Thursday, June 04, 2015

First Road Trip of the Season.

I don't have any cross country road trips planned for this riding season. My new garden, and some home and yard projects will take up a lot of my time this year. I did manage a nice 4 day trip this last weekend. My riding buddy, John, came up from St. Paul, MN last Wednesday evening.


On Thursday, May 28th, we had the bikes packed and we were off to Oshkosh, WI. We were going to stay in Oshkosh and ride back and forth to the Super Bike races at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI. The races were taking place over the next three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I had booked and paid for three nights at the local Super 8. John had previously purchased the event tickets for all three days. We were set!

At the Oshkosh Super 8.

The MiG-21 we could see from the motel.

Friday morning we woke up and checked the weather. It was looking like there was some possible rain later in the day. After breakfast we thought we'd check out the EAA Museum that was just down the street from our motel. We could have spent the entire day there. More than 200 aircraft, a large library of books and manuals, countless displays of historical artifacts... Too much to see in just one morning.


Everything from a German WWI tri-plane to a Piper Cub. Lots of experimental aircraft and even a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer.

A collection of WWII nose art...


There were even a couple of Harley-Davidson powered airplanes.


Then things went bad... On our way out of the museum it started to rain. We quickly made our way back to the motel. Once we dried off, we checked the radar. It looked like we were in for at least a half day of rain. We waited out the rain while watching the Turner Classic Movie channel and checking the news and radar. By the time it cleared up enough to ride to the track, the races would be over before we could get there.

Saturday wasn't any better. It rained heavily the whole day, and the temperatures had dropped.


Sunday was sunny but very cool. We made the hour drive to the track and watched some practice races and real races. We spent some time walking around the paddock and vendor areas before sitting at turn 5 to watch the races. We both would have liked to stay much later and watch the Supermoto races, but the cool temps and 6 hour ride home made us rethink our staying late.


There were several cool motorcycles at the track. It seems everyone had a scooter or a small bike of some kind. There was even a candy lime green Concours 14.



Even with the rain and cold weather it was a fun weekend!








Saturday, May 09, 2015

Compost Awareness Week?

I never knew that there was such a thing, but there is.

Earlier in the week, I called about buying 2 cubic yards of compost and I was informed that because was "compost awareness week", their product was half price, $8.50 a yard. The problem was that the place selling it is 170 miles from home.

Why would I even consider going that far for composted yard waste? Well, there are several places around me and in neighboring communities that accept yard waste, but NONE of them do anything with the waste. They typically do not charge a drop off fee and the grass clippings, leaves, and tree trimmings are usually just left to rot in a hole in the ground. Nancy and I called several of the contact people listed for these sites, and none of the people we spoke to recommended using their "compost", and I use that term loosely, in a garden. Some of the people we spoke to said that the incoming waste often contained household garbage.... What a waste of a great resource!

In the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, it's a whole different world... Yard waste can't be tossed in the trash for curb side pick up. It has to be recycled, either curb side in a special bin or special large paper bags, or you have to haul it to a yard waste facility yourself. They charge you to drop off material, and they charge for the finished product. It's been that way for many years.

Years ago, when I lived in the suburbs, I made countless trips to the drop off site. When I had a small backyard garden, I made use of a lot of the finished compost. It's a fantastic soil amendment. I had some very productive tomato plants...

1990??

On Thursday, I had business to tend to down in the cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul MN) so I brought along my trailer. I stopped at the Empire Township Compost Facility. I wish I had brought my camera because the piles of product, in various stages of completion, were huge!

I had them dump a FULL skid loader bucket in the trailer and just as much in the truck bed. I would have loved to drive over the scale before and after because it was a big load. I ended up with 2 very generous cubic yards worth of black gold!. The load in the back of the truck was more than 16 inches deep.


The trailer was loaded about as heavy as I'd ever want it loaded. The springs are almost flat and there's not a whole lot of clearance between the tires and the underside of the fenders. I looked after I got home, but I could not see any evidence of the tires rubbing on the fenders. The ride home was smooth, it rode like my old Eldorado.

