DSCF2087Most of the machines of mobility I write about here have at least wheels and usually an engine too, but the humble horse is a damn good means of mobility too. Put those horses and riders in the snowscape of a midwest winter and it’s too much for this writer to resist. So after writing this post on the 2013 ride and this post on the 2014 ride I spent most of december in Florida the last 3 years and missed the ride.

But this year, thanks to my greedy trailer park landlady in Florida and with due credit to this mild winter, I’m back and enjoying the ride again. The ride has grown bigger and better with a new contingent of walkers and riders from the Sisseton, South Dakota area joining the group midway as well as the runners doing an all night relay from Fort Snelling to join the group for the closing ceremonies in Mankato, Minnesota at the site of the unjustified hanging of the Dakota 38.

So the ride has grown, and for the better- As well as honoring the Dakota 38+2 and all the victims of that sad and uncalled for war, young activists are bringing their issues such as the tragedy of the too many missing and murdered native women and children and the pollution threat of oil pipelines to the ride. Along the way, natives and European immigrants alike are finding common ground organizing support for and enjoying the ride. The ride is also a massive logistical effort with a whole fleet of support vehicles expertly organized and driven by largely native drivers and helpers. Native Americans seem to have a natural talent for driving and fixing vehicles… If you need a truck driven safely through our midwestern winters, put a native behind the wheel!

Hope to see you along the ride next year…DSCF2096

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Five years ago I’d shoveled out that cut through the snowmass only to have it blow closed again overnight. I gave up and headed to Florida…

DSC_1898This year after the second 8~10 inch snow this month: DSCF2177Doesn’t look like it, but the snowfall is similar to the above picture from five years ago. The baby John Deere tractor is a game changer, not only is the driveway cleared full width, but the snow piles and drifts have been pushed back enough that it won’t get blown closed by tonight’s forecast 30 MPH winds. After making light work of the driveway yesterday morning, Fawn Deere plowed out a couple hundred yards of county road to help free a semi and SUV stuck in the drifts.

So Minnesota winters don’t look so bad any more, and I’m in no big rush to get back to Florida… Though my landlady’s evictions and such just to jack up the lot rent are a factor too…

 

DSCF0122Railroads are hard to kill… It took overbuilding and competition by Interstate Highway subsidized trucking to bring down the legends like the Milwaukee and Rock Island, and much of those railroads are still turning a profit under other names. The weakest railroads having been sliced and diced by the bankruptcy courts, the 21st century has seen no big railroad bankruptcies. But CPR was the third of four railroads the late Hunter Harrison trying to downsize to even higher profits and it shows… Here’s the 2014 edition with much more detailed decorations, including the rooftop Christmas tree that has disappeared. The Holiday train had even better power in previous years, with a new 6000 horsepower GE instead of the current 2000 horsepower rebuilt GP20.

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Over these last few years there have been regular rumors that this years Holiday Train was the last… I was told the 10th anniversary train would be the last, and here’s the 20th, and the performances and CP workers dedication to the train are as good as ever. DSCF0144Bungling CEOs couldn’t kill Canadian Pacific, the only railroad I know of with an archivist on staff, Maintenance Of Way workers that still tend the track side grave of a co-worker that died building the railroad a century and a half ago, and will send a locomotive to do a whistle blowing slow roll by at the internment of a deceased child railfan.

DSCF0133But you can’t kill a great railroad… CP Holiday Train, highball!

 

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This is why I’m not too concerned that my trailer park landlady is trying to evict me so she can get outa my 99 year lease and flip the lot into more profitable short term rentals. This is why I really don’t care that there doesn’t seem to be a VW dealer in south Florida that can do an oil change, never mind an alignment without trashing the cars suspension. This is why I really don’t care that there’s one old skool BMW dealer left in the state,

Was planning my usual migration to my tin shack in the swamp otherwise know as Naples, usually undertaken after the December city council meeting. But after a cold november and a weekend dump of 8 inches, the weather cleared up and now we’ve got highs above freezing every day and no snow in the forecast= May as well hang around to catch the CP Railroad Holiday Train and the Dakota 38+3 Memorial Ride!

