Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Life's Special Moments

There are moments in life that are so special or impactful that you will never forget them. The day you first laid eyes on the love of your life, the birth of your children or even traumatic events like where you were when your wife has to remind you it is your annivesarry. 

I had one of these moments this week. When it happened it brought a tear to my eye and the world stopped for the briefest of moments. At the age of 57, 34 years into our marriage at exactly 3:36pm on February 8th, 2020 Barb said 4 words I will never forget.....“Honey, you were right”. It does not matter the circumstance in which it happened, it only matters that it happened! As it happened though, I was working on drawing out the wood storage area for the fireplace so I immediately wrote the date and time.
Some husbands go their entire lives without hearing these words. I am one of the lucky ones having to only wait 34 years...I am crying just writing these words and is a moment I will never forget.

Speaking of marriage, this past Friday was our anniversary. I may have mentioned it before but it bears repeating again. Barb and I met the fall of ’85, had our first date on Halloween just a few weeks later. I guess that should have been an omen in itself. We were married just over 3 months later on February 7th, 1986. We spent our wedding night in an ice fishing shack on Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota.

So what did we do to celebrate this year? We went to the Rapid City Stock Show and attended the rodeo. The tickets were a gift from Kevin and Cheryl who drove out for the weekend to pick up some wood and stone for a house he is building in Wisconsin.  
Cheryl and Kevin ready for the rodeo!
We had a great time, the pictures are not the best but not bad for our phone given they were action shots.
Calf Roping
Saddle Bronc

This is not going to end well!
They stayed with us for two nights before heading back home. It was a short but awesome visit. Kevin walked through our next steps we needed to do on the house; putting the wood up on the ceiling and walls, siding outside, trim around the windows both inside and out. We have enough on our “to do” list to keep us busy through the rest of our time here.

We are super excited to start working on the ceiling as we took delivery of 1300 sq ft of tongue and groove pine for just that purpose. We are going with beetle killed pine also known as bug wood or blue pine. Over the past decade or so, Pine Beetles infected over 94% of the Black Hills killing almost 500,000 acres of trees.
As devastating as this was it left behind a very remarkable kind of wood. Beetle Killed Pine. This wood has a blue discoloration and holes giving the wood unique character as compared to healthy pine. 
The two stacks on either side of the will soon be on our ceiling
We (and when I say "we" I mean Barb) installed flooring and painted the bathroom. Once we get a new mirror (don't ask what happened to the first one we bought) and get the towel holders up it will be pretty much done. All that will be left is the trim which I think I am going to do at the same time as the other rooms. 
Barb putting the flooring down
We also installed our first two interior doors this week. We chose knotty alder 3 panel doors and installed them on the bathroom and upstairs bedroom. Nice to finally have a door to replace the curtain we had on the bathroom door!
Paint, flooring and a door!
Thursday Barb and I went into Rapid City we met with a custom cabinet maker to design the kitchen cabinets. It was a bit chilly on our drive up there, one of the coldest we have seen here.  
We are not in Arizona any more Toto!
The meeting with the cabinet guy and picking out cabinets was a very detailed process. We walked through each of the cabinet designs and decided on rustic hickory.
Rustic Hickory
The design process was very interesting. It is amazing the software that is out there now to help you design the kitchen. We spent almost two hours with the owner; adding, deleting and viewing different versions. Finally we came up with a design that we really like…..
Our kitchen will look something like this
Once the price come back we will see if we can actually afford it. 

Kevin and Cheryl left at 5am Sunday leaving us a long list of things to do. Our first project is going to be to put wood on the ceiling. We are not sure how long this is going to take but we are up for the challenge! Tune in next week to see how far we got!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Sometimes I Wish I Were Color Blind

We have been back a little over a week and have gotten settled in to our new home. 
It is amazing what you take for granted when you don't have it. The bed, appliances and working bathroom made a world of difference and we are actually quite comfortable. Barb has been searching the online marketplaces for a used love seat or couch. The RV chairs we brought back with us a fine for a little bit but not something you want to use for the next year or so until we are ready for the good stuff. 

The deer quickly learned we were back. The day after we got home a couple stopped by to say hi and welcome us back. A week later we now have up to 13 stopping by at any given time to see what we are up to. They are so curious they have taken to getting within inches of the window and looking in to see what we are working on. 
Daisy does not really appreciate their antics while Dakota just pretty much ignores them. If we open the door when they are around Daisy will tear out after them and chase them away. Dakota will just go out there and walk amongst them pretty much ignoring each other. 

