Where the Mississippi Begins

RMlogo The Headwaters of the M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I

We knew it had to begin somewhere. But where? Katherine told us about the headwaters of the Mississippi River being two hours away. When you travel 10,000 miles, two hours from anywhere is no big deal. So off we went.

It was Lake Itasca at Itasca State Park. Explorers back in the day found it and others affirmed that this is the place where the Mississippi River begins. It ranks as the fourth-longest and fifteenth-largest river in the world by discharge.

No doubt it’s surreal to think about how small it begins when you consider the massiveness of the river at other places. We saw it recently in Davenport, IA. We have seen it many other times, and it’s always impossible to keep your head in your devices when you cross one of the many bridges that take you over the mighty river.

There is a lake in Itasca as well as a lot of reading material. There were trails to hike and a store to buy stuff. And, of course, the mosquitoes. Oh, my.

“Dear Jesus, deliver me from these little menace bloodsuckers.”

We did drive partly through the park and dashed out to see a few attractions like the biggest tree in the park. I say, “dashed” because that is what we had to do in our futile attempt to dodge and outrun the mosquitos.

Futile it was.

Chick-fil-A Day

The day we were in Itasca was also Chick-fil-A Day, so we donned our cow attire and made another dash; this time to the only Chick-fil-A near us, which was several hours away in Grand Forks.

Come on, Chick-fil-A. We need more stores up north.

With our suits adjusted, we went in only to find out that they changed the rules: they stopped the free giveaways at 7 PM. We were there by 8:30.


(I did share this story with my friend in Laredo, TX, who happens to own a store. He sent us some coupons. And, no, I did not tell him my sad saga to “work him” for some coupons. I wanted to know if the Grand Forks store had a new rule or if it was company-wide. It was company-wide.)

Next stop: The County Fair in Fertile, near Climax, Minnesota

The Drive-In and Fireworks Show

One of our bucket list items was taking our children to a drive-in to watch a movie. As (sovereign) luck would have it, they just happen to have one in Warren, Minnesota.

This drive-in was between cornfields outside Warren. We took three of our cousins with us: Caroline, Hannah, and Maddie, and the experience was as great as we anticipated. The “big kid’s movie of the summer” was Incredibles 2.

Most of the movie had the typical feminist slant as they kept the husband at home taking care of the kids while the “incredible” wife was “dragon slaying” in the city. The husband did come around at the end of the full-length feature presentation to help with the mop-up of the bad guys. Hollywood’s worldview was subtle enough to indoctrinate but not overt enough to tick-off middle-aged “privileged” white men.

The owner of the drive-in was a talker, who was happy we showed up for the movie. He made sure we knew that it was acceptable to write on the concession stand building, so we obliged.

The only difference between this drive-in and the ones of my youth is that there was no speaker to hang on the windows. Today’s technology lets you tune into your radio so you can play the sound over the car speakers.

The highlight for me was talking to six guys and gals who were parked next to us. They were intrigued by our summer travels, which opened the door for about thirty minutes of conversation. It was awesome. After the movie, one of the guys came to the van window and asked for my website address. I gave him my “throwaway card.”


Fireworks in Grand Forks

On July 4th we went thirty minutes west to East Grand Forks, Minnesota/Grand Forks, North Dakota. A river separates the two towns. You would not know where they separated if there were no river running between them.

The towns had a big party near the river. It was cool, albeit only a handful of vendors and a small town band playing loud licks from three generations ago. We milled around a bit, which took about thirty minutes before we settled on a hillside to watch the big show.

It was essential for us to find some fireworks for the fourth. In 2015 we were driving out of San Francisco, hoping to see a fireworks show, but it was too foggy, and we were so tired, that we chose to drive to LA using the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway).

We missed our fireworks show that year, which disappointed Tristen the most. Since then, we’ve tried to make sure we found some fireworks during our travels. The Grand Forks show was pretty good. It lasted thirty minutes.

