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The Minnesota Trip

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Dave and I with the racer loaded on the trailer.

What a couple of weeks!

One of our goals before leaving was to put in Ann’s garden. So, prior to leaving for MN, we expanded the fencing (primarily to keep the dogs in and so they can chase out any critters), laid the dirt for corn and squash, laid gravel over the rest of the dirt, and put in elevated planters so that Ann does’t have to bend down. We’d hoped to move the propane tank, but that will have to wait now until Fall. It’s all temporary so we can see how we like the location.

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Last Friday mom’s place went up for sale. On Wednesday, (as Ann and I were racing back from Minnesota) the home went under contract. It came down to a developer who wanted to develop the land (all cash deal) or a couple with a daughter who wanted to live in the house and offered to take mom’s cats. It was an easy call, as mom would have wanted the cats cared for, so we agreed to the deal with the couple. So, a huge step forward in finalizing the estate.

And now for the road trip to MN, here’s what happened.

Our drive to Minnesota was uneventful. We drove 1000 miles the first day under perfect skies, with no storms. Because I was a little paranoid about blowing a trailer tire, we kept the speed art around 70mph for most of the trip. The next day we drove an additional 500 miles in similar beautiful weather, landing in Little Falls, Minnesota, for the evening.

The next morning we stopped by Thielen Meats in Pierz, as recommenced by Dave F. It was a great recommendation (voted the #1 meat market in Minnesota and celebrating its 100th anniversary this year). We bought some beef sausages, smoked mozzarella, a whole smoked white fish (yum), and some smoked pork ribs. Everything was great (we should have bought more).

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Photo Credit: Thielen Meats

A short time later, we arrived at Dave’s place. Dave and I have been communicating about this racer for several years, but for all the reasons you already know, it wasn’t until this spring that it was practical for us to go fetch the jeep.

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Some of the worst damage:

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Some other pics. The tank was in the back, along with the battery. The rear springs are outboarded with a sway bar. The front springs are reversed. This has a dual master cylinder for the brake and clutch with swing pedals. The cage is welded, rather than bolted, to the frame (the black/green jeep cage is bolted to the frame).

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For those that don’t know, the attraction of this jeep is two-fold. Primarily, it was the Parkette racing shell that interested me most. I have wanted a Parkette body ever since I was a kid in the Wandering Willys Jeep Club. The Carter family, club members and long time friends of mom and dad, bought a Parkette body for their flat fender around 1972 for their jeep Otis. That jeep was always a favorite of mine, and though I’ve owned three different types of fiberglass flat fender bodies, I’ve never owned a Parkette (though I co-owned the form for a Parkette shell for a while … see more about the forms, Parkettes, Otis, on this post)

Secondly, I wanted to bring the racer back to the PNW, where it could potentially be restored and reused (or re-purposed at the very least. The challenge is that it has been sitting outside for a while following a wreck, which damaged the passenger side front frame rail. Amazingly, much of the rest of the jeep seems okay (though the body needs some work).

My challenge now is, I have a reasonably good chassis on the black/green narrow body race jeep with a great drive train, but the cockpit needs an overhaul to 1) improve its drivability and 2) allow me to fit better. The suspension setup is very good, but I think, over all, the rear of the yellow jeep is better and includes a sway-bar.

The yellow jeep likely needs the front frame rails replaced, needs a new drive train, and needs the cockpit rebuilt.

Returning to our visit with Dave, Ann and I realized that he was the first reader we have met since my 2019 conversation with Dan ( about whom I will discuss in a moment) in my mother’s driveway. Anyway, Dave and I have been in contact for years. He is a longtime jeep owner and still owns his first and second jeeps (CJ-5 and a CJ-2A, if I remember correctly). Over the years, his collection has expanded. He quickly developed a local reputation for collecting jeeps and found himself offered deals he couldn’t refuse. He was soon offered parts jeeps for next to nothing.

Here’s some of his collection that have lots of rust, frozen engines, etc:

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Ann didn’t get pics of the jeeps inside the buildings, which are the ones in good shape.

We had a great visit with Dave, spending a couple hours with him talking about jeeps and life. But, we knew we had a long drive ahead of us, so we took off at 11:30 and headed to Dickinson, ND, for the evening.

After we picked up the jeep, we had been driving about 20 minutes when Ann spotted a deer tick on her hand. She immediately recognized it and told me to quickly pull over. Now on the side of the road, she got the tick off her hand, then began checking for other ticks. I too began a personal search. As traffic whizzed by at 55mph, we were stripping on the side of the road. I found another tick in my shoe atop my sock. Then, found an additional one on the driver’s floor. Finally, we did a search of each other. I found none on Ann, but she found one on my back. It’s claws had dug in, but the head had not yet begun sucking blood. It took her some effort to remove it from my back, but eventually it let go. We are monitoring the spot, watching for any type of rash. Yuk! Of course, for rest of the drive, any itch was full of paranoia!!

