Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Windsurfari

 It was my birthday weekend and the wind forecast for the east coast was looking good.  I loaded up on Friday and headed east.  I was excited to finally get to the coast around Charleston and check out some of the windsurfing spots that I have been researching on the internet.  But this trip was about more than that.  It was about some alone time, soul searching, figuring out who I am, and who I want to be.  It seems that recently, I always have a dark cloud hanging over me, and I want to know why.

I'm sure some of it can be attributed to the time of year.  The expectations and excitement that used to consume me this time of year have been replaced with reality.  Maybe I have no yet accepted this reality.  But in order to accept it, I have to understand it and know what the new reality is.


 I made it to Mt Pleasant and checked in at the hotel.  If I'm going to make more trips like this,  I need to find cheaper lodging options!  But its my birthday, so  I enjoy the nice room and biscuits and gravy for breakfast.

After checking in and dropping my luggage off, I head to Station 29.  A couple of kiters are set up.  I chat with them to figure out important info like currents.   With the tide change of almost 6 feet,  depending on when and where, combined with wind direction,  a person could wind up far away from where they get on the water.
 I set up and play around for a couple of hours.  The wind is light, but I stay out, getting the feel of the area and looking forward to some strong wind on Saturday.

 Saturday rolls around and I head to the beach.  And wait, wait some more and wait most of the day.  Other wind seekers come.  Some stay, some go,  some come back later.  We are all looking at the forecast and waiting.  Finally enough wind comes in that I can at least scoot around on the water.  As I'm out, still getting a feel for the area, I stop and chat with some old dudes who are friendly.  We get a good laugh out of the bad forecast and I head back out. 

I head down the coast a bit to where some kiters are playing.  They have huge kites rigged and are making the most of the tame conditions.  There are 1 foot waves rolling in, so I take the opportunity to try wave sailing. 
 It turns out to be pretty fun and not to complicated in these mild conditions.  
The sun starts heading closer to the horizon and the wind totally dies.  I catch one more wave and pack it in for the day. 

Sunday, I take my time getting ready,  take a walk up the bridge to look at the harbor and then head over to Demetre Park.  A tiny little parked, tucked into the harbor side of James Island.  There is 1 windsurfer and 1 kiter.  The wind is good, but with the tide going out, the current is picking up to a point that going out is futile, unless I want to wind up out in the ocean.  I should have been there 2 hrs earlier.  But I wasn't.
 
I point the truck east and head towards Columbia SC.  Lake Murray is next on the list of spots to check out.  2 hrs later, I pull into the SC& G park.  The lake is covered in whitecaps and 1-2 foot swells.  Holy moly.  My stomach churns with excitement and fear of the unknown.  I chat for a minute with a sailor to make sure there is nothing weird that I need to watch out for, then rig up and head out.  It turns out that the looks of the lake are more menacing than conditions really.  I'm underpowered so I head back in and rig a bigger sail. 

The wind is tame, but I stay out. Because I'm here, and I'm stubborn.  Well,  after about an hour, my stubbornness pays off and the wind kicks up.  After 3 days of searching, I'm finally speeding across the top of the water, hooked in to the harness line, leaning out across the water, free and flying. 

On the way home and over the couple of days since, I come to the realization that my life has turned out differently than I had expected.  I have a great life, great wife and kid, great job, great friends and great community.  Things are great.  But even when things are great,  it is difficult to look past what could have been,  what should have been.  I guess it takes a while to get over rejection and feeling unwanted.  It takes a while for some wounds to heal.  It takes a lot of will power to focus on what reality is now compared to the dreams and aspirations that one had as a young adult.  What I thought was right, and what turns out to be real are 2 different things. 

But every day I get up,  I whisper thanks to God for what I have, what I'm going through, knowing that what is to come is more amazing than what has been.  I hug my family and sit down to figure what needs to get done that day (of course there is coffee).  And I check the wind forecast.  Because just as I know that there will be more good wind days,  I also know thatreality is often realized as I wait, and truth is spoken in that still small wind. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Burned Out?

