July 21, 2024

Celebrating Birthdays with the Twins


Celebrating Birthdays with the Twins
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for July 21, 2024

Wednesday night brought us to the Kona Grill in Eden Prairie for a get together with our Twin Cities Clear Lake Club.  Jason and Jen joined us this month which added a little bit of extra spice to the evening.

Friday night was at the Rodeo at Canterbury Park.  I'm not quite sure what it was, but something about being there made me feel proud to be an American.

We were joined by Ron and Sue Korkowski.  We all thought we'd enjoy rooting for the Cowboys for the evening, but often times we found ourselves rooting for the cows instead.

It's a bit surprising that the calf roping event isn't considered to be more controversial.  They basically let this baby cow out of a gate, it runs for a bit until a man lassos him with a big rope around it's neck, chokes and yanks him to the ground, and then rushes to tie his feet together so he can't move.  The fastest one to do it is considered the winner.  I'm sure there's a purpose for doing this activity on a real ranch, but it seems a bit much just to entertain an audience.  Although I must admit, I did find it really cool!

Even though we had sympathy for the animals, it was the cowboys who were probably suffering the majority of the pain for the evening.  These guys are pretty crazy seeing who can stay on Bucking Broncos and Monster Bulls the longest.  

A lot of the night was spent waiting for guys to open a gate, while dudes figured out how to climb onto thousand pound animals who were pissed off and wanted to go back to their stalls for the evening.  They'd open it up and the snarling beasts bounced around for 15-30 seconds while the poor sucker on top held on for dear life.

The event ended with a guy getting stomped on by a bull and then being hauled off the field in an ambulance.  Not sure I understand the appeal of this sport for the participants, but it sure was interesting to watch.  Warning.  This video may be tough to watch for the squeamish:

@toddswank Bull Riding looks pretty tough! #bullriding #canterbury #rodeo ♬ Austin (Boots Stop Workin') - Dasha
@toddswank All for a pair of diamond earrings! #canterbury #rodeo #diamonds ♬ original sound - Todd Swank

Although battling the animals looked really tough to do, watching a large group of women all playing Scramble to retrieve a football in order to win a pair of Diamond Earrings was probably the most violent event of the evening!

Saturday was my 54th birthday.  Luke and Avery's 25th birthday was 6 days earlier so we all went to the Minnesota Twins game to celebrate together.

We had some rain hit before the game started so we had to endure a bit of a delay.  It was fun to watch the grounds crew put the tarp over the field which made it worth getting my butt wet for awhile.

The Milwaukee Brewers were in town.  Any time a Wisconsin team plays in the Twin Cities, it always seems to bring a whole bunch of their fans.  It caused this evening's game to be the largest regular season crowd in Target Field History!  And all 41,000 of us had wet butts!

I don't know what's harder for me to accept.  That I'm 54 or that my boys are 25.  Time is flying by way too fast in any case.

I feel lucky to have this lady in my life as time flies by.

None of us are huge baseball fans so when the game went to 10 innings and remained in a tie at 1 to 1, we pretty much all decided that we could listen in the car to hear the final score.  4 hours at a baseball game is plenty for me!

Of course by leaving early, naturally there would be additional excitement in the game.  The Brewers scored two runs in the 11th inning which was answered by Carlos Santana hitting a 2 run homer.  It sounded really exciting on the radio.  But the Brewers came back in the 12th and scored another 5 runs which ended up being way too much for the Twins to mount a comeback.  We were all pretty glad we made the choice to leave early, but it was a fun night overall!

July 14, 2024

Lakefront Music Festival 15 in Prior Lake


Lakefront Music Festival 15 in Prior Lake

Todd Swank's Diary Entry for July 14, 2024

It's outdoor music festival season in Minnesota.  Wednesday night brought us to Rhythm on the Rails in Shakopee.  Krazy Kory was in town for the evening and we connected with Tom & Kellie and Eric & Deanne.  Subsequently a good time was had by all. 

Kory wanted to go near the band to get a photo and on our way through the crowd, we bumped into Troy and Rhonda Brown.  I felt quite fortuitous for the encounter!

Thursday night gave us the opportunity to go on a boat ride with Heidi and Lisa.  We tootled around the lake and spent the evening laughing and catching up on each other's lives.  It was a pleasant experience and best of all, nobody pushed me overboard for being obnoxious.  That's a big achievement for me.  

