Monday, September 21, 2009

Closing up the Lake

The last days at the lake are always a sad time. Of course you can still go to the lake after it gets cold, but it’s not the same, so year after year the last days are always the days that you shut the water off so it doesn't freeze.
That time varies every year, but after Sept 15th you need to watch carefully that the nightly temperatures this far north don’t fall below freezing. So this weekend the water gets shutoff and we close everything up. We will be back one more time in October to move the coach to its winter storage facility, and maybe once or twice over the winter to check on everything, but for all practical purposes lake season in Minnesota is over for the year for us.
The weekend cooperated fantastically and the temperatures during the day were in the 70-80 degree range and the trees were starting to change color.
Saturday started out with a trip to Walker Marine Max to get oil, and an oil filter for the boat motor. It was time to change the oil in the boat's outboard motor and store it for the winter. We also stopped at the local coffee shop in Walker for a cup of coffee and a scone.
After the coffee we walked over to the new hotel “Chase on the Lake” and wandered around inside with our coffee making our own personal tour. Its a real nice place and would be worth staying in at some time.
Back at the lake lot later in the morning I changed the oil in the boat motor and disconnected the battery finalizing the storage of the boat for the winter.
After lunch I pulled the Jeep up behind the coach and finished wiring the lights for towing the jeep.
The wiring for the lights went fast and the rest of the day was a lay about day and ended with a grilled salmon dinner and the final hot tub for the year.
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Margaret was up early the next morning and managed to capture a beautiful image of the sunrise and the neighbor fishing in the early morning light.
Sunday was all about draining the water out of all the systems for the winter. Early that morning we started with the hot tub, connecting a hose and draining the water out into the hillside.
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Once drained it all had to be scrubbed and every drop of water siphoned out of all the jets so it doesn't freeze and burst a pipe.
After that the water had to be drained from the coach plumbing, underground water pipes, and well housing and be replaced with antifreeze. It was closing in on 3:00PM when all the water was out of all the systems. With all the water systems shutdown, we moved the coach out on the drive way so it would be easy to drive it out in a couple of weeks on it final trip to the winter storage area in Little Falls.
With everything locked up, closed up, and winterized Margaret celebrated with a glass of wine on the lonely deck before we headed back to the city.
“One year closes out, but another waits in the wings for it’s chance to start

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Labor Day 2009

I have been bad lately about getting posts out on time.

Some of it is that its the end of the summer and I’m enjoying every last minute of the beautiful weather, and I can’t seem to find time to sit down and get a blog entry written.

We took the Friday before Labor Day weekend off and that gave us a 4 day weekend at the lake to get some jobs done, as well as get a head start on the end of year tasks. It takes about 4 full days to close up the lake for the year so it usually has to be done over a couple of weekends.

Traffic wasn’t too bad on the way to the lake, mostly because it was Thursday night and the holiday weekend doesn't really start until Friday night. The weather man has forecast one of the most beautiful weekends of the summer.

Friday morning was breakfast out. Usually once a year we go have breakfast at a restaurant in the little village of Dorset. Dorset is an interesting city. It’s only a couple of blocks long and has mostly restaurants and bars. The mayor of Dorset is elected every year by drawing names in a raffle. The restaurant we have breakfast at is not much to look at, but it has great food especially breakfast.


After breakfast it was off to Park Rapids to pick up some food and a few parts for the chores this weekend.

The first half of this weekend is all about things that need to be done on the coach. The first thing on the list was to change the oil in the massive Cat 350 engine that powers the coach. After checking what it cost to have a service place change the oil (roughly $300) I decided to do it myself. ( no brainer there) Oil, filter and grease cost $125

The engine takes five gallons of oil and and a very large oil filter. Other than the volume of oil it is much like changing the oil in a normal car.


After the oil was changed it was time to wash the beast! You really can’t understand how big a 38ft coach is until you have to wash it!


It took almost 2 hours just to pressure wash the fiberglass roof. While I was cleaning the outside Margaret worked on cleaning the inside.

