Why we don’t visit campgrounds anymore. And, obstacles we face.

When you live off grid, the idea of heading to an established campground seems more like visiting an outdoor apartment complex in which there are a lot of people, noise, and nature gets in the way to the communal bathrooms.  My wife and I started to leave the campgrounds many years ago because it was no different than living in our apartment complex, minus the thin walls to block the sound of radios, televisions, drunks, and domestic disputes.  We found a book that took us on forest roads so far off the beaten path that it would be days to hike out if the vehicle became stranded.  We set up camp by beautiful flowing tributaries into the main rivers the campgrounds were located on. With plenty of supplies, we enjoyed the peace and quiet of nature all around us.  We waved to the other brave souls who had ventured out as far as we did and noticed they gave great space and distance to our site as we did others as we passed along our route.  On the way up to one of our favorite destinations, we would pass an out of the way private campground and hot spring, Silver Creek Plunge and my wife and I were amazed that anything this remote could sustain itself, but they have done very well due to its remoteness, amenities, and access to the beautiful Boise National Forest.

Doting on our son and enjoying our trip to North Dakota despite the obstacles we face.

On an unrelated side note.  My wife and I are celebrating our 24th anniversary today.  Since the breakdown of our vehicle many challenges and stress has been placed upon our marriage.  In the last two weeks let me list a few of the things we have been dealing with: Our son was admitted into the ER for an emergency appendectomy. He developed appendicitis Friday night and Saturday it was diagnosed and he was operated on later that day with an overnight observation till Sunday afternoon.  He is doing very well today, though mellow, but on the way to recovery. The minor challenges are the other car was acting up while I was waiting in Columbus, MT for the PT to be fixed, the home’s cistern pump gave out prematurely due to some defect and had to be replaced, my lower back gave out and I have been walking hunched and in pain for the past 3 days, my cell phone (208 area code) crashed and I lost all my  contacts (text me and state who you are, so I can re-enter you), our tractor loan office has lost one of our payments even though the check is cashed. We had one chicken die due to an infection after we tried to treat her, and another chicken developed bumble foot.  Also, my wife hasn’t been able to attend a farmer’s market in 4 weeks due to these circumstances.  We also cancelled our anniversary plans today to nurse our boy back to health, but all is not lost, I am making my wife a romantic dinner this evening after we tuck him into bed tonight.  Much thanks to our shop fund, which has got us through all this financially, but once again, our dream shop has been delayed. And, this all went down in one week’s time.  There’s an old saying when it rains, it pours.

I remember in college another week like this developed and another student in a men’s support group we started asked, how I can live in such dire circumstances.  I said, “Just like you, but I trust the grace of God to get me through.”  and that has been the truth of it ever since.  I can’t imagine what would have happened if our son developed appendicitis a week earlier while we were on vacation in the middle of the desolate stretch of Montana and North Dakota at the same time our car’s engine was blown.  I am so grateful that this list of disasters was all spread out, giving my wife and I time to meet each challenge head on.

“God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1st Corinthian 10:13

Hee Haw! We made it to Medora!

Moon Rising over the church of the Medora Musical set.

We made it to Medora in time for the musical.  We had a great time as a family despite having to leave our car in Columbus to get it fixed.  The Medora Musical is truly something for the entire family.  They invited the children 12 and under to join some of the dancers on the stage and do an impromptu dance performance.  The featured magician and world’s fastest balloon artist wowed the audience and two random children from the audience helped out with the show.  An amazing fun experience. The show this year featured game shows my generation grew up with set to country music trivia and good old-fashioned dancing, singing, and comedy.  The musical reminded me when I was a kid watching the Hee Haw Country Variety Show mixed with a little Lawrence Welk, a country western concert, some historical patriotism of Walt Disney, and to top it off sprinkled with a little flamboyancy of a Broadway musical.

It was a bear-y good time at the Lodge in Dickinson, ND

After the show, we returned to the Lodge near Dickinson to rest up for the night.  We got up with a slow start the next morning before we toured the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Enchanted Highway.  More on that later.  The Lodge is part of the Double JJ Outfitters in Dickinson, North Dakota.  They specialize in pheasant hunts and have hunting package available.  The Lodge was amazing and the hunting décor was great for any hunting enthusiast.  My wife and son weren’t as excited as I was about the décor, but the accommodations were great, which we all loved and appreciated.  The Lodge is available to rent through AirBnB between hunting seasons, and when not entertaining a hunting expedition.  It’s large enough to accommodate a nice size family reunion and will definitely be kept on my list of places to stay in the future.

Salvaging a Vacation: when it takes a turn for the worse.

