Tag Archives: Ocean Kayak

Bang – bang – bang went the kayak …


Some of us have to discover the hard way that the ocean always wins. It is undefeated vs. man. Hopefully, Ellen and Reid don’t think their dad is as dumb as a box of rocks. Although for one day, I sure appeared to be.

This is how they heard about the whole maddening, sordid affair that damaged Miss Emma and had me sitting in the rain on the beach wondering what the hell had just gone wrong.

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December 14, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Still reeling from the insanity of trying to launch in the heavy surf last week in Florida. My left shin still aches and is bruised and swollen (eds. note: hairline fracture, sic) from the constant bashing as I tried, in vain, to keep the kayak square to the waves, which continued over and over and over in the space of 45 minutes to push the little boat to the side and thus bang – bang – bang against my left leg. I got madder, and more frustrated, by the minute when I couldn’t keep the bow square to the angled 3 – 4 foot waves. Only when I turtled and was under the boat trying to muscle it upright was the decision made to bag the whole thing. It would have been doable if I’d had someone who could’ve held the stern perpendicular to the waves and given me a good shove.

Miss Emma awaits a tow to the water's edge the day before our abortive attempt to launch in heavy waves.

Miss Emma awaits a tow to the water’s edge the day before our abortive attempt to launch in heavy surf.

Miss Emma would’ve been home free after the first 15 yards. What was really crushing, beyond losing some gear, was finding the waves had pushed me 200 yards to the south from my original put in point. It meant I had to hand-pull the kayak 300 yards in the wet sand back to the car. It was raining at this point, and only when I got back did I discover the hull had taken water through the hatches. This marked the low point in my kayak career. It really did. I still love it to pieces but will need a second person to help me launch in the open sea. Once I got out there the waves were no problem, fun actually, but it’s the getting out there that is problematic. That my lines fouled the first day was a problem I could deal with. The next time I’ll have a far better idea of how to troll two lines. I’ll have it nailed down. Just not this last time. It is amazing to me how strong the sea, the weight of water, really is; you cannot defeat it, beat it, outsmart it. You have to look for the openings it allows. It was inordinately disappointing to pull it back in the sand (both me and it soaking wet), empty the boat of 3 inches of water, wash everything down of sand and salt and grit, wrestle the wet boat atop the new Camry, lash it all down and tuck my tail all the way back to Charlotte. The left leg just killed me the whole way back. Got home about 1 a.m., put everything away and hit the sack about 2 a.m. Although it was a downer I still covet the very idea of being on the water and can’t wait to try again.

But the bright side is I’ll be up in St. Paul over New Year’s, Ellen. Can’t wait to see you and Tim and the girls. Really, get out on New Year’s Eve for at least a few hours. Emma, Georgia and I can handle ourselves just fine. Hopefully the meals I prep for you guys will be acceptable to everyone. There’ll be a fair amount of baking, too. I’ll keep an eye on the forecast and will be prepared for the worst of things. Haven’t really been in seriously cold temperatures for a long time.

I’m having a hard time with all this gotta-have-guns-mania these days. There was a CBS report today that shows Wyoming has 197 registered guns per 1,000 residents. That’s the highest rate in the nation. Of course, the South is among the leaders in guns-per-capita. Maybe we’re subliminally arming ourselves for the next attempt at secession. This week is the anniversary of the Sandy Hook slaughter and there’s still nothing that’s been done to curb the mad rush to arm ourselves. The question would be: arm ourselves from what? I know you and I differ on that, Reid, but aren’t the police and National Guard the well regulated militia the founding fathers intended? How is it that every other developed nation sees the dark side of guns but we still cling to the notion that of all the constitutional amendments, the second is the most sacrosanct? Don’t get me started on Trump. Don’t go there.

Okay, the coffee has run out and it’s time to make more. And for crying out loud, make sure I know what you want for Christmas. The clock is ticking on delivery.

Love, Dad

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Miss Emma heads to Florida but she won’t go to Liverpool …


By now you’re tiring of all my retirement blather. Alas, Ellen and Reid get the full dose of it so you’ll have to endure the same narrative they read in the weekly letters.

