Monday, March 30, 2009

Cycling – Or as I like to call it “bike riding”. (Before Lincoln)

Now, for my momentarily favorite outdoor activity. Bike riding! I remember my first bike, do you? Click ‘comments' then 'post a comment’ on this posting and tell me about it or post a jumplink to your first bike story.

My first bike was resurrected from an iron pile by my great grandpa Gank. He fixed it up and painted it a bright orange with spray paint. I guess I was probably 4 years old. I remember him holding onto the seat while I pedaled. I don’t remember ever having training wheels. I rode it in their paved driveway, it was the biggest patch of concrete on the section outside of the floor of a building or grain bin.

The best thing about that old salvaged bike was it didn’t take any effort to pedal it! I wish I had a bike like that now. Infact, I don’t ever remember getting tired on that bike. I never said, like I do now, it’s too windy, or hot or cold to ride today. And the wrecks only hurt till I got a band-aid or a kiss from mom. Boy, that’s not the case anymore!

Years later I went with my dad to doze down the old sale barn pens on the corner of Webb Rd. and Old Hwy. 30 in Grand Island. He took a break in the middle of the day and we went to Wheelers and he bought me a new dirt bike. I rode that bike from our place to Cairo a zillion times to see my friends and swim at the pool. Highway 11 was so narrow, and corn trucks flying by would pelt me with corn kernels. But it never seemed to bother me. Back then, the Cairo grocery store had 6 packs of SureFine pop for $1 and I’d buy four of them in a shallow cardboard box and balance it on my handle bars on the 2 mile ride back home. Mom only allowed me 1 pop a day, so I’d hide cases of pop in my closet and drink room temperature SureFine cola on the sly. I’m glad my pallet has become more sophisticated since then! Now I thrive on cold Mountain Dew.

Back to bike riding. By the time I was 14 or so I parked the bike. Then when I was a freshman in college in Fremont my friend Cletus and I decided it’d be cool to have bikes. We drove to the new Wal-Mart and bought bikes and locks and rode them back to campus. We locked them up at the bike rack outside Gunderson and sure enough a couple of days later someone had broke our cable locks and stolen our bikes with less than 3 miles on them.

By 2000 we’re living in Palmer and we’ve got Wal-Mart bikes again. The kids’ kind of tool around on them in the driveway and on our quiet street. But no one rides much. We went to Dannebrog a few times to ride their trail. It’s really pretty and just the right length for amateurs or small kids. We also went to Grand Island once and rode on their trail.

During the 7 years we had bikes in Palmer I’m sure we didn’t put a total of 100 miles on any of our bikes. Really, no one hardly ever rode bikes in Palmer. Once in awhile we’d see a lycra clad road cyclist that had rode up from Grand Island, but that was a rarity and would surely cause parents to call their children indoors! If you were riding your bike in Palmer you’d more likely than not have a dozen good old boys in pick-ups stop and offer you a ride. You see if someone is riding a bike in Palmer it must be for one of two reasons: 1. Your car is broke down. 2. You’ve got yourself another DUI.

Well, I can’t say that I ever really had the urge to ride my bike while living there. And truth be told I’d have probably been the first good ol boy to pull up and offer a cyclist a ride. But, that was before we moved to Lincoln. Are you keeping score so far? That’s less than 100 miles of bike riding from age 14 to 31.

Cycling – Or as I like to call it “bike riding”. (Lincoln)

We moved to Lincoln in August 2007. And Rex promptly took us out to the Mopac Trailhead off 84th St. we probably went about 1.5 miles toward Walton and back. The wind I felt in my face that day rekindled a bright orange flame and a freedom I hadn’t felt since outgrowing that bright orange bike from my childhood.

As the sun shown through the branches of the tree lined Mopac it flashed in my eyes, bright – dark, bright – dark, the same way the rising sun would flash in the eyes of that freckled faced little redhead boy that I’d seen in the mirror growing up as he would ride North down the gravel road on a cool fall morning on his way to Dist. 37 the sun shown through mature cornrows bright – dark, bright – dark in rhythm with the bumps of that old washboard road.

