Wednesday, April 27, 2016

MORE Race and Some Weather

It has already been almost two weeks since we arrived at the ranch in Missouri. It is amazing how fast times goes by and how quickly the look of the ranch changes.

When we first arrived the trees were just starting to leaf out. The dogwoods and redbuds were in bloom, and it was cool.

This past week, the leaves on many of the trees are almost fully exposed and the blooms are almost all gone.

The weather has been dry. We really need some more rain. We had a race at the ranch this past weekend. Rain was in the forecast last week, and we were preparing for the worst. As it turned out, we received about .1 inches of rain and we had to deal with some dust in the fields.

The race this past weekend was the first race in the M.O.R.E. series for 2016. For the ranch owners, this means that an outside promoter puts on the race. All we have to do is take care of collecting the entrance gate fees and run our food concession. We get to be spectators during the race. I was able to catch up with a number of friends that I have not seen since we left last December. It was a fun weekend.

It is always interesting to see our field turn into a small city with about 100 RV's.

The weather was a bit warm with highs in the low 80's both days, but the race turned out well. As I have mentioned in some previous posts, I love to watch young people develop as both racers and young men and women. Yes women, we are getting more and more women racers. That is awesome. I enjoy getting to know them as young inexperienced riders and watch them develop. I was able to watch one 14 year old rider this weekend who I first saw as a mini rider about 6 years ago. He stepped up to the expert class (A) and won. He even beat a number of the Professionals and finished 6th overall. Way to go Noah!

Noah Clark - 14 year old fast guy
The best part is that he is also a great kid. I really like his entire family. I love it when good guys do well.

Here are a couple of other shots from the race.

Winner Andrew Smith
Last years champ, Harrison Helmick. He took second despite racing with a broken foot. 
One unique thing that happened was a rider arrived at the race in a helicopter. He is from St. Lois and I guess he has a very busy schedule and has someone bring his bike to the site and then just flies in and rides and then leaves right after the race.

Making an entrance

After the race was over, the ranch cleared out and it was quiet again. My friend Bob, who is the principal owner of the ranch, is now retired. He stuck around for a few days to hang out and do some riding and some trail work. I did some riding and then got to work with our tractor to clean up the field and do some mowing. Still very relaxing.

Yesterday we had some storms moving in. We were happy to get the rain, but we were concerned about the forecast for severe weather. As it turned out, we only got a little over an inch of rain and no severe weather. Between storms, I was able to catch a couple pics of this double rainbow.

Double Rainbow

Well that is about it for the past week. We have a few family things going on this next week. I will try to remember to get updated pics of the grandkids. They are all growing so fast.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

We Love the Ranch in April

We arrived back at the Ranch in near Mansfield, Missouri on April 14. We love it here this time of year. The weather is fairly cool and the dogwoods and redbuds are blooming. We have a pretty great camp spot with full hook ups.

It is pretty quiet here most of the time. The first evening, I went fishing in one of the ponds and after catching about 10 fish, I decided to walk around and take some pictures of this beautiful place.

My favorite fishing pond

Dogwoods in bloom
I really like this big White Oak
Nice Sunset to Welcome us back
The next day we took a cruise around the property to check things out and take more pictures of the beauty this time of year. 

On Friday night, we headed over to Ozark to see our grand daughters play. She is going to be a star!

Hannah is on the far right in this scene
It was great to spend some time with the family.

We had a busy weekend around the ranch. I did a check out ride on both Saturday and Sunday. We take prospective members out to look the place over and evaluate if this place is a good fit for them. I then met up with a new member I had not met before. Zach is a 23 year old from Nixa. We had a blast riding together. I rode more than I should have for my first ride in about 4 months and was pretty sore on Sunday. We have an event on April 23,24, so that will be a busy weekend. After that, things will slow down for the summer.

We are not sure how long we will stay. We are planning to do a bunch of shorter trips to camping and boating spots around Missouri and Northern Arkansas. There is much we can do within just a couple of hours of the ranch. It should be a fun next few months. As usual, I do not post as much when we are not moving. I do not feel the need to fill this blog with day to day life. There are plenty of blogs out there that do that. I will post again when there is something worth writing about.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

One Last Stop

We left Russellville on April 13. As we were getting ready, it started to rain. We looked at the radar and saw it was going to rain for a bit and then we had a hole to shoot through. We hung out and talked to Dick and Cathy for a bit. We really enjoy talking to them. We just love the people we meet along the way. Keep in touch guys.

