Travel Adventures

California Here I Am

Post and Photos by Kay Nelson

The ocean at Santa Monica California

I am a native Minnesotan and have never lived any other place. Finding myself in the now or never stage of life, I decided to experiment with living in another part of the country. Since I love the ocean, the mountains and I have family in the Los Angeles area, California seemed a logical and desirable choice. It was time to sample the lifestyle of a snowbird and escape the end of our Minnesota winter.

Citrus Suites Santa Monica CA

After sifting through the Vacation Rental by Owner website, I narrowed my choices to Santa Monica and Ventura. Since I didn’t want to deal with the challenge of driving and parking my car, my requirements included being within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean and being able to bring my cat Beau along as well. Success! Citrus Suites in Santa Monica fit the bill perfectly and I rented a 1 bedroom apartment for the month of March.

Cat in California


A Minnesotan, Moonlight and The Sahara


Minnesotan, moonlight, Sahara...Are you wondering what these 3 words have in common?  Kay Nelson that’s what or is it who?  Anyway, my intrepid friend Kay crossed another trip off her bucket list last year when she journeyed to the Dark Continent and visited Morocco.  It was the experience of a lifetime for Kay, who is kindly sharing her adventure with those of us who will not get the opportunity to experience it for ourselves.  And….take it away Kay!


It must have been the 10 cent movies at the Farrow Theater in Parkers Prairie during the ‘50’s what whetted my appetite for a trip to sleep out on the Sahara Desert in Morocco.  Well, it took until 2014 to do this, but I am at the “now or never” stage of my life. So, on September 30, 2014, Joining a group of 13 under the leadership of Overseas Adventure Travels (OAT), I flew to Casablanca to begin my adventure! 

Market Place in Morocco

The Sights and Sounds of Morocco

Morocco was an assault on the senses!  The sounds of the call to prayer 4-5 times a day, the flute of the snake charmer, roaring motorcycles, and bleating sheep were just some of the sounds.  For the eyeballs, it was a riot of color.  The souks, the mosaics, the caramel color of the sand on the Sahara . . . the smell of donkey and horse poop blended with spices, the exhaust...

Let's Go Dogsledding!

To tell the truth, I never thought a dogsledding trek would be my cup of tea.  It conjures up images for me of too cold, too uncomfortable and too wet. So, then my intrepid friend Kay went dogsledding and had the time of her life, and she doesn't relish cold either!  So I thought well maybe, just maybe, I'm not getting the complete picture.  Maybe I am missing something here. 

I was winging my way to fulfill another childhood dream:  a dogsledding trek in the beautiful mountains of Montana. For years I had visions of white powder transforming the world into a winter wonderland. However, climate change had another agenda in mind. As the wheels were lowered for our descent at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport I noticed the Bridger, Crazy and Gallatin mountains had plenty of snow, but the ground in the valley was bare brown. Crap!  My childhood friend who lives in the area had called Chico Hot Springs Resort ahead of time and yes, there was snow on the trails, and the ride would go on as scheduled. Phew!

Greeted by owner Hannah.

The morning of December 12, four of us piled into a van and started down Paradise Valley to hook up with Absaroka Dogsled Treks. Owner, Hannah greeted us, had us sign releases, and checked our wardrobe to make certain we were dressed appropriately.  If we weren’t, there was an ample supply of winter gear in many sizes that could be borrowed.  It was a sunny day, probably in the 40’s so we sat out at the picnic tables and pulled on our snow pants and boots.  We were ready for our adventure.

Harnessing up the team....

Weekend Get Away - The Minnesota Pipestone Region

post by Kay Nelson

Weekend Wildcard September 27 & 28


Pipestone Here We Come!

The Pipestone area has beckoned to me for years.  Visions of wide-open prairie, glacial rocks with petroglyphs, a waterfall, and buffalo herds tantalized me.  After enduring a summer of too much noisy construction, a friend and I took off on a Friday morning and headed south on Highway 169 to explore another part of the state of Minnesota!


The drive through the Minnesota River valley is charming and one could see there soon would be a dramatic display of leaf color.  We headed over to Interstate 90 and passed through the turkey capitol, Worthington, and headed north to Luverne.  The fields were full of banks of wind turbines, corn, soybeans and skyscraper-like storage bins.  And of course, there was a cute restaurant for lunch where we could not believe the low small-town luncheon prices.


Our first scenic stop was at the Blue Mounds State Park.  If you are a birder, there are close to 300 species to check off your lifetime list.  A herd of buffalo was out of camera range, but here is a viewing tower to get a better look and pictures when they are near. Minnesota photographer Jim Brandenburg has a gallery in Luverne with gorgeous photos of them.   There were campers and the campsite even contained a couple of teepees. (Ornamental?)  We walked a short trail, but could have spent a whole day exploring the various ones.


A Minnesota Student's Safari Adventure on the Dark Continent

post by John Williams

Weekend Wildcard September 13 & 14 - A Minnesota Student on an African Safari

Last February, I went for my first African safari. Let me just say that I had no idea what I was in for and totally unprepared for the surprise. As a child, I have always been a fan of Planet Earth and National Geography because I have a passion for animals. Instead of lying on my couch and watching these beautiful creatures with a television screen between us, I had the privilege to meet them head on through my own eyes when studying abroad in South Africa. I was not prepared, however for the incredible beauty of nature and the animals I was about to see.

