February 24-
    I have two apologies. First I am sorry for not keeping my regular schedule and writing on Sunday. Second, I apologize that this entry is not going to be a particularly long entry. Nora and I went out of town over the weekend and were a little busy preparing for the trip most of last week, so I did not get out on the sled or even much on foot. So I do not have a single picture to share with you from this neck of the woods, but do have a few from our travels.
    Our weekend travels took us to San Antonio TX. Nora and I decided to add an adoption agency and they are located in San Antonio. They had an orientation event over the weekend, so Nora and I flew out on Thursday evening and returned on Sunday. I have a very unusual schedule in that my day starts at around 4 am and I typically am in bed by around 8 pm. San Antonio is on central time, so that means I was up at 3 am their time and all the activity with the agency took place in the evening and we did not get to bed until 11 pm. So Friday was a very long day. You would think I would have had no problem sleeping in on Saturday, but not the case. I was up at around 5:30 local time and then Saturday's activities started at around 9 am and did not finish up until around 11 pm, so it was another long day. Then our flight home started in San Antonio at 5:45 am, so we had to be to the airport at 4:45, so we had to wake up at around 3:45. 
    So in a nutshell, I had three nights in a row with about 5 hours of sleep. I am not good at functioning with that little sleep. There was enough in the weekend to keep my adrenaline going, so I was ok. However, once home, I hit the wall. So I did not have the energy to write on Sunday. Then yesterday was a busy day playing catch up and by the time I finally had time to write, I was falling asleep, so just decided to put things off for one more day.
    Things went well at the orientation. Nora and I were impressed with the organization and they have a great track record, so we are excited for the new prospects. I did my regular work while down there on Friday and then we did have the afternoon off so Nora and I did a little sight seeing. San Antonio is probably most famous for the Alamo and their Riverwalk. We were blessed with beautiful weather while down there. Friday it hit 74 degrees and was mostly sunny with very low humidity. Just perfect to be out and about and enjoying things. As much as I love the snow and winter, I can fully admit that it felt wonderful to be able to walk around without a jacket on and to feel the warmth of the sun as well.
    Nora and I had a nice lunch of Tex/Mex overlooking the Riverwalk and then headed to the Alamo to see what that was all about. There really were not too many folks at the Riverwalk. A few locals were out for an afternoon stroll, but there did not seem to be too many tourists there. The Alamo was a different story. Not that it was mobbed with tourists, but there were still quite a few there. Nora and I enjoyed walking around the grounds of the Alamo and taking in an important part of Texas and US history. I was just surprised to read that the whole battle took place because 1000 soldiers from Mexico showed up to rent a car and there was none to rent.
    Nora and I did go to see the puppies last week, but forgot the camera, so I do not have any new picture of them to share with you, but I can report that sweet little cuddly Millie was a regular tornado of energy when we visited. All she wanted to do was to play with her dad. The yellow male that is her dad (Tanner) is about 2-3 years old and just loves children and puppies and he loves to play with his kids. He would lay down on his back and them Millie would come running and pounce on him, growling and laying across his neck. Then she would run off and play with someone else for a moment and then return to Tanner to play some more. She was playing so hard she had to stop to pant every once in a while. A big difference from the little puppy that just wanted to lay in Nora's arms the whole time we were there the previous two times. Huck was more laid back. He was content to lay on a blanket or in mine or Nora's arms most of the time, but did get up to play a bit as we were getting ready to leave. Nora and I plan to go see the later this week for one final visit before we pick them up on the 7th of March.
    Well, I think that just about covers it for this one. Just a head's up that there will not be a journal this coming weekend. I am headed to WY to play for a week. Nora will be staying back and manning the fort. She will be busy preparing the house for the puppies arrival and hanging out with some family that will be staying here while I am away. So it will be a bit of a wait for the next entry, but those are always doosies, so until next time...
Good night from the Keweenaw..