How could I deny the child in me? Where had he been since then? As a parent I have the duty to provide the same experience to my offspring, don’t I? So, as a good parent (And a guy who wanted a cool bike) I sold the plan to the wife and we got new bikes.

Throughout my blog you’ll hear me preach the truth about how you don’t need anything fancy to enjoy the outdoors. And that is true for bikes as well. The main thing is that you get out there and ride. But, with that said, I felt the need to upgrade from the 10 year old Wal-Mart mountain bike I had. But, I’m not advocating that you should. Riding any bike is better than not riding at all.

Anyway, we just went to look. And you know how that goes…

We looked at Cycle Works, Scheels, Wal-Mart and Target before going to Bike Pedalers. Bike Pedalers had the Marin Comfort Series bikes. They ride like a creampuff. Really comfortable and easy to ride. I mean truly, it was like going from a Pinto to a Cadillac when I first tried one. They are upright bikes. Like a mountain bike. The handle bars are pretty flat, not like a road bike that you’d ride in an aggressive ‘bent down’ position. They have suspension in the seat and front fork. They have wide tires like a mountain bike (MTB) but they are smooth. By now it’s late in September and we haggled them into a sweet deal for 3 comfort series bikes and a MTB for our oldest. Our youngest had just got a bike a year before and it still fit him good. In the spring of 2008 he he got a MTB from Scheels.

And that’s where it all began. I added things to mine as time went on. Bike Pedalers threw in water bottles, bottle cages, and kick stands (usually sold separate) when we bought them. Over time I’ve added a speedometer / odometer, rear rack and bag, air pump, U-lock, front & rear light, pepper spray in a Velcro holder, and clipless pedals.

Far more than a beginner needs. But far, far less than the bikes that are $2000 - $10,000 that a lot of people are riding. And don't forget all the fancy gear and clothes those cyclist are buying.

My hat is off to these athletes on other local blogs that’ll grind out a century (hundred mile ride) on gravel on a Saturday and follow it with another on Sunday. A big part of the reason I’m writing this blog is to encourage others to get out and ride casually and not to feel like riding is only for kids and killer athletes. I want this blog to have a flavor somewhere between - The Streamers on the handlebars, Rainbows and Fairy Dust Cyclist and the Velo Hells Angles.

At first 3 or 4 miles was an exhaustive ride for us. But before long we were riding twice as far without any trouble. If your just starting to ride you’ll notice your rear hurting, you can buy a softer seat or one of those gel pads, but I promise you, that if you’ll ride a little every day or so for a couple of weeks it wont bother you anymore. I’ve also found that it’s really hard to get out and ride when I haven’t for awhile. But, on the same note, when riding consistently day after day you’ll find that it really doesn’t feel right to go a day or two without riding.

I commuted from around 40th & Old Cheney to work at 56th & Cornhusker. A 24.5 mi. round trip most of the summer last year. I’m not one of these die-hard tree huggers that think cars are ruining our planet. But everyday I rode I saved a little over $5 in gas and that was nice. A lot of cyclist you’ll find on other websites and blogs will commute year-round, and I admire them for that. But I’m not even close to one of them. I yield to cold, strong wind, rain & blistering heat. Now that I’ve put on less than 100 miles in the last 4 months I’m finding it tough to get back into it. My heart is into it, and it’s a lot of fun, but my body hasn’t got the memo quite yet.

Last year we took a lot of casual rides with the kids on the bike trails around the neighborhood. On the ‘single track’ dirt MTB trails at Wilderness Park and on the Mopac going east of 84th. But I was the one that got too carried away with this new hobby. Besides commuting to work on the Tierra Williamsburg trail to the Rock Island then down to UNL then onto the John Dietrich trail and then to the office. I also rode all the other trails in Lincoln. Did the Nacho Ride down the Mopac to the One Eyed Dog Saloon in Eagle. I highly recommend that ride to new cyclist. I also loved to ride downtown about 7am on a Sunday morning and ride on the streets, it’s dead down there and it’s pretty cool to feel like you own the streets. I'd also take the Jamaica North to the Homestead Trail and went south to Cortland. I did that a couple of times on Sunday mornings and had breakfast at the caf√© there. And once went on to Beatrice and back. That ride about killed me toward the end, but I was proud of myself for doing it. The whole family went to Hastings for the Annual Kool-Aid Ride, we got about 10 miles into it before a monsoon rained us out and we got sagged back. Besides riding with the wife and kids I rode with Bobbie, Rex, Jim, Steve, Lance and Dennis as well as several of the kids’ friends during last year.

