little USA trips



Why would a cafe stay open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for over 55 years?  

They lost the keys to the place.

Well, not exactly….When the Lange twin brothers remodeled their cafe in 1961 they dropped the keys in the cement outside the red entry door and vowed to never close!

I believe there are only 2 family operated cafes in Minnesota that are open 24/7 and Lange’s would be one of them.  It must be a financial challenge to keep a cafe open 24/7 and I believe Lange’s manage that by serving a variety of food prepared to perfection.

My friend Chris and I just stumbled in there accidentally on our way from Vermillion, SD to Redwood Falls.  There are not a lot of restaurants on Hwy 23 and their sign caught our eye.

Upon walking in the cafe, which was really quite full, I noticed that at least one out of three people were having Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches.  I love Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches and have become a connoisseur in addition to making a pretty good Hot Roast Beef Sandwich myself.  Naturally we ordered the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich which we learned was one of their signature dishes.  It was AMAZING!!!  There was just the right amount of everything and of course it was all made right there from the potatoes they peeled to the roast they cooked.


Another signature item is their Sour Cream Raisin Meringue Pie.  I have to say I was really torn because all of their meringue pies — especially the lemon — seemed to be calling out to me.


I have to admit I am glad I do not live anywhere close to Lange’s because I would certainly be eating most of my meals there.  If I am in the vicinity I will definitely go out of my way to eat at Lange’s and I will be looking for places to explore in that area just so I can stop in there to eat!

My followers know that I rarely recommend a restaurant and if I do, you know it has to be some place really, really special.








Every day we take care of our Earth and we celebrate on Earth Day.  Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22 and this date was chosen by Senator Gaylord Nelson who was the original founder of Earth Day.  Earth day is a celebration that knows no borders and it is celebrated annually by millions of people in over 141 countries.   Our world, our earth needs everyone to do their part in taking care of it.

There are so many reasons for all of us to do our part in taking care of our earth and it is particularly necessary at this time as talk of dissolving the Environmental Protection Agency at the end of 2018 escalates.

To become involved and/or take part in the celebrations Google:  Earth Day Events 2017 and your location.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”      John Muir






Nebraska, home of the Cornhuskers!!!  In addition to being the Cornhusker State, Nebraska is also referred to as The Beef State (about 2 million head of beef cows call Nebraska home — at least for awhile)  The first state nickname was The Tree Planters State.  Millions of trees were planted by Nebraska settlers as windbreaks, orchards and fuel woodlots.  In 1872 J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska City founded Arbor Day and it was in 1873 that U.S. Senator Phineas W. Hitchcock introduced the Timber Culture Act.  It wasn’t until 1945 that Nebraska officially became the Cornhusker State.  It had other nicknames as well:  The Antelope State, The Bug-eating State and Blackwater State.  What is missing from its nicknames is a title referencing the part Nebraska played in the people’s movement west.

So many states in the U.S. are destination states:  Florida has Disney World and Epcot and the beaches; California has Disneyland, beaches and Hollywood; Minnesota has the Mall of America and great fishing.  Nebraska is not known as a destination state, and it really isn’t.  Nebraska is a journey and you can go on that journey.  It is a where our immigrants met on the Immigrant Trail at Chimney Rock.  It is a place where Sandhill Cranes from different winter grounds meet on the Platte River.

Immigrants followed the Platte River to their new homes in the West.  The Platte River stretches across Nebraska and it was a natural path for the immigrants heading west from the east .  The route they took became the Lincoln Highway which was the first transcontinental highway in the United States.  Today it is Highway 30.  Chimney Rock was their landmark.    It was noted in the immigrants’ journals that seeing it from afar it seemed like an optical illusion .. no matter how far they traveled it always appeared unapproachable.  The California Trail, Oregon Trail and the Mormon Pioneer Trail all converged at Chimney Rock.


For almost 30 years until 1869 between 200,000 men, women and children headed west in wagons that could weigh as much as 12,000 pounds when loaded.   Some say you can still see the wagon tracks.  Easterners looking for work, gold diggers, missionaries and Mormons escaping persecution.   The trip was long and hard.  They  fought illness and Indians and it is estimated 10% of the immigrants died on the trail.

The number of people and wagons headed west was reduced substantially in 1869 when the transcontinental railroad was completed.

For more information about Chimney Rock visit and the activities they have planned check out their website




Nebraska, which I have always referred to as a “drive thru, fly over” state has turned out to be a “must stop” state. There is so much beauty in the United States, and there is so much wildlife whose behaviors leave us in awe, but in my view nothing can top the Sandhill Cranes.  Every spring 80% of the world’s Sandhill Cranes (or over 600,000) leave their winter grounds in Mexico, Texas and New Mexico and fly 7,000 miles north to their breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and Siberia.  This map shows their flyway and  you can see where they all converge in Nebraska to relax and refuel.


