The World Chess Hall of Fame

If you had to guess…which city has the World Chess Hall of Fame?

a.            Moscow

b.            New York City (USA)

c.            St. Louis, Missouri (USA)

d.           Oslo (Norway)

e.            Brussels (Belgium)

Okay—I could go on with cities, such as London or Tokyo but the correct answer is St. Louis, Missouri. I was in St. Louis because my brother-in-law called and invited us to dinner. Not unusual, except he lives 350 miles away from us. We decided to go, leaving on a Thursday (I do not have to ask for time off!) so we could be ready for a dinner on Friday night with the family. Christmas time with family is great and we always are doing things, staying busy.

Even if you do not play chess, a visit to the World Chess Hall of Fame is worthwhile. I enjoyed walking around the exhibits and taking advantage of their gift shop. A chess club is across the street and, unfortunately, I did not have a chance to visit. I am not very good, so it is probably just as well.

We were able to stay at the Soulard Little School & Gym Airbnb. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed the area of St. Louis. The location is perfect, with several local St. Louis attractions nearby.

Out for dinner with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law

We enjoy going out to dinner and it was a nice night out enjoying our dinner on “the Hill” in St. Louis after we arrived on Thursday. We surprised the family on Friday night when everyone else arrived at the Christmas party. Unfortunately, the Christmas party turned into a tornado watch party in the lower level due to the changing weather. We are from Kentucky and that Friday evening Kentucky was devastated by a tornado from the same storm. We are fortunate to have avoided any issues and our hearts go out to those hurt by the tragedy.

On Friday, prior to the party, we had the chance to play some disc golf at the local Willmore Park in St. Louis and visit the World Chess Hall of Fame.

Lessons learned:

Call up someone you know and invite them over. When my kids were here for Thanksgiving, their favorite question was how to meet people. You have to go out to events and put on a brave face. My brother-in law now has me thinking, who should we be inviting over to spend time with us?

Other Fun:

We were able to run in the Soulard neighborhood and discovered several well-maintained homes and one with a restored car in front.

We hosted the family for Thanksgiving and did a family turkey run on a cold, wet Thursday morning The together time was fun and the run was a challenge because of the changing weather.

No family get together is complete without a disc golf outing. One of my sons had the best score.

We also had four generations of family together. That is a fun experience for all. Although I am not sure the youngest will remember the experience except with a picture like this one.  

When my kids were little, I made up a character to be an example in stories. His name was Fred McGurk. When running and walking in St. Louis we were happy to see the sign for McGurks. I am sure his brother is Fred. My sister-in-law tells me it is a good place and has great music.

McGurk’s

No bike rides on this short trip to town for a Christmas party.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Walking with Kids

For my wife and me, walking is something we look to do consistently for the benefit of our health and the health of our relationships. Our daily goal is to get out and walk two miles each day. We do not always make our goal, but we have found that when we do go for a walk, we feel good about it and we miss it when we do not go out for a walk.

We also enjoy walking with our adult kids, and this year we took a few fun walks with them where they live.

Walking in Charlotte, NC: 7 miles, about 1 mile per walk

We were able to walk the Charlotte Greenway, which is near where the kids live in Charlotte. The greenway is a great option as the paths are wide and easy to follow. We also took walks around their neighborhood.

Walking the Charlotte Greenway

Newport, Rhode Island: 5.5 miles of walking (one day tour)

We were excited to visit Newport, taking in the sights by walking around and going on a 90-minute boat ride. While we were in Newport, the weather was perfect and the walking was good.

In Newport we took advantage of the nearby Cliff Walk after our boat tour. The Cliff Walk is a National Recreation Trail in a National Historic District. It was a good hike and one that should be on a list to take from start to finish.

Along the walk we saw several mansions and beautiful ocean views. I was wondering what kind of wealth it took to build and maintain one of these mansions. Even today, some are still are offered for sale. We found that some belong to a local university. Another option to pay for the upkeep is to open to the public for tours.

