Thursday, June 30, 2022

Musings, Confessions and Ramblings

 Flashback to the mid 1980's. America was deep into a cold war with a major super power, the Soviet Union. A young man from the plains of North Dakota hears the calling of his country and steps up to put on the uniform and help defend against the communist threat. A little nervous and apprehensive about what is going on in the world, along with the reality of being in the military mindset of it all, a ray of hope is shown to him from, of all places, Hollywood.  

1986 is when I first saw the movie "Top Gun". A movie filled with adventure and patriotism when America needed it. The effects of Vietnam were still being felt and our military was carrying the brunt of it. I first saw that movie in San Jose, California. Then again in Clovis, New Mexico. It depicted our lives in the military. The hustle and bustle of working on a flight line of an active military base. The only difference being that on an aircraft carrier it is much busier due to the size of the ship versus the size of an Air Force base. I was filled with pride to be there and wouldn't trade that time for anything. 

Now come back to the present. 2022. Our country is again at a low point in time as we seem to be rotting from the inside out. Division is all around us from every aspect of life it seems. Along comes the movie "Maverick". A glimmer of patriotism that most people I believe have lost. When I heard they were coming out with a sequel to Top Gun, I was skeptical. It was 36 years ago, don't do it. I'm glad they did because it was the kick in the pants this country needed or should I say, I needed. It was as good, if not better, than the original. I highly recommend seeing it. You may just go out and buy an American flag.

Musings. Check.

With the state of the economy at the moment, we have done much soul searching. We have asked ourselves some tough questions lately. The toughest being. "What does our future look like?" It amazes me how a country can do an abrupt about face and end up where we are now. Everything  has skyrocketed from gas to groceries. You can't turn on the news anymore without hearing all the bad news so we don't turn it on. It has gotten so bad that we had to take some drastic measures. Prepare yourself for what I am about to say. You may want to be sitting down for this.

Ready. Here goes. We have gotten...............(deep breath)............JOBS! It's not like OMG! It is OMG! I know right? Let me justify ourselves for a minute. With the economy tanking like it has we decided to supplement our bank accounts for what the future may hold. We hope to travel again but it is not as easy as it once was. Unless you have some deep pockets like others I know. God bless their little hearts. Lisa is working as a grounds keeper at a nursing home. It lets her be outside and she loves to do yard work. Our property looks like a park thanks to her hard work and diligence. 

I, on the other hand have renewed my career as an Inventory Control Specialist (Look it up Jim. It's a thing!) I am working as a logistics associate for a national company that I cannot name due to confidentiality disclosures I have signed. It feels good to be a productive member of society again. Paying taxes and what not. Yessiree Bob! It feels good! In less than 2 years I can start collecting my retirement so maybe at that time we will retire again. That is if I haven't reached the top of the corporate ladder by then or have died. So for the time being, traveling is on hold. Hopefully they will make an electric one ton truck that will go farther than 50 miles on a charge so that we can hit the open road without feeling guilty by dumping thousands of metric tonnes of diesel exhaust on mother earth. But I am not holding my breath on that one.

A side note to this working thing. As I have suspected for quite some time now, I think I may be allergic to work. Ever since I started working, I have had a rash on my body that itches like crazy. Lisa thinks it may be a contact dermatitis caused by an allergic reaction to an outside stimulus. (Yeah, work!) Or she thinks that maybe when I was mowing brush with my shirt off I may have mowed over some poison ivy that then became airborne and I went through the cloud of poison. I think she has been watching too much science fiction when I am at work. Who knows?

Confessions. Check.

What in pray tell have we been up too? Well after Jethro and Bambi's visit, I hauled a truck and trailer load of aluminum cans to be recycled. I got enough money to pay for the diesel I needed to make that trip into town. LOL. 

Mainly we have been keeping ourselves busy with our Super Secret Undisclosed Virus Free Location. The SSUVFL for short. On the back part of the property we could only access it by crossing a log bridge that our neighbor made for us. I did not think it would support the weight of my John Deere with the mower attached. So luck would have it that Lisa found a piece of culvert on Market place. So I removed the bridge, sunk the culvert and filled it in with dirt and gravel. Now I have been able to get to the back and start clearing brush. The brush was so thick of prickly ash and sumac that you really couldn't walk through it. Now take a look.



