Saturday, November 21, 2015

We’ve created a couple of Monsters!

This is my first week here at the Marina in Lehi (Barb’s 6th) and as much as I enjoyed the last month or so hunting and farming, it is good to be home!

The first order of business was for Barb to show me the camper that she bought for our Alaska trip and I must say she did a great job! It checks all the boxes we were looking for. Next order of business was to have the mounting system installed on the truck so we could haul the camper. If you recall, the previous owner said that his father-in-law, Mark, would install the mounts. A welder by trade, Mark had installed several mounting systems for campers in the past. What we liked about the way he did it was that he used a receiver hitch system that is totally hidden when not in use and easy to install when you want to use it.
There is a mount under each corner of the bed

He used 2" square tubing and welded receivers in place

You just pull the pin and remove when not it use
Next order of business was to continue “Operation Declutter”. You see, last fall we had left a number of totes and other things “we could not live without” at Forrest’s house with the intention of going through them again when we got back. Most of the totes contains clothing; sweaters, t-shirts, socks and all of our cold weather clothing. Before I got back, Barb had already gotten rid of two totes of her work clothes that she sent to a friend.  Now we went through the remaining totes separating everything into three piles; keep, sell, donate. When we were done we had 4 garbage bags of donate, one tote of sell and only a ½ tote of keep. I would call that a huge success! While we were at it we tore through our dresser drawers and closets and got rid of some things that we have not touched while we have been on the road. Two things continue to amaze me; how much stuff you think you need and how little you really need when it really comes down to it.
We got rid of all this stuff!

We organized the belly as well and moved some stuff to the camper
We have also been busy spending time with the kids and grandchildren, my how a few months changes things! Kendall (19 months) is walking, running, and climbing like crazy. She talks up a storm but we have no clue what she is saying. Dylan is quite the video gamer and Lily kicks our butts on Wii bowling. You may think that they were the monsters I was referring to in the post title…..not so. The monsters we have created are our own children and their spouses!  Over the past several months both of them have been researching and are in the process of taking steps into becoming fulltime RV’ers themselves! While neither of them have plans to become permanent fulltimers (yet), they both would like to sell/rent their homes and travel for a few years to not only see the country but to also see where they would like to plant more permanent roots. Right now they are both thinking Oregon, Wyoming or Montana however Jessica and Shane have the wildcard state of Pennsylvania.

Both families have been busy downsizing, paying off debt and saving as much as possible. Both have recently bought trucks and travel trailers in anticipation of their own adventures! It is interesting to see them and listen to them talk about their plans. Both seem very grounded and realistic when it comes to expectations; needing to work, home schooling and finances. It will be interesting to see if these dreams come to fruition……we shall have to wait and see!
Jessica and Shane's new rig a 2010 32' Open Range
Lily with Forrest and Somer's 2013 29' Dutchman

Monday, November 16, 2015

From North Dakota to Montana

With a week left of my visit to north central North Dakota I sat in the heated cab of the tractor watching large snowflakes float lazily to the ground and I reflected on the past 5 weeks in North Dakota. With this moisture and the opening of the gun deer season means my field work pretty much done. In addition to the field work and visiting friends I had come for the ducks and bucks.

This area of North Dakota is located in the center of one of the main flyways that the ducks use on their migration to warmer climates. This in turn leads to potholes, sloughs and the skies filled with waterfowl and excellent hunting opportunities. Early in the season you see mainly the “local ducks”; geese, mallards, pintail, gadwalls and teal. As the season progresses you see a transition, the local ducks head south as the weather turns colder and you start to see the “northern duck”. There are still mallards and geese but also scaup, redheads, canvasback and other traditionally northern climate birds. And instead of seeing flocks of 20-50 birds you start seeing flocks of hundreds if not thousands of birds filling the skies in their loosely formed “V” formations. The last of the birds to move through are usually the swans and snow geese, when you see these move through you know the lakes will soon be covered in ice.
A quick spot for some grain on their way south
Thousands of geese filled the sky

Hundreds to snow geese flying over
While the mornings were spent hunting ducks, the evenings were reserved for bow hunting the ever elusive whitetail deer. For almost 40 years I have deer hunted the woods of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Back there, we hunted large tracts of forest land using tree stands. Coming out here it was like I was learning to hunt all over again. There are no forests, only farm field after farm field with an occasional wood lot and the ever abundant slough. As fellow FT’er Dino commented on a recent post; “It is so flat there you can watch your dog run away for 3 days." We put up various trail cameras to see what was in the area and although you would get a lot of pictures of deer at night, during the day they were nonexistent. With virtually no cover these deer have adapted to live in the smallest of cover, mainly tall grass and cattail sloughs. I did not keep track of how many hours I spent in the field but there were more days than not that I would not even see a deer.

