Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Youthful dreams and aspirations whet your appetite for the unlimited acquisition of material things and buying something shiny for Christmas becomes irresistible because heaping more worldly possessions on your pile is justified as asset building.
In your twilight years after you have played with your toys and time has removed their glittery luster those youthful assets become burdensome liabilities.  

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dentistry as good as it gets in Mérida, Yucatán - Dr. Rudy Mendez Santos

Besides being smiling, jovial and gentle, Dr. Rudy Mendez Santos practices painless dentistry and never sells his patients anything they do not need.

This is my testimonial after living in Mérida for twenty-five years and having a wide variety of dental experiences, some good, some bad and some so slow it became unbearable.

My wife Jane and I have stuck with Dr. Rudy for the past fifteen years mainly because he is simply the very best. He has a wide range of specialist associates that he refers his patients to like Dr. Gabriel Alvarado* an endodontics specialist or root-canal guy who is also an instructor at the Yucatán dental school.

Dr. Rudy’s office is easy to get to, with plenty of parking and it is also bicycle friendly…you may see him Sunday mornings biking with his children on the Bici-ruta.

Dr. Rudy Mendez Santos
Calle 15 No. 131 Depto. 2
Between Calles 26 and 28
Col. Itzimná
Tel. 926-24-52

If you are driving north on Paseo de Montejo, cross the railroad tracks, pass the Pemex gasoline station, go one block and turn right, (east) at the motorcycle place on Calle 15 and you are almost there. The office is in a corner building on the north side, (left heading east).

Dr. Rudy speaks English, is punctual and expects his customers to be.
He is so easy going that I catch myself falling asleep while he works.
I am the smiling guy and contented customer in the dental chair.
©2010 John M. Grimsrud

*Dr. Gabriel Alvarado Cárdenas

Exclusively endodontics (root canal treatment)
Calle 54 No. 455B between Calles 51 and 53
Col. Centro, Mérida
Tel. 924-7289 and 928-6215

Friday, November 19, 2010


Tulum has been an intersection of transport and commerce for countless centuries dating back to the ancient Chontal Maya with huge sea-going trade canoes that frequented these pristine waters.

Caribbean waters of Riviera Maya south of the Tulum temple ruins.
Excerpt from the book; FINAL REPORT AND THE MAYA by Michel D. Coe, page 206.
“Yucatán was the greatest producer of salt in Mesoamerica. The beds extended along the coast from Campeche, along the lagoons on the north side of the peninsula, and over to Isla Mujeres on the east.
The great majority of goods traveled by sea since the roads were but poor trails and cargos heavy. The kind of commerce was cornered by the Chontal Maya, or Putun, such good seafarers that Thompson called them “the Phoenicians of Middle America.” Their route skirted the coast from the Aztec port of trade in Campeche, Xicallanco, around the peninsula and down to Nito near Lake Izabal, where their great canoes put into exchange goods with the island Maya…
It was this trade that linked Mexico and the Maya, for they had much to exchange- especially cacao and feathers of tropical birds for copper tools and ornaments- and it was probably the smooth business operators conducted by the Chontal that spared the Maya from the Aztec onslaught that had overwhelmed less cooperative peoples in Mesoamerica.”
   Tulum remained an active trading port when the Maya of northern Yucatán’s classic period collapsed due to an unprecedented two-hundred fifty year drought that commenced in the year 800 AD.
   The Chontal Maya continued their sea-going trade transporting salt from northern Yucatán to the still active Mayan centers of Lamanai, Tikal and Calakmul in the dense canopy jungle far to the south. They also carried on sea-going trade to as far away as Veracruz, Cuba, Florida and Central America.
Tulum offered a port of refuge on the Caribbean coast behind the second longest coral reef in the world. Entry to the protection behind that coral reef was ingeniously provided by a range marker that when lined up made a safe passage through the narrow break in the reef possible. The most astonishing thing of all was that these Maya even made their range marker useable by night by placing a fire behind a window that lined up perfectly with the safe passage through the break in the reef.
    This area was well developed with infrastructure that included a straight paved sacbe road to the Mayan temple town of Cobá and a straight manmade navigable canal nearly ten kilometers long to the temple town of Muyil which lies some twenty kilometers south of Tulum. The canal is fully functional to this day.
     In 1975 the Territory of Quintana Roo became a state, but was seldom visited, had nearly no paved roads and tourism was unheard of outside of the newly created resort town of Cancún. Besides being undeveloped it was a smugglers paradise for clandestine merchandise that strangely found its way into Mexico by night. 
    One boast of Tulum today is that they still do not have a jail.
    Though the Riviera Maya has been discovered now by world travelers there are still some extremely affordable options for visiting Tulum. 

   For less that $10.00 USD or $120.00 pesos a day, the Hostel Lobo Inn Tulum gives bed and breakfast with so much free stuff thrown in it seems impossible to believe. Free internet, TV, air conditioning, drinking water, open kitchen, security lockers, free bicycle use, swimming pool and an unbeatable location; Located across from the Tulum Ruins entrance and an ADO scheduled bus stop with quiet paved bike paths and trails along the Caribbean coast and into downtown shopping.    Camping and motor scooter rentals are also available.

