January 31-
    Not sure where the day went, but it is getting late (at least for me) and I am pretty pooped out and do not want to just skate through the entry that will be talking about this year's ride in. So will sit down while fresh tomorrow and tell the tale then. My apologies.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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January 24-
    Another week down and another week of some adventures in the Keweenaw. The adventures are still not happening at the clip they used to in the old days, but my health is improving. In fact, Friday I felt the best that I have felt since being operated on in early October. Of course last weekend and Monday I felt like junk, but that was because I had some blood levels WAY off. I went to the Dr on Monday and they found that two of my chemical levels in my blood were WAY low, so I got the instructions to stop taking one pill all together and triple up on another for 2 days and then go to a regular dosage that was double the previous one. Must have worked because Friday I felt about 75-80% of full energy. Typically these days I have been feeling around 30-35% of full energy. I did back down a bit on Saturday and am running around 45-50% today, but it sure was nice to feel the way I did on Friday and I am looking forward to when those days are a regular happening.
    I did not do much this week other than take care of a lot of things regarding the ride-in. There are a lot of behind the scenes chores that need to be done, it really is like planning a wedding, maybe even more work, as we have more interaction with the guests than a wedding would have and we have to solicit prizes and organize off trail rides and poker runs. Speaking of the prizes, we have been getting some great things in. We have items like a Webber grill, Klim coat, skis, gift certificates to MBRP, some nice gear from Skinz, a GPS unit, an autographed Green Bay Packers football, an autographed Detroit Red Wings hockey puck and 4 tickets to the last pre-season game for the Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers at Milwaukee. There are also tons of prizes being donated by local businesses and it looks like the prize tables will be as loaded down as they always are. I have also received donations from site visitors that cannot make the event and to all I say: THANKS! Once the event is over, I will have a listing of all the businesses and individuals who supported the event with their donations.
    It also looks like we will be once again lucking out with the conditions for the ride in. The weather this week has not been a disaster, but we are hurting for fresh snow. Things were pretty quiet all week and temps remained below freezing until Friday, so the trails held up very well in most areas in the Keweenaw. I talked to lots of riders yesterday at Lac La Belle while guest bartending (more on that in a minute) and everyone to a tee said that they were pleasantly surprised by the shape of the trails. The common thread from everyone was that the snow was soft, but the trails were flat and they all passed several groomers. They all also said new snow would be just what the Dr ordered and it looks like that prescription will be getting filled this week. We had a bit of rain overnight (.03") here at the airport north of Hancock. Then around midday we had a mix of heavy rain, sleet and snow change to all snow and it has been snowing since. The flakes are very wet, so it is not accumulating much right now, but temps will be dropping and we should pick up several inches of system snow tonight and again tomorrow and then the LES looks to cut lose from Tuesday through the rest of the week and weekend and the potential is there for a lot of snow to fall in the Keweenaw this week, with a westerly wind happening for quite a bit of the LES period. We have yet to have a ride in with marginal snow. In fact, this will be the second time when we went from marginal to fantastic in time for the event.
    As mentioned, yesterday I did my annual guest bartending gig at the Bear Belly Bar and Grill in Lac La Belle. Troy and Cathy are gracious enough to let me come up there and walk away with all the tips for the day, plus Troy and Cathy also match what is in the tip bowl. So last night I walked out with a check for $700, which is a great start to the fun raising for Make A Wish. I got to LLB a little early, so I headed over to Bete Gris to snap some shots of the angry lake. East winds were blowing pretty good and the normally tranquil Bete Gris Bay gets pretty pounded with east winds. Here is a shot of the "Irons" or breakwater into Lac La Belle. Here is a shot of the beautiful and rugged coastline that includes the Bear Bluffs. Some good 5-6 footers rolling in. I was a bit surprised to see no surfers there. There are a few hearty (or crazy) folks that brave the chilly waters to surf here in the winter months.
