Monday, December 28, 2015

High Water at HHR

This entry will only mean something to my friends and family that have been to the ranch.

We are still in Missouri waiting for this massive storm to clear the Midwest. We have measured almost 6 inches of rain here at the ranch. We had one last line of thunderstorms come through this morning and now it is turning colder. It looks like things are winding down.

Kim and I took a ride down to the creek to see how high the water was. I have seen it higher once before when we got hit with the remnants of hurricane Ike, but this is pretty impressive.

The pics are a little fuzzy, but the video is pretty clear.

The crossing at Big Rock:


Looking down on the Lava Area:


This is the end of Lava, looking over the falls:


Here is a short video I made of the creek:

video

It looks like we are going to be able to depart on Tuesday and get headed south. We are so glad that we stayed through Christmas. It was great to have all of our kids together. That is getting more rare as we get older and they get busier with their own lives.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Anticipation is Growing...

We are getting very excited about the coming days. Yeah, there is that Christmas thing, but what we are really looking forward to is getting back on the road. Don't get me wrong, we really enjoy our time at the ranch, and we love to be around the family, but we really love traveling and seeing new places.

The last few weeks, like elsewhere around the eastern half of the US, has been abnormally warm. Most days have been in the 50's and 60's. We even hit 70 the other day. The nice weather has really inspired me to get out and hike and ride. I have also been busy getting projects done that I have had on the to-do list for some time.

While we were eating the other day, a bird flew into one of our windows. Kim heard it hit the rail on the back of the trailer. I went out to see if it was still alive. It was very stunned, but still alive. I picked it up and held it for a while. Slowly it came back to its senses. I can relate to the feeling the bird had. Here is a picture of my little friend, the tufted titmouse.


After about a half hour he just flew away into one of the large oak trees.

A couple of weeks ago, we had a visit from Michael and Audrey and the two boys. Connor went for his first ride on the 50. It brought back great memories to see Michael running around behind Connor.


Here is a short video of Michael getting his exercise.

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We decided to hit a movie and visit the grand kids in Ozark. This is how it is for retired people when you go to the movies at 2:00 in the afternoon on a Tuesday:


By the time the movie started there we about 3 other couples in the theater. Later we got some cuddle time in with little Amelia. She is soo sweet. I love it when she falls fast asleep on my chest.



We spent the last few days getting ready to go. We are all packed up and have all of our toys put away. We will spend Christmas day with all of our kids in Ozark and then hit the road. The weather looks ugly this weekend, so we may not be able to go until early next week. We will not travel in bad weather. The DFW area will be our first destination. We are really looking forward to seeing family and warm weather.

It has been a while since I posted a sunset shot. I got this nice one the other night. The big oak trees create an interesting foreground in this shot.


I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday season. Hopefully my next entry will be from a campground in who knows where...

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Going to the Gym

As we all know, one of the keys to feeling well as you get older is regular exercise. Most people do not enjoy working out. Many go to a gym, some try to run or ride a bicycle. I have tried each of these, but because I don’t enjoy them, I have trouble sustaining that activity over time.
Exercise became more important to me after I had a heart attack in 2010 at age 51. I know that the main factor was stress. I have done a good job of eliminating stress in my life. Getting rid of my job was the perfect answer.

I have found that working out just for the workout is only sustainable if I am working out with a goal in mind. What works better for me is actually doing something that I like to do. I have found very few activities that are both enjoyable and accomplish the goal of getting my heart rate into the target zone and sustaining it for an hour or more. My favorite over the years is riding my dirt bike.
You may think that riding a motorized bike would not be a workout, but you would be wrong. I have worn a heart monitor while riding. My heart rate will settle in at about 140 and will spike to over 160 when I have a problem and am working to get out of trouble. I usually ride for 2 hours or more. Not only do I get a good cardio workout, but the repeated use of all of the muscles in my body provide an excellent muscle building session.

My weapon of choice is a 2007 KTM 400 XCW.



