Saturday, August 27, 2022

Surgery for Barb

Big goings on here on the J-B! The biggest is Barb having surgery this week. She is fine and quietly recovering but it will take a few weeks before she is back doing projects around the house. I know I have written about it before but for those of you who may be new...... Barb has what we call the "cancer gene". If fact, it can be traced back on her lineage with multiple family members including her brother, mother, aunts and cousins passing away in their 30's and 40's. A horrible, horrible thing for a family having to live with. 

This was pre-surgery readings.
Her blood pressure was much lower after. 

Barb got tested and found out she had the gene in 2006. I am going from memory, but at the time they said she had a 96% chance of getting cancer if she did not take proactive action. Several surgeries later that number reversed, and she had less than a 10% chance of getting it. But some of these surgeries are not once in a lifetime procedure and can have complications over time. This was the case in this instance, so she had to have another procedure. 

We left the house at 4am, arrived at the hospital at 5:15 for check in. They then brought us into a private curtained area where they had her change and put her I.V. in. There were two nurses. One working on Barb, one asking Barb questions. The one had to tie off Barb's arm and tap on her vein to make it stand out. That nurse then looks over at me and says "You've got real nice veins; you'd be easy to poke." Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I have heard that, I'd have....a nickel! The other nurse then asked me if I would like to come back for the med students to practice on. No thanks!

They wheeled her off at 7:00 for what was supposed to be a 1-1/2 hour to 3-hour surgery. The hospital staff was great, calling me when they started, when they were 1/2 way done, the surgeon called when they were done and two more calls later, I was sitting by her side in recovery. The procedure did not go quite as smoothly as they liked but everything turned out well. 

She also has a sore throat which she found out is from the intubation. She overheard the nurses talking about the med student who tried to intubate her and couldn't, eventually having to have someone else do it.  It must have been bad if it was the gossip in the recovery room!

So, for the next couple of weeks I am playing nurse, changing dressings, taking care of Barb and all the other household duties. I will fully admit, I take what Barb does around here for granted and am having a hard time keeping on top of everything. The first day home she was nauseous, and I could only get her to eat a bite or two of toast. Not a diet plan I would recommend. Slowly but surely, she is becoming more active and feeling better. 4 days later, she is still only eating a bite or two here and there, but I am sure it will only be a matter of time before I am holding her back from over doing it. 

One of our fears going in was how to keep Zoey off of her during recovery. Zoey is forever climbing on Barb like her own personal play toy. When we got home from the hospital an amazing thing happened. The dogs were excited as usual to see us: prancing around, tails wagging and basically going crazy. When Barb walked through the door their demeaner totally changed. No more tail wagging, they just slowly approached her and started sniffing her. Dakota lifted her head into Barb's hand, as she walked to the couch. They somehow knew enough to keep their distance, then Zoey slowly approached her and tested the waters by approaching from the other couch. 

Barb has been on the couch for basically 4 days and Zoey has not once tried to climb on her. Instead, she just snuggles up next to her and sleeps. It is truly amazing how dogs can sense something is amiss.


A special thank you to Kevin and Cheryl who sent over a meal and Jim and Carmen who came over and let the dogs out on the day of her surgery. 

In other exciting news, our son Forrest and Somer bought a new 5th wheel and plan on going back on the road! I say "back" as they were on the road for a couple of years several years ago before settling in Klamath Falls for the past 4-5 years. 

What did they get? A 2020 Grand Design Momentum 395. It is a beautiful rig and as soon as they sell their house, they plan on hitting the road again!

This thing has all the bells and whistles; 1200 watts of solar, lithium batteries. generator and bluetooth everything. He called the day they picked it up with a tale that any fulltime or even casual RV'er can relate with. Apparently, the black tank was full when he bought it so he found a dump station, hooked up the hose. It was not long enough so he hooked up another hose and pulled the valve. Woosh! Then nothing.... Nothing was coming out the other end. It was then he realized that when he put the two hoses together, he forgot to take the end cap off one of the connections in the middle, so all the "stuff" went down the hose to that connection and stopped. Unfortunately, the hose was so full he could not shut the valve either. So, there he was with a hose full of "stuff" and nothing he could do but disconnect the center, remove the cap and try to get it back together as quick as possible with a Geisher O"Sh#t spewing everywhere. It went about as well as you would expect and any visual you may have is probably accurate. 

