Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Kuehl's Christmas Letter 2015

    It is getting to be that time of year again so I am going to launch into my latest edition of a yearly tradition of relating the mostly boring details of our life here in flyover land. I have not been doing any blogging since last Summer primarily since I just can't get motivated to type it out. Typing with two or three fingers and a spell checker that is constantly interrupting my thought processes does slow things down a bit. Anyhow, for those of you that are waiting for the detailed details of our lives, here we go.
   January, one of these years I think I will start in, say, March just to keep people guessing. Typically January started off really cold with near zero high temperatures and snow to boot. Now Jan and I are starting over with the grandkids with sports games in local locales. Leah is involved with basketball, and soccer in the Fall and Winter, so we get to quite a few of her games, and Sam and Gus are involved in soccer, football, and basketball too, so they and we stay busy attending and putting some miles on vehicles. On the 21st Jan and I flew back to Japan to visit Rachel, Hans, Josiah, Annika and William. The fight over always takes longer because of bucking the Jet Stream all of the way there, I think it was 13 hours long, luckily there are non stop movies to watch and at least 3 meals. If you scroll back through my blogs you can get a play by play of the time we spent there. Japan is such a nice place to visit especially when you have a place to stay and guides that know their way around.
    February started in Japan with a shorter flight home and some jet lag recovery time. Jan is back volunteering at Leah and Aaron's school 2 days a week, and we were helping the Kuehl's move from their home in town out a few miles into the country to the acreage they bought from a dentist's widow from St. James. We were helping them move out there in between basketball in Godahl for Leah, and a trip to visit Jan's sister Paula and her husband Steve in Wadena among other things. Jan and I drove over to Rochester for a Chanticleer concert and a stay over at Gen and Steve's home. The next day was basketball there for Sam and Gus, they really have a lot of sports activities for kids in Rochester among other things to do. We are really lucky to have that city so close with all of the things that are available there. I did some work on the 94 Ducati, by replacing the steering head bearings, after noticing a notch for years. It turns out most of the work involves just getting down to place you need to get to, replacing the bearings wasn't too bad. Jan and I made a trip to Rochester for Gus's birthday party, some of the boys basketball games, and pick up a set of forks for our ST Honda that were getting rebuilt. As I have said, Winter is bike maintenance time in the part of the world.
    March. Jan and I spent some time helping Eli and Lindsey move from their home in town out to the "ranch" in the country. Also the weather was moderating somewhat, with temps in the 40s. Actually it was 48 the day we celebrated Leah's birthday. Eli's brother in law gave him an old skid loader, so we went down to get it, figuring we would need to winch it onto the trailer. Imagine our surprise, when after getting the snow cleared and some shade tree mechanic tricks, he ended up driving it onto the trailer! After some tweeking, that machine has been very valuable at the ranch. Shortly thereafter I had several bikes out on long runs, with temps in the 60s. Spring came a little early this year, with warm windy conditions, getting the Stang out of the garage, and uncovering the trailer, etc.. I was helping Eli to get power back into a couple of their barns on their acreage. He was hoping to put those units into use somehow to generate some income. Riding and the weather continued to improve with only a little interruption from some snow.
    April. Started out this year with celebrating Easter at our house with the whole gang minus the DeFors who are still in Japan for a couple more months. I finally got around to replacing the walk-in door on the garage that has been needing replacement for some time. Things were warm but windy, a common weather type for this time of the year. I made a run up to North Dakota for a couple of days to visit the area I inventoried over 40 years ago when I was an outside plant engineer. Things in Aneta have not changed too much in the interim, and the Top Hat bar is still open in Mayville. I remember walking over there in 1970 after a safety meeting with a fellow employee. I said I should call Jan and he asked "when are you getting married?". It does not seem possible that it was that long ago. Back up in my blogs to see more details on that trip. I have been making it to some Patriot Guard missions this Spring in the area. Jan and I also attended a concert by Joe Bonnamassa in Minneapolis one Saturday night, it was fantastic! Then I started taking the XR650 Honda apart, it had developed a bad knock again. Here we go again. Anyhow, the piston was toast, so this time I took it to a dealer I trust to rebore and fit a new piston. It ended up Honda does not make one that oversize, so I ended up with a 10.5 to 1 Wiseco piston. After re-assembly and break-in, it is pretty snappy. It's getting to the point where I can take apart and re-assemble the engine in my sleep.
   May. A trip to Rochester for Sam's first communion, me home for Leah and Aaron's track meets and back to Rochester for doctors appointment to biopsy my tongue, and pick up Jan who stayed to do some work for Gen. A few days later Jan and I went to look at a new Mustang and ended up trading in our 2011 GT 6 speed for a new GT with an automatic. Along with assorted medical appointments and trips to Rochester for Sam and Gus's events, and St. James for Leah and Aaron's school events, Jan, Lindsey, and I drove up to Andover for Paul and Marcy's moving sale. They sold their home in Andover and are moving full time to the condo they have owned in Duluth for years. The condo is right on the lake shore within sight of the lift bridge. I was making several runs for parts for the 650 rebuild job, and did get it together successfully, ie. it runs. We had our annual Memorial Day picnic in Owatonna again with a pretty good turn out, with some cousins, and siblings etc.. Along with warm temperatures and good amounts of rain comes the problem of keeping up with the growth of the lawn, although it is better than the alternative.
    June. I had a PGR mission at Madison, South Dakota on the 1st and on the 7th Jan and I drove up to the Cities for Gen's Masters Degree award ceremony at St. Marys. I have some educated people in my family  don't I, come to think about it. I have been running our BMW's up to Monticello for maintenance quite a bit lately due to the fact that the shop that I bought them from, which is right down the road, no longer is a BMW dealer. It's not so bad though, it is a large dealer with lots to look at, and Phil is close by, so we go out for lunch once in a while. Eli Leah Phil, and I attended the airshow at Granite Falls that is put on by Fagen's WWll museum. I believe that over 20,000 people were there along with aircraft from all over the United States, from a B-17 to P-51s, P-38s, P-39s, P40s, and assorted trainers and airshow groups. It was a tremendous show, and the weather cooperated. The next day Phil and I headed west on our long tour. Phil had charging trouble in South Dakota and with some help ended up in Rapid City for the night. Check out an earlier blog for the nuts and bolts of that trip. We did get to the Tetons, Utah, and Colorado on a shortened grand tour, but had a good time by not pushing too hard. After getting home Jan and I got the trailer out and loaded up for the run to Lanesboro for the 4th of July weekend. As it turned out that was the only time the trailer got out this year.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