Some of the deer we caught on camera........


I know hunting is not for everybody, but to me just being out there relaxing, spending time with friends and enjoying the outdoors is more important than harvesting an animal. We had pictures of some really monster bucks in the area so for me it was either go big or go home. I had two chances at really big deer. The first opportunity did not work out but the next day I able to arrow a nice buck on the night before gun season opened! The next day when gun season opened, Bob the owner of the farm got a nice one as well. I actually think it was the same one that I had a chance at a few days earlier.  At the very bottom of this post are pictures of the deer we got so Pam you may not want to scroll down that far.

Time to leave North Dakota........A big thank you to Bob, Deanne, Chris, Holly and Dylan, hope to see you next fall! Traveling 3 hours west to the Sidney Montana area I to met some of my Wisconsin friends for a mule deer hunt.  I arrived on Thursday morning and the plan was to hunt until Monday and head to Salt Lake. There was 8 of us in the group most of which are from the Somerset Wisconsin area.

Talk about a difference in landscape! Where North Dakota was flat and you could see forever, this area of Montana was much more rugged reminding me of the badlands of South Dakota.  Hunting in this area requires a lot of walking. It is nothing to put on 6-8 miles a day. Mainly you walk the hills and ridges looking and glassing in search of the wily mule deer.   Day one netted two deer for the group, one of which was a really nice 4x6 buck. The next day we got a visit from the game warden who checked tags on the harvested deer, everything checked out and he went on his way. That afternoon I hunted an area referred to as the “moonscape area” a very rugged area with lots of cliffs and pinnacles. I stayed up on top and would walk from ridge to ridge and glass the area. After not too long I looked over a ridge and there was a pretty nice buck about 150 yards below me! I was able to make a clean shot and had my deer! I called my friend Doug from top to let him know I had gotten one, he said Dave would be right over with the 4 wheeler to get it out. In the meantime I headed down to see the deer. It was pretty steep and required some butt sliding. These deer sure live in some rugged area! When Dave arrived he looked down the cliff and said there was no way to get the 4 wheeler down and we were definitely not getting up the deer up the ridge. After a few minutes of thinking it over Dave said he thought he knew a way to get down there and headed out of the 4 wheeler. About 30 minutes later I heard the sound of the wheeler coming through the bottoms. He found a drainage about 5 miles down the road and was able to drive right up to the deer!
Where are the deer?????
This is the spot I shot my deer from

A little closer view, my deer is actually at the base of that pinnacle
With the deer safely back at camp I spent the afternoon processing the deer. Once that was done I left the meat to hang and cool off for the night and had a few cocktails with the guys. The next day when I woke up the meat was still hanging there but the head, antlers and more importantly my deer tag was gone! Great, if the warden stopped by now I have a deer hanging there with no tag to make it legal! We figured one of the local dogs or a coyote ran off with it was now making a meal out of it. A few hours later I saw the owner’s wife driving down the road so I stopped her and asked her if she saw a deer head anywhere. She said, “Why yes, it is in my front yard! It freaked me out this morning!” Once recovered I was legal once again.

Although there were a few days left on this trip I decided to pack up and start my way south to Utah, after all by now it has been over 5 weeks since Barb left. I left about 12:00pm for what I thought was going to be a 15 hour trip but with the wind, gas stops and a 1 hour stop to rest the 890 mile trip took me a little over 18 hours. I pulled into the marina a little after 6:00am exhausted. Both Barb and Daisy were excited to see me, one of them licked my face like crazy and while the other was a little more laid back about my arrival. It is good to be back!
Deer pictures below.....
My North Dakota Whitetail

Bob with a nice whitetail

A newly added late entry.....Chris with his ND rifle buck!
My Montana Muley

Tim and his dad with a nice mule deer

Monday, November 9, 2015

Our Alaskan Camper Story

Well, I got my ass handed to me last week, rightfully so I guess. The comments on our last post were overwhelmingly in Barb’s favor. I was called a weenie, a whiner, and compared to a dog. But I think my favorite was from a friend of ours in Wisconsin which simply stated #suckitupbuttercup.  You now all realize something that I have known for almost 30 years…..Barb is truly an amazing woman. As one of my friends told me I definitely outkicked my coverage when she agreed to marry me. I am not sure I totally understand that analogy but I get it.

