On contentment.

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It’s May and that means my birthday is coming up. Mother’s Day is nearby. Hubby Dearest and I are coming up on a biggie, 25 years of legal marriage. All of these dates (except possibly my birthday) are artificial constructs that have little to do with my personal reality. Still, every May I can’t help but reflect on where I am, where I am going, and where I hope to be. This May has been a rather strange one because I feel happy where I am, I feel like I do not need to go anywhere. I have no greater aspirations than to finish the renovations on my little house. I am content. It is a very strange place for me to be in.

My childhood is not something I recall with joy. Mostly it was very difficult and I was “the shit faced brat”. (That is what make Mother’s Day so difficult for me that I won’t let my children celebrate it. We celebrate my birthday instead.) I mostly got picked on and mostly tried to just vanish and avoid being noticed as a child. My twenties were a period of my greatest joy because my babies came. As I loved them and raised them I also poured love on myself and nurtured the child within me by doing so. I also finally gave up on trying to hide who and what my brain was and I started back to school to get prepped for entering university. Finally, I closed off my twenties by leaving the husband who was not right, spent some time in a shelter for battered women, and then restarted my life with a new partner who was right for me. The twenties were a period of intense personal growth and greatest pain and disillusionment with what society had told me I ought to be, as well as being the time of my greatest joy.

My thirties were pretty good. I gave up trying to conform to outside ideas about who I should be. I started university. Growing up I recall my mother saying “You have to learn to hide those brains of yours. Men don’t like women who are too smart.” The only meaning and purpose to life for a girl was catching a man and then spend the rest of her tending to him and his children. I stopped listening to her and I stopped doing that. No more having the feet knocked out from under me every time I tried to stand up. I recently bought and I am now watching the entire collection of “The Waltons” TV series. As a teenager I loved that show. My aspiration was to be an Olivia Walton and marry a John Walton. I wanted to love and be loved and have a home. In my thirties I finally stopped lying to myself and instead I was busy cramming my brain full of stuff like biochemistry of nucleic acids and statistical analysis of genetic variants. Honestly, that was far better suited for my brain than the life of an Olivia Walton. I still occasionally wished I could have been an Olivia Walton. It certainly would have been easier and if I had married a John Walton I might still be in that place. But in my thirties I gave up on trying to be what I am not.

My forties were a time of change and growth. I completed my PhD. I am very proud of that document and yet it is a source of pain to me. On the one hand it is quite an accomplishment. On the other, the realities of academia came up and smacked me in the face. While you are a student there is always room for you, mainly because as a student you are expected to put in very long hours for very low pay. Plus you have a lot of latitude to make stupid mistakes and I did make a few. One you have that PhD though everything changes. The next step is a postdoc and I did a three year one on a full scholarship. The problem is postdocs live in a nether world. They are not students, they are not staff. They have no rights. I was told if I was not in before my supervisor every day, and if I was not staying past midnight at least twice a week I was “not hungry enough”. In academia only 0.02% of new PhDs get the magic “assistant professorship” that is the key step to success in the tenure track. Because the competition is so tight, and because the entire system runs on who you know, and where you fit in, not what you are, it’s very easy to get end up in 99.8% who get shoved off the ladder. When you are in it, you never think it might happen to you. And so you have three choices when reality hits, admit the whole PhD thing is a dead end and give up the dream, live forever as a postdoc, or become a “research assistant” whose entire existence is going from grant to grant of your supervisor, often working as hard as your supervisor, and getting little credit or recognition, facing being discarded the first time the grant committee changes and decides you are expendable, all for less pay than the lab janitor. Still I had awards, I had publications and I felt I was hot and ready to make it.

Reality bites and the simple fact of the matter is that in my fifties I decided to give up. I still had teenagers at home who needed a mother, a husband who loved me as much as John loved Olivia. If I stay after midnight instead of taking a break in lab work to go home and eat and sleep, I end up making stupid errors because I am tired. I end up having to throw out reagents worth more in a single experiment than I was earning in a month. Post doc’ing was not for me. I am not hungry enough to put with that kind of abuse.

