Summer does not officially start until about June 21. We tend to think that summer is from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The mountains do not agree; we hiked in May and June on trails with no snow and trails with feet of snow.
Rocky Mountain National Park has been a favorite of mine since I was a small child; we went to the park almost every other year. The park holds several happy memories for me: I proposed to my wife in the park and we honeymooned at the park as well. It is fitting for me that I spent part of May and June in the park for my 60th birthday.
I really enjoyed every hike. The biggest snow hike was our hike from Bear Lake to Lake Haiyaha through the snow.
We had a hard time following the path, as the trail was a few feet under the snow.
As we got closer to the lake, the snow was deeper and we found that boulders were warm and melted the snow. It was hard to avoid stepping through snow up to your hips. Fortunately, on the hike my daughter-in-law had a GPS trail guide that kept us on track when we could not find enough footsteps to go the correct way. Looking back on the hike we were often on the trail and off the trail.
The view from this lake is dominated by (looking at the lake) Otis Peak on the left and Hallett Peak towards the right.
We just called it the hike to lake “H” as we could not pronounce “Haiyaha” which is a Native American word that means “rock” or “lake of many rocks” or “big rocks” depending on the translation.
Not many hikers braved the snow to get to Lake Haiyaha. We did see some people bouldering near the lake. The lake was still mostly frozen and had a really blue hue. On the way up the mountain we were able to get some reception and speak with our son who is currently overseas. It was great to have him see us up on the mountain
We hiked two different ways to see Lake Bierstadt. We enjoyed them both. The hike up from the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead allowed us to enjoy the views of Sprague Lake and Longs Peak on the trail while we steadily climbed more than 600 feet along a series of switchbacks to reach the top of the Bierstadt Moraine. Once we got to the top and under the tree canopy, we saw snow on the path and had snow the rest of the way to the lake. We chose to go straight or around the western edge of the lake both times we hiked. We had to make a path to the lake as we could not see the path.
We had a picnic lunch, flour tortillas with cheese and ham, and more water as we enjoyed the lake sitting on some of the rocks. What a great day watching the beautiful view from the lake. We were able to view Longs Peak, Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain along with several others.
We also enjoyed hiking to Bierstadt from Bear Lake after taking the shuttle. We encountered a lot of snow at the beginning as we hiked up the Flattop Mountain Trail from Bear Lake. I walked onto Bear Lake, which was a mistake as the ice was not as thick as I thought based on the footprints. My hiking boot went in, but my new merino wool socks dried out fast and I did not get any blisters. It was great hiking with three girls: my wife, daughter and my daughter-in-law. I kept up pretty well! We had another beautiful, clear weather day at Bierstadt Lake. After lunching again and sitting on the rocks, we finished our hike by going back to the Bear Lake shuttle bus station where we were parked.
We stayed outside of the park in a wonderful cabin on the Big Thompson River. My plan was to eat breakfast outside every morning. The cabin was great with a table on the covered porch just a foot away from the river running swiftly by. I went outside each morning, but one morning it was 25 degrees; this was too cold for me to enjoy breakfast outside, even with the heater on.
The mornings are the best time to hike in the Rockies as the afternoons often bring weather changes and a quick storm. Staying at the cabin allowed us to use the annual park pass with no long lines and “key card” or annual pass card access at the Beaver Meadows entrance.
Part of my morning routine is to watch and be inspired by Darren Hardy. We were listening at the end of May to Darren and he challenged us to walk or run, we chose walk, one mile or more every day. We began that 90 day challenge while we were at the park beginning the first of June. With so many daily hikes to choose from, we had a great start to our challenge.
As our time in the Rockies lengthened, the weather did manage to warm up, even some mornings. Okay, for Colorado, it managed to warm up. Yes, it was cold up in the mountains, but fortunately we could dress for it. Our kids came with what looked like not enough clothing. We had on bulky jackets and sweat shirts, flannel shirts. Apparently science has advanced and our warm weather clothing is much bulkier than what they make today. We will have to look into getting something easier to pack that will keep us just as warm.
Our first experience at Bear Lake was that we could not go too far without our micro spikes. Fortunately we were able to get them a week later when a few kids joined us for my birthday.
We hiked through snow up over my waist in June. It was pretty interesting to see. The park was blanketed in spring snows and it was hanging around. We did not have snow in Estes Park and the area felt like typical springtime weather for the mountains.
A few lessons learned:
Explore more of the area than you have in the past. We went to the Lumpy Ridge and Wild Basin Trailheads this trip. I do not know if I went there as a kid. It is possible, although we camped in Moraine Park campground in the park every year we visited, close to the same camping spot. It was easy enough to get to Bear Lake and the hiking was accessible for a family from there. We really enjoyed how diverse these two areas were from our typical hiking from Bear Lake. We have hiked on the other side of Trail Ridge Road (when it was open in prior visits as an adult) and we did not enjoy those hikes as much as Lumpy Ridge and Wild Basin.