If your new to riding, I recommend picking up a $20 speedometer. Use low gears, pedeling too hard will wear you out fast. Ride on the right side of the trail, and say "on your left" when passing someone. Wear a helmet. Ride often and encourage other new cyclist.

The picture of me holding my bike above me was when I hit my first 1000 miles. I planned it just right so I'd be at 1000 right when I got to the capital and had the wife meet me there with the camera. All in all I put 2000 miles on it last year. This year as my valentines gift, the wife got me entered into the Tour De Nebraska. It’s coming up in June and I need to get serious about riding so I don’t die out there on the tour. I’m really excited and hope to blog about riding as I get ready and while I’m on the tour. Check back often. I’ll be more encouraged if I think others will know if I get lazy.

My final thought is, again, get out and ride, take your family and friends if they’ll go. And whether it’s a mile or a century (stay tuned, maybe I’ll get my first century this year!) be proud of the riding you can get in.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hunter Education

When we got the kids BB guns and started shooting with them in 2004, it didn’t take long and several of the neighbor kids showed up (our house was always the hangout anyway) with their BB guns wanting to join in.

If they were going to shoot around me they had to be safe. And when I one day saw one of them shooting off his back deck at a can in their yard and pointing toward our house I was more than happy to have him join us for some lessons on firearm handling.

I thought that if I’m going to be showing these kids how to shoot, I’d better make sure I’m telling them the right thing. I signed up to become a volunteer Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Firearm Hunter Education Instructor.

I have since taught in St. Libory at the Catholic Church and Palmer at the firehall with Arlo. In Grand Island with Mel and the others at the Grand Island Rifle Club. In Cairo and Boelus with my dad, Dave, Harold, Larry, John, Heath, Rick, Paul, and several others. In Seward at the Efree church, and in Lincoln at the Hunter Ed office and classroom.

Being an instructor has been a way I can give back to the sport and teaching with so many other instructors during the last 4 years has given me a wealth of knowledge and forged friendships with some great hunters. It has also served as a constant reminder that I need to conduct myself in the most positive light in the class room, on the range and in the field.

Nebraska is in need of more instructors and I encourage you to check out the game and parks website to sign up and become a certified instructor. Hunting has benefited wildlife in so many ways! But the number of hunters is dwindling as hunting and shooting are in competition with T.V., video games, and the over scheduled lives that our kids are faced with. It’s a great way to help insure the future of the sports we love and teach our youth about being safe, respectful and responsible outdoors men and women.

Shooting

I was shooting pop cans and paper targets for as long as I can remember. I went on to shoot competitively in 4-H with BB gun, 22 rifle (silhouettes) and Trap (blue rocks) with shotguns. It was a lot easier back then, the competition wasn’t nearly as serious as it is now. We were just a bunch of farm kids that met up each year at the fair and did our thing. I was schooled each year by my friend Gregg and a girl that was a year older. Until my last year (when they were too old). So I do have a couple of trophy’s to remember it by.

We got our oldest a BB gun years ago, I set up some straw bales against the outside of the garage and soon after got the other two Red Riders. We put a lot of holes in paper targets and pop cans those first couple of years. Then I enrolled our oldest in a beginner NRA youth rifle class held at the Grand Island Rifle Club taught by my friend Mel. And later in his advanced youth rifle class. He joined the Grand Island Rifle Club youth rim fire team and they competed at the annual State High School Rifle Competition. They did great as a team and he did great individually too.

I went on to help Mel teach other youth rifle classes and an adult ladies only class. Preparing for the competition we would shoot at least 3 times a week at Larry’s place outside of Palmer. Our oldest bought a 22ca. Salvage Bolt and put 4 power scope on it. All the shooting was done from the standing position at steel silhouettes. We found our own set of silhouettes on ebay and used them for practice. He was really something. I would shoot too while we were out there. It’s shocking how good you can get when you practice a lot.

