Thursday, October 26, 2017



In many ways, it seems like a very long time ago and in many ways, it was.
I have an indelible mental image of my 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 piqued 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.
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 middle-aged 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 seventy-seven. Grandpa Christ was in his sixties when he piqued my curiosity back in the early 1940s with his talk about the Old Country.

My first trip to the Old Country was in 1983. I had the time and money, and was only lacking contacts.
A second cousin named Dee Braverman Grimsrud had contacted me in her search for Grimsrud family information while researching the family tree. I was surprised how very little I knew about my family history. In corresponding with Dee she put me in contact with the Grimsrud family in the Old Country.
Next I sent off a letter to Kari Hoven, who I had met in 1948 when she visited in America and spent one year with her Grimsrud relatives in Superior, Wisconsin.
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 had an unbelievably exuberant enthusiasm. I was amazed at the family resemblance that Kari had to my father…they could have been twins.
Kari remembered me, my parents, and every detail of her visit to America, the New Country. She still had a photo of my little brother and me from her 1948 visit.

My wife Jane and I spent six adventuresome weeks in Norway in 1983 and heard countless stories told by my relatives who Kari made sure we had the opportunity to meet. We were with different groups morning, noon, and night, every day. 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. If you 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.

Cousin Kari had our itinerary packed with fascinating activities and several surprises. Among the highlights was arrangements to visit the Grimsrud family farm. When I first set foot there I felt an immediate connection to my roots and the Grimsrud family. Grandpa Christ had been born there in 1879, one hundred and four years earlier. At age 16 he and his older brother Hans departed for America, the New Country, never to return. My haunted dream had come true. I was actually at the very spot Grandpa had spoken of when I was a child. The loop from my childhood dream to this moment was now complete and Grandpa’s inspiring stories were fulfilled.
 Photo: Grimsrud farm in 1983.

Svein Grimsrud and his wife Joren plus their two daughters, Wenche and Helle gave us a grand tour filled with fascinating stories not told by the family back in America. Helle presented us with an autographed traditional rosemalen bowl and serving spoon she had hand painted...we still have it.
The lovely afternoon at the Grimsrud farm was followed by a traditional dinner complete with aquavit. We heard more memorable stories bonding us to family roots. 
Aquavit is a traditional Scandinavian spiced liquor with regional variations including one made in Drammen. The nearby city of Drammen at the headwaters of the Drammen Fjord, a branch of the great Oslo Fjord, has a striking resemblance to my home town area of Duluth/Superior in America. The Drammen seaport town is home to Norway’s oldest brewery. No wonder my family landed there.

During our lovely dinner at the Grimsrud farm we were surprised at what happened next. My cousin Svein held up his shot glass of aquavit and announced skål. Everybody did the same and then tossed back the drink in one gulp. We did the same. My eyes watered, my breath had been snatched away, and I gasped. Several times that evening the toast was announced and repeated by different people at the most unexpected times with the word skål. My family had a strong tolerance for aquavit, and we would become acclimated to the ways of the Old Country. Svein made us feel at home...we were happy and contented. 
My cousin Kari had another interesting surprise in store for us. We were to walk from the Grimsrud farm through the neighboring farms and uphill to a church and there would be a man to meet us for a guided tour. From this old Skoger church at the hilltop we had a spectacular view of the Grimsrud family farm. Jane and I then viewed a graphic prospective of what past generations including my Grandpa had seen while coming and going to this old church built at the end of the Viking era. This church in the little town of Skoger contains historical relics centuries old. This was the family church of my ancestors Peder and Anne Grimsrud. The church had been built around the years 1200-1220. The stack stone walls are nearly five feet thick. The church is still in use. This intriguing historic place made me dream of more ancestral questions to be answered.
 Photo: Old Skoger Church circa 1200-1220

A note about the first churches in Norway: The stone church at Skoger was a rarity. More common were the stave wooden churches built during 1150-1350 by shipbuilding craftsmen. We were told they preserved the timber of the trees by removing the branches and bark at the same time adding pine pitch into a cupped out reservoir in the top while the tree was still standing. This process took nearly two years but made the wood impervious and those ornate wooden churches have become the oldest wooden structures on earth. We visited several of them. They emit the aroma of pine pitch to this day.
Photo: Stave church, Norway.
Norway began to be Catholic because of the influence of Danish Vikings.
Norway was the last place in Europe to accept Christianity and did it reluctantly. Christianity transformed the Vikings of Scandinavia into kingdoms and European assimilation. Norwegians and Swedes were not easily duped out their Viking faith. Transition to Christianity was primarily for political expedience because it was good business. Vikings naturally took to violence when required. Self-aggrandizement and wealth were their enticements. As Christians, their Viking past was behind them.