Re-visit your favorite spots. As a kid and an adult I have hiked from Bear Lake many times. It is just a beautiful area. We had a fun time with our birthday visitors hiking some of the trails together.
Try something new. We went on a bike ride from Trail Ridge Road. We started at the top from Rainbow Curve as Trail Ridge Road was still closed and we rode down. There was only one small hill, and my riding buddy Mike from Kentucky would have commented that we rode only downhill. It was a fun ride and a really nice way to slow down and take in the mountain grandeur as we peddled by.
We did meet hikers, besides our kids, with all the correct gear. Many believe a cell phone is all that is required, and I saw plenty of people with flip flops and a cell phone. Real hikers know that proper footwear (my boots may be old, but they work well!) make all the difference. A compass, map, water, snacks, sunscreen, a whistle and a camera, okay a phone, are basics. Remember when choosing a hike to look at the distance and the elevation. Even a short hike can be really tough in the mountains.
Take the stops and do not be in a hurry. I decided to allow cars coming behind me to pass as soon as possible. I was not in a hurry. I know, you are saying, ok you are that guy…I wanted to take it all in. Enjoy the day as well as the moment. On one of our car rides, we stopped at Sheep Lake allowing faster cars to pass while we checked out the ranger station near the lake. While there we saw 7 big horn sheep come over to the lake. We also saw elk here and there and, quite frankly, all over the park as well as in Estes Park.
Here is a sample of our hikes:
From Bear Lake:
- Bear Lake to Bierstadt Lake up Flat top Mountain Trail to the Bear Lake bus station where we were parked.
- Bear Lake to Lake Haiyaha by way of Nymph Lake and Dream Lake up the Glacier Gorge Trail. Nymph Lake is a small lake with big views including Long’s Peak. This area was covered with snow and was a place where many would-be day hikers turned around. Dream Lake was worth stopping at and we spent some time here. We did not see many tennis shoe hikers at this stop as the snow was 1-2 feet deep at this juncture. Moving up from Dream Lake is where we encountered the deepest snow and fewer hikers.
Lawn Lake Trailhead—this was one of our first hikes, so we could get acclimated. We did not make it to the lake as we did not have our micro spikes just yet and encountered a lot of snow as we got higher up into the mountains.
We enjoyed the views of the Roaring River From the trailhead. We hiked the Lawn Lake Trail and part of the Ypsilon Lake trail.
Old Fall River Road (closed for cars) from Endovalley picnic area–Old Fall River Road is a historic dirt road built between 1913 and 1920 and does not generally open to cars until July 4. We had a real treat as we got near the road, spotting three big horn sheep grazing near the start of the road. The hike to Chasm Falls took us up roughly 1.4 miles up the old dirt road. Once we found the sign to the falls, we walked the short distance down the paved footpath to the viewing area.
Having a lot of melting snow allowed for a spectacular view of the falls that drop somewhere between 25 and 30 feet. We were happy to have the falls to ourselves as most hikers stopped too soon to get to the falls.
Sprague Lake—we went to this lake after deciding that the trail at Bear Lake was too snowy (we tried and then called for the kids to bring the micro spikes with them for the weekend when they came up). We enjoyed our hike around the lake. It was interesting to see a group of guys standing in the lake fishing. So we guess the lake is not too deep! We hiked over to the Boulder Brook Trail and back to the parking area. As we hiked along the area we came to our first experience with fire rings. We asked some of the passing rangers about this and they shared that the chain saws and big fire rings are part of a prescribed burn program that the park is conducting.
Hike to Cub Lake, the Pool and Fern Lake—The hike to Cub Lake began from the Moraine Park area. We saw a lot of elk grazing near the edge of the meadows. Also, on the way in to park, we saw a moose! Wow.
We were staying on the Big Thompson River and have walked past this river in Estes Park. It was nice to follow the river on the way back from The Pool.
Moraine Park Campground –When my family came to the Rockies we camped here. This is also the place where I proposed to my wonderful wife! We took a hike through the entire area.
With the spring snows, Trail Ridge Road was snowed in. The road was open to (non-motorized) bikers and hikers prior to allowing cars to go up the road.
In the many times I have been to the park, this is the first time I have hiked on Old Fall River Road and Trail Ridge Road. We were impressed with the 30 foot high walls of snow that we passed at even the 2 mile mark up this road. We started our hike from the Rainbow Curve Overlook.
We hiked up until the Ute Trail. It was a brisk 43 degrees when we started and a steep climb up the hill. From the road we had great views and no traffic! We did see some of the snow plow equipment. The trees and animals have all adapted to the snow. We saw many young trees that bent but did not break under feet of snow, sticking out and getting sun. We also saw small wildlife here and birds doing well. The lesson I took from this is that if you want to survive, you can. You can see trees, birds, animals all surviving in extreme conditions, and they do survive, despite the odds.
