Bikepacking Trip Wrap up

Myrna CG Mibus - Idyllwild - 3 hours 16 min ago
Our bike packing trip is complete and now, three weeks later, I'm finally getting around to writing up what is probably my last blog post about the trip.

The first thing to address is the big question - do we want to go bike packing again? 

The answer? Yes! We definitely want to do more bike packing and include camping into future adventures. Bucket list routes include (but are not limited to) the Katy Trail in Missouri and the Elroy Sparta Trail in Wisconsin.

Secondly, a big Thank you is in order to the good people of Milltown Cycles, aka Milltown Premium Adventure Goods for equipping us with our bikes, our seat bags and for fielding lots and lots of questions about bike packing.

Now here's our bike packing wrap-up report with info on equipment, weather, coffee and other stats! Not interested in bike packing? Well, this might be kinda dry stuff so you might want to skip down to the bottom to the Coffee section of this post and call it a day.

Bikes: Owen rode his 2013 Salsa Mukluk 2 fatbike. I rode my 2013 Salsa Vaya 2. Both bikes worked well and were well-suited for the task. Since the Mukluk is a bit slow compared to the Vaya, Owen will likely switch over to a bike other than his fatbike for future trips.

Bikes fully loaded along the Gandy Dancer TrailDates: Departed Shell Lake, Wisconsin on Sunday evening, August 2nd. Arrived back in Shell Lake on Wednesday, August 5th

Milage: 169.2 miles.

Our Route:

  • Day 1 - County Road B from Shell Lake to Siren, Wisconsin.
  • Day 2 - The Gandy Dancer Trail from Siren to Danbury then all the way south to Luck, WI
  • Day 3 - Luck, WI south to St. Croix Falls then back north to Siren via The Gandy Dancer Trail
  • Day 4 - Siren back to Shell Lake, WI via County Road B
Gandy Dancer Trail Conditions: Trail conditions were excellent overall while we were on the bike-specific portion of the Gandy Dancer. As mentioned before, once we hit the ATV portion of the trail in Danbury, all bets were off for biking. Trail conditions were much better in Burnett County than in Polk County. In fact, we could see a distinct difference in trail conditions at the county line on the trail. The trail in Polk County was mossy in parts and there were also some deep sandy stretches where I had to get off my bike and walk for about a dozen feet. Not ideal.The Gandy Dancer Trail in Burnett CountyThe Gandy Dancer Trail in Polk County
Mossy trail in Polk CountyWeather: We had the great fortune of having great weather each day of our trip. Temps were in the mid 70s to low 80s at midday. The humidity was low. We could have biked another day but decided to reward ourselves with a day of sightseeing and relaxing before we needed to be at our son, Ryan's, Trumpet Workshop concert on Thursday evening (While we were biking, Ryan was attending a Trumpet Workshop camp at Shell Lake Center for the Arts in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. Rose was at a Korean language camp near Bemidji). Good thing we decided not to bike on Thursday because the day turned out to be overcast and it ended up raining like crazy.

Bug report: We were prepared to deal with mosquitos and packed plenty of bug spray but found bugs to be almost a non-issue on the trip. Owen did get stung on the first day but a wasp or something and I had a small bug fly into my face and sting me. Neither sting turned out to be an issue, though.

Weight (of the bikes and stuff, not of the people):
Since we did not carry sleeping bags, a tent or cook food along the way, our luggage and equipment didn't weigh much. Fully loaded, both of our bikes were easy to ride. We could tell we had some extra weight behind us in our seat bags but never felt that the full bags made for more difficult going.

We probably should have weighed our equipment before we left but kinda forgot to. So we pulled our bike bags off our bikes when we got home and weighed them to see how much weight we carried. We factored in weight for the water (two bottles each) and snacks we carried and were pleasantly surprised at how light our bikes were when fully loaded.

Owen's packed bags weighed in at 16 pounds
My bags weighed in at 11 pounds

I'm not sure what "normal" is as far as weight goes but I do know that when people go on long bike packing trips they'll carry considerably more than we did.


Owen carried a Bontrager handlebar bag, a Banjo Brothers medium frame bag, a Revelate Mountain Feed Bag and a Revelate Viscacha seat bag.

I carried a small handlebar bag (not sure of the brand), a Revelate Pika seat bag and a Bontrager "Pro Speed Box" bag on my top tube near my handlebars.

Overpacking? Yep. A bit. Both Owen and I felt we could have left some stuff behind and would have been just fine.
Here are some overpacking examples:
  • We had two 4 oz. tubes of sunscreen but could have managed with one.
  • Owen also packed his swimsuit (not sure why, I guess I mentioned swimming at some point) and had three shirts when he just needed one.
  • We both packed a second jersey and could have managed with one.
  • We had jackets and used them but didn't end up needing the tiny rain ponchos we packed.
  • I packed a tiny bit of makeup (BB cream and eyeliner) but by the end of the really didn't care if my skin looked all even toned or not. Normally, I'm a bit self conscious about going out without makeup but at the end of the day I was just like, "hey, I rode my bike all day and I feel great so therefore I look great and if you don't like how I look I really don't care."
What we wished we had packed: 
  • I thought I would be able to get shampoo at hotels along the way. That wasn't always the case. So I wish I had packed a small container of shampoo.
  • I also wish I would have packed a small tube of lotion.
  • Duct Tape. I almost bought some to patch up the cleat attachment holes on the bottom of my shoes because lots of sand snuck in the holes. I also just like duct tape.

I think bike rides are always better when you stop for coffee. I prefer a whole-milk latte and Owen likes a basic black coffee. We found two super excellent coffee shops along the Gandy Dancer Trail that are worth mentioning (there are likely other good coffee shops, too, but these are two we found). Both of these shops are within a block of the bike trail.

Fresh Start Coffee Roasters in Webster, Wisconsin: Great coffee. Yummy treats. Nice decor. Art for sale including great photography.
Cafe Wren in Luck, Wisconsin: Great coffee. Yummy treats. Excellent lunch food. Super nice deck/patio. Art for sale. Cool biking glasses for sale.

