What's New On Tom's Travel Blog?

Flickr has been improved! Almost all photos on this blog come from my Flickr Photostream. You can now go directly to a page that shows all of my Flickr photo sets by following this link. It's the easiest way to navigate in my on-line photos.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A trip to Long Lake, Burnett County, Wisconsin

Well, not a real trip. But a nice mental break at this time of year!

I was cleaning out boxes of "old stuff" in the office when I came upon these plans for building a pontoon boat in a dusty storage box.

The plans are still in pretty good shape except for some waterproof glue stains on them.

I think that every man wants to build a boat and possibly sail around the world - or at least as far as the South Pacific. Only a few actually make it into the ocean, like Gerry Spiess in Yankee Girl.

We hadn't owned our cabin on Long Lake in Burnett County, Wisconsin for long when Linda saw these plans in a magazine around 1979 and ordered them for me. Soon I had three deck sections and two twenty-two foot long pontoons sitting in the back yard of our South Minneapolis home. All these parts were made of 1/4" or 3/8" plywood except for the sides of the pontoons. Those were crafted from 1x12 pine.

Now a wise person might have given some thought to questions like "How high off the water do you think that deck is going to be?" or "How long do you think a 3/8" deck is going to last?" before starting this project, but not me.

With the help of a rental truck, I soon had the completed parts up at Long Lake. I couldn't wait to put the boat in the water and go fishing.

It took another summer to build the seat boxes and canopy but by the following chilly Labor Day we able to take the family for a ride.

Over the course of the next twenty-seven years I fiberglassed the wood pontoons, replaced the wood pontoons with factory-made aluminum, built a new deck, rebuilt the seat boxes, and lost track of the number of times I replaced the canopy.

But for all that time, I am sure I provided a frequently entertaining topic of discussion for the neighbors on the lake. Not the least of which might have involved, "Bet he wishes he took that boat out of the lake before Halloween!" in early November of 1991.

In spite of the hastle with maintenance, the boat supplied many pleasant memories over the years.

The boat plans came from Stevenson Projects which is still in business although most of their plans are for sailboats. Pete Stevenson tells me that he sold the original version of this boat long ago but ran across it once out in the San Diego Harbor. The new owner yelled, "Watch this!" as he jammed on the power. He'd put a 50 horse Merc on it and the thing actually took off planing!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Presidential Politics 11/11/08

(Delayed Post - part of a series of posts describing the occupancy of our winter place in Cairo, Egypt)

When we traveled to the Mena House golf course in Cairo, we shared a taxi with another passenger. After dropping the other passenger off at her home, our driver struck up a conversation in English.

Of course, the driver was amazed to find an American who had not voted for Obama. Obama would have polled in the high ninety percent range, if not one hundred percent among all Egyptians, judging from conversations that I've had on this trip. As usual, when I said, “So, now that we have a new president, when will you have a new president?” the conversation becomes more interesting.

Our driver, like most Egyptians, has only known one president. Many Egyptians refer to him as "president for life." Others as Pharaoh.

UPDATE 1/19/2009

Last night we stopped by a bakery and the man behind the counter said to Linda: "German?"

"No, American." she replied.

"Obama!" was his smiling response.

Most Egyptians are well aware of out new president's name.

Pondering the Unknowable in Cairo, 11/12/2008

(Delayed Post - part of a series of posts describing the occupancy of our winter place in Cairo, Egypt)

Sitting in our dining room awaiting the delivery of furniture, we ponder some of the mysteries of Egyptian architecture and construction. For example, wouldn't door installation be simpler if the frames were square? This frame slopes downward by just over an inch across its span of 36 inches.

Since it is a bathroom door, it naturally has a window in it. All bathroom doors here do. Is this to allow light in or to let us on the outside see a light on in the interior marking it as occupied?

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Visit to see The Golden Strings

An ad in the Star-Tribune caught Linda's eye. The Golden Strings appearing at Jax Cafe. Too much nostalgia there for old-timers. We signed up, taking Linda's mom to celebrate her 80th birthday.

I first moved to Minneapolis in the fall of 1967. The Twin Cities was pretty much lacking in diversity in the restaurant scene. But there was no question of what was the best eatery - Charlie's Cafe Exceptionale, downtown. Sure you could get a good steak at a couple of places - say Murray's downtown or Jax in "Nordeast" - but Charlie's was the place to go to for the best dining experience in the area.