Providence, Rhode Island: 13 miles of walking in and around the city. The city is vibrant and easy to walk. We enjoyed the people bridge and viewing the gondola boats on the water.

Colorado Springs, Colorado: 45 miles walking. The first time this year we came to Colorado Springs was to celebrate the birth of our newest grandchild. We spent about a month in total in Colorado over two trips. Baby, mom and dad are all doing well. We took several walks with and without our children and grandchild.    

Other walks:

St Louis Walking:

It is not just with kids, but parents as well as our kids. I was able to take a walk with my in-laws and one of my kids in St. Louis, visiting for a few days. It was great to have the family walking time in the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Boston walking:

I also enjoyed a long walk to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox with family. Always a good walk from the train station.

Lessons learned
Always be flexible. Find a path that works, and if you can find it on a nice warm day, an ice cream shop.

Take a detour or get off of the planned route. In Newport, we meandered and still saw most of the sites and had a great relaxing day of walking with our family.

Other Fun

Going to a baseball game with our grandchild at the beginning of the baseball season in Colorado.

First baseball game

Earlier this summer when I was in Providence, RI, they had the weekend Al Fresco outside dining on Federal Hill, which was very enjoyable. The next time we were in Providence, we caught the Columbus Day festival and enjoyed walking around with live music and terrific food from the local restaurants.

On the way to the Cliff Walk we stopped at an enormous rocking chair. Kids, will be kids.

As a follow-up to an earlier blog, he did ask and she said yes.

In addition to walking, I went running with two of my kids (and my wife). Three of us were able to run on the Charlotte Greenway and enjoy some family running time together.

My son and I ran in Providence and my wife and I also ran in Providence. Just not all three of us at the same time.

I was able to run the FCC Cincinnati 5k with my son and his friends.

No biking, just walking and running.

Biking on the East Coast

A vacation when I was younger almost always involved driving in a car somewhere. With a big family, it was the affordable option. Now, with kids in two separate cities on the east coast, we decided to drive (I have the time) and take our bikes so we could enjoy seeing our kids and riding bikes as well.  

On our east coast journey, we went biking on:

  • Parts of the Erie Canal Trail in New York
  • The East Bay Trail near Providence, RI
  • Parts of the Charlotte Greenway bike trail in Charlotte, NC

Biking along parts of the Erie Canal: 25 miles of riding split over two days, 6 miles in Medina, NY, and 18 near Rome, NY. The Erie Canal bike trail is 400 miles of trails around the canal.

Prior to COVID, we had been discussing biking all or parts of the Erie Canal. My wife learned the Erie Canal song as a child and sings it whenever we pass the Erie Canal in our car driving through New York state.

October is a great month to travel to New York state and into New England as the trees are colorful. The beauty of the area was not diminished by a little rain that fell on us before and sometimes during our bike ride. Wet leaves on wet trails makes the trail slippery for us—although we did enjoy our biking adventure.

We began our journey on the Erie Canal in Rome, NY. The trail that picks up in Rome is not as well marked as we would have liked. As a result, we also biked the Mohawk Trail that runs in Rome; it was easy to follow. We found out that the Mohawk Trail and the Erie Canal Trail merge, but we did not discover that on our first day of riding in New York.

We were directed on where to find the Erie Canal Trail. With the help of our host at the B&B, we found the start of the trail. We did not bike far enough toward the canal, but on the next day we found the trailhead for the ride from Rome toward Utica.

The lead up to the trail in Rome was a nice paved trail. Once we left Rome on the bike trail on the way toward Utica, we noticed that it did not look as well used with grass growing in the center of a wider path; it was better suited for gravel or mountain bikes and not our road bikes. We did ride a few miles on it anyway to see if it changed, but after a few miles of riding we determined it would not change soon enough for us. We knew up front that the trail was crushed gravel. We learned that not all parts of the trail are maintained well enough for a smooth road bike experience.  

