Confessions of a Retirement Traveling Disc Golfer
Retirement for some means moving to a year-round location that caters to hitting a white round ball for fun and enjoyment playing, as some in the disc golf community call it, “ball golf.” I took traditional ball golf lessons when I worked for a bank and I enjoyed playing on country club courses with clients. I know people who love ball golf and have made the move to be able to play year around, and they are quite happy doing it.
For me, disc golf is a happy sideline to the other things I am doing while retired. Finding courses on my travels is good enough. I find it enjoyable to get out on a walk and throw a disc for a few hours. I do not have to live on or near a course or join a prestigious club to play disc golf. The entry fee at most courses is free; the discs cost about $25 or, when purchased used, even less. My joy comes from playing with my friends and family, as well as finding new courses to play.
Last year I wrote about sampling some of the best courses for disc golf in the world. I have been playing disc golf off and on for years. On a road trip about 20 years ago, a co-worker suggested we play a course near the DFW airport as we finished up and had several hours prior to our flight. I still have the disc I purchased that day and used for the entire round. I have been looking for courses to play ever since.
I am not a professional player, or even very good. I enjoy smaller, “easier” courses to the high-power technical courses. I had the opportunity to play over 100 times in 2022, here are my highlights:
- My first Ace, a one throw into the basket from the tee pad in North Carolina at the Haywood Community College Disc Golf Course.
- I played rounds in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas, Kansas, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Missouri.
- Played rounds in every month in 2022, and my longest streak of rounds was unexpected, playing the first eleven days of November due to the beautiful weather.
- Played a glow in the dark tournament at my “home” disc golf course.
- Played rounds with all of my family (okay—not the 18-month-old) and friends. As a special treat for me, I also played with my new son-in-law as well as his groomsmen prior to the wedding.
I use the UDisc app on my phone to keep track of the score, as well as to track the location of the next pin when I am playing on a new course. My best round was at the Haywood Community College Course and Briar Creek Park with a score of one under par for 9 holes. My worst round was at Idlewild DGC, a 31 over par for 24 holes.
Disc Golfing in Kentucky:
I live near one of the top disc golf courses in the world, Idlewild DGC, and rarely play it due to its difficulty for my (lack of) ability. My “home” course, the one with the most rounds recorded, is Boone Woods, a friendly mid-level course with some technical shots. Since I cannot throw more than 200 feet (225 downhill!) the course is a good challenge for me.
I have now convinced two of my bike riding buddies to join me in playing disc golf. More time on the course has improved all of our results, and we get time together learning, practicing and playing rounds.
This year in October my disc golfing buddies and I played in the 2022 Disc ‘n Dat Day Glow event. We had a lot of fun. I had never played “glow” disc golf before. We played a random draw tournament, meaning, I was paired with a good player, or he was paired with me…
The night “glow” round was better than I could have hoped for. I purchased a glow in the dark disc and we had stickers that glowed to place on the discs we owned. The flights of the discs in the dark were cool to view and, in some ways, the glowing discs were easier to find. My team (my partner) ended the night way under par; “we” ended up in third place overall. We all had fun at the event and may do this event again next year.
I have played a few other Kentucky courses, including Lincoln Ridge Park which is one of the Northern Kentucky favorite courses (currently ranked #4 course in the state). As I was planning on driving past the Wendell Moore Disc Golf Course in La Grange, KY ranked #5 in the state, I stopped and played.
Disc Golfing at E-Town was a good find at the Freeman Lake DGC. We were able to play this course while waiting for our oldest to arrive in Kentucky prior to attending training at Fort Knox. The course has 3 challenging water holes that I do not like, as I do not like to lose discs. Overall, it is a good and challenging course. I managed to play this course a few times.
On the way back home from the Smoky Mountains, we stopped at Briar Creek Park and played a round of disc golf. This is a short course, perfect for a short thrower like me. This course was a good spot for a picnic as well as stretching the legs after driving for a while.
Disc Golfing in North Carolina
One of my typical ideas on a road trip is to take a break from driving by taking a walk. What better than to take that walking break and combine it with disc golf? We needed a break while driving from Kentucky to North Carolina; I found the Haywood Community College Disc Golf course near the North Carolina border with Tennessee. This is the course that I threw my first Ace (or “hole in one”). Everyone who plays disc golf wants to get an ace.
It was good to have a witness to vouch for me that I did throw an ace shot on this round. My wife will confirm my ace shot, and I am so happy to have had her there to share in the moment. We could not see the basket from the tee pad, but we did hear the metal clang as the disc landed (we hoped) in the basket.
Eager Beaver at Elon Park is a course in Charlotte. I used this venue to play disc golf with the groomsmen and the groom prior to the wedding.