-
JD-

This business directly sponsors johndee.com  

February 15-
    Greetings! Before I get into the events of the past week, I have just a few more items regarding the Ride-In. I finished all the accounting work with it and we raised over $7400 so far. I say so far because there are still a few donation buckets out that need to be collected. I would say that they all combine a couple of hundred bucks more, so it is probably safe to say that this years event raised over $7500 dollars! That is just fantastic and I thank all that made this happen. I did leave off a few names on the thank you list I put up last week. One of the risks of making a list I guess. I have added them and rather than risk leaving out the ones that I left off in the first place, will not make a second list. But to those that were left off last week, I apologize! 
    I also put together the collage for this years event and you can see it here, or follow the links from the main page of the site. If you want to send me pics from the event, I will be happy to add them to the collage as well. The dates for next year have been picked and they are Friday, January 29th and Saturday, January 30th, 2010. Note, that is NOT Superbowl weekend. The Superbowl happens later next year and is the same weekend as the MI Tech Winter Carnival and there is no way I want to try and have my event happen the same weekend as Winter Carnival! So mark your calendars, Jan 29th and 30th next year.
    Now back to this week's events. The first item is a carry over from last weeks big news that we will be adding 8 legs to the Dee Household in less than 3 weeks. I have to admit that it is strange to know that there are two puppies with our name on them, but yet they are not living with us. Nora and I are both very excited to have them come live with us and we just had to go and see them again this week, so on Wednesday we drove over to pay a visit. They had all just finished eating when we arrived, so all of the puppies were pretty calm. The owners asked if we wanted to take them outside and it being a mild day, we said sure. Little did we know that this was the maiden voyage to the great outdoors for the pups! I was holding Huck and Nora had Millie. As soon as we stepped outside, I noticed Huck immediately start sniffing. Really is something how scent is such a huge part of a dogs world. Once outside, we set them down on the ground to roam around, but the snow and ice made for a strange world to the puppies. They really did not know what to make of all that cold, white stuff they were walking on and spent a lot of time huddled together for security. We let them roam around for a bit, but did not force the issue or make their first experience with the outdoors an unpleasant one, so after a while, I picked up Millie and Nora picked up Huck and we brought them back into their "den" inside the house. Little to they know how much they will love the outside in just a few weeks!
    They sure to love to be held! Especially Millie, she just needs to be by someone at all times. Really reminds me of Baileys. She was the exact same way. Even through her whole life, she had to be laying by my feet at any time possible. Once we were back inside, I laid down and the two came over and laid down with me. The pic was a little blurry, but too cute not to post for you all. Nora and I could have stayed there for hours with them, but did not want to wear out our welcome, so we said thanks for letting us visit and headed home, but not before snapping a shot of Mom and Dad playing outside. We plan to visit once a week before we pick them for good and I am already excited to see them again this week!
    The big story for this week was the meltdown. Ours was a whole lot more tollerable than the majority of the rest of the Midwest's meltdown. We did lose some snow and that which still remained got very dense and also very wet and not that is has gotten cold again, you can almost walk across the top of it- almost! All told we lost about 10-12" of our undisturbed snowpack and maybe an inch off of areas like the driveway or trails where the snow was packed down hard. The main problem is that the snow on the trails became sugar snow, which does not hold a grooming well. So we will just have to wait for some fresh snow to improve things. We have picked up an inch or two every day in the past 3-4 days and a mild improvement is being made, but it would be nice to get around 5-7" of dense snow to make the repair final.
    The one bright spot to the warm up was that the shop roof cleared all on it's own Tuesday. I was going to go an put some heaters in the uninsulated portion of the shop to help the clearing process along, but Tuesday morning while on a conference call with one of my customers in Chicago, I felt the cabin shake and at first I thought we were having a mini-earthquake, but then realized it was the shop roof clearing all at once. Once I finished up with the call, I grabbed my camera and headed outside to take some shots. I really wished that I had been able to see it go, but was glad that I was not standing in the slide path! The force of the snow was enough to shake the ground enough that I felt it all the way in the upstairs loft of the cabin. Once the snow was off, it was piled almost to the edges of the roof. Not that I'd want to, but if I needed to, I could have just stepped from the snow pile onto the roof. The roof is around 10 feet off the ground. 
