Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No Place Like Home

I'm sitting on my davenport enjoying a coffee while I am unwinding from our trip to North Dakota. And I am thinking, there is no place like home. 

Yes, we enjoyed our visit in North Dakota. That is.... all the time that we spent in doors. The temperature was below zero for the entire time we were there... and the wind blew. We burned nearly a whole tank of gas just warming the car up. Some people staying at our hotel never shut their engines off. We were going to stay in Devil's Lake one more night. We even paid for the room. But about 5:30 PM that night we decided to leave. The temperatures were to dip down to minus 25 degrees, and we were a little worried that the car wouldn't start in the morning, and we didn't want to waste time waiting for AAA to arrive. So we loaded and left. We drove as far as Dickinson, 5 hours, and rented a room there. Temperatures were 22 degrees below zero as we were driving. 

Some people that live up there think that the cost of living is lower. I think they are deceiving themselves. Heating their home has to be more expensive in such cold temperatures. Idling their cars to warm them up has to take more gas, and gas is $1.79 a gallon there. Groceries cost the same, so do TVs and other such things. Automobiles cost the same. The only thing that I can think of that can possibly be cheaper is housing. And their houses and rent was much higher than I had suspected. Couple all this with much lower wages and you have a formula for pretty expensive living. I'm telling you, sometimes it is miserable living. Cold, oh man, is it ever cold!

Driving into the wind is a special talent I have. No matter where I go and what direction I drive, it is either into the wind, or with a powerful crosswind. Driving was intense. Gusts would almost make me lose control. Driving was taxing on the nerves and the wallet. We have cheap gas here, but not up there.

Well, its good to be home to celebrate New Year's Eve with a good cup of coffee, almond bark pretzels, a warm and quiet house. 

Here's "Happy New Year!" to you. Wish you the best.

God Bless

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Snow and Cold

Devil's Lake, North Dakota. Snow and cold every day.... every single day!  And.... and wind! Just another reminder of how nice Colorado is.  We're talking sub-zero with additional wind chills. Everyday the plows are running. But the snow is nice and clean. Highways are continually icy. I'm always in 4WD. 

Well, I guess it makes the hot coffee taste just that much better. The fireplace is cozier, when burning. And some time to read a book. This is an enjoyable vacation. Hitting the road tomorrow morning. Hopefully home by tomorrow  night. If the weather turns bad we'll find a hotel. Gas station coffee again. 

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Coffee at Holiday Inn

Yah, the title is correct. I'm having breakfast at the Holiday Inn at Devil's Lake, North Dakota. I don't use the abbreviation for North Dakota (ND) because most people wouldn't know what I'm talking about. I've talked to lots of people who didn't know where North Dakota is. Some didn't even know it was a state. It's a good thing that there are no minimum population requirements to be a state. If there were, all of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and possibly Idaho, Utah and Alaska would not be states. The USA wouldn't have much land mass left. 

But the coffee here is good, really good. Columbian Roast. And...... they serve it 24-7. Styrofoam cups and lids make it handy for "on the go."  Another reason this coffee is good, is because I am actually drinking some.  I mean, I could be in some ditch along highway 281 or some morgue close by.  As I endeavored to pass a pickup truck going slowly, pulling a trailer, I started to spin out along side him. I mean, the back end of the Sequoia was trying to catch up to the front end. We were only going about 65 mph. But 65 seems pretty fast when you are fishtailing on the wrong side of the highway along side a truck. And, oh, did I mention that another car was coming the other way about a half mile ahead. We were a little surprised because the highway didn't seem or look icy until I gunned the engine. So, after a little fishtailing, I brought the Sequoia under control and finished passing with room to spare. The amazing thing is that I didn't feel any fear until it was over. I promptly put the Sequoia in 4WD for better traction. Enough of that fishtailing stuff. Audrey handled this like a pro..... she didn't yell at me even once. So, yah, the coffee here tastes really good.

So if you ever travel to the vast wastelands of the USA and find yourself in Devils Lake, North Dakota, stay at the Holiday Inn Express. It's new, the rooms are pretty nice (we have a suite), there is free breakfast, and the coffee is good. If you are here in the summer, fish for walleyes and northern pike, or..... you can stand outside and look at the wheat fields and swat mosquitoes.  If you are here in the winter, fish for walleyes and northern pike, or just look at the vast wastelands of snow. Or you can stand outside and freeze. Your choice. It is really no coincidence that this state is under populated. 

Do you know what the best thing that ever came out of North Dakota is? I was going to say, I-94, but it is really Audrey Speed, Rana Woodhull, Amy Kesic, and Sonia Sell. Almost got myself into trouble there. Besides, I-29 also comes out of North Dakota. 

