Sunday, December 31, 2023

Toys of Yesteryear.

Christmas has come and gone. Just seeing the kids look at the tree with all the presents under it was worth the trip out here. 

Toys sure have changed over the years. BB guns have been replaced with video games. Big Wheels have been replaced Hoverboards and One Wheels. And Stretch Armstrong has been replaced by something called a Squishy. Hot wheels racetracks, one of my favorite toys growing up, must be a thing of the past. What was your favorite toy growing up?

Like most mothers, Jessica used Christmas as an opportunity to replenish the kids socks, underwear and shirts. Like most kids, Dylan tossed those aside after opening them looking for the gift that he had been waiting for all year. For him, that was a gaming table, monitor and keyboard. Oh, how I would love to see the look on the kids' faces if we gave them presents from our era. Like clackers or a set of jacks with a little bouncy ball. Or better yet, replace Dylan's XBox with a old Pong console.

We received this photo from our nomadic son Forrest. He, Somer and Lily are in Savannah, Georgia for the next few weeks as Somer took a temp job at a hospital there. 

Soon after opening their gifts, the kids were off to their rooms to play with them. That got Barb and I talking about the toys of our childhood. It is a wonder we survived and did not shoot our eyes out. Do kids even go outside to play anymore? Do they play Kick the Can, Flashlight Tag or go to the playground anymore?

For school recess, I am picturing kids all standing around just staring at their phones. All the dangerous equipment from yesteryear removed. No more Tether Ball, no more playground spinners, heaven forbid that a kid plays dodgeball with those balls that would leave marks for days. Nope, nowadays they just stare at their phones and text their friends 10' away from them rather than actually talking to them. 

I am glad that I am old, so I do not have to see how the next generation turns out. Do you think our grandparents said the same thing? Speaking of grandparents, Dylan made Barb laugh the other day when he said, "You are not like most grandmas". I don't know if that was before or after she bonked her head after riding the hoverboard, but truer words have never been spoken. Funny, he never said that about me. Or maybe he did but I was in the camper taking my nap and did not hear it. 

Our fireplace project continued this week. Shane was down most of the week with a horrible cough of some sort that resulted in an urgent care visit. So it was up to me to finish the taping and mudding. Not my best skill, but I faired alright. 

From there, it was Jess and Barb's turn to take over, priming and painting the walls and ceiling. That was a two-day project. I attached the two sides of the fireplace surround back together and installed it, a TV mount, and the fireplace once the painting was done. 

Barb priming the wall and Jess painting the ceiling.

Jess painting the fire surround while Kendall watched on the couch with Oreo the cat tucked in her shirt.

The final touch was a new ceiling fan and we deemed the project completed!

We got out with the kids on one outing when Barb and I took them out for bowling and ice cream one afternoon. 

It has been unseasonably warm here for December, so warm in fact, that I decided to dewinterize the camper. The extended forecast for the rest of our stay shows it barely dipping into the 30's at night. Then we head south, so I figured it is safe. So nice to have running water in here again!

The big event this week was my birthday! Non-event really, as the girls painted, Shane worked, and I hung out in the workshop. But we did go out that night to the Keylock Brewery, then brought home some Chinese for supper.
A special thanks for our neighbors, Jim and Carmen in South Dakota. They let the furniture delivery people in the other day when they exchanged our couch. Carmen even inspected it before they left to make sure there was no damage to this one!
Tomorrow is our final day here before we hit the road, our 10 days went too quick but Jess needs to get back to work and the kids back to school. We have one day left to spoil the kids and maybe toughen up a little bit. Perhaps a good old BB gun fight in the woods or a game of Jarts. Nothing like sharp metal pointy lawn darts flying at you to toughen a kid up!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 24, 2023

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the camper, not a creature was stirring, except a restless French Bulldog, a pleasantly plump lab and an overly caffeinated grandma.  

The stockings were hung on the slideout with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas would soon be here. 

