#Optoutside on Black Friday


My third annual opting out for Black Friday took me to Banning State Park, which is about 60 miles south of Duluth, in Minnesota.  I’ve driven by the entrance to this park numerous times on my trips to and from Duluth.  On Black Friday, access to all Minnesota state parks is free, so off I went exploring.
One of the things that makes Banning a worthy destination is it’s history as a sandstone quarry.  The stone was  used in many buildings in Minnesota and elsewhere.  To help you learn a bit about this history, I’m sharing images of the signs along the Quarry Loop Self Guided Trail.  As you walk the trail, reading the signs and trail pamphlet, you are serenaded by the sound of the Kettle River running nearby.


Up next: rocks!


Black Friday Road Trip

Of course getting to four state parks in one day required a bit of driving.  I did my best to pick a route that would keep me off the freeways as much as possible so as to enjoy the beauty of the freshly fallen snow clinging to the trees along the road.  Sadly, by the end of the day, the sun had melted most of it off the branches and even some of the snow on the ground.  All in all, it was a wonderful day filled with new places to explore, many photos captured, a fair amount of hiking and a lot of fresh air.  I drove through several small river towns, all in need of return visits with my camera.  And with the sun setting in the west, I called it a day and headed back to have dinner, upload the day’s work and sleep knowing I had a grand adventure in the outdoors rather than a dismal day in a shopping center.

The Hardware Store in Blue Island, IL

During my recent trip to the Chicago area I had to take drastic measures after being locked out of the house.  I had to gain entry by breaking a small basement window, which allowed me to turn the latch and open it so that I could crawl in.  First problem solved, new problem created: broken window to fix.  Not being from the area, I had to locate a hardware store that would be nearby, able to cut glass and have glazing and tuck points.  And, there was the question of would a locksmith have been cheaper?
Turns out buying the materials and doing it myself was the best option. Total cost: $8.60!  Plus my labor.  Finding the hardware store was probably the hardest part of the process.  It was tucked away in a difficult to find neighborhood that is part of the old Blue Island area.  Jeben’s Hardware is hidden away on the south side of the Calumet River on Old Western Ave in a wonderful old building that is dated 1894.  The building is only part of the charm of this place.  First you need to take time to look in the windows, they have a sampling of hardware history on display.  Going inside will blow you away, especially if you love a good hardware store.  One display as you enter is an exhibit of all manner of tools and whatnot in a beautiful wood and glass case.  The main part of the store feels very much like it probably did in the early part of the 20th century.
Besides the hardware store, there is also a fantastic restaurant next door that I highly recommend, The Maple Tree Inn.  Try the Voodoo Nuts!  It’s an area that I hope to go back and explore more fully when I don’t have a window to fix, capped off with a cold beverage and some Voodoo Nuts.  Plus take time to check out the Irish Saloon and the Latin Rhythm Lounge across the street.