Friday, November 16, 2018

Two Special Birthdays

We left Old Post park in Russellville, Arkansas on October 6. We drove about 275 miles to Lake Texoma, Oklahoma. We tried one COE park, but it was closed due to flooding. We ended up staying at Johnson Creek COE park. This park is about 8 miles due west of Durant, Oklahoma. We were right on the lake in an excellent site. Most of the sites in our loop were available, so it was very quiet. At $14 a night for 30 amp it was a great deal.

Nice sunset shot with our home on wheels.
The main reason that we went almost 500 miles out of our way, was to celebrate two very special birthdays. My awesome wife, Kim was turning 60 on November 7 and her mother Phyllis was turning 80 on November 9. Kim's parents have a nice piece of property about 20 miles east of Durant, so this site would be our base camp for the celebrations. We were going to stay at their property, but there had been significant rain before we arrived and while we were there, so we stayed at the lake with the awesome view and just drove over to the property.

Richie and Phyllis took both Kim and I out to dinner to celebrate Kim's birthday. She received this great card from her aunt Kay. We are doing our best to live our life to the fullest while we can.

Next up was Phyllis's birthday. We took them to Whataburger. Yes, Whataburger is what she wanted, so we were happy to go along. We love Whataburger, and will make sure to visit one when we are in the south.
Phyllis and Richie
On Saturday the 10th we were lucky enough to get both of Kim's brothers, Rick and Greg, to join us at the property. Rick's wife, Donna and two kids, Jason and Laura also joined us. It was fun riding around the property on 4 wheelers and checking our all of the hunting blinds they have built.

Kim and Phyllis and Rick and Greg
Jason and Laura

I think the cake says it all! It was a fun time and it was great to celebrate the milestones. 

Now it was time for us to move along down to the coast. We had about 550 miles to do in about a week. That is a lot of driving for us. In my next entry, I will show you some of the most beautiful camp sites we have ever stayed in.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Family Time in Arkansas

We are now on the road and it feels great! We left the ranch on November 2nd as planned. It is a rainy and cold day, so I have decided that today is a good day to get writing in this blog. We are now in southern Arkansas on a beautiful lake, but before I write about this place, I need to go back a couple of weeks.

Before we left Missouri, we needed some time with our grand kids. Jake, Isabella, William and Amelia were available to come out to the ranch for the weekend before we left. It was a beautiful weekend with sunny skies and the fall colors at their peak. We just enjoyed our time riding around the ranch in the mule and exploring by foot.

Kim, Amelia, Isabella and Will in the mule.
The kids checking out the little cabin

My favorite time in the Ozarks
We have a very interesting feature at the ranch that we call the "Lava Rocks". This is a solid sheet of rock that goes on for a few hundred yards in the bed of wet weather creek. In these pictures, the kids are hunting tadpoles in the pools of water left by recent rain.

Jake does not do pictures, so this is the best we got. We will miss these guys.
On November 2nd, we drove about 260 miles to get to Russellville, Arkansas. Yes, we did take the long way. We stayed at a park we have stayed at many times before. We normally like to go to new places, but Old Post Park is a great COE park that is just a short distance from our son, Michael and DIL Audrey's house. We were able to get Connor and Cameron to spend one night with us. We then watched a soccer game and went for walks around the park. It was a great time.

Connor chasing geese in the park
Cameron got in on the fun also.
I did not take any good pictures of Michael and his family, but there are some recent shots in my last blog entry, when we went to their house about a month prior to this visit. 

We were in luck on this trip. Our good friends, Dick and Cathy were in Russellville while we were there. We always have a blast when we get together with these two. This time was special because we had them play tour guide for us to their home town area. We spent much of the time looking at RV parks. I wanted to see all of our options for future trips to this area. 

We did make one stop that turned into a very cool experience. Dick does some web site development and did some work with Subiaco Abbey, which is not far from Russellville. We pulled in to have a quick look around. While we were doing that, a man came up and asked if we had any questions. He turned out to be a key management person for the Abbey and school. He was on his way home, but he stopped and took us on a private tour of the buildings and met some of the Benedictine Monks. It was an awesome experience. 