The water level on Prior Lake has risen more than 3 feet over the past couple of months so we're finally able to get into Mud Bay again to see Bird Island.  I was happy to see that even though we haven't been able to visit our feathered friends for about a year, they're still living together in happiness.  Although there seems to be quite a bit more poop on the leaves than there used to be. 

 Friday night brought us to Lakefront Park in Prior Lake for the 15th annual Lakefront Music Fest.  I can't remember how many of these we've attended, but my best guess would be 13.  The lineup was a good one with Bachman Turner Overdrive opening up the evening with many of their favorite hits.  They were Takin' Care of Business if you want my opinion.

We spotted our old friend, Chris Barragy, in the crowd.  He was there on official duty as one of the event photographers.  There's an old wives tale that it's good luck whenever you see a Barragy outside of Clear Lake, Iowa so I'm looking forward to my coming good fortune.

We bumped into many friends including Sue and Roberta.  We normally see each other at competitive Euchre matches so this was a nice change of pace.  And I wasn't losing any money like I normally do when I see them.

Berlin was the next performer.  I must be honest and say I didn't really remember her from my youth although her name did sound familiar.  I thought her full name was East Berlin or West Berlin or something like that, but not positive.  She really Took My Breath Away when she sang her final song about Tom Cruise.

Miss Sheri and I like singing together during concerts but I'm not sure if the people around us enjoy it as much as we do.

Eventually the sun went down and it was time for the headliner to appear.  I didn't notice the guys I was standing in front of when taking this picture, but later noticed they didn't look all that thrilled that I was standing there.

Eventually Pat Benatar came on stage with her husband Neil Giraldo and they were ready to rock!

They sang several songs I didn't recognize, but ended the evening with a bunch of her greatest hits.  Apparently she no longer sings Hit me with your Best Shot to protest gun violence, so Miss Sheri sang it for me on the drive home instead.  She's nice like that.

July 7, 2024

Explosive Fun and Old Chums: Clear Lake's 4th of July Extravaganza


Explosive Fun & Old Chums: Clear Lake's 4th of July Extravaganza
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for July 7, 2024

My step-mom, Joyce Swank, passed away yesterday.  She was 82 years old and suffered a pretty nasty heart attack that eventually ended up being too much for her body to handle.  Joyce had moved out to California to be with my step-sisters, Lori & Martha, many years ago.  We were fortunate enough to see her one last time back in June before her grandson's wedding.  My dad died on July 1, 2008 and ironically this photo of them ended up in my inbox this week.  It was a memory from my blog post the week he died and it just happened to appear right before she joined him in heaven.  I like to think it's some kind of sign they are now reunited.  
May she rest in peace.

Miss Sheri's college friend, Kim Hohensee, was in town from Colorado.  We met up with Cathy & Jeff for dinner and reminisced about their good ole days at Wartburg college.  A good time was had by all.

It was 4th of July this week and we spent 3 nights in Clear Lake, Iowa which is my favorite place in the world to celebrate Independence Day.  We were lucky enough to have Luke, Avery, & Abby choose to join us.

There was lots of talks of rain spoiling the celebration, but we were pretty lucky for the most part.  We enjoyed our favorite activities including the parade that marches down the center of Main Street.

Miss Sheri's mom, Leona, joined us for the celebration.  Grandma is 93 years old and enjoyed watching the festivities from the car.  Walking with the crowds downtown was a bit out of scope for her, so we get didn't spend as much time with them as we'd have liked.

The parade was fun like usual including an appearance with men in funny hats driving strange little cars.  I wish I had a hat like that.

Here's a video I took during the parade:
@toddswank Happy 4th of July from Clear Lake, Iowa! #4thofjuly #parade #clearlake #iowa ♬ God Bless The U.S.A. - Lee Greenwood

Normally I'd spend the 4th of July with Krazy Kory, but he wasn't able to be in town on the 4th.  We were fortunate enough to spend some time with him and his family at the carnival later in our trip.

We were able to get our Madson fix when Kory's son, Ben, and brother, Kelly, joined up with us at the parade.  We always have a good time with these guys.

The kids found it funny that I bump into so many people I know in Clear Lake.  That's one of my favorite reasons for going there!  We went on the Lady of the Lake to get a drink and I saw Brad Whalen who I haven't seen in decades.  It was great catching up with him for a few minutes.

I went to the top of the boat and saw Jon Anderson who I lived nearby in elementary and middle school in Mason City.  We played little league baseball together back when I was still considered a major athletic threat.  

At the carnival we connected with old friends, Brad Bernemann, June & Bob Bunn and their amazing daughters.  We had a lot good laughs right outside the Bingo tent.