    The next stop was to see the effect of all of my clearing of the snow next to and off of the lean-to. I was presented with a pleasant sight, with almost all the snow being clear of the lean-to. So all my shoveling last week paid off! I did have a little clean up work to do, with some of the snow sliding onto my pathway to the wood boiler, but I was able to clear that away without too much problems with the snowthrower. After looking at the massive chunks of snow that now lay on the ground, it was no wonder I felt it all come down while I was inside the cabin! Some of those chunks were over 3 feet thick. So now I have a clean roof on both the cabin and the shop. Well, there is actually a few inches of snow on the shop already, but I am making a personal challenge to Mother Nature. I dare...no I double dare you to make me worry about how much snow is on the shop roof again this season. Go ahead...I bet you can't! :) I'll keep you posted if she takes me up on my dare.
    On Friday we had a meeting to get the final details worked out on the trip to Togwotee this year. It's coming up quick and we needed to take a final head count and get persons and sleds situated for transportation. We have a 6 place and 4 place trailers and two crew cab pickups going out. I will be flying as usual and two of the regulars will not be going this year, so it looks like we will have two that are new to the experience. While at the meeting there were ideas of a ride for the next day being tossed around and Dave, Teddy, Nick and myself all agreed to head out for a half day ride yesterday. The snow is setup, so you can pretty much go where ever you want with little to no difficulty. In fact you have to be careful of giving it too much throttle while climbing a hill or other feat as you will end up going too far too fast. Of course the firm snow conditions also lend themselves to pulling some good wheelies as Nick demonstrates here. Here is a quick video of him doing another. After watching him do that I asked if he was worried about the sled flipping over backwards on him and he said that if he goes too far, then the rear bumper and rear of the tunnel hit the snow and stop him from over rotating.
    The impromptu snowmobile snow continued when the boys found a nice little jump to catch some air off of. Here is Teddy still trying to break in his new Summit. Here is Dave catching some air on his M and here is Nick flying the jump. Yep, that's right. No pick of me. Johnny doesn't jump. At least not like that with a big trip to Wyoming coming up soon. No need to wreck myself or sled before that! Chances are pretty good that you won't see me doing that even when we get back! I suppose if there was around 12-18" of fluff to land in, I might consider it, but one broken leg from jumping in my life is enough. 
    The group settled back down a bit and we got back into the bush, riding logging roads and doing some exploring. That's one of the upsides to conditions like this, you can pretty much go where ever you want and we did. I know we places yesterday that we would never even dream of going had the snow been soft. Anyway, here is a pic during one of our breaks during the afternoon
    Even with the snow loss this past week, there is still a lot of snow out there. In just about all areas we rode there was 3 feet still on the ground and some spots I saw 4 feet still clinging to stumps or downed trees. Here is a hunting blind with about 3 feet of snow still on it. We have also picked up some fresh snow in the past couple of days. Not a ton, but an inch or two every day since about late Wednesday. Over time that all adds up and so far it has been enough to flock the trees and make everything look like the dead of winter again. I like that. Especially when I do not even have to leave the comforts of my cabin to take a picture like that last one!
    I think that about covers it for this one. 
Good night from the Keweenaw..

-
JD-
February 11-
    Sneaking in a mid-week special here to give you all an idea of how things are up here. I took 7 pictures and will let them do most of the speaking, but the bottom line to things is we survived the warm weather pretty good. We really did not get much rain either. There was a bit of drizzle Monday night and also Tuesday night we had some light rain for about 30-40 minutes, but the airport reported only 0.04" of rain. Temps were the main culprit. We set a new record high at the airport yesterday, with a high of 46. Temps went above freezing by the early afternoon on Monday and have been above freezing since then, but other than yesterday late morning through the afternoon when we rose into the 40's, our temps have been around 33-35 degrees, so it has not been a major meltdown. All told, I have lost about 10" of untouched snow and maybe an inch off places like the driveway that were packed and plowed.
    So all told, we really did not get hit too hard. It could have been a lot worse with more rains and temps being warmer longer. With that said, we did lose some snow and right now conditions are soft. I just got back from a short trail ride and they are still grooming and have plenty of base. However, they are soft and even when it drops below freezing (by sunset today), the snow quality will not be the best for holding a groom. I also expect traffic up here to increase dramatically. The UP is one of the few place with enough snow to ride in the Midwest, so our trails will be busy with sledders. So the combination of lots of sleds and not the best snow to groom will likely lead to the first bumpy trails we have had up here this season.