I have mowed many areas back there and it looks great. Another tedious job we wanted to tackle was sealing our asphalt driveway. First the cracks had to be filled.

That took a couple of back breaking days to do. Then it was time to apply the sealer. Again another several day long project.

A 5 gallon bucket of sealer doesn't go as far as you think it does. I first got 5 buckets thinking that would do it. Nope. I went and got 6 more. Nope, still not enough. "I will take 6 more buckets sir." Finally I got that section done.

It looks as good as the day they poured it. Now I just have the front driveway down by the highway to do. I think I will wait until fall to tackle that.

On a funny note. We had tornado warnings here a couple of weeks back. When we built this place it does not have a basement. So to fix that problem we buried an underground storm shelter outside. So we went into the shelter with the cats, happy as little clams knowing we were going to survive, when all of a sudden it started to rain hard. No worries we thought. That is until the water started to flow into the air vents and our shelter started to flood. "Abandon ship, abandon ship!" Our options now were to die in a tornado or drown in a flood. We grabbed the cats and went back into the barn. 

That's muddy rain water at the bottom. One more thing to fix. After that near death experience we really appreciate the smaller things in life. Like listening to the leaves dance in the wind.
Or like watching the end of life struggles of a June bug. It's not cruel. There is nothing I could do for this June bug to save it. Nothing.

The June bug did die later on. So I gathered his little body up and buried him in Lisa's garden. I then gave him a 21 gun salute with my AR-15 and played taps on my kazoo. So don't think of me as heartless.

Ramblings. Check.

Have a happy 4th of July and please remember what this holiday is about. Not what "they" want to tell you what it's about. Also be safe out there. Although if I had a choice of what finger to blow off, I know which one it would be.








Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A Visit by Jethro and Bambi

 *Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

After we got back from our trip to the gulf coast, we felt safe in our super secret undisclosed virus free location (SSUVFL). We were getting back into our daily routine of working on the cabin and taking care of our little piece of paradise. I was out in the back forty setting up barbwire and placing landmines (That's a joke so don't call the BATF), when Gladys came running up to me. Hair disheveled, face all flush, out of breath and sweating. Between her gasping for air she was able to get these three words out.

"Tango............they're............coming!"

My eyes became wide, my heart started to beat more rapidly and my hands started to shake. It was like OMG! The zombie apocalypse I have been preparing for and waiting for has finally arrived.

"Gladys, go get the guns! Hurry!" I said.

"What for?" said Gladys.

"Well you said they're coming. Didn't you mean the zombie hoard?"

"No. It's worse than that." she said.

I laughed and said "what could be worse than millions of flesh eating zombies knocking on your door?"

Nearly in tears now she blurted out "JETHRO AND BAMBI ARE ON THEIR WAY!" She then started screaming hysterically.

My eyes got even wider, my heart was ready to burst out of my chest and my body went into a shaking spasm. Not Jethro Buckhumper and Bambi Poledancer. It couldn't be, it just couldn't be. I quickly regained my composure, grabbed Gladys by the shoulders and then Will Smithed her ass. (That means I slapped her just in case you are not up to speed on current events).(Also that didn't really happen. I would never ever dare slap Gladys because she would beat me to a pulp).

I said to Gladys, "Prepare yourself. I am heading to the liquor store. I pray that I have time to get back before they arrive. How long are they staying?"

"Two nights this time!"

"OMG!"

Off I went in my pickup. Tires squealing out of the driveway. I picked up 3 bottles of rum. 2 types of spiced rum and a bottle of Captain Morgan. I got a bottle of Galliano, a bottle of Banana Liqueur. three and a half cases of beer and bottles of wine. When I checked out the lady at the liquor store asked if we were throwing a party. I said that we have some people from Wisconsin coming over.

"OMG!" she said. "Do you think that will be enough alcohol?"

"Let's pray to the heavens that it is" I said. "They are only staying 2 nights."

She said a prayer for me as I struggled to wheel my over burdened shopping cart out to the truck. I made it home with a little time to spare. We got the truck unloaded and put away when we heard the neighbor's dog start barking. Gladys and I looked at each other with saucer shaped eyes. We swallowed hard and put on the best smiles we could as a 1 ton dodge with a pickup camper on it came sliding up to our house as if Bo and Luke Duke where driving it. I thought it was going to tip over.