   I did not have much time to admire the scenery at Bete Gris, so I headed over to the Bear Belly Bar and Grill and put on my bartending shoes and got to work. Actually, truth be told I did not do a lot of work. I am just not ready to put in a full shift of running around and getting food and drink orders and even in past years, I really just got in the way more than I worked, but it's all for a good cause and I did get to meet lots of good folks. The atmosphere of the bar and grill is really more family. It certainly is not some hard drinking UP bar and most folks that come in enjoy a sandwich and pop and then head back out to ride. Things started out a bit slow and I though that the threat of rain, freezing rain or snow by the afternoon might keep the crowd down, but things picked up around 2 and kept going at a good clip until we left at around 5:30. I saw "we" left because around 4:30 Grace and Nora showed up to have dinner with me. Here is a shot of the parking lot once things started getting a little more busy. There were more sleds parked behind me too. I was just glad that the weather held. We did have a few sprinkles hit the windshield as we were pulling into Mohawk on the way home, but it never rained hard enough up this way to be an issue.
    I feel like I am leaving something out. I know, I know, Grace. I do have some pics to share, but other than Grace, I feel like I should be covering something. I guess not, so before I get onto the Grace file, I want to wish everyone coming up for the ride-in a safe trip. Take it easy once you hit LES country, it looks like it could be pretty nasty (in a good way)!
    Grace has been sitting up all by herself a lot lately. She still needs supervision as she will lose her vertical hold, but we have had fun this week propping her up in front of her toys and watching her play. She is also teething and we have been giving her things to chew on like carrots, teething toys and even some good old Trenary Toast. It's like the UP version of Texas Toast. Thick bread, toasted with cinnamon sugar all over it. Gracie likey! Sorry about any sticky mess that seeped through to your computer screens. Yes, that was a Bookdockers sticker on her chair. Nora gave me a hard time about it, but ever since I put it on, Grace keeps making Brrrrrraaaaaaaapppp sounds! So I think she likes it. Still trying to figure out how to get the SLP sticker on her stroller. The sticker came with the aftermarket exhaust for the stroller, so I think it's only appropriate. OK enough of the Tom-boy stuff. I do have some girly stuff too. Grace is still struggling to produce a full head of hair, but it is thickening a bit and is getting longer. In fact it is long enough that Mom could finally put that bow in it.
    Well, I guess that covers it for this one. Talk to you all in a week with what should be some nice snow and ride in shots!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

January 17-
    Wow, January is more than half over. Wish July could go by this fast! It's been a pretty busy week up here. I realize that in the last journal there was no Gracie file. I did not forget, I just did not have any pictures. So this week I am going to get right out of the box with her update. Things are happening quickly around here. She is starting to sit up on her own and just today she rolled over from her back to her front and then from her front to her back. I missed both ones as I was busy doing something else, but I am sure there will be lots more of those for me to see. She is extremely interested in what Nora and I eat. To the point where she will open her mouth like a little bird to try and coax us to put the food in. She has no teeth, so we cannot give her adult food, but have let her gnaw on things that would be safe (carrot, teething toast, etc...)
   The other day I was reading a catalog, looking for some things for the pups and she grabbed the catalog right out of my hands and started paging through it herself. It's cute now, but she is VERY independent and VERY strong willed, so Nora and I are teaching her what the word No means. She is catching on. She also knows what "let go" means. Here is a shot of her sitting up. She still needs some stabilization and cannot sit fully upright without eventually toppling over like a few drunks I have seen in my day, but each day she gets better at sitting up all on her own.
    It has been a Dee family tradition to get pizza for dinner on Friday. It does not happen every Friday, but I would say that a good 75-80% of the time we are having pizza. It's neat to have several different places to order from that are all very good, but also different in their pizza types, so we do not get sick of having the same exact kind of pizza every time. Anyway, Grace was watching Nora and I enjoy our pizza this past Friday and reached out, grabbed Nora's plate and then snagged a piece of her pizza. Nora stopped her from putting it in her mouth, but she would have! We did give her a little piece of crust for her to chew on and watched to make sure she did not break off a piece that she could choke on. Here is a shot of Grace and her daddy during the pizza party. Fun to think of all the pizzas in our future.
