Thursday, July 28, 2011

Safety. And a couple of plugs

Last night I got in from a work trip to Little Rock, AR, headed home from the airport, grabbed my boat, and headed for Lake Calhoun. It was the Safety session of our annual Wednesday night SKOAC skill sessions and I wasn't sure of how many coaches would be there. As it turned out we were just fine even though we had a large turnout. I was a little worried because safety is not nearly as sexy a topic as rolling or even bracing, but the masses showed up and we all had fun getting wet. The only mishap was a set of car keys somewhere on the bottom of the lake but I won't mention any names.......

The safety session was very timely as there were a couple of 'unsafe' incidents over the past week, one that involved not enough water and the other too much moving water. My colleague in Dallas sent his teen age son, a kid in great shape and active in scouting, up to the Charles Sumner Northern Tier High Adventure Base near Ely, MN. No1 son was a 'Charlie Guide' up there for a summer and figured he paddled around 1,000 miles over the course of the summer guiding Boy Scout groups around the BWCA. Friday night the phone rang in Dallas informing my buddy that his son had been airlifted to the hospital in Duluth with severe dehydration/heat stroke. Mom had to fly to MSP and drive to Duluth to pick him up. I am sure he was very disappointed that the trip was over but he is lucky to be alive and kicking. Viking fans and many others remember the Korey Stringer tragedy from a few years at training camp. The lesson here is to drink plenty of water. If a kid used to the Texas heat and in great shape can be laid low by the heat in northern Minnesota it should give us pause. If you think you're are drinking enough water but don't have to pee or your urine is a dark yellow you, my friend, are becoming dehydrated. In this weather guzzle that water! I'm ridiculed at times for the weight of the hydration pack on the back of my life jacket but the thing is inevitably drained after a long paddle. Sometimes that bottle on the deck just is not enough water on a hot day.

In the too much water category and entire family was nearly lost due to a rip tide or rip current in Lake Superior off Duluth's Park Point. If not for the assistance of some fellow swimmers, including a guy who was 6'8" tall, the situation might have ended horribly. Whether you prefer the tide or current moniker, there are a number of places on the lake including Duluth and Marquette, where these outward flowing currents occur. The simple explanation is that when the waves are rolling in the water has to flow back to the lake somehow. A small depression can provide a path which turns into a strong current flowing out into the lake. People being swept out panic, try to swim against the current, weaken, and go under. These currents are typically only several yards wide. By swimming parallel to the shore they can be easily circumvented. A few yards along the shore rather than toward the shore is the key. This should be hammered into both kids and adults as well; swim parallel to the shore not toward it. The insidious thing is that when the waves are rolling in, the flat stretch of beach, the one where the waves seem smallest and hence the nicest place to swim, is actually where the water is flowing back to the lake in the rip. Avoid it and warn others to do the same.
Finally the two upcoming events to plug. One is the Traditional Gathering, a fun event with skinny stick people that will be held near Alexandria, MN this year. Check out the Ten Reason's to Go on the link; I like No. 9. Lots of outstanding mentors including Helen Wilson, the Rodgiguez-Owen family, and Will Bigelow. Ok, ok, so Will's not that outstanding but he does bring good whiskey.....;) It's a great event sponsored by the Northern Lights Qajaq Society, its cheap, and the learning and camaraderie is fantastic. The other event coming up even sooner is the Point to LaPointe Open Water Swim. They apparently have 400 swimmers this year, twice last years number, and need as many kayak safety boaters as they can get. A T-shirt, breakfast, and a $25 gas card are all nice incentives and its quite an event to watch from the water. Plus the more kayakers and eyes there are the safer the event becomes. Shoot an email to Kathy Noteboom, and she will send you the details.
In a nutshell we need to drink more water while avoiding the rip currents as we protect the open water swimmers and hone our Greenland skills. A lot of stuff but we're just the folks that can do it. Have fun as the summer winds down on the cusp of August, and be sure to paddle safely.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A couple things figured out. At home