We took some time to explore the town of Estes Park and we hiked around Lake Estes. It was a good walk and had one major uphill climb. On the hike we encountered a sign describing a potential hazard, an elk calving area, aggressive elk may be present. We did see that elk, no issues for us, thankfully. And, we saw a few other elk on and near the trail around the lake. The town is great fun to explore. We enjoyed eating out and finding a new spot for ice cream.
From the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead we hiked up to Gem Lake. This is such a different part of the park. The views may have Long’s Peak, but the red rock is more like the Garden of the Gods.
This was our first park hike without any snow on the path. I do not remember having been to the Lumpy Ridge Trail before and I highly recommend this trail. We did have nice views of the Estes Park valley and some of the surrounding mountain peaks.
Deer Mountain Trailhead starting from Deer Ridge Junction—The summit is 10,013 feet in elevation. Many have recommended this hike as a way to get acclimated to the higher elevations. I enjoyed being able to say we hiked to the summit of a mountain!
One of the guides on the bike ride said we “should summit” and the easiest one in the area was Deer Mountain. We are glad we took this hike up to the top of Deer Mountain. This was a multi-use trail and I am not always a fan of horses on the trail. We encountered a few, and that was okay; we were able to step aside and let them pass us. Outside of the obvious hazard, this trail has some big steps geared for mules or horses and not for humans.
Just like Lumpy Ridge, the Wild Basin, not a far (about 30 minute) drive from the park, is one I do not remember visiting in the past. We took one of our longer hikes here, over 7 ½ miles on the Wild Basin Trail and the North Saint Vrain Fire Trail. This hike featured the lower and upper Copeland Falls, the Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls. We found it tough viewing for the Ouzel falls, but worth it.
Once we were past the falls, it became snowy as we headed toward Thunder Lake (up the trail about ½ mile). We turned around—near the twin lakes (which we could not see through the forest) as the snow was too much for us. We went back down the less well-marked path (North Saint Vrain Fire Trail ) with the exciting sign that read “All stock except Llamas prohibited.” We are not sure why or what that would mean. We did not have a llama or any other stock so we took the path. The trail followed the creek or river the whole way back and was generally free from snow.
Adapted from A.A. Milne, “Now we are six” and updated by Retirement travel with Glen
When I was young,
I had just begun.
When I was twenty-five,
I was just married.
When I was thirty,
I was mostly a dad of an expanding family.
When I was forty,
I was not much more.
When I was fifty and still working,
I was just alive and the kids were leaving.
But now I am sixty and retired,
I’m and as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be sixty now
for ever and ever.
Hiking statistics: 13 hikes and almost 60 miles of trails.
One bike ride—mostly downhill: 20 miles.
Part of being retired is being able to pick up and visit. I was able to spend Mother’s Day with my mom for the first time in several years. One thing I am working on is visiting with family.
I enjoyed my visit and even got in a few bike rides with my sister; unfortunately, it hailed on one of our bike rides, not quite the experience we were looking for when we went out. Okay, you may have gone bike riding in the rain, so have we. Yes, it was supposed to be cloudy and yes, it did rain (hard). I hope to avoid riding in a hailstorm in the future. We called the ride short on that day. I think my shoes are still a little wet.
I did get turned back on a few of my bike rides because of the flooded road ways. The local area suffered the same rain and flooding as the rest of the country. The local bike trail was well marked and the signs saying closed were posted for a good reason. A few days later and the tunnels and underpasses were cleared out and the “trail closed” signs were gone as well.
My travels on took me to my mom, my mother-in-law, and finely to my house where I had a trifecta on Mother’s Day seeing all three in one day.
A few lessons learned.
Spending a week in a retirement community makes you think about people getting old and retiring somewhere else. My mom had stories of former neighbors who moved to the community and then as age and life happens had to sell and move back to their former home or where kids are located. Our decision is to stay where we have established friends, ties to the community, and family. This strategy is working out well so far.
It is good to help pull weeds and clean out the yard. Just watch out for the poison oak and sumac. My rash lasted a few weeks as a reminder that I was able to help out at my mom’s house.
Enjoy every bike ride. I went solo a few times, and despite having to find alternative places to bike I had a fun ride. The attitude starting the ride often determines the outcome. My sister took me on her triathlon course for the ride that ended in hail. It was still a fun ride and we found a tunnel that we had not biked to previously.
I was able to bike over 70 miles during the week and got out to ride 5 times. Several of the rides early in the week were cut short. Mom does not go biking with me so it is good to have my sister nearby who will join me for the rides.
