I’m driving semi now

I’m always up for a challenge.

So when Steve dared me to drive the semi Wednesday morning, you can bet I was in 100 percent. Daring me to attempt something always ensures that I will participate. (It just dawned on me that Steve has probably figured that out!)

I have actually driven our personal semi around our farm yard, but this was a special semi that I needed to drive.

It belongs to Steve’s brother, Don.

So I had to be extra careful, even though Don’s semi doesn’t have a cartoon cow on the door like ours does, damaging it would still sting, and prevent me from ever driving it again.

“I will go get the semi from Don’s and then honk the horn when I drive past the house,” Steve said, which made me feel so special. “You can bring the tractor to the field.”

When I heard the horn, I rolled off the couch, walked out to the tractor and climbed in. I turned the ignition, pushed one lever out of neutral and put the other lever in “C” gear.

We didn’t move. The dashboard display kept flashing “Neutral” at me. I felt like it was laughing at me. How insulting. I knew there was a way to get this thing moving, I just needed for that rude light to quit snorting at me!

I’ve never been tutored in the skill needed to drive this tractor or the inferior feelings it left me with. I may have to discuss this with management. Oh wait ? I am management.

As it flashed that naughty word at me, I thought, “Well, duh, if I were not in neutral I would be out in the middle of the field already.”

Eventually I figured out that you can’t put that little one lever into neutral before you put it in gear. You have to wait until after. then the neutral light goes silent! Take that, obnoxious neutral light!

Once I met up with Steve at the east end of the alfalfa field, we switched implements.

It was time for my 20-second lesson in the “art” of driving a semi. I couldn’t help but silently sing, “Eighteen wheels and a dozen roses. Ten more miles on this for day run.”

Who was I kidding? I had the eighteen wheels, but the dozen roses was a long stretch.

“Here’s the diagram of the gears,” Steve said as he pointed to a blue and white decal on the dash. “When you need to go, you need to take the brakes off. This one here” he said pointing to a big red button, “will release the trailer brakes. The other one releases the brakes on the semi.”

“The tricky thing is this,” he continued, “they work together, so if you set the semi brakes, the trailer brakes with engage too. So you have to pay attention to that. And if you’re taking the brakes off, make sure they are both off.”

I could handle that. (I was still waiting for my roses.)

Did you know that air pressure is used to release a semi’s brakes? I learned that today. I knew air was involved with driving semi’s, but not to release the brakes. I thought it was just used to raise the cab off the air bags on the frame.

“Open the windows a bit and I will honk the horn when I want you to stop,” Steve added.

Horn be damned! I like horns, but they are not my preferred form of communication!

That was the extent of my tutoring in the proper semi-driving technique and I was on my own, which is the way I prefer it.

When it was time to move forward, I pushed in the clutch and struggled to find first gear. I pushed further down on the clutch and still couldn’t find first gear. Steve was already loading bales onto the wagon.

First gear be damned! I wanted to honk the horn!

Much later I figured out that if I didn’t push the clutch down so hard, it would slip right into first gear.

I was on my way, tootling down the length of the field.

Eventually, I heard the wimpy toot from the tractor horn. (Seriously, for being a tough machine, it has a horn that belongs in a Volkswagen.) I stomped on the clutch. I stomped on the brake. Two rather large round bales of hay came rolling off the wagon, toward the cab.

All I could think was, “Oh my gawd, I’m going to die by hay bale crushing. I mean, I wish my belly was flatter, but being rolled flat by hay bales was not in the plans!”

Eventually, I looked out the back window and breathed a sigh of living-relief. There, in between the semi-tractor and wagon, were two round bales of hay.

I felt my plump belly and breathed a sigh of relief.

Well, that threw being careful out the window.

I was never tutored on the proper pedal pressure when applying the brakes.

Tutor be damned!

I was most proud of myself for bringing the loaded wagon back to the farm without having the semi die on me as I drove up a hill, or losing any cargo.

My tutor never covered the prevention of bales rolling off the back of the wagon either.

 

Kerry Gaylord Hoffman's photo.

Photo: This chick is learning to drive semi! Johnny Cash just came on the radio. Steve's loading bales on the trailer. Doesn't get any better than this!

Dogs rock

1406237609350Not only do dogs provide us with love on the farm, they also provide fun and rodent control.

Between Lilly, the black and white Great Dane; Ole, the rust-colored Pit Bull and Bob the Chocolate Lab, there is always something going on. Ole has such an expressive face. Lilly is just a big doof and Bob is always fairly serious; she’s a senior citizen.

These three dogs love to go swimming in the river. Not that Lilly and Ole are any good at it, but they do have fun. Bob still loves to do the infamous doggy paddle.

Our dogs keep away rats, cats and any other varmint that wanders to close to the farm. I KNOW THEY keep skunks at bay too. They come home smelling like Peppy le Pew often enough.

