Friday, July 17, 2009

Guinness' First Swim

If you have been following Guinness' progress you might remember his aversion to going into the water. We had hoped he would, early on, be attracted to it due to the Lab in him. He had the retrieving part down real good, but, over the months, continued to dislike going into water. We worked with him over the following months and in late spring he finally started to venture in, but we believe it was still too cold for his liking.

Today we took him to a small recreation park, Morgan's Bridge, on the Ogeechee River, just 4 miles from Berry Oaks. Very convenient. It was quite warm, 97F/31C, and we hoped the lure of the cool river would overcome his fear of it. We put him on a 50 foot/ 15 meter long leash so we would have some control over him, yet, he would also have some sense of freedom. He is getting to like his freedom.

Once we were ready we led him down to the concrete boat ramp and up to the river's edge. I started to walk in and by the time I was up to my knees, to our surprise, he leaped right in and started to frolic around. Wow!!! He loved it. I immediately looked around for a stick to throw (his weakness). Finding one, I threw it in close to the shore and he went straight for it bouncing through the water. He brought it back and dropped it wanting to go again. I obliged him, again and again and again.

After a few minutes, I started to throw the stick out a bit farther and farther. Then it happened. Guinness went after the stick which, by this time, was over his head. He started to swim!!!! Those big webbed paws and his strong tail took over. He was elated. Once he returned he started to jump and became so excited he almost forgot his stick. Almost. From that point on he was like a small child at the beach. You have to drag them out.

His first few tries at retrieving the stick was a bit clumsy. He went under a couple of times, but only for a second or two. I had his leash tight and if there was a hint of trouble, I would haul him in, but no....he, very quickly, became the accomplished swimmer he was born as. And my goodness, can he swim.

We gave him a half a dozen turns of this new found play time ranging 15-20 minutes each making him take a 10 minute break in between. He was insatiable. Finally, we had to call it quits for he was struggling to bring the stick back. Of course, he did not want to quit and just like a small child we just about had to drag him out of the river.

Once he was dried off he sat and watched the other people at the park. He loves to people watch. We packed up and made the 5 minute trip back to Berry Oaks where he immediately, after a washing off and another drying, went to sleep for almost two hours. Talk about whooped. During that time I took the pictures and video that we had taken and put them all together in a short video that I have posted on You Tube (see below). We hope you enjoy it at least a fraction of how we did today. Woo Hoo!!! He's a swimmer.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Independence Day

To most of us Independence Day is July4, 1776, the day our wonderful country declared its independence from a tyrannical government. Many of us, at one time or another, experience our own personal independence day. This year we were blessed to have our own day followed by our country's Independence Day.

We departed Maryland in the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday, June 30th. It is a long ride for a straight through drive, but we made it to Savannah around 4 PM. We had a lot to do before we could settle down so we got right to work. First we had to stop by our household storage facility to pick up our 5th wheel hitch. We leave it here so we don't have to store it back in Maryland. Also, it is heavy and makes a big difference in the weight of the truck.

With the hitch on board we headed for the Ft. Stewart campground where we have stayed many times. We quickly checked in and went to our campsite. We dropped off the utility trailer (see previous post), unloaded the truck bed and installed the 5th wheel hitch. We then drove the half mile from the campsite to the 5th wheel trailer's storage area and hooked up.

The last time we had been here was back in early January. We had winterized the trailer so we had to now de-winterize it, unpack the truck and arrange the interior of the trailer. Our intention was to fit-up the trailer and get it ready to move to Berry Oaks, about a 30 mile trip from the campground. We planned on doing this on Friday, July 3rd. By the time we managed to get things a bit organized it was 9 PM. We had been up since 2 AM. We were all tired. We hit the sack without eating dinner. Too tired.

Wednesday was devoted to stocking and organizing the trailer. Thursday was a day of working at Berry Oaks to make sure we could get the trailer up into the property. It took about a half days work to clear some brush, but it looked like it would be pretty easy to get in. Tomorrow would tell if we were right. We returned to the campground and tried to make final preparations then relax a bit, but we were to excited and could barley sleep. All this time, Guinness was going with the flow.

Guinness is a riot. If you remember, his first home away from his mother and siblings was this trailer. He spent his first 5 weeks with us in it. He got very comfortable and made it his new home relatively quick. Then we moved back to Maryland to a big empty, cold house. He made that adjustment, too, in time.

We were curious as to how he would react to the trailer after being away six months. When we set up in the campsite, we let him in and watched. He seemed to immediately remember the trailer and the campground and when he first went back into it after those six months he knew he had been there. After a few minutes he settled right in and found some of his old favorite positions and places. He loves it, still!!!!!

On Friday morning we rose early and went straight to work after a hearty breakfast. Joyce set up the inside for travel while I worked the outside. We made sure the fresh water was topped off since we will not have a fresh water supply at Berry Oaks. Once we were all set we hooked up and went through our towing checklist. After pulling out of the site we headed for the campground dump station to evacuate the waste tanks. Besides not having 1.) fresh water we also do not have 2.) a waste area to evacuate the waste tanks. More about these two points later.