This week we have been busy working on the fireplace and putting primer on the sheetrocked walls. Does not seem like a lot when I write it but it took pretty much all week.

When we left in early December the fireplace looked something like this....
This framing went slower than I thought as I was pretty much making it up as I went. I also had to take time to wire in the blower for the fireplace as it was going to be covered up once I put the sheeting on. Now it looks like this and is ready for stone. 
Speaking of stone we drove to Hill City and spent an hour at Dakota Stone looking at different samples of stone trying to determine what we wanted on both the outside of the house as well as the fireplace.

The first decision is do we want Thin Veneer...
 or Ledge Stone.....
The Veneer goes a lot faster as the stones are laid flat and cover more area with each stone. But we like the look of the ledge stone so we are going to go that route. The next decision is how to stack it. Dry stack with no visible mortar….
A thin mortar set….
 Or a thick mortar set….
 We are going to go with the thin grout set.

Our other big task of the week was priming the bedrooms, laundry room and upstairs bathroom. Breaking out the new sprayer I read all the directions, watched a few videos on how to spray and I was ready to go! 

The first step was to have Barb go through each room sanding out and rough spots the installers missed as well as spackling any holes or dings. 
Barb sanding out the rough spots
We started in the master bedroom closets as if something went wrong we figured that was an area we would not care too much. So with Barb standing behind me we started spraying. It actually went amazingly well. We sprayed the ceiling first then worked our way to the edges and walls. The only place we ran into trouble was when overlapped the areas we had already sprayed. There is an art to getting enough to cover but not too much so that it starts to run. Much better to go over it thinly twice than trying to do it in one pass.
Me spraying the same room
Next step was to decide who color to paint each of the rooms. Barb had stopped by the paint store to pick up over a half a dozen samples and stuck them to the wall.  Keep in mind that all the samples were beige, just different shades of beige. She then called me into the room to ask me my opinion. Oh God, here we go. I truly hate it when she does this to me. We have done it hundreds of times with the same result. It goes something like this…..

(Barb)“Honey, which color do you like the best?” (Jim) “I like this one”. (Barb)”I don’t, we are going with this one”.  

Seriously, why does she do this to me?!?!?

But this time it did not go this way. Instead she again reiterated that men and women are truly from different planets. So with trepidation I approached the samples looked them over and within 10-15 seconds made my decision and pointed to the one named Utterly Beige. Boom, decision done! Why Utterly Beige? Well, they were all beige but this one was just so...utterly beige. 

So now I sat back and waited for her to tell me that I was wrong, that my opinion did not matter and that we were going with a different color. Instead she picked up one of the color samples and went through a 10 minute dissertation on the color. The hues, the other colors that she sees in the beige and what colors would complement  it and what colors would conflict with this particular shade. Then she sets that sample down, picks up the next one and does it again, and again, and again. By the time she picks up the 4th sample my eyes are glazed over, I have a serious cramp in one leg and all I hear is the teacher from Charlie Brown “Wa, wa wa wa wa”...... Just kill me now.

Some 60 minutes later…..I was day dreaming about what I was going to have for happy hour that afternoon when she stopped talking and was looking at me. As my eyes come back into focus I see that she is holding the Utterly Beige and says “So I agree with you and think we should go with this one”. Wait, what?!?!? I had a 16.66% chance of picking the right one and I did it! Hey, I will take the small victories, they are few and far between. 

We only have to go through this exercise 3 more times and all the paint colors will to decided.

We try to make time of the dogs each day by going for a walk, throwing Dakota's toy and letting them run around.
Daisy running through the grass

The 3 girls in my life
We just got back from the hardware store where our friend Dan works. He took a pine board and put all the samples of stain they have on it so we can decide which stain we want for the ceiling, which stain we want for the walls and which one we want for the beams. Why? Why me?!?!?…I feel another cramp coming on! 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

From Arizona to South Dakota!

Our trip north from Arizona to South Dakota was relatively uneventful. That is compared to what it could have been. Filling up in Parker our range with a full fuel tank went from 300 miles to 590 miles. What a big difference traveling without our rig! The other difference is the ability to drive 75mph rather than 55-65mph with the 5th wheel. With smooth sailing this alone would have cut 4 hours off our travel time!