I didn’t give up all at once. I am stubborn. I needed to smash my head a few times on that glass ceiling. I would submit my CV for a job, get the telephone call, get the interview. They loved my skill set, they couldn’t wait to meet me, they talked about all kinds of things like my potential for start up grants, and it was going to be great! They were so looking forward to having me on the team. Then when I walked into the room, faces would fall. They would squirm in their seat, act all polite and uncomfortable and I would never hear from them again. You aren’t supposed to discriminate against people based on age but it happens all the time. The kindest thing anyone ever did for me in academia was when a successful professor I admired listened to me complain about the peculiarity of being so positively received right up until the interview. Even the expensive power suit I bought didn’t help. I just didn’t get it.

“No one is going to hire a 47 year old who just got her PhD into a tenure track position,” he so very bluntly said. “They will have all kinds of politically acceptable excuses for discriminating against you. They will blame the grant agencies, they will blame the system, they will quote the studies that show people are most productive in their life when they have that PhD by age 26. They will rationalize away their bigotry. I have sat in on many hiring committees. The fact is no one is ever going to hire you because you are both female and too old.” The fact that potential jobs always started out very encouraging, and then their faces would crumble just looking at me for the first time, told me my honest friend was right. (Note to aspiring women scientists: Forget the PhD unless you can finish it before you turn 26 and go get a professional degree like engineering, nursing, medicine instead and then go into research. You’ll always have protection of your profession and a fall back to lean on between grants.)

Just as I was facing this, my husband hit another academic wall, the “You are too old and it’s time to retire” one. I knew I would never make it in and he was forced out. So I decided I would retire with him. He’s 16 years older than me and it seemed far more important to be with him during his retirement while he was still young enough to enjoy it rather than take more dead end post docs where I got paid less than the woman sweeping the lab floor. And so my fifties found me “retired” without a pension or pay, dependant on my husband’s income to live. Dependant on a man was a place I never thought I allow myself to be in again but here I am. Since then I have taken a few short term jobs but only ones I was interested in and that I wanted to do. And they all paid much better than a postdoc.

The teenagers grew up and didn’t need us so much. I have been blessed with a good life, mostly good enough health, three wonderful children and a wonderful step son. I have three lovely daughters-in-law who treat me very nicely and respectfully. The kids all turned out very well. All of them tax payers, self supporting, not one in prison, and all doing well at what they are doing. We had freedom and so we decided to “follow the dream”. We spent five wonderful years living full time in our travel trailer. It has been great! We got to every state in the lower 48 and we have been blessed to see and do things most people never get to do. I wouldn’t give that up for a second. Still, after five years of arriving in winter and leaving in winter in a poorly insulated travel trailer, the rambling life got wearing and we needed a home base. So when the chance came up to purchase a little house with a big driveway for the trailer in lovely little town we jumped at it. So now we are part time full timers and part time stick house people.

The little house was well built and solid as they come and I love it. It had nothing wrong with it except for cosmetic things. And if I ever say that again I hope someone kicks me hard. However as I close in on 58 we have almost finished all that cosmetic work. The place has new windows, fresh paint, new flooring and it feels very much like our home. One room to go for the paint and two rooms for the flooring. One very nice thing that happened was hubby dearest and I wrote the book about our mutual research. We figured out differentiation and we’re right and we’re proud of it and it’s all in that book. Plus the royalties thus far paid for the new flooring in our little house.

Watching The Waltons I find myself reflecting on my life and how much it is like Olivia Walton’s now. I bake. I garden. I cook. I fix up my little house. Small town life is as slow and easy as Walton’s Mountain except that I look at Riding Mountain. Unlike Olivia Walton, I have Google Scholar and Facebook and Pubmed meaning the world is as close as my computer. I indulge my mind a few times a day. My husband spends his days deeply immersed in astrobiology. As a young man he had to choose biology or astronomy and he pursued biology because that interested him more. These days, astrobiology couldn’t be more perfect for a theoretical biologist with no lab. Our house is filled with the sounds of NASA on line conferences instead of depression era radio shows. We are both free of grant deadlines, university politics, and hiring committee meetings.

