The “Unbeetable” Experience

We arrived at Red River State Recreation Area, East Grand Forks, MN on September 23rd to begin our “unbeetable” experience as temporary employees through Express Employment hiring for American Crystal Sugar Company.

Our orientation interview was scheduled for Monday with training schedules during the week.  Robin will be working Shift 1 – 12:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. in the Quality Lab testing sugar content, purity and tare of the beets harvested in order to pay the farmers.  Bruce will be operating a skidsteer working 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. placing pipes that the beets will be piled on to circulate cold air to keep the beets in a deep freeze until ready to process into sugar.  Work was scheduled to begin on the weekend so first order of business was to socialize at the Blue Moose with our friends we haven’t seen in months!

The Red River Recreation Area is conveniently located to a movie theater, plenty of restaurants, Cabela’s, and downtown Grand Forks, North Dakota is within walking distance across the river.  The Blue Moose, Sickies Garage, Up North Pizza and the American Legion were some of our gathering places to socialize and meet new friends.

A fantastic four generation owned family candy shop originating in 1885 in downtown Grand Forks known as Widman’s. It is “Home of the Chocolate Covered Potato Chip known as the Chippers!”

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Now to the beet harvest, we have 11,888,324.00 tons of beets to harvest during this season.  Temperatures must range somewhere in between 32-60 degrees and fairly nice weather to harvest beets.  This year the harvest has been delayed several days due to the weather!

Beets are harvested in September and October.  First the foliage is removed from the beet prior to lifting.  Immediately after defoliating, the sugar beets are lifted out of the ground by a lifter-loader harvester, most of the soil is removed, then they are loaded into trucks driving along side the harvester.  Trucks take the beets to the piling stations or the factory for storing or processing.

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Sugar Beet Field
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Truck hauling sugar beets to piling station
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Piling Station
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Piling Station-laying pipe for ventilation
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Skidsteer
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Pipes for ventilation

During the piling process, sample bags are taken and delivered to the lab for analysis of sugar content, purity and tare.  Bags are unloaded at the dock, they lift and unload the equivalent of two elephants a day!  The samples are weighed before they go through a wash and drying process, then weighed again to determine how much tare (dirt) came with the sample.  Then they are mashed and come up on the brea belt, LBD machine, samples are analysed for sugar content and purity.

This is the process that we are involved in making beet sugar for American Crystal Sugar Company.  As of now we have completed about 40% of the harvest and are waiting for the snow to melt to finish what we came here to do!  For more information visit their website American Crystal Sugar

 

South Dakota…

DAY 1

First stop in South Dakota was Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  It was completed in 1941, and is 60 foot high with carved faces in granite of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  What a work of art!  Simply amazing!

My souvenir was a book signed by Don “Nick” Clifford, a former driller and winchman who worked on Mount Rushmore from 1938-1940.

DSC_1430 On to Custer State Park with more buffalo!

DSC_0001Our favorite was the wild begging burros!  Yes we fed them carrots!

Then to beautiful Sylvan Lake!

DAY 2

The town of Deadwood is known for its gold rush history and figures like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

Spearfish Canyon has a beautiful lodge and several short hikes to fabulous waterfalls.

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Spearfish Canyon Lodge

DAY 3

Unfortunately it was a rainy, misty day to visit The Badlands National Park, but the views were still stunning!  The Lakota people named it “mako sica” meaning land bad.  We stopped to have lunch and decided to take a hike into the foothills even though it was raining.  After watching several people quickly coming back to the parking area, stomping their feet in great dismay, we discovered that the clay soil stuck to their boots like cement!  Pays to be observant!

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A little town known as “Wall” is famous now for a large tourist place called “Wall Drug”.

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DAY 4

Wind Cave National Park was established in 1903 and was the first set aside to protect a cave.  In the first picture the ranger held a ribbon that was sucked into the cave.  It was a demonstration of how a cave breathes air in and out, just like our lungs do.  The last picture is an example of boxwork, 95% of the world’s discovered boxwork formations are found in Wind Cave.  It is also known for its popcorn and frostwork.  It is currently the sixth-longest cave in the world with many unexplored passageways.  The tour took a little over an hour descending 300 steps to 215 feet below ground level.

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Another little western town “Hot Springs”.

