Saturday, July 07, 2018

Open Ocean

 I got the opportunity to head to the coast and I jumped on it.  The wind forecast was good, and my duties at home were wrapped up leaving me with a couple of days to roam.  I headed for the closest beach to maximize time on the water: Charleston. 

I sent a text to my friend David, a local to see what his plans were.  He told me to meet him at the southern tip of Folly Island.  The butterflies in my stomach started raging and did so the rest of the day.  I had some trouble eating and was worried about..... everything.   Open ocean, currents, what ifs etc.  Deep breath. 

I followed David's instructions to "drive off the tip of the island" and was greeted with friendly staff at the county park, complete with porta potty, shower and changing stalls,  that I never knew was there! 

We chatted for a minute and started rigging our gear.  David immediately began giving me rigging tips and showed me how to adjust my harness lines.  I've been struggling with this for a while and the change was amazing.  

I grabbed my equipment and followed David out onto the beach.  Dang, I was nervous.  He was going way out on the open ocean.  The swells were in the 3-5 foot range and the wind from the east meaning that we head pretty much straight out.  Nervous.  I beach started and headed out, shaking like a cold wet dog, breathing frantically,  I went out a 1/4 mile, turned still shaking, dropped the sale and struggled to restart.  Holy moly.  

I headed back in to the beach.  I felt like my skills were there but my confidence was not, at all.

We chatted a bit, and after getting some really good advice and encouragement,  I went back to the truck and swapped out my short board for my super stable long board.   Still shaking I headed back out again and BOOM, just like that I was sailing on the open ocean. 

It was pretty amazing being out there in the middle of nothing,  looking back and seeing people as tiny specks on the beach.  I have wanted to do this for a long time and I'm so thankful that God sent David into my path to help me reach this point.  We sailed for 1.5 hrs until David broke his foil.  It was good timing though because my mind was spent and I was hungry! 

We headed to the parking lot, packed up and parted ways.

 The next morning I was up early and since I didn't have anyone to meet up with, I headed to Station 28.5 on Sullivan's Island.  I had sailed here before and was becoming more familiar with the area.  The kiters had all warned me of the ripping currents during the ebb and flow of the tide so I was super cautious.  But today, after conquering fears yesterday, I was a little braver and sailed a little farther out into the channel where the current was supposed to either take me out to sea or take me into the inlet under the bridge. 

Nothing happened.  What, really?  It was fine.  I was powered up, had enough wind, it was fine.  Pretty soon I was ripping back and forth across the inlet.  Long reaches of smooth flat water that turned to small swells as I neared the outer edge where the water was washing over the sandbar at high tied.  This was it,  this is the spot that I have been hoping for for so long.  

The spot also offers the option to head out onto the open ocean.  I didn't go, because I was the only one around for a long time.  Lots of people on the beach but no one windsurfing or kiting.  The crowd did pick up later in the day, but by that time,I was worn slap out and packed up to head home. 
Wow, such an amazing couple of days.  So many questions answered.  So many opportunities opened up.  I cannot wait to get back down there and continue conquering my fears and working on my skills.  I'm  looking forward to the day that I can point past the breakers and enjoy the open ocean swells!  

Can't wait!

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Buried Emotions

What is it about this island that stirs up so many emotions?  So many memories of my time on Bonaire? Same questions are still there.  Maybe there are answers, maybe not.  

I have to ask what the purpose is though?  Why do I feel the way I do?  I believe there is a greater purpose in my feelings that to simply make me feel good or satisfied.  That is too selfish.  

What do I have that I can give.  How can I contribute to a people who can stir up the buried emotions.  The buried emotions that when uncovered, lead to continued growth and healing.  

Maybe I need to just sit back and appreciate what is happening.  Appreciate that the emotions of the past are being released.  Appreciate the people of the island who are placed there and being used for my betterment.  They expect nothing in return.  They hardly know that they are helping me.  

Hopefully one day, I can repay the gesture.  Just real people being real, helping each other.  

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Ocracoke: Not Just an Island

 Ocracoke Island has found a special place in my heart.  We have been visiting for 3 years now and each year, something deep inside me is stirred up.  I'm not sure what it is, exactly, but I know that when I leave, I feel a deep sense of sorrow and loss.  The same feeling of sorrow and loss that I felt when I was moved from Bonaire to Charlotte, when I was 16 years old. ( I cried myself to sleep each night for about 6 months after the move).