   Yesterday I had to run to Houghton/Hancock for some things, so I grabbed the camera and took some shots of the trail from the road. Here is the trail crossing just north of Calumet near the Northgate Motel. A couple of sleds thrown in just for the heck of it! This next shot is probably of the ugliest conditions I saw in all of my travels yesterday and today. It is where the trail runs along side the road in Hancock. Note that the dirt on the trail is from sleds tracking onto the trail from the road and also from the plows that toss their loads onto the trail right there. The base of snow in that spot was about 14-18" deep, so you are riding on plenty of snow. It is just a little dirty because the trail goes along side the road for about 1/2 mile. I know folks are always wondering how the conditions are for crossing the lift-bridge, so I drove down there and took a shot. Plenty of snow on the lower level of the lift bridge. They haul it in there by truck early in the season and the base there was over 2 feet thick. Dirty snow, but still snow. I was going to take a picture of the trail leading into Houghton from the road above, but figured I better concentrate on driving and not photo taking, but it was in fine shape. Plenty of snow.
    Today I got out on the sled. I did not go too far as conditions really did not vary much at all in the 20 or so miles I put on. Plus I did not have a ton of gas and wanted to get back to do this write up. In any case, conditions away from the towns are fine as you can see here. The snow is clean and the base on the trails is anywhere from 15-18". Like I mentioned, right now the snow is soft. They are out grooming right now and while not an expert on the subject, I think that the grooming is actually doing more good than harm. I know that there are those that will argue you should not groom when the trails are soft like they are, but with the grooming, they are keeping big moguls from forming and I know that the snow is not mush all the way to the ground. Only the top few inches. So if they can keep the moguls from forming, they can potentially keep that hard pack base further down in better shape. Just my 2 cents, but I think my rationale here is not off base. Anyway, here is another shot of the typical shape of the trails that I rode on today.
    Of course I did not ride the entire trail system, but I really doubt that conditions in about 95% of the area would be any different from what I rode on today. The snow conditions before the warm up were the same and the warm up has impacted all areas the same. So there is no reason for them to be different. Of course you might find pockets where the terrain or road crossings might cause conditions to not be as nice as they were in those last two pics. Here is the road crossing at the north end of Mohawk and here is a shot of a small hill where the drag removes more snow from the trail during grooming. Obviously with some traffic, more grooming and no new snow, that little 20 foot section may start to have some bare ground show through, but those would be the extent of the problems you would encounter.
    As far as the weather forecast goes. Temps will drop to below freezing by sunset today and look to stay there through the forecastable future. We will get a little light snow in the next couple of days. No major dumps, but probably a few inches. So that could help to put a bit of snow on the bare roads as well as freshen up things a bit. But it really does not look like enough snow will fall to make too much of a difference in the snowcover.
   I hope that this little update will give you all an idea of how things are. I did try and find areas that would show the best and worst and the worst I saw was really not that bad. I guess my main concern is the amount of traffic we are likely to see and the fact that the snow on the trails are in a shape where they will not hold a groom for as long as they would if the snow were fresh. So the trails are abt to get bumpy sooner than they typically would.
Have a good one and...
Good night from the Keweenaw..

