February 26, 2023

A Venture Through Paisley Park


A Venture Through Paisley Park
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 26, 2023

A winter blast rolled through Minnesota this week dumping somewhere between 13 and 16 inches of snow on a base that was already pretty established.  We've stayed cocooned in the house for the most part.

On Friday night, we hooked up with Luke & Avery and headed to downtown Minneapolis to watch our beloved Minnesota Timberwolves.

It was the first game in the past 8 days or so due to the All Star break.  Our own Anthony Edwards made his first All Star game appearance and did the home team proud.

 Lamelo Ball and the 17-43 Charlotte Hornets were in town.  We thought this would be a good opportunity for the Wolves to get a victory.

Anthony played well for us getting 29 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, but it wouldn't prove to be enough for the home team.

Lamelo Ball led the Hornets with a 32 point, 10 rebound, 8 assist performance of his own and the Hornets beat the Wolves by a score of 121 to 113.  It's hard to be a Timberwolves fan.

On Saturday afternoon, we did something I've been wanting to do for years.  We went to see Paisley Park.  It used to be the home and offices of Prince while he was still alive, but was converted to a museum soon after his death.

It's located in Chanhassen which is only about 20 miles from where we live.  Prince was known to hold late night, impromptu concerts here.  I actually remember hearing about one one Saturday night when I was at the casino playing blackjack.  Some people told me Prince was having a concert and I should go.  I remember really thinking about it, but ultimately decided against it when I heard I wouldn't be able to bring my camera inside.  That's one of those life decisions I wish I could take back.

 Sue & Ron Korkowski are always up to join us for an adventure and were the ones who made the suggestions we should make the trip.  I'm so glad we listened to them.

Unfortunately the no camera rule still applies at Paisley Park at least for the main part of the tour.  You're met at the door by a guard who asks you to put your phone and any cameras in one of those Yondr bags that lock it up for you.  I regretfully followed their instructions.

I was happy to learn that they let us take out our cameras & phones for the last two stops on the tour.  First, they brought us to a large sound stage where Prince filmed movies and concerts.  They played some videos of him of which I captured a bit in the following Tik Tok Videos:

@toddswank We went to Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota. It’s amazing. Long live Prince! #prince #paisleypark #whendovescry #chanhassen #minnesota ♬ When Doves Cry - Prince
@toddswank A visit to Prince’s Paisley Park. #prince #paisleypark #chanhassen #minnesota #purplerain ♬ original sound - Todd Swank

Obviously Prince was a fashion Icon so the museum displays a huge amount of his outfits and accompanying shoes.  It's hard to grasp just how tiny of a guy he really was.  For someone who's cult of personality was so massive, he was a little dude.  I'd be lucky to get one of my legs into one of his outfits.

The tour ended in a little night club he had set-up where he used to perform intimate concerts for friends and locals lucky enough to find out about it.  If these walls could talk, I'm sure they'd have some pretty salacious stories to tell.

We heard there was a mural of Prince at the nearby Chanhassen Theater, so we went looking for it.  I guess it's appropriate for Minnesota that it was buried behind a mountain of snow.  We'll have to come look at it again this summer.

After the tour, we went to Axel's in Chanhassen which was a really good choice.  Coincidentally we were seated right by the "Prince Booth" which was named that because Prince used to come to the restaurant and that's where he used to sit.  At least that's what they said.  They could be making it up.  It's not like you can see his little butt print on the seat or anything.

February 20, 2023

Split Rock LightHouse in Two Harbors, Minnesota


Split Rock LightHouse in Two Harbors, Minnesota
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 20, 2023

February has been a whirlwind kind of month for me.  I spent a minimum of 2 nights in 5 different cities in a 2 week time period.  I didn't get to create weekly blog posts a couple of times this month so am combining a lot into this one.  This photo here was taken moments after I experienced some pretty rough turbulence shortly after flying out of Atlanta.  I was a bit shaken, but saw this beautiful sunset after emerging from a storm cloud and snapped this shot to try to calm my nerves a bit.  It worked.