2015 Bucket List Ride

  Here we go again with another bike trip story, but like I have said before, it is my blog, so I get to blog about what I am doing in the recent past. Again this year my brother Phil and I took off on another bike trip, mostly headed west and south west. We fell a little short of my day one destination due to the fact that Phils' Harley had some charging trouble, and I don't mean with a credit card. We spent some time in Murdo trying to repair the trouble until we got into Rapid City and the Harley dealer. We met the nicest native American couple, he was a Marine, and a union pipefitter, so Phil and he had a lot to talk about while he was charging the battery with a set of jumper cables. We made it to Rapid and the problem was corrected the next day with a few expensive parts. We headed west and ended up crossing the Big Horns on highway 16, which is a great mountain road. It's wide and curvy and has beautiful scenery, when you get a chance to look around. It was Worland for the night. Parts of Wyoming have had some huge amounts of rain recently which was evident in Wind River canyon the next morning, with landslides taking out the BNSF tracks in more than one place, and road repairs on our side on the canyon. At the head on the canyon is a dam that backs up Boysen reservoir. That lake was the highest that I have ever seen it, and it seems as if I get by there almost every year lately. We ended up eating lunch in Dubois at a supermarket deli. Part of the fun on these trips is the people that you meet, it seems that being on a bike leaves you open to just about everybody. For instance I spent a pleasant 10 minutes in the checkout at said supermarket chatting with just about all of the people in the area. Dubois is the home of Marine Chance Phelps who was the subject of the movie "Taking Chance". Jan and I visited his grave a few years ago but Phil and I did not stop by. Next up is the tremendous view of the Grand Tetons as we come over Togwotee Pass. Coming from the east as we did puts the entire range in front of you framed by the forest that you have been riding through. The only downside to that area is fighting your way through Jackson on regular city streets, with crazy traffic and multitudes of pedestrians crossing streets. Were we glad to get out town. From there we headed south and west some more, clipping a corner of Idaho and Utah before dragging into Evanston, Wyoming for that night. The next morning it was off to the Uintah mountains in Utah. This route takes you up and over the Uintah mountains. I believe that the pass was over 10,000 feet and cool too. Just past the pass we came across a heard of mountain sheep grazing in the ditch, I think that there were 16 or so. Took a break in Kanab and ran over a couple more passes to Price, Utah for lunch. The temperature was rising, so I thought that instead of running into southern Utah where it was hotter still we would head south east for the higher elevations in Colorado. After braving winds, some light rain and 102 degree temps we stopped in Grand Junction for the night.