It was a cold and wet spring. Not too much time for training on the bike outside. The good news is that Cincinnati has a lot of fun places to go and see.
In between the cold and the rain I was able to go to see the Cincinnati Reds play baseball. First professional game I can recall being at where the temperature was under 40 for the entire game. The Reds played their second game of the season, after their opening win, to a small crowd (18,737) compared to the opening day crowd of over 44,000, one of the biggest at the ball park. Even though the team lost, we were convinced that warm weather was coming. The game was fun and baseball always holds the promise of summer.
It was expected to rain when I went to see my first professional soccer game. The local club “FC Cincinnati” plays in the University of Cincinnati football stadium awaiting a new soccer stadium in town. So, it was fitting that I was invited to the game with my son who played in the first soccer game I ever saw. The day turned out nice and even though the game ended in a 1-1 tie, the game was exciting. The crowd, into every kick and pass on the field, seemed to know all the rules. With 26,023 fans in attendance, the noise and excitement was a contrast to the baseball game. Constant noise and cheers came from a fan section called “The Baily” that lent the game an atmosphere of intensity with chanting, drumming and yes, yelling.
The Baily has chants and songs for all occasions. We were able to witness the snake of fans in their orange and blue on the way into the stadium all chanting (Yes, I had to look it up…)
Cincinnati here we go, here we go, here we go.
Cincinnati here we go, here we go, here we go.
OLE OLE – OLE OLE, No one likes us, but that’s okay.
So score a goal, or score a few, Cincinnati, we’re here for you!
Another tradition in Cincinnati is the Flying Pig Marathon, something I have never done or even been to see in action. I do have friends that have run, including one who ran the marathon for 20 years in a row. The same son who took me to my first soccer game invited us to see him run in his events. He ran the “3 way with cheese” events, a 1 mile, 5k, 10k and half-marathon on the Flying Pig weekend. He did really well and we were glad to be on the sideline cheering him on.
My friend who ran all those marathons is also a champion bike rider and has completed a few iron man challenges. I have no desire to run a marathon, let alone run one at the end of a swim and bike ride of over 100 miles. We did manage to do a century ride together at the Horsey Hundred bike ride.
Each year over Memorial weekend, Georgetown hosts the Horsey Hundred, a bike ride displaying for all who care to bike ride the beautiful horse country area in Kentucky. The organizers directed us on routes past several horse farms; we were impressed and welcomed at the rest areas stocked with friendly volunteers and needed snacks.
The ride was a challenge as the weather in the afternoon turned sunny for the first time in weeks. Too bad I had not trained in the heat or the sun for the ride. I think we were both a little overloaded with the sun when we pulled into the finish after the 100 miles of bike riding. I am thinking my next ride (already signed up for a century ride in September) will see me in better shape for the distance.
Spring would not be complete without a visit our local Arboretum. Of course we walked and saw the spring trees blooming and the flowers starting to bud.
The flowers were coming out on the dogwoods just in time for the local dogwood dash.
A few lessons learned.
- Be a tourist in your back yard. We have a gangster tour planned for the summer in Newport, KY.
- Support your local teams. Wow, the baseball and soccer games showed that a lot of local people really like and support Cincinnati.
- Beauty is often in your back yard. Even though we have had to mow often this spring, the budding trees and flowers of spring bring joy.
Thank you Mike! I appreciate you pulling me along on the 100 mile Horsey Hundred event. That was not our first century bike ride together as Mike and I did a 100 miles MS bike ride a few years ago. My favorite comment from Mike was that at least he does not have to get off the bike and run a marathon. Amen to that! It was enough just to finish the ride and drive home.
Time to get away from winter.
What better than a group bike ride from Miami to Key West to avoid the snow and cold? Last January, we went to Florida after the New Year to get away, and it was cold! This year, farther south, we found the weather not just sunny, but also warm. Our ride was expertly organized by Charleston Bicycle Tours. It was fun for both of us, and it was like summer all day and night on the Keys.
Bonnie, a fellow traveler, put a video together of the ride. It summarized well our travels, with the exception of our not seeing the park at Dry Tortugas on the last day. Enjoy: https://youtu.be/iNhEnM1tvBw
Our first ride was about 24 miles and went from Coral Gables to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park at the end of Key Biscayne. We were happy to walk up the 112 steps to the top of the light house at the park. The ranger was good to only allow a few people to go up and down at a time as it was narrow on the circular steps.
Our first key was Key Biscayne. In order to bike the Keys, our tour centered three rides from Marathon Key. So, after our lunch in Miami we were driven with the bikes to Marathon Key for our first of three rides from the middle of the Keys. We did enjoy the Florida tradition of viewing the sunset each night as we stayed in the area.
Our stay on Marathon Key was well done. We were driven out and rode 40 miles back to our hotel.
