After suffering the catastrophic loss of my brother to stomach cancer in late 2011, we welcomed a new beginning in 2012, and were richly blessed. Our family grew again once more with the arrival of Harper Ann Riley Painter on July 30; she joins Ridge and Kaden to make up a trio of the greatest grandkids in the world! Our kids—Ron, Karyn and Matt, and Jenny and Brian—have had great years.
Health wise, we are both doing well, thanks in large part to Mayo Clinic, our doctors and healthcare providers, and Weight Watchers. Over the course of the last year, I dropped 45 pounds—the doctor has taken me off all prescribed medications—and Kay lost 25 pounds. We continue to value and savor every moment of our lives here on earth.
John Simank and I canoed the Buffalo River in late March, with early spring temperatures reaching 90 degrees; we had a great “float” and super hike to Hemmed-In Hollow where we had a great view of the tallest waterfall between the Appalachians and the Rockies. Spring and summer saw great Norfork River fly fishing, perhaps the best I’ve experienced since fishing the river. The dry fly fishing was awesome, and almost addictive—the caddis hatch was great, the sulphur hatch was good, and the crane flies provided excellent fishing. I had a number of 20-inch fish, and several days where, seemingly, all the fish I caught were big ones. Time on the water with long-time fishing buddies, Wayne, John, Ed, and Bill was great fun, and I fished several times with friends Patty, Whit, Donnie, and Susie.
With new kayaks, Kay and I spent several days on the Norfork River with family, and especially enjoyed trips on the White River with Ed and Ellen.We rediscovered our wonderful Ozark Mountains in the fall, and made several hikes in and near the Leatherwood Wilderness, finding large overhangs and caves, and extraordinary bluffs with spectacular 270 degree views.
We are getting more comfortable in our church, First United Methodist Church of Mountain Home, where we sing as members of the Crossroads Band. We were asked to co-teach a new Sunday school class for adults with children still at home, and began that endeavor in late August; one of the side benefits is becoming friends with Bob and Sharon Jones. I left 4+1 Quartet in early November with much sadness, but my hearing has degenerated to the point that I could no longer hear the tracks, and our travel schedule was becoming increasingly more busy.
Our 2012 Travels
We escaped cold weather in northern Arkansas, leaving January 11 and spending a few days in central Arkansas before returning to south Texas for the remainder of the month in Aransas Pass, enjoying good friends and warm weather but tiring quickly of the wind and sand. Highlights of our two weeks there included Padre Island National Seashore and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, touring the USS Lexington aircraft carrier, enjoying drives and great meals with Bruce, Jeannie, Jim, and Ginnie from the Arkansas Travelers, and meeting up again with our friend “Uncle” Jack Nimon whom we met in Henry’s Lake, Idaho, in August 2011.
We departed Aransas Pass on February 1, and after a short drive to Mission, Texas, we arrived at Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), staying the entire month, before returning home in early March. Despite a wetter than normal month, we very much enjoyed our time here, and met many new friends; the sense of community here is wonderful. Happy hour at the palapa in our circle was our favorite time of day. We especially enjoyed the birds and butterflies at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, National Butterfly Center, Salineno, and Quinta Mazatlan, and the fresh fruits and vegetables that are found in the RGV. We also cherished our time visiting with good friends, Jim and Cheryl, from the Ozark Ridge Runners; though we live within a couple of hours of each other at home, we don’t make time to visit as often as we should. Of course, a daytrip to Mexico was fun as were a few trips to the Don Wes Flea Market.
April found us in Fayetteville, Arkansas, attending an Arkansas Travelers rally. It was great meeting up with “old” RVing friends, and we really liked the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, and attending the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball game.
In mid-May, we toured Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks and San Francisco with Nan and George Laux (Kay’s sister); this was a bucket list item for us. We packed each day with sightseeing, hiking and photography. And we enjoyed a great lunch at the old and famous Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park; the Mediterranean salad was among the best salads I have ever eaten. Though Yosemite Valley, with its El Capitan, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls, is more famous, we were awestruck and speechless as we walked among God’s natural giants in Sequoia National Park on a Sunday morning. Kings Canyon had some great scenery, but was less impressive. San Francisco was alive and resplendent with its cosmopolitan culture. And best of all was the quality time we shared with Nan and George.