I did a little figuring as to how much that heavy load really cost me. If I accept that I had to make the trip anyways, and I can normally get a solid 20 MPG with my truck on the trip. The difference in added fuel use wasn't too bad. I gassed up on the way down and again just before I got home. I figured that I averaged 17.6 MPG pulling the trailer. I drove a total of 380 miles on that trip... so.... on a "normal" empty trip, I would have used 19 gallons of gas (380/20=19). The same trip with a loaded truck/trailer, at 17.6 MPG... 380/17.6=21.6 gallons... A 2.6 gallon difference @ 2.499, Thursday's fuel price, it cost me an extra $6.50 in fuel. Not bad for all the miles and extra weight. Even better is the half price product. $34 worth of compost for $17.

On Tuesday, I drove an hour or so away and picked up a truck and trailer load of what was supposed to be "well composted" cow manure. It was advertised on Craigslist as "odorless" and "finished", but in reality it still has an ammonia smell and a lot of the pine bedding is still visible. The contents of the compost should be unidentifiable. I spread only a small amount on the garden and made a large pile of manure near the garden. I'm going to cover it with a dark brown tarp and let it finish decomposing. It should be fine by fall. Also, there was a difference between what each person calls a "yard". This guy's yards seemed a bit light compared to the Empire Facility's...

Manure...

The garden with half the compost spread on top and the manure pile behind it. I'll till this in and add what's still in the trailer...




Monday, May 04, 2015

Harvesting Rocks...

We've been busy with household chores the last couple of weeks. Nancy's been tending to her flower beds and I've been working on our garden. I've had vegetable gardens in the past and they've been very productive. But since retiring and moving north in 2010, this will be my first year with a garden in 16 or 17 years. Funny, but I don't remember it being so much work!

In the 1990's, when I put in my last garden, the soil in my backyard was heavy, with more clay, but there were a lot fewer rocks. I guess the soil of northern Wisconsin is a lot different than it is 150 miles away in the Minneapolis suburbs. I would have liked to buy a new 48" tiller for the back of my tractor, but it made more since to just find an older, walk behind tiller like I had before. I watched Craigslist for a while and found a Simplicity 1005 tiller that was not too far away and at a reasonable price. It's 40 years old but the 5 HP Briggs and Stratton still runs great!.


Tilling the garden has been a lot of hard work. Getting the big rocks out has been the hard part! I till a few feet and dig up a rock, till a few feet, another rock...
I filled the tractor bucket quite a few times and broke a shovel handle trying to get out a really big one. I think I'm just about done harvesting rocks.


Just about ready... 24' x 24' with room to expand. I'll get 3 or 4 yards of compost and get it tilled in by the weekend.


I thought that I was done with my trailer the last time I posted, but I found a few more things to fix. I remember seeing pictures of trailer suspensions that people had forgotten to service. Well, my trailer is 40+ years old, so I thought I should take a closer look at the spring shackles. I'm glad I did. I found a lot of wear in the shackle holes and the bolts that attach them. The holes should be 1/2", they've grown over the years. My riding buddy, John, made me a new set, one inch longer for a bit higher ride. Thanks John!!

Old shackles and bolts...


New...


I added a retaining pin to keep the tail gate from popping out.


I hasn't been all work though. On Sunday, we went for our first kayak ride of the season. We checked the conditions of the Namekagon River on the National Parks Service web site, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) web site. Both showed low water levels, so we decided to put in further down stream than normal, with hopes of finding deeper water. We started at the Spring brook Landing...


...and got out 4.9 miles down steam at the Big Bend Landing...


It was a fun trip, even with a strong head wind. We saw lots of wildlife and heard Chickadees and Pileated Woodpeckers. There were many spots where Turtles were sunning themselves. Often singly, or groups of 2 or 3. We saw one group of about 9 to 12 very large Turtles at one point. But they ducked into the water before either of us could get their picture.


There were several trees that had been chewed on Beavers...


More pictures...

Some of Nancy's...

Spring is here. The grass is green, the trees have buds but only a few have any leaves yet and there are dandelions in the yard.

It's hard to believe but two years ago, on this same weekend, the Fishing Opener, all the lakes in northern Wisconsin were still frozen over...