We didn't leave the metro area this weekend. Shocking I know, but the VOR had to cancel her plans to party with the Wild Women up in Herbster, WI to catch up at work. I had absolutely nothing planned and executed that plan to perfection. I took a long paddle in the city lakes, passed on both the big U2 show and Steve Earle ("Everybody told me I won't get far on thirty seven dollars and a Jap guitar") and attended the Grumpy's NE folk festival. Seeing folks like Charlie Parr, Paul Metsa, and the Brass Kings while drinking Surly Bitter on tap was a fine afternoon. Sunday morning was spent battling the first TV purchased in twenty plus years and something called a Blue Ray, and seafood on the grill was followed by the VOR and I taking a quick late evening fitness paddle on Long Lake. I did reach detente with a couple things I've been battling with over the past couple years though. I decided I will not evangelize on correct paddling technique when I encounter even the most horrible form and paddle positions. I have also come to peace with the fact that I can't roll worth a damn with a life jacket on.

The scenery, variety, and diversity of people and craft on the Minneapolis city lake chain is always excellent but never more so than with clearing skies on a hot Saturday late morning. Every age, nationality, and socioeconomic status of human being is out paddling and sailing anything that can be paddled or sailed. In the past I've agonized over folks that arm paddle past with their paddles upside down and backwards, blade half in the water for a millisceond, hands 18" apart, and laying back in their rec boats like me in my trusty Lazy Boy in the 4th quarter of a Packer game that's in the bag. I had just finished talking to a couple canoe fisherman about the muskies I'd seen in the lake the past month and passed on their offer to roll for a Rolling Rock (come on people, it was 10:45am!), when an attractive young lady paddled by me with every one of the bad paddling attributes I mentioned above. I greeted her and she replied with a greeting and a nice smile. When I saw the smile I decided my unwanted instruction days on the city lakes had come to an end. She was having fun and so was everyone else on the lake, including me. I had snuck out on Tuesday for an instructor update with Ben Lawry. I learned a pile of things and realized I had a ton more to learn and that I would never reach the Holy Grail of paddling perfection. Neither will the folks tooling around on Lake Calhoun and I guess that's what bonds us. The smile said it all. Who give a rats behind about paddle position, torso rotation, and posture on a gorgeous summer day on a warm inland lake? Ok, maybe me to a certain extent but I plan to keep that to myself from here on.

I hit some rolls with the Euro blade then missed a few. When I switched to the Greenland blade I did the same thing. The forward finishing rolls were not smooth and it was a real struggle. In keeping with my new zen like city lake mindset I just wrote it off to an off morning. On Sunday nights quickie paddle on Long Lake I rolled a bit while the VOR put some sunscreen on her Avocet. I was still off on the rolls. Until the lightbulb went on. I took off the pfd and was suddenly competent again. Don't get me wrong, if I go over with the life jacket on I'm coming up. It just feels so much better and unfettered without the big poofy vest on. I would love to entertain any theories as to why this is but, like my non interference on the city lakes, I plan on just living with it.

Lastly, I attended 4pm mass at St Olaf in downtown Minneapolis to hear the VOR sing in the annual celebration of the patron saint of the parish, medieval King Olaf II of Norway, later elevated to sainthood. The Norwegian flags in the church and my substantial Norwegian heritage made me think of the recent horror near Oslo. I guess there isn't that much difference between a 'Crusader' and a 'Jihadist' after all, at least from what I've read in the history books. It's a huge stretch but maybe if people just 'let it go' like the me and the rec boaters on Lake Calhoun, and decide that different strokes for different folks was OK, then life around our globe would be much much simpler and peaceful. Take a cleansing breath and think Ommmmmm. It sure can't hurt.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Breaking the plane

For the last week the midwest has been, "hotter than a two peckered billy goat", as a friend of mine succinctly puts it. I had lunch at my favorite Vietnamese joint yesterday and my favorite server, Lan, told me it was hotter in Minneapolis than in Saigon. I told her that I planned to cool down significantly around 6:30pm at our first SKOAC kayaking skills session of the season on Lake Calhoun.