Jane at Hostel Lobo Inn Tulum where bikers and back packers gather.

The patio and pool area where coconuts and travelers hang out.

   Here I am with the happy, helpful and friendly management team of Hostel Lobo who make Caribbean vacations affordable and fun. Julio center and Manual on right are setting the standard for inexpensive tropical vacations…perhaps the best deal in all of Mexico.
Hostel Lobo Inn Tulum

Carretera Federal Chetumal-Cancún
Tel. 984-8712190 or cel. 984-1067933

   The best deal on a studio apartment available on a weekly and monthly basis in downtown Tulum is at Bin Wayak Apartments where amazingly everything works and all is maintained in pristine condition. New, modern studio apartments have kitchenettes and wireless internet included. Convenient shopping is a short walk away in a quiet and pleasant neighborhood.
Bin Wayak

Calle Jupiter between Sol y Murcurio streets next to the Lavanderia Burbujas
Centro Zona Maya, Tulum, Q. Roo tel. 984 7459966

Fresh Caribbean air and quiet tranquility plus a super location for shopping, dining and the ADO bus terminal are an easy walk away.

Bicycle friendly with easy access to the beaches, shopping and a variety of interesting dining spots that have a laid-back Caribbean flavor featuring fresh sea food are reachable on quiet back streets and paved bike paths

Owner, developer and hospitality chief of Bin Wayak studio apartments, Tirso Monxón Ambrossi makes a wonderful place even better with his perpetually jovial disposition that invites your return.

You will not need air-conditioning here with huge screened opening windows that let in the trade-wind tropical fresh air.

Convenient bicycle parking and tranquil patios where year-round temperatures hover in a salubrious comfortable range that allows the warm trade-winds to make life easy and un-rushed are sure to beckon your return to Tulum.

Today transport and commerce connects the Riviera Maya and Tulum to the rest of the world by paved highway but the pristine Caribbean waters and fresh trade-wind breezes remain.
More Tulum information, visit our website: www.bicycleyucatan.com/tulum


©2010 John M. Grimsrud

Tuesday, November 2, 2010



The Superior, Wisconsin/Minnesota Point inlet and lighthouse pictured in calm weather;
Note; the following short story goes with this photo because of its geographical location.
It is a common occurrence to have at least one very violent storm in this season on Lake Superior but this one was exceptional.

Jane and I along with my father, who was living with us at the time, drove out late this Sunday afternoon onto a narrow finger of land known as Wisconsin Point.
We went to see just what the raging lake would be like whipped into a frenzy by almost one-hundred mile per hour winds.
While we parked our car the wind sent shudders of blasting sand mixed with icy pelting spray that coupled to make a deafening roar.
The sight was beyond our belief while we watched the sixty foot tall lighthouse tower on the east jetty completely buried in crashing seas.
There were four people trapped inside the lighthouse structure and several days would pass before they could leave their imprisonment.
The approach to that lighthouse had been constructed of huge boulders the size of small houses and those mammoth waves crashing into and over them actually scattered the rocks about like so many pebbles on the beach.
If this sounds bad you will not believe the sickening horror we felt as the next chain of events unfolded.
There we saw out on the lake and headed into port was an eight-hundred foot great lakes iron ore freighter with the full brunt of that savage storm sweeping it along on a path of no return. As large and as powerful as this ship was it was no match for the killer storm.
With the wind on their stern it would be utterly impossible for the crew to turn their ship into the wind and their fate was sealed. They had no other choice but to run the inlet.
What we witnessed next made our hearts nearly stop. We held our breaths and watched a super huge wave break under the stern lifting this mighty ship and sending it into a broach position which then turned it beam to the sea.
The power and force unleashed here took all control out of the hands of the crew. Their fate rested with Mother Nature while the ship washed out of control sideways.
In the blink of an eye it was over. The massive vessel had gone surfing sideways through the outer and inner jetties and then into the safety of the harbor.
For those aboard that got to stair the Grim Reaper squarely in the eye that blink of the eye must have felt like an eternity.
After witnessing this assume event Jane and I still went on and ventured out there onto Lake Superior to confront the mighty Gitchi Gami big sea waters. 
In 1972 Jane and I set sail away from Superior, Wisconsin aboard our home designed and built 46 foot sailing vessel Dursmirg. We crossed the Great Lakes, Erie Barge Canal and Hudson River to New York where we turned south to begin many years of ambitious adventures
We have written and published the four volume story of that escapade entitled, Travels of Dursmirg.

Monday, October 25, 2010


When you ask foreigners who now live in Mérida what attracted them to Mérida and why they stayed, you will get a wide range of answers. They fell in love with the colonial city, they had always dreamed of living in a foreign land, they felt safe, the people are friendly and make you feel welcome, and the winters are warm.

You might meet someone who says moving to Mérida was the biggest mistake they ever made; they hate everything, the heat, the bugs, the people, the food. When you hear this, remember that there are people who can be miserable anywhere. As the sign said on the entrance to the Magic Theater in Hermann Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf, “Not for everybody.”

