The Largest Man-made Grotto in the World
On Day #17 of our 30-day, 9376 mile, road trip to see more of America we visited the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa.
The Grotto of the Redemption is religious shrine built over a 42-year period by Father Paul Dobberstein, a Roman Catholic priest who served as the Pastor for Saints Peter and Paul Church, that includes rocks, semi-precious stones, and minerals from all over the world. The entire structure is so large that it covers approximately one city block.
The Grotto was built because as a young seminarian Father Dobberstein became critically ill with pneumonia. As his illness progressed he prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and promised to build a shrine in her honor if he lived. Fortunately his health improved and, after his ordination as a Priest, Father Dobberstein was assigned to West Bend as the church Pastor in 1898. Once in Iowa Father Dobberstein spent a decade stockpiling rocks and precious stones for the shrine that he planned to build. The actual work of planning and building the grotto began in 1912 – with a design telling the story of man’s fall and his redemption by Christ. After Father Dobberstein passed away in 1954 his life's work on the grotto was continued by his long-time assistant, Matt Szerensce, until he retired in 1959, and for 50 years Father Louis Greving, Father Dobberstein's colleague and replacement, continued to build and care for the Grotto until 1996.
The semi-precious stones embedded in the grotto walls are amazing: petrified wood, malachite, azurite, agates, geodes, jasper, quartz, topaz, calcite, and even stalagmites taken from Carlsbad Canyons before it became a National Park.
In addition to the actual stone grotto there are numerous statues, most made out of white Carrara Italian marble, depicting St. Michael crushing the devil, Adam and Eve being driven out Eden, the Holy Family in the stable in Bethlehem, Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Judas sneaking out of the Garden of Gethsemane, and other religious figures.
As you can see from the photos below – the Grotto of the Redemption is a little overwhelming and the work to build it by hand is almost unfathomable (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
If you want to learn more about the Grotto of the Redemption here are a couple of links to check out:
Where the Buffalo Roam and the Skies are Not Cloudy All Day
On Day #15 of our 30-day, 9376 mile, road trip to see more of America we visited the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota.
Named after the 26th President of the United States because of his ties to the region, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a national park located in the western North Dakota badlands with three geographically separated areas; the North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. The park has 70,446 acres (110.072 square miles) of land.
Teddy Roosevelt first came to the North Dakota to hunt bison in 1883 and subsequently fell in love with the rugged lifestyle and the "perfect freedom" of the West. While in Medora Roosevelt invested in the Maltese Cross Ranch. Then in 1884, following the death of both his wife and mother, Roosevelt returned to North Dakota and purchased the Elkhorn Ranch, located 35 miles north of Medora. A life-long outdoorsman and hunter, Roosevelt's time in the badlands impacted him deeply and helped shape many of the policies that he implemented during his years as President of the United States (1901-1909).
We visited the South Unit of the park on a perfect day – great weather and not many people. During our visit we hiked many of the trails and were able to see, up close and personal, bison, turkeys, prairie dogs, and wild horses (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
If you want to learn more about the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, or other things to do in the Medora area, here are a couple of links to check out:
As a side note, to get to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park we drove the Killdeer Mountain Four Bears Scenic Byway. The terrain and sights were stunning. This drive is certainly one of the prettiest in North Dakota. (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
Here’s are links to all of North Dakota’s scenic highways and some of the specific sights on the Killdeer Byway:
The Beauty of Sunset and Lake Superior
On Day #6 of our 30-day, 9376 mile, road trip to see more of America we visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising, Michigan.
Pictured Rocks is one of only four National Lakeshores in the United States. Located on Lake Superior, the park stretches for 42 miles along the shore and covers 73,236 acres. Within the park the “pictured rocks” rise between 50 and 200 feet above the lake and stretch for almost fifteen miles. There are also more than 100 miles of hiking trails leading through the forest to remote lakes and streams within the park. In addition, the lakeshore has 12 miles of beaches, 5 miles of sand dunes, several waterfalls, and even a few lighthouses.