I heard someone say that boaters liked boats and kayakers liked the water. I have seen a lot of kayakers that seem afraid to go over and get in that water however, and that's a real problem. It's a water sport people, and a lot of the fun is playing in the water. One of the attractive things about the Greenland style is breaking that air/water plane (OK, OK, I stole that line from Kelly Blades.....beware of his 'kayak games' unless you have a plastic boat!) and spending a lot of time moving your boat around on its three basic axes of, pitch, yaw, and roll. Last night was rescues and playing with your boat. I will admit that I was the first one to go in the drink as I was moving around to get in a side saddle position on my back deck. I will also admit that a very large part of my brain wanted to go over in the high 90F heat and humidity. We spent the first part of the session just crawling around on the boats, paddling from the rear hatch, attempting to crawl up and kiss the front toggle, trying to stand up, and other crazy stuff. We all took a couple or more swims. Which presents the perfect scenario to try a paddle float self rescue, cowboy self rescue, and a number of assisted rescues. Heel hooks, T rescues, scoops, and a couple injured and/or unconscious scenarios were played out. We were a bit distracted by what appeared to be the Budweiser Girls Stand Up paddling class (wish I had the camera) and all of us were alert for possible rescue scenarios if they went over, but it added nicely to the theme of the instruction. They were tipping over, falling in the lake, and seemed to really be enjoying it. More kayakers need to 'become one' with the water and have some fun in it.

Going over just means practicing your techniques for getting back in the boat. The reason we practice a whole bunch of different rescues is the same reason people have a bunch of different clubs in their golf bag or a half dozen shotguns in the gun safe. Different situations require different techniques and skills. We even had a debate on hand placement while stabilizing the swimmers boat. Do we grasp the cockpit coaming, thumbs out, or grab on to the deck lines? Cockpit is more stable but you can get your fingers kicked. Maybe cockpit when things aren't rocking and rolling too much and the deck lines when there is big water and quick scrambling to get back in. There is no hard and fast rule, paddlers just need to have the skills and think about which one will work best in the scenario they are faced with.

At 9pm it was still an oppressive 90 plus degrees. The heat is supposed to break today and I personally will take 10F over this crap anytime. But now is the time to play with these balance skill and rescue scenarios. The lake and air temps just ain't gonna get any better than this and we all need to commit this stuff to muscle memory before we need it. We don't need to enjoy the heat but we kayakers really do need to enjoy the water. It won't be all that long until Lake Calhoun and all our midwestern lakes look like the image below. I can't decide whether that's a good or a bad thing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Great Race

This year the annual race at the GLSKS took place on Saturday afternoon rather than Sunday morning. There are a few reasons for that including more people on the beach since their afternoon classes just ended, more participants because a lot of folks take off early on Sunday for the long drive, and less hung over coaches and participants that were unable to resist the siren call of the Dunes Saloon brewpub. This year featured coach/participant teams drawn from a hat, a relay format, and also a LeMans start. It also featured a gauntlet of high powered squirt gun wielding kids and a few adults with buckets.

As a dedicated blogger I decided to paddle off shore and set up for some action photos. The VOR and I were heading out for an afternoon paddle and wanted to get a good as well as a dry start. But enough babbling. You guys want some action photos and here you go. At the top of the post racers are receiving their instruction at the top of the hill. In the image above this 'graph they are off!

My friend RacinRick, fresh from a paddle around the Keweenaw peninsula, was one of the first to receive a dousing from the gauntlet line.

FivePieceRoy, likely numb from the waist down after a day of standing in the water teaching rolling, also got a good dousing.

Even Bill Thompson from Downwind Sports, organizer and sponsor of the event (as well as the successful 'Beers with Bill' Thursday night mixer) was abused as he paddled by on his paddleboard. Why you would douse the guy buying the beers is beyond me.

