lake has been as shallow as I've ever seen it this spring, but we pushed through to Mud Bay in order to get a peek at our favorite  breeding tree.  We almost got stuck in the weeds a few times, but it was worth it to get to visit our bird friends.

I was kind of thinking with all the inflation we're seeing this year, that some of these guys would take a pause on having a family but they seemed to be as reproductive as ever.  I guess it's as they say, there's never a good time, so it's always a good time.

On Sunday, I hooked up with my pal, Orlando Mazzolini.  He told me he wanted to take me to a place where I could Sleep with the Fishes, but honestly I just wasn't that tired.

Luke & Avery had the boat reserved for pretty much the rest of the weekend, but we were lucky enough to be able to help them put it in and take it out of the water.  That's really fun to do also.

May 22, 2022

From The Bottom To TopGolf

 From The Bottom To TopGolf

Todd Swank's Diary Entry for May 22, 2022

On Tuesday night, we drove to Brooklyn Center for my first visit to TopGolf.

The first thing that jumped out of me was how dang high the nets around the field are.  They must really value their golf balls to spend this much effort to make sure they don't lose any.

During college, Avery had visited TopGolf and told us it was a good time.  He's a much better golfer than I am so I was skeptical if I'd have the same assessment about the place.  Although I was somewhat intrigued hitting the balls into the big holes scattered throughout the field.

I was excited to see the display screens tracking our shots and keeping score for us.  I found it to be a lot more like a video game than I realized.  Unfortunately I still had to use my own physical body to hit the balls, but other than that I really had a good time playing.

As usual, Miss Sheri got the hang of it really quickly and soon started crushing my dreams for winning the game.  I still really like her, though.

At the end of the game, we all received stats on our game with our longest drives included.  Although I'd always expected that my drives were the worst in the family, it was a bit jarring to get scientific proof.  Luke out-drove my best shot by almost 25 yards.  This is the motivation I need to start developing a new swing or go to the doctor to see if can buy some new arms.  

We had new pickleball courts suddenly appear near our neighborhood.  We'd been interested in Pickleball for some time after hearing it's the fastest growing sport in the US.  So we went out and bought some paddles and whiffle balls and headed to challenge each other in a new sport.  This one I was bound to dominate!

I actually found it to be a lot of fun.  It's kind of a cross between tennis and ping-pong and is relatively easy to play since the ball just doesn't move around that fast.  I still have to get used to the physics of the ball, though, as I did have a bit of an accident charging the net and ended up taking a tumble.  I smashed into the net pretty hard and was disappointed to find out it doesn't have nearly the give that you'd think it would.  Luckily my injuries were only a couple of knee scrapes and I'm looking forward to getting out there again soon!

To add to my embarrassment this week, I spotted this "bald eagle" out of the corner of my eye while stopped at a stoplight.  I tried to snap a quick picture, but ended up getting honked at by the guy behind me.  Later upon my drive home, I was surprised to catch another glimpse of it still standing there protecting it's babies is what I assumed.  The next day, I was having lunch in a nearby neighborhood and remembered the eagle's nest and wondered if I'd still be able to see it.  This time, I actually pulled into a nearby parking lot and walked across the busy street to finally get a picture.  Right when I arrived with my camera in hand, I realized it was a statue.  I had a good laugh at my own expense which is fun to do sometimes.

On Sunday, we went to St. Paul for the 10th annual Minnesota Monthly Grillfest.

We went with our friends, Troy, Rhonda, and Renae.  They're a fun crew to walk around a baseball stadium with tasting a variety of adult beverages and grilled meats.

We did two full rounds and received our fill of the finest burgers, steaks, beers, and other goodies from around the Twin Cities.  My belly was ready to leave after a couple hours of tasting things.  Good times, though!

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!