Mark Twain Natl Forest Fun – Missouri

It’s been a rainy spring, a very rainy springtime and many areas are flooded out. But this wouldn’t stop us from having some fun, both hiking as well as cycling. We want to ride some of the Ozark Trail and there is access to the trail at the Greer Crossing Recreational Area in Missouri. We rolled in and for $10 a night we had a beautiful campsite, fire pit, potable water as well as pit toilets. For an added perk, with the annual national parks pass the cost was cut in half so our total fee for the 2 nights we spent here was $10 total. Just having access to water and a secure place to leave the van while we are out playing on the bikes was so very well worth is.

It’s raining and now it’s not and then it’s raining and then it’s not. Rain, rain and more rain, rivers and streams are swollen. We hopped on the Salsa bikes and headed south toward Greer Springs Trail. We knew we couldn’t take the bikes on the trail but that didn’t mean we couldn’t ride them to the trailhead.

The Salsas were locked to a tree at the trailhead to the springs.

Greer Springs is incredible, the water boils up from the ground under the Greer Spring Branch, thousands of gallons boiling like crazy. The rain created green lush everything. Beautiful!

We got back to the campgrounds and decided we really wanted to check out the Ozark Trail.

Well, all that rain caught up with us, the trail was flooded out and our ride on the trail ended all too soon. But we did enjoy the spring time flowers.

Upon leaving Greer Springs area, we headed for Falling Spring Mill. It was nearing lunchtime and we opted to picnic at the spring. This place was beautiful! The original cabin and the old mill house still stand.

The butterflies are incredible! They are such amazing insects.

Magic!!

There is something magical about butterflies and we spotted these large clusters on the road. Oh sure, they are feeding on scat that was left behind on the gravel road. These beauties are very docile and I was even able to pick one up.

We headed to our home for the night at Pinewoods Lake. There is a bike / hiking trail around the lake and with it being such a clear day we opted to take a quick ride around it.

There is a lot of beaver activity on the lake. So much so that the whole end of the lake flooded out the trail due to the beaver lodges and dams.

It’s been a remarkable couple of days, skies cleared and we enjoyed fantastic blue skies. The Pinewoods Lake is a free campsite and even though there was no potable water or services, we had a blast.

Our coutry, the USA has such diverse areas, such beauty but we have to look for it. And find it….we did.

Upper Buffalo Mountain Bike Trails – Arkansas

The Salsa Fargo bikes had some “dry” fun out at Big Bend National Park but it’s time to see what these big boys are made of. Lets see how they do somewhere a bit more muddy.

This NW region of Arkansas is incredible. For the 4 days / 3 nights we were here we saw 2 other people on the trails. We only saw a handful of cars/trucks. Peaceful, absolutely peaceful. The system has two main trailhead parking areas, we chose the furthest one. The trail system is tough. The photo above is a segment, there are a number of additional trails that we never got to. Between walking and cycling, we covered all on the map.

There are natural sources for water so we filtered our own while we were here.

Hidden waterfalls and cascades were common on the trails. This is a wet area and we sure had a muddy fun good time.

Water crossings were numerous and we embraced each and every wet and muddy one. We were able to cycle through a few but others it was either too deep our too rocky, hence we pushed the bikes. Can one say Wet Feet?

Trails were muddy and sometimes a bit overgrown. We loved it. Deer ran along with us on a few occassions. We had the entire area to ourselves. These trails were hard, they were tough but the Salsas performed beautifully tackling the muddy trails with ease.

We did enjoy some gravel roads as well. This didn’t make them any less muddy but they sure were easier going. Deer seemed unafraid of us being there.

The final day of riding was the toughest with a number of water crossings as well as a downed tree over the road.

We plan to go back to this area one day and explore the numerous other trails. Some of the trails are marked “easy”, others were listed as moderate or difficult. We never tried any of the difficult trails but I wouldn’t mind walking them.

Pure Joy

Time together is precious, it’s the moments like this that bond us together. We grit our teeth, slog through the mud and enjoy what this beautiful world has to offer us. Upper Buffalo Mountain Bike Trails are incredible and we will be back.

Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon

“I’m going to run a marathon”, those words tumbled out of my mouth as I slowly pedalled my way up a steep Peruvian mountain pass. I could only think of one marathon that I would even be remotely interested in doing, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon #RuntoRemember. But could I realistically do a full marathon with virtually no training? I planned to be back stateside and pretty much off my bike by Feb. 1, 2019. That gave me Feb – April to train but again, a full? Well, after chatting back and forth with Amy Downs Head, a survivor of the horrific bombing back in 1995 that killed so many and injured many more, she stated that she would be walking the 1/2 marathon. Count me IN! I signed up from my hotel room in Punta Arenas, Chile.