I say “would have” as we just cannot seem to have smooth sailing. All went well the first day. We did not leave the DMV in Parker until almost 11:00am. We pointed our truck north with our destination being Salt Lake as this is roughly ½ way home. With the later start, we did not check into our hotel until 8:30pm. We actually stayed in Sandy Utah which is where our daughter and family lived for many years. The bonus of staying here is that we were able to visit our favorite sushi restaurant! We got a few rolls to go and had a late dinner in our hotel.

We were up bright and early the next morning (3am actually) and ready to hit the road but a look at the road conditions on our travel route put the brakes on that. High winds, slush and ice caused the closures of I80 from Evanston to Rawlins. According to the Wyoming DOT it was going to be closed for 8-10 hours.  
Red dots are never good!
So much for getting home early…. But this gave us time to hit the local donut store and just relax in the motel room for a while. 

We hung out in the room until the 11:00 checkout time. The WY DOT website was updated but still showed I80 closed for 8 hours. Looks like we won’t we making it home today after all! Barb called ahead to Evanston to see if there were rooms available there should we decide to hit the road. They said they had plenty of rooms so away we went! Barb continued to watch the road conditions and it looked like they opened the road to Rock Springs so Barb called a motel there and they too had plenty of rooms. So with luck we would get 3 hours closer to home. 

The roads were not bad. It was windy but they were dry. Arriving in Rock Springs traffic was still heading steadily west so we just kept on a truck’n towards Rawlins. Maybe we will make it home! All went well until we were exactly 7.9 miles from our Rawlins turn off when everything came to a halt. No idea what was happening, we were just stopped dead for as far as we could see. Barb jumped on the internet to see what was up and found that they closed the interstate again! She also found a traffic camera 5 miles ahead of us and this is what it looked like….
Over 10 miles in total back up
View ahead of us
View behind us
It was backed up well over 5 miles ahead of us and several miles behind us, looks like we will be here for a while. It was 18 degrees with winds about 30mph but people were still getting out of their cars and stretching their legs. We sat for a little over an hour when traffic started crawling again. We eventually made it to Rawlins where we saw a sign stating that I80 was closed. Luckily we were turning north on WY 220. We stopped, filled up and talked to a police officer at the gas station who said 220 was open but they were advising no unnecessary travel. Having lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota most of our lives we knew what that meant and carried on to Casper! There were a couple of wind-blown areas but the roads were just fine. We pulled into Casper just after 6pm and had a decision to make; do we carry on the last 3 hours or do we stop for the night. Not wanting to push our luck we decided to get a room, get a good night’s rest and finish our journey in the morning.

The next day the last 3 hours were smooth sailing and before we knew it we were pulling into our driveway! The first order of business was to unload the truck. With no 5th wheel filling up one side of the garage we were able to pull right in and unload everything with ease. 

The first order of business was to check out the sheetrock that was installed while we were gone. They did a good job but left the place a dusty dirty mess.
Master Bedroom

Loft bathroom

Loft bedroom

Loft bedroom closet
This is our first time here without the 5th wheel and we quickly realized how much we relied on it. We had no bathroom/shower, we had no kitchen for cooking and doing dishes  and all assemblence of organization had gone with the rig. 

The next order of business was to install (make) a toilet.....

It works!
Whew, getting that done I needed a break. The next day we spent the day in Rapid City running for store to store. We came home with a real toilet, bathroom vanity, a laundry tub, a paint sprayer and bags and bags of miscellaneous items. 

Wednesday while I was busy installing all these purchases Barb went back to Rapid City to buy more. I managed to get the toilet, shower head, bathroom vanity and laundry tub installed (after several trips to the hardware store in Custer). The last two are just temporary but will work for the next year until we get those areas fully finished.
Shower head, toilet and vanity all hooked up and operational!
 When Barb returned she arrived with a new mattress, a box spring as well as the TV for the living room (we moved the existing one in the living room to the bedroom). Kevin and Cheryl were nice enough to loan us one of their bed frames until they need it when their place is done. 
Barb even got the closet set up!
And thanks to our friends Dan and Bonnie we also have a fridge and a stove! They are remodeling their place and donated their used appliances to the needy.
What more could we ask for in a kitchen?!??!
Now that we have the place livable we can start on construction again! The weather is a lot different from that in Arizona but unseasonably warm weather for January here in South Dakota makes it very bearable.  We will take 40's anytime this time of year! 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Some Things You Just Can't Make Up

This week we felt like we were in several episodes of the Twilight Zone. There was some normalcy to our week so let me get to that first…..

