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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Ah 'Merica

What a strange and wonderful place my native country is! Driving through the vast landscape is one of the best ways to reconnect with just how diverse the landscape is.
We departed last Monday to head east to Doug's native Minnesota. We made Las Vegas our first stop as we found a good summer hotel deal and it made for a soft start as it's only about 4 hours from our house. We decided to stay in the historic downtown area rather than the strip in part because of the deal, in part because we kind of like this older area of town. The downside is that it is also a bit seedier and has a coarser element present than the strip. Even so, the hotel was nice with a lovely, clean pool which we needed since it was 114F outside! My favorite feature were these lovely lounge chairs set right in the water. You really stayed nice and cool even in the roasting sun. We enjoyed some refreshing beverages and a wander through Fremont street while looking for somewhere to eat. Elvis impersonators, neon signs, loads of people and music surrounded us. We played a little on the slot machines and I was feeling very proud of my $20.00 win, enough to buy us dinner! We knew we had a long drive ahead in the morning so decided to tuck in fairly early.
Unfortunately at about 3.15 a.m. we were awakened to the sound of fighting in the room upstairs from us. It escalated to rather loud noises and crashing furniture and when the man threatened to throw the woman over the balcony, we decided to call 911. Again, the loose gun culture of the US had us spooked and we were just glad that a full on shoot out didn't begin. The police came and took the man away and things settled down. Still, after waking up a few hours later, we were ready to get on the road. Bye bye Vegas. Heat, alcohol, hard times, and bad decisions make this town a little hard to take for long periods of time. Fun entertainment and people watching unfortunately laced with lots of sadness too.
We got on our way and the drive east through Nevada, a small part of Arizona, Utah and on into Colorado offered beautiful views. This area of the US just dazzles with beauty as dramatic rock structures dot the landscape. We finally landed in Glenwood Springs, CO and enjoyed a lovely stay in a nice roadside hotel. There wasn't time for us to enjoy these hot springs. Would've been more fun in cooler temperatures as well. The owners of the hotel were Polish and had immigrated 20 years ago, bought this hotel and are thriving.
The following day took us from ski sloped mountain sides, through the Rockies alongside of water for much of the interstate to the plains of Nebraska where the road didn't bend and farmland spread out for miles. There's something about those wide open spaces that I love. It's very soothing to be able to see for miles around and I think good to remember where our food is grown. We landed in Lincoln, Nebraska, home of the University of Nebraska where clearly everything is about Big Red and the Cornhuskers. The next morning, we took a great tour of Memorial Stadium thanks to the fact that Doug's best friend from MN has a daughter on the track team there. The facilities are unbelievable and amazing. Thought about my dad often as the American Football scene there is historic. Quite a legacy really. To enjoy the privilege of being a top US athlete at a top University here is really a special treat. It was neat to get an up close and personal look at a school like Nebraska.
From there it was a mere 6 hour drive to Doug's mom's house. Heading north on I-35 I was surprised to drive by my dad's birthplace, Nevada, Iowa (pronounced Nevayda, not nevahda). We also ran into the only bad weather we had on the entire journey as the skies grew black and torrential rain pounded us. I had to slow down to about 20 miles per hour as the road just disappeared under the heavy rainfall. It was over as quickly as it began and the home stretch was pleasant and beautiful.
Now we are in MN for the week. The main reason for being here is to be present for the interment of Doug's dad's ashes near the family farm in Dawson, MN where 6 generations of Fondells are buried. We'll also attend the wedding of the daughter of a close friend from college and enjoy seeing some of our MN friends. 
It's gorgeous in MN right now...like the perfect Swedish summer with mild, sunny temperatures, low bug factor and almost no humidity at all.
I had forgotten that summer isn't oppressively hot everywhere. It's nice to relax and revel in these lovely summer days.