Such as when you take a look at a lot of retiree bucket lists. Travel seems at or near the top of a lot of wish lists but globehopping is not so much for me. Still, there’s a little bit of domestic / foreign travel in the foreseeable future.

As you might surmise, the events in France last week have complicated the decision somewhat. As of now I’ll plow ahead with the planning but my kids know I’ll keep an eye on developments. There is a silver lining to staying put; if I don’t go over there it gives Miss Emma and I more time to spend over here.

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November 9, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Trying to wean myself of the work time/old habits. Still waking up about 5:00 a.m. but am trying to force the issue with mixed results about nodding back to sleep. I guess you have to start somewhere. I used to turn on the office lamps before I clomped downstairs to start the coffee. That habit has now gone by the wayside. I find myself sitting at the breakfast table while it’s dark outside trying to figure out what to do on that given day. The Charlotte Observer got a check from me for $446 last week to keep my subscription alive to the physical newspaper for the next year. That’s one thing that won’t be going away anytime soon. It wouldn’t hurt either of you to start a subscription to the Chicago Tribune or the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and not of the online variety. Your grandfather would be smiling at the thought of you guys reading a real newspaper.

Dave H. called this morning to invite me down to Ft. Lauderdale to spend the first week of December at his place. Actually, I get the run of the house to myself while he’s out of town for the bulk of the week. That’s awfully nice of him. The thought is to fly down but the kayak has made the 10 hour drive before and it would be fun to lug it over to the open ocean at

Miss Emma fits like a glove atop the Camry. She knows the way to Charleston (like a down-and-back trip Wed., Nov. 18) and pretty soon she'll learn of the open ocean off Pompano Beach.

Miss Emma fits like a glove atop the Camry. She knows the way to Charleston (like another down-and-back trip Wed., Nov. 18) and pretty soon she’ll learn of the open ocean off Pompano Beach. Reid, at the wheel last year, will also get a shot at redfish over Thanksgiving in Hilton Head.

Pompano Beach to see if the wahoo or dolphin are biting. I’d need to paddle about a mile offshore but if the waves/ocean surge isn’t too bad it would be a lot of fun for a change to give it a whirl. But it is nice of him. Not entirely sure how that will impact my trips to see you both of north but I suspect I’ll head that way sometime before Christmas. Gotta stop in Des Moines, too.

Still trying to process all of the closure materials for Bank of America. The bank is not extraordinarily helpful Continue reading

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Three things I love …


This post features three of the things I love (the first of whom I’ll meet this week in St. Paul): tiny little Georgia, Reid, and inland fishing from my kayak. If there was a photo or other mention of Ellen tucked in here, then you could round it up to four.

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May 11, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Well, Reid, it looks like you’re going to have two adoring little nieces. But you’ve got to work on this infant holding thing. You didn’t look entirely comfortable. That’ll come with practice. Not that there’s a hint there.

Georgia looks comfortable with her uncle Reid, but his grip looks like it needs some work.

Georgia looks comfortable with her uncle Reid, but his grip looks like it needs some work.

I changed out the heavy brown comforter for a warm weather version last week and that’s when it dawned on me that I have no – zero – sense of style/decor. The lightweight one is robin egg blue and it clashes, to put it mildly, with the brown tones of the cherrywood bed and carpet. I need some guidance on such things. It kind of goes hand in hand with the utter lack of style in the first floor living room, and probably extends to my jeans and tees, too. But at this point what the hell. It is what it is.

I’m still sore this morning from a tough down-and-back day trip on Friday to fish near Charleston. I hit the road about 4 a.m. for the three hour-plus drive. The intent was to put in about 8 a.m. but got caught in some dead-stop traffic just north of Charleston which cost me most of an hour. A tropical storm loomed offshore and it pushed a heavy counterclockwise wind inland. It was very hard to paddle against, and a strong tide exacerbated things. It was everything I could do to make headway.

It seems there's a little more gear each time I set out. But if it means catching fish, yeah, bring on the stuff.

It seems there’s a little more gear each time I set out. But if it means catching fish, yeah, bring on the stuff.