-
JD-
February 8-
   
I have a ton to talk about, so I am getting an early start again. My first order of business is to thank those that contributed to the success of the ride in. I do not have the final numbers yet (still waiting for some bills), but just sort of eyeballing things it looks like we made around $8,000, which is pretty awesome if you ask me. The following individuals or businesses all contributed to this years event and I offer up my sincerest thanks. I will be working on the post-event portion of the web pages for the event and will also be including this list there, but I wanted to get it out in this weeks journal so my thanks to-

ArcticFX Graphics, Americinn-Calumet, Ash Trail Lodge, The Bluff, Budget Host Inn, Carmelita's, Castle, Centennial Cottages, Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce, Chances Hardware, Chicagoland Speedway/Ramblin Ray CBS Radio Chicago, Chris Burandt, Copper Country Rentals, Copper Crown Motel, Country Inn & Suites, Daily Mining Gazette, Dan Gardiner, Dan's Polaris, Dave Whaley - Deerton MI Groomer, Dreamland Motel, Dobson Entertainment, Eagle Harbor Inn, Everts, Franklin Square Inn, Gemignanis, Getaway Bay Resort, Goodwin Performace, Grandma Myrts, Heidi Reed and staff at the MI Tech Memorial Union Ballroom, John and Donna Stachler, Kaleva Café, Kathy Bonini, Keweenaw Motor Sports, Keweenaw Snow Expeditions, Klim, Krupps Mini Mart, Krupps Resort, LacLaBelle Lodge and Bear Belly Bar, Lake Effect Supply, Dave and Lori Sleeman, Mariner North, Northwoods Candlelight Inn, Parkview, Pat's Yamaha, Quincy's, Randy "Big Vin" VanVooran, Ron & Greg Videen - John Dee Store, Salon 1281, Skunkworks Vinyl, SledNecks, Sled Solutions, Superior Snowmobile Club, Superior Travel, Team Summit, The Library, The Pines, Tiges Bar, Toivola Lunch, Travellodge, Twin Lakes BP & Convenience, Vansville Bar, Wildlife Filling Station, Wildlife Refugee Cabins, WMPL/WKMJ, WLUC TV 6, Wyandotte Hils Golf Course, Yooper Lodge

    The second order of business is to announce that the Dee household has grown by two! Not via the human method, but rather the four legged, furry variety! A few weeks ago when I was riding with Teddy, Brian and Nick, we got to talking about dogs and Ted and Brian mentioned how Ted's brother in law had some lab puppies that were just born and if I was interested, we should check them out. I said how Nora and I were kind of interested, but that we were hoping to rescue a dog from a shelter or other rescue operation and that we also were waiting for spring when things quieted down some. Then this past Friday I got a call from Ted's brother in law asking me if I was interested in any of the puppies and I said I would check with Nora and get back to him. Nora and I decided to head down and have a look at the parents and the puppies this morning. Probably a silly thing to decide to go and look at some puppies, then hold them for a while and think you are going to walk away still undecided on the matter. The moment got the best of both of us and we decided on not one, but two puppies from the litter. This is Millie and this is Huck. We did not set out to get a black male and yellow female like Burt and Baileys, we did not even know if we would get one or two, it just turned out that way. They are only 4 weeks old, so they are still hanging out with their mom and dad, but on the evening of March 7th, they will be coming to their new home and Nora and I can't wait! I can only imagine all the stories I will have to share with you all in this forum. We have already begun to puppy-proof the cabin and will need to get to the store to stock up on supplies before they arrive. Man are we excited!!!
    One of the big weather stores this week was the dumping of snow that took place in the Houghton and Hancock area. It was actually a very small area of the peninsula that got hit so hard. If you traveled about 5-10 miles north or south, you got out of the heavy band and ended up with around 3-6". However, within the heavy band 20-30" of snow fell in 6 hours. There were snowfall rates of 5-6" per hour at times. Here were we live, the totals for the day were around an inch or two! Things then quieted down for most of the rest of the week and we are in a bit of a snow drought right now. I am actually a bit thankful as the winch on the ATV gave out while I was plowing on Tuesday and so I had to clear the entire driveway with just the snow thrower. So thankfully Tuesday was the last day I had to move snow. I got a new winch ordered up and it arrived on Friday. So I will get it installed and ready for the next round of snow moving.
    We have also seen some warmer temps. Most of last week was pretty cold, but then on Friday we rose to 36 degrees and on Saturday we made it to 34. The air was very dry on Friday, so the snow did not melt at all. In fact, I rode on Friday afternoon and the snow was powdery the whole time. Yesterday the air was more humid, so the snow started to get "sticky". By that I mean it was good packing, but really did not melt at all. Right now we are flirting with the freezing mark and it looks like we will run above freezing tomorrow and Tuesday with some freezing rain or rain to fall as well.