Well, that's it for our Gandy Dancer bikepacking trip wrap up report.

I'll report in with more bike adventure related news soon!

Categories: Citizens

CROCT leads an overnight youth group mountain bike trip at Cuyuna Lakes

Mountain Bike Geezer - 11 hours 10 min ago

Back in June I blogged about the weekly youth mountain biking group rides I was co-leading all summer, one of my activities as a CROCT board member.

As part of that collaboration with the Northfield Public Schools Community Services Division, we recently took the kids and some parents on an overnight youth group trip to the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail System.

I’ve published a long blog post with dozens of photos about the trip here: CROCT leads an overnight youth group mountain bike trip at Cuyuna Lakes.

The post CROCT leads an overnight youth group mountain bike trip at Cuyuna Lakes appeared first on Mountain Bike Geezer.

Categories: Citizens

A Brief Rant Concerning Invisible Brass Bands

My Musical Family - Joy Riggs - Fri, 08/28/2015 - 3:18pm
During our family road trip out to Glacier National Park last week, we listened to the new book by David McCullough about brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, the legendary inventors and aviation pioneers from Dayton, Ohio. It is titled simply, The Wright Brothers. The audiobook was narrated by McCullough himself, and I loved everything about it except this: at least twice in the book (since we were listening to it, I can’t cite page numbers), he made reference to “a band” playing at an event honoring the Wrights.

Which bands were they? He did not say. Arrgh! I was so annoyed and dismayed. His book, which is filled with fascinating details, lengthy descriptions and a plethora of names, failed to acknowledge the names of these mysterious bands, the towns they were connected to, how big they were, who directed them, or any other descriptors.

Maybe McCullough didn’t know the band names or didn’t think it was important to his story to include them. It’s no excuse, in my opinion. I hate to pick on him, since I really did enjoy the book and highly recommend it. But he committed the all-too-common sin of omission that is a pet peeve of mine in historical accounts. Bands are almost always an afterthought or are ignored altogether.

I hope to help right this wrong through the book I am writing about my great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs, who was a contemporary of the Wright brothers (Wilbur was born in 1867; G. Oliver was born in 1870; Orville was born in 1871).

The town bands that provided celebratory music at civic events of the late 1800s and early 1900s were not just faceless blobs of humanity attached to instruments; they were made up of men (usually, although some novelty bands of the time were composed of women or children) who had names, jobs, personalities and families. Because of their interest in and love of performing music, they often were witnesses to important moments in history, playing a role (pun intended) in the larger events of their lifetimes. They deserve more than a second thought. They deserve a least a second, descriptor adjective.

Believe me, the great-grandchildren who are researching their lives will appreciate the effort.

In October 1900, when the Wright brothers began their glider experiments at Kitty Hawk, N.C., G. Oliver Riggs (center, with cornet) was directing a town band in Crookston, Minn.OK, rant over. Back to work on my book. You can be assured it is chock-full of specific brass band names and numerous other details about the musicians who contributed to the soundtrack of American history.

You could say it’s simply the right thing to do.
Categories: Citizens

Smoke gets in your eyes…

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 12:19pm

… and lungs and heart.  This map from via NPR shows the wide ranging impacts:

See Smoke From Wildfires Threatens Health in the West from NPR yesterday.  Back when we had RED air quality warnings in Minnesota, a couple of months ago now, I was feeling it.  But the last week or so, I’ve been waking up totally stuffed, headache, and it takes about an hour and a half to get my schnozz cleared out.  We have no German Shepherds, and even though little one-coated Sadie does shed, and even though I nuzzled a cat day before yesterday, that’s not enough to cause this.  Could it be seasonal allergies, which are admittedly worse with age (OH MY DOG, no German Sheperds is bad enough, but just breathing?)?  I’m not convinced.  This headache and being stuffed up isn’t my typical response, which tends to be runny eyes, sandpaper nose and sniffles.  It’s got to be the fires.

Meanwhile, I know a few folks who live out there, and in addition to having to evacuate and be on alert, others with relatives heading out to fight the fires, there are more subtle affects, where it’s showing up unbidden in photography jobs, an added interference with chemo for cancer, and a hazard for COPDers.

Here’s the chart of emissions for the Midtown Burner, from Saying NO to Midtown Burner Permits prepared by Alan Muller based on the Midtown Burner proposed air permit for the roughly 38MW biomass plant that was to burn “clean” trees in a much smaller amount than these wildfires across the west:

So if these are the numbers for the small biomass burner, what are the emissions for these wildfires?  Is anyone doing testing in the plumes for what people are exposed to?  There’s the emissions as above of things like formaldehyde that come from “clean” trees, the tremendous Particulate Matter, but what about all the other things too that are burned in these fires, like plastics, tires, creosote and penta poles?  I’m not finding anything, and it seems this is something that should be done by the Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, etc., state environmental agencies.  There should be active warnings to people to wear masks outdoors, and indoors to filter the air.  We have a HEPA filter for every room, but we’re not normal.  The impacts of breathing this air will be felt immediately by some people, but there’s a high likelihood that impacts are cumulative and/or take time to develop.  Protection now is crucial.

Categories: Citizens

It’s National Dog Day!

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 2:20am

Little Sadie celebrates National Dog Day, and gives me a bit of whale-eye for daring to take her picture:

And to all the dogs I’ve loved before…

Ode to Summer…    November 26th, 2012

Saying good bye to Kady    November 22nd, 2014

Oh, it’s a sad day…    May 26th, 2010

Krie, doggie with the winglet ears, died today  January 2nd, 2010

And dear Katze:

And Elka…

And dear ol’ Maggie Mae:

And Bozo!!

Categories: Citizens

It’s Time for Some Pickling and Jamming

My Northern Garden - Mary Schier - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 4:38pm

Fall seems to be rushing in here in Minnesota, which is all the more reason to preserve some of the garden harvest for enjoying over the winter.