    The weather up here has been a little bit of everything. On Monday we finished up with the snow. Another 3" fell to make the storm total from Sunday to Monday 6" of fluff. Here is a shot of the front of the house Monday morning. The pups really seem to get extra energized when new snow has fallen. I suppose they get that extra bit of cushion when they sling each other to the ground. It's a lot of fun to watch them go at it. They even got a bit adventurous this week and managed to find a way to jump up onto the wood shelter. We had the snow shoveled off of it a week or two ago and the piles almost reach up to the eaves. It is still a 2 foot jump from the snow to the roof and about 1 foot higher, but first Huck jumped up there and it did not take long before Millie joined him. I was able to snap a shot of them on the roof before they jumped off. The next day I was doing a conference call with one of my customers and all of the sudden both Huck and Mille come barreling over the top of the shop roof and ran around on the side facing the cabin. Watching this caused me to chuckle a bit, which is not what I wanted to do while on a conference call to some of my customers, but life has it's moments! Here is a shot of the roof with their tracks on it. Then Huck decided to jump off the roof to the snow about 5 feet down. Here is the place Huck jumped of the roof from. Pretty crazy dogs!
    Back to the weather, it then stayed quiet the rest of the week, with mostly cloudy skies. So the snow stayed fresh and powdery all week. On Friday we did hit 33 degrees and then Saturday hit 40! In addition to the warm temps we had quite a bit of sunshine. There was a snowmobile hillclimb at the Whealkate Bluff in South Range this Saturday. I had planned to attend and the forecast only added to the chances. I did make it and the weather could not have been much better for spectators with the sunshine and warm temps. The snow held up on the hill good as well and I don't think the riders had too much to complain about.
    I brought both my new fancy high-def video camera as well as the still camera to capture the events. This first still shot is of a roost from a sled attempting to make gate 3 in the blue course. Didn't quite make that gate. The course was pretty well laid out. There was a red course and a blue course and all sleds in each classification ran each course. They first used the blue in all classes and then switched to the red. The first half of the runs on each course were pretty challenging. At first there was a ton of snow and some good bumps, then the bumps got even gnarlier, but after about half of the classifications had been run through a nice groove had been cut in the course, which made it lots easier. Once the groove was cut, very few riders failed to make it to the top. Here is a shot of a rider and sled attempting to make it to the top while the course was still pretty fresh. There were two 4-strokes that got into the race, which I thought was pretty brave of them. 4 strokes are great sleds, but in my opinion have a bit of a disadvantage in a competition like this with the weight issue. Here is a shot of one of them stuck at gate 3 on the blue course. As the day wore on, the 4 strokes showed their stuff and did make it to the top. Here is one approaching the last gate.
    I really wanted to get to the top of the hill to get some shots of the sleds coming up. I felt they would be more exciting and interesting to look at. So I asked the organizer of the event Skip Shultz if I could go up here and he gave me the go ahead. There was no way I was going to climb that hill. Even in perfect health, hiking up a few hundred feet through 3 feet of powder, lugging a video camera in hand would have been a real chore- let alone with my limited physical ability right now, so I borrowed one of Chuck's race sleds and rode to the top taking the easy way around the back. I did briefly shut things down as the timer at the top of the hill thought I was some errant fan riding up to get a better look, but once I identified myself, the got the race going again.