Lutheranism arrived in the mid-1500s, and like other European countries religion was used by the ruling class for dominance.

Among the artifacts accumulated over the past thousand years in the old Skoger church was a hand-powered pipe organ, the oldest in Norway, installed in 1825, and an ornate crucifix more than 800 years old that is identical to one found in Westminster Abbey in London, England. These strange and seemingly unrelated artifacts inspired me to ask more questions. In the coming years of travels and after reading numerous books, this Viking mystery would begin to fit together like a jig-saw puzzle. The following years would lead me to discover even more links to my Viking heritage.
Our four month long 1983 Europe trip was educational, inspiring, and motivating. We visited strange new countries, climbed mountains, and toured every historical point of interest possible.
I loved what my cousin Kari had to say about the Vikings; “They were terrible, but we loved them just the same.”

Continuing our adventuresome travels in 1987, more mysterious surprises would unfold. Heading for New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada with our new camper van in the fall, our travels took us through America’s wine producing states of Michigan, Ohio, and New York. What was the reason? Grapes were in season!

A great surprise awaited us in the Maritime Provinces of Canada. In Newfoundland, we visited the historic site of the first known Viking settlement in North America at L’Anse aux Meadows. This wind swept latitude at nearly 50° North has a striking resemblance to the Norse Viking home area at 60° North on the other side of the Atlantic. Sailing at these storm ravaged latitudes is not for the fainthearted. Abundant fresh sea food made the Norse Vikings happy, and they found it here.

In 1961 a Norwegian couple set out to cross the Atlantic in their trawler type vessel searching for the ancient Viking route of Leif Erickson to America as described in the Norse sagas. Helge Ingstad and his wife in their historic voyage delineated their journey identifying and describing distinctive landmarks they identified from the Norse sagas in search of the Leif Erickson’s settlement of Vinland. Their inspiring story was well documented in a film at the tourist information center. The Canadian Broadcasting company film crew, CBC, was there at the time of our visit, and when they discovered I was following my Viking heritage they interviewed me.

The story does not end here, the jig-saw puzzle pieces were forming an enticing picture.

The Vikings: A New History by Neil Oliver, an amazing book, and the best and most comprehensive I have ever read regarding the Vikings, was published just before the 2017 discovery up the Hudson River in New York State of the Vinland Norse settlement that was described in the Norse sagas.
In his book Neil Oliver wrote: Archaeologists doubt that Newfoundland was the ‘Vinland’ reported by Leif Erickson. Instead L’Anse aux Meadows is usually interpreted as a sort of way station, a staging post used by people in transit to and from a more fruitful settlement further south. It seems Vinland itself still awaits discovery.

In 2017, at Stony Point, New York, up the Hudson River at Minisceongo Creek between New York City and Poughkeepsie, the ruins of a Viking village dating from the 9th and 10th centuries was unearthed. The remains of six buildings containing an iron forage and carpenter shop were part of the village of up to one hundred habitats. This had to be the Vinland or wine land of Leif Erickson, described in the Norse sagas. New York, is definitely wine country and this thousand year old settlement has definitely been confirmed to be Viking.

My wife and I on the maiden voyage of our sailing vessel Dursmirg passed this very spot on our way to Florida in 1972. Our journey is described in our book Sailing Beyond Lake Superior: Travels of Dursmirg. Later in Florida we met Tex Downs who had sailed the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, New York, and found there a strange coin that was identified as being Phoenician and nearly a thousand years old.

In the book The Vikings: A New History by Neil Oliver, the author describes finding coins used by the Viking in America.The Scandinavian world had grown increasingly dependent upon Arab silver. From early on the Arab Durhams were identified as containing the purest, most desirable silver and during the decades and centuries to come millions of the coins were funneled west. Like a supply of oxygen, the flow of the silver helped energize the whole area, supplying the power to create nation states.”

At the time of the famous Norseman (Viking) Leif Erickson, the Vikings’ influence extended to Russia, Scotland, England, Spain, Greece, Italy, and France. Leif Erickson did indeed make it to America.

To conclude: When I was a child my grandpa Christ started me on this lifelong journey by planting the seeds of curiosity. The jig-saw puzzle that followed rewarded me and whet my appetite for more.

The book The Vikings: A New History by Neil Oliver did the most to bring this story together and the clincher was the discovery in 2017 of a settlement of Vinland up the Hudson River near Poughkeepsie in New York.