This past weekend, I spent some time pickling and jamming, using vegetables from my own garden and a few I bought at the farmers’ market. Here’s the round up with links to all the recipes:

Pickled onions, bread and butter pickles, yellow tomato jam and a stray bottle of pickled red cabbage.

I’ve never pickled onions before, but both my Chicago daughter and our Northern Gardener Kitchen Garden columnist Rhonda Hayes tell me that they are all the rage on tacos, pulled pork and other foods that need a bit of zing. I had good luck this year growing these onions from Seed Savers Exchange. The mixture is super tart, but just right to brighten up a meaty sandwich.

I had half a head of red cabbage left from a salad I made so I decided to pickle that as well using the same method, but adding some raw ginger to the container. Ginger is a great companion to cabbage, adding a little heat to an otherwise bland vegetable.

Of course, I had to make a batch of Grandma Lahr’s Bread and Butter Pickles. Minnesotans like a sweeter pickle and these have just the right sweet-tart blend. I grew up eating these alongside a tuna or meat sandwich — yum!

Finally, I made a batch of this Yellow Tomato Jam, a sweet way to preserve the harvest. To me, this jam is like the first taste of fall because it has some of the spices of fall. If you like your tomatoes sweet, you may want to try this  recipe for a tomato peach pie!

The preserving is just starting here — my raspberries are ripening fast so I’ll be picking, freezing and eating them daily, and I have bunches of herbs to make into pesto and a sauce I call salty herb blend, which is great for putting in soups or on meats.

What are you preserving this fall (oops) summer?

Related posts:

  1. Pickle Time Right now, the squash and cucumbers are duking it out...
  2. Dealing with Abundance This sign — spotted while riding my bike around town...
  3. The Joy of Good Tools I’ve been canning and pickling for about 15 years now...
Categories: Citizens

Muller: Time to think about…

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 10:24am

Commentary by Alan Muller, Green Delaware, in today’s Delaware State News:

Commentary: Time to think about Delaware’s Peterson, Coastal Zone Act

Delaware’s a mess. The water is rising. We are a major destination for bomb trains. One of the most leaky and dangerous nuke power complexes threatens and pollutes the state and is trying to expand with new reactors. The air and water are polluted. The economy is stagnant and the political system corrupt. The public schools are under attack. The court system is openly dedicated to protecting corporate crime. A tale of woe, to be sure.

Some of it is self-inflicted, like the reopening of the mega-toxic Delaware City Refinery and the resulting routing of bomb trains to Delaware.  Some, like global climate change and sea level rise, is mostly beyond the ability of Delaware to do much about. On the other hand, it could well be argued that little three-county Delaware has done way-out-of-proportion damage to the world, has been a damaging leader in the “race to the bottom.”

What is the cumulative damage to individuals and families done by out-of-control credit card “banks?” Would that have happened anyway, with or without Delaware’s shameful Financial Center Development Act?  Would so many electric ratepayers been screwed over so much without the hundreds of Enron subsidiaries incorporated in Delaware? Maybe they would have just been set up somewhere else.  Would there have been so many bogus bankruptcies and stolen pension plans?  Would the US, or the world, be in better shape without Delaware?  Alternative history can’t be much more than speculative, but there is a case to be made.

Is it possible to imagine a better Delaware? A place to be proud of rather than ashamed of? A Delaware, for example, where John  Kowalko is Speaker of the House rather than Pete Schwartzkopf?  A place where the University of  Delaware symbolizes intellectual freedom rather than civil liberties violations and the worship of capital at the expense of labor?

Well, yes, actually.  There  have been better leadership and better political times in Delaware, within my memory.

Russ Peterson died in 2011.  (Here’s his obit in the New York Times.) Peterson was a significant figure in environmental matters in Delaware, nationally, and sometimes globally.  But it seemed to me that most of what was being written about Russ was the same old stuff, regurgitated for the umpteenth time and not giving us much new or insightful to think about.

Now, three years have gone by, and Delaware’s rulers are pursuing another major attack on the Delaware Coastal Zone Act, the centerpiece, the masterpiece, of  Peterson’s public policy work in Delaware.   So, this seems an appropriate time to think about Russ Peterson.

Peterson was likely the most significant person ever to operate out of little Delaware.  But he didn’t walk on water and he wasn’t God.  He was both more flawed and more interesting than one might see from most writings about him. He deserves more thoughtful commentary than he’s so far received.

Peterson, first of all, not a “Delaware Native.”  He was born, raised, and educated in Wisconsin, and was a product of the relatively progressive atmosphere, at least at that time, of the Upper Midwest.  (For factual information on Russ Peterson see this Wikipedia article.)

If Peterson had grown up in the plantation culture of Delaware, and learned his chemistry at the University of Delaware, would he have made the same contributions?  Maybe, but it’s doubtful.  In general, the human intellect does not seem to blossom in Delaware.

Russ was educated as a chemist and was recruited by E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company as a research chemist.  He rose to be director of Central Research and Development.  This would be considered, at least at the time, high in the pecking order of the technical world, or at least its industrial side.  Peterson was a smart man.

Peterson’s interests eventually shifted out of DuPont.  My favorite story of Peterson and DuPont:  At one time he was in charge of a suburban office/lab site known as Chestnut Run Plaza.  At the time, in DuPont, black people could generally have only menial, broom-pushing jobs.  Peterson set up a program to enable and encourage black workers to move up. DuPont’s response was to schedule Peterson for an interview with “the company psychiatrist.”  Mental illness was suspected.

In any case, Peterson got involved in reform efforts in Delaware, notably prison reform. Being of an analytical turn of mind, he figured out how to organize such efforts: a committee in every Representative district, and so on.   Some years of this work gave him good, if imperfect, insight into the workings of Delaware politics.

He wasn’t without his critics.  Tom Colgan, long time campaigner against housing discrimination, used to say “Russ always showed up when the fighting was over.”  Perhaps so.  But Delaware is a place with a narrow intellectual and political space, where perceptions of non-mainstream views generally relegate people to a gadfly role.  In a sense, Russ Peterson’s achievement was to keep close enough to the political mainstream to achieve, at least briefly, real power, yet he was not co-opted from the neck up.

