Friday, November 30, 2018

What if......?

This past Monday marked a much highly anticipated event in Pennsylvania. In fact, it is just a huge event that the schools close for the first three days of the week! Husbands, wives, sons and daughters take off of work so they can partake….So what is this illustrious holiday? Why the opener of deer season of course! So when Shane offered to let me hunt on their lease, it was an offer I could not refuse! 

Throughout the week we spent several 11 hour days in search of the elusive “grey ghost”. Spending that much time in the middle the woods, alone with your thoughts your mind really gets to wander. I could not help but reflect on how lucky we are to be doing what we are doing, all the adventures we have had and all that are yet to come. 

One thought that crossed my mind was: “What If….what if I could go back and live forever at one moment in life, when would that be?”  For me, the answer is easy… would be the late 80’s. And no, it was not because of the music!

Barb and I would have been in our mid to late 20’s, the kids were at the age when they idolized us and were excited to see us whenever we walked in the door.
We had just built our very first home on 11 acres on the bluff of the St Croix River outside of Somerset Wisconsin and spent the winter clearing the land in preparation for our new house.

I remember spending hours out there cutting down tree and burning brush. It was so cold that winter that the builder had to use a frost pick to dig out basement and foundation. Once the house was built, we got our first two horses. The first and last Arabians we would ever own. More than once we would go out for a ride and my horse would arrive home 20 minutes before me, waiting for me with a grin on his face that said "I won again!"

We had our whole lives in front of us, with endless possibilities to make of it what we wanted. But the best memories are of Jessica and Forrest growing up.... Funny, I don't remember the temper tantrums, the brattiness, just the good times. It's good to have a selective memory!
They went from this.....
Love, the 'stache!

To this, in just a few years
We spent 10 years in that house. Interestingly it was probably the most financially challenging point in our lives but also one of the most rewarding. It was also a time when both my parents and Barbs dad were still alive and we spent a lot of time with our siblings who were having children of their own. 
One of the many family get-togethers we had in that house
So yes, if I could go back and live forever at one point in our lives, that would be it. That said, the next period would be what I anticipate the next 20 years to be. Building our new house, continuing to travel, watching our kids and grandchildren grow up and growing old(er) with the love of my life. 
But I know most of you are really wondering..... how did I do hunting? Lets just say I had a lot of time to watch nature, reflect on life and take a few pictures. Day 1 I sat in what they call the "Log Blind". It is a raised platform built into a blind by staking alternating logs together. 

There was good sign in the area, the bucks had been rubbing trees and creating scrapes to mark their territory and show dominance over the other bucks in the area. 
Bucks create these scrapes then pee on them trying to attract the does!
They also rub small trees to show dominance over other bucks in the area
It was cool and raining but thanks to the hunting umbrella I bought years ago (and maybe used once) I was able to stay dry. The stand overlooked three shooting lanes which offered clear shots should a deer appear.
Sitting under the umbrella looking down one lane

With views like this it should be pretty easy to get a deer! I did see two deer that day but they were small and of course stayed in the thick stuff!

There are also bear in the area which was evidenced by the claw marks on the log stand. Someone else is try to mark his territory!
But there was plenty to take pictures of as I watched the squirrels preparing for winter as they gathered leaves and brought them to their nests in the trees. I would watch this one squirrel climb down his tree, go about 50 yards to gather leaves and then go back to its nest dozens of times always going to the same spot to collect leaves. What is wrong with the leaves right below his tree?

Looks like a good place to spend the winter!
 One thing I found interesting was the amount of vines they have in this area. Wisconsin had vines but certainly not to the extent that this area of Pennsylvania does. They just covered everything!
Vines covered every bush

Larger ones climbed every tree

But the birds seem to enjoy hiding in them.....

…..and eating the berries.
The unfortunate part about rain this time of year is that it cools down at night and freezes making for slippery roads and ice covered vehicles. 
A sheet of ice covered the window!

Our other adventures this week included a trip to Hershey to see the candy factory and a stop at Troegg brewery to try some of their finest!