Around that same time we saw Tom Knapp live in Norfolk. That was awesome! He’s the Harlem Globe Trotters of shooting. And seeing a show like that just fueled the kids’ interest in shooting. I couldn’t wait to get home and try some of his tricks. There is also a 1 hour long show that airs on the History Channel featuring him and some other sharp shooters. One of the tricks is shooting a playing card in half on edge. After a lot of practice I could cut a card at 25’ with a 22ca. I couldn’t do it now, but when we were shooting a lot I could. The 22ca. has always been my favorite firearm. The guns and ammo are affordable, and there is no kick.

After moving to Lincoln I took a NRA handgun class put on by Lincoln Parks & Rec. at the old indoor range near the old National Guard west of the state fairgrounds. That range is going to be demolished and I think it’s a shame. I joined several others at a city council meeting to speak out against the closing and demolition of that range. But they voted in favor of closing it to put in a housing development. Anyway, it was excellent class that I’d recommend to anyone, you’ll be able to find it taught elsewhere too. Many of the students hadn’t ever fired a gun before the class. And by the end we were all consistently getting good scores on our targets. About 5 years ago I got it in my head that I needed a revolver. So I went to a Omaha pawnshop and spent $80 on a 22ca. Well, I couldn’t hit jack with it. And naturally blamed it on the gun. I knew that my skills were fine, only that I needed to upgrade to a Ruger Single Six. After taking the handgun class, I realized that my cheap revolver shoots just fine, it was me that was the problem. But now I’m without a good excuse to buy a new handgun. The lesson here is, often times the shooter needs improving more than the inventory in the gun safe.

While on the subject of firearms I will tell you that I’ve only got the basics, a 22ca. long rifle and revolver a deer rifle, a 50ca. inline black powder and shotguns. I’ve still got every gun I’ve ever had. Each one is sentimental. I admire guys that have rooms filled with every make and model. But I’m definitely not one of them. I believe if you’ve got a safe, mechanically sound modern firearm and practice a lot you’ll be fine. Don’t get me wrong, Cabelas hates when I go into their gun room, because I drool all over the place and it’s a mess to clean up. But if your not a firearms expert your in good company here. I do believe in keeping your guns in a locked safe separate from your ammunition which should be locked up also. And keeping your firearms clean.

As soon as we moved to Lincoln I was on the hunt for a new place to shoot. I found the Lincoln Ikes Chapter and joined. We really enjoy going out there. You’ll also find other ranges in Lincoln that I haven’t shot at and can’t comment on.

Hunting

When I was 8 years old we moved from west of the Ordnance Plant to ¼ section of pasture with some great mature shelterbelts on Hwy. 11 between Cairo & Centura. I would hunt with relatives every chance I got, but I also hunted alone on our new place.

Just like it was yesterday, I can still hear Todd tell me that if I sat real still at the base of a bush near the driveway I’d be able to get a sparrow. So, I sat there as they moved our furniture in the new house. Sure enough, a flock landed in the branches in minutes and my old trusty Daisy smartly dropped one to the ground as a puff of feathers floated off in the breeze. At that moment, I was convinced we were moving into the Garden of Eden!

We had a lot of hogs and the spilled ground corn and 20 hog sheds provided perfect food and shelter for sparrows. I was really greedy when I was a kid, and when my dad said he’d give me a dime a sparrow, that was all I needed to hear. He claimed they spread disease to the hogs. But I supposed it had more to do with getting me to spend time outside of the house with my BB gun. He had a charge account at the hardware store, so I could charge BBs and later 22ca. cartridges whenever I wanted. He never said a word about me charging to his account till I started throwing in candy with my ammo purchases. Then he only told me, I’d have to pay for the candy myself from now on. He never hesitated to pay-up for the sparrows I got, except a few times when my pay would be over $2 on a good day. I’m sure he knows now that it was cheap tuition for lessons that I’ll never forget.

Besides sparrows, we had cottontail rabbits so thick you wouldn’t believe it! I shot a zillion of them, but never put a dent in the population. I got to where I could clean a rabbit in no time flat. And mom never complained about having to cook all those rabbits.

