Yes, we're still here. We've had several people (mostly neighbors up here) get a little nervous about our recent purchase of a new RV. They seem to think we are abandoning ship and heading south for the rest of the winter. Ye of little faith, we are not going anywhere until perhaps May. I know my post about "if we ever get outta here" might have sounded a bit bleak, but hey, winter will do that to you once in a while. This is only our first winter and I want to experience it -- fully -- as promised. It's just a matter of not setting expectations of what it's going to be like and go with the flow.
Our weather is finally cooperating and we are having our January thaw in late January. The past couple of days have been almost balmy (well, above freezing) with a stiff wind. We can see the snow levels going down down down here around the cabin, and even Wapiti is showing the road surface (gasp!) in a spots. Too bad the wind is not a Chinook, that would really melt this stuff in a hurry. But we have to be thankful for what Ma Nature is dishing out right now. She's capricious, so not to be meddled with. We'll take it Ma! Ma, we need a bit more in order to get Lex (our Expedition) out, please? Just sayin'.
We will go next Monday (weather permitting naturally) to have our 2 hour walk-through, pay for the RV, etc. Then they will store it for us for six weeks or so until we can get Lex the Pussy out to have the weight distribution hitch and sway bars installed. The nice thing is that we don't have to pay for storage until then, and the registration for temporary plates (60 days worth) won't kick in until we actually take possession. Another nice price break.
Having a blog and posting about our life here is a little like having a reality TV show that people watch. We don't really have any idea who out there is reading unless you leave a comment or somehow let us know. We got the nicest email from a reader the other day, a really heartfelt, long email saying how much they enjoyed reading the posts, telling us a bit about their lives and also some tips we might use for keeping the storage shed warmer. Thank you, it touched us.
I did manage a load of laundry yesterday and hung it on the line. I think the temp got to around 38 degrees or so, so they mostly dried and just needed a little warm up by the wood stove. Today is supposed to be yet another warm day, so more laundry and even maybe the featherbed cover. Ah, the little things in life.
He/she does not have a proper name as yet but OH MY GOSH. We've gone and done it. We are the proud owners of a new RV. It's a Rockwood Ultra Lite (2304DS), 23 feet long, two slides.
From the moment I first stepped inside I had a Lucy and Desi moment. I'm referring to the movie The Long, Long Trailer with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. They go to an RV show where Lucy spies a very large trailer (unlike the tiny one they had come to see) and when she opens the door to the trailer and the doorbell plays a cute little song, she looks at Desi and just grins. At that moment Desi knows it's all over. That is kind of how I felt when I opened the door (no cute little doorbell song though) and stepped inside this beautiful roomy little trailer. Thank goodness it is nowhere near the size of theirs, nor did we have to buy a new vechile to tow it with it. Perfection on wheels!
We had originally gone down to see another trailer altogether but ended up not liking the floorplan as much as we thought we would. We also looked at the same model that we had originally seen in NJ at an RV show, which was just as nice as we had remembered it being, but it lacked some of the add-ons and certainly lacked in storage. It was like comparing a Cadillac with a Chevy.
Let me take you inside ...
The dinette is on a slide ... and so is the kitchen!
It has the wonderful Murphy bed option which we love because when the bed is up we have a great couch and ottoman.
A closer look at the kitchen. I think the fridge is nearly the same size as the one we have here at the cabin. (The fridge is to the side of the range, see photo above.) I also like the placement of the kitchen sink because it gives us more counterspace next to the range to work with.
And the bathroom.
There is one teensy little problem with picking it up at the dealer. We had hoped to tow it with our Expedition but as you know, it isn't going anywhere until spring since we can't get it out to the state line. So we'll have to take the Suburban down to pick it up and later on bring both the trailer and the Expedition down to be fitted for the sway bars and etc. Not a big deal, just a tiny glitch.
We are keeping our little Tab for a while longer to serve as our extra bedroom here at the cabin, but she is just too small for three dogs and a cat.
If we ever get out of here, we are planning our maiden voyage down to Albuquerque to see family. After that? Well, the world is our oyster! 2018 Alaska, we're ready!
Haha, right? But seriously folks, it's kind of restricting with as much snow as we have on the ground. We DID however get out Tuesday and took a very quick trip down to an RV dealer in Loveland, only to find that they really didn't have what we were looking for. At least we know that now.
With all the snow that we have it's hard to go out with the dogs to take a walk. We have to put on snowshoes to go anywhere other than the driveway because otherwise we'd sink up to our hips in snow.
A "going-to-get-the-game-camera" game camera catch!
