The Game is Complete!

A few weeks ago we made our final Monopoly National Parks adventure to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to complete a journey which began almost nine years ago. It’s hard to believe we were actually able to complete this goal of visiting 28 parks in that time frame.

Hawaii Volcanoes Entrance Sign

On the road to this entrance sign it was difficult to pay attention to driving as I often caught myself reminiscing over past adventures that all began at Badlands National Park where our two girls first became Junior Rangers and we all began to see the luxury of our National Parks. Once the final signature had been obtained we were congratulated by those around us in the visitor’s center but the fact that this game was now completed didn’t really sink in at first. In fact I think there was probably more sadness than sense of accomplishment because we are now without plans for another family adventure. It’s a weird, empty feeling that I’m not sure how to grasp. There’s always been another place to plan and prepare for.

The final signature on our National Parks Monopoly Board

While our board of adventures was complete there was a small piece to add in order to make our journey full circle. That was to visit Pearl Harbor. More specifically to re-enter the gift shop there 15 years later with our children to the place where this whole thing actually began. It was in this very place that Karen and I first discovered the National Parks Monopoly board and this idea of visiting each place was conceived. Only this time there were four of us to complete this list of incredible adventures.

Gift Shop at Pearl Harbor

The End!

The Ice Dragon of the North Shore–the conclusion

Five Hours Later

***

We climbed across the snow covered rocks, slipping on ice, and occasionally tripping over fallen branches making this trip through the forest seem to take forever. All at once huge blast knocked us 10 feet away from our trail without warning. Looking back we could see a column of smoke from the blast.

“Dad!” I hissed as I saw what it was. He jerked his head in my direction with a look as if to say ‘what NOW?’!

“No. Sudden. Moves. Or we will be dead faster than we can blink”. I never took my eyes off of it… It was called the Crystal Snow Specter according to the Dreka although a more accurate name would be… the Ice Dragon!

Before I knew it Dad grabbed a camera to photograph it making sound which awoken the beast. As Dad snapped another picture the beast rose it’s head and… Dad was gone in an instant! The trail of the Ice Dragon as it walks through the snow

“Dad!” I screamed. I couldn’t believe it. The dragon from the Dreka had just eaten my dad. All of a sudden I heard the shutter from the camera click. And again I was in disbelief, Dad was taking pictures inside the dragon’s mouth. The dragon raised it’s head spewing him back out unscathed. A moment later the Ice Dragon came my direction only to nose me as gently as a new puppy. I giggle at how soft it was. In that moment I knew that this creature was kind and caring. In the Dreka book it had said whoever owned the book was the rider and life-long friend of this dragon. I believe it 100% and nothing could change that!

Eating the stone covered shoreline

A great scraping sound drove me from my thoughts as the dragon was eating the rocky shore! Could this day get any weirder? The dragon saw us staring at it with fascination. It’s tail came sweeping up under us to gently set my dad and me on it’s back. It was armored in ice harder than diamond but somehow covered with the softest and warmest snow you have ever felt. Granted the air around us was still freezing cold and I couldn’t help but to shiver. The dragon noticed as I wrapped my arms around myself for warmth and twisted his head around to look at me. His breath was like a warm furnace and I found I was no longer cold. I looked at Dad and saw from his expression that the same thing happened to him. The Ice Dragon climbing up a stone pillar preparing to leave

Hoping to be lifted into the air soaring among the clouds we were instead offered a way off as the specter lifted a leg motioning us to climb down back to the safety of the snowy ground we came from. Than the dragon stretched its wings and took off toward the sun that should have been setting but was instead rising into a new dawn.

The sun rising over this vast lake

The Forms of Water

Winter is beginning to lose it’s hold on the North bit by bit allowing water to run freely again. Near this running water, the ice remains showing all of the different layers together which has hidden the lakes and rivers for several months. In some areas this ice is really quite intriguing as you look closer at it. Portions of it are solid white other parts are made up of a combination of ice crystals forming together. A question I have about these different layers is were they formed during the winter or is this the result of spring weather with freezing and thawing working together to form these layers? Soon it will all be gone. Replaced by rain and thunderstorms once again.

Smiling Ice

The Ice Dragon of the North Shore–part two

Two Months Later

***

“Any ideas on where to go for spring break?” My dad inquired.

“Let’s go to the North Shore” I replied, exchanging a significant look with him. He knew what that meant.

“Actually, I think that would be a good idea”. He gave me a look that said ‘I’ll prove that old book is fantasy’. I had already told him I don’t believe that book either but it would just be cool to see the setting of the it. Why would I believe that book anyway?

