Back in Wisconsin

Back in July, we implemented Plan C, and left Wyoming after working for two months at Luton’s Teton Cabins.  We didn’t do too much in Wyoming, as we had spent the last 4 summers there, and we were trying to stay safe.  We did spend a lot of time binge watching shows on Amazon Prime Video.  We were able to watch all three seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and we are looking forward to season four whenever it comes out.  In addition, we streamed all six seasons of Downton Abbey.  We both loved the shows, and if you are looking for something addictive to watch, we recommend them.

Our trip back to Wisconsin was uneventful.  We can drive much longer distances with our camper than the fifth wheel.  And I drove about 200 miles the first day – Dan said it was the worst gas mileage we have had since getting the camper! (I am a bit of a ‘lead foot).  It was a 1200 mile trip with virtually no contact with anyone, as we stayed over at Cabella’s (they are very RV friendly) and packed food for meals.  Only had to stop for diesel and pottie breaks for Makena and us.  

You know you’re back in Wisconsin when the grocery store has this sign at the entrance:

img_3171Our first stop in Wisconsin was to see our friends Mike and Sue, and their new cabin on 40 acres.  They both have been working from home since March, and have been isolating as well.  It was an enjoyable time catching up with the two of them.  

When we arrived at Dan’s parents house in Oconto Falls, we were greeted with “Joan’s Wish List,” a typed up list of 20 items that she “really, really” wanted us to do!  After the first week, we had crossed off 8 items, but 9 more were added to the list.  So we started week two with 21 items.  By week three, the list had 38 items….hmmm!  As with any project, when you start something, you discover 2 or 3 more things that need to be done.  We are now in the 40’s and rising!!! 

Some things are easy, such as teaching them how to watch their local Church service on You-Tube on their television, so they don’t have to go in person.  They have been wanting a new refrigerator for three years (they bought their current one in 1991, and it sounds like a truck).  They have a specific size requirement, so they have never found what they want, or just couldn’t make up their mind, depending on whom you talk to!  We sent Stu out golfing, and took Joan to Green Bay (Stu did a happy dance when he found out he did not have to go.)  The appliance stores looked like they were going out of business, as they have not been able to get any new inventory, with the manufacturer’s shut down because of Covid-19.  That actually worked to our benefit, as Joan realized she had to make a decision, and found something that fit.  Now or next year, was what we told her.  We had a very patient sales person.  And it only took us four hours of looking!

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It was delivered yesterday, and Dan had to do a little sanding on the bottom of the cupboard to get it to fit.  The old fridge is on the upper right.  Another thing checked off the list!  

 

One thing I added to the list was cleaning out all the kitchen cabinets and oiling them.  This is something we do every time a guest checks out at Luton’s.  Joan agreed to donate a few unused items, and was impressed by how nice the cabinets looked after we were done.  That’s when she added the dining room table, piano and organ to the list to get oiled!  It really makes a difference. 

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Washing windows was another “to do” item that wasn’t on the original list.  I purposely avoided helping at first, as mother and son had a long “discussion” on the proper way to clean them!  I kept busy reading a magazine from January, on how to make 2020 “your best year ever!”  Once they worked out a compromise on window cleaning, I helped out as instructed.  

Other little projects consisted of fixing the electrical cord on Joan’s sewing machine that she bought in 1957, a Phoenix Automatic.  There’s no plastic on this machine!

Gutters were cleaned out, and we washed and scrubbed the deck.  It will be stained in a few days when it dries out.

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And Dan spent about 7 hours cleaning out Joan’s old desktop, running Windows 98.  That was another discussion I stayed away from.  

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We did manage a few fun outings.  My sister LuAnn decided to visit from Texas, and for the first time since our mom died in 1994, all of my brothers and sisters were able to get together.  So there are some positives to come out of this pandemic, as we would have been in Alaska this summer, and unable to make the party.  I was a little hesitant at going, but my brother assured me it would be just the siblings/spouses, and it would be outdoors.  It was a great time getting together, and we decided to recreate the photo that we had taken together in 1994.

My brother and sisters in 1994.  Back row, Brian, Greg, Jerry.  Front row:  Jonell, LuAnn and Margie.  I’m the youngest of the six, followed by Margie, LuAnn, Brian, Jerry and Greg.

