Skydiving road trip – part 5

Episode #757

August 5, 2023

The fifth part of a 6 part series,
2023 skydiving road trip.


In part 4 of this travelogue we have just finished visiting Mary and Bob at Skydive Wissota in Wisconsin. We wake to a beautiful Tuesday morning. We are traveling to North Dakota from Wisconsin. Fargo, North Dakota, is our next skydiving stop. Our plan is to stop in Minneapolis for a couple of days while we wait for Skydive Fargo to open on Saturday. We get a text from Mary Bauer suggesting that we take a scenic route on our way to Minnesota. It is great advice. The route takes us along country roads and unending rolling hills farmland.

Suddenly, we drive through a rocky pass and emerge in the rustic town of Maiden Rock, Wisconsin.

At the end of the road is the Mississippi River. We drive down to the shore to touch the mighty Mississippi.

The size of the river makes us feel small in comparison as can be seen when we sit in Adirondack chairs nearby.

The story of Maiden Rock is a Romeo and Juliet tale. A lovelorn Indian maiden leaped to her death from a rock ledge on a nearby bluff when she was forbidden to marry the one she loved from an enemy tribe.

Back in the RV we drive along the Mississippi,

cross a bridge,

then drive along the shore to Minneapolis.

When we arrive in Minneapolis I find the Town & Country RV Park south of the city. It is a suburban park with neighborhood houses mixed in with the RV spots. The nearby train lulls us to sleep and makes us feel at home.

It is Wednesday morning. We have four more days before we can jump in North Dakota, so we spend a couple of days exploring Minneapolis. We decide to visit the Mall of Americas. It disappoints. It is like any other mall, a little larger with a Nickelodeon theme park in the middle, but it is just a mall. A giant M&M is very friendly and kisses us through a window.

A redeeming feature of the Mall of Americas is the Cadillac Ranch restaurant where we eat lunch. The food is delicious. We have a nice waitress who tells us about the local Art Museum. We plan to visit it tomorrow.

We leave for an old suburb town which advertises a main street full of antique stores. By the time we get there, the stores are all closed. We take a long walk. There are interesting sculptures throughout the town.

In the local park is a Cricket game. We watch this inscrutable game for a while.


On the way out of the park there are Pickle Ball courts. It is a game like tennis, but it is not.

So much for day one in Minneapolis.

The next day I find a conservatory in a zoo. There is also the art museum our waitress told us about yesterday. The museum is near the river which separates Minneapolis from Saint Paul.

We drive through heavy urban traffic to the zoo first. The zoo is hot and crowded. It seems that all the schools in the area have brought their students to the zoo.

“The monkeys stand for honesty
Giraffes are insincere
And the elephants are kindly but they’re dumb
Orangutans are skeptical
Of changes in their cages
And the zookeeper is very fond of rum
Zebras are reactionaries
Antelopes are missionaries
Pigeons plot in secrecy
And hamsters turn on frequently
What a gas, you gotta come and see
At the zoo”
–Simon and Garfunkel

We skip the conservatory. It is beautiful and large, but packed with small children.

We drive to the Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden. The Garden is magnificent. Among the sculptures are a living tree filled with chimes,

a giant spoon with a cherry on it

and a huge blue chicken. What fun.

It begins to rain, so we rush into the museum.

It is a contemporary art museum, in contrast with old Minneapolis.

The collection ranges from cultural art,

to social commentary by Paul Chan,

to a bizarre kaleidoscopic video.

The highlight of the museum is a rooftop panoramic view of downtown Minneapolis.

Friday morning we check out of the RV park and drive the four hours to Fargo, North Dakota. We find a long awaited pizza parlor. Deeks Pizza claims to be the best pizza in Fargo. It is OK and only satisfies our urge for pizza.