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DAY 5

The corn palace is located in Mitchell, SD and is a multi-purpose arena.  It is decorated with more than 325,000 ears of corn sliced in half and nailed to the murals.  Local farmers plant 10-12 different colors of corn.  Each year there is a different theme.

South Dakota is a beautiful state! We wish we could have witnessed the beauty of all the Sunflowers at a earlier time of year. These are almost ready to harvest.

IMG_7918On to work at the Beet Harvest!

Two Days and Counting…

It’s funny how you can live in a place for several months or years and at the last minute there are places you want to see before you leave!  Our last two days in Yellowstone were some of the most exciting!  When we arrived in May we were able to view the lower falls at Artist Point but the brink of the lower falls and upper falls trails were closed due to snow.  We decided to take the short hike to some spectacular views of the upper falls and lower falls.

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Upper Falls

We have driven through Yellowstone National Park countless times, most often our focus was on the wildlife.  The Mud Volcano and Dragons Mouth Spring were definitely something we didn’t want to miss!

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Mud Volcano

Finally, late afternoon as usual, we arrived in Lamar Valley, probably our favorite place to view wildlife in the park, and this evening was no exception.  Before to long we spotting a crowd gathering on a hilltop, so we grabbed our spotting scope and joined the crowd.  Off in the distance was a grizzly feeding on a carcass that the wolves had brought down.  There were at least seven wolves on the scene awaiting their turn on the carcass.  We watched them patiently waiting close to the bear, while others were playing and nipping at each other, and off in the distance was one wolf that seemed to be on guard overlooking the scene.  Finally the grizzly sauntered off with a full belly and the wolves took their turn feeding on the carcass.  Very interesting to watch this pack, a wolf had his share of the food, then went to relieve the lookout for their turn on the carcass.  As the sun set, we watched them one by one, head to the same area and disappear into the woods.

We were also on the lookout for friends Phil and Sue, that we met while workamping at Cypress Trail RV Resort in Fort Myers, FL and surprisingly they found us on top of the hill and joined us in this exciting evening.

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One of the things on our bucket list was to hear the wolves howl in Yellowstone and before they all left for the woods, they howled to each other!  It was time for us to find a spot just outside the Northeast entrance to sleep in the truck for the night so we could be in Lamar Valley early in the morning to hopefully watch the wolves for one last time.

Also on our bucket list was to see a bull elk bugle!  Mammoth Hot Springs is known for the elk gathering in the center of town, especially during the rutting season.  When we arrived we saw a small bull elk guarding his little harem.  It wasn’t long before the big guy showed up trying to keep his harem in line and that is when we heard that beautiful bugle!

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Smaller Bull Elk
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The Big Guy
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Big Guy & His Harem
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Undine Falls

It was a magnificent final two days in Yellowstone National Park!

We also were blessed to have Bill and Linda stay at Yellowstone Holiday Resort our last week at the park.  Good friends and good food were enjoyed at our favorite pizza place Wild West Pizzeria in West Yellowstone.

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We will miss the beauty and splendor of Hebgen Lake and the wonderful people we met while working at Yellowstone Holiday Resort.

Glacier National Park…

A mini-trip to Glacier National Park entering through the West Entrance had been planned for several weeks.  Unfortunately, the Howe Ridge Fire on Lake McDonald, that was started by a lightning strike, had us altering our plans.  We had made reservations through Vacation Rental By Owner (VBRO) to stay in Big Fork, Montana.  A lovely historical town situated on Flathead Lake with beautiful flowers, great shops and delicious places to eat!

 

We traveled to the East Entrance because The Going-To-The-Sun-Road was closed from Lake McDonald to Logan Pass due to smoke from the fire.  Our first stop was Historic Glacier Park Lodge just outside the park.  We were in awe of the huge Douglas fir logs used in construction in 1913.  At Two Medicine Lake we were greeted by these Big Horn Sheep!  An interesting feature of the streams and lakes in the park are the beautiful colored pebbles ranging from various hues of red, maroon, green and blue.  Also a quick stop at St. Mary’s Lake.  Even with the smoke the views were beautiful!

Finally was Many Glacier Hotel situated on Swiftcurrent Lake known as the “Switzerland of North America” and the largest hotel in Glacier National Park.

Again, not enough time to explore but it is a beautiful National Park!