The next morning it was south through Ouray and Silverton to Durango on some of the scariest mountain roads in this country. As many times as I have ridden the road out of Ouray, I still find it a little unsettling to say the least. We got caught in the only shower of the whole trip in a road construction area, but by the time we climbed Wolf Creek pass and arrived in Alamosa for the night I was dry. The next day was one of the most scenic runs ever, between Alamosa and Leadville you pass by a series of 14,000 foot mountains that this year were unusually snow covered, with a deep blue sky to boot. At the stop in Leadville we spent some time talking with a local, another Marine vet, about the local celebration in progress there etc.. While studying a poster on the wall in the convenience store I realized it was a price list for various amounts of marihuana, you can buy it here, just don't bring it home. From there up to I-70 to Dillon, another traffic jam, to Kremling for lunch. Just short of Walden, a bad accident kept us on the side of the road for about an hour, chit chatting with local ranchers and a truck driver hauling crude. I never have been able to find out what happened, but it looked as if the car hit a trailer going the other way, on this nearly deserted highway, and ripped the whole side out of the trailer. The car was in the deep ditch with the top pealed back, and the trailer and it's contents were scattered for 100 yards down the road. It did not look too good for the car driver, but the ambulance passed us later headed for Laramie I suppose. It was Wheatland, Wyoming that night. The next day is the sort of day that you must put in just to get back home, I guess. I thought just this once, for varieties' sake I would try a route across northern Nebraska, all the way to Sioux City. From Wheatland to Chadron, Nebraska was not too bad. We passed through Ft. Robinson, which Jan and I visited last year. An interesting side trip while we were staying at Hot Springs KOA. Lunch was at Chadron and the grind eastward began on a two lane road that went north, south, and then east some more. By 6 pm we were barely to Yankton, South Dakota. Finding a place to stay in Yankton did not go well either, with weddings, and class reunions going on. Luckily we did nail down a room at a former Super 8 where neither  the snack machine nor ice machine were working. The next day it was up through Sioux Falls and east. Phil and I split just over the border in Minnesota so he could head home to Delano and I went east to St. James and home by about noon, after a stop at Eli and Lindsey's farm. 
All in all a good trip with no major trouble beyond Phils' charging problem that got repaired. I admit that I chickened out on my grandiose plans for Nevada and Arizona, due to the heat in those areas. Maybe some other year or Heaven forbid not on a bike.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Assorted Trips Etc.

  I know that it has been quite awhile since I last blogged about anything but sooner or later I need to come out of the background and put something up for the world to see, and marvel at. I had a thought back in February while Jan and I were home bound from Japan. We had gone mostly north out of Narita across Siberia and out over the Bering Sea at 39000 feet. It was -73 degrees outside the window and it occurred to me that this is as close to space flight as most of us will ever get. Extremely cold, low air pressure, and a lack of oxygen that would be deadly in a matter of seconds. We are just floating along in this 777 over the Bering Sea miles from any kind of civilization assuming that this Boeing collection of parts will keep flying to our destination, which it did. Anyhow, there's that. Another thing that I have thought about for years, Mars landing, now I just want to live to see the day. After our Moon landing in 1969, almost 50 years ago now, the plan was that we would plant the flag on Mars by 1985. That plan went by the wayside, and now they talk about the 2030s. If I make it that far I will be in my 90s by that time, although Mom is almost 95. Enough about that.
     Back in May I rode up to North Dakota to visit some of the areas that I worked in 45 years ago, back when that was part of the telephone company territory that I worked for at the time as an engineer. The area was between Fargo and Grand Forks extending to the west as far as Aneta. I had been through all of the exchanges out there, and spent some weeks inventorying Aneta and west Northwood when we sold them to Polar Tel. Our old office still sits on a side street in Aneta with Polars' newer building alongside. West Northwood was on an intersection of two gravel roads in the middle of nowhere, with maybe 10 lines heading in three directions. It was a fun time riding around in the other guys' station wagon counting poles etc.. He had a rifle in the back seat and we stopped sometimes to take a shot at stuff. This year it was kind of windy and dry up there, don't think that I will be back. You know I have  another long one to post so I think that I will post it up in the future. It is about my brother Phil and my western ride.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

February is a Big Month but Cold

It is that time again, where I cheap out and write a blog to my wife, St. Jan, and some other family members that celebrate birthdays this month. 8 years ago Jan and I "celebrated" our anniversary on a packed 747 on our way to Japan the first time. We got there in time to visit Annika at the hospital at Yokosuka who was born on the 15th. I don't know if my Mom has come to grips with the idea of her birthday on the other side of the International Date line. She felt that since Annika was born when it was the 14th here, that should be her birth date, what ever. So, we have our 44th anniversary tomorrow on Valentines Day- I know, we are such romantics- Annikas' birthday is the 15th, regardless of where she was born, our son Eli and our son-in-law Steve, have the same birthday on the 23rd. Last but not least is our grandson August, or Gus as we usually refer to him as, on the 27th. So there you have it the birthdays and an anniversary all in one.
  I had written a whole nother paragraph just to Jan about how we met and how our lives have gone since but I accidentally deleted the paragraph. I don't know how, but it got highlighted and deleted, in literally the blink of an eye. How we met one evening in 1970, I thought that she just liked my 69 Mustang Mach 1, which she did, but I guess that she kind of liked me too. I brought her home to the farm by Alpha, very, very early the following morning, and we have been hitting it off ever since. Now in 6 years we could be looking at our 50th, holy cow, I remember going to my relatives 50th party's, and they were old. Probably not as old as I will be by that time, come to think of it. I just wanted the world to know how much I love you Janice B. If there were any justice in this world I would ask for another 50 years with you.
                                           Love Pete