We only had about 275 miles to get back to the ranch, but we wanted to make one more stop. We love to go to Bull Shoals Reservoir to boat and fish. We know that many of the COE campgrounds on the Missouri side of the lake are closed due to flooding. I saw a campground just outside the town of Lakeview, Arkansas. The strange part about that is we were in Lake View, Arkansas a week or so ago. They are two different towns. I would bet that gets confusing at times.

Anyway, we saw that the campground was on a bluff overlooking the lake and is open year round. I wanted to check it out for future use. It is only 70 miles from the ranch.

We made the drive that we have made many times before and then pulled on to highway 178. It is really curvy, but gave us some nice views of the lake and the town of Flippin. We then crossed the dam and found Lakeview COE park. When we first pulled in, I was not impressed. In fact, we almost left. The office was closed and we just had to find our own spot. Kim put her foot down and said we are going to stay. She always seems to know. We were setting up in a really tight spot, when a camp host came over and told us about a part of the park we had missed. It looks like a new section and is all non-reservable. It has some beautiful views of the lake. All of the sites have concrete pads and 50 amp electric. The dogwoods were in full bloom and it was just beautiful.

Site B 17
We love Dogwoods in bloom

Looking straight down at the boat ramp
Bull Shoals Dam in the distance

I just walked around taking pictures for about an hour. I was impressed. I really like this park.

Kim and I sat and talked about staying for a night or two, but we really wanted to get back to see our gandaughters play on Friday night. So, we only stayed one night. We will be back soon and bring the boat to really enjoy the lake. As we were leaving the rigs were pulling in for a fishing tournament this weekend. I am glad we got out of the way.

There you have it. That is the story of our winter trip. We stayed in 22 campgrounds. We went to Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. We stayed in an RV park in a major city for a month - that turned out to be fun. Got to see lots of family. And the best part is we got to see some RV friends and made some new ones. Awesome trip! Oh yeah, no mechanical breakdowns or tire issues. That is always a positive.

We are now set up at the Ranch in Missouri. We do not know how long we will stay. We have decided to not make plans yet and just decide after we have been here a while. I know the hitch itch will get to me after a while.

I will end this entry with a sunset shot over Bull Shoals.

You know when you are living right when you take the time to enjoy the sunsets.
Bob Hall - My brother

Thursday, April 14, 2016

New Friends and Old Friends

We have been set up at Old Post Campground along the banks of the Arkansas River for the past few days. This campground has a great feel and we really like it. The best part is that our son lives close by and we have been visiting with him and his family each day.

Grandpa and Cameron
I loved my grandpa time. Thanks to Michael and Audrey for all of the hospitality. We can't wait to spend more time with you in a couple of weeks.

It is cool that this is one of the most historical places in Arkansas. If you want to more about it, you can read the signs below:

When we got set up we noticed a really nice 5er next to ours. After a bit, we met Dick and Cathy. They are from the area. They live in their rig full time, but have had a very rocky two years since they went full time. They have 17 grandkids and are in the area to visit with family and take care of some tough family business. We stayed up late a couple of nights talking and sharing the stories of or lives. They took a trip to Alaska last year and we really wanted to know about that. We really enjoy talking to other full timers.

Dick and Cathy
I also took the shot below that is funny because of the blueboy in the background. I did not notice it when I took the shot, but it is kind of an inside joke.

The things that full timers talk about are just funny.
We really enjoyed out time together. Dick and Cathy please keep in touch and we look forward to the next time our paths cross.

While we were in Russellville, I got a text from a friend that lives in the area. Ken, and his wife Mary and I worked together for many years. They were my customer for all of those years, but we had a special relationship. After working full days, Ken and I would go play basketball or golf. Ken and I decided to go play golf. We did not play well, but it was great spending the day together and catching up.

On Tuesday evening we went to another one of Connors soccer games. And then back to the rig for dinner. Ken and Mary came over and we talked until way after Ken's bedtime. Thanks for making contact guys, we had a great time catching up.

