I put these construction-type .gifs on here, along with a disclaimer, back in early 2007 when I realized how out-of-date my web site was. Originally created in 1998, I hadn't done anything to it since about 2002! Since then I've gone through it and updated it a little at a time, and it is now (early September, 2008) fairly up-to-date. There's still a little bit of stuff to be done on the main page, though, and quite a bit to do on some of the linked pages, so I'm leaving the construction motif in place for a while. Hey, life is kinda like a highway, y'know? Ever changing, wearing down here, in need of re-surfacing there, a little detour or re-routing over yonder... you never take a trip without running into road construction somewhere along the way. It's not an inappropriate symbol. This page is about my life, which is a journey, after all. So, hit the road, put up with the occasional "flagman ahead, one-lane road, detour," and all that stuff. That's just how it is when you get out and go somewhere.
I'm Charlie, semi-tame hillbilly from the wilds of southwest Missouri by way of Arkansas and Texas. I lived the first 30 years of my life within 40 miles of the Missouri-Arkansas line (alternating sides), basking in the beauty of the unspoiled Ozarks and enjoying the isolation from the real world they afforded. The next 17 years were spent living in middle Arkansas in and around Little Rock, where I cultivated my suave and urbane manner cut with a dash of southern redneck. Then came five years in south Texas, down San Antonio way, where I was tempered by the mellow, laid back, south Texas cowboy influence and the "manana" attitude of the Hispanic folks. Although I loved it down there, I always swore I'd never want to become a Texan - but moving to Wichita, Kansas at the end of 98 changed my mind. Fortunately, Kansas lasted less than a year before I completed the circle by returning to north Arkansas. Once again I'm back in my beloved hills within twenty miles of the line, and enjoying it immensely as I rediscover the wonder of it all.
I'm now 61, still terribly handsome, probably a genius, modest to a fault, lazy as a rock, astonishingly fast on bikes and in cars, a non-practicing pilot, and avid reader. I like gardening, camping, photography, weather, computers, beer, contemplating the meaning of our existence, and taking long drives or rides into the depths of the countryside - those being in no particular order of priority. Some people say I'm a fair-to-middling writer as well, but I'll let you be your own judge of that.
Oh, by the way... I use the flags to designate my places of residence, not in any patriotic kind of way. Don't get me wrong - I love my country, just as I love my state and my Ozark hills. But I don't want to impose my hillbilly way of life on folks in the big cities any more than I want to impose my American way of life on folks in Iraq, or Brazil, or any other country. I am not a supporter of war. I believe in Peace, in freedom, in live and let live. As someone once said, "I love my country, but I fear my government". I consider myself to be a libertarian, with anarchist leanings. By the way, most people fear the word, "anarchy". They think it means wild barbarians running amok in the streets, omniarchy. Not so. It simply means "without ruler". For a concise explanation, check:
I believe the foundation on which this country was founded has been eroded to the point it is no longer recognizable, and we are rapidly approaching being as much a fascist, or at least, socialist, country as has ever been. Free speech seems to be a thing of the past, freedom to do as you please and do what you please with your own property, especially your money, has ceased to exist, and I fear for our way of life. I still love the United States of America, but I do not support the gawdam yankee fedral gummint.
Okay, I got that out of my system. Let's get on to the real purpose of these pages!
You've heard of "Words of Warning". This is a WARNING of WORDS !
Be prepared to see a lot of them if you peruse my pages.
You are hereby forewarned that anything with my name attached may be a little lengthy - I'm not known for using two words if three will do the job just as well. One fella who surfed onto my pages asked, "Why so many words?" Sheesh. Where would literature be without them? Besides, it may be what I do best! So, relax and enjoy the words while the pictures load!
Note: That last sentence was written years ago, back before broadband, when it took time for pictures to load. Of course, for us po' folks saddled with dial-up, it still holds.
|In addition to all the fine qualities listed above, I've proven to be a very poor judge of women, or so my Mother claimed. Whatever - I've had terrible luck with them. When I was little I once asked my Dad, “Daddy, should I look for a good dog, or a good woman?” He responded, “Son,|
Well, my Dad had better luck than I have, ‘cause Mom never left him. Although, she may have thought about it a time’er two…
Those words have proven prophetic for me. I've lost several dogs during my life, and even more women. It's enough to put a fella off even trying to settle down with woman or beast.