The guys at the put in point said the fishing would be slow, and they were right. Had a few bites early but then nothing for a few hours. So I roamed over to a huge grass flat that looked promising but didn’t see any tailing in a foot of water or so. Reid, I hit the barge about 2:30 and wasn’t there too long before a guy pulled up in his boat and anchored roughly where you sat when your big spot hit. Both of us were using cut mullet. His name was Jim, and he’s there with some frequency since he only lives a mile or so away and he had three lines in the water. He predicted we’d hit the fish quickly. But for the better part of another 60 minutes neither of us got anything other than a few nibbles, sheepshead most likely. He thought the pressure of the storm had an impact. When he learned I had some mud minnows, he suggested I ditch the mullet and hook the minnow through the upper lip about two feet below a bobber I had already rigged with a DOA shrimp and flip it toward shore in about a foot of water. Sure enough, the bobber went under and the line just stripped from the reel. What a sound/sensation that is. It felt like a spot from the get-go. About a 16 incher, just inside the slot. Onto the stringer it went although to be honest, there was a pang about letting it live. It was such a pretty fish. There were another couple strong strikes but nothing more came of it other than a minnow sacrificed for the sport. It wasn’t much later when a strong squall moved in and it rained like hell. It was a wrath of God rain and wind. Jim took off after offering to pull me in to the dock, but I declined to instead wait out the deluge. About 30 minutes later it stopped but there were no more fish. So I labored back to the marina, my fish in tow about 5 yards behind the boat. It takes about an hour to get the kayak back atop the car and everything hosed down with fresh water and stowed. The stringer was tied off to a rock as I prepped the boat for the car ride. The debate about a free/non-free fish didn’t last very long.

The Bowens Island restaurant is a must-visit deal near Folly Beach. Not high cuisine, but a funky place with good views and great beer. My fishing spot is on the horizon just above the diners.

The Bowens Island restaurant is a must-visit deal near Folly Beach. Not high cuisine, but a funky place with good views and great beer. My fishing spot is on the horizon just above the diners.

Since I’ve paid some pretty heavy dues on this and past trips, the red was hurriedly filleted it and frankly I didn’t do a very good job. But it went on ice and that was it. The little seedy restaurant next to the put in was open, and I changed clothes in the car and went up for a beer and some fried shrimp. The joint was packed with locals and was a lot of fun with good views of the waterway. If you guys ever come down this way, we’ll visit it. If you wear anything other than the aforementioned jeans and tees, you’ll be overdressed. But it made for a long, long day. I pulled into the garage about 12:45 a.m. and it took 30 minutes to unpack everything and stow the boat. I told myself this was the last time for such a jaunt. But the itch will return soon enough.

Love, Dad

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Georgia on my mind …


Even before this letter hit the mailboxes of Ellen and Reid, Georgia, at 7 lbs. 4 oz., was among us.

All grandparents think their grandkids are the cutest thing ever. No exception here.

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April 13, 2015

Ellen/Reid: Geez, Ellen, now the wait is on full bore. If I were a betting man, I’d say Emma gets a sister sometime this week. I know your mom flies in today and she’s pumped about. It will be good to have her there to watch Emma while you and Tim are off to the hospital for the delivery. It seemed to me Claire was a good name. But no more guessing on my part since you say everyone is so far off. You’ve got my itinerary for May. Tell Tim his picture of Emma chowing down on a bowl of ice cream as she ‘prepares for Papa’ is pretty accurate.

Georgia surveys her new surroundings. She was officially 5 days early (due Apr. 19) but her early entrance was quiet and routine.

Georgia surveys her new surroundings. She was officially 5 days early (due Apr. 19) but her early entrance was quiet and routine.

The girl and I will get plenty of practice. Betsy saw your selfie and thought you looked ready. I guess. Watch for a delivery sometime soon of Emma’s birthday gift. It would be great to be there but we’ll have to wait a few more weeks for a secondary celebration. If your garden isn’t in by the time of my arrival, I’ll put in the plants you want. Just make a list. It will give me and my helper Emma something to do.