Out of the windows jumped Jethro and Bambi. Now Bambi we don't mind having here, it's just that she always has to bring that man of hers with her. 

I guess you can tell by the pictures who's Jethro and who's Bambi. Jethro went to hug Gladys and spilled the beer he was carrying all over the front of her shirt while simultaneously dripping tobacco juice in her hair and on her shoulder. Bambi hugged me and I thought that I had suddenly become the pole for her next dancing routine. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, I liked it so much that I had to excuse myself and take a cold shower. 

After the hugs Jethro said "Hello, long time no see. Where's the beer?"

Bambi just quietly purred as she looked at us.

That night I cooked some Ribeyes for them. I told Jethro that we were all out of squirrel at the moment. I asked Bambi if she liked her meat . She just looked at me, licked her lips and winked. Gladys made stuffed mushrooms and tater tots for the tot loving couple. After dinner Lisa made a drink called a Painkiller. With a name like that I should have had a dozen of those. 

As the beer cans started to pile up we sat around and got caught up with each other's lives when a severe thunderstorm started to roll through. Tornado warnings were posted and we were not sure if we were going to have to spend the night in our storm shelter. Then the power went out.

We were sitting in the dark when Jethro started to get a look of panic on his face. Was the storm really affecting him that much? How much beer has he already had? The power was out for at least an hour when he all of a sudden jumped up and in a frantic voice yelled "I have to drink more beer before it gets warm!" That's what he was worried about? Every time I looked over at Bambi in the dark, I could swear that one more button of her shirt came undone.

We made it through the storms and finally they stumbled to their camper. What are we going to do with them for a whole day tomorrow? Gladys said that she had an idea. Brewery's. Genius. We got up early the next day and cleaned up the beer cans and I found Bambi's bra behind her chair.I didn't even see her take it off.

We started the day off with some antique stores so that they could walk off the hangover. At noon we started with the first brewery. Our favorite. Outstate it is called. Next we went to another one but they were closed. Dang. Next we found a cider bar.
Everyone had flights except me. I had a Fresca because I was the driver. They had many different flavors and it looked like they were a hit. Bambi especially liked the pickle flavored one. She raved on and on about how she loves pickles. (No surprise there). After that we went to another brewery but they lost their brewer and were out of some beers. Next was dinner with many more beverages and then we went home. More and more beverages were consumed. I made a drink called the West Indies Yellow Bird for them to sip and enjoy. Jethro guzzled it, burped and asked for a refill.
Jethro was enjoying a quiet moment with Moose. I think he was getting a second wind before the hard core drinking started again. The rest of the evening was a fog. At one point I think Bambi was teaching Gladys how to twerk but I am not sure about that.

The next morning they left our lives as fast as they came in. Leaving nothing but muddy tire tracks in our driveway.
And vomit out in our trees.
Jethro really needs to work on chewing his food. That will make good fertilizer for that tree. On a more positive note, I will have about $50 dollars in aluminium cans when I cash them in.

Safe travels to Jethro and Bambi. It was fun and as always way too short.

"Gladys! Are these your Daisy Dukes?"





Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Escape/The Return

 24 April 2022

We ended our time here on the gulf coast the same place where we started it. Shaggy's. More delicious grilled shrimp for us.

"Alright! Now you're just embarrassing me!" Gladys Butterpump said.

"What?" said I.

"You can't just unbutton your pants and lay on the deck like you were at home! Get up!" Gladys said.

"But I am so full of shrimp, I can't help it."

"You just tripped the waitress! Get up! It's time to head back to Minnesota."

And that is how the decision to head home started. Bellies full of shrimp. Freezer full of shrimp and crawdads. We were tan, full and missing the grandkids and smorgasbords.

After we left Gulf Shores we headed back to Waveland for one more beach day. We were ready to travel home. When that happens we don't do any sights. When we are ready we are ready. The trip home was uneventful which is always good.