Y'know, that sexy thang on the right up there used to do that move in semi-slow motion, very sultry and alluring, but that was back when Internet connections were slow. Now she looks like she's trying to squeegee something off her thighs with her hands... I oughta get rid of her, I guess, but... nah.
In spite of being unable to sustain a marriage, I have managed to remain constant in my son's, life. (I'm sure there are those who will express sympathy to the poor Lad for having borne that burden.) I was Steve's only custodial parent from the time he was 2.5 years old. He is now almost 25. I have great confidence in him, and feel he will go on to live a happy and satisfying life in spite of having grown up under the influence of a hillbilly like me.
Now, I'm not the typical proud parent or anything, but I do feel obligated to toss in a picture of the Lad as he approaches the end of his adolescence. I snapped this picture of him late last summer - AHEM... Make that several years ago - right close to his 19th birthday (He hasn't changed much since then):
Handsome rascal, ain’t he?
Unfortunately, the story isn’t as bright concerning my oldest child, my daughter. Thanks to my own youthful stupidity we have been estranged for two decades, something which I deeply regret, but know not how to resolve. She does appear to be doing fine on her own, and for that I am thankful.
In addition to raising Steven, my Number One passion (decided upon after much vacillation between bikes and planes) is motorcycles. I've been involved with online computing since the early 90s and hanging out online with other riders is my second favorite pastime. I enjoy going for a good ride, then sitting down at the keyboard and making it sound like a combination travel guide, race report, and "Then Came Bronson" rolled into one. Some people enjoy it, others wish I'd spare the bandwidth. I hope you are one of the former, because many of my pages are related to bikes and riding.
When I first moved to Wichita back in early 1999, I was bikeless. Unexpectedly, I soon remedied that. I was searching for some basic transportation, some old beater of a bike to ride back and forth to work, something I could buy very cheaply and not have to insure or spend much money on, when I happened upon the fabled deal I couldn't refuse, and
came to live with me.
I had lusted after a Kawasaki Concours since they were first introduced in 1986 - at long last, I had one!
Note: The "S" in "Concours" is silent. French word. It's not plural, as in Concourz, nor is it a place to catch a plane, as in Concourse. Pronounced "Concour". Pronounce or spell it differently and you're a rube. Deal with it.
Since the glorious day Cognac came to live with me, we’ve covered over 95,000 wonderful miles, most of them on the twisting, climbing, diving, convoluted snake-of-a-roads here in Arkansas, although he’s also seen additional duty in Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Lousyanna, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and, of course, nearby southern Missouri. The Concours continued to receive short shrift in the motorcycling press for most of its 20 years in production, but it is still an impressive ride. (Last year Kawasaki finally retired the design and introduced the new, much more complex and expensive, Concours 14.) I still find the C-10, as Concours aficionados now refer to the original, to be a fine ride for every day use as well as for weekend blasts through the hills and occasional long-distance rides across the country.
Speaking of long-distance rides, I'm proud to say that I'm a member of the Iron Butt Association:
To belong to this organization, you have to complete one of their certified rides, with the minimum being the SaddleSore 1000, which requires one to cover 1,000 miles in a 24 hour period.
Now, it's really fairly easy to do these days. Jump onto the nearest superslab, run 75 mph for 13 and a half hours, and you're done. Piece of cake, especially on a bike with a fuel tank the size of the C-10. 7.5 gallons at 40 - 45 mpg will keep you rolling quite a while. The typical SS 1000 only requires three fuel stops on a Connie, so if you can sit in the saddle for four hours at a time, there's really nothing to it.
I didn't want to take the easy way out, though, so I thought up a one-of-a-kind way to get my thousand miles: I rode the perimeter of Arkansas, staying as close to the border as possible without going outside the State. Since I live so near the northern border anyway, it was a natural. June 9, 2001, I made the ride. Suffice to say, I spent a lot of time at far below 75 mph, and the total time it took me to cover the 1,117 miles I logged was 23 hours and 9 minutes*. But, I was seldom in a hurry, took several breaks, had a couple of decent meals and a snack, and could have cut at least two hours off that time had I wanted to. I have chronicled the ride in detail elsewhere, but for now, here's a look at one of the certificates I got for it.
