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“Welcome to the Ozarks!”

Before we left in the morning, we had great hopes of following the power lines that went from Lynchburg to Licking through the national forest. They would save us so many miles that it would cut off an entire day of riding. But Chad warned us that there were lots of private property holdings dotted throughout. So Richard called the forest service office to get more detailed information before we ventured out and had to turn around 5 miles into it. The ranger confirmed Chad’s concerns. The southern portion of the forest where the lines went through was riddled with private property- all fenced off. What?! I’ve heard of rare private properties within national forest- but not that much! What’s the point of a national forest that’s all private? I don’t get it. So with much disappointment, we had to take the windy roads- AGAIN.

It turned out not to be so bad. The roads weren’t as busy as we expected, and we went through a tiny town with a unique and temporary claim to fame; currently, Plato, MO – middle of nowhere- is the population center of the United States! Our horses spent the night at a training barn in Roby, and we slept at Mindy’s sister’s house- Christy and her husband Chase. We had a nice relaxed visit and dinner with them that evening.

The morning brought a new surprise- the Tsunami in Japan. Not only was it an aweful and surprising disaster, we were shocked that we were actually in front of a TV the morning it happened. It is the first world event that happened while we have been riding that we actually knew about right away. For example, we didn’t hear about the oil spill in the Gulf until about 2 months after it had already been going on, and we didn’t know about the miners in Chili that were stuck until the day they were pulling them out!

Despite the sad news on TV, we did have an enjoyable riding day. We found some dirt roads that went- eventually- in our direction. Certainly not the straight route that the powerlines took, but definitely beautiful. Along the way, we noticed more abandoned homes, shacks, and barns- most VERY old. We have been surprised as we cross the country how many abandoned homes there are, but there have been a particularly high number of them in Missouri.

We met a couple guys out four-wheeling and dirt biking who we hailed to ask for directions. None of the roads on the map or in person were named, so we weren’t quite sure which way to go. They looked at me, looked at the map, looked at me- then said, “Hey- didn’t I see you on TV?!” Yup! That brought on a whole new level of excitement, picture opportunities, and conversation. They pointed us in the right direction and before taking off, gave us a heartfelt, “Welcome to the Ozarks!” Why thank you fellows!

We nearly had a major Ozark mishap after that. We were riding along enjoying the forest, when I randomly looked over at Bella and she was standing about 15 feet from me…. sniffing the nose of a LIVE skunk! I mean literally touching noses!

Oh boy… oh dear… um… wait…- use my words…. “NO!”

It worked! She listened to her command! She turned and looked at me all innocent, like “what? I wasn’t doing anything!”

But the skunk, tail stuck stiffly straight up in the air, mock charged at her.

“Richard! It’s coming at us!”  This upset skunk was no more than 10 feet from us.

Thankfully, Bella listened beautifully and went with us as we rode away from the skunk. One wrong move from our puppy dog and all three of us would have been run out of the county, let alone had any hopes of finding kind hosts! That was a CLOSE one!


  1. Oh my, and the skunks name was not FLOWER! Bella is the best dog ever. I hope you will use the shock collar if she ever encounters a snake, as you are entering the country of the water moccasin and Copper head. These poisonous snakes don’t give the kind warning of the rattle.
    It is a ways off before they wake up but it is a worry. One of the best training with the collar is snake avoidance.

    Loved the picture of Bella snuggled between you too in the tent!

  2. My Lab got hit by a skunk. Bath in tomato juice works! Bella is so neat. Learns fast. Love your posts.

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