Yesterday I spent my day repotting seedling tomatoes, planning the menu for our Silver Anniversary, cutting new trim to fit over the new flooring, chatting with a neighbour, watching flocks of juncos and pine siskin feast at my bird feeders, doing a literature review on tick bourn diseases, chatting with a young woman on line about her pregnancy (which is going just fine) and debating the relative merits of pipelines versus tanker transport of crude oil. The strangest thing of all for me as I contemplate my birthday is this wonderful slow growing sensation of contentment. Back in the days, I used to watch one soap opera daily so I would have something to chat about at the Tuesday morning bible study for young mothers. (I could never discuss the stuff from the nonfiction section of the public library that I was secretly devouring hence the one soap a day.) When characters said they were happy, they were no longer interesting and they either vanished or were due for a cancer diagnosis or a terrible car crash, a kidnapping or a bad case of amnesia. But life isn’t a soap opera and so I will say it. I am content. I am happy. I have never been in this place before and I am enjoying it.

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New Flooring – Luck and the Prepared Mind.

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Our lives have been in turmoil for the last week. A big truck pulled up and delivered 23 boxes of brand spanking new vinyl plank flooring and we have been installing it. It’s not hard to do but it requires moving everything and laying the flooring and then putting everything back. But I am getting ahead of myself so let’s step back to how I chose what we eventually started laying.

You can see in this picture the original old flooring in this house. It is 9″ vinyl squares. They were installed when the house was built circa 1960 and fortunately  there has not been anything installed over that. I say fortunately because in other homes I have had to tear out stuff like avocado green shag rug from the 1970s or eleven layers just plain crap. Our original idea was to tear up the old tiles. They were cracking and coming off in pieces anyway.  However, we learned that 9″ tiles often contain asbestos and have to be removed by a hazardous material team at great cost. I went on line and found an exact match to our tiles on a searchable database and the database says our tiles don’t have asbestos. My assurances didn’t matter to installers. 9″ tiles must be removed as if they do have asbestos and they just ain’t doing it, lady.

We then began researching alternatives. It had to be something that could go over the old tiles. I am mildly asthmatic and need to avoid carpeting. The old floor was always cold so I wanted warmth. We also needed something that can handle dog traffic, hair and dog nails. Thinking longer term into our old age, we also needed whatever we finally got to be sturdy, not slippery, for diminishing sense of balance. Above all we needed easy to clean and maintain. I also wanted a certain look.

I am trying to do my home in primitive cottage style, charming but not particularly  fussy about chic, because chic changes. Remember the soft peach and cream walls of the 1980s in every new home? And then there was the old style wall paper. (How many layers of that have I stripped off?) Anyone recall “the feature wall”, fake wood panelling, or mirrored tiles? These days plain greys and blacks seems to be all the rage. The problem with fashion is it changes. I have moved into houses where I can tell when it was last painted just by the colour scheme. I wanted an ageless look that was all mine. I picked colours I loved and to hell with what was fashionable. So the house is bright sunny yellow outside and many shades of teal inside. It’s bold and beautiful it’s all mine. I love it that way.

We looked at many options for flooring. Everyone recommended some type of plank flooring. Slap it on right over the tiles and forget it. We looked very seriously at plywood flooring cut into 8″ planks and overlaid with multiple layers of urethane. That method is cheap and easy to fix if you mar the floor and I loved the look. However, I could not see me, with my wheezy lungs, being able to handle and spread 6-10 layers of urethane or living within a mile of the house during the long drying process.