    I climbed down the hill a bit (but not too far) to get in a place to get some good shots. I took more video than stills and it was not too long that I was up there before they went into a little intermission to change courses, but I still got some of both. The first sled up the course when I was up there ended up getting stuck very near us and here is a shot of the sled-wranglers helping to get it unstuck and pointed down the hill. My other stills while up there did not really turn out so well, so I don't have any more to share with you. However, one of the better crashes of the day was captured via video and here is a snippet of it (sorry no sound)
    It was a perfect day for the races and I think that contributed to a huge turn out. I did take a shot of the crowd below and part of the parking below. There was probably 3x more vehicles parked in other spots around the hill and folks just kept coming in and coming in. I think Skip will be pretty happy with how the day went. No injuries, lots of good entertainment and lots of spectators. Hopefully it will be back to the Whealkate Bluff again next year.
    Today, Nora, Grace, the pups and I took a ride to Copper Harbor. I am collecting prizes for the ride in and I figured we would head up there for lunch and then solicit the businesses for some prizes and head back. Most of the roads up here have been clear for days, so I was a little surprised to see the covered drive to the harbor still snow packed in spots. On the way home, we pulled off and I took a picture of the trail near Phoenix. I know it was not a full photo tour of the trails up here, but other than some issues on the trail back behind Lake Linden, I hear that all the trails are still in good to excellent shape from riders I have talked to. I do not doubt those reports. We were below freezing all week until Friday and then only nosed above freezing for 2 hours to 33. We had plenty of snow to start the week and a great base. Plus traffic was light all week. It will be nice to get some new snow and cold temps and a bit of fresh looks to fall early this week with the potential for more by the weekend. Temps should be below freezing most of the week too, with just a chance for some near or slightly above freezing temps Saturday. Looks like true winter settles in next weekend and beyond. So I think we are in pretty good shape up here. Not perfect, but not much to complain about.
    So I guess that about covers it for this one. As I was writing, I got the final numbers for registrations for the ride in. Looks like a good showing again this year. I am starting to get really excited for the event. Each year it seems to get better and better and more and more fun. Looking forward to seeing you all there!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

January 10-
    This will probably be a short one as every once in a while I sit down to write and truthfully am just not in the mood. I guess that is one of the consequences to writing a journal entry every week no matter what. So I will certainly do my best to get you caught up on what is happening up here and I do have some pics to share, so it won't be a waste of your time to read on, but I guess this is my apology in advance for this entry being so brief.
    I guess the first thing I need to cover is the Ride In. Time is running out to register for that. The cut off date will be this Friday the 15th. So please do not forget! I know there are a lot of last-minute registrations that happen every year and we do not have a problem with that, but I hate to have someone not show up because they forgot!
    It's been a somewhat snowy week. Nothing real heavy, but every day a bit and over time it all adds up. As is the case with lake effect, some areas got more than others in the UP as well as in the Keweenaw itself. I can honestly say I am glad that we did not get the type of snow that requires moving every day. I am feeling good enough to be able to move it every day, but that is about a 45-60 minute job and things are so busy right now, it is nice to have those minutes to spend on other things.
    I did get out for two rides this week. On Friday my friend Skylar arrived in the afternoon and we headed out for a short ride. Knowing a more serious ride was in store for us on Saturday, I did not want to overdo it on Friday, so we only went for a little over an hour. Just enough to get the feet wet so to speak. With two sleds in the shop ready to go, I told Skylar to just bring himself and his gear and he could ride the spare sled. That would save him the hassle of hauling his sled and save him some gas in that he could take his car instead of his truck. So here is a shot of Skylar with the Rt12 Twins. We did a little bit of trail riding and a bit of off trail riding Friday. Both the trail and the off trail conditions were fantastic. Not a ton of fresh powder to play in, but in that last shot there was probably around 8-10" of new fluff down. After the ride, we got home, changed and shot down for a nice dinner at the Dreamland. I had not been there in many months and Skylar had never been there, so I thought it would be a nice place to go.
