Saturday, August 28, 2021

Crossing the Canadian Border During the Pandemic

As many of you know, Barb and I have been keeping a close eye on the Canadian border for well over a year now. Last year was obviously a bust and it looked like this year was going to be a bust as well. But then Trudeau announced that the border would open on August 9th to fully vaccinated Americans coming into Canada!

Once that was announced Barb and I quickly started changing our plans and make arrangements to get up to our favorite Canadian destination; Pasha Lake Cabins!

But it cannot be as easy as just driving up to the border station on or after August 9th right? Apparently a lot of people thought it was just that easy and created a huge mess at the border crossing with 7-9 hour waits in some cases.

Luckily, I have a wife who does a lot of research (See here for most recent information). First when they say “Fully vaccinated” That means 14 days after your final shot. In addition you have a negative Covid test within 72 hours of your crossing and upload your passport and vaccination card to the Arrive CAN app again within 72 hours of your arrival. Then you have to select the date, time and location of your border crossing. But wait, there is more! You have to have a quarantine plan in the event you do get sick while in Canada and be prepared to take another covid test at the border should you be randomly selected.

More hoops to jump through than pre-covid but not horrible and still very doable. Mostly likely, the new way going forward. So When Bob and DeAnne left last Sunday morning we were busy packing up for our trek to the border! We left bright and early Monday morning headed to Rapid City for our pre-arrival test. We had scheduled a 7:45am and 8:00am tests at the drive up testing center right in Rapid. Well, it ended up being a “walk up” for us, as our truck and trailer did not fit into the parking lot. The car in front of us had 2 small children that were being tested and the last one was screaming like crazy and the nurse could not get the child to sit still to do the test. Finally the mom got out of the driver’s door, opened up the rear door, put her kid in a headlock and the nurse shoved the swab up the kid’s nose. I am pretty sure that kid is traumatized for life but they got it done!

We were next in line and when they came out, I told the nurse that if we can get my wife down on the ground I could put her in a headlock so we can do the test. Luckily, she had a sense of humor….. Oh, the test Canada requires is a PCR Molecular test and the paperwork has to have the patient’s name, D.O.B., doctor’s name as well as the date and time on it. Some people had been showing up with incomplete or wrong tests. They said it would take 12-36 hours to get our results and since we were two days from the border we had to just take off and head that way in the hopes they were negative.

We drove North and East towards Minnesota stopping every few hours to let the dogs out. At one stop, Zoey saw a park and just had to go on some of the rides!

The dogs are incredible little travelers. Dakota will just lay in the back for ours on end. Zoey will lay for 3 hours, get up for 1 then day down for another 3.

That night we stopped in Watertown, SD at the Walmart for the night. Barb spent a couple hours in Walmart loading up on groceries while I sat with the dogs. While she was in shopping we received a call from the clinic saying that our results were negative. Hoop 1 completed! Barb then downloaded an electronic version of the results and luckily they included all the required information. She then went onto the Arrive CAN app and uploaded our passports, vaccine cards and answered a few other questions. Hoop #2 completed!

The next day we hit the road and arrived at Dino and Lisa’s super-secret undisclosed location about 2:00pm. We haven’t been there since October and their palace is amazing!  They even gave us the grand tour.  We were shocked, however, at their selection of the light switch in the bathroom.  Lisa and Barb went for a walk with the dogs while Dino and I hung out in the man cave.  The dogs had a great time swimming at their private beach.  Dino prepared a feast while Lisa prepared a variety of cocktails and we hung out and talked until bedtime and hit the hay. Would you believe I did not even get a picture taken?!?!?

At 7:30 the next morning we said our goodbyes and headed to Baudette, MN where we had a 12:30pm crossing time set up. We arrived at 12:27 and pulled up to the window. 

I rolled down my window, shut off the truck and handed the agent our passports. She asked all the same questions we have been asked for years; How much booze?, Do you have any weapons?, Are you leaving any gifts? We answered all of them like we always do; “We have two 750ml bottles of booze, we have no firearms but do have two bows with us, and we are not leaving any gifts” Then she asked us if we owned any handguns? “Yes”. Have you ever had a handgun in that truck? “Yes” Where was it? “Center Console”. Then she went on to ask us about our health and any symptoms we may be feeling. Then she said “You two have been randomly selected for a more thorough search AND another covid test, please pull over to the side and two officers will be out” Lucky us!

We pulled over and two officers came out, had us take the dogs out of the truck, had us stand to the side and started asking us questions. “Am I going to find a handgun in the truck?”, “No”, “Where is your handgun?”, “At home”, “Where are home?”. We answered all their questions and then they spent 30 minutes going through the truck, trailer and camper. Once they were done they said we passed and handed us two “At home” Covid tests that needed to be administered via a tele-nurse. So we pulled over to the other side of the parking lot and called the number on the home kit. “Have you registered with Switch Health?”, “No, we just crossed the border, were handed these boxes and were told to call this number”. “You need to go on line, create an account and follow the instructions on the website”. 