I was very hesitant about commercial layered stuff. A few years ago I bought bamboo flooring and spent hours putting it down only to have it mark up within days. It was a terrible disappointment. I went into hardware stores and checked out many of the flooring available and they all failed what I call the thumb nail test. I would hold the flooring in my hand and then use my very sharp hard thumb nail to try to scratch it. If I could make a mark on the flooring with my nail, it was too fragile for our lifestyle. Everything I looked at flunked the thumb nail test. I ruled out vinyl plank flooring because of that. However, I have been recently blessed a potential son-in-law who renovates homes. I was discussing the thumb nail test and he told me there is vinyl plank flooring that is a lot tougher. The stuff I had been looking at was ‘residential grade’. I wanted ‘commercial grade’. It was like a lightbulb went off. Now I had a solution with a name on it. I began researching vinyl plank flooring sticking only to commercial grade. I soon found some that passed the thumb nail test. Not only that. I took out my truck key and (while the grouchy saleswoman was not looking) tried to scratch some of the stuff with the key and failed. I was delighted and I decided my potential son-in-law was a lot smarter than I had originally thought. (Okay I need to say that was a joke. No guy lacking brains lasts long enough with my girl  for me to actually meet him, much less enjoy a serious discussion about flooring.) Without his expert input at just the right time, I would have never have figured it out.

Now I was ready to really shop. Every chance we had I stopped into places that had flooring and bypassed the ‘residential grade’ they put up front on display and asked to see ‘commercial grade’ instead. I also shopped on line at all the major chains and I got a good handle on typical per square foot cost and what kinds of colours and styles I could expect to find. All of this research paid off because I stumbled on our flooring purely by accident on a trip for something entirely unrelated. It was the precise type of commercial grade vinyl plank flooring, in a style almost the same colour as what I wanted and exactly what my husband wanted. I hemmed and hawed and acted disinterested but eventually I had my deal. Best of all, instead of the $7/square foot original price, it was end of the batch, stuck in the rear, dusty old leftover, discontinued stuff that had not moved. They were very happy to get it out of their way and make room for new stuff that would sell. I was happy to pay $2/square foot no matter how disinterested I acted. I took the 23 boxes. I think I got it at cost. I didn’t argue about the delivery charge. I whipped out my credit card and paid in full on the spot before someone changed their mind.

Sometimes you get lucky. Luck tends to happen most often when you are prepared and ready to grab it. To have such things happen you need to do the background research on the problem. You need to consult with a few experts to get ideas and avoid silly mistakes or wasting effort reinventing the wheel. As Louis Pasteur said at a lecture at University of Lille in 1854.

Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés.

Or “Chance favours the prepared mind.”

And that goes for everything from embryonic differentiation waves to finding just the right flooring at a really good price.

And since that day the truck pulled up, we have had our lives in turmoil. We had to undercut the trim on the door frames. We also had to remove all the doors and cut a half inch off the bottom. We had to fill the holes in the old vinyl tile flooring with quick drying cement. The flooring is interlocking lift, place, click stuff. It often goes in easily but other times the stuff sticks and then you have to bang and smack and cuss a bit to get it right. And of course the edges never come out perfectly even and you have to cut the stuff around doors and vents and anything else coming up out of the flooring.

There are other frustrations. We moved the fridge to lay the flooring and discovered that even though we bought that fridge just last year there is about 400 years worth of detritus packed in dog hair underneath. (EEWW!!). When we moved my desk we discovered a broken drawer than needs repair. When we moved my chair we discovered we needed to put pads on to protect the new flooring because I didn’t care about the old tile but even commercial grade can’t take bare metal scraping. Tools for the job are strew everywhere. Meanwhile there is still the need to prepare food and eat, wash dirty dishes and laundry still piles up.

The puppy loves the chaos because when we are down on our knees, we are easy targets for puppy kisses and getting hugs and pats. Nothing is more fun that snatching that tool we are using and taking off with it. She’s knows she’s too cute to get into any real trouble. The cat does not appreciate renovations so he’s in huff and is trying to both get even with us and restore order by clearing off the counters and other surfaces for us before we are ready. It is amazing how much a bowl shoved off the fridge and falling on your head can hurt. Since that experience I have been making sure to never leave a hammer up high. And then there is stubbed toes. Nothing is where you expect it to be so my husband can’t go anywhere without muttering imprecations. However, it is almost finished. It looks lovely. And soon, after I repaint and replace the baseboards, we can return our lives back to semblance of normalcy or at least as normal as my home can ever be. (I hope!)

Spring has finally arrived on the 51st parallel!

