Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Learning Curve

This is unedited because my editor is too busy to edit it. So I take all responsibility for mis-spelled word and grammatical errors.

 Flashback if you will.


A dusty little farm town named "Harwood" in eastern North Dakota. Population, maybe 100 on a good day. A town like so many in North Dakota. It consisted of a grain elevator, post office, a gas station for interstate travelers and a bar. As time started to abandon this little town, an entrepreneur from the nearby mega-tropolis of Fargo eyed a business venture he couldn't pass up. The 'bar". It was quite large for a small town and in his eyes it had possibilities. This entrepreneur was my father, Joseph. He was no stranger to the bar business having owned a few before. So he bought it. It was called "The Harwood Hideout". 

Ahead of his time, he breathed new life back into that bar. He brought entertainment out to that dusty little farm town on weekends. He created amateur shows highlighting area talent. Comedy shows to make people laugh. Word started to spread in the mega-tropolis of Fargo about a little bar in a dusty little farm town. People started to show up, weekend after weekend, bringing much needed life back into this dusty little farm town. 

How does this affect me you might ask? I mean I was probably 14 at the time. Let me tell you how. My father, the entrepreneur, decided to put a little food trailer in the parking lot of that little bar in the middle of the summer. It was a hot, dusty summer. So hot and so dusty. His idea was to have his three children work the stand selling hotdogs, popcorn, snow cones and cotton candy. Something for the younger people in town to enjoy. It started with three. Soon my brother bailed out, then my sister bailed out. All that was left was me. Sitting in a little food trailer in the middle of a little dusty farm town, sweating profusely all day long. Eating hotdogs, popcorn, snow cones and cotton candy. There were no profits for my father because if I was lucky and I mean really lucky, I would get one or two town kids to come over and spend a buck or two.

Why do I relate this all to you, you are probably wondering? Well I, or should I say we, to include my beautiful wife Lisa, find ourselves sitting in a little food trailer in the middle of summer, sweating our "you know whats off" in a small little town in western Minnesota. It really went full circle on that one.

At the Kirkbride for a concert.

Could I say that owning a food trailer of my own has been a childhood dream of mine? I don't think so. I never really thought about it until we found ourselves sitting for hours waiting and waiting for a customer to show up, and we had nothing on our hands but time to sort through old memories. Then "WHAM"! An old memory slaps you in the side of the face like Will Smith and then you realize that you have done this before.

We are smack dab into the middle of summer here now. Our food trailer has been up and running now for two months and we are definitely muddling our way through this. We have a ton of events scheduled and it is getting busy for sure. We are learning valuable lessons every single day and learning a lot from them also. One such lesson would be not to leave a container of soup on the counter when you load up the trailer and head home. All you are going to find is a floor full of soup when you get home. Lesson duly noted.

Disgruntled Brewing.

Another lesson would be after a long day of slinging soup. You are tired and may forget things. Such as this example. When we are done and we have unsold soup in the warmers, we have to get them home to get them cooled down and refrigerated so that they can be re-used. Now it is very important not to forget about them until morning. Because at that point they are wasted and have to be thrown out. Another lesson learned.

At Fergus Brewing Co.

I think we are on lesson 387 right now. I will give just one more example because I could go on and on. We use a food service for many things. Our problem is that we have to order a certain amount from them in order for them to make a delivery. In our case, it is 16 cases of merchandise. So we placed an order. We picked it up and put it away in our trailer. We have two refrigerators and one freezer. They were stuffed full. As fate would have it, we had a power outage while we slept. We knew that because in the morning our clocks were flashing. Well the power came on so we didn't think anything of it until later on in the morning Lisa went out to the barn and the trailer was off. The outage tripped the circuit breaker to the trailer unbeknownst to us. We figured that the power was out for at least 8 hours and our refrigerator temps got into the 50's wrecking the food in there. The freezer was still okay. We figured we lost about a thousand dollars worth of food. What did we learn. One, not to order so much food. We have found a different food service that will let us pick up small orders. Number two, always check the circuit breaker after any power outage. Just because the power comes on doesn't mean the trailer comes back on.

One of our biggest problems is figuring out the food situation. Every event is different. We don't serve the same food at every event. We are not a corn dog stand and serve corn dogs every time. Our menu changes daily and from event to event. As we go to some places repeatedly we are getting that under control. Also we are learning which events are keepers and which ones we will have to let go next year, and which events we will try harder and earlier to get into. Like the title of the blog. The learning curve.

The 1910 Sip House.

