February 24-
    Wowza! Is this ever turning out to be a snowy winter! Since I last wrote, we have picked up 28" of new snow, much of that in the storm Tuesday and Wednesday, but even Friday night into early Saturday we picked up a half a foot of new snow. It is really looking like the winters of old around here. Or at least the winters prior to the past 2-3. I measured 40" on the level outside our house and I would not be surprised if the higher "bumps" up this way have a foot more on the level.
    The Tue-Wed storm was a full fledged doozie, with just about every school district in the UP (not just the Keweenaw) closed. The schools of Houghton and Keweenaw counties were closed both Tuesday and Wednesday and the storm was so bad that even businesses were shutting their doors on Tuesday and probably the most impressive indicator of how bad things were was that MI Tech closed it's doors by noon on Tuesday and remained closed on Wednesday. Since I have lived here the past 13 years, I think I can only remember a day or two when Tech was closed.
    The storm packed a double punch, with 15-25"+ snows falling, but also 50 mph winds. I really did not go out in it at all on Tuesday, other than to clear the snow off our driveway, but I heard stories and saw pictures of drifts of 6-9 feet tall out in the rural areas and even some pretty bad roads in the cities.
    Thankfully by Tuesday I had gotten over the hump with my cold. I still had, and have, some sniffles and a cough, but my energy came back to full strength. Which I say was good because I had to clear snow twice on Tuesday and then again Wednesday morning. All three clearing jobs were big ones, taking around 2 hours. Here is a shot Nora took of me clearing the side walk way Tuesday
    The banks have all gotten very big and where the snow slides off the roof, the piles of snow are 8-9 feet high. Which presents a unique situation for the views out of the windows on the side of the house. Here is the other. I just knew that this winter would not turn out to be another dud. The reason being that as soon as the snow was gone, I am going to get going on the addition and the sooner the start the better. Last winter I could have gotten going by around March 10th. This is the snow that needs to melt before I can start building this year! Remember the picture I posted in the February 3rd journal of Nora and Gracie by the snow family they made? The lump of snow in this shot is that snow family!
    The banks in town are getting big. Here is a shot of a house who's owners must go south for the winter. Here is a shot of a side street in Mohawk. I was standing on the running board of my truck when I took it, the banks are around 8 feet high. Here is a shot of a full sized van that has sat unused all winter. Probably not going to be used for a while either!
    Things did finally quiet down enough on Wednesday afternoon that I could get out and play. I initially had plans to ride with Dave and Matt, but they both were too busy with work and chores due to the storm, so I went into a bit of a panic mode, thinking all that fresh powder was not going to be enjoyed by me, but I lucked out and was able to ride with Zach Westcot and his friend up out of Lac La Belle. They both go to Tech and had the day off, so we rode out of Lac La Belle. I did not take a ton of shots as quite frankly we did not stop much! But here is a shot of a small field we were carving up and any one that has ridden in "powder over the hood" can relate to this view of the dash of my sled.
    As mentioned, we did get another 6" of snow Friday night and Saturday. For a while, it was looking like the storm might end up being a dud for us as the snows were slower to start than the models indicated and once they did, just sort of spit on us. Then not long after darkness fell, the snows picked up and I awoke Saturday morning to find more snow than I thought we would get. I got to moving it pretty early, because I had plans to drive down to Mass City and ride down that way with friends. Again, the snow clearing took almost two hours, but I still had plenty of time to get down to meet up with the others. Or so I thought... Just before getting to Twin Lakes, I came across this 18 wheeler that looked like he had decided to do a little boondocking of his own! Crews were already on scene to help get things straightened out and I probably only had to wait around 10 minutes before they were able to get the back end of the trailer swung around enough to let traffic pass. So I still made it down in time to ride at the designated time.