Additional reading:
Discovery of settlement in New York

  John M. Grimsrud © 2017

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


First let me say this; Cancun is NOT bicycle friendly! But it is adventuresome.
The paved bicycle path from downtown to the beach, the new Talmar lagoon bike path, and the numerous green zone parks are great.

Above photo: Cuidado! caution! 

Great leaping lizards, aggressive crocodiles are 10 times faster than alligators, and the lagoons are full of them...the exciting beach bicycle path takes you there.
For more bicycle adventures read the books; Yucatan for Travelers and Yucatan's Magic to find the places that tourists miss most.

The crocodiles do exist:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Paul Robeson: A Biography - Recommended Reading

Paul Robeson: A Biography by Martin Duberman
book review

Paul Robeson was simply the very best at whatever he did. He excelled in athletics and dramatic acting, and he had a world class singing voice.
I am totally amazed at this man’s abilities and his humanitarianism coupled with his crusade for world peace with freedom and justice for all.

By the end of WWII Paul Robeson was earnestly doing everything in his power to stomp out lynchings and segregation that was going from bad to worse. General Eisenhower eloquently proclaimed in a 1945 speech that blacks had been friends in need to the U.S. government along with the USSR in waging war against the Nazi Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.

After WWII the U. S. implemented the Cold War to perpetuate its hold on world power and immediately things got worse for Robeson and the USSR. McCarthyism began under Truman and went wild with Eisenhower in the 1950s.

You will need to read this true and revealing book ...I will not spill the beans here and spoil your read. This book has a monumental message, and I strongly recommend it. 

Paul Robeson’s voice is all honey and persuasion;
His voice has all the power of Chaliapin’s and practically the same range, but there the likeness ends. Paul Robeson’s voice is all honey and persuasion, yearning and searching, and probing the heart of the listener in every tiniest phrase. A rich, generous, mellow, tender, booming voice that you think couldn’t say a bitter word or a biting sentence with a whole lifetime of practice. A voice like his is worth waiting ten years to hear, and an art like his comes once in a generation…

Robeson went on the radio to introduce songs of the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, appeared at a rally in behalf of the China Defense League, helped to dedicate the Children’s Aid Society in Harlem, and, along with a host of other celebrities, appeared at a mass meeting sponsored by the Committee to Defend America by Keeping Out of War, to protest conscription and other preparedness measures. There he argued, yet again, that under their present leadership Britain and France were essentially engaged in a struggle to protect the profits of plutocrats, not the rights of the people.

As late as March 1941, Robeson told a reporter that he was against aid for Britain because he believed the mobilization was primarily aimed at saving the British Empire. According to the reporter, Robeson spoke “angrily” and “stormed” over the refusal of the British ruling class to do anything “about giving India and Ireland and Africa a taste of democracy.”

June 1941, the war would become, in Robeson’s eyes, an unimpeachable and united struggle against fascism…

On March 12, 1956, 101 Southern members of Congress issued a “Declaration of Constitutional Principles,” which called on their states to refuse implementation of the desegregation order. Defiance became the watchword in the white South, massive resistance the proof of regional loyalty. Every item in the white-supremacist bag of tricks—from “pupil-placement” laws to outright violence—was utilized to forestall integration of the schools.

The Ku Klux Klan donned its masks and hoods; the respectable middle class enrolled in White Citizens’ Councils; the press and pulpit resounded with calls to protect the safety of the white race. A tide of hatred and vigilantism swept over the South. Some blacks knuckled under in fear; many more dug in, prepared once again to endure—and this time overcome. On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, a forty-two-year-old black seamstress, stubbornly refused to give up her bus seat to a white man—thereby launching the Montgomery bus boycott, energizing black resistance, catapulting Martin Luther King, Jr., and his strategy of nonviolent direct action to the forefront of the movement. An epoch of black insurgency had been ushered in.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Germany, Green, Clean, Solar, Wind, and Recycling

GERMANY, GREEN AND CLEAN - Leading the world and on the cutting edge in solar, wind and recycling technologies. Updated 2017.

 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.

Germany may not have been the first to initiate these green and environmentally clean power sources but on the eve of the Industria lRevolution 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 and accommodating here.
Bicycles are a way of life in Germany, children ride to school, and adults go to work and shopping, tourists vacation cross-country staying at bed and bike hotels. This goes on year round in sun or snow. Electric or E-bikes are now diminishing automobile usage as they make a big clean air impact.

Germany, besides having excellent bike route maps and smooth paved trails, which 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. Digital versions are available on mobile navigator devices.