Disc Golfing in Tennessee
What do you want to do for your birthday? How about a round of disc golf in Tennessee. We played the Cedar Hill Park DGC outside of Nashville on our way to our niece’s wedding.
Winds of Westover—I played this course in Jackson, TN, on the road between Memphis and the Andrew Jackson home, the Hermitage. It is a fun course, but unfortunately it did not have cement tee pads. Dirt works, as it was dry. The layout was tricky for a guy new to the course; I made a few mistakes and had to go back and start again for the correct basket. The map was good but I failed to consult the map as I should have.
Disc Golfing in Mississippi
Our niece got married near Ole Miss. We had fun exploring the area. And we played some disc golf since we were in Oxford. The first course we played, The Ole Miss Rebel DGC, has a strange layout; it was hard for us to find the start of the course. We did find the course from where we parked and were, unfortunately, near the halfway point; we eventually found the first tee box way across the field.
After playing a technical course on our first day, we switched to the family friendly 9-hole course that we played twice, the oldest or first disc golf course in Mississippi, T.E. Avent Park. My sister and brother-in law as well as one of our kids joined us to play. Mr. Joe, as we like to call our brother-in-law, had fun playing some of the holes. Disc golf is a friendly game and all are welcome to play.
Disc Golfing in Arkansas
I have played courses in Arkansas. On the road to see my mom, I stopped to play Cline Park, Clarksville, AR. The course has a lot of water. I should not have played right after it rained nearby. I did find all of my discs, although I had to rescue one from the water.
Disc Golfing in Gorgia Gascoigne Bluff DGC was a fun excursion on our bike ride travels in the Golden Isles. The Bluff is a historically significant spot and we enjoyed playing under the live oak trees.
Forrest Hills DGC Savannah was a short, 9-hole course we played in-between rain storms. We had timed the play well and did not get wet while playing.
Disc Golfing in Illinois
I played The Oaks DGC in Mokena, Illinois, the #5 course in the state and the closest one to the Big Ten 10k location. This was a well-designed course. My oldest and I only played the first 18 holes. It has more. It was interesting hearing some of the players on the course discussing the Idlewild Open Disc Golf Tournament going on while we were playing in Illinois, having driven by that course on our way out of town.
Disc Golfing in Missouri
On the way back from visiting my mom, I stopped in Springfield and played the Oak Grove Park 9-hole course. I ended up playing this course twice as it did not take too much time to play once.
Disc Golfing in Indiana
I really liked the course in Ferdinand (18th Street Park). It was just off highway 64, on my route home and was a fun, hilly 9-hole course. It was easy to find my way around this course, on exit 63.
Disc Golfing in Massachusetts
I did play Maple Hill, the number one world course, again in 2022. It is such a super course and even the easy (red) layout is challenging as well fun to play. I also played at Borderland State Park, a technical course, using the state park discs to play after we had spent a morning running.
Disc Golfing in Rhode Island
My two oldest joined me for a fun day at Slater Park playing disc golf.
Disc Golfing in New York
We stopped to stretch our legs in Chittenango, New York, and play disc golf in Sullivan Park. This was a good course. We did get confused on the layout, which I am sure is easy to do for us out of town disc golfers.
Disc Golfing in Kansas
I stopped on our recent travels from Colorado for a break to play a round of disc golf at Rice Park in Topeka, KS. I do not think the locals at the senior center know that a disc golf course is nearby based on the reactions I got when asking where the start of the course was located. It was a good course to play in the middle of a road trip.
I am following the advice of the pros and taking note of several YouTube videos to improve my play. I am currently following Scott Stokely on YouTube and have learned a lot by the way he is able to explain several simple concepts.
I enjoy looking at the rankings of the top courses by state and have played some of these courses. I have also enjoyed finding shorter, 9-hole courses, and will look for more of them as I travel in 2023.
The benefit of playing in public parks is that a lot of disc golf is free. Sometimes the holes or the courses are closed due to tournaments and other events going on in the park. You have to take the good and the bad.
In 2022, I was able to enjoy a round or two with all of my kids. This is something special for us retired guys!
Having convinced one of my friends to play, we were able to team up on another friend and now the three of us play frequently. It is great to have others share in the experience, and of course we can witness great shots being made.
No bike rides; this is disc golf.
On the Move, Helping Kids Move
Last year I assisted in moving one of my kids up to New England. This year again found me assisting a move to New England, for our oldest and his family. I am happy to say that in both cases a professional moving company did the actual move. My involvement was only driving a car and a moving a few boxes once the movers left.
After my oldest asked if I could help out on their move, I looked up the total one-way driving time from Colorado to Massachusetts. It is over 32 hours and about 2,100 miles. Some of the travel was just me in the car, following my oldest across the country, and part was driving from Kentucky with our grandson and my wife to the new home. And of course, the 14-hour, 900-mile drive back home and any driving along the way to see friends and family.