We started near the big stone crab and enjoyed the views along the way. Despite me and another rider having two flat tires on the ride, we still had a great time. It helped that instead of changing the tire, I was given a different bike. I rode three that day.
The pictures do not do justice to color of the water.
It was great to ride the bike path and not just along the side of the road. We were pleased that several miles were on the path along the road between the Keys. It was enjoyable when we had some shade on the bike path. As you know, trees create shade along path but also sometimes break up the path making it harder to ride. We also rode along the road.
My favorite bridges were the ones with a separate bridge for the bikers. I believe they are locally called fishing bridges, and we saw plenty of people fishing from the bridges, including a lot of pelicans perched on the bridges hoping to get to the catch before the fishing line did.
We enjoyed riding on both sides of the road as the path changed sides periodically.
As the journey got close to Key West (the end of the road for our travels) we occasionally were riding against traffic. For me, this was the first time since I was a young child that I was riding opposite the traffic and it was really a different experience for me. I guess I am used to riding along the same side as traffic. The best part of our direction, regardless of the side of the road we were riding on, was that the wind, which was strong for most of the ride, was generally at our back. The few times we rode into the wind it was a different experience.
A ride on Big Pine Key and to No Name Key was fun. We liked the dollar bills all over the No Name Pub. We learned that the pub is on Big Pine Key and not on the key called No Name. We also had the opportunity to visit the Florida Keys Wildlife Society. We saw one Key deer on our ride and learned a whole lot more about them and other wildlife at the visitors’ center. One of the things we noticed is that the Key deer are smaller than other deer. As a group, we came up with the saying, “In Texas everything is bigger and on the Keys it is smaller.” I just watched the deer and did not get a picture of the deer.
A few lessons learned.
- The sun will find anyplace you did not properly apply sunscreen prior to the ride.
- Stop and re-apply sunscreen during the ride.
- Snacks and water make for great combinations on a long ride. The ocean breeze is great at your back.
The Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House. We really thought this was a good museum to visit and was a good representation of Key West. The museum was a recommendation from our guide. The building alone was fun and interesting. The many exhibits were well done and we thought Guy Harvey Sketches of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” that went up the main staircase and was great to read and see come to life. The museum has a Civil War exhibit about the Keys, the railway and the impact of the railway on the Keys. Outside of the museum they had several life-like works of art that we at first took for people.
The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory was a great end to the day of biking around Key West. The trees in the conservatory were alive with all the butterflies. It was amazing to see so many in one place at one time. When we walked in, we could only say wow at the beauty. Well worth the admissions price to visit. We were surprised by the two pink flamingos walking around oblivious to us and the butterflies. They were a good addition to the butterflies.
The Key West Hemingway house and Museum was good to see, although we just passed by to look and did not stop in. Hemingway apparently put Key West back on the map and was the number one tourist attraction for many years.
Mile Marker Zero on US 1 and Southernmost Point were highlights of the journey. We had told others of our pending trip and the Southernmost Point was mentioned by them frequently. It was fun to have our picture taken here. Everyone in line for the point was polite, and several people waiting took pictures for others who were ahead of them. It was great to see people getting along. The Mile Marker Zero on US 1 was not as popular, judging by the lack of a crowd at the marker compared to the line we waited in at 8:30 in the morning at the Southernmost Point marker.
We also saw roosters everywhere in Key West. They are apparently a thing in Key West and protected as well by local law and custom. Some of our fellow travelers could hear the rooster call early in the morning; we were glad they were not outside of our room.
We took a side trip on our non-bike afternoon to kayak in the Atlantic and through several mangroves. The Blue Planet Kayak company rented us a couple of kayaks and gave us a map to explore. We are sorry we could not make the timing on their tours. We really enjoyed paddling through the mangrove and we even saw what we knew were crabs that looked like spiders climbing the trees. While we were out on the water we heard before we saw fighter planes from the near by Naval base.
Riding across the 7 mile bridge, twice, was fun. The first time was going across to Big Pine Key, and the next day we rode across again on our 50 mile ride to Key West. The side for bikes was wide and I was able to get up to a pretty good speed on the bridge with the wind at my back. I did miss my bike clips and the dropped handle bars when a big truck passed. Seeing trees grow out of the railroad bridge that is no longer in use and the color of the water was surprising. This is the longest bridge I have ridden on, although not the tallest.
Sunset cruise was the right introduction to Key West on our first night at the end of the longest day of riding (50miles).
We had our end of the week sunset dinner on Sunset Key at the Latitudes restaurant. It was a wonderful sunset and we all enjoyed the delicious dinner with our friends from the week of bike riding.
The paintings on the waterfront brewery were really interesting to look at. We thought we were at an aquarium and were surprised that a brewery would undertake such a great art project. Next time we are in town we will have to take a brewery tour.