We had so much happening and my training was non-existant for this event and I have to admit I was very concerned about my ability to complete a 13.1 mile walk. We all have those little voices that say “you can’t” or “you are going to fail” or “you won’t finish” and I am no different. Those voices were loud and I talked myself out of the 1/2 and then back into the 1/2 numerous times. When the time came though, the decision was really easy and after rolling into OKC on April 24, 2019 I was fully committed to doing it.

Moni has a beautiful stand of purple and yellow Iris.

Oklahoma Freewheel, a cross state bicycle ride brought many life long friends together. I met Moni in 2007 when I did my first of seven OKFWs. We spent our time in OKC with Moni. We also got a chance to visit with Moni’s bike partner, Mel. It was really great to see him again.

On Friday, April 27, 2019 we set out on “The Moni Tour” of OKC. I needed to do packet pickup for the Sunday 1/2 Marathon. The tour took us from Moni’s home to downtown OKC.

We cycled to the Cox Convention center where Moni and Curtis waited for me outside. I walked in and the signs hit me; this just got REAL! I’ve done a number of 10Km runs but never anything of this distance. I shoved those nasty little voices to the back. I will do this. There were few people at the Expo and I had no wait time to get by Bib# and my participants shirt. I also purchased a 13.1 decal for the back of the van. This is real.

We made our way back to Moni’s house via some really awesome bicycle trails. This city is incredibly bike friendly and we really enjoyed that.

Saturday Curtis and I took off on trails and made our way to Pro Bike, hoping to pick up some tire sealant. The man behind the counter was Andy, another OKFW friend from years ago. Monday night he will come over to Moni’s for supper so we get a chance to visit more in depth.

Parking and traffic for the marathon was insane. There is a shuttle bus from some local hotels. We decided to head to an IHOP for a 4AM breakfast, start the day off right and then I could catch one of the shuttles from right there. This worked out fantastic. Curtis remained behind, opting to not fight the traffic into downtown. He was able to track my progress via a phone app.

Amy Downs Head and I at the start of the 1/2 Marathon. We were in Corral E because we are walking.

The day was incredible! The energy of this race was awesome. Amy and I walked much of the race together. The first 5Km I walked a brisk pace, then I dealt with a very long bathroom line. Amy passed by while I was in line but I was able to jog and catch up to her, allowing us to chat away the last 10 miles together. We encountered a lot of fun and fun people along the route.

Amy & I walking the 1/2 Marathon. So awesome and such an honor to do with this remarkable woman. It is a privilege to call her “Friend”.

My goal was to complete the race with a 20 minute walk pace. I was so happy to have achieved that goal and finished. I had aches and pains like anyone else and I did it.

I bumped into Mary and Curt, two more OKFW friends and we had a chance to chat before collecting my finishers shirt and boarding the shuttle back to the IHOP.

I did it, I am still in shock that I did. My legs are a bit sore but I am grinning ear to ear.

I DID IT!

Kerrville, Texas

Easter weekend, three days of cycling through the hill country of Texas and a chance to get together with my kiddo, Mike. Yea, he’s in his mid thirties but he will forever be my kiddo. Mike’s bride is visiting friends in Washington so he opted to spend the weekend with us.

The first day of cycling was based out of Fredericksburg, Texas. I have been through this town in the past but never started a bike ride out if it. We opted to keep our days short, doing the 30 mile routes. We’ve focused so much on the van build these pasat two months that our sit bones have gotten soft so we really need to ease back into the bike saddle. Thirty mile rides, three days in a row will definitely be beneficial. Photos for day one out of Fredericksburg, well they didn’t happen. We were so enjoying the fresh air, the countryside, the views that we just hung on tight and let the miles click by. Before we knew it we were back to the van, the ride was done an we hadn’t taken a single shot! Oh well. The memories will be those in our brain.

We headed on to Kerrville, TX where we had a campsite waiting for us. Mike joined us late in the afternoon and we built a fire in the pit. So much laughter ensued as the BS around the campfire got thick. Man I loved it!!

Building this fire was way too easy! We found partially burned pine boards that were very dry, burned fast and easy. The jokes and the BS around the campfire ensued and we laughed late into the night.

Day two of riding we left out of the campground. Mike sent one of his drones into the air and followed us for a bit on the route.

The route today is one of my favorites, fantastic hill climbing. The “Good Morning Wake Me up Hills”, love them!! Sunshine, blue skies and wind; yea wind! But to be honest the wind was not at all bothersome and just added to the delight of the day.

