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.

June 23, 2024

Prowling with the Minnesota Lynx

Prowling with the Minnesota Lynx
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for June 23, 2024

On the Friday night before Father's day, Miss Sheri and I found ourselves with the opportunity to attend a WNBA game between our home town Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks. We were eager to watch the Lynx claw their way to victory!

We were particularly excited to watch Cameron Brink, the No. 2 overall pick behind Caitlin Clark, play for the Los Angeles Sparks. Despite having a tough night with 0-6 shooting, she showcased her defensive prowess with 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist. It was heartbreaking to hear that just a few nights later, she suffered a season-ending ACL injury against the Connecticut Sun. Her promising career was just getting started when destiny decided to call a timeout instead.

Miss Sheri bumped into Timberwolves coach Chris Finch and he was kind enough to let her take a selfie of them together. She came back to our seats quite giddy at her good fortune. She's always had a thing for coaches.

In the end, the Lynx domination of the league continued. Napheesa Collier scored 30 points to go with a career-high eight steals and the Lynx won by a score of 81-76.  This was their 3rd win in a row and they've gone on to win another 3 more since. They're stacking wins like pancakes at a Sunday brunch!

After the game we stopped at the American Legion to connect with the Walters boys and their lovely wives. We were ready for a little hot Karaoke Action.

The boys swung by for a quick hello, which was a nice surprise since Avery was set to be in Atlanta for Father’s Day. Instead of a family gathering, we turned the evening into a karaoke showdown, belting out tunes like we were auditioning for a reality show.

Luke and I spent the day together for Father's Day which was nice.  We were able to get out on the boat for awhile and the recent rains have made it deep enough so we can start visiting our favorite places again.  First stop, Bird Island.

Our previous 2 attempts to get back to mud bay and bird island were failures as the channel to access was too low and I bottomed my boat out trying to get through.  Our record rainy spring has fixed that so we could finally get back here again to check out our feathered friends.  I like being able to watch the baby egrets.  They're so fuzzy.

Tuesday night brought us to dinner with a couple old buddies from high school.  Brad, Tim, and I had such a nice time visiting and catching up on the good ole days that we decided to start making it a monthly thing.  So I got that going for me.  Which is nice.

Miss Sheri has been asking for us to start doing hikes again like we enjoyed so much during Covid.  We ventured over to Eagan to Lebanon Hills Regional Park to tackle one of their trails.   We were drawn to this one in particular because of the long wooden walkway.  It took us over a million different lily pads that were blooming with beautiful flowers.  

We get joy out of such silly things.

Grandma Linda was having some computer issues and asked me to stop by for a visit.  I hadn't seen her for awhile and I was very pleased to see how well she's getting around following her knee replacement & heart surgery back in April.  I'm going to start enrolling her into marathons soon at the pace she's going.

Our old buddies, Jason & Jen, are back in Minnesota for the summer and we had the opportunity to have dinner with them on Friday night.  We've missed these guys since they moved to Arizona so it was fun catching up on their latest adventures.

I snuck into my neighbor's yard after dinner and took this photo of Mystic Lake Casino.  Their lights are quite unique and we occasionally see things posted on social media that they may be alien related, so I thought it would be fun to post this video on TikTok:

@toddswank This is my neighbor’s backyard view. #lights #mystic ♬ Alien$ - Lee-Coc "Holder of the Light"

June 16, 2024

Tying the Knot in the Sierra Nevada Mountains


Tying the Knot in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Todd Swank's Diary Entry for June 16, 2024

Last weekend we had the good fortune to fly to California to attend a wedding near Pioneer in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  We were excited to witness the young couple start their journey towards living Happily Ever Altitude.

My sister and brother-in-law, Tracy and Dave, joined us for the trip.  They're always up for an adventure!

My step mom and step sisters moved to California years ago so unfortunately we don't get to see them very often.  Grandma Joyce suffered a nasty heart attack early in May and couldn't attend the ceremony.  It was quite deep in the mountains and there were fears it would be pretty risky in case anything happened.  That being said, we were excited for the opportunity to see her and Martha even if our time together was pretty brief.

We flew into Sacramento and drove to Pioneer where we were staying.  It's a beautiful drive going into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so we made many stops along the way.

The wedding was near Pioneer, California, so we rented a VRBO for our stay.  It was a beautiful cabin in the mountains and quite isolated.  It honestly made me nervous driving there.  There was very scant cell phone coverage and I kept being paranoid about something bad happening and us having no way to call for help.  I mean there's bears and mountain lions and all sorts of scary creatures just waiting to pounce on us!

When I saw this guy high up in the dead tree near our backyard, I just knew he was waiting to chew on me after the attack.  I tried yelling at him to go away, but he refused to listen.

After a couple of days staying there, we hadn't seen crap for wildlife.

I posted this video on TikTok to express my frustration:


♬ In the Forest - Lesfm & Olexy

The wedding was on Saturday and we had to drive another 15 miles deep into the mountains.  We eventually found our destination and could see why they chose it.  It was so beautiful and secluded.  Such a perfect location for an absolutely beautiful wedding!

We were celebrating the wedding of Austin and Kristina Ormonde.  It was our first time meeting the bride and she seems to be very sweet.  They both are so happy and we're ecstatic for them that they've found each other and have such a bright future ahead of them.  Congratulations!!

We've known Austin since he was a baby since he's the son of our sister, Lori.  She moved to California nearly 30 years ago, but this was our first time for us to be around all of her friends and family.  It was so much fun to get a glimpse of the life she's built and all of the amazing relationships she has created.  There were so many heart warming stories being told and we all cried many times throughout the day hearing some of them.  Good times.

After the ceremony. they had a massive beer pong tournament.  I knew right away that these are my kind of people!

