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Monthly Archives: February 2020

On the way back from a ski trip we stopped in Hayward, Wisconsin to watch the American Birkebeiner cross county ski race. We were up early and parked in a remote lot and took a bus right down to the finish line. We found a place in front of the post office to watch the finish. There were not a lot of people around when we first arrived.

More photos from the American Birkebeiner can be found on my website.

It wasn’t long before the forerunners came skiing past.

We crowd watched until the snowmobile came by with the camera crew.

Just after the snowmobile with the camera crew came by the first racers quickly followed.

After watching some of the racers finished we walked over behind the finish line to see what was going on. A number of racers collapsed as they crossed the Finnish line.

There was a stand for the media covering the event.

There were a lot of metals to hand out. About 10,000 skiers participate in the various American Birkebeiner races.

At the finish the racers were able to replenish their electrolytes.

We then walked down main street to watch the racers come across the bridge over the main highway in town. The bridge offered a brief chance for the racers to catch their breath before the sprint to the finish line.



My wife and I spent the afternoon skiing at ABR in Ironwood, Michigan. This is one of the top cross country ski areas in the country.


It was another beautiful morning to ski on the Red Cedar Trail. We had a light snowfall overnight so the snow was fresh. There were quite a few fresh tracks in the snow.

The ice wall was looking good with the fresh snow.

We have been seeing Bald Eagles in the nest across the river from the ice wall. On this morning if flew from the nest to a perch above the ice wall. It didn’t seem to be bothered by us skiing past it.


I’ve had a few Blue Jays hanging around my feeders this winter.

We haven’t had a lot of snow storms recently but I’ve managed to capture a few photos of Northern Cardinals when it has been snowing.



With fresh snow we have been able to ski on the Red Cedar Trail almost every day. We had about six inches overnight. It was great skiing in the morning but the winds came up and the temperature started dropping in the afternoon. We have been seeing a couple of deer each morning at the 2 mile marker.


A few shots from the farm this past week.

Black-capped chickadee

Blue Jay


Black Squirrels have become quite common in western Wisconsin. However, this is the first one I’ve seen on the farm.

Black Squirrel

Last weekend we drove down to Clear Lake Iowa to see my brother and take in the Color the Wind Kite Festival. This was the second kite festival we have attended on two weeks after never having been to one before.

This was, by far, the largest kite festival we have attended. It was difficult to find a place to park in town. Fortunately we found a place that was only three blocks from the lakefront where the festival was taking place. The drive along the shore was packed with cars the entire time we were there. It looked like a lot of people wanted to drive by but not get out of their cars. Too bad it was a beautiful sunny day and relatively warm. As you can see there were a lot people out on the ice and a lot of kites.

There were a wide variety of kites.

There were lots of opportunities for the kids to play with some of the kites. Several of them were tethered to the ground and the kids could play in amongst them.

There were also some stunt kites. It was amazing watching them fly in formations and make acrobatic moves. When they were finished the all landed on the ice at the same time.

The younger kids had some places to play as well. It looks like the child in the first photo is making a fish mouth.

Of course there was always the opportunity to spend some time on the ice. In the case of the small child it wasn’t necessarily a choice.


Train travel is great. We traveled around the Tokyo area by train every day. It was great because trains or subway stations are located throughout the Tokyo area. They are on time and if you miss a train there is usually another one in a few minutes. The exceptions would be if you take a train to an outlying area where the trains might not run as frequently. You should know that trains stop running at midnight so you need to plan accordingly. Trains are very clean and quiet, There is no eating allowed or talking on cell phones. In fact it is rare to hear people talking on the train. Trains can be very crowded during rush hour so we planned our day accordingly. If you travel with a backpack it is suggested that you store the backpack on an overhead rack or wear it in front. Getting to and from the tracks on escalators has its own rules. You stand on the left and leave the right open for those who want to walk up the escalator.

Tokyo is clean. It is the cleanest city I’ve ever seen. With few exceptions we did not see litter on the streets in spite of the huge number of people. There are almost no public garbage cans or recycling cans to be found. This means that if you purchase something to eat or drink you are required to carry any litter back to your hotel. This is a good reason to carry a backpack and have a plastic bag handy.

Tokyo has recently enacted new smoking regulations that prohibit smoking on public streets. This is a big change since our last visit where we encountered a lot of smoking. The city has erected smoking stations throughout the city. We saw a number of them where there were long lines of men waiting to get in so they could smoke. Even parks and fairs have smoking stations

Japan knows how to do bathrooms up right. They have plenty of public bathrooms and they are free. For the most part they are very modern. They are usually a room rather than a stall. Unlike bathrooms in the US they are very clean. The toilets are usually Toto which means they have a bidet included. They have wipes and hand sanitizers available. Most have music or sounds of running water that you can turn on. We did encounter the traditional Japanese squat toilets in some of the parks.

We saw almost no graffiti in Japan.

We saw very few homeless people and even those we thought might be homeless might not have been. There were no panhandlers at all. It is nothing like what we find in large cities in the states.

Don’t tip in Tokyo it is considered rude. The price you pay for a taxi, or a meal is set and that’s what should be paid.

English is not spoken by most Japanese. It is interesting that they have one of the best programs in the world for teaching English in the schools but it seems to be lost once a person is out of school.

Tokyo seems to be very safe. We walked around at night with no problems. We did see police stations as we walked around but we saw very few police walking around.

This was our last day in Tokyo. We had a late afternoon flight and had to check out of our hotel by 10am. We decided to get moving early, pack up and take our packs over to Justin’s apartment and store them until we had to leave for the airport. We decided to go over to Shibuya. My wife wanted to find a UNIQLO and do some shopping.

I took a photo of these recycling bins in the train station because it was so unusual to find either trash or recycling bins in Tokyo.

We had problems finding the UNIQLO store in Shibuya. That was unusually because we had seen them all over the place. After walking around for about a half an hour we asked a policeman for directions and soon found the store. Unfortunately my didn’t find anything she wanted.

She was also looking for some little plastic cats with a solar panel embedded in them. The cats then waved when the sun was shining. We looked in this odds and ends store but couldn’t find them. One thing I don’t miss about Tokyo is the constant noise. Many of the stores have hawkers outside the store with bullhorns trying to entice people in. The noise is constant. Unfortunately we couldn’t find what we were looking for.

we then headed back to Shibuya Station and walked around Shibuya for a while. We took a few photos of the famous Shibuya Crossing and a photo of me at Hachiko’s Statue. This was the first time we were at the Statue that there were not long lines to get photos taken. Hachiko was famous because he always came to the station to meet his owner at the end of the day. One day his owner died at work but Hachiko came to meet him. It is a touching story because Hachiko continued to come to meet his owner for the next 10 until his death.


We then headed over to Shinjuku to look around. We wanted to get a bite to eat but got lost and Google Maps wasn’t working all that well. We finally found a place to eat and a route back to the station.

We then headed back to to Ookayama to pick up our packs and make our way out to the airport. On the trip back we encountered these school  kids running wild in the station. This was very unusual and the first time we had seen something like this. The only other misbehaved kids we saw on our visit were Americans.

Ookayama station was almost deserted when we caught the train for the airport.