Living in Mérida, Yucatán, is a good decision for many people. The U.S. embassy in Mexico City estimates that there are more than 600,000 Americans living in Mexico. An estimated 300,000 Canadians live in Mexico, at least part-time. Mérida has expats from all around the world.
Listen to the voices of foreigners who came to Mérida, and they will tell you why they stayed.

Connie Burk says:
“After six years of living in Belize in a remote, rainforest setting, my husband, Jerry, and I were ready for a change. After living near and working with quite poor Maya villagers, and always being perceived by them as being very rich, we were looking for a situation where we could "blend in" with a vibrant middle class in Mexico. We already knew and loved Mérida from many years of traveling, and we thought we'd try a taste of city life. The colonial architecture, especially with its tall walls enclosing the gardens, was especially enticing for me because I tend to deal with hot weather by removing most of my clothing at home! Now, we're in the middle of the city, but our garden is very private. We're very happy here.”

Debbie Moore says:
“I came to Mérida by accident. On a prospective buying trip to Majahual, I happened to meet Mitch Keenen and asked him where he lived. His answer: Mérida. Mérida? Back then Mérida was a place no one had even heard about. I was already committed to life on the Mayan Riviera. My curiosity aroused I started checking the real estate sites for Mérida.
Once I saw those broken down colonials I was hooked. After 3 years of looking at and dreaming about Mérida, I finally made the trip. I bought my house in 3 days.
What I love about Mérida is that Mérida is like kissing a toad and finding a prince.
Like most first time visitors to Mérida, my first impression was of a city in general decay. However, the more time you spend here the more wonderful “layers” you discover and the less old paint you see.
Yes, the wonderful old colonials are often in ruins but the amazing transformations that people create are wondrous. Every home is completely different, unique, and creative. It is always a treat to visit one no matter how modest. Even the non colonial homes of Mérida are interesting.
The city offers everything you could want from culture to shopping to excellent medical service. After living in Playa del Carmen for 3 years, Mérida is more like living in the US as far as amenities go.
Mérida offers a true Yucateco experience to anyone seeking it. From exploring the ruins to participating in the holidays and festivals, a person can totally immerse themselves in this rich and colorful culture.
We also have a large, varied, and interesting expat community. There are a number of charitable groups and some “fun” organizations too. Life here is never lacking for social interaction if that is what you like.
However, after a number of years here, the thing that still amazes me most are the people.
The Yucatecos are, for the most part, a quiet and gentle people; therefore the city exudes a quiet energy, a sense of tranquility and well being that is lacking in most places today. Life here is so CALM and PEACEFUL and JOYFUL, unlike life in the rest of North America these days.
Every day I sit in my garden here in Mérida, hear the church bells, and count my blessings.
I ask myself “How did I pull this off?”
Coming to Mérida is one of the best things I have ever done in my lif

Tom Kuhn says:
“Why? We had traveled for a couple of decades within the borders of many Latin American countries. Most of our travels were taking place in México as it was a comfortable fit for us. A friend that lives in Mérida invited us to visit. We found Mérida to be a wonderful city, culturally diverse, very friendly people, minimum crime, and superb medical care in all fields. Mérida is close to the Gulf and the Caribbean and that makes it simple to get our ocean fix when we need/want one. In addition it has an international airport which makes traveling very easy.”

Mary Anne and Allan Dunlop say:
"We were initially looking for a warm and easily accessible destination to escape Canadian winters. From the many options we finally chose Mérida for its culture and its people. Do not come here if you want to simply export your own culture to a warmer climate. Come here to find a rich history and incredibly diverse people - French architecture, Spanish colonial influences, the amazing Mayan ruins and people. The hospitals are excellent (doctors still do house calls) and it is safe to walk any street at night. Restaurants range from Ritzy to modest (you must try the cocinas economicas) and entertainment from the Symphony to dancing in the street. We love it here."

©2010 John M. Grimsrud

Monday, October 18, 2010

In Search of the "Old Country"

Written by John M. (Bing) Grimsrud
In many ways, it seems like a very long time ago and in many ways, it was.
I still have an indelible mental image of Grandpa Christ, “C.C.” Grimsrud, leaning back in his big gray stuffed easy chair after dinner with a far-off look in his eyes as he spoke of the “Old Country”.
The “Old Country”?
My young interest was perked and my curiosity was stirred as my mind searched for answers.
Where was this “Old Country”?
What was this “Old Country”?
Who lived in this “Old Country”?
Though the questions went unanswered, they remained alive and my curiosity haunted my dreams throughout my life.
By and by Grandpa passed away but that seed of curiosity he planted continued to live on in my mind until one day when I was a middle-aged person I just had to find out about the “Old Country”.
How ironic it all is now looking back over those years. As I write these words, I realize that I am now at the age of 70, older than Grandpa Christ was when he perked my curiosity back in the early 1940s with his talk about the “Old Country”.
My first trip to the “Old Country” happened back in 1983. I had the time and money so all I lacked were the contacts.
A second cousin of mine named Dee Braverman had contacted me in her search for Grimsrud family information while researching the family tree. I was surprised how very little I actually knew about the family history. However, in corresponding with Dee, she put me in contact with the Grimsruds in the “Old Country”.
Next I sent off a letter to Kari Hoven, who I had met when she visited in America and spent one year in 1948 with Grimsrud relatives in the Superior, Wisconsin area.
Kari turned out to be the very best person to correspond with because of her incredible aptitude to recall names, people, places and dates, plus she has an incredibly exuberant enthusiasm. (I was amazed at the family resemblance that Kari had to my father…they could have been twins.)
It turned out that Kari remembered me, my parents and every detail of her visit to America, (the “New Country”), in vivid details. She still had a photo of my little brother and me from her 1948 visit.
My wife Jane and I spent six weeks in Norway in 1983 and got to hear countless stories told by my relatives who Kari made sure we had the opportunity to meet. We were with different group’s morning, noon and night, every day and the quantity of coffee and open-faced Norwegian sandwiches we consumed was unfathomable. We took notes, kept a logbook and took photos of nearly everyone we met and their homes.
The ocean and the distance that separated the “Old Country” and the New Country in those days after Grandpa Christ left were more than enormous. Consider this, I was the very first of all of my grandfather’s direct descendants to make a trip back to the “Old Country”. Grandpa Christ left in 1896 and it wasn’t until 1983 that I set foot upon the rock bound coast of Norway, the “Old Country”.