Africa Elephant vs. car

The Safari Begins! 

The day started with a stop at Addo National Elephant Park, just outside of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Our instructor said that he has gone a full day driving through Addo looking for elephants without spotting any. This of course, made us nervous. Bradley, our tour guide told us all to look for a big brown rock because that is what the elephants look like from a distance. I was extremely excited because I have never seen an elephant and just recently found out that they are the largest land mammals in the world.  The average male African Elephant weighs about 12,000 to 15,000 lbs. and the average female from 8,000 to 11,000 lbs.

As our drive continues, we notice the cars in front of us start stacking up and we are curious as to why. With sharp eyes, I spot the first elephant. The pure mass of the creature astonishes me because it is right next to a car and is at least double in size. At this point,...

Weekend Wildcard August 9 & 10 - Teton Wagon Train Adventure

post by Kay Nelson

Wagon Train Ho!

Wagon Train


img215 "steer" roping

“Kick-em-up Kay,” as I was christened by the wranglers, ventured out to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a great adventure in late August, 2005.  I had read an article in the AAA magazine about an 80+ year old woman who had enjoyed herself on the Teton Wagon Train Horse Adventure and I said, “if she can do it, so can I.”  After all this was my initial "retirement trip" and I wanted to set the bar high for the future vacations. 

Adding to the excitement, Northwest Airlines went on strike the day I left for my adventure and I was not entirely sure if I would have to ride my horse home from Wyoming! However, with knee surgery on the horizon, I had to mount Heidi from an alfalfa bale and have help getting off her as well, so riding her home was not going to be an option.  As if that were not enough, the tension mounted as we had to sit and wait on the tarmac while former Vice President Dick Cheney’s plane took off (he owns land in the area.) 

My Adventure Begins

The night was spent at the Painted Buffalo Inn in Jackson Hole and the next morning we were picked up and delivered to the wagon train...

Weekend Wildcard July 26 & 27 - Ride the Rockies

post by David Cohn

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body. But Rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "WOW - What a ride!" - anonymous


Ride the Rockies 2008

It was a dark and stormy night...really, it was, as the bus taking us from the Denver airport snaked its way through the river gorge and aside from the cliffs into Glenwood Springs, Colorado, for day one of Ride the Rockies.  In February, the June Ride seemed like a good idea. It was mid-winter and imagining the glory of conquering mountains on a bicycle was romantic and the stuff of spring optimism and joy.  But actually on the side of a mountain doing switchbacks, not so much.

ride the rockies

So what is Ride The Rockies? It’s a recreational bicycle ride over the Rocky Mountains and the centerpiece of bicycle rides in the recreational world. It is 2000 riders from all over the world who do it for the scenery, excellent support systems, and the Rocky Mountain highs. It is pedaling a bike 437 miles over 6 days up and down mountains that rise 12,000 feet above sea level. Yup, riding a bicycle over mountains of 12,000 feet. Yes, I know, sounds a little...

Weekend Wildcard July 12 & 13th - Untamed Iceland

Iceland Calls

by Kay Nelson

If you were to ask me when the travel bug bit, I would say it happened when I was three days old. Consequently, I have visited 32 countries so far. Additionally, my northern European genes have beckoned me to the far northern lands. Scandinavia, Russia, and Churchill, Manitoba were visited during "white night." or midsummer when the sun never sets. Friends asked me if I had been to Iceland before and could not believe  I had stayed for 13 days. What would I do that whole time? Is there enough to see and do in Iceland? Well, actually, yes, indeed there is!

Reykjavik Iceland

Yes, there is high culture in Reykjavik. Take note of the beautiful, modern concert hall on the bay. The architect of the Harpa Concert Hall got his inspiration from the rock formations in this cave. And here is an interesting connection to the Twin Cities. Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vanska, has just been named Principal Guest Conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra!


Weekend Wildcard July 5th & 6th – Twin Cities Guy on a South African Adventure

The Republic of South Africa

Posted by John Martin, Summer Intern for The Minnesota Property Group 

South Africa


Imagine a guy from Minnesota living in South Africa! Over the past four months, I had the experience of a lifetime, and I studied abroad in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. 

The general population in South Africa consists of 80% Black, 8% Coloured (mixed origins), and 12% white. During the Apartheid Era, which means "apartness," the minority whites oppressed the black population, even though they were the majority. Only 20 years ago, South Africa had its first democratic election, and Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa.

South Africa is beautiful, peaceful, a diverse culture

South Africa is one of the most beautifully scenic places on earth.  It attracts people worldwide who come to live peacefully here and make it their home. 11 official languages represent the different world heritages. This unique multicultural character has shaped the country's national identity.

South Africa adopted a new flag in 1994. Black, green and yellow in the banner of the African National Congress; red, white, and blue are on the old Transvaal Vierkleur, on the Dutch flag, and the flag of the United Kingdom.  I think this new design is quite beautiful.


Although climatic zones range from the extreme desert of southern Namib in the northwest to the lush subtropical climate in the east along the Mozambique border, generally, South...

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