Since we were a couple of hours early, we ate snacks and chilled out while the kids played card games. I was chatting up a lady with an angry teen. She observed how we were the family wearing the hoodies. To them, it was not cold. For us southerners, we felt the need to wrap up. It reminded me of being at Santa Monica in 2015, the only folks on the beach shivering in hoodies.

I was growing a bit weary of being cold all summer. I’m missing our wonderful heavy blanketed humidity.

The President Trump Rally

While in Euclid, visiting Lucia’s sister, we learned of the President Trump rally in Fargo, North Dakota. All we had to do is text, letting them know that we wanted two tickets per phone. We asked for six.

I wrote this article, I Went to a President Trump Rally Last Night, on our ministry page. Click the link to go there and read it.

This event is a “historical bucket list” for our family. It’s rare to be able to see your President, and Fargo was only two hours away, so it was a no-brainer for us to go. And we needed to be in Fargo for a van repair. Thankfully, the Toyota dealership did an excellent job. It was the starter that needed replacing.

The dealership finished the van by 1:30, but the President’s rally was not going to let folks into the building until 4 PM. Our first instinct was to go downtown Fargo to check out things on the main drag, but we decided to swing by the Scheels Arena to get a feel for the “lay of the land” so we could mentally prepare ourselves for what we needed to do for the rally later that evening.

We arrived at Scheels by 2 PM, and the folks gathered were already wrapped around the parking lot. It was something to behold. We decided that if we went downtown, we would not be able to get into the rally, so we parked the van and got in line at 2 PM for the 7 PM rally.

A fellow told us that where we were in line was about 5700 of the 6000 people they would let into the event; he was guessing. When we finally got in around 6 PM, there were about 200 more who came in behind us. The fellow was correct.

Standing in line for four hours went fast. We made friends with our new line-mates, and we chatted with various sellers and politicians who came by selling and shaking hands. I did meet a black lady from Columbia, SC, about 90 minutes from where we live, who was selling t-shirts, hats, and other stuff. She follows the president around, setting up her tables to sell all sorts of Trump paraphernalia. I was impressed with her entrepreneurial work ethic.

We had food and water, which we carry with us at all times. We don’t eat in restaurants, due to the expense, choosing rather to shop in grocery stores around the country, buying bread, peanut butter, lettuce, and so forth. We had plenty to eat and drink while waiting for the event to begin.

The President’s Rally

After getting into the arena, there was no place to give our printed tickets. When I asked about them, the lady said she did not want them. I asked why, and she said that all they needed was our phone numbers so they could do security checks on who is in attendance. I appreciated the proactive security, especially with my family being near the President.

The music was loud and eclectic–rock, opera, jazz, country, et. al. It was too loud for us, be we could bear with it. We waited over an hour for the President to come out and speak to us. They had other speakers, plus there was time to do the wave, go to the restroom, and take some pics.

The President showed up, right on time. It was impressive. The man is an entertainer, no doubt about it. He knew how to work the crowd, and the crowd did not mind him working them.

He was irreverent, funny, condescending, and foul-mouthed. I did not expect or appreciate the cursing. Honestly, I did not think that attending a rally for the President of our country would have curse words. It gave our family something to debrief about after the meeting.

Hating Image Bearers

I would say that it was a pep rally more than anything else. The President was “preaching to the crowd.” It appeared that it was a huge boost for him, as I can’t imagine how hard it must be to read or hear folks cursing you out all day, every day of your life.

I get hate mail, as folks say all kinds of horrible things about me. It’s part of being a public figure, but the President’s “target” is in another orbit compared to mine. I’m sure being with 6000 people who appreciate what he’s doing had to feel good. I know it would motivate me to do more rallies.

Unfortunately, too many people do not know how to critique ideas while refraining from demeaning the person with the ideas. And Christians can be some of the worst in doing this. God created all people in His image, which should govern how we talk about people, especially those who have agendas different from ours.

I have many friends, in ministry and my regular life, who have criticized Presidents Obama and Trump as persons. It’s unfortunate, and I don’t respect them for it. This problem is unique to our age because of social media; everyone has a platform and a voice today.