Luckily we were still close enough to the border that we still had good cell service so Barb went on line and created my account. She also had to open the kit and input the serial number of the vial in the kit. Then she selected “Start Test” and it put us in the queue to connect with a Tele-Nurse. The first screen she received was that they were experiencing a higher than normal volume and to call back after 6pm. She pushed “Continue” and it said there were 40 people in front of me. While I was waiting, Barb was setting up her account on her phone. About 5 minutes later a face appeared on my screen. He had all my info on his computer. I told him we were randomly selected for a test and he said. “There is nothing random about it, the border agent picks and chooses who gets a test” I guess I did not charm that agent! 

He walked both Barb and I through our tests. He had to witness us doing the swabs and sealing them in a Purolator bag. That took about an hour start to finish. He told us to drop the bags off at the nearest Purolator pick up site. The border agent said there was one nearby so Barb walked back to the crossing station to see where to drop them off. “Drive up around the corner and you will see a red garage on the left, there is a Rubbermaid container there, put the bags in the container”. So off we went. Sure enough, up around the corner there was a red garage on the left but no Rubbermaid container. Barb got out and was going into the garage to ask them where to put them. I watched her from the truck. Before she got to the door I see her put our tests into a garbage can! She then turns around and walks back and gets in the truck. I look at her like she is crazy and she says there was a sign on the garbage can saying “Put border covid tests in here”. Apparently the garbage can IS the Purolator pick up container! 

All that done we were on the road headed towards Pasha Lake, only 8 more hours to go! We drove another 3 hours and were done for the day. We had been in the truck a total of 10 hours and were done. We stopped at a boat landing along Highway 11 for the night and crashed.

We woke up the next morning and drove one hour in to Thunder Bay, fueled up and carried on to Nipigon where we fueled up again. It was only an hour between fuel stations but this would be our last fuel stop for the foreseeable future and we wanted as much in the tank as possible.  An hour after that we pulled off of Highway 17 and onto a ride road. 3 miles later we saw the sign we have been longing to see for over 18 months!

We will be here for 3 ½ weeks of fishing, hunting, and who knows what other adventures await! 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Finken Factor

 Finken Factor; definition.....According to Wikipedia, The Finken Factor is an adage or epigram that typically states: When is close proximity of a Finken, one must consider the Finken Factor, the introduction of an unknown variable that will have an impact on whatever one is doing at a given time. 

This "unknown variable" can be both positive and negative in nature, one just has to be ready for the introduction of the variable. Barb and I have experienced this factor many times over the years; trees jumping out in front of you while driving a tractor across a farm field, spontaneous mud holes appearing swallowing both tractors and equipment or fence lines suddenly reaching out and tangling themselves in various implements. It can also appear in a positive form as well such as always having a good time when in the presence of a Finken. 

When Bob and DeAnne let us know they were thinking of coming down for a visit we were over the top excited to see them. Unlike our last visitors, this time we opened the gates, put up balloons and banners welcoming them. We even hired a marching band to welcome them through the gate! Unfortunately, Bob and DeAnne happened to arrive right when the marching band was off chasing the balloons and banners that were blown into the neighbors field by a strong wind so they did not see all the steps we went to in preparation for their arrival. Regardless, we were excited to see them!

They were scheduled to arrive early afternoon but were delayed by a flat tire on their trailer. 

I don't think they are patching that one!

Luckily, they found a new one in Sundance and were able to get back on the road in an hour or so. 

Once they got settled in we sat outside on the porch and enjoyed the afternoon. We had purchased a propane firepit the day before so we fired it up!

The next day Barb and DeAnne went down to Hot Springs where DeAnne played an 18 hole round of golf.

DeAnne said it was a fun and challenging course that ate a couple of her golf balls. It appears as though some of the residents on the course however, have lost their sense of humor!

On one of the holes they saw this guy peeking through the grass watching the golfers go by.....

I wonder if they will let me go hunting on the golf course?!?!?

While they were golfing Bob and I unloaded a 1,000 gallon water tank he brought down for our future catchment system.

Then we  headed into Custer to do some antiquing. We stopped by several of the local stores where Bob found a couple of treasures. At lunchtime the girls met us at ..... The Purple Pie Place of course! 

Early the next morning Bob and I got to experience what it is like to be Dino and sat at the island and  watched Kevin put our backsplash up. I will tell you right now, it is good to be Dino, he has quite the easy life!
Barb has been going back and forth on this backsplash since the day she ordered the tile, even up until it was being installed. It is such a departure from her comfort zone when it comes to d├ęcor.
At first she did not like it but then she introduced the same color in other spots in the kitchen and it really tied everything together. 