The Abbey sits up on a high hill. It was established in 1878 and at one time was totally self sufficient including power and water. It is a cattle ranch and has an amazing wood working facility.

The Church and School

Kim and I in front of the rose bushes. The grounds are beautiful. 
One of our favorite things while we are at Old Post Park is the barges that come by on the Arkansas River. They stop just up the river to go through the locks on their way up to Tulsa.

Look how long that barge is.

Almost all of the way in the lock. He actually has to split the barge in two to make it through. 
We had a blast in Russellville, but after 4 days it was time to move further south. We had two significant birthdays to celebrate in the coming days. I will write all about the party in my next entry.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Time to get back on the Road

It has been almost 2 months since I last wrote in this blog. Kim and I have been enjoying life at the ranch and the lake during that time. We have fallen into the normal routine that feels like a trap of "normal" life. We still enjoy the freedom to get up each day and decide what WE want to do, so there is that. So much better than going to work to make rich people richer.

Our time at the ranch has been made up of mowing grass and doing myriad of other projects that keep the ranch operational. We have also assisted with putting on two motorcycle races. Both went well with excellent weather.

While all of that was in process, Kim and I did go on one adventure of sorts. We did a three day cruise on our little lake. Lake Stockton can only be sailed for 9 miles. It is kind of hard to make a 3 day trip out of that short of a distance, but we managed to make it work. The main thing is we slept and ate on the boat for 3 days to see what it would be like. I have to say it was very enjoyable. We had cool nights and good wind for the first two days. The last day was a 5 hour down wind (what little there was) sail back to the marina. I think we averaged about 1 knot per hour. The good news is that the water was still warm, so we just jumped in and swam when we got too hot. Here are a few sailing shots of the trip.

Here we are at anchor on the first night.
Sunrise on the second day. So quiet 
We had a great day sailing the second day. Kim was at the helm for much of the day in about a 15 knot wind. She is becoming a very good sailor. I was able to relax and play with the sails.

Here we are at anchor on the second night. Another comfortable night. 
We had a nice sunset on the second night, so I took a few shots.

I like this shot that includes some hardware on the side of the cockpit.

After that fun adventure we have become more sure that we want to travel by boat. We will keep moving in that direction, who knows how it will turn out.

We did take a weekend trip to Arkansas to see Michael, Audrey and the kids. We took a fun hike up on Mount Nebo.

Michael and Cameron at an overlook.
Three generations.

Michael at a rock outcropping
We got in two last days of sailing on October 3 and 10. We sailed along side our friend Jerry and Diana for a bit and took some pictures of his beautiful Catalina 32. He took one shot of our Hunter 22 under full sails.

Jerry and Diana in the lead boat.
Captain Jerry on Midnight Rider along with crew Diana, Larry and Susan
Our little Hunter 22 under sail
On October 10 we took our god friend Doyle out for a sail, but sadly did not take any pictures. I need to get back in the practice of taking pictures to help with the memory recall.

On October 18, we took the boat out of the water with the help of our friend and partner, Bob. Thanks again, Bob! It was a difficult day, but that was the first time we have put the boat back on the trailer and we learned some important lessons. We lowered the mast and got the boat ready for travel. The boat is now at the ranch, covered with a large tarp, and ready for a long winter.

I can really feel the excitement as we get ready to leave the ranch and head south. Our plan as of now is to depart on November 2. I know as we move I will be more motivated to write, so you can check the blog for updates as we make our trip to the tip of Florida.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

We Have A Plan!

I love the line in the song, " If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plan." At the risk of being laughed at by the almighty, in this entry I will relate to you the plan that Kim and I have recently agreed to.