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. This is cycling as good as it gets.
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, Germany 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.
The 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 above.
In downtown Nordhorn this neatly dressed lady is doing her shopping by bicycle with her young child comfortably riding in the attached kiddie cart. Notice the cleanliness of the brick street.
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.
Now supermarkets and shopping centers have charging stations for electric bikes.
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.
In 2010 six percent of Germany’s power requirements were met with wind, by 2015, wind power in Germany was 13.3 percent with 26,772 wind turbines making it the third largest producer of wind power in the world.
In Germany wind generated electric power enters the grid.
Netherlands trains now are powered exclusively by wind power.

Even with solar and wind generation lower emissions of CO2 are hard to achieve as demand skyrockets. Germany is burning fossil fuel equal to 15 years ago. Residential rates have now tripled as demand continues to increase. Solar and wind have become imperative for a green and clean future.

In June of 2014 Germany achieved a milestone rewarded with 50 percent of its electricity demand from solar power, which was half of the entire world’s production at the time. Germany is unquestionably the world leader.

Renewable power now generates 27 percent of Germany’s electricity. Ten years earlier it stood at 9%. Ultimately the goal is to do away with coal and nuclear.
Chancellor Angela Merkel wants Germany to shut all 17 of its nuclear reactors by 2022. Nine have already been retired as renewable picked up the slack.

Germany with the world’s fourth largest economy until 2009, has pledged aggressive emission cuts. By 2020 they are on track for a 40 percent cut of 1990 levels, and by 2050 they want at least an 80 percent reduction.

Germany still gets more electricity from coal than from renewable sources. Transportation and heating emits more carbon dioxide (CO₂) than power plants. Dirty lignite mines continue operating and are expected to do so until 2050.
Determination and dedication to fulfilling this ecological problem while balancing economic and demand issues requires a united community spirit.

Germany was a bombed wasteland 70 years ago and has shown extraordinary rebuilding resilience.
In the years after World War II, with a demolished country to rebuild, there was scant questioning of past governments. The 1970s saw rebuilding completed. Questions arose about who started and lost the war. The German people no longer automatically accepted authority.
Germany plans to continue being an industrial country. Their plans are to use half as much energy as before and get a minimum of 80 percent of its power from renewable sources. If anybody in the world is capable of this it is Germany.

Germany now produces more than two dozen models of electric cars with plans of a million by 2020. Forty-thousand electric cars are already in use and electric bicycles are seen everywhere and fulfilling a large part of the transportation requirements. All of the above mentioned quality electric vehicles are made in German.
Enercon the German company that designs, manufactures, and installs non-smoking colossal wind generators that make life 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 they 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 wind generating station at Bimolten, Germany has fourteen generators producing the electrical energy necessary to power 14,000 four person households. This wind farm is one of many in the area. Here in north Germany the homes are truly total electric.
North Germany is at nearly 53˚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.
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 , 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, one of many in the area, 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 recycling. 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 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.
Different colored refuge containers for sorted garbage are collected on specified days.
Garden waste 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.
In 2016 Nordhorn expanded and modernized their garbage recycling facility.
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 this re-cycled plastic.
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. 

May the rest of the world follow Germany's exemplary example and make this world a better place for all of us.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Passionate Declarations: Essays on War and Justice by Howard Zinn

Passionate Declarations: Essays on War and Justice by Howard Zinn is a
Howard Zinn classic: excellence in research, top quality editing, superior insight and perceptiveness.

I loved the book’s curiosity building momentum that was unrelenting. Zinn wove this informative volume around the Constitution and its Bill of Rights putting an interesting prospective on its framers, their contemporaries, and detractors. I would only recommend this book to those people who want to contemplate history objectively.


In the 1960s, a student at Harvard Law School addressed parents and alumni with these words:

“The streets of our country are in turmoil. The universities are filled with students rebelling and rioting. Communists are seeking to destroy our country. Russia is threatening us with her might. And the republic is in danger. Yes! danger from within and without. We need law and order! Without law and order our nation cannot survive. There was prolonged applause. When the applause died down, the student quietly told his listeners: These words were spoken in 1932 by Adolf Hitler.”

Howard Zinn (August 24, 1922 – January 27, 2010) was an American historian, playwright, and social activist. He was a political science professor at Boston University. Zinn wrote more than twenty books, including his best-selling and influential A People's History of the United States. In 2007, he published a version of it for younger readers, A Young People′s History of the United States.

Zinn described himself as "something of an anarchist, something of a socialist. Maybe a democratic socialist." He wrote extensively about the civil rights and anti-war movements, and labor history of the United States. His memoir, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train, was also the title of a 2004 documentary about Zinn's life and work. Zinn died of a heart attack in 2010, aged 87. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

“In our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either.” 
Mark Twain