I love Minnesota in the summertime. It's hot, humid, there are incredible thunder storms, and aside from the flies and mosquitoes that annoy me to the point of insanity, it is in my opinion, everything that summer is supposed to be. We have spent the last week-and-a-half lazing around at my family's house in Marshall and will be here for another 2 weeks. Although I'm anxious to get back on our bikes and be on the move again, we're doing a good job of keeping ourselves busy and happily entertained.
Oliver testing out his new life jacket in the pool.
He was happier on the bean bag.
We did a very poor job keeping our bikes well-tuned during the first 2,000 miles of our journey and by the time we arrived in Minnesota, they were rattling, creaking, squeaking and shaking so badly that we had no choice but to do some major and immediate maintenance. Mike spent a few days ordering new parts, disassembling, tuning, cleaning and reassembling our bikes until they were once again in perfect working order. We should probably pay more attention to their upkeep from now on because we won't always be so lucky as to have a complete workshop to stop and work on them whenever they need fixing.
Mike working on our bikes.
I have been keeping busy by helping my Dad do some painting around our property, cooking and baking (one thing I really miss while on the road is having an oven and stove. A one-burner camp stove doesn't even come close to satisfying my culinary desires so I have to take advantage while I have access), and working in my Mom's garden. It is my dream garden with rich, black soil, an abundance of everything so we can share with neighbors and friends, and everything grows like weeds due to the perfect summer climate. It is quite the opposite from my measly gardens I've had in California where they were small, had crappy soil and never produced much because either everything was eaten by animals before it was ripe or the temperature was never regularly hot enough for the plants to fully grow. It is so wonderful to be able to walk out into the backyard, pick whatever I want to eat that day and then make dinner almost completely out of fresh ingredients from the garden. It has been a welcome change after riding through Montana and South Dakota where we usually had to buy our food from gas stations because most of the small towns we passed through simply didn't have grocery stores. That meant the only “fresh veggies” we could find were potatoes, onions, garlic and maybe a wrinkled bell pepper if we were lucky. Needless to say, I was going through veggie withdrawal by the time we arrived in Minnesota!
Notice the beautiful paint job on the doors and dog houses!
Every year I make a couple of batches of jam from fresh fruit I get from friends in California. Obviously I wasn't able to make any this summer, but one day last week my Grandpa showed up with 7 buckets of grapes he had picked from the vines in his back yard. Much to my surprise he asked if I'd make grape jelly with him, so we spent an entire day taking on this ambitious task. I was positive this would turn into a solo project with Grandpa and all the other helpers quickly losing interest before the job was complete, but we hung in there until the end and those 7 gallons of raw grapes turned into 5 gallons of sorted, good grapes, which turned into about 3 gallons of delicious, sweet jelly. It was a fun project, we only stained a few small sections of my Mom's counter tops purple and I'm pretty sure I got my jam-making fix for this year.
Grandpa and the grapes.
Mike and Grandma mashing the grapes...it was a messy job!
Grandpa pressing the grapes through the sieve to get rid of the skins and seeds.
The finished product.
Mike has been a major helping hand since we got here. He spent an afternoon making foot stools for my Mom and her co-worker, Jane, that they needed at work, and he's also spent many hours helping my sister, Merry, on her “secret project” that I've been forbidden to tell anything about. It's a large and incredible project and I think Mike's enjoying his time in the workshop and feels lucky that Merry would ask for his help and let him be a part of it.
My parents bought a lake property in Northern Minnesota this summer and I'm so happy they finally did - they've been talking about it for years. It's a good thing we're all visionaries because the place is kind of a dump, hasn't been inhabited in over a decade (and when it was, it was by a crazy loon) and it needs unfathomable amounts of work done, but if we fix it up the way we can all picture it in our minds, it will someday be a fabulous family cabin. I grew up in a house that was continuously being remodeled and Mike had a fair share of exposure to it as well, so when we were asked if we'd like to go to the lake to help tear down existing structures and completely gut a cabin, we were more than excited to pitch in. It's a dirty and physically tiring job, but ripping buildings apart and knocking down walls with crowbars and sledgehammers is strangely amusing and satisfying. We made a lot of progress last weekend and will be back at it for another 3 days this weekend. The thought of bringing our families there in the summers of the future is an excellent motivator and the hard work was very welcomed after nearly 3 months of a life of all “play.”
Mike tearing apart what was a chicken coop.
The gun Mike found in the wall along with a bunch of ammo. The guy who last lived here was crazy and used to shoot at the devil through the windows.
Me taking a sledgehammer to a wall.
Mike finishing out a wall.