Hailey can't maneouver anymore in deep snow—her legs get all tangled up trying to lift her feet enough so she sticks mainly to the driveway. Bella plows her way through but it's not easy, and Destin ... well, Destin had no problems but I do worry about him pulling ligaments if he gets in too deep. In places the dogs can walk on top, but inevitably they fall through and have to pull themselves out.
The wonderful plowing job that was done for us to enable us to get the Suburban parked at a "neighbor H's" house at the border has since blown in and is inaccessible by any vehicle except our Ranger. Trips to town are limited due to this because a) it takes a long time: about a half hour to get to H's house, then another 45 minutes into town. b) we don't want to bother H by coming and going all the time and making ourselves unwelcome — he's our lifeline! Considering that the trip to town would normally take us 45 mintues all total, it's wearying.
And, when we do get to town all our time is taken up with things that need to get done and there isn't any time left for just browsing around and taking our time. You don't want to get back as late as we did Tuesday, i.e. as the sun is going down. Well, actually we couldn't see the sun because it was snowing on our way home and it was really hard to see our previous tracks in the road bed and where the deep ruts were where (other) people had gotten stuck and tried to dig out.
In all honesty, it's not exactly what I had expected, but then again the people who have wintered up here for nine years or so are saying that this is not normal. I am not at the point of Jack Nicholson in The Shining quite yet and it's looking like we will have a break in the weather for at least a week where we don't get any more snow. I don't think it will help the roads any, nor will it help us to get our pussy of a truck out where we could use it instead of the Ranger to go back and forth with, but it will be welcome just the same. Thank goodness for the Ranger!
Hidden Meadows Lane
I keep happy thoughts of how wonderful the wildflower season is going to be when it finally gets here!
We have a new buddy around the cabin, Mr. Red Fox.
He's bold, brazen & beautiful but he's kind of a nuisance. Destin (who has a fabulous nose and tracking sense) likes to follow the fox's trail and wanders off on our walks, right under our noses. One mintue he's with us, the next he's nowhere in sight. Mr. Fox has gotten in our garbage too and strewn stuff throught the forest, which Destin finds. One day he had a cat food can in the meadow and he was having a blast throwing it up in the air and catching it again. Then he had a crumpled-in-half Coke can and had it in his mouth playing it like a castanet. Silly dog, but maddening when he runs off. He is now restrained to leash walks after several long hikes in the deep snow to retrieve him. (By the way, he does come back home, but only when he's ready. I can't bear to leave him that long without knowing where he is.)
We had a visit to the game camera of Big Boy Moose. It only caught his head and front leg this time, but the interesting thing was that it was pretty clear he had shed his paddles — and recently too. Kind of creepy to see where they were! We are hoping, of course, that he shed those big bad boys somewhere in the draw on our property. Next week when we warm up we'll have a paddle hunt mission.
Another side of winter is that it sure would be nice to have a clothes dryer. We thought we could get by without one and we are doing okay, but we were figuring on more sunny days above freezing than what we have had so far. When we got the Suburban out for our day in town a week ago, we had contemplated taking all the stored up dirty laundry into the laundromat, but we just didn't have the time to spare. We ended up with a barely-above-freezing day right after that so I did three or four loads of laundry (including sheets) and was able to hang them on the line, then ended up bringing them in to finalize the dry cycle by the wood stove. I think next year we might install a dryer in the barn. There is room for it and the propane is already right there to hook up to. It would make life just that little bit easier.
Rick and I both have projects going, but that is a topic for another blog post. I think this one has run on long enough.
So, winter continues and if the locals have anything to say about it: the worst is yet to come. Meaning that February through April have been typically the snowiest and stormiest months. We're putting up our dukes for Round 2!
We had a master plan that we failed to execute in time:
Place the Ford Expedition at the state line. It does not have chains, but is a reliable vehicle that we can use to go into town and back.
Place the Suburban, which has tire chains, at the "top of the hill" on our neighbor's property.
Use the Ranger to get to either the Suburban or Expedition, depending on the road conditions to the state line. If they are "good", meaning we can get there with the Suburban, with or without chains, then we take the Suburban to the state line. If we don't have chains on, then maybe keep going all the way into town with the Suburban. But, if we do have chains on her, then rather than take them off for the trip to town and put them back on to get home, we'd just switch to the Expedition. If the roads are closed, even to the Suburban with chains, then take the Ranger all the way to the state line and switch to the Expedition.
(By the way, when we say we put a vehicle at the "state line", we don't literally park it on the road at the border. There are a couple of people who have properties at or near the state line, but always near plowed roads, that will let us park a vehicle on their property. We have the Suburban parked at "Mr. H's", who is a great guy and keeps an eye on her for us.)