Ben Lawry, attemping to get a leg up on the race by jumping into a surf ski, was also cooled off by the youthful crowd. In addition to being a superb instructor Ben is the only Manchester City fan I've ever met.

Turnabout is fair play as well. Noted boat designer Steve Scherrer was gleefully dousing the racers. He forgot that old fighter pilots adage to make sure to keep 'checking your six'.

He was rewarded for his oversight with a few gallons of water in the back.

In the end everyone had fun. I'm not sure who won but it was a good time. This year there were 21 kids in the youth program, an excellent turnout. Once word of how much fun they had spreads, we would hope the number would double next year. Heck, I may even race next year. Or not.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The guided tour

I know I had promised 'more from Grand Marais' in the last post but somehow I got kinda busy. Between coaching the various courses, schmoozing with old friends, meeting new ones, and continual quality control checks on the Cabin Fever ESB at the Dunes Saloon, I ran short on time. Falling into bed and then getting up and doing it again the next day was pretty much the routine. On Friday morning I had the opportunity to be a tour leader, even if it was by default.

After the coaches meeting on Thursday night, a fine event at which pizza and a keg of the above mentioned ESB were served, I was informed by Coaching Czar Mr. Kelly Blades that I would be assisting on the Au Sable dunes tour, a role I'd performed many times. Assisting on a guided tour pretty much consists of cruising along in your role of sweep or on one of the flanks, paddling around to everyone, answering questions, and generally keeping an eye on things. Decisions are made by the team and the model works well. When I rolled into the community center at 6:45am on Friday however, I was informed that the scheduled tour leader, fellow Minnesotan MrBionicKnee, was needed in another coaching capacity and that I would be flying solo. I initially only had three tour participants so no problem but we added a couple of folks who decided that the 7 mile dunes tour looked better than the 18 mile Miners Castle tour on a hot day. I was handed my tour group dry bag (map, first aid kit, and extra toilet paper), talked with the group about skill levels and goals for the morning, and we launched and paddled out past the breakwater into the flat calm lake.

It was pretty easy to assess paddling skills and techniques as we headed out of the harbor. Some folks had decent strokes, others were working on their strokes and, as usual in a beginners group, there was a fair amount of arm paddling. This of course, made keeping the group relatively tight an interesting proposition for one guy. Given the flat lake risk levels were low and it was easy to stay within shouting distance. I've noticed in every group I've paddled in that some people like to hug the shore and others like to be out in the lake a distance. We chose what I thought was a happy medium.

The Au Sable dunes are spectacular. They rise at least 300' high straight up from the lake and a kayak is dwarfed when at the base. Once we cleared the breakwater the entire panorama of the dunes was visible to the west. Our first stop as we headed toward the dunes was the Au Sable River. Had I read the description of the tour on the brochure, I would have realized that this was an official lunch stop and the official turn around for this tour. We were also supposed to hike to the Au Sable Falls. We had begun paddling at 7:45 and it was a bit before 9am, a tad early for lunch. Given the choice of hiking to the falls or paddling a bit farther down the dunes the consensus was to hit the water. Everyone looked strong, the weather was bluebird perfect, and the clear water was beckoning. I reminded everyone that we needed to go back the same way and we cruised down the shore a bit more to where the dunes were there tallest. Another break was taken and I decided this was far enough. I did a little navigation demo and used the two visible light houses at Au Sable Point and the Grand Marais harbor breakwater to fix our position on the map and we headed for home. As we headed back and a bit of an offshore wind riffled the lake and I kept paddling around and chatting with the folks and everyone looked good. We did have an out to cut a couple miles off the return trip by carrying the boats from the beach up to the campground and it was decided to take the out since we had gone a bit farther than scheduled and everyone could still have plenty of time for lunch and a bit of rest before the afternoon instruction. Actually carrying the boats across the beach and up the steps was the most strenuous part of the trip. Lots of smiles and discussion as we packed things up and I checked the map and let folks know we actually paddled about 10 miles, which brought a few more smiles.