It has once again been over a month since my last entry. The last month has been filled with family activity and news. We have had the rig parked at the ranch in Missouri for the entire month of August. It started out very dry, but the last half of the month has turned very wet. We have accumulated more than 10 inches of rain in the past two weeks. We have also enjoyed some cooler weather. That has been nice at the ranch and at the lake.

Sailing Update: We have continued to sail as much as we can. We have now accumulated over 150 hours of sailing time. We are very comfortable in strong winds and feel ready to take this to the next level. What the next level is will be explained in the plan below. I shot some very bad video during our last sail on August 27. The winds were reported to be 20 knots gusting to 35. It was very exciting and fun. We felt very comfortable and enjoyed the day. At one point we were bashing into 3 foot waves while sailing up wind on the far north end of the lake by the dam. While sailing down wind we hit our all time record speed of 6.5 knots. Not bad for a boat that is speed rated at 5.9 knots.

Check out this video if you would like:

We recently went sailing with some good friends. John and Sherri got to experience everything from strong wind to no wind. We had a nice lunch on the boat and had a fun day.

While we were sailing we saw two A-10 Warthogs flying along the shore of the lake. One of the two, broke off and flew directly over our boat and then waged his wings at us. John got one shot of the airplane, but it was much closer in person.

John also got this cool shot of the sun behind the jib.

We also took Bob and Linda out for a sail. One thing we really like about sailing is the social aspect of the activity.

The other major family event this past month was the Baptism of our granddaughter Eve. They did the ceremony at the river, which made it very fun and special. Michael and Audrey and their boys made it up from Arkansas for the river and party and Brian and Shannon's house afterwards. Here are a few of the many pictures I took.

Michael and Audrey
Will, Connor, Cameron and Amelia playing in he water. 
Eve going under.
Shannon and Brian's Family missing Jake
Michael's family with wet boys.
The other big news in the family is that our youngest son Mark has accepted a job in Boston. He will be working at Children's hospital. He will be implementing the same Cerner system that he has been supporting for the past 18 months while living in Kansas City. The one crazy thing he told us is that he is renting a 500 square foot flat for $1700 per month. It is right by Copley plaza in downtown Boston and withing walking distance of the hospital, but that is crazy.

Ok, now for the plan. We will be leaving Missouri right after Thanksgiving in late November. We will head to Gulfport, Mississippi. We have arranged to charter a 40 foot sailboat for a day of sailing with a charter captain. We want to see if we like open water sailing. We will then head to Orlando for Christmas. Shannon, Brian and Amelia will come down and we will go to Disneyland for a day. We will then head south and visit Everglades NP. I expect that we will be looking at both Marinas and boats along the way. We expect to arrive back in Missouri in April. We will only stay about a month and then head north. North all the way to Alaska. We are expecting to get to Alaska by around June. We plan to stay in Alaska most of the summer of 2019. We expect to return to Missouri by October.
Then we are planning to put our land in Ozark up for sale. When it sells, we will then start the search for our new home on the water. We will just have to see how all of that works out.

This plan is going to take some good luck, so stay tuned to the blog to see how it all goes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Life Worth Writing About

It has been a month since I last wrote in my blog. Our rig has been sitting at the ranch in Missouri during that time. As I have written before, I become uninspired to write when we are sitting still. I had a thought the other day. I don't like it when my life is so "normal" that I do not think that I should write about it. So, my goal going forward is to live a life that inspires me to write about it. That statement means different things to different people, but to me that means new experiences and new places. We have a plan to get back to travel, but right now we are taking some time to learn how to sail so that we can explore even more new places in the future.

When I look back at the pictures I have taken in the past month, I do see that a few notable things have happened.

Sailing update: We have gone sailing over 20 days since we splashed the boat on May 22. We have logged over 100 hours of sailing time. We have sailed in very strong winds and we have sailed in almost no wind. We bought and installed our new mainsail. We paid $389 for a brand new surplus sail. It performs very well and looks awesome. We were invited to go sailing with a dock mate. Jerry and Diana have a Catalina 32. Jerry is a very experienced sailor and it was great to learn from him. We had the strongest winds I have seen. We had a sustained 25 knots. Their boat handled it with ease and we had an awesome day on the water. Jerry let me drive the boat for the first half of the day, I learned a lot.