This adventure started with me landing at the Colorado Springs airport as my grandson and daughter-in-law were getting ready to fly to Kentucky. Good parents that they are, they do not want to have their child sitting in a car for the entire drive from Colorado to Massachusetts.
I feel like I just made this drive back in January 2022. When you think you know your plans for the next month, I was unexpectantly was looking forward to driving across Kansas again this year. In any case, I was happy to find myself flying to Colorado so that I could drive back to the east coast and spend time with family.
The timing of the airplanes was wonderful; too bad the movers were not finished with the packing in Colorado. Our original plan was for me to fly in, load the car and begin driving. I was able to take advantage of time in Colorado as the movers were delayed in finishing their packing.
On the weekend, instead of waiting for the movers to show up on Monday, my son and I were excited to hike Brown’s Creek Trail in the San Isabel National Forest. The views from Brown Lake at the top were wonderful. It was a 12-mile hike with over 2,400 feet in elevation gain. The waterfall is a picturesque spot to stop and take some refreshment, which is just what we did.
In Colorado, you just never know when it might rain or thunderstorm. On the way down from Brown Lake we did get rained on a little bit; we ran down some of the trail in case in the higher elevations it became bad. I am so glad to get another big hike in on the mountains in Colorado. Thank you to Anna for finding this terrific hike and driving us to the mountain and back.
The three of us hikers stopped at Buena Vista, Colorado, for dinner on our way back to Colorado Springs. This is a charming town on the Arkansas River with all the surrounding mountains making for great views while enjoying dining outdoors.
The move was again delayed; my son and I did not leave until Tuesday when I was originally expecting to leave on the prior Saturday. With an extra day in the Colorado Springs area, I was able to visit one of my favorite attractions, the Garden of the Gods. Even in the rain, I enjoyed walking along the peaks and the colorful rocks.
The other thing I did while waiting for the movers to finish up was playing disc golf at Cumberland Green, in Colorado Springs, a good beginner course. I managed to play three rounds while visiting for four days.
We finally got on the road, in the rain, late on Tuesday afternoon. We spent one night in Hayes, Kansas, and the next day I stopped in Topeka, Kansas, to play some disc golf and stretch my legs allowing my son to sleep in and catch up with me in his car when I finished my round.
My son and I arrived in Kentucky and had a few days together with our grandson and our daughter-in-law. It was fun to relax and make plans for the next leg of the journey. Our son and his wife needed to begin work (glad to be retired!) and prepare to receive the movers, which is best done without an 18-month-old in tow. Grandma and Grandpa enjoyed our alone time with our grandson prior to driving out to meet the parents now settled and working in Massachusetts.
While the family from Colorado was here, our recently married daughter came up to work from our home and spend time with all of us. We had a fun family challenge of running while everyone was here. Most of us are not too fast, but we all enjoy being active.
After about a week alone with our grandson, it was time for us to leave Kentucky and drive up to Massachusetts. Driving with a young child, we needed to take advantage of his time asleep and get him moving to sleep again in the car. Our grandson responded well to the car ride and stops we made.
Our first stop, about 4 hours from the house, was the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We had driven by this park several times without noticing it. It was a fun stop and picnic. Just the right amount of walking around and energy release for an 18-month-old to explore. The rangers even indulged us by making him a junior ranger. When I was younger, the Cuyahoga River was best known for catching on fire. It has now been cleaned up and the biking path here looks like a fun path for us to take in the future.
When we arrived at the new place in Massachusetts, we were not surprised that the moving trucks were not coming as soon as planned. We took advantage of our three weeks waiting to explore the area and catch up with family and friends.
Some of our highlights from exploring New England include biking, running, hiking and playing disc golf. We were able to enjoy several state parks in Massachusetts that we had not visited when we lived there.
Our oldest was nice enough to give us some running tips. I know he has collected several since running on the high school cross country team and being in the Army. We learned a lot and hope to improve our running as a result of the private lessons.
Our Massachusetts park stops included:
Borderland where we ran and hiked trails as well as sampled the disc golf course.
Massasoit State Park where our grandson loved to play on the playground and we were able to get in a lot of hiking.
Boyden Wildlife Refuge where we took a few of our hikes. We enjoyed exploring here as it was near where the kids now live.
Dighton Rock State Park where we enjoyed biking to and from the park. We did the tour and saw the rock, which was exciting for us but not too much to look at.
We took a few different roads to go to Dighton Rock. Our favorite was a less traveled road that has a sign for the Pan Mass challenge; we have friends who rode in that event.
On the other side of the Taunton River from Dighton Rock is Sweets Knoll State Park. This place from the outside looks like a private residence. This is an interesting park, pretty and not too developed. One of the trails ends at the railroad bridge from where we think we can see Dighton Rock State Park. It has the promise of future funding to make connections with other state parks.