But what if you wanted more than just a good meal? How about a show and a dining experience? Then you headed to The Flame Room at the downtown Minneapolis Radisson Hotel. The Golden Strings supplied the show.

Memory plays funny tricks as you age. I would have described the Golden Strings as a group of twenty strolling violin players. Linda said "no, I'll bet it was forty." It turns out that there were just eight violins - but there were two baby grand pianos. Cliff Brunzell founded the Golden Strings in 1963 when he signed a thirteen week contract to play the Flame Room at the request of Curt Carlson, owner of the Radisson. Brunzell ended up staying eighteen years and created probably the best known violin show in the country. By the time Linda and I first saw it, the show included two Olympic sized torches powered by natural gas that truly put the flame in "Flame Room."

This show at Jax featured Cliff as host and lead violinist (I calculate his age at about 87 based on the paragraph about him at this link) along with three or four other veterans of the original group. There were only six violins but as they strolled through the tables in Jax' banquet room you could picture yourself back at the old Radisson, long ago torn down. A couple of younger musicians filled in the string section and Brunzell brought along one heck of a jazz vocalist in Charmin Michell to lead us in a few Christmas Carols.

Jax owner, Bill Kozlack, greeted each of the guests as we entered the banquet room, so I guess he considered it a special night as well. The show was great. Dinner was fine traditional American - I had the prime rib.

And. of course, Jax provided a book of matches on the table for each member of our party - these weren't personalized but I'll bet they strike a familiar chord for anyone who has ever dined there.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Delayed Postings from Egypt

I prepared a number of posts for the Travel Blog while we were in Egypt but am just now starting to post them. We were pretty busy most of the two weeks we were all together in Cairo and I only got to an internet cafe once.

One of our favorite places to visit the internet is at Cilantro - a modern style coffee house. We just never got there on this trip.

I also neglected to bring along adequate photo editing software on the baby Asus eee computer that I was using on the trip.

Bottom line, I will be posting about the trip on a delayed basis starting today.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Afternoon Shopping in Egypt, Monday, 11/10/08

(part of a series of posts describing the occupancy of our winter place in
Cairo, Egypt)

We are looking for a few basics for the apartment, today. First on the list is a trip to MASTERBED in Mohandessein. Mohandessein has an upscale shopping area with Benneton, Gap, Barclay's and the like. And, of course, local favorites like Arsenal (a shoe store!) Love Man etc.

Earlier, friends had directed us to MASTERBED for a comfortable mattress. The locals here favor what could charitably be called a “very firm” style. Terry and Linda have earlier selected a pair of twin beds for the guest room and delivery is scheduled for Wednesday – provided we complete payment before 5 pm today. Also coming is a box spring to fit beneath our previously acquired queen mattress.

We make it with time to spare and then we are off to a nearby branch of Omar Effendi for appliances and housewares. In some ways, shopping at Omar Effendi is a bit like shopping at a Dayton's or Meier & Frank department store in the 1950s. There are several floors. The ground floor has women's clothing, major appliances and televisions. Housewares and small appliances are on two, furniture is on three. (actually these are ground, one and two here – European style)

Soon we have selected Pasabache tumblers, an electric teapot, and other kitchen necessities. We also pick out a Tecno range, a Kiriazi 12 cu. ft. fridge and a Maxtron 25 inch TV. We each note the peculiarity of cubic feet and inches in a metric country where we may have the only tape measure that is marked in inches and feet.

Making purchases here is a bit different from back home. There are plenty of clerks standing by ready to help with our purchasing. Once we pick out a plate, we tell the clerk that we want four. He carefully peels off the bar code label and attaches it to a multi-part form, multiplies the unit price by four on his calculator and writes the extension on the form. The clerk then tears off the top sheet of the form and hands it to us. At the end of our visit, we havea fistful of these sheets but no merchandise.

At a counter on the main floor, a cashier takes our papers and scans all the bar codes producing a nice itemized receipt. All the merchandise has simultaneously arrived near the front door and is in Omar Effendi bags, ready to take away.

Well, not all the merchandise – the stove, refrigerator and TV will be delivered.