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Here we are in 2020, in the same order as the photo above.  We are all aging gracefully!

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And here’s our Covid-19 photo, with spouses that were able to attend.  We all had big smiles:

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Dan’s niece Kami, was turning 40, so we attended a small family celebration at Dan’s sisters house.  

Here’s Kami playing ‘ring toss’ with her daughter Raya!

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And Doug had set up a “golf course” with tennis balls on their property, so we all enjoyed the new outdoor, socially distant, sporting events!  Adapt with the times!

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On our way back from Doug and Linda’s house, we heard a loud noise, and thought we ran over something.  Then Dan discovered the turbo was not running on the diesel.  Turns out on Ford 350’s from 2011 – 2015, it is a common occurrence after 100,000 miles that the hose connected to the turbo charger, called the intercooler outlet tube, blows out.  So we are waiting for the local Ford dealer to try and locate a new part, which is a bit of a challenge since they are behind on inventory.  We are hoping to have it repaired next week.

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Had I posted this blog a few days ago, the post would have ended here.  But as any RV’er knows, and actually, as anyone living on planet Earth in 2020 knows, plans can change at a moments notice.  So now we are on to “Plan D!”  We have received several telephone calls, text messages and e-mails from everyone that we worked with at Luton’s, asking us if we could come back to finish out the season.  Apparently one couple, that has worked their the past 4 summers,  suddenly quit.  Despite the pandemic, it has been a very busy season at Luton’s (many lodging places did not open up this season), and they really need help.  Brad and Joanne, the owners, have always treated us well.  And we were amused by all the text messages and e-mails from our co-workers, so we have agreed to go back and finish out the season.  We will leave around the 20th, as we still have some appointments (and more things on the to-do list) to complete. 

We do plan on returning to Wisconsin in mid-October, and hope to actually spend more times visiting with some friends, even if it has to be with mask and six-feet apart!

Quote of the Day:  “Life imposes things on you that you can’t control, but you still have the choice of how you’re going to live through this.” – Celine Dion

 

Time to head West

I still have a few more blogs to do on Oklahoma and Arkansas, but I thought I better get to “current time” on the blog, since a few family and friends have wondered where we are.  We will be leaving Wisconsin today, and heading west to our summer job at Luton’s Teton Cabins near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming (30 miles south  of Yellowstone National Park).

We made it back to Wisconsin for a surprise Easter Day (April 1st) visit with Dan’s parents.  They didn’t think we would be arriving so soon, as they thought we were in Branson, Missouri.  Our fifth wheel is parked at Dan’s sisters house in Hortonville, but we spent most of our time at his parents house in Oconto Falls.  Dan’s father was diagnosed with stage 3 bladder cancer in January, and we wanted to be back in time for his surgery. As mentioned in an earlier blog, Dan did fly back to Wisconsin for a few weeks when his Dad started his chemo therapy treatments back in February.

We did make it down to the Milwaukee area for a quick visit with family and friends and to take care of some dental and doctor visits.  However, the bulk of our time has been spent at Dan’s parents house.  In addition to pre-surgery visits, Dan’s parents had a few “honey do” items for Dan.

On April 19, his dad (Stu) underwent a 9 hour surgery to remove the bladder and prostate, and reattached his ureters to a stoma, where the urine will now come out.  The surgery was very successful, and after 7 days in the hospital, he came back home, to finally get some rest.  The nurses in the hospital were quite impressed by how quickly he recovered.  He walked multiple times each day in the hospital, followed under the watchful eye of Joan!

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Every day he has been getting stronger and more independent (well, as much as Joan, Dan’s Mom, will let him….!) He walks everyday and he is hoping to hit the golf course very soon! We are very thankful that we had the time to spend with them, and help both of his parents adjust to their new way of life.

The same day as Stu had his surgery, my brother-in-law John (that we just visited in Texas) had heart bypass surgery.  He is on the mend as well, but they have been through a lot in the past 10 months.  We are thankful that we could visit them in March, and hope to be back to Texas within the next year or two.

