Monday, July 10, 2017

Water, Water Everywhere, Visitors and A/C repair

It has been over a month since I have written in my blog. We have been at the ranch in Missouri for more than a month now. We really like it here, but we do miss traveling. I have trouble getting interested in writing because I feel like our life is uninteresting. We live almost like "normal" people. 

It is amazing how fast you get into a routine which includes getting involved in all of the normal local activities. We have been spending time with the grand kids and helping out with baby sitting when we can. We have made numerous trips to Ozark, which is about an hour away, to see baseball and softball games along with other activities. Baseball is now over. The summer is getting hot and we are ready to head to the lake, but we have a big problem. We normally like to boat on Bull Shoals Reservoir. Here are a couple of COE parks we like to park the trailer. The water is still up around 40 feet. It does not look like we will be going down there this year. 

Our favorite site #8 at Beaver Creek Park in 2014

Same site #8 in 2017. The park is mostly closed.

One of my favorite all time rig shots at Theodosia on Bull Shoals in 2013. 

That same site would be under about 20 feet of water in 2017.
We can put the boat in Table Rock, which is only about 20 feet up, but we do not like that lake nearly as much due to the boat traffic. I am really looking forward to getting on my water ski and enjoying the lake. The temps are going to be in the 90's this week, so I lose my interest in riding my motorcycle and look to the lake.

We did have an exciting end to the baseball season. Will's team won the regular season league championship. He got a nice trophy for that, which was the first trophy in his young life. Then the team went on to win three straight games in the tournament and won that also. Will played great and contributed to the success. We were all very excited.

We have had some visitors come by the ranch. Dick and Cathy from Arkansas stopped by and we enjoyed a nice evening visiting.

Then Tony and Debbie stopped by last weekend. Tony and I used to work together (he was my boss) back in the early 2000's. He was my best boss ever and I really enjoyed catching up with him. It was great to learn the real story on some events at the old company back when I cared about such things.

If you look at the chairs behind Debbie and Tony you will see them in this next shot. This was a few days later, but we had a visit from a black rat snake. We have actually seen him a number of times now. We leave him alone, he will kill the mice and take care of other varmits.

Other than mowing and normal ranch stuff, I have been working on a problem A/C on the rig. The good news is we have two, so we are still comfortable. After extensive trouble shooting that took days. I determined my problem was a faulty fan motor. I was fooled by the motor working for a period of time and then failing. I had replaced the control board and the thermostat before it failed when I was watching it. Replacing a fan motor is not easy, but I got it done.

That is enough for now. I will try to write periodically, but it looks like we are going to stay in this area for a while. It may be until the end of the year. We have some major happenings at the ranch and I want to be involved. It seems like normal life to me, but normal still feels pretty great.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Life at the Ranch in Missouri

It has been 10 days since I last wrote in this blog. I have a hard time getting inspired to write when we are sitting still. I wrote in by last entry that I felt "conflicted" coming back to Missouri. I will try to explain.

We love our life on the road. We love to see new places and meet new people. We have found that we love the feeling of waking up in the morning and looking out the windows to a new scene. We certainly want to keep traveling as long as we can. The conflict comes in when we think about our children and grandchildren. It is also related to the ranch. We love coming to the ranch. We love hanging out with all of the people that come here and we love the activities in this area.

So, there is the problem. How do we have both?

Our current plan is to stay here a while and let our feelings tell us when it is time to leave. I have no idea how long that will be. We also need to take care of a few things that are much easier when we are sitting still. Kim is taking care of a dental problem and I am working on an air conditioner issue in the trailer. I also want to work on the slides to get them operating perfectly.

We arrived at the ranch on May 25. What have we been doing since? Well, we have been very busy. Just this week is the first time we have been able to just relax. We have been spending time with some of the grandchildren and I have been doing some riding at the ranch. We have the ultimate place to ride dirt bikes. I have never found a workout that is as much fun as riding my dirt bike. So, I am even getting in a little better shape. I am also looking forward to water skiing this summer. We are currently waiting for the lakes to come down a bit to make the lakes safe for our boat. They have had an incredible amount of rain this spring here in Missouri.

The ranch is very green this year. We have an amazing variety of birds. We had one hit one of our windows while Isabella was visiting. I got this great picture of her trying to nurse it back to health.

While Jake was here, he decided to make pancakes. They turned out...interesting. It is so rare to get a shot of him smiling, so I have to publish these.

We also had a 4 day visit from Will. He is riding his motorcycle very well. It won't be long and he will be riding with the older guys. Will and Isabella are also playing baseball and softball. Both are doing very well. I just love going to the ballpark. It brings back great memories of coaching my own children.

We also had a visit from Amelia. She is growing up so fast. No great pictures, but she is just so cute I had to publish one.