It is in late February that they start arriving in Nebraska.  They settle on the Platte River between Grand Island and Kearny.  By mid-March most of them have arrived and by mid-April most, if not all, have left.


Thousands of people visit the area for their first time each year,  There are also a number of people who return each year to watch this phenomenon. Others return every year for 2 or more weeks and volunteer in one of the two sanctuaries located along the Platte River.  Many of them call themselves Craniacs.  Rowe Sanctuary and the Crane Trust have blind tours every morning at 6 AM and every evening at 6 PM.  At daybreak you will see the cranes standing in the river just waking up and getting ready to fly to their feeding grounds.  In the evening you can watch them fly back to the river for the night.  These tours fill up very fast so you will want to reserve them in January.  There are also very nice viewing decks.  You can find information about the tours and other events they sponsor on their web sites:


The first places you will want to stop when you arrive is at the Iain Nicholson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary and the The Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center.  Both have brochures and knowledgeable volunteers to answer your questions.

The three days we were there it was overcast and misting, but that did not diminish the experience.  We did not see the Sandhill Cranes in their true colors however.  Under the overcast skies cranes are pretty grey.   Mickey Johnson, a photographer from Big Lake, Minnesota, was kind enough to share his photo which was taken in the  Sherburne Wildlife Refuge in East-Central Minnesota.  Thank you, Mickey.  This is an amazing picture.


One reason the Sandhill Cranes return to the Platte River every spring on their journey north is the Platte River.  Between Kearny and Grand Island the Platte River  has been called the “foot deep and mile wide” river.  It is not a mile wide, but it is a foot deep with sand bars.  Cranes sleep standing in water because it keeps them safe from most predators.  When hundreds of thousands of cranes settle in the river for the night they look very much like islands from shore.


Their wingspan is 73 to 74 inches and they are 41 to 46 inches tall.   As more and more of them take off for the fields or return to the river at night you hear them coming and going. The sky gets dark and the wing beats are slow and also very loud.


HIGH STEPPER (See how shallow the river is)




Videos by Bill Toninato

There is a lot of corn in the farm fields and small invertebrates in the marshes.  During the three to four weeks in the area they will add over 20% to their weight.  Sandhill Cranes weigh between 6 and 12 lbs.   Sandhill Cranes are recognized by their rusty red coloring and red crowns. They are also known for their dancing and are often referred to as Lords of the Dance.  They not only dance when mating, they just dance all the time.

There is so much more to tell and learn about Sandhill Cranes, but I’ll leave that to you to discover all the fascinating facts about these birds that have been around for ten million years.  Schedule your trip to Nebraska next Spring.  You won’t be sorry.







I’ve driven through, ridden through, and flown over Nebraska.  I also spent a year in Broken Bow, Nebraska one week, but I’ve never really taken a good look at it beyond the flat corn fields and cattle dotting the hillsides.


It’s time to take a closer look at Nebraska!  For starters its nickname, The Cornhuskers,  came from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Campus’  intercollegiate athletic teams.  This replaced the previous nickname “The Tree Planters State” in 1945.  Other nicknames include “The Beef State”, “The Antelope State”, “Blackwater State” and my personal favorite “The Bug State.”

Next week we embark on a little USA trip to  discover  the REAL Nebraska.  Follow us as we explore Nebraska’s peaks, valleys and rivers.

Our primary destination is Grand Island, Nebraska where we hope to witness approximately 600,000 Sandhill Cranes  stopping to refuel before heading to their Canadian summer homes.




I never intended this blog to become involved in politics but it’s necessary that we — all of us – step up to preserve our heritage.   This administration seems to think it’s okay for them to just move in and acquire or use our public land.  The Enviromental Protection Agency will soon be history if Scott Pruitt has his way.  The Koch brothers will be mining for uranium in the million plus acres around the Grand Canyon.  The Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act failed to pass in October of 2015 . It was supported by the Navajo Nation, Zuni, Paiute, and Yavapai leaders and the proposed Monument Act would have protected 1.7 million acres of tribal homeland around the Grand Canyon, including water sources and sacred sites, and it would have banned new uranium mines and claims.

When they mess with one of the Seven Wonders of the World it is time for all of us — regardless of political party — to say “NO”.






In the beginning farms across America provided us with food and fashion.  Today they also provide us with alternative energy sources, skin care products, candles, furniture, woven baskets and other home decorations.  Farms are undeniably the most critical and important industry in the United States.

During the last decade farm owners and operators started opening their farms to visitors.   They are giving those of us who have never experienced country living a glimpse into a self-sustaining lifestyle.  They also provide a venue for artistic workshops, entertainers, a place for children to get to know the animals, and a place to just get out of the city and spend a few hours in the peaceful atmosphere of the country.