    On Saturday the gang (most of it anyway) got assembled and rode up to our place here and we all took off for a day's ride. This was the first ride of the season with the gang for me and I was hoping that my energy would hold up to get me through the day. I decided early on to just pace myself and take it easy most of the day and figured that would allow me to keep up and I was right. I did fine all day and did not hit the wall until about 5 minutes after I got all my gear off! Not sure why it happened that way, but I guess it was pretty good timing anyway.
    At the start of the ride we had 9 in our group and about 20 minutes into the ride one had to drop out with suspension issues, but the other 8 hung in there the rest of the day with no sled or body damages! We had a really good ride Saturday, finding mostly untracked snow the whole day. That is mainly due to the fact that the pro's (KSE guides) were along for the ride and know the bush better than any up here. We rode in some places that I have been before and even a few that I had never seen before, but all the riding was good. We ended up at Lac La Belle, had a late lunch and then headed back into the bush for the ride home. On the way home we came across a little play spot and some of the gang broke out their jumping hats and put on a little show. One of the problems with taking still pictures of jumping snowmobiles is that unless you take the picture right when the sled is at it's apex in the jump, it can look like the jump was not big deal. Unfortunately that is exactly what happened in this shot of Matt jumping and Pat jumping, but I was able to capture Tim at the apex. A couple of the guys have their sleds setup to pull a wheelie really well and I was able to capture a short movie of Tim riding one of the many wheelies he did yesterday.
    We got to the split off point where Skylar and I headed back to my place and the rest of the gang headed down into the valley to get to their places or trucks. All in all it was a great ride, with good friends, good times and no broken bones or sleds.
    Yesterday was Huck and Millie's first birthday. It was always a tradition to give Burt and Baileys a plate of spaghetti for their birthday dinner. However, they also got people food from time to time in the form of the scraps that from the plates that would have otherwise gone into the trash. Nora and I both decided that we did not want to give Millie and Huck any people food at all, so that left me in a bit of a quandary. I did want to give them something special, but did not want it to be "people" food and confuse them. Then it hit me. I do not eat fish and Nora rarely has it at home. So they would not really identify it as food we ate, but it would be a nice treat for them and healthy too. So I picked up a nice salmon steak and grilled it up for them and that was their birthday dinner and will probably be it for the many years to come.
    Well, I guess that covers it for this one. Maybe not as short as I thought it would be.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

January 3-
     Welcome to 2010 everyone! 2009 sure was a year of triumphs and tribulations for the Dee's. Not that I am glad to see 2009 go, but I sure have my sights set on the future and all it will be bringing. Things have never looked brighter in the future of my life.
    We rang in the new year in typical fashion- by going to bed at 10 pm! Actually, that is pretty late for me! Most New Years Eve's I have to work, which means I am up and going strong at a little after 4 in the morning, so midnight is something that is just heard about for me and almost never experienced. I'm glad I married a girl that does not need to go out and party it up on "amateur night" and is content to spend it quietly with a few friends and/or family. Who knows, maybe 20 years from now we will be partying it up on New Years.
    I am probably going to keep this short but sweet as I am getting a late start and am a little tired. I have been feeling pretty good of late. In fact around Wednesday or Thursday of last week it seemed like I turned a corner so to speak. Not a major improvement, but a noticeable one with more energy and a capability to do more. I have taken over the snow clean up completely and plan to start easing myself into the wood boiler duties. That will relieve Nora of those duties and make me feel like I am starting to pull a little of my own weight around here. I did get out for a ride yesterday (more on that in a bit) and plan to do some riding this upcoming weekend. Not quite ready to strap on the skis yet and head out into the woods, but perhaps in a few weeks.
    The weather has been very chilly and pretty snowy. The snow started to fall the middle of last week and has not quit since. It got so cold that the snowfall accumulation was cut back pretty dramatically. The cold and dry air does not allow the flakes to get too large, so it snows steadily, but with very tiny flakes that just do not accumulate quickly. The up side is that the small flakes do lead to an already settled snowpack. Today the temps warmed just enough and the flakes increased in size dramatically. The accumulation rate has increased and the snow is the lake effect fluff that we are so used to. Temps look to stay warm enough to bring the fluff the rest of the week and it looks like it could very well snow pretty much non stop for the next 7-8 days, perhaps more.