One of the cool things that happen here at the ranch is some riders from around the state come here to train. Logan Lowery is from Northern Missouri and is a top 20 National Professional Rider. He spent last week with us and invited two local pros to ride and train with him. Here is a shot of Logan in the center (age 19), Noah Clark (age 15), Nate Rector (age 16). There are very special young men. Not only are they great riders, but are equally great people that are totally dedicated to being successful.

I really enjoy hanging out and even doing a little riding with the guys.

I have also spent a fair amount of time doing maintenance on my machines and the tractor that we have here at the ranch. One of the things about being here is there is never a lack of things to do. That can be good and bad.

The ranch is a unique situation. We are 10% owners of the ranch. Many of the owners rarely come to the ranch and have very little to do with what is going on here. Two other owners are very involved and take care of this place alone when we are not here. The cool thing about this place is it makes money by selling annual memberships and putting on events. The income basically covers our expenses. So, we have a place to come and hang out with full hook ups and there are no on going costs. It did take a significant investment to start with, but it works for us.

That is about it for now. I will try to write periodically while we are sitting still. As our future travel plans come in to focus, I will update this blog. For now, have a great summer.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Natural Falls State Park

I am writing this entry from the ranch in Missouri. We arrived here on May 25. We have been very busy since we have been here. I will write more about life here on the ranch in future entries, but for now I will finish our recent travels. The last stop on our 7 month+ trip was Natural Falls State Park in far Northeastern Oklahoma.

We left Beavers Bed State Park on May 23 and drove north on Highway 259 then 59. There is a significant ridge that runs east/west from Mena, Arkansas to Talihina, Oklahoma. There is a beautiful drive along the ridge. We had to cross that ridge, so we had a steep climb and just as steep descent. In all of our travels we have traveled through many mountains and that made this area easy by comparison. We did stop at the top to take a look. It is a nice view.

It was mid week and we knew we could stop at a number of different places at the end of this day. The only thing we were thinking is that we wanted to get to the ranch before the coming holiday weekend. It is strange how much we try to avoid the campgrounds on holiday weekends. It was not long ago that we looked forward to the three summer holiday weekends. Now we just try to avoid the packed campgrounds.

Kim was watching the weather radar and monitoring a weather system moving north of us. We decided to keep moving north and make just one stop at Natural Falls SP. The drive was just short of 200 miles, but not bad at all with mostly empty rural roads. The scenery was very interesting. This is all lands that were used for the relocation of the Cherokee and Choctaw. It is all very sparsely populated. Kim determined that we would arrive at the SP just as the storm was hitting, so we stopped for dinner and then made it to the SP just as the storm was leaving. Now, that is good navigating. We do make a pretty good team.

We had our choice of sites when we arrived and chose #8. It is a very long back in. We were perfectly level, so we decided to not disconnect.

We decided to stay two nights. The park advertises a nice waterfall, so we went to check it out. The falls are 77 feet high and is very beautiful. We were shocked to see something like this in NE Oklahoma. The water exits the limestone cliff at a number of spots in addition the the main falls.

There are nice trails and boardwalks all around the area. We really enjoyed the views.

There is Kim at the upper overlook.

I just love the way people obey the rules.

We continued on to the other trails in the park. There were not long, but had some very steep hills. We did find another falls over a small dam.

Natural Falls SP is very well maintained and even had a Disc Golf Course. This is a fairly small park with only about 25 sites. We had good cell coverage and good OTA TV.

We liked the waterfall area so much we took another walk in the evening to go see the falls. This time we had the views all to ourselves and we sat and enjoyed the view for a long time and talked about our trip. The following day we made the final 190 mile drive to the ranch.

We have mixed emotions about coming back to Missouri. I will write about those feelings in coming entries.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Beavers Bend State Park, Oklahoma

We left Bonham Sate Park on Sunday, May 21. We have heard about Beavers Bend from a number of people over the years, but have never visited this unique park. We made the drive on mostly 2 lane rural roads through Paris, Texas and on to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. It was a reasonable 120 mile drive. We left Highway 59 just north of Broken Bow and turned on Highway 259A. 259A leading through the park is very twisty and overgrown. I was having to dodge tree limbs constantly with our 13+ foot height. The park has many campgrounds. Some are right along the river and are considered premium sites. They also have a large number of tent only sites. They have a large FCFS campground that is a short walk from the river that is very wooded called Cypress loop. We just pulled into one of the many back in sites that were available. The roads are all very narrow and you have to pay attention to get through this old campground without hitting something. The cost per night is $22 with water and electric. We have been told that this campground fills up fast every weekend. We had zero cell signal and no OTA TV. There is also no WiFi in this park, so you are cut off from the outside world. Not always a bad thing.