As we were swiftly driving through the Rockies to our night hotel reservation in Billings, something terrible happened.  Our P.T. Cruiser of 13 years, unbeknownst to us, began burning oil at such a rate that the one of the pistons froze from the extreme heat and lack of lubrication. The piston rod splintered under the duress and as the crankshaft continued to crank under the power of the 3 remaining pistons.  The broken piston rod and piston head no longer working in unison were smashing into each other with each powerful turn of the crankshaft.  The car immediately loss power, the entire motor began to shutter, shaking the entire car.  We were at the mercy of whoever was at the next exit, which was the small town of Columbus, the county seat of Stillwater, Montana.  At the exit, our parents/in-laws and a passerby were there to ask questions about the dire circumstances of our situation while gritting their teeth at the sound of the motor’s death throws.


Fortunately, a truck stop was only a block away with a convenience store that carried some oil to preserve what was left of the other three pistons.  We limped over to a parking stall, and I set to work to diagnose the severity of our quagmire.  The engine was gone, my small emergency tool bag kit was useless to me.  My only hope was to find an auto mechanic who knew how to rebuild engines or replace the one I had.  With a moment of quiet prayer amidst the nervous on looking of my family. I did a quick online search on my phone for engine repair shops in Columbus, MT.  I found one within a variety of small town mechanics and proceeded to map the location.  With my wife’s parents behind us, I drove through town with engine knocking until I found the place, Emmett’s Mechanical Service.  I could have gone to few other places in town, but I wanted to be in a shop that could rebuild the engine if possible.  Many shops do not specialize in this and will outsource the work to another shop and add a finder’s fee without telling you what they did, so I wanted to go straight to the source and avoid all that.  Emmetts was the place.

My wife and I upon my decision unloaded the car and placed all our luggage into the back of my father-in-laws pickup.  He admitted to me later how he was shocked I was leaving my car in such a small town at an auto mechanic I did not know that was closed on Sunday with a key and note in an envelope describing my situation dropped in their door’s mail slot. He suggested I use my towing insurance to get the car to Billings and search for an auto mechanic there.  For some reason, I knew I was doing the right thing, and I left the vehicle right where it was in Columbus and what I did not know at the time was in very capable and honest hands.

That evening we arrived at the C’Mon Inn and settled in for the night.  I began to decompress and allow my mind to take in the seriousness of the situation.  That night as I slept I dreamt of each possible scenario and allowed my mind to create several plans.

My wife and I woke the next morning rested and prepared to tackle the daunting task before us to establish transportation, pricing of an engine for our car, and of course making the Medora Musical that evening since we had prepaid tickets with great seats. First my wife’s dad came to the rescue and spared us a car rental.  We would all pile into the F-150 pickup and head for Medora and the AirBnB in Dickinson, ND.  My responsibility was now limited to taking care of the car by determining if we would haul it home on an auto transport or get it fixed in Columbus, MT.  The adventure had really just begun.

Vacation from the Homestead

In my last post, I discussed our off grid vacation to Medora, North Dakota. First off, we were going on vacation, so I grabbed one piece of technology, my cell phone.  My computer, camera, video camera, and sound recording devices remained behind.  I was after all on vacation.  I figured if I wanted video or pictures I would use my cell phone.  Everything was great at the start of the vacation.  Here is a our happy post only hours before it happened.


For the next couple or days, I will post how our trip went, what we discovered, and how we handled our disaster.

 

Where does this Off Grid Family Vacation?

Where does this off grid family vacation? Since we have lived off grid, our vacation of choice, camping, has diminished.  We generally decide to use AirBnB or hotel it, but camping only in a desperate situation. This year our vacation included my wife’s folks. We decided last year to unravel the mysterious raves about a place we never heard of before, Medora, North Dakota.

Medora Musical after the show on a beautiful summer’s eve.

My wife and her mother planned the trip with the Medora Musical as the central focal point of our visit and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park as the bonus for making such a journey across Montana.  Plus, the entrance to the park is also in Medora, ND.

We made it to the Medora Music despite great adversity.

However, this vacation has a twist or let’s just say a major wrench thrown into the mix.  Stay tuned for more updates from a smart phone, not a computer.

 

 

“How to Delete you Facebook Account Permanently” Demonetized; it’s too controversial

The battle with Social Media continues and here are the results of this week’s wins and loss. This week I am posting a video on how to delete, and I mean really delete your Facebook account if you so choose to do so. I go, step by step, through the process on my work account. In a couple weeks, I will perform the same process for my personal account and that will be the end of Facebook for me at least.


Win: I would consider this move a win because many people online believe it is impossible to delete your Facebook Account and yet, I believe with all the steps I have taken, I have done just that. Just remember to download Facebook’s archive folder on your account and go through the activity log and delete everything individually first before you go through the deletion process I’ve shown here.

Win: The next win is after waiting over 2 months through the review process, my YouTube account has been re-monetized. Yes, I can now place ads on my video and make ad revenue, which I have never done before. YouTube did say I made 12 dollars over 3 months when we first started, and yet I still have not seen a check yet.