Once we got done watching Kevin working (It was exhausting), we headed off in our UTV's on a trail ride. We put on a total 63 miles and saw a lot of beautiful country.

When we got back we were surprised and happy to see not only the backsplash done but also the floor in the walk in shower!

That evening Zoey modeled her new lifejacket for everyone. She is outgrowing everything we have for her! She was not impressed and would not walk the runway to model her new outfit. 
Then she showed off her TV watching skills when we were watching s show that featured a bear on a beach.

Sometimes we wonder where Zoey gets all her energy. Then we caught her drinking this bottle of Mountain Dew and knew exactly where it comes from!

The next day,  we traded destinations as Barb and DeAnne headed to the Custer Golf Course to take in 9 holes while Bob and I went to Hot Springs. 

Bob and I visited the Pioneer Museum right in Hot Springs. One of the best museums I have been to in a long time right here in tiny ole Hot Springs....Who knew?!?
Look at the size of those crocks!

Old telephone switchboard

If only Bob had hair!
Being treated in an iron lung had to be horrible!

After lunch that day, we were off on the Rangers again to explore a new area! This time we went south and explored terrain that was more open. 

We put on 67 miles bringing the grand total miles on Bob and DeAnne's machine to somewhere around 160!

Sadly, the next day it was time for them to leave. Unlike our previous visitors, we really enjoyed Bob and DeAnne's company and were sad to see them leave. And instead of eating and drinking us out of house and home they actually left us gifts! 

This time the Finken Factor was full of all positive experiences and good times!

After they left Barb and I got busy packing up for our next adventure.... camper, trailer, 4 wheeler, fishing gear, hunting gear clothing, kitchen stuff.....We created a whirlwind getting everything ready.

Once that was all done we jumped in the Jeep for a 5 hour road round trip to Nebraska to look at a new bow for Barb. We have been looking for a specific bow for over a month now; calling and emailing every dealer within a 4 hour radius. Nobody had one! Finally this place in Nebraska emailed us and said they got one in! Great! Just in the nick of time as we are leaving for our next adventure on Monday. We emailed them back and said we will be there on Sunday! They responded they were closed on Sunday. No! After trading a couple more emails they said they would meet us at the shop at 1:00 on Sunday so we could look at the bow. We headed down there hoping it was everything Barb wanted and it was not a wasted trip.... Barb is a happy camper!

Tomorrow we leave bright and early for our next adventure! We are heading north, a little east for an overnight at an undisclosed location on our way to destination even further north. Let's hope they have plenty of beer, it is payback time!

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Code Olivieri!

So there we were. Barb and I were enjoying the peace and quiet of the afternoon out on the porch. A whitetail buck deer munch’in on clover, redtail hawk sitting on a limb, chubby ole groundhog, barking French Bulldog….. truly a Pringleland Delight…. Does it get any better than this? (Lyrics stolen from Alabama…. Well, kinda)

All of a sudden there was a loud bang, a puff of black smoke and a whoop coming from the end of our driveway. “Did you lock the gate?” I asked Barb. “But they are hundreds of miles away, we should be safe” she said. Next thing we knew a rusty old Dodge truck towing a broken down 5th wheel appears over the horizon…. on our driveway!

“Code Olivieri, code Olivieri!” I yelled and sprung into action. Having practiced this drill monthly since 2014 we knew exactly what to do. I ran to the beer fridge and hid all the good beer, Barb ran to the kitchen fridge, hid all the steaks and pulled out at package of hot dogs. “How did they find us?” she screamed. “I don’t know, hide all the valuables!”

As they pulled up Barb and I each said a short prayer and a downed a shot of Fireball. By the time they got out of their truck we had hidden everything that needed hiding. Lisa leapt out of the truck, jumped up and wrapped both her legs around my waist. She gave me a kiss on my neck that I am pretty sure left a hickey that will take a week to fade. She then went over to Barb and gave her a kiss on the lips. "Do you want your gum back?" Barb said. "No, you keep it, I found it under a picnic table yesterday",  Lisa replied. Meanwhile, Dino opened his truck door and a pile of beer cans fell to the ground. He walked right by us, into the garage, opened the beer fridge and said “You have my favorite kind of beer!” “Cold?” I replied. “Nope, free!” he said as he popped the top on one and put one in each pocket.

“What an unexpected surprise” Barb said, “How long are you staying?”. “That depends, how much beer you got?” was Dino’s reply.

So started, what we now refer to “Black Tuesday”. They were here, we might as well try and make the best of it. 

