Posted by: David Carlson | December 27, 2015

Memoir Story 2015 – Road Trip to Southwest U.S.

Memoir writing in recent years has been hand-written in my journals. I  lost interest in my blogs.  In November 2015, I met Diane Wilson, author of “Spirit Car”,  at the Grand Marais Readers and Writers Festival. I asked why I should write my version of her story.  My Swede-Norwegian family history includes Southwest Minnesota history, starting less than ten years after the Dakota war of 1862.

A meaningful coincidence is that Diane’s family road trip in the 1990’s, and ours in 2014-15 followed the same South Dakota and Nebraska back roads and highways. She collected oral histories from her Dakota-Lakota families. She knew the voices in storytelling. We saw the boarded up boarding schools.

We visited the Historical Society in Niobrara, Nebraska, where one of our ancestors was an Indian agent who actually did something to help the Lakota and Santee develop South Dakota homesteads in the 1890’s.

Diane said the point of writing this now is to heal. There is noticeable change.  An unseen spirit of loving harmony develops when we take action in community with others. One important factor comes out in her story, how Dakota, Lakota, Ojibwe and mixed blood natives began marrying white guys like me in the 1940’s to overcome extreme racial prejudice, and heal the dysfunctional relationships in their own families.

High Speed – Little Marais to Colorado

We try to limit our daily drive to about seven hours. We called ahead to the Holiday Inn Express in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, about ten hours from Little Marais, MN on the North Shore of Lake Superior.

We drove a narrow window through severe weather systems. A mini-tornado touched down, damaging a neighborhood just southeast of Sioux Falls, while we enjoyed  evening coffee outside our hotel. We could see the storm clouds to the north, where flash floods plagued the whole Minnesota-South Dakota border region.

The next morning, driving west on South Dakota Highway 44 to Mission, we enjoyed stops in small towns. Lunch at a restaurant in Platte, just east of the Missouri River, was like Our Place Restaurant and Bar in Finland, MN; simple fare, and friendly service.

Our Place Finland.jpg

Winds gusted over forty miles per hour as we stood at the scenic Missouri River overlook.  I could imagine  explorers scouting the river for Louis and Clark.  Oglala were there to help. The terrain turns rugged and hilly near the river crossing, after hundreds of miles of flat plains, occasionally interrupted by smaller river valleys.

We drove south through the Rosebud Reservation into the Sand Hills of Nebraska.  Imagine a 160-acre homestead in Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.  In the 1890’s the land was taken away from you.  Buy it back in the 1930’s and watch it all blow away in billows of black dust. Read the stories in “Spirit Car”.Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.jpg





Posted by: David Carlson | July 8, 2013

Norway Tour – Våga Dovre Hjerkinn Roots

Below is a wide area map to many places named in my earliest Warner Family genealogy.

Most important clue to my roots came in a conversation with Ivan Frichs, who fitted me with a nice Norwegian sweater.  Ivan owns the gift shop at Dombas, and the Cafeteria above it that bears his name.  He owns ten other businesses in the area, and may have a new hotel built by the time we return to Norway.  I gave him a copy of my genealogy paper as my cousin compiled it. Ivan gave me the name of a man who carries the same family name as my earliest known ancestor born in 1510, Ekre.

Martin Ekre owns a mountain resort at Hjerkinn, about 20 miles north of Dombas.  He did not respond to my email, as he most likely was leading a group on horseback into the mountain wilderness.

Ivan told me that the Berseng Farm, more than fourteen generations ago, was one of four very large landholdings in that area.  Much of what we saw that day was part of that holding.  Another name familiar to many North Shore Minnesota residents, Tofte (pronounced Tofta or Tofteh) also was a very large landholding, .

A few photos:

Våga Church (a Stave church) 

Vaga Church 1

Farm in the town of Vågåmo on the shore of Lake  Vågåvatn. Vaga lake walk 4

Dombas to Hjerkinn Hwy E6 from Dombas to Hjerkinn

Dovre Mountains Dovre Mtns 4

DovreGubbens Hall Dovregubbens Hall

a fine restaurant, museum complex along the road near Hjerkinn. Hosted by Mette Berg and her daughter, the specialty for me was a thick cream porridge called Romegrat topped with cinnamon and sugar.  Denise described it as liquid lefse.

Posted by: David Carlson | July 4, 2013

Norway Tour 2013 – Tour group


Our tour group photo was taken at the Western Norway Emigration Centre at Sletta in Radøy. A small church, a town hall, a school, and houses from western Minnesota and North Dakota were taken apart  and reassembled on an island north of Bergen, Norway.  The Emigrant Church was brought from Brampton, North Dakota.

Carrol Juven wears the red coat at the lower left.  We depended on that coat to keep us all together.  Nils Odden, our bus driver is on the lower right. He worked miracles getting us to places we could not find on our own.