We also biked on the Erie Canal Trail in Medina, NY. This trail was easier to find and the gravel was better maintained. We did not have any trouble riding out from Medina on the gravel trails and only turned back as we were driving home that day. We did not ride through the “Medina Culvert” the only tunnel that goes under the Canal, which was nearby. Our focus was on riding on the trail next to the Canal.

The views along the Erie Canal Trail were pretty. We especially enjoyed the views on the trail heading from Medina going toward Buffalo. The trail was one that stopped and ran on the road and then began again. We did not want to explore too much, so we stopped when the trail did and turned and went several miles the other direction.

Biking in Providence on the East Bay Path: 24 miles total, including a few finding the start of the trail. The trail length is 28 miles total (14 miles one way) and we stopped about 5 miles short of the end of the line for the bike path.

East Bay Trail

We followed the Bay Trail that starts at India Point Park in Providence, a really pretty section of Providence. The trail map we picked up from the local bike shop had us cross the Washington Bridge and then bike on 1st Street for a few blocks where the East Bay Bike Path began.

View on the East Bay Trail

The East Bay Bike path was well maintained and is asphalt all of the way that we went (about 9 miles one way on the trail). We had the perfect October day for a ride along the path.

The East Bay path was designed for our road bikes, it was well-marked and a pleasure to ride on. We met several other walkers and riders out enjoying the trail along the bay.

Biking in Charlotte on the Charlotte Greenway: 15 miles including a few side streets to see where they would go. The Greenway has about 50 miles of trails in various spots in and around the city. Prior to visiting Charlotte, we reviewed several maps of the Greenway. From the website it appeared they will be (someday) connected, although today they are several little bike trails.

I was able to bike the Greenway in Charlotte. The trails were well marked and had helpful maps. It was not until I got to visit one of the trails that I understood they really were not connected, and I was able to see the construction in progress.

I began the Greenway bike ride at the James Polk House, as I had seen the bike riders when I was last visiting the house. Too bad the museum and parking close at 5 PM leaving me to park outside of the gate to ensure I could get out and back to Charlotte.

The ride I took was only 7 miles one way. In my experience I have seen bikers being cavalier with construction. This was a hard stop at the end of this portion of the Greenway. I was encouraged that they are working on the Greenway and hope to come back and ride a longer stretch someday. 

Lessons Learned:

I have been a fan of trying the new trail and finding the path. Stopping at the local bike shop in Providence we found a great day trip bike ride, the East Bay Bike Trail with directions from the store. Thank you, Dash Bike Store.

We were able to find out about the Erie Canal Trail, advertised as crushed gravel and can now see for ourselves that if we take a bike tour in the future along the Erie Canal Trail, we will take a guided tour with their bikes and not ours as our road bikes are not the best on crushed gravel.

Other Fun

We stopped at the Dari Bee on the East Bay Bike Path for ice cream on a beautiful fall day. The Dairy Bee looks like it had been in place for a long time and the ice cream tasted really good. We were happy they were open during the week in October.

We ate several great meals in Providence, RI; every restaurant we went to was a good one. In Rome, NY, we ate one meal out and it was a wonderful dinner at DeSalvo’s Restaurant on James Street. I would stop in again to eat here. Biking builds a healthy appetite.

Martha’s Vineyard Bike Ride

What better adventure could you take than to wake up in Rhode Island on a beautiful summer day and decide to head over to Martha’s Vineyard for a day of bike riding. Staying with one of my kids in Rhode Island, I drove to the Rhode Island Fast Ferry to begin my journey of traveling to Martha’s Vineyard, starting with a cruise on the water and an all-day bike ride.  

All went smoothly, including the parking and bringing my bike on the boat. The boat left on time both ways and they appropriately encouraged us to be early as the boat was not hanging around. On the boat I sat on the exposed deck, which was a good choice for me. The benefit to sitting outside was the view, the sun and only having to wear a mask for part of the journey.

