Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sisu travels, Part 2.

February 23. It was time to continue the journey. Sisu was picked up from the care of the friendly dallasians, to continue the journey to Houston, TX. Helena Tiainen and Leila Jäämuru were at the Gammill’s to hand off the keys and to say a long farewell. We’ll miss you, Dallas! (We know, you miss Sisu, too!)

Trip to Houston was somewhat uneventful, except the fairly strong winds. Saunas, at least Sisu, unfortunately aren’t the most aerodynamic vehicles on the road. Wind, passing and on-coming vehicles, especially the big semis, sometimes make their presence known. No worries, however. Sisu arrived in Houston safe and sound.

Friday, February 24 was scheduled to be a day for some photo shoots and, later, a Neste sponsored event for Neste customers and staff. Yes, Sisu finally meets the team in front of the cameras and behind those videos on Youtube! Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Heini and Teemu.

Original plans for the photo shoots had to be scrapped. We quickly realized that a metro area is not a very good location to be flying drones. Yes, Teemu likes drones… Instead, we found some nice, green grass and enjoyed the warm, sunny morning.

Next, it was time to go visit Neste.The event was held at Chef Sorensen. Alley, Sydney and Tuija, thank you for inviting Sisu. We met a number of Neste customers and staff but there was also a person who Sisu knows well. The Ambassador of Finland to the United States, Ms. Kirsti Kauppi was in attendance and greeted Sisu right after stepping out from the Mayor of Houston’s official vehicle.

Sisu was heated to a comfortable 150 F temperature for the audience to get a feel of a sauna, and did we have a lot of curious people checking the sauna room out! We saw some picture taking, too.

On the following day, Saturday, February 25, the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Houston hosted an event for the area Finns. We had the pleasure of meeting Ambassador Kauppi there again.

Chef Sorensen had prepared a delicious buffet in Finnish style: fish soup made in milk base, cabbage rolls, beef stew and pyttipannu. For dessert, we were treated with blueberry pie! At times, it almost felt like a good old Finnish Vappu with people mingling outside and checking out Sisu and the cool Sisu souvenirs.

It is very hard to tell who brought in more people, the Ambassador or Sisu. But, one thing is for sure! After the long and exhausting wait for the food but before entering the buffet, the audience spontaneously, without any coaching, broke into song and sang “Happy Birthday” to Finland. Way to go, Houston!

Did we mention that one of the guests at the luncheon was also Sisu? Hello, Sisu!

The visit to Houston was definitely too short and there were so many things and places we wanted to check out and visit but just didn’t have the time. Well, maybe next time? Thank you again, Houston: Tuija Kalpala, Mari Emaus, Chris, Antti Ekqvist, and others. We know that pictures were taken and memories were made. Let us see your photos and share your memories!

Sunday and Monday were travel days from Houston to Albuquerque, NM. We can only say that while there trip was long, it is amazing to follow how the landscape changes several times on the route. First, a few hours from Houston it was definitely dairy country. Then, cattle country (they call them whoppers in west-Texas), then it all of a sudden gets a little drier with juniper type shrubs, then even drier and the shrubs are no longer. Just some rough looking grass growing in patches here and there.

Main industry on the route appears to be farming but it is also a place where old and new economy meet. Along with small oil wells, there are several, huge wind farms. Huge, long trains criss cross the area carrying containers to places like Houston and Dallas.

It was late Sunday night when we entered the State of New Mexico. Right after the border there is a weigh station for commercial vehicles. Sisu needs to stop at all weigh stations. As it happens, we are on the scale, and after a couple of questions by the attendant, are invited to park the vehicle and step in to the booth with all the paperwork neatly organized. The entire combination, Sisu and the truck, weighs about 15,000 lbs. DOT regulation requires commercial plates for vehicles over 26,000 lbs. What is the problem? Well, in New Mexico, a vehicle is classified “over weight” if it is over 12,000 lbs. After paying a fee of $29, we are allowed to continue.

Next stop was Clovis, NM where we decided to park Sisu and continue the trip next day. Why Clovis? Check you history books, people.