The warm temperatures have put the trees behind the house into full foliage which now blocks any view of the apartments 80 yards away. I like that invisibility. It makes my spot one of the better units in the entire development. The HOA garden Nazis will have to deal with a newly planted crop of lettuce, basil, cilantro and a single tomato plant. Per your instructions, the pots are now on the top of the steps which should no longer offend anyone’s sensibilities. Also planted were the flower boxes, but like a complete ditz for some inane reason I bought only five plants and had to return to the garden shop for a sixth. What an idiot. But at least things are in now and we’ll see if it raises the dander of my overseers. There’s also been a bumper crop of pine pollen which covers everything in a soft layer of yellow dust. When it gets wet it changes to a goo.

I’m thinking about selling the Harley. It’s just too big for me. It outweighs the Heritage Softail by about 80 lbs. and that’s a lot for me to handle. A couple of short jaunts this weekend to Macs and a breakfast nook over the border in South Carolina were enjoyable but my run of bikes is probably coming to an end. I’m okay with that. There was the option of a much lighter Wide Glide (same big engine)

It may be time for the Road King to make way for a new Wide Glide.

It may be time for the Road King to make way for a new Wide Glide. That, or the end of my riding years is in sight.

but that brings me full circle to the same conclusion: probably time to end my riding days. There’s still the kayak as a boy toy along with my golf clubs. Besides, the Road King needs some seriously louder pipes and it would set me back about $700 for a pair of Vance & Hines Big Shots not to mention the installation since that would be over my head a little bit. They estimate it takes about three hours for the install but you could double or triple that in my case.

My friend Tom and I head to Charleston this Friday for a down-and-back day of fishing. The last time we went it was so, so cold and we (and our guide Tripp) were completely skunked. He chalked that up to cold water temperatures. But the Friday forecast calls for mid 70s which will be really nice for a change. The kayak hasn’t touched water for a couple of months now. Reid, we’ll use most of the same bait that other guy was using when he pulled in all those big reds. Frozen sardines are akin to the cut finger mullet he used. The fishing reports in the Observer are marginally hopeful. I really hope for Tom’s sake that both of us catch something, anything, just so we can say something was boated. Not too sure Tom is overly enthused about a 5:30 a.m. wakeup but that’s just the wages of going fishing. On a separate note, I hope to take my pastor John and his wife Kelly down to Charleston sometime this summer or fall if they can break away.

Reid, it’s exciting that you can give your full attention to your grad studies at DePaul. Make sure you stick to your knitting on it. Not that much longer to go. You’ll do well, and the thinking here is that a lot of employers might take a shine to a graduate degree, too.

Love, Dad

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My vote: get on with things …


Tomorrow is the big day; Ellen and Reid will know of things early on. I suppose one aspect of a letter is to put things ‘out there’ and in some ways it’s easier to put ideas on paper than it might be in words.

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January 20, 2015

Ellen/Reid: To judge by the photo of you and Emma lounging in the pool with the Sea of Cortez behind you, Ellen, you got precisely what you wanted on the trip to Mexico. Reid, I assume you were out of camera range with a cold adult beverage in your hand. Of course, I need to hear all about the details, so don’t be too sparing about things.

It truly was a cathartic trip for me. I left behind the events of the last 10 days by hitting the road on Thursday night and sleeping when I got tired at various rest stops all along the way. You’d be surprised at how hard I zonked out. It was amazing. I can’t recall ever doing such an overnight drive. Dave and I had a good time in Florida. The weather was warm, sunny and pleasant. The Camry rolled into Dave’s place about 10 a.m. I was refreshed and ready to go. We headed to his boat club to fish the Intracoastal but all we caught on our frozen shrimp were a few small pufferfish type things. The next morning we didn’t get on the water with the other kayakers, and as noted before, that was really no big deal. We did make it to the Captain’s party, which was great fun. There are one hell of a lot of serious kayak fishermen.

My little kayak seems dorky compared to what real fishermen bring to the water's edge. They sink some serious jack into their boats; fish finders, GoPros, live wells, weather radars and other expensive doo-dads. But it works.

My little sparsely-outfitted kayak seems dorky compared to what real fishermen bring to the water’s edge. They sink some serious jack into their boats; fish finders, GoPros, live wells, weather radars and other expensive doo-dads. But it works.