Barb ended her post last week with a teaser on how she had purchased a truck camper for our upcoming Alaska trip. A decision we did not take lightly. First there was the decision on whether we take our 5th wheel to Alaska or take something else. We had talked to a number of people and read countless blogs and forums on this subject. Some had said they had taken their 5th wheel and regretted it; broken axles, blown tires, and extensive wear from the rough and bumpy roads up there. Others had taken their big rigs without a problem, never regretted it and would do it again. There were two main factors that led us to our decision on not taking our rig, the biggest one was the fact that we did not want to take a chance at beating the crap out of it up there. The second was that we wanted to experience the remote wilderness of Alaska and that would be a little more difficult dragging around a 40’ trailer.

Once that decision was made we had to figure out what kind of camper to get and how much to spend. Size didn’t matter (so Barb keeps telling me) as it is for only 5-6 months but ideally we wanted something at least 10’ long. Cost was a consideration, we budgeted $10,000 for the camper and rationalized that it was more of a loan from our savings as we are going to sell it when we get back. With luck we will break even when we sell it but even if we lose a $1,000 or so we figure it is worth saving the wear on the 5th wheel. Barb is a fanatic about research so she went crazy on the internet and narrowed down to a Lance. The only other option we wanted was an air conditioner. Not because we will use it a lot on our trip but resale, it seems like most people want the AC unit.

The next decision was when to buy.  The answer? When we found the right one at the right price. We had hoped to find one this fall or winter during the off season when the pricing should be a little lower. We knew we wanted to buy in the Salt Lake area as that is where we are going to start and end this adventure. Barb started looking last fall using KSL which is like Craigslist for the area. She had looked at one that was somewhat promising but it needed extensions for our dually and the mounting system which would add about another $1,300 so she kept on looking.  Here is the story on how she found it….pretty bizarre really.  She found one that sounded interesting the other day and went to look at it. However when she got there she said the people were kinda sketchy and the camper was not at all what she was looking for. As she was driving away some guy stopped in the middle of the road, gets her attention and she rolls down her window. The guy asked if she was looking at that camper and she said yes. He said he has one he was thinking of selling and that she should follow him to his house so he can show it to her. So what does she do? She follows him to his house of course! No really she did…..She said the guy seemed normal. Well I am sure Jeffery Dahmer seemed normal at times too. The guy lived a couple houses down from the other camper she looked at and it ends up he did have a really nice 1998 11.5’ Lance. It had a generator, an awning, electric jacks, a cover, a cargo rack on top and was actually designed for a dually. He did not know what he wanted for it so she told him to call her and let her know. After getting home she did some research on what it was worth with all the options it had on and saw that the low was $6,900 and the high $7,900. She figured this one was a little on the higher side because it was so nice.

The guy called back a couple days later and said he wanted $6,500 for it and that he did some research as well and knew that it was worth more. She went back with our son a few days later and decided that this was the one she wanted! She tried talking him down but he held firm at $6,500 but said he would throw in the turnbuckles ($300) and an extra jack motor. In addition, he would have his father-in-law install the mounting system for it. The only other condition was that Barb wanted it delivered to the marina where we are going to store it so she did not have to take out the 5th wheel hitch to get it back there. Deal done…..So we have now crossed that off our checklist for our upcoming adventure!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

First Solo Adventure!

Okay seriously…… I write a post about how I am roughing it without Barb in the tundra of North Dakota and what kind of comments do we get? Sympathy from my friends for having to be all alone without my wife and our dog? No! Or about the fact that I have to cook, clean and do all my own laundry? Double No! Most of the comments are about how impressed people are that Barb is out there on the road alone….really?!?! Here I am working my @ss off and she is out gallivanting around the country and she gets all the comments and praise.

Think I am wrong? You can hear it straight from her for here is Barb’s first ever post and her account of her time on the road without me……........
Heading out on my own from North Dakota I was feeling really good (I can do this!)  The winds were crazy (50+ mph gusts) which slowed me down a little.  When I got out for my second fuel stop something looked different on the side of the truck.  The wind had torn off the black plastic truck bed rail!  Luckily, it didn’t hit the front of the rig and do any damage.