I don’t care for the President’s crassness, but I do like a lot of his policies. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how he is leading our nation. I hope that he will continue to lead in conservative ways; it’s been refreshing in light of a political culture that works hard to make things harder on those that they are supposed to be serving.

Wrapping It Up

After the event, we stayed later than everyone else except the security, which gave us time to thank them for taking care of us. We also had time to take some pictures down on the floor.

And we found a hat, umbrellas, and potato chips in the parking lot. We could have picked up twenty camping chairs, and a bunch of other stuff. Typically, these events are like this, and we have learned that hanging back after everyone else has left can be a bonanza for our family. And it was.

I’m glad our children got to be part of this event. They were appreciative and impressed that God would arrange our agenda in such a way that we could do this. It was a good day.

Euclid, Minnesota – A Green Sign by the Road


As the saying goes, don’t blink when you go through this town or you’ll miss it. Euclid, Minnesota is less than that. There is no town, as we understand such things. There is a silo or two, plus the green sign that says, “Euclid.”

That’s it. And that is where we spent the month of July. Between two cornfields. And it was awesome. There is something about wide, open spaces and low hanging clouds that help you forget the noise in a chaotic world.

And Lucia had not spent real time with her sister in more than twenty years. We hung out with them in Shannon, Illinois in the late nineties. That was 21-years ago, a day or two before their third child, Rachel (pictured above in glasses), was born in Rockford.

We dropped by the hospital then to congratulate Katherine and to say goodbye as we headed back to South Carolina. Now we’re with them again, and we all had an amazing time. Our intention was a week and then off to the next place. But my children have not spent extended periods with their cousins, and they were bonding, which made leaving undesirable for all.

So we talked about staying another week. Then another. And another, until it was almost four weeks. Even after all that time, leaving was not fun. Imagine family liking each other. Weird, right?

Where in the World?

Euclid is more northern than the cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul). It is also above Fargo, North Dakota, which is two hours away. When you have to drive south to get to Fargo, you’re too far north. It’s thirty minutes from Grand Forks, ND, which is on the North Dakota and Minnesota borders. And it can get to forty below zero. Yippee.

The closest town is Warren, which has no chain stores of any kind. They do have a drive-in theater outside of town, in a cornfield, of course. My children had their first outdoor movie experience. It was almost as good as my childhood experience, but there were no speakers to hang on the car window; we tuned into the radio to hear the movie: The Incredibles 2.

We went to East Grand Forks, Minnesota and Grand Forks, ND several times. The church we attended was in Grand Forks, which was an excellent church. I bonded with Stacey and his wife, one of maybe three black families in the church. We had superb conversations. I miss him already.

Branching Out

In addition to the drive-in, we also went to the President Trump rally in Fargo, which is where we had the starter replaced on the van. We went to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park. Then there was the county fair in Fertile, MN, which is right next to Climax, MN. (Not sure how they got their names, but I have some ideas.) And Rachel got us in on a DigiKey tour, which is where she works. That was interesting.

We went to the big Fourth of July happenings in East Grand Forks/Grand Forks. Those two towns are contiguous, as you cross a bridge, which separates them. East Grand is in Minnesota and Grand Forks is in North Dakota.

The highlight of most days was walking to the mailbox, which seemed to be about a half-mile down their long driveway. Sometimes we got crazy and walked down the road too. On some of the walks we encountered a car or two. Busy, it was.

And then there was the crop duster who seemed to get his kicks from flying low over the house. Maybe not, but he seemed to be a bit low to me.

Bonding Time

The best time was our kids spending their days with the cousins. They laughed a lot, played games, and worked in the yard. Haydn had his first John Deere riding mower experience. It’s true: nothing rides like a Deere.

The kids spent a solid week picking small river rocks out of the flower bed that was next to the house. (See picture) The Colberts were having some water leaking problems, so they needed to dig up the beds, rework the ground and the side of the house. It took the kids a long time to get all those rocks out of the beds.

I set up my “ministry base camp” next to our bedroom. And as (sovereign) luck would have it, Lucia’s sister, Katherine, had a zero-gravity chair like my “Walmart special” at home, so I was in good shape for multiplied hours of work.