You only had to go to the morning launch of the tournament. I mean, my rig is elementary (and far less costly) than the elaborate outfits we saw, from kayaks sporting live wells, two GoPro cameras, technology from depth indicators to fish finders, to other assorted – and expensive – gizmos. Our boats are naked compared to those. Maybe that’s why they catch fish and we don’t. On Sunday we ventured out into deep water, but aside from one strong jolt, we didn’t have any luck. We did intersect the small flotilla of kayakers. One guy was from Charlotte, and he’d landed the only sailfish among the group on Sunday. If his catch stood, he’d bank the $3,000 first place check. Dave and I weren’t entirely skunked; in the small pond out behind his house we caught a big 7 lb. bowfin, which is an ancient fish and highly edible although we allowed it to go free. But we agreed it was still great fun, and we’ll return next year to the Smackdown as bona fide entrants. I did buy some swordfish at the market this morning in observance of the tournament.

The intent was to make it home ASAP on Monday, but when I was about to drive past the exit to Beaufort, South Carolina, the car made a sudden veer to the right and headed down Routes 17 and 21 in search of a place on the Intracoastal. I put in at Gray’s Hill Landing and paddled around for a few hours but didn’t land anything. It was some solace that three boats of locals didn’t report a single bite either. It felt like one of my better forays in terms of technique and baits and presentation. There were just no bites.

My surgery is a week from today. The more I read, the more hopeful I become although I’m sure part of that is wishful thinking. Depth seems to be a big deal, and given the nickel-sized chunk of my right forearm removed during the ‘scoop’ biopsy, it’s no wonder the dermatologist wondered aloud if that procedure got all of it. She may get a call from me to reiterate what she told me just so I’m on the same page with her and the surgeon. His resume looks to be pretty extensive so that’s where my trust will go. One of the reasons I went down to Florida, and later kayak near Beaufort, was because I can either mope and whine, or get on with things. The latter seems much more preferable. If/when the surgery gets the ‘clear margins’ the docs and the literature talk about, then we’ll celebrate in style. I’ll head back down to ‘The Barge’ and fish with cut bait, Reid, like our new acquaintance Ryan. There won’t be any leaving without something on the stringer, and it won’t be small fry. We’ll come home with the real thing.

Love, Dad

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Cork the whine…


Although I’m not sure I fit the description of a serial whiner (friends on the golf course may disagree) I have my moments.

A couple of those were chronicled in last week’s letter to the kids.

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September 15, 2014

Ellen/Reid: I think I’ve finally figured out that, at a basal level, I’m just not real good at fishing. Something isn’t resonating for me. Either the fish aren’t biting or I don’t know how to do it. The suspicion here is that it is the latter. This weekend at Charleston, or, more precisely, Mt. Pleasant, the  habitat was as good as could be found. Deep grasses, plenty of water flow, etc.

This is my kind of beautiful morning near Charleston: hit the water early and see what's biting.

This is my kind of beautiful morning near Charleston: hit the water early and see what’s biting.

Exactly the place you’d expect to get sore arms from the reeling in of pounds and pounds of fish, but no. One speckled trout – and it hammered my plastic Gulp seconds before I was about to pull the lure out of the water so that was sheer luck. But in my defense it was 15” which was over the legal limit.

This handsome speckled trout represents the second leg of the Big Three of fish I aim to catch - flounder, speckled trout and redfish.

This handsome speckled trout represents the second leg of the Big Three of fish I aim to catch – flounder, speckled trout and redfish.

No other real bites. It has to be the fisherman rather than the fish, although a friend of mine said the redfish are either on or they’re off – there’s no in between. I think I am in between the off and the very off. I don’t know. Maybe it’s time for the guide I keep yammering about. I was texting with Tim during the lull while I sat moping in the Ocean Kayak – all my fishing seems to be a protracted lull – and he said I’d learn more from a guide Continue reading

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I’m not gonna stop…


I suppose one way to look at the fishing trip to Oak Island is at least something was boated. Not the redfish or speckled trout I covet, but a fish is a fish is a fish. The glass was half empty but I look at it as half full.