The weather in Wisconsin right now is perfect, mid 70’s.  It’s been a huge change in the past 5 weeks.  We were snowed in a few weeks ago, with over 16 inches of snow by Dan’s sisters, and 30 inches of snow by Dan’s parents!  It was an official blizzard, and everything was shut down in the area.  Many of the high schools had their Proms cancelled.  And of course, we ran out of propane!  We have two 40 pound tanks for our fifth wheel.  When the stores finally opened back up after two days, it was a brisk 45 degrees in the fifth wheel! (which isn’t so bad when you have a hot flash!)   Since we are only plugged in to a 20 amp circuit, we can only run a space heater, in addition to the propane furnace.

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As usual, we didn’t have time to see everyone that we wanted, but are grateful for the time we did have here, and the family and friends we did meet up with. We also made a quick visit to check out our friends Keith and Judy’s new fixer-upper home on Kelly Lake.  They have a beautiful view of the lake from their deck, and we look forward to seeing the progress with their renovations in the future (and a 50 amp outlet!!)

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Quote for the Day:  “A nurse will always give us hope, an angel with a stethoscope.” – Carrie Latet

The Tetons are Calling

…and we must hitch up and go!  Our six weeks in Wisconsin has come to a close, and it is time to head West for our summer work camping jobs at Teton Cabins in Moran, Wyoming.   The cabins are located 5 miles East of Grand Teton National Park.

We have been busy helping out our friends Mike and Karlyn, getting their new business ready (Alumni Club Tavern and Eatery).  Hopefully it will open in late June or July.  Dan has been busy with finish carpentry, helping out the electrician, and other odds and ends.  My main job has been staining, sanding, staining and sanding.

Mike was able to purchase some gently used kitchen and bar equipment, so we have also been busy bleaching and polishing all the equipment.  We are very grateful for the opportunity to help out.  Mike paid for our spot at the Wisconsin State Fair RV Park, and Karlyn packed us sandwiches every day for lunch, which was an added bonus!  They even took us to see their youngest daughters last high school play “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”  Maddie played Logainne Schwartzandgruenierre, and did an excellent job! (and yes, I kept the program so I know her characters name is spelled correctly!)

Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to see as many people as we would have liked, as we were working 6 days a week.  But we did manage a few fun outings with our friends Dave and Angie, college friend Mary, and college friends Mike and Sue.  We also met up with Laura and Mike, who will be retiring next year and selling their house.  They were very interested in learning more about life on the road.  Perhaps we will see them out on the road next year?!

We also want to thank Dan’s parents for taking care of Makena for us, so she did not have to spend all day with her paws crossed, waiting for us to get home.  We know she is always well taken care of at their house.

As luck would have it, my brother Jerry was singing with his friend Bobby Way on my birthday back in April at an American Legion Post in Brookfield.  Mike and Karlyn joined us for a fish fry before the show started, and my sister Margie and husband Greg came later on.  We were surprised to also run into my cousins Mark and Janet, whom I have not seen in several years.  A good time was had by all!

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Margie, Janet, Jerry, Mark and I

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Greg, Dan, Jonell, Jerry, Margie, Karlyn and Mike.

We made a lot of progress on the bar, and below are some “before” and “after” photos, showing that we have actually been working!  The building had old windows that were bricked up from the outside, and covered in drywall on the inside.  My project was to remove the drywall and window.  Dan built boxes to go inside the window, and these photos show the progression.  They will be used to display memorabilia when the bar opens up. (and yes, the prior walls were multiple colors!)

The bar has a basement that will be used for party rentals.  Mikes dad Jim designed the new walls in the basement.  The ceiling will be dry walled, and the tile floor will remain.

 

With the exception of the tile on the bottom step rail, the bar is now finished.  It has a bowling alley for a top.  Before…

 

And after…

And a final photo of Mike and Dan testing out the bar back in December before we left for Florida, and on our last day of work.

We wish Mike and Karlyn much success with their new business in Menomonee Falls, WI!  We look forward to seeing it this fall, when we stop through Wisconsin before we head down to Kentucky to work at Amazon in October.

Quote for the Day:  “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.” – Oprah Winfrey

 

 

 

 

The end of 2016, already?

 

 

Wow, another year has ended.  Time to finish up 2016, so I can start with a clean slate for 2017!