One of our best sellers is a sandwich we created. We do a lot of breweries and as we talked to them they thought that "men" wouldn't want soups or pasta salads. So we developed our own Research and Development lab of The Lone Pine Soup Co. There we look for new food concepts and then we test them out on friends and family. Our Guinea pigs as we lovingly call them behind their backs. I wanted to serve a creative hot dog. What we came up with is what we call the "Cheesy Sasquatch". Now I can't go into the specifics because of trademark laws, but it has become one of our biggest sellers. I will just say that it is a hot dog wrapped in cheese, ham, onion on Italian bread and then grilled on a Panini machine. 

Our location downtown Fergus Falls.

Lisa is the CEO of the Lone Pine Soup Co. She is the head of this world wide conglomerate. She is the problem solver and the main person that books all events across the country. Other hats she wears are Chief Chef, Cook and Over Thinker. My titles are CFO, Delivery Driver and one that I didn't know about when I signed onto this company and that one is, drum roll please.........Head Dishwasher. As a bonus, I get my own sinks and all of the dish soap I need. 

Like I said before we are so busy now. Summer will be gone before we know it and in the winter we may have a turn key business for sale. JK. 

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Jethro and Bambi, Need I say More??

"Tango! Did I tell you that Jethro and Bambi are coming to visit?" Glady's said.
"What! We just saw them! Wasn't it just last year? Well call the beer store and tell them I'm coming".

Sure enough, our trail camera that is hidden near our driveway caught this image.
Please pay close attention to his mirrors. Jethro swings their rig into our yard and I jump out of my chair to show him where to park. I'm standing there waving my arms frantically in the air as he nearly takes out the side of my daughters new car. 
"Stop!" I yell. 
He says "I can't see you in my mirrors!" 
"Don't they flip up?" I said.

Well we got him parked and then hugs and handshakes all around. Jim has the handshake of a used car salesman and then he wraps his other arm around you. Instinctively a grab for my wallet. Now Bambi on the other hand. When Bambi hugs you, you know you've been hugged. She just kind of melts into you. It really gets your juices flowing if you know what I mean. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

They got settled in and we immediately started to get caught up. 
Jethro was showing us his bottle of Fireball. He was so proud of it. You would have thought that that was his first born or something. He said "Yuck, this here there bottle was full when I left the farm this morning. I'm glad the drive wasn't any longer cuz then I would have had to open another while driving which is dog gone dangerous. Yes sirree Bob."

They brought the dogs with, of course.
Dakota was not all that impressed. I think she was just thankful to be out of the truck.
Zoey, I said to Jethro she is starting to look like him more and more each day.

Bambi was all bubbly with excitement. "Glady's! Tango! I went 'on-the-line' and bought a fancy picture taking device. They said that if I hold it up to my face like this
I can take pictures of people and flowers and bugs and save them forever. Wait, it's not working." Bambi said.

"Tarnation's woman, let me see that gosh darn contraption. Your not doing it right."
"Hey! I can't see anything!"
"I'm going to take a picture of my foot. People like feet."

"Jethro! Let me see it." I said.
"Works fine."

"So Jethro, that's a Ram 3500 truck, right?"
"Did you know the mirrors swing up?"
"How long have you owned it?"
"A year or so I reckon."
"Follow me."

"So you have been driving around for over a year on many excursions and never knew your mirror extended?" I said.

Well I looked back through last year's blog posts and sure enough.

Jethro got quite a lot of Fireball in him and started to serenade us with one of his quaint little folk songs.
I'm not that familiar with Appalachian folk songs but that really didn't sound like one.

I said to Jethro, no more beer? He said he now prefers the Fireball. I guess that fridge full of beer is mine then. 

And just as the Fireball was all gone, Jethro and Bambi were all gone. I asked him how far he had to travel that day? "Just a half bottles worth" he said. I guess that is his unit of time and distance now.

It was fun seeing them and as always sad when they go. 
One more thing. See those little black bags on his bumper. They have dog poops in them. I was impressed that they were picking them up, until after they left and I found them all along our driveway and on the road into town. I can just hear him giggling now.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

So Close We can Taste it

 The SS Soup Trailer has left dry dock and is sailing full steam ahead to a port near you. (I don't know why I am talking all nautical because I have never been in the Navy). Anyways, we have passed our final inspection. We are legal and are getting anxious to get out there and start slinging soup. In fact we received our first food order from the food distributor just the other day. We also got our POS system up and running so that we will be able to take most forms of payment. However, and this is for the South Dakotans, we will not accept goats as payment, nor chickens.