The Hershey World amusement park was closed so went inside and walked the factory. It was interesting but now that we have seen it I don't think we will ever feel the need to come back. 
We were looking for a giant sized Almond Joy but they did not have it. 
Troegs Brewing Company on the other hand was definitely someplace we would go back! They have quite the facility in Hershey and some great brews. 
Jess and Shane have quite the variety there!
This coming week the fun continues with more deer hunting, Christmas tree cutting and hopefully Gettysburg! Stay tuned!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Life as a Backyard Hillbilly

Thanks to Jessica and Shane’s long driveway we were able to back right in next to their house, spend maximum time with the family and save a few dollars on camping fees.

We have been lucky enough to moochdock several times at friends and families residences. My brother Bob has a totally empty cul-de-sac that is perfect for the occasional overnight, The Finken Farm has enough room to open a campground and accommodate dozens of rigs and the venue at Kevin and Cheryl's wedding earlier this fall were also nice enough to let us stay on their property. 

Of course like every campground or other camping location there are pros and cons to each. Power can vary from location to location. For example; at my brothers we are 100 yards or so from their house so water and power can be an issue. We conserve water and run totally off our solar. At the farm they have both water and a 50amp hookup but no sewer facilities so we have to try and conserve our waste water usage. 
There are a few things that we need to take into account as a backyard hillbilly. In the case of Jessica and Shane's property things are tight. Our left side is within a foot of the neighbor’s property line. We cannot go over to that side without going on their property. The back of the rig actually extends over another neighbor’s property line. Good thing they have nice neighbors! For power we have one 15amp outlet so although it is enough most of the time we cannot run any electric heaters and have to turn everything else off when using the microwave or toaster. Next is to use the house facilities as much as possible. Bathroom, showers, dishes and of course laundry are all done in the house. Although we can add more water if we need to, dumping waste water is a whole other story. Our goal is to hold out the entire month without having to pull out and dump.

The other thing we need to keep in mind is maintaining Jess and Shane’s privacy. Everyone needs alone time, individuals and family. Although we want to make the most of our time here we also need to give them some alone time. It is hard to relax in your own home when the evil monster-in-law could burst through the door at any second. We did have a sleep over last weekend. Both Dylan and Kendall slept over. I slept in the living room, Barb, Dylan, Kendall, Dakota and Daisy all slept in the bed. I think I got the better end of that deal!

With a population of just over 4,000, Greencastle has a small town atmosphere in both culture and architecture. Friday night the 16th was the annual tree lighting in the town square. Since "everyone in town" attends the lighting, it was an event we just could not miss!
The tower in the background was originally built in 1872 as a bank clock tower. 
Daughter and Mother!

The next day we got to go see Kendall at her gymnastics class!
With Jessica and Shane working most days and the kids in school we have been able to get out on a couple adventures and have plans for many more. This past week we drove to Maryland and visited Cunningham Falls State Park right after it snow. Talk about beautiful! But wet….. It had rained, snowed and rained again so not only was the snow wet and mushy the trees were raining ice chunks on us the entire hike.
First ones on the boardwalk!

Cunningham Falls
Daisy made it about 100 yards before she just gave up and looked at us. We took turns carrying her the rest of the way. Dakota on the other hand ran and ran and ran. Not a lot of room for her to run in the yard so she was happy to get out in the open.
On our way home we stopped by Pennsylvania Dutch Market in Hagerstown, MD. Filled with Amish and Mennonite merchants this unique market has a little bit of everything. Lots of good food and some great furniture. I figured they would not appreciate a lot of pictures taken of the merchandise and employees but I did manage to sneak this picture of a particularly interesting item.   
Tempting but we did not try it

During the weekend we got out to Cowans Gap State Park in Pennsylvania
We walked the mile and a half loop around the lake. It has been a long time since I have gone on a hike with little kids and totally forgot about the occasional meltdowns. Fortunately I only had one when I just sat down in the snow and started crying. Since no one would carry me I had to get up and catch up to everyone else.
Since Barb had access to a full kitchen for Thanksgiving so she took advantage of it. Not one, but two turkeys, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, desert salad, rolls and pumpkin pie! It was a great day filled with football and food. Of course it was spending it with family that made it special. So what are we thankful for? Family, friends, our health, happiness and the ability to fulfill our dreams...…none which should be taken for granted.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Life's Little Reminders

We all need little reminders once in a while and life has a way of bringing them up in the most humous ways. My most recent one went something like this....