Posted by: David Carlson | July 4, 2013

Norwegian Heritage Tour June 2013 – Day 1

I copied this post from my WordPress “More Things” blog.  The first of a series I hoped to post each day from Norway.  Our days were filled with activity from 6 AM to 10 PM, with no time for more than a quick email check in the morning, and maybe half an hour after our evening activity. WiFi connections were iffy in rural areas, but better than at home in Little Marais.

The midsummer sun seemed as high in the sky at 10 PM, like a blinding spotlight, in Trondheim and Bergen as it is on a winter afternoon in northeast Minnesota.  We had to remind ourselves to go inside and get some sleep.

Here is my post from the first day of the trip, June 16, 2013.  Now, I am back home on the North Shore of Lake Superior on a beautiful 4th of July.

Three of us from Little Marais decided to tour Norway together.  My wife Denise and I began planning a tour on our own in January 2013, making our own customized version of a Norway in a Nutshell tour.  Do a Google search on Norway tours and you will find plenty of packages.  Our neighbor Art (Stub) Fenstad suggested Juven Tours and Travel of Fargo, ND.  Denise called to ask for help with airline reservations.  Owner Carrol Juven had a tour planned already for the dates we wanted. It was an easy choice to go with experience, and avoid the stress of language, train schedules, and wondering whether we had picked good hotels.

Not only does the plan cover the places we chose, but Carrol has led nearly 50,000 people to Norway over more than 40 years.  He knows the places around Hamar where my ancestors owned farmsteads.  One of the churches I wanted to visit is a historic site, and our tour bus will stop there.  Likewise, the tour will spend two nights in Trondheim, where the Fenstad farmsteads already are marked on the map 17 miles across the Trondheim Fiord. We will visit 22 fjords.

The first leg of the tour had us staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Bloomington, MN, near the Mall of America.  Given the severe thunderstorms that plagued the whole route from the North Shore of Lake Superior to the Twin Cities for weeks, we wanted to be here a day ahead of our flight. Sure enough, a severe storm caused wind damage in Duluth and the Twin Cities that afternoon.  Most of the tour group came from Minot and Fargo, North Dakota. Only Delta Airlines with partner KLM provides through service from Fargo via MSP  via Amsterdam, and Oslo.  We joined the tour group at the MSP airport.

Posted by: David Carlson | July 25, 2011

D.C., Williamsburg, Monticello – Memory Exercises

I still publish five blogs.  I have not touched this travel blog for more than a year.  I used this blog as a historic reference in Dave’s Weather Blog, to weather events that have persisted more than a year.  Tornadoes and flooding rainstorms that began on our road trip to Branson, MO, and nearby Arkansas, got really wild on the road between Little Rock and Blytheville in April 2010.  We  missed the same pattern by a matter of days on our Spring 2011 trip.  Damage already was happening near Roanoke, VA., while we visited Charlottesville and Monticello to the north.  Not long after this year’s trip, Joplin, MO was destroyed, too close to friends and relatives in Missouri and Arkansas.  The pattern persists  as I write in July 2011.

This year’s spring road trip deserves several blog posts.  This first entry already is a memory exercise that fits another theme, “Pictures of My Mind”, a memoir story that will take me a year to draft.  Photographic memories are in fact an important exercise I practiced  in a writing course I took this spring, “Memories, Myths, and Dreams”.  Follow the sidebar link to my Taurus Id blog ( to read  posts that will appear in my memoir stories.  Read those posts back to January 2011.

Do you use flash memory devices?  We call ours memory sticks.  Many of the photo albums from our spring 2011 trip went to Facebook while we were travelling. Just today I found the complete set of albums on a memory stick that has no label on it.  Those photos do not carry the captions and comments that appear in my Facebook albums.

Have you been invited to use Google+ ?  One reason you might use Google+ is to link to  a “cloud” called Picasa Web Albums.  To use Picasa, you also must have Picasa3 software on your pc.  That is a good thing for tracking what you have and do not have stored on your pc, as well as the means to upload new photos.  I think Google+ may be a struggle for those already using Flickr with Yahoo.  I am much more familiar with Facebook, and can see why they are miles ahead of Google and Yahoo in both social networking and photo sharing.  Familiarity with the tools requires constant use, else memory loss due to normal aging makes the multiple platforms (Google, Yahoo, Facebook) difficult to manage.  I use them all. I ignore Twitter, except to keep up with friends who prefer it.

Our D.C., Williamsburg, Monticello stories encompass a full range of historical memories, including our own history over the past forty years.  Many more threads come out of that trip, including a brief trial of  My wife and my daughter may be able to prove they are DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution).  Put more than two and two together from what we heard from excellent tour guides and other historians.  We have become experts in our own minds, after ten years experience as historians and tour guides working for the Minnesota Historical Society.  We prove the case in conversation with some of the best guides we’ve ever met on our Spring 2011 road trip.