Johnny Sack Cabin…

In 1929, Johnny Sack leased a tract of land from the Forest Service and built this log cabin located at Big Springs, Island Park, Idaho.  It is one of the most photographed sites with Johnny’s cabin, the water wheel house and the beautiful springs filled with large trout.

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Inside the cabin it is decorated with Johnny’s trademark split bark decoration used in the cabins furniture and interior.

The cabin became part of the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.  Big Springs is a Natural National Landmark and one of 40 largest natural springs in the world, producing 120 gallons of water a day!  You can see the springs bubbling up and the beauty of the clear fresh water.

A beautiful little spot to visit in Idaho!

For more information Johnny Sack Cabin

Bear Tooth Pass…

Today was our trip to the North East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.  We traveled over Dunraven Pass and then through Lamar Valley.  We couldn’t pass through Lamar Valley without checking on the Golden Eagle nest.  Upon arrival, one of the adult Golden Eagles came to feed the chick.

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We stopped at Cooke City for lunch and continued towards the Bear Tooth Pass Highway 212.  On the way was this amazing waterfall, if you haven’t already figured it out we love waterfalls!  There were Forest Service signs regarding Bear Activity and the footprints we saw were a big sign!  We always carry bear spray when we are outside the RV Resort.  With a storm brewing and bear activity signs we had an uneasy feeling and decided not to linger to long.

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The Bear Tooth Highway 212 was probably the most scenic highway we have traveled on.  It is a series of steep switchbacks as you ascend to a plateau.  The elevation is 10,947 feet.  It was interesting to be on the same level or sometimes looking down at the snow peaks and glacial snow.  The beauty is indescribable of the numerous alpine lakes of the Absaroka-Bear Tooth Wilderness area which borders much of the highway.  The pass is known for summertime snowstorms, violent thunderstorms and winds.

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See the Bear Tooth in the background
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Alpine Lakes
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Bear Tooth Pass
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Waterfalls on Bear Tooth Pass

We have been on the lookout for the yellow-bellied marmot since we have arrived in Montana and you need go no further than this pass, they were running everywhere! The highlight of the day was another first for us and sometimes a difficult animal to spot!  At first we thought it was a group of rocks which are common in the area. But with further looking in the binoculars sure enough Rocky Mountain goats, not just one but a herd!  They are magnificent animals!  We didn’t make it all the way to Red Lodge that still is on our list to do.

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Rocky Mountain Goats
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Rocky Mountain Goats
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Yellow-bellied Marmot
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Buffalo in Lamar Valley on the way home

Cody WY…

One of our goals is to experience all the entrances/exits of Yellowstone National Park.  This trip took us to the East Entrance through Sylvan Pass and spending sometime in Cody, Wyoming.  As always, the trip was fantastic.  We love traveling through the different passes!  Just outside the East entrance and right alongside the road, we were fortunate to watch a mama grizzly and her two older cubs digging for roots.  Their power never ceases to amaze us!

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Waterfall along Sylvan Pass

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A busy morning of shopping in the town of Cody, as we needed to get prepared for the Rodeo in the evening.  Of course, that meant cowboy/cowgirl hats and the purchase of our first Stetson!

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We grabbed a bite to eat for lunch at Mojoes and headed to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum.  This place was awesome!  Five museums under one roof!  So much to see and so little time!  The five museums are Buffalo Bill, Draper Natural History, Whitney Western Art, Plains Indian, Cody Firearms.  We made it through three, the Natural History, Buffalo Bill and Plains Indians.  We loved the history of Buffalo Bill and the Plains Indians!  The picture of the guns from one of our favorite TV shows “Bonanza”!

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At 6:00 p.m. we headed to Irma’s Hotel for the gun fight! Buffalo Bill built the Irma Hotel in 1902 which he called “the sweetest hotel that ever was.”  The hotel was named after one of his daughters.  The mock gunfight in the street lasted about ½ hour.

 

After dinner we headed to the Stampede Rodeo.  It was our first rodeo!  We found ourselves hooping and a hollering watching the bronco riding, barrel racing, calf roping, steer riding and bull riding!  The cuteness for the evening was watching the five year old boy and girl barrel race!

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Five year old boy!
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Five year old girl!

Yee Haw, what a great evening!

Old Trail Town, historic western buildings dating from 1879-1901

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