This photo was taken seven years before Henry Ford produced his first automobile in 1903. It was a transitionary time between horse and the industrial age of steam power.
The above photo was taken in 1896 in Superior, Wisconsin, at a studio on Conner’s Point then known as West Superior. Left is Christ “C.C.” Grimsrud b.1879, my grandfather.  Next is Louis the (adopted stepson of Martin Grimsrud b.1862) and Hans Grimsrud b.1877 and the older brother of C.C. Grimsrud. Christ, Hans and Martin were all brothers born in Norway who immigrated to America before 1895.

The era was referred to as “the golden age of bicycles”. My grandfather Christ, on the left, had a Victor bicycle, the first with pneumatic tires that were glued onto lightweight wooden rims. Hundreds of firms were competing in this intense market of high demand where the typical bicycle was selling for $100.00.
The bicycle in the center is equipped with a carbide lamp, the same type used by miners.
Inspirations and motivations that drove my Norwegian ancestors to take that leap into the strange new world leaving behind family, friends, home and inheritance were many and individual.
In the history of humankind this immigration was an unprecedented phenomena and nothing quite like it had ever happened before. Previously the human condition was a victim of their geography. But now the option of escape flung open a new door of opportunity.  
Dazzling stories of limitless fertile lands across the sea in far off America, free for the taking, lit up the imaginations of the young Scandinavians who had never even remotely dared to dream such a dream before. Their Viking spirit had come alive.
These were the first days of the industrial revolution when the might of steam power opened new horizons and lifted the burden from men’s shoulders and sped them across oceans and continents. The world would never be the same again.
The American frontier of those years was anything but a utopian environment. A violent civil war exploded in 1861 and the next year the American government offered every immigrant 160 acres of surveyed land while the native Indians were massacring the new settlers in Minnesota and the Dakota Territory. These were not good times for America and in 1879, the year my grandfather was born in Norway, a great economic depression struck America.
As an added incentive to immigrate, Sweden began in 1860 to enact policies toward Norway restricting their sovereignty that caused enough political strife to ultimately dissolve their union and in 1905 Norway was declared an independent kingdom.  
In spite of the many horrible hardships these new immigrants would face in their new country, they kept coming in larger and larger numbers year after year. At the same time the Dakota Territory embarked on a land boom that would last from 1879 until 1920. The convergence of these extraordinary circumstances captivated an entire generation caught in the crosshairs of time.
Here I can speak for my family because they were part of this monumental and irreversible happening that sent a nation’s eager and daring young people to a far off land saying a permanent goodbye to family, friends and home.  
The stories were many and the reasons for leaving were underscored with powerful motivating forces that in the end would result in a torrent of immigration that would ultimately find more Norwegians in Minnesota than in Norway.
Some of the stories ended in brilliant successes built on hard work and determination others fizzled away on bad land farms but the good stories and the bad all held fascinating human interest of a time in human history like none other and my family was a part of it all.
Here is an observation and quote from George Grimsrud of Janesville, Wisconsin. “Norwegians are tough, they live a long time, and there isn't much land [in Norway].”
In addition to the fact that there isn’t much land in Norway that is productive enough to support a family, the reality is that in a family of thirteen children like my grandfather’s, only one would inherit the farm. The rest would have to do the best they were able and the incentive to depart became a very powerful and motivating force.
Martin Grimsrud, born December 2, 1862 on the Grimsrud farm at Skoger, Norway, was the second child and first son of thirteen so he was, according to the custom of the time, the one to inherit the farm.
We can only guess now what inspired and drove Martin to leave the certainty and security of his home to make a totally new beginning in a strange and far off land that held out only one promise, and that was opportunity. Well, he wasn’t the only one to leave but he gave up more than most. Martin was driven beyond the distant horizon by the spark of his Viking ancestry.
To those that picked up the challenge and executed their dreams their fate was all but sealed. Like leaping from a tall building, at the moment it might have seemed like the right thing to do but once air-borne, no matter how strong the pangs of remorse might have been, the outcome was hopelessly irreversible.  
So it would be with these Viking spirited immigrants chasing their dreams across the oceans to America’s wild and unsettled frontiers.
Martin was not the first Grimsrud of our family to immigrate to America.  An uncle of Martin, Anders Grimsrud, born in 1839 and the fourth child of Peder Christophersen (Grimsrud) and his mother Anne Beathe Andersdatter Skot of Dalen immigrated to America in 1869 along with his wife Karen Antonette Christonsdatter Grytebakke.
Evidently Anders had a powerful influence on his nephew Martin who then came to Atwater, Minnesota, in America and then became established and went on to assist many of his 12 brothers and sisters to immigrate to America. Martin first settled in Minnesota in Dane County and next in Pope County. He later moved on to Superior, Wisconsin where he married Randi Hoff.