From the pizza parlor we walk to Lindenwood Park. A foot bridge takes us over the Red River to Gooseberry Mound Park in Minnesota. We walk back across the bridge to North Dakota, then over to Minnesota again, because we can. On our way back to North Dakota we play Poo Sticks. We each select a small stick, drop them over the upstream side of the bridge and run to the other side to see whose stick emerges first. Pretty cool.

It is getting to be dusk so we drive to Skydive Fargo in West Fargo, North Dakota. No one is there, so we park behind the hangar.

On the tarmac the local sheriffs are practicing Pit maneuvers. Very exciting.

The next morning is Saturday and all the locals show up. We are given the tour of the landing area and the DZ briefing: “Don’t land in these ponds. They are a water treatment plant and they stink.”

We load the Cessna 206 (small door) and begin the climb to altitude.

Our four way is spotted too far to the west, on the other side of the ponds. The wind has shifted and is stiff out of the east. Three of us tack back to the landing area against the strong head wind. Paula, who is farthest out, does everything she can to miss the septic ponds and lands at the far north end of the runway. Five skydivers from the club house jump into the golf cart to go pick up Paula. When they arrive, Paula doesn’t know how she will fit in the cart. She squeezes in and they return, laughing, to the hangar.
The skydive does not stink.


There is time left in the day to drive to Skydive Adventures in Luverne, Minnesota. Luverne is located in the southwest corner of Minnesota. The manager at Skydive Adventures has assured us that we can jump in Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota from their drop zone. Jumping in three states from one drop zone will finish our trip quest to jump in 14. Just over the border in Iowa is Rock Rapids Airport. The airplane can fly us to the airport, we will make the skydive, pack up, then return to jump in Luverne. The landing area in South Dakota is a rest stop on Interstate-90. It is just across the Minnesota border, 10 miles west of Luverne. The airplane will fly us over, we will make the skydive and someone from the drop zone will pick us up in their car.

Paula and I stop on the way to Skydive Adventures and check out the I-90 rest stop.

The rest stop is jumpable, but the landing area is smaller than we’d like. It is a few hundred yards from a very busy I-90. There are giant power lines on the other side of the interstate. The obvious outs are the adjacent farmers fields which are surrounded by barbed wire fences. We are not excited at the prospect. Nevertheless, we continue on to Luverne.

When we arrive at the Skydive Adventures hangar they are not jumping.

The Cessna 182 is down. The tachometer on the airplane has failed. The staff reports that the airplane will not be fixed until next Friday. So much for Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota. Skydive Adventures is nice enough to say that we can stay the night in an RV slot on the airport, so we do.

When we wake up the next day it is Sunday. I check my itinerary paperwork for the nearest drop zone. It is only 2 hours away. We drive to Jump Omaha in Harrison County, Iowa.

We arrive at a small, backcountry airport near scenic Missouri Valley, IA.

The drop zone is named Jump Omaha to attract students from nearby Omaha, Nebraska. The owner, Trina, is a sweetheart. She is very exited about her relatively new skydiving business. There is a instructor certification course in progress. A regional director is on site doing some of the instruction. Clouds are coming in so Trina puts Paula and I along with the director and his student up on a fast load. As is normal on our trip, the airplane is a 182. The three men are large. We are cramped into the airplane, but I can still see out the windows. As we approach 10,000 feet the cumulous clouds are brilliantly lighted. The contrast between the deep blue sky above and the glowing clouds is breathtaking.

Our pilot must dodge the clouds weaving in and out to find an opening for us to jump. He finally finds a legal hole. It is west of the drop zone and down wind. The director spots and waves Paula and I out.

We just bomb out. We spend most of the freefall holding hands and watching the clouds rush by. You really get a sense of the speed of freefall when you are falling past fixed objects like clouds. We celebrate the amazing view with a kiss and track away. We must tack across the wind to return to the landing area, but we all make it back. Paula and I take our traditional selfie.

Today is my 70th birthday, so this is an especially memorable skydive.


