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.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bear Season

We see an occasional black bear up at the lake near our Wisconsin cabin.  This year, Linda saw bears on three different bicycle rides.  Last year, one walked right by the living room window early in the morning, apparently on a routine food patrol.

Our next-door neighbors got a good picture of one strolling through their yard at night in October.

About the same time, and some fifty or so miles to the west, near Sandstone Minnesota, a hunter had a close encounter with one of the furry creatures after wounding it.  The result was a hunting story to be recounted 'round the campfire for many years.  YouTube version here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Autumn on the Gordon St Croix Flowage, 2014

Autumn passes quickly in the northland.  Four weeks ago, the foliage was at a peak on the Flowage.

Two weeks later, the color was gone, but the view was still colorful.

I came up on Saturday evening to finish the closing chores for the season.  Yesterday morning the geese were paddling upstream and I took the picture on the left before starting to cover the pontoon boat for winter.  The picture on the right is from this morning.  Quite a change was underway.
CabinNov9 CabinNov11

But everything was done in time.  The dock is on land, so is the pontoon.
CabinNov11-4 CabinNov11-5

Evenings in the Adirondack chairs are just a memory.

And another cabin season has passed like the setting of the sun.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Our Favorite Winter Sport Is in Jeopardy

The Africa Cup.

Football (soccer type) is big in Egypt.  And it doesn't get any better than the semi-annual Africa Cup matches.  Egypt's remarkable triple championship in 2006-8-10 is a great conversation topic with any male Egyptian.

But, this year's host, Morocco, is demanding a one-year delay due to the Ebola crisis.  And, possible substitute host nations are also reluctant to welcome players and fans.

Rest assured, even if the tournament is cancelled, there will be football on TV in Cairo coffeehouses.     

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thinking About Egypt

It's about two months before we depart for our annual winter stay in Egypt.  Much of the news this year seems to be positive.  This article in Financial Times from a two weeks ago notes considerable progress in the Egyptian economy resulting from steps by "media savvy" president Sisi.
Sisi had a strong team, popular support, and had raised $8.5bn via local bonds to invest in a high-profile project, the widening of the over 30 km of the Suez Canal which some had estimated was employing 100,000 people. Half the money was thought to have been raised from the informal “under the mattress” economy.
 And the eternal optimists in the Ministry of Tourism are once again back to forecasting major increases in both tourists and dollars.

I was at a party last week where a middle-school teacher asked me to describe what Egypt is like.  That's an impossible task, beyond "everything is different."  You truly have to experience the country to understand that phrase.  Walking down a crowded city street at 11p.m., watching young boys in a barber shop getting their hair cut, savoring the pleasant mix of odors from street-food vendors and taking in the cacophony of music and bargaining at a hundred small shops can only be experienced, never described.

It is very hard to describe the third world to a first world resident who has never lived outside of our economic cocoon.  Sometimes it feels like we travel to a different planet for three months out of the year.  That was really brought home to me today when I read two newspaper articles.  The first, in the Wall Street Journal described a multi-evening project by a Washington, D.C., education researcher who built a spreadsheet to categorize, organize and track her child's toys - truly a "first world problem!"
She created a spreadsheet that labeled more than 100 household toys by category (arts & crafts, building sets and games) and developmental level (baby, toddler or preschool). Then she brought most of them to basement storage.

Every couple of weeks, she selects a few to bring upstairs. While the system has helped keep the house tidier, “it’s still amazing,” she says, “the amount of clutter.” ...
The second article, a remarkable personal story in the New York Times, described a Rwandan orphan, plucked out of a garbage dump and now studying at Harvard.
“I took him to where I was, cleaned him up, changed his clothes, dressed the wounds on his body and eventually sent him to primary school,” she said.

In first grade, he finished at the top of his class. It was a sign of grades to come: straight A’s in high school, followed by a seat in a senior high school specializing in the sciences.
Human are remarkably adaptive beings.