I live just a tiny bit south of the 51st parallel. We escape to the southern US for the winter but for various reasons having to do with governmental bureaucracies we leave in winter and return to winter. This year that was even more true than usual due to an unusually cold spring. It was not record breaking, but you have to go back to the 1970s to match some of the weather we’ve had since we returned home March 26th.

I spent the time finishing the painting in the bathroom and hunting for deals for new flooring and exterior doors. I found the flooring, the doors not yet. Meantime in spite of how cold it was, I decided to be an optimist and knowing spring was going to come sooner or later I started some plants from seed. Unfortunately I made a  mistake preparing my seed last fall and left almost everything in paper envelopes on one jar. I opened to find everything covered in mold. I had to order new seed because of that. Live and learn. It was my third year keeping seed and now I know what not to do. Fortunately my garlic and onion seeds were not among them so I have those at least. Since I was ordering more seed anyway, I decided to try something. New to this year’s gardening is flowers from seed. I had never started flowers from seed indoors before.

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Day before last it was finally warm enough to get my little greenhouse out and, as you see from the blanks in my seed tray, I have been transplanting the faster growing zucchini and cucumber into bigger pots. I have been having great luck with zucchini grown in big pots and not such great luck with cucumbers in the garden so this year I thought I would try growing cucumbers in pots. They are currently in my little greenhouse.

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Now one issue with growing things in big pots is they don’t fit into this little greenhouse so when I spotted a big tent style greenhouse at a church rummage sale for $5.00 last fall I jumped at it and after getting my little one out and set up I tackled the ‘new’ one. It was quite the bear to set up because the ground is still frozen and it was hard to get the stakes in. However they did finally go when heated with some hot water and once up, the tent greenhouse was surprisingly roomy. I am considering retiring the cover on the little one and using the frame for shelving in the big one. We shall see.

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The tent greenhouse already has two occupants. I have not had any luck at all getting one of my favourites, morning glories, to grow here so I decided to try them from seed. I miscalculated because they were the first thing to come up and the first little plants to outgrow their starting containers. It was astonishing how quickly they grew! Morning glories are also incredibly fussy about being transplanted and usually respond by giving up and dying. So I figured they had to go directly into big pots. I started with 12 and I currently have six left. I lost one to transplanting and four to our rambunctious puppy and one just keeled over and died for no apparent reason. They do seem to like the big greenhouse.

There is very little else in the way of spring though. Last year for Canada Day the government decided to celebrate our nations’ 150th birthday by spending our tax dollars on little seedling trees. We planted 120 on our property outside of town since they are native to our area and were extirpated by settlers. We planted several in our yard and some fared better than others. All my larger spruce trees made it through the winter, helped no doubt by the heavy layer of snow. Somewhere in my perennial bed is a bunch of daffodil bulbs I added last fall. Hopefully the red and white tulips that bloomed for Canada’s 150th birthday made it as well.

My yard and garden is a big mess. It is still half covered with snow and will need a good cleaning and the garden will need a thorough roto tilling before planting but that is still weeks away. At the 51st parallel there is no point planting before June. I did find one sign of life in my herb box. I harvested most of my garlic from seed and brought it inside to be set out again in the spring (or to be eaten as some was) but I must have missed some plants because I actually have some garlic from last year poking up through the dirt. My strawberry plants seem to have made it and my tiny Saskatoon bushes seem intact.

 

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One more thing, our tomato bed on the back of the garage worked so well hubby dearest helped me put in a second larger bed beside it. As the season ended I dumped out all my tubs of zucchini and flowers into the garden. I threw in some egg shells as well. Eggshells serve two purposes. Female birds, especially swallows and swifts eat the shells for the nutrients as they get ready to lay their eggs and the shells break up easily and add calcium to the soil for the plants. Once the melt finishes I will clean it out, stomp the lumps of dirt down and add some fresh soil. I intend to keep using the old garden space for lettuce, greens, corn and potatoes because they did well there. Since I will be growing only those things in the old space I can put the rows far enough apart to easily till between rows with my little portable tiller.