We love our dogs as if they are family because they are family.

Riff – raff returns to our area

Well, I thought I lived on the safe side of the Minnesota River.

I mean, I know that the area of St. George is considered “God’s Country,” but I didn’t think the area around Searles was too far behind the land of amazing corn and soybean harvests.

We have pretty good harvests in our neighborhood too. By the way, a neighborhood in rural terms encompasses everything within a 10-mile radius of a farmer’s homestead.

It’s true, I have friends that live near Sigel ballpark that I consider neighbors. I would like to think Sigel residents feel the same way.

But I digress, which happens a lot to me when I sit down at my computer. Back to the matter at hand.

I feel like I live in a rather unassuming area. There is very little riff-raff that enters my expansive circle. If there were, I would have to create Steven Spielberg’s story “Under the Dome.”

Sure, we have the occasional wayward soul that seems to think it’s OK to dump garbage, animal carcasses and appliances in the neighborhood, but even that ugly activity has decreased as time moves forward.

My two theories concerning the decrease in riff-raff activity is this: 1. They are too old to lift the appliances out of the pickup bed; 2. We have actually caught one of these souls dumping garbage and he ended up getting ticketed for something way worse that littering. I bet word spreads fast in their “neighborhoods” on safe dumping grounds.

So, the other day, when I decided to take my two capable dogs for a run, using my bike, I was a bit dismayed at what happened to me.

I have one rather large Great Dane, who needs to diet and exercise. According to the latest dog medical magazine, Lilly is 20 percent overweight and obese. She passed that milestone over the winter. I tried to hide the story from her, but she is too tall and she managed to see all those pictures of overweight dogs.

All she could do was look at me with those sad-dog eyes.

“I’m obese?”

On  the other hand, I just adopted a pitbull-lab cross, and he has problems with too much energy. He subscribes to Dog Fit magazine. Ole needs to always have somewhere expansive to run and play. Usually he chooses to visit the Schlumpberger residence, which is only one mile away from the home fort in my 10-mile circle, to play with their rat terrier.

In an effort to appease both dogs, I hopped on my bike and took off down the road. Not soon enough. Steve came driving up behind me in his pickup and told me I had a flat tire.

No wonder it was taking all my energy to pedal my bike.

I was sweating like a dog! You do know dogs sweat by panting, right?

I hopped off my bike, laid it in the ditch for later retrieval and kept walking with my dogs.

Soon enough, Russell came by in his Jeep. He had our chocolate lab Bob in the backseat. He said, “Bob wanted to go for a walk too.” (She’s old and very slow.)

“Just wait,” I said, “I’m riding with you and running the dogs like city-folk do.”

I stuck my head out the window and offered cheers of support for both Lilly and Ole, while the wind blew through my summer-blonde hair.

Bob sat in the back seat happily panting as the breeze blew through her Hershey-colored dog hair. She was in heaven. This appeared to be her favorite walk EVER!

We ventured to Grandma Tadpole’s house and visited with Steve, Grandma, Russell, myself and three tired dogs.

One the way back home, I hopped into Steve’s pickup, because I wanted to pick up my bike on the drive home.

I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t find my bike. Within that hour, someone had lifted my bike!

Riff raff!

I’m OK with that. I figure once the person uses it, they will put it back in the ditch.

If said riff-raff wants to return my bike, believe me, the only question I will ask, is this, “Why did you have to bring it back?”

 

Look out London

So we made it to London.

But not without some much un-needed drama at the customs station in the Paris train station.

The last time we went through customers in Great Britian it was just as ugly.  Some dude getting his jollies off ripping Steve and I up one side and down the other – twice.

This morning, at 6 a.m. no less, Emily and I were given the third degree – twice.

First we walked into the customs area. Emily stepped forward before she heard me say, “Don’t go to him, he looks grumpy.” 

As I stood in line I noticed a friendly-looking woman at another window, so I went over to her.

All of sudden I hear Emily calling my name. I smile and wave my hands and walk over to this dude that was spitting invisible fire.

Apparently, he was grilling Emily as to why I went to the other agent. All she could do was say, “I don’t know why.”

Well, I guess I was supposed to stay by her because she’s a minor. I didn’t know.

So, he’s ripping me a new one about how I should have this letter and it’s possible that he may not let us go on to London…blah, blah, blah. 

I tried answering his questions and he wouldn’t listen.

Meanwhile, the nice male agent to the right was poking fun of the one berating me by shaking his finger at me in the naughty gesture – while I was being told that my attitude sucked!

Eventually, a person stepped into the enclosed security area, turned off the mic and proceeded to talk to both of the agents. 

I was so mad at the dude by this point, I was tearing  up. 

I was imaging the supervisors telling bad ass to be nice. I was also imagining a customs agent without security glass and my two fingers poking into his eyes. 