    With the warm up coming and the potential for some rain, I decided to get some snow out of the way for when the shop roof clears. This autumn I built a little lean-to for the boat and some other things and the snow that cleared in late December was nearly piled up to the eaves of the lean-to. So on Wednesday, I got out and shoveled snow off the lean-to as well as removed some snow from the edge of it. There was quite a bit of snow on it, probably close to 3 feet and all of that had accumulated since December 26th when we cleared the roof when my mom and brothers were up. About 2 hours and probably 1500 calories later, I had things pretty much where I wanted them to be. The snow may not all clear the lean-to, but unless we have a really snowy rest of Feb and March, I think I will be OK.
    It was Winter Carnival week at MI Tech this week and Wednesday night was the all nighter, so Nora and I made plans to go and check out the snow statues on Thursday and then have dinner in town. It really is neat to walk around campus and view all the different statues. They have two main fields, the all nighter, in which the entire statue needs to be built overnight and then the regular field in which they can start around a month before judging. Obviously the regular entries are a lot larger and typically more detailed, but some of the one nighters are pretty good as well. I think the weather might have played a bit of a role this year as it seemed like the statues in general were not as detailed as they have been in the past. All of them seemed to be lacking the detail to some degree, so I figured the one common variable in them was the weather. Don't get me wrong, there were still some incredible statues that were built and all of the builders have my full respect for what they did. I know I could not have done anything like what they did, it is just that both Nora and I did not feel the level of detail in them was as high as we typically see. I can only speculate that it may have been due to it being so cold that the slush they work with froze so quickly that they could not mold things as well. In any case, still worth the trip to campus and a walk around to view them. I really do not know how best to display all of the pics I took, so I guess I will just list them. Pic 1, pic 2, pic 3, pic 4, pic 5, pic 6, pic 7, pic 8, pic 9, pic 10 and pic 11. That last one was the grand daddy of them all. Three stories high in spots and it had a lot of detail to it. I guess there was also one in Hancock that was very good, but we did not go to see it.
    One of the other activities to Winter Carnival is the broomball games. Actually, I think they are played more than just during Winter Carnival, but it seems like the activity on the rinks is at it's peak during the week long event. Never been out there, but it looks like it could be kind of fun.
   On Friday I got to get out on the sled for a ride. I met up with locals Bob, Gary and John and some friends of Gary and John's from out of the area. All told we had 7 in our group which is starting to get a bit large, but all went well, with no breakdowns or lost riders. All the riders were fully capable as well and we were able to cover some ground. Bob and I met up with the others at the Vansville and we took off into the bush from there. I was chosen to be the leader for the rest of the day and we took some familiar trails to some unfamiliar trails and ended up reaching a point where things got a little too grown in and a little deep too. A couple of stucks and about 30 minutes later and we were back on our way. After that first little jaunt into the thick and deep, I decided to stick to the areas I knew for sure would be ok to traverse through. We even found some untracked snow to play in and with the sun out and temps in the mid 30's, it was a perfect afternoon for a ride! I had forgotten what it is like to ride in temps that are not really cold! Since December, just about every single day up here, or at least the days I have gone out for a ride have been in the single digits or low teens. It sure was nice to not have to wear a balaclava and a bunch of layers. Plus the pit stops were very enjoyable too.
    On Sunday, I tossed the M into the back of Old Blue and headed up to Lac La Belle to ride with Troy and Zach. The temps when we started out were flirting with the freezing mark and the air had more humidity to it, so the snow was starting to get a little more sticky. Even so, we had a blast riding yesterday. I think 3 or 4 is the perfect number of riders for the backcountry. Enough bodies to get any sled unstuck, but a small enough group to be able to keep on the move without much effort. Plus you can travel through an area without tearing up every last flake of snow. I know I have been behind some groups of backcountry riders up here and they have a dozen or so in their group and by the time they are all through an area it looks like an army of sleds went through. Not that there is anything they can do about it or that they are doing anything wrong, but I just do not see the fun in traveling with such a big group.
    In any case, our plan for the day was just to explore. The snow I like to ride in most is the over the bumper kind, but once the snow starts to set up, it can lead to just as much fun because you can really hit the back country and explore the deep interiors of the bush and go places you might not venture into when the snow is bottomless powder. So that is exactly what Troy, Zach and I did. We explored some unexplored areas and even found a couple of new routes to use.