Eventually we journeyed back to our cabin and saw our first large mammal of the trip.  A deer was on the side of the road, so we pulled over and took some pictures.  The next morning after breakfast I was sitting on the back porch and suddenly a mule deer appeared out of the woods to join us.  I was hoping for bears and mountain lions, but this guy looked like he could be pretty vicious as well.

  Things really started getting crazy when five of his friends followed him out of the woods and all of the sudden we were having a Big Buck Party and I was ready to dance.  Here's some of the videos we took of the event:
@toddswank We are under attack! #deer #pioneer #sierranevada ♬ original sound - teeharpo

On Sunday we drove to Lake Tahoe and saw this ferocious beast.  We were pulling into a park entrance and he was walking out I'm sure after causing some serious havoc.  Here was  the video I posted after this encounter: 
@toddswank Coyote Deep in the El Dorado National Forest. #coyote #eldorado #dangerousanimals ♬ The von dutch remix w addison rae and a. g. cook - Charli XCX

After we fought off the Coyote, we hiked up into the woods a bit through the snow packed terrain.  We're pretty rugged people.

Eventually we made it to South Lake Tahoe and were mesmerized by the beautiful blue waters.  It is the second deepest freshwater lake in the United States and has 72 miles of shoreline.  We only had a few hours to visit, but determined this is a place we'd like to come to again sometime.

We drove over to Emerald Bay which is a breathtaking drive.  One of those without a lot of guardrails, very narrow roads, and steep cliffs if you accidentally veer off the road.  I felt pretty relieved when we arrived at this site where we could get out and take some pictures and allow me to change my pants.

Emerald Bay is beautiful and contains the only island on the lake called Fannette Island.  There's a stone teahouse on top of it that was built in 1929 by some wealthy heiress.  I'd like to be a wealthy heiress some day.

June 2, 2024

The End of an Amazing Season


The End of an Amazing Season
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for June 2, 2024

On Wednesday night, we went to Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals to cheer on the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It was Luke's turn to join me for a game.  He's a huge Wolves fan and was excited to go and scream his guts out with me for the home team.  We were down three games to one so they needed all the help we could offer.

We were in good company with Jimmy Jam & Snoop Doggy Dogg in the house for the match.  This helped me cross an item off my bucket list to be in the same room as Mr. Dogg.  Fo' Shizzle.

It was also nice to see Shaq, Charles, and the rest of the TNT Inside the NBA crew.  Will this be the last time they're together to host a game?  It will be an interesting story to follow in the off season.  The game wouldn't be the same without them!

We've had such a fun season with the Timberwolves.  So many great things happened for Minnesota including the emergence of Anthony Edwards as one of the best players in the league.  Up until game 3 of the Denver series, they really appeared unstoppable.  Even though they fell short, the future is going to be very bright for them for many years.  Which is a good thing as we've sat through many bad basketball games over the past 20 years.

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving were just too much to overcome for the Timberwolves.  I've always known they were great players, but seeing them play for five games straight gave me a whole new respect for their abilities.  Luka played out of his mind and made so many shots I would have thought to be impossible.  If they play the way they did against us, I struggle to see any way that the Boston Celtics will be able to beat them.

Unfortunately for us, the game seemed to be over before it even started.  Luka opened up with a 20 point first quarter on his way to a 36 point game.  The Wolves never seemed to have a chance and fell to the Mavericks by a score of 124-103.  We're locked in for a half season membership next year and look forward to see what changes they make in the offseason to help them get over the hump and make it to the finals next year.  Let's Go Wolves!

Last weekend, Miss Sheri and I had the opportunity to get dressed up and go to a wedding.  We got to ride in a fun trolley car to be dropped off at the ceremony.

We were fortunate enough to attend the union of Dana and Mathias.  Their wedding was absolutely beautiful and just a joy to attend.  They both have a background in theater so between them and their friends, there were a lot of unique experiences throughout the ceremony and reception that I really enjoyed.  Congratulations to the Happy Couple!

Dana is the daughter of Portia & Mike Vogt.  Her brother, Gavin, was in Cub Scouts with Luke and Avery since first grade and we've been friends ever since.  They hosted the ceremony in their beautiful backyard and it was a very pleasurable experience.

I had the opportunity to meet Deron Brunson at the wedding and he was a very interesting fellow.  He told me he was a trumpet player with the Brunson Brothers quartet and they performed in all sorts of amazing places including for Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.  I've always been fascinated with people who've had careers in show business so I talked his ear off for quite awhile!

We've been able to get the boat out a bit even though the lake is still shallower than we'd like.  Blue is allowed to join us as long as nobody is swimming.  The problem occurs when somebody jumps in the water, he insists on joining them.  And getting his big, wet, hairy butt back into the boat from the water is a lot more challenging than it looks!

Avery and Abby kept a pretty good hold on him at the front of the boat.  I'm always afraid he'll do a kamikaze into the water while we're going fast and not sure how his body would respond to that.  He's getting pretty old for that kind of horseplay.

On Saturday, we went to Grillfest 2024 in St. Paul with our old buddies, Orlando and Nancy.  We always have a lot of fun together!

Grillfest is a celebration of BBQ, beers, and other tasty beverages  with a bunch of vendors giving out samples and competing in competitions for the best Bloody Mary, margarita, and other fun competitions.  This gentleman was with Kickled Mary and I gave him my vote, although we didn't stick around long enough to find out if he won or not.

When we came home, I let the dog out on the patio and discovered this mama bird had built her nest on our chimney.  Glad we noticed her before turning on our fireplace else we may have been forced to eat fried robin's eggs for breakfast.  I would have had tears in my eyes for every bite regardless of how delicious they may have been.