* I know, the certificate says 1,090 miles... The IBA uses a computer program to calculate distance between waypoints, and it cuts out some real-life miles here and there. No biggie... I still made over 1,000 miles with room to spare.
Hey, I even got a handwritten note from Mike Kneebone himself congratulating me on the unique route to a SaddleSore.
For much of my life I've managed to own a four-wheeled vehicle only on an intermittent basis, and for several periods of time have relied on a bike almost exclusively. The Concours served well as my only car for most of 5 years.
Unfortunately, I crashed poor ol Cognac the last day of February, aught six. Messed me up pretty good, and did some major damage to the bike. After letting it sit for six months, I sold it to a friend who partially repaired it and rode it for a while, then gave it back to me. More details in the Bike History pages. Nowadays, I drive a cage most of the time... snit.
In the fall of 99, I moved from tornado ravaged Kansas back to the wonderful hills of northern Arkansas. After a 40 year absence, I returned to:
My family first moved to Mountain Home when I was 5 years old, and stayed until I was 13 - most of the fifties - and the first 7 years of my schooling. Now I find myself back in the area, and although it has changed, it's still enough the same that I am assaulted daily with feelings of déjà vu. I know everyone gets tired of hearing, "Hey, right over there used to be..." but I can't help it. And meeting a '57 Chevy on the road does kinda flip me out. But it's an overall good experience, and I'm really enjoying it here this time around.
After a couple of years in Mountain Home yet another marriage cratered, and I moved to Bull Shoals, partly to be closer to work, but mainly because I found a cheap aluminum hovel I could afford to rent. This is the city that came to be when Bull Shoals dam was being built back in the late forties/early fifties. Its official birthdate is the same as mine... 1946. Interesting, no? Situated on a "peninsula" in the lake between Mountain Home and Flippin, Bull Shoals is a little town that consists mostly of retired folks and resorts and facilities for fishermen and other outdoor, mostly water-related, recreational activities. At some point in the not-so-distant past, it was chosen as the "Best Outdoor Sports Town In Arkansas" by Sports Afield magazine. Here's an overview of the place (picture borrowed from Southshore.com):
With Bull Shoals Lake as the centerpiece of the photo, you find the town of Bull Shoals on the peninsula to the left. It's a "peninsula" because the lake wraps all the way around to the west (left), leaving Bull Shoals surrounded by water on three sides. For a better idea of that, find a map and check it out. The town of Lakeview is at the far right center of the picture. Mountain Home is farther off to the right, well out of this shot. Flippin is straight south of the dam, or directly behind the plane from which this picture was taken. The road leading from the dam down to the bottom center is the way to Bull Shoals State Park, the White River, Gaston's Resort, and, of course, the front of the dam, among other things.
All the land you see in this picture is in Arkansas, but just beyond to the north is Missouri - even though the lake's north shore is Akansas land, to get to a lot of it by road you have to drive through Missouri. Here in Bull Shoals we like to say we're a good spinner bait cast on a windy day from the Missouri line.
By the way, that dam is the reason my family came to live here in the first place, back in the fifties. My Dad worked for the Corps of Engineers as a Powerhouse Operator in the days when the electricity generating turbines and all their systems were operated by people, not computers. Time was you could drive right up to the front door and get a tour, but those days are over, thanks to idiots with bombs and such.
In 1959, Dad got a promotion and was transferred toTable Rock Dam in Missouri, and we moved to Branson.There, I finished the 7th grade and High School. Of course, Branson was a lot different then, a genuine small town with not a lot going on. Back in 1964, none of us could wait to get out of there. No opportunity. Ha, ha. I guess the joke was on us.
Anyway, Bull Shoals is a quiet, peaceful place to live. Not real convenient to much of anything, but I've enjoyed it here. And I have one of the finest 8-mile rides to work you could ask for!
