Category Archives: Uncategorized

Here’s my story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about smoked fish on Minnesota’s North Shore!

If you’re looking for smoked whitefish in Northern Minnesota, here’s a travel story I wrote….

An Iowan takes in the region’s tourist basics, but it’s the taste of the fish that stands out.

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Note to self (and others): skip the “basic economy” plane fare. Stay with “Standard” fare.

Yes, it’s technically cheaper but the Basic Economy ticket isn’t worth the savings – and probably won’t save you anything in the long run, especially if you happen to travel with luggage, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Basic Economy Fare as sold by Delta, United and American, is about $30-50 less than “Standard” fare but lots of downsides including:

On all three airlines: no seat assignment until after check-in or at the gate. Worse, you’re the most vulnerable to losing your seat if the flight is oversold (aka “involuntary denied boarding” or “getting bumped.”) If you’re traveling with a group or family, there’s no hope of sitting together.

United and American: You can’t put anything in the overhead bin without a $25 charge each way (so there goes your modest savings from getting the Economy fare.); You also board in the last group, further reducing your chances of finding bin space.

Delta gives you overhead space but again, you board last.

United: you can’t even check-in online unless you’re checking luggage (i.e. paying $25). you have to check in at the airport. And, oh, no frequent flier miles. (American and Delta let you have miles.)

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Busy Heathrow, Francine pick up!, gloomy weather, Iowa in Mortlake — Hello London!

img_1294I’ve never seen such a long line at Heathrow’s arrival passport control. It started even before we got to the main waiting area, with a long line in the long hall leading to the waiting area. Fortunately, the maze of a line in the waiting area moved fairly quickly so after an hour or so, I was with my dear pal Francine, whisking our way under a very gloomy sky to Mortlake where where we had a nice little catch-up and lunch, then walk to Mortake where Francine took the train to work and I wandered for another hour or so, jet-lagged but trying desperately to keep going. I stopped in at the new location of the sweet little cafe Pickle & Rye which I was pleased to see has retained its Yank decor (including such Iowa knickknacks as a UI Hawkeye cap and a mug from Marshalltown’s Maidrite outpost, an Iowa-born fastfood chain serving “loose-meat” sandwiches.) The owners, one of whom is from Iowa, are visiting Iowa right now, as it turns out but hope to catch sight of them later in the trip. NOw comfortably ensconced at Francine and Russ’s lovely flat on Shalstone Road and will attempt to stay await until late evening British time.

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L.Woods/Chicago (by way of Wisconsin) and Sapp Brothers Gas West of Peru, Illinois 

Uneventful drive from Des Moines to Chicago today on Interstate 80, which is the way I like it although it was strange to think that dirck was flying above me somewhere near on a flight to Chicago and then frankfort and Warsaw. The highlight of the drive was cheap gas at Sapp Brothers ($1.93 a gallon) just west of the bigger Peru exit where the gas was $2.24.

MAT, emma, Rocket and I had dinner at L.Woods in Lincoln woods, just west of the Edgewater neighborhood. The place looked like a real Wisconsin backwoods lodge with piney wood walls, rugged decor, outdoorsmen gear, dim lighting, leather but beyond the kitsch the food was good and yes, hearty. Excellent western style brisket, ribs and fried walleye. MAT liked table 133 (I think) in a less crowded rear room where it was easier to hear our conversation.

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Hollywood beach in winter, Andy’s Thai kitchen in Edgewater– Chicago

After a miserably gloomy, grey rainy Christmas Day, just seeing sunshine when we woke up today was refreshing. As an added bonus, it was also unseasonably warm, in the 50s and a perfect day to introduce Millie to the beach and lake — her first for both. HOllywood Beach was very quiet and lovely, perfect for a game of fetch. 

DInner was at the new Andy’s Thai kitchen in emma and rockets neighborhood of Edgewater. it was as good as the original one, especially the pork neck and pork belly with basil.

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Fennville, saugatuck, on the road to Traverse City

img_0290GOrgeous fall day as we drove the second leg of our trip up north from an okay comfort inn in Joliet to TC. first stop, Crane’s apple orchard empire outside the sweet town of Fennville. “From your Iowa plates, you must not be part of the field trip,” said a cheerful guy directing traffic to rudimentary parking spots near the pick your own orchards. We picked our very own mutsu apples, one of my favorite breeds not readily found in Iowa and also discovered the cameo apple. We stopped nearby at the cranes cider mill and restaurant. Full of fall tourists, good not-too-sweet cider and many pie varieties. The restaurant had a clever “pie flight” with slivers of several varieties but we went on to Saugatuck, a pretty resort town I had somehow never been to. We ate lunch outside at a cute new diner called Grow. Clever food (my fresh take on a Michigan salad had Israeli couscous as well as pulled chicken, dried cherries, goat cheese and greens. Dirck had excellent fish tacos (which I don’t usually like but these had batter fried white fish, which provided some crunch and a good cause that kept them from being dry.)


We hope to stay on our return trip at a cool Airbnb in fennville (“modern cabin in the woods”) that was booked. Next time. There appear to be some cool retro motels that are affordable. Just saw our first birch trees. Now I know we are up north!!

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there but for the grace…go I– missing the explosion in Chelsea (NYC)

On the High line Friday

On the High line Friday

I was in Chelsea on Friday afternoon, about 10 minutes from the sight of an explosion by some sort of homemade bomb (last I heard) on Saturday night. SObering, especially after starting my day on Friday at the 9/11 Memorial. BUt New Yorkers seemed to take it in stride and today we passed soldiers on patrol in Grand Central Station that weren’t there pre-explosion yesterday and the attitude seemed to be “whatever.”

Zahah Hadid building on High Line

Zaha Hadid building on High Line

We had a lovely day and a half in Fairfield county, attending the wedding of the son of our dear friends Myra and Mike at a pretty Greek church in Bridgeport, with a reception, dinner,Marty and dancing to music from a great live band in Monroe. SHane and Mary (Takebetsywithyou readers!) are honeymooning in Santorini and Barcelona, among other places — and two of my favorites from long  ago wandering spin the 1980s. WE chanced upon a smaller farmers market in Fairfield before taking the train back to the city where we found more farm stands at a street festival on Columbus Avenue. Tried a delicious arepa (sp?) a Columbian street food, two pancakes made of sweet corn with a little mozzarella between them, grilled. I ❤️ NY.

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