Custer Country

Custer Country

We will be back! Two weeks in Custer was terrific, but not long enough. The town was great, people were friendly, and we arrived in time for Gold Rush Days – which meant another parade as well as in-town festivities! Don’t miss the Buglin’ Bull restaurant…

In no particular order (below,) I’ve included a few pix and brief descriptions from the highlights. Beginning with the end of our visit, we drove to Deadwood, just north of Custer through some very pretty Black Hills NF country. We met friends from my working days at the Iron Horse Inn.  The Inn has a particular connection to our family since it was owned and operated by our son-in-laws mother’s parents (the Wagner family).

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Seems the geology of the Black Hills is such that it contains many caves. In particular the Jewel Cave and Wind Cave.  We made the underground trek through part of the Wind Cave which is noted for its unique ceiling box structure unlike the usual stalactites. An hour and a half underground was sufficient, so we passed on the Jewel Cave. Something left for the next trip.

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A Balloon Fest was part of the town’s celebration…we watched from lift off to touch down. With 10 balloons, it provided a sampling of what we expect to see at the Albuquerque Balloon Fest in October.

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We were fortunate to have reservations at the Wagon West RV park and 7th Calvary Café. Can’t say enough good things about the Park or the Café…. super friendly owner/staff, delicious food – don’t miss the breakfast! And, a view out our front window that we never tired of. This was the site of General Custer’s encampment, and is so noted on the monument just across from us… We had many pleasant evenings and mornings watching the deer feeding, and the fawns playing, in the field in front of us.

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What to say about the donkeys? They wander wild in Custer State Park where we spent a lot of time wildlife watching.  That they wander wild, doesn’t suggest the degree to which they are friendly!  Stop the car, get out, and you will have a dear friend looking for a pet – or a scratch behind the ear!

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One of several day trips took us around the Needles Loop – by car NOT by RV – a beautiful drive and spectacular scenery of rock formations, vistas and narrow rock tunnels… one way and about wide enough, tall enough for a car or pickup truck.

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Of course, we couldn’t pass up the Crazy Horse Monument or Mt Rushmore. I have to say, of the two, the Crazy Horse Monument was much more impressive both in scale and in the visitor’s center. What the Korczak Zidkowski family has built in addition to the mountain carving he started (first blast) in 1948 is amazing.

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Coming back to Custer State Park – it wouldn’t be a visit without time spent watching the Bison. Now, I’d rather not be the guy on the motorcycle… but they passed him by without incident – lucky man. These are wild animals weighing up to 1,200 lbs. And mating season was underway. We watch old bulls fighting and chasing the younger ones out of the herd.  Females were tending calves, some of whom were still nursing. What a great time to be at the Park!

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As I noted at the beginning … We will for certain be back!

Puppy Saga

Puppy Saga

And the story continues…. Maggie was (is) a sweet, adorable puppy. She was also 55+lbs of energy wrapped in a soft, ever-shedding coat. After a considerable investment in pretty successful training, it became clear that she needed a different home.

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With remarkable good fortune, we found an ideal home with the assistance of the breeder. Maggie is now living an unfettered life with a Lab brother, freedom to sleep wherever, and lots of play time at a campsite with a creek. Seems she’s turning into the water dog that I’d hoped. So, all-in-all a successful outcome.

That said, I was again without a dog ….

After some reasonable negotiations at home, we decided to go back to the breed we know well having raised and trained more than a few. And, with plans to move on from sailing to RVing, an upland bird dog became a much better choice.

So, after a number of calls, research on line and with dog friends, we found Cricket. Her litter was just reaching time to go home, and we fell in love on the first visit.  How does anyone resist a Brittany puppy! What’s more, the dad was from the kennel where we had found our first Brit – and, they were taking one of Cricket’s sisters – we had come full circle.

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That was just a couple weeks ago. Cricket is home with us, growing fast and keeping me regular company. In fact, she has developed a very close attachment, and a moderate case of separation anxiety should I leave her alone.  This too will pass, house breaking will succeed and it will be time to start field training for birds!

 

 

Stay tuned for more Cricket stories……..

Moving on……

The only constant in life is change. That’s one of the lessons I’ve learned – repeatedly!

So it is that my world is shifting yet again. So has Maggie’s. In fairness to her, she has found a new home with a loving family.

Perhaps there will be a new ‘Maggie’ when life gets resettled.


Since retiring, sailing has occupied much of my time and energy, and provided wonderful friendships and shared experiences on the water and on land. Valinor and I have sailed all around the Chesapeake, some off-shore and down the east coast to the Keys and back. Traveling the Intracoastal Waterway was a special experience, and created so many memories I will carry with me of interesting places, fascinating people, and assorted experiences – from peaceful to more exciting than I needed.


Along the way I’ve made good friends – some even have left the water for similar on-land adventures. Many of the stories are shared here on this blog.

Valinor is now For Sale, and hopefully will find another sailor to treat her kindly and continue the adventures. (reply here if you would be interested in purchasing a great boat!)


In the works now are plans to cut the home ties, move into an RV motor coach and go exploring our great Country. It has been some years since I’ve traveled much on land, so looking forward to renewing old friendships, making new ones, and revisiting the many wonderful places I’ve been to but briefly – not to mention being able to take the home where it’s warm — all year around!

So, stay tuned for more adventures of a land-based kind. Our Spot will travel with us, and we’ll do our best to share the fun!

Season opener

March 12th marked the opening of sailing season for Valinor! It was just a short day sail, but cranked the engine  – started on the first try! Brought along a couple friends and  Maggie — managed to find enough wind for a delightful sail.

