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Ann's Corner

VOLUME 26-----------AUGUST 2004



Here I am, late again.  August 9th already, and no monthly newsletter posted.  I have a good excuse though.  We just got back Saturday from a 10 day, 2000+ mile trip to South Dakota.

No, we did not go for the big Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, but we did go through there; the preparations were under way, and the crowd was a'gatherin'!  I think the official festivities start August 9th, but Interstate 90 was crawlin' with the sights and sounds of the faithful on their way to the "Big Show."

We were able to enjoy that distinctive "Harley Rumble" almost constantly, both going and coming, even with tightly closed windows and air conditioner going full blast!  That unique cacophony of sound, along with the bright colors, the leathers, the long hair and beards flying in the wind, and hairy chests bared to the elements, kept the scenery lively all along the way.  (It became even more fun after I finally figured out that the boys had the long hair and the girls the hairy chests!)  I did note however, that the revelers seemed somewhat less cheerful the day of the cold, torrential downpour than they did when the sun was shining.

This was the first long trip with the Ford Power Stroke pulling the Nomad travel trailer.  I discussed in the past several newsletters, the power upgrades to the Ford, and am happy to report that the systems are all working great.

Before we left, I ran the truck and trailer across the scales and found our total weight to be about 16,500 pounds as loaded for travel.  With terrain between home and Rapid City, SD being everything from 'steep and long' to 'table top flat', it was a good test of all pulling scenarios.

The Power Stroke performed without a hitch with all the power one should ever need.  Because the temperature was in the high 90's most days, I did have to be sensitive to the automatic transmission fluid temperature on hard pulls, but, by balancing gearing, rpm's, and ground speed, was able to stay well below the danger zone.

I did check fuel mileage at each fill up, every 200 to 300 miles.  It appears that the truck will get about 10 miles to the gallon pulling the Nomad, no matter the conditions.  We had everything from strong headwinds, to tailwinds, to crosswinds, along with steep and level, and the mileage was never less than 9 nor more than 10 for the entire trip.  I can live with that, pulling the weight we were hauling.

This trip was planned months ago in coordination with Rick, Christi, and granddaughter Jennifer.  We all wanted to visit Devil's Tower National Monument and Mount Rushmore together but kind of 'doin' our own thing' the rest of the time.  Jennifer would alternate between traveling with her parents and Ann and I.

Ann and I left home on July 29th with Jennifer traveling with us.  We puttered along, played a little golf, and met up with Rick and Christi in Billings, MT on Saturday the 31st.  We celebrated Jennifer's 8th birthday that evening at their motel.

From Billings, it was on to Devil's Tower.  What a strange and awesome sight!  We walked the mile and a half trail around the base of the tower in the cool of early morning on August 2nd, and were able to enjoy all the varying aspects of the geology.  Here's a picture of the tower just after sunrise from our campsite at the KOA.

Devil's Tower at Sunrise

This picture is the 'pooped out' group at the halfway point of the trail around the tower.

Jim, Ann, Jennifer, Rick, and Christi

Our next stop was Hill City, SD, just a short hop from Mount Rushmore.  Jennifer had trouble remembering 'Mount Rushmore' as we planned this trip over the months, so she always said she was going to see the 'Big Heads!'

Well, see the 'Big Heads' we did!  While this was the first time for Jennifer and Christi, Rick, Ann, and I had been at the site before.  The parking structures, the restaurant, and the visitor center were all changed but the 'Big Heads' were as spectacular and as awe inspiring as they were 25 years ago!

We've all seen dozens, if not hundreds, of pictures of Mount Rushmore over the years, but no picture can compare to the eye popping, jaw dropping majesty of actually being there!  Of course having said that, I am going to put a picture in here.  This is my favorite of the dozens we took that day.

Mount Rushmore

A fairly recent addition to the Rushmore site, is a boardwalk and stairways along the base of the mountain, close under the sculptures.  At just under a mile long, the walk and the stairways, especially the climb back to the visitor center, were tough on the old fat guy, but provided views and perspectives that we had not seen before and made the huff 'n puff worthwhile.

The day after the Rushmore tour, Rick, Christi, and Jennifer started a fast track for home, while Ann and I took a more leisurely pace.  We stopped for a couple nights in Hardin, MT to visit the Little Bighorn battlefield where General Custer and over 200 soldiers and scouts of the 7th Cavalry met their demise.  Even though we have visited the battlefield 7 or 8 times, we always learn something new and see something different.  We hope to someday see the reenactment that is held each year on the June weekend closest to the actual date of the battle, June 25, 1876.

We arrived back at the Ranch on August 7th, and are still working on getting unloaded, unpacked, and back in the mood to do something productive around here one of these days!

Thoughts are now turning to getting ready for the early deer season.  The Department of Fish and Wildlife again made provisions for 400 extra antlerless deer tags for this area, by lottery drawing. Little Heifer, Rick, and I  all applied as we did last year.  While we all 3 drew permits last year, I was the only one successful this time around.

Since we clearly still have an overabundance of deer in the area, I may have to invite a friend or two to assist in population control with only that one extra tag in the family!

I've picked up some new powder and bullets over the winter, so hope to get started on some projects at the loading bench soon.  Will report on these as they develop.

My requirements for certification as a Hunter Education Instructor have now been completed.  I'm just awaiting the paperwork from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.  My mentors that I've been working with have one more class beginning August 16th, and that will finish classes for 2004.  None are held from September through December because this group of instructors will be out huntin'!

Before I close, I need to update the gopher hunting at the ranch.  Last month's newsletter reported 4 kills to date.  Since then, 3 more of those pesky critters have 'bit the dust.'  I do believe I got the dumb ones first though.  These last three required more waiting and patience than the others.  Still have one on the hill behind the house that continues to outsmart me!  While my earlier experiences indicated these varmints would return to close an opened burrow within a matter of hours, if not minutes, this one sometimes waits 2 or 3 days to plug the hole.  Oh well, at least I've cleaned out the ones that were digging in the actual lawn!

This month's Hillbilly Wisdom again comes from our neighbor, Ray, the old philosopher who lived just down the road.  This conversation took place when I was about 6 or 7 years old.  Ray and I were sitting in his old porch swing enjoying an evening of philosophy:

Ray:    Did you know I can fart anytime I want to?

Me:    No one can do that!

Ray:    Well, I can!

Me:    I don't believe you!

Ray:    It's the Gospel Truth!

Me:    OK, let's hear you let one!

Ray:    Well, I don't want to!

Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .

'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!

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