Eventually we reached Dickinson, ND. We landed at a hotel that claimed to be “extra clean” based on Priceline reviews. However, clearly someone hadn’t stayed in the handicapped room, as that was less than stellar. Still, we crashed and slept well.

The next day, Wednesday, the rains gave way to sunny weather. We left at 6am and stopped in Eastern Montana visit Dan, April and their kids in Eastern Montana to see their startup Bison ranch.

The initial challenge was finding the place. It was located on a dirt road which required going through a corrugated tunnel on the interstate full of swallow nests. Like a scene from the Birds, as you slowly drive through over the rough road, birds are flying all around you. It was really unique and cool.

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Eventually, we made it to their property.

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Here is one of their views near their temporary housing that reminded me of southern Utah (they plan to build a real house at some point soon):

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Apparently, their decision to leave suburban life in Auburn, Washington, was my fault. Dan and April started the ranch with his wife and nine kids after a conversation with me in 2019. Dan was a reader who has shared pics of his jeeps over the years (he has two M-38s at the ranch, but I got so busy talking to him that I didn’t get pics).

During our fateful conversation, I expressed our interest in starting a bison ranch, but Ann and I had both decided we were a little too old, broken, and responsibility-bound to start such an endeavor. Apparently, that sparked Dan’s imagination, enough that he and his family decided to plunge head first into the opportunity.

Two years after our conversation, in May of 2021, they bought 640 acres of pretty raw property, though it included a large corrugated hut for a house and other amenities. They then spent the next year making improvements. This spring, they bought their first five bison. The entire experience has been both rewarding, frustrating, educational, and unforgettable. Their kids seem to be making the most of their opportunities. Dan, a former contractor, realized that he couldn’t do everything himself (and in fact recognized he could become a weak link if he did), so he’s been turning over projects to his kids and stepping back to let them learn and fail a little. So far, he’s been thrilled at what they can achieve.

To get from the entrance of the property to the house is a twisty, turning drive up clay and dirt road, sometimes which is impassable due to weather (When they finally build their house, it will be at a point that is a little more obtainable in poor weather).

They gave us a tour of their ‘house’, their power setup (wind, solar, generator power), their unusual septic system setup, and more. Other than a fiber optic cable that gives them excellent internet, laid by the previous owner, they are self contained in the middle of nowhere, eastern Montana.

We spent four hours with Dan and his family. Ann and April hit it off, while Dan walked me around some of the technical side of their homestead. In what seemed like no time, we’d been there four hours, so all-to-quickly it was time to go.

We left their ranch in Eastern Montana about 1pm. We quickly hit head winds that made the truck work extra hard, to the point that sometimes I had to slow to 60mph (which makes the drive that much longer). We also soon learned that the weather would be deteriorating over the Idaho passes. So, instead of spending the night in Missoula as we’d planned, we made the decision to drive the rest of the way home, arriving in Prosser at 3am Thursday, 23 hours after leaving Dickinson, ND, at 4am on Wednesday.

I’ll tell you what, I am too old for those kinds of drives! And my eyesight isn’t great for a bleary-eyed drive over poorly marked mountain passes in the dark. It was a stressful drive for sure.

Yesterday, as we recovered from our drive, I looked out onto the pasture to see one of the cows near an odd brown patch of something. After working it through I my head, I realized the cow had just given birth. So, we got to watch the calf’s first steps and help our neighbor Rich apply a band to its testicles to castrate it. Rich’s other two cows should be giving birth anytime. Meanwhile, our two 1-year-old steers were very curious about the new arrival. In these photos, the young calf had yet to take its first steps:

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You can see how life has been very busy for us, so I apologize for the lack of updates. This will be the only one this morning (as this took longer than expected).

More updates tomorrow.

 

6 Comments on “The Minnesota Trip

  1. Dave from Mn

    I still haven’t had a tick yet that I know of. I’ve seldom have seen a deer tick. They are like a third of the size of a regular tick, quite small.

  2. David Eilers Post author

    Guys: Glad you enjoyed the adventure! In the past couple of days a new, unexpected opportunity has popped up for us. I look forward to sharing the news if we complete the deal.

    Dave: That’s just so crazy! I can’t think where else they might have originated, unless they hopped into the cab of the truck when we were at the motel? That seems unlikely though. Clearly they love western blood, lol. I haven’t seen enough ticks to tell them apart, but the ones I saw (never saw the one on my back) seemed pretty small. Ann is certain it was a deer tick … it seems that thanks to her quick thinking and reaction, the tick didn’t have a chance to burrow its head in my back, so I must defer the ticks’ identities to her.

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