The 'guided tour' seemed to go pretty well. Like a lot of things at symposiums there was some reaction and adaptation. The scheduled falls hike morphed into some more paddling, a logical development since this was indeed a kayaking symposium. I offered a few suggestions on strokes and other things but I figured if people were interested they would ask since we were touring and not in a course. Another coach would have been nice if the conditions had picked up a bit but not necessary in the flat lake, another good decision based on the realities of the day. I also realized it was really good we had the bail out option since people who are getting tired might not necessarily let me know for fear of slowing down the group, even if I asked out of earshot of the rest. I offered a tow to one of the crew but was told, "I'm not that tired". I even needed the towing practice but oh well. I did hear a couple folks were tired and took the afternoon off but I saw others on the beach ready to go at 1:30. Again, options, adaptation, and adjustments. I had a healthful burger at The Dunes and was off to coach Traditional Bracing and Rolling. More to follow.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This don't look like sea kayaking to me

Sorry about the time between posts. I'm on vacation. Between paddling, bonding with friends, and happy-houring, there is little time left in the day for blogging. Plus I forgot both the computer power cable and download cord for the Nikon. This means crappy iPhone photos and short posts to conserve power but bear with me. We took one of the more interesting paddles that we've ever had near Superior yesterday. About a half mile of the paddle was up a 30' wide creek with our kayaks tied around our waists.

We had a couple great paddles by Grand Island in the past couple days and decided to do something different. We headed into the Beaver Lake wilderness and launched in Little Beaver lake and paddled the channel over to Beaver lake. On the north side of this clear lake, in the predictably named Beaver Lake wilderness area, there is a outflow creek which meanders about a half mile down to Lake Superior. Our flotilla of five picked our way down the creek, mostly paddling, until we hit the hiker bridge for the North Country trail. Just past that was a large log jam that required a 100 yard portage and then we were at the lake. We had a north blow that started the evening before and the surf was pounding for as far as we could see in both directions. The plan had been to head up to Spray Falls since this was by far the closest although not easiest access to it. It was decided however, that we were there to have fun and punching through the surf, taking beam seas for two miles, and then surf landing would only be fun for a couple of us. So we had lunch, played in the surf, and dragged our boats back up the creek.

It was the most interesting day of 'sea kayaking' in quite some time. There are those who think those long skinny boats don't work that well in moving, narrow waterways but we did just fine. The main thing was that we all had fun, which is what vacation is all about when you get right down to it. We had the pleasure of running into a couple of notable coaches on the water Monday and hope to connect for happy hour this evening before we head up to Grand Marais. (Closed circuit to Silbs and JB: Paddle west and look for the boats and beer drinkers on shore around 5pm).

More from Grand Marais in the next couple.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

So, which island is that?

Keith Wikle has an interesting post on his blog. Keith is our eastern shore of Lake Michigan kayak surfing guru and the guy who introduced me to surfing the big water at the GLSKS a couple years back. He is also the winner of the David Johnston look alike contest. The post talks about additional questions the NPS or Coast Guard Auxiliary should be asking of folks that are launching their kayaks into Lake Superior at Little Sand Bay or Meyers Beach in the Apostles. This year the Coast Guard Auxiliary has a presence at the two sites and is handing out brochures for Operation Paddle Smart and talking to paddlers as they get ready to launch. The idea is to make people more aware of what they are getting into and prevent accidents like the two at Little Sand Bay last fall and this spring. It's a polite and friendly conversation, not a beach nazi rant like I have launched into upon occasion when I see the ingredients for an incipient disaster being stuffed into a rec boat. Keith's post has a bunch of great questions, questions that will make their way to the folks in the big old former brownstone government building that houses the NPS in Bayfield. My guess is that a Cabin Fever ESB fueled conversation with Keith up at GLSKS this year will unearth more insightful questions. The one thing I wanted to expand upon in regard to Apostle Islands kayaking is the concept of knowing where the hell you are out on the water.