He said there was an RV waiting in line behind him and when they saw the sh#tshow going on, they just backed up and left for destinations unknown. After cleaning up the area, Forrest left that truck stop wearing a new pair of sweatpants that he bought inside said truck stop and no shoes. Apparently the truck stop did not sell shoes. I bet that is the last time he does that!

Our daughter Jessica in Pennsylvania sent is these two pictures of the kids first day at school. Dylan is entering 7th grade and Kendall 3rd. 

Speaking of Jessica, she was tested for "the gene" a few years ago and does not have it.

No pictures of Lily's first day as she is homeschooled. She did get the summer off, but her schooling will start for in the next week or so. 

Meanwhile, I am working on a couple of projects around the house. Barb has a walkie talkie so she can summons me at any time. I changed the oil in the truck, tractor and both 4 wheelers. I also swept the chimney in anticipation for many fires this winter and started putting rock on the house! No pictures yet, I am hoping to get more done in the next few days and will show pictures next week. With over 110' of rock to put up this is a daunting task. 

I'll leave you with this turkey parade. They come by twice a day to check out the area below the birdfeeder before moving on. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022


You cannot pick your neighbors. Well, unless you buy a house for your kids right next door. But that could be a recipe for disaster. We have been blessed with great neighbors not only here but at our last few houses as well. But that is not the case everywhere. Upon returning from our Great Summer Adventure, we were told of several instances where neighbors were less than great. 

The first, actually involves three neighbors in Kevin and Cheryl's neighborhood. We will call them neighbor A, B and C. They all live in a row. Neighbor A has something like 15 acres, neighbor B, 5 acres and neighbor C probably 10 acres. You would think that is enough room to leave each other alone and live a peaceful life right? Well, neighbor A builds this house whose view is right at neighbor B who parked a travel trailer in the middle of his property. "A" does not want to see "B's" trailer so she builds a 12-14' high wooden fence for a hundred yards or so right along her property line. I mean this thing might fit in in a suburban neighborhood but not here in the hills. I swear you would have thought it was a billboard. The association gets involved and the fence comes down. 

Then neighbor C sees B installing a septic system and calls the county on him. Only to find out the guy is licensed to install his own system. Now none of them are talking to each other. I doubt those three will be getting together on holidays!

Not to be outdone, right here in our own neighborhood there are bullets zipping and whizzing over houses due to in inconsiderate neighbor who is not using a proper backstop while shooting their rifles. When the owner of the house under fire asks them to please shoot in another direction he gets verbally assaulted by the neighbor who says they will shoot where they want. No invite to the neighborhood picnic for them! Our biggest fear is having neighbors like Onid and Asil with beer cans strewn across their property and the constant bickering and yelling for another beer, Thank God, we are blessed with great neighbors. 

With a little more than a week behind us since we have returned to our South Dakota oasis, we could not be happier. The weeds we showed you last week are gone. Lots of pulling and tractor time. Next time we have to do some kind of pre-emergent spraying to try to keep them at bay. 

In between the weeding we got together with friends to catch up and see what they have been up to the past few months. First up was Kevin, Cheryl, Dan and Bonnie. We got together with them on the Sunday night right after we got back. It was a crazy night which several of the group regretted the next morning, but it was so good to see them!

Next up was our neighbors Jim and Carmen who came over the next afternoon for a few hours. These Texas are loving the low humidity of the South Dakota summer.

My sister Judy from Wisconsin arrived last Thursday for a 4-day visit. She has not been out here since we lived here so it was nice to show her the house, property and some of the sights in the area. One beautiful area we went to was Mount Coolidge Lookout Tower in Custer State Park. This was a first for us too!

And bonus, she brought us some of our favorite clam Chowder she picked up in Florida!

On Friday night, we had a Prime Rib dinner that friends of Kevin's, Earl and Sharon, who are also visiting from Wisconsin brought out. Earl smoked it all day and it was incredible!