We camped several days in late May and early June at Quarry Park near our house in Norfork, Arkansas. We were home most of June and July, welcoming the newest member of our family, Harper Ann, into the world on July 30. We returned to Quarry Park in early August for a few more days.
In mid-September we traveled throughout the Maritime Provinces in Canada with good friends John and Sandy Simank. Touring Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick—making up Canada’s Maritime Provinces—had been on our bucket list for sometime. Driving and sight-seeing, and attending the céilidhs on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia were our favorites, though eating lobster and scallops was a close second. We were surprised by the amount of agricultural land on PEI, and the extent of forested land in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Most impressive was the rugged Bay of Fundy coastline in New Brunswick, in combination with the most significant tides in the world.
Upon returning home, we camped a few days at Quarry Park near home.
Late October found us joining the Ozark Ridge Runners in wine country near Altus, Arkansas for a few days. We camped at Aux Arc (pronounced Ozark) Park, a US Army Corps of Engineers campground on the Arkansas River at Ozark, Arkansas, arriving a few days early and spending some quality time with Jim and Cheryl Watts. Though this rally was billed as a “Wine Country Tour”, our favorite activities on this trip were sight-seeing along and adjacent to Arkansas Highway 23, aka the Pig Trail, particularly the Mulberry River valley, and finding Baxley Cemetery in Logan County near Paris, Arkansas, where Kay’s ancestors are buried.
We co-hosted an Arkansas Travelers rally in Mountain View, Arkansas in early November. Despite the lateness of the season, it was the best attended rally of the year. We found that hosting a rally entailed being planner, host and hostess, chief cook, bottle washer, server, event planner, purser, and trouble shooter. The rally preceded the 2012 Fall Bluegrass Festival in Mountain View which was very entertaining, and packed with concert goers—however, we found that one can overdose on bluegrass pretty quickly.
In late November we came back to Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort in Mission, TX, for the 2012-2013 winter. Birding is down somewhat, but the butterflies have been spectacular. Also, with new bicycles and great weather, we rode practically everyday. The resort was less crowded in December, and provided a chance to get to know other “residents” better. Kay began a woodworking project—turning a bowl on a lathe—and spent several sessions at the wood shop. We definitely felt at “home” down here.
We drove back to central Arkansas for the holidays, with our kids and grandkids. On Christmas Day, the weather took a turn for the worse, with freezing rain, sleet, and 10.5 inches of snow falling in a narrow band that included central Arkansas. Kay spent several hours at son Ron’s house without electricity and cell phone service, though she could text brief messages. I hightailed it home to northern Arkansas before bad weather hit with only 6 inches of snow. After Christmas, all the kids squeezed time in their very busy lives to be together for a few hours. After a stress-packed holiday, Kay and I drove straight back to the RGV, stopping only for gasoline and lunch, to spend New Year’s eve at the resort. We joined other members of our circle for a party, and ushered in the new year on Newfoundland time, Atlantic time, and Eastern time. Kay did not make it to Central time, and I was asleep about 5 minutes after midnight!
Plans for the New Year
The upcoming year brings lots of promises. We will remain in the RGV through February, returning home in early March, hopefully for great dry fly fishing on the Norfork River. In April, we hope to join the Ozark Ridge Runners for an rolling RV rally in Pella, Iowa, enjoying the Tulip Festival and Amana Colonies. In early summer, we plan to travel to the Upper Peninsula and northern lake area of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota—another bucket list item. Late summer will hopefully see us in Colorado for cool days and nights, hiking, photography, and fly fishing. We don’t have plans for early fall, but will likely return to the RGV in November.
In trying to summarize our comings and goings in 2012, we’ve relied on failing memories; consequently, and we have surely committed the sin of omission. We have been truly blessed to be able to live our retirement dreams, and 2012 was a great year—we enjoyed blessings beyond measure, but expected no less from our great God—and look forward to 2013.