Barb and I have celebrated Christmas to its fullest for 38 years now. Mostly with friends and family, a couple just by ourselves. This year finds us in Greencastle Pennsylvania celebrating Christmas with our daughter Jessica, her husband Shane and their two kids Dylan and Kendall.

The last time we celebrated Christmas with them was in 2014 when the kids looked like this.

Now they look like this....

Shane and Jess are in the middle of a very busy few days. With many friends and family in the area they have several get togethers planned. Our day with them was today, Christmas Eve. And tomorrow morning before they head off to Shane's family gathering. 

Several nights before Christmas found Shane and I at the kitchen table surrounded by 9 bottles of bourbon. We had a challenge in front of us. To sip each of them, ranking them in order of our least favorite to our favorite. 

Barb and Jess were the moderators, pouring and numbering each of the mini dixie cups so we would not know what was in which cup. Then the tasting began. Just enough to wet the palette and get an idea of the aroma, flavor and taste. 

One by one we went through the 9 cups placing them in order. Some we could not tell the difference between at all, while others were absolutely horrible. Granted, this was not a controlled test as the flavor of one often carried over to the next. The results were surprising to both of us. 

First, our choices were almost identical, with only a few variations. Secondly, since it was a blind tasting, we did not know until the end that one that we had thought was our favorites, actually ended up near the bottom of our list (Weller). 

Our top 4 (although not in the same order) were Blanton's, Eagle Rare, Sazerak and Elmer Lee. Our bottom 4 were identical; Hartfield, Weller, MannCave and Bakers.

Here is the thing about doing blind taste tests. We started out with 9, then someone goes to the cabinet and says "You gotta try this one!", then they do it again, again and again. That was several days ago, and I still do not even want to look at a bottle of bourbon. This is what we looked like an hour or so later...

Just for fun, we had the girls take a sip of some of the worst tasting ones just to get their reaction. Here is the results of that. This was a very peaty Scotch Whisky. 

Then momma, thinking she was Super Momma jumped on the Hoverboard and started hovering around the kitchen. 
Pretty impressive for a almost 64-year-old grandma. What the video does not show is when she biffed a few minutes later and she hit the back of her head on one of the chairs in the kitchen. Grandma is not allowed on the hoverboard anymore.  

Not to be outdone, Jess jumped on to show her mad skills. Her's, however, did not end as smoothly, ending in a death spiral. 
To keep us busy during the day, we started a project in one of the living rooms. This house was built in 1850ish and has lots of small rooms. Three of the rooms have fireplaces; the kitchen and the two living rooms. None are functional anymore and Jess wanted at least the look of a fireplace in the living room they spend more of their time. 

So, away we went! It is still a work in progress, but here is where we are so far. We framed in the old chimney, ran some electrical for the fireplace and the TV, then sheetrocked it. We talked about leaving the old brick, cleaning it up and exposing it, but it is in really rough shape and is not the route they wanted to go.

There is absolutely nothing square about this house. The walls and ceilings are off over an inch in a matter of a few feet, so every cut was a custom cut. The walls are made out of horsehair plaster and if you cut into them, they basically disintegrate in a puff of dust. 

We are working on a fireplace surround at the same time. Shane had a surround from an old job that I needed to cut down to size. We tried every antique store in the area trying to find one that was already the right size, but no luck.  
This one needed 10" cut out of the middle bringing the overall width to the same as the wall. I am happy with my cuts, after the girls finish scraping it, I will attempt to put it back together hiding the seam as best I can. 

Next up, we need to finish the tape, mud and then paint. We hope to get it wrapped up before we leave in a week or so. 

Last, but not least, our Christmas photo. No one really wants to see us and I know Harry would love to see the girls dressed up and ready for Christmas. We took this picture a few weeks ago when Sophie was visiting. 
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Eastward Ho!

The day finally came, and we left for our next adventure!

Those of you who have been following us for a while know that we are just a bit off our rockers (Barb more than I), so rather than head to a warm weather locale, we headed east. I mean, anyone can head south to the warm weather, but what is the fun of that!