We are currently in Florida, for the next three months.  Then we will make our way somewhere, before starting up work again in May at Luton’s Cabins in Wyoming.  This is our ‘vacation’ time, and we always budget this in.  It is our own reward for this lifestyle.  But to be honest, I get really bored around mid-March.  I don’t think I could ever be fully retired.

We enjoyed our time helping Mike with remodeling his new tavern and eatery in Wisconsin. While we made a lot of progress, there is still much work to be done before opening in February.  We were able to fill five 30 yard dumpsters with demolition materials, get new window’s and doors installed, the metal ceiling in place, some of the electrical work done, and the bar built.

We did the frame of the bar, and then added in a step and two layers of plywood for the top.  It will still need the final top, which will come from a bowling alley, as well as the sides and tile on the step. We did the same for the bar in the basement.

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Mike and Dan had the ceremonial ‘first beer’ the day we completed all the framing.

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Mike was able to obtain galvanized metal roofing pieces from a barn in Illinois that was used for the ceiling.

I was a bit skeptical at first of the ceiling material, but it turned out very well.

Doing the demolition and remodeling work was a nice change of pace from Amazon. And based on what I have been hearing from others who worked at the Campbellsville KY location this year, they were either not as busy, or hired too many Camperforce, because they got very little overtime this year.  We do plan on going back to Amazon next fall, unless another new opportunity comes our way.

The nice weather in Wisconsin allowed us to stay much longer to help out. But once the temperature dropped, we new it was time to move on. We have a portable space heater in our bedroom, and an electric fireplace in the main living space of our fifth wheel. Just running both (on a 50 amp circuit) we can keep the inside temperature about 35 degrees above the exterior temperature. This is fine when it is above 30 degrees outside. But when the high for the day is 20, it gets a little chilly inside the RV unless we turn on the propane furnace.

It was also great to spend Thanksgiving with our families for the first time in three years. Although we both missed being able to walk 10 plus miles the next day (as we did at Amazon) to burn off all the delicious food.

We had a nice time catching up with everyone.  First up, dinner with my family at my brother Brian’s house.  I’m not sure what is up with my brothers hands on hips posing though!

Then it was off to Dan’s sister, Lindas house (aka Camp Meyer), for additional turkey dinners.

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We continued our ‘food fest’ with dinners with good friends Dave and Angie, along with Angie’s family.

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Since we were working in Menomonee Falls, Robin and Mary, friends since our college days, had us over for dinner as well. Mary also sent us off to Florida with a container of delicious homemade Christmas cookies!  Cheers!

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We had a nice time getting together with our former neighbors and their children.  It was great catching up with Kyle and Jolie, and Brenda and Darren.  Their kids are getting bigger and really doing well.

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Our time in Wisconsin came to an end two weeks ago, when we got blasted with 10 inches of snow, followed by bitter cold temperatures.  We put our slides in on the fifth wheel before the snow started.  So we had several “cozy” days before we left.

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I thought the days of scrapping the truck were over, but…  The fifth wheel next to us is staying for the winter.   They installed insulation around their fifth wheel.

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We had a great time getting together with family and friends, and we are grateful for the opportunity to work for our friend Mike.  There is still a lot of work to be done before the business opens.  As such, Dan will be flying  back to Wisconsin next week, and working for an additional two weeks.  Makena and I will be staying with the fifth wheel in Florida.  Dan will drive back down with his parents (if they can fit him in their car!) the last week of January.  It is a win-win-win situation.  Mike gets more help from Dan, Dan’s dad will not have to worry about driving, and I get several weeks to myself!

Before we left, we did pick up Makena.  She was very happy to see us and get back on the road to warmer weather.  We are very grateful that Dan’s parents kept her for the two months while we were working.  She was in good hands!

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We hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Year!  Remember, 2017 is a clean slate.  Put those fears aside, and make those goals happen! For those of you we didn’t get a chance to see this year, we hope 2017 will find a slice of time for us to spend with you…

Quote for the day:  “What the New Year brings to you depends a great deal on what you bring to the New Year.”  – Vern McLellan

 

Have sledgehammer, will demolish!