Once the roof was cleaned I moved onto the sidewalls with a long handled washing brush.


It took all afternoon, but the coach sure looked nice ,shiny and clean when it was done.

The Mystery of Trashed Deck

When we woke up Saturday morning the deck was littered with tree branched and broken acorn shells form the oak tree that overhangs our deck. From time to time we have seen this and attributed it to a squirrel in the tree, but we have never seen so much before.

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To be continued:

Saturday was the day that I was going to install the tow bar in the jeep.

Tow Bar for the coach

I had checked a couple of places and gotten quotes to install a tow bar and base plate on the coach and jeep and both places I checked said about $1,700-$2,000 without a brake system. It looks like I can buy the parts on the internet for about $1,200 so I planned on doing it myself and pocketing the extra money.

After doing the research on tow bars, it appears that most people think that Blue OX is one of the best products out there, so we purchased a Blue OX Acclaim 10,000lb tow bar and a base plate for our 2008 Jeep Liberty. We purchased them on the internet and paid a fair price for the tow bar and base plate. They arrived promptly and had good installation instructions. The instruction indicated that an experienced installer could do it in 4 hours. I have read blogs of people that have done it themselves and they indicated that it is a full day job, so I set aside the whole day for the job.

The job is really 2 parts. First putting on the base plate, then wiring the taillights. First thing in the morning I pulled the jeep into the garage at the lake and started removing the bumper shroud according to the instructions. It was a bit of a task but nothing terrible and soon the bumper shroud was out on the lawn and we were ready to install the new Blue Ox base plate.


Here is the base plate ready to go onto the frame.


Bolted down tight with “Loctite Red” to hold the bolts in place, the base plate is now installed.


Now the bumper shroud just need to go back on for a completed base plate job.

After two tries ( The first time I forgot an important part.) the jeep is whole again, and true to the advertising from Blue Ox you can not even tell it is on unless you look really close.


It took about 3 hours to put the base plate on, so right after lunch it was on to getting the tail lights hooked up. At first this seems like it should be a fairly simple task, but as it turns out finding a safe path to run the wiring harness from the front of the jeep to that back was a big job on our 2008 Liberty. It ended up taking several hours just to pull the wire through the convoluted path and wire wrap it tightly to the frame.


Finally as the afternoon was about over the job was complete, with only a few swear words and a couple of scraped knuckles.

A celebration ensued with wine and a barbequed steak dinner on the deck of the Garden House.


After dinner the party adjourned to the hot tub for a much deserved relaxing soak after a hard days work crawling under the vehicles.

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The Mystery of Trashed Deck ……Continued

Somewhere around midnight I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.

Since it was such a nice weekend it was still quit warm out. The moon was shining brightly and I decided to step outside to see if I could get any moonlight pictures. Margaret’s solar lights were shinning brightly and looked beautiful, but I couldn't get the pictures to come out. On the way back to the coach I heard acorns being dropped on the deck! The mysterious squirrel bandit was at work! I though to myself maybe if I shined a light up in the tree I could see him. Sure enough! I shined a small flashlight up into the tree and I could see a pair of beady yellow squirrel eyes reflected in the light looking back at me! So holding the light in one hand and Margaret’s little camera in the other I was able to document the existence of the vicious little criminal!


Hold on! A moment latter another set of beady yellow eyes appeared!


There is two of them up there throwing acorn refuse down on our deck!

Wait a minute! a few seconds later another set of eyes appears. There is at least three of them!


The mystery is solved! Now we know how we get so much junk on our deck! There is an entire “herd of squirrels” living and feeding in our oak tree discarding their leftovers on our deck and yard!

Sunday morning

With the coach cleaned, the rest of the weekend was for starting to close up the lake for the winter. This is always a sad time. However with the warm sunshine and 80 degree temperatures it made for a pleasant task down on the lakeshore cleaning the boat and getting the boatlift ready to remove from the water.