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit a very unique farm which was on the 2016 Sheep and Fiber Farm Tour.  What makes Windswept Hill Farm so unique is that much of it was built in De Stijl, which means “the style” in Dutch.  De Stijl became popular in the 1920s and 1930s and was made famous by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian.  The style was an abstract using basic geometric forms and primary colors.  It’s interesting that this style became most noticeable in architecture.  The other feature that makes this farm so unique is that most of it was built with re-purposed materials.

The first thing you notice when arriving at the farm is “The Little Free Library”.  We have all seen the little library houses as we drive through neighborhoods in the city, but this one is different.  The Wustenbergs thought of everything.  There is a bench for you to rest a bit, and if you have your dog with you there is water for your companion.  The little library is an old ice box with geometric formed doors and painted in primary colors.



Continue up the long driveway and all of a sudden you are drawn to a burst of color which is, in my opinion, a true example of Piet Mondrian’s vision of art.

“The emotion of beauty is always obscured by the appearance of the object. Therefore, the object must be eliminated from the picture.”                               Piet Mondrian                

In front of us was the most wonderful structure that made the field come alive.  The object, the sheep barn, was lost in its color and “emotion of beauty”.

Wendy Wustenberg designed the MondriBarn and it is built with re-purposed building materials and cast-off steel siding, and, of course, it has been painted primarily in primary colors.

Wendy and Bill Wustenberg have spent years building a farm that is practical and sustainable and implements environmentally friendly practices.  How does a family decide to build such a farm.  Wendy explains it here:

“Our daughter Lauren (BA Environmental Science-Northwestern) is the conscience that prompted us to spend a decade remodeling the farm with re-purposed materials, best practices in energy efficiency, and a constant eye toward conservation practices with the animals and land. We have forested the 12 acres over the past 25 years, adopted pasture rotation, barter hay for beef with a neighbor to keep our pastures clipped, and practice “eat local” almost all year with free-range chickens, a small orchard, and raised-bed vegetable garden.”

Lauren.. the inspiration and the conscience behind Windswept Hill Farm

Lauren.. the inspiration and the conscience behind Windswept Hill Farm

Here are the sheep who are privileged to live in that amazing barn.



“Harmon Killebrew –  The beloved English Leicester who had extraordinary crimp in his fleece. That close-up is of a raw fleece showing the “zipper” of the long wool fibers that are characteristic of this breed. It locks together very well for handcrafts.”

Skeins of Wool bear the name of the Sheep the wool came from.

One of the handicraft projects that took place at the farm was making angels out of fleece.  The fleece was dyed breast cancer pink and participants made angels to give to survivors or to keep in memory of a loved one.

This house, located on the farm property, obviously has inspirational vibes that inspire the Wustenberg family –   Wendy, Bill, daughter Lauren and son Russell are all spirited, creative, free-thinking, talented people.



Here is just a glimpse of what you will see as you stroll around Windswept Hill Farm….

So here you have sustainable, practical, beautiful farm, and there is one more thing you need to know about this farm — it is magical.    If you look real close among the flowers, shrubs, or maybe on the back of a horse or sheep you just might see a fairy.

Stay in touch with Windswept Hill Farm by liking them on Facebook:



Other Farms on this site:




Northfield , Minnesota is a RiverTown with a population of 20,000 and it is located within two Minnesota Counties – Rice and Dakota.  The Cannon River runs through it and sometimes when there are heavy rains it runs over it!  (Not Really, but this weekend it looks pretty threatening.)  River walkways follow the river on both sides.  You will find a lot of shops and boutiques in Northfield.

And when when the rains come….September 23, 2016

Like many Minnesota River Towns Northfield was built on lumber and water powered flour mills.  Unlike many River Towns Northfield still has a bit of the mill history left.  If you are one of the rise and shine people that have a bowl of Malt O Meal for breakfast, you are eating a bowl of Northfield’s past and present.  Malt O Meal is still made in Northfield and is the sole survivor of the wheat boom there.


Northfield was founded in 1855 by John W North and Norwegian-American immigrants from New England who called themselves Yankees.  Many of the buildings have been preserved and represent architecture of the 19th and early 20th century. What I like best are the pathways between some of the buildings that have steps down to the river walkway.

The City’s motto is “Cows, Colleges and Contentment”.  The beef operations are no longer predominant in region, but it is home to one of the most prestigious colleges in the Midwest – Carleton College.  It is also home to St. Olaf College.  Both colleges contribute to the common cultural and historical heritage of the town.