    This was only my second time riding down that way since moving up here. There was a good amount of snow down that way too and it was a ton of fun to see new sights and experience new areas. It did not take long to find a challenge for the group. Here is a picture of my sled laying on it's side on the side of a hill, with my buddy Keiths sled nearly upside down a little further up the hill. It was a good thing I wanted to take it easy and keep myself from getting injured before heading out west for a week! Actually, it really was not as bad as it looked. I had rolled my sled over to get it pointed down hill easier and Keith was doing the same. The day was lots of fun though with lots of fun play areas and new sights to see.
    I made it back safe and sound and after a good nights sleep and a filling breakfast, I got out to do a better job cleaning up the snow. The cabin roof had cleared and had dropped onto the side walkway and the driveway had picked up around an inch of fresh since I had plowed yesterday morning, so I got busy on that while Nora, Grace, the pups and Rynada (her dolly) played in all the snow. Here is a shot of Grace climbing the the pile along side the cabin. It was safe for her to play there, but everyone (including the pups and Rynada) were kept clear of the shop, as the snow on it was in a hang fire setup. The shop roof did not clear when the whole family was out, but I had gone to drop off my sled to be put in the trailer to head out west and was talking on the phone with a friend when it let go. Pretty impressive and so much power.
    Here is one more shot from today's snow play. It is of Huck and Millie staring down each other from opposite snow piles on the side of the driveway. The banks are over the cutter bars on the snow thrower. It has been several years since it was that deep up here and I toss the snow well clear of the area I cut with the snow thrower. In that area, the snow is about face high and is what Millie is behind. I also took a shot on my way back from Dave's today. It is a shot of the Trap Rock River, still flowing through the winter wonderland up here.
    So I guess that just about covers things. Just about. I was finally able to pay all the bills for the Ride-In and come up with this years donation amount. Actually, that amount will grow further and I will get into why in just a moment, but thanks to the huge bump we got from the restored sled raffle, the donation going to the Michigan Chapter of the Make A Wish foundation will in the amount of $16,500. That is a new all time high. The funds raised without the sled raffle were also impressive as we did have a smaller turn-out this year than in past years.
    Now, the reason why the donation will grow is that there was a miscommunication when I sent in the final shirt order and instead of getting just the additional shirts we needed to complete the order, we got a full order. So I have about 80 extra shirts that I will be making available for sale on line. I am going to wait until I get back from my Togwotee trip, but for you folks that could not make the event and want a shirt, or for anyone that might want two, or someone just wanting to help out, that opportunity will be available in around 2 weeks. I figure I will just sell the shirts at their cost ($12) + shipping ($6). So they will be $18 a piece, including shipping. Also, if there was someone that had registered and did not get your shirt(s), let me know and we will check our list and get them to you. Please no orders until I get back from WY and get things set up!
    One final Ride-In note is that I was finally able to get the donators list made up. Note I did not include the names of the persons that registered and came to the event and that is a huge part of the success (at least half really), but I just did not want to post names of persons that might not want their name plastered onto the internet! So a huge thanks to all those that attended too!
    Now, that will do it for real this time. No entry next week, but then the entry for the 10th or maybe the 11th should be a good one with lots of high holes and tin horn shots, as well as the beautiful scenery from the Togwotee WY area!
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

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February 17-
    Getting a bit of an early start today. Nora and Gracie went on a road trip, but are on their way back, so I would like to be done with this by the time they get back. Also, there is some good hockey on today and I would like to be able to sit and relax and watch some of it.
    It's been another pretty quiet week for me. Not completely quiet, but the cold has been stubborn and I continue to fight it. It does seem to be better and I have heard that it lasts at least a week, so hopefully in a few days it will be gone and I will be back to having full strength all day long.
