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Eight Years and still counting.  This year, Left to right, Jeff, DJ, Daryl, Bryan, Don, JC and Jim/Charlie Brown showed up on a crisp beautiful Arkansas day to camp overnight on the Buffalo National River near Jasper, Arkansas. Our friend, Don, let us cut a small pine from his nearby property.  Now you understand, to qualify as a Charlie Brown Tree, it need not be proportional or have thick foliage  … it just needs to look like a tree that could use a little love.  So that’s what we do … give a little love and share the Christmas spirit of the season and the beauty of Arkansas … THE NATURAL STATE.

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In most past years we have backpacked to remote wilderness camp sites.  This year, 2019, we car camped … still slept in tents but drove to the campsite.  Of special note, for the fourth year, Bryan’s wife, Betsy made her world famous culinary milestone, homemade lasagna … WOW!!! Thank you Betsy.  And to finish the meal, JC’s, wife Gwen, made her award winning homemade apple pie.  Thank you Gwen.

THAT’S CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS 2019 … NOT BAD FOR A NIGHT IN THE WILDS

NOW A LITTLE CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS PAST …

    SOMETIMES EVEN FEMALE FAMILY MEMBERS COME FOR THE FUN AND SPIRIT.

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   THEN THERE’S THE AMAZING BEAUTY OF RICHLAND CREEK AND THE BUFFALO 

 

                                  ARKANSAS TOURISM DIRECTOR POST SCRIPT

For the past two years I have been privileged to serve as Arkansas Tourism Director … clearly one of the greatest honors of my life.  I will step down the end of December.  Our Natural State hosts over thirty million visitors each year with over seven billion dollars in economic impact … second only to Agriculture.  I want to thank Governor Asa Hutchinson for the appointment.  I want to thank former Director Kane Webb and now Secretary Stacy Hurst and the Arkansas Parks Recreation and Tourism Commission for your support and leadership … but most of all I want to thank my amazing, hard working, caring and dedicated staff …

              YOU TRULY ARE THE FACE AND SUCCESS OF ARKANSAS TOURISM

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Love you all …

JIM/HUGGY BEAR  …..  (my staff will understand)

So … what’s a Hamfest?  It’s not a pork sandwich festival or an event to celebrate the best/worst of being funny (a la …  being a “ham”).  Whatever it is …  it’s gotta be something special to celebrate  50 consecutive years on top of the second highest mountain in Arkansas … Rich Mountain, in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains at Queen Wilhelmina State Park.

Okay … so what is it?  Simply put, Hamfest is a gathering of amateur Ham Radio operators.

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The black and white photo above is of the founding Hamfest  attendees taken in 1969 … fifty years ago.  And once again, hundreds of vendors, radio operators and curiosity seekers came together these first few days of September to learn, have fun and communicate with Ham radio folks from all over the world.  I was pleased to attend for the second time … this time as Arkansas Tourism Director.  My real fascination is watching and listening to an operator skillfully using Morse Code.  Wow …  this is so amazing that one person can click away with dots and dashes at 25 to thirty words a minute and actually communicate with another person hundreds or thousands of miles away.   AMAZING!IMG_9511.JPG

If the main event is not enough, there are plenty of other options.  One can stay in the beautiful lodge, or camp.  One can eat at a campsite or in the wonderful lodge restaurant. One can hike or relax and for sure enjoy the awesome 360 degree views.  Put this on your bucket list … it is a must visit.  This is truly one of my favorite spots in Arkansas … and did I mention … there’s always a breeze and cooler temperature.

Finally, I cannot say enough about our Park’s Staff at Queen Wilhelmina State Park … they are without a doubt …THE BEST!  

Below … Janelle, Jackie, Brent and yours truly. My personal thanks to each of you and your entire dedicated team.

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Queen Wilhelmina State Park  at: Arkansas.com

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Finally, thanks to you … our Hamfest guests.  Not only do you bring uniqueness, you bring tradition, friendship and your warm smiling faces.  … see you next year.

Jim Dailey … Arkansas Tourism

 

My wife just found my official Pikes Peak Marathon T Shirt …

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And … here is the story of that 1984 adventure:

My buddy, JC and I often ran 10K and 15K races plus a marathon or two together… more in his case.  We had also spent time skiing and hiking in Colorado.  When it was suggested, or I should say, when we were summoned by the Marque de Sade (from which the word “sadist” comes) we had no option but to sign up for this ultimate challenge. With a height of 14,115 feet and a vertical of almost 8000 feet (that’s 16,000 feet up and down) we started training.  I was so nervous that Patti and I went to Colorado one month before the marathon so I could train at altitude.  To cap that off I had her drive me to the top one afternoon and I ran the 13 mile Barr Trail downhill so I could see and assess what I was in for. Frankly,  this scared me even more.  In fact I could hardly walk for two days. Needless to say,  back in Arkansas, I spent countless additional hours training by running up and down Pinnacle Mountain, a 1000 foot vertical peak in West Little Rock.

Saturday, August 18, 1984. 

JC and I plus our wives actually arrived on the 17th to join about 50 other slightly insane Arkansans at a Manitou Springs pizza and pasta restaurant for a little carbo loading.

Race Day …  after a relatively good nights sleep, I added hot water to a packet of instant oatmeal, called that my breakfast and drove to meet JC at the starting line.  Even at base elevation it was cold … in fact there was a slushy snow on the ground and on the trail all the way to the top.

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Full disclosure, JC was and still is a much better runner than I and he finished about two hours before I did.  I’m proud of my buddy because subsequently he qualified for Boston and also ran the NY and Marine Marathons.  I must add, I am proud of myself as well for completing this challenging marathon.

The two pictures above show JC and me almost at the top of Pikes Peak where we would turn around and start the quadricep pounding downhill for the next 13 miles.  This is clearly one of the most personally satisfying and memorable achievements of my life.

