North Dakota!

On Saturday we did a trip up to Fargo and back to Minneapolis.  We are committed! 
 I wasn't sure if we were ever going to get that close to North Dakota again, so we just had to visit while we were within a day's drive.
 We went to the North Dakota visitors center to see none other than the Woodchipper!
This is the outside double in case you come to visit when the center is closed.

Here is the official Woodchiper.  They have the original Fargo screenplay on display too.

 Not much else to do but throw back a few Woodchipper IPAs and hit the family fun park.  :)

 We will forever remember Fargo as the first time any of us played Laser Tag (we don't get out much).
 We had so much fun!  The kids can't wait to play again.  
We needed to get back to Minneapolis so we could fly home to Phoenix, which made our trip to Fargo, ND short and sweet.
We captured 8 states in 9 days!  We were all ready to get home by the end of it.  We are now at 21 states visited and 29 to go!

Minnesota!

Friday we drove to Minnesota!
There were three things that came to mind to see in Minnesota.  Lakes being the first, the Mall of America and Vikings!
 Decorah is only a little over an hour away from Rochester where the main Mayo Clinic campus, or as we like to call it, the mothership is located.
 Brothers Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie Mayo started what is one of the best hospitals in the world.  They are a fascinating pair that have led to an empire of health care professionals who do medicine differently, the Mayo way.  Their values of teamwork and respect for other's talents to provide the most comprehensive care from all fields continues today and is what sets Mayo apart from the rest.
With Mayo being so close to Decorah, it was fun imagining the possibility of Max's Great Grandfather Carsten consulting with the Mayo brothers or taking education classes they offered.  We are grateful to be part of the Mayo family and Max strives to deliver the absolute best to his patients.  If I didn't know better, I would think he is from the Mayo line. :)
Max's grandmother Marie died in the hotel across the street from Mayo Clinic.  She had flown there to seek their expertise and was getting ready for her first appointment when she unexpectedly passed away.  She died from liver disease, which is Max's speciality.  I contemplated the threads of medicine, location and sequence of life through Max's family a lot while visiting Mayo Clinic.  The chain of events that leads to our own destiny is mindbogglingly.
Pops and Nana took their departure from our journey after visiting Mayo Clinic.  It was great fun to have them along for our wild ride.  I hope they will join us again next year!
 Our destination for the day would be Minneapolis.  We drove to Lake Harriet to walk around the lake.  It was rather breezy and delightful.  A young boy on the doc was fishing and was eager to share his vast fishing expertise with us. :)
We found a playground for the kids to play on while Max and I enjoyed a Leinenkugels.
After checking into our hotel we were off to the Mall of America!!  Karlie could hardly contain herself!
Here are a few of the statistics for just how massive it is:
.57 miles walking distance on each level
8 acres of skylights
4 out of 10 visitors are tourist
7 Yankee Stadiums could fit in the Mall
25 rides in Nickelodeon Universe
86 hours is the length of time it would take to visit every store if you only spent 10 minutes in each one
170,000 Legos have been lost in the Lego play zone
4.2 million square feet of gross building area
40 million visitors annually which is more than the combined populations of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa... and Canada!