In 1968, Peterson resigned from DuPont and ran for Governor as a Republican.  At the time, the DuPont Company was behind him.  I recall, as the teenage son of a DuPont manager, being turned out to flyer for Russ Peterson.  He won.

But, after the enactment of the Coastal Zone Act in his first term, DuPont turned on him, and told its 25,000 Delaware employees–there are way fewer now, or course–to vote for Democrat Sherman W. Tribbitt, a hardware store owner in the small town of Odessa.  Peterson was out of office after one term.

There were other factors in his defeat, including budgetary miscalculations that required the state to “claw back” spending.  Whether this was a genuine screwup or a trap set for Peterson has never been entirely clear to me.  The budget shortfall was five million dollars.

Peterson also pushed a transition from Delaware’s “commission” form of government to a “cabinet” system.  Traditionally, many governmental functions had been run by citizen commissions.  Some still are, such as utility regulation by the “Public Service Commission.”  The members of these commissions were mostly appointed by the governor but were not, afterwards, directly under his control.  On the other hand, departments of the Executive Branch were. and are, headed by officials reporting to the Governor.  This increased the power of the governor; it made for a more centralized decision-making process.  Like most change, it was resented.

This centralization of power continues:  a disturbing example is the shift of power over schools from elected district school boards to a state Department of Education controlled by the governor.  Many people these days feel that Governor Jack Markell is using this power to attack the fundamental features of public schools and public education, and to implement privatization of the public schools to the benefit of for-profit “education” companies.

After Tribbitt’s one term, hard right winger and special interest servant Pierre S. du Pont IV was installed as Governor for two terms.  DuPont shut down the state planning office and, in general, tried to reverse many of the Peterson reforms.  Many people see his two terms as the time during which Delaware abandoned real representative government and adopted the “Delaware Way” of governance.  The “Delaware Way” could better be called the “Dirty Deals Behind Closed Doors” approach.

So what about this Coastal Zone Act?  What makes it special and worth preserving.

It was based on an understanding that coastal areas, that is, where the water meets the land and the air, are crucial from an ecological perspective and need special protections.  The wording of it is pretty clear:


It is hereby determined that the coastal areas of Delaware are the most critical areas for the future of the State in terms of the quality of life in the State. It is, therefore, the declared public policy of the State to control the location, extent and type of industrial development in Delaware’s coastal areas. In so doing, the State can better protect the natural environment of its bay and coastal areas and safeguard their use primarily for recreation and tourism. Specifically, this chapter seeks to prohibit entirely the construction of new heavy industry in its coastal areas, which industry is determined to be incompatible with the protection of that natural environment in those areas. While it is the declared public policy of the State to encourage the introduction of new industry into Delaware, the protection of the environment, natural beauty and recreation potential of the State is also of great concern. In order to strike the correct balance between these 2 policies, careful planning based on a thorough understanding of Delaware’s potential and the State’s needs is required. Therefore, control of industrial development other than that of heavy industry in the coastal zone of Delaware through a permit system at the state level is called for. It is further determined that offshore bulk product transfer facilities represent a significant danger of pollution to the coastal zone and generate pressure for the construction of industrial plants in the coastal zone, which construction is declared to be against public policy. For these reasons, prohibition against bulk product transfer facilities in the coastal zone is deemed imperative.

The immediate tactical driver for the bill was an attempt to build a second oil refinery in Delaware.  Shell had bought the land, designed the refinery, and survey monuments were in the ground.  The threat was immediate.  The damage being done by the existing Delaware City Refinery, one of the dirtiest in the world, was obvious.

It’s worth noting that Peterson and the leaders of the General Assembly were Republicans.  The President of the US was Richard Nixon.  The Nixon administration wanted to increase oil imports and wanted a lot of it to come up the Delaware River and be refined alongside it. So, in effect, Peterson was not only defying Delaware’s fat-cat industrial establishment, and many labor leaders, he was defying the US federal government and his fellow Republicans.

“U. S. Secretary of Commerce Maurice Stans accused Peterson of being disloyal to his country.  Peterson famously replied, ‘Hell no, I’m being loyal to future generations of Americans.’” (Man and Nature in Delaware.  Williams, 2008)

There were, however, flaws in the Coastal Zone Act, like most legislation a product of compromise.  A key weakness is that the Act covers “industry” but not residential and commercial activities.  Over the years, as coastal industry has tended to contract and sprawl development expand, the CZA has increasingly failed to control many of the greatest threats to the Coastal Zone including runoff and sewage.  It has been obvious for many years that the scope of the Act needs to be expanded, but the vision and leadership to accomplish that has been lacking.

Another weakness is that regulations implementing the act we not adopted for many years, and when they were adopted they were inconsistent with the purposes of the act and tended to weaken it.  Thus, interpretation of the Act has mostly been left to Delaware’s courts, with unpredictable and increasingly bad results, as the quality of Delaware’s judiciary has declined.

But, despite these issues, the Delaware Coastal Zone Act was groundbreaking, whether one regards it as primarily a “land use” law or an “environmental” law.  It came about because a visionary governor was supported by a generation of reform-minded legislators and a relatively-active “environmental community.”  Where are the visionary governors and the generation of reform-minded legislators when we need them now??  Gov. Jack Markell is certainly not cast in that mold.

Peterson went on to serve as President of the National Audubon Society, Chaired the federal Council on Environmental Quality, and worked with various commissions, environmental organizations and projects.  He never again held elective office or a high position in the business or scientific worlds.

Peterson stayed, at least episodically, involved in environmental politics in Delaware, until his death in 2011 at the age of about 95.  He was, for example, a supporter of the Bluewater Wind project, which eventually collapsed but potentially could have been the first large offshore wind project in North America.  He usually popped up when the Coastal Zone Act was being attacked.