    Since we were traveling some unknown routes to us, they also ended up being unknown routes to others and we were treated to untracked snow for much of the day. I don't know about most of you reading this, but my true joy while on a sled is exploring. I don't care if I am heading down a logging road or two track and it comes to a dead stop and I have to turn around. My pure joy is to see new sights and that is what I saw on about 80% of the trip yesterday. Troy and Zach new probably 50% of the trip yesterday and we all knew our approximate location and always knew which direction was which all day, but I got to see many new sights and like I say, a few new routes to take in the future. So the day was a blast and a learning experience- or in other words, perfect in my eyes! If that was not enough, we even found a few play spots. Here is Zach testing the suspension on his dad Troy's sled. Here is a quick movie of me doing a little side hill and another of me coming back. Here is a pic of us getting ready to hit a new an unexplored logging road and to top off the day, we even found a neat overlook of the North Shore.
    We made it back to Lac La Belle safe and sound. On my way up to LLB in the morning, the bearing on the alternator gave seized and ended up taking out the belt that runs things like the power steering, the fan and the alternator. So before taking off on our ride, I called the auto parts store in Calumet, had them set aside an alternator and belt, then asked Nora if she could pick them up and then Troy's wife Cathy stopped off to pick them up from our house on her way back from town. So once we got back, Zach got to work replacing the alternator and belt for me. He has worked in a garage in the summer and knows his way around a Chevy small block pretty well and had things swapped out in about 20 minutes. I told Troy he needed to change the name of his place to the Lac La Belle Lodge/Beer Belly Bar and Grille and Garage! Speaking of a garage. Troy had one monstrous drift hanging off the edge of his! I said he really needed to stand underneath it to give it some perspective, but he did not think that was a good idea. For reference, the garage door is 10 feet tall.
    So it's been a pretty busy week and in a little less than 4 weeks it will be getting a whole lot busier around here! The timing of the arrival of Huck and Millie will be just about perfect though. March gets to be a slower time for me with both the website and my regular work, so I will be able to spend time with them, cleaning up mostly! Then they will be potty trained by the time things start to get busier for me in the spring with my regular work. Plus I will be so busy with them and excited to be with them, I will hardly even care that the snow is melting! A perfect setup.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
February 1-
    Well, not much to talk about in this one, so I guess I will just say a quick hi and close it out.  Just kidding. Have a lot to say, but am not sure about the energy to say it all. The week was a busy one, working on the last minute details to the ride in, but things went pretty smoothly and the event was a ton of fun and a great success. There were tons of pictures taken and I will be sharing some and will be putting together a picture page for this years event and will put all of them in there. Plus, any that attended and want to send me pics to be included in the picture page, please feel free to e mail them to me. 
    There is also a ton of thanks to be made and we are compiling the list of contributors to this years event and that will be put on the page for the event and I will also be mentioning it in the next journal entry. However, I really need to thank some special people that were a huge part of the event: My wife Nora for her help in organizing the event as well as putting up with me for the past few months! Lori and Kathy from the Wildlife Refuge Cabins and Kathy's son's girlfriend Bobbi Jo. Lori and Kathy are the prize gathering princesses, collecting dozens of prizes from the local businesses. Then Bobbi Jo and Kathy ran the raffle and even skipped dinner to make sure everyone that wanted a ticket got one. John and Donna Stachler for handling the reservations, gathering some prizes and helping out with things at the event. The JohnDee Store and Patti the seamstress for producing the shirts. Matt from The Bluff/Chances Hardware for collecting prize items from the Mass City/Rockland/Ontonagon area, Big Vin for an awesome job of emcee and entertainer, all the guides that helped with the back country tours and Heidi and the staff at the MI Tech Memorial Union Ballroom. The food was excellent and Heidi and the staff made sure that no detail was left out to make the evening a special one for all of us. I realize that the Memorial Union Ballroom (MUB) is not as convenient as the other two venues that hosted the banquet, but the food and staff at the MUB hit it out of the park and I think we have found the new long-term home of the banquet. 
    I also need to thank all those that attended the event, because if it were not for you, there would be no event! A final thank you goes out to those that could not attend, but took the time and effort to send a contribution to the event. We do not have the final numbers yet as for how much money was raised, but I know it is between 5-10 thousand dollars.