We stopped at a couple of good camp grounds worth mentioning. Our first was called Tom Sawyer campground located on the banks of the Mississippi in West Memphis, Arkansas. Private camp ground and they gave us a front row site that overlooked the river.
This is our site. They were designed for motorhomes and he said we could drive in backwards but we needed the utilities. The views were still good. There was a lot of barge traffic going up and down the river.
There was also a river cruise ship that went by. I always thought one of those trips might be fun. Smaller groups and all.
So we watched the river traffic until bed time and the next travel day promised to be a wet one. The weather people were right. We got on the road as it started to sprinkle and as soon as we hit the interstate. It rained so hard for many miles that all we could do was 50 mph. Our wipers couldn't keep up. At least it rinsed the salt air off of the truck and camper. 

Also the interstate between Memphis to the Missouri border is probably the worst road we have ever been down. That state should be embarrassed that they call that an interstate. After the rain quit we tried to get up to 65 mph but that turned out to be a bad idea. The road was so rough, we were taking a beating inside the truck, I can't imagine what was going on inside the camper. So we slowed down to 55 and limped along to the border. Praying that the fourth shackle that I couldn't get changed, held. 

Our next stop was in Canton, Missouri. It was a city park along the Mississippi River.
Another night of barge watching was in store for us. Being the end of April we thought that the temps would be warmer but they weren't. We went from the eighties to the fifties rather quickly. We just watched the river traffic from the warmth of our RV.
Half way home. Our last overnight spot was in Clear Lake, Iowa. Last time we were in this camp ground we were traveling home in April to see our first grand baby. That was when we started to ice up and then had to winterize at 3 in the morning. Good times.

We made it home without incident. The shackles gods were smiling down on us. I will be replacing them all again this summer. When we had left April first we had hoped that when we returned home it would be warmer. That did not happen. We did miss a lot of snow while we were gone.

It was a fun trip. We saw many new things and enjoyed some sun and warmth.

Some numbers to think about. We put on 4400 miles and our fuel cost for this little trip to the beach cost us $1800 dollars. Nearly twice the amount if we had gone 2 years ago. I wonder what changed? Things that make you go Hmmm.

"Gladys! Unpack my thermal long johns. We are back at our Super Secret Undisclosed Virus Free Location." Insert sad face emoji here.





Friday, May 6, 2022

The Escape/Part 6 Gulf Shores Alabama


April 15th, 2022

 After replacing a set of shackles on the fifthwheel, we made it to our next destination. Gulf Shore State Park in Alabama. This campground is huge. Nearly 500 sites so there is always activity. Should you choose to stay here, pick your site carefully. 

We were here once to visit some friends. So this was the first time camping here. It's a very popular campground. You can walk to the beach from it but the preferred method of transportation is bicycles. They are everywhere. It looks like downtown Bangladesh.

First thing on the agenda was to check out the beach situation. Not having bikes anymore we ended up driving out to the Pavilion beach area of the state park. Well there seems to be a lot of cars in the giant parking lot. We walked out to the beach to see this site. I will try to describe it so you can use your imagination. Here goes. 

It was like an undulating sea of humanity that smelled of coconut and sweat. Spandex stretching farther than anyone could possibly fathom. Kids screaming. Music blasting the sand dunes from a hundred different directions all playing every type of music imaginable. This was the polar opposite of what we just experienced in Waveland. It was a culture shock.



We did not enjoy the beach that day. We vowed to come back again because we are here for a week and the day we went out there was Saturday of Easter weekend. We have other things planned for our stay here.

I got a message from a long lost friend of mine who may have suspected that we were on the gulf. Jim from jimandbarb Nelson fame. He begged and pleaded for us to bring him back some of Tony's Clam Chowder soup. It is the best clam chowder we have had and it has won many national awards. It is made in Cedar Key, Florida not far from here. We didn't have to go there though because they do sell it at Publix, the grocery store chain down here. We ended up going to every (3) Publix around here just to find empty shelf after empty shelf. We even tried a Piggly Wiggly and a Rousse super market to no avail. There may be a supply chain issue or something. Sorry Jim.

The next day we planned on finding Ft. Morgan. With my faith in my trusty navigator we were off without a care in the world. We got on the main road that ran along the beach and traveled for miles. Only to come to a dead end and no fort in sight. Google to the rescue. Gulf Shores is like a barrier island and we were just on the wrong part. We bad. We finally found it and boy was it a great fort. 