The area in general is often referred to as the "Twin Lakes Area" with Mountain Home being in between the two lakes. While Lake Norfork and Lake Bull Shoals have a lot in common, they are far from twins. For one thing, no highway bridges Bull Shoals anywhere along its length, while the smaller Norfork is crossed by one major highway and one lesser one, both using impressive bridges to span it. (When I lived here as a youth, neither bridge existed. Instead, Highways 62 and 101 utilized ferries to cross over. Those were replaced by bridges in the mid 70s. For a look at how it was back then, you can check out PEEL FERRY. Highway 125 crosses Bull Shoals Lake into Missouri at Peel, Arkansas, and since traffic volume has never been high enough to merit the expense of bulding a bridge, the State of Arkansas still operates a ferryboat there. If you are in the area and have some time, it's a nice, scenic drive and the ferry ride is a little treat! Not to mention, the roads leading to it on both sides are outstanding.)
Some say Norfork is the prettier of the two lakes; I don't know if that's true, but this shot of Norfork provides a strong argument.
We musn't forget the reason the lakes exist in the first place - the rivers. Lake Norfork results from the damming of the North Fork of the White River which begins in the Ozark hills in southern Missouri. It is a small tributary of the mighty White itself, which is dammed a total of four times, Bull Shoals being the last one in the chain. The White River begins as a tiny stream outside the remote mountain town of Pettigrew near the center of the State, on Highway 16 up north of Clarksville. It then runs counter to convention by heading first west, then north, making a run through southern Missouri before returning to Arkansas and heading southeast to the Mississippi, like all good rivers around here do.
There are a lot of folks in the area that prefer river life to lake life, and it does provide its own kind of beauty and recreation. While the White has been "harnessed" by man and is much different than it was before the dams, it still gives us a glimpse of what ran through these hills before the middle of the last century. In the old days, the river was a formidable barrier to travel. As with the lakes, the original method of crossing it was the ferry, but early in the 20th century two bridges, one for rail, one for highway, were built over the White. Both bridges still stand, and both are still in regular use, although the one for cars is more of an antique and has been supplemented by a newer bridge half a mile to the north. The old bridge has recently been renovated so it may be preserved for posterity and is considered by some to be quite an artistic example of the engineers' talent. Here is a nice shot of the two older Cotter Bridges:
Another major river empties into the White just a little way south of Cotter - the Buffalo River , first river to attain National River status in the U.S., and famous the world over for its magnificent scenery, fishing, and floating. It runs through forest, much of it virtual wilderness, for most of its way through the State. Click here for a map of the Buffalo's route.
The Buffalo is bordered by National Park land its whole length, and there's nothing more peaceful than a leisurely float beneath towering bluffs and forested hillsides. Of course, the level of leisure will depend on the recent rainfall - this rascal can get moving pretty fast sometimes! If you really want to get away from everything, take a three or four day float on the Buffalo. Other than passing beneath four bridges along the way, you'll think you've reverted to the 19th century. I doubt a cellphone will even work down in most of those canyons.
Regardless whether you prefer lake, river, or forest, there's plenty of all three in the Arkansas Ozarks. Throw in the twisty roads that cross and join all these features, and you can see why I love it here so much.
I like to think of my education as ongoing, 'cause I sure do learn something new every day. As far as "formal" education is concerned, I graduated from Branson High in 64, attended the University of Arkansas for a year and a half (all they'd let me do, because of the sorry grades I made in roughly half my classes, the result of stubbornly pursuing the wrong field of study), and a few years later did a year at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield where my grades were much better but the pressures of family and youthful stupidity caused me to quit after that year. I also attended UALR for a class or two in the early 80s, but the bottom line is I have no college degree and no desire to try to get one. My various careers have taught me many diverse things and I've completed many training classes, courses, and seminars on a wide variety of subjects so I know a little bit about a lot of things and a lot about a few things. But don't ask to see my credentials.
It's true that I've had far too many different jobs (I hesitate to use the word "careers") in my life, at least the past decade or so, but I don't regret any of them. Learned something everywhere I've worked, and, in general, done a good job for the employers, giving them at least their money's worth. Some jobs were better than others, though.
