What did we just do?

What a great winter that was! We had taken up cross-country skiing a couple of years before. On most weekends, and not a few evenings during the week, we’d head out to a trail to enjoy the winter scenery.

Judy and Guy on cross-country skis.

Judy and Guy on cross-country skis.

One of my favorite outings was the “Mantorville” trail. One of the local ski clubs had worked with landowners between the village of Mantorville and the county park just north of Byron, Oxbow Park, to mark off a ski trail. Somehow, they had found a dozen miles of forest, plains, trees, ponds, and hills unmatched for beauty and skiing fun. My friend Bill and I could easily finish the trail in an afternoon.

Winters were more winter-like in the seventies. The snow came earlier, often by Thanksgiving, and stayed later, sometimes skiable into March. The best weeks saw a cold snap mid-week, a couple of inches of fluffy snow on a Thursday afternoon, then a dusting of snow Friday night and brilliant sunshine on Saturday morning. We didn’t even care how cold it was if there was new snow. It wasn’t just the Mantorville trail, either. The trails at Whitewater State Park were even better. Hundreds of square miles of bluffs covered with state forest. Big hills and incredible vistas. Even local golf courses were fun to ski on a dark winter night. We always had someplace to go skiing.

When a long weekend demanded better skiing, we’d head off to someplace exotic, like Grand Marais, on the North Shore of Lake Superior. New vistas overlooking the lake. Fantastic rivers frozen into magic. Restaurants we’d never been to. Those were some great winters.

We’d planned a day of skiing for that Saturday morning in February of 1978. Friends would take our baby boy for the day. Everything was perfect.

Except the weather. It got ugly. Sunny. Warm. It started Friday and didn’t get any better the morning we were supposed to head out to the trails. Warmer by the minute. There would  be nothing but mud in the fields by the time we got going. Oh, that’s disappointing.

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Sure, You Can Have Two

The Stapelhäuschen glasses, set for Christmas dinner.

The Stapelhäuschen glasses, set for Christmas dinner.

Holidays are a wonderful time to share family stories and enjoy the good things in life. As Judy and I set up for a holiday meal with the family, I drew the short straw on setting the dining table for the twelve of us. It’s something I enjoy, creating an artful table from the multiple settings, finding the right glass ware, and all the various serving dishes.

Since we enjoy a good glass of wine with a meal, every adult gets a wine glass. Most of the places had a Waterford Lismore wine glass. I decided to go all out and use the “good” glasses for Judy and me. At our age, I feel a need for us to limit the number of things we set aside to look at and not enjoy. In the best case, that number should be limited to zero. If we can’t enjoy the good things now that we’re retired, when will we be able to use them? So I set the Stapelhäuschen wine glasses for us.

There’s a story behind these “good” wine glasses. There are only two of them, and they came from Germany.

In 1978 the company asked me to go on a business trip to Germany for a major product announcement. We had a US team of about a dozen people, about half technical folks: programmers and hardware engineers. The other half were marketing types. The European and German sales teams joined us for the big business show.

Ken, Don, Mark, Guy, John and Jim in Cologne, Germany

Ken, Don, Mark, Guy, John and Jim in Cologne, Germany

The show was in Cologne, Germany. We had a couple of days off before and after the show to enjoy the country. It was my first time out of the US, and one of my first business trips, so there was much to learn. Besides the normal business show setup, man the booth, and tear down, we visited the Cologne cathedral, a rural restaurant for breakfast, and thoroughly enjoyed a boat trip down the Rhine River from Koblenz to Cologne.

The business show was a great success, with plenty of press attention and visits from show attendees. We were demonstrating technology that’s still advanced. As a thank you the German sales team took all of us out for dinner at a first class restaurant. The restaurant was in the Belgisches Quarter, a well-preserved section of the old city. The dinner was one of those where there seemed to be a dozen wine and water glasses and far too many forks for this young North Dakota kid. The food was fantastic and the wine was even better. We truly enjoyed the evening. Then it got interesting.

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