Saturday, March 26, 2022

Punching Holes

I was first introduced to ice fishing as a youngster at my dad's place in Shell Lake Wisconsin. Since then, I have always had a passion for punching holes through the ice. When I was 12ish, my dad bought me a small two-man portable icehouse where I spent hours and hours trying to catch the ever-elusive walleyes and northerns that lurked the depths of the ice-covered lake. 

When I first started, I did not have an auger, so I had to seek out holes that had been abandoned by other fisherman. I remember always looking for the ones that had blood around them, as blood meant the other fisherman was successful or something went horribly wrong. With luck, the holes would only be lightly frozen over and I could usually punch back through with the heel of my foot, other times some fisherman would drill holes for me.  At some point I acquired a hand auger and began punch my own holes!

My fondest memories of that era was fishing with my brother Bob, or my friend Tom, up at my dad's place. We would go out and set up our tip ups and head back to the cabin to watch them. When a flag went up we would run to the tip up a couple hundred yards away. The first one to the tip up got to pull up the fish. We would do whatever it took to be the first one to the hole, there was pushing, tripping and wrestling involved along the way and often times the fish was long gone by the time we got there. Later, the actually running part was replaced by snowmobiles but still the first one there got to pull up the fish. We would race up to the holes, dive off our snowmobiles trying to time our slide so we would stop right at the hole. Our sleds would finally come to a stop hundreds of feet later. 

Memories that will last a lifetime for sure. It is because of these years that I have such a hard time with the cold now. I frostbit my fingers and toes so many times that even the slightest cold causes pain now. But that did not stop me from loving the ice. In fact, Barb and I spent our honeymoon in an ice house on Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota. I know ladies, still your hearts, when Barb hooked me, she hooked a keeper!

So, when I got a call from my friend Doug asking me if I wanted to ice fish a couple of lakes within Custer State Park I could not say yes quick enough! I have not been ice fishing since.... 2013 before we hit the road. I had brought back all my equipment from Forrest's on our last trip so I was ready to go!

Fishing here in the hills is a lot different than "back east". Here, the predominant target species is trout and the ice is only a foot or so thick instead of the 2-4' ice in Wisconsin. As such, you have to walk out to your fishing spot rather than driving your truck and the ice is a lot easier to punch holes in. 

The temps were well into the 50's when we hit the ice. There was a good 12-14" of ice so even with these temps it would last another week or so. We fished two lakes over the next 6 hours catching a variety of fish. 

The scenery was incredible!
Doug and I decided early on that there would be no running or wrestling to get to the fish. One of us would break a hip for sure! It was not long until I felt that familiar tap, tap on the end of my line. I set the hook and reeled in.... a bullhead?!?! My first fish through the ice in nearly 10 years is a bullhead? Back down the hole he went and soon BAM! I set the hook again, this time it was fighting like a big fish. Could it be the elusive rainbow trout we were after? Nope, a snake northern. Next up was Doug, or should I say Doug's rod, as a fish hit it and pulled it right down the hole! Well, this trip just got a little more expensive! We stared down the hole in disbelief, shrugged our shoulders and continued on fishing.

Doug with a monster bullhead and my small northern
It was not long before Doug pulls a nice rainbow through the hole so we had one in the bucket! We switched lakes a couple hours later and did much better. Landing about a dozen trout, 6 of which went into the bucket. 

At the end of the day, we loaded up, got back in the truck and looked into the mirror, we were both sunburned! It was a great day on the ice and I now have the itch to get out some more!

Back at home, Barb and I have been working on a couple of things. 

Barb has been working on a clothes drying rack in the laundry room. Why would one need a drying rack in their laundry room when you have a perfectly functioning dryer? Well, I asked that same question. Apparently the fabric used in women's jeans does something weird when in the dryer. So it is against the laws of laundry to put ladies jeans into the dryer. Thankfully this same phenomenon does not affect men's jeans. Who knew?!?

So Barb set out to make a drying rack with some left over wood from Dan and Bonnie's. She looked at dozens of designs on the internet and could not find one she liked so she used ideas from several and came up with her own design. 
She did a great job, and she now has her drying rack for less than $10!

With the weather so nice, I got the itch to work on something outside so I went and bought some angle iron and worked on refurbishing the bent crossmembers on the windmill. I would like to see if we can get it up before we leave but that might just be a pipe dream. 
I had to replace a total of 10 or so crossmembers but now she is ready to be raised! We constructed the base and brought it down to where we think we want it. We will leave it there for a few days and see how we like it there. 
The red circle is the third location we have tried. I think it is the final one. First one was too close, we want it to be part of the landscape not the main feature. 
View from the windmill looking back up towards the house.

