Monday, August 26, 2013


Baz was always on me to "simplify". I don't think he had anything as extreme as full-timing in an RV in mind when he said it, but his minimalist view is/was contagious. When I bought the land in TN several years ago with the intent of becoming a snowbird he urged me to sell the MN acreage and simplify my life.  I do need to simplify, and to declutter. My goal last summer was to try and go through everything on the farm, clean out the shop and house, have an auction to get rid of whatever the kids didn't want and sell the land. Then in July Baz went and died on me, and all my plans for the summer went out the window.

This summer was to have been the summer for getting everything cleaned out, but my very late departure from TN means there is not much time to get things done here. The huge ice storm in April left a real mess, and even if we get some cooler weather to work in I don't think I can get all the downed trees cut up and the brush burned before the cold weather forces me to head south again, let alone dealing with all the "stuff" in the buildings. The sheer enormity of the task seems incredibly daunting and I find it hard to even begin in the face of it, yet I know that's the only route to the lifestyle I want to be living.

I've always loved to travel and to see new places. My life is filled with wonderful memories of travel; summers as a child in Galveston and Houston, visiting family in the Twin Cities and northeast South Dakota, backpacking as a teenager in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, moving to Oregon as a young married woman and being too broke to do anything other than to go backpacking or  gas up the '65 VW bus and drive some place new, becoming a motorcyclist and wandering - sometimes for a week or two- on the bike looking for new places to explore, becoming a snowbird as a retiree which opened up a whole new area of the country to explore in detail, and dozens if not hundreds of road trips in between.

I've rarely been keen on visiting cities, it's always been about the land. Any kind of land, from majestic mountains, broad and slow or untamed wild rivers, plateaus, canyons, rich and fertile river valleys, arid deserts, dense forests, wide-open prairie. I was born and raised in the prairie, I think its vast open spaces are in my blood and soul. The land West River SD ( west of the Missouri River) talks to me.  I've driven through that part of the state more times than I can count, both as a child and as an adult, and each time I am overcome with the feeling of "I could live here".  Most people traveling by road across western SD hate the trip. They complain that it's boring, that there's nothing to see. And there really isn't much to see, at least not at 75 mph. But if you stop, and wait, and watch, the sea of grass is teeming with life.

This bit of land in MN also talks to me. And so I'm torn. Between wanting to simplify my life, pack everything I own into an RV and head off to see the sights, and wanting to retain ownership of land. Yes, I know, no one really owns land, we just pay the government annually for the privilege of claiming to own it, but I get attached easily to patches of dirt. I find myself sitting here and pondering this dilemma. August is probably the worst time of the year to be in MN, or at least the worst time of the summer to be here. (Winters are a whole 'nother story.) The maturing corn is transpiring 3-4000 gallons of water per acre, and the high humidity combined with the hottest temps of the year is brutal. 90+ degrees with 90%+ humidity is never enjoyable, yet as I walk beyond the grove to watch the sunset I find it very hard to contemplate giving this up.

I will miss the granary with the 300 or so baby barn swallows that are born here every year, performing their aerial acrobatics over the yard, the pond with it's Canada geese, assorted ducks, Great Blue Herons, Kingfishers, turtles, muskrats, beavers and mink, the whitetail does with their fawns that pass through the yard on their way to the pond each morning to drink, the great horned owls that nest in the grove, the red-tail hawks that patrol along the road each day, the Monarch butterflies that stop by the hundreds on their fall migration, the myriad wildflowers that bloom each in their season. I am loath to relinquish these things in the name of simplification.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


The title of this post covers a couple different things... one of those being the fact that I haven't updated in quite a while. I've finally left Tennessee! Yay! I stopped at the farm in MN for one night, visited the grands in Sioux Falls the next day, spent another night at the farm then headed to Sturgis for a planned get-together with a bunch of really awesome folks that I first met on a motorcycle website/forum almost a decade ago. This internet group had rented a house in Sturgis for the bike rally in 2010, a gathering that included 17 people from such diverse geographic locations as San Diego, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, New Orleans, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Calgary Canada and Perth Australia. We had such an incredible week that we decided to do it again. Many of the original members were present again this year, along with a couple of new faces. The same house was rented just outside Deadwood SD, and again folks from all over the globe met up, hung out, shared stories and laughter, ate incredible food thanks in no small part to one fantastic cook, (thanks Brad!), and at the end agreed to do this one more time a few years from now when the Aussies will make their third and final (or so they say) trip to the US.