Good grief.   Its my birthday month,  I have some time off,  I can take a road trip, windsurfari, go bikepacking.... basically anything I want to do.  But man, if I'm not having trouble deciding what to do, much less getting excited about taking any trip.  I need to just pick something a go with it. But I don't have this opportunity often, so I want to make sure the experience is good.  The fact is, I don't really have control over the outcome, especially if its weather related.

Here are my options:
  •  Mtn Biking Car Camping Road Trip- drive around the southeast to assorted mountain biking destinations and ride till my legs fall off
  • Windsurfari- drive to the east coast, chase the wind and windsurf til my arms fall off
  • Bikepacking trip- pick one of the many bikepacking routes now available in the southeast, anywhere from Damascus VA to Ocala FL   
The weather is getting a little cold/rainy/freezing for bikepacking.  I have found that while I can endure wintry weather long distance bikepacking, I enjoy stopping to smell the roses and enjoying the summer sunshine.  Can't do that if it is freezing rain on my head.

Windsurfari,  the wind might peter out, leaving me with long walks on the beach.... maybe that's just what I need?

Mtn Biking Car Camping Road Trip..... trying to get excited

I'm sure  I need a break.  I love, love, love what I do.  The people I work with are amazing, my employee and volunteers make it possible for me to have a little time off.  My family is awesome and understanding of my wanderlust. 

But good grief,  what's it gonna take for me to get excited and get out the door?


Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Avoiding the Rain

The forecast was for rain in Asheville.  I checked the weather for Greenville SC,  there was 0% chance of rain.  I decided to head down to ride Paris Mtn, and then back to the parking spot in Travelers Rest via the Swamp Rabbit Trail.

The plan was going well until I got changed and grabbed my cycling shoes.  I had brought my road bike, and my mountain bike shoes. 

Options,  change back to street clothes and just ride in street shoes.... uhhh.  Fortunately, I had parked next to the Sunrift Adventures bike shop.  I was able to rent a pair of mtb pedals for $5.30.  Ride salvaged. 

Heading up Paris Mtn, towards Greenville,  the rain moved in.  For about 5 minutes.  Dang it.  At least is was warm. 

I rode down into and through Greenville to pick up the greenway.  It was a pleasant ride that I will do again, only I'll bring the single speed and do an out and back on the greenway next time.  It is a good alternative when it is butt cold up in AVL! 

3 miles from Travelers Rest, the skies opened up.  Buckets dumping on my head. 

So much for staying dry.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Who I Am

I'm turning 45 years old in 13 days.  I still wake up some days, wondering who I am and what my purpose is.  I like a challenge, and when fulfilling my purpose becomes routine, and things are running smoothly,  I tend to mistake the lack of resistance with complacency.   

That is a mistake though.  Maybe I've paid my dues.  Maybe I'm wise now and I have quit trying to do things the easy way, which a lot of times turns into the hard way. 

I realized on my ride two days ago, that we can't always be who we want to be.   I want to be a rock star bikepacker.  I know that I can't go multiple days with little to no sleep like a lot of other folks,  but I want to ride the long miles and do the long trips.  I have the equipment, the knowledge, and the desire, but I lack one important ingredient: time. 

So,  I have to remind myself to be content where I am,  to fill this spot in the universe that has been reserved just for me.  I have to quit wishing that I was somewhere doing what I want, and appreciate who I am, and who I have become. 

I love my life and I love what I am doing.  I will always have that adventure spirit that will distract me from the awesome things that are right in front of me.  I just have to ignore it sometimes and cherish the times that I am allowed to wander.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

"Us" Not "They"

Lots of talk about road rage, cyclists rights and what we can do to make cycling safer for everybody. 

As a trend, people tend to say things like "why doesn't somebody do something" or "they, ie: the gov't, should do something", "they should make bike lanes". Always "they". 

Why not us? Why don't you take on that responsibility. 

Ideally, someone would write a big check and have some PSA's made for radio and tv, that would be the quickest way to educate the public. But there is no profit in said PSA's so that likely won't happen.

Well,  what can "we" do to help "them" make our roads a safer place to ride?  

In my opinion, we have to start with the kids.  

How many of you have driven a vehicle with elementary/ middle school aged kids and they remind you of every single freaking traffic law in the book?   2 mph over the speed limit? Didn't use your turn signal?  Following too closely?  Yup,  they will call you out on it every single time!  