I want to use the new space for beans, carrots, peas and other things that did not do well in the old garden spot. Plus this box is narrow enough I can plant things closer together and weed by hand and with a small trowel. Not yet though. As you can see it is still half full of snow and frozen solid. No matter, I saw the first robin this morning and the cranes arrived yesterday afternoon so I can finally say our long winter is over and spring is here. I expect we will get at least one more dusting of snowflakes and weeks more of cold nights, but spring is finally here.

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Migration Home 2018 – Dodging Winter Weather Advisories.

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Misty carefully arranging herself to stay warm boon docking in a Fargo Flying J truck stop.

We left Sabetha and headed north. We were originally going to try for the Gretna Nebraska KOA between Lincoln and Omaha. We had breakfast at a Macdonalds and checked the forecast on the internet. The weather had turned nasty on us. South Dakota north of Sioux Falls and most of North Dakota was under a winter snow storm watch.  The forecast was for a foot of snow and freezing rain and zero visibility. South of the snow storm area, in Gretna area the forecast was for potential severe thunderstorms storms. We set the GPS to go for the North Sioux City KOA instead where we might finally get to experience thundersnow where the two systems met. We pulled into the North Sioux City KOA just as the rain started.

We had one minor problem. The check engine light came on again after we passed Omaha. Recalling the advice of the mechanic in Sabetha and the fact that the truck was running perfectly, we pushed on the last 150km to North Sioux City. We settled in loving a full service campsite with water, electric, sewer and excellent WIFI and cable. There are times when a full service KOA is the best and sitting out nasty weather is one of those times. The snow was cold and miserable and we didn’t get to experience thunder snow. That was farther south.

The next morning we woke up to a screaming forecast about how bad the roads were north of us so we decided to stay put another day. I tried the truck and lo and behold, no check engine light. I had spent some time reading up on the effects of bad gas and reading the bulletin the mechanic in Sabetha had told us about. Bad gas will cause the engine light to turn on but it will go off after some driving and an eight hour rest for the engine to move to a full retest next start up. If the bad gas has worked its way through the check engine light will go off and not come back on. I concluded it probably was bad gas, and we probably could have done without the valve change but it had not been too expensive, it should have been done anyway due to the bulletin, and it was done now so I felt good about that. We had no more issues with the check engine light the rest of the trip. That was a good thing because we had enough to cope with.

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We departed Sunday morning fretting about a forecast of low probability for freezing rain but ready to push on for Fargo. The roads were great, basically dry. Still, the sky had a funny heavy look as we got further north so we pulled into a rest stop with WIFI and I checked the forecast. I was horrified to find the slight chance of freezing rain had morphed into yet another full fledged winter weather advisory and by the radar, it would be race to see if we got into Fargo or got storm stayed somewhere on the interstate. As it was, we rolled into the Fargo Flying J with the wind howling and snow flying. We spent the night boon docking there and it was freezing cold even with the propane furnace going full speed. We don’t boondocks at a Flying J very often but it sure is nice to have such a stop when you need it and that is why we keep our Flying J reward card and buy their gas when we can.

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Misty arranging her toys to stay warm while we boondocked in a snow storm.

We awoke to more bad news at 7:00am. The storm system to the north had moved on but a new third system was just descending on Fargo from the southwest. We scrambled to get ready and drove out. We had to get five miles out of town to get ahead of this new foul weather system. We crept out of the truck stop and slipped and slid our way onto the interstate. The ramp down was ghastly. It took everything I had to keep us from going off the ramp. The interstate itself was just wet but visibility was very poor and we crept along at 40 mph until we got out of town. We were not being passed by anyone, the roads were that bad. I really appreciated our high quality Hankook winter tires and the truck’s four wheel drive for that few miles! One of the nice things about being in North Dakota is these folks know all about winter driving and know how to deal with snow and sleet. They slow down, way down, and actually drive to conditions so I felt safe and didn’t worry about a yahoo rear ending me.