We arrive back at the apartment and an hour later the cell phone rings. The delivery has arrived. Soon two workers have moved the three appliances via the tiny elevator up to our eighth floor apartment. Delivery man one assembles the stove and cautions us not to plug in the fridge for six hours since it has been lying on its side. He also informs us that we are short one brass burner ring but that he has it in the truck. Well, we think these are the messages – a lot of Arabic, much gesturing and our English has led us to these conclusions. I sign the receipt and tip the delivery guys – big mistake!

Signing in Egypt indicates “received complete, everything is just hunky-dory and I am SOL if any problem shows up.” Of course, no fourth burner ring ever appears from “the truck.”

But, at least now we have some furniture. It is best described as:
  • A stove with no gas
  • A TV with no dish, and
  • A Refrigerator with no food

And yes, that range looks a little low versus the counters. Well, perhaps we can have a box built to raise it up. Have we purchased a very short range? No, Linda noticed that all the ranges were this height. Perhaps we have requested tall cabinets? (mystery resolved in a future post)

An Afternoon on the Golf Course, Tuedsay, 11/11/08

Lying literally in the shadow of the Giza pyramids is the Mena House resort hotel. Now a part of the Oberoi chain, this hotel has long been a stop for diplomats, dignitaries and the elite when then they visit Egypt. Built by the British in 1869, the Mena House naturally had a golf course on the grounds. The setting and the age of the course result in its inclusion in many lists of “courses to play...” It has been on my list for several years, I just hadn't gotten to it.

Terry and I headed over the the Mena House around noon on Tuesday. We hailed a taxi in front of the apartment after a few minutes wait. The taxi was already occupied by a woman returning home from a shopping trip, but the driver was flexible. The driver found our destination compatible. Fortunately the woman didn't mind and so she shifted to the front seat and we piled into the back.

Outside of the weekend (Friday and Saturday) tee times are easily available. We sign up for 9 holes, rental clubs, five balls apiece and two caddies.

For many American golfers, playing with a caddy is a new experience. Ours are good. After the first hole, they know the right club to hand each of us. Their greatest value is knowledge of the greens. “Right here” says Mohammad, pointing with the flag stick about six inches to the left of the hole. Needless to say, before we finish, I know the names and ages of Mohammad's children and that his only income is entirely from tips – no salary!

The course is short – only 5315 yards. It is laid out along nine fairways that lead to eighteen widely separate greens. Here you see me on the first tee:

And here is Terry sinking a long putt on the fourth green:

There is only natural irrigation on the course with the water coming via ditches that line the fairways. Palms and long grass form the rough. As you can imagine, the course is very flat. Our caddies have no problem finding the balls.

We were fortunate to play the course on this trip since it is being closed in January for major remodeling. It will be replaced by a modern irrigated course with some elevation on it. There are several other courses in Egypt, all modern. It will be a shame to see this old classic fade away.

Where in the World

Where are we? In Cairo, again. Yes I have been here for about a week without a post. No Internet cafe readily available when I had the time available.

Everything is going according to plan (well, by Egyptian standards) and I have several posts done but they will be posted on a delayed basis.

Played golf, shopped till we dropped and visited friends so far.

I got onto this machine a few minutes ago and then got it switched over to the English language version of Blogger. Next up? Getting a USB port for the keychain drive in my pocket with pictures and posts!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Living at Schipol Part II

(As always, click on an image to see a larger version)

Schipol is actually a pretty good airport to spend time at if you have to live in an airport. Besides the usual shops, you can visit a museum:

There is only a small sample of the great Dutch artists' works from the Rijksmuseum, but the paintings on exhibit are very nice.

Near the museum you can enjoy a water massage - right in front of an audience

And for quiet times, try the meditation center.

Or for just plain resting up, you can't beat these lounges. For the quietest area, go to the second level near the Meditation Center.

Living at Schipol

(UPDATE: 12/27/08 - picture of Angelique replaced with enhanced quality version!)

My flight from Minneapolis was scheduled to arrive in Amsterdam at 11:05 am. Unfortunately, KLM has only one flight directly to Cairo and it leaves at 9:00 pm.

I planned to pass the time at the airport since my passport visa pages are mostly used up and I didn't want to end up arriving in Cairo without space for their full page process.

I knew of a wi-fi hot spot with desks, located behind the Rijksmuseum area in the center area of the airport and headed there. Internet access was available and I signed up for an hour's worth at about $16. My Asus Eee battery was running down but I wasn't worried since I didn't plan much more use of it before getting to Cairo.