The route was again right at 30ish miles and we totally enjoyed it. We got back to the campground and refilled small canisters of propane from our big tank. For us this is not a holiday or vacation, this is life and chores are necessary.

After chore time it was fun time with the fire … again. But tonight we roast PEEPS. It is Easter after all and Easter is all about the Peeps and the Chocolate Bunnies. We all partook in the roasted Peepery, is that even a word? Anyway, it is now. Peeps, yea, roasted over an open fire. We tried the Cotton Candy Peep Chicks as well as the traditional yellow Peep Bunnies. They all roast about the same but the sugar on the outside carmelizes and creates an internal gooey marshmallow goodness.

With a wonderful fire going we threw brauts on the grill along with aluminum packets filled with potatoes, onions and asparagas. We ate and ate, then ate some more. We had so much fun with Mike, I laughed and chuckled and then laughed some more.

Mike is such a talent. He flies several drones and created a fun video for us commemorating the weekend.

Our final morning of riding was overcast. We still enjoyed our 20 mile ride.

We got back to the camp and just chilled. Monday morning we headed out and Mike headed back to College Station. He and his beautiful bride Rachel will be moving to Connecticut shortly. I am so very proud of them both.

Big Bend National Park

Springtime in Texas, an explosion of flowers and this spring showed Spring in all it’s bright and bold colors.

The van is liveable and we left Aransas Pass, TX on April 9. It’s time to check out the comfort of our new home after all it’s our new living space for the next while until we can officially find a piece of dirt to call our own. In the meantime our home is on wheels.

After living in a tent for the past 2 – 1/2 years, this van is a huge upgrade. We’ve learned to live without running water and in a small space. With a full solar system we are now able to live without plugging in. There is no worry of leaks in the mattress and we have a two burner stove. We can now get from one point to another faster now. Cycling is still our Number 1 mode of transportation but the van will get us great distances quickly when we need to.

The new Salsa Fargos hang, they are very long. The two road bikes sit on the floor. We still have space for some firewood, a 4 foot ladder, lawn chairs and “stuff”.

We set off for West Texas. Texas is a huge state and the drive will take about 10 hours. Wow, 10 hours in a van; that’s like 10 days worth of cycling. The van makes quick work of a longer distance.

Big Bend National Park is a spring destination that I have wanted to witness. I do love the desert, especially the high deserts. No surprises to anyone who knows me, I love the flowers and the bloom did not disappoint. The cactus were incredible and the other pops of color competing for show were everywhere.

The animals and birds are waking up and we had quite a show with the variety we saw.

I was surprised as to how hot it got during the day and the wind! This was Patagonia style winds, strong and they whipped up the sand and the dust, blowing all night. I really hate wind.

Now that we have been to Big Bend, we probably won’t go back. It’s a huge investment in time and effort to get to it. But it’s not really cycle friendly. There are no bike trails other than the roadways. There are some incredibly 4×4 roads within the park and we did cycle a few times on them but the lack of services, no water other than a few locations makes it very difficult without carrying days worth. We did however get in some riding on the new Salsas and had a blast. These bikes are an absolute dream and the upcoming adventures we are starting to pencil in and plan are going to be incredible.

We did get a chance to do a little bit of hiking and checked out Balanced Rock. This was a 2.2 mile round trip trail that we took in at sunset. Beautiful. We cycled to the trail head, locked the bikes to the sign post and headed up. We were the only people there and the views were breath taking.

We have committed to each other the explore North America, the lower 48, Alaska and Canada for a minimum of 2 years and this was our first major stop on our new journey.

If this is what our next couple of years has in store for us, BRING IT ON!! I cannot wait to see what is around the next corner, the next hill and we both really look forward to getting back on the bikes and exploring this incredible planet.

The Ides of March

Van conversion has consumed our waking days and the project is coming along very nicely. Check out the tab above “Van Life” for the on-going build out. We hit the road on April 7, 2019 and what is done will be done. A few minor things like trim work will wait but we are so ready to roll. Not just roll in the van but roll out of the van. We will carry at all times 4 bikes. For the most part we will carry the Surlys and the Salsas. On rare occasion we will swap out for the roadies, it will just depend on the upcoming ride details. When we roll on April 7, 2019 we will have the entire van build out documented on the tab above. It’s been a work of love and let me add, we completed in a mere 36 days from start to finish!!! Long hours, dedicaction and a whole lot of custom work. But I have to say the finished product is amazing. Stay tuned for details and watch the above link!!

