Do you know what taconite is? I didn’t before my vacation. I always keep my eyes and ears open for interesting or surprising things that I think will make interesting blog reading. Our vacation was a wonderful  relaxing and unsurprising mid western week. At different times in my life I’ve lived in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and North Dakota. I have a lot of Midwestern roots. Anyway…. back to taconite. It is low grade iron ore. Direct shipped ore is 50% to 60% iron. Taconite is 20% to 30% iron and is crushed and shipped as pellets.  I learned this from a highway rest area sign  in the Black River Valley in Wisconsin  where they mine taconite.

We had a great vacation. The weather was warm and the humidity was uncharacteristically low. We took a red eye flight into Chicago on July 3. We were in the loop area by 7am and spent a few hours exploring. We went to The Art Institute of Chicago. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many Monets in one place. I am always  surprised by how much Monet’s use of color and light wows me. We spent a  few hours in the museum and then explored the  relatively new Millennium Park and got to  see the very cool fountains with lots of kids playing in the water. The fountains are two 50 foot high glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers are covered in flowing water and display video faces. Every so often the faces open their mouths and shoot out an extra stream of water. It is a lot of fun to watch.

After leaving Chicago we spent three nights with  my Uncle and Aunt at  their cabin on Lake Sissabagama in northern Wisconsin. There were surprisingly few bugs and we got to sit out by a fire in the front yard overlooking the lake to watch the July 4th fireworks. One day my uncle took us canoeing on Bean Brook and another day we sailed on the lake. We had a great visit. It is a wonderful place.

On Thursday we drove to Iowa, stopping along the way to search out the cemeteries containing the graves of my  Great Grandparents, Great Great Grandparents and Great Great Great Grandparents all of whom lived and are buried in south  western Wisconsin.

We spent the rest of our time in Manchester, Iowa. We stayed with Duke’s brother and his wife and  spent a lot of time visiting with Duke’s parents and doing a few odd jobs. I even got to drive the riding lawn mower to help mow the yard. One night we went to dinner in  Elkader  overlooking the  Turkey River and the keystone bridge  which is the longest of its type west of the Mississippi.

Monday we drove back to Chicago and flew home. It never ceases to amaze me how different California is from the Midwest. I really enjoyed it.