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Discovered that a February wind storm had driven the boat against the dock and chipped the gel coat. A call to my favorite maintenance folks (Diversified Marine) got the repairs done quickly with excellent results. Another call Boat US Insurance got the claim approved and payment in full within a week. Two great outfits to deal with!

March 29th was a short work session. Moved the dingy off the fore deck and stowed against the stern. Turned the boat around to bow in and readjusted all the dock lines. Shut down all shore power and 12v uses leaving the solar panel to maintain the batteries. Left to do: flush the fresh water systems and fill the tanks, change oil and filters, check all fluid levels and do a complete cleaning above and below deck. Will get a diver to clean the bottom and check the zinc early May after a late April delivery from Florida to Annapolis.

Looking forward to another great sailing season! You can follow us here, and check the Spot link to see where we wander…….

6 Months this week…

6 Months this week…

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As we say with kids, ‘they grow up so fast!’ Maggie is doing just that, and continues to be the challenge of an energetic toddler……though one wouldn’t guess that from this picture. She is fast approaching 50lbs and growing more confident every day.

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To help direct a lot of that energy into useful/manageable traits, we are now going weekly to a professional trainer. In addition to all the standard commands of sit, come, stay etc, she is learning the ropes on the agility course. It’s great fun to help her over hurdles, teeter-totters, ramps, tunnels and other obstacles. She’s a quick study, and does all that’s asked of her – if slowly and only when on the lead for the most part. The immediate goal is to get her to obey when off-lead – expected to take some time.

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Over Christmas holiday, we had all the kids and grandkids home, including Tessa. Tessa was my last Brittany and is now being horribly spoiled by our daughter Abby (lower right). It was fun to see Maggie and Tessa together for the first time. They became fast friends, shared toys and probably stories that we couldn’t understand.

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As for her role as 1st Mate, we are now not-so-patiently waiting for Spring and more boat time. Winter is setting in after some early, record-setting warm weather. The short days, and cold make the boat look a bit forlorn. Winterizing was accomplished and we’re counting down to mid-March when we can safely recommission.

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This pic is from last winter, but it’s what we’re heading for soon. Also, Valinor is now in a slip almost directly across the creek, three slips to the left of the black hulled power boat…

Maggie on the water – week 13-17

Maggie on the water – week 13-17

And the training continues ….  Leaning more about Labs every day. This one in particular is exceptionally smart, AND has a strong will to match!  Prudence says ‘professional help’, and so we signed up with a trainer for once per week sessions. All the basic sit/come/stay and related skills are developing along with my patience (most of the time). She learns fast. The trick is to get her to do what she knows – when I tell her!

All work and no play isn’t for Maggie or me!  She made the trip with me, by car, to the Seven Seas Cruising Association Gam and made new friends while getting accustomed to the car kennel. The following week she guarded the door at the Passport Yachts office while I did my part-time broker work at the annual Annapolis Boat Show.

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Several days living on the boat helped her to learn her way around. I built a carpet covered ramp to make it easier to get up and down from cabin to deck. The following week was committed to boat maintenance that involved a short three day haul while replacing a thru hull valve. That and a couple weeks of not so great weather meant limited boat time, but continued training time. We did sneak in a short day sail with a couple crew friends giving Maggie the first chance to sail – she was a trouper, and seemed to take to the life easily.IMG_7223

Week 17 brought the first overnight sail to a marina. As a club cruise, I had crew help, and it provided shore time for Maggie. It was a great downwind sail on Saturday and a motor sail upwind home.

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A little help with the lines (photo by crew friend)

Sadly, it’s fast approaching the time to winterize – what and ugly word!  Off today to winterize the fresh water system. Holding off on the engine in the hope of another sail or two.

Next weeks/months with boat secured means more puppy  training time and planning for the next sailing season!

MAGGIE’S LOG – Wk 8-12

MAGGIE’S LOG – Wk 8-12

Notes: Bringing home a new puppy, with all the concerns, hopes and expectations, is always an exciting but tense time – that certainly describes Maggie’s arrival in the household at 8 weeks of age.  She’s a yellow English Labrador of smallish parents. She comes into a home that, for a time, raised and trained Brittanys. Transitioning from upland, pointing bird dogs is driven by plans to include a canine crew on my 30 ft sailboat. So, the inclusion of boat training to normal puppy training is an added challenge.  This will be a very busy few months! This log will follow Maggie’s training and experience, as well as mine…..

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I picked Maggie from a litter of 5 girls and 3 boys at 5 weeks of age.

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She was the outgoing, exploring pup. The breeding was chosen because both parents are on the small size for labs, being 45-55lbs rather than the usual 60-80lbs – much more manageable for a small sailboat. We followed her development in emails from the breeder, and brought her home at 8 weeks of age on August 31st (12lbs). That was four weeks ago as I write this. It’s a good thing I’m retired…..long days, constant attention, and frequent trips out overnight, so sleep comes in short naps – mine and hers.

Meanwhile she is growing fast and fully demonstrating her outgoing personality. Puppy proofing the house is a continuing challenge. Top of the training list – crate training, house-breaking, come, sit, stay, off … and the meaning of a sharp NO.

Meanwhile, we’ve made the beginnings of indoctrination to the boat. With this begins Maggie’s boat log.

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She has made a couple trips to the boat, and begun to settle in. We have not yet left the dock, but that will come shortly. The first overnight found her discovering the salon berth …. A spot she clearly chose to share with me.

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Tomorrow is her first vet appointment to get a checkup, boosts and ID implant (24lbs). Later this week we go back to the boat for another overnight, learn about boat motors and work on using the puppy pad on the foredeck. The weather gods are not cooperating with rain and high winds in the forecast.

…check back for more log entries, meanwhile “woof – think I’ll take a nap” …