We made a trip to Prescott to pick up a saddle that Kevin and Cheryl had bought during their visit down here. Since they flew, they had no room to bring it back. We had never been to Prescott before so we made the 3 hour drive up there to pick up the saddle and check out the area. 

We loved the area and the drive there was incredible! We went from 900’ in elevation up to 6,100 feet. Had some snow and some great scenery. 
Yes, those white specks is snow....

The town of Prescott was pretty cool too. Touristy, but definitely a town we would like to visit again. After picking up the saddle we went to lunch at the Palace Saloon. If you ever get up that way you need to check it out here. If you have time, read about its history, very interesting. 
The original bar has seen a lot of history!
The saddle by the way is pretty cool, it was made in 1917 for WWI and will make a great show piece for their new house. 

We also had dinner at Ray and Deb’s again. Deb had cooked an incredible pork prime rib. I had never heard of it but it is a meal we will not soon forget! Steve and Dianne were there as well as we feasted on the prime as well as potatoes and two other things I have not eaten before a keto cauliflower dish and asparagus in a cheese sauce. Two things I cannot stand but you could not taste either as the sauces were so good!

Ready to eat!
Tuesday night was Guy’s birthday so we all gathered around the fire for the celebration. We were also celebrating the arrival of our friends Harry and Vicki. We had not seen them since we crossed paths in Klamath Falls this past spring.
Here is the birthday boy, Guy!

Harry, Dino, Dianne and Lisa

Sue, Vicki, Pam and Red
So what was our Twilight Zone experiences?......

Imagine if you will, you are parked out in the desert surrounded by your friends. It is 11:00 at night everyone is tucked safely in their beds when you hear the sounds of vehicle tires crunching on the gravel. As the sound gets closer your senses become in tune with the noise and you wonder; “Who is driving around at this time of night?”. The sounds comes closer and closer until you realize that the vehicle is passing within feet of your rig. This is what happened to us a couple nights ago here in the desert. 

Why is a vehicle passing by our rig at 11:00 at night? We are not on a road, someone has to intentionally turn off the main road into our area to get that close. As I look out the window a white van, (you know the creepy kidnapper type vans everyone warns you about) is circling within feet of our rig, not once but twice. Then it stops literally within 5 feet of us, turns off their lights and just sits there. WTF!?!? I turn on the outside light. They just sit there. I get dressed, text my buddie Dino that I need a little help over here wait a minute and get nothing, just crickets in return. Where is my wingman? Probably passed out drunk again.

So I wake Barb. Yes, she is sound asleep as well and tell her I am going to go outside to confront the intruder. I go up to the driver’s window and this tweaker looking guy is staring back at me. Acting as tough as I could I say; “You’re not parking here move along!” “Huh?” I repeat myself and he starts his van and does a full circle around the rig again before heading off into the dark. I was so wound up after that and could not get to sleep for a while. 

Our next episode occurred when the buyer of our rig showed up at our door to let us know when he would have the money to buy it. He lives in Arizona but was from Washington where he still does his banking. He proceeds to tell us that he is getting at $20,000 cash advance on his credit card and is transferring that and some money from his bank account to another bank down here so he can buy our rig. Who does that?!?! Apparently the terms on his credit card makes this a very appealing option. The problem being that it will take another week for all this to take place. Hey, I don’t care where he gets the money from as long as I get a cashiers check when we turn over the rig and title.  Update..... after I wrote the above the buyer stopped by to say his money had cleared and would like to take possession on Friday. Well, that was a quick change. We went from having a week to pack up to two days!

Our last Twilight Zone episode occurred after we returned from Walmart where we had bought 4 plastic totes to pack all of our belongs as we vacated the 5th wheel. The totes were all stacked together and as we separated them we discovered that someone had stashed some merchandise between two of the totes. We had never pulled them apart and were now the recipients of this ill-gotten merchandise. What was it? Was it some valuable diamond jewelry or perhaps some really cool electronic devices? No, we were the proud owners of 4 enema bottles! Out of their box but still in the plastic packaging! The greeter even checked our receipt when we left. Could you have imagined if they looked between the totes? We would have been in handcuffs for stealing enemas!
So what does one do with 4 stolen enemas? You give them to your neighbor (Dino) who will drink anything free and tell him it is a new type of beer packaging!