Just sitting down for the journey

The views from the deck on the sunny summer day were enjoyable during the 95-minute ride to Martha’s Vineyard. The ride was smooth and the temperature was pleasant. I rode outside and met several nice people on both legs of the journey.

I received a few hints on how and where to bike ride on Martha’s Vineyard from others who had ridden on the island. I was winging my route and appreciated the assist as I was in uncharted territory having never been to the island before this trip.

My “kit” for the day consisted of a back pack with my essential biking gear. I dressed in my biking shirt for the ride over, bringing along some water and snacks. I also know that despite the beautiful warm day, the open water can get cool, so I had a light weight jacket for the journey as well. The backpack, with a bike lock and a few discs for disc golf, worked and was easy to carry on my bike. I did receive several fun comments from Michigan State fans and those that do not necessarily care for my school.

A day to wear the school colors

One of my destinations was the lighthouse in Edgartown. I had already stopped for coffee and orientation after finding the bike path suggested by a few locals. From the ferry landing in Oak Bluffs, I went south along the beach road and bike path into Edgartown. Unlike Mackinac Island, this island has a lot of traffic. The bike path took me most of the way, although I did alternate between the road and the path.

I enjoyed the views from the lighthouse and walking on the beach. It was a great day to hang out at the beach. I am glad to have packed the bike lock and a pair of tennis shoes in the backpack as I ride with special shoes for my road bike pedals. Walking is so much easier without the special bike shoes.

The host at the lighthouse was helpful by providing me with a tourist map and showing on that map the location of the course. I was happy to have run into someone at the lighthouse who knew where the island’s disc golf course was located. The disc golf course is near the airport; I was able to take a bike path from West Tisbury to Barnes Road. These paths were well maintained and easy to follow.

All told I rode about 25 miles during the day and only got turned around a few times trying to make it back to the ferry on time from the airport.  My travel was a triangle from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown and up to the center of the island to play disc golf and back to the ferry landing.

The day spent riding on Martha’s Vineyard was fun.  On the ride back, thinking about the island made me wonder who lives in these magnificent homes along the water and how do they get along in the winter? I can see why, at least for the summer, people flock to Martha’s Vineyard.

Lessons Learned

Be friendly and everyone will be friendly to you. I had to stop and ask for directions back to the ferry in Oak Bluffs and found I was heading, as I suspected, the wrong direction. It was really great to have a trail to follow. Too bad I was unfamiliar with the landmarks and names along the routes on the interior of the island. Good for me people were so helpful.

Final ride for a perfect day on Martha’s Vineyard

This is the kind of place I should bring my wife and plan to spend a few days exploring. We can ride bikes together and relax on the beach. It would be fun to do, next summer.

Other Fun

I was able to send postcards from the island back home. It was easy to find the cards and the shop assistant directed me to the post office next door.

Ice cream always tastes good on a summer day, even better on an island after biking.

Bikes getting ready for the Ferry ride home

A Sampling of the World’s Best Disc Golf Courses

We all have the stereotype, retire and play golf every day. That is not me, although I have made no secret that I enjoy playing disc golf. My kids all know that on road trips we often would “find” a disc golf course near the highway that we could stop at and stretch our legs and play a few baskets. In college, way back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I played with friends as a diversion–the object being to hit, with a frisbee, pre-selected landmarks like dorm walls and trees on campus.

I read an article this summer attesting to the best disc golf courses not just in America but in the world. Well, I wondered if I had ever played any of them. In a recent drive up to Rhode Island I was able to tackle the top course in the world with one of my kids; I also found out that I live near the #9 course in the world.

Here are the article’s current top 10 that I played in 2021:

1. Maple Hill in Leicester, Massachusetts 

My favorite course has to be the number one course, Maple Hill. My son paid for the round and we played the old glory course following the red, white and blue tee pads. It was challenging; I did lose one disc on the course, not in the many water opportunities to lose it but in the pine trees.