One of the new faces was Prairiewind who had followed me from Nashville, as she wanted to meet these people she's only heard about all these years but who have been such a large part of my life. Meeting all my "biker" friends was good, but I think the highlight of her Sturgis visit was seeing the Budweiser Clydesdales. The hitch was camped out at the Buffalo Chip campground on the north side of Sturgis for the week long festivities, and we headed up there one morning to see them up close and personal. There are two horse vans for the boys, and one trailer contains the wagon and harnesses. This gentleman told us it takes him about four hours a day to polish the harness.

 He also informed us it takes an average of 8 minutes per horse to get them harnessed and hitched and ready to perform, and although they have done it in a little as 15 minutes for all eight horses they prefer to take a bit more time
Here's Fran meeting Clyde, the 5 month old Dalmation who is in training with the hitch. He's a total sweetheart, and loves everyone that approaches him.

I'm not sure how his training is going as far as riding on the wagon and being photogenic, but he does need some work on the whole "not getting the leash tangled around posts" thing. lol  Fran unwound him three times while we were standing around. He does however have the "poor me, I'm so abused and neglected, I need some love" look down pat. How could anyone resist that look?

The horses, when not attending an event, spent their day in portable stalls under a huge tent, but we were very lucky to get there as they were all going out for their morning walks. After watching them travel up and down the road a few times one handler brought the three boys in his care over to meet us. The three he had in hand were the youngest horses in this hitch at 6 and 7 years old. This hitch has over 300 engagements per year and there are 2 more hitches with just as crowded a calendar. Many people see them at football games, in parades, etc, but it's rare to actually get to see them up close, let along pet them. If they've only seen them on television and aren't familiar with Clydesdales, many people are surprised by just how large these guys really are, standing over six feet tall at the withers and weighing 2000 pounds or more.

The youngster on the left gave a big yawn as if to say he was bored with all this PR stuff. lol

Fran even managed to capture a shot of me and the Clydes... probably the only photo of myself I'll ever post on this blog.  LOL

The second Oops of this post involves the campground I stayed at last night. After 2 weeks boondocking at the farm with only a 20 amp electrical hookup utilizing a 100 foot extension cord, my tiny 20 gallon fresh water tank was on fumes. Does water have fumes? Well, suffice it to say I was out of water. So, I headed into Adrian MN to dump the black and gray water tanks and take on a fresh load of water. As long as I was there I figured I might as well spend the night and get a nice long shower out of the deal. I had invited my daughter and the grands to come camping with me, but due to a mix up and faulty memory (on her part instead of mine for a change  hehe) we didn't connect. However I did have a nice evening in the city campground. School has started and therefore there were not a lot of people camping. I had a great pull-through site with plenty of shade and no close neighbors.

The campground is laid out in two large concentric circles, with the shower building and a large picnic shelter in the center. The 50 amp sites are on the other side from where I was parked. The municipal swimming pool is on the road into the campground, so it's just a short walk if you want to cool off on a hot day. There is also a playground and frisbee golf in the park. What about the oops? Notice in both these pictures that the tongue jack is down. I took these photos this morning while getting ready to leave. Since I was just there one night, and the spot was very level I didn't unhook the TT from the truck, just jacked it up a couple inches so it was level. Can you see where this is going?
I filled the fresh water tank and unhooked the city water, unplugged from the electric pedestal, made sure windows were closed and everything inside was stowed for travel, double checked that the roof vents were closed. I did glance at the hitch but since I never disconnected I didn't double check safety chains, lights etc. Climbed in the truck and started out. Hmmm... it seems to be pulling awfully hard... I made it onto the road (notice in the pics just how far that is from the spot I was parked) and thought What the heck is that noise!?! It sounds like a tire/tires locked up and dragging on the gravel! Do I have a brake locked up or something?!? I put the truck in park and climbed out to check. Oh man, what an idiot!  I didn't crank the tongue jack up!!! So I was digging a furrow! About 3 inches deep and all the way out of the camping spot, and 30 or 40 feet along the gravel road!!! You've never seen anyone crank a tongue jack as fast as I did, hoping all the while nobody was watching me. You would think with all the times I've set up and broken down camp that the jack would be one item I would never forget to double check, but somehow I totally overlooked it. I stopped at the office to tell them I had been plowing in the campground. Nobody was in the office but the camp host came over and I explained my stupidity to him. He said "Don't worry, it happens more often than you would think". There are no photos of this incredible act of stupidity or it's aftermath, but you can be sure I'll NEVER forget to check the jack again!!!