We decided to head north on Wednesday, April 13. We only had 230 miles to make it back to the ranch, but we decided to make one more stop. I will write about that in my next entry.

Monday, April 11, 2016

We Love Our Grandchildren!

I am sure you have heard the statement that Grandchildren are much more fun than Children. We totally concur with that statement. We love our children, but our grandchildren are just awesome. We love to spend time with them whenever we can.

We left Cane Creek SP in Star City, Arkansas on April 7. We had about 150 miles to get to Russellville, AR. I was concerned about the forecast for wind, but it turned out to not be a major problem. We actually left the campground by 9:30AM and made the mostly interstate drive up through Little Rock and on over to the Old Post COE Campground at the Lake Dardanelle Dam. We have stayed at this campground a few times and really like it. The camp hosts are excellent and really take good care of the place. We like to park along the river and check out the locks and dam. There is very regular barge traffic along this part of the Arkansas River and that adds to the experience. There is also a large contingent of White Pelicans that are in the river enjoying the good fishing below the dam. The only downside is the constant hum of a local plant of some kind. It is not enough to be a bother when trying to sleep at night, but when sitting out at night it does breakup the other wise quiet campground.

Our rig in site #22.
Our view out the back of our rig of the Lake Dardanelle Dam
One of the barges we see go by

We come here to see our son Michael and his wife Audrey and our grandsons Connor and Cameron. Connor is 5 and Cameron is 2.

Connor doing some fishing
These two boys are non stop. They love to stay very active and they just wear out anyone that is trying to look after them. Connor had a soccer game on Saturday that we were able to walk to from our campsite.

Connor is number 4. He scored a few goals in a very lopsided win for his team. 
We have had them come out and hang out with us in the campground. We even had our second campfire of the trip. We went bowling, stopped for ice cream and then went shopping. When was the last time you went grocery shopping with a 5 year old? It was quite an experience for this grandpa. We are just having a blast.

Michael and Audrey seem to be doing very well. They have a very busy life with their little family. Audrey did get her Zumba teaching certificate while we were here. She had to dance for almost 9 hours on Saturday to get that done. That should lead to a job teaching at her local health club.

This video does a great job of capturing Cameron. He loves motorcycles and he was playing on his big brothers bicycle.

I laugh every time I watch it. He is just so cute.

Connor caught a fish the other day. He kept telling me it was his first fish, but I am not sure that is true.

Connor and his fish. We were fishing in a ditch.
This picture is for my friend Darrell. His father helped build this dam.

I did want to take a minute to pass on some great family news. Kim's awesome aunt LaLa has just finished her cancer treatments and has been declared cancer free! Both her and her husband Bill have beaten that terrible disease over the past 2 years.

We are planning to stay here 5 days. We also were able to make some new friends here in the campground and catch up with some old ones. I will tell more about our other experiences in Russellville in my next post.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Cane Creek State Park, Arkansas

We arrived at Cane Creek SP on April 4. We had to drive all of 75 miles to get there. As I said in my previous post, we LOVE this place. On the drive in there were fields of flowers.

We had a good idea of which spot we wanted. Unfortunately, that spot was full, but we got another site overlooking the lake that was just as good. Kim thinks it is the best site in the park.

The view from Site #14, Cane Creek SP
Site #14 looking back from the edge of the bluff
Kim loved the site for many reasons. The view was perfect and there were trees to hang her hammock. Once she was set up, there was no moving her.

Kim in her element.
We really should have gone paddling that first day, but Kim was set and I was happy to take a hike. I sent for a 4 mile walk through the woods. The trails are well marked and have just enough ups and downs to make it fun and interesting. The trails are dual use for both mountain bikes and hiking.

There we lots of pretty flowers including the dogwoods that were in bloom.

Dogwoods in bloom are not easy to photograph

On Tuesday, I decided that I wanted to take a long hike. There is a suspension bridge about 3.5 miles from the trail head. That was my goal. The day was perfect. Sunny and 75 - That is our theme. It was even a bit breezy to keep me cool.