 Above, the first grocery store in Superior, Wisconsin, located on Conner’s Point and built by Martin Grimsrud, my grandfather’s oldest brother. The store was featured on page 29 in the publication Eye of the Northwest by Frank A. Flower, printed in 1889.  
My grandfather, Christ C.C. Grimsrud the tenth child of those thirteen, owes his opportunities in America to his older brother Martin who not only helped him to immigrate but taught him the meat market business and even helped him to go into his own private business.
Martin Grimsrud was one of the success stories. He had a dynamic life, was a successful businessman, became active in the local government and had a good family.

©2010 John M. Grimsrud

To read more about the golden age of bicycles, I recommend The Lost Cyclist by David V. Herlihy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


GERMANY, GREEN AND CLEAN - Leading the world and on the cutting edge in solar, wind and recycling technologies.
Still fully functional after more than two centuries of dependable, clean and non-polluting production, this 1802 grain mill in northern Germany combines hydro with wind power, cleanly powering Germany from its beginning.
Germany may not have been the first to initiate these green and environmentally clean power sources but on the eve of the industrial revolution they were there to lead in innovation. An example is the mill pictured above where two sources of power are tapped so either wind or water will keep production dependable.
In the above photo, John and Jane Grimsrud enjoy the world’s best bicycling with their novel Dahon folding bicycles that fit perfectly with Germany’s extensive well marked paved bicycle paths. Buses, trains, airplanes and even the ferry boats are bicycle friendly here.
Bicycles are a way of life here, children ride to school, and adults go to work and shopping, tourist’s vacation cross country staying at bed and bike hotels. This goes on year round in sun or snow.
Germany, besides having excellent bike route maps and smooth paved trails that are clearly marked with information signs like the one above, has set a world standard. These information signs are literally loaded with facts.  Even the small red and green tabs above, 9, 10, V, and the petroleum pump indicate special bicycle tour routes that are designated on biking maps available at book stores and tourist offices.
From left, natural gas pump, wind farm and paved bicycle path; clean and green.
Germany has gone all-out to make your bicycling experience world class.  This is one of thousands of covered bicycle shelters that are conveniently placed, meticulously clean and well equipped with tables and benches. Note the plate glass picture windows and barred off parking place for bikers only…no cars.
This historic canal dates from the 1870’s and was built by the muscle of man and beast. Connecting to the textile center of Nordhorn, this Ems-Vechte Canal heads east and links with the Dortmund Ems Canal that was built in 1899.
The busy and sill active Dortmund Ems Canal connects the German industrial heartland with the North Sea Port of Emden. Most of these interconnected canals that crisscross Europe have lovely bicycle paths with numerous covered shelters and plenty of accommodations.
The monumental effort required to complete this European canal system must rank with the wonders of the world for human engineering and effort.
Initially the canal traffic was moved by beasts of burden plodding along a tow path, next steam engines did the work.
Nordhorn is still a city of canals but its heavy industry no longer exists. Now this beautiful canal is silent except for the birds that have made it their seasonal home.
This incredibly beautiful hardwood forest that flanks the border is now quietly enjoyed by bicyclers. They glide silently beneath the towering shade trees on the bike paths stopping along the way at the numerous covered picnic tables like the one you see above.
Here in downtown Nordhorn this neatly dressed lady is doing her shopping by bicycle with her young child comfortably riding in the attached kiddy cart. Notice the cleanliness of the brick street.
Another interesting thing in most of Europe is that all school children are given unrestricted free public transportation. They do however prefer their bicycles.
Even the dependable German postal service that delivers rain or shine is ecologically friendly with these specially equipped bicycles.
This photo is taken at a grocery store where you can see that bicycling clients have top parking priority. 
Also in the above photos notice the cleanliness that is the German standard.
In the balance of things ecological bicycling is as close to an equilibrium with nature as you can get. Here in Europe, bicycling to school, work, shopping, and recreation, is an every day part of life. Pictured above, the red part of the pavement is reserved for bicyclers only. Motor traffic can use the bicycle area but must give up total right-of-way. This system works well in the country where there are narrow roads and little traffic.  (Border town of Denekamp, NL)
The bicycle lanes are clearly designated.  Because the gasoline and diesel fuel prices are nearly double that of the US, there is a noticeable lack of motorized traffic and a heavy reliance on bicycles. (Border town of Denekamp, NL)
Six percent of Germany’s power requirements are met with wind that is cleanly and quietly harnessed. (Here wind generated electric power enters the grid.)
Enercon the German company that designs, manufactures, and installs these non-smoking colossal wind generators that make life here cleaner and better has an impressive track record. In the past ten years they have more than quadrupled the clean electrical power they are providing, and are on track to meet their goal of supplying twenty-five percent of Germany’s electrical power requirements with wind alone.  
In the above photo you can get a perspective of the size of these wind powered generators when compared to Jane on her bicycle.
This is a close-up of the sign at this Enercon wind generating station at Bimolten, Germany, near Nordhorn. This facility of fourteen generators produces the electrical energy necessary to power 14,000 four person households. Here in north Germany the homes are truly total electric…they even have electric powered windows and awnings…this is a push-button world.