I am guessing that over 50% of the people on the water don't know where they are at any one particular point. None of the people I run into that fall into that unconscious/incompetent quadrant of the kayak skills matrix have ever had even one of those classic placemat maps on their decks, the ones that warn 'Caution-This chart is not for use in navigation'. We once had a power boater come up to us off the Raspberry Island light, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the AINL, and ask, "So.....which island is that?". The Coast Guard is well aware of the problem. A few years ago I had to call in a mayday for a paddler that was sick and dehydrated and could not keep anything including water down. We feared possible kidney shutdown, saw signs of delirium and radioed in. I was asked at least 4 times where we were (the SE corner of Oak) and it was only when I told them I saw their boat heading for us and offered to pop a flare, an offer that was sadly refused, that they decided I really did know where I was. At the symposium led trip to Raspberry Island I had mentioned in a previous post that of 19 paddlers about a half dozen had compasses and 4 had maps. I suggested in the future that they all have maps so they could 'follow along at home' as we did our three crossings on the trip.

I will confess that I was ill prepare last weekend. Since I was 'only' going to Sand for the evening I had the cheapo free park handout map and my deck compass. No bearing compass, gps, decent chart, or clear nav tool. When we rolled in fog had obscured Sand Island and the thunderbuster was racing in our direction. While we had the proper gear in the group I always feel like I forgot to put my pants on if I don't have my nav gear, just another check mark in the launch/don't launch' progression that kept us on the beach Friday night. A GPS is great but nothing more than a supplement for a good chart and compass. While useful units, they run on batteries, have all the inherent unreliability of an electronic device, and have documented cases of sending elderly tourists down dead end roads in Death Valley in their Buick Roadmasters. Nope, you need a chart and a compass. Every symposium in our sport has a navigation course, usually poorly attended, which everyone should take. The other thing we need to do is practice. Take those bearings, pay attention to your compass, preferably a deck mounted one, and get an idea of which direction you are headed and the distance involved. It will make you a better and more confident paddler in the long run.

The Fourth of July

There was a lot of movement over this years 4th weekend. Friday night found us listening to the weather radio as violent thunderstorms raced toward us and our packed boats, which were sitting on the beach at Little Sand Bay in preparation for the crossing to Sand Island. We wisely chose not to launch and stood on the dock in our rain gear watching cloud to ground lightning hammer Sand Island and the waves build from flat calm to three footers in about 10 minutes. We had moved the boats up high on the beach and tied them to a tree, a wise move when we checked their original parking spot the next morning and discovered that it had washed out into the lake. Saturday began with a solo day paddle for me as my thunderstorm companions headed to Rocky Island and I awaited the noon arrival of a quartet of different paddling companions, including the VOR, RangerMark and the GTC, and the KingOfIronwoodIsland. A nice afternoon paddle, supper at the Deepwater with BetseyBeads and then I took one for the team. I accompanied the VoiceOfReason to the Arrival From Sweden show, an Abba tribute band, at the Big Top Chautauqua tent. Waterloo and Dancing Queen indeed. When the VOR pointed out, "Gee, this is the first time we've been here at the tent and not run into anyone we know", I wisely left the bat on my shoulder for a called third strike.

This years 4th of July was a classic though. Too much food, good beer, fireworks, and a day spent on the water. Enough writing, check out the images.

Lots of paddling, including a double paddle boat.

A crazy Hobie pedal kayak. You do need a paddle to go backwards however.

The ultimate water toy, the famous Windsor Castle or, as it's known on the lake, The aquamarine party machine.
The above mentioned good food, in this case all of the basic 4th of July food groups including tube steak, shrimp, corn, onions, and spuds.

The fireworks, complete with lake reflection.