    We did get our storm last Sunday and Monday. I awoke to around 6-7" new snow Monday morning and it kept up for most of Monday, with another 3-4" falling and then a couple of inches of snow Monday night. It was a very dense snow and packed down the existing snowpack even further, so now we have a very solid 30-36" on the ground up here. It was also a big job to clear. I typically use the ATV and plow to do most of the work and then cut back the banks with the snow thrower. The snow Sunday and Monday was so dense that I could only use the snow thrower to clear. A job that typically takes me around 35-40 minutes took me over 2 hours. In that 2 hours of clearing, another 2" had fallen! So I let the heavier snow finish up and Monday afternoon did the second clearing of the day.
    One of the big jobs Monday afternoon was to clear the path along the side of the house. Typically the snow slides off the roof quickly enough that it will over shoot the walkway, but when the snow is more dense and/or is wet, then it slides much more slowly and actually just dumps off the roof and down onto the walkway. So when the snow came down off the roof Monday, this was the look of the side walkway. The 12 year old Ariens handled it very well. I just locked the hubs and let the machine do the work.
    The shop has also been clearing all season long and on the side with the lean-to, the snow has piled up to the height of the edge of the lean-to's roof. So in order for the snow to continue to be able to slide off the roof, it needs a place to go. Typically, I just go out there with a shovel and clear enough of the snow away to allow more to slide off the roof. However, there was a thread going on the discussion board about this big Yamaha snow thrower down at Pat's Yamaha in Greenland, so I through out a invitation for them to come up with that thing and help clear the snow away from the drop zone of the lean-to and as luck would have it, they took me up on my offer.
    Lenny arrived with his friend Brad and we got the behemoth unloaded from Lenny's truck and headed over to clear the snow. Lenny first cut into the snow that was just on the level, in order to get to the pile by the lean-to. The machine at into that nearly 3 feet of snow with no problems and boy, could it toss it too! Then the eating away at the big pile commenced. Because that snow was so compacted by sliding off the roof and compressing itself, the big Blue Monster would want to climb. So we had to use shovels to slice off chunks from the pile and then let the thrower toss it out of the way. Still a much easier process than to shovel by hand and in around 2 hours, the way had been cleared for more snow to drop off the roof. So barring an incredibly snowy last two weeks of February and all of March, I think I will be all set from having to worry about that area again. In the future, I plan to either beef up the framing of the lean-to to be able to handle tons of snow, or to get a mini-excavator out there to excavate the dirt out to give me more room for the snow to drop into.
    It wasn't all work this past week though. I was able to get out with Dave yesterday for a ride. I am now within the "2 week warning" for the out west trip and last year just about ruined my out west trip by hurting my leg a week before we left, so I did not want to do anything too crazy. Dave was riding a sled that just had the top end rebuilt and also did not want to get too crazy with things, so we made a good pair. It was a bit chilly, but not brutally cold, with the air temp around 10 above. The sun was trading places with snow showers and it was nice to be cruising around the snowy woods. All went well with no sled injuries or body injuries and we finished up the ride with some carving of the snow in Dave's yard. One more for good measure.
    I am really hoping that my body can get the final push it needs to get over this stubborn cold, as it looks like we have quiet a snowy period headed our way in the next 10 days. A bit of system snow tomorrow and tomorrow night and then perhaps some fairly substantial lake effect snow for Tuesday and Wednesday, with some more system snow by Fri-Sat and yet more system snow by early next week. We're not the only ones to see lots of snow chances in the next 10 days. It looks like a good portion of the northern 1/2 of the region will see some chances for snow. So while there may not be a ton of time left for areas of the central Midwest, there does look to be at least some chances to put them back into action for snow play as well as build to the bases down across the northern 1/4 to 1/3rd of the region.
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-
February 10-
    This will be a short one I promise. Gracie came down with a cold virus in the days leading up to the ride in and then this week both Nora and I got it. It's not the worst thing I have ever had, but still enough to have kept me fairly well sidelined for the past few days.