Besides seeing us, Judy came out to see our niece Alana who recently moved to Spearfish. On Saturday Alana was having a family reunion of sorts as her mom and dad (my sister Rebecca) came out from Minnesota, her sister Tess and husband James came up from Denver and her brother Marshall flew over from Paris so they could all be in one place. A first in years. Judy, Barb and I crashed their party as we had not seen some of them in over 15 years. 

Murray, sister Judy, Marshall and Alana
James, Tess and sister Becky
Saturday night, we went to the Rockey Mountain Elk Foundation Banquet in Custer. Kevin and Cheryl organized and ran the whole thing. It turned out to be a great event with record fundraising for the chapter!

Sunday, we went back over to Kevin and Cheryl's to watch Kevin ride his new horse. He bought a 5-year-old gelding several months ago. It had just been broken before he bought it, and this was his first time on it. Expecting the gelding to be a little rambunctious we did not want to miss the show!

He worked him in the round pen for a while before putting the saddle on. Then worked him some more with the saddle on and then got on him. Wylan was an angel and performed just as he should have. No show for us but we are very happy for Kevin. 

In between visits I have been working on getting the garage prepped for the last concrete pour. I have all the rebar set and this section is 14'x32' and is scheduled for early next week. 

I also cut and jackhammered out a 3x3 section around the drain in the garage as I was not happy with the slope into the drain, so we are going to redo that. A pain but I would rather have it right than live with it. 

Whew! The week went really fast, and I am getting tired again from writing everything we did. I plan to hit it hard the next couple weeks with a list of projects that we have prioritized for good weather. It looks like the next two weeks will be perfect for those. Fingers crossed I have the ambition to get them done!

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

10 State Week!

 A few weeks ago, I wrote about our 6-state week which is pretty easy in the upper northeast where the states are small and bundled together. The fact that 5 of those 6 were new states to us was a bonus! This week we hit 10 states! 2 of which were new to us. But these states were big ones which meant a lot more windshield time.

Over the past four months we have traveled a total of 10,014 miles through 18 states and 5 provinces seeing some really beautiful country. Several of them we could have seen ourselves living in another life. When we started our RVing adventures in 2014 our goal was to see new sights, enjoy life and find a place we would like to live out the rest of our lives. Before we chose the Black Hills of South Dakota there were several areas on our short list. The Northwoods of Wisconsin, the Sequim area of Washington, the Zion area of Utah and the mountain areas of Montana and Idaho. One by one we eliminated areas for one reason or another (too many mosquitoes, too humid, too cold, too remote....) until we only had one remaining. Even now, when we visit new places, we cannot help but wonder; Could we see ourselves living here? Nova Scotia and Newfoundland would an interesting place to live but not with the winters they have. The mountains of Vermont are incredible, and one could live a quiet and peaceful life out there. So many beautiful places. 

Another one of those beautiful places are the hills of Kentucky, another new state for us. Our main reason for coming was to meet up with our good friends, Jim and Brenda who after 18 or so years of fulltiming have bought a house in the Hillsboro area of Kentucky! I don't remember off the top of my head where we met Jim and Brenda, probably down in Quartzsite. But this will make the 4th state we have met up with them in over the years. You may recall that they were our neighbors here in South Dakota when they bought the 40 acres next to us when they visited us in 2017. 

They now have some acreage and a house waaaaaay out in the country. You can look at their blog here to see some of the improvements they have been making and see the incredible views from their deck. 

 Of course, as is our tradition with them we started off our visit with them with a beer tasting. Barb had picked up several dark beers on our travels with this tasting specifically in mind. I am not a dark beer person, so I was more of an observer. 

A few of the beers they sampled
The next day they took us on a tour of the area which included Hartfield & Company Distillery. This area of Kentucky is right in the middle of the Bourbon Trail. Over a dozen distilleries within an hour or so of their house.  We had a very informative tour, and a tasting. Neither Barb or I are connoisseurs of bourbon, but it is very interesting to learn the process and try different types of bourbon. 

The other thing that is remarkable about this area are the horse farms. I am talking multimillion dollar horse farms that are absolutely beautiful! After the distillery tour, we went to Lexington for a quick stop at.....
We have not been to a Total Wine and More for several years. We need one of these in Rapid City!