“Never Again!” Barb said after an intense 8 hour drive on slick and slippery roads on our way south from Douglas to Sioux Falls. Multiple cars in the ditch, our own rig slipping about a foot sideways on more than one bridge and everything in the rig was frozen up. I was trying to make things better, in hindsight I should have maybe said something other than what I did but the words that came out of my mouth were “Calm down”…. I don't know what I was expecting, maybe something like this????
Words to live by? Not so much!
 What I got was more like this.....
Lesson learned (again, as I am sometimes a slow learner!) 
The next day did not start out much better as we traveled through Sioux City and east across Iowa where the weather cleared and the roads got better. The temps stayed in the teens and 20’s so we did not thaw out but at least we did not have a death grip on the steering wheel. That night we decided to stay at a campground where we could at least plug into electric. We chose the only Passport America park in the Davenport Iowa area. Actually it was in Orion Illinois. At $15/night it was worth it for the electricity but that was about it. The Hillcrest Event Center/Golf Course/Campground looks like it has been shut down for over a year. The golf course was overgrown, the event center looked abandoned and the campground in ruins. But we were committed. There were a handful of long-term residents there but could not find anyone who was in charge so we called the number on the internet and he said just park anywhere….so we did. No water, no sewer but at least we have electricity!
Another 6 hours to Groshen Indiana where we spent two nights at the Elkhart County 4-H Campground. They have 20 sites that are open year round. Most were full but luckily there was 3 for us to choose from. We were still froze up so we were thankful for the bathroom and shower facilities right next to the campground.  Our reason for spending two days here is that we arrived on a weekend and we had an appointment at MORryde bright and early Monday morning. We had a new Independent Suspension System and disk brakes installed on our rig in March of '15 and  other than changing the brake pads and greasing the bearings we had not done anything to it. So we set up an appointment to have it inspected on our way through. 

They start at 6:00am so we arrived bright and early Monday morning. After about an hour wait a gentleman came out with a car creeper, scooted under the rig, came out 15 minutes later and said everything looked great and we were free to go, no charge. Happy to have the peace of mind that everything was still good, we headed on down the road.  

We tried to stay at the Walmart in Wooster Ohio the next night but when we asked they did not allow overnight RV parking so we carried on another 30 miles to the town of New Philadelphia where they said we were welcome to stay.
The final leg our brought us through 4 states in a matter of a couple of hours. Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland before returning to Pennsylvania. It was a long 5 full days of driving but we took it slow, took some scenic routes and avoided every toll. We went through some very beautiful country in each of these states. 

One of the many foggy hills of West Virginia

The leaves were gone for the most part, only a few hardy oaks still hanging on to what was a memory of warmer times. The section of West Virginia we went through was especially beautiful with all the hills and valleys.
We added 3 new states to our "Where we have visited" map on the sidebar. Two pink (West Virginia and Maryland) and one green (Pennsylvania). We use a site called Gas Food No Lodging for our North American map. I have looked at others but I like the way this one allows you to color code states and the way it combines the U.S. with Canada. The thing I don't like about it is that you have to create the entire map every time you add a new state. 

Our color coding goes something like this;

  • red for states where you've not spent much time or seen very much.
  • amber for states where you've at least slept and seen some sights.
  • blue for states you've spent a lot of time in or seen a fair amount of.
  • green for states you've spent a great deal of time in on multiple visits.

By the end of this winter we hope to have more of the east coast colored in but since we have no definitive plans, only time will tell.

After arriving in Greencastle, we backed into Jessica and Shane's driveway and after getting all set up, we went to dinner at one of their favorite Mexican restaurants.

It is great to see Jess, Shane, Dylan and Kendall, we will have lots of time as we are all settled into our new spot for the next 4 weeks. We are all thawed out and everything is working. Well kinda thawed out as the day after we got there they were hit with a big snowstorm, Jess seems to think we brought the cold and snow with us!

Daisy and Dakota are tired of the snow and have decided to hibernate the rest of the winter....

Other than the snow, the 10 day weather forecast looks variable with highs in the mid 40's and lows in the 30's. The kids are in school all day, Jessica and Shane are at work so we will have lots of time for exploring. The only thing on our list so far is a couple of breweries and Gettysburg so if you have any suggestions of things we should see within a couple hours of here let us know!
Oh, by the way, I found a few mantra to live by which is now the home page on my iPad…..