And last but not least, a lovely rustlers moon over the white pines. I hope everyone enjoyed their celebration of the 235th birthday of the American Experiment.

Friday, July 1, 2011

MN State Shutdown: A Modest Proposal

Due to ideological, bullheaded, and dogmatic posturing and a near moronic aversion to any logical compromise, our Democrat governer and Republican legislative leaders shut down the State of Minnesota at midnight last night. The difference between the two parties in the last election was around 3%, which would not seem to give either group of knuckleheads the kind of overwhelming mandate needed to cripple the state. The informal yet highly accurate and respected GitcheeGumeeGuy polling service has found that approximately 4% of zealots on either side, lefties who worship Michael Moore's stained baseball cap and the righties who fervently believe that Michelle Bachman is on a mission from God, have both sides absolutely whipped and terrified of what will happen to their electoral futures if any creative thoughts or ideas of compromise are proposed.

There are too many things that are screwed up by this dereliction of duty by the jerks in St Paul to enumerate them all here. I will just touch briefly on the ridiculous list of what the state considers essential services. For example a person can't buy a fishing license or register their boat but the DNR will be out enforcing the fishing and boating regulations. All the state parks shut down however, and everyone that had camping reservations for the 4th of July weekend headed home yesterday or won't be leaving for vacation today. No Gooseberry, Split Rock, or Tettegouche on the North Shore of Superior. Canterbury Downs, the thoroughbred horse racing track where I've crafted many an exacta wheel, will be shut down as well, not because its a state agency but because the State Racing Commision which regulates it will be shut down. To use one of my grandfathers expressions, the Racing Commision's contribution to Canterbury's operation is 'as useful as teats on a boar hog', yet it will close the track and lay off several hundred people. Businesses in Forest Lake on both sides of the bridge over I-35 are hurting and will be until the bridge is replaced. Work on the bridge is stopped. I will pass by that non bridge later this afternoon when I ride up to Little Sand Bay with my buddy TripleHopped for a kayak trip. The other thing that we will notice on our run north is that the state has closed all the rest stops on state highways for the duration of the shutdown. These closed rest areas present the perfect opportunity for a statment about what we think of the shutdown, a modest proposal if you will.

My plan, a plan I executed flawlessly during the last shutdown in The State Where Nothing is Allowed, is to pull over at these closed rest stops (plenty of space for a safe stop), put on the flashers, and urinate in the ditch, one hand in an upraised fist and the other taking care of aim and possible drippage issues. Passing motorists will honk in support and we can imagine we are urinating on either Gov. Dayton's tax the rich proposal or the Republican's No New Taxes scheme, depending on your political leanings. If I was a marketing person at Midwest Mountaineering, Hoigaards, or the three local REI stores, I would hold a State Shutdown GoGirl special so that women could join this act of civil disobedience in a modest and decorous fashion. The only better protest might be to urinate on any state politician caught in public this 4th of July weekend, doing anything but sitting at the bargaining table and working on the budget.

We need to bring the heat on these stubborn politicos folks. The VOR served in North Dakota government for 30 years. To the best of our knowledge this has never happened in North Dakota. Why? I think it may because the legislature meets every other year for about 4 months. This means the legislators have to hold down actual jobs, jobs which they need to return to and jobs which put them into daily contact with their constituents. In Minnesota we seem to be drowning in lawyers, both in the population at large and also in the legislature. As you can see from the links, North Dakota is dead last in both categories and Minnesota is near the top. No shutdowns, a budget surplus, and minimal lawyers in North Dakota; a coincidence? I think not. North Dakota citizen legislators realize the hardships, frustrations, and ripple effects on the economy when the 'I'm gonna take my ball and home' 4th grade mentality is the chief negotiating tool. So now we wait while the state is on hold and the juveniles are squabbling in the big domed building in St Paul. I hope there is a good ending but I really don't have a good ending for this post, only an expression of frustration, disgust, and disdain for the prima donnas at the capitol.