I’ve worked in construction (as an electrician), in a factory or two, and in a variety of retail and person-to-person sales jobs. I’ve worked in fast food, in telemarketing, and sales. I've been a salesman in the direct sales, in-home environment, and spent over eight years in the insurance business. Somewhere along in there, I managed to be a middle-management executive for about 10 years, even acting as the Information Systems Manager of a large corporation. At times I could have easily been classified as a Human Resources Manager, or a Systems Analyst, or a Technical Writer. I've even squeezed in six months as an over-the-road truck driver. Most recently, I seem to have settled into the Customer Service side of things, where my experience in dealing with people from all walks of life and with all attitudes has served me well. Currently, I work for
in the Advertising Department. There, I divide my time between reviewing and distributing all email that comes to Ranger from our web site, answering as many as I can and forwarding answers from others on the ones I can't, answering the 800 line and handling or referring the inquiries we get there, monitoring and proofing the web site for needed changes, updating many portions of the web site, writing some code, writing some ad copy, and a host of other things. It keeps me hopping all day long, but it's also a lot of fun. And I get to work with some of the nicest, and craziest, people in the world!
By far the most interesting and fun job I've ever had was working for Long and Associates,
the tire and auto testing company in south Texas, from April 1997 to the end of December, 1998. It very nearly ruined me for any other kind of, um, I hesitate to use the word "work"...
L & A contracts with tire and vehicle manufacturers to road test tires, cars, trucks, and... motorcycles. Most of the tire-testing is "wear-out" testing on public roads, although they do occasionally utilize one of the many test tracks scattered around the south Texas area. Vehicle testing is done according to the manufacturer's dictates. I hired on in the motorcycle testing division, and for about two years was PAID to go riding every day! (Well, except for when I couldn't, but that's on another page.)
This "job" required me to ride these bikes during 10 - 12 hour shifts, both day and night, normally covering a 300 to 500 mile course each shift, usually the 500 mile version. Most of the testing was done on public roadways, and all was supposed to be at normal, legal, highway speeds, but it still got kinda hairy from time-to-time. Weather, road hazards, traffic, and more than a few idiots-as-co-worker kept it interesting.
I logged time on various bikes ranging from some rather elderly and high-mileage Honda Gold Wings (often pulling trailers or laden with lead shot - I probably have over 25,000 miles on Gold Wings pulling Time Out trailers) to brand-new current models from Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Harley Davidson. During the first months of the job I rode nothing but Harleys - got to test pre-production examples of some as well as various current and recent models. During the second year, I spent a lot of time aboard the pre-production Polaris Victory. Of course, much of the details were covered by a non-disclosure agreement I signed, so for several years I wasn't supposed to talk about any of it. All that has expired, now.
Sadly, Long & Associates seems to have fallen by the wayside recently. Alas, the end of an era.
If you want to read more about my career as a motorcycle test rider, click on the link to my Bike History page, below.
While they no longer reside with me, I feel obligated to pay homage to two former residents of my home; a couple of fine examples of the four-legged life forms: Mercy and Alesi. When we moved away from Wichita, we were unable to take them with us. Both are with loving step-parents back in Wichita, and I remember them fondly. Here's a peek at them:
This is Mercy!
And this is Alesi!
Something Dad didn't warn me about - sometimes the dogs leave, too. . .
But, in spite of the past experiences, my hope springs eternal. In the late summer of 02, just as my son was moving out, the new love of my life moved in.
That's right, she's named after the car chassis manufacturer that supplied racing chassis to CART and others for so many years. Always a racing connection, no?
This little Jack Russell terrior has taken over my life and complicated it in ways you can't imagine, but I love her anyway and plan on having her around a long, long time. You'll find her featured in many of my writings from now on. For a few more shots of her, you can find a Lola gallery at
Okay, 'nuff words for now. The pictures are probably loaded. Take a look at them and see if they measure up to the words. Then, if you haven't had enough, there are still a lot of words (and pictures) left on my other pages. Links to them are listed below, along with links to
Click here to visit IOOTO website!
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Bull Shoals, Arkansas
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