This bike is not the latest technology, but I just love the way it works. One of the reasons I like to hang out at the ranch for a few months each year is to go for rides with other members and hit the 30+ miles of singletrack trails. This past week I got a message from a local rider. He had an afternoon off work and was looking to get some riding in. Corey is just getting over a broken leg ( yes, this sport can be dangerous) and is working on getting his conditioning back. Did I mention that Corey is 21 years old? How cool is that? I am now 56 and I get to go riding with this great young guy.
We rode over 30 miles of wet, tough trails at a good pace. It was a blast and I was totally spent when we were done. My kind of a workout. Here is a little video I put together. I was wearing my GoPro for the ride.  Click on the link below to see the video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEN-e-qt23U



What a great way to get exercise and have fun at the same time. This is what my bike looked like after the ride:



Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Ozark 100 Miler


We are still at the ranch in Missouri. We have been busy with family gatherings and enjoying the fall in the Ozarks.
In 2014, the ranch hosted the 7th annual Ozark 100 Miler extreme motorcycle race. The original 4 were held here and then they moved to another venue. Last year went very well, so the 8th annual was back here at Hardwood Hills Ranch. The race has started to get national attention. We have had a number of national riders come out for the large cash purse and the top industry photographer/reporter from Dirt Rider Magazine, Shan Moore provided some national press.
Flyer
This year we had a number of top National Riders commit to riding the event and Shan was returning. The purse was also increased to $7500, which is a lot for an off road race. The format of the race is a 50 mile race starting at 9:30 AM, then a 25 mile race in the afternoon. Then after dark, the top 25 riders put lights on their bikes and go take on the toughest the ranch has to offer. Two of the toughest spots are lit up to provide the spectators an awesome view of the action.
Everything was looking good until mother nature decided to intervene and place her stamp on this years event. You have to understand that the riders that choose to ride this event are some of the toughest people I know and they love to get tested. The weather forecast was calling for rain both Friday and Saturday. Not just a little rain, but upwards of 4 inches of the wet stuff. Thankfully no snow, but the temps were expected to be in the 30’s.
The weather was going to take this years event from a very tough event into a true epic test of man and machine.
The event organizers had worked very hard for many months to put this event together. All the preparations were made and contingencies were discussed. The biggest concern is a large creek in the middle of the property. If the creek got too high, we would have to cut the event short.
I was working the gate on Friday evening and was amazed to see the rigs keep on coming in. The only problem is the parking area was looking a little wet.
Parking
We parked people everywhere we could find a dry place and everyone got ready for the big race on Saturday.
We checked the creek on Saturday morning and it was decided that we could cross safely. The full race was on!
We had 130+ souls that started the event. They all started in dry clean gear. That lasted about 30 seconds. Here is a shot of the starting grid:
Starting Line
Photo by: Tayler Bonecutter
Then they were off! This is literally 50 yards from the start. Look at the mud on the riders already.
First corner
Photo by: Tayler Bonecutter
The person in the foreground of this shot is my wife Kim. The rider on the far left is local Pro, Zach Neil. Zach went on to finish 4th on the day.
Start Mud
Photo by: Tayler Bonecutter
After about a mile and a half the riders hit the creek for the first time. It was deep, but passable. All of the riders made it without falling down in the cold water. National Pro, Jason Thomas was leading at the creek. He is from England, but races in the US full time.
Jason Thomas and Nick F
Photo by: Linda Fuerst
Some guys took it easy through the creek, others went for a pass. This in 2015 OMA Champ Steward Baylor, closely followed by other pros. He had fallen down in the grass tracks, but went on to win the first 50 mile race by almost 5 minutes.
Steward Baylor
Photo by: Linda Fuerst
I will take a minute here and talk about Steward Baylor. Stew is a great guy. He came to HHR a week before the event to put on a riding school and do some hunting. Bad weather killed the attendance at the school, but instead of cancelling it, he did an almost private 2 days class with 2 of our best up and coming riders. They were both really excited to get the one on one attention and they both did well at this event. The most amazing thing happened on Thanksgiving. He fixed a full Thanksgiving dinner for a large group. It was all awesome. On top of being an incredible rider and I really cool guy, he is an excellent cook. Who knew??
The bad news is that Stew had a bike issue mid way through the second race and did not finish. I would say my biggest disappointment of the weekend was not being able to see Stew take on the obstacles at night. He promised to be back next year.
Here is a shot of Mickey Silger doing his best submarine impression:
Mickey Silger
Photo by: Linda Fuerst
The riders then rode about 20 miles on the other side of the creek. The trails are tight and rocky and today were wet. Then they had to cross the creek again. This looked like an easier crossing, but it was tricky with one deep spot. A few bikes went down and had to be pulled out of the frigid water. Here is a shot of one of my favorite local pros. Ryan Henslee is an awesome young man on top of being an excellent rider. Ryan finished 5th overall.
Ryan Henslee
Photo by: Linda Fuerst
Here is a shot of National Pro, Nick Fahringer. He would go on to finish 2nd on the day.
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Photo by: Shan Moore
Here is Nick in another part of the course that has huge rocks we call VW:
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Photo by: Shan Moore
After a day of hard riding, the top 25 get invited to take on the most difficult parts of the ranch in the dark of night. All of the spectators find a good place to watch and it gets a bit crazy. I think it is my favorite thing I do each year. Jordan Ashburn made the obstacles look easy and went on to the win and the $2500 first prize. Here are a few shots that were taken of the night race:
This is Caleb Haynes from Rogersville, Missouri. He is a local pro and an awesome young man. He fought hard and finished 3rd for the day.
Caleb Haynes
Photo by: Linda Fuerst
This is an awesome shot of the carnage on an element called “Something Special”.
SS #1
Photo by: Shan Moore
Another shot with the big crowd getting into it. The spectators may not help the riders even if they want to.
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Photo by: Shan Moore
We spent much of the rest of the evening helping people get out of the parking area with the Kawasaki Mule and the Tractor. I even spent another round on Sunday morning for the folks that decided to stay another night. We got everybody on their way by 3 in the afternoon.
You may ask, “Why do people do this?” My answer is always the same. If you don’t understand why people do this, you probably don’t understand why people climb mountains or run triathlons or anything else that tests ones capability and endurance to the maximum. It just takes a special kind of person and I am proud to be part of this awesome sport.