Ft. Morgan sits at the entrance to Mobile Bay. The other side of Mobile Bay is Ft. Gaines which we saw earlier. Ft. Morgan is by far the larger of the 2 forts. It was started around the War of 1812. It became a strategic point during the Civil War and then up until the 1950's a major part of the coastal defense system. So I will just show you the pictures which are just a small fraction of what we took that day and you should know that all of the brick work is pre-1900's and the concrete structures are post-1900's.
The entrance is through a tunnel going through the first wall which is an earthen embankment.
Once through the tunnel you are in the dry moat between the 2 walls.
You can see the dry moat between the inner and outer wall.
The gateway to the inner wall.
Looking into the inner courtyard.
A look at the inner courtyard. There was another fort in this center section called the citadel. It was destroyed in the civil war from union bombardment.
Archways. These held gun emplacements. 
My tour guide.
One of the coastal defense locations outside of the fort. Built after the turn of the century.
The coastal defense area they built in the middle of the fort. It housed 2 disappearing guns. They would raise the gun to fire over the wall and then it would be lowered to reload to pop up again.
Another coastal defense battery outside of the fort.
This is a 155mm gun that used to sit on a Panama mount.  It could swivel 360 degrees and fire in any direction.

We have been to many Revolutionary and Civil War forts now and this one is near the top. So if you are in this area check it out. It doesn't cost much, 9 bucks to get in and you can spend hours exploring the whole site. There is also a beach there so we checked that out. There were people fishing along it. We noticed a smell that was awful and saw this.
Dead fish. There were about 20 laying around, all about 3-4 feet long and boy did they stink. I asked a fisherman nearby what kind of fish they were and he said Red fish. He was also quick to add that he did not know how they died. We didn't stick around long. 

We stretched out our plans to stay in Gulf Shores a little bit longer. The shackles were in the back of our minds so I got more and worked on those for 2 days.
I got three done to give us some peace of mind. The fourth I could not get it. No matter what I tried I could not get the pressure off of the spring. So with fingers crossed we hope to make it home. There I will do a complete Mor ryde replacement for it.

Lisa has spent more time at the beach than I. She really enjoys it but we have learned that the spring is also the windy season here. The last few days have been incredibly windy with 3-4 foot waves and lots of rip currents. 
This was taken at the pier at the state park.
Since it was not the best beach day, Lisa had better plans. So off into the wilderness we drove. I did not know this and I am sure a lot of people don't know this but 30-40 minutes away from Gulf Shores sits an almost complete example of Stone Hendge? It is called Bamahendge. Blew my mind because I have been to Stone Hendge. Out in the middle of nowhere. Why?

This is hidden in a bunch of trees.
It is almost an exact copy. Some of the stones are missing. It was kind of interesting.
This is from the center and has a 360 degree view.

One day took us to the Florida state line where they have a huge beach/country bar called Florabama. This thing takes up both sides of the road.

This would definitely be a bar Jim would love. It looks run down and dirty. Graffiti all over the walls. Bras hanging from the ceiling. 

And the best part. Over priced colorful fruity, girly drinks without umbrellas.

Our last and final day was dedicated to the beach again. The sky cleared up but the winds continued. 
A bad day at the beach still beats a bad day most anywhere else.




We walked, we searched for shells and other treasures. By the end we were satisfied with our time here. When I first got to Gulf Shores I thought that I wouldn't like it with the traffic and the amount of people but you eventually overlook it to enjoy things here. How does that saying go. It's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live here.

"Gladys! Why do you keep looking North?"  

"GRANDBABIES!!!!" Gladys said.

























Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The Escape/Part 5 Mississippi Gulf Coast/Part 2


April 13th, 2022

 Our next super secret undisclosed location was just going to be a short drive down the highway to Shepard State Park near Ocean Springs, MS.

We got set up in the jungle. It is a small state park so it promises to be very quiet. Lisa has her eye to the sky as there are supposed to be some severe thunderstorms rolling through tonight. So we will see. Since we got here early in the day we went to the Gulf Shore Island Visitor Center. There we learned about the bayou's and the unique ecosystem that is here. We checked out the visitor center and then drove around the park. Crossing a bridge I saw an alligator so Lisa jumped out while I parked. She got some good photos as it passed under her.




Dumb blogger. They are in the reverse order. Oops.