But in the end Russ Peterson was diminished by two things:

Advancing age.  Anyone remaining active into his mid-90s is likely to be remembered for things he or she did when no longer at the peak of their powers, and

His love-hate relationship with the chemical industry.  Perhaps Peterson never got over being pushed out of his job as Governor by DuPont.  It seemed to me that he carried deep and legitimate grievances, and of course he knew intellectually that the policies pursued by big corporate interests were destroying the planet.  On the other hand, Peterson had money, identified socially with the powers-that-be, and seemed to crave forgiveness and acceptance from the leaders of DuPont, etc.  Thus, he could and did alternate between sucking up and lashing out.  He wasn’t always reliable or predictable.  He could and did make serious mistakes and publish stupid things, such as an endorsement of a bad waste incineration company.

Russ’ key mistake was to be politically seduced by “Toxic Tom” Carper.  Carper was elected Governor in 1992, with the naive support of some Delaware enviros.  At that time, a long Coastal Zone Act negotiation between enviro types and Chamber of Commerce types had been in progress under Gov. Mike Castle and was coming to conclusion.  Carper came in with a pure “Chamber of Commerce” agenda and one of his first actions was to call in the enviros and tell them to yield to the Chamber on Coastal Zone issues.  Initially, they resisted.  So Carper went after Peterson, knowing that if Russ yielded, inevitably the mainstream enviros would go along.  Peterson fell for it.  I remember him yelling at me that Tom Carper and Chris Tolou, then Secretary of DNREC, were “great environmentalists.”  He hired a bogus “neutral facilitator” shop called the “Consensus Building Institute” to give the enviros cover for their sellout.  In the sad end, the enviros–many controlled by DuPont–wimped out and rolled over.  They signed an agreement essentially abandoning the clear language of the Coastal Zone Act in favor of “environmental indicators,” “offsets,” and other excuses for abandoning the plain meaning of the Act.  It’s been mostly downhill since.

There have been some high moments.  John Hughes, as Secretary of DNREC, denied a permit for a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Logan Township, NJ.  This he could do because at that point Delaware owns the Delaware River all the way across.  The case went to the US Supreme Court and Delaware prevailed.  At the time, the oil and gas people were saying that more gas imports were essential.  Now, of course, they are saying that gas exports are essential…..

So what’s the relevance of this to 2015?  Delaware faces more severe threats now than when Peterson was governor.  The land is sinking, the sea is rising, and much of Delaware is subject to flooding.  How is the state reacting to this? So far, with nothing but words.  Decades of pandering to business interests, without foresight or planning, have left Delaware’s economy in bad shape and our quality of life degraded.  Compare Peterson’s visionary Coastal Zone Act, which kept a Shell refinery out of Delaware, with Jack Markell’s dirty backdoor deal to reopen the Delaware City Refinery, and bring bomb trains into the state.  Delaware is the big loser.

How do we (re)open Delaware’s political system to visionary leaders?  Or at least people of intelligence and good will?  Who will step up, or be pushed forward, to run for Governor?

Alan Muller is Executive Director of Green Delaware.

Categories: Citizens

book review-How to Raise a Wild Child

The Children's House - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 8:54am
Well, the summer is definitely winding down and it's time for a review of something from the summer reading pile.
Scott Sampson's new book, "How to raise a Wild Child" was perfect reading as the Lake Michigan wind blew the beach grass flat and required extra strong page holding.
After I pack up and return this book (yes, Mom, and all the others) to the local library, I will head to my favorite local bookstore in Northfield and buy it ASAP.
It's an easy and engaging read with loads of quality advice for parents and others to engender a meaningful, lasting connection between children and the natural world. (disclaimer-stolen from jacket cover..)
I'm suggesting this book to everyone this year and will continue to encourage the adults I know to choose experiences for their children carefully. I'm also planning to follow Sampson's advice and will pare down the store bought playground toys at school. More of what he proclaims as the five best toys for children--(1) stick, (2) box, (3) string, (4) cardboard tube, and (5) dirt. Check.
Sampson outlines his goals in writing this book. "The first is to sound the alarm bell and broaden awareness on humanity's disconnect from nature." Second is to scientifically explore the process of nature connection. I found this section very interesting, with info on children's ever-shrinking attention spans and the role of digital technologies (hey, he is a TV producer). His third
and primary goal is "to help parents, educators, and others become nature mentors for the children in their lives." I would say Scott Sampson did just that, and so much more.

 "In wildness is the preservation of the world."
----Henry David Thoreau

excerpt from "How to Raise a Wild Child":
Learning in Place
Let's step back for a moment and imagine some of the qualities we might want to see in a reinvented, truly student-centered learning environment. Such a setting would celebrate student's autonomy and individuality, building on strengths and interests to drive curiosity. It would foster (rather than choke) inspiration and engagement through plenty of active, real-world experiences, many of them beyond the classroom walls. Emphasis would be on character development grounded in fundamental values, like beauty, truth, and goodness. And, if truly successful, this system would engender a deep-seated, resilient sense of wonder that, in turn, would translate into a lifelong love of learning.
Remarkably, a robust movement has recently emerged within education that embodies all of these qualities...Schools in the traditions of Steiner (Waldorf) and Montessori have long been at the forefront of this movement.

"The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.”
"The things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.”
"The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.”
----Maria Montessori
Categories: Citizens

Postcard: August 24, 2015

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 3:41pm

Categories: Citizens

Onward with PUC Certificate of Need and Routing Rulemaking

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Wed, 08/19/2015 - 5:05pm

We’ve been working on the rules for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s chapters covering Certificate of Need and Siting/Routing of electric utility infrastructure, ranging from transmission to power plants.  WHEW!  It takes forever, and thus far it’s been over two and a half years, just for the “pre-Commission-sends-it-out-for-comments” rulemaking advisory group part.

Who cares about rules?  Well I do, as to many others who have been dealing with Certificate of Need and Routing/Siting issues over the years.  It’s important because so many things are wrong with the process, from awkward to just plain wrong/unfair, even in light of the enabling statutes for these rules (rules need to operate within some pretty restrictive statutory framing).