I have added a video that I took and edited of the night show at Something Special.

video

It is always surreal when everyone leaves and we are the only ones left at the ranch. The quiet is nice, but now the work starts to flatten the field and clean up the ruts. The good news is this place heals as well as any land I have ever seen. We should be riding again by the end of the week.
How was your Thanksgiving Weekend? I hope it was as much fun as mine was.

Now that the race is over, our preparations will get pushed into high gear to get moving south for the winter. We are still purging and organizing all of our worldly possessions. We will stick around until Christmas and then head to Texas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Family Time Weekend

 

Shannon and Brian have a tradition of an early Thanksgiving family gathering at their house. This year was even earlier than normal because of their plans to head to Orlando, Florida over the Thanksgiving holiday with all 6 kids to get some use out of their 1 year passes to Universal Studios. The weekend of November 14-15 was the chosen weekend.

We started off the weekend on Friday night by attending a High School presentation of Beauty and the Beast. Our Grand Daughter, Hannah had a part in the play. Her boyfriend Kyle also had a starring role playing the character, Gaston. They both played their roles with enthusiasm and the entire production was quite good and very enjoyable.

Hannah is the red magic carpet in this picture:

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I attended the play with Kim, my mother and father in law, Phyllis and Richie, Brian’s mom, Linda and our son Mark.

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They had a full house for both nights of the performance and made a nice donation to a local education based charity. Well done Ozark High School Drama.

I love going to those plays because it reminds me of going to see my daughter Shannon perform when she was at the same High School. The cool thing is the same drama teacher is still there doing an outstanding job with the kids.

Here are a couple of shots of Phyllis and Richie meeting their new great grand daughter Amelia for the first time.

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Saturday was the big family dinner attended by over 30 people. It was a beautiful day, so we played in the yard before we had dinner.

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Our son Michael was the only one missing. He was having issues with his outage at the power plant back in Arkansas. Audrey did bring Conner and Cameron up. I really enjoyed my time with all 8 of the grand kids. Here is Cameron:

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Watch out for those tickle snakes! My time with Will, Connor and Cameron.

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We have so much fun together.

Dinner is served! There was a bunch of food.

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It was really a fun day and I know I ate way too much food. Here is a shot of our son Mark holding Amelia and our grand daughter Isabella.

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Thanks to Shannon and Brian for hosting the event.

On Sunday, we had the baptism of Amelia. We all headed to their church and watched the ceremony. We then had a reception and then back to their house for leftovers and more fun playing with the kids.

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Here is Hannah’s boyfriend Kyle posing for pictures. He is very talented and also a great guy.

