We'll, we're looking at 2011 in the rear view mirror and lots of things happened through the course of that 365 days. It seems we stay busy all the time, which is fortunate in this tough economy.
Here's a summary of things and a few interesting photos.
As you likely know, we completely rebuilt the website and added tons of new content. We left the forum as is and consolidated some of the topics.
Personally, Debbie and I had another banner year, one loaded with travels and adventure.
Of course, we had the Pond Boss IV Conference and Expo at Big Cedar Lodge last April.
So, let's start with that. Plenty of photos were posted on the website, especially from the moderators. The conference was outstanding, with great information, impressive speakers and trade show.
After an amazing event, something pretty cool happened. It was one of those "in the right place at the right time" things.
Quite a few of us were reveling in the moment and winding down, having dinner at the Worman House on the campus of Big Cedar Saturday night, after the conference. It's a nice restaurant and about twenty of us were in one of the back dining rooms, having a quiet dinner.
Nature called, so I headed out of that dining room, toward the front. Passing near the hostess' stand, I heard a voice, "Hey, there's the Pond Boss!" I looked up, and there stood Johnny Morris, owner of BassPro Shops. I stepped over, we shook hands and spoke for a minute. He asked what we were up to and I told him how well the conference went and then asked, "I thought you would be in Talladega this weekend." He said, "I'm going tomorrow, you want to go?" I said, "Don't ever tempt me with something like that...I'll say yes."
His response was immediate. "I mean it...you want to go?" I said, "Sure!". Then, he said, "Well, I can get you there, but I can't get you back."
I pondered that for about two seconds. "Okay...we can figure something out."
Then, I asked if he'd come back in and greet some of the Pond Boss faithful, which he did.
The next morning, he picked me up at the lodge where Debbie and I were staying. Many thanks to Debbie, by the way. She graciously took the car keys, arranged for a passenger to ride with her and handled things while I went off to play.
After a quick tour of a nearby golf course and its ponds, we headed off to the airport for a short flight to Talladega, Alabama. Below are some photos of that adventure.
What happened after the race was pretty cool, too.
During the race, Johnny said, "Where do you need to go after the race, back to Dallas?" I told him, "No, actually I need to go to North Carolina." I needed to get to King Fisher Society to work on their lake. He said, "I bet I can get you a ride to North Carolina."
After the race, he said, "Keep your phone on. I'll see if I can find you a ride." In the meantime, he boarded his plane and started taxiing down to the runway to head off where ever he was headed. Sure enough, in a minute, my phone rang. Johnny said, "There are two big black planes down at the end of the runway, near a hangar. Call this number...he gave me a number. I rang that number, and the lovely lady who answered said, "Sure, we have a seat for you...just come on down, bring your things and we'll get you to North Carolina."
I hoofed it down to those two black planes, which had a logo next to the door. "Dale Earnhardt".
Well, before I knew it, I was on board Dale Earnhardt, Sr.'s plane, about the size of an American Eagle commuter jet, headed to North Carolina. Well, North Carolina is a pretty big state and I wasn't quite sure where we were headed, so I asked one of the ladies...we were headed to Statesville. That's north of Charlotte.
When we landed, the plane headed to a private hangar, right behind the first plane. Well, all the passengers unloaded and disappeared to their cars and headed off. There I was, not sure where we were or how I was going to get where I needed to go. But, I couldn't stop giggling. It was pure fun. There was one guy in the hangar, pushing a trash can to the side. Looked like he was also getting ready to tow the second plane into the hangar. I walked over, introduced myself, big smile plastered across my face, and told him what had happened. I asked him if I might hitch a ride to a hotel in town. He said he needed a few minutes, but would be glad to haul me into town.
I waited in the terminal as he did his chores. The lady who greeted me in the beginning was leaving and asked to make sure I had what was needed. I thanked her profusely for the ride and she headed out. Shortly, the fella in the hangar made his way to into the terminal and beckoned me. I followed like a little puppy and slid into his car. First thing I saw was his well worn Bible, on the dashboard of his car. That struck me...I told him, "I appreciate a man with his Bible on his dashboard." He told me that he reads it every day before heading to work." I asked him what he did for Mrs. Earnhardt. He said, "I'm a pilot. I flew the front plane, the one you weren't on."
As we chatted on the way to town, he told me he had a pond on his property nearby, so we talked shop. At the Holiday Inn Express, we parted, I thanked him, still giggling inside. Inside the hotel, I must've acted a little bit giddy, because the lady behind the desk said, "You must have a story to tell." How'd she know? It was all over my face. I told her I needed a rental car. She called her contacts in town...no rent cars were to be had. There were 22 tornadoes the day before in the area, and all rent cars had been rented.
So, I headed to the room and started thinking....
I remembered a fella in Statesville who had sent a letter a couple years back. I'd been through town and hadn't called him and he was upset about it. Seems he was the guy who bought a subscription to Earnhardt, Sr. and even one for Ryan Newman, who lives in the area, too. I wracked my brain, trying to remember his name...finally it came to me. I looked him up via an online telephone book, called and left him a message. The more I thought about it, I thought I'd ring Ryan Newman and catch up with him. So, I called his number, too...left a message.
I dozed off, oblivious to the fact that I was 150+ miles away from where I needed to go. Worse-case, I could call the guys at King Fisher...Dave Buhler would come get me...but I didn't want to do that, if possible.
Early the next morning, Ryan Newman called and asked what I was doing in town. I told him and he said, "You're not the Pond Boss, you're the Pond Bum! Hitching rides on private jets!" He sent his right hand man, Jerry "June Bug" Moody, to retrieve me. We spend a couple hours at Ryan's place, talking about his ponds and lakes and then he offered his Escalade for me to drive for the week. I thanked him, and asked if June Bug could just haul me where I needed to go. I'd gladly cover his wages and fuel, plus an afternoon fishing trip on legendary Richmond Mill Lake.
So, that Monday afternoon, June Bug and I had a great time with Ryan and then a fantastic fishing trip at King Fisher. It was quite an adventure.
Jamie McMurray and Johnny's entourage before the race.
Pond Boss, Tony Stewart and Johnny Morris just before the race started.
Final preparations before the race.
Where we watched the race from.
The BassPro transport rig.
Mid-race, got to go to the pit box. That was an amazing experience...sitting in the pit box, above the hub of activity, watching these guys work.
A pit stop in action.
Always something cool at the races.