During our three-week stay, we also biked on the nearby trails.
We rode on the Assabet River Rail Trail starting in Marlborough. Years ago, I played in a band during the dedication of the trail. It is always fun to come back and ride on this trail, although it is not yet connected the way the organizers dream it will connect sometime in the future. We did enjoy riding over 11 miles total from Marlborough through to the adjoining town of Hudson and back again.
We took a ride on the Blackstone River Valley bike path, starting in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. This is another partially finished trail, with plans in the future to connect bike paths. We enjoyed the 11 completed miles and rode for over 21 miles. The parts that are completed are scenic and fun to ride.
We completed the East Bay Bike Path, Rhode Island, that we started last year. This year we rode from near the end to Bristol, riding roundtrip over 20 miles compared to the ride last year of about 24 miles.
We were able to get together in Rhode Island for some disc golf with family. It is always good to see the oldest two get competitive.
Eventually the movers made it to the new place. We took a few days to help the kids unload their possessions, enjoyed having a table to eat at and use plates and utensils, the small stuff that makes the house a home.
We were excited to be back home, although we miss being with our grandson, and our kids.
We learned long ago that when our kids want us to be involved, it is good to say yes. So, we went on this journey moving across country for almost a month.
Happiness is found where we are. It does not come when some date or event occurs. It is what we do all the time. Maintaining a happy state is easy for us, being retired and hanging out with our kids and grandchild. Imagine that the movers are late coming to your new house as they were in packing up the former place. Also, imagine that the new place is being renovated and you do not have many toys for the grandchild and only a couple of dishes and an air mattress or two. We can; this was our life for a few weeks as we waited for the moving van to show up so we could help unpack prior to going back home. It was fun, and we kept reminding ourselves that we were having fun being with the people we wanted to be with.
We had a fun stop for ice cream after the Blackstone River Trail. We managed to find Wright’s Dairy in Rhode Island. As the sign says “RI’s only cow to cone ice cream.” It was delicious!
We went with the family to Newport Beach, Rhode Island, and after we were tired of the water, we took the cliff walk.
A friend from Marlborough drove out to give us a bridge clinic, have some dinner and caught up on things. We had seen him at our daughter’s wedding and it was good to have a less formal setting (borrowed chairs and a card table) to get together.
I had a visit from a former co-worker, making his way to Boston for business, who stopped by to visit and see the house prior to furniture. The East Coast is a good place to reconnect with friends and family.
We rode for about 140 miles while visiting in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Visiting—Andrew Jackson’s Home–The Hermitage
We noticed the signs for the Andrew Jackson home on our way to and from our niece’s wedding. We did not have the time on that trip to explore, so I planned this trip as a result. One of the many joys of retirement is being able to pick up and visit fun places.
I enjoy reading history. A long time ago I read the Andrew Jackson biography. Earlier this year, on our way through Nashville, I noticed the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home. Being retired, I planned a trip to visit the home for the seventh president of the United States. As a bonus, I listened to the audio book recording of Andrew Jackson and The Miracle of New Orleans, read by the author. This is a really good book and one to get you into the mood when visiting the house. Several of the museum artifacts are about topics covered in this book. One of the fun facts that I learned on the tour was that the Hermitage is the second oldest presidential museum outside of Mt. Vernon, in part because the Jackson’s adopted son went bankrupt about 11 years after Andrew Jackson’s death.
I took the Mansion tour; it was really well done. No pictures in the house were allowed, but you can see a glimpse of the inside on the YouTube video on the Hermitage website. The place was interesting. I think a tour on a day other than a Saturday would be at a more leisurely pace. It was good to see the guides in costume. They were all knowledgeable and well spoken.
Nearby the Hermitage is Stones River, the Civil War battlefield site at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I did a quick visit here, although spending more time is on the agenda for a future visit. The battle at Stones River follows the battle in Kentucky at Perryville, a site that I visited in 2019 with my friends. As anticipated, the battlefield was too much to see or take in on one afternoon.
I purchased my ticket on-line prior to my visit. This was good as several of the tours were sold out when I arrived. Also, in purchasing the ticket I realized the Hermitage is on Central Time and I am on Eastern Time.
I had the routes for my travel all mapped out and did not anticipate any possibility of rain. I should have thought about the possibility of rain. It did start to rain in Murfreesboro, but not too much. I think a better plan in the future is to check the weather forecast prior to booking or planning an outdoor event that is only about 4 hours away. No harm, as I can be flexible in my plans and I do not melt in the rain.
I did not take the direct route back home. I was able to plan the round trip back home through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
On my drive, I found a fun place to visit in the future, on my way to locate a disc golf course in Jackson, Tennessee. A surprisingly large number of people (to me, who had not heard about this spot) were gathered at the Casey Jones Museum. I think I will need to stop in the future and tour the museum, house and the rail cars.