I changed $100 to Euros for snack money - well, snacks and champagne. I needed to pick up a bottle of the bubbly for celebrating the completion of our apartment. The dollar is a lot stronger versus the Euro than it was last May when Linda was trading them at $1.60 for a Euro.

Now, while the Yahoo currency converter thinks I should have gotten 78.64 Euros for my $100, the change operators were offering only 73.40 Not content to make 7% on the rate, though, they then extracted a 3 Euro fee for the transaction netting me 70 Euros.

Sbarro next extracted 7.10 Euros for a slice of pizza and a coke - just over ten bucks by my reckoning. Later on, a bottle of coke would set me back 3 Euros, or about $4.28 This served only to remind me of my childhood rage when the neighborhood gas station raised the price of a bottle of Coca Cola from a nickel to a dime - but that rant will have to wait.

With my Champagne in hand (no, I didnt want to take advantage of the Christmas special of two bottles for only 48 Euros) I waited eagerly as my flight time of 9 pm approached. The only problem? There was no plane at the gate and it was after 8 pm.

A very professorial looking gentleman with white hair and a gray herringbone suit coat became visibly agitated. He stormed the counter where a large group of KLM flight attendants were idly standing by like the rest of us. With a clear lack of satisfaction achieved, he marched off briskly clearly seeking higher authority.

Finally at about 8:45, a faint announcement was made in English that the plane would not be arriving. Our flight was cancelled and if we went to gate T16 someone would help us. The hundred or so of us that heard the announcement dashed up the hallway. The other 200 or so passengers must have wondered, what on earth..." but soon joined us in the long queue formed at T16.

Again, no announcements, but sometimes KLM staff addressed small groups in the queue.

Being stranded in a group like this is a wonderful experience. The anonymity that is so characteristic of air travel quicky melts away and you get to know your fellow passsengers. I had a nice conversation with a couple returning to Cairo from London. Soon I was borrowing their phone to send a text message to Linda about the missed flight. With any luck, they may visit us and shop at the Mall of America.

Soon, an announcement was made that everyone with a Schengen passport could leave, go to a hotel and call a KLM number. All passengers were being re-routed automatically and we could get the information over the phone instead of waiting in line here. We all fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Of course, I didn't even know what a Schengen passport was. My new-found friend, however assured me that the same thing would apply to me or him with a Canadian passport. It just meant that anyone legally entited to enter The Netherlands without a visa could go to the hotel, The good news is, he was right. The bad news is that his wife only had an Egyptian passport and now I have lost track of them,

The airport is pretty much closed up at 10 pm and it was now about 10:30. I soon had a hotel voucher for the nearby Ibis and was out waiting for the shuttle bus with a hundred or so shivering passengers, After a long wait - well over a half hour - a bus and driver arrived and packed us all onto the bus. Someone shouted "this can't be legal" but she kept packing.

At the Ibis, I arrived at my room by midnight. Noting that my instruction sheet from the Ibis said dinner was avaiable until 12:30 I headed up to the worst buffet of my life. I deeply regret any criticism I might ever have made of an army mess hall. Obviously, no one told the kitchen that a couple hundred extra guests would be showing up around midnight. I had two rolls to choose from with a long line of people behind me. There was soup but no bowls. Three or four mysterious blends to serve over rice or tiny boiled potatoes. One Egyptian ladled the soup over the rice. Very unripe tomatoes. I could go on. I never did find salt or pepper.

That done, I tried calling the number at KLM. +31 (0) 20 5888333 No luck. The phone wants a phone card. No phone card! KLM had said at the gate that we would get a phone card. KLM hotel voucher guy didnt give it to me, Hotel said it's KLM's problem. I opened a credit card charge at the desk.

Back to the room. The phone now has it's message light on and speaks to me in Dutch every time I lift the receiver. I try dialing the KLM reservation desk. The phone does not like the number, Back down to the very busy desk. I must dial two zeroes where the card says "+" No better results. I go to the bar. Naw, not for a scotch, although I should have. I look around for fellow passengers who might have solved the problem and be celebrating.

