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Hijacked by the refrigerator!

Relax folks, I’m fine; however I do appreciate the concern you feel for me. I know you’d all be heartbroken if this blog went away for good. Was it scary? Were you hurt? Well, I actually just noticed I have a scabbed over scratch on my leg, but otherwise I’m in one piece. Why? Did you envision a bandana adorned, Kalashnikov toting Maytag firing wildly in the air and making angry threats in some foreign language? Makes for an interesting visual doesn’t it? Okay, so I did embellish just a little bit…it’s really a Whirlpool. Hahaha. I crack myself up sometimes…maybe I should do this for a living!

So I’m back. I’ve actually been home for a couple of weeks now, but I’m finally getting around to writing this blog post. It was a bit of a shock going from the tropics back to Thunder Bay (the first title of this post was reality sucks). The day we were in Belize it was well over 30C (40+ with the humidity) and when I got off the plane  it was -34C with the wind. Yuck! In any case, the weather has been fairly merciful, even downright balmy. Saturday was +16 and gorgeous…the snow is going away quickly and hopefully spring is just around the corner.

Belize temps, February 2016.

Belize temps, February 2016.

Thunder Bay temps, February 2016.

Thunder Bay temps, February 2016.

Speaking of the cruise, it was a fantastic experience. My wife and I had been on one during our honeymoon, but this was the first time for our boys. To say that they loved it is a bit of an understatement! We flew to Miami on a Saturday after a long layover in Toronto. The next morning we took a shuttle to the port and boarded our ship, the Carnival Splendor. By the afternoon we had checked out our cabin, grabbed some lunch and then proceeded to spend some time at the pool.

Bye Miami, February 2016.

Bye Miami, February 2016.

Our boat, February 2016.

Our boat, February 2016.

Monday was a beautiful day at sea and the kids had a blast (I burnt my legs pretty bad since I’m not used to just loafing out in the sun). Tuesday brought us to Cozumel, Mexico where we boarded a ferry for the mainland and a trip to the cenotes of Chaak-Tun. What an amazing experience it was to swim in the underground caves and witness the breathtaking beauty of these natural wonders. After lunch we were treated to tequila tasting before heading back to the ferry and our ship.

Chaak-Tun, February 2016.

Chaak-Tun, February 2016.

Inside Chaak-Tun, February 2016.

Inside Chaak-Tun, February 2016.

The next day we arrived in Belize City and this time our excursion would take us two hours to the west, smack on the border with Guatemala. The Mayan ruins at Xunantunich are a well-known attraction and I was excited to see this piece of the area history, especially since my knowledge of Mayan history is very vague. Xunantunich means “stone lady” and refers to a ghostly apparition that is said to haunt the site. The highlight of the ruins is “El Castillo,” which rises about 130 feet above the complex. We climbed to the top, which gave an remarkable view of the surrounding area. I was a bit timid though, since the swaying one feels after being on a ship made me feel like I was going to fall over the edge. Our visit was concluded by a great lunch at Hodes Place, in nearby San Ignacio.

El Castillo, Xunantunich, February 2016.

El Castillo, Xunantunich, February 2016.

El Castillo, Xunantunich, February 2016.

El Castillo, Xunantunich, February 2016.

El Castillo panorama, Xunantunich, February 2016.

El Castillo panorama, Xunantunich, February 2016.

Xunantunich selfie, February 2016.

Xunantunich selfie, February 2016.

The weather unfortunately threw a wrench into our visit to Roatan, as the ship was unable to dock due to the wind. We spent a somewhat rainy day at sea but were comforted by the fact we would have more time at our next stop, Grand Cayman. We got off the ship there, but the weather gods were against us again, forcing the cancellation of our visit to 7 Mile beach. We spent some time in the capital, Georgetown, before we headed back to the ship. But I guess a marginal day in the Caribbean is better than a good day in the snow.

Even though I’ve been busy with travel, I have managed to get in some railway work in between being hijacked by the fridge. I guess I should explain that huh? So I’ve been trying to get myself back into shape after putting on a few pounds on the cruise (way, way too much food). The other day my plan was to get on the treadmill after I put the kids on the bus to school. In the process of making lunches I discovered water dripping into the refrigerator from the freezer; that told me that the drain pipe in the freezer was plugged with ice. So my wife and I spent the next hour and a half removing everything from the freezer, unplugging the drain, cleaning the fridge and putting all the food back. There went my treadmill time…the fridge wants me to stay fat!

