Sunday, March 24, 2019

Northwest Arkansas and Rainbows for my Birthday

The Beautiful Mrs K is our family trip planner.  This trip was based on me getting yet another year older AND Eli having spring break from school.  We brought along Eli's friend Matt so Eli didn't have to wonder why he was spending his precious spring break with the old folks.  The wee Focus was packed to it's rafters.
But it all fit.  Our luggage, 4 people, and two to the mountain biking playground of the midwest, Bentonville Arkansas.  Wait...there are only two bikes and four people!  More on that later.
I may be a really hard person to get along with, but Mrs K loves me enough to plan these trips and get us where we are going in frugal style.  We stopped at a hotel in Springfield, the boys swam in the pool, and I got my birthday kiss before the stroke of midnight.
Two hours after leaving Springfield the next morning, we crossed the border into Arkansas.  Now it may surprise you to know that my dear departed mother's entire family is from Arkansas.  It's true.  But...not from Bentonville.  Or Bella Vista.  But they are all from the Natural State and as such, I feel like I kind of belong here.  I have credentials!  Like a press-pass to enter Arkansas!
Mrs K booked us an AirB&B and it did not disappoint.  It was freaking fabulous.  It was a house on Lake Windsor, just a couple minutes drive from Northwest Arkansas best trails.  And only a few steps away from the newest trail system, too.  Isn't she cute?
 I shall bore you a little more with photos of the house.  I fell in love with it.  Our bikes liked it, too.
 Ok.  One more shot.  Really.
The view from the upper deck (there were TWO decks on this house!) toward the lake.  The boys were happy because they brought along their fishing poles.
 Just a short while later, I was surprised to see minnows residing next to my Monster in the fridge.
The wee Focus doesn't have a four-bike rack.  Only two.  So we had to rent bikes for the young'uns.  It presented a bit of a problem for us to go back and forth to shops and the trails.  It wasn't that bad because everything is so close...the trails, the house, the shops, etc.  We made it work and I think we may have converted some boys to mountain biking.  Eli has his eyes closed here because he stayed up so late the night before.  He may actually be asleep.
But once at the Slaughter Pen trails, he and Matt both sprung to life.  They loved the small pump track, the big downhill jump track, and....
They had a blast on the little flow track.  It's actually not so little, but it doesn't have any big jumps on it.  It's a ton of fun.  It was a lot of work to fly down the track and then climb back up , but I think they did it 7 or 8 times.
Eli has always been a pretty natural bike rider.  I loved seeing him smile and yell out "woo hoo" as he flew down.
What was just as fun to me was to see my beautiful wife enjoy herself so much.  She has worked very, very hard to be healthy enough to do the things we love to do.  Watching her tackle harder and harder stuff, and still have a ton of fun, was very rewarding for me.
She scares me a lot, too.  She pretty much has two speeds, 1) full gas, full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes, and 2) "honey are you ok???"  I have no choice but to give advice and let her figure the rest out on her own. There isn't anything I love to hear more than hearing her squeal "I DID IT!"
At the end of the first whirlwind day in Bella Vista, I had to run down to the store for some wine.  Our house was at the top of a very large ridge and I caught this amazing moon shot on my way.  At least I was amazed by it.
The next day was more scrambling for rental bikes for the boys.  This time our target was Blowing Springs, literally 2 miles from our house.  My big thing was to do the Back 40, a long, twisting trail that resembles the Ozark Trail quite a bit.  While I was doing that, Mrs K and the boys did the larger concrete pump track there, as well as the Blowing Springs Boom Diggity trails.  While waiting for me to finish the Back 40, they drove their bikes over to Slaughter Pen again for more riding.  A great day for us all.
 We rewarded ourselves with a bit of pizza at Gusano's.
 Who knew you could find such kick ass Chicago-style pizza in Bella Vista, Arkansas??