    As mentioned, I did get out for a ride yesterday. The plan was for me to head up to Lac La Belle and ride with Troy and his son Zach. With it being so cold and me not feeling 100% yet, I did not want to ride up there alone, so I decided to toss the sled in the back of Old Blue. The problem was that the bed of Old Blue was full of a season worth of snow so far. In fact, the bed was overflowing with snow that had accumulated in it. So the snow needed to be shoveled out and the whole reason I am even going off on this tangent is to demonstrate the awesome wife I have. She did not want to wear myself out too much in advance of riding, so she through on her boots, coat and gloves and went outside in the single digit temps to shovel out the truck bed. She made quick work of things and I loaded the sled into the bed and headed up to LLB.
    It was cold, probably too cold for me to ride in most cases. Being spoiled most of the time by being able to get out and ride up here when ever I want, I usually do not go out if the temp is less than 10 above. However, we had planned this ride for a week and I really wanted to get out, so I did not cancel. I should have gotten a little more prepared as I did get chilled and also frost bit on my cheeks. The frost bite is not too bad and a hot shower took the chill out, but man, I really am not a big fan of riding in the really cold stuff.
    All that aside, it was fun to be out. We found some nice scenic views and even a bit of untouched powder. It was so cold that I did not take too many pictures. However, in that last shot, out on the lake was a lakes freighter, so I tried zooming in on it a bit. The camera did not want to focus in on the blankness of the lake and the falling snow really was obscuring the view, but if you look hard, you can see the ship in this shot. We figured it must have been anchored up there and taking shelter from the north winds as that is not a typical lane for the ships to take while traversing the big lake. All in all, we only rode for around 2 hours, but that was actually plenty for me and I was happy to get out of the cold, enjoy a delicious French dip and hot chocolate at the Bear Belly Bar and then drove back home to take that hot shower and lube up my cheeks with lotion.
    Speaking of the Bear Belly Bar and Grill, I will be doing my annual guest bartending stint up there on January 23. All of my tips will be going towards the fundraising for this years Ride-In. So if you cannot be here for the Ride-In, but will be up here the weekend of the 23rd-24th, stop by and say hi!
    Also along the lines of the Ride-In, one of the items we received as a gift to be auctioned or raffled off is a pair of Detroit Pistons tickets. Actually what it is a certificate to redeem for a pair of tickets. They can be used for any of the following games: Jan 22 against Indiana, Jan 23 against Portland, Jan 27 against Memphis, Jan 29 against Miami or Jan 31 against Orlando. I will be making a post on the discussion board for the tickets. They will go to the highest bidder. I think technically I need to have a license from the state to do any kind of an auction, but it is just these tickets and the proceeds are all going to charity, so hopefully I do not get thrown in the clinker for just this one time. I really did not know what else to do with them as the games are all before the ride in (except the 31st) and they would be useless to auction off at the event.
    Last but certainly not least is the Gracie update. The poor little girl has come down with a cold. I have to admit that the first time I heard her sneeze and cough I thought it was cute- for a nanosecond. Then I felt sorry for her and every time she coughs or sneezes, my heart aches for her. We are watching her closely to make sure things do not get worse and I plan to put in a call to her Dr tomorrow, just to touch base and get him in the loop. Despite her cold, she is still in good spirits. She is eating well (loves sweet potatoes) and is enjoying her Christmas presents. Here she is taking a little ride on her pony from Aunt Jeni and Uncle Phil. Here she is getting some tummy time in the play set from Uncle Joel and Aunt Tammie. Here she is sporting a shirt from Mommie. The shirt says it all.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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