What is it about a place that stirs up so many hidden emotions?  What is it about a place that I can go to once a year and feel at home? 
The locals, the ones who have family roots going back a hundred years are some of the friendliest people I have met.  I've made friends with a few of them.  They take the time to tell me their stories, their thoughts and wishes.   Good, hard working people. 
 I love the life that I have worked hard to make  here in the WNC mountains, but it seems that my roots lie on the coast.  It is something I can't change.  
 I got the opportunity to pitch in and help unload fresh fish at the local fish house.  I enjoyed that more than just standing around watching my friends work.   I can't stand to watch other people work.  I want to be useful. 
I'm having trouble putting my emotions into words, but deep down inside, I can't help but wonder about a connection with an island.  What does it mean, and what should I do with those feelings? 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Roof Top Tent: My Thoughts

1.5 yrs ago, when I put a down payment on a new used truck,  I came home excited about researching slide in campers so that we could go camping/exploring in comfort.  After some extensive research, I was disappointed to find out that this truck and similar ones, are not built to carry the load of a typical slide in camper.

Not to be deterred, I set about designing and building my own.  I created a monster, redneck version of a slide in, that met the bunk requirements for a family of 3, and it came in under the weight restrictions of the truck, and was supported by camper jacks for easy removal.  There was nothing easy about it.

I used it successfully at the Pisgah Stage Race 2017 and was pretty excited about it.

A couple of weeks later, I loaded the family up and headed 8 miles down the road to Lake Powhatan Campground in the Pisgah National Forest.  For some reason,  something wierd always seems to  happen when I take road trips.  This time, we were in the middle of the first heat of spring, and it was hot!  It stayed hot all night and without a power source, the inside of the camper was pretty warm.  None of us slept well.

 I worked on the camper a little more over the course of the year, but we never used it.  I was sure that someone could put some time and money into it and make it really cool and functional, so I listed it on Craigslist.  I lost money on it, but learned a lot through the building journey.

One lesson learned: I don't want to do that again!  
Now what?  I started looking around.  Some late nights on the internet after the family went to bed,  searching for that perfect camping set up.  What I found was that there is no perfect set up.  So many different options: traditional ground tent, roof top tent, pop up camper, camper van, sprinter type van, rv, pop up camper trailer, tear drop trailer.

Trailers were almost immediately crossed off the list.  I need the hitch to haul bikes or a boat.  I also need lightweight and wanted something that mounts on the truck.  I have a camper shell that can be used to convert the truck bed to a sleeping space with a simple foam mattress. It seemed like a roof top tent was the way to go.

Some more research, talking to a couple of people and then a demo from Joe at REI and I was almost sold. 

I took my search to Facebook to see if any of my friends had experience with one. I got varied responses.  Sprinter owners told me to get a sprinter.  Others told me to stick with the old tried and true ground tent.  Several people told me that I didn't want a roof top tent (RTT).  ( most of the time, when naysayers tell me I don't want something, I can be sure I am on the right track!)

With a little more research and a lot of help from REI,  I wound up getting an amazing deal on the Tepui Autana w/ annex.

Lightweight and can be set up almost anywhere.  The annex, when properly staked out, has enough room for a queen sized bed behind the ladder.  Combined with the camper shell, we technically have enough room for 6 people and a dog. 

We headed back out to Lake Powhatan for our first test run.  The kid slept upstairs while the wife and I occupied the truck bed suite.  The dog took the space on ground floor.  We all slept amazingly well and had a great time, excited to get back out again.


A couple of thoughts:
-One of the cons to this set up is that once set up, you can't drive anywhere.  Good point.  That is the ONLY issue I have with this tent set up.  But,definitely not a deal breaker.  At this point, with our schedules, we rarely have time for a multi day trip.  I'm looking into a solution for that.  Stay Tuned.
-Actual tent takes about 5 minutes to set up or tear down.  Annex takes another 10-15.  I'm sure it will get faster as we learn.  About the same time and effort as a ground tent.  But for the stoke level of the family.... this is the way to go.
-I bought a set of leveling blocks from Tractor Supply for easy leveling.
- I also bought a scissor jack from Camping World.  I placed this under the rear of the truck  and raised it about 1-2 inches.  Just enough to take the bounce out of the suspension.  (the kid tosses quite a bit in his sleep.)  This made the set up firm.

More adventures await.  Can't wait to get out and explore some more!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Pisgah Stage Race #10

 After a long cold winter, the sun finally came out and dried out the forest, warming our skin and changing our attitudes.   People from all over the nation and the world were stoked to sample Pisgah's finest trails, and we were all elated to see the forecast clearing and the temps warming.