I arrived at the KOA in Rapid City and while getting set up, noticed that the site they gave me was not long enough for the truck and trailer.  So I backed up as far as I could so that the bikes on the back of the rig were not in the road behind me, and then unhooked and parked the truck just down a little ways next to the laundry area.  Unfortunately, the sewer hose that I had still would not reach the dump and I didn’t want to dig out the other one we had in a tote.  I felt pretty good about getting everything set up (even with an audience across the street watching me the entire time).    Time for a cocktail!
The KOA under a 10 minute drive from the airport and at 11:30 pm that night I picked Jessica and the grandkids (Dylan, age 6 and Kendall, 18 months) up at the airport.  Surprisingly both kids were awake and ready to go camping.  Everybody got settled in for the night and ready for our adventure to start tomorrow morning.
The next morning we drove to Ditch Creek Campground which is about 20 miles outside of Hill City, South Dakota.  Jim and I have camped there a number of times, it is one of our favorite spots. Quiet, secluded and usually the only ones in camp because we go there on the off season.   There were a couple of campers when we arrived and unfortunately one was in the campsite where we usually park.  Darn it… which one is going to be big enough and be at a good angle to get into?  I picked one three sites down and backed in on the first try……..success!   I got everything set up while the kids and Jessica took a walk around camp. 

Me & Dylan at the campfire

Kendall at Deer Lake Reservoir

The next day quite a few more campers pulled in with ATVs.  After asking I found out that it was opening cow elk season.  Oh my, that meant that we were not going to be doing a lot of hiking.  We spent most of time outside in the campground, went to Deer Lake Reservoir and to the Prairieberry Winery for wine tasting.  I bought two bottles of their famous Red Ass Rhubarb wine! 
After spending a few days in the Black Hills, we headed out and spent one night in Casper, Wyoming to break up the trip.  Also, there is a Chinese restaurant there “Full House” that has the best Honey Walnut Shrimp! 

The next day we headed to our next destination, Flaming Gorge Recreational Area.  While in route, we found out that it was raining there and that the rain was going to continue for a couple days.  Let’s see…….small kids cooped up in 5er?  Nope, let’s just head to Jessica’s house in Sandy, Utah.  It was a long 9 hour drive but we made stops so the kids could get and play.  I spent a couple days at Jessica’s so I could babysit the grandkids for them.  I also got all my laundry done.
 On Saturday morning I headed down to my final destination for the next couple months, the marina in Lindon, Utah.  We usually stay here when we are in the area. It is not really a campground but the owner is nice enough to let us stay here. We have nice space on the pavement which looks out to the marina and Utah Lake.  Over the weekend I spent time with Forrest, his wife Somer and our granddaughter Lily (age 5).  On Sunday we went to the Lagoon amusement park which was decorated for Halloween.  There was food and fun for all ages.  I watched Lily so Forrest and Somer could go on the terrifying roller coasters (of course I used Lily as an excuse not to go on them myself.)  I did go on the kiddie roller coaster with Lily though.  When the zombies started to come out, it was time to head for home.

Over the next couple days I cleaned and reorganized the bedroom closet and dresser.  After finishing I looked around the bedroom and thought…….where are Jim’s clothes going to fit?  Apparently, I got carried away and took over all of his space…..guess I need to work on that before he comes back!
Halloween with the grandkids was a lot of fun.  Lily and Dylan practically ran from house to house and within a short period of time their pumpkins were totally full of candy and they could barely carry them.  So we all headed back to Jess’s house.  Jess decided that the kids should empty their candy and we would go out again.  The kids were all for that! So Jess  and I headed out with Lily and Dylan for round 2!  Of course Daisy had to get into the spirit of Halloween also!

One day Daisy and I went on a hike to Battle Creek Falls which is only about 10 minutes from our campsite.
Battle Creek Falls

Can you find Daisy?
More falls

It seems like I am usually busy here.  I spend time with the kids and grandkids,  go to the movie theatre on $5 Tuesdays and taking Daisy for walks and hikes.  I have also spent quite a lot of time looking for a truck camper.  Jim and I are planning an Alaska adventure for next summer and we have decided that we are not going to take our 5'er but buy a truck camper instead.  Good news! I found a truck camper that will be perfect for our Alaska trip. After some wheeling and dealing we settled on a price and it was delivered this morning! More on that next post.
Two more weeks until Jim is done farming and hunting and will finally meet me here in Lindon!
........So there you have it, proof positive that she is out there living the good life spending money like there is no tomorrow while I am here eking an existence on cheese sandwiches and water trying to put food on the table and make a few bucks.

So I guess we will just have to wait and see what kind of comments we get. Do you feel sorry for me or are you more impressed with Barb out there living it up?