Category Archives: USA

The Minnesota Vikings

Norsemen from Greenland and Iceland were the first Europeans to reach North America in what is today Newfoundland in Canada when Leif Ericson reached the Continent via Norse settlements in Greenland around the year 1000.  Nearly a thousand years later many Norwegian immigrants went to the United States primarily in the second half of the nineteenth and the first few decades of the twentieth century.

According to the most recent United States census there are more than four and a half million Norwegian Americans and most live in the Upper Midwest and currently comprise the tenth largest American ancestry group.

Ethnic Norwegian immigrants represent the seventh highest from Europe (Germany is highest) and this partly explains the inclusion of Norway at DisneyWorld EPCOT World Showcase.

In Minnesota, 868,361 Minnesotans claim Norwegian ancestry, 16.5% of the population of the State.  No wonder then that in professional football the team from Minneapolis was officially named the Minnesota Vikings on September 27th 1960; the name is partly meant to reflect Minnesota’s importance as a centre of Scandinavian American culture.

The Club website helpfully explains. why it was chosen..

“it represented both an aggressive person with the will to win and the Nordic tradition in the northern Midwest.”

The association between Vikings and sport is not surprising because physical strength, speed, resilience and endurance were important qualities for a Viking. As in the USA, England has its own Vikings with the Widnes Vikings Rugby League Football Club.

Widnes was one of the original twenty-two rugby clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world’s first rugby league teams. Their traditional nickname is ‘The Chemics’ after the main industry in Widnes, but the club now generally use their more modern nickname.

In Norway, the Football club from Stavanger is not just nicknamed Viking it is called Viking Stavanger.  The National Team of Norway, who might be expected to be called The Vikings are in fact called Løvene which means Lions.  Other National Teams that are called Lions are Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Senegal and Singapore,

England are called the Three Lions.

Travel Challenge Day 10 – The Answer

Most of you will have spotted that yesterday’s Travel Challenge picture was Paris and of course you were right but it may not have been the Paris that you were thinking of because this is Paris at the Walt Disney World’s EPCOT theme park in Florida USA.

I visited World Showcase in May 1990.

This, it has to be said, is an odd place – at the same time both intriguing and disappointing.  In the beginning it was the vision of Walt Disney himself –  to build a new city of the future but after he died the Disney Corporation accountants gained control, declared it self indulgent, too expensive and not commercial enough and everything was downsized until it became nothing more than an add-on theme park to Magic Kingdom without any of the Magic.

World Showcase consists of eleven countries from around the World.  The French Pavilion had a boring film about how wonderful the place is and some external sets representing Paris with an elusive Eiffel Tower seen in the distance from every angle and authenticity provided by men in striped shirts and berets and playing the accordion.

For people who imagine that Paris is full of men in berets, black and white hooped shirts, a string of onions around their necks, playing the accordion and speaking like Peter Sellers in the ‘Pink Panther’ films then EPCOT  is wonderfully accurate but actually I think I have to say that it is probably one of the worst representations of all in World Showcase.

There were the obligatory French restaurants, a patisserie and an ice cream parlour and a stroll along the Seine lined with shops and hand carts.  My only recollection is that I was seriously underwhelmed.  I had only recently been to real Paris and that had been far more satisfying.

That’s because I believe that  the only way to see Paris is to do it properly as I did when I visited the French capital in 2002 and rather like EPCOT, where you can see a whole country in just a few minutes, I saw the major sites in a foot-slogging, energy-sapping half a day and invented what my son subsequently called ‘speed-sightseeing’!

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Travel Challenge Day 10

I was nominated by my friend Derrick Knight to post one favourite travel picture a day for ten days without explanation, then to nominate someone else to participate. That’s 10 days, 10 travel pictures, and 10 nominations. I Have not nominated today but if you want to have a go then just join in.

Please link to me so I know you have participated. If you are not interested, no problem.

Nowhere in the rules does it say you can’t guess where the photo was taken.

10 days, 10 challenges, I have enjoyed this. Thanks to everyone for your guesses and contributions.

Day 1 – Tal-y-Llyn, Mid Wales

Day 2 – Greek Island of Amorgos

Day 3 – Skipsea, Yorkshire

Day 4 – Black Forest, Germany

Day 5, Foradouro, Portugal

Day 6 – Mevagissey, Cornwall

Day 7 – Greek Island of Naxos

Day 8 – Warsaw, Poland

Day 9 – Haugesund, Norway

Arizona, Desert and Deadly Snakes

Arizona Desert

We stopped at a desert recreational area and took a walk amongst the Saguaro cactus which are sometimes called the ‘desert monarch’  on account of the fact that they can be fifty feet tall and up to two hundred years old.  We walked among them a short way but became understandably nervous when we read a warning sign about rattle snakes and we remembered Mike’s gruesome stories of painful venomous deaths where blood turns to cement and you die in seconds so we didn’t stay very long.

I think Mike was exaggerating. I looked it up later.  There are about eight thousand reports of venomous snake bites every year in the USA but on average only five people die which is about twice as many in Australia.  That is about the same amount of people who die from dog attacks in the UK each year.

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Arizona, Phoenix Nights and The Rustler’s Rooste

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Rustler’s Rooste served cowboy food and a sign on the door said ‘Better come hungry’; so it was a good job that we had Dave and his reliable appetite with us!  There was a fabulous menu with an extensive choice of food including rattlesnake as a starter.

