Monday, December 2, 2013

ROAD TERROR –Highlights from My Recollections

Traffic moves through steady snow along the Highway 61 Expressway between Duluth and Two Harbors on Monday afternoon, Dec. 2, 2013. (Bob King /
Read the article: Evening weather update: Northland still in line for a foot - or more - of snow

ROAD TERROR –Highlights from My Recollections
By John M. Grimsrud ©2013
While I was going to school I took a job working for a clever fellow named Sam Popkin.  These two and an half years proved to be every bit as much education as I got from school.
I was left to develop my own routes and clients and for most of the year this was a lark.
While nearly everyone I knew was shuttered up in offices and behind desks, I traveled scenic highways in upper Michigan, the resort areas of Wisconsin, the north shore of Lake Superior, the Iron Range of Minnesota. and more.
I made business friends and it was great fun…but not a get rich quick enterprise.
As I started my last year of school, Sam Popkin dumped me.
He left a copy of my account at my father’s drug store and stated that if it was not paid by return mail that he would sue.
I was shocked and asked my dad’s advice. Dad told me to take thirty days, deduct 2% and pay by registered mail.
As my dad always used to say, “You never know when someone is doing you a favor.”
Coincidentally, a week before a representative from a company whose products I was selling through Sam Popkin had come by and pitched me to take on their line of merchandise. They said that I was doing a better job with it than Sam.
At the time, I had declined their offer because my life had taken on the complication of a divorce.
Again, I asked my dad for advice, and he said: “Give that company a call.” I did and five days later I was in business for myself.
My dad extended me credit. Though it doesn’t seem like much now, that $2,500 infusion of capital enabled me to get a start. I repaid every penny within six months of finishing school.
These were austere times for me. My neighbor used to shop for me at St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store to keep my wardrobe together. I learned how to mend my own clothes including replacing pockets and zippers. I learned to cut my own hair, and then gave haircuts to others…something that has served me well my entire lifetime.
This poverty portion of my life proved to be a rewarding learning experience that altered my life’s course and strengthened my mindset in a positive way.
Diligent efforts saw my business grow. Eventually I had eleven different factory lines of merchandise I warehoused and shipped, plus I was a factory representative for pharmaceutical supplies. I landed a contact to supply a large cost-plus grocery wholesaler that had over two-hundred and fifty supermarkets with a direct billing arrangement.
If I didn’t get out of my first supermarket before eight in the morning I wouldn’t make the last store by closing time at night. I was like the one-man-band. Many nights my wife Jane worked in my warehouse until eleven at night to pack the day’s orders that went out the next morning by UPS.
This all sounds too good to be true;
There were some downside detractors in this paradise. Driving an average of two hundred and fifty miles a day in my business was acceptable in good weather.
Let me tell you about some incidents that helped me bail out of this lucrative business.
Early one morning as I drove north up Highway 53 to the Iron Range cities of Minnesota in late winter I followed a huge industrially sized flat bed tractor trailer truck pressing the upper limits of speed over jolting frost heaves.
The truck was carrying one gigantic mounted wheel that overhung the trailer substantially. These wheels were used on monster dump trucks in the open pit iron ore mines.
What happened next seemed to take place in slow motion.
The truck hit a giant frost heave, the wheel unshackled itself, bounced high up in the air and came bounding down directly in front of my car and then went airborne again as I passed under it.
That split second seemed to drag on in my mind. If the sequential timing had been off by a split second that might have been the end of me. I would have been squashed like a bug hitting the windshield.
Another Northern Minnesota incident took place on an extremely cold day. The roadway was glazed with glare ice and dusted with powder snow. Tire traction in these conditions is a nebulous thing easily broken by a very slight alteration in velocity. Once traction is broken you must steer into the skid and gently bring the wheels back into traction. This maneuver takes training and lots of time and space. There is a point of no return when the vehicle skids into a spin…control is lost and where you stop is not your option.
I got my driving on ice experience on a frozen lake where there is lots of room to learn. On the frozen lake it was a lot of fun to go as fast as possible and then put the car into a power-on spin…something that only juveniles seem to enjoy.
Back to my story: As I came over the precipice of a high hill with a commanding view I saw off in the distance two double tractor trailer tank trucks speeding over the white landscape and heading my way. They were out of control on the glare ice. Their high speed sent huge clouds of powder snow wafting up in clouds as they fish-tailed along.
We would meet on this two lane road, and the trailers undulating motion caused them to sweep the entire road surface.
Meeting them was like playing Russian roulette with two bullets in the revolver.
Anxiety and anguish sent my heart throbbing like an air-hammer while muscle tension had me gripping the wheel with white knuckles as I slid between the two trucks.
These types of incidents were happening much too often. A number of over-the-road sales people, friends of mine, had become casualties to these driving conditions.
Yet one more icy road story:
One winter evening I was returning from the Iron Range of Minnesota and entering Duluth.  “Lake Effect” snow had drifted in and blanketed this city perched on a hill.  
The road surface became glazed with ice and large drifts of snow were swept by an arctic blast of wind.  
It was treacherous going especially at the point where I joined the city traffic.
I was descending the Duluth hill. Ahead the road made a long sweeping curve. To make this situation even more perilous and terrifying the paved road had a half foot drop-off to the shoulder. If my wheel should slip over it with this ice condition, the probability of controlling the car was slim to none.
The car directly ahead of me lost control and spun violently like a top with its horn blasting and an oncoming car smashed into it with a deadly thud. Both cars were still in motion as I approached and tried to maneuver around the impact zone.
My car spun violently out of control when my wheel left the pavement and I braced for the eminent impact.
My nerves were completely shattered and I trembled with fright.  The last mental image I had was of my car spinning out of control into the two impacted vehicles ahead of me.
As I gained some prospective of my condition I realized that I had missed the collision and was facing in the opposite direction from where I had been coming and I was on the other side of the road slammed into a snow drift and stopped dead.
I was trembling and my nerves were so shaken I couldn’t release my seat belt. 
Roads too slick to stand on, I drove on…but not for long.
I got a gold key from my insurance company for a meritorious driving record.
Ironically, one day as I drove my route my radio quit. My mind didn’t and, lo and behold,  an inspiration struck me that altered the rest of my life.
It was time to quit this insanity and move on. I would rather take my chances on the high seas.
That is another adventure story that I relate in my book, Sailing Beyond Lake Superior.