It took about 45 minutes to reach our destination once we were on the road. Berry Oaks is situated on a dirt road about 200 yards from a paved 2 lane road. That paved two lane road intersects with I-95 about 15 miles away. When we arrived at our driveway, Joyce climbed out to guide me in. Entering was fairly simple and we pulled up on the slight hill ready to position the trailer. We had previously surveyed the area and picked the spot where we wanted to land. This was based on several things, most importantly, the ease of situating it.

It took quite a bit longer and with more effort than we had anticipated, however, we were finally successful. I unhooked, leveled the rig and made a basic setup. Joyce would finish up and I would go back to the campground and pick up the utility trailer. Before I could get back to Berry Oaks, though, I had to first go to our household storage facility and pick up a few things.

The storage facility holds many of our useful things for the trailer. There is a 5500 watt generator (no electricity on Berry Oaks although it is wired for it), a portable waste water tank for dumping, several camping items to include water cans and a screen house as well as some other smaller items. Once I had loaded all of this onto the truck and trailer I headed back to Joyce and Guinness. It was now close to 4 PM. and I still had a lot of work to do.

I arrived back at Berry Oaks close to 5 PM., unloaded the generator and other items, then went to work hooking up the generator to the trailer. Did I mention it was 100F/38C? Seems like we are completely wet from the time we get up to the time we go to bed. I finished up what I had to do and called it quits for the evening. Joyce prepared a light meal, we dined, then took it easy for a hour or so before settling in for the night. All the time Guinness was exploring his new home. We did not let him off the long leash yet. Later.

Finally!!!!!! Our Independence Day. We are home and not relying on others to provide for us while we are here. We had been working toward this day for years and it is finally here on July 3, 2009.

We woke the next morning, after a restless sleep, to our Nation's 233rd birthday, July 4, 2009. I started the generator and we made a fantastic breakfast of eggs, scrapple and coffee. We cleaned up, took water saving hot showers and prepared ourselves to work outside to clean up the area and continue our site set-up. It was a long hot day. The temperature peaked at 101F/38.3C. We all three took it very slow and drank lots of water. We did work hard, however, and the heat took its toll. We quit early, made a few drinks and relaxed by just listening to the quiet.

Guinness was affected by the heat more than we were and we had to make sure he did not over exert himself and drink plenty of water. Fortunately, he drinks on command. That was the easier part. Keeping him settled in the heat was not so easy. All he wanted to do was play. We let him off the leash for a few periods of time, but since we could not keep our eyes on him constantly we had intervals of leash time.

We do not let Guinness off the leash hardly ever, especially at our home in Maryland. Just too risky. He knows to stay in our yard, but if sees a neighbor's child ( he loves children) he would rush to them, even across the street. Not a good idea. He is unaware and unafraid of cars. So we keep him leashed.

After another light dinner, we sat out front, listened to the distant fireworks and waited for darkness to fall. The mosquitoes are not as bad as we expected. In the past they would eat us up even with bug spray. This year, even after all the wet weather, they are scarce. Not to say they are not here. We have the bites to prove they are. But we can take it. We are hearty people from hearty ancestors. Guinness is a little wimpy, but he is learning to be a semi-self sufficient woodsy dog. Joyce had six two foot sparklers so she put them out, lit them and we sat in the dark celebrating our independence along with our Nation's birthday. Off to bed.

The next few days consisted of more clearing, cleaning and situating. Oh...plenty of play time with Guinness. We are now letting him off the leash more, but only when we have full sight of him. He loves it off the leash. He can run. He loves to explore and smell everything. He now knows this is 'his" place and he makes it known.

Guinness knows how to cool off....

We had started to run the generator every night since there was hardly a breath of a breeze inside at night. That made for very fitful sleep for all of us. The generator allowed us to run a fan and that made things so much better. What wasn't better was it was costing us a fortune to run it that long. It will run 13 hours on 7 gallons of gas. We were running it at least that long during the day and at night. That equated to about $18.00 a day in gas. We could stay at the Ft. Stewart campground for $10.00 a day. Not very cost worthy so we decided to have the electricity turned on. The next day, Wednesday, they turned it on and now we have electricity anytime at a very inexpensive rate. The generator goes back into storage.

Besides having the electricity turned on, Wednesday was dump and fill day. Remember I said we did not have fresh water or any where we could dump our sewage? Well, we have the means, but it takes some effort. We have a 42 gallon portable dump tank that sits in the back of the truck. We connect a sewage macerator to the waste tank outlet, turn it on and it pumps out our waste water to the tank. Nice and neat. Next we load a 45 gallon fresh water bladder onto the utility trailer with two additional 7 gallon water cans. Now off to the local truck stop where they let you dump and fill for free. A 34 mile round trip though. At the truck stop it take less than 5 minutes to dump and clean the waste tank and about 10 minutes to fill the fresh water containers.

When back at Berry Oaks I pull the utility trailer up close and place a fresh water pump in the bladder. This fills the trailer's 50 gallon freshwater tank quickly and empties the bladder and part of one water can. Voila! Done! All the comforts of home.

Well, that's where we are to this point. We intend to work around Berry Oaks a bit, but mainly we want to relax. Maybe do some fishing, hiking, beach time, reading, you know, the things retired people are supposed to do. Look for later updates. I am sure the adventures will continue.