There were some wifi issues out in the cornfields, so one day I went to the Starbucks in Grand Forks and spent the day and early evening there. There is much to be said for great wifi. Another day was spent in MacDonald’s, who also has excellent wifi.

Storms and Signs

Then there were the storms. Because the land is flat, there are no windbreaks, as the storms come roaring in and the lightening dances all over the place. As you’re driving down the long, straight roads, you’ll see a clump of trees by the road, in the fields. There was always a house inside the trees, which was the only way to break the wind as it comes howling across the plains.

And because the roads were so long and straight, it was hard to figure out the distances. You could see a traffic light at night eight miles away; I’m for real on this. Thus, you would come up on the stop sign “all of a sudden.” It’s as though you’re lulled to sleep because you’ve been looking at the sign for so long. And then it’s right in front of you. It was harder to drive on those long, straight roads than the curvy roads in South Carolina.

No doubt, the Colberts were the highlight of our trip. We’re not sure if we’ll be able to do this again, like that. It was a gift from the Lord; I’m especially happy for my wife.

Go Vikings


Because we do everything on the cheap, we visited the Super Bowl six months after it happened. We were in the “cities,” which is what the locals call Minneapolis and St. Paul, so we had to drive by the Minnesota Vikings Stadium.

It is a humongous, beautiful stadium, situated in the heart of Minneapolis. Totally impressive. After we found parking, which was not hard to do, we got some excellent shots of the facility and then went into the gift shop.

(I was surprised at how little traffic there was in the city. We could maneuver around without congestion. I thought Chicago was easy to get around, which it was, but Minneapolis was easier than the Windy City.)

A fellow was polishing the modern art “Viking horn” that was a corked screw formation at the front of the stadium. He was passionate about his job and loved telling us about how costly it was to polish all the glass on the stadium.

He spent the day polishing the Viking horn.

Wisconsin Cheese

Since we were close to cheese country, we bopped over to Wisconsin but did not find a good cheese spot. We did visit a lake to feed a few mosquitoes with our body parts.

And we stopped at Starbucks to get their “been there series” mugs. We try to get a mug from every state, though some states don’t carry the series. Sorry Idaho; you’re still important to us.

Upon leaving Starbucks, Ansa stepped on a small metal cover that was over a drain pipe and twisted her ankle. The lid was not fitted well, as it moved from side to side. Not good. Haydn carried her to the van, and she nursed her ankle for a few days.

We stopped in a nearby Goodwill, and Tristen and Lucia found some clothes, which was nice. Tristen needed some school clothes.

Leaving Minneapolis

On our final day in the Minneapolis area, I needed to stop by the Apple Store to ask a question. Afterward, I tried to start the van, but it made no sound. It had done that once before. I was hoping it was an anomaly, but now we knew we had a problem.

We called our insurance company, and they sent someone who eventually came by to jump it off, but it was not the battery. The man was not sure what the problem was, though I thought the starter was the issue.

Since we could not get it started, we called the Toyota dealership to see if we could get them to service it on a Saturday. Toyota was accommodating, so we made the arrangements with them and with a hotel for another night in the cities.

While waiting for the Toyota shuttle service to show up, I tried the van again, for the fortieth time in three hours. It started. Yay. We called Toyota and the hotel to cancel, hoping we could make it to Lucia’s sister to get it worked on at that time.

Next stop: Euclid, MN to spend some time with Lucia’s sister and family.

Mall of America, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Lucia and I created a rule while we were dating; we would not spend more than twenty minutes in a mall. It was a great rule because anything over that time-limit stirred our sin natures to the point to where we were irritated with each other.

We disdain malls (also called mauls) because we dislike shopping. Our best clothes are over ten years old. Why buy something new to replace something you like? No question the Lord permitted Amazon to live and breathe on our circle because of people like us.

And then there is the Mall of America, the biggest mall in the United States. We spent more time in that mall in one day than we have spent in any mall in the twenty-five+ years that we’ve known each other.

Just shoot me.

But we had to.