Key Lime Pie contest –after dinner on our last night we had a key lime pie judging contest. I think all our friends at home would have enjoyed it. My choice for the number one pie came in second place. They were all good and we had fun.
A ride is better with friends. Thank you to all who rode with us; you were great company and help on the ride and during the week.
Key West was an interesting and tourist friendly town and we had a good time exploring. It was better as a group at night as a lot of people are on the streets. I am glad our guide knew the way to go.
We had some really good dining experiences along the way. I did not take pictures of the meals. We really liked the tapas, a bunch of small dishes that the group shared. That was delicious!
The view from the last night’s dinner overlooking the beach with the palm trees and the open air was not just a good meal but also a good experience.
We biked over 150 miles during the week. Our longest ride was 50 miles in one day. We did not break any speed records; our goal was to enjoy the surroundings, and we did.
We all want to see our 90th birthday and celebrating with family makes it fun. I asked my Mom about lessons learned as I wanted to know the secrets so I too can make it to 90. My Mom is happy and friendly and generally does what she wants with who she wants to do it with. That being said, she still claims not to have any secrets to tell so I have none to share.
So, how does a newly minted 90-year-old party? We played some cards, went for walks and played shuffleboard. And just who do you think one most of the card games? You guessed it, the lady of the day!
We went to a fun restaurant in Bentonville called the Holler, where they allowed us to bring in our own birthday cake. We used two shuffleboard courts and had a fun time playing. Mom did well on the courts.
We did enjoy the Walton Arts Center and saw a very good performance by the symphony of Northwest Arkansas. We really appreciated the talented pianist Andrew Tyson playing Chopin with the symphony. One benefit to living in a retirement area is that they arranged a bus to transport us down to the symphony and back. That made the travel very nice for all of us.
Be nice to everyone. Take care of others and keep the house clean. The lake looks inviting, but it is cold in the winter!
We did not go bike riding on this trip. I flew through the Atlanta airport on the way home. It was great to see the city getting ready for the super bowl. I did enjoy the festive atmosphere and was sorry I could not stay for the game.
We spent our time after Christmas in Colorado. It was exciting for us to spend time with our kids in Colorado Springs.
We did get out for a few hikes and planned more, but the weather became too cold to hike for more than a few minutes in the mountains. The next time we visit in the winter, we will plan on snowshoeing or skiing or both.
One of the early lessons we learned was that an investment in micro spikes makes a big difference on icy trails. We did not have any on this hike, but the kids did. After hiking 2 ½ miles up over 700 feet in snowy 16-degree weather, we decided we should get some as well. We did enjoy our first hike in the mountains and the trail, although with ice patches, was manageable.
Our elevation started at 6500 feet above sea level, much higher than normal for us and went up from there to the top of Mt. Cutler (over 7,200feet). And yes, it was cold!
Our second hike was colder than the first from the start as we climbed up Raspberry Mountain.
We started the hike at 9,500 feet above sea level and went for over 5 miles reaching the peak at over 10,500 feet above sea level.
The hike started at 30 degrees and grew colder; the hike ended over three hours later at 9 degrees as the sun was setting.
I was happy to be the owner of new micro spikes, as my footing was secure on the assent and decent.
We chose to get this hike in early in the visit before the anticipated cold front came into the mountains; it worked. Although at times our warm clothes were sometimes too warm, we were better off with the many layers we had on the hike.
It was good that we went when we did, as we spend a few days indoors playing cards and enjoying our new years celebration.
Enjoy what nature has to offer—make snow angels
Trip by the numbers: We hiked over 8 miles and had an elevation gain of almost 2,000 feet. Not too bad for a couple who live at almost 900 feet above sea level visiting Colorado.
No bike rides in the cold and snow.
On the road again! A trip on the Kentucky Bourbon trail showed us that sampling the product is enjoyable. We began our tour at Maker’s Mark Distillery and then went to Bardstown, Kentucky, where we stayed at the Bourbon Manor. The Bourbon Manor is a well decorated Bed and Breakfast and our hosts treated us very well. This was the first time I had traveled with a group of adults. It was a blast! Thank you Lisa and Eric! You did a great job planning and setting the group up for fun.
The food at the Bourbon manor was delicious, and their apple desert for breakfast was as good as advertised. Sitting around in the evening with friends was wonderful. Another favorite place to eat was the Rickhouse Restaurant in Bardstown. Although finding it was tricky in the dark, the steaks were worth the visit.
We all strolled around Bardstown and were entertained by the lively arts and small businesses along the main street. The snowmen outside of the art show led us to spend some time inside experiencing the local art. It was very interesting to see the spinning wheel display and see how good several of the area artists are at painting.