On February 1st, Avery and I went to watch the Minnesota Timberwolves take on the NBA defending champs, Golden State Warriors.  It was a week night so we both complained a bit about  having to get up early for work the next morning.  Naturally the game went into overtime to make it an even later evening for us.

Lucky for us, the home team won by a score of 119 to 114.  It was our last time watching D'Angelo Russell in a Wolves uniform as he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers a week later.  I know he's had his issues, but he'd been playing great for us this season so we were bummed to see him go.  Now we get to watch him feeding the ball to Lebron and Anthony Davis and helping the Lakers win games.  It's hard to be a Minnesota Timberwolves fan.

We spent the first weekend of February in Iowa visiting Grandma Leona on the farm.  They've had a lot of snow this year.

We always have a good time with Grandma Leona, Uncle Jerry, Aunt Laura, & Cousin Karli.  

I spent a couple of nights in Atlanta for work visiting my favorite client.  It's a nice break to not have to wear a winter coat for a change.

Super Bowl weekend brought us to the shores of Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota for a couples adventure retreat.

Karl & Tina had done a similar weekend to this last year and invited us to join them for this year's winter excursion.

We were joined by Troy & Rhonda Brown for the experience.  Troy, Karl, & I have had several camping experiences together when our boys were all in scouting, but I had a feeling this trip wouldn't be quite the same level of roughing it as we did back then.

We had some fun restaurants on the agenda for the journey up north including OMC Smokehouse in Duluth.  They told me OMC stands for Oink, Moo, Cluck, but I didn't get if there was any hidden meaning.  My best guess was there wasn't much fish on the menu.

For some reason, there's a lot of different breweries in the area.  We stopped by Castle Danger and tasted some of the local refreshments.  I'm beginning to understand how people up north stay warm in the winter.

Eventually we made it to our destination, Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay, Minnesota.  It's an incredible resort with 3,000 feet of lakeshore on Lake Superior and cabins with incredible views.  

Lake Superior is a beautiful body of water.  It's so big that it feels like you're on the shore of the ocean, but the frozen shores helps remind us that we're still standing in the Minnesota Tundra.

This crew is a pretty athletic bunch so their ideas for fun on Saturday was taking long hikes through the snowy woods.  I discovered that months of being stuck in my home office working remotely hasn't magically put me in better physical shape, so I was pretty winded throughout the day.  Luckily for me, everyone was pretty kind and waited for me to catch-up so I didn't end up abandoned in the woods and eaten by the local Yeti families.

We saw some pretty incredible views along our treks.  I'm glad they had this fence here because I was way too tired to climb it in order to jump off the cliff.

Eventually we visited Split Rock Lighthouse which is an iconic sight in this part of Minnesota.  They say this is the most photographed place in the entire state.  

Our visit to Split Rock Lighthouse was both fascinating and haunting. Built in response to a devastating 1905 storm that damaged many ships on Lake Superior's North Shore, the lighthouse served as an essential beacon for navigating the treacherous waters. Today, as a testament to the danger that once lurked there, it stands as a haunting reminder of the many ships lost on those rocky shores. Despite its eventual closure in 1969 due to advancements in navigational technology, the lighthouse's history and legacy continue to captivate visitors.

We had a wonderful day visiting the lighthouse and exploring the shores of Lake Superior.  Of course it was cold and windy, but we were actually pretty spoiled because the temperatures reached the forties while we were there which was unseasonably warm.  That was pretty lucky for us.

Even though I belly-ached a bit about the length of our hikes, the crew was nice enough to find me places to sit and rest on a regular basis so I really had no room to complain.

Here's a couple TikTok videos I shot while we were there:

@toddswank Lake Superior from the shores of Beaver Bay, Minnesota. #lakesuperior #beaverbay #superior #minnesota #edmundfitzgerald #gitcheegumee ♬ The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot
@toddswank Split Rock Lighthouse. #splitrock #lighthouse #splitrocklighthouse #twoharbors #minnesota #lakesuperior ♬ everything i wanted - Billie Eilish

 On February 12, Miss Sheri and I celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary.  The boys joined us for dinner and Avery brought his friend, Abby, along for the fun.  I can't believe it's been 29 years!