A couple days later Kevin came over with his skidsteer and we punched more holes. This time in the ground for the windmill anchors. Next step will be concrete and angle iron in the concrete to attach it to. 

The following two days were spent at Dan and Bonnies installing their flooring. But first I needed to bring Renaldo over to their house. Since bringing home and hanging Forrest's elk, Renaldo needed a new home, Dan and Bonnie volunteered to adopt him! So Renaldo took a little ride in the back of the truck and found a new home!
The flooring project went well. We started out in the hallway and worked our way into the kitchen and living room. Between the 4 of us we each had a role. Kevin was putting the planks into place. I was the cutter, Barb and Bonnie went through each of the pieces of wood and picked the perfect plank for each spot (Dan was working). The first picture below is Kevin starting the first row. The second picture is my favorite. Barb and Bonnie would lay out a row and step back and look at it deciding if they liked the layout of each row, moving pieces around until they were happy. The picture was totally unstaged but they both had their hands on their foreheads as they examined the layout!

By the end of the first day we had about 1/2 of the house done. The following day, we got the rest done!
End of day 1 on the left, Kevin putting in the last piece in the middle and a view back on the right!

I was told by not just one, but two people that we needed to feature Dakota more in the blog. Not everything can be about that little annoying dog (LAD for short). However, it is nearly impossible to get a picture of Dakota without the LAD getting in the picture because the LAD is always on or near Dakota. So, here are a few pictures of Dakota (and that LAD) that I took throughout the week. 

The first picture is how the girls spend most of their day, laying on their beds in the living room. Always together. They get out for walks a couple times a day but they are always running when outside and it is too hard to take pictures of them out there. The second picture is Dakota looking excited about to get a treat!

This is my view when I look down anytime I am eating. This was at lunch today as a matter of fact. 
This next picture is of the LAD all by herself when she decided that she should crawl into the toy basket and sit on top of all their toys. 

The last two pictures are at bedtime. Zoey (I mean the LAD) jumps up on the bed as soon as she sees us walk into the bedroom. Dakota will sit at the side of the bed and wait for permission to jump up. The LAD will crouch down like a tiger waiting to attack. As soon as Dakota jumps up Zoey will latch onto Dakota's lips like a pit viper. The picture beside that is the attention I get when eating popcorn as they both know I cannot resist giving them each a piece. Dog life is good!

Although our departure date for our big summer adventure is still weeks away, we have a lot to do. We have made a list of "Must Do's" and "Want to Do's" that we are going to attack in the next few weeks. If the weather cooperates and our energy levels remain high we just might get it all done!

Monday, March 14, 2022

People Suck

Those words echo through my head after hanging up with our son the other day. As a parent we try to protect our children from the realities of life and even though he is 35, it still breaks my heart to hear him say it. People do suck. Putin sucks. As a matter of fact, pretty much all politicians suck, some just suck less than others. 

Living in the country, I feel like there are less sucky people here, maybe it is because there are fewer people. Maybe it is because we are not working and are not forced to interact with sucky people. But they are still out there. Forrest's situation was a simple one but just another reminder. He found a 5th wheel hitch on Marketplace that would be perfect for their truck, so he called the woman, they settled on a price and set up a pick up time. When he gets there later that day, she had sold it to someone else. Frustrating. Frustrating that she did not keep her word and frustrating that there are so many people out there who don't show up that she felt the need to sell it to this guy before the time she arranged with Forrest. 

The great part about retiring and hitting the road or moving to a new area is that you can basically start fresh. Leaving all the sucky people who entered your life behind yet maintain contact with those you like. In our 5-years fulltiming, we only met one or two people who suck, but then we moved on and did not maintain contact with them. 

How we were raised has a lot to do with your personality, how you react to certain situations and sometimes your general outlook on life. A friend of ours (a non-sucky person) recently posted something on Facebook that resonated with me. Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it. Truer words have never been spoken and I try to remind myself that in the scheme of life those little setbacks are really minor. 

I don't know what my point is behind all this, maybe just a reminder that God is good, treat every day as a blessing and don't let the little things control your life. Those, my inspirational words of the week for you Dino.... you are welcome. 

Speaking of little things, this is a picture of Barb's finger. 