North Germany is at nearly 53 degrees north latitude, about the same latitude as southern Hudson’s Bay in Canada. Photovoltaic or solar electrical generation has more than come of age here. They top the world in solar generation and have a goal of producing twenty-five percent of their needs.
Solen Energy Company at nearby Meppen, Germany, is the manufacturer, distributor, and installer of nearly all of these photovoltaic panels, but BP, Shell Oil and Sharp Electronics have also been major players in this green revolution.  The above private home is a good example of how the people with government incentives have made a positive impact in leading the world in clean living.
Solar electrical generation is everywhere in Germany. Private homes, government buildings like the one above, industrial facilities and even farms are all getting involved.
This two-hundred meter long pig farming facility has been fitted with enough solar generating panels to provide the power to take care of the needs of at least twelve private homes.
In the back-ground is a wind farm also cleanly producing more electrical power.
Believe it or not, but Nordhorn, Germany, even has a solar powered excursion boat that gives canal tours.
Here at these northern latitudes solar heated water systems in homes are very common and becoming more popular all the time.
Nothing goes to waste here in Germany. Propane, butane, methane, and other gases that are by-products of petroleum and farm product production are separated and used to heat, generate, and propel. Clean, quiet, and efficient, the above auto proudly advertises the fact that it is going far with earth-gas.
Taking bio-energy another step further, this vibrant field of sunflowers is being cultivated to provide the component required to make enough heat energy through gasification to warm the large complex of buildings at Frenswegen Kloster near Nordhorn, Germany.
This is part of the building complex to be heated by the above sunflower field.
Again Germany takes the lead when it comes to re-cycling. The people are responsible for disposal of their own glass garbage. Homeowners dutifully remove corks and caps from their glass containers and according to color, green, clear, and brown, deposit them in containers like the ones you see above found in neighborhoods and at shopping places. The grocery stores have places for used disposal of batteries, corks, and even all merchandise packaging…this is the law.
Most all grocery stores also have automated bottle returns for bottles with deposit. You put your bottles in one at a time, they are scanned, and when you are done, press a button and the machine then prints out an itemized credit slip that you turn in at the check-out.  The American Woman’s Club of Cologne (Köln) has done an outstanding job of chronicling Germany’s world class recycling program, click this link: http://www.howtogermany.com/pages/recycling.html
Different colored refuge containers for sorted garbage are collected on specified days.
Compostable garden material is not picked up and must be taken to the municipal disposal center. The upside of this is that the city then does the complete composting process and homeowners are welcome to then pick up as much fully composted material as they want at no charge. In other words, the city composts, stores and makes available as much as you want when you want it.
This is garbage pick up day in Germany. Notice that the canisters are precisely parked exactly on the curb line. This is something that the Germans take special pride in…precision!
The plastic bags with draw-strings are for recyclable plastics disposal and are given out free of charge at the grocery stores.
Many public park benches and tables are made from re-cycled plastic, from the unwanted garbage to something beautiful and useful.
This 1600’s vintage water driven mill at the little town of Lage near Nordhorn is still fully functional and in service to this day cleanly operating without burning a single drop of fossil fuel. Germany is a tough act to follow.
READ: Part 2, Germany Clean and Green - Compost and Recycling

©2010 John M. Grimsrud


Germany is leading the world in user friendly recycling. They make it simple and rewarding at the same time. Educated citizenry know the gratifying results of making their world a utopian green zone.
Nordhorn, Germany, a town of about 50,000, has three free to all composting/recycling centers managed and operated by the municipality. It is the responsibility of all the citizens to deliver their sorted vegetation material here. The reward and benefit is apparent everywhere here. Above; easy access to all the mulch you care to carry away and a dumpster for discarded metal are convenient.
More recycled gardening essentials are free for the taking with no restrictions on quantity; chipped wood and fully composted dirt ready to keep Germany naturally green and clean are in abundance.
User friendly community services like this rich composted dirt are a part of life here.
Here is another testimonial to a community that strives for a better life through community involved land management. Unwanted cement and ceramic is kept out of the regular garbage thus making the job of recycling easier. It is dutifully disposed of here and will ultimately find a good community use.
Tilman Stürmer, a Nordhorn resident, is one of the model citizens who helps make this facility into a perpetuating balance of nature and the world better. All do their part here.
This is a fine example of how rewarding the German recycling program is. Look in the background at the towering mountain of already composted vegetation that will soon be incorporated into a greener world made better by this German initiative.
The rest of the planet will have to run to catch up with Germany’s lead in environmentally friendly clean living.
Click the links below to see what can be done elsewhere and what John and Jane Grimsrud have done in lives that are almost as green as it gets. Their “drag and drop” composting and ecologically friendly home are easy and economical.