This is, again, still informal, and PUC is open to any and all comments, ones on point, that is, and so comment on specific language, and suggest specific language!  Here’s the latest (and I’ve filed them on the PUC site):

August 3 Draft 7849

August 3 2015 Draft 7850

To see the versions and comments thus far, go to the PUC’s SEARCH PAGE HERE, and search for PUC Docket 12-1246.

To file comments, go HERE and file.  If you’re not registered to file, go HERE and register and file!  It’s that easy, almost instantaneous!


Categories: Citizens

Comments due on Tiller… errr… Titan Lansing sand plant

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Wed, 08/19/2015 - 2:30pm

Air Permits at the MPCA!  Time to sit right down and write a Comment to the MPCA about the Titan Lansing sand processing and loading facility in North Branch.  Scroll down for the primary documents.

Send Comments, by Friday, August 28, 2015, to:

Andrew Luberda  email: Air Quality Permits Section Industrial Division MN Pollution Control Agency  520 Lafeyette Road North St Paul MN 55155

The notice does not list an email for Luberda or a MPCA comment url, so I called him up to get his email.  I asked if they’d correct this omission, and got a non-responsive response.

Tiller Sand transloading facility… If you recall, this was that Tiller Sand facility that they built and started operating WITHOUT ANY PERMITS, just went ahead and did it.  That said, their history isn’t exactly as pristine as… well… as pristine as frac sand!

January 25, 2013 – Tiller Corp. is penalized for air-quality violations

November 20, 2014 – Tiller Corporation penalized for air-quality violations

Then it was sold to Titan Lansing in November 2014 (see comments about air quality and permits in this article).

In the Chisago County Press here’s the poop about the MPCA Air Permit and info on how to file a Comment, great info about various Comment and administrative options (not that the MPCA ever does contested cases):

Comments sought to amend air quality permit

Here’s the scoop from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency:

Intent to Issue Air Emission Permit to Titan Lansing Transloading LLC – Notice Fulltext

Open for public comment through Friday, August 28, 2015.  Send Comments to:

Andrew Luberda  email: Air Quality Permits Section Industrial Division MN Pollution Control Agency  520 Lafeyette Road North St Paul MN 55155
Categories: Citizens

Militarization of policing in Red Wing and Goodhue County?

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Mon, 08/17/2015 - 2:39pm

In what world is something like this needed or wanted in a 16,000 population city like Red Wing, or in a rural county like Goodhue County?  What would be the envisioned purpose?

Goodhue County and the City of Red Wing have applied for Homeland Security money to buy one of these, a Lenco Bearcat.  Cost is $332,246.00.  They call the current one the “PeaceKeeper” armored vehicle.  They’re saying it’s too slow, and they’ve been having problems with it.  I saw it cruising toward downtown on West Ave. a few years ago, and was stunned, didn’t know they had one here — I mean really, whatever for?!?!  Meth labs?  Militaristic cults?  The Republican National Convention contractual obligations?  Folks, this isn’t St. Paul…

I’ve heard that the Goodhue County vote recently was that it would not opt in to this grant, but that there is another vote about it.  Red Wing will decide soon.

Goodhue County Commissioners (for your cut and pasting pleasure):,,,,

City of Red Wing Mayor and Council (for your cut and pasting pleasure):, ,,,,,,

A memo to the County Board from a Sheriff’s Deputy states:

The Emergency Response Team uses an armored vehicle on every mission and at events that may take place at the PINGP.

What does this mean?  How many “missions” and what are the details?  The phrase “at events that may take place at the PINGP” is odd — please explain!  Does this mean response to nuclear emergencies?  Does this mean response to Xcel Energy security concerns?  If this is about the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant, shouldn’t Xcel Energy be paying for it?  They’ll probably say that these expenses are what the Utility Personal Property Tax is for, but I don’t think that’s how it works, it’s a separate issue!

Goodhue County LENCO Bearcat

City of Red Wing – CP_Project_Detail_M-Port_Auth-LencoBearcat

Again, cost is $332,246.00.  For this amount, the County and City could buy roughly 10 fully equipped squad cars (based on this linked Goodhue County purchase of 4). Think of the computer equipment they could buy with that kind of money!

Pages from CP_Project_Detail_M-Port_Auth_Squad Replacement

This is overkill, it is not needed in Red Wing, not needed in Goodhue County.  This is not “policing,” but is militarization of policing.  Not a trend I want in my community.

Categories: Citizens

From Garden Hats to Pot Feet: Stuff I’m Trying

My Northern Garden - Mary Schier - Mon, 08/17/2015 - 1:33pm

One of the perks of my job is I get to try garden products and plants. I’ll review some of the plants I’m trying this year later, but here’s a run-down on three items that I’m giving a try.

Classic Sun Hat

This is serious sun protection.

During the Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto in June, we visited Lee Valley Tools, which is a very classy, very practical store full of garden and home repair gear from tools to garden pots. The Lee Valley folks generously gave each blogger a $50 gift card and I used part of mine to buy this classic sun hat. Being a pale gal, I have a tendency to burn if I spend too much time in the yard, and I love the full coverage this hat gives. The 4-inch wide brim covers the back of my neck and the tip of my nose—both burn-prone areas. The cotton fabric should be easy to wash at the end of the season, and the hat is soft enough to crush into a bag or purse when I’m out and about. It has UV protection factor of 50, which means I will look flushed but not crimson at the end of a day in the garden.

PotRisers® pot feet

You have to really look to see that this container is being lifted up.

I like to arrange pots on my front stoop, and I’ve got the cement stains to prove it. So, I was interested in trying Potrisers, which hold your containers about a half inch off the cement. The feet are basically a hard rubber/plastic material cut into larger or smaller squares. I used four of the smaller feet to hold up 12-inch pots filled with annuals. You really do not notice the feet, and they are significantly less expensive than some of the rolling or ornamental pot stands you see in garden centers. You do have to remember that the risers are there and when you move your pots, lift up first, but other than that, they are a great solution to the problem of stains on cement. One note: They are not recommended for surfaces made of vinyl or vinyl composite materials.