    I did get out for a ride Monday afternoon with Matt and a few others. I was able to take out the Crossfire with the shorter a-arms on it and I really loved it! In fact, if there are any Arctic Cat engineers or managers out there reading this, it it my recommendation that you put the mountain a-arms on the high country as a stock feature. It already comes with the 2.25" track and is on the mountain chassis, so it is not exactly at trail sled, more like a short tracked mountain sled and with the narrower a-arms, it is a boondocking machine! That and the sway bar was removed. Way easier to toss around. In fact, a bit too easy at first, but I added a little more air to the front shocks and it did not initiate the roll over quite as quickly, but was still very friendly to toss around. 
    To me that sled is now the perfect UP boondocking sled and it will be a tough decision to give it back at the end of the winter! I do also like the idea of having a long-tracked mountain sled for out west too. That 12" of track on the 153 is a help in the mountains for this guy. Perhaps someone with more talent could get by fine with a 141, but I really do not see too many of the pro mountain riders out west on anything as short as a 141, so I think my ideas of having a long track for the mountains is not a silly one.
    Anyway, it was fun to get out and ride on Monday, but then it was mostly work the rest of the week. I had really fallen behind on the Kitchen remodel work. Still in the planning stages and Nora and I had done quite a bit of research and planning, but I did not have anything firmly drawn up. As mentioned a month or two ago, I picked up a great CAD program for designing kitchens, but I was worried I would not be able to learn all the features of it fast enough to be able to produce the plans to get building later this winter and early spring. So I contacted the author of the software (who lives in NE WI) and he was kind enough to say that he would do the plans for me. I sent everything to him on Friday and he got back to me within an hour with a rough draft 3D rendering of the kitchen! His speed in getting back to me proved I had made the right choice, as it would have taken me at least a week or 2 to get to the point he was able to get to in just an hour. I guess it helps when you wrote the software!
    Anyway, we have already gone back and forth with a few minor design changes and hopefully sometime this week I will have the full set of plans. Since I have the software he is using, all I need is the file he created and then I can do the 3D renderings, and produce things like cut lists and price estimating. I can stay that as I worked on things last week, I was really getting excited to get building. The shop is pretty well setup for things and I plan to build a few cabinets for the shop, using the plans for the kitchen cabinets, that way I can make my mistakes and get through the learning curve with them, using less expensive materials. Seems like anytime I build something, there is always a learning curve at first and once past that, things go very smoothly and even quicker. It is still my hope to have all the kitchen cabinets done before the snow melts completely and I can start with the addition. I guess the spring weather will have a big say in that. If we have the type of spring we had last year, no way! But if we have a typical spring, then I have about 2 months from now until I can even think of getting onto the slab to clear the rest of the snow off and start framing.
    I had a neat experience yesterday. I do the weather for a set of radio stations owned by the same parent company and one of the DJ's I talk to in the morning also does by the play-by-play for the MI Tech Hockey and Football games. One thing led to another and as luck would have it, I got invited (or kind of invited myself!) to be able to sit in the press box and watch last nights game from there. It was game two of a 2 game home stand against the University of Alaska Anchorage. The night before, Tech had blown a 4-1 second period lead to lose 5-4, so I knew that they would be seeking revenge last night and they ended up pounding A-A 6 to 1. It was really cool to be up in the press box watching the game and sitting next to Dirk as he called the game. He does an awesome job, as does the color man Randy. I even got called in during the intermissions to give a little impromptu weather forecast as we have a storm slated for tonight and tomorrow. A great game and a great way to watch a game!
    As mentioned, we have a storm headed our way. In fact the flakes should start falling in another hour or two and really get going to night, before backing off some for the day tomorrow and into tomorrow night. I would not be surprised at all to see us pick up double digit accumulations out of this. Not the mega-accumulations areas along the east coast saw Friday night, but still a nice snow event for us. It will be nice to get as we have not had a ton of snow in the past week. We did have several inches fall Mon, Tue and Wed, but then has been pretty quiet for the past 2-3 days. So perhaps my little cold will go away and I can put some tracks in the fresh this week!
 I guess that about covers it for this one. Going to sign off, lay on the couch and catch the rest of the Red Wings hockey game.