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Arizona, Heil Factory Visit and the Scottsdale Stadium in Phoenix

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This might sounds a bit ungrateful but I just wasn’t enjoying this part of the trip.  I preferred the Grand Canyon excursion.

But I suppose it was the real reason for the visit and I tried as best as I could to try and stay focussed and show some interest in the Rapid Rail and the  STARR system equipment, the Formula 7000 Square body and DPF Formula 7000 automated side loaders, the Formula 7000 split body co-collection automated side loaders and the DPF Half/Pack front loaders.

Finally, after what seemed a lifetime or three, the visit was over and the Managing Director gave each of us a bag of corporate gifts which included a polo shirt and baseball cap, a Swiss army knife and some unusually high quality pens.

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Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park and a Cowboy Restaurant

Grand Canyon Entrance

For an Englishman a four hundred mile trip seems a very long way to drive for a day out.

If I drove that distance in any direction from my home then I would run out of road and reach the sea.  Going east it would take only fifteen minutes.  It is a journey like this that makes you realise the immense scale of the USA.  Arizona is 115,000 square miles of emptiness and long stretches of never-ending road between towns, the UK is just less than 95,000 square miles and Arizona is bigger than forty of the fifty-one countries in Europe.  It is bigger than half the countries in the World.

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Arizona, Breakfast at the Roadrunner Saloon

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Thoughtfully the organizers of the trip thought we might need a day to rest after our long flight so the next day was free of any official engagements and ours to do as we pleased with so Allan decided that we would drive to the two hundred mile journey to the far north of the State to see the Grand Canyon.

This seemed a very good idea but did involve a very early start and less than four hours after crawling into bed and before it even got light we were off and away before I had time to check to see if I had a hangover and even before the breakfast bar was open in the restaurant. Dave wasn’t happy about that.

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An Unexpected Travel Opportunity

Welcome to Arizona

Before I moved to Lincolnshire I used to work for a French waste (mis)management company called Onyx UK and I worked at a depot in Maidenhead in Berkshire and managed the Windsor contract.

The company was always losing money and as a result trying to cut costs and one day  the Managing Director telephoned me to tell me that he had heard of a new type of refuse collection vehicle with impressive labour saving innovations that offered potentially huge operational efficiencies and that he was interested in finding out more.

He asked me if I would be prepared to visit the factory where they were manufactured and give him my opinion.

To be honest I had very little interest in bincarts  and tried to drag up a suitable excuse, but fortunately before I could prematurely decline, he happened to mention that the factory was in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States of America.

Did I want to visit Phoenix to see some dustcarts?  You bet I did!

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Postcard From The USA – Zion National Park

Zion

Zion National Park contains some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States and is characterised by high plateaus, a maze of narrow deep sandstone canyons and striking rock towers and mesas.  People have lived here for thousands of years but in modern times people only became aware of it when Mormon pioneers began to farm the canyon in the late nineteenth century.

In 1880 a geologist called Clarence Dutton visited the Canyon and he described it like this: ‘there is eloquence to their forms which stirs the imagination with a singular power and kindles in the mind. Nothing can exceed the wonderous beauty of Zion, in the nobility and beauty of the sculptures there is no comparison’.

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Many people refused to believe that it was possible for such a place to exist because until a hundred years ago Zion Canyon was practically inaccessible to outside visitors; and only a few had laid eyes on the majestic towering cliffs.  Zion Canyon was declared a National Park in 1909.  It was well thoughtfully named because Zion is an ancient Hebrew word meaning a place of refuge or sanctuary and it was in a temple on Mount Zion near Jerusalem where Jesus and the disciples had the last supper together.

Once through the one mile long entrance tunnel the road started to descend into the valley down a switchback road through six precarious hairpin bends, still following Pine Creek to Mount Carmel junction and arrival at the visitor centre.

There was a peaceful calm at the bottom of the valley and the air tasted of mountain air that cleared your head and filled your lungs with freshness.  A truly marvellous spectacle of colourful sandstone cliffs soaring into the sky above a flat-bottomed, thickly forested valley floor in brilliant red and gold autumn foliage that accentuated the colours of the cliffs. Being at the bottom of the canyon this provided a complete contrast to the  top down view that had been the feature of the Grand Canyon and the views looking up were spectacular and awe inspiring. The sort of place you might imagine Indiana Jones looking for a lost Aztec city and a hoard of gold.

After a break we took the short drive into the heart of the canyon that terminated at the Temple of Sinawava (Sinawava was the Coyote God of the Paiute Indians) and here we left to follow the footpaths and trails around the North Fork Virgin River.  There was a lot of choice and certainly not enough time to see as much as we would have liked so we choose the riverside walk towards the Mountain of Mystery and a famous, much photographed, narrow gorge called the Zion Narrows.  Zion is a unique place with diverse wildlife for whom this place is a safe and bountiful refuge.  A little way along the trail we heard a rustling in the bushes and on examination came face to face with a wild deer.  Given its close proximity we were a bit startled by this and on account of its size left quickly so I am afraid that I am unable to identify exactly what species it was.  Thank goodness it wasn’t a bear!

The trail was quite steep because the headwaters of the Virgin River above are at about two thousand, seven hundred metres and it empties into Lake Mead two hundred miles southwest after flowing almost a mile downward.  This gives the Virgin River one of the steepest stream gradients in North America.  Naturally therefore we didn’t get as far as we had optimistically planned and soon it was time to return and leave the park, which was a real shame, I had really enjoyed my day in Paradise.

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