I immediately recogize one fellow. He looks like Willie Nelson's younger brother. Sure enought, he and his wife have gotten through to KLM. They are booked through Paris on a 10am flight with an hour's layover. The wife gives me the secret code. "Ignore everything before the "20" that 31 is the country code and you are already in the right country!" They live here so they know.

Back to the room. Dialing gets through to a "velkom ... KLM ... for English press zzzz" Several attempts later it appears that is "press zero" Press zero and you get beep-beep-beep-beep. On the other hand, don't press zero and you also get beep-beep-beep-beep. This is how phones get damaged, I think, after slamming the handset down again.

Back to the front desk. This time I try the young guy who looks "in charge" instead of the old guy that doesn't like those dumb Americans who don't know that "+" means dial two zeroes. He says KLM is probably very busy. He calls a secret number (perhaps his girlfriend?) and chats a bit and says that I am booked on a 12 noon flight and should plan to get to the airport about 10. I send an internet e-mail to Cairo and go to bed.

Breakfast is only marginally better than dinner. Still no salt or pepper and you really have to admire how well the US Army prepares scrambled eggs! Highlight was the pork sausages - won't see those again soon.

At 9:00 sharp I dash for the shuttle bus. Is the 8:45 late or the 9:10 early? A nice gentleman from Cairo about my age gets off at the same time and we begin a search for a KLM agent to issue boarding passes. He is routed via Paris with a noon departure. Perhaps the same flight?

My KLM agent tells me I am leaving at 21:00 not 12:00. Perhaps the hotel man suffers from Dyslexia? Maybe he was just talking to his girlfriend.

Schipol (Amsterdam's airport) is quite modern and up-to-date. It was voted "best airport in the world" as recently as 2003. and In 2007, British magazine Business Traveller voted Schiphol "Best Airport in Europe," based on passenger experience. Unfortunately, like most airports it suffers from a lack of electric outlets. Apparently, no one told airport architects in the 60's, 70's 80's that travelers would soon each be carrying the equivalent of the world's total 1950 computer power with them and need someplace to plug it in!

But today, I have found Schipol's gift to the wired traveler. On the second level, not far from Sbarro and McDonald's lies the kpn communications center.

Atop what appears to be an old bar - complete with rail and barstools - lie eleven boxes with electric outlets. Amazingly, both European and U.S. style outlets.

There are also 28 Internet computers if you didn't bring your own. Some of these will even accept your memory cards! It will cost $16 for an hour on one of their computers but you can get an access code and use your own comuter for $23 for 24 hours. There are even eight telephones and six mini-offices if you need privacy, a fax machine or a printer.

And most important of all, this tech center comes equipped with Angelique.

Angelique had been at work since 6 am when I arrived around 11. She and two or three others handled problems with computers, phones and you name it. Need to call home to Atlanta? She not only know how to navigate the Amsterdam phone system, she knows the area code for Atlanta! This is the person you would want in charge of any help desk or customer service operation. With a thick skin to protect her from the wrath of stranded passengers dealing with unfamiliar systems, she and her colleagues handled every problem imaginable including from the guy that couldn't get connected and had to confess: "I actually work for Microsoft."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Halfway to Egypt

Friday night 11/7 I'm off to Cairo, Egypt again. Linda and Terry left for Cairo two weeks ago tonight and have been on the classic two week tour since. I started off from the Minneapolis – St. Paul airport. Once past security, I was right by the infamous “Senator Larry Craig memorial rest room.” You can see it here on the right side 0f the aisle in this picture.

That reminded me that I hadn't checked on how my U of Portland college classmate, Larry LaRocco, did in the election to fill the Larry Craig senate seat in Idaho. A quick check of the internet shows that Craig didn't poison the territory for Republicans too badly. LaRocco was outscored 58% to 34% by Republican, Jim Risch. Apparently, LaRocco never had much of a chance even in a Democratic year.

I'm posting this from Schipol airport in Amsterdam, my new home! (more about that later.) I checked out Internet access at MSP and found that I would need a Boingo account. I could buy a 24 hour access pass for $7.95 or three months of access for $9.95. Of course the $9.95 pass would renew “automatically” subject to the Terms and Conditions that I would have to agree to.

I actually scanned through most of the legalese on the Boingo agreement. If more people would read these agreements and reject them, the agreements would change for the better and simpler. These things are like taxes. If anyone were to propose the income tax code in the form it now occupies or a property tax proposal in the form it has, they would be laughed off the public stage. But we accept these things because of our "go with the flow" attitudes. Nuff said on that subject!