By Grand Forks we had left this third storm behind so we had a nice breakfast at an iHop. Even though they had just had 12 inches of snow dumped on them the night before, the parking lot was cleared and the interstate was in good shape. North Dakotans know about snow and how to handle it. We continued north, stopping to fill up with gas in Drayton while we could take advantage of the much lower American prices one last time. We got to the border at Winkler and crossed easily with a cheerful welcome home. We made our usual joke about how amazing it is that they keep letting us back in to Canada. We then finished up our drive home. We got home two hours before dark and immediately switched back to stick house life. I winterized the trailer’s water system while hubby dearest moved stuff into the house. We were home!

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Migrations Home 2018 – Sabetha Kansas

Life throws you curves sometimes but an unexpected curve can lead to interesting and rewarding experiences. Our unexpected adventure began when we stopped for gas at a station south of Sabetha, Kansas. The wind was horrible and the trailer and truck were bucking and vibrating. We turned around in the gas station being buffeted by wind and filled up with gas. And the truck died. No power. It was just gasping and clunking and shaking like nothing we had ever experienced before. There is no more sickening feeling than having your truck die miles from home. I resisted the urge to cry and we shut the truck down and left it to sit for a few minutes. I said a few prayers. I started it again and it fired up like nothing had happened. We gingerly began our trip again and then just a few kilometres down the road the check engine light came on. I plugged in a search for FORD and the Aberle dealership popped up 16 km away in Sabetha. We rolled into the Sabetha at noon and the nice folks at Aberle promised to look our truck over at 1:00pm when everyone came back from lunch.

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While we waited we decided to walk around the town and have a look. I have a special soft spot for small midwestern towns and Sabetha did not disappoint. The first thing that attracted us was a role call honouring all the veterans from the area going all the way back to the civil war. Midwest towns tend to produce far more than their fair share of soldiers and Sabetha was no exception.

After we had our first stroll about town we headed back to the Ford dealership. The mechanic and parts person told us the truck had checked out as perfectly fine. They guessed it had probably got a dose of bad gas. It might be fine once the crappy gas had worked its way through. However, they showed us a technical bulletin on a valve that sometimes goes on trucks of our type and year that results in the truck “having a hissy fit” (so technical a term!) each time you fill it with gas. They said the truck would probably be fine. They could clear the check engine light warning and we could go on our way. However, if the light came on again we should get the valve replaced.

I asked if they could just take care of the valve now. They said they would have to order the part. They could have it delivered the next morning. They opened at 7:00am and they could have the truck fixed by 8:00am. I asked if we could boondock overnight beside their garage. They seemed a bit surprised but immediately agreed. They even said they could run an extension cord from the garage to the trailer. We decided to stay and get the new valve, just in case. They were so nice. You don’t get that kind of service in a big city. They made sure we were safely parked, hooked to power and had WIFI and offered us a vehicle in case we needed it. We declined that. They told us all the good places to eat nearby. We settled in for an unexpected night in Sabetha. Because of Misty we ended up taking several walks. We met many of the townsfolk. Everyone was interested in us and why we were stopping in Sabetha. It was like being back home in Alonsa.

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We had a very pleasant evening taking long walks, a fine dinner at the Downtown Coffee restaurant and we settled in early. True to their word, by 8:00am we were back on the road and on our way to Sioux City with a new valve for under $175. The mechanic warned us again that if bad gas was involved we might have the engine light come on again and then we should stop and get the truck checked. This unexpected side trip turned out to be a wonderful learning experience meeting very nice people. Sabetha is a great little town well worth a visit. I hope we get back some day.

 

 

Migration Home 2018 – Big Hill Lake near Cherryvale Kansas

Big Hill Lake an Army Corps of Engineer campground that is one of the few campgrounds that is open year round this far north. The locals in the area came in and enhanced the campground by putting in sewer in about half the sites. The other thing the community did was add some lovely playground structure and a pavillion to enhance bird watching. The campground is on a major flyway north and teems with migrating birds of many species. We saw the rare and lovely red headed woodpecker, both blue and gray jays, numerous small sparrows and all night long we heard the hoot hoot of owls. On the drive into the campground the fields had large flocks of snow geese taking a break before heading north.

We had two days of peace and quiet. There were a few showers and the weather was cold and windy but it was still nice. Our neighbours told us the night before we arrived the temperature went from t-shirt weather to this heavy jacket cold overnight with severe storms and massive piles of hail. No surprise there. It is Kansas after all.