Here is a shot of our site #C20 in the woods.

The park also has some nice cabins. This is a shot of one of the ADA approved cabins.

Beavers Bend is built around Mountain Fork river that comes out of the bottom of  the dam of Broken Bow Reservoir. The water is cold, so they stock it with trout. This is the only place in Oklahoma that you can fly fish. We decided to pass on the fishing and took a short river trip instead. You can pay $5 for a short shuttle from one side of the bend to the other. This give you about a 2.5 mile paddle on slow moving water. The water is crystal clear and the surrounding rock cliffs make it a nice trip. We did this on a Monday, so we only saw 4 other people on the river. I am sure on the weekends it is a much different experience.

We saw lots of birds and turtles. It was a nice quiet ride on the river until the sirens started going off. The sirens indicate they are letting water out of the dam and warning fisherman that the water may rise quickly. We heard the sirens, but did not see any change in the river.

Near the end of the float we entered a area with cypress trees. We had fun paddling around the trees and knees.

Our overall impression of this park was good. The staff was friendly and helpful. They have a nice museum at the park headquarters showing the logging industry in the area. It is free to walk through the exhibits and we found the information interesting. The one thing to know about this park is that it has a large number of visitors. It is an older park and it is showing its age. I do not think I would want to be there when it is full. I am sure it is a zoo. One of the best things about our lifestyle is we get to visit these places without the crowds.

We only stayed 2 nights and then headed further north. I will write about our final stop of our trip in my next entry. I will tell you now, it was a very surprising experience.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Bonham State Park

It has been 7 days since I have written in this blog. We have been moving north. We are currently at a beautiful State Park in NE Oklahoma. It seems a bit strange that tomorrow will be the last travel day on this trip. We have been traveling for 5 days more than 7 months on this trip. We think about our travel in terms of trips away from Missouri. We have been traveling about 31 months of the 43 since I retired. That seems about right to us. We are not sure what we will do next. Our plan is to get back to the ranch and wait for the hitch itch to kick in. OK, now to catch up...

We left Holiday Park at Lake Benbrook in Texas on May 16. We did something that we have never done before. We had paid for 3 more days, but decided that we had done all that we wanted to do and were tired of the DFW area. We also had plans to spend some more time with Kim's parents up along the Red River.

We had no issue getting a refund at the COE park. The people that worked in the office were very friendly and helpful. We headed north trying to skirt the heavy traffic around the DFW Metroplex. We went north on I 35 out of Fort Worth and then turned East on 380 out of Denton. I was expecting a two lane country highway, but I was wrong. Even though we were about 50 miles from the center of the massive city, we were in stop light to stop light driving. It is all new construction and it further reminded me of why I have come to dislike large population centers.

We finally got on a fairly rural road as we left Highway 75, but we were still in construction. We then hit a rural road, just outside of the city of Bonham. This is our second visit to Bonham State Park. We stayed here once before in the year before I retired. I remember working from the park and wishing I could just go out and hike in the park. This time I did just that.

It was very windy the first few days we were there, so paddling in the lake was not a good plan. I just hit the trails that go around the pretty lake. Here is a shot of the campground from the far side of the lake. You can see our trailer in site #7, backed right up to the lake. It was just us and two other rigs in this 14 RV site park. We had decent Verizon signal and 6 OTA TV channels. The cost was $20 for Water and 50 amp Electric. It is really a nice park with virtually no road noise.

The trails are a bit overgrown, but still very easy to follow.

This park was originally built by the CCC back in the 1930's. You can see some of their rock work all over the park including the administration building. What I did not expect was there are picnic areas in remote areas of the park that were built back in the 30's that are just sitting there waiting for someone to hike in and enjoy the place.

I walked about 3/4 of the trails in the park and ended up with a great 3.5 mile walk. The next day, I did a 5 mile bike ride on the roads around the park. I am still trying to get in better shape for both water skiing and riding when we get back to Missouri.

Kim's parents have a beautiful piece of property just a few miles north of Bonham. They were making a trip up to the property to enjoy the peace and quiet for a few days. On their way up, they stopped by to visit us in the park. We decided to take the 1.3 mile walk on the lake loop trail. I think they enjoyed it. Here they are with their oldest daughter.

The next 2 days we headed up to see them at the property. They have built some structures around their trailer to reduce the impact of the Southern Oklahoma weather.

Kim's brother likes to spend time here and has done a fair amount of work around the place. He has a vintage trailer that is very cool. He has refurbished it and it now is nice. I just loved the aqua blue range and refrigerator.