Monday, October 6, 2008

A visit to Iron River, Wisconsin

(As always, click on a photo for a larger view)

We always make a trip through northern Wisconsin about the fifth of October. This is peak fall color time in the north country. This Sunday might not have been the best display but it was very pretty.

We set out from the Gordon/Solon Springs area northbound, crossing the Brule river and heading for Iron River. Why Iron River? Well, Iron River holds the best pie shop in Northern Wisconsin.

We headed north on US 53 to county B and turned east toward Lake Nebagamon. To the right side of the road we noted several clusters of Maples with great color. I looped back for a closer look and found this pretty red tree framed by green leaves near the road.

While taking the picture, I was startled by a honking noise coming from the field. I glanced around and found a pair of trumpeter swans talking about the pretty colors too.

These beautiful birds stand almost four feet tall! We were glad we stopped.

Back in the car we continued past Lake Nebagamon, crossed the historic Brule River, and then turned north on Wisconsin 27 to US 2 at the town of Brule. The Brule river is sometimes known as the river of presidents since it has been fished by U.S. presidents Grant, Cleveland, Coolidge, Hoover, and Eisenhower.

A few miles East of the town of Brule on US 2 is the town of Iron River. No, not the Michigan ski town of Iron River, this is a smaller and less notable Iron River. But it does have two very nice attractions. The first is Orchards cafe and pie shop featuring homemade pies by Sue. There is a real Sue and she makes fantastic apple and blueberry pies. No it isn't quite Betty's pies on the North Shore in the 1950s, but it is very good pie.

And as long as you have stopped, go across the highway to the antique shop. This is by far one of the nicest antique stores and certainly the finest used book store in northwest Wisconsin. We were disappointed twice though on this visit. First, we noticed that the store is for sale as we stopped for our pie. Second, when we finished the pie and headed across the road, the store was already closed! Hope we can get back before all the stock is sold out.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Visit to Minong, Wisconsin

(as always, click on any photo for a larger image)

UPDATE 9/24/2013
It has taken five years, but the tractors are almost all gone.  Just one left!

UPDATE 06/19/2012
With Governor Walker safely past the Recall Election on June 5, he could turn his attention to the big issues facing the state.  He declared June 12, 2012 as Jack Link's Beef Jerkey Day!   Minong is unlikely to see bigger news than that very soon.

On a sadder note, those old tractors that I mention below are gradually being sold off.
Here was the display back in 2008:

And now, most are gone.  But if you hurry, maybe you can pick up one of what are left.

Update 03/26/2009Welcome Kris' friends and Facebook users. I've had a Kris-talanch! Please look around my modest little blog while you're here. You might find the Egypt posts over the January-March timeframe interesting. Linda has pictures from parts of Egypt that very few tourists have seen.

UPDATE 01/07/2009
Unfortunately, this cheerful story about Minong and its business community has some sad recent additions. As described in this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel posting from April of 2007, a lawsuit pitted Jack Link and son Troy against his elder son, Jay. The Links were battling over the ownership of Links Snacks Inc. This article goes on to say that a
Washburn County Circuit judge in Shell Lake, Wisconsin awarded $26 million on Friday, Aug. 8, 2008, to Jay Link, the son ousted from Link Snacks for his share of the family business.
If that weren't enough bad news, this October 29, 2008 article in the Duluth News Tribune describes the bankruptcy filing of Link Recreational.

UPDATE 12/24/2010
In July of 2009, The St. Paul Pioneer Press published this article on the Link family battle. "This is a story about a family feud fueled — it is alleged — by a stern father, a scorned son and a lust for revenge. --- And beef jerky." The story details a lawsuit filed in Minneapolis Federal Court by Jerky Snack Brands against Jay Link.
However, this story in Twin Cities Business from August, 2010, names Jack Link as one of ten Entrepreneurs of the Year. In the story, Link recalls the early days of the Link Brothers store:
“We were sort of the Wal-Mart of the north woods in those days,” Link says. “We were open seven days a week. We had farm machinery and we had cars and we had appliances and furniture and groceries, plumbing supplies and mufflers.”

If you are cruising along U.S. Highway 53 in Northwest Wisconsin about 50 miles south of Superior, you might catch a glimpse of this sign marking the town of Minong.

