Abby and I took a trip to Las Vegas over fall break to see U2. I’m not a fan of the spectacle of Vegas, so we opted for the spectacle of nature. We stayed at an Airbnb with goats in the yard, which kind of set the vibe for this wacky Vegas trip.
Back in late September and early October I tried to hit up some state parks for another Parktober adventure. Hitting five state parks on this trip means I have only 13 of 66 Minnesota State Parks left to visit.
Cuyuna & Banning
I blew off work on a Friday in hopes of getting to Cuyuna Country Recreation Area for some incredible mountain biking. Unfortunately, the rain didn’t cooperate. Still a gorgeous place though.
With the weather, I gave up on biking and drove across the state to Banning State Park. Gorgeous leaves on the way, and Banning never disappoints:
Fergus Falls & State Parks
For my actual Parktober trip, I stayed at an Airbnb in downtown Fergus Falls and hit five state parks. Unfortunately, the fall weather didn’t cooperate with highs hitting 90. The leaves were pretty great, but that heat was gross.
Monson Lake State Park
Not much to see in Monson Lake.
Glacial Lakes State Park
Glacial Lakes had some unexpected topography, with lots of hills making for great views.
Maplewood State Park
Maybe the best park of the trip was Maplewood with just about perfect leaves and lots to do.
Glendalough State Park
Glendalough had some nice views, though it had an odd feel as a former retreat center (dog cemetery?). Seemed like a park that would work best doing some biking to the nearby town and back. I also hit the nearby Nyberg Park with weird metal sculptures by Ken Nyberg.
Lake Carlos State Park
Lake Carlos had pretty incredible leaves too. The best was perhaps the picnic ground blanketed with fall leaves for that satisfying crunch crunch crunch as you walk through the fallen leaves.
Some great art in the town of Fergus Falls and a burgeoning downtown with lots of funky places to eat. Unfortunately, they were all closed on Sunday, so not the best timing. Another great sight in Fergus Falls is the Broken Down Dam, something I saw back in 2021 and kind of forgot was in Fergus Falls.
And of course, I brought the mountain bike. I hit Kensington Runestone Park, which had a pretty good trail, but 90 degrees in the middle of the day is not fun. I did bike around Fergus Falls a bit and gave up any biking plans for day two.
Back in August, Lexi and I took a trip to Oberlin, Ohio for a college visit. It’s a long drive to Ohio, so we spent an extra day seeing what there was to see.
Touring Oberlin was interesting, though it’s not one of Lexi’s top choices. The sight seeing was more notable. On the way home, we took a detour through Milwaukee for Washington County Pride to see some family (ignored some religious bigot protestors and grabbed some gorgeous artwork by Rae Senarighi—check out their store).
I’m a bit behind in detailing our vacation exploits. Back in June we took a family vacation to Colorado, with a stop in Kansas to see family. With both kids teenagers with jobs, we had to scale things back this year and keep it simple.
We stayed at an Airbnb between Denver and Boulder and spent several days checking out the sights. We did some shopping (The Shop at Matter bookstore was a favorite), saw something like 50 deer at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal wildlife drive, and Lexi made some great restaurant choices.
I repeat this mantra often, and it’s especially true when I’ve been in a reading slump. I just saw it summarized nicely by Angela Whited, the community sales coordinator and storyteller at Red Balloon Bookshop:
Whited also revealed another secret about reading more books: If a book is boring, she’ll quit.
I’ve always struggled with that idea. Quitting a book feels like defeat. I started it. Why not finish it?
But those books are a grind and the process feels arduous and less enjoyable.
Whited said that’s OK.
“You can quit in the middle if you don’t like it,” she said. “You only will live so long. You would never read all the books you want to read. And so this is how we read so many books at the bookstore. We don’t finish the ones we’re not loving. You’ve got your to-be-read pile. Are you ever going to get through it? I’m not going to get through mine. It’s OK if you don’t love it. That book is for somebody else.”
-Myron Medcalf, “My quest to read more books led me to ‘reading therapist’ in St. Paul,” Sept. 9, 2023, Star Tribune
They’re going big for the fifth anniversary of their pad drive, working to raise $10,000 in products and donations. They’re nearly there.
Why Period Products? Because the need is great. Period poverty impacts 14 million people and results in missed school and work, depression, and all sorts of other dumb impacts for something as simple as not having products to deal with a problem that shows up every month for someone’s entire life.
Last week I chaired a meeting of the Dakota County Library Advisory Committee. Since joining the committee in 2019, we’ve had exactly one member of the public attend our meetings and no one has ever spoken during the public comments.
Last week an estimated 150 people attended our meeting, with more waiting outside, and 37 people spoke (including half a dozen teens) before we cut off the comment period. Local news was filming as well (though I haven’t seen a story run yet).
Running that kind of meeting is daunting.
It’s hard to explain what it meant to have a few familiar faces in the crowd.
All things considered, I think the meeting went very well. Our committee listened with politeness and respect. I’m grateful and honored to served with such an amazing group of book lovers.
Even though I read a ton, this is only the eighth time I’ve read more than 100 books in a year.
And for the piles of books that evokes, my reading has slowed to a crawl. Back in April I was talking about how many books I’d read. I was kind of amazed myself at how I was getting through so many. But reality set in:
I share this for the sake of transparency and to remind myself that there’s always an ebb and flow. Sometimes it helps to recognize a wave and ride the momentum. It also helps to realize when you’re in a slump and be OK with it.
And sometimes it’s just the natural rhythm of life. What happened in May? The weather finally broken and I went bike riding all the time. I’m OK with that trade.
So a 100-book milestone in the middle of a slump. Sometimes that’s the way it is.
We finally installed our new Little Free Library. We commissioned Lori Greene of Mosaic on a Stick to create the mosaic and we’re really proud of it (Psst… you can support Lori through Patreon). So reminiscent of Alma Thomas. Love it.
We have a huge stack of books to keep it stocked (plus some stickers and other goodies). I’ve heard from other locals with Little Free Libraries, so I’m curious to see how this little adventure goes.
Yay for books!
A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.