    So, back to my week...Monday, Tuesday and Thursday were spent working on some last minute details. Nora and I met up with Lori and Kathy to get the prizes for the silent auction and raffle organized on Monday. After 4 years we finally have a pretty good system in place and were able to get things done in under 2 hours. The only thing I wished I would have done is to take a picture of all the items we had, as there was probably close to 75 DVD's 6 high quality jackets, 2 pairs of skis, dozens of certificates for free stays at local hotels, motels and cabins, discounts on food, free sled rentals, etc. I know when Nora and I drove down to the event to setup with Kathy, Lori and Bobbi Jo, the back of the blazer was completely full with all the prize items.
    On Wednesday, I got to play a bit. Friends that were attending the ride in arrived on Tuesday night and then rode up from Twin Lakes to hook up with me for an afternoon ride. I guess the surest proof that we had a good time was that I only took two pictures the entire afternoon. We were too busy having fun to stop and take many. My first picture is actually of the main trail between Mohawk and Phoenix. Pool table flat and that is the way things have been the entire season. In fact, it may sound corny, but I have actually forgotten what a bumpy trail is like. The backcountry is pretty beat up and there are some spots out there that have some pretty decent whoops in them, but as for the groomed trails, they are flat, flat, flat. The other picture from the ride on Wednesday is of the group taking a quick break. We were able to find some fresh snow to play in, but things are getting more and more tracked up, that's for sure. I guess what we have right now be more close to reality than the fresh powder riding we had any day you wanted it from Dec 1 through mid January.
    On Friday, I drove down to organize the back country rides, help with handing out the shirts and poker run sheets and then had to return to work as things in the weather business for South America and hopping and I could not take any time off. After that work was done, I was able to meet up with guides Al and Bob and relieve Al from his guiding duties so that he could get back to his shop and take care of some work. We rode the rest of the afternoon and all had a good time. Finished things up around 5 and then I headed home to grab dinner and hit the hay to get ready for Saturday's action. Nora had her brother and friends come up for the ride in and they all went out for a ride on Friday and Saturday as well.
    Friday we were a bit thin on guides for the ride in tours, but Saturday was just the opposite. We had 7 guides in all on Saturday, so the groups that went out were all much smaller. I rode along with Chris and Craig and we took turns guiding 5 others around. I split off early so that I could get back home, cleaned up and then down to the MUB to help with the setup.
    After four years of doing things, the setup for the event went smoothly as well. The room was already setup for us, with the tables up and set. The sound stage was setup for Big Vin and we had tables setup for the prizes. All that was left to do was to start putting out the prizes for the silent auction and the prizes for the raffle. As I already mentioned, we had some great prizes. A jacket from Klim. Lake Effect Supply donated a jacket from tobe. We also got jackets from SledNecks and a special jacket from Chris Burandt. Castle stepped up to the plate big time again this year and supplied EVERY attendee of the banquet with a balaclava as well as about 4 dozen knit hats and a bunch of helmet and gear bags. So every attendee went home with something from the banquet and some had more than they could carry!
    I had also received a neat picture board from Robert Pettit, the wish child from last year. It had a bunch of pictures from his time at the ride in last year as well as pictures from his wish, which was a Disney Cruise. There was also a really special letter from him thanking us all and telling us about his wish.
    This years wish child was 3 1/2 year old Maddy from Chassell. Her and her family were able to attend this years event and here is a shot of Nora and I with them. She is in remission from her cancer and it sure did show as she was a little bundle of energy. Her favorite place to be while at the event was right in front of Big Vin while he sang for us and called off numbers for the raffle. Her wish is to get a fancy playground for her backyard and once the snow melts and the wish becomes reality, then I have arranged with her dad to get some pictures of her playing on her playground and will share them with you all.
    Before things got too late and folks started heading out, we all got together for a group photo. We had about 125 attend in all, which is pretty close to the years past. I know I had fun and it seemed like I was not the only one. So hopefully we have hit our stride with this event and can build on things to make next years event even better.
    I think I will hang it up for tonight, so I can rest my bones.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 
 

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