These photos are of us just a couple of weeks ago, when we visited Rachel and her family in Japan.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Two Minnesotans in Japan

It is about time for me to post something again, and I thought that our recent trip to Japan to visit Rachel and family might fit the bill. We flew out of Minneapolis direct to Narita in Japan. Rachel and Will were there to meet us and drive us back to Yokosuka. There is a backstory to this trip, but I would let Rachel fill you in. Near Narita, which is northeast of Tokyo there is some agriculture but shortly after that, it is solid city all of the way down to Yokosuka. Luckily, Rachel had all of the paperwork done ahead of time so getting us on base was a piece of cake. Over there you never leave the house without your passport and base pass on your person. We did a walking tour one day of the city of Yokosuka near the gate, and it is a lot of fun just to wander through the stores in that country. Everything is so neat and well displayed and the people are so polite and friendly, it makes me wonder, sometimes, how in the world did we end up in WWII with them? I guess that those were different times. Rachel kept us busy for the most part, and she had a selection of local beers for me to sample. Not surprisingly they were quite good. We visited several shrines over the course of time we there, which is not difficult because there are shrines of some sort in a lot of locations. We did some beach combing a few times, picking up shells, and pottery shards that the ocean throws up. I am still not sure where all of the pottery shards come from and why there is so much of it in the water, maybe from the war? On a Sunday Hans took Jan, Josiah, and me on a tour of his ship, the USS Curtis Wilbur. His ship is fresh out of a stay in dry dock for some upgrading and freshening, so to say. We got the whole tour from the bridge through the galley to the engines. I was impressed by the ships' crew members, and the ship itself, it seemed like well trained family from what we saw. Annika and William attend the Hayama International School, which, surprise is located in Hayama, a bus ride away. Jan and I would usually walk the kiddos down to the bus stop and wait with them for the bus to arrive, and sometimes the reverse procedure. One day it even snowed pretty good for a couple of minutes. One day Rachel and we two drove over to Hayama to pick them up and wander the beach below the school. The Friday before we left Rachel guided us to the New Sanno hotel in downtown Tokyo. This required several different train rides to get from Yokosuka to Tokyo, and over to the Tokyo Sky Tree, the tallest structure in Japan. The New Sanno is owned by the Navy and is a very nice place to stay for sure. It is available to all branches of the services and embassy personnel, I believe. Navigating the tangle of train and subway lines is something that must be learned if you have any hope of getting around over there, and Rachel has it down, good grief, she used to do it with two small children the last time that they were there. Without her I would still be riding the rails under Tokyo.

Holy cow, I almost forgot about our drive out to Mount Fuji, until I was scrolling down through the 170 photos that I took out there. With a rented van we all drove out to Mount Fuji on our last Saturday in Japan. As you can see by the photos the weather was beautiful, with snow on the ground everywhere at that altitude. I had so many good photos that I had to include just some of the good ones. Using the logic that we will never be there again in this lifetime I shot a lot of frames. Thank goodness for digital photography! I still find myself thinking about shot setup etc., until I remember that there is virtually no limit to the amount of photos a digital camera can absorb, so shoot everything and cull out the bad ones later. Hans and I went to see "American Sniper" when we got back, and it was as good as advertised, lots of tears from me at the end, seeing the Patriot Guards at his funeral. I have been to a lot of funerals like that, just not that elaborate. Anyhow, we spent the last couple of days getting packed and ready to head home, walking Annika and William to and from the bus, and hitting the bazaar on base for some souvenirs for the "homefolks". Rachel got us on the bus back to Narita a week ago today, and a week ago today we were in the air over the Bering sea or northern Canada. My brother Phil picked us up at the airport and drove us out to their home by Delano. Naturally we came in to Minneapolis in lite snow, so the drive to their place was slow. We had left our car at their house for the duration, and we being anxious to get home headed straight home from there. So that completes our second trip to Japan, and I have to admit that I enjoyed this one a lot more than the first trip 8 years ago. I felt more comfortable off base I think and Rachel had all kinds of stuff for us to do, so being bored was never a problem, thanks again Rachel and Hans.