I got out of the car to stretch my legs and play at least 9 holes of disc golf in Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and Indiana.
I have seen a lot of corn from the highway over years. Until this trip, I had not seen cotton on the side of the road ready for the harvest or just harvested. The fields were pretty, all white and wavy. The big machinery ready to pick the cotton was in several fields along the highway; in some, I saw the tractors in action. I took a picture of a cotton field near Memphis, and it looks like it was doing just fine and ready for the harvesting machines.
One of the tidbits I picked up from the Hermitage tour was that Andrew Jackson tried to grow cotton. Apparently, Nashville is at the far northern edge of the country that can support growing cotton. He did not do well growing cotton, although some small area of cotton growing is on display at the Hermitage.
All along my route I saw pretty colors. October is a fun time of year to drive. The fall colors were nice to see, although some trees had already lost their leaves and others had yet to turn colors.
On my travels, I like to visit family and friends. On this road trip, I was able to visit with my mom and check out her new apartment. I also saw my younger sister, my in-laws and some friends along the way.
No bike rides on this trip as it was short. The National Park Service does encourage bike riders visiting the National Military Parks and Battlefields. I will have to think about that for my next visit.
Bike Riding on the Bourbon Trail
We completed the 2022 the Bourbon Burn bicycle ride this fall. It was a long time in coming as a couple of my friends and I signed up for the ride in January 2020.
We initially had the idea to find a 2020 ride for the three of us at the end of the 2019 outdoor biking season (around late October here in Kentucky). We were looking for a ride that three of us could go on and have fun riding bikes, without any “race” pressure or fund-raising responsibility. We found the Bourbon Burn met the criteria with the added bonus of being about an hour away from where we lived.
Spots for the ride are limited, so for the Fall of 2020 ride we needed to sign up for the ride in early January 2020. Little did we know that we would not ride the event until 2022!
No event was held in 2020; we were allowed to defer until 2021. The event organizers did open back up for a limited ride in 2021, but we deferred again until this year, thanks to the generosity of the organizers.
The ride is a four-day event. One of my friends reserved a campsite at Kentucky Horse Park. We enjoyed the camping experience, even with two of us staying in a hotel. The base camp and camping area of the horse park allowed the other two of us to sample the camp experience.
We all drove down together on Thursday to register, set up the camp and get the lay of the land. The organizers had bourbon tasting on site. There was an optional short ride to both a distillery and a brewery that we did not ride. I think we only have so many days of riding in us as a group.
For the Friday ride we took the medium 45-mile route to Paris, Kentucky, with a visit to the Hartfield & Co. Distillery. It was cold (well under 50) at the start of Friday’s ride, and well under my preference for not riding below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The day did warm up to over 65 at the end of the ride. We all dressed appropriately and were comfortable after we got going. The route was very nice, the people we met along the way were friendly and the traffic on the road was light. Several people looked like they purchased bottles of the Hartfield products, so it was a good stop for everyone. Samples were available for us as well as the typical bike ride snacks and refreshments.
The base camp experience after the ride included tasting several bourbon samples and enjoying the meal on the grounds. A long day and one well worth coming down for the ride and spending the night in a hotel.
The second day of riding had us going to Bourbon 30, a distillery in Georgetown, Kentucky. We took the short route of 26 miles so we could enjoy the beautiful day. It was cold again at the start, just about 50 when we began, and it again warmed up nicely during the ride.
Saturday evening featured live music and distilleries sharing their product as well as the camp dinner. This is a great ride. If you enjoy bourbon and bike riding, like we do, it is a special treat.
The final day of riding placed us on the medium route of 37 miles in beautiful horse (and bourbon) country. We stopped at the site of the Bluegrass Distillery’s coming soon location at Elkwood Farm in Midway, which is currently under construction and opening in 2023. It was again cool to start the ride, but the warmest of the three mornings as we began the ride. The countryside was very pretty and the roads were a joy to cycle on.
After the ride we spent some time at the basecamp, ate some lunch and closed up and had our celebration of completing the three days of riding (108 total biking miles).
Ride preparations were a challenge for us retired guys. In 2019 we were training, i.e., bike riding 2-3 times a week and I was teaching Spinning® at a local gym. In 2022, we were all pulled in different directions, I was no longer teaching and we got together once or twice a week, often just once a week.
Most of our rides in Northern Kentucky go through the “town” of Rabbit Hash. This is a low point along the Ohio River and always a good place to stop and view the scenery. Being at a low point means you have to climb hills to leave the area.
We laughed about training. How do you train for the Bourbon Burn bike ride? Do we bring a bottle of bourbon for the ride and have a few samples and peddle back to the start? A fun joke and we never did do that. We trained by riding bikes.