But before we go, quite a few of you have asked: "How much wood does it take to heat Sisu"? In our answer, we have used the bundles of wood they sell at the gas stations and hardware stores as a measuring stick.

It'll take about a good bundle to get Sisu to 170 - 180 F. Then, add a log every 15- 20 minutes. Hope this helps.

Sisu’s full schedule can be found at http://www.travelingsauna.com/map.html
Finland Centennial Calendar in the US, go to http://www.finland100usa.com

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sisu travels, Part 1.

OK. We are a little late with the blog and have missed a couple of pretty big events already: The launch at the factory, and the big kick-off of the Centennial in the United States in Minneapolis in mid-January. Before we get to those, however, let’s jump in to current events and backtrack later.

Sisu is currently residing in Dallas, TX in the good hands of the dallasians. I recall Finns classifying themselves as savolainen, hämäläinen, pohojalaanen, and others. But, dallasians? Did we, all of a sudden, transport ourselves to star date 2917, to Finland 1000?

While Sisu has proven to travel really well, we are still in February, 2017. The dallasians, taking care of Sisu, are the Dallas Finns.

Our first conversations with Dallas in the fall of 2016 were initiated by a group of Nokia and former Nokia employees. As we all know, Nokia had large operations in the Dallas area, and still has a rather sizable presence. The Finnish business community in Dallas is organized as the Finnish American Business Guild.

Original schedule for Sisu was built around “12 Signature Events”. Dallas was inquiring why only 12, and why Dallas was not included? No one had a good answer, so we decided we need to get to Dallas!

After the executive branch had made the decision, Leila Jäämuru, head of the Suomi-koulu in North Texas, stepped in. Leila told everybody that if Sisu comes to Dallas, it needs to be a community event, not just some board room meet and greet. Well, if Leila says something (we learned) this something will happen!

For her maiden trip, Sisu left Minnesota under blue skies and with excitement. First stop would be in Kansas City, KS at a private event. Oh, did those people enjoy a hot sauna! 200+ Fahrenheit! Watch out!

Next day, Sisu made a stop in Branson, MS at the Branson Hot Tubs and Pools. No gambling, though! The proprietors of the Branson Hot Tubs and Pools, Glenda and Dan Foraker, had a grand opening of their new store and we were more than excited to go help out. Pools you can swim in, pools you can practice rowing in. Come on!

After a good day of exercise, please step in to the gentle steams of a real sauna. Can we say: “Relax, man...”.

Next, Sisu visited the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, AR. Dean of Fay Jones of School of Architecture and Design, Peter MacKeith, had invited us to a visit. Peter had lived in Helsinki for 10 years, and was desperate for a sauna.

College students are a special breed. They encounter things with open eyes and with no reservations. What is this? Why? Can I try?  Apart from the student population, we had staff and friends of Finland stop by. You need a testimony? Go Fayetteville!

And, if this wasn't enough, a reporter from the local press stops by, and we are in the news the next day! Read all about it!

Thank you very many, Peter and Lane Schmidt, Assistant to the Deans, for this opportunity to visit and speak with your faculty and students.

For our trip from Fayetteville, AR to Dallas, TX, we decided to take the scenic route through northern Oklahoma. Not long after leaving Fayetteville, we noticed signs “Trail of Tears” on the roadside. This prompted us to visit the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Capitol Museum in Tvshka Homma, OK. The “Trail of Tears” refers to the forced removals of the Native Americans from their ancestral homelands, primarily the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations.

February 4, on a crisp 40 F winter day, Sisu arrives in Dallas, and is greeted by the entire Finnish School staff and kids, Honorary Consul Kenneth M. Niesman, and everybody who has found their way to the Oak Grove Park on Grapevine Lake. Suomi-koulu had organized a Liikuntapäivä, mini-Olympics. Did it get busy, or what? At one point, we find over 40 kids in the sauna. All at the same time! What a hoot!

After the games we lined up for pyttipannu, laskiaispulla and coffee.

One very cool detail from the day (in addition to the weather… locals said: “Unseasonably cold”, Sauna Ambassadors said: “Nice!”): Sauna enthusiasts from Estonia had contacted Leila and sent her two ladles. Both were engraved. One was donated to Traveling Sauna, one stays in Dallas. Thank you, our friends from Estonia!