Why not use that to our advantage?  Why not have a school based curriculum that teaches cyclists rights and etiquette in  school or Driver's Ed?   Because then, once again, we are relying on "them" and that is going to take a while and quite possibly forever.... never.  Because in order to add/ change anything in a text book.....  ugh.

What if "you" could make a difference? What if "you" could make a difference and only "sacrifice" 2 hrs, 1 day per week?  Would you be willing to give that up?  To offer your skills and talents to work with us in making our area more cycling friendly?  

If you answered yes, let me recommend that you get involved in one of the many youth bike related programs in our area ( and yes, buckle up for a shameless plug, because I believe that I am making a difference that will affect every cyclist on the road)  

Trips For Kids WNC and Asheville on Bikes both offer after school bike clubs at local middle and elementary schools.  Each club meets after school, 1 day per week for about 1.5- 2 hrs.  We start each club teaching the kids to do their own bike check,  making sure their bikes are safe and ready to ride.  We also discuss skills, riding etiquette, and how to properly ride on the road, including hand signals and other safety and awareness skills.   

The Blue Ridge Bicycle Club offers Kid Bike Safety Rodeos, to offer the same skills that we offer in bike club, setting up a street scenario in a safe location for kids to practice what they learned.  

And guess what? At some point, these kids will earn their driver's license, and be driving a car or a big truck.  I believe that what we teach them now about bikes on the road, will encourage them to be more aware and understanding when they encounter cyclists.

So,  if you want to make a change, invest in your future, and let's get together to teach these kids what they need to know to help make our roads a safer, more cycling friendly community.  

Carve out 2 hours from your week and help the above programs,  we have a great crew of volunteers and are always looking to expand,  but we can't do it, if no one steps up to help out.  

Contact us today:
Trips For Kids WNC: stephen@tripsforkidswnc.com
Asheville on Bikes:  https://ashevilleonbikes.com/
Blue Ridge Bicycle Club: http://www.blueridgebicycleclub.org/

In closing, I want to give a huge thanks to all of our local bike shops that contribute in countless ways to keeping our youth ride programs running.  We could not do it without their help.  Please support them!  

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The Asheville Oak: Vacation Rental

As you might have noticed, I have been busy, and absent for a long time.  I spend 4.5 months off the bike and hardly doing anything fun.  I'm burned out and tired, and deep down inside I know the pain and suffering has been worth it!!

Let's back up a bit.  Spring 2016,  we decided to work hard to get our vehicle loans paid off and then work on putting money away in savings so that we could live a simple non complex life. 

Summer 2016,  an opportunity was presented to us to purchase a bit of land next door.  I didn't realize that we had that capability, but after discussing with some good friends and talking to a local banker, found out that we were in a good position to invest in some land. This is the result of countless hours and effort, rebuilding the home we currently have lived in for 13 yrs. Along with the help of the popularity of Asheville, our house tripled in value. 

Before the land purchase dust had settled, we were already applying for a construction loan, ie more debt and a less simple life. 


Now,  1 yr later,  we have something to be proud of: The Asheille Oak: Vacation Rental

If you are headed to the area, check it out as an option.  1 bedroom, 1 loft, 1 bathroom, full kitchen, central heat and air, washer/dryer,  convenient location, easy access to Interstates, downtown, breweries, restaurants, trails, Pisgah National Forest etc.    

Monday, August 21, 2017

Miracles

Miracles.  Sometimes they can be explained away with science,  sometimes not.  Sometimes it is better to simply enjoy than to try to figure out.  Too many why's, how's, and could be's, and a person loses focus of what is really going on around us.  What is really the purpose for the things happening around us.  Why birds fly and pigs don't.

For the past year, I have been on a mission.  My question was, do miracles really happen?  Then I started observing small things.... and some major.  I watched a family narrowly miss getting hit by a car,  I watched the sun come up,  everyday, on time,   I saw flowers bloom, hate turned to love.   Good grief, I saw a lot, and continue to see it.  Once I stopped expecting and started observing,  my perspective changed.  I have also become more grateful to be alive, and thankful that I am a small part in this huge tapestry of life. 