Posted by: David Carlson | November 22, 2009

Little Marais Walking Tour

Here is a photo gallery of a walking tour I took November 21, 2009.  Walking through the woodlot east of our boathouse on the shore of Lake Superior is a tangle of red dogwood shrubs, mountain ash, birch, and poplars.  The vegetation line at the shore is a difficult walk on boulders banked with a four foot high berm.  The beach is strewn with a never ending supply of driftwood, most of it washed down from the Little Marais River.  Our boathouse is set back in a cove protected from most extreme surf action, so the driftwood debris collects, and we pile it up.

Onward to the east, photos show how a former groomed cross country ski trail has overgrown with tall grass and more tangled shrubs in just the past eight years.  Two resorts west and east of our place supported the winter trail.  The former Stone Hearth Inn is now a private estate.  Fenstad’s Resort only operates from May through October, while they had groomed connecting trails that extended 10 kilometers into the Superior Ridge 400 feet elevation above the lake.

Also on the Fenstad Resort property is the Little Marais River Gorge.  The gorge is deeper in the hills along the old ski trail, but the final descent below the Highway 61 bridge is a beautiful series of cascades and rapids.  We’ve had less than two inches of rain in November, and for the year, rainfall is more than three inches below normal, but the river is flowing full.  The steep banks of the gorge are covered with a variety of mosses, lichens, and cedars.

Posted by: David Carlson | November 20, 2009

First Entry

The photo in the header of this blog was taken in July 2005.  Storm clouds extended along the North Shore for more than 60 miles.  Near Grand Marais, hundreds of song birds were found dead in the water.  A strong downdraft? There was no rain or wind with the clouds here.

Standing on the deck off our living room, or on the deck in front of our boathouse, the scene is always picturesque.  More often than not, it’s the weather or a sunrise that captures the mind.  Day and night there is the surf sound, and when the sound stops, we hear coyotes and wolves howling at night.  Bald Eagles, Merlins, ravens, crows, herring gulls, merganzers, and always song birds in the daytime.


This is the my first blog entry in the travel series on WordPress.  The older posts that follow were previously published on Blogger as Dave’s Travel Blog.  I transferred them here today.  I encountered problems uploading photos to Blogger, no longer able to position captions with photos, or arrange photos within text.  There are tools to use instead in Blogger or WordPress, but the basic Blogger editing function was corrupted.   My problem or Google’s, I don’t know.  I prefer the WordPress Photo Gallery features, and there are many other features I have not tried.

Posted by: David Carlson | September 23, 2009

Finland Area Historical Society

Saturday, September 19, 2009 was the booya at the Finnish Heritage Site on Little Marais Road near Finland, MN. The booya was a fund raiser for Zion Lutheran Church in Finland. Community leaders from all over northeast Minnesota were there, not only Lutherans and Finns. It was a true feast day, with several area food vendors, and local crafts vendors.

The Finland Area Historical Society, FAHS, is one of the best local historical societies, and has the benefit of close association with the Minnesota Historical Society. The centerpiece of historical interest is the John Pine Cabin, home of one of the settlers in Finland. A new Suomi Museum has professional designed displays showing the heritage over the past thousand years, people who lived here before European immigrants settled beginning in the 1880’s. I’m partial to the links between Little Marais, where I live on the North Shore of Lake Superior, and the various communities a short distance inland, including Finland and Isabella, and other communities that exist only as historical place names, such as Cramer.

Categorize this post under my general theme of 100 Places that top my list. There are plenty of such places in my immediate neighborhood.

Posted by: David Carlson | September 2, 2009

Circus World Museum

Baraboo, WI. is an interesting place to visit, not only for the Circus World Museum. but interesting terrain. A geologist can tell you more than I can about this area that once was an island amidst a sea of glacial ice.

The Ringling Brothers Circus made its home at Baraboo, WI. The Ringling Family were Austrian immigrants, a heritage shared with my wife’s great grand parents. The Ringling Brothers made a fortune with their circus. I wondered what they paid their talent and workers. Smaller circuses did not pay much.

I was most interested in the Cinderella exhibits in the museum. The artistic quality of the costumes, and the large scale size of the props were magnificent. The circus was more than animal acts and acrobats.

Several of our companions in the audience for the one-ring circus performance informed us that Circus World had provided better entertainment until the mid-1990’s. There had been a clown college. Now you go to a summer program at UW LaCrosse to get clown training.

There had been a complete circus parade on the grounds. There had been a three-ring circus under a bigtop tent. Now the one-ring hippodrome is a metal structure.

Baraboo itself is an old town, but the current extent of the city limits goes eight miles north to Wisconsin Dells. The active business district is west of the old downtown. The old town along the river looks as old as the hills.

Posted by: David Carlson | July 27, 2009

Split Rock Lighthouse Weblog

I put a slide show about Split Rock Lighthouse on my Taurus ID blog back in April. Since then, Lee Radzak has created an official weblog for Split Rock within the Minnesota Historical Society website.
Check it out on this link.

Here’s a link to my slide show.

Older Posts »