“Daaaaaaad!”

“What?”

“You know I don’t believe that book!”

“I know that”.

***

Another Two Weeks Pass

*** Hiking through the snow covered north

The North Shore was cold and covered in snow. We went to our favorite spots. Hiking along the trail when something moved just out of our line of sight. Suddenly a snow bank seemed to hit us off the trail. The snow blinded me as I was covered from head to toe with the cold, white powder. Shivering I sat up and most of the snow fell off allowing me to see once again. Dad was already standing and looking around like he was hallucinating. I was about to find out why

“What is it, Dad?”

“I just thought a snow bank came up and knocked us off the path” He slowly murmured in disbelief.

“Me too” Agreeing with his uncertain answer.

We looked around for any evidence to explain what just happened.

“We’re too far away from the path, I’m not exactly sure where we are”. He said with a puzzled look.

“I think I may know where we are!” I exclaimed.

“Where?”

The northern most shore of Lake Superior

“The Northernmost Shore of lake Superior”. He looked to where my finger was pointing and through the trees we could see the snow glittering on a large, frozen lake which appeared to be more like an ocean than a lake.

Dad whistled and said: “How did we end up here, we were miles from here!”

“The only thing that would make sense is if we were knocked out and kidnapped. Why would they just leave us here though? Thankfully we woke up before we froze”.

“I don’t know, but let’s start going back because it’s going to be a long hike and it will be dark before too long”. I groaned and stood up once again.

“Dad, what if they come after us again?” I asked, afraid that there would be nothing we could do.

“We’ll stay away from paths and try to stay where we have cover or stay where they can’t sneak up on us again”.

“If we have cover, so do they. If we stay where they will be in the open, we’ll be in the open too”. Dad shrugged and we started our journey of what felt like a million steps.

Trying to stay hidden on our journey back

***

Planning for Hawaii–The Beginning and the End

In a few short weeks we’ll be making our last trip on our National Parks Monoply board to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It feels like an amazing accomplishment to visit 27 different National Parks all across the United States. These include parks in Alaska, an Island in Lake Superior, and now Hawaii which makes completing this goal we set 9 years ago even more humbling as I plan for and reflect on this last journey for our family in this Monopoly game.

Mountains meet the ocean on Oahu

My wife and I have been to Maui and Oahu almost 15 years ago which is when this whole concept of going to each park on the board began. This is actually becoming a little difficult to write as I reflect back on our last visit to Hawaii and thinking about what we wanted for our children. The terrorist attacks on the United States were still fresh in our minds and the uncertainty to what type of future was in store for the kids. Still we were determined to share as many experiences for Kristy and Lysa as we could to show them this great country and the history which helped shape our nation.

USS Arizona Memorial

It was on Oahu that our future adventures were conceived while visiting Pearl Harbor. The first stop upon entering the National Monument was a gift store as we planned our time here to see the exhibits. While walking up and down the isles of this store we came across a National Parks Monopoly Board. I picked it up and looked at all of the parks portraying each property and saw many that I had heard about and wanted to visit along with many I’ve never heard about. Looking over at my wife I said how much fun it would be to visit each park on this board with our children. She agreed it would be a lot of fun. The board was returned to its shelf with both of us believing we would never be able to actually go through with this idea and we moved on to learn about the horrific events of Pearl Harbor

A stunning hibiscus which can be found growing all over Oahu

With the terrorist attacks fresh on our minds we looked at the events of December 7th, 1941 with sorrow and detest. For the first time these events came alive in my mind and more than just a date I read about in history class. After a few hours exploring Pearl Harbor we continued on to see the Dole Pineapple Plantation and more of Hawaii’s beautiful landscape. In a few weeks, after watching molten lava flowing from the ground at Hawaii Volcanoes we’ll take our children to Pearl Harbor to learn what transpired there and stop once again in the gift shop completing what was once thought of as an impossible idea.

One of the many different types of Pineapple at the Dole Plantation on Oahu

The Ice Dragon of the North Shore

Lately I’ve noticed the librarian at the public library watching me whenever I’ve been there. She looked at me curiously at first, then she started giving me a calculating look. This time was an exception. She was obviously trying to avoid eye contact. I was looking at some fantasy books and when I looked up the librarian was standing over me. I quickly shot a  glance toward my Dad to see if he noticed but he seemed a little distracted.

“Kid, I need you to come with me.” she said, startling me. I desperately tried to get my dad’s attention without the her noticing. A difficult task which I failed miserably at.

“Kid, Stop that. I’m not going to hurt you it won’t take long.” she looked at me before adding “It’s about a book you reserved ”. She failed as badly as I did trying to give me a bored look.