 Needless to say in 2 hours we didn't see it all. But we DID ride the Ferris Wheel.
I pouted when we were in Decorah because Max wouldn't let us go to the county fair.  I have a thing for funnel cakes and Ferris Wheels.  But you can only pack so much into one day.  I tend to push everyone to their limit while on vacation.  So the fair was a no go and I was grumpy.  Max made sure I got my Ferris Wheel ride the second time around.  I don't know why they make me cry but they do.  We all got to sit in one basket and he kissed me at the top.  I was happy, happy, happy.
Hank was happy, happy, happy in the Lego store!  We closed down the mall and headed back to the hotel.  I had a date with the fold out couch and the springs fondness for my ribs.
 The next morning we were on a mission to capture North Dakota!  Along the way we stopped in Alexandria, MN to see the largest Viking in America and go to the Runestone Museum.
The Kensington Runestone was discovered in 1898 in the roots of tree that Olof Ohman was clearing for his farm.  Since its discovery there has been much debate about its authenticity and, if real, how it got there.
The stone reads:
8 GOTHS AND 22 NORWEGIANS ON 
THIS DISCOVERY VOYAGE FROM 
VINLAND OVER THE WEST WE 
HAD CAMP BY 2 SKERRIES ONE 
DAY'S JOURNEY NORTH FROM THIS STONE
WE WERE AND FISHED ONE DAY AFTER 
WE CAME HOME FOUND 10 MEN RED 
FROM BLOOD AND DEAD AVE VIRGO MARIA
SAVE FROM EVIL
HAVE 10 MEN BY THE SEA TO SEE 
AFTER OUR SHIP 14 DAYS JOURNEYS
 FROM THIS LAND YEAR 1362

The most compelling reason that I think it is real is because Olof only had 36 weeks of formal education and was a farmer with 9 children.  Hardly the type to have time, the genius, or reason to create a fake that renowned scholars could not agree on.  The stone went on to ruin his family name and destroy the lives of his children.  As more artifacts have been found, it is becoming clear that this is authentic.  I guess history will have to be rewritten yet again.
Lake... Check!
Mall of America... Check!
Vikings... Real and Fake... Check!
Time to get out of town! 

The Decorah Forefathers

While in Decorah we wanted to see Max's grandfather Larry's grave.  Grandpa Larry, affectionately called GPL passed away in October.  Only Max was able to attend his funeral service so we wanted to pay our respects as well.

 This is the house GPL grew up in.
We followed a beautiful trail from the house to the cemetary where GPL and Grandma Marie are buried.  Had the ladies not been in dresses and flip flops, it would have been even loveylier. 
We even managed to hop a fence in our dresses.
 What a beautiful resting place.
 It was very moving.

But after a moment of respect, the wild ones were at again.
May have been the first kid sandwhich at cemetery.
Always bringing the class. :)
Before we disturbed the ghosts of the cemetery we went to the other cemetary in town where the rest of the Smith forefathers are buried.  Grandpa Larry's sisters Eleanor and Helen.  His father Carsten and mother Gyda and his grandfather Axel and grandmother Gertrude.  There were 6 generations of the Smith family representing in Dechora that day.

Washed In The Upper Iowa River

 For our afternoon in Iowa we canoed down the Upper Iowa River.
 Max had canoed down the river with Monty as a child, Monty did so with his dad Larry, and Larry did so with his father Carsten.  The tradition continues!
 Monty and Karlie were in a canoe.  We soon realized the daring duo might not have been the best match up.  But they sure had a blast crashing into us and paddling backwards and rocking the boat!
 Max, Kaitlin, Hank and I were in a canoe.  They both wanted to paddle, however, Kaitlin did not like to rock the boat. :)
Nana and Hailey showed us how it was done.
 The 3 canoe flotilla!
 We had so much fun and saw such beautiful views of the granite rocks.
  National Geographic Adventure lists canoeing the Upper Iowa River as "One of the top 100 adventures in the United Sates."
It was a perfect adventure for our gang.
 Happy Feet.  Well, until the sand got in them.  Finger toes make great water shoes around pools, not so great in rivers.
Lunch with turkey sandwiches topped with bacon!  Yes!
 By far the coolest part of the day and trip was Hailey being baptized in the river.  She had asked Pops to baptize her in the ocean last summer and he wanted her to wait and really consider her decision.  She has been stead fast on her desire to make her decision to follow Christ public.  She has been working on reading the Bible cover to cover and learning more about Christ's teachings.
 Pops read Romans 6:3-5 before taking Hailey out into the water and asking her if she was ready to be born again.
Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Our spiritual sister!!!  Such a glorious day in a glorious way with a Pops!  
 Washed in Christ forever.
 In the Upper Iowa River.
They only way to celebrate was with a Whippy Dip.