So, what do my other buddies do when I return to Little Rock?  They were ready!

Yes … they were ready.  Unknown to me, DKR, one of the guys in our group that takes a trip together each year, reached out to Patti, got my Marathon shirt, had copies made and surprised me one evening,  We were all getting ready to go to dinner.  I went to change clothes and when entered the room, eight smiling guys were sitting there proudly wearing their own Pikes Peak Marathon T Shirt.  We were an impressive bunch at dinner that night.  Nothing like having good friends that can keep you humble. Thank  you guys for another special memory.  

 

You know, I have a pretty cool job as Tourism Director for the state of Arkansas.  Today was a perfect example  …  I went to Garvan Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas with two of our state photographers.  I thought I should get my photos out first before the real professional ones hit the social media.  Several of our amazing tourism staff came along to serve as models and enjoy the beauty of this 220 acre botanical park.  Enjoy!DSC01077 - Version 2

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And … you won’t want to miss the TREE HOUSE

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While I’m at it, I have another suggestion … find our all you want about other treasures and attractions in the Natural State at … Arkansas.com

HAPPY TRAILS!  Jim

One of the last times I watched a lunar eclipse I was camping with my buddy, JC.  We found a deep dark sky location in the Hurricane Creek Wilderness area on the Ozark Highlands Trail.  It was a cold clear night and a perfect place from which to watch this spectacular natural event.  Sorry folks … I have no pictures.

Last night I watched the eclipse from the back yard of my home.  This time I did take a few photos.  I think they turned out pretty good … not because of my talent but more because of my Sony 7R lll and a SonyFE 100-400 G lens. Even more amazing … these were hand held shots.

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I love this stuff … and in 2017 Patti and I went over close to Nashville to photograph the Solar Eclipse.  This time I was using my Canon 6D with a Canon 70-200 L lens. I especially like the total eclipse shot but am equally amazed with the ability to see sun spots in the top left photo.  Click on any of these to enlarge.

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The wonders of our world continue fascinate, expand imaginations and hopefully make us realize how small we humans are in this great universe.

FYI …  you might consider a trip to Arkansas in April, 2024  … Little Rock will be directly in the path of the  next major North American Solar Eclipse.  Besides that, there are  plenty of other reasons to come and enjoy …

” Arkansas … The Natural State “

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To celebrate Forty years of friendship, we gathered with our wives at the home of SST founder, Loyd and his wife Kaye.  And then dinner at Cheers Restaurant.  

Here is the note I sent to my ski buddies after the 2012 SST ski trip. We had been going on a trip each year for over 30 years. Stanley is the last name of the original founding father of SST … Stanley Ski Team!

Once again, it was a special treat to be with the best friends in the world. In a very small way, I miss skiing with the group but in a very big way I enjoy our time together and will do all I can to attend for as long as the Good Lord allows. I certainly don’t wish to be maudlin, but John made a prophetic and profound statement when he said “we will probably not be doing this ten years from now”.

The evening discussions, especially the evening discussing family histories was a highlight for me … as different as we may be, there is a common thread we all share. We are family oriented, we obviously value true friendships, for the most part we are fairly conservative (a couple maybe more than “fairly conservative”), we are self starting, entrepreneurial guys … in most cases from self starting entrepreneurial roots, we are fundamentally Christian, God fearing men with strong work ethics and, by golly, strong play ethics… I repeat, Strong Play Ethics!!! Who would ever have thought for 31 or 32 or 33 years, a group like ours would click, stay together, take a trip each year together, schedule lunch every Friday together and for all these years keep this exercise right at the top of our priority lists. Who would have thought? Who would have thought a Dermatologist, Ad guy, a coffin salesman, a funeral director, an asbestos tester, an architect, a refrigeration/electric supplier, a jeweler and a politician could find enough in common to embark on this adventure, and even more significant, to continue it for so many years. Ours truly is a unique story..a meaningful, enriching celebration of friendship. I thank each of you.

Now more pictures of our 40th Celebration evening …

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As one can see (above) we have moved from Skiing to golf, to hiking and to “Apre Whatever” around the pool in Scottsdale.  

Below a couple of shots from the beginning days of SST.   Keystone Mountain and Blue Spruce Restaurant in Frisco, Co.  Circa.  1980

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The Group much younger

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Above photo was 2018 in Arizona.

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The two pictures above are of the same group dinner with our Wives … circa. 2014

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Yesterday I stopped by the Arkansas State Fair… first to thank Harrison Welcome Center manager, Leesha Miller and her husband for working the Arkansas Parks and Tourism booth in the Hall of Industry and second to stroll down memory lane along the Midway.

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Leesha is one of 14 managers of Welcome Centers along the borders of our state.  These centers greet thousands of visitors to Arkansas each day providing information, printed materials and directions to all the wonders of our Natural State.  Leesha is particularly excited because her beautiful new Harrison Welcome Center will have an official grand opening November 2, 2018 … just a couple of weeks away.  My personal thanks to all of the staff at Arkansas Welcome Centers.  You make us proud!

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Okay … back to the Midway … so many memories.

When I was a child, my parents always took us to the State Fair. We rode the rides, tried our skills at the ring toss and enjoyed greasy burgers and sticky taffy.  We usually went to the rodeo but always walked through the animal barns …  I fondly remember this even more than the rides because this is where my dad taught me the importance of farming, agriculture and Animal Husbandry.

Sure, it’s fun to play on the Midway … however, to walk the cattle and pig barns,  is to better understand the fundamentals of our Arkansas history and economy.

After all, Agriculture is our Number one industry.

But don’t forget … Tourism is #2 at over $7 Billion.

And,  at the Arkansas State Fair there is a blending of both.