We got caught in a recent storm with the Suburban parked at the neighbors, but the Expedition still parked at the cabin. And, the storm closed the roads for a couple of weeks, so we had no way to get out of Sand Creek Park and into town. Sure, we have the Ranger which will go pretty much anywhere, anytime. But, we can't drive it all the way to Laramie. Without a vehicle at the state line, we were truly snowed in.
The Expedition parked at the cabin. Going nowhere.
If you follow the blog, you've seen the posts about opening the road and moving the Suburban to the state line. So, a modified plan is in place. We can always take the Ranger the 6 or so miles to the Suburban. But, I wanted to try to get back to the original plan. So, our neighbor and I hatched a scheme where we'd use a loaned Kubota tractor with a blade on the back and a bucket on the front to plow out our driveway and Hidden Meadows Lane. Then, we'd drive the truck over the prairie where the wind has blown the snow away, and eventually get it on the road to town. We'd then swap the Expedition and the Suburban, and be back to the original plan.
This is Hidden Meadows Lane from the top of our driveway. I can drive the Ranger of this fine, but the snow is actually anywhere from 12" to 3' deep along this stretch.
Here is the video from which the above image was taken. I'm driving the Ranger down Hidden Meadows Lane and back just to show how much snow there is:
We hatched a plan to use a borrowed Kubota tractor that has a blade on the back and a bucket on the front to clear Hidden Meadows Lane and the top of our driveway. Then, we'd be able to drive the Expedition to the intersection of Hidden Meadows Lane and Wapiti Way, and then follow a trail we've cut through the prairie where the wind tends to blow the snow clear. We'd need to do some more digging at the top, but with a little effort and the help of the tractor, we thought we'd get the Expedition to a road where we could drive it to the state line and implement the original plan.
We had to use the Ranger to tow the tractor over the prairie and to the bottom of the hill. We should have known then that we could not get the truck back up the same way.
Pulling the tractor down the hill to get it through deep snow.
Once the tractor was positioned at the bottom of Hidden Meadows Lane, it was tough to get traction to scoop up snow. But, by clearing snow down to the dirt, the tractor was able to get traction. It was then just a matter of backing up, lowering the scoop, driving forward to fill the scoop with snow, backing up, driving off to the leeward side of the road, dumping the scoop, backing up onto the road again, and repeating the process. Over, and over, and over.
Slowly but surely, eating through the snow.
Yes! A full scoop!
Success! Driveway and Hidden Meadows Lane are clear! And Destin shows his appreciation for a vertical surface to mark.
We got the truck out of the driveway and down the very narrow Hidden Meadows Lane. Now all we had to do was drive the truck up the prairie road.
Our destination is at the top of this hill!
We did not make it. Within 3 feet, the truck was stuck. We tried hooking it up to the Ranger to pull it up the hill (after all we got the tractor down and back up the hill that way), but the snow was just too deep.
So, with effort, we backed the Expedition back into its parking place at the cabin. We'll regroup and try again later, I'm sure. Or, maybe we just live with it the way it is, knowing we still can get to the Suburban with the Ranger and that we have a way out when needed. And, chalk this all up to a lesson learned for next year.
Yes, you heard me right. After more than two weeks since we'd been into town together, we finally got a chance to do some shopping and run other errands in town yesterday. We returned overdue library books; stocked up on food for several weeks (although we still have our emergency stash that could last a month or more); got much needed gasoline for the snow blower and Ranger; got some wine and whiskey; dropped by the hardware store; bought a new project at the yarn store (that you'll hear more about later); got dog and cat food; and I don't remember what else. It was liberating.
Okay, scraping away at the snow with the Ranger and a snow blower just was not going to get the job done. There was just too much snow on the road. So, we hired a snow plow to come and open the road.
Crashing through the snow.
The results are shown in the next series of photos. That's a lot of snow.
Now, to anyone experienced with our weather, you realize that this is a very temporary solution. All the "tunnels" created by plowing will completely fill in (from left to right in these photos), the first time we have any wind. Theoretically, we should be able to now use snow blowers to open them back up since the snow should be all light and cute and fluffy (not the frozen, compacted stuff from before). But, one never knows, and that is a lot of work still.
The big benefit of having the road open is that we can now park the Suburban at the state line and use the Ranger to gain access to it in almost any kind of situation. Sure, if we get 3 feet of snow and the wind is blowing 50 mph, we probably won't want to take the Ranger out for a 45 minute drive to the state line. But, we can always wait a few days, let things settle some and then get out.
So, again in theory only, we can no longer get "snowed in". At least not for more than a few days. (Our neighbors are chuckling at my naiveté.)