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This is the first blog entry in 17 days that I'm writing from my apartment after my whirlwind 4919 miles and 12 states.  Whoo!

A little background knowledge about the past couple of days.  My parents met at a very progressive high school called JFK Prep in St. Nazianz where they both taught in the 70s.  Most of the faculty there became a very tightly knit group of friends.  For me, the Prep people wound up being my extended family.  I saw more of them growing up than I did my aunts and uncles, and the children from that group wound up being my cousins.  The "prep babies" as we were called, all were affected by the experience.  Most of us wound up going into education ourselves.  There were also quite a few more nonconventional life choices among us.....one worked for a newspaper in Cambodia, one went to Mexico to learn how to make jewelry and wound up staying......so me losing my mind and driving to Utah instead of Iowa was kind of in the cards.

The past couple of days I've been staying with a fellow prep baby, Jeni.  Besides having that in common, her father and I were part of the same religious order.  In fact, when her father was a priest, he helped my dad from getting booted out of the order!  (In the Harry Potter books, every time I read about Harry Potter's dad and his friends, I picture my father and his seminary buddies.)  Also, whereas my younger sibling is a blonde-haired blue-eyed Barbie, Jeni's younger sibling is a blonde-haired blue-eyed Ken.  Needless to say, we had plenty to talk about.

I also enjoyed getting to see a bit of Duluth.  We went to a restaurant called Hell's Kitchen that has a whole hell theme and a very wicked sense of humor.  For example, on Easter Sunday they were serving rabbit.  There is an entire wall in the restaurant dedicated to Far Side cartoons about heaven and hell.  Duluth is about the same size as Oshkosh but has loads of personality.  It's one of those fun quirky college towns like Stevens Point or Eau Claire.  I enjoyed it enough that I want to go back again.  That's really saying something as usually anytime I get too close to the U.P. I get a bit panicky.

Saturday was pretty much vegging.  Today I managed to get a mini-trip into Pepin on my way home, the birth place of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The museum was nothing special.  But the view of the bluffs and Lake Pepin on the drive was spectacular.  Also managed to get in a visit to Norske Nook, which has wonderful pies.

And now....to wrap up the trip....

Favorite places: A tie for Utah (the nature part not the Salt Lake City part) and Colorado followed closely behind by South Dakota

Least favorite places: The non-Yellowstone part of Wyoming and Hibbing, Minnesota

Willie Wonka Factory States.....nobody comes in, nobody goes out.  Most states, as you approach the border, you start to see cars from the neighboring states.  But some states it seemed you didn't see anybody from there before you crossed the border, and saw very few people NOT from there after you crossed the border.  The best examples of these states on my trip were: Kansas, Utah, Idaho and North Dakota.

The opposite of a Willie Wonka State.....Illinois!  I saw FIB license plates everywhere, including Salt Lake City.

This has been the most amazing trip.  I hope the energy crisis comes under control so I can do something like this again.  In the meanwhile, I'll spend July recovering and teaching summer school.  But August I spend two weeks in New England.  Stay tuned!

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Jackie
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