Our one advantages on this ride is that we live in Kentucky and have to ride hills on all of our routes. One of our favorites, if you can call hill climbing a favorite, is Waterloo Hill. Back in 2021 I was the local legend on that route. No longer. I am not sure I went up 5 times this summer. Still, we did go up that hill and others along the training routes. The hill climbing practice was good as all the routes on the Bourbon Burn had rolling hills as a primary feature of the countryside; we were well prepared to take them on.
Many of our training rides take us from Big Bone Lick State Park and down 338 toward East Bend Road, with a good hill to climb or come back down. We often pass an old steam shovel and other historical markers as well as a ferry from Kentucky to Indiana. I did not make all of our “training rides” and neither did both of my friends. We did more training rides together in 2020 and 2021 than we did in 2022. These pictures from 2022 are places where we either stopped on the route or ended and turned back to the beginning of our ride.
We even managed as a group to see the newest Top Gun movie and gain some inspiration from an impossible mission.
The Saturday afternoon of the Bourbon Burn we were able to go into Lexington and play a round of disc golf, prior to going back at basecamp for the dinner and evening festivities.
See you on the road for our next adventure.
Re-discovering General Butler
We visited General Butler State Resort Park at the end of 2016. The lodge was beautifully decorated for the season and we took a few days to catch our breath from the year about to end and set our sights on what 2017 might bring. At the time we did not know that I would be retiring in 2017. Our two youngest kids had already moved out of the house and we needed to decide what we were doing with our house that was now bigger than we needed for just the two of us. At the end of hiking all of the park trails and enjoying the grounds we decided to sell our house and “right size” into a new place to live.
All of the decisions we made at the end of 2016 set us up for success in 2017, the year I retired, and we moved into our new home. The kids have come to visit and we have found places for them to stay in the new house. It was the correct call for us; we have been blessed with the decision to right size our living arrangements.
We recently decided to go back to General Butler State Resort Park and see what it is like in the summer. It was nice to see the lodge all decked out for the Fourth of July celebrations. We stayed in the lodge and set about hiking the trails.
One of the park amenities is a small lake. We spent an afternoon having a picnic lunch near the lake, playing some miniature golf, hiking around the lake and then taking a boat ride on the lake—which was for us like riding a bike as it was a paddle boat.
We noticed that a lot of geese and ducks also enjoy being around the lake. The boat attendant told us no swimming is allowed in the lake because the lake is “fowl.” Which is not as good of a joke in print. We likely saw over 40 ducks and geese near the shore during our short hike from the picnic area to the boat dock.
My only disappointment with the park is that the disc golf course was not yet completed. It looks like it must be close, and it looks like a good course is planned. I will have to come back after the course opens and give a report.
The General is William O. Butler, who was a major General in the US-Mexico war. He was also a vice presidential candidate (his ticket lost in 1848). He made war and politics a study after serving as an aide to General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans.
The lodge was not open for dining during the week days (when we enjoy traveling). They did provide a bag breakfast which was nice, and we discovered that the local town had plenty of tasty options. We also swam in the municipal pool as the resort’s pool was being repaired. That was a fun adventure with a few diving boards and it was a short 3-minute drive from the lodge. The swim felt good after a hot day of hiking.
We enjoyed touring the General’s house which was closed the last time we visited. It is opened on the weekends and as we were leaving Friday, we were able to tour the house prior to our departure.
The hour plus tour was informative and entertaining and worthwhile to take. No pictures allowed during the tour. It does look really good inside. If you go, you should plan to take the house tour. We also stopped by the graveyard near the house while waiting for the tour. We found that looking at the family tree, as it were, was a good introduction to the family members mentioned on the tour.
The hiking is not too strenuous; we enjoyed re-discovering some of the hikes we had been on in 2016. We did a twilight hike after dinner and enjoyed the cooler temperature as well as seeing many lightning bugs. All of the trails were well marked and easy to follow.
No biking on this trip. Although a paddle boat is a lot like riding a bike, it is not the same.
Adventure at Fort Knox
When our oldest suggested we tour Ft. Knox, we said yes and we would like some samples… We did visit Ft. Knox and we did see the area where the gold is kept. We could not visit the spot where the gold bullion is housed, as no visits are allowed by the public. The signs near the entrance to the separately gated entrance also spell out plainly no pictures, although you can see it from the nearby road and if you perform a google search the term “Ft. Knox” a picture of the gold storage complex comes up. Staying safe, I have not included a picture.
We enjoyed a tour of Ft. Knox with our oldest who was staying there for training for several weeks. His wife and son did fly in and stayed with us for a week so they would be close. We enjoyed being with our grandson and daughter-in-law. We also found that E-town (Elizabethtown) is a great spot to hang out; we were at Freeman Lake Park on more than one occasion.