So, I sit here by the fireplace drinking coffee and blogging. But, of course, they forgot to turn the fireplace on. But the Christmas tree is lit.... now. And the TV is on telling us about Obama in Hawaii and he took his kids to Dolphin Land, or something like that. Presidents shouldn't be allowed to have children because now we have to hear about their every move for at least the next four years. Somehow, we are all supposed to care, or be excited about their every move, sneeze, or cough. I mean, they may all be nice people, but please spare me the boredom. And by the way, the coffee here is 100% Colombian Roast. 

So more about our trip, over, yet, another cup of coffee. The first day from Denver to Rapid City, SD, the weather was perfect. 389 miles out of the way. A nice, easy, lonesome drive. Yesterday started with icy highways, then snow, then wind, then both. 40 mph side winds and head winds. The roads were mostly dry until we got on highway 281. The winds had gone down, but fog was setting in and the roads were invisibly icing up. Besides our little incident, we went past another car in the ditch. The police were stopping traffic while the guy was trying to get out of the ditch with a snow shovel. If I was a betting man.... he didn't get out with his snow shovel. The ditch wasn't very deep, but he was a long ways from the road. If I had a winch, I would have offered to pull him out for free. Listen, these people have no money, at least for the most part.

While, I am still enjoying my coffee, I want to thank everyone for the nice Christmas gifts that I received this year. This has been one of  the most enjoyable Christmases for me ever. Thanks to my daughter Amy and her husband Nik who hosted this year. Thanks to my wife for the saw blades. Thanks to my grand kids for the home made Christmas cards, the ornaments, the key cover. Thanks to Nik and Amy for the coffee press, coffees, biscotti, and truffles. Thanks to my daughter, Sonia, for the the calendar. Thanks to the Woodhulls for the embroidered pillow cases. Somehow, I feel that I am missing someone (shame on me). Oh, and, by the way, Audrey also got me a contractor's calculator, and a book, which I am reading on vacation. All wonderful gifts from wonderful people. 

Well, I'll talk to you tomorrow at coffee time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Done Shopping

I have been asked numerous times whether I was ready for Christmas, and every time I have said, "Yes, all the presents are bought and wrapped." And each time I have said that I was honest and sincere. And each time my remark was met with surprise. In fact, I talked to one guy today who said that they traditionally wrap their gifts on Christmas Eve

But the real truth is, today is Christmas Eve, and I had to go out and buy yet, a couple more gifts. I thought we were finished once and for all five or six times, and then remembered someone else, or a new situation came up, and we had to buy, yet, one or two more gifts. Crazy, isn't it?

But now, we are finally ready for Christmas. All I have to do is load the gifts into the Sequoia and haul them off to my daughter's place where we will open them tonight. That is, the grand kids will open gifts, open gifts, and open more gifts. There we will enjoy Christmas Eve dinner and enjoy the fellowship of our daughter, son-in-law, three of our grandchildren and two of our step grandchildren. 

And what will we be doing Christmas Day? Driving. enjoying the scenery of Wyoming and South Dakota. Audrey and I will celebrate Christmas Night at the Fairfield Inn at Rapid City, South Dakota. The next evening we will be at the Holiday Inn at Devils Lake, North Dakota. There's just something wrong about celebrating the Christmas season at "Devils Lake." Anyway, that is where we will be. We'll see Audrey's mother, two of her sisters, and other assorted family members

And guess what? we get to celebrate New Years Day on the road, too. That might be better than thinking that we should do something special on New Years Day, and not knowing what, or sitting around the house with cabin fever.

Our prayer is that it does not snow while we are on the road. But we are driving the gas guzzling 4WD just in case. In the end we might be thanking God for gas guzzlers such as that. In this case the 4WD guzzler might be the real "smart car."

I know it will be gas station coffee on the road. It will help me to appreciate Starbucks and other such even more.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Different Look

Somehow they just look different now. At least not the same as when I was one. Butch haircut, tee shirt, blue jeans, earring, scruffy shave. The real look of a blue collar worker. Yes, I'm talking about the pastor of a Lutheran Church. No, not the kids pastor, or the youth pastor. He's the senior pastor. In my day, looking like that was a sure ticket out of town. But nowadays it seems to be in vogue.

This pastor is a nice guy. His prayers and words were very true to Christianity. His theology seemed to be pretty accurate. But, it took me a while to figure out that he was the senior pastor, even after I was told he was. I guess I just was taken off guard.

I wish him the best.

Monday, December 15, 2008


As I sit here with my morning Starbucks watching the stock market, i am also thinking about my grandchildren, all of whom are very special. But this morning I am thinking especially about Tori, our oldest grand daughter. Her life has had ups and downs, more so than most kids.

