Christmas Letter: 2016

We begin this with a Merry Christmas

and a

Happy New Year

Well, it’s about time for me to write a Winter Letter, Christmas Letter, Year End Letter or whatever. I have lots to write about – plus some pictures – so I hope to not bore you too much.

I could go back quite a ways to get everyone caught up on our ‘doings’ but I will stick with the summer and fall.

We arrived at the hotel in May and took over for Nan’s sister, Phyllis. She had been managing the hotel while we were in Mexico and was stir crazy to get away. She had grandchildren graduating from high school and wanted to be there for that.

While Nan managed the hotel, I continued working on the house. I rented a cement saw and began cutting concrete in the basement for our plumbing. The saw wasn’t big enough to cut entirely through the concrete so I had (still have) lots of chopping and digging to do to get the trenches dug. I also worked on digging a pathway for the electrical cable from the pole to the house so we won’t have any overhead lines. Also, I moved many wheelbarrows of dirt from the front yard to the side where we had a new basement wall installed.

When Phyl returned from her trip to Arizona, Indiana, and Wisconsin, Nan and I moved to the house. It was good to be able to put ourselves into our own bed. It also made work at the house more convenient since I didn’t have to do any repairs at the hotel before heading to the house. Inside I began to make rearrangements to the main floor. I cut a very large opening where the stairs will lead from the basement and the first floor. I moved the temporary kitchen to another temporary location which gave us a bigger temp kitchen.

We want an ‘open concept’ on the main floor so we needed to install two 17 foot ‘laminated’ beams – another special order. Trying to carry 17-foot beams on an eight-foot trailer was a challenge but we got them to the house with no problem. Nan kept asking “Who are you going to get to help you install those beams?” I kept telling her that she was the designated helper but I don’t think she believed me until the day of installation. By screwing in some show 2 X 4’s at an angle, we were able to raise first one end, then the other. Soon we hammered the first beam into place – after that, the second one was easy. However, in order to do all of this, I needed to build two temporary walls to hold the house up when we removed the old wall. All in a day’s work!

Additional work in the basement included installing two windows and a door. Nan and I had purchased a door last year while it was on sale; when I got ready to install it, I found that the door was too tall so it was another trip to Rapid City. Nan and I picked out the proper door – special order – that we like a lot better than the one we returned. I guess we got the wrong door for a purpose.

It seemed like we were making a trip to Rapid City each week to pick up supplies. Besides the doors and windows and beams, we also brought home piping for burying the electrical cable and plumbing pipe. A lot of this reminds me of when my Dad and I would head into Gary on Saturday mornings. We would stop at a hobby store that had lots of Lionel equipment and we would end up getting something – a switch, more track or whatever seemed an appropriate piece at the time. When we arrived home, we would begin to rework my train set up. It is much the same with the house; while we have a plan for what the house will look like when it is completed; there are many routes we can take to get there. Each trip to Menards or Lowes is the same result for us, only on a bigger scale.

With all of this done to the house, I needed something else to occupy my time so I began on the deck that will be on the East and North sides of the house. I needed to dig about six holes four feet deep for the post footings. Normally, digging a hole is not that big a deal but Lead has hundreds, thousands, millions – yes, that’s it – millions of rocks that are in the hold I want to dog. I finally resorted to digging what I could then flooding the hole with water and working it with a 16-pound pry bar to open up some more hole until I had the desired depth. I needed to go down four feet because of our frost levels here in Lead.

Now, all of the talk has been of me – you may get the feeling that Nan is simply sitting back doing nothing. This is not true. Nan and Phyl managed the hotel with Phyl taking the breakfast shift while Nan went in about 8:00 or 9:00 to take the late shift. After getting all the guests finished with breakfast, the two of them began working the rooms. Beds changed, bathrooms cleaned, vacuumed floors, carry out the trash, etc, etc. Plus, they both had to be the premiere hosts. Nan would often not get home until 10:00 PM or midnight. And, so that I might have something to do at the hotel, if I ventured there in the morning I usually did the breakfast dishes.

For the past four or five years, I have been keeper of the Crown Point High School Class of ’61 Roster. Last year someone asked me if we were going to have a 55th Reunion so I made a few contacts and things started happening. In September Nan and I made the trek back to northern Indiana for the reunion. From there we headed to South Bend to tour the Studebaker Museum. I have been a fan of Studebakers for many years and my parents and I have both owned several. Nan and I had a great tour of the museum and from our stay in South Bend; we headed up along Lake Michigan leisurely sightseeing and having a wonderful time. We had reservations at a hotel on Mackinac Island, a place neither of us had ever visited. We had a wonderful ferry ride to the island and wandered the main street. I was a bit disappointed in the island; it seems to be a tourist trap for the sale of fudge. In the three blocks of the main street, we counted five fudge establishments and there was a large assortment T-shirt shops. I had hoped for a broader assortment of shops and stores with a high caliber of goods. We didn’t find any stores offering high-end clothing or sporting equipment. I couldn’t afford to buy but I like to look.