We headed out to Ocracoke Island for our end of summer vacation.  We dragged the sailboat and windsurfing equipment out and I was excited about the great wind forecast. 

But, alas,  Tropical Storm Gert/Hurricane Gert swooped in and sucked all of the wind out to sea. 

Man, I was disappointed.  I had waited all year for this and now, no windsurfing for me.  I was on vacation, with my family and it took a lot of hard thinking to reset my mind. 

We did get in some good sailing, and I sent to wife and kid out on a para sail trip! 

The wife and kid, 800 feet above the Pamlico Sound
Me,  living the dream on the Pamlico Sound

The Ultimate Windsurf Mobile

We saw sunsets, on the beach

And from the sailboat



Poor conditions for windsurfing, tend to be good conditions for sailing....and parasailing

We met some amazing locals on the island.  Locals who invited us into their daily life!

....dog's life

The last evening, the wind finally kicked up just enough....thankful.
And then it was time to leave.  Sadness.  I am super happy and thankful for the opportunity to  visit the island, but leaving feels the same as so long ago, when I was 16 and I left the small island of Bonaire to move to Charlotte.... sadness.

We pulled onto the ferry, and headed towards Swan Quarter.  I wandered the deck with the kid and the dog, talking about the week, life and stuff.  Quality time that I don't regret.  2.5 hrs later we started the engine to point west and head for the mountains.
And then things went south.  15 miles out of Swan Quarter and we crossed the Pungo River Brigde.  Where the bridge meets the pavement on the other side, there is a dip.  We hit that and the trailer boat trailer bounced.  I heard a pop and saw smoke and debris on the left side.  I figured that we blew a tire and pulled over asap.  I got out and was shocked and a bit panicked to see that the axle had snapped. 

The start of the miracle.  Last year, we made this trip in the mini van.  Over the winter, we were able to purchase a pick up truck fits out lifestyle needs.  Had we been in the min van when this happened, our options would have been severely limited.  

Solutions raced through my mind.  It was 4 pm.  4 hours til sunset.  20 miles to the nearest town: Belhaven.  I unhooked the trailer and decided to drive to find a tow service or possibly a U-haul Trailer.  

3 miles up the road, at a roadside convenience store and deli, I could not believe my eyes.  A U-haul trailer rental site, with the exact trailer that I hoped would work.    Hopeful, I went inside and rented the trailer.  I felt like it took forever for the guy to slowly type in all the info,  with the warning that often times, the U-haul system does not work right.  Arggh.  We were burning daylight. 

The folks were very kind in understanding our plight though and we were soon on our way.   I hooked the trailer up and drove back to the broken boat trailer.  Everything was as we left it.  I turned around and got into position.  I was going to figure out some way to hoist, winch, drag that boat trailer up onto the U-haul trailer. 

As I got into position,  a jacked up, blacked out Chevy Silverado pulled up and I heard angels singing: " Do yall need some help?"  Without looking up ( I get pretty focused sometimes) I said: " I would love some help!".    The fellas pulled over jumped out and went to work.   Less than 1 minute later, another truck pulled over and a guy jumped out to chip in.   5-10 minutes later, another guy stopped by to get in  on the action. 

I was amazed at what was happening and am a bit teary eyed as I write this.  The 5 of us, hoisted, pulled, pushed, pried, winched and miraculously got that broker trailer up onto the U Haul trailer.   We got it chained and strapped down securely and just as quickly as they came, they were gone.  Alone again on the side of the road, I said a quick prayer of thanks, did one more quick check to make sure everything was secure, jumped in the truck and headed West once again. 
The time?  5pm.  1 hour.  If I would have succeeded in accomplishing that task alone,  it would have taken far more than 1 hour total. In fact,  I don't know if I could have done it alone. 

Do I believe in miracles? Yes.  Miracles happen, when we least expect them.  Not on demand miracles though.  Not miracles to get us what we want when we want it.  No,  miracles that surprise us and get us what we need when we don't know that we need it.  An extra boost, an  extra bit of encouragement, a fresh perspective on life. 
Start to watch for the miracles in you life,  you will be amazed!