School has been a real challenge for her. Not because she isn't smart enough..... she's plenty smart. In some ways, maybe a little too smart. I remember the days when she lived with us, and I took her to school and picked her up. Most days I was called by the school to pick her up early. That led to home school at our house. She could do all the work.... if she wanted to, which she rarely did. 

Then her mom got married and they moved to Michigan. Orville, her new dad, has been very good for her and her brother. But Tori continued to home school, causing no small amount of hardship for her teacher, her mom. This kid can work math in her head, read a book at one sitting, but has a great deal of difficulty getting her school work done. Now, mid-year, this year her mom sent her back to public school. Now her problem is hers and the public school's. Mostly hers though, because it is ultimately up to her.

What puzzles me is that this kid dazzles her class in math, is a fast reader, but cannot write a report. Therefore, A's in math, and F's in writing assignments. Her handwriting is atrocious, or at least used to be. I'm still trying to figure out whether this is a normal disability, or whether she is faking it. I do know that most of the time we don't do well the things that we don't like to do. Writing is one thing she doesn't like to do.

I do thank the Good Lord for the progress she has made, though. I know that she has an exceptional mind, she is quick witted, and has a great sense of humor. I just don't know what makes her tick the way she does. She's driving me crazy. I want the best for her. I know she can do it. I just don't know why she doesn't.

You are welcome to comment and give me some insight. And Tori, if you read this, you comment too, and tell me what's going on. Knowing that you are doing well makes grandpa's coffee taste a lot better, and it goes down smoother, too.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Semi Load

A 60 foot semi trailer loaded from top to bottom, end to end, full of wrapped gifts for the Navajo. It was my privilege to drive myself and 5 others from our church down to Gallup, New Mexico, then on to Chinle, Arizona. Churches from all over Colorado purchase gifts for the Navajo each year and take the gifts down for distribution.

This year there were 18 Navajo churches that received the gifts for their people. About 50 of us from various churches went down for the distribution. We enjoyed a two and one-half hour long indian service where they acknowledge every one there. They had a special song from each church represented. The gave the service in both Navajo and English. And they gave small gifts to each person who came down for the distribution. 

The Navajo showed up from New Mexico and Arizona with pickup trucks and trailers. Many of them were piled high with cartons of gifts. Not very many of them had tie-downs. I hope they didn't make their children sit on the boxes to get them home.

A distribution line was formed to distribute the gifts. About 6 people worked emptying the semi trailer, 3 people directed the boxes, and the rest of us distributed the boxes to each tribe. Each tribe had it's own sign that it held high. Then a few of us carted the boxes off to the pickup trucks and trailers. All of this took about one-half our.  

Our church also distributed one nice, high quality soccer ball to each tribe. Eighteen soccer balls in all. So in my Sequoia, we had 6 people, their luggage, three large trash bags full of gifts, and 18 soccer balls that would roll out of the SUV each time we opened a door, any door. Needless to say, we had to pack one of our people in with the luggage in the back seat. 

At first, I didn't want to go on this trip because I pictured myself staying with an indian family where they might not have facilities. I know, that's selfish or worse. That just shows how spoiled we can be. But in truth we stayed at a fair hotel in Gallup and a nice hotel in Chinle. The trip was educational and a lot of fun. Definitely a place I would consider going back to.

In fact, we may go back this next year. The church in Gallup is in disrepair and I serve on the council and committee that can do something about that. We will see where this leads us. 

The worst part of the trip was the quality of the coffee. Another indication of how I have been spoiled. But, gas station coffee did keep me a wake and kept us rolling. The other worst part was gas prices. Gas was close to $2.00 or over.  But, we didn't eat at a single Mc Donald's, Burger King, or SubWay. But one morning we did have gas station donuts for breakfast, along with our gas station coffee, as we filled with high priced gas.

The scenery is worth it, even if you just drive down through the country and back. I've seen pictures before, but real life is so much better. And there is so much of it. After Thanksgiving a lot of places are closed, but almost all of the tourists are gone. If you hit a warm spell, this could be the best time to go. All roads were excellent. A GPS is really helpful. Don't forget you camera.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hard Times

Hard times are upon our nation. Some of us feel the effects of this more than others. Lost jobs, lost homes, more homeless, more despair by many. those of us who are feeling the effects less than others need to be truly thankful, and, perhaps, compassionate toward those in need. In these hard times we all tend to become more conservative. We waste less. We try to stretch our dollar. We become more frugal in many ways. I was just thinking of ways we were frugal in the past.