The whole family got a personal tour of the base. It is separated from the gold reserves, and even our son (and all of the others on post) do not appear to have access to visit the gold. Like a lot of bases, it covers a large area. It was the training area for the tanks. That has since moved, although several tanks remain as historic fixtures.
We were excited to see the graduation ceremony. Fortunately, we live close enough to Ft. Knox to attend the ceremony. Not too many friends and family could attend as the program drew from all over the country.
I enjoyed the group of soldiers reciting the creed. It made me proud to be the father of an American Soldier. I do not think I had heard the creed recited as a group; it made an impact on all of us present watching the ceremony.
After the graduation ceremony, I was excited to run a 5k on base—it was a course just for me, designed by me to avoid sitting and waiting. Who else, other than soldiers stationed at the fort, can say they have run at Ft. Knox? Our soldier needed time to have his room on post cleared and checked prior to all of the graduation class leaving. I am sure there were several goodbye’s as well between all of the soldiers attending.
Attached to Ft. Knox, but entered by a public gate, is the Patton Museum. Outside of the museum are several tanks, which are no longer part of the training at Ft. Knox. It was nice to see them inactive and up close.
I enjoyed my tour of the Patton Museum and will plan to come back with my friends and make a longer stay at the museum. I learned some good information about Patton as well as the museum’s focus on leadership in the military.
The museum gift shop is the only place to mention gold and the fort’s place in history holding the gold reserves. It had well done displays of movies made on the post as well as a representation from the James Bond movie that “took place” at the fort.
A sample WWII barracks is also outside of the museum, free and open to the public. It is a quick look into how my dad was probably setup for basic training in early 1940s when he was training in Texas for WWII.
The only place I saw a “gold bar” was at the visitor’s center, and they were designed as a kid’s coin repository.
No biking on this trip to Ft. Knox. Now I can say that I have biked on a military base (Ft. Jackson) and run on a military base (Ft. Knox).
Seeing Smoky Mountain Smoke
When I think about Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the “smoke” or fog that rolls in is always a pretty sight. We have been to the mountains before, and every time is special.
We were able to stay in a condo on top of a mountain on the top floor. This view afforded us a scenic look at the surrounding mountains as well as being up high when the bears came out to forage for food; we were well away from the ground. We were able to enjoy the evening and morning view from our porch.
We did hike trails and met up with our daughter and son-in-law with their dog. Dogs are not allowed, for the most part, in Smoky Mountain National Park, and so we went hiking with them in the Cherokee National Forest. Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the busiest parks and by contrast, the National Forest appeared deserted. We had not previously spent time in the National Forest; we enjoyed the differences in locations.
In fairness, the Forest Service does not provide many services, cell phone reception is spotty and the trails are not as well marked as in the National Park. The area of the Cherokee National Forest is about 650,000 acres (the National Park is 522,000 acres). It is huge! We only explored a small portion of the forest. We have a child who lives in Rhode Island, it is 776,900 acres.
If you are looking to get away, go primitive camping or hiking and get away from civilization, the National Forest has a lot to offer. I think most retirees are in for the National Park and the “younger” adventurers are in for a real treat in the Forest.
We enjoyed our brief exploration of the Paint Creek area, with the pretty scenery and the creek that runs through it.
Hiking in the National Park:
We think the popular trek up to see Rainbow Falls is well worth the effort. In contrast to the National Forest, we saw evidence of a lot of travelers along the pathway.
This was the best hike we took. A well-marked trail, easy parking (we were early in the day) and beautiful scenery along the way. While we were hiking, our kids in Colorado were telling us they were on top of one of the 14,000-foot mountains. We made it to an elevation of 3,970. This is a pretty good elevation in the land east of the Mississippi.
Laurel Falls Trail
We noticed the mountain laurel in bloom near Memorial Day as we climbed this trail. This is a very accessible trail, and we saw several strollers being pushed up and down the mostly paved path. The asphalt could use some repair; however, it made it easy for everyone who could to climb up to see the falls. The falls were pretty and the hike was a good workout.
Other Fun: We were staying above Gatlinburg and did stroll into town to see the sights and purchase milkshakes at The Crazy Mason Milkshake Bar. A fun treat after a warm day hiking. We find that stopping for an ice cream cone or a milkshake is part of the fun and reward for hiking all day.
In addition to the bears near our condo, we had 3 other bear sightings. Bears are not as scarce as I had thought. I guess all of the people in the area lead to easy pickings for the bears.
No biking in the mountains. I am not a mountain biker and these would be hard places to start. We did see mountain bikers in the National Forest.
A Wedding at Ole Miss
We drove to Mississippi for our niece’s wedding with a stop along the way for my birthday dinner in Nashville. Unlike our daughter’s wedding, all we needed to do was show up and enjoy the event.