Our first official gig will be April 29th at the 1910 Sip House in Battle Lake, Minnesota. There will be live music, awesome ciders to drink and of course our yummy foods. We are looking forward to this as we have been working for months to make this happen. So like the title says, "So close we can taste it."

We launched our Facebook page recently. Lone Pine Soup Co. if you want to follow us. We got a huge response from that in just days. The local paper saw it and wanted to interview us. Nothing wrong with free publicity.

Lisa has been working hard at perfecting her recipes and booking gigs for us. As of this blog post we have over 55 gigs booked. Plus more opportunities to do pop up events. So I think we will be busy.

Lisa in Soup Central taking care of business.

I would like to also share something else that was "So close you could taste it". I am not making this up either. We went to Sam's club in Fargo to join. Feeling like there are things there that we could use. So we are standing in line behind a woman leaning against her shopping cart. Lisa and I are talking amongst ourselves waiting our turn when I think I hear  a fart. Very faint. So faint that Lisa didn't hear it because she just kept talking. Then right after that the lady let out another one. She was not holding back for the second one. It was loud and lasted about 10 seconds. (Count to 10, that's a long time for a fart. Gross.) It was like OMG! Lady, do you not see us standing behind you? WTH? She just carried on as if it was perfectly normal to crap your pants in line at Sam's club. We both looked at each other, took 10 steps back and just shook our heads. Honestly.

Something else on a more personal note. I have not worn pants for months. I know that may shock some people and to some others it doesn't. To be more specific, I have not worn my jeans since before my hip surgery. Until today. It's like some of those unexplainable things that happen in the universe. Like why does one sock disappear in the dryer? Or why do they keep making Fast and Furious movies? Why do your jeans shrink after you have been wearing sweatpants for months? Some things we will never be able to explain.

Next post will be after an event so stay tuned.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Full Steam Ahead

 Our new venture is going full steam ahead. We are busy purchasing equipment and supplies having inspections and just the many other things that are involved with the starting of a business in "The Peoples Republic of Minnesota". Hush money has been paid, palms have been greased. (I am just kidding. That last statement was put in for comedic value, even though I think it is a home run, others may be offended.)

Deliveries are many. I have a secret game camera set up on our driveway to take pictures of trespassers here at the SSUVFL. It then sends me pictures over the cellular airwaves so that i know who is coming and going. One day Lisa came home to this.

After checking the images sent by the camera we had Amazon, UPS and FedEx all delivered in one day. It's great that the service is so good but things are starting to melt here and those trucks are making a mess of our gravel driveway.

We have gotten the graphics put on the trailer and it sure came out nice. The black really pops on that orange trailer.
That picture was taken March 26th and as you can see we have a lot of snow still on the ground. They predict that the snow will be around well into the later part of April. Any other year we wouldn't think much of it but we are booking gigs starting in April and we are hoping that it isn't a big muddy mess.

The other day when I went into town, I crossed the bridge near our house and there was a dead raccoon that somebody ran over. The reason I mention that is that we have a raccoon that visits our bird feeders quite regularly. It is fun to watch as he works to clean it out. Wearing the mask makes him look even more diabolical. I often see him on the game camera.
Here he is going out for the evening.
Then later on he will wander home.

So after we saw the dead one, we were thinking that it was our raccoon. He then showed up to our feeders that night and we let out a big cheer for him. "Hip, Hip Hooray!" was heard throughout the SSUVFL. You can tell we don't get out much when that is the highlight of the week. We had 15 deer in the yard this morning.

On the medical front. My hip is getting better thanks to the weekly visits to the physical therapist. I am still having complications with my thigh and knee. My IT band muscle is still very sore and hyper sensitive to touch. Below the knee is numb which my Orthopedic Surgeon thinks it may be a new problem which he hopes to address in November.  He also says that I am just one of the few people that take longer to heal. So frustration levels remain high. 

That's it for now.  Next time I hope to be blogging about our first experiences of running a food trailer. It could be a very funny post or one filled with horror. We will just have to wait and see.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

The Big News


Sunset at the SSUVFL.

Here is the big news that we have been promising for a little while. We did it! We bought a trailer!

I know what you are thinking. I can just hear your thoughts now. 

"I bet Dino needs that to haul around all of the training equipment that he requires to be the next American Ninja and Parkour world champion" said Jim and Barb N.

"That makes sense. With as active as those two are, they need space to haul around their kayaks, ATV's, side-by-sides and mountain bikes" said Steve and Deb M.

"It's Harley Davidson Orange, I bet they got themselves some new Harley's to go in it" said Kip T.