Available in paperback and Kindle at and in EPUB for NOOK and iPAD.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Adventurous Spirits – Sailing the Seas

I admire the heroes that have taken on great challenges, and I want to follow in their footsteps.Stanley Paris, 2013. 
Joshua Slocum  - Spirit of Adventure

Joshua Slocum laid his life on the line to pursue his extraordinary dream of circumnavigating the globe. He was the first to single-handedly sail around the world. He started his voyage in 1895 and completed it in 1898. 

Joshua Slocum is my number one sailing hero.  In his book Sailing Alone Around the World, he wrote:

 "I had resolved on a voyage around the world, and as the wind on the morning of April 24, 1895, was fair, at noon I weighed anchor, set sail, and filled away from Boston, where the Spray had been moored snugly all winter. The twelve o'clock whistles were blowing just as the sloop shot ahead under full sail.”

Joshua Slocum’s Spray

Stanley Paris – Kiwi Spirit

The 21st century has another self-made man with an original thought who is willing to lay his life on the line to be first.

Stanley Paris, a transplanted New Zealander, recently made St. Augustine, Florida, his port of call.  

Seventy-six year-old Stanley Paris, a lifetime self-motivated high achiever, will employ space age technology to beat the proverbial clock circumnavigating the globe single-handed aboard his sailboat Kiwi Spirit in less than 150 days. The world will be enthusiastically watching.

His website:
Blog of voyage: Stanley Paris Blog

My Viking Spirit

Inspirations and motivations backed by original ideas drive self-motivated persons to new frontiers.

This happened to me and a dream was born. My dream boat was launched in 1972.

My five year plan of escape materialized because I had my wife Jane at my side all the way. She is a one-in-a-million person and was a driving force to my goal.

We disembarked on a voyage of adventure that mysteriously drew us to St. Augustine, Florida, where our lives took off on a strange tangent to places and adventures beyond our wildest dreams.

It was wonderful and our only regret was that we hadn’t departed sooner.

Read about this dream-come-true story in the book Sailing Beyond Lake Superior.  Available in paperback and digital additions worldwide. 