We spent the rest of the afternoon catching up and watching the dozens of hummingbirds flitting around their feeders. And I am not exaggerating with I say dozens. There were hummingbirds everywhere! They have 7 feeders that they have to fill a couple times a day!

Look at that incredible view as well!
All too soon, it was time for bed and our time with them was done. 

The next day we hit the road and headed west to our next destination in Missouri. On the way we drove to Bardstown which has over a 1/2 dozen distilleries right in town. We only had time for one so we chose Lux Row Distillers. In addition to the Lux Row line, they make the Rebel bourbon line, Ezra Brooks, Daviess County, Blood Oath and David Nicholson. 

We had a great tour guide that walked us through each stage of distilling in their plant. 

They have 3 rickhouses that hold 20,000 barrels each!

From there we continued west with the plan to stop by a friends place in Missouri for the night before making our two-day trek home, but a family emergency came up and we were not able to meet up. This change of plans put us a day ahead, so we had to decide what to do. Do we find another adventure to take up that day or do we continue west and get home? 

Well, we must have really missed home because over the next two days we drove and we drove, and we drove. 567 miles the first day, and 830 miles the second day finally making it home at 9:00pm on Friday night. It was so good to sleep in our own bed!

When we got home, it looked like someone had missed us as we found this on our kitchen island when we entered the house.

We did not tell anyone we were coming home early so when Kevin called the next morning and asked where we were, I told him that we were still in Missouri. After we hung up Barb and I jumped in the jeep and drove over to their house. Cheryl heard us pull up and came out. The look of surprise on her face was priceless! Then Kevin came out, smiled, ran right past me and into Barb's arms. I guess I know where I stand! I think I even saw a tear roll down his face!

The other thing that missed us was our driveway and patio area. I think next time we need to hire a landscaper to keep the weeds at bay!

It is so good to be back home after that long, and that many miles. I will try to put together a recap of our Maritimes adventure in an upcoming post. But for now, it is time to unpack, relax (after weeding), catch up with friends and soak up what is remaining of the South Dakota summer!

Monday, August 8, 2022

17 Days in Pennsylvania

We arrived to Raystown Lake on a Saturday, chaos everywhere. Long lines at the boat ramps, 30 vehicles deep waiting to launch their boats. I am tempted to set up a lawn chair with a cooler full of beer and watch the show at the boat ramp. Talk about entertainment, as these weekend warriors try to back their boats in the water with the pressure of all the other vehicles behind them. On top of that, their spouses are frustratingly giving them directions on what to do.

We got set up in our campsite at 7 Points Campground, sat in our chairs and just absorb everything that is going on around us. It is far from relaxing. Kids screaming, dogs barking, loud music blaring and the constant drone of all types of watercraft on the lake coming and going. Total chaos. Why do people subject themselves to this? This cannot be fun and relaxing. Fun and relaxing is a quiet peaceful campsite with the murmurs of your neighbors talking around their campfire as you watch and listen to the birds flit from tree to tree.

Slowly, I begin to realize how spoiled we really are. Although this may not be our idea of the ideal weekend, the people around us are having a good time and thinking to themselves, it does not get any better than this. This is their escape from the realities of life. This is their relaxation time. This is their opportunity to make lasting memories with their families. This changes our attitudes entirely and we begin to enjoy seeing everyone else have fun and enjoy their weekend away. The screaming kids, the boats and all the activity no longer bother us. Well, except for the barking dogs that is. 

Jessica and Shane fall into this group. This is the week that they have been looking forward to for months. They arrived about 5pm on Sunday afternoon for their 5-day escape. By then, most of the families have moved, gone back to their homes and to work. What remains is the older retired couples and the odd family taking the week off to enjoy the lake.

The next 4 ½ days were a blur. A blur of boating, swimming, fishing and tubing. 

The tubing is the reason I groaned every time I got up for several days. It was an effort to stand up then it took me a good 2-3 seconds before my body catches up with my brain and actually moved. I used muscles this week I have not used in years. I am certainly no teenager anymore!

Speaking of which, tubing certainly has changed in the last 40+ years. When I was growing up on the lake our tubing consisted of a repurposed black tractor tube filled and dotted with patches. We would tie a ski rope around it and away we would go! I can still remember getting wacked by the loose end of that ski rope handle as it bounced in front of our faces. Then there is the dreaded valve stem that will invariably leave a lifelong scar as a reminder.