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Here is a shot of Amelia in her Baptism gown:

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It was a very full weekend. We drove back and forth to the ranch each night. The drive is about an hour each way. We needed to be at the ranch anyway because of some stuff going on out there.

Family time is so important to me. It seems that for years these gatherings were either missed or shortened because of our busy schedules. It is so nice to now have the time to focus on them and maximize the experience. It looks like much of our travel time this coming year will be focused on family events and that is just fine with us. We did miss our family this past year and we look forward to seeing everyone this next year.

It has been a month and a half since we arrived in Missouri. Wow, had that time gone fast. Now we have to get focused on many projects that we would like to complete before Christmas and our departure to head south. I do miss being on the road, but spending time with family makes staying in one place just fine. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dual Sport Motorcycle Riding

 

Life continues to move along while we are staying at the ranch. For those not familiar with the ranch, this place is an active business. We have 10 owners including Kim and I. All of us are into riding and racing off-road motorcycles. Most have been involved in the sport for 40 years or more. We put on events at the ranch and we also have open riding. To ride at the ranch you have to be a member. If you want to know more, you can visit: hardwoodhillsranch.com

One of the aspects I really enjoy about staying at the ranch is meeting riders from all around the area that come to ride. Most come to ride our 30+ miles of single-track trails. I have been riding a couple of days each week to try to get some exercise. I am working on another post to describe what we do. I will include some GoPro footage to give you an up-close and personal view of the very technical trails and show you why it is such a great workout.

Another form of riding that is popular with some riders is Dual Sport riding. This is where we take an off road capable, but street legal motorcycle and go on an adventure ride on the miles of dirt and gravel roads in this part of Missouri. This form of riding is becoming very popular all over the country. You can go to any gathering of motorcycles these days and see the many motorcycles with luggage mounted on the back. Many riders have moved away from the big street machines, like Harley Davidsons to brands like BMW that make these Dual sport machines.

I think there are three classes of Dual sport machines:

1. Big – Usually over 700cc engines. More street capable, but usually with large knob tires to do some off-pavement riding. Not suited for trails at all. These bikes weigh between 400 and 600 lbs. Favorite brands include BMW, KTM and Yamaha.

2. Middle size – Engine size between 500 and 700 CC. Not as comfortable on long paved sections of roads, but more capable on unpaved. Much lighter with weights between 320 to 400 lbs. Not great on single track trails, but good riders can get through a trail. Most popular brands include: KTM, Kawasaki, Suzuki.

3. Small – This class is for any dirt oriented bike that has been made street legal either by the owner or the factory. Engine size is below 500 cc and weights are between 250 and 350 lbs. These bikes can go anywhere. They are very uncomfortable on long street rides, but get them off road and watch the fun begin. The traditional dirt manufactures shine in this category: KTM, Husqvarna, Yamaha, Honda

Image result for images of KTM 350 EXC

I own a motorcycle the fits in the middle size and small classifications. I have ridden for miles and miles on the dirt roads that surround the ranch. It is not uncommon for us to ride for more than 100 miles in a day of exploring on our dual sports. My favorite kinds of rides have almost no pavement in them.

This past weekend, we had some members come to the ranch from Kansas City. They went for a long ride on Saturday and had so much fun they wanted to do it again on Sunday. They invited me to join them. We headed out at 10 AM. The weather was a perfect sunny day. We rode for about 70 miles and stopped to look at some cool rock formations along the country road.

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We had a Husky 650, a Kawasaki KLR 650 and my Suzuki DR650. We rode for a while and followed a GPS track, but then I took the lead and we just decided to freestyle it. We generally knew the direction we wanted to go and we just tried to stay off pavement. We headed to a local town and had a good lunch. Lunch always seems to be part of a dual sporting day. I got in contact with Daniel (the son of one of the other land owners at the ranch) and he lead us back. We stopped off at a creek crossing to admire the crystal clear water.

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One of the best things about doing a dual sport adventure is not knowing what will be around the next corner. We saw a large buck at one stop. Later I was leading and there was a miniature mule standing in the road. It would not move for us, so I had a rather involved conversation with him and then he got bored and moved along. It turned out to be a very enjoyable day.