Our adventure story continues…there is more: Sailing the Sea Islands
Sailing the Florida Keys,
Sailing to St. Augustine.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


A cruise to Progreso is a fun and an affordable opportunity to see the real Mexico safely away from border towns and jet-set end destinations.

Progreso is a go-at-your-own-pace kind of place abounding in unique options.

Be your own guide:  walking, biking, busing, or by taxi.

It is easy with Yucatan’s Magic – Merida Side Trips, as your guide.

Take a LOOK.  It will make you happy and save you money!

The book has eighteen self-guided day trips plus a section on bus and colectivo taxis to make it simple for you to travel Yucatan with confidence.

This book is one of the top Yucatan travel books. It has no paid sponsors or advertisers.

The author has more than 25 years of exploring experiences in Yucatan and Mexico.

Yucatan’s  Magic is a compendium of the author’s 25 years of exploring the Yucatan, and it offers the best of the best memorable destinations…built as the Maya built their temples, one stone at a time. 

Yucatan is getting better all the time!

Yucatan's Magic was published in 2011 and updated in 2013.

Related links:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lake Superior's Fall Storms

And Superior has a harder fate in store for many of those who take the last ill-fated trip of the season. Sailors dread it more than the tragedy of dense snowstorms, when they run upon the rocks, for even there hope does not die; they dread it more than the fierce, sledge-hammer wash of Erie in a storm; more than the fearful dash for port in Lake Michigan, where ports are few; and this fate is the fate of "the little ice devils"-—those masses of ice which freeze upon a ship until she is weighted beyond control. In these days of late navigation—days of fierce battles with snow, ice, and wind, days of death and destruction as they are never known upon the salt seas—is material for a generation of writers; unnumbered stories of true mystery, true romance, and true tragedy, which, if fed to the nation in popular form, would be of immeasurable value to lovers of the literature of adventure. The Great Lakes by James Oliver Curwood, 1908.

The Superior, Wisconsin/Minnesota Point Entry and lighthouse pictured in calm weather.

Fall storm, Superior, Wisconsin, November 1968.
During the fall season on Lake Superior it is a common occurrence to have at least one very violent storm on Lake Superior, but one storm I witnessed was exceptional.

My father, Jane, and I 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 when whipped into an anger fury by a full gale force wind.

While parking the car, the shuddering wind blasted us with sand and icy pelting spray that coupled to make a deafening roar.

We watched the sixty foot tall lighthouse on the east jetty completely buried in crashing seas…a sight beyond belief.

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 the mammoth waves crashing into and over them 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.

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 the ship’s stern, it was impossible for the crew to turn their ship into the wind. 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 breath as we watched a huge wave break under the stern of this mighty ship. It lifted the stern and sent the ship into a broach position that turned it beam to the sea. The power and force unleashed by the giant wave took all control out of the hands of the crew. Their fate rested with Mother Nature while the ship washed out of control sideways towards the inlet with its rock jetties.

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 stare the Grim Reaper squarely in the eye, that blink of the eye must have felt like an eternity.

After reading terrifying storm stories and witnessing the gale force storm at Superior's inlet, Jane and I still went on to fulfill our dream and ventured out there onto Lake Superior confronting the mighty Gitche Gumme.

I had a Dream – Dursmirg is born.

In 1972 our 46-foot sailing dreamboat Dursmirg was launched and Jane and I sailed away from Superior, Wisconsin, to the salty sea.

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, serving as a geologist on the 1820 Lewis Cass expedition to establish the source of the Mississippi River, traversed the Great Lakes 152 years before the maiden voyage of our Dursmirg.

Schoolcraft’s 1820 stagecoach and birch bark canoe adventure from New York to the western terminus of Lake Superior was before the completion of the Erie Barge Canal.

Schoolcraft wrote the account of his epic expedition in his book Narrative journal of travels through the northwestern regions of the United States...performed as a member of the expedition under Governor Cass in the year 1820, Albany: E. & E. Hosford, 1821.

I have published our epic voyage in the four volumes of Travels of Dursmirg.  All are available in paperback and digital editions worldwide.

Coming soon:
  • Sailing to Lake Superior: A Trip Down Memory Lane