Back at the house, the boys found the fly swatter.  Not just Andy Griffith's fly swatter, either.  This was electrified, like a bug zapper.  What the??  I don't know if they ever actually got a fly with this thing, though.
Yes, the other day was my 52nd birthday.  As such, we invited the St. Louis natives who call Bentonville/Bella Vista their home-away-from-home over for dinner and cake.  We had a great time with Steve, Elena, Mitch, Greg, Mariah, and Kas.  Thanks guys for coming to the old man's party!
A tragic side note:  The crew was all very nice to leave me with some of the cake.  Too bad I dropped it on the floor when getting it out of the fridge the next day....I did still eat it, though.
Saturday threatened rain, so the Beautiful Mrs K and I left the kids to their fishing and drove down the street to Blowing Springs.  It's such a diverse set of trails, ranging from good clean fun to pretty wicked ledges and shelf rock.  We got in some good trail time and packed up when the skies got a bit ugly. Sure enough, as soon as we got back to the house, it started raining.
I just thought I'd throw in this lovely lady.  She resides at the top of the hill at the end of the Black Apple Creek loop.  She is made entirely of bicycle chains.  Well, that and crank arms.
Since it was rainy, we thought we might take the boys out on a boat and fish.  You know, what's a little rain when you're fishing?  The skies were a bit threatening but nothing major ever happened.
After a little consultation from the guy who ran the bait shop, we decided not to take a boat out.  It was kind of expensive and the fishing hasn't been great.  So the boys fished off the docks and it all came to a screeching halt when Eli's reel cried uncle.
So, we drove into downtown Bentonville and checked out the Walmart museum and the cool little ice cream shop.  Yes, I did buy an ice cold bottle of coke for $1.  And an ice cream.
We went for a walk later that night in the subdivision and found this little gem.  A crystal cave with some cool history.  Couldn't go in, of course, as it was now a historic place and a home for some endangered bats.  But way, way cool and pretty creepy at night.
 A picture of the cave entrance in the day time.
Our last night in mountain biking paradise, why not take some selfies?  Now Mrs K and I never, ever agree on pictures.  It's very hard to get a photo of her that she likes.  So it takes us quite a while to actually get one.  We were laughing so hard in this one because we kept having to hit the timer button and quickly sit down for the photo.  Finally, we got a good one and she let me post it!
I should say we got more than one.  Miracles never cease!  This is one of our better pictures together, I think.
This morning before we left, the boys wouldn't wake up and the trails were too wet to ride (my opinion, because there were plenty of people who did ride), so we went down to Blowing Springs.  I did a nice, hard trail run and Deanna hiked the coolest sections and took some fabulous photos.  The NWA trails are so full of beautiful features, natural and man made.
The rocks, the terrain, the trees, the trail designs...all of it makes for some fantastic trails and great outdoor adventures.
 The wee Focus, loaded up again for the trip home.  I'm going to miss that house, for sure.
We stopped in Springfield again on our way home, this time to eat lunch at one of Deanna's old haunts, Ebbets Field.  Cool place with great food.
Continuing home, we were treated to a very, very rare thing.  At least it's rare in my 52 years.  First off, I have never seen a rainbow with such powerful colors.  Very vivid, very strong, very bright.
On top of that, we saw both ends of the rainbow.  I have never seen both ends.  Maybe I've been under a rock all my life, but I've never seen the ends meet to form that perfect rainbow, from one side of the sky to the other.  Then, it became a double rainbow, with a less vivid one over the top of this one.  The kicker...we followed this rainbow down highway 44 East for at least 45 minutes, and it was still visible when we pulled into Shrewsbury, close to our house.  Pictures can never do this thing justice.

A perfect end to a perfect weekend.  Happy birthday to me, indeed!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Mountain Biking Has Resumed!

First things first: I was very surprised by carrots in my lunch box this week, but it was a pleasant surprise.  Better for me than Little Debbie Snack Cakes, for certain.
I was quite sure Spring had not arrived when I ran at Greensfelder the other day.  I was actually shaking when I took this photo.  I warmed up when I started running, but was not happy.
This is the face I make when, on a gloriously sunny morning, my fingers and toes were numb from a quick Porkchop loop.  Damn, Spring!!  Where the hell are you??
After finding myself quite drawn to the new Buick Regal GS, I had to quickly redeem myself by finding something very young-hearted, fast, loud, obnoxious, and ridiculous.  As fate had it, a Lamborghini Gallardo was stopped next to me in traffic.  Perfect to exorcise the old-man tendencies.  The license plate is awesome on this one.
More proof that we may be old but we ain't dead yet.  The beautiful Mrs K and I went for a ride at our favorite place, Greensfelder.  The trails were not really ready for spring, either, but there we were.
Not to be beaten down by the tough conditions at Greensfelder, we cleaned up nicely and went for margaritas up the street.  That turned out to be a good decision.
A not so good thing while cleaning up the bikes this weekend:  Stan's Crest MK3 rim, RIP.  Fourteen spoke holes cracked.  This is on the gravel bike, so I had to get another rim on order.  Oh, the pain, the pain!
Again pushing the "Spring" button on the outdoor elevator, Mrs K and I headed to Bluffview.  It was a mixed bag of trail conditions but it wasn't too bad weather-wise.  I met up with some great friends there and Deanna got some more break-in time on the Trance.  I got a health-food hotdog at Qwik Trip afterward.

I'm including this photo because I don't look angry, fat, or old here.  That's a goal and dammit, I captured that moment!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Day in the life, in Pictures

 A day should always start off with food.  How about a 4" tall turkey sandwich? 
A day always contains some fear and trepidation over the weather, looking frequently outside to see if it's raining on the bike.
Yep, it rained on this day.  I look fabulous here, but you can't tell that I'm soaked to the bone and freezing.  I actually tried warming up by activating the hand dryers in the bathroom. C'mon, tell me you haven't done that?
The drying off process takes time.  And Taco Bell dollar menu.