If you used to ride motorcycles and feel like getting back into riding, I would suggest dual sporting as a way to enjoy riding and adventuring without the traffic.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Life Well Lived

 

On November 4, I had a couple of appointments in Springfield. The first was my annual check up with my cardiologist. I had a heart attack 5 years ago. In many ways, I see the heart attack as a blessing in disguise. That incident turned up the heat on my plans to get retired as early as possible, and get on to living our dreams. The check up was non-eventful and the doctor said I was doing great and asked if there was anything she could do for me. I simply said, “You already did”. They saved my life by putting a stint in my heart, which opened up a 100% blockage and gave me the ability to travel and explore the way I have done this past year.

I then met with my financial advisor. He and his assistant wanted to hear about our adventures. He told me that hearing stories like that is why he enjoys his job.  He told me that all is looking good and that he would keep up with my blog to live vicariously through me until his time to explore will come.

I look at these people as part of our team. They take care of the uninteresting, but very important things that allow me to stay focused on the interesting and important parts of my life, like spending time with my grand kids. Here is a shot of Amelia that Shannon took the other day:

Amelia with rabbit

After my appointments yesterday, I went over to visit Shannon and Brian and the kids. I got to hold Amelia for about 2 hours. She just slept in my arms. It is so awesome to have time to do the interesting and important, like that.

Here is a picture of Amelia in the beautiful blanket that my Mom sent her. It may be the softest blanket, I have ever felt. Shannon put this on Facebook, but I am not sure if Mom and Dad will see it there.

Amelia with Blanket

On Friday night (the day before Halloween), we all went to dinner at Olive Garden. The kids got in costume for a later trick or treating outing at Bass Pro Shops. It was a crazy dinner, but they did not throw us out.

Olive Garden Dinner

Jacob was there also, but he does not allow pictures.

While I was at Bass Pro, I made a purchase with a gift card that was given to me at my retirement party by a dear friend Jeff. I have been wanting a fly tying kit for a long time and now I have it. As I get more time to do some tying, I will write about it. This is exactly what I need, another hobby. I think the key to an enjoyable retirement is to find things that you like to do or always wanted to do and do them. I can honestly say, I have not been bored a single second since I retired.

Life at the ranch has been going well. I have been doing some riding and starting to get back into riding shape. I have also been doing something that I really enjoy. I have been working with some beginners teaching them what I can about riding technique and hopefully showing them how to enjoy riding more. Riding at the ranch is very difficult for most new riders. It is very rocky and that creates difficulty. Many experienced riders don’t like riding here because of the difficulty. With the proper technique and bike set up it can be a blast. We like to say, if you can ride here, you can ride anywhere.

It is hard to believe that we have been back at the ranch for a month already. I have accomplished a number of things, but I have an endless list of to-do’s. I clearly will not get them all done while we are here this time. It will be just two more months before we head south for the winter.

Thanks to Shannon for all of the pictures in this post. I have not been taking pictures as I should. I am still sorting the 10,000 pictures I took on our trip west.

“Opportunity” is a strange word. It is much like “Potential”. Neither is worth a darn unless you embrace them and take some risk and exploit them. You biggest risk is failure, but accomplishment without the risk of failure is no accomplishment at all.

How is that for a little philosophy to get you thinking.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

More Amelia Pictures and Some Thoughts


On Sunday, October 25, I was finally able to see and hold my new Grand Daughter, Amelia. She is just as beautiful in person as she is in the pictures I have seen. I have had family members ask to have as many pictures as possible be posted to the blog. I took a few during the visit to the hospital, and Kim took this one when she came home.
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The great news is that both Shannon and Amelia are doing awesome with no complications at all. Kim will be spending the next week or so with Shannon and the kids. I am playing bachelor out at the ranch.
Here are some shots of my visit to the hospital. I was having a bit of a bad hair day.
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Amelia in hospital
Scott came with me to the hospital to see his new niece. After holding her for about an hour, I gave him a chance.
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Shannon is already getting out of the house with Kim driving her and the kids around. We have tough women in this family.
I do not write about current politics in my blog. I find the subject way to divisive, but I will mention one thing.
Last night, I watched a movie called “Gifted Hands”. It is the story of Ben Carson. I have not made up my mind about the coming election, but it is a very inspirational story. The movie was made in 2009. Just today, the news reported that Ben Carson is polling above Donald Trump in some national polls.
Babies are awesome. I love to be around them and love to hold and love on them. There is just something about a creature that is so unable to harm with hand or word. God makes them perfect, and leaves it is up to man to corrupt that innocence.