"I bet they got a huge trailer to haul more stuff to Quartzsite" said Steve and Dianne C.

Well we hate to disappoint everyone but none of the above. Let me show you a picture of the other side to see if that helps you figure out what we are going to do.

Can you tell what it is now?

How about now? We bought ourselves a food trailer! Actually we had it custom built for our new business venture.

Last summer we were sitting around our campfire brainstorming. We learned that when you drink more, the ideas are so much better. Lisa and I both had jobs working for other companies at the time and we decided that we wanted to work for ourselves again. That's when it hit me. Food trailer. Genius! But we didn't want to buy a dirty, greasy used one. We wanted new. So we started researching and found a company in Minneapolis that builds custom food trucks, trailers and carts. If you bring them a vehicle or trailer of any type, they can turn it into a food truck/trailer. They really do amazing work. Chameleon Concessions in case you would like to get your own trailer. Here are some examples of the trucks and trailers they have done. I pulled these from their website. 

Ours was an easier build because they started with an empty trailer. They remove all the wood on the inside except for the floor. They epoxy the floor and install fiberglass panels, run electricity and gas lines and then install your equipment depending on your needs. It is quite the operation.

Everything in the trailer is new except for the beverage cooler. He gave us a deal on a used one that he had.

So that is our big news. Now we are busy jumping through all the hoops that are required in "The People's Republic of Minnesota". We are looking at several festivals already and other venues for the summer. We are excited to try this and looking forward to being out there having fun.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

January Update

 Well January did not start out the best for us. Lisa ended up getting Covid and then a few days later, I ended up getting Covid. Our first time getting Covid. It is funny that just 2 short years ago, if that would have happened, we would have thought we had a death sentence. We would have been quarantined, locked away from loved ones as they planned for our inevitable deaths. We did recover and to be honest, it was no worse than having a head cold. So my words of wisdom would be "Que sera, sera".

I have still been recovering from my total hip replacement. Recovery has been slow due to being diagnosed with I T Band Syndrome with nerve entrapment. 

The symptoms I am having is that there is skin sensitivity on my thigh. I think that means there is a nerve damaged around my hip for that. Also below the knee it is completely numb. The hip itself is much better. I have ditched the walker and the cane. Still limp around though.

Surprisingly our January weather has been very mild. Much like December's should have been, which is great, because December's weather was like January's. Our local deer herd has been coming around more and they are acting more normal. We have not had any wolf sign for a long time so that makes them calmer.
They sure like to raid the bird feeders. We were not able to get them alfalfa this year due to my hip but they are looking fat enough without it. My son and his wife gave us a new trail camera. We have been getting lots of pictures of the critters. Here are a few of them.

Other than that, life goes on. One more thing, we winterized our fifthwheel and put it outside.

Now why would we do that? Tune in to the next installment.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

2022 Wrap

 First of all we would like to wish everyone a happy new year. 2022 was a weird year to say the least and I hope that 2023 isn't a repeat. It goes by so fast and I am glad that we have this blog to look back upon and review all that has transpired over the year.

We started the year off with arctic cold temperatures. Making it perfect for working on the inside of our cabin. I was able to get the bedroom about 95% done and our laundry room is about 70% done. But all in all the whole cabin is about 87.63% finished. Now when or if I am fully recovered from my hip surgery I hope to finish it all in the next few months or so. I got confirmation from Jim that he was going to help me with this project so it should be done in no time. Wait. I guess Jim is going to Quartzsite for the winter and told me I was on my own as usual. Oh well.

In April we took a month off and headed to the Gulf Coast. Enjoying the warmth and the surf along the Mississippi coast.

When we got back to the SSUVFL it was getting warmer. So we put inside projects on hold and decided to tackle many outside projects. During the summer we decided to get some part time jobs to help suplement our incomes. We enjoyed many weekends with the grandkids. It is so fun watching them grow.

Fall soon arrived which means the outside projects have to end. Unfortunately for me It was also discovered that I needed a new hip. Mine wearing out from countless death marches and the over active lifestyle I lead. Upon learning that, I had to give up my career at Tool-R-Us while Lisa's grounds keeping job ended. The nursing home really liked her so she became a "homemaker, aka a cook" working inside the nursing home now. She hopes to become a grounds keeper again in the spring.

I had my surgery and have been recovering now for 6 weeks. Recovery has been slow and frustrating but I think I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

We have some big things coming up for 2023. We can't share any details just yet but we hope to share some of the news in the next coming months.

One thing I hope to do is finish the work on the cabin so that we can start an expansion project for this summer. Yay!