My first ‘real’ gun dad insisted I buy myself, I was 11 when he sold me a H&H break-action single shot DU greenwing 20 ga. with some gold inlay in the lettering. And not long after that my parents gave me a new pump 22ca.

I took Hunter Education in the basement of the Cairo bank when I was 12 with all my friends and some great instructors that I would later teach with. I clearly remember my first duck off the Platte, my first pheasant and dove hunting with my dad around Dannevirke. My first Deer I got with a new Remington 243 ca. pump Duke gave me for my 14th birthday. I got it on Lucile’s river ground that my parents bought 11 years later. I can still point out the tree I was leaning against when it came by. I enjoyed all of the hunting Central Nebraska offered. But as I got older my interest faded and I pretty much quit for nearly 15 years.

As our kids got older (see the Shooting blog to see how it started with BB guns for them) I got back into it and now we go whenever we can. Our youngest never turns down the chance to hunt and our oldest has had a lot of success in the field. Our daughter and the wife haven’t hunted but they like to shoot targets. Our oldest went rifle deer hunting with me last year on the loup and even though he didn’t get a chance to shoot, he was eager to get out again this last season. This year proved to be better, he got a buck on the 2nd day. Our 11 yr old got to go for the first time this last season since Nebraska lowered the age to 10 from 12 to try to get more kids hunting and bring the deer population back under control. He had a youth permit with two tags and filled them both on the first weekend. It took me 4 days to get one. Ha!

They both have bagged a Turkey during shotgun season and since the 11 yr old has more time to hunt he’s harvested squirrels, pheasants, and chuckers. They’ve both spent some beautiful mornings in duck blinds but are still waiting for their first waterfowl.

Our 11 yr old has gone before, but this month was the first time I joined him and my dad at Bunker Hill east of Hastings. Our 12 yr old went shopping with my mom while the three of us hunted. Bunker Hill releases birds, but if you haven’t hunted a place like this I’m here to tell you it’s far more challenging than you might think. I visualized it as standing over a box of birds and shooting as they fly out. Ha! Not hardly, they release the birds and later give you a vague description of where at in their the vast fields. I can testify that they release more than are harvested thanks in part to my poor marksmanship. Places like Bunker Hill have far longer seasons, can harvest both sexes and have no bag limit. They are also an excellent place to work your upland dog. Hunters still need to be licensed and follow all the other hunting laws. Bunker Hill has turned a defunct military ammunition plant into excellent habitat for both their birds and other wildlife that share the property. As well as populate surrounding fields with upland game. And bring in hunters dollars to the local economy.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

ATV Riding

On my 8th birthday my parents gave me a brand new 1984 Honda 125 3-wheeler. It had electric start and the next month I got a rear rack for x-mas. I wish we’d have put an odometer on it, I rode the heck out of that thing around the farm and all over boonie roads and gravel roads. On second thought, It’s probably good it didn’t have a odometer, my parents would have taken the keys if they’d have know where all I’d been.

Dustin, Rocky and I would all pile on and go to the fort we built in the shelterbelt every day after school. I’d take it to all the local farm ponds and the river. I pulled a little homemade boat trailer that I put Duke’s 10’ John Boat on and took it to Floyd’s pond countless times. One summer, other than a few days when it was raining I fished every single day. I rode that 3-wheeler as far north as Little Sherman and Eldon’s pond as far east as Taylors ranch and the tower east of Dannebrog. As far west as the loup and south all the way to I-80. The only time I ever got caught was once with Gregg when he and I were dove hunting and a Game Warden pulled us over. He checked us for our Hunter Ed cards, and made sure our shotguns were unloaded. Maybe because Gregg had a school permit, he decided not to ticket us and just told us to go straight home.

I had some pretty brutal wrecks on that old dog. One with my uncle Bill when trying to climb a dam in the pasture, that one scared Grandma enough that I was taken to the emergency room in St. Paul. And another bad one with Eric and Jason in my dad’s pasture, that one took most of the skin off my face as I skidded on it with the 3-wheeler on top of me and left a scar on my arm from the hot motor.