Long walk, but I made it. Cool Bridge

Suspension Bridge
I then had a choice to either come back the way I came or take a longer walk along the lake. If you don't know me, you don't know that I have one motto - I hate to backtrack! So, along the lake shore it was. Along the way, I met up with a couple of Mountain Bikers. I just said "hi" to them. I actually saw them twice as they went out and back on the same trail. They will come back into the story later.

Lots to look at along the trail. They also had a few benches to sit, rest and reflect.

I sat by this pond for a while and watched the fish try to take bugs off of the surface.
Great place to sit and reflect on your gifts that have been given to you.
The walk along the lake was a bit further and I completed 8 miles just before I made it back to my campsite.

When I got back to the campground, I was walking through when I noticed the guy that was mountain biking outside by his trailer. I stopped to talk. Bob and his wife Angie are from Southern California and are full timers. They tour around the country in their Hitchhiker looking for places to ride their bikes. They have been on the Road for SEVEN years. Wow, that is awesome. After talking for a while, I invited them over after dinner to talk some more around a campfire. Yep, I had a fire. That was the first one this entire trip. Bob and Angie did come over and we had an awesome time getting to know them and sharing stories from the road. We are all about the same age and we would love to see them again if our paths cross. So, Bob and Angie if you are out there. Please keep in touch.

We wanted to paddle on Wednesday, but it was too windy. I made a trip into Star City, Arkansas to get Diesel and buy a few groceries. I really needed a down day after the long walk the day before. The only downside to our time at Cane Creek was that we did not go paddling. We really wanted to do the paddling trail. Oh well, it was still one of our all time favorite campgrounds.

We were planning to leave Thursday and head to Russellville to see our son Michael and our Daughter in law Audrey and their two awesome boys, Connor and Cameron. They are predicting high winds later in the day, so we need to get up early. I will write about that trip and visiting the grand kids in my next entry.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lake Chicot State Park

Lake Chicot State Park is a fairly nice SP built on the largest natural lake in the state of Arkansas. The lake is an oxbow lake, which means that it was once part of the Mississippi river but the curve in the river was cut off and left the isolated lake. Experts think that happened about 500 years ago.

I have to be honest, the SP is in need of some updating and maintenance. The roads through the park are terrible, but I am sure that has some to do with the unstable soil and frequent flooding. The sites along the lake are nice, but cost $8 more per night. If  I had it to do over again, I would have chosen one of those. The bathrooms are in bad shape and just need to be rebuilt. It appears this place gets lots of visitors in the summer to fish and enjoy the lake, so I am not sure why there is not any money in the budget to fix up the place.

On Sunday, April 3, I took a walk around the entire park. The place is not large, so the walk was only about 3 miles. They do have a nature trail that is .75 miles long, but it could also use some work. Don't get me wrong, this place is not bad, it is just not up to the standard we have come to know with most SP's around the country. We would come back, but only for a night or two as we were passing through.

They do have nice docks and if you were totally focused on fishing the lake, this place would be good. 
Nice Docks at Lake Chicot SP
Lake Chicot was a bit flooded while we were there
Part of the Nature Trail. It could use some trail maintenance. 
Well, there you have it . I guess you could view that as a negative review of Lake Chicot SP. To be honest it kind of is. After three days, we were ready to move on. We looked at our options and found a COE park that was along the Arkansas River, just north of Pine Bluff. It would have been perfect except it looked like it was closed. I could not find out for sure if it was temporarily closed or if it was permanent. I looked for other options and could only find one, Cane Creek State Park. The problem is that we had been there before. We are all about going to new places. We had been there in 2014 on or way back from the gulf coast, just after I retired. We had only stayed one night because we were in a hurry to get to Russellville to see our new grandson be born. The good news in our short time there, we loved it. We decided to go back and spend the next three days. The drive was only about 75 miles, so that made it easy. 

The negative review of Lake Chicot may have been influenced by the fact that Cane Creek is AWESOME! This may be on of my favorite campgrounds...EVER! It just has it all. We have a great site up on a bluff overlooking the lake, they have more hiking trails than I can do in a week, and they have a paddling trail. We love this place. I am sure my next entry will be with stories of long hikes and hopefully some nice paddling. Come back to see how it works out.