Loss: The irony of being monetized.  My first video to be published under the new monetization policy on “How to Delete you Facebook Account” was demonetized before I even published it. The reason for the demonetization is YouTube’s algorithm believes the video is too controversial in nature. I guess “How to Delete your Facebook Account” is more controversial than let’s say, “This is America” by Childish Gambino, Donald Glover, which is monetized without reserve. Perhaps, my videos should be as artistically and stylishly done to gain the respect of YouTube’s Advertisement Team. Silly me, thinking that there is an agenda being promoted by YouTube versus actual equality in company policy.

Comparing the controversial nature of each video.  Certainly, my video is far more nefarious than I realized.


“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Hamlet Act 1, Scene 4

Facebook’s Dark Secrets are in the Open

Why on Earth would I ever want to leave Facebook?  The social media platform unites long lost relatives and friends over time and space.  How could that be a problem?

Well, after realizing something wasn’t quite right, but not being able to put my finger upon it, I decided to do a little research into the various social media platforms.  I am afraid my research confirmed the seriousness of the nature of what these “free” social media platforms are attempting on their users.  First of all, I am very upset by what I discovered and as I was filming the video, I had a wide range of emotions from, betrayal, anger, disgust, deep sadness, and the desire to rebel against the system.


What started out as a cyber-bullying lecture at our school to address the issue in the community over teen suicides, I decided to make the move to delete my Facebook account.  I knew there were issues with Facebook and my news feed seem to show some of the issues the students were facing.   I have seen harassing cynical posts and comments that demean a political, religious, or activist community, and it seemed since the election it hasn’t simmered down very much.  Many times, I have typed out a comment and before I post it I debate, “Is this really helping the situation? Am I adding to the anger? Does this comment convey peace without false compromise?”  And, many times I end up hitting the backspace key and moving on because with such posts, there is no comment that will help the situation because the author is intending to pick a verbal fight.  What has become of Facebook friends if the once peaceful, “I haven’t seen you in so long.  You and your family look great.  I really miss hanging out and having our deep, caffeine-induced, philosophical discussions in the late hours of the night when we were in college.” Maybe those days are long gone.  After all, the newness has worn off since I have been active since 2009.

But, what really moved me to deletion was a series of posts that questioned the altruistic use of Facebook.  Was the platform really altruistic or possibly good?  Once looking into a friend’s post on political labeling, I realized there was a serious problem when Facebook decided to categorize its users as very liberal, liberal, moderate, conservative, and very conservative.  The company felt that stereotyping the political schema of its users was for whose benefit?  If political leaning was necessary to know, why not allow the user to classify their own political leaning.  Instead, Facebook decided for you.  That is a serious problem when a person becomes stereotyped, it is very difficult for that person to be seen as anything but that stereotype especially when there are many facets of their character which are not taken into consideration.   All our country needs is a person of one particular leaning to call the other-side bad and have their followers troll anyone that doesn’t agree with them and this becomes a recipe of a rebirth of the same spirit behind the Nazi movement of the 1930’s Germany.

For this alone, citizens of our country should be wary as political agendas begin to attack viciously and without provocation anyone that disagrees with the inflamed group’s ideals. I have seen this on YouTube; a smaller channel calls out a larger channel for posting lies as truth and the larger channel’s subscribers descends upon the smaller channel and begin to brutally threaten their lives.  The smaller channel is verbally raped and abused within their own comment section.  What has happened to our humanity?  This reminds me I need to re-evaluate my YouTube channel.

Another growing concern is the addictive nature of the apps and social media programs.  The creators are no longer even hiding it.  They freely admit to creating dependency within the users who are a part of their platform.  There is absolutely no regulation of any kind for this industry who is purposefully manipulating their users with B.F. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning and Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning. There is money to be made with user addiction through reward/ positive reinforcements.  The companies’ software engineers have unlocked the mind’s instinctual pleasure and fear responses. Absence from social media platforms creates in the body higher levels of cortisol, which creates anxiety and depression.  When a post is received and liked, the mind releases dopamine, which relaxes and engages the pleasure centers of the human mind.  With something so addicting, instead of regulating it, they decided to study it for the next 20 years to see what happens to their test group of children when they become adults.  By then, the population will be no different from the test subjects, so if reversal needs to occur, the entire generation will have to go through detox if it doesn’t become permanently wired into the human psyche. Before Prohibition, there was no drinking age in the United States and the alcoholism abuse was rampant.  Before the discovery of lung cancer, cigarettes were advertised in every movie and in commercials on television.  The cigarette companies admitted to targeting the younger generation, knowing the addictive properties of their product.  If they could get a teenager hooked on cigarettes, then they knew they would have a smoker for life.

This industry needs to be regulated and if the government doesn’t step in to stop these dangerous tactics, then it is up to the users to recognize the problem within themselves and walk away from it. So, user beware.