We really enjoyed our time. We played some games of Farkle and Pegs and Jokers and then went to the Senior Center in a near buy town for a fund raiser cake and pie auction. We scored a pecan pie that was pretty good. I really enjoyed hearing the auctioneer. He was like a comedy act. 

We said our good byes and then headed back to our site at Bonham. We spent 5 enjoyable days there and were now ready to make the move back north. We did have a few places we wanted to see along the way. Come back to read my next entry and see what beauty exists in the state of Oklahoma.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Family Time in Fort Worth, Texas

We have had a date circled on the calendar since the beginning of this trip back in October. That date is May 13. That is the day that my niece Alisha is getting married to Mark. We were very excited to attend the wedding, but even more excited to see all of our family that was making the trip to Granbury, Texas for the occasion.

We left Possum Kingdom on May 9 and made the 100 mile drive to our site at the Holiday COE park on Lake Benbrook. We chose this place because it is half way between the wedding site and Kim's parents house in Bedford. The location worked perfectly.

The cost of this COE park is a bit high at $28 per night with 50 amp and water, but this is all about location. We had great cell and OTA reception. We chose site #1 when I made the reservation, but I would have done something different if we could have chosen our site when we arrived. I hate making reservations, but we knew we needed to on the weekend. The one strange thing about this campground is that the gates close at 10 PM. You have to park outside the park and walk to your site. We were out late visiting on a number of nights, so we did that a few times.

Here is site #1:

I did a fair amount of walking and bike riding in the mornings while we were there. There are roads that make a 10 mile ride easy to do. There are some walking trails, but they are poorly maintained and over grown. I found much of the park in need of mowing and poorly maintained. The sites are huge and have excellent spacing. A little work and this would be a great park.

Benbrook lake is not attractive like Possum Kingdom. Brown water and plenty of dead trees.

While out riding my bike, I had to stop and take a shot of this 4 foot + bull snake:

We were visiting with someone just about every day. We marvel at their busy lives and wonder how we did it all of those years. We much prefer our quiet, peaceful life on the road. We helped set up the reception venue and then were invited to the rehearsal dinner. We got to spend some time with the latest addition to the family. Our other niece Erin and husband Tim just had their first son, which is also my brothers first grandchild.

Kim getting some cuddle time with Colby.
My mother and father had the opportunity to meet three of their great grand children at this family gathering. Here they are with Colby:

You can see the bride and groom and their fathers in the background of this shot. 
They took the opportunity to hand out gifts from the parents to the bride and groom at the rehearsal dinner. Mark's mom made this beautiful quilt for them:

On Saturday morning we got up at 6 AM to head to Bedford to get some time with our daughter Shannon and son Michael's families. We had not see our grandchildren since October, so the early start time was no problem. We had breakfast at MaMa's (a family tradition) and then went to the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens to celebrate Mother's Day and just spend some time together. Our son Mark came along also.

Granddaughter Amelia is growing up so fast. 

On the far end of the table are our son Mark, daughter Shannon and son Michael. I guess the spouses were just not aware of the tradition. We have many pictures of our children at that table over the years.

Mark and Michael
Mark is now working for Cerner in Kansas City and Michael is a Nuclear Engineer at ANO in Russellville, Arkansas.

Jake, Isabella, Amelia, Connor, Will and Cameron
We had to leave quickly and go get ready for the wedding. I won't try to document the wedding and reception except a few of my favorite shots:

My beautiful Niece Erin (New Mom to Colby)
My Brother Alan and the beautiful bride Alisha
Mark and Alisha (Love the smile)
We had to take the opportunity to take a family shot or two. Yes, I am actually wearing a tie. First time in 3 and a half years.

Just missing my son Scott
My brother Brian, Wife Julie and son Matthew and daughter Katherine
The reception was held in an old brick barn. It was a very cool venue.

I really liked this shot of my brother and Dad:

The interesting thing is that my father and brother are both Nuclear Engineers like my son Michael. Three generations with the same profession.

Funny Story: At the end of the wedding the Bride and Groom were ready to leave and decided to have someone drive them to the hotel. They had a few drinks but were not drunk by any means. I did not drink, so I offered to drive them. When we are leaving, Mark goes to get in the front seat with me. I said, "No, get in the back seat with your bride!" We all laughed.  They are a great couple and we wish them all the best for their lives together.

So much more went on in the days around the wedding that I have not written about. We went to my brother Brian's place in Dallas and he showed us his new office. He is a lawyer and just started his own practice. All I can say is WOW!

We really missed my other brother Bob. He was not able to make it from Denver.

There are times like this when I wonder what my family thinks of me. They are all so successful and here I am living in a trailer. Maybe some day they will figure out my little secret.

In my next entry I will write about leaving the mass of human population they call the DFW Metroplex. We have a few more stops before we get to Missouri.