I was able to play Maple hill twice this year on two separate trips, one with my son, and one with my wife where I played just the red (or easiest course layout) tees. Both were great experiences and I can see, based on my travels, why this is the number one course. It has water, hills, clear direction between holes and is well maintained. I have not felt rushed or pushed to play on this course due to their reservation system. The pro shop was great and they were able to quickly retrieve my disc that I lost in August.

If you play disc golf and are in Massachusetts, it is well worth taking the trip over to play. Playing in mid-October, we were able to experience all of the colors. We had a perfect day to see the reflections off of the ponds and just enjoy the hike through the woods.

7. The Diavolo Disc Golf Course at New Hope Park in Cary, North Carolina

It was pouring rain on me when I ended my round in Cary, NC. This course is free and open to the public to play. Some of the holes were bunched up, but since I was alone, I was able to play quickly and go around any groups.

This is a beautifully maintained course and it was also diverse and challenging. Although I lost a disc here to the water, the course was well marked. It was easy to find the holes, always a good sign for me of the quality of the course.

9. Idlewild in Burlington, Kentucky

I have played this course several times over the years, and it is challenging for someone with my talent (or lack of talent…). The opening tee shot is over 600 feet, which is long, as I can throw about 200 feet on a good day. With Idlewild it is hard not to play all 24 baskets and spend about 3 hours playing this course.

Now that I have read the article and played the courses, I agree with the ranking I have seen. My criteria for the best courses include:

  • Fun and challenging.
  • Hills so I can have a beautiful long downhill shot.
  • Trees for shade, and generally I like wooded areas.
  • Open sections so I can find my discs.
  • Options for experienced and beginners on the same course.
  • I prefer a free course but will pay for a well-maintained challenging course.

All told I have played this year in seven states (MA, RI, NC, KY, IN, AR, MI). A good year. I only lost a few discs and have come away with uniformly good impressions not just of the ratings supplied on the courses but how friendly everyone is on the disc golf course. 

Lessons learned:

Disc golf is better with someone. A friend of mine plays the local courses with me near where I live and I have played with two of my kids this summer and all of them in the past. My wife has joined me for a round or two even though it is not as enjoyable for her as it is for me. My future son-in-law enjoys playing and recently received new discs that should improve his game and make it so I cannot beat any of my kids and their spouses.

Take a look at the listing of courses on the way and stop and enjoy a new course. I have a few more stops to make along the way for my next adventure thanks to the article, and I will look forward to playing at some of the best disc golf courses in North American.

Other fun:

The only ace I have ever made was that course in Michigan, and that was only because the basket was 4 feet from the tee pad and no directions were given.

I was able to play rounds with my wife, my friends, two of my kids and my future son-in-law and his grandfather as well as with my father-in-law and my wife’s siblings. My mom joined me on one of the courses in Arkansas, so it has been a family fun experience.

I made it a point to stop at the BC3 Disc golf course (#47 on the top 100 listing) and was not disappointed. They even had a large tool that could be used to pull discs out of the water. I did not need it, but it was nice to see the tool. The course itself was hard to find on some back roads. I had the course to myself and enjoyed the layout.

I have played some really good tee shots, including one that landed next to the basket in Nashville, IN. It would have sailed past, except I hit a tree and it landed within a foot of the basket.

Best Tee Shot of the year for me

I won’t talk about my poorly thrown shots. I need some more practice sessions.

I played on one island, Martha’s Vineyard, and could have played on Mackinac Island except they had bad reviews. Besides, we had other fun activities planned for that adventure. 

I enjoyed playing Martha’s Vineyard’s disc golf course. Yes—I placed a couple of discs in my back pack before leaving for the island so I could play during my day on Martha’s Vineyard.

I turned a wedding dress shopping day into a disc golf day with my future son-in-law and his grandfather.