The name “Pictured Rocks” comes from the mineral stains that can be seen on the face of the cliffs towering over Lake Superior. A wide range of colors occur in the rock face because groundwater seeps through the cracks and trickles down the rock face with Iron (red and orange), copper (blue and green), manganese (brown and black), limonite (white) and other color-producing minerals.
Although you can hike to the shoreline, to really see the beauty of the “pictured rocks” you need to take a boat ride. We took a 2-hour trip with Pictured Rock Cruises at sunset – the best time of day to see the spectacular colors. As you can see from the photos below – we were lucky enough to be presented with stunning sights during our trip (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
For those of you that know the poem “The Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “Gitchee Gumee” is the Ojibwa (Native American) name for Lake Superior. Here’s the first stanza of the poem to jog your memory:
"By the shore of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited."
If you want to see a little more about the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the local light houses, or what to do in the Munising area - here are a couple of links to check out:
Road Trip to the Heartland
Last Saturday we completed a 30-day “road trip” to see more of America. During our trip we drove 9,376 miles (an average of 312.5 miles per day) and visited 21 States, saw all 5 of the Great Lakes and were fortunate to see friends, family and all sorts of interesting places. Don’t let the MSM - and their nightly disaster telecasts fool you - America is beautiful, clean, peaceful and filled with nice people and wonderful sights.
Here’s a high level map of the route that we planned to drive when we started the trip. During the actual trip we made some “on the fly” modifications to add or delete planned sights due to timing and a couple of closures - but nothing major. The only real omission was a very short swing through Canada (Manitoba and Saskatchewan) where it borders North Dakota due to the border closure being extended past 21 July.
The States that we visited during our trip were:
Needless to say, it was a great trip and we had a wonderful time. During the final miles, as we approached our home, my daughter asked if we could just make a pit stop at home and then hit the road again. What a great idea!
Now that we’ve unpacked the car, sorted the mail, washed out clothes, mowed the yard, and downloaded the 10,000+ photos that we collectively took during the trip – I plan to post some of the photos of our adventures and write a few blogs highlighting the special sights that we saw. I’m sure that choosing which places to blog about will be the hard part.
Grand Marais and Grand Portage
We're currently on a 30-day road trip to see more of America. While in Minnesota we specifically drove to the upper North East corner of the state on Lake Superior to hike the waterfalls at both Grand Marais and Grand Portage. You have to be going there to get there - but, in our opinion, it was worth the drive – just watch out for the mosquitoes.
The first hike that we took was to see the waterfalls located in the Judge C.R. Magney State Park; the "Lower Falls", the "Upper Falls" and the "Devil's Kettle". The roundtrip hike to the Devil's Kettle falls is ~2 1/4 miles. At the Upper Falls you can stand directly in front of the falls and get a refreshing shower. At the Devil’s Kettle Falls half of the Brule River flows into a giant pothole and disappears into the Earth. But where does all that water go? Experiments conducted in fall 2016 by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources indicated that the disappearing water simply flows back into the Brule River shortly below the falls. However, folklore still maintains that the water disappears underground and heads to Lake Superior since people have dropped sticks, ping pong balls, and GPS trackers into the Devil's Kettle without seeing them resurface downstream. Here are a few photos and a short video of the sights we saw at Grand Marais (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
In addition, here's a link to the Park's website if you want a little more information: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00193#homepag
The second waterfall hike that we took was to see the "High Falls" located on the Pigeon River in Grand Portage State Park; essentially at the US-Canadian border. The High Falls waterfall is the largest waterfall (120 foot drop) in Minnesota and has a lookout platform ~100 feet from the falls; close enough to get some great photos and feel the spray. The hike to the falls is quite easy since the there's a path and a boardwalk all the way. In the 17th century Grand Portage became a major center of the fur trade in North America because it was the point where the fur trappers left the great lakes and headed into the outback. Grand Portage got its name because the route began with a 9 mile portage where the canoes and equipment had to be carried over land to a safe location on the Pigeon River above the waterfalls and rapids. Here are a few photos and a short video of the sights we saw at Grand Portage (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
In addition, here's a link to the Park's website if you want a little more information: https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/park.html?id=spk00173#homepag
HellStorm Battle Wolf Beowolf Fingerless Gloves
These days there are lots of tactical gloves available on the market – some great, some good, some not so good. If you need a set of shooting gloves that allows you to have good manual dexterity, protects your knuckles and the back of your hands, and allows you to get a good grip on your firearm, then you should look into purchasing a pair of HellStorm Battle Wolf Beowolf Gloves.