So off we went heading east. Barb the ultimate planner has our entire adventure planned for us. Back in the day, we would drive 7,8,9 hours a day to get where we were going and when necessity dictates we still do, but ideally, we try to keep them around 4 hours now. The other thing she tries to do is find free places for us to stay overnight. This is not only part of the adventure, it saves us money and allows us to spend it on other things. 

Day One took us from our home to Vivian South Dakota, an hour or so east of Rapid City. What is in Vivian you ask? A truck stop. That is about it. I once read a blog where a traveler stated that there is absolutely nothing special or redeeming about the small town they were staying in. I could not disagree more. small town America is the heart and soul of our country. It is the location of someone's dream, where they are going to work, raise their family and the place they would rather be, more than anywhere else in the world. 

So, I took that as a challenge. To find something special about every town we stopped in. But, I did not do it alone. I solicited the help of good friend and fellow blogger, Jim from exploRVistas. Cell/Internet service is sometimes sketchy along the way so I would text Jim our location and he would tell me an interesting fact about the town. 

So, back to Vivian South Dakota; population 98. The Black Hills area of South Dakota gets a lot of hail in the summer. In fact, our comprehensive insurance is double what most areas of the country are. Annual glass breakage insurance is more than the price of a replacement windshield, so we opt out figuring if we make it through a season without replacing a windshield, we are money ahead. What does this have to do with Vivian? Well, Vivian South Dakota holds the record for the world's largest hailstone! Weighing just shy of 2 lbs (.88kg) and measuring 18.6" (473mm). Imagine that thing hitting you on the head! Now, if that is not something to be known for, I do not know what is!

Knowing most of our first month of our travels were going to be in subfreezing temperatures, we left the rig winterized, Meaning no running water for us. The temps that night dipped down in the teens, we set the thermostat to 55 and snuggled in for the night. 

The next morning, we carried on eastward, spending the night in Holstein Iowa; population ~1,500. Home of Major League, Biggs Wehde, pitcher with the White Sox in 1930/1931.  

Our next stop continued with the baseball theme and is a town that many of you will recognize. Dyersville Iowa. If that is not enough of a clue of what that town is famous for, then how about this quote. If you build it, they will come. If you still do not know, I give up. 

Although it was bitterly cold, and there was no corn, one cannot pass through Dyersville without checking out the Field of Dreams set, an iconic movie filmed in 1989.

We walked the grounds and visitors center. The guy in the gift shop said we were the only ones to stop by that day. Things get pretty quiet in the north during off-peak times!

That night was one that we had been looking forward to for a while. Back in February, when I took that distilling class in Denver, Barb and I met a couple (Lee and Karrie) who own a winery in Dyersville, Iowa and bonus, they are also Harvest Hosts! 

We went to check in and was greeted by Lee who spent pretty much the entire evening with us He gave us a tour of their facility. They make both wine and some distillation products there. 
Wine making area.
They also have a full restaurant, if you pass through there, you have to try their ribs! Karrie joined us as we were finishing our meal and we spent a few hours catching up with her as well. We bought a few bottles of wine, said goodnight and headed to our camper. 

They had a electrical for us to plug in outside, it was much appreciated as our batteries were getting a workout with the furnace running much of the time as this was our third night in a row where it hit the teens. 
Curious Zoey checking out some curious horses.
Day 4 found us continuing east to another town we had been looking forward to for quite a while. Frankfort Kentucky is home to one of the most famous distilleries in the country. At least it is famous to me. The Buffalo Trace Distillery!
Buffalo Trace is the maker of several very good and very hard to get bourbons and whiskeys. 

Buffalo Trace, Blantons, Weller, and Eagle Rare are on my list of bottles that I look for anytime I go into a liquor store and are nearly impossible to find. So hard, that last year I only found one bottle of Buffalo Trace all year long! 