In addition to the courses above, this summer found me playing out of state at:

Slater Park in Rhode Island

Eager Beaver at Elon Park, North Carolina

  • A few former golf courses:
    • North Cove Disc Golf, Marion, NC — a really nice course in the mountains on a former ball golf course. It was misting and the course was wet, but it was a fun course to play. I did have the course to myself as the weather did not encourage the locals to come out to play. Fortunately, the course was well marked and I only got turned around once looking for the tee box. The last hole (#18) was memorable as you throw to the roaring creek and then across the creek to the basket. I was fortunate that I cannot throw in one shot all the way to the creek, so laying up was not an issue.

Branch wood DGC, Arkansas, is near my mom’s house and is on a former 9-hole ball golf course that I have played with others in the past. I lost a disc in the woods here, and was able to turn in someone else’s disc that I found in looking for mine. It is a long course; the people playing appeared to really like the course.

No bike rides in this posting. I have been riding, just not while playing disc golf!

Day Tripping Mackinac Island

A few years ago, my wife and I biked on Washington Island in Wisconsin. This year, we biked Mackinac Island. If you have not biked on an Island, even better an island without any cars, it is a fun treat. We did not take our bikes to Mackinac Island as we thought we would have a better time with rental bikes for just a half day of riding. It was a good choice for us.

Every journey to the Island involves a boat ride. We had an enjoyable ride and were dressed for the cool weather on the lake. In the past we have had to purchase sweatshirts after arriving on the island, so we knew what to expect and were prepared for the winds on a cool northern Michigan day in the middle of summer.

Our first stop in town was renting some bikes and getting them set for the exploration. It was cool when we arrived, but the day warmed up and was enjoyable. We were happy they included water bottles and helmets with the bike rentals along with a good map of the island for biking.

We would have circumnavigated the island, except a part was closed for repairs. We did get as far both ways as we could. We also rode on the interior of the island, more akin to hiking or mountain bike trails that made us happier to have rented the island bikes.

Our first ride was to Arch Rock as the road was closed after this point. We decided to get off the bikes and climb to the top of the rock up several stairs.

Ride to Arch Rock

When we got back to the bikes, we noted that from the road we also had a great view up to the Arch Rock formation.

After viewing Arch Rock from above and below, we biked over to the British Landing, an easy ride on Lake Shore Boulevard, State Highway M-185, that wraps around the entire island.  This was the other road closure point, preventing us from the 8-mile loop on M-185.  

With the road construction and after exploring the British Landing, we needed to find out where we wanted to go. We decided to bike the interior of the island. We headed to the interior of the Island from the center of town as the Landing Road posted no bikes (my guess is the hill is too steep for most bikers). From the center of town, we biked past the Grand Hotel and the Fort ending on Arch Rock trail. We followed the Arch Rock trail toward the airport where we saw the crack in the Island and then back to town for lunch and a change of pace to walking.

Our walking tour was after lunch. The whole town was in full bloom and it was good seeing how many other people were out enjoying the island.

All in all, we saw a lot on the island. I had not recalled seeing the miniature Statue of Liberty on the island. It has been there since before I was born, so it must have been present. We had all been to the island before and were amazed at how full the shops were in summer.

We have spent the night on the island and it is worth the experience. The island has a different feeling once the last ferry boat leaves. A one-day visit was all we needed to get refreshed and enjoy the beautiful island between Michigan’s two peninsulas. After a perfect day exploring the island, we got back on the boat for the lake crossing.  

On the boat ride back from the Island

Lessons learned:

A family bike ride on a vacation island is not a race; the pace is designed to take in all of the scenery that I would not normally see on some of my rides. As I look back to my normal routes, this was by far the prettiest of the summer, being surrounded by the Great Lakes and the view of the Mackinaw Bridge.

Other fun:

We brought back fudge, still the best I have tasted since I remember going to the island to eat fudge as a kid.