“My name isn’t kid. If it’s about a book I reserved and you know what I look like, you know my name also!”.

“I… You… My colleague pointed you out to me and told me to get you”. I looked around her at the desk. A red-haired elderly lady with too much bright red lipstick on was sitting behind the desk.

“Sorry for being so defensive,” I said reluctantly. She looked conflicted and I could only imagine the internal battle that was going on. This must be awkward for her after staring at me for so long. She led me to the back where I noticed on one was around as we descended a nearby set of stairs leading to a door which appeared to be heavily locked.

Going down the stairs to the locked door

“I don’t think my book is in there,” I said with a look of uncertainly.

“It’s not,” the librarian replied seriously. She took out a strange, metal key, unlocked the door and motioned me inside. Once inside this librarian, if she truly is a librarian,  pointed me to a table covered in ancient drapes with an ancient and enormous leather book bearing a metal symbol depicting a dragon along with crystal like projectiles coming from the fanged mouth of this dragon resting next to these intricate drapes.

“What’s going on? More importantly What is this?” as I rested my hand on the large and obviously ancient book.

“That’s yours. It’s called the Dreka. and this cloth is called a Dreki Handhafa,” she told me as she eyed my (clean) hand resting on it. I noticed and quickly removed my hand from the Dreka as I scanned around and saw the books surrounding this Dreki Handhafa.

The Dekra and Dreki Handhafa

“This isn’t mine. I don’t understand. Why would you bring me down here?” I questioned, Confusion clouding my face.

“It was left to you by my Grandfather” She replied.

“I don’t think I knew your Grandfather” I quickly snapped back.

“You didn’t know him” this librarian confirmed.

“Why would he leave something for me if I never knew him?” I continued to question.

“He knew you, even though you never met” she said cryptically.

“This is mine then. Can I read the Deka book?”

The librarian laughed and said “It’s called the Dreka and you can read it if you want. It is yours after all”.

I sat and read until the librarian came back into the room, never realizing she had left to begin with. As she entered she said “Your dad’s looking for you and I can’t think of any other way to stall him”.

“OK. I can tell him about this right?” I asked.

“Yes but do it in an isolated location after you finish the book” she said, this time with a slight smirk creeping into her face.

“Why do I have to finish the book?” I asked quizzically.

“Trust me, you need to finish the book and it’ll all make sense” She said, as the smirk now became a full grin.

“OK” I replied leaving back up the stairway.

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To be continued…

***

Some Ice Time

It’s about 10 degrees out which means the ice is frozen solid and safe to be on so Kristy and I head to a local pond to practice and play on ice skates. At first you feel the air biting at any portion of skin left exposed in an attempt to freeze it. In a few minutes the warm blood pulsing through our veins fights back. Continually moving back and forth across the ice and we become filled with warmth… almost hot even! The cold temperature no longer matters as a layer or two of winter clothing is shed to keep from sweating.

Skating on the Pond

The sun begins to set on our backs with hardly a gesture to say goodbye as we continue to cut up the ice from the steel blades attached to our boots gliding every which way. We’re having fun out here occasionally kicking snowballs or pieces of ice back and forth in between the twists and turns working to hone our skating skills on this February day which is now turning into night. With the sun fully below the horizon, area lights turn on blasting light across the ice showing us every groove placed on this frozen lake throughout this day.

It's getting dark but that doesn't stop her from practicing

It’s time to leave as dinner will be waiting prompting a plea for just a few more minutes on this frozen surface. We’ve been having so much fun how do you deny a little extra time? Finally it is time to go. Once in the warm car heading home the cold can now be felt on our exposed skin again feeling the heat blowing through each vent. There is a slight burning sensation coming from our cheeks as they begin to warm reminding us of our recent adventures on this cold winter day. Maybe there will soon be another opportunity to skate again.

Continuing to practice in the cold

A Superbowl Depression

This is what many seem to experience the day after the Super Bowl. It means professional football is over for many months so Sundays are now void of this captivating activity. Yes, I understand many are thrilled another season has ended and they no longer have to endure another football game until the end of summer and Eagles fans are in a state of happiness that will last much of the year so will not miss a game being played for awhile.

Crew 52 being deployed along Superbowl Live

For me I’m a little conflicted. Being so involved in the Super Bowl this year has been exciting and exhausting so it’s nice to have this time to rest and catch up on things not done during the 10 days of festivities. This exhaustion came from having additional commitments every day for these 10 days in addition to working. That meant getting to work by 5am, leaving mid-afternoon to either volunteer at Superbowl Live or rehearse for the halftime show usually getting back home around 10 pm and then doing it all over again the next day.