We had the nicest site up on a hill overlooking the lake. Our site was also specious with a big distance to the next campsite. There was no sign of spring blooming yet. They had done a lot of burning before our arrival so the whole place had a vague burnt smell. There is a really nice well marked path that follows the lake edge below the campsite. We enjoyed the exceptionally lovely early spring environs on the path. The trees are mixed oak, walnut and pine trees. I wish we could have been there in summer when the trees were green and full. Being an national site hubby dearest Passport America card meant we paid only $11/night. We stayed two nights. The day we left is was supposed to get warm and potentially stormy again so we moved north towards Nebraska.

We also explored the docks at the lake edge designed to make fishing easy. Dick and Misty were both fascinated by the fancy brickwork on the edge of the lake designed to reduce wave action damage.

 

Cherryvale Map

Migration Home 2018 – Cobb Ridge Recreation Area

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We arrived in Cobbs Ridge to discover ourselves in the midst of the biggest collection of dirt bikes and every other sort of all terrain vehicle I have ever seen. There were noisy two wheel motorized off road bikes of every size from big ones to tiny ones with little children riding. There were huge ones with fat tires and big and small quads in every colour and form. Cobb’s Ridge is criss crossed with miles and miles of trails for these Off Road Vehicles. We have encountered National Parks with themes before but this was our first ORV hangout.IMG_2296The campground was packed full and it looked like we would not be able to camp. Fortunately, they had one last electric site left. We rolled in to a delightfully low fee of $7.50 a night for an electric site. It was a lovely big campsite such as you commonly get in National Forests and we enjoyed it a lot. I was worried Misty might be frightened by all of this but she absolutely loved it. In fact, she chewed through her rope and set off on a Fred-style adventure which included bombing in on a family with eight (yes eight!) off leash Golden Retreivers. The greying matriarch of the group came bounding up leading the pack, snarling, hackles raised, and I was worried I was about to see my dog get mauled but Misty did a super polite “I’m just a harmless little puppy who wants to play” grovel in front of the matriarch. I could see the old lady’s hackles drop and then suddenly Misty was the centre of nice attention by all eight dogs and she was in heaven. We let them all have a sniffy butt session and some running and then Misty went back on the leash and she was led back home.

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We also found a disaster on arrival. It has happened in the past so I suppose I should have guessed but the rolling travel of route 125 had disagreed with our poor cat. He normally rides in our bed and never causes us a problem but sometimes in rolling hills….well the whole bed was a mess of cat vomit and pee and crap. Poor Klinger must had a terrible ride. My first job after arrival was to stripe the beds and drag out the washer and wash the bed linen. We were able to hang everything on our clothesline strung among the trees. It was while we were busy with clotheslines that Misty went off on her own adventure and I had to drop the clothespins and run after her. The linen was just dry before sunset.

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The rest of the day, while we washed and hung sheets, was a constant roaring of these vehicles. It was a tiny bit annoying but mostly it was great fun. After three days of quiet and earnest trout fisherman it was fun to watch these super active high speed bikers. The bikers were having so much fun. Many were popping wheelies and doing tricks. The little kids on the little bikes with watchful parents carefully supervising were so cute in their miniature safety gear. What a great place for a family into off road vehicles. I enjoyed seeing families having fun and I wished I could have transported my grandsons and all the equipment they could need to join us. It would have been such great fun.

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The TV was excellent in the new location and I watched an old cowboy movie and I relaxed. We both got a lot of writing done. On second day we took a long walk from the campground to a pavilion and discovered there were even more day trippers than campers. The hills echoed with the sound of off road vehicles. Everyone was happy and busy. We saw lots of riders doing complicated tricks. We saw whole brigades of quad riders out to have fun as well. Misty found the fast moving bikes intriguing and as each one passed she would lunge at them to try to follow. We did a little off leash walking when the air was quiet but it was never quiet for long.

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And once again we had a grand adventure though it was completely different from anything else we had done yet.

Cobbs Ridge Map