It has now become a bit easier to share Egypt with readers of this blog.  Google Street View now features several popular Egyptian tourist sites.  Just follow this link and choose one of the Egyptian sites to tour.  Most have been featured on this blog.  For example, the Hanging Church, shown below.  Once you have picked a site, use your mouse to take a "virtual walk" through the area.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Linda's Flight to Portugal

Linda's flight left at about 2 p.m. from Minneapolis and took her to Philadelphia.  From there, U.S. Air flies directly to Lisbon.  The actual trans-Atlantic flight is only about six and a half hours as compared to our usual seven and a half or eight hours to Amsterdam or Paris.

She left just about on time, although after spending about a half hour on the taxiways before takeoff.  I tracked the flight on FlightAware.com  Here are the top flight tracking websites.

FlightAware is a fun site to use because it gives up-to-the-minute data on altitude, speed, heading and position.  Here she has just taken off, crossed the Jersey shore, and is at 21,900 feet (Flight Level 219 and 466 knots speed are visible in the second line of green print under the plane.)

Her plane joins the large contingent of flights that cross the Atlantic from West to East every night.  Her plane will be staying south of most of them.  Flight Tracker loses real-time tracking about three hours into the flight and provides only estimated data until the plane lands.

After six hours and eleven minutes, Flight Aware confirms that she has arrived. 


I'm still waiting for a text message from her but I know she is on the ground.

Update: a bit later.
  • The delay leaving Philly was due to a fox on the runway
  • The delay in texting her arrival was due to a long passport line.

A Visit to the Minneapolis Airport

Linda and her "traveling ladies" are headed for Portugal this evening.  I took Linda and one friend to the Minneapolis airport late this morning.

Well, it's really Minneapolis St. Paul International, (MSP) but if you get a nickle every time someone says that, you are never going to be rich.  I only travel a couple of times a year so I have missed out on the latest woe to befall our beloved Minneapolis airport.  It seems that on most Tuesdays and Wednesdays, there is no parking available at Terminal 1.  This leaves you three and a half miles from the parking lot at Terminal 2.  That is three and a half miles plus some elevators, escalators, a train and a tram to get back.  Good luck.  I hope you left early.

I've been to a lot of airports around the country - but they are no match for MSP on the confusion scale.  The problem starts with the airport having two terminals - on opposite sides of the main runways, no less.  For a metropolitan area with two downtowns separated by a river, maybe this makes sense.  Life was easier when the two terminals were called "the main terminal" and "the charter terminal."  People could usually figure out which terminal to go to.  If you were on a real airline, you went to the main.  If you had a cheap ticket to Vegas or the Caribbean, you went to the charter terminal.  But governments do what guv'ments gotta do and gave the charter terminal a name -- The Humphrey Terminal.  It was named after an old-time Minneapolis Mayor from sixty-five years ago. (Alternately, name the last ten vice-presidents of the United States beginning with Joe Biden.  The one before Spiro Agnew was Hubert Horatio Humphrey.  I guess local politicians think HHH had a memorable name - but recall that Jimmy Carter called him Hubert Horatio Hornblower at the 1980 Democrat Convention!)

Obviously, with the charter terminal having a name, the main terminal had to have one too.  So the best known Minnesota aviator, Charles Lindbergh, got the call.  All of this took place in 1985.  Every 40-year old man on the naming commission (we didn't have women back then) had seen Jimmy Stewart play Lindbergh in The Spirit of St. Louis as a twelve-year old.  It was a no-brainer!

Alas, it is now 2014.  No one can remember who is more famous, and thereby entitled to the bigger terminal, Humphrey or Lindbergh.  In fact, if you ask a Gen-Xer who either of them are you will be lucky if you only get, "beats me!" Our guv'ment geniuses solved this problem by spending 1 (or 2.2 depending on what you read) million dollars renaming the terminals 1 and 2.  The earlier dilemma was highlighted in this NBC news article.  So the signs on the road now direct you to those two terminals.  Problem solved?  Not really.  I guess the airport commission folks don't travel much - or are not very observant.  The key to useful signage in most other cities is not having simple, memorable names like 1 and 2 or A and B.  It is having the little United, Delta, American, etc. logos up on the sign.