Then I receive a slanderous Certified Mail greeting from the aforementioned landlady’s purported lawyer claiming my trailer to be a fire hazard and worse and demanding my and it’s removal from the “park” that same day. Called the landlady to inquire what the problem was and she informed me that the tattered tarp on the roof of the “Florida room” AKA tin shed trying to pass itself off as a living room needed to be removed. OK, I can do that as soon as she drops the eviction so I can actually set foot in her “park” to effect said tarp removal. Says she’ll call her lawyer and get back to me… Now this is the lawyer who represented her in a previous eviction of a paid up tenant just because said landlady wasn’t allowed to bless a sale of the lease, resulting in six figure legal bills when her lawyer lost the case… I fully expect to be served with an unlawful detainer, TRO, and probably some homemade “parking tickets” too as fast as the mail can carry them.

So listen up, Florida promoters… We northerners (ya, we noticed the confederate elements in your flag) probably don’t need you anymore!

And a full house it is…

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Winter means time to bring the bikes in for a bit of R&R and clear some space in the shop in case I need to fix a four wheeler. From left to right is the now whole R80ST awaiting a few finishing touches to it’s restoration, the $25 Yamaha MX250 barnyard find, my brothers XS650, Guzzi Quota, and the R100GS. Behind the dueling dual sports is a Motorvation Spyder sidecar that’s moving back to the ST after a couple years of  being motivated by the GS.

Still trying to get motivated to make it to Florida… Weather has been nice other than last weekends 8 inches but dry weather forecast for the next week. Hoping to make my Teamster retirees lunch and get some fresh photos of the Holiday Train and Dakota 38+3 Memorial Ride  this coming week before I surrender and head south.

 

Long time readers have probably noted that I’m a fan (or sucker for) cheap mass produced stuff. For example, without Costco’s $8 100 liter stack-able and nest-able molded plastic storage boxes my life would be totally disorganized instead of merely disorganized. Thanks to Costco and the plastic molding industry, my car and bike parts are neatly separated into their own exclusive 100 liter boxes and stacked 5 high in the back room awaiting the call. But I wanted more… For $8 total waterproofing was probably too much to expect, and they will take on a warp if you unevenly load a hundred kilos of whatever in ’em.

So I been on the lookout for some sturdier tool boxes with gasketed gates for water proofness and easy lockability. I’ve found a too small 10 liter or so box on closeout at Lowes and 20 and 25 or so liter boxes in Stanley and Dewalt brands, same company. But I really had my eye on their DeWalt “Tough System” boxes, a neat little system of interchangeable boxes, carriers,etc.. FFI: Click here for link. So comes black friday and Home Despot has a 3 box set with integral 2 wheeler for a hundred bucks, and they even had them in stock so I pounced. Been busy neatening up the house until I realized I should be getting packed for my annual migration to Florida, which provided a convenient excuse to quit cleaning. So today I finally got around to load’n ’em up with tools, here’s the “little” 15~ liter box…

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This is a remix of the “quick service” toolboxes I put together back in the 70s, problem was that my old cars needed tools aboard but the ‘hood I lived in meant I dared not leave them in the car. So I filled one of them then new fangled plastic tackle boxes with rachets and sockets up to around 3/4″, wrenches in the same sizes, screwdrivers, and assorted useful odds and ends. The whole package weighed under 10 kilos and was thus easy to tote in and outa the car for safekeeping. This remix is even more commodious, and holds a few more of my last 4 decades accumulation of tools… Heck, with everything I got in this “little box, I may never need to open the “bigger” box…

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I apologize, I haven’t managed to fill this box yet either… Maybe I “need” to buy more tools! Paper towel roll provided to help ya gauge the size and because I was too lazy to pick it up. Got a screw jack, big wrenches, pry bar, tire kit, and some spare ‘lectric bits in there and still room to spare. Don’t know what I’m gonna find to fill the “big” box…

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What the heck am I gonna do with all this space? Did a test fit and found I can fit a 2 person tent, 2″ thick ThermaRest, and 3 season synthetic bag in their without even having to slam the lid closed, never mind sit on it. Gonna hafta buy more “stuff”…

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Here’s the whole assemblage together, the bottom box has wheels and the handle folds down to clear low hatchbacks and such. All the boxes lock together for stability, or unlock and rearrange them for tight fits. For a gearhead with a half dozen cars and bikes and hacks in regular use, the versatility of these boxes is a dream come true… I can grab just the top box for short trips on the newer bikes or cars, or the whole arsenal of tools when wandering farther from home with the “historic” vehicles. And please note that the ST in the background is now pretty much completely assembled and even runs, and please don’t ask what’s up with the pillow on the couch… I’m cheap!

