The Winter Storage Blues

Jerry Schuster

Coming down Hyalite Canyon Road from a fun day of hiking around the reservoir in late afternoon, Theresa and I noticed something quite interesting about the vehicles returning to Bozeman after their occupants’ day of fun in the sun. You may have noticed this yourself but are reluctant to think about it, as it is just one of those local phenomena that locals avoid discussing.

Okay, now that I have your attention, you might as well read the rest of this piece, as it will be both informative and entertaining. Besides, your mind is probably numb from watching TV “news” channels, so it could probably use some fresh air and stimulation anyway.

What we noticed on that trip back to Bozeman were all the vehicles on the road hauling or transporting a variety of water crafts and big toys. Boats, rafts, canoes, kayaks and paddle boards by the hundreds. So, you are thinking that this is about what recreationists do with all those resplendent toys when they get on that tiny reservoir. Wrong, your mind is still stuck like glue. Just turn that TV off. Thanks.

This article is actually about what happens to all those gadgets after the summer fun is over. Remember, to buy those expensive toys, you had to take out a third mortgage on the house. The Bank was willing to loan you a pile of money that you never thought  possible on your income because your $250,000 house in Bozeman is now appraised at $475,000 since some California people fleeing that State are willing and able to pay whatever is asked. Don’t get me started, as you will not want to hear the rest of this rant. Please, okay, pretty please, let me have just a short space to expound. It is no surprise that ordinary working folks cannot afford to live in Bozeman. Basically, they cannot afford the taxes and assessments on the house they cannot afford to buy in the first place. Here’s the reality: work here and live in Belgrade, Manhattan or Livingston.

Oh, so sorry for the diversion, I told you not to get me started, so it’s your fault. Now, back to the topic, which is….I am reading my notes to see what I was writing about. This lack of affordable housing for ordinary working folks just irritates me, and I get sidetracked.
Oh, I remember now, we will get back to the storage issue for the toys of summer. The assorted watercraft you used for a total of 57 minutes in two months now need to be stored for the winter. You may have forgotten that the garage is already full with your three vehicles, a motorcycle, Uncle Fred’s “antique” snow mobile; some miscellaneous engine parts; a pickup topper that fit on some pickup you had a number of years ago but no longer own; and the trailers for all of the above. Add the “regular” garage-stored items like the mowers; several snow blowers, currently not working; bikes, sleds, tools and tool chests in various sizes, as more space was needed as the tools accumulated over the years; camping gear, fishing gear, hunting gear and assortment of unknown and hidden treasures.

So, to get the boat, two canoes, inflatable raft, three enormous paddle boards and assorted accouterments inside for the winter, something has to give; I mean go.

I don’t have a magic wand a la Harry Potter style, but if you are efficacious, here are some ideas:

Build An Addition To The House

This will run about $150,000 for the construction, with the city and subdivision inspection fees and permits adding another $38,000. Hey, it’s a lot better than letting these now-suddenly called “eyesores” sit outside. Besides, the subdivision rules will not allow these gems to be parked outside, and it really irritates the neighbors anyway. Just go to the bank and get the loan; they can take a second on the boat, as it is just like new. After all, it has been on the water for less than an hour. Just a reminder: the taxes on your property will go up considerably, as you now have an accessory unit that increased the taxable value by 300 percent. Go figure. The city and county financial folks are very happy.

Clean The Garage Of Non-Essential Items
For men, this means getting rid of the kids’ old bikes, electric and self-propelled scooters, four only used once slip-n-slides with pin holes that cannot be located, giant kite, 43 boxes of stuff labeled “save,” “fragile,” or my favorite, “art supplies.” These boxes contain the kids’ early art works, and some grade school love letters when such were actually hand-written in cursive, and must be saved for future generations which will not know what a pen or pencil looked like. Also to toss: three boxes of buttons, pieces of plastic and fabric, also labeled “additional art supplies.”

For women, the non-essential items to garage sell or toss include: the motorcycle and pile of motorcycle parts; the two snowmobiles which have not been operated for years; the mini-camper trailer since the old man can’t fit in the bed anymore, and besides that, it is full of items which needed temporary storage so you could get the car in the garage; the pickup topper with all the contents, including the fishing gear for six, the bow hunting items, duck and goose decoys; and the must-have item which was used only once when the man of the house spilled three gallons of some green substance on the floor while doing his own car servicing—the big shop vac with attachments . The salesman said you would need these items, but the bag has never been opened.

Must keep items, so just find space for them somewhere: parts for older model Chevy pickup, and if you keep digging you will find the actual rusted-out 46’ itself, needs some work; 26 boxes of old National Geographic magazines, the ones which actually featured interesting articles on geography and not some writers’ political opinions; several large boxes of used clothing marked “Goodwill Store.” Oops, forgot to bring them and now the elastic in the polyester pants is all deteriorated; a jar of grey powder, origin and composition unknown, but must be valuable since it came from grandma’s basement. Could be the remains of great-grandma herself. Remember those stories your Dad told you when sitting around the campfire as a kid? Well, some of them could have been true.

The main goal here is to make room for the boat and trailer, paddle boards, kayaks, canoes and rafts. The cars will just have to get used to spending the winter outdoors. Plug them in if necessary. For our readers from California, plugging in a car has nothing to do with charging the electric cell. You see, in Montana, when it gets really cold in the winter….oh forget it, you will not understand.

By next spring, you will be anxious to get the stored gems out of the garage. Just a warning: a lot of these items will need servicing, repair or replacement. Start by bringing the boat motor in for its annual maintenance checkup. This work will not be covered by warranty, as that will expire three days before you bring it in. Not to worry, it will be up and running for the summer, and the tab will be only around $1,673.00, plus parts. Don’t forget to get those boat trailer wheels repacked, as there will be very little room left on the turnouts to Hyalite since most folks forget this service item before they get on the road.

My advice to all: enjoy those 48 minutes of boating and boarding on Hyalite Reservoir each summer. The winter storage blues are worth it.    

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