Back at the hangar it begins to rain. No, it pours. The sound on the metal roof is deafening. Our timing could not have been better. While chatting with the staff, we tell Trina of our difficulty arranging the jump in South Dakota. She says she might be able to arrange a demo jump into a park just over the border in South Dakota. She makes some calls to various pilots, but it is a no go.

There is a skydiving center in Minnesota open Tuesday afternoon, so we get on the road to Skydive Northstar in Waseca, Minnesota. Our route takes us through Des Moines, Iowa. We find Timberline RV park just outside Des Moines. They have a pretty, wooded quiet campsite for us.

Yesterday, on my birthday, we were shopping and almost bought a three pack of ice cream bars. Paula said, “I will have one and you can have two. It’s your birthday. You will really make out.” I smiled at the prospect, but we did not buy the ice creams.

Today we buy ice cream bars at the Timberline camp store. I buy three ice cream bars and give one to Paula. “I really made out, was it good for you?” I say to Paula with a wink.

The next morning we realize that we are very near the Bridges of Madison County trail. Yes, the very same bridges from the 1995 movie with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, based on the book by Robert Waller. At the heart of the trail is Winterset, Iowa, just 30 minutes from our camp. We skip the John Wayne birthplace museum and go to the Madison County Historical Complex. Here we tour the Bevington Mansion, the home built by Doc Bevington, a wealthy local businessman and civic activist.

The limestone used to build the house came from his nearby quarry, the bricks came from his kiln and the walnut came from the hillside below the house. The mansion is equipped with an upscale three hole stone privy.

Other buildings on the site include a blacksmith shop,

mercantile store, log school, Martin gas station, stone barn and the restored Winterset Train Depot. I send a picture of the train depot to my friend Vic

and he sends me back a rendering of it with me in it after a tree landing ;-).

We stop for lunch at a Hardy’s. For you Californians, Hardy’s is Carl’s Jr. There are more Hardy’s than Carl’s Jr.s in most of the United States. The menus are almost identical with a few added southern deli sandwiches at Hardy’s.

We spend the rest of the day visiting bridges. In the Winterset City Park is the Cutler-Donahue Bridge.

The park also includes some clever carvings in tree stumps.

We drive to the Hogback Bridge along the Bridges of Madison County trail.

Someday we will return to visit the entire 80 mile length of the trail.

The next morning we break camp and get on the road to Minnesota. It is a three hour drive to Skydive Northstar.

They won’t get going until 2pm so we arrive before the staff arrives. I park the RV in back of the hangar and plug into power along with the rest of the staff RVs. There is a view of a field with the obligatory train.

We walk the field. It is a grass strip along side the runway with a huge farmer’s field on three sides.

A nice couple who are the owners and other jumpers arrive. We dirt dive a four way with Yanna and Andy, two local jumpers. The skydive is fun. The local jumpers are inexperienced, but super excited. They really enjoy Paula’s organizing.


We learn that one of our jumpers, Yanna has just made her 99th skydive with us. We insist that the four of us make another jump to celebrate Yanna’s 100th. We do the same jump as before. It is more successful and Yanna is very excited. It was so fun to share this milestone with her.

Everyone is done jumping for today so we spend the night behind the hanger.

TO BE CONTINUED next week…

“Skydivers Know Why Birds Sing” by Ricki T Thues is now available on Amazon.
It is a Love story of Rick and Paula Thues and their 35 years of Skydiving.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.

Follow Ricki T Thues on Amazon HERE.

“Technically Human” by Ricki T Thues, the iMentor, is available on Amazon.
It is a compilation of selected episodes from this bLog which tell the story of Humanity through the eyes of the iMentor.

Click HERE to buy the paperback or Kindle ebook at Amazon.
The ebook version of “Technically Human” is also available on Kobo. Click HERE.
For you Barnes and Noble Nook readers it is available for Nook. Click HERE.
The “Technically Human” ebook is also available on Apple Books . Click HERE.




  1. Victor Spindler August 4, 2023
  2. Danielle L BARLOW August 12, 2023

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