They’re back to regular price today, but the way the retailer’s promotions work we’ll probably see them on sale again soon. I’ll certainly grab more boxes or another set, could put my whole camping “house” in the bottom box, a week’s clothes in the middle box, and makeup (who am I kidding, us ol’ ladies fill our makeup bags with lotions, pills, cough drops, etc…) in the top box. 80+ liters of secure waterproof storage for a hundred bucks… can’t beat a deal like that. Good readers, please use to comment feature to let us know if you see these on sale. And DeWalt, if you think I’m a good “influencer”, send me a free set and I’ll be happy to tell the world that you tried to bribe me!

I was ready to spend over $1000, and bumbling retailers left most of it on the table!

Like many of you, I keep a good mental list of things I need or will soon need and watch for good deals, so I was ready and able to spend some serious money. I refuse to shop on thanksgiving, so first stop friday was Bomgaars, a midwest farm & hardware store where most everything was 20% off (% off is much better than a few select low quality items on sale). The strange logic of Bomgaars’ dicatates that you pick up a 20% off coupon by 10am which can be used all day, so I hopped back in the car and headed to Mac’s Hardware in Sioux Falls where tools were 40% off ’til 10am. I got too many tools already, but found amongst the junk tools a gear puller I needed and a small hatchet/hammer for camping. On to Home Despot where the $7 27 gallon storage boxes were MIA, but the DeWalt waterproof “tough system” tool boxes I’d been eyeing for a while were still around, so I scored a 3 piece set for around a hundred. Need a nose jack/wheel for a trailer, but the line to pay up at Northern Tool was hopeless so I retreated to the sanity of Costco for lunch and a few items. Stopped at Bomgaars on the way home and scored some LED trailer lights, but the 600 pounds of wood heating pellets I was going to buy? Looked like all the new help they’d hired had torn open most every bag while learning how to run the forklift. Of 8 bags on the first pallet only 2 were dry, and the second pallet they got some more forklift practice bringing in was no better=No sale!

Wasn’t planning to make the 110 mile drive to Mankato on Saturday, but with my major source of heating fuel full o’ wet pellets and Fleet Farm offering them for half a buck a bag less and they were probably dry, I hooked on the trailer so I could double the load and headed that way, while debating if I should stop by Harbor Freight and get the motorcycle lift I’ve been needing for years. Decided heat for the winter was more important and scored 1200 pounds of wood heating pellets which will probably get me thought the winter and a couple small items, but the “tough boxes” I was hoping to add to the set from Home Despot were nowhere to be found.

So Sunday brought good driving weather and I was still short the motorcycle lift and 27 gallon boxes. Harbor Freight’s website can’t do real time store inventory and no point in running 70 miles to Sioux Falls with the trailer in case they had one. But 40 miles away in Brookings Lowes’ website promised the same boxes and some shelving I needed too. Browsing Lowes I drooled over an awesome USA made supersized tool box, damn near $800 on sale but it’d be the last box I’d ever need… I’d a bought it but I didn’t have the trailer with. Found all of 2 storage boxes in definitely the wrong aisle where they’d probably been abandoned so left them for a more desperate customer as they were the last in store, their inventory said 10 in store and those were already sold. Settled for the shelves and a digital infrared thermometer for my SIL with numb hands, and at checkout was charged full price for the shelves, headed for returns and got my money back=no sale! Later read that Lowes’ website crashed and while back up, inventory hasn’t been updated in days.

So I tried to spend a couple thousand dollars this black friday weekend and incompetent retailers left over half of it in the table. Traffic was light all weekend and parking plentiful, so I’m not the only discouraged consumer. Online competition ain’t killing retail, it’s their own sloppy inventory management, underpaid and undertrained workers, and arrogant refusal to listen to customers that’s doing them in. And if I can’t even buy half of what I went shopping for because it’s lost in the store if it ever even made it to the loading dock, how much is this retail dysfunction costing the economy?