The Olivieri rig set up in our RV spot

Once they were settled in we sat on the porch watch Dino drink beer after beer and got caught up. We had not seen them since October of last year so we had lots of catching up! They brought Moose in for a playdate and Zoey wasted no time investigating this new creature!

Umm, smelly!

The next day was build your own crepe breakfast followed by a Ranger ride through the National Forest.

Barb and Lisa jumped into the new Ranger while Dino and I were in the other one. We put on about 20 miles weaving in and out of the woods and valleys of the National Forest. 

Being Wednesday, we knew what we were having for dinner....burgers at the Pringle bar!
Then Dan and Bonnie came back to our place for a game of Cards Against Humanity. We laughed until the sunset, then laughed some more!

Poor Zoey was left inside while we were outside playing. She thought that was the meanest thing in the world and stared out the window and let us know it!

Thursday was set to be a play day. Dino and I shot out bows while the girls went for a walk. 

We did have an archery competition of sorts. We were sitting there and Dino said "How far do you think it is to that tree in the field?" A quick check with the range finder told us it was 244 yards. "Let's each put up $5 and whoever gets the closest wins" he said. "Will you have enough gas money to leave?" I replied. "Only if you run out of beer" he said.

So using our best medieval archery stances we launched our arrows toward the tree..... All or our arrows landed within 10 yards or so of each other with mine landing just a few feet closer to the tree!

 Then it was time to head off to Hill City. This week is the main week for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. As anyone who lives around here knows, it is not just at Sturgis but throughout the whole Black Hills. So we were going to drive through Custer and Hill City to see the festivities. 

As we were getting ready I hear Lisa in the garage scream, "Oh my God, it is so big!". Curious, I went to the garage to see what would amaze her like this. I knew for a fact it had nothing to do with Dino.....and I was right. I went out there and she points at a snake making its way up the windshield of the Jeep!

The top was open and it curled itself up on the sun visor on the drivers side. 

I am not afraid of snakes like I am afraid of spiders but I am not a fan of them either. So Dino and each grabbed a long piece of wood and  extricated it from the vehicle. This thing was over 4' long, maybe closer to 5'!

Crisis over, we all jumped in the Jeep and headed off to town. Could you imagine if that thing would have crawled out from under the seat while we were driving!?!?!? Both Custer and Hill City were packed with bikes. I think the average age of the bikers was well over 60 and everyone seemed to be having a good time. 

And no visit to Hill City is complete without stopping to see the worlds largest Smokey the Bear!
Friday, Barb and Lisa went to Rapid for a "girls day". Shopping, pedicures, lunch and even ice cream! Meanwhile Dino and I had a "guys day" with Kevin as we went to one of his job sites to help him set trusses on a garage he is building. I did not get any pictures as I was actually working hard but I am sure Dino took a few!

Many of you know I like to live a little on the edge. Well, Saturday I once again put my life at when I  when I let Dino operate the tractor and a chainsaw! 

Old McDino

Many of you may recall the last time someone operated a chainsaw within arms reach of Dino.... Read this post in case you missed it
Not wanting a grossly disfigured leg like Lisa, I stayed outside of the reach of the chainsaw. 

That afternoon we celebrated Zoey's 6 month birthday! 
She even got a doggie cookie which she was supposed to share with Dakota but as soon as she got it she ran into the bedroom and under the bed! We eventually got her out but she had a vice grip on the cookie and had to extricate it from her mouth before we could give Dakota some. 

That night it was off to the movies in Hot Springs. They have a theatre that originally opened in 1929. The outside still has that old time movie theatre feel but the inside was very comfortable and has a huge screen. We each paid out $8 and went into watch. Jungle Cruise starring Dwyane Johnson "The Rock". We had not been to a movie since 2017 when we went to see Jumanji down in Parker Arizona with.... you guessed it.... Dino and Lisa. What did we see back then? Jumanji, starring Dwyane Johnson. The movie was good but Lisa was kind of disruptive as she kept repeating "Yes, yes, yes!" on and off throughout the entire movie. I don't know but I think she likes Dwayne Johnson....

All in all, it was a great...wait.... All in all, we endured and survived the week, on Sunday morning we ran out of beer and they finally hooked up their rig and headed off to their next undisclosed location. As their rig crested the hill and disappeared out of sight I turned and hugged Barb. I noticed a tear running down her cheek. "It's okay honey, we survived". "But they know where we live and might come back without notice" she said. To that I triumphantly responded "Not without notice, I planted a tracking device on their 5th wheel so we will have plenty of time to lock the gates and hide if they ever come back in the area". Wiping her face, she gave out a weak smile and said "Thank you, you are the smartest and handsomest and most wonderfulest man in the world. (I hear that a lot). We turned, and walked hand in hand back to the house. About 1/2 way back to the house a cold chill ran down my neck as I realized that they have two rigs.... God help us all.....