READ: Germany, Clean and Green, Part 1

©2010 John M. Grimsrud

Monday, August 30, 2010


They evolved over the years to meet our changing needs.
Leaving Netherlands along the Amelo-Nordhorn Canal and entering Germany on the paved bicycle path known as the “Grenz route” or border route we enjoy the friendly open borders of the Euro-zone.My wife Jane and I have been bicycling together for over forty year’s extensively in North America and all across Europe.
After all these years we have found that our most pleasure is in exploring on quiet paved roads. The slower we go the more fun we seem to have.
Having said that, we now own twelve different bicycles and they serve a variety of our needs.
This motley amalgamation or collection of cycles has filled the gap in our amusement, entertainment, and shopping requirements. After all these years we still roll along on our oldest machines that we refer to as our exotic bicycles.
For the past ten years we have not owned any motor vehicles and all of our travels are either by bicycle and public transport.
Jane’s sister said; “how can you possibly live without a car?” Well, I assure you that not only can we live without a car but our standard of living has actually been richly enhanced without one.
A word about our exotic bicycles; Jane over forty years ago purchased a used 27 x 1 1/4 inch Swedish go-fast bike as her second. At the time it was the most spirited bike I had ever ridden.

Not being racers or speed freaks, modifications began to evolve. For comfort Jane got new handle bars and a springy seat. For shopping and touring, a carrier rack was installed. Then alloy crank, wheels, and shifters became upgrades. Before our Rhine River trip up to Switzerland, new mountain compatible sprockets were installed. After our cross Europe trip through East Germany and into Poland where we broke twenty spokes on the cobble stoned streets, I replaced all of the spokes with Mexican industrial heavy duty. That was the end of the problem.
A computer, drink holders, and front rack for straddle bags or panniers were added to made cross-country tours even better.
My bicycle is a total make over; the only original parts are the front fork and handlebars that I inverted.
I originally started with a frame that was a tad too big. Forty years ago I was a lot more nimble and couldn’t resist the super-light all alloy bicycle. As the years went by that over sized frame began to be a problem. One day at a bicycle shop in Netherlands I purchased a smaller French frame and went home to our camper, swapped out all the parts and the net result was a frame size that I could handle.
For serious cross-country and shopping, fore and aft luggage racks fitted with packs and panniers made our bikes like little pack animals. A map holder and my personally designed “save my ass” bike seat came next. I designed the seat to save my sex life and protect my kidneys using light duty springs and special high density padding. A compass and two drink holders finished the innovations.
Our exotic bicycles are heavy but roll extremely well.
My bike innovations made me think back to a story my grandfather told to me;
One day when I was in his repair shop he held up a well worn little hammer and exclaimed; “this hammer has been in the family a long time, it has had seven handles and two new heads.”
That sounds a lot like my exotic bicycle.

Ten years ago I was 60 years old and many times made 120 kilometer days.
Now I am 70 years old and 40-50 kilometer days are enough…it must be global warming?
We still see people spending mega-bucks on ultra-light bikes and then strapping or bolting on so many extras that they are as heavy as discount store clunkers.
A brief history of our exotic bicycles.
Both were purchased second hand in Florida where we lived in five different locations over a period of twenty-two years. We even took them on a five month long junket aboard our commercial shrimp trawler Secotan where they were stowed in the fore-peak.
Next they were transported on carrying racks aboard our camper van and traveled everywhere across the US from Florida to the Pacific Northwest and from California to the state of Maine.
I still remember biking down Las Vegas Boulevard and pulling into the Mirage where the valet parked our bikes.
In Canada we biked the islands of British Columbia and across to the Maritime Provinces in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
We eventually had a home in Brownsville, Texas and biked the border towns there. Next the bikes came to Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico.
Sixteen years ago we loaded the bikes aboard a commercial freighter along with our camper van and headed for Rotterdam, Netherlands. In Europe we have bicycled with our exotic bicycles from Norway and Sweden to Spain and Portugal. From Western Europe to Poland and every centimeter of the Rhine River from the North Sea all the way up to the Swiss Alps in Switzerland at the rivers headwaters and everything in between.
In Netherlands outside the old town of Ootmarsum where numerous well maintained bicycle paths meander through stately forests and past medieval castles…picnic tables abound. It is a bikers paradise.
Biking the sparsely populated Dortmund-Ems Canal region near Emsbüren.  Quiet paved roads and immaculately clean bicycle shelters make Germany as good as it gets.  We are still rolling on our exotic bicycles and they don’t owe us much.