It was our first weekend at home for awhile so we pretty much played catch-up on a bunch of stuff we've been neglecting.  We did have the opportunity to go out with our good friends, Jen & Dan Walters.  It's always good seeing these cool cats.

Dan & I ventured out to his ice house for an hour to check out the boys.  Luke was there having a ball fishing with his friends so it was nice to see them enjoying the outdoors while indoors.

February 5, 2023

Visiting Old Friends in Phoenix, Arizona


Visiting Old Friends in Phoenix, Arizona
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for February 5, 2023

We spent a few days exploring Phoenix, Arizona and visiting old friends last week.

Our first visit was to see Jason and Jen.  They live on the outskirts of Phoenix right near the mountains.  I loved walking around their place and hearing stories of them seeing wild horses, coyotes, and other desert critters.

We went out to breakfast at a restaurant which I can't remember the name of, but they seemed to be awfully fond of Coca-Cola.

We then went for a hike at Papago Park.  Jen told us it is also called  the Hole in the Rock, but I couldn't figure out why.

As we got closer, I started figuring it out a bit.  There really is a big hole in the rock!  We liked going in and out of it over and over again.

We enjoyed spending the day exploring.  It probably helped that it was about 80 degrees warmer here than it was back home.  That always seems to make exploring more enjoyable.

We stopped by the Arizona Biltmore Hotel to have a drink.  We were able to finagle a private tour of their historic property that's hosted a bunch of celebrities and former presidents since it opened in 1929.  We even were able to get into the famed Gold, Mystery and History rooms which was quite the treat.

  Later that afternoon we made it over to Kim and Mike's house.  They have a lovely home near the heart of Phoenix and we enjoyed catching up on old times with them.

We also had the opportunity to visit with Chad and Riann who we haven't seen in person since before the pandemic began.  It was great seeing them again.

We have seen Chad and Teresa since the pandemic began, but probably not in the past year or so.  Kind of sad that we all still live in Minnesota together but have to travel to Arizona to hang out again.  We're going to have to fix that.

 Last but not least was the couple who gave us the reason to make a trip to Phoenix.  It was Vickie's 75th birthday and the family invited us to her surprise party.  

She had a whole bunch of friends and family show up for the party and I think she was pretty surprised to see everyone again all gathered in the desert.  As per usual, the family threw an amazing party complete with story-telling, skits, sing-alongs, and other general rooting and tooting types of activities.  We had a blast.

I moved to Clear Lake, Iowa my sophomore year in high school and the Hornbuckle family were some of my best friends.  I spent a lot of time at their house for various celebrations.  Some of which I was even invited to attend!

Their family has grown quite a bit larger since those days and they're all just a bunch of really good people.  Well, most of them are anyways.

We spent a couple of nights celebrating with one another and had plenty of laughs.  We also created some new memories that I'm sure we'll talk about for years.  

On Sunday, Miss Sheri and I went to do some exploring on our own.  We drove into the mountains to Canyon Lake.

I always try to get out on the water when on vacation even when we're going to the desert.  We found an excursion called the Dolly Steamboat which would take us for a 90 minute cruise through 6 miles of scenic Canyon Lake.

We got lucky and were able to find some seats at the front of the boat.  We braced ourselves for a tour to seek out some desert critters.

It didn't take long before we were rewarded with watching a big herd of bighorn sheep meander through the tops of the hills.  The captain seemed impressed that there were so many together all at once.  They were way up at the top so hard to see with the naked eye but Miss Sheri was able to capture some fun photos with the Zoom Lens.

We get to see more than our fair share of bald eagles back in Minnesota, but we still enjoy seeing them even out in the desert.

We stopped by Goldfield Ghost Town before heading back to town.  It's an actual old west town that was founded in 1893 after the discovery of gold in the nearby Superstition Mountains.  It's now been restored and serves as a tourist attraction with various folks dressed up as old west characters complete with a shootout in the middle of town.

We enjoyed visiting with the locals and checking out the shops and other buildings.  

Phoenix is a great place to visit!  I think we even caught a glimpse of that Chinese Spy Balloon off in the distance while we were there.