By the time I turned 16 and got a pick-up the 3-wheeler was shot. Not long after moving to Palmer I realized it must be a city ordnance that everyone have a ATV there. Palmer didn’t have a cop and everyone just drove ATVs around town. It doesn’t take long for a weak man like me to realize that I too needed one. I decided an old 3-wheeler would be just the thing to bring back my childhood. I bought a old Honda 200. It didn’t start real well and I sometimes had to push start it. Before long, my carpet cleaning guy was telling me about Headworks and Nohva and about riding the trails at Halsey. He wanted to sell his 2-wheel drive 300 Kawasaki Prairie 4-wheeler outfitted with a camo cover, front and rear rack bags and gun scabbard. I bought it. It was a big step up from the 200 Honda that I quickly sold. We discovered Headworks near Genoa and Nohva’s infamous jamborees. Soon we added a Kawasaki 220 Bayou for our oldest. We started going to Halsey too. That was our favorite place. I sold the Prairie, then bought a new Honda Rubicon 4X4, I put a front bag and rear rack box on it. I loved that thing and put about 2000 miles on it before selling it.

My grandma Elaine then passed away leaving me money that we used to get the whole family riding. I bought a used Yamaha 660 Raptor and the wife and oldest got Suzuki LTZ 250s and the two youngest got Eton 90 Rs. About this time we also rode in Kansas and kept going to Halsey and Headworks as well as building a trail at my mom’s cousin Larry’s place outside of Palmer and riding on my dad’s loup river ground. Before moving to Lincoln I sold the Raptor. Headworks was only 40 min from Palmer and it was easy to go for a few hours in the evening after the kids got out of school. We tried to avoid going on the real busy weekends. But made it to every Jamboree we could, not so much for the riding but more for the camaraderie and to support Nohva. It was always cool to see some of the really souped up ATVs that would be there.

We haven’t gone riding since moving to Lincoln. We all really loved riding and miss going. In all the time we spent riding we never had a wreck. We all wore protective gear and the kids were usually more timid than aggressive, I’m sure that helped, but we’re still grateful that it was such a safe and fun sport for our family. We need to get back into riding, but since we haven’t found a good (free) place locally and we’re so busy, we haven’t got to it yet.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Camping

Growing up my dad was always a tent guy, and what little kid doesn't like tents? But as I got older I thought campers, a cabin, or hotel was the way to go. Dad didn't agree. And mom was cool with ruffing it too. So we never had a camper growing up. I camped with grandparents in theirs. But still always thought it'd be fun to have a camper.

When I was 16 Duke and Grandma gave me a pick-up camper that I used to sleep in when we rodeoed. I took allot of naps in it between events and spent a couple of nights in it at Hyannis up in the sandhills. I gave it back to him when I got rid of the pick-up I used it on. The dinette turned into a bed. There was an ice box, a heater, and a wardrobe as well as quite a bit of storage in the drawers and cabinets. There was a countertop and a dry sink. No range. No bathroom. It had 12 volt power.

Then early in 2005 we saw an hour long show on the Travel Channel about people that restore old campers and even a club called the Tin Can Club. It looked like a ton of fun. We were living in a big old home built in 1899 and the wife had it filled with antiques and decorated in a Victorian theme. It was really fancy, but we thought it'd be fun to do something wacky. This begins the year of the Vintage Road Trip Camper.

We spent quite a bit of time looking for an old camper. Of course the old Airstreams are about the best, but even the old one's cost a fortune. Well, long story short we drove a few hours north to a huge camper dealer in Mitchell Sd. called Jack's Campers. We found a 14 foot 1970 Teton travel trailer (bumper hitch) it was structurally sound, roof didn't leak and was only $800! We took it home and then to a local body shop. At that time, I had a silver pick-up and asked them to paint the camper (it was a faded white with a wide green stripe) silver so it'd match the pick-up and look sort of 'airstreamish'. I said I've only got $500, it doesn't have to be "car show" perfect, but when we pull into a campground we don't want to embarrass ourselves. They did a great job and it looked allot better on the outside. Then on to the upholstery, it was a pattern of squares and rectangles in browns, harvest gold, etc. (Very 1970's!) I took the cushions into Grand Island to an upholstery guy that did work out of his garage and had them covered in a gray industrial upholstery fabric. It was a real durable and stain resistant fabric. And it looked great. Don't even ask what that cost! Then for the fun part, the wife made curtains out of fabric that looked like old license plates. And we added allot of reproduction road trip decorations as well as some authentic old stuff like license plates and some chrome off old cars. We hung it all on the walls (think Applebee's restaurant) and also hung up a ton of old camping / vacation pictures from our families in frames on the walls. It was really fun decorating that camper.