Our last two days were passed quickly, way too quickly. We spent the days packing. Even though we had pared down prior to coming down we did not do enough. We had thought that we would have the ATV trailer to put most of our stuff in when we sold the rig and left. But our last minute decision to leave the ATV changed all that. Unfortunately it was so last minute that we did not take anything else out of the rig. This is the result of that......
We are full!
Happy hour on our 2nd to last day turned into something totally unexpected. It was supposed to be a simple run of the mill happy hour. Dino and Lisa, Steve and Dianne and Harry and Vicki came over. Then we started to drink some of the beers that we had brought down for beer tastings. Since Lisa does not drink beer she had brought several bottles of wine plus we had several bottles of booze that we wanted to get rid of before we left.
Let the fun begin!
Dianne and Vicki
This one was not nearly as good as the name implies
You get the picture (literally). It was a great time but I for one paid for it the next day. 
Speaking of the next day, we made a mad dash to get our Mexico run in. Since our truck was 1/2 packed, Dino drove. We left at 7:30am, none of us feeling very good. Someone, (I will not mention who but it wasn't Barb) even stuffed a plastic bag in her purse just in case her stomach decided to revolt on her. 

Our mission was to get all the medications we needed for the next year and a couple bottles of booze. We walked the sidewalks getting bombarded by the vendors and went to the Purple Pharmacy with our list of drugs. Barb had premade a list and rattled everything off as the clerk filled a large bag with our purchases. 
I waited outside while Barb made her purchases

This guy was looking for treats from the tourists
That chore done we headed over to our favorite fish taco place. Their shrimp tacos are only $1.50 each and contain 4 large shrimp, yum! On our way back I decided that I wanted more of my cholesterol medication and stopped at one of the smaller pharmacies along the way. My medication was 1/4 of the price it was at the Purple Pharmacy! Next time we will remember it pays to shop around!

Then it was off to the liquor store. We are each allowed 1 liter to bring across the border. Still feeling the effects from the previous night we did not even want to look at a bottle of booze but we forced ourselves to pick out a bottle and made our way to the border to head home. Steve and Dianne had come a couple of days earlier and had waited an 1 hour and 40 minutes in line to get back across the border. 

It was just after 11:00 we were able to basically walk right up to the agent and present our passports. I had my one bottle and the bag of medications from the Purple Pharmacy. The agent asked what I was bringing back and I said "1 liter of booze and some pills". "What kind of pills?" he asks. It is at that point I realize I have no idea what is in the bag. I look over at Barb being processed at the next line over I think to myself, "Oh great, I am about to be probed" and tell the guy "I honestly have no idea, just some medications". He looks at me for a second and hands me my passport and says "Have a nice day". I guess he is used to clueless husbands serving as drug mules for their wives!

That night, for the first night in....well, a while neither Barb or I had a drink at happy hour. In fact we just walked over to say goodbye to everyone and were back in our rig and in bed by 7:00! 

The next day we were up bright and early getting ready for our big day! I started by putting down the solar panels and continuing to pack the truck. That thing is so full we seriously could not fit anything else in there. We barely fit the dogs!
Dakota stuffed into the back

Daisy is still queen of her castle

Really dad, you expect me to ride 20 hours like this?
The bed of the truck was not any better. We had  bought two cargo nets to secure everything and even after piling everything in we did not fit it all. Dino and Lisa were nice enough to take our table and chairs and deliver them next time they pass through. Whenever that will be......

Harry and Vicki came by as we were packing up to say good bye. We only got to spend two nights with them, not nearly enough. Hopefully our paths will cross again this year. Red and Pam stopped by as well. We hope to catch up with them in Texas within the next year. Then it was over to Steve and Dianne's, Guy and Sue and finally Dino and Lisa's. We had a great month here with lots of laughs. Imagine living in a community surrounding by so many great friends. It was very hard to leave. 

At 9:00 the buyer arrived and after a quick walk through we followed him to the DMV in Parker to transfer the title. An hour later we handed over the keys and walked out with a check in our pockets. From there we went to the back and deposited the check and bonus....it was good!

Bittersweet day for us. We lived in our 5th wheel for the better part of 6 years, it took us to some amazing places and provided us with memories that we will never forget. Both Barb and I were close to shedding tears as we took one last picture and headed north towards our new home in South Dakota....
Good bye old friend...