Northfield’s real claim to fame, however, is not its architecture, its colleges, its river or its economic stability.  They are best known for the events of September 7th, 1876.  That is the day the Jesse James-Younger Gang rode into Northfield and attempted to rob the First National Bank.   Their plan was thwarted and it turned out to be the last bank they robbed or rather attempted to rob.  Killed in the raid were the bank cashier who attempted to stall the “boys” by telling them the vault was on a timer  (it was not), a Swedish immigrant who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and 2 members of the gang.   The Younger boys were captured near Madelia and James and Frank escaped into the Dakotas.

Every September on the weekend after Labor Day Northfield holds a festival called the Defeat of Jesse James Days.  Thousands of people descend on Northfield to witness the re-enactment of the bank robbery.  The festsival includes a championship rodeo, parade, car show, carnival, musical performances and an arts and craft fair.  In addition to the food vendors there are some wonderful restaurants in Northfield and many have patios that overlook the river.

Here is the highlight of the festival!


I love the Juried Arts and Craft vendors.  I rarely highlight one on my blog but every once in awhile there is a special person with a special talent.  Layl McDill is one of those special people.  She sculptures are magical and you can watch her for hours create her whimsical characters.

Check out her website:

Northfield is a very special little town — One you will want to visit there soon and often!




It all began in 1863 when Dr. William W. Mayo arrived in Rochester MN.  He was invited to Rochester to be an examining surgeon for men being inducted into the Northern Army serving in the Civil War.  The history of the Mayo family is not unlike other famous families.  It is filled with secrets, intrigue and speculations.  However, unlike other famous families, this family is known internationally as leaders in research and treatment of medical illness.  They are the Mayo Clinic!  They also left their mark on Rochester, the community.

Dr. William W Mayo and his two sons Dr. Will and Dr. Charles formed medical institution today treats patients from 151 countries and serves over 400,000 patients annually in their hospitals located in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida.

Veranda overlooks Zumbro River Valley

Veranda overlooks Zumbro River Valley


The historic Mayowood Mansion was built by Dr. Charles H. Mayo in 1911.  Dr. Charlie was a man of many interests and he played a very active role in the architectural design of the home which was constructed of stone, reinforced concrete and tile.  The home sat on 3,000 acres on which Dr. Mayo satisfied his interests in farming.  He was also interested in conserving the natural beauty of the area and Mayowood overlooks the Zumbro River Valley.  The vast gardens on the grounds  were influenced by European and Japanese gardens.

When Dr. Charlie passed away in 1939 his wife Edith, who had served as hostess to dignitaries, kings and visiting doctors, retired as mistress of the house and moved into the Ivy Cottage and Dr. Chuck, his wife Alice and their six children moved into Mayowood. They lived there for 30 years and Alice, the daughter of a Pennsylvania butter and egg man, made her mark on the home.  So many of the old mansions you visit are so dark, with heavy drapes and tapestries.  Alice let the light into Mayowood with expansive curved glass windows and bright colors.  It is really an amazing home.

You will drive behind the Mansion to park and enter the home.

The Mansion was given to the Olmsted County Historical Society in 1965.  It was in July of 2013 that the historical society could no longer take care of  it.  It had fallen into disrepair and the costs of renovating would be astronomical.  At that time title was transferred to Mayo Clinic.  Olmsted County Historical Society continues to provide tours of the mansion.  Mayo Clinic has currently spent millions on the renovation and the work continues.  They have remodeled some of the rooms into conference rooms and they use the facility.  It’s nice to see a historical building being used.   It keeps it alive!

You will enjoy touring this Mansion and hearing its history.  With few exceptions all furnishing are original to the home.

Unfortunate but understandable — NO PICTURES ARE ALLOWED INSIDE THE MANSION

April 16th through October 27th       Tickets:  $17.00   Age 13 and older;  $5.00 Age 2 to 12

Monday, Tuesday and Friday — NO TOURS

Wednesday & Thursday — 11 AM, 12 PM, 1 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM

Saturday — 11 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM

Sunday — 12 PM, 1 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM



It was September 7, 1876, when the Jesse James Gang rode into Northfield, Minnesota to rob the bank.  Their plan was thwarted by the bank’s cashier who told them he couldn’t open the safe because it was on a time lock.  (It wasn’t)  A teller made it out the back door to notify the townspeople who surrounded the bank and chased the gang out of town.  As it turned out this was the LAST bank Jesse James tried unsuccessfully to rob.  There is a lot more to this story and you can see the re-enactment of the Defeat of Jesse James.

Northfield’s Defeat of Jesse James Days begins Wednesday, September 7, 2016, and runs through Sunday, September 11.   See the re-enactment Friday evening, throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday; visit the Historical Museum which is located in the Bank that the Jesse James Gang tried to rob; and check out the Archer house — a hotel then and still a hotel today.

There are many, many other events also scheduled during this annual celebration.




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