The Vintage Road Trip camper had a propane range and cold water sink. A propane heater, big wardrobe and a lot of storage for it being such a small rig. There was a full sized fold down bunk over the sofa. The sofa turned into a full size bed and so did the dinette. The kids were real small then, so one would sleep on the floor or if they had a friend with them they’d stay in a tent.

At the time we were really into riding ATVs and took the Vintage Road Trip camper on its maiden voyage to Halsey Forrest. Big problem…It doesn’t work well to pull two bumper hitches in a row. I had the four-wheeler trailer hooked on the back of the camper, and they would sway going down the road after about 45 or 50 mph. Other than that we really loved it. We took it to my dad’s river ground a few of times too. Then early in 2006 we sold it on Ebay for $3200 and came out pretty good on it financially.

We knew that if we wanted to pull the 4-wheeler trailer we would need either a 5th-wheel camper or a motor home. I didn’t want a motor home so we began our search for a 5th-wheel. We had become more refined and knew that we wanted separate beds for all the kids and a bathroom and air. Locally they were all around $15,000 for the used one’s we liked. We also needed something pretty small and light since I just had a ½ ton.

Back to the confuser I went and found our next camper on ebay. It was a 1999 27 foot Mallard 5th-wheel with a gooseneck hitch. It had the bathroom, nice big kitchen area, air, single bunk beds, the dinette became a full sized bed, the sofa folded out in a full and there was a full sized bed in the ‘bed room’ up stairs. It could sleep 8 on 5 different beds. It was in Nacogdoches Texas. I think the south is overwhelmed with RVs, maybe a lot of snowbirds go down there with their campers and then buy a new one while there down there? Anyway, it was just what we wanted. We drove down and got it for $7500.

It was a great camper! It pulled the 4-wheeler trailer great. We spent a night in it on the way back from Texas and we took it to my dad’s river ground countless times, to Mahoney, Windmill, and spent our anniversary with Dustin & Carrie at the Double Nickel at Waco. We spent 30 nights in it during 2006. Then we were low on money and put an ad in the paper and sold it for $10,000.

We miss the fun we had in the campers and we lucked out on the two we had financially. But most of the time they depreciate real badly if their pretty new. You can rent a lot of hotel rooms for what it costs to own a nice camper. Since selling the 5th-wheel, we’ve maybe stayed in tents twice. Honestly, the kids don’t care much either way, they loved the campers, but like tenting it too. I’m no authority on camping, but wanted to share what we had done.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Watercraft

Throughout my childhood my dad, uncles, grandpas', etc. all had boats. And I spent countless weekends at lakes, usually Harlan County Reservoir, and Sherman Dam. When I was 15 my grandpa Duke gave me a old 50's era boat that would seat 5 and had a 50 horse outboard Mercury. It had a white hull and red top, lots of chrome and black upholstery and black engine. He restored it and it was sharp and ran good. I sold it back to him when I was around 22.

After that I got busy with life and didn't have anything to take out on the water. Duke died in 2000 and I borrowed the 'little red boat' a couple of times from my grandma. In the meantime my dad got a air boat to use on his new river ground near Centura and we'd get rides and fish for catfish off it when we went there.

Fast forward to 2008. We're in Lincoln for our first spring and I take the kids to Holmes Lake to catch bluegill. The have a ball. Just using zeboco 202's, a split shot weight, plain hook with some kernels of canned corn and a bobber. Fishing off the rocks on the bank you can see 4" bluegill come out of the rocks and take the hook, one right after the other. It's a hoot. We throw them all back.