Today’s tubes have connectors for the rope, seats and handles, yes, handles!

Me with Jessica

We tubed for hours several days.......


                      Dylan and Kendall                                                          Barb and Dylan

My old tubing skills came back to me and they made it their mission to dump me, but no one was able to do it. But I am paying for it now! Here is sample video of our tubing adventures....

I did pass on the cliff-jumping however. The thought of Barb spoon feeding me and changing my diapers the rest of my life left me an observer safe in the boat.

Shane making the big leap!
The girls (Zoey and Dakota) swam every day. At first, we only let Zoey wade in the water. French Bulldogs are so front heavy they have a hard time swimming. In fact, many of them cannot swim at all. That just reminded me of a miniature Dachshund we had named Mario when we lived on the lake in Wisconsin. I was going to take him swimming, so I carried him down to the end of the dock and gently lowered him into the water. Before his little paws ever hit the water, they were doing that whole dog-paddle thing. So, I set him in the water, he proceeded to flipped over on his back and sink! I can still visualize him sinking, upside down, with his little brown eyes staring up at me as he sunk to the bottom.  Apparently, Dachshunds cannot swim either. But I digress.... 

Dakota was out in the depths retrieving the sticks we were throwing for her and poor Zoey was on her leash in the shallows whining because she wanted to swim with the big dogs. So, I went and got her life jacket and it was game on! She took to the water like....well, a French Bulldog in a lifejacket took to water! 

She swam and swam and swam. It was like she found a whole new playground and just swam around with no apparent destination, just meandering around the lake. It was hilarious. So funny in fact, I made this minute and a half video for my good friend Harry!

All too soon, our 4 days were up, and we had to pack up and head to Jessica and Shane's place in Greencastle. 

The next week went by in a blur. Jessica and Shane had to work during the week leaving Barb and I home with the kids. Well, Barb mostly, as I went to work with Shane most days as he worked on remodeling a local house for an investor. While Shane was remodeling the bathroom, I was busy with smaller projects. Like replacing hardware and hanging cabinet doors.

Changing the faucet in the kitchen sink 

Power washing the house.

and putting a new ceiling on the covered porch. 
As you can see this house is rough with a capital "R". But the investor only wanted a couple things done before he rents it so that is what we did. 

A couple other of the more memorable events were eating a 1/2 bushel of blue crabs we picked up one afternoon, going to an "all you can eat" snow crab restaurant, Shane smoked some delicious rubs and Barb made her world-famous potato salad. And of course, there was pizza on the patio night, complete with begging chickens!

And a visit to the Cushwa Brewing Company. 
Kendall getting her ears pierced.....

Kendall having ice cream....
We got a lot of grandkid time. In fact, several nights we had sleepovers where Barb spent the night with Kendall in a nice cool airconditioned house, while Dylan and I spent the night with the dogs in the camper. Dylan loves sleeping with the girls. 
Dakota has her nose out the window and a fan in her face!

We made a trip to Gettysburg to do some antiquing and a visit to two distilleries. A friend of Shane's owns the Mason Dixon Distillery. Lunch there was very good. One the way back we stopped by the Lake House Distilling Co. in Waynesboro for a cool and refreshing drink. 

We also had the opportunity to play Dylan's virtual reality games using his goggles. Never again. I played a war game, Barb rode a rollercoaster. Both of us were sick to our stomachs after that experience. 

We closed out our visit with an afternoon of bowling in Hagerstown. Jess was the overall winner with a high score of 132. None of the rest of us even came close to beating her, a personal best for her.

So now we say goodbye to everyone including their ginormous black lab weighing in at a whopping 125lbs. and Cash who recently turned 18. Poor Cash'ers has cancer and is not expected to make but maybe a week or more. They were waiting for us to leave before making any decisions. Cash has been a part of Jess and Shane's life for almost 1/2 of their lives and all of both kids' lives.

Tomorrow morning, we begin the last leg of our journey. We will be home in less than a week! Although we have really enjoyed the past 4 months, we are ready to get home and just plant our feet in one spot for a while. But the adventures are not done yet, we have big plans for the next few days!