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August 11, 2014

Ellen/Reid: I don’t know, there’s something about being on the salt water that is just so glorious and fun. I’m hooked (no pun intended) just like a few fish this past Saturday. I went to bed Friday night about 9:30 and woke at 3:30 a.m. and felt like I sprang out of bed. It was like being a kid at Christmas – I just could not wait to hit the road. I showered (why would anyone shower before fishing?), begged the coffee maker to move the joe along, and was out the door at 4:20 a.m. It’s not quite three and a half hours door-to-dock.

I actually got the Miss Emma loaded and ready on Friday. The toughest part is lifting the 14” sucker onto the rack atop the car. It’s not overly heavy, just not much of anything to grip and is unwieldy. The process from car-to-water is getting a bit more streamlined. At the recommendation of a bait shop owner, this time I went to the 55th Street put-in spot. It’s right on the Intercoastal. To cross it you have to dodge gigantic boats – 50” plus – to reach a system of back bays where, allegedly there are speckled trout and redfish. Another local kayaker was coming out of the water about the time I was putting in (8:30 a.m.) and he said the action was non-existent. He said he usually catches a few but the weather (rain) had been incessant the last couple of weeks and somehow effects the fishing. But I’m just in it for the fun.

The tide was coming against me but that was okay. It is enormous fun to paddle along the reeds, but Ellen, tell Tim I didn’t see any redfish working the oyster beds or the reeds. I need his advice on all of this.

This guy was a few inches shy of the 15" legal length for flounder but still great fun to catch. Remind me to take ice the next time if/when there's something worth keeping.

This guy was a few inches shy of the 15″ legal length for flounder but still great fun to catch. Remind me to take ice the next time if/when there’s something worth keeping.

I tried to drag a fake shrimp on the bottom by the weeds and caught a nice flounder in pretty short order. My stupid iPhone camera wouldn’t cooperate so I wasn’t able to get a picture. It was a couple inches over the 15” legal limit but I forgot to get ice for the plastic thingie you put your fish in. But it was fine enough that it swam away. I caught another couple of flounders but was frustrated by the lack of trout or ‘reds.’ One of the things that is most enjoyable is running the bow into a mud bank or an oyster bed and just sitting there watching what’s living and doing some idle casting.

The tide swept out, leaving these oysters to fend above the water line. I really enjoy just being in this sort of environment. Note to the few who read my trash blog; some plastic bottles were retrieve not far from this scene of calm.

The tide swept out, leaving these oysters to fend above the water line. I really enjoy just being in this sort of environment. Note to the few who read my trash blog; some plastic bottles were retrieve not far from this scene of calm.

It is just so peaceful. I figured out how to work my anchor and that was fun, too, idling in place against the current.

It was pretty slow the rest of the day. One thing that is dawning on me is that the fishing action is best when the tide is moving in or out. When the water was slack there was no action at all.

With nothing falling for my feeble baits, I packed it in about 4 p.m. It takes about an hour to get the darn thing loaded and all the wet stuff stowed. The car just reeked of fish even though none was kept. About the time I was about to head out, I talked to a father-son and they too caught nothing and bitched about how all the rain had somehow impacted the fishing. Another couple in a boat was skunked, too. It was some salve that I managed to boat a few even though I do feel quite inept at it.

Reid, I changed clothes in the car and went to a restaurant adjacent to the Ocean Crest Motel where you and I bunked. Sat at the bar and had a Guinness and a wonderful plate of blackened shrimp in Alfredo sauce. Really good. Hit the road and got home about 10 p.m. I cannot wait to do it again. I’m not gonna stop until I catch a redfish. John Cleghorn might go with me in September. But this time I want to hire a guide down Charleston way. That would be fun for the two of us.

Sliced the first tomato of the season yesterday. Man, that’s eating. Ellen, I wish I had your good black dirt. But there are more to come and I might turn my back on my no-bacon mantra just so I can make sandwiches.

Played golf yesterday but we won’t talk about that. No, we won’t talk about that.

Okay, kiddos. I’m outta here. It’s only a few weeks until Labor Day and it will be great to get up to St. Paul. Reid, anything I can do to prod you and Liz to make your way up there?

Love, Dad

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