Onwards and Upwards…

We left out West Des Moines en route to Minnesota for a variety of End-of-summer fun and frivolity. We had about 3 weeks planned in the Twin Cities – State Fair, mini-college reunion and “Friendsgiving.” Prior to that, though, we decided to squeeze in the BAYFRONT BLUES FESTIVAL in Duluth Minnesota.

Tickets for Fun!

Been following Music Festival Options since we attended several in Alaska, and had a summer full of them cancelled by COVID in 2020. One of my favorite artists, Tab Benoit, sent a missive about a festival he was headlining in late August in Duluth.  His comments on Duluth were PERFECT –He LOVES playing in Duluth…in the summer! He said he knows about winter, though…he has the ONLY Pickup Truck in Houma Louisiana with an engine block heater — from the days when he played Duluth in the Winter!!

Anyway,  it all sounded PERFECT, so we booked 3-day passes.

One problem, though: Looking for a place to stay in Duluth we were running into a problem we have seen more of since the pandemic: Every place we called was full! Especially on weekends, and ESPECIALLY if there was some sort of event taking place.

One call went like this:

Me: “Do you have a space 12-16 August”
Clerk: “Hmm, lemme check”
Clerk: “No, we don’t! You know there is a festival that weekend…”
Me: (thinking, only, not saying” “Well DUH!”)

Marks response (in a suitably incredulous tone):

“I spent the first third of my life working to get OUT of Duluth and you are ACTIVELY trying to go AND asking MY ADVICE about where to stay??!!”

As we were striking out, I happened to think of college buddy Mark Morris, now living in the Peoples Republic of California, whom we were hoping to connect with while in the Twin Cities. Mark, you see, was FROM Duluth! I wrote to Mark and asked if he knew anyone who still lived in the area with a driveway or some other possibility for us to park.

In the end, we DID find a spot – the LAST spot probably – just a few miles down the road from the festival grounds, and had a GREAT weekend. We noticed Duluth has spiffed itself up quite a bit since being the city Mark tried so hard to leave.

Chillin’ in Duluth

And then festival itself was AWESOME. We found an area about 100 yards from the stage, dead center and right up against some trees, which for some reason (I assume not related to my shower-frequency?)  no one else seemed to want to claim. May have been because the direct sight-line to center-stage was slightly obstructed by the sound tent – but I can ASSURE YOU, the sound was in no way obstructed, and we appreciated (COVID protocol) having no close neighbors for the entire weekend.

Ore Boat Backdrop — ONLY possible in Duluth!

We also appreciated the idyllic backdrop of huge Ore Boats in the Duluth Harbor – a really magical setting!

As usual with music festivals we have attended, the group we booked because of (Tab Benoit) was GREAT, but there were several other groups, previously unknown to us, who may have been even better.  Add Tommy Castro and the Painkillers and The Fabulous Thunderbirds (well known, but not so much to ME) to our “MUST SEE” list…a list that from festivals in Alaska includes Mario Carboni, the California Honeydrops, The Rainbow Girls and the Burroughs.

Best Minnesota-themed T-Shirt EVER

In fact, I would say that we’d attend almost ANY music festival nearby our route, and by doing so would likely discover someone wonderful.  So far, that’s been a bonus of our ease of travelling.

One thing we saw at the Festival: The BEST Minnesota-themed T-Shirt EVER!!!

Sweet Twin Cities Camping Spot

So, we left Duluth and headed towards the Twin Cities. We had reservations at a couple of county parks as weekends, ESPECIALLY holiday or event weekends, have proven difficult to find space for the bus. We were also invited to park in the visitor lot for College Buddy Keith Cambre’s Condo (I am not really sure WHAT story Keith told the board to enable this hospitality), and we figured we would stay for a few nights on the street outside my sister’s home, so as to assist with her “Friendsgiving” event. Let’s continue this retelling with that!