We went downtown to watch the fireworks on the night of the 4th of July, but didn't know where we were going to watch them.  We thought we had great seats at the rooftop bar 173 Craft Distillery until they told us we had to leave at 8:30pm.  Apparently they sell these seats during the fireworks so that plan went out the window.

We'd seen Rich & Becky Finstad during one of our walks and they were kind enough to invite us to watch the fireworks in their yard.  They have a beautiful house on the lake so we thought that sounded like an amazing idea.  That was very nice of them!

While we were talking to Rich and Becky, their grandson Jack told me his dad would like me to come say Hi.  Jack's dad, John & I were roommates in college and they live just a few doors down.  We ended up spending the evening with John and his family and had an incredible time telling the kids about our shenanigans back at UNI.  We had such a good time!

Abby told me when we were leaving that she wishes she would have had the chance to hang out with "College Todd".  If she did, she would have been able to be part of fun videos like this one I made with John back in 1989:

Todd Rule stopped by to say Hi and it was fun to see him also.  
I gotta get me a shirt like that.

Before we knew it, the sky started lighting up with fireworks and we were mesmerized for the next 45 minutes or so.  It made me proud to be an American.

Friday night, we met up with Ron & Kristie Myers and their family at the Northwestern Steakhouse in Mason City.  It continues to be one of the best steaks I've ever eaten anywhere!

I have one more TikTok video I wanted to share even though technically it's from last week's trip to see the Korkowski's in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  Smoke up me up another shot of whiskey!

@toddswank Smoke me up another shot of whiskey! #tipsy #whiskey #smoked #4thofjuly ♬ A Bar Song (Tipsy) - Shaboozey

June 30, 2024

Feeling Funky on Fish Lake


Feeling Funky on Fish Lake
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for June 30, 2024

This spring has been one of the wettest in recent memory here in Minnesota. On Tuesday night, we decided to venture down to Shakopee to witness the swelling Minnesota River firsthand. Upon arrival, we were astonished to see the water level had risen to meet the lower blue line on the marker, which signifies the flood line from the historic floods of 1993. The sight was both awe-inspiring and a sobering reminder of nature's power.

Today, we revisited the river and were taken aback by how much the water level had risen in just a few days. The 1965 record might be at risk of being surpassed. Apparently, the river's got dreams of being the next Great Lake.

Wednesday night brought us to Rhythm on the Rails in Shakopee. The headliner was a band called Thunderstruck, an AC/DC tribute band. Thunderstruck made us feel like we were back in the '70s, minus the bell-bottoms. We half-expected Angus Young to pop out from behind a tree and start shredding.

Our good friends, Tom & Kellie Wolf, invited us to join them at the event. Despite arriving fashionably late and navigating through a sea of people, they still managed to snag us some decent seats. Sure, we ended up a bit too close to the garbage cans, but hey, at least the raccoons were friendly!

We haven't seen Lisa Maldonado in ages, but we flagged her down for a chat about the good old days. Rhythm on the Rails proves once again that great music and even greater people never go out of style.

Lisa let Heidi Wojahn know we were in the vicinity and she popped over for a visit. Having these two awesome women stop by made us feel like the evening's VIPs. Let's make this spontaneous reunion a tradition!

We made our way up to Clearwater, Minnesota on Friday night to join the Korkowskis for the weekend. Dinner at Anton's in Waite Park was the perfect start – surrounded by the charm of a log cabin along the Sauk River, enjoying hearty laughter and the flavors of the Roaring 20s.

I was worried the river would be too high, but it was perfect. The ducks and geese begging for food were our dinner theater. The most unique part? Trying to keep our drinks steady on a table suspended by chains – who knew dinner could be an extreme sport?

After dinner, we explored downtown St. Cloud and found a hidden speakeasy called the Blue Goose, where we had smoky drinks and little plants you chewed on which made your tongue go numb. Because who doesn't love a cocktail with a side of sensory adventure?

Saturday night brought us to an Escape Room. It was Miss Sheri and my first time, but the Korkowskis were pros. Unfortunately, we struggled with the activity and failed to escape during the allotted 45 minutes. After our attempt, the young lady working there told us this was a new game that had only opened a few days before, and nobody had come even close to solving it yet. She said the owners might need to "tweak" things to make it a bit easier. That made us feel a lot better about our abilities – it's comforting to know we’re not the only ones who need a map and compass to get out of a room.

All in all, it was a good week!  I'm a pretty blessed man to have this lady by my side all the time.