Then it hits me, the big blue expanse is calling me, and I get the itch for a boat. I know I can't afford one, and the wife is a bit of a landlubber, but I can't get it out of my mind. I find myself checking craigslist and even looking at a couple of boat stores, Sams Club and Scheels. I decide what I need is a Two Man Bass Boat. Long story short, I tell my grandma about my dream and she tells me that she gave a small boat to my dad years ago for the kids to play on at one of the ponds on his river ground. I call him and ask about it, and he says it's still around, that he never liked it and it hasn't been used. He said I'm welcome to it if I want it. Another quick check of craigslist yields a minkota trolling motor and battery for $75 in Beatrice, a quick drive down there and a trip out to Cairo and I'm once again a seaman! The wife sarcastically calls it "his rubbermaid tote".

It's real small, rated for 1 person or 250 lbs. but since I'm tipping the scales at 150 lbs. and the two youngest are around 80 lbs. I figure we're safe to use it as long as I only take one at a time. I just throw it in the bed of the pick-up and go. We had allot of fun with it all summer last year.

You'd think that would pacify me... wrong, then I get to thinking about all the fun I had canoeing the loup growing up. Hmmm. I need a canoe! So, back to craigslist I go. I watch for a few months and even tried trading a atv trailer for a canoe to no avail. Then one day I check again. And deep into the depths of craigslist I find that UNL's Rec. Dept. is having a inventory liquidation sale. Starting on a Thursday at 10am and continuing through the weekend. It's a worthless ad. And I figure I'm the only guy in cyberspace that has seen it.

The appointed day arrives, I sneak out of the office and get to UNL at 1/4 to 10 feeling confident that I'll get a canoe or two. You see, the ad said they had like 13 or 14 canoes from $30 - $70. (their usually over $200 for a decent used canoe in the paper or online) I neglected to tell the wife about the UNL sale, but I'm thinking I can save face if I pick-up two. One for me and one as a gift for her. (typical testosterone thinking, huh?) Or, if she wasn't delighted with her new vessel I could sell the extra for enough of a profit to cover the one I'd keep. Essentially getting a 'free' canoe and not taking anything away from the family grocery budget. I'm feeling pretty smart!

Back to that morning at UNL, as I round the corner of the building I find a herd of over 50 outdoorsmen! After a few minutes someone from the rec. dept. comes out with numbers 1-60, everyone draws one and the person with #1 gets to go first. They announce everyone can pick up to 3 canoes and when their gone, their gone. I draw # 27 *bummer* I see the guy with #1 and ask him how many he's going to get. He said he wants two, but decided he'd get 3 and sell one. I ask what he'd have to have to sell me the rights to buy his 3rd canoe. We agree on $25. I pick a $60 canoe and when the dust has cleared I've got a nice used canoe for a total of $85. Still well below what it's worth.

That was in January of 2009, we've had it out a couple of times and love it. For one reason or another the wife or 17 yr old hasn't come out on it yet. But it shouldn't be long. Even though she's not much for canoeing, I think I've sold her on the idea of a romantic sunset cruse. I don't know if I've got to stand up and sing as we go under the bridges on Holmes Lake like the gondola guys do in Italy, but I'll let you know how it goes. I told the girlfriend of my 17 yr old about how great it'd be if he took her out on it some quite, serene evening and she ate it up. Even if he'd rather be playing basketball, I'm hoping she'll help get him out on the water sometime soon. Of course he's too busy and too cool to go out with me on it.

A little background.

I grew up around Cairo Ne. spent 4 yrs in Wood River then 7 yrs in Palmer, as we grew spiritually we decided to move to Lincoln in August of 2007. I'm in my 30s with a wonderful wife and 3 kids, a 17 yr old boy, 12 yr old girl and 11 yr old boy.

With a limited budget, and time spent working, at church, and the kids' school stuff most of the fun we have is pretty local.

I hope my blog encourages you to get out and play, and to include those close to you. You don't need the latest equipment or tons of time, just get out there with what you've got every chance you get. Encourage others to take part, be safe, responsible, and project a good image of the sports you love.

Finally, give back, by building awareness, contributing volunteer time or money, and introducing others to the sport, so future generations can enjoy the leisure activities you love.

I encourage you to comment on my posts, tell others about http://nebraskaoutdooraddict.blogspot.com/ and check back often.

Related Posts with Thumbnails