Buffalo Trace has almost a cult-like following of people trying to get their hands on some of these bottles. They carry most of their products in their gift shop, but not everything at once. There is even a Facebook page dedicated to listing what is available on a given day. Each day they offer one of four of their rarest bottles. On the first day we were there, they had Weller available, limit 1 every 90 days. Barb and I each bought a bottle ($40). They scan your driver's license to keep track of who bought one. Now that we each bought one, we cannot buy another for 90 days, this keeps people from coming back day after day and buying these allocated bottles.

Several months ago, Barb had gone on line to schedule us a tour. These tours are also very hard to get. She was on line the morning the tours for our date opened. Within minutes the first tour she wanted was booked, but she was about to get us a tour for the next time slot. All the tours for that day were booked within 20 minutes! Why are they in such demand? Well, they are free for one, plus it is an awesome tour! We were supposed to go with our friends and former neighbors, Jim and Brenda, but they had to cancel at the last minute, so it was just the two of us.

We went on The Hard Har tour, which is a behind the scenes tour into the depths of the distillery. Their mash cookers and fermenters are huge!

We ended the tour with a tasting. Although we liked everything being tasted that day, we both agreed that Weller was the best. I take that back. The Bourbon Cream mixed with root beer was delicious!
Funny story about the napkins above. As we were waiting for our tour just outside the tasting rooms, we noticed these two people who looked like a mother and son cleaning up the room. Upon closer inspection, they were not cleaning up, they were taking all the napkins left over from the previous tasting and shoving them in their pockets! People are so weird!

This it was still early in the day, Barb looked up to see if Woodford had any tour openings for that afternoon. As luck would have it, they did so we headed over there!

Just walking into Woodford had a totally different feel to it compared to Buffalo Trace. Pretentious and snooty are two words that come to mind. The Buffalo Trace tours are free. Woodford was $32 each. The bottles in Woodford were $10-20 more than you would find in a liquor store, at Buffalo Trace they were $10-20 less. We were immediately turned off by the experience. We even thought about asking for a refund. But we powered through and went on the tour and we were glad we did. 
Their fermentation vats were very old and very cool (above). The rickhouse was also very interesting, as were their pot stills. Huge, all copper stills, hooked up in a series. 

We tasted each of their products liking the Double Oak the best. 
But distilleries is not all Frankfort has to offer. Our uber researcher told us that Frankfort is the home of Danial Boone's gravesite. How could we not stop and see that!?!? Now, I doubt that I will ever be buried, but if I were, this is the view I would want!

We were going to go a few miles down the road that afternoon, but we decided to stick around, get up bright and early and see what if Buffalo Trace had a special allocation bottle available the next day. And are we glad we did! When we arrived, the line was about 200 yards long weaving back and forth.
As we were waiting for 9:00, we just people watched and looked at the surroundings. One thing you will notice around almost every old-time distillery is the trees are black and there is a black fungus growing on many of the buildings. The tour guide referred to this are whiskey fungus, common at many distilleries.

At 9:00, they opened the gates and started letting people in 20 at a time. We did not know for sure what the allocated bottle was, but the speculation of Facebook was that it was Blanton's or Eagle Rare. When we got into the area where they check driver's licenses, we saw this sign:
Blanton's! When our time arrived, we went in, got our two bottles of Blanton's and hit the road. 

Still heading eastward, we made our way 6 more hours to another Harvest Host in Weston West Virginia. MannCave Distillery is about as far off the beaten path as one can get. 5 miles down a one lane gravel road where you are praying you do not meet any opposing traffic. Luckily, we didn't. It was almost dark when we arrived, and they were within 30 minutes of closing. Again, I think we were their only customers for the day. Feeling somewhat bad for the kid (20 something) behind the counter, we did a tasting, bought a couple of bottles, left him a healthy tip and hit the hay. 

We woke up early the next morning excited to hit the road. Today was arrival day! We were finally going to get to our daughter's in Pennsylvania! We called her when we were an hour or so out. They were going to be going shopping, so we just met them at a feed mill store where they were looking at the Clydesdales. 
So happy to see them, so happy to be here. We are here for the next couple of weeks where we have multiple projects planned to keep us busy and out of trouble!