Our niece was married near the University of Mississippi, (where she met her husband) known as “Ole Miss.” I think the name is funny as our niece is no longer a “miss” and is certainly not “old” but I guess she is still an Ole Miss Alumni.
I was happy to learn that a rehearsal dinner could double as the reception for family and friends. The dinner was fun and all of the traditional speeches that normally accompany the wedding reception were made at that time. This made the speeches more intimate as most of us in attendance knew details about the speakers or the ones they were speaking about. I would like it if more weddings I attend in the future took up this tradition.
We appreciated that a bus was available for the wedding guests to take us to and from the hotel and the wedding venue. This was a great idea for all involved. I am not familiar with the area, and the guests were mainly from out of town. It also allowed us to focus on the wedding and reception and not to worry about how to get back to the hotel.
The wedding was in a pretty setting just outside of Oxford. The chapel was all white and well suited to the occasion. The couple was well organized.
We enjoyed the reception. It flowed with the introduction of the newlyweds right into dinner and dancing as all of the speaking was done the evening before. We could just chat with the other guests, dance, eat and celebrate with family and friends the newlywed couple.
Combine things, like wedding speeches and rehearsal dinners when it makes sense.
The area has a lot of history, and we saw signs for some attractions on the road trip down, such as Shiloh National Military Park and Andrew Jackson’s house the Hermitage. We will need to plan for a bigger or separate travel to see some of these places.
We enjoyed our warm day stroll and did stop for ice cream after walking the Square in Oxford.
Our niece and now nephew provided us with a listing of their favorite places in Oxford. We really enjoyed walking around the square in Oxford and sampling their favorite spots. We appreciated their planning and enjoyed several of their selections.
I went for a run on the Ole Miss campus. Apparently, it is a thing to run through campus, especially near the football stadium. It was a good morning for a run, prior to the wedding, and I ran past or with several other dedicated runners out for a morning run.
We were able to hang out with family and friends between events.
On the way to celebrate our niece’s wedding, we stopped in Nashville to celebrate my birthday. I had not really thought about going somewhere for the night to celebrate and now I think it was a fun treat. I may have to do that again.
We started our day at home as normal and took a drive that was halfway to Mississippi and ended in Nashville. I did manage to play 18 holes of disc golf and explore some of Nashville prior to enjoying a delicious dinner at Ruth Chris steak house in Nashville.
We were surprised to learn that the Parthenon is in Nashville; I always thought it was in Greece.
We had a nice time walking along the campus at Vanderbilt University while we were walking around Nashville.
Nashville is a fun town, but unfortunately, we were not able to spend the time to explore this town as much as we would have liked.
On our way home from the wedding, we were able to meet up with our oldest on his way to Ft. Knox for some training and eat dinner. Meeting in Elizabethtown (E-Town) was a nice treat for us at the end of our journey home from Mississippi.
No bike rides this trip—just here for the wedding.
A Mountain Wedding
A father thinks a lot about walking a daughter down the aisle, knowing all eyes are on her. The main thought I had while walking her down the aisle was what her new life will be like. I was proud to walk my daughter down the aisle. Yes, the acceptance of the engagement last year led to my daughter getting married this year at Springmaid Mountain resort. It was the best of times for all of us present.
Family and friends came to celebrate and we enjoyed the time spent with them all. I was happy to whisper a word of advice to my soon to be son-in-law.
The ceremony was planned as an outdoor wedding and as sometimes happens in life, it rained on the wedding day and was moved inside. It rained on our wedding day as well, and we have been married for 37 years. I imagine the weather on one day has no determination on the future longevity of a relationship. We enjoyed the inside event and were able to take some pictures outside as the rain came and went all day.
We enjoyed the Springmaid Mountain weekend, plus as we were able to hike and walk around the beautiful setting that the couple picked out for their wedding.
I have not previously been part of the chaos that occurs when the bridal party is getting ready. All of the hair and makeup occurred in our cabin. My role was to keep everyone happy, get anything required (sometimes after it was explained to me what it was) and to provide drinks to the bridal party and the moms.
We had a fun cookout on the porch; thank you to our son who cooked lunch for the bridal party. During any event with a one-year-old present, it is normal that he will steal the show, outside of the main wedding event.
Any time for me is a beautiful time to be in the mountains. No matter what happened on that wonderful day, rain or shine, they are married and all who celebrated with them were happy to be at the event.
Running with our oldest in Charlotte. We did leave at the same time, he went farther and finished before we did. It was still a good family run.
Hiking with family (not the bride and groom) prior to leaving the mountain after the wedding. We hiked to the falls. Not too far away from the parking area.
No bike rides here; we were here to celebrate a wedding!