© 2010 John M. Grimsrud

Thursday, August 5, 2010


  For openers; I have been seriously afflicted with this writing affliction for a number of years and appear to have a severe addiction.
  It all started when my wife Jane and I spent four months in Europe a number of years ago.
  Norway was my inspiration and six intense weeks there opened my eyes to an intriguing family link reflecting Viking origins.
  My first attempts to chronicle my family history were painfully pathetic…but I was determined and persistent.
  I finally turned out a winner entitled; In Search of the Old Country.  This short story was ultimately published in Norway in that language.
  Over the years I did a number of short stories and with practice I began posting some of them on the website that my wife Jane and I created.
  With prompting from family and friends I was persuaded to write the adventure travel story about the dreamboat that Jane and I designed, built and sailed away to live aboard for fifteen years.
  This story became four volumes, and a few months ago the first three of the four volumes of Travels of Dursmirg became reality and were published.  They have all received five star reviews and are available through Amazon books accessed from our web site; www.bicycleyucatan.com
  That website was like a pyramid built one stone at a time. The website has now mushroomed into dozens of topics with hundreds of links pertaining, in the most part, to our adventures of bicycling and living in Yucatán.
  I have more topics to cover and things to say.
  The “Bing”, my nick-name, buzz blogspot has been hatched and will build like another pyramid, one stone at a time.   

© 2010 John M. Grimsrud


    At 69 degrees north latitude deep within the Arctic Circle where the borders of Suomi Finland, and the Russian tundra converge just off the road to Nordkapp, (North Cape) this curious adventure begins.
    Here is the land of the midnight sun, Midnattsol, where inquisitive adventurers journey north from May until July to the northernmost point in Europe on Norway’s rockbound coast of the Arctic Ocean to witness days with no sunset.
    This is the land of the Lapps, Norway’s dogsled and reindeer people, who have adapted and evolved to thrive in this frigid forlorn terrain of arctic isolation.
  In this rare photo these Lapps are fully dressed in their decorative native attire for a wedding celebration. (photo by Trygve Trondsen)
    My cousin Trygve  Trondsen, a dentist, had worked and lived in this district for four years, bought a cabin and made lifelong friends. Now Trygve makes it a point to visit this outpost area at least two times a year.
    Nearly all of the year the Lapps travel by dog sled and even on occasion use their dogsled dogs to pull them about on skis. These huskies are specially trained dogs bred to the task.
    For a short time of the year the snow occasionally melts enough that the dogsleds become unusable.
    That problem has just been solved by enterprising Ole Bakkevold, a Laplander and close family friend to Trygve.
    The ingenious and natural solution would be to use bicycles towed by their Lapland sled dogs.
    Yes here in the mountains of northern Norway in the province of Finnmark, the probability of running into trees is not a worry and finding a shady resting spot is not a priority concern either.

    In Trygve’s own words;
    “Yes, we employed the dogs for assistance upward and down the roads. At some places on the road we had to get off the bicycles because the road had been washed away for a little distance. I must admit that I was uncertain how this biking would end, but I was surprised that the dogs mostly kept a steady course. But I had to keep a close attention on my dogs”.
    Trygve noted that one of his dogs had a sudden tendency to run off when he spotted any water and that the other dog couldn’t resist chasing rodents.
    “My dog loves water so whenever there was a brook on the side of the road I had to watch up. The other dog has a nose for mice and that kind of creatures. So we had to be aware. But the dogs are used to follow a track; Ole is skiing with them.” 
    “The dogs were tied to the bicycle by a flexible kind of rope. The rope goes in and out of a kind of box. Before we started I did not think that was a good way to do it, but Ole has experience. It worked very well. He trains his dogs in this way.
    In the treeless mountains of Finnmark, Ole Bekkevold makes a campfire for the night.
    Out of the mountains and down to the tree line to the end of the dog towing bicycle adventure where Trygve and Ole successfully survived but the dogs are spent.
    This is the glacial pot-hole lake named Rehpi and the neighboring country of Finland can be seen beyond.

    Little Norway has but four and a half million residents, 100% are literate of which 73% of them are urban, leaving the rest of this expansive country sparsely populated.
    Norway’s extensive rockbound coast is highly indented with tens of thousands of islands interspersed with profoundly deep fjords. Most of the country is mountainous with high plateaus and only 25% forested.
    The abundance of hydroelectric power of which more than half is exported, and enormous oil reserves has produced one of the highest living standards in the world.
    In the area where Trygve was bicycling and a few kilometers west on one of the countless barrier islands in the municipality of Harstad, Troms, is the small town of Kasfjord where Trygve’s family originally came from. During the occupation in WWII the German battleship Tirpitz was stationed here, it was of the Bismarck class, the largest ever built in Europe and was finally sunk by the British in 1944.
    Norway is a land of contrasts from the midnight sun country in the far north where there are two months without a sunset to the city of Rjukan in the south central where the sun never shines. Rjukan pioneered in hydroelectricity, nuclear development and during WWII witnessed the German attempt to spirit off a key component for the A-bomb…heavy water. At least one book and a movie were produced about that epic wartime espionage event.

    A thank you to the Viking adventurers Ole Bakkevold and Trygve Trondsen, who provided us with a look into one of the most ecologically friendly countries on this planet earth, Norway, home of the Nobel Peace Prize!

© 2010 John M. Grimsrud