We arrived before noon and left at closing time. It’s four levels that seem to go in a circle. I think; maybe that was just me. We began on one, walked around it and then proceeded to the next one until we had seen every store–for the most partl.

Mall Facts

  1. You could fit seven Yankee Stadiums inside the Mall of America.
  2. Or you could fit 32 Boeing 747s inside the Mall of America.
  3. Or you could fit 258 Statues of Liberty inside the Mall of America.
  4. The Mall of America has its own counterterrorism unit.
  5. If you were to visit the mall and spend 10 minutes inside every store, it would take you 86 hours to complete your journey.
  6. It took 13,300 tons of steel to build the Mall of America. That’s almost twice the amount it took to build that Tinkertoy the Eiffel Tower.
  7. It boasts having a 1.2 million-gallon aquarium.
  8. Feeding these aquatic creatures requires more than 100 pounds of food, daily.
  9. It cost more than $650 million to build the Mall of America in 1992.
  10. And they just confirmed a $325 million expansion of the mall. By the way, a trip to the moon costs roughly $100 million per person.
  11. The Mall of America generates almost $2 billion in annual revenue for the state of Minnesota.

From BuzzFeed

There was the giant Lego Store. Yay!! And the theme park in the middle, on the bottom floor. There’s the Apple and Microsoft Stores across from each other. Cute. Of course, there is a putt-putt course. The Crayola Store would be great for the little folks. I got a waxed version of my finger there.

Whatever you want, you could probably find it in the Mall of America. (Or go online so you can spend your days doing other things, redemptive things.) The highlight was spending time with the family, goofing off and eating/drinking samples that are plenteous.

We took our backpack full of food and water bottles so we wouldn’t have to buy food or drinks. It was my largest “step-count” for any day during our trip, no doubt. And praise God that I could walk pain-free, virtually. And I believe there was little sinning against each other, which was a major miracle of mercy from the Lord to our family.

The real great news is that God did not give us courage or desire to make malls a part of our family dynamic, but we were glad that we went. We had to because it was there, and I think we’re all glad it’s off the list.

I’ve Been Everywhere, Man

In the great “I’ve Been Everywhere,” Man” tune by the late and famed American legend Johnny Cash, he made sure that we knew he’d been to Davenport, Iowa. It was a no-brainer after leaving Chicago that we had to hit this excellent midwest city.

All well-rounded cultural children yearn to visit these places, which is why we could not leave Folsom, California two years ago without visiting the historic Folsom Prison, which just happened to have a museum outside those blue-stone walls. And, as (sovereign) luck would have it, they had a J.C. room.


I went through three-quarters of my entire Johnny Cash collection between Folsom and Fresno. The glory of it all overcame my children. So when I learned that Davenport was a possibility, we bee-lined it to that little hamlet. And, you guessed it, we parked on one of the main drags and pulled up “Everywhere Man” on YouTube and took it all in.

Sky Bridge and More

The big highlight in Davenport was the sky bridge that jutted toward the mighty Mississippi. For whatever reason, they did not build it all the way to the river. Perhaps it was a lack of funds, but no matter, it was great to be able to walk through it.

And, as (sovereign) luck would have it, no other people were visiting that landmark while we were there, except two street teens who seemed to be looking for a cool spot to sit on the floor for a while.

And it was hot. I mean, blazing, scorching hot. We may have seen 50 total people while in the town for three hours.

The other highlight was walking alongside the Mississippi where they had a “park-like setup” similar to the riverfront in Cincinnati, just without the people. Lots of parking available, an amphitheater, and the stadium to their minor league baseball team, the Quad City Bandits.

There was also an opportunity to walk into the Mississippi, which was our first time, out of all the times we’ve crossed the big river in our crisscrossing of the States. Afterward, we went downtown to take in the city.

The architecture was lovely, especially the Adler Theater. The next event is in October. It appears the city takes the summer off, probably due to the heat. I’m not sure.

We chose not to stay overnight in their fair city, as we wanted to get to Minnesota to spend a few weeks with Lucia’s sister, brother-in-law, and their adorable family.