It was so close she could have easily jumped on its back. That would have been blog worthy.

The Gulf Island National Sea Shore is a national park but you need a boat or take a ferry to the islands to see them. We did not bring our new pontoon so we could not get over there today. Since the day was still young and it was sunny we decided to go eat some shrimp. 

We decided to try McElroy's Harbor house in Biloxi. I decided to order blackened gulf shrimp and fries. Lisa decided to try the Royal Red shrimp platter.
We have never tried the Royal Reds so we had to google them. They are deep water shrimp that are red in color. The meat is sweet tasting and is compared to lobster meat. They were so good. I can't believe how much she got on her plate. Thankfully I was there to help her out. 

The weather service was right. We got rain and lots of it. They were calling for a couple of inches. Thankfully the other severe weather didn't materialize. The rain continued on into the morning so that ended any beach days today. So we decided to drive to Dauphin Island in Alabama.

Not knowing what was over there we just winged it. There is an old coastal fort there so that is where we started.

Fort Gaines. This fort sits at the mouth of the Alabama Bay and was a strategic point in the Civil War. There is another fort on the other side of the bay.

From those two points the confederates held off the Union Navy. This fort is well preserved and it was fun to walk around and explore it.


The latrine. I hope you are not shy if you had to use it.



As I walk around I can just imagine what life was like here and during the war how dire it could be. As usual I had to get a canon picture.

We worked up an appetite walking around the fort. We decided to try the Pirate Bar and Grill. I've always wondered what pirates ate so we gave it a try. I ordered a hamburger and Lisa ordered the shrimp po boy. After eating hers, Lisa said that she was tired of shrimp now. LOL. That's why I ordered the hamburger I said. LOL again. The food was good but the coolest thing about this place is the place itself. This was a really interesting art deco building built in the fifties when everything was cool. It was originally called "The Isle Dauphin Club". I found a grainy old picture on line of it.
Everything was built with circles giving it a very unique look. Here is another photo from online.
I could just imagine the Rat Pack there. Men in suits, women in evening dresses. Smoke everywhere. Here are a couple of photos I took.

As you can see from the photos that the sun was starting to come  out. You know what that means. Off to the beach!

We got our beach day anyway. The beach we went to is at the very tip of the island. We ended up spending a couple of hours there.
Lisa contemplating on how lucky she is to have me drive her there.

This is the most wave action we have seen since we got here. It felt good to dip our toes into the water and just listen to the surf.
The wind, the sun and the water wore us out and we were ready to retire. It turned out to be a great day even though the start of it was questionable.

"Gladys! What other surprises do you have planned for us?"
Dorks on Parade!

P.S.

What we  thought was going to be a short drive to our next destination didn't quite work out like that. Fate has a way of making your life more challenging. We hooked everything up and started to head to the dump station. Windows were down and it seemed like there was a lot of metal on metal sounds coming from the trailer. Clue number one. At the dump station it looked like the trailer was leaning to one side. Clue number two.
I said to Lisa that that doesn't look right. So after further inspection we saw this.
Oh no! We limped back to our camp site and started making calls to find a mobile RV technician. It was Good Friday and half the places we called were closed and the others couldn't do anything being very busy. One place said he had the parts so I guess it is going to have to be us. We unhooked and found the RV place to pick up new shackles. $2.99 apiece. Funny how everything rests on 3 dollar parts.

In my professional opinion I said that those thingies look like they should be attached to that bendy dohickus. 

We got back to the RV and I started removing the tires.
Being in an RV you never have the tools you need so you have to do with what you have. Getting everything to line up was quite the head scratcher. I would jack one point up and then the holes would move a different way. Finally after much trial and error I came up with this configuration.
I put my bottle jack along with a scrap piece of wood and a piece of fire wood on one wheel to push that spring down. The holes would get close but not close enough. So I then got the jack out of the truck along with some leveling blocks and a chunk of concrete Lisa found to push down on the rear spring. McGyver would be proud. We got everything lined up. bolted down the new shackles. put the tires back on and left our spot minutes before check out. Luckily our next spot wasn't too far away. 

Beers were well earned that evening.

Adapt, improvise and overcome. Words to live by. Now if this ever happens to you you can us this acronym. WWDD. What would Dino do?

"Gladys! Fetch me another beer please!"