Road trip | July 8, 2021

Kyle and I just got back from taking our kids on our just-about-annual road trip from Thompson, North Dakota to Ann Arbor, Michigan.  We got there by driving through Minneapolis, Minnesota; Madison (I love Madison), Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Gary, Indiana; and then over into Michigan.  The total distance is somewhere around a billion miles, which translates to roughly fifteen hours of drive time each way.  Each year, I am lulled away from the beautiful, shiny airport and into my poor, overloaded Honda Pilot with personal promises of a stop in Madison (I love Madison) and also by reminding myself, “Once we’re in Minneapolis, we’re basically there” – which is as factually and geographically correct as saying, “Once we’re in New York, we’re basically in Paris.”

Road trips are a fairly new concept to me because my mother and her family are from New Jersey and people on the east coast (and I’m pretty sure also just Jews in general) aren’t really known for a propensity for long car rides.  As an example, my best friend and her boyfriend drove Kyle and me from Newton, Massachusetts to Salem, Massachusetts (total ride time: 45 minutes) and they packed enough snacks and blankets for us to survive in the wilderness for a week.  My own family drove from Grand Forks, North Dakota to Brainerd, Minnesota (total ride time: 3 hours) once a year to take my sister and me to sleepaway camp, and my memory of those rides is the car leaving the driveway and the car pulling into camp.  We never stopped; in fact, there’s no evidential proof that my parents were even aware that any gas stations, restaurants, or bathrooms existed between Grand Forks and Brainerd.  We did, however, get moccasins in Nisswa after camp was over, so we were informed of non-essential retail.

Kyle, however, is an expert-level road tripper.  The Kosiors are so experienced at road tripping that they actually built their family vacations around being in the car.  My father-in-law was/is a farmer, and so once he was done spraying and July 1st (Canadians, as a reminder) had passed, he and my mother-in-law would pile the three boys – and one time a neighbor kid – into the station wagon, and they would drive until they’d see something they’d want to see, and then they’d stop.  After about a week, my father-in-law would start to hem and haw about his crops, so they’d drive for a few more days and then turn around.  As a result, their vacation stories go like this:

One trip took them south.  They were somewhere in South Dakota when my mother-in-law noticed that it was starting to get late; and when they passed a sign that read, “Cabins for rent,” the Kosiors pulled in.  It turned out to be a small resort owned by a family with four kids.  The Kosior boys and the resort kids got along so well that the Kosiors decided to stop and stay for a couple of days, and the resort owner hiked all of the children over to an abandoned quarry connected to a stream, gave them a stack of canned corn and some hooks, and left them to fish.  The kids dipped the can of corn and the hook in the water, and pulled up so many rock bass that they had to throw some back.

Another time, on a drive west, my mother-in-law put the boys’ dirty clothes into a garbage bag to keep them separated from the clean so she could wash them at night.  On that trip they stopped at every scenic outlook; and when they did, my father-in-law tossed out the trash that had accumulated in the car.  Obviously, as you can probably guess, he accidentally threw away the clothes.  This was so hilarious that they felt they should take a picture – making it one of only a handful of Kosior family vacations with a photographic record.  Kyle would also like me to note that they turned around before they got to Vancouver and he is still is still salty that he didn’t get to see the ocean.

We stopped a Kosior amount of times on our trip to Ann Arbor, but it was mainly to go to the bathroom.  Our six-year-old is an interesting specimen in that the act of putting on his seatbelt triggers a need to pee, even if he had just accomplished such a task moments before.  So, we pulled off the road.  A lot.  Each time, Kyle and I would shovel enough garbage out of the back seat to keep the car from dragging on the ground while we drove.  The amount of garbage in our car had no relationship to the items was consumed or carried, meaning it was either spontaneously reproducing or other vehicles were tossing it in when we weren’t looking.

When we were actually moving, Kyle coached us through two car games.  In one, we had to find license plates from all fifty states.  We never cracked 40, mainly because Kyle wouldn’t let us count semis or trucks or just vehicles in general.  This game fell apart a bit when we reached Indiana, Home of 10,000 License Plate Designs.

The other game required one person to shout out “Score!” whenever he or she saw a yellow vehicle.  This game was also a major point of contention, as the “yellow” color wheel apparently sometimes, but not always, included tones of orange depending on who was doing the Scoring.  I don’t know who won the Score points-off, but I won the moral victory by only scoring actual yellow vehicles.

Anyways, we made it to Ann Arbor and back.  Traffic was heavy in Indiana, so I never did get to stop in Madison (le sigh).  On the return trip, Kyle reached into his bag of Kosior travel and booked us a hotel room as we were pulling into Tomah, Wisconsin for the night.  It turned out to be a hotel AND waterpark, which our children deemed a “must-do” next year…which I guess means we’re driving again.

While we didn’t make it to Madison, we did go out of the way to take a photograph at a park in Michigan.  It is above.