We even ran into Smith’s CPA firm, which was funny as one of our friends is a retired CPA named Smith. Of course we had to get a photo of Smith & Company CPA at the shop. It is great to be retired and see a thriving town of hard working people.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful! We were happy to be taking a distillery tour as the weather turned colder. It snowed while we were touring the Maker’s Mark Distillery. This was an agreeable, light and fluffy snow that only stuck to the grass and did not come down when we were driving.
At Maker’s Mark we had a delightful tour of the facility—the grounds are very pretty. We liked the bridge over Whisky Creek. In addition to the tour, our group signed up to learn how to make mixed drinks, of course with Maker’s Mark. We are not going to make a bourbon bottle chandelier but we liked the one at the restaurant at Maker’s Mark.
After the tour and the snow, the highlight for many of us was dipping our own bottle of Maker’s Mark in the red wax. This is the symbol of Maker’s Mark; we were happy to try to get the most drips on our bottle of bourbon. I think Julie from our group managed the most drips on her bottle.
We learned a lot about distilling and storing the bourbon. For example, the US Congress recognized the popularity of bourbon when, in 1964, when they designated bourbon as a “distinctive product” of the United States. Both chambers passed the Senate’s version of the concurrent resolution, which ensured that bourbon was made exclusively in the United States. The act indicated that bourbon must be at least 51% corn, distilled no more than 160 proof, aged in new white oak barrels that have been charred inside and age for no less than two years, although more than four is better. Bourbon must be stored at no more than 125 proof and bottled no less than 80 proof. Most bourbon (95%) is made in Kentucky, although it does not have to be made in Kentucky, just the United States.
In addition to the Maker’s Mark tour, we visited Heaven Hill, Willett and Woodford Reserve distilleries on our trip. Each one was different and they all had a good story to tell. The bourbon trail in Kentucky is an excellent tour. We could have seen several more distilleries, but even retired travelers have limited time.
One of the fun facts we learned on the trail is that there are today in Kentucky two barrels of bourbon for every person living in Kentucky. That is a lot of bourbon!
My Old Kentucky Home, you know the state song of Kentucky? Well, we had a terrific tour of the historic home located in Bardstown. Yes, this is the historic house that Stephen Foster wrote the song about. The house was all decorated for Christmas and our lively guide even sang the state song for us all. Some of us (not me) joined in for some of the words. No photography was allowed inside, but it was a fun tour!
A few lessons learned.
The story of bourbon is one of reinvention. After prohibition, many entrepreneurs took a gamble on bourbon. With the slow aging process it does not produce revenue for several years. It does produce for the state of Kentucky and the federal government tax revenue every year.
Traveling in a group is entertaining. We will do another trip with friends in the future. We are so thankful for our friends. We had more fun than we could have imagined on the trip.
We all enjoyed the experience of mixing drinks. We are looking forward to our next get together to see if we remember what we learned in our mixing class at Maker’s Mark.
- Visit to an abbey—the fudge was great. They even had bourbon balls.
- Viewing the historic Kentucky distilleries was fascinating. We learned something new in each one and the bourbon tasted different as well. My favorite distilleries were the Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve.
- The press was at the Heaven Hill location as they announced the expansion of their visitor’s center to three times the current size. Of course the tour talked about their rick house fire although it was not prominent at the visitor’s center.
- We were very impressed with the current center and will look forward to the expansion when we visit the next time.
The bourbon trail was not a biking trip. I am sure we will get a biking trip in again in 2019. Even the bike at the Bourbon Manor had some snow. It was cold during our visit in November.
My travel to Arkansas was supposed to culminate in the semi-annual square 2 square bike ride with my sister. Over 1,900 riders were signed up and ready to go. The ride was scheduled for Saturday morning and although it rained all day Friday, Saturday looked clear.
I received a call from the ride organizers at 5:30 on Saturday morning that the ride was cancelled as several of the tunnels were rained out from the day before.
My sister rode anyway, riding around the tunnels, unlike about 1,899 other riders. I took the opportunity to drive back home.
I am happy to say my sister and I did a tune up ride at Pea Ridge National Military Park. We have been to the park before. It was a good ride, some hills and no traffic! The ride was not too long, a good almost-8-mile loop around the park. The focus of the park is the Civil War battle at Pea Ridge. The stops along the way reveal Civil War history and the two-day battle. If you have not been to the battle site, it is worth the stop. Over 26,000 soldiers struggled in Northwest Arkansas in the battle that would decide the fate of Missouri.
I enjoyed riding the Razorback Regional Greenway Trail in Northwest Arkansas. I only took one ride during the week along the trail and this trail is part of the square 2 square ride. I wanted to re-familiarize myself with the trail. I expected to be riding that weekend the same course with hundreds of others and I enjoyed a less populated trail ride.