We stayed at a beautiful old hotel called Inn at Stonecliff. This was a half hour horse drawn carriage ride from town. We had a room on the third floor which overlooked the lake and Mackinac Bridge. From our room, we could watch the lights on the bridge twinkle and a few boats pass by. We had dinner at the Inn and spent more for one small piece of meat than I have ever spent – but it was superb! In the morning we had a delightful breakfast – much nicer that we serve here at the hotel but the room was also almost $200 more per night! This is the reason we spent only one night on the island.

The next morning, we grabbed a carriage ride to town and then the ferry back to mainland. We set out across the upper peninsula of Michigan heading to my Brother-in-law and sister’s cottage in Wisconsin. Here we spent several days catching up on the past year and then it was back Lead and reality.

At the hotel, I got my Rogaine pill and my Viagra pill mixed up – my hair was so stiff I couldn’t comb it! (Dumb, I know but I had to get that in!)

With our vacation over, Phyllis bid us a fond farewell and headed her body to Florida. She has retired from the Hotel industry. Nan and I are left to handle it all ourselves so we moved back to the hotel. While I headed back to the house to continue work on various projects, Nan is working on improving the hotel.

When Nan and I moved to Lead, we saw that the business community was very loose. While we had a Chamber of Commerce, there was no real networking between businesses or goals for the business part of town. I began a community group which meets every three weeks with the goal of improving our business outlook. As we approached the Christmas season, I became familiar with ‘Small Business Saturday, a program situated between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The Saturday after Thanksgiving is established to help out the small business owners. People are encouraged to shop locally – not at the Home Depots or Wal-Mart’s, but at the ‘mom and pop’ stores which make up such a large section of our economy. I spend many an hour contacting businesses and working with American Express (SBS Sponsor) to make this a success in Lead. On that Saturday, I spent six hours at our Visitor Center handing out information and flyers about Small Business Saturday. Through the help of the local business people, we were able to give away two prizes and several businesses have said that they feel the whole promotion was a success. Several people have put forth ideas on how we can improve this for next year.

Since Thanksgiving, Nan has been reading vile statements to me from lots of folks on Facebook – things like “I played golf today”; “I can’t believe what beautiful weather we are having”. Well, we are sick and tired of hearing such vulgar statements.

Last week we watched as white stuff fell from the skies and then we had to get out and shovel almost 24” of the stuff. We had lots of wind while the snow was falling so there are places that have three or four feet of snow and other places with as little as six inches – it is beautiful when we sit inside and look at how white everything is but when we need to go out and shovel it, the fun stops.

As a kid I used to go out and sled down the hills; go ice skating at Bowman’s Pond and skate until my ankles buckled under and my fingers tingled then would head to the warming shed, drink hot chocolate, and get ready for another round. Now I go out and shovel, come inside and wish I hadn’t given up drinking as part of my diet!

On Tuesday I had eye surgery scheduled with a follow-up appointment on Wednesday so we planned on staying in Rapid City Tuesday night. When we got up on Monday, it was snowing again and we didn’t want to get stuck in Lead on Tuesday morning so we headed down the hill and spent two days relaxing at the hotel there.

The first storm of the year is when I dread the cold and wish I was at the boat on the Sea of Cortez! This year we got one storm followed by a frigid cold snap; high today was 4 degrees.

Yesterday, December 10, Nan decorated the Christmas tree for the hotel lounge. In the evening, when she went in to turn on the tree lights, there were two sets of eyes looking in the window; two deer were outside watching her.

Pictures which might be of interest (see below):

 

Here is the ‘work-in-progress’ stage of our deck on the East side of the house. I have also removed some siding preparing for new door installation

Here is the ‘work-in-progress’ stage of our deck on the East side of the house.
I have also removed some siding preparing for new door installation

 The deck runs the entire length of the house and will go all the way across the front (next year!). I have also begun scraping paint getting ready for later on when we paint.


The deck runs the entire length of the house and will go all the way across the front (next year!).
I have also begun scraping paint getting ready for later on when we paint.

After our contractor had finished the wall and I had leveled the house, I installed the two windows.

After our contractor had finished the wall and I had leveled the house, I installed the two windows.

 The green wood is 17 feet of laminated 2 X 12 – two of them back to back. The braces are still on the wall that we used to raise the Lam Beams


The blue / green wood is 17 feet of laminated 2 X 12 – two of them back to back.
The braces are still on the wall that we used to raise the Lam Beams

 The half hour trip to our hotel on Mackinac Island was provided by a two horsepower wagon.


The half hour trip to our hotel on Mackinac Island was provided by a two horsepower wagon.

 We always love to go to the ‘cottages’ in northern Wisconsin.  It’s peaceful, quiet, and tranquil. The cottages, now owned by my sister and brother-in-law, have been in the family for almost 80 years.


We always love to go to the ‘cottages’ in northern Wisconsin. It’s peaceful, quiet, and tranquil.
The cottages, now owned by my sister and brother-in-law, have been in the family for almost 80 years.


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