You can find the details about these fingerless tactical gloves on the Shooting/Range Items and Tools page.
Nature’s Wonderful Colors
Since tomorrow, 19 June, is the last day of Spring I thought that I would post a few of the photos that I took of the gorgeous flowers that bloomed in our neck of the woods this year.
It was almost like nature wanted to show off what she could do to offset all of the other craziness spreading throughout the world. (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
There’s nothing else to really say since the beauty of the flowers speak for themselves – so get out there and revel in Nature whenever you can.
Stunning Sights Seen While Hiking
On 29 May we were out hiking when we happened to look up and saw the beautiful “first quarter” Moon hanging in the daytime sky. Since there were no clouds in the bright blue sky, the sunlight glinting off of the moon was radiant – making for some great photos – starting at 5:30 PM and ending at 8:30 PM. (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
If you want to learn more details about the moon’s daily activities you should check out MoonGiant.com. Here’s their detailed page for 29 May 2020:
A Great Infographic from the Minuteman Review
In March we wrote a blog about the “4 Rules for Handling a Firearm” which covered two main points: 1) the number of firearm purchases had skyrocketed in the US in January (2,702,702 NICS checks) and February (2,802,467 NICS checks) 2020 and 2) all these new gun owners need to learn the critical rules related to safety.
Well, since that time the unsettled nature of the world has driven even more people to purchase firearms - as see by the latest FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) data:
If you want to see more of the FBI’s NICS data here are the direct links:
So, in the first 5 months of 2020 there have been 15,248,440 NICS checks; an average of 3,049,688 checks per month.
What’s driving these purchases? Where are the purchases being made? Who’s making the purchases? Why? Like you we had lots of questions.
Luckily, James Miller from the Minuteman Review put together a great infographic and contacted us to see if we wanted to help spread the word. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Minuteman review they’re a website “dedicated to supporting the 2nd Amendment and promoting firearms safety and education” that tries to “provide every gun owner—and prospective gun owner—the information they need to get the firearms and gear that are most relevant to their needs”. One of the things that we like about their website is that they have lots of articles, guides and reviews about gear related to the shooting sports.
Rather than trying to summarize all of the information in their infographic – we’ll just let it speak for itself:
Paul Harrell’s Great Videos for New Shooters
Given the number of new gun owners out there it’s probably a good idea to review how to accurately shoot a handgun. As always two of the greatest sources of information are internet websites and YouTube – assuming that you read articles and watch videos made by someone that actually knows what they’re doing.
For our money one of the best online video sources for firearm and shooting technique information is Paul Harrell – who we like to think of as the “Bob Ross of firearms”- informative, descriptive, humorous and calming. Paul's YouTube channel has lots of great videos that are always filled with actual methodical shooting demonstrations.
With regards to accurate handgun shooting, back in January/February 2017 Paul posted three videos on what he believes are the key points and the proper techniques.
Part One focuses on handgun “Grip and Stance” and makes the following key points:
Part Two focuses on handgun “Sight Alignment/Sight Picture” and makes the following key points:
Part Three focuses on handgun “Trigger Control” and makes the following key points:
If you’re a new shooter, or an experienced shooter looking to improve, you should really spend 20 minutes and watch these three videos from Paul.
For a more detailed look at stances here’s a good article from Pew Pew Tactical:
“Shooting Stances & Grip: Isosceles vs Weaver vs Chapman”
If you want additional details on how to improve your accuracy with a handgun - then you should also checkout our previous blog post on "The Secret to Mastering the Handgun" which features a 19 minute video by Alex Hommes, the Operations Manager for the Silverado Shooting Academy.
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