Drain Smart container disks


These disks are designed to replace gravel or other porous materials that gardeners place in the bottoms of their containers.  The disks have hard nylon loops on the bottom and a porous, plastic material on top. The loops hold the disk above the bottom of your container and the porous material allows water to run through, promoting better drainage and reducing the amount of potting soil that leaches out of the pot. I don’t like to fill my pots completely with potting soil (too expensive) so I modified the instructions on how to use the disks. For several years, I’ve used wadded up newspapers because they take up space in the container and can be composted. This year, I put the newspaper in the bottom as always, then added one of the disks on top of it. My containers have looked great this year. I will see how the disks look when I take my containers apart in a couple of months. My guess is they will be fine and can be saved for the next season.

Disclaimer: I received these products free of charge for review purposes, but am under no obligation to write about them and have no financial relationship with these companies.



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Categories: Citizens

Back to Day 3 - Bike packing adventure

Myrna CG Mibus - Idyllwild - Sun, 08/16/2015 - 8:56pm
It's coming on two weeks since Owen and I went on our bike packing trip so I figured I'd better get back to writing about day 3 as I promised to do in my last post.

We started Day 3 in Luck, Wisconsin with super weather once again. Owen and I keep thinking we'll get going early but it was about 9:00 a.m. by the time we had breakfast, packed up and were on the trail again. We headed south on the Gandy Dancer Trail for St. Croix Falls, an easy 15 mile ride and found our way through some city trails to downtown St. Croix Falls.

Owen wanted to see the falls, so we took some pictures then found a little coffee shop, Coffee Time, and had lunch. They were busy and we had to wait awhile for our order, but the two women working there were so sweet and the food quite good so it was well worth the wait.
St. Croix FallsWe wanted to stop at Cyclova, a bike shop a couple of doors down from Coffee Time, but were bummed to discover that they were closed on Tuesdays. We looked in the window instead and saw what appeared to be a good line up bikes including bikes from Salsa Cycles like the Salsa Vaya and Mukluk Owen and I were riding.

We decided to head back north on the trail but first we wanted to find the actual beginning of the Gandy Dancer Trail so we could say we'd ridden the entire bike friendly portion of the trail. We would our way around a bit and found the trail's beginning and took a couple of pictures then headed back north.
I'm about to ride onto the southmost start point of the Gandy Dancer TrailOur ride north back to Siren was good and uneventful other than there are a few soft spots on the trail that almost caused me to wipe out. The soft spots occurred when the trail crossed roads and also at the exit of a short tunnel. After skidding about a bit in a couple of places, I got smart and got off my bike and walked through the soft spots.

On our way back to Siren, Owen and I stopped for coffee at a bike friendly cafe called Cafe Wren. It's right at the side of the trail just north of Luck and we had spotted it the day before and decided we needed to make it a destination. Very glad we did as it's my kind of cafe! Good coffee and snacks, bike parking, artwork from local artists and a huge outdoor seating area. We actually stopped back at Cafe Wren for lunch with Ryan on our drive back home - in part so I could buy some Luck, Wisconsin bicycle pint glasses they sold there.

Owen out on the patio at Cafe WrenLuck, Wisconsin pint glass from Cafe WrenAfter Cafe Wren, well, it was more and more pedaling. We stopped in Milltown Wisconsin to take a picture for our friends at Milltown Cycles (the shop where we purchased our Salsa bikes and a whole bunch of other things) then pedaled on until we made it to Siren, Wisconsin.Milltown, WisconsinThere, we checked in at The Lodge at Crooked Lake (we would have stayed at the Pinewood Motel again but it was full), cleaned up and walked across the lot to Adventures Restaurant for dinner. We walked around Siren a bit and over to Crooked Lake then settled in for the evening.
And with that, Day 3 was done.
Stats for Day 3
  • 53.6 miles
  • 5 hours 28 minutes moving time
  • 9.8 mph average speed

Categories: Citizens

Monarch on the Joe-Pye Weed

Penelopedia: This & That in Northfield - Sun, 08/16/2015 - 7:42pm
It was a sweet sight to observe a monarch butterfly on some pollinator-friendly, native Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium) in our garden today -- the first confirmed monarch sighting here in several years. We have quite a few milkweed plants, although they are not growing where there is enough sun for them to produce flowers. These photos were taken through my living room window on an overcast day.

Categories: Citizens

August 20! Celebrating 5 Years of Sidewalk Poems!

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Sun, 08/16/2015 - 12:46pm

Everyone loves Sidewalk Poetry! Here is Peanut next to a winning poem by Julia. (photo: Karla Schultz)

It is the hottest part of the summer, the dog days of August. In Northfield, since 2011, that means it’s time to celebrate the creativity of Northfield poets of all ages and welcome a fresh crop of poems onto the city sidewalks.

Where: Bridge Square, Downtown Northfield, Minnesota
When: Thursday, August 20, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.

Music will be provided by Northfield’s own BONNIE and the CLYDES. All of the 2015 winning poems will be read, many by their authors. The Popcorn Wagon will be open. And, on the bank of the Cannon River, the entire canon of Northfield Sidewalk poems will be displayed. 

For those who haven’t heard about Northfield’s Sidewalk Poetry, or who wish to refresh themselves on the background, there are details on the Arts and Culture Commission portion of the City’s website. There you can find complete texts of all the winning poems (2011-2015), an interactive map to show where the poems are installed, and a link to a wonderful documentary by Paul Krause covering all aspects of the project: from inspiration and blind judging of entries to installation and celebration. There is also information about the ACC’s other programs and how you can get involved.

Hope to see you at Bridge Square!

(Blast from the past: Capstone 2013–photo: Timothy Braulick)

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The Northfield Sidewalk Poetry Initiative has been generously supported by the Southeast Minnesota Arts Council with help from the Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library.