Check out video and pictures of the day at the Suomi-koulu website, or on their Youtube channel.

After the olympics, Sisu was left in Dallas for a couple of weeks of sauna sessions. The setup at Gamill’s proved to be exquisite. A nice sitting area with a fire pit to cool off during and after sauna sessions was provided, and the back yard is totally enclosed which provides privacy. Couldn’t have asked for more.

But wait, there’s more! Reports of the quality of the löyly have been overwhelmingly positive which we are so glad to hear. Traveling Sauna was pretty sure to provide no disappointment but, now we have user testimonials to prove that.

Thank you Helena Tiainen, Tanja & Ryan Gamill, Leila Jäämuru, Vesa Ylinärä, Tero Kiiski (video), Orvo Välilä (photos), Sami Pekkala, Juha Lappalainen, and everyone in Dallas. You guys set the bar high!

You can say hello to the dallasians on their Dallas 100 Facebook page

Next, Sisu can be found in Houston. Everyone is invited to the FACC Houston organized luncheon on Saturday, February 25 at Chef Pedersen. In addition to Sisu, you’ll have an opportunity to meet and greet Ambassador Kauppi in Houston. Details and RSVP, contact FACC Houston.

From Houston, Sisu travels to Albuquerque, NM, Phoenix, AZ and Los Angeles, CA. Stay in touch, come say hello, take a selfie, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, blogspot, younameit!

For Sisu’s full schedule, or to contact us, go to Sisu's Traveling Sauna website.

For Finland Centennial Calendar in the US, go to http://www.finland100usa.com

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hello / Terve!

My name is Sisu.

Welcome to the Traveling Sauna blog where we will share details, experiences and memories from Sisu’s one year mission to explore what no sauna has explored before - the vast expanses of Finn Country in the United States!

We want to post here those little details that made our, and your, day. We also want to share what we see and hear on the road, talk about the people and places we visit, and what made the journey special.

Do we get an opportunity to meet any 100-year old Finns? How about saunas? Any 100-year old saunas out there? Or, other saunas on wheels? We’ve already met the oldest sauna in North America, and will visit it again in May! Let us know if you want to connect with Sisu, or have Sisu visit.

How about more current Finland, less than the 100 years old stuff? What’s happening? Ever played Angry Birds in a sauna on a 55” tablet or checked Sisu’s temperature on-line?

Come explore opportunities for Finnish companies, technologies and innovations in the U.S. with us. Talk to us. Or, if you think talking is from past century (thank you, Nokia, for inventing text messaging!), text, message, ping, poke, whatever…

We are in this Together - Tillsammans - Yhdessä - Ovttas - Oovtâst - Õõutveäkka!

We invite you to add to the story, or correct any details we got wrong. We want this blog to be both interactive and true. Maybe we have readers in Finland who are inspired to connect after reading a story. Maybe we have readers in the United States who just learned something about Finland.

Did you know that the California wine industry owes its existence to a Finn? Or, that the United States might not even exist without Finland?

We’ll get to those stories later. But, before we go any further, let’s recognize the contributions of our sponsors!

We are very grateful to our sponsors for their support in getting the idea of a Traveling Sauna from the drawing board to your community. We will introduce each and everyone in more detail later but, a big, huge, thanks, in no particular order, belongs to:

MetsaBoard, Rowing Performance, RCP Software, Forciot, Finnleo, Uponor, Neste, BaseN, Nokian Tyres, Ice Cold Crime, Juska Law, Salolampi Language Villages, Concordia Language Villages, Salolampi Foundation, FinnFest USA, the Finnish American Folk School and, of course, Finland 100. Traveling Sauna is part of official Finland 100, and we are very proud of it.

Please feel free to reach out to our sponsors to thank them directly. They deserve a big hand for their contribution.

While we are making memories available on-line, there is nothing better than actually owning a piece of history. Right? Please make sure to check out the Traveling Sauna web shop before it is too late. Remember, these type of opportunities come across only once in about 100 years. Get your piece of history now! Those cool T-shirts, milk glasses and LöylyKaveri seed packets will cost you a lot more in 2117!