Good night from the Keweenaw.. 
-JD-
February 3-
    The 8th annual SnowFest is in the books and was a great one! I would have to say that it was probably the best one yet. We are still counting up the money raised and there are some bills to be paid, but I have no doubt that from a fund raising standpoint, this will be the most successful year. Due in large part to the success of the Sled Raffle. There were close to 700 tickets sold for that raffle and that generated close to $7000 itself. Congrats go out to the winner, more on that in a bit.
   First I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to all who attended. There were quite a few new faces and also a lot of familiar faces. The level of generosity by those that attend never ceases to amaze me. Here we have somewhere on the order of a hundred people or so, but yet between the silent auction and raffle tickets sold at the event, the money collected at the banquet alone is in the 4000 to 5000 range. That means that there is an average of 40-50 dollars spent by folks who have already paid 50 dollars to attend the banquet as well as travel and lodging expenses to be there.
    I also need to say a huge thanks to Lori Sleeman, Cathy Bonini, John Stachler and my wife Nora for their help in setting up, prize collection and registration. Also, Bobbi Joe, who helped with raffle ticket sales and handing out the prizes. There is no way the event could ever go on without all the work they do. Tim and Susie Landers, who own the Brownstone Hall where the banquet is held also stepped up to go the extra mile to make sure things ran smoothly. Susie filled in for Big Vin (who had to work and could not attend for the first time in 8 years) as emcee and Tim jumped into action when ever there was a need as well as providing the background music for the banquet. I would also like to thank bartenders Scott and Bob who once again donated their time to make sure folks did not go thirsty.
     I will be putting together a formal thank you list in the next week or so and should also have the final number for funds raised by next week's entry, but for sure it was a great event and everyone seemed to have a really good time and I was thrilled to meet all of the attendees and am glad that it seemed universal that all those that came for the first time this year are already looking forward to next years event.
    Those attending this year were greeted at the door by my beautiful wife and her aunt Phyllis. Nora handled all of the registration reservations for this years event and I sure hope that she feels up to the task for next year as it is really a big undertaking! After helping me set up for the event, Lori, Cathy and Bobbie Joe made sure that plenty of raffle tickets were sold.
    As mentioned, the big item of the night was the sled raffle and we were able to bring the sled into the hall and have it on stage for display. Kind of neat that in that last picture, the future owner of the sled can be seen in the background. The hall filled up pretty quickly and it was neat to see folks interacting with each other.
    One of those to arrive early in the evening for the event was the guest of honor, Tom- as seen here with his dad. Once everyone was there and we had gotten the silent auction and raffle rolling along, we sat down and enjoyed a great dinner of turkey off the bone, roast beef, potatoes, lasagna, some veggy dishes, salad and dessert. Nothing cosmopolitan, just GOOD old fashioned home cooking provided by Kangas Catering out of Hancock.
    Once dinner was over, then we got to the sled raffle. So I was joined on stage by Tom, Lori and Adam. Adam is the man behind the restoration. It was his sled that was taken from a "ready for the scrap pile" stage to better than new. He along with a team of others stripped the thing down to the bare bones and meticulously restored the sled to its full grandeur.
    We did not waste to much time in getting to the drawing. Tom close he eyes and reached into the bowl of tickets, pulled the winning ticket, handed it to me to read, followed by me handing it to Lori because I did not have my reading glasses on. Lori studied the ticket as the anticipation grew in the room...a smile started to form on her face as she read the winning tickets owner. The name was called out and as if scripted by Hollywood, not only was the winner at the banquet, but it was Donna Jarman, who along with her husband own the Mosquito Bar In Toivola. The sled sat on display at their place for over a month and they were responsible for selling over half of the tickets for the raffle. Soon Donna was joined by Don and I may be wrong on this, but I am guessing he is thinking right at that moment... "This is awesome, come on honey, lets go look at OUR sled!". Or maybe by the look on his face in this shot... HIS sled! I would imagine Donna might frame the winning ticket, just to remind Don who's sled it really is!. None the less, it was a very cool moment and the sled has found a great home.