This is all for introduction to the worst example of signage at any airport on earth.  Take a look at this:

If you just got off the tram at the airport in Terminal 1 and want to know what airlines are at this terminal (and why on earth would anyone want to know that!) you just get down on your hands and knees and look at this sign, fourteen inches off the floor.  What!!!!!

Here is what you will see if you are down at ground level:

And, did you notice the map legend on the lower right side of the first picture?  There are 49 different icons defined.  Let's celebrate the new "in" word and call this an iconic disaster.


I leave it as an exercise for the reader to see if all 49 of the icons are actually used on the map.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Along the Coolidge Memorial Highway to Iron River, Wisconsin

We decided to visit Iron River and vicinity this afternoon.  I've described the area previously, here and here, but there are always new things to see.


We made the trip today by way of the Wisconsin Coolidge Memorial Highway.  That's the designation for County P just south of the town of Brule.

The WPA guide to Wisconsin described president Coolidge's attachment to the area:
"The fishing around here, I can testify, is very excellent" he added, "The climate is wonderful."  The President stayed 88 days in his summer White House at the Pierce estate on the Bois Brule River." 
It might not be Martha's Vineyard but the area is very scenic; here is a view from US 2 near Iron River.

Economic recovery seems to have passed northwestern Wisconsin by.  Along US 2, there just isn't much happening.  This antique shop shows some retail creativity although it was already closed for the day around 3 pm.
IronRiver-05 IronRiver-03

Restaurants should be a possible source of income in a tourist area like this but we saw four of them closed and for sale along the twenty mile stretch of US 2 ending in Iron River.  There are also a couple more for sale along US 53 closer to us.

This one can be had for a pretty low price.
IronRiver-12 IronRiver-14

There was no price on this one, a few miles to the east.

In Iron River, the antique store that we visited back in 2008 as it was going out of business is still empty.  This large building on Main Street doesn't look like it is filled with thriving tenants either.

Across the highway on Main, there appears to be a good deal of activity at the post office, bank and Hunter & Steckbauer:

until your eyes stop playing tricks and you realize that is just a mural painted on the side of the bowling alley.

The mural was painted in 2008 and depicts that corner in the 1950's.  From the dedication:
The mural was painted in sections by Kelly Meredith, Butternut and Sue Martinsen, Ashland,and is located on the north wall of Carignan’s and Uncle Bob’s Bowling Alley on the corner of South Main St. and Hwy2. Featured in the mural from east to west are the Iron River Pioneer newspaper office, a medical office, the Iron River Post Office, Macrae Walgreen's store and the First State Bank. All of these businesses faced north. The west side of the building facing Main Street, housed Hunter and Steckbauer, a dry goods store, Joe's Barbershop and Vacha's Restuarant.
About halfway between Brule and Iron River, we noticed a giant arrow that had plunged into the hillside.  It just missed the can of beer sitting on this chair.  Surprisingly, these have not yet made it onto Roadside America!
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Monday, August 11, 2014

Can Eagles Swim?

We are up at the lake this weekend.  We heard an unusual call from a loon out on the water this morning.

When we looked out the window, we saw an eagle swimming nearby.  I've seen this before, but not very often.

The eagle soon took to the air causing the loon to dive for cover.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Trip to the Library - to See Langhorne's Mill

I spent some time over at the University of Minnesota's Wilson Library today, doing research for my computer history book.  Burroughs Corporation grew out of the adding machine company that was founded by William S. Burroughs (grandfather of the beat-generation author of the same name) in St. Louis, Missouri.  The company was originally called American Arithmometer and was one of the all-time great investment opportunities of all time.