Getting the lift out by myself requires taking the canvas and the aluminum ribs off the top before floating it to shore with a couple of large plastic jugs tied to the feet for floatation. Once it’s up to the shoreline a couple of strategically places ramps allows me to pull it up onto the bank for the winter.


With the boatlift now out of the water the poor boat has to sit tied to the dock overnight.


That is exactly where we had happy hour Sunday night. We plunked down into the boat lounging in the front seats of the boat in the sunshine tied to the dock, while Margaret tryed to avoid having here picture taken!


After supper we took the boat for a last cruise around the lake. There is a campground on the lake we live on and of course the campground is always interesting to cruise past on the holidays.


A couple of campers were on the raft at the beach doing back flips into the still wonderfully warm lake waters.


as I said there is always something interesting going on at the campground. This contraption is a homemade jury rigged hot tub! They have a child’s pool that they have pumped water into out of the lake and they are heating the water in a 55 gallon drum with a propane burner. (It looks like it may be a turkey cooker) Campers are endlessly inventive!


With the wonderfully warm weather it seemed like we should take a swim while we were out in the lake.



After the boat ride the with the sun setting in the west the moon was shinning right over top of the campgrounds.

This is why we hang out at the lake in the summer!


We ended our last summer evening at the lake with a “Margaret built fire” made out of white birch! (Fire tended by the Stumpman!)

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Monday morning while I was taking the dock out and putting it away in for the winter an Eagle landed in the tall pine trees along our lakeshore. He sat there a while and I watched him for a minute or two. When I went back to moving the dock he took off leaving behind a tail feather floating down from the treetops in the breeze. I went over to the base of the tree and sure enough I found the eagle feather in the brush. I saved the feather and it now has a place of honor in the Garden House.

The rest of the morning we wrapped up a few of the other chores that had to get done for the winter closing of the lake.

The afternoon we spent lounging around in the sunshine.

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability. ~Sam Keen

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Birthday Weekend

It was my birthday at the end of August. I'm another year older. How does that make me feel?

Not really any different…….. It seems like that if the birthday doesn't have an special significance like

16 : you get your drivers license

21: you get to drink liquor

62: you can collect Soc sec

What’s the point? Nothings any different.

Now that doesn't mean you shouldn’t celebrate and take advantage of the fact that its your birthday. That’s what I did! My parents came to town with a birthday cake and we had made plans to go to the Horse races.


But first I had to do some work. My mother was looking for a new camera, and I got to provide consulting service in the purchase of the new device.

Off we go to Best Buy to review the new cameras. We are looking for a camera similar to Margaret’s with a sliding front closure, and that means it will likely be a SONY to meet those requirements. We managed to find a Cool 12 megapixel SONY camera that meets the needs along with a case and a new memory chip to hold all the pictures. Then its back to the apartment to charge the batteries in the new camera and of course test it it out.

What do you think? Does it take good pictures? That certain is a clear picture of that bottle of Fat Tire!



At the Race track we had lunch and beer on the deck while the new camera makes its debut and performs admirably.

Pictures at the races from the new camera:


Photos by Mom and the new camera: Oh and more Beer!


Looks to me like the new camera does a pretty good job!

After lunch the races started at 1:30 and we were in our seats in the grandstand for post time. I was ready to bet big on the ponies this time with it being my birthday and all. Going all out I set aside $5.00 for the 8 horse races that were going to run today( I’m truly a big spender when it comes to gambling) as you can see!


The first race was up and I bet on the horse called Irish Rose. A lot of thought went into the pick. Margaret's from Ireland the horse was called Irish Rose … this must be a sign…… Right?


Guess what I won who knew!

Now I’m up almost 10 dollars! I can almost retire now!

The next few races didn’t pan out quite so well as the first race and I ended up the day with $6.50 up $1.50 Not what you would call a huge win but, not bad for a relaxing day in the sun watching the horses!

I’m now considering quitting my day job to earn my living betting on the horses!

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