“Friendsgiving” was an idea concocted by my sister, Sarah, to commemorate two Thanksgivings and a Birthday missed. Last year (2020), of course, COVID disrupted everyone’s Thanksgiving. And, March of 2021 was my Dad’s 92nd Birthday. And, Thanksgiving 2021 is going to be (weirdly, I am sure!) spent in Las Vegas, enjoying nephew Chet’s effort as Gonzaga plays in a Basketball tournament there (Duke being one of the opponents on the schedule).

Nevermind the significance of Dad’s 92nd , Thanksgiving is one of my family’s biggest and most enjoyable celebrations, so missing 2 in a row is a big loss.  Thus, Sarah invited about 100 people to an OUTDOOR CELEBRATION, a nod to COVID Safety as Delta was winding up – and with the caveat that everyone needed to be Vaccinated to attend.

Minneapolis Spot

We decided that even though RV Parking is NOT allowed overnight on City streets, the likelihood is, the Minneapolis Police have far more serious matters to concern themselves with. So we decided to risk it for the benefit of being close by (important to the cooking process, as you will soon read).

Now, Sarah lives in the city, and as you might expect for a city neighborhood, collecting 3-4 spaces in a row is not an easy thing. A couple days before, I called to remind Sarah, and she said “We remember, the Car and David’s truck are on the street, except Chet keeps borrowing the car…” In the end, spaces were reserved close enuf that we could use an extension cord to keep batteries charged, and we arrived in time to help acquire meat and other comestibles.

1/3 of the FriendsGiving Smoked Meat

“Normally,” Thanksgiving would have a huge Turkey, which I usually Grill, and the day after (which has even more people in attendance) would have roast Meat (Prime Rib or Tenderloin, usually). I offered to Grill/Smoke Brisket and Turkey on the new smoker-grill David had acquired, and a Pork Shoulder on RV WHERE YET’s Grill so as to keep the latter away from the former out of respect for several folks whose religion seriously frowns on Pork.

For the record, MY religion (if I practiced it) seriously frowns on pork, but ever since Mom allowed Bacon at our childhood lake cottage, the whole pork thing has been a non-thing for me!

The brisket in particular presented a challenge: it was huge, and most recipes called for AT LEAST 12 hours smoking time. This, coupled with the fact that I had never used David’s grill, so had no idea how to keep it at the correct temp, made for a LONG NIGHT. Fortunately, being parked out front, I could practically sleepwalk to check the grill!, which I did about every 30 minutes for 18 hours.

Anyway, the event was a HUGE SUCCESS. Sarah’s Thanksgiving meals are always enhanced by a diverse and interesting group of people collected from various places over many years. In the middle of August, few have other holiday obligations, so very few were missing! One new tradition I hope repeats, because  I missed it: One of Chet’s high school teammates turns out to be quite the pianist,  and sat down at Sarah’s piano for an impromptu concert.  

Friendsgiving Cakes By Claire (and Peyton)

And, the fact that several of my college friends were in town for the scheduled debauchery — my college friends had pretty much ALL attended Harris Thanksgiving dinners DURING COLLEGE, over 40 years ago, and were well known to my Dad — was the frosting on the cake .

Well, there was frosting on cakes as well – niece Claire with her friend Peyton were at their baking best for the occasion. – Mango Cake being one of the favorites.

Our bicycles were stolen off the back of the Jeep. This was not 10 feet from the bus, where we were (apparently soundly) asleep.


One problem we did experience while parked on the street in Minneapolis proved the validity of Ben Franklin’s rule on how long guests should stay without overstaying (if it was ever in doubt): “Guests and Fish smell after 3 days.” On the 4th night (we were scheduled to depart the next morning!), our bicycles were stolen off the back of the Jeep. ☹ This was not 10 feet from the bus, where we were (apparently soundly) asleep. AAAAACCCKKKK!!! So, we are in the market for new (or hopefully used) Bicycles; a commodity in very short supply during the pandemic.

SO, once Friendsgiving was successfully accomplished, we turned our attention to activities enjoyed with college friends. This involved a little bit of senior-citizen debauchery, which does not draw much attention from the neighbors or the constabulary, occurring as it does well before 10:00 PM.

More in the next post.

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