What I thought was going to be a short chapter on the early history of the company has turned into a multi-year obsession as I have chased down the early history of the company.  One major turn of events occurred in 1901 when there was a fierce battle for control of the company waged between two factions, one of them the three Langhorne brothers of Salem, Virginia.  The financial power in this family was James C. Langhorne.  J.C., as he was known had accumulated substantial wealth in the silver mines around Leadville, Colorado.  He invested in a number of businesses and real estate in his home town of Salem in addition to buying into American Arithmometer.

I have been looking for a picture of the Langhorne flour mill for a long time.  I had this ad for Langhorne's flour and there are lot of references to the mill - it was a major landmark at the western edge of Salem.

Roanoke Times.(Roanoke, VA) 1891-05-25 [p 7].

But I finally located a reference to the mill's major reconstruction during 1885.  There was supposed to be a photograph of it in the September issue of American Miller.

Now - where to find a copy of American Miller from 1885?

Luckily, we reside in The Mill City.  A quick check of the University of Minnesota library catalog showed me that they held American Miller beginning with 1873.  I headed for Wilson Library, passing the skateboarders and descended into the sub-basement annex.
AmerMiller-12 AmerMiller-11

A librarian quickly pulled the 1885 bound volume of the Miller for me.
AmerMiller-09 AmerMiller-10

The American Miller was one of an amazing number of trade magazines published in the late 1800s.  Each month, there was a fifty-page edition with flour mill news from around the country including new construction, fires, accidents and lots of advertising for the tools of the trade.
For a dollar a year, this was quite a magazine.  And they even featured a page of people writing in to tell them that each month.

And there, on page 443, was the picture with the story of J. C.'s mill.

Each month's issue featured a new mill on the cover.  Here are a few more:

David and Andrew Luckenbach of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, had this old and new mill featured in the October issue.
AmerMiller-03 AmerMiller-02

The Taylor brothers owned this mill shown in the December issue. It was in Quincy, Illinois.

But the real gem of 1885 is this large mill in Jackson, Michigan.  Owned by Z. C. Eldred and George T. Smith.  It was featured on the cover of the November issue.

And then, in December it appeared again in this super-sized foldout.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where on Earth Are the Sawyers?

I've been asked a couple of times recently why our travel blog seems stuck on April.  It has been almost four months since I posted anything so I had better do an update.

First, let's cover Egypt.  Several people were surprised to hear that we were in Cairo again this past winter, with all "that's going on over there."  When I follow up to try and find out "what's going on there," I don't get much clarification.  Whatever it is, I know it's not like Chicago!  Consider these headlines:
and yet I know lots of people who wouldn't hesitate to attend a convention or baseball game in Chicago.

Here's what's been happening lately in Cairo.  There was a presidential election, and General Sisi won 97 percent of the vote.  Sisi swore in his new cabinet and went to work.  Hightlight from this story:
... el-Sissi asked ministers to be in their offices by 7 a.m. each work day.
7 a.m.?  Anyone that knows Egyptian bureacracy will recognize that as real change.

Next, the government raised the price of gasoline and other auto fuels from 40 to 175 percent.  Whoa!  175 percent?  Well, that was the special case of the natural gas powered vehicles.  My last post on gas prices was here.  And don't get too sympathetic toward the residents.  The low grade gasoline (80 octane) only went up from 49 cents per gallon to about 85 cents per gallon.  I am anxious to get back to Egypt this winter and see how that was received.

Electricity is still in short supply.  (The government raised the price of that heavily subsidized commodity too.)  This recent article in the Egypt Independent features a photo of barbering by candlelight.   

If you are interested in an update on more of what has happened in the area since the "Arab Spring," this report from Michael Totten gives an excellent picture.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Three Less Commonly Visited Mosques - Part 3, Sultan Qatbay

The third stop on this tour of the Northern Cemetery in the City of the Dead is the mosque of sultan Qaytbay.  You will find this one about 600 yards southwest of our previous stop.  Put "30.0441730, 31.2750830" into your Google search bar to find it on the map.  I'll point out all three of these stops with red arrows on this map.  The green arrow points to the popular tourist stop, Al Azhar Park.