 

We are currently back in Wisconsin, and have been very busy with a new work camping opportunity.  As such, we will not be working at Amazon this fall.  We will miss seeing all of our friends that we have worked with for the past three years, but we will be back there next fall. And even though the broken bone in my foot has healed, I was hesitant to walk 13 plus miles each day on concrete.  For those interested in learning more about Amazon, just put ‘Amazon’ in the search box on our website, and you will see dozens of our prior blogs.

We are staying at State Fair RV Park, in West Allis, which is surprisingly busy for this time of the year. The manager said in 20 years, they have never had this many RV’s here this late in the year (it is open year round).  It is nothing more than a very expensive parking lot with full hook-ups.   At first we were told our water would be shut off on November 1, but with the large number of people, and the unseasonably warm weather, we should have water until at least November 25th.  They do have one section with heated water pipes, but that is full until December.

We dropped Makena off at Dan’s parents, so she is not home alone all day and she gets to chase her football around in a big yard.  This gives us more flexibility in our work schedule. Makena hinted that she is working on a blog,  so stay tuned for her post!

WORK

This summer our friends Mike and Karlyn contacted us to see if we could help them out with some remodeling work.

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Karlyn, Mike, Jonell & Dan

They currently run a successful bar and grill in New Berlin, The Varsity Club, and found a space to lease in Menomonee Falls to open a second tavern and eatery. Dan helped out with the remodeling for their first place, and they wanted us to help out again. We arrived back in WI on October 4th, and started work right away in the 5th. With the exception of going up to visit Makena and Dan’s parents, and seeing two Packer games, we have been working every day.

The building is old, but has great potential, so there is a lot of work to do. The local building inspector is excited with the changes.  We are still in the deconstruction phase. Give me a sledgehammer and I’m a happy camper!  Mike has two young guys that have been helping out, and they had done a lot of work before we arrived.  So I do not  have any ‘before’ photos.  This is what the place currently looks like.  Dan and I have started building the bar, which is shown in some of the photos.

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That bar stool was left over from the prior occupant.  There will be a full kitchen, and it will be walled back in.  The guys had to open up the wall to get all the old equipment out.

img_1089When they were taking off the drywall, an old air conditioner was discovered (the wiring was still “live”).  There are also old windows, that have been covered up and bricked over on the outside of the building.  The guys spent a lot of time working on busting out the old air conditioner, which was quite heavy.  And yes, the old ceiling was painted blue, yellow, red and green in various parts!

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There is also a basement that we are fixing up as well, for party rentals.  the guys spent 3 days breaking up the concrete and hauling it out.  This will allow the plumbers to bring all the plumbing up to code, and we will be adding a bathroom in the basement.  It was a lot of hard work, but the prior tenants had pipes running all over the place.

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img_1093This is a better shot of the basement, and the area we are building for a bathroom.   We will drywall the ceiling, and use knotty pine on the walls.  The tile floor is in good shape, one of the few things in this old building.

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As of right now, we are planning on staying here until December 6th.   They are planning on opening up the bar, called The Alumni Club Tavern and Eatery in late January. Mike and Karlyn want us to stay longer, and our fifth wheel is designed for ‘four season’ living, but we are hesitant stay in the snow. So far, temperatures have been above normal. So we will see how things go. Our Florida reservations start 12/28.

For the time being, it is just eat, sleep, work! Similar to Amazon! Hopefully we will be able to have some time to see some of our friends, relatives and former co-workers before we leave the state.

PACKER GAMES

We have been Green Bay Packer season ticket holders for many years, and try to get to at least one game each season. This year, we made it to two, both in the same week. The Dallas Cowboys game was not a good game for the Packers. Prior to the game, we attended the Jack Link’s Protein Snacks party. Good food, great people, and perfect weather all combined to make for a good time, despite the poor performance of the Packers.

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Lambeau Field

Ellen, Mary Jo (Mrs. Jack Link) and I. We have sat together for over 20 years!  It is always good to get together with everyone!

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We even ran into Sasquatch at the party!

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The game against the Chicago Bears on Thursday night was much better, although the weather was about 40 degrees colder!

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Lambeau at night

We had some ‘spiritual’ fans stop by our tailgate party!

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Quote for the day: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu