Slow and Steady Wins the Race

On the 16th, we signed papers on our house and packed up the Penske truck.  I thought I’d have more emotions about the process, but I didn’t.  It was done.  I appreciated the place for not falling down while we were birthing four children, but really, it was time to give the west a rest.

20160617_091757

20160617_091717

I’d love to tell you a grand tale about a wonderful road trip across our beautiful country, but really, riding in a 26′ Penske truck is a bit of a dragonfly experience.

20160623_111801

Dragonfly (adjective):  /Drag n’ Fly/ –  Drag up one hill and fly down the other.

It’s a term that Snuffy (dad) used to use about various semi trucks he was assigned to over the years.  The Penske truck had an engine governor set on it for 70 mph and let me tell you, it worked.  It couldn’t crack 70 mph down a hill with a strong tailwind and a kick in the behind.  By the time we reached Kansas, I was praying for a downhill stretch and by the time we reached Pennsylvania, I was cursing every uphill stretch.  I’d say the average mph for the entire trip was about 55.

Kansas was the only place where I got nervous.  A 26′ moving truck is much akin to a sailboat, and let me tell you, the winds in Kansas can be forceful.  The Mrs. and kids were about 30 miles ahead of me.  They’d grown tired of waiting for me and the big yellow dragonfly miles earlier and we all decided that if they got to the campground an hour ahead of me, that would be a bonus for the kids.  She called to say that she had just skirted a thunderstorm coming from the north and that she thought I’d miss it as well.  I was white-knuckling the wheel when I talked to her and let her know that I was fine.  Really, I was lying.

By that time, the box truck was waving and humping all over the road to the point where I thought it might be prudent to pull over and wait it out.  I’d slowed down to 50 mph and put on my flashers, all the while looking out for funnel clouds that might present themselves.

Then traffic stopped.  The truck began to rock hard and quarter-sized hail started hitting the windshield started about five minutes later.

20160617_175414

Crap.

I texted my wife and told her what was happening, all the while underplaying the seeming severity of the situation.  I pulled out the handheld CB radio I’d procured at the Goodwill months earlier and cracked the on button.

20160617_174401

I’ve heard people say a lot of negative things about truckers (as a subculture), but they are the sages of the road.  They’ve been there, done that and they fully understand the rules of the road.  CB chatter isn’t what it used to be due to the accessibility of cell phones and marine radios, but for most truckers, they are still a standard piece of kit.  I suggest carrying one of these with you on any road trip.  The handheld version limits transmission distance, but if you’re in the middle of the mess, it can (sometimes) give you a way out or basic information that you’d otherwise be lacking.

They said that the wind had blown a semi over about a mile up the road.  I put on my glasses and sure enough, I could see it laying on its side in the distance.  I held onto the wheel as the truck heaved and pulsed in the wind.  I saw people getting out of their vehicles in an attempt to get information about what was happening.  The wind was blowing.  Plenty of lightening.  Hail.  Seems like getting out of your car and walking around is a great thing to do in flip flops and shorts.  I can’t even count the number of people I saw doing just that.  If the pesky .gov wasn’t protecting so many stupid people, the world would be a whole lot more interesting for awhile.

Anyhow, the tow truck arrived and everything was uprighted and pulled away.  By the time the accident was cleared, the bad weather was done and I continued on my way.

So, for future reference:

A handheld CB radio and a pair of binoculars are good pieces of kit to bring on any road trip.  

Other than that, the trip was uneventful at a sloth’s pace.  I can tell you that I’m much more comfortable driving a truck that large than I was when I started.  If you’re considering it, don’t be afraid.  There’s an adjustment period, but it happens quickly.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.

 

No Country for Old Men

…..no place to pee behind a tree, either.

I’ve been off the social grid for awhile.  I’ve been travelling.  A lot.  Here are some pictures to get you up to speed on the beginning.  There will be more posts coming.

20160610_13280520160610_14014520160610_15010620160610_15053420160610_15122520160610_16021220160610_16021520160610_16104520160611_12540920160611_125522

A month ago, my son and I drove my mother-in-law from the Denver area to Phoenix.  We took the back way.  I have to tell you, if you ever want a beautiful drive, start on Highway 285 in Colorado and drive to Phoenix.  It was wonderful.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.

The Ghost in the Gun

Creepy title, right?  Don’t worry, we’re not going to get paranormal at all.  I’m just going to make a small observation.

When dad died last year, I inherited a few of his rifles and all of his pistols.  Among them was a Savage Mark II bolt action .22.  It was a nice little rifle with a scope, but I’ve got more than a few .22 rifles and didn’t need another.  What I needed was a smaller .22 for the kids.  I talked to my nephew and swapped him his Davey Crickett for the Savage.  He got the better end of the deal, but I wanted him to have it.

We finally got the opportunity to shoot it a few weekends ago.  He hadn’t shot in a long time, so we went through basic safety, then I showed him how to shoot the gun.  For a guy who had never used a scope, he did okay.

20160528_13015620160528_13112520160528_13103420160528_132032

Before I let him shoot, I took a crack at it.  I don’t have pictures, but I was hitting low and to the left.  My heart sank a little.  I inherited my mom’s Remington Model 788 in .243 about fifteen years ago.  My dad was the one who lined it in all those years back.  It always shoots low and to the left and I’ve always just compensated for it instead of fixing it.  I asked him about it when I got the gun and he said that the weight and stance of one shooter to the next would make a gun hit in slightly different spots for different people.  Every gun I’ve ever shot that he lined in was low and to the left.  The legacy endures, even where you aren’t expecting it to.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.

 

 

 

 

 

Feet Per Second

I’ve got yard rabbits.  Like, rabbits that I let loose in 2014, expecting they’d be eaten by the fox during the night.  They’ve been here ever since.  Many rabbit folk say that a domestic rabbit can’t live on forage alone.  They’re wrong.  The two girls in my yard have done just fine.  In fact, they’re fat with hardly any help from me.

I caught one last year in a live trap and bred her to a buck.  Just to see if it worked.  It did.  A month later, I saw her pull fur.  Four weeks after that, I saw pea-sized bunny babies skittering out from under my shed.  There were seven in all.  All but one were killed by predators.  The last one we figured was a buck, due to the way he was built.  We called him Thunder.

Thunder was about a year old.  Rabbits can breed at 4 months (that’s pushing it a bit), but we’d seen no action between he and the girls until recently.  When he did mount them, they kicked him off.

Apparently, he closed the deal with one of the does, though.  I caught her pulling fur and stashing it under the deck the other day. Being that we’re selling the house, that isn’t ideal.

I went to Sportsman’s Warehouse to pick up some .22 shorts.  I usually buy CCI shorts and look for something in the neighborhood of 710 fps. I know those rounds are quiet and I can do basic jobs without being heard around the house.  They were out of CCIs.  All they had were these.

image

None of the boxes listed feet per second.  Based on grains, I thought I’d be be okay with the 20 grain rounds, but the sales guy pushed me to buy the subsonics.  I grabbed the Super Extra Shorts figuring they’d be pretty close to the 20 grains and pack a little more punch at 29 grains.

When I got home, Thunder was out in the yard.  I got the kids’ bolt action Davey Crickett .22 and nailed him in the head with a 20 grain.  It was over long before he knew what was happening.  I looked him over.  He was very healthy.  He had never spent a day in a cage and I’d fed him vegetable scraps at most.  He was a self-made bunny.  He was as big as my cage raised rabbits, if not larger.

image

Afterwards, I decided to try the Super Extra Shorts, thinking they would be similar to the 20 grains.  Man, was I wrong.  I stood in the dining room and fired out the back door and the gun made quite a *crack*.  I laughed and slid the door shut quickly and my wife scolded me for a moment.  I’m certainly glad I didn’t try the subsonics.  The .20 grains will do for now.  Though at $5.00 a box, they’re a little cost prohibitive.

I didn’t worry about the cops showing up.  I learned that lesson through my dad.  He came to visit a few years back and was working on my black powder rifle on the back deck.  He got something stuck somewhere and ended up firing off a shot in the back yard with no lead.  It was pretty loud.  I freaked out, but the old man just stood out there, still working on the gun.  Nobody came.  Mind you, my neighbors are probably 150 feet away.  I asked what he was going to do when the cops came and he said he would tell them exactly what happened and ask them if they wanted to fire off a shot.  By that age, he was at the point where he didn’t give a crap.  Now I understand why.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel….out.

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Lessons from the Mall

I hit the mall about once or twice yearly, for whatever terrible reason.  Today, we ended up at a mall and had to stay there for a couple of hours.  As painful as that can be, we made the best of it and saw a few things of note.

First up, axes!  There’s an LL Bean store at the local mall and, being from Maine originally, I had to stop in and check out their overpriced awesomeness.  I milled around for a bit and found myself in front of the rack with hatchets and camp axes.  I saw Gransfors Bruks, Wetterlings, and I was more than a little surprised to see Council Tool represented on the rack.  Council Tool, as far as I know, is the last manufacturer of American made axes.  They are based out of North Carolina.

It’s a decent hatchet with the LL Bean logo embossed on it.  Three or four years ago, Councils were selling between $40 and $60 bucks.  Apparently, they caught on to the fact that axes have a cult following and there are those out there that believe that the more you pay for an axe, the better it is.  Viva la capitalism.

After that, we headed for the doll shop.

20160415_133318

Oh.my.word.

So, I wasn’t aware of this, but there’s a very popular doll line that has stores dedicated to it.  If you can believe it, this store has a hair salon for dolls.  And people bring their dolls in to have their hair done.  And it’s not considered theft, because it’s consensual.

20160415_132530

I decided to use the bathroom while I was there.  It was the cleanest bathroom I’ve ever been in.  Apparently because no men have ever entered.

20160415_133045

My thoughts went to the next economic crisis.  I know, I know, doomsday crier. Ruining everything that’s fun!  But how do you compete for a job to feed your family when you’ve got “doll hair stylist” on your resume?  I felt bad for those people.  Maybe we’re all in the same boat with a hole in it, but I can’t help but think that those with a more practical skill set are going to be much better off in the next economic crash.

Lessons were to be had, as well.  Eldest boy was miserable in the doll store.

“I’ll never forgive any of you for bringing me to this horrible store,” he said.

20160415_133542

This was the prominently displayed face.  None of the people that worked there seemed surprised by it.

I explained to him that one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned in life is to show interest in things that the people that I love are interested in, even if I think those things are not worth spending time on.  I’ve watched men bring women to boat and sporting shows and refuse to go to quilting shows to reciprocate.  Often times, relationships like that end in divorce.  I made him stay as long as his sister wanted to and even pointed out when I thought a display was neat.

I won’t be spending any more time at the mall this year, if I can help it, but it sure was a lesson-filled day.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel……out.

 

 

It Doesn’t Make a Sense (A Colorado Real Estate Rant)

Colorado.  When the tech boom happened in California back in the late 1990s, Colorado became the alternative for Californians fleeing the real estate prices that were a result of the tech boom.  That created a real estate boom in Colorado, and since then, the prices have slowly crept skyward, with an exception here and there.

We bought our house in 2005.  At the time, it was 1,100 square feet and boasted (by Colorado terms) a half acre lot.  We’d been looking in the $180,000 range all over the foothills and hadn’t found much that was acceptable.  Our house was $220,000, and while it seemed overpriced even at the time, they gave us a loan on it and we’ve been here ever since.

After the Great Recession hit back in 2008, we watched the value of our house plummet to about $160,000.  It’s certainly disturbing when your “starter home” looks to be more of permanent thing.  We decided to stick it out and, true to form, the real estate market has rebounded.  I’m not sure if it’s the legal marijuana in the state or the fracking that was happening up until recently, but we’ve entered another boom.  People have decided that Colorado is a great place to live.  It’s interesting, because I’m feeling less and less of Colorado’s awesomeness every day.

Rewind back to last summer.  The Mrs. and I were looking around at other properties.  We’ve agreed that while we can handle a small house, we need a larger lot.  We like to grow things (tinyhomesteaders.com) and here on the Happy Half Acre, it’s just difficult. We’re at 8,600 feet above sea level.  Plants hate growing here.  Anyhow, last summer I found a place at a lower elevation that was still in the foothills that had a larger lot for $225,000; $5,000 more than we had paid for our place back in 2005.  We decided to check it out.

What I found was a shotgun shack that looked like it needed to be knocked over.  When I looked in the window, I saw dog turds on the floor.  $225,000 for a shotgun shack with turds on the floor.  I knew that the times were changing.  Within a month or two, someone had purchased the house and bulldozed half of it.  I was amazed.

Fast forward to this weekend.  One of my bosses put her house up for sale.  She recently got remarried and is moving in with her husband.  She bought the house on the outskirts of Denver three years ago for $230,000.  It’s on a postage stamp sized lot and is 1,800 square feet.  She listed the house on Thursday at 11:00 am.  Friday evening, she sent me a text saying that she had just walked by her house and it looked like a keg party.  She said there were 30 people waiting outside to get into her house.  By her estimates, she had over 150 showings this weekend.  150.  I know places that have been on the market (in other states) for over a year and haven’t had half as many showings.  She listed the house at $280,000 and expects competing bids to exceed the asking price.  For a house.  In the suburbs.  Where you really can’t do much outside.  Where a three year old could throw a rock and hit the house next door.  What the heck is going on?

Warren Buffet had a saying that went something like, “When people get scared, get greedy.  When people get greedy, get scared.”  I’m not sure how that should be applied to our current situation, but I feel like I’m watching a bunch of sharks fight over a blood sample.  Maybe it’s time to give the West a rest.  Maybe it’s time to hold tight.  People have been saying that there’s a storm coming for quite some time.  Maybe it has already started.

  • Shortly after I posted this, she sent me a text to let me know that there were over 300 showings and she had 20-30 offers on the house.  Amazing!

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscr, Hotel…..out.

Properly Defining the Anatomy of an Axe

All Terms Roughly Borrowed  from The Ax Book, by D. Cook

Axes.  If you’re going to use one, you should know what you’re talking about.  For me, it all started with a hatchet I got at Big Lots and has slowly exploded from there.   What I didn’t know is that there are words to properly define different parts of the axe.  You probably know them all.  I didn’t, so I’m sharing what I learned in The Ax Book.

Axe Head.  If you have trouble remembering this one, you should not be at this blog.

 

The “Bit“, otherwise defined as the cutting edge.
 Upper Corner or “Toe” of the Bit.

 

Lower Corner, or “Heel” of the Bit.

 

The Eye.

 

The Poll (or back of the axe), according to D. Cook, “a solid mass of metal that aids balance and control of the axe.  He also adds, “The poll should not be used as a hammer.”:

Axes are very simple tools, but you must always remember that they changed the world and society.

Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.

A Hike With the Rolling Stones

20160213_110314

We went to the bus on Saturday.  It was a good trip.  I think we saw close to 150 pronghorns.  I was fantasizing about shooting a couple only to remember that my friend had shot one and said they taste pretty terrible.  Look into the hills.  With the trace snow, the prongs blend in beautifully.  Click on the pictures if you can’t pick them out.  They’re there.  It’s almost like a Bev Doolittle painting.

20160213_110330

In addition to our four kids, we brought along our nephew, Sam.  We went hiking and he and my eldest boys and Sam stumbled upon something.

20160213_141252

A rock.  On top of a rock.  On a hillside.  A steep hillside.  Oh, the joy.

You heard it here, folks.  Had cavemen practice Leave No Trace methods, we’d have never come up with the wheel.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…..out.

 

 

 

Smith & Wesson Model 17-6

It’s not you, it’s me.  I’ve said that more than a few times.  In this case, it really was me.

When my dad passed last August, I inherited his pistols.  He had some pieces  that I probably never would purchased, mostly because I’m broke.  He was as well, but he appreciated a good pistol and tended to spend his tax returns on fun stuff.

20160213_123346

This is his Smith & Wesson 17-6.   My mom encouraged me and my brother to “help” her buy it for him back in the 1980s.  We contributed money earned from our paper routes, delivering the Bangor Daily News every morning.  She paid for the lion’s share, and we contributed our bits.  Dad had many Smiths, almost all with the Dirty Harry style 8 3/8″ barrels.

This one in particular is fun to pull out at the range.  I get a lot of looks when I point it down range.  However, when I shoot it, I get a lot of raised eyebrows.  It’s chambered in .22 long rifle.  People see the barrel and assume it’s going to roar and knock things over, but instead, there’s a whole lot of *pew-pew-pew* action.

From Wikipedia:  S&W also shipped the Model 17 featuring a 4″, 6″ or 8 3/8″ full under lug barrel. The “under lug” was a solid, blued steel, circular rod, cast as part of the barrel, and running under the barrel from the front of the cylinder yoke to the muzzle’s end.. The under lug not only enclosed the ejector rod, it also added considerable weight to the gun itself. The under lug model shipped with a special round butt wood grip that featured inletted finger grooves. The 4″ Model 17 Under Lug is infrequently seen and quite possibly manufactured as an afterthought using factory shortened 6″ or 8 3/8″ under lug barrels.

20160214_101446

Can you imagine?  No, really!  Make that enormous .22 HEAVIER.  Sure, the designers said.  I’m sure that someone will argue that it cuts down on recoil.  Stahhhhp!  It’s a .22!

When I was in Maine taking care of dad’s estate, I test fired it.  My accuracy with it was horrible. I threw it in the pistol case and sent it home to Colorado.  I pulled it out a month ago when I was at the range and had much the same experience.  It made me not want the pistol, which I was struggling with because of its origin.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – I’ve got two people that I really look to when I need gun advice – our very own B&A Stowaway and my dear old Uncle Bern.  Uncle Bern knows Smiths, so I dropped him a line complaining about the pistol.

204205562-L
The grips are similar to the ones shown in this picture (calguns.net)

He suggested that I change the grips.  I was a little puzzled.  It came with these funky grips,mentioned above in the Wikipedia article, which were a bit big for my hands and contoured in a way that just wasn’t comfortable to me.  I dug through Dad’s stuff and came up with the grips in the first picture.  They weren’t a perfect fit on the pistol, but they fit my hand better.

I’ve also been talking to B&A about stance and hold on pistols.  He’s a certified NRA Firearms Instructor and had some great tips.  For years, I’ve been standing side-to, right arm extended, with pistol in hand.  I changed my stance to facing forward, left hand cupping my right hand.  That also seemed to improve things.  I think my dad taught me the first position, stating that standing side-to made you a thinner target for enemy fire.  Being that no enemies have fired on me thus far, I found it okay to change my shooting stance.

I’m learning a lot about trigger pull as well, more in action than theory.  In the past if a piece had a poor trigger, I either worked around it or got rid of it.  My Dad’s Smiths have no trouble in that department.  He either had them worked on by a professional Smith repairman or fixed the triggers himself.  Some would consider them very touchy.  I’m starting to understand that’s part of accuracy.  Why?  If you’re pulling a six-mile-long trigger on a double action only pistol, the muzzle is going to move ever so slightly as you’re pulling on that trigger, knocking off your accuracy.  Sometimes you move much more than you ever could imagine.  All of this is making me rethink my purchases of DAO (Double Action Only) pistols in the past.  Revolvers have fallen out of favor in recent years, but I’m starting to understand what my dad meant when he used to say, “There’s nothing more reliable than a wheel gun”.

20160214_101425

All of these things have repaired my relationship with this gun.  I brought it out over the weekend and implemented everything.  Needles to say, things have changed.  I’m not a crack shot with it by any means, but I’m hitting targets decently and found myself walking away with a positive attitude on the gun.

20160214_101413

Stay tuned.  I’m losing my vision capabilities in my right eye, so I’m experimenting with shooting with my left.  This should get interesting.

Mike, Oscar, Hotel…out.