This story starts over a year ago when Barb got a sliver in her finger when we were at Forrest's. We both thought it would work its way out but over the course of the year it didn't and continued to hurt. She has been to the doctor twice trying to get it out. The first time the doctor dug around but had no luck. The 2nd time, they numbed her finger and put a scalpel to it. They sliced her finger open and although the doctor could feel it, she could not get it out. She now has 3 stiches and a referral to the general surgeon.... for a sliver!

We have not been real motivated to work on projects this week. Barb finished grouting the dog wash and it is just waiting for me to install the faucet before the girls can have their first showers!

My projects included finishing the construction of the dresser drawers (not picture worthy yet) and installing the camper tie downs on the new truck. We went with Torklift tiedowns. All the other tie downs we had on our other trucks we had installed. This time I was going to install them myself! Should be easy right? Well, not quite as easy as I hoped.

Front set of tie downs
Rear set
All was going well until the directions said "Disconnect and sperate parking brake cables and pull back through frame" No problem I can do that! Then I saw the nut I needed to remove. No matter when I tried, I could not get a wrench on that little nut wedged into that crevice. 
I've got to back that tensioning nut all the way out of there. 
If only I had a thinner wrench! I don't have a thinner wrench but I can make one. But I don't want to ruin one of my good wrenches.... Wait! Barb has a cheap wrench set! With the use of a sidegrinder, about 5 minutes later I had just the tool I needed! Genius!
Sorry Barb.....
Once I had that nut off, I pulled back the cables, install the new bracket, rethreaded the cables through the new backet and reconnected everything. Not easy, but doable. This is what the bracket looked like all done with the cables back in place.

That first one took me about 2 hours, the remaining 3, I had done in an hour as there was nothing in the way. 
We are one step closer to putting the camper on the new truck!
Sunday afternoon we hit the road with Kevin and Cheryl to do a little Jeeping! 

We hit the Forest Service Roads. These roads are unmaintained during the winter. Some area used fairly frequently, others not so much. We started out on a fairly well used road but it eventually became less and less traveled until we were driving in a couple of ruts in 4 wheel drive. Then we came upon a Suburban in the ditch.  

Upon closer inspection we discovered that the truck had not one, but two occupants! A husband and wife from Rapid City who had already been there for a couple of hours and were waiting on a wrecker they had called in from Rapid. 

"No, problem we will get you out!" I was going to pull up and around Kevin so we could hook our Jeeps together and pull them back on the road. I had to go through a ditch to do it but I had a Jeep so it should not be a problem. 

Now we had two vehicles stuck! At least there was a wrecker on the way! Kevin was able to pull me back on the road so we decided to hook our Jeeps together and pull him backwards onto the road. 

We were able to pull him backwards along the ditch but not back onto the road. It just was not going to happen. We were just packing up when a group of 7 Jeeps pulled up from the other way and were going to give it a try. We had had enough so we left them to their fun and headed on our way. By the way, two side notes here. The guy said the wrecker that was coming was going to charge him $185 for the tow, $5/mile (each way) in travel and a $70 chain up fee because he was on an unmaintained road. Since he was about 50 miles from Rapid, the milage alone was going to be $500! The second thing was that his wife never made an appearance. We were there for over an hour dragging his truck down the ditch and we never saw her. I finally asked him where his wife was. "Laying down in back". Somehow we got the impression that she was not a happy camper!

From there we headed to Hill City for supper. We went to Desperado where the food was just okay but the desserts were incredible! Kevin got a brownie with whip cream, ice cream and sprinkles. Kevin told the Server that he deserved a really big dessert because he did his good deed for the day. This is what she came back with!
And he didn't even share!
With the warmer weather, the snow is melting, and the turkeys are getting really active. Spring is their mating season so the hens are clucking, the toms are gobbling and strutting their stuff. They are pretty much here constantly, even hanging out in the trees when they are not eating. 
I think the hens hang out in the trees so the toms will stop chasing them. 

Zoey is really enjoying this warmer weather. She wanders from spot to spot in the house seeking areas where the sun is shining though the window looking for the perfect nap spot. Funny how dogs learn to find these. (Nancy, do you like the quilt in the background?!?!?)
The remainder of the week we have something going on everyday so it is going to be a quick and busy week. Now Barb needs to proof read this before I post it and find out that I took a sidegrinder to her wrench. Remember Honey, it is not what happens, it is how you react to it, please react gently!

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

To Go or Not to Go?

Just when you thought things were getting better. You were glad to have 2021 behind you and get back to "normal". Almost everything is or will be open, mask mandates are all but gone and you are ready to hit the road and start exploring again! 

Then this happens..... 

I read a blog from a fellow RV'er this week that reported diesel over $7.00/gallon in California. We have several RV friends who are changing or totally canceling their summer travel based on fuel prices. 