Heading to US Bank Stadium for halftime rehearsal

Do get me wrong, this was a lot of fun and something I’ll remember for a very long time. Thankfully it only lasts a week and a half. So where does the depression come in (more of a let down than I depression I guess) ? There has been so much build up and preparation for months and months before game day and it all stops abruptly after the Superbowl is played. It reminds me of getting married in that there is a lot of preparations and then it’s over. There’s a feeling of emptiness because there is no longer the need to spend time on it anymore so now what do you do with that time? You begin to miss the excitement that comes with all the planning and anticipation for this larger than life event. Conversations with people seem a little more mundane after being able to discuss exciting things happening each day and getting different perspectives on these events.

Players entering the field

After a week or two there will be adjustments and that time will be filled with other activities. The people you’ve come to know during volunteering and rehearsals have all gone back to their lives as well and this common thing you were all a part of has ended. Fortunately there’s email and social media to help but it’s still not the same as putting on a uniform that matches many other people creating this group of people all trying to help or being on the Superbowl field with hundreds of others getting ready for one of the largest events in the world.

Enjoying the halftime show

Super Bowl 52–Getting Ready

Minnesota is almost ready to open Super Bowl Live in downtown Minneapolis but there is still a lot of activity finalizing the numerous attractions available for free to fans. Something Minnesota is able to do, which is nearly impossible for other Super Bowl Hosts, is ice sculptures which give a unique feel to any event.

Conert stage being built

Live outdoor performances could be a challenge depending on the outdoor temperatures but will definitely bring a festive atmosphere to this area at night. Much of this stage is built with a few remaining parts to be put into place. A recent heavy snowfall may have delayed the completion a little but it’s Minnesota and that is to be expected from time to time.

Birkebeiner Bridge and sight of NBC broadcasts

Brought into Minneapolis for this special event is the Birkebeiner Bridge which is used for the American Birkebeiner cross country ski race in Hayward, Wisconsin. Plans are to use this for skiing, snow tubing, and skijoring for those that want to give it a try. This is also the sight where NBC will be broadcasting during the Super Bowl. In the photo above you can see their purple broadcast tent already to go.

Looking down the street where Super Bowl Live will take place

Along with several fun and free activities there will be many food vendors to serve all of those hungry fans. Their temporary locations are being constructed all along the sight of Super Bowl Live. I’m looking forward to seeing all of this in action from my street level view while volunteering with the Crew 52.

Some of the attractions of Super Bowl Live

Super Bowl–Crew 52

A week from now Super Bowl 52 activities will be in full swing in Minneapolis with numerous things to do. Ever since it was announced that the Super Bowl would be in Minnesota I began making plans to be a part of it and one of those things includes volunteering with Crew 52. This is basically a hospitality group, with 1,000’s of people on any given day, during Super Bowl week welcoming fans to the Twin Cities.

Minnesota Host Committee logo

There are those that look at this with distaste saying the NFL makes enough money that people are idiots for volunteering and making more money for this very profitable organization. In reality the NFL has very little to do with Crew 52 and the  places and events we’ll be at. These are Minneapolis and Minnesota sponsored events to welcome and entertain fans traveling here for this epic game. I’m more than happy to support my local area and help those not from this area in order to provide the best experience for them possible. Many people have helped me and my family when traveling to make our visit to their area more enjoyable and memorable and I want to return that hospitality for this Super Bowl.

Pregame Show Super Bowl 26

For me this all started with the last Super Bowl in Minneapolis 25 years ago. I had the opportunity to be part of the Pre-Game crew where my job was to inflate and hold the tunnel for players to run through during introduction. The energy and excitement for a Super Bowl was something I’ve never seen before and it was such a fun experience that I absolutely wanted to be a part of it again this year. To fulfill this I began searching for information and websites shortly after the announcement of Minneapolis hosting this game. Crew 52 hat, mittens, and jacket

I found the Crew52 website before they even had anything put on it so I saved the address and continued to monitor it every now and then until it was live and I could apply for Crew 52. To be a part of this I needed to fill out the online application, go through an in person interview, approve a background check, attend an orientation, and participate in training. This training covered where we’ll be stationed, working with homeless in Minneapolis, child exploitation, and terrorism and what to do in these situations. Ohh ya, we also received shirts, jackets, hats, mittens, and a scarf so we’ll be easily recognizable to visitors to ask questions or have us take their pictures and the number of sights for Super Bowl 52. In addition to this I’m a part of the set up and take down for the half time show which I’ll write about another time.

Your Board of Adventure