    Before leaving the stage, Don presented me with a gift. The night before the Mosquito Bar had hosted a Karaoke party that raised funds for the SnowFest event and he had all the patrons at the bar that night sign a banner and then presented me with the banner to hang in my shop. The banner was also signed by all those in attendance at the banquet.
    With the sled raffle over, we moved onto getting the raffle of items donated to the event going. The community that we live in really steps up to the plate and donates tons of items for the silent auction and raffle and several friends of the site also send in some wonderful things. At times, it almost seems like we have too many things, but it's nice to know that almost everyone in attendance goes home with some kind of winning. One of the persons winning multiple raffle prized was Tom. Even Gracie got involved in the raffle by picking some of the winning tickets. As the raffle was going on, we gave the 2-minute warning for the silent auction and there was one final push to make sure that folks had their bid be the highest for what they wanted.
    As is the case with an event with so much going on, there are lots of sub-plots that all contribute to make it such a special event. I am sure that I could tell dozens of stories about the special acts of unselfish kindness done by those involved with the event, but will just stick with one that happened last night. A man named Guy Ellis has donated an American Girl doll to the past few events and they have helped raise funds for those events. This year, he again donated a doll, along with some clothing for it, a storybook about doll and other items. He then went on to make sure that he was the highest bidder for the doll and upon winning it, went on to give it to Gracie. Like I say, there are lot of other stories about similar acts of kindness and generosity that can be told and I wish I had the time and energy to tell them all, but please know that they do not go unnoticed by myself and others and are a big part what makes this event so special.
    Before the night was over, Tom took to the stage and asked if he could say a few words. So I handed him the mic and did my best to fight back the tears as he gave a heartfelt thank you to everyone at the event. Then this morning, I received an e mail that was sent from Tom to Nora and forwarded on to me. Tom had gotten home and did some art work from his night.
    I have to admit that in the months leading up to the event, there are times when I am spinning a dozen places at the tip of a tall, thin stick. Some of the plates have to do with the ride-in and there are times when I am asked to spin some more and feel overwhelmed. Thoughts briefly pop into my head that this will be the final year I do the SnowFest, but then the event takes place, I get to hang out with so many great folks, raise money for a very important cause and most importantly... see the effects and gratitude that the Wish Child has and it washes away the thoughts of ending that chapter of the book which is my life. There will be a 9th Annual. I promise.
   So the 8th annual is over, the cleaning up is all done and it was a GREAT time. My deepest thanks to all that made it happen and will make a wish come true.
    In other news up this way... the weather can be described in one word. SNOW. After a very sluggish start, we are getting pummeled. I have been keeping a daily record of the snow, but am too tired to add all of those numbers up since things got going a little over 3 weeks ago, but it is deep, really deep. I went to bed last night and it was only flurrying out. As my head hit the pillow, I had thoughts on how it was going to be nice to not have to move snow in the morning. I am not sick of doing it yet, just was very tired from the banquet and looking forward to a morning off. No such luck. From the time we went to bed at around midnight, to 8 am this morning, we had managed to pick up a fresh 6" of snow.
    As mentioned, I am by no means tired of the snow and not tired of moving it...yet. Quite the opposite. I am thrilled to see things starting to look like they should around here in winter. It has been a disappointing past few seasons, but the snow banks are getting huge and the woods and trails are in prime shape for playing in the snow. The forecast also looks pretty good for more in the next ten days to two weeks. Time to play!
    Earlier in the week, we had a bit of a warm up and the snow actually became really good for packing, so while I did some work Monday afternoon, Grace and Nora got busy building not just a snow man, but his wife and little girl too. I was very impressed! So from a very snowy setting...
Good night from the Keweenaw..
-JD-

 

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