I was able to take advantage of a new disc golf course near my mom’s house. My mom joined me on the first round and I did another “solo” walk around the course while I was down for the visit. I had played golf (with a ball) on this same location years before with my family. The old golf course was a 9-hole course. I can see that I hit the golf ball much further than I can throw a disc. It was fun to play the new disc golf course. The designers of the course had a good idea and layout. I enjoyed teeing off of a golf tee pad to hit, I mean throw my disc.
A quick stop in St. Louis and another bike ride on Grant’s trail was a warm up for the ride I was expecting to do in Arkansas. I enjoy the ride along Grant’s trail and found the balloons along the route to be a fun addition. I am looking forward to riding the expansion coming next year as well.
On a prior trip to St. Louis I was able to visit, along with my wife and in-laws White Haven, Grant’s home (also a National Park) in St. Louis. Grant’s trail, where we like to ride in St. Louis, goes along the home. It was great to walk around and learn more about this famous Civil War General and President.
When I got back from my travels south, a friend of mine from India was in town and we got to spend a nice day together in Cincinnati catching up on old times.
Before going to Arkansas I had a visit from a college buddy and we enjoyed Cincinnati and Cleveland play baseball
I also have been able to take in a local hike or two and get back to the local Arboretum to see how the plants are doing. It is good to get out and hike among the trees and flowers.
Since the organizers of the square 2 square ride cancelled their ride, all riders were allowed a “substitute” 30 mile bike ride in order to receive their medal.
I was happy to ride with my wife on the Loveland bike trail in Cincinnati to complete my Arkansas ride. I receive the medal in the mail and I will look for another time to ride the trails.
A few lessons learned:
Take a chance and ride when you can. I was all ready for the square 2 square ride and was disappointed not to be a part of that ride. I did go on several rides the week before. It was enjoyable to be outside riding the different trails even though I did not make it for the event.
Keep your mind busy. Here is a look at the jig saw puzzle table. My Mom works on puzzles daily. When she is all done, she donates the used ones to a local charity.
Enjoy the area where you are. The Pea Ridge bike ride was a last minute thing. It was enjoyable for the scenery and that the only other traffic on the road was a few others on bike. We had the entire park to ourselves. This was better than a simple bike path because of all of the history and stops along the route.
When a friend calls up to say hi, have them over or spend the day with them. Local plans can wait.
Trip by the numbers: Here is a picture of my substitute 30 mile bike ride. It could have been in Arkansas and I did the ride in Ohio. The result was the same—I had fun riding.
It must be time for another ride!
One of kids got into a new kind of event, the Spartan race. We had never heard of the event and wanted to support our son. We thought the best way to experience a race would be to volunteer for the race. Of course we did not want to actually run the race! So, we took the officials training and became volunteer course marshals for two different Spartan races.
Our first trip to Perfect North in Indiana was in July, even though it is not too far from our house in Kentucky. Perfect North is a ski slope and one we have avoided until July. At least we went as officials.
The good news for the racers is we had an hour long training class on how to be an effective course marshal. We had a great time monitoring our obstacle during the race and could see our son competing as our obstacle was near the end of the race.
This Spartan race has several types of obstacles that required crawling, climbing, pulling, and lifting. All they are missing is a bike ride. Of course the stadium event had a stationary bike obstacle.
Some of the obstacles at our races were:
- Barb wire – crawl under barb wire.
- Rope climb – climb a rope.
- Hoist – lift a weight with pulley system.
- Multi Rig—This is the event we monitored. This is similar to the monkey bars we had as kids.
Our son and his friends did well. He was so excited to see us that he ran the race twice, and we got a chance to see the second run with his friends from the gym. It really is a community event.
Since my in-laws live in St. Louis, we joined our son for his Stadium race as course marshals in Busch Stadium. We saw more of our son on this race as we could see him run by and then hit some other activities.
It was really fun to be inside working an event at Busch Stadium. It is different from watching a baseball game. All of us said walking (or running) onto the field was a highlight. It must have been hard to run up and down all of the levels of the stadium. I clocked over 7 miles walking just as a volunteer.
The stadium race had many of the same obstacles as the Sprint. It did not have water based obstacles. We again monitored the multi-rig and one other obstacle later in the morning. The multi-rig is a challenging event; the Spartans make it look easy.
The views throughout the stadium were great. We enjoyed being able to walk around before and after our volunteer shift.
We again participated in training and were treated to the behind the scenes view of the stadium. Of course things are dark at 5:30 AM when we have to show up on race day. We did get to view the press area and walk around the entire stadium prior to the race beginning at 7 AM.
Spartan race organizers want to encourage people to become active. They are looking to make that activity a way of life. Having now met several competitors and officials, we see that there is a community devoted to that mission. The race is a way to have the athlete held accountable to themselves and put pressure on their training. I have found that if you do not have a goal, you do not get serious about the training, in business or in other pursuits.
We are certainly proud of our Spartan!