This week’s news has an edible forest, a wool house, and pelicans.  Read on.

Are you a veteran or active-duty military?  If so, you can see the Medora Musical – as well as partake in a keg social – for free this weekend. (KX Net)

The City of Williston is about to have an Edible Forest, complete with apple, pear, plum, and cherry trees, at the corner of Harvest Hills Avenue and 32nd Street West. (Williston Herald)

Underwood was rockin’ and rollin’ with its annual Midsummer Classic Car Show. (BHG News)

One of the first stories I wrote for ND Nice was about the Nome schoolhouse – which is now the Nome Wool House, a cozy spot for fiber artists. (Fargo Forum)

It has been a pretty dry year – tough for farmers, but great for American white pelicans, who are nesting in droves at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge. (AP News)

Nice news of the week – June 25, 2020

They may have cancelled their regular season programming, but did you know Frost Fire Theater will be putting on four virtual 40-minute original musical comedy shows on YouTube, starting July 25?  Check them out here.

And did you know this week’s news has a virtual fishing tournament (this weekend!), a next-gen hog farm, and Gardar?  Read on.


Break out your rod and reel – Devils Lake is hosting a virtual fishing contest – you submit with a photograph – this Saturday! (Minot Daily News)

According to this article, the town of Gardar has 9 people.  According to the census, it has 90.  Whatever the number, there are a lot of people who are in support of its success – including two residents (one former, one current) who walked 25 miles in dedication of the mothers who provided food for Township Hall events in the past. (Grand Forks Herald)

Ardoch sisters Alexis and Elizabeth Nice are 19 and 16 respectively, and in only four years have built up a burgeoning hog farm. (Dickinson Press)

The city of Fargo is issuing free permits to turn boulevards – or the berms, as we all know them by – into vegetable or pollinator flower gardens.(Fargo Forum)

Williston’s Grand Theater is showing “old” movies – Back to the Future, The Goonies, Secret Life of Pets, and Bridesmaids – for free. (KFYR TV)

Minot’s Wendy Weiss Voeller has started cartooning to raise money for her furry buddy, Buddy. (Minot Daily News)

So many people came forward to help Fargo’s Laura Sokolofsky move her husband’s ashes to the family cemetery plot that she was able to not only buy a headstone, but also help fund her son’s college tuition. (Fargo Forum)

Minot has it’s first-ever female City Council President. (KX Net)

A photography studio and a makeup artist are hosting a free prom photo shoot for graduating Fargo seniors. (KVRR)

Grand Forks is about to get a really big addition to its garden of artistic expression. (Grand Forks Herald)

The Good Shepherd Home in Watford City hosted a vow renewal for Paul and Vivian Linseth in celebration of their 70th anniversary. (McKenzie County Farmer)

Minot’s Ed Zilli is the latest recipient of a Quilt of Valor for his service in the U.S. Army.  Fun fact: he is also a retired New York police captain! (Minot Daily News)

The Ashley community is hosting a meet-the-artist event so they can personally thank Bismarck’s Nicole Gagner for updating the Centennial mural. (McIntosh County Star-Tribune)

Artist Ashley Oyloe is yarn-bombing Williston. (Williston Herald)

West Fargo’s Parker Sebens is known around the globe as HandyDandy – a Twitch World of Warcraft gamer – which is all the more impressive considering he doesn’t have any arms. (Grand Forks Herald)

You read here on North Dakota Nice about the Nome Schoolhouse, and now here’s some continued good news: the original State of Liberty and a wall decoration have now been returned to their original home. (Valley City Times-Record)

Fargo temporarily transformed into Flavortown this week with a visit from Guy Fieri to Pounds restaurant downtown. (Grand Forks Herald)

Phat Fish Brewery is hosting a socially-distanced Fourth of July party for the whole family. (Dickinson Press)

I have learned so much about American history over the last few weeks, including the importance of Juneteenth – which is now a North Dakota state holiday. (KFYR TV)

North Dakota Nice is two years old!  Thank you for reading!

North Dakota Grows: Chris and Dakota Fiber Mill (and Teresa and Shepherd Industries)

North Dakota is a place of beautiful textures, in part thanks to Dakota Fiber Mill – which turns fleece from alpaca, angora, bison, and even possum into sumptuous yarn.  The fantastic Chris Armbrust has kindly offered up his thoughts on what’s next for North Dakota’s homegrown and homespun arts community (including a new live-in artist retreat):

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Tell us about your connection to North Dakota.

I have lived my whole live in North Dakota, and wouldn’t live anywhere else!!

You are the only full-service processing mill in the Dakotas.  Tell us how you got started.

I started with four alpacas and handspinning all their fiber into yarn on my spinning wheel.  As folks wanted to buy yarn from me, I used an outside mill, like myself, to process some of my fleeces.  I waited eight months for the yarn to be completed.