If you follow the most direct walking route from Qurqumas and Sultan Barquq you will pass through some of the narrow winding streets that characterize much of the city.  Do not be alarmed if you find trash on the street!  Once you reach the small open square where the mosque is located, you might recognize it.  Its picture is featured prominently on the Egyptian one-pound note (now obsolete and harder to find.)

Most of the photos of this mosque feature the domes and the minaret on the exterior, but the best features are found inside.  It is a tiny mosque compared to most of the "tourist mosques."

Let's start by taking a look at the main ceiling.

The tiny interior has a number of niches, ceilings, lights and windows.

Leave time to explore the interior and maybe sit for a while.  The stained glass was a bit of a surprise.  It matches up well with what we saw in Coptic Cairo.


There is no explanation that I have been able to locate for the "1314" carefully carved in stone within this mosque.  If I ever find out the significance, I will update this post.  (Or, perhaps, some reader will offer an explanation in the comments!)

If the pictures in these three posts have aroused your curiosity about the Mamluks and their roles as leaders in Egypt, you can find all of the details in tidy academic form in chapter 8 of Volume 2 of The New Cambridge History of Islam.  You can read it online at that link (about 40 pages beginning at page 237) or download the whole volume as a PDF file for your computer, tablet or Kindle.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Three Less Commonly Visited Mosques - Part 2, Mausoleum of Sultan Faraj Ibn Barquq

Just a couple of hundred yards due south of Qurqumas you will find the Mausoleum complex associated with Sultan Faraj ibn BarquqThis link will take you to a "live" Google map that shows the area.  I highlighted the two buildings with red arrows.  You may notice that a street junction in the form of an "X" marks the spot near the flyover bridge on Salah Salem.

This is a large active mosque.  The street along the minaret side is tree-lined.  The interior courtyard also displays a number of trees, which is quite a contrast to any other mosque that we have seen.

The carpets at the front are worth pausing for a close look.

This is probably one of the most photogenic mosques you will find other than Ibn Tulun.

Lemon Pie (by Linda)

While shopping at the supermarket in our neighborhood I spied cans of sweetened condensed milk on the top shelf. I immediately thought of a fantastically good recipe for Key lime pie that my good friend, Anna of Richfield, MN, has shared with me. I bought two cans of the milk and emailed Anna for the recipe.

I've always thought the Egyptian lemons had a limey taste so I decided to use the Key lime pie recipe to make an Egyptian Lemon Pie. Egyptian lemons are much smaller than typical U,S. lemons, more like the size of a Key lime. They also produce more juice for their size than U.S. lemons.

I only squeezed 10 of these small lemons to make 3/4 cup of juice. I had brought some graham crackers thinking that I would use them to make a cheesecake but a lemon pie sounded more appealing and something that was not familiar to Egyptians.

The recipe not only tastes good but takes very few ingredients and is so easy to make. The first pie I made was a trial to make sure it would turn out, not that I haven't made the recipe successfully many times in Bloomington. Keep in mind that I have a somewhat temperamental oven here in Egypt. The first pie was a success but it didn't taste as limey as the lemonade we dearly love here. I made another and gave it to my neighbor.

After a couple days I asked how they liked the pie. The 16 year old daughter screwed up her face like she was sucking on a lemon and asked if I had used any sugar in it. Only two cans of sweetened condensed milk-that's plenty of sugar! The adults in the family gave the pie an enthusiastic thumbs up. Another pie was made and given to another family as thanks for a tasty rabbit and pigeon meal. They also declared the pie to be good.

(by Linda)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

We're Back on the Internet!

After suffering 4 full days of Internet speed like this:

Vodafone has returned to this speed:

Yes, 2208 kbps versus 14 - around 150 times faster.  Check your speed here.

For $21 dollars a month, it's a pretty good deal when it's working.

(Next day Update:  We are back to about 30 and suffering again on Thursday afternoon.  the original post was written on Wednesday evening.)