Categories: Citizens

Postcard: August 17, 2015

Winona Media (Leslie Schultz) - Sun, 08/16/2015 - 11:32am

Categories: Citizens

Mountain Biking with the Girls

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Sun, 08/16/2015 - 10:23am

All summer, the girls have been enrolled in a mountain biking class sponsored by our local MTB club and run at the new trails that the club built right in town. Though I can’t say every class went smoothly or that the girls loved every second they spent in the classes, they did learn a lot about riding and dramatically improved their skills, developed their endurance, and built their confidence.

The culmination of the class was an overnight trip to the massive MTB trail system built on abandoned mines at Cuyuna, in central Minnesota. Cuyuna is a fabled place for Minnesota mountain bikers and fatbikers, the place you go for the toughest trails and the best scenery. I had never been up there, so I hoped that the girls would both show the skills to successfully ride there and the enthusiasm to go "up north" on a little adventure.

By the middle of July, I could see that they had both: serious abilities on the trails and great eagerness for riding. In addition to the class, we rode several times on our own over the last few weeks, outings which they both loved. And then they crushed some tough challenges at the last regular class, which they described as "the most fun thing ever!" on the ride home.

The scene was thus set for a good trip to Cuyuna. Shannon was rightly concerned about both the practical arrangements and the girls’ safety, but I mostly allayed those fears – and some of the girls’ – and headed out on Thursday morning along with six other kids and five other adults, including the class leaders. The three-hour bus ride to Cuyuna was enjoyable, despite the need to give half our seats to a big rattling collection of bikes:

We arrived up north without any problems and almost immediately headed back into town to ride at a "pump track" – a compact system of dirt trails with undulating terrain and banked turns that are laid out so that good riders can get all the way around without pedaling – only "pumping" their arms and legs. None of us could pull off that trick, but everyone had a blast riding around and around and around on the track. I loved watching the girls loving the riding – and rapidly getting better at the unusual techniques needed to conquer the track. Julia crashed once, but was back riding within a few minutes. Whizzing past me, they shouted, "This is so much fun!"

After about an hour of pretty continuous riding, we adjourned for ice cream at Dairy Queen. Back at the campground, we set up our tents and took a short out-and-back ride on an easy stretch of the regular trails, getting a little of Cuyuna’s famous red dirt on our tires.

Everyone cooled off with a swim at the campground beach,

then we destroyed a delicious dinner prepared by one of the instructors and his wife – folks who have serious camp-cooking chops! Throughout, I tried to let the girls enjoy themselves and handle things largely on their own, which they readily did: being smart about riding and swimming, choosing good dinners, making their own sleeping arrangements… It was fun to see.

Friday morning, everyone woke up eager to hit the trails. I stayed behind while the other adults went for an early ride on some more challenging trails, but all the kids were great – getting dressed, eating good breakfasts, riding their bikes around excitedly. Finally, around 10, we headed out for a loop that would include three different "easy" trails. The wild card was the weather: as we started, the temps were already near 80° F with very high humidity. I gotta say that I was nervous as hell about whether Julia and Genevieve would be able to ride so much tough trail in such heat and humidity.

Fifteen minutes in, I knew they would. Without any problem, we roared en masse to the start of our loop, and got right to it: red-dirt trails that wound through young birch groves, tricky but manageable ascents and descents littered with loose rocks and stubbornly immobile roots, narrow passages overlooking beautiful lakes…

Wisely, our ride leader stopped often so kids could rest and drink and eat – little pauses that kept everyone energized and focused. Whenever he or the other instructor, riding last in our file, asked if everyone was having fun, the kids shouted, "Yes!"

We weren’t even deterred by a few bee stings when we inadvertently posed for a group photo on top of a beehive.

Julia got a bad zap on a finger, but soldiered on! I rode as much as I could right behind the girls so that I could watch them buzz along the trails, blonde ponytails poking out from under their helmets. Near the end of the ride, I finally stopped wondering if they could climb that nasty slope, ride that tricky descent, or rail that loose corner. The answer was always "yes," so I just settled in and enjoyed the sight of them loving the sport I love too.

The ride ended too soon for me (and I suspect for the other adults), but at just the right time for the kids – 90 minutes and about seven challenging miles of riding. The girls were just tired enough to sit for a nice photo of us – with a loon on the lake in the background!

An easy paved ride back to camp brought us down from the high of the ride to our last few activities: a quick lunch, a bit more swimming, and then of course packing up. The bus ride home was sweaty, but pleasingly quiet and relaxed.

Though we haven’t been back on our bikes since returning, the girls are excited to go to some of the more local MTB trails before school starts, and I am too. I am elated to have them riding the trails with me!

Categories: Citizens

Vivi Is Nine!

Blowing and Drifting - Christopher Tassava - Sat, 08/15/2015 - 8:50am

Today Vivi turns nine years old! She’s an amazing kid: smart, funny, athletic, tireless, creative, and all around awesome. What a marvelous girl she is! Happy birthday, Genevieve Rose!

Categories: Citizens

NEW route options for Plains and Eastern Clean Line?

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Tue, 08/11/2015 - 4:24pm

Yesterday, I received a missive about the Plains & Eastern Clean Line that was disconcerting to say the least.  After all the Comment periods have closed, both DEIS and Section 1222, the DOE now says that based on comments received, there have been changes, and we get this:

Route Variations and Modified Converter Station Siting Areas

Route Variations Project Overview
Route Variations by Regions
Route Variation Sheet Maps
Modified Arkansas Converter Station Alternative Siting Area
Modified Tennessee Converter Station Siting Area

Here’s an example that makes no sense to me — look at the site for the so-called Arkansas Converter Station — it’s surrounded.  Does DOE think it can ram through Wildlife Management Areas?

Given all this new information, where’s the announcement of opportunity to review and file DEIS Comments on this?

Given the alterations of routes, are new landowners affected?  If so, where’s the announcement of opportunity to review the whole mess and file Section 1222 Comments?

Categories: Citizens

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