We sent a picture of the fort to our oldest as the memory of “shooting” off a cannon at the fort would still be a pleasant memory. They now offer, for a fee, the ability to load and fire the cannon. We did not visit inside the fort as we had done so many times before.

No cars and a lot of fun biking the Island

Michigan State Travels

Last year I participated in the virtual Big Ten, 10K run. This year we planned a trip to Michigan that coincided with the week for the same virtual run and one of my kids suggested I run on the campus of Michigan State. It was a great idea and allowed me to celebrate my 40th anniversary of graduating from Michigan State University.

The focus of the travel was spending time with family, at a family cabin we were at last in 2004 with our kids. It was very relaxing to be on the water and go kayaking on the lake before or after the speed boat time.

We did get into town and visited Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery and did some bike riding on the trails near Traverse City. The weather was summer perfect and we enjoyed the time with family.

After the family time we took a few days for ourselves in Ludington riding bikes on the local bike trail and playing some disc golf as well as walking along the beach. We really enjoyed our bike ride on the William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail State Park. Quite a mouthful of a name and a very pretty ride. This is a linear state park, meaning it is just the 22-mile trail and no camping or other items that may be associated with state parks.

Ludington was a town I went to as a kid to celebrate my birthday over Memorial Day for several years. I remember they always had a parade and the sand dunes were fun to climb. We enjoyed walking around the town and the free concert in town the Saturday we arrived.

Other fun:

I met up with some of my college friends and their wives in Michigan at the location where my grandparents had their 50th wedding anniversary. The place has changed ownership and is now a restaurant, but it was on the same “ball” golf course.

Hard to believe it has been 40 years since graduation with these guys.

We were able to join in with my friends and see Chicago in concert at what we called Pine Knob as kids. The outdoor music concert in the DTE Energy Music Center was fun and the first concert I had been to since COVID started.   

After our bike ride, we were able to play disc golf on the Hart Hydro course in Heart, Michigan. We did not find all of the holes correctly but had a good time playing this pretty well marked course. My wife and I both threw an Ace on a hole playing disc golf in a poorly marked, but entertaining course in Ludington, Michigan.

Lessons learned:

Enjoy the ride; you never know what will happen. We went on the Heart trail, and after over 30 miles of riding we were told a tree was down on the path. We were fortunate the winds did not pick a time when anyone was walking or riding by at the time it fell. It was odd to have to lift our bikes to get back on the path. We are always thankful to return safely.

Know what you want and pursue that path. I was able to go disc golfing after playing “ball” golf with my relatives. I asked if they would play disc golf with me and to my surprise they agreed. We had a fun time on a challenging course for all of us playing disc golf in Michigan. I plan to play disc golf much more than I ever plan to play “ball” golf.

Enjoy the time, be friendly and check the store hours. We biked on the Heart trail; prior to our visit we read about being sure to stop for ice cream at the Country Dairy about ½ way along the trail. They are not open on Sundays. As we happened along, we met a person who could only be an owner or a manager. She let us in to purchase some delicious ice cream as they were planning for a private party that Sunday. When getting back home and looking at the website, it was clear they are not open on Sundays.

Country Dairy–The ice cream was great

Prelude to a Proposal

We went out to see our daughter in North Carolina. We were supposed to get together with her and her boyfriend earlier but COVID got in the way. This was the next best opportunity for all of us.

One of the reasons for the visit was so her boyfriend could ask my permission to ask her for her hand in marriage. My job, knowing what was coming, was to find out if he will take care of my daughter and that he is the man to do it. Spoiler alert—I gave my blessing and I trust the proposal will have occurred by the time this is published. We did manage a 9-mile hike in the South Mountain State Park in North Carolina. We began hiking together on the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail and really enjoyed the 80 foot high waterfall. The weather was perfect and we had a good view of the falls from the trail.

Other fun On our hike with my prospective son-in-law, we were talking and having fun and not paying attention to a map. As a result we went on the Saddleback equestrian trail.