Eventually we made it through customs. We arrived in London and walked all over the area near Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace. I am bushed.

Seriously, all this for those!

Yesterday we spent time running around Paris, but that wasn’t the funniest part of our day.

because Emily and I packed lightly to avoid checking a bag, yesterday was laundry day.

Hand washing in our room.

Emily washed her unmentionables in the bathroom and then hung them on the rail spanning the wonderful window above the tub. Actually, she hung them on the side if the tub. When I went in to take my bath, I didn’t want her underwear near my head, so I am the one that hung them on the steel rail.

While we were out enjoying the midnight river cruise, the wind was playing hanky panky with Emily’s underwear.

He blew the yellow undies out the window and into the rain gutter, conveniently located outside our window. The problem was this-the rain gutter is six-stories high and about five-feet down from the window. It’s at an angle, so I felt I could have “stepped out” to retrieve them. I just wasn’t in the mood to fall six stories!

Today, while in the line for a visit to The Catacombs, Emily had an upset stomach. We returned to our room, sans any stolen bones from The Catacombs, to find the maid cleaning in our room.

She had a mop!image image

We used the mop handle to retrieve the favorite-pair of underwear.

Which are now dirtier than before Emily washed them, and laundry day ain’t for a long time.

(I know ain’t isn’t a word, but it’s so appropriate here.)

Wonderful stuff today

imageEmily and I had the great opportunity to visit the Palace of Versailles.

What a magnificent day it was. All I can say is gorgeous!

in 1661, Loius XVI started transforming the original palace built by Loius XIII. Talk about elaborate! Every single room had marble covering almost every inch of wall. I’m not talking about plain, monochromatic white marble either. Some rooms had emerald green marble. There were rooms adorned with pink, some purple, some mauve!

i have decided to redo my room in a similar design to what Marie Antionette’s. OK, maybe not. There was just too much crap to dust.

King Louis’ room was so elaborate in the color red;it was gaudy.

The Gardens at Versailles were amazing. I wish I could put all my photos on here! Lakes, ponds, fountains, statues, real swans, birds, etc. Part of our group found some cows. Of course, I didn’t see them. Did see some freshly shorn sheep though.

for now, I must go. It’s 11:30. p.m. and I have to get up at 7.

more tomorrow.

It’s been an amazing trip

It really has been a great trip.

I am sitting at a little table in the hotel “lobby.”

It’s really cozy.

Walking the expansive hallways in the Louvre is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Looking at how various artists use brush stokes and light. I know I sound corny, but until a person stands up close and personal to these paintings, you don’t know how talented these people were.

One of my personal goals was too be up close and personal with the Arc de Triomphe. We did that! This structure was built as a way for victorious troops to leave or enter the city. Each and every day a ceremony takes place to honor those that have served this country.

Did you know you can climb up many unforgiving steps to look at Paris from the heavens. It is magnificent!

Speaking of steps, I think we climbed so many we could have actually been in the clouds. At one point, I told the group to “Power through.”

Both Emily, my niece, and I are history junkies. Learning about the churches and palaces has been so interesting.

They need those churches because a ton of French people have absolutely zippo for a sense of humor.

For instance, I found a black apron with two boobs hanging on a rack. I put it on and waited for our group members to look. The owner of the sidewalk shop came storming over and practcally ripped my head off trying to get me to take the apron off. He cussed, in French, at me – a lot!

Another crabby soul spit venom at me when I wasn’t prepared for the subway train to start off on its warp-speed mission. I stomped on her foot. I think she was cussing at me in French as well, but using all new words.

Accidents are not forgiven here.

That’s why there are lots of places for confessions.

I have to run for now. Emily is in bed yet – it’s 8:30 in the morning and we will be leaving for Versailles soon.

Enjoy your day in the fabulous USA.

This is why I don't get asked to chaperone. ;)

Emily drank one 187 ml bottle of Chardonnay and was feeling no pain! For those of you that don’t know how much 187 ml is, it’s about 3/4 cup. I made her stand on one foot and count to 30-she lasted until 10. Then I deemed her sober enough to walk to a local cafe where we had grilled cheese and authentic “French fries.” We shared a few pieces of chocolate with the adorable waiters. (Sorry Sabrina, they were meant for you, but it was much more fun to share with a few. Studs!) and… OMG It’s 10 p.m. And the freakin sun is still out, barely setting, but it’s out. It was an amazing day for us!

This is why I don’t get asked to chaperone. ;)

Breakfast at Hotel Corail

She looks exhausted. It just happened to be about 7:45 a.m. We walked and walked today. Spent 3 hours in The Louvre. Then we ventured l’orangie where we observed Picasso, Renoir, degas and Monet. Monet’s water color painting Water Lilies is amazing! We also climbed the Arc de Triomphe – and turned our legs into Silly Putty. Great photos from the top!

Breakfast at Hotel Corail