Beauty & the Beast

Oh how I’ve missed the open roads, the thrill of the ride, the peace and solitude of getting out on the bikes. Beauty and the Beast bicycle ride is a fabulous one day bike ride based out of Bullard, TX. It is hosted by the Tyler Bicycle Club and wonderfully supported. There was a number of route and distance options and we chose the longest ride, just over 62 miles.

Jenny on her Bianchi warming up before the ride start.

With cool temperatures and a bright blue sky, we parked at the Bullard High School and readied ourselves for the ride. Today we will ride our roadies, Jenny rides a Bianchi Dama Intrepida and Curtis rides a Gunnar Sport. These are lightweight, fast and fun little play toys. We break out the clip in shoes and dust off the helmets. This is going to be fun.

Sandi K. and Jenny waiting for the ride to start.

We picked up our packets, ate breakfast in the back of the van, visited with a few cyclists and waited for the ride to begin. The Star Spangled Banner played in the background and cyclists lined up for the mass start at 9AM.

We met up with Sandi K., a friend from years past on Oklahoma Freewheel. It was so great to see her again. Sandi opted for a shorter ride today and Curtis & I chose the 62 miler with lots and lots of hills, over 3,000 feet of climbing with just about the same amount of descending. I love hills and this is going to be a blast.

And we rolled, in a mass group of other cyclists. We had to watch for others weaving and bobbing their way through the hillsides. The air is cool and the sun is warm. The bikes fly along the road as we cruised the first 10 miles to the first rest stop.

Rest Stop #1, bikes bikes everywhere. The rest stop is a great rest stop completed with cold water and fruit snacks.

Fully amazed at the ease of these bikes, they fly. We leave behind the panniers and the heavy Surlys. Today is a day where we can just play on the bikes and we both need that. My mind wanders and drifts as we weave through the countryside. I needed this ride. It resets my inner being and the feel of the wind on my cheeks revitalizes me. I find myself smiling, non-stop and I love it. The hills roll and with each passing hill I smile. I love hills, everyone who knows me knows this little fact and these hills do not disappoint. This ride energizes my soul and I find myself in that peaceful place in my head and heart. I am at home, home on a bike and I am happy.

Jenny & Curtis wearing their Patagonia, Argentina cycling jerseys.
We bought these in El Chalten, Argentina.

We stopped at each rest stop, snacking on our old stand-bys of oranges and bananas. These foods have been such a frequent go-to and they work for us. The rest stops were filled with other cyclists and the jerseys we had on started to generate a few questions. The most common was “Did you cycle in Argentina?” Not only did we cycle there we cycled Alaska to Argentina. This often left jaws dropped and led to more questions.

A familiar scene at the rest stops.

Nearing the end we were quizzed by a young man. This led to a conversation that led to “the quote of the day” for us.

Young Man: What do you do? I mean how can you afford this? Curtis: Well, I was a firefighter/paramedic for 30 years and retired. Young Man: I guess maybe I should do something besides work at Walmart. Curtis: Silence. Young Man: Did you carry a gun through them dangerous countries? You know how dangerous this world is we live in. Curtis (with the quote of the day): That may be the world you think you live in but the rest of us don’t live in a world like that.

This left that young man scratching his head, afraid of living, afraid of the people across the street, afraid of anyone not like him, afraid of the world around him. So sad, so very very sad. The world around us is not a scary place. There are pockets of dangerous places, in other countries as well as here in the US of A, the US is not immune to it. Truth be told, the worst aggression towards us has been in the US, not other countries.

The countryside and the quiet roads were refreshing. The hills were so much fun. Springtime in East Texas is spactacular and this is a time of year and location that we will repeat.

At the top of “The Beast”, we slayed it.

The final hill which is the namesake of this ride is a 1/2 mile hill that tops out at an 11% grade. Granted this double digit section was very short but it was a blood pumper.

Augh, Bike Shorts; thanks Curtis for this butt-grab shot.

Today is the first time I’ve worn bike shorts since sometime back in Peru. These padded things kept climbing up my backside and I found myself trying to retrieve them a few times. Top that with a chafe that was not at all amuzing on the whoo-haw, I think this will be the last true bike shorts experience. Maybe my ass is just hardened to where I don’t need them, maybe the bike saddles are just good enough without padded shorts. Bottom line, yea I think I will stick with yoga shorts or compression shorts. These bike shorts have gotta go!

Our road bikes at the top of “The Beast”. These bikes handled this ride today with great ease.
We got finishers medals and a huge pasta lunch after the ride.

We finished up the ride about 3PM, a few others straggled in after us. The hard core road pounders were fast and furious, finishing up a lot faster than us. But this ride was so needed, my legs were happy, my heart was happy, my lungs were happy, my soul sang with glee.

It was good to be back on the saddle.