Kim and I have been discussing our future sailing plans. I will write about that in coming entries. We have big hopes and dreams and I hope we can make them happen.

I have been working on my golf game a bit since I have been back at the ranch. I have a 150 yard practice area that allows me to hit as many balls as I would like and then I get to take a walk to go find them. I went to one of the courses in Springfield and actually played pretty well. I hit one shot from about 150 yards to within about 2 feet. And yes, I did make the birdie.

Our grandson, Will finished up his baseball season. His team won the regular season, but three of the 4 coaches and many of their best players could not make the playoffs, so they lost in the semifinal. Still a very good year.

Kim and Amelia watching Will's baseball game.
Our daughter, Shannon was born on July 4. We celebrated her birthday by going to a Springfield Cardinals baseball game. They allowed the fans to sit on the outfield grass and enjoy a concert afterwords. Fireworks then followed. It was a great time with the Shoemaker clan.

The big event of the past month was a quick trip to Colorado. I am one of 5 boys. (4 of which are still living) My brother Brian, who lives in Dallas, called me on Fathers day to wish me Happy Father day. He told me that we all needed to get to Colorado at the same time. I agreed, but had no plan to make that happen. My brother Alan let me know that he was stopping by the ranch in Missouri for a visit on his way home from a wedding in St. Louis. Kim wanted to go see her parents in Texas and she came up with the idea of her jumping in the car with Alan's wife Denise and going to Texas with her and Alan and I going to Colorado to be with my Dad on his 87th birthday on July 11. We got Brian to fly out from Texas and Bob lives is Denver, so we all made it. We spent two great days looking at old pictures and telling old stories. It was an awesome time and I will cherish the memories for the rest of my life.

L to R, Bob, Brian, Mom, Dad, Me, Alan
Here is a shot of Bob's family:

We really enjoyed looking at old pictures. I found an old album that I have never seen of my Dad's time in Korea during the war. I had to take a pic of this photo.

Dad with a 50 Cal
I could not let a trip to Colorado happen without a trip up into the mountains. We drove up to see my brother Bob's in-laws cabins. We climbed 2000 feet and the temperature dropped 20 degrees.

Alan looking out over the South Platte river.

The rest of the trip went as planned and I spent a day in Bedford with Kim's parents and then Kim and I drove back to Missouri.

We went sailing on July 19 to 21. I checked the radar before going out on Thursday afternoon and there were storms around, but they looked like they were going to miss us. I was wrong. Just as we got the sails up, I looked up and saw a big black cloud. We dropped the sails and fired up the motor and headed to the dock. We just made it before we had strong winds and heavy rain, but not bad. We were standing on the dock when this massive wall cloud appeared on the horizon.

It was moving faster than any cloud I have ever seen. When it slammed into the marina, the boats with empty poles healed over dropping their rails in the water. Many of the docks broke loose and the dock behind ours hit ours causing damage to Jerry's boat. Our dock broke loose and almost hit the dock behind us. It was amazing the power that storm hit with. They spent the rest of that day and the next putting all of the docks back in position.

Another marina on the lake did not fair as well. Here is a shot I took when we were out sailing yesterday with our son Mark. You can see the wrecked dock in the background.

This is the same storm that caused the Duck boat tragedy in Branson. Very sad.

The last thing I wanted to write about was this past Sunday. We had a local dealer bring out an all electric dirt bike to the ranch. I was given the opportunity to ride it. It was very controllable, but very fast. The only problem they have with it is that it only runs for about an hour and a half. That is not long enough for most races. It will be very interesting to see how that technology improves over the next few years.

That wraps up the major events of the past month. We will continue to log hours on the sailboat to gain experience and knowledge. We do have a week long sailing trip planned on Bull Shoals. That is a 35 mile long lake. I will write about the preparations for that trip in my coming entries.