I have my own opinions on whether this was avoidable or not and we are more than willing to pay for the most recent increase to help out the citizens of Ukraine, but this post is not about why. It is about how it is going to impact us RV'ers as we plan our summer travels. 

Personally, we have an 8,500-mile route planned over the next 6 months throughout the U.S. and Canada. At an average of 10mpg that would be 850 gallons. Last year that would have cost us about $2,300 at $2.70/gallon. This year, with prices in the $4.50-???? range we are anticipating spending $4,000-$5,000 just in fuel. Is it worth it?  And that is just fuel, everything is going up. Think about how much more truckers and farmers fuel expense, our $5,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to them. Fertilizer is at an all-time high, cooking oil for restaurants is at an all-time high, lots of things are at an all-time high. Farmers like Farmer Bob use upwards 350 tons of urea in the spring. Last year it was somewhere around $335/ton, this year it is about $865/ton. That is an additional expense of over $150,000 on that one item! These and other cost increases are why we are seeing groceries going up as well, as it costs more to produce and transport items to our local grocery stores. I cannot think of one thing that has gone down this year. Oh wait, the balance of our savings, that has gone down this year.... So, a lot of people need to ask themselves; Do we need to change our plans and just lay low this summer? The sad but true reality of life at the moment. So we are in deep contemplation on what is the right thing to do this summer. 

But enough depressing talk, we have managed to make our own fun in our own little slice of heaven. For me personally my outlet this week was hunting. Did you know that the average mountain lion eats 1 deer a week? Did you know there are 600+ mountain lions in the Black Hills at any given time? Did you know a female mountain lion's litters are from 1-6 cubs? That is over 31,000 deer, elk, mountain goats or big horn sheep killed by mountain lions each year. So, the state has asked hunters to help maintain a healthy population here in the hills so they do not start preying on arthritic ridden hikers  whose wives makes them go on death marches where they eventually lag behind and become easy prey for even the slowest lion. And who am I to refuse such an ask? Afterall, I could be saving a friends life!

It is not as easy as driving around, seeing one and shooting it. In fact, in all my years of hunting, hiking and other outdoor activities, I have yet to even glimpse one. Some states allow hunters to use dogs, South Dakota does not. The best method here is to wait until it snows and drive around until you cut a fresh track. Which is exactly what Kevin and I did earlier this week. 

We put on hundreds of miles on back roads and forest service roads, it is so peaceful driving through the forest being the first one on these roads since the last snowfall. We saw elk tracks, deer tracks, coyotes tracks and even mouse tracks. 

Deer and mouse tracks

After several hours of searching, we finally cut a track and we were on the hunt! 
Cat track!
Kevin jumped out and started following the track while I drove several miles ahead and climbed to the highest peak in the area in the hopes of seeing the elusive beast. 
View from the top

I did not see a mountain lion, but I did see some pretty country. That in itself made it all worthwhile. Kevin on the other hand, followed the track for several miles. Up, down and all around. He never spotted the cat but it did lead him to an elk kill that it had been feeding on. Kevin sat a couple hundred yards away, hoping that he would return but he did not.  We are expecting more fresh snow later this week so the hunt will go on....

So, what was Barb doing while Kevin and I were out trying to save the local deer population? She was working on another project of course. She worked on grouting the dog wash:
She also worked on her bench and cubby area putting restored fence boards on the back and shelving for her baskets. Of course, she already does not like the bench and is going to redo it. 
For my part, I set my project up on our granite work bench and started on the remaining four dresser drawers by ironing on the veneer edging to hide the rough edge of the birch plywood. I also drilled in the pocket screw holes. Now, I just need to construct them and fit them in the drawer slides!
We did manage to get over to Dan and Bonnie's one day to help them with their project. Their house is getting there. They still have floors, cabinets and trim to get in. Barb and Bonnie spent the day staining and varnishing trim, Dan was busy sanding, while Kevin installed window jams. I installed a toilet and plumbing for a vanity. I got a couple of before pictures of my work but totally spaced out the after pictures but they now have an operational toilet and vanity!
The days are getting longer and spring then summer are just around the corner, so we have a decision to make; To Go or Not to Go? As of right now, the answer is a definite YES! The extra expense is definitely worth it, we may have to cut back in other areas like ... maybe I cannot buy Barb that new elk rifle that she so desperately wanted, or maybe I will have to buy generic beer for my friend Dino when he comes out for his next death march! I don't know, but we will figure it out one way or another!