In 2010, my alpaca shearer said I should look into opening my own mill.  I told him I would love that, and I would pray about it and see what God had to say in that regard.  Well, God threw open the doors and in a whirlwind and a pile of miracle debris I had my mill in nine months.

I have nine large pieces of industrial equipment, some used and some new.  I hired a retired textile engineer from England to train me on the machines and how to use them.  He was here for three weeks, and then I practiced for a while longer until I felt confident enough to tackle customer fiber.  It was a three-year learning curve of ups and downs, and I still run into a problem fleece every now and then that takes divine intervention to get it processed.

For the first year I worked a full-time job besides working over 40 hours a week in the mill.  After the mill was rocking and rolling, I was able to quit and do it full-time.  In the beginning, I worked seven days a week, sometimes 16 hours a day.  The last couple years I have cut down to 8-10 hours a day, but still work seven days a week.  You have to be willing to put in a lot of extra hours owning your own business, especially the first few years.  But it’s certainly all worth it!!

Tell us a little bit about where Dakota Fiber Mill is today.

Today, I process for folks from all over the nation – Alaska to Florida, Maine to Oregon etc, etc…  I would say 70% of what I process is alpaca, 25% wool, and the rest miscellaneous silks, angora, mohair, bison, yak, camel, dog, cat, and more.  The most interesting fiber pry has been possum, and musk oxen from Alaska was unique, as well.

Folks send me their raw fiber and I turn it into yarn or roving for handspinning or felting for them.  I charge incoming weight and all the steps are included in that price.  I also have my own line of yarn – Dakota Spun – from my own herd.  I have raised most all fiber animals at one time or another: yaks, camel, llamas, alpacas, many breeds of sheep, angora goats and rabbits.

I take pride in the fact that so many of my family and friends thought I was crazy to open a fiber mill and that I would never be able to make a living at it.  The machines are super expensive and I had to take out large loans and max out our second mortgage to be able to start the business up.  Within the first year I was at my projected five-year goals.  Nine years into the business I am closed to accepting new clients and almost nine months out.  I have far exceeded any expectations I had, and am so honored to have stepped out in Faith and followed God’s Guidance onto a scary path that held no for-sures or certainty.  To be working daily at something I love so much, successfully, I am still in awe!!

Why is North Dakota quality important to you?

Products and businesses started, created, produced, and marketed from North Dakota are so special.  We are not a hugely populated state, but full of folks that truly love life and are willing to help one another.  We are hard-working and know that things don’t come easy.  I feel we put something extra special into ever product.

You have a new partnership with Bear Creek Felting.  Tell us about it.

Teresa Perleberg of Bear Creek Felting has been a long-time customer.  She has an awesome online business and also sells at shows.  She has a large herd of sheep that I process for her for use in her her products and artwork.

I brought up the idea partnering (and bringing our daughters on board) to open a multi-purpose fiber “resort,” cartering to not only fiber enthusiasts, but all crafters and makers – and also providing a unique setting for events, weddings, and retreats.  We are calling our partnership Shepherd Industries.

Teresa and I are expanding the line of yarns and rovings, kits, fiber choices, and more, and are adding educational classes on all things fiber-related.  We are also breeding Cormo sheep, along with Teresa’s current Romney breed.  Cormo is a very fine wool, similar to merino, and blends beautifully with Romney to make amazing blends, and felts wonderfully to add many additional felted products.

What’s the latest for Shepherd Industries?

I was thinking of building a new building to house our new partnership, but it was Teresa’s excellent idea to renovate and save an old building…and what better type of building than one of the many slowly decaying and abandoned North Dakota schools?  After looking at a few school options, the Nome Schoolhouse in Nome, ND was the one!

The Nome Schoolhouse is in need of a complete renovation, but it is structurally sound.  We will be adding another floor to part of the current structure to house 15 (or so) B&B rooms, all with their own bathrooms.  Teresa’s art studio will also be on that level, in the old superintendent’s office.

The first floor will have a retail store, fellowship, and memory room containing all the treasures we have found in the school and around the city itself – as well as dining, a bar, offices and an apartment for the caterer, who will reside on-site.

The lowest level will house the processing mill, large dye studio, a large classroom, bride room, groom room, kitchen, and bathrooms.  The old gymnasium will be the new event center with seating for over 300.

The Large old barn out back will house a small herd of fiber animals.  The peaceful grounds will be meticulously cared for and provide an excellent location for all of our events – weddings, retreats, classes, and more.  Teresa’s clients are already trying to book rooms and retreats to come and work with her and learn from her directly.  Our little school bus will be shuttling folks from Hector airport to Nome.

[From Amanda: You can follow the latest on Dakota Fiber Mill and the Nome Schoolhouse project on Facebook here or on the Dakota Fiber Mill website here.  Skeins of yarn, felting kits, and more can be purchased from the Bear Creek Felting website here.]