1)   We washed out our bread bags and saved them for re-use.
2)   We ironed our Christmas wrapping paper so we could use it again next year.
3)  We took the buttons off our shirts before we discarded them.
4)      We remove the zippers from our jeans before discarding them.
5)  We handed down our jeans, we patched their knees, seats, and crotches, we cut the legs   off for cut offs. Then we finally used the good remnants for quilts.
6)  We used our tea bags more than once.
7)  We never threw food away.
8)  Bicycles were handed down.
9)  Lumber was recycled.
10)  We took a bath in a galvanized wash tub, We fought over who got to use the water first!
11)  Milk bottle were glass and sent back with the milk man
12)   Coke bottles were also glass. We hunted for them and turned them in for 5 cents each.
13)   We trapped gophers and got 3 cents for striped gophers and 25 cents for pocket gophers.
14)  We hunted deer for venison, not sport.
15)   We fished to eat them, not throw them back.
16)   We made our own bread.
17)  We re-used the tin foil and waxed paper.
18)   We bought used or retreaded tires.
19)   We patched our bike tires.
20)  We re-spoked our bike wheels.
21)  We grew our own vegetables.
22)   We ate vegetables.
23)   We shoveled snow up against the house to insulate it.
24)  We repaired our shoes.
25)   We drove our cars until they quit.

There are many more things, but these have come to my mind. Perhaps you can add to the list.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Stock Picks This Week

Remember when I told you it was time to buy? Those buys will soon pay off. Citigroup (C) has been steadily rising. Ford Motor (F) bottomed at $1.30 and is now over $3.00. That's about 175% increase. and they will get bailed. US Steel (X) Bottomed at about $22.00 and is now $37.00. AK Steel(AKS) bottomed at $4.00 and is now about $9.00. Gerdau American Steel (GNA) bottomed at $3.00 and is now $4.30. It appears that crude oil is close to it's bottom and over the spring to summer months will be rising. So Exxon Mobil (XOM), Chevron (CVX), and Conoco Phillips (COP) should all be good buys. 

Even if you bought any of these stocks in the last month or so and they have dipped lower. They should come back even more and give you gains. The Obama presidency will at least temporarily help the market. Huge down days will help you buy cheaper and extend your gains as the markets overall go up. Commodities and bank stocks will continue to be volatile. Volatility can help if you buy into them right. 

Happy trading!

New Coffee Mug

I'm enjoying coffee out of my new mug that I purchased at the Hubbell Trading Post near Chinle, Arizona. This is a must visit. The cup has indian artwork on it and looks like an upside down cup. But it is true to the ancient indian population 800 years ago. The coffee tastes about the same.

Also at the trading post they had blankets that a local indian was weaving out of wool she had processed herself. Beautiful intricate work. One blanket was being sold for $15,000. This is not a misprint. Others were offered for $6500. A small one about 2'x3' was being offered for $1600. The indian woman doing the weaving said that it takes about 5 months to weave a 4'x6' blanket. She was there weaving as a demonstration. So if you ever find and indian blanket for $24.95, it was probably made in China and is being sold at WalMart.

It was a very enjoyable trip. The whole route was very scenic, especially driving from Chinle up through Moab. This was my first time in Utah. I believe I will go back for another visit. Sally, my GPS was really good and kept us from getting lost. Everybody with me liked Sally. Aunt Jane was helpful but a little aggravating. Aunt Jane is the second voice on the GPS that sternly tells us the name of the road we are to turn onto. 

I never saw a single Starbucks until we got back as far as Frisco. It must drive these people insane to be so destitute. Gas station coffee just isn't the same. But gas station coffee did keep me wide awake and going down the straight and sometimes narrow highway. We drove 200 miles to Moab to eat at a certain restaurant that someone remembered, only to find it closed for the season. We had to settle for Denny's

I'll tell you more in future blogs.

Don't let your coffee get cold.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


TP. That's right, toilet paper! 

I volunteered to drive down to the Navaho Indian Reservation in Arizona to deliver donated gifts from our church. I have the Sequoia and will be taking that full of people. The gifts are going down there by semi. Last night I got this unusual request from our Co-ordinator. She requested everyone going to bring a roll of toilet paper since there will be so many people there. No I don't know about you, but I don't know how much business I can do sitting on the white throne in one day. It seems like a lot of TP. Then it occurred to me, couldn't someone have been assigned to bring a package of TP. This just seems too strange. All of us will go walking in with our little roll of toilet paper.

I just couldn't drink coffee as I wrote about this.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Coffee Served With Profits

Today I had a great cup of coffee. I always enjoy it more when I make good profits. My last job was very profitable. It was a remodel. Actually, finishing a remodel someone else started. I came out better at the end than I had hoped. That made my Starbucks taste really good.

What made it even sweeter is that the trading markets were up. Time to recoup some of the losses and turn them into gains. The markets would have been even better had Goldman Sachs done better. I just know that the markets are on the verge of a nice upswing. The markets would do even better if the government wouldn't do all the bailing out. But we are resilient and will do well.

Buy cheap shares and enjoy your coffee.