Don't let the tiny population deter you from visiting. There are modern attractions here and a well-preserved town dating from around 1900. Pull off U.S. 53 onto the business route through town.

People in Northwest Wisconsin have been shopping in Minong for many years. The Link family has been a prominent retailer in the town for probably close to a hundred years. One of the first things you might notice in town is the giant Link Ford Dealership.

Just about a quarter mile to the north, you will see Link Recreational, one of the nation's largest boat dealers.

In between Link Ford and Link Rec you might note a long low building housing the local IGA store.

For many years, this was the site of Link Brothers, the finest grocery, bakery, meat market, appliance and liquor store in the United States! Back in the 1970s you could drop in and pick up a gallon of garlic powder, a twenty pound package of sausage, fifty pounds of pancake mix and a hundred hamburger patties and be on your way.

Where the heck were you going with that load of food? You were headed to the local resort or restaurant/bar that you owned on a nearby lake, of course. In the 1940s through the 1970s, Northwestern Wisconsin was dotted with "mom and pop" resorts each having 5 to 15 cabins. I posted a bit about one of them, Pajac's Pines, previously. Well, this was long before the days of Sam's club and Sysco who nowadays supply the restaurant industry.

The Link Brothers had found the perfect niche business in this area selling both retail groceries and serving as the wholesale supplier to resorts and restaurants. Of course, you needed both a big freezer and an industrial stove to serve those resort visitors. Link Brothers had both in the appliance end of the store. And if you needed a baby stove or refrigerator for your cabins, Link Brothers had those too.

By the way, this store is still more than "just an IGA." Stop in and head to the North end of the store where you'll find a great bakery.

Head south of the Ford dealership about a half mile and you come to the World Headquarters of Jack Link's Jerky:

Not too many years ago, I became very fond of this product when I picked it up at the Link Stop fuel and convenience store on US 53. Soon it became available throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin and now I have purchased it from Montana to Florida. I don't know if any of the Link family has been to Harvard, but the Harvard Business School should at least teach a case based on this group of entrepreneurs. As the community needs have evolved from tractors to appliances to resort supply to large boats, they have read the needs well and moved to supply them.

Well enough for the Link Family. What else is in Minong?

How about the best ice cream store within fifty miles? The Village Scoop is located in "downtown" Minong and has the best choice of cones, sundaes and shakes within perhaps a two hour drive. You will be transported back in time as you enter the combination gift shop and ice cream parlor. The interior has not changed much in the last fifty, if not more, years.

And if old time small-town American buildings capture your attention, check out both the local saloon:

and the local hotel

Looking for a smaller place to stay? With more privacy? Well, do you remember the "cabins" that your parents used to stop at in the 1950s? Just south of the Ford dealership you'll find these:

And the best part is they are just down the street from Wendy's Place. This is the place in Minong to go for breakfast. You might be tempted by newer spots (Like Grandma Links) or slicker advertising (FlapJacks) but resist it and head here. The breakfasts are definitely four-star and the service is great. In the morning the parking lot will be full of pickup trucks belonging to the locals. You might find it hard to get a seat but it definitely is worth the wait.

Another spot not to be missed is Roxy's antiques. Don't look for a building, that burned down some years ago. But, you can't miss the stock sitting on the corner and behind the fence. The pictures speak for themselves:

You are probably getting anxious to leave home and head to Minong by this time. How to get there? Well, automobile via U.S. 53 between Spooner and Superior is one way. But how about if you are on an ATV in the summer or a snowmobile in the winter? Just follow the Wild River trail until you find the spot marked "you are here."

Are you unfamiliar with those red and green number routes that appear to cross lakes and parallel highways? Yes, that's right, we folks in the upper Midwest have our own set of marked and numbered trails to follow once the snow settles in for winter:

But I have left the best for last. If you followed my link to the Link family above, you noticed that the Links held the Allis Chalmers franchise for the area beginning back in the 1930s. North of town, on US-53 business route where it rejoins US-53, is the best collection of old tractors that you are every going to see for free. Most are Allis Chalmers but there are a few others too. If you only have a minute or two for your visit to Minong, make the turn!

As a bonus, there are several pieces of horse-drawn road grading equipment on display. These were used around 1900. Generally, a township would own one to both produce and smooth out the township roads.