When we had to take off our shoes and socks to wade across the river as no bridge could be found up and down the river bank, we should have turned around, except we were already 6 miles into our hike. No bridge, no big deal in August. But when the river is running in the spring it is a bigger deal. Here is the trail description from the website—wish I had read it prior to setting off: “The trail crosses the Jacob Fork River and ascends to Raven Rock Trail. This narrow trail is single track for horseback riders.”

We were able to visit some friends of ours in South Carolina, just south of the boarder. The visit was fun, and as he is a bee keeper we were able to enjoy local honey. They raise bees on their property and it is quite the operation. Check out his site: https://bigbeedaddy.blog/blog-feed/

Lessons learned:

Next time, read the guide prior to setting off on the hike! Review and follow a planned hiking route.

Staying at a hotel for the first time in a while was a good experience. We had contactless check in and out and my smartphone served as our key. It was simple. Even breakfast was a go bag and it was easy for us to move about. People were enjoying the pool and the lobby as well.

Being ready to answer a question makes you a poor conversationalist. A 9-mile hike with getting to know a prospective son-in-law makes me a worse communicator. I appreciate his respect for me and my daughter that he wanted to ask, and I am excited to welcome him to our family.

No bike rides on this trip. The bike is all tuned up and ready to go once the weather cooperates.

Happy Holiday from Shawnee State Park

The weather outside was not too frightful. We decided we would spend a few days at the end of December hiking in Shawnee State Park. The park is next to Shawnee State Forest located at the eastern edge of Ohio at the beginning of the Appalachian Mountains.

During Covid-19 as our traveling has been limited. A close by state park with over 60 miles of hiking trails sounded to us like just what we needed. So we packed up the car and headed to the hills.

I have long defined vacation as doing something different. This was a wonderful getaway. Hiking out in the woods is not our normal walk around the block.

The drive to the park was pleasant and it had snowed in Ohio right before Christmas. No snow where we live, but as we got closer to the Appalachian Mountains, more snow and colder weather were evident. We were only at over 600 feet above sea level at the start of our hikes and did make it over 1,000 feet above sea level on occasion. Ohio’s highest point is 1,550 feet above sea level so we were not at the peak in Ohio hiking on this trip.

We had several pleasant hikes in the State Forest and the State Park. All of the trails were well marked and the paths easy to follow. The weather was close to freezing. At times we wished it was below freezing because the paths were muddy, especially dangerous when you are not paying attention to the fallen leaves on downhill trails. We did fall once and it was no big deal. We were careful.

I think our favorite hike was the hike around the lake. We had great views and yes, part of the lake was frozen. This was a good all day hike. We even stopped for lunch (that we carried in) and enjoyed the scenery.

We started our adventure with the simple lookout trail that is near the lodge. It was an easy mile or so hike.

The hiking trails and the entrance to both the State Park and Forest were free. We hiked several miles in the park. The long hike was too long for our visit in December and will have to wait for another time. We did hike several trails and see the disk golf course, which looks very challenging. The trails benefited from the CCC workers and they did good work in this park. It is amazing to me that after so much time the work that was done is still in use and serviceable.

The lodge inside the park was richly decorated for the season and the rooms were pleasant. We enjoyed the more than 50 Christmas trees on display inside the lodge. The local garden clubs assist with the decorating and it either took a lot of people or a lot of time.

Other Fun We managed to have a wonderful shake at the Cruisers Diner in Seaman, Ohio. We drove by on the way to the park and could not resist the building on the way back.

I will be excited when the sign on the door no longer requires a mask inside. It was not an issue, just saying, like the rest of America is saying, let’s get this COVID-19 behind us and move on with life.

Lessons learned

Go out and do something different. People were at the parks. Not too many on the trails with us as it was cold. We were happy to see others out enjoying the Lodge, and I am sure the employees were as well. We felt like we were away and yet we had not gone too far.

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