This was my 10th time in this race.  And I am the only one to have completed all 10 editions.  Todd of Blue Ridge Adventures has done an amazing job of improving the race and fine tuning the details.  Participants are treated to a great race environment, or if they choose, a fully supported tour on some of the best trails in Pisgah.  
 I was able to train fairly consistently until the beginning of February.  Then I was able to train sporadically, but with some longer rides, which kept me hopeful of being competitive.  Then I was off the bike for 2 weeks, except for 2 rides with the kid totaling about 9 miles.  I did play lots of soccer and basketball though.....  I don't regret trading training time with spending time with the kid. 

So race day rolled around and I knew I wasn't ready, but was pretty sure I could finish.  I was on a 32x21 gearing which had been working for me. 
 Stage 1 and 2 were fun routes, and I was having a blast.  But,  my legs were dead.  Already.  Not good.  I put our an APB on Facebook, looking for a 22 tooth single speed cog.  I could have gone with the 2 hr round trip to my house in Asheville to get the one I already had, but figured I would try to save some time and money. 

 Randy Collette responded and got me set up.  Sycamore Cycles helped me out and let me use the tools to make the change.  My chain was pretty tight but I figured it would loosen up as I rode Stage 3.   That didn't work out so well.  The chain stayed super tight, and I'm pretty sure I lost some energy due to that.  Oh well. 
 I finished Stage 3 and went back to Sycamore to purchase a new chain.  Of course then I had to purchase a new chainring to mesh with the new chain.  That's the way it goes,  still better than the 2 hr round trip to the house.  The upside of changing my gear?  I finished 17 minutes faster than previously on this stage.  That's huge!
 Stage 4 is my favorite.  A big long loop including Squirrel, Laurel and Pilot, with the start/finish at the Cradle of Forestry.   I rode my own pace, intent on having fun, finishing, and not imploding.  Success, and I was 11 minutes faster than previous years!! 

Wow,  I'm getting faster, and my skills are improving!

Stage 5 came and went with no issues.  I rode, chatted with friends, and finished,  a little slower, but only about 5 minutes.  10 years of fun racing and riding.  10 years of new friends.  10 years of hard training and focus.  

Am I going to do it again?  Yes.  Next year?  No.   I'm taking a break.  It's been a good run, and I've got some bragging rights that no one else can claim!   There are other trails and events out there that I'd like to take a look at.  And of course,  Todd claims that he is going to pay my way to another stage race in another country!  I'm looking forward to that.

Thanks to Todd and the entire Blue Ridge Adventures crew for providing an event that challenged me and helped be grow into the person I am today!  

Maybe I'll be one of the hecklers on Pilot next year!

Monday, April 09, 2018

Pisgah Stage Race 2018- Day 0

All shined up and ready to go.  Not the best picture, but kind of how I feel.  A little bit of congestion and feeling sluggish this morning.  Took some natural decongestant,  hoping it will clear up as the day goes on. 

This is it,  Pisgah Stage Race #10.   So much has happened over the past 10 years.  So, wild to think how many times I have done this race.  Some years better than others,  each year different than the last. 

Some have suggested that this is my year.  I don't disagree, its a race and you never know.  But, that's not my goal.  I've done the chase,  trying to close the gap, the difference in seconds or minutes.  The minutes that mean the difference between 1st, 2nd, 4th.....  I've looked nervously over my should, looking for that jersey, looking for the rabbit chasing me, the carrot. 

Not this year.   I'm going to make this my victory lap.  I'm going to enjoy the ride and give the volunteers a high five. (not gonna eat the bacon though).  I'm going to take in the sights and sounds and celebrate a decade of racing fun.  I'm gonna finish with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart.  And I'm looking forward to it.

Here's to a fun ride.... (unless of course I wind up near the top after the first day,  then, well,  the race is on!)

Saturday, March 31, 2018


Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Matthew 1:28-30

Easter is another of those holidays that brings up so many different emotions in different people.  

For me, I remember the excitement of an Easter basket, and the dread of going to another boring church service.  At this point in life, there is a sense of emptiness.   

Easter for me, symbolizes a time of renewal,   a time to start over.  Not just today, but everyday.  I have the freedom to celebrate, and I don't have to celebrate exactly like the modern church dictates that I should.  

 The road before us is wide open.  We can continue doing the things the way we always have, or we can make changes.  The changes don't have to be huge,  just slight, incremental changes.  A little here and there.  In the grand scheme of things, the results will be huge.