Anyway, I spent the better part of  two afternoons last week at the Thunder Bay Museum looking through their digitized newspapers. Though there are gaps in the coverage of the papers, the searchable .pdf files represent a huge step forward in the tedious and time consuming process of examining these records. I’ve already accumulated a ton of new information and I will be back at it next week to see what else I can dig up. The only bad part is now I need to go through, print and then file it them, which is the least exciting part of all!

Railway timecard, October 1902.

Railway timecard, October 1902.

In the next few weeks I will need to start work on my paper/presentation on John Paulson for the Great Plains conference in September. I know it is a long way away, but I’ll get busier as the weather gets warmer and I will be less inclined to spend my days inside. My brain is already thinking ahead to when I’ll be able to get out into the field to do some “hands on” investigating.

Anyway, I’ll wrap things up for now. The family and I have spent the last few days on a mini vacation here in Duluth, Minnesota and now we are marooned here for another day due to a bad storm that has made the road home pretty treacherous; hopefully it will be okay for tomorrow. I love how Mother Nature teases us and then slaps us in the head. I’ll be back soon enough for with more updates; there’s always a lot to tell. Until then…

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Posted by on March 16, 2016 in History, Railway, Research, Travel

 

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Let the good times roll!

Have you ever felt free? No, not the Mel Gibson Brave Heart sword-throwing blue face paint kind of free…though that is cool. I mean the feeling you get when you don’t have a lot of things of your plate and life is fairly manageable. Yes? No? Well, I must say that I have not had this feeling very often in recent years. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that I quite often write about how busy things are and how burnt out I feel. Well, guess what?

So if you haven’t figured it out (or read the last post), I am on sabbatical. Sweet, sweet sabbatical! I’m just finishing up my second week of this and it is fantastic. I could really get used to this for sure! It’s not that I’m doing nothing all day…I’ve actually been quite busy, but there is no work related stress. I’ll get to everything I’ve been and will be up to later, but for now I am enjoying every minute. As the band The Cars once said, Let the good times roll!

We have now passed the midpoint of February and as usual time is flying by (that has not changed). The weather has been up and down, but it looks as though were heading toward more spring like conditions. I can’t wait to get rid of this snow and get out into the field.

The first few days of my sabbatical were consumed with a project in my basement that was several years in the making. It’s about 95% complete and I hope to have in done in early March. Last weekend I plunged a little bit back into work, kind of. My fellow football coaches were interested in attending the Glazier Football Clinic in Minneapolis once again (I believe this was our seventh visit) so I tagged along. As usual it was a great experience and I certainly came back with some good information for our athletes. Getting away to another city was nice too, though twelve hours of driving in four days is a bit tiring.

Glazier clinic vendors area, February 2016.

Glazier clinic vendors area, February 2016.

First clinic, February 2016.

First clinic, February 2016.

I will have lots of time to rest up over the next week while I relax on a Caribbean cruise with my family. At the time we made plans for this sabbatical (my wife teaches at the same school I do), we decided that we would take the boys on a trip somewhere since it is so much cheaper to travel outside of March break. We did go on a cruise for our Honeymoon, but it’s been a while and obviously the boys have not had the experience. We are travelling with friends of ours, so we will be in good company while we visit such places as Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Grand Cayman. Looking forward to the great experiences and warm weather!

Since I’ve been so preoccupied with other things, I really not spent a ton of time on the railway. I did make one brief trip to the museum to photocopy a file and then expended a few hours at the library looking through microfilmed newspapers. I forgot how tiresome that could be, and how “easier” it was when I was in my twenties. Thankfully the museum will be of some assistance since they do have a number of papers digitized, which can be keyword searched. Unfortunately I will still have to plug through some papers the old-fashioned way, but c’est la vie!

Museum files, February 2016.

Museum files, February 2016.

Things will get on track once we get back from our cruise as life will be a little less busy. Besides the aforementioned trips to the museum, I do need to start work on my portion of the John Paulson article I’ve agreed to do. The plan is to present this paper at the Northern Great Plains History Conference in Saint Cloud, MN in September. I also have some interviews to conduct south of the border once it becomes more spring like outside. Did I say I wasn’t busy?

Anywho, I should get rolling. I still have